How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship What Qualifications Do You Need Who Can Work on a Cruise Ship How Much Money Do Cruise Line Employees Make Advantages & Disadvantages of Working How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship With No Experience: Tips for Beginners How to Apply to Work on a Cruise Ship How Long Does it Take to Get Hired on a Cruise Ship Conclusions
How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship What Qualifications Do You Need Who Can Work on a Cruise Ship How Much Money Do Cruise Line Employees Make Advantages & Disadvantages of Working How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship With No Experience: Tips for Beginners How to Apply to Work on a Cruise Ship How Long Does it Take to Get Hired on a Cruise Ship Conclusions
Updated 03/06/2020

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship

How would you like to earn $20,000 in the next 12 months while visiting up to 10 countries? Read the article and find out how to start your career on a cruise ship.

How would you like to earn $20,000 in the next 12 months while visiting up to 10 countries? Read the article and find out how to start your career on a cruise ship.

According to Statista, the global ocean cruise industry will carry approximately 32 million passengers in 2020, and the industry scale will continue to grow. This means that the number of vacancies in this sphere is increasing as well.
Exploring the world and seeing new countries is fantastic. But it’s even better when someone pays you to do it. And today, it’s totally possible. Moreover, such work pays well enough - from $1,000 to $8,000 per month.
Are you ready to find out more about getting a job on a cruise ship? In this article, we will dispel some myths and tell you what is waiting for candidates who want to work in a huge floating city.


What Qualifications Do You Need

Competition for jobs on cruise ships is very high, so any relevant qualifications or work experience will help you stand out. The type and level of required skills depend on the job you are applying for and the cruise company you are applying to.

We can highlight two basic requirements:

  1. Fluency in English. In some companies you should speak two languages: English and German, English and Spanish, sometimes English and one of the Scandinavian languages;
  2. At least little experience in the hotel or restaurant business, tourism, customer services, trade, or marketing.

You will also need recommendations from the previous place of work in a similar position. In most cruise companies, this is a must.


Who Can Work on a Cruise Ship

A cruise liner is a separate community on the water that provides the highest level of service, following the international standards of hospitality for several thousands of passengers. Therefore, it needs an impressive number of workers for all the onboard hotels, restaurants, bars, shops, casinos, beauty salons, swimming pools, gyms and so on.

Working on a cruise ship can be divided into several departments:

  • Deck and Engineering
    Captain, Chief Officer, First Officer, Staff Captain, Security Officer, Able Seaman, Chief Engineer, Chief Electrician, Chief Radio Officer, First Assistant Engineer, Plumber, etc.
    These people are responsible for maintaining the condition of the ship, smooth operation, and ensuring everyone’s safety. For most of these positions, you will need previous experience working on a vessel as well as specialized training.
  • Service and Hospitality
    We can also call these positions “hotel management.” This part of the crew provides direct services to passengers like cooking food (Chef, Baker, Butcher, etc.), serving food or drinks (Bartender, Buffet Server, Food and Beverage Manager, Wine Steward, and so on), cleaning and washing (Cabin Steward/ес, Housekeeper, Laundry Staff), and hotel administration (Hotel Front Desk Agent, Administrative Assistant, Hotel Manager). For senior positions, previous work experience is a must, but for junior level, relevant skills are welcomed.
  • Personal Care and Shipboard Medical Department
    Workers at these positions provide direct services to passengers as well. These are Beauty Therapists, Fitness Instructors, Hair Stylists, Manicurists, Massage Therapists, Nurses, and even Doctors. To apply for any of these jobs, you need proper credentials or licenses.
  • Activity and Shipboard Entertainment
    These people’s main task is to keep all the passengers (kids, youngsters, couples, retirees) busy and entertained. Instructors in various activities, whether it’s yoga, dancing, or diving, work with passengers in small groups. Entertainers organize different events like concerts, parties in clubs, casinos, or on the ship’s stages. Everything is done under the charge of the Cruise Director, who is responsible for all onboard entertainment.

The large number of available vacancies shows that anyone can find a job within their skillset on a ship.

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How Much Money Do Cruise Line Employees Make

Business Insider conducted research on how much money cruise line workers earn. According to 35 current and former employees, their monthly income ranged from $500 to $10,000. Fourteen staff members reported their monthly salary was equal to or less than $2,000.

Basically, the money you can make on a cruise ship differs according to your position.

The highest-paying tasks on cruise ships are carried out by the captain and department heads. The salary of the ship captain is very high. It can be six figures per year. And that’s clear. On the largest vessels, the captain is responsible for several thousands of passengers and crew members.

Other high-paying positions include Executive Chef, Cruise Director, Chief Purser, Hotel Director, Human Resource Manager. In different companies, their salary ranges between $4,200 and $7,800 per month.

One of the biggest job sites, Indeed, has collected data about average salaries of three of the most popular cruise line companies - Carnival Corporation, Royal Caribbean Cruises, and Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

Name of the companyNumber of employees who shared informationAverage salaryAverage hourly pay
Carnival Corporation179 employees estimatedfrom about $21,344 a year for a Support Engineer to $85,435 a year for a Manager$9.94 per hour for an Agent to $13.36 per hour for a Customer Service Representative
Royal Caribbean Cruises318 employees estimated$23,597 per year for Guest Service Agent to $74,131 per year for Bartender$9.58 per hour for Agent to $18.43 per hour for Crew Member
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings226 employees estimated$22,000 per year for Steward to $48,466 per year for Sous Chef$7.36 per hour for Utility Worker to $15.00 per hour for Server

You can see that compensation can vary in the different cruise lines. However, in most cases, entry-level employees, such as fitness instructors, youth consultants, junior accountants, disc jockeys, and hosts, will get standard salaries ranging from $1,200 to $1,500 per month.

Waiters, bartenders, maids, casino workers, and animators are among the most popular jobs. On monthly average:

  • restaurant waiters can earn $740-$1600 plus tips;
  • bar workers will get $600-$2000 plus tips and sometimes a percentage of sales;
  • maids reward can reach $2,500-$3,000;
  • casino workers earn about $2,000-$3,000;
  • animators get about $1,500.

However, there are several other factors, which can affect your salary. Keep them in mind:

  • the size of the vessel;
  • type of vessel;
  • circle of customers;
  • tips you can earn;
  • type of compensation;
  • your work experience.

And one more key benefit for many nationalities is that salary is not taxed. This means that the amount people earn often exceeds the income that they can make at home.


Advantages & Disadvantages of Working

Working on a cruise ship is quite hard, and not everyone is ready for it. But there are many advantages that encourage people to sign contracts and spend, on average, six months at sea. Let’s see what they are.


  • Opportunities to see the world
    During the cruise, you can explore different countries and get paid at the same time. Cruise ships depart from the largest port cities in the world, including New York and Miami in the USA and Amsterdam, Naples, and Barcelona in Europe. So you will have a chance to see many new places for yourself. Additionally, the certificates issued to the liner’s employees allow them to go out at each port along the ship’s route if there is no work on board at this time.
  • No extra expenses
    The cruise company covers food and accommodation. Usually, on the ship, the staff lives in a double cabin with everything they may need: shower, fridge, TV, etc. Moreover, liner employees have special discounts for cafes, gyms, bars, beauty centers, hairdressers. Some companies often give discounts on cruises for the families of employees, while others even allow their employees to go on a cruise free of charge after a certain length of service. Besides, all cruise companies provide employees with medical insurance. So you can save quite a lot of money.
  • Career development
    You can get good experience in communications and in the customer service sector. And if you do not perceive your contract as a one-time adventure, then the cruise liner is a great place to build a career. Showing initiative and diligence in any sphere will ensure your progress. You will be able to train yourself to become more confident, competitive, punctual, responsible, and stress-resistant.
  • Meeting new people
    Since the team usually comprises people from all over the world, you can meet new people and learn about their culture.

When people think about cruise ships, the first thought they have is having fun. They imagine beautiful waves, fantastic routes, and an active nightlife. Very few people think about the hard work it takes to make a cruise enjoyable for passengers. To make the right decision, you need to weigh up all the pros and cons. Like any job, working on a cruise line is not an easy one. Here are some disadvantages that could be critical for you.


  • Depending on your position, you will work from 10 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week. That’s hard work. However, the many other activities will allow you to enjoy your limited 3-5 hours of free time per day.
  • Psychological pressure is one of the crucial disadvantages of working on the liner. Constant stress, fatigue, rude and demanding passengers, and lack of personal space may cause you discomfort.
  • Ship motion sickness, engine room sounds, and vibration can cause physical discomfort. It can be a problem, especially on a smaller cruise ship. But it’s level will depend on the location of your cabin. The lower and closer to the center it is, the less inconvenience you will feel.
  • Homesickness can be an additional challenge. Staying away from home for at least six months can be difficult for some people, especially those in a relationship or with children.

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship With No Experience: Tips for Beginners

Some job listings for a cruise ship can look too frightening for those candidates who believe they do not have enough experience and qualifications. Like students, for instance. Cruise ship employers are not necessarily looking for the most qualified and experienced candidates, but rather for those who can sell themselves most efficiently. Job listings often include skills and experience of a potential perfect candidate. However, recruiters know that sometimes applicants, especially those who have little background, can’t meet all preferred requirements.

If you are starting your career and want to work on a cruise ship with no experience, we recommend that you do not focus on sector-specific skills you do not have. Instead, consider your transferable skills and learn how to sell yourself as the best candidate for the job.

First, let’s find out what transferable skills are. These are skills that can be used by an employee when working in different positions, as they can be transferred from one place of work to another. Additionally, you can transfer them from your college, travels, volunteer work, etc. Transferable skills can be classified as hard and soft skills. Hard skills are professional skills that can be taught and measured. These can be your fluency in a second language, proven sales ability, or customer service experience. On the other hand, soft skills are universal competencies, which are much more challenging to measure. Sometimes we call them personal qualities because they depend on a person’s temper and are gained with personal experience. These may include your active listening skills, conflict resolution experience, and an energetic personality.

Analysis of transferable skills is crucial for beginners who have little or no experience at all. When applying for a job, whether on a cruise ship or in any other company, the key is to relate your past achievements and knowledge with the potential position.

Here are some tips on how to include transferable skills in your CV and cover letter:

  1. Review the job listing and requirements;
  2. Analyze your past accomplishments, skills, and job history, if any;
  3. Find a match between what you can do and what the company wants;
  4. Write your resume and cover letter focusing on this match. Your goal is to convince the employers that you are everything they need to fill a vacancy.
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How to Apply to Work on a Cruise Ship

There are two ways to get a job on the ship: through the crew agency or on your own. The last option works better for the entertainment sphere - musicians, comedians, singers - or for senior managers with impressive work experience. Basically, the staff of the cruise liner is hired by agencies.
But let’s start from the very beginning.

Our guide on how to get a job on a cruise line

With this 7-step guide you will be able to start your career on a ship:

  1. Check online job boards. We particularly recommend All Cruise Jobs. It is the world’s leading online board for cruise jobs. Here you can find available jobs and apply after registration.
  2. Visit cruise companies’ websites. More than ten big cruise companies, and more than twenty smaller ones, are sailing around the world. They all have corporate websites, which you can use to apply. We’ve prepared a list of the best cruise lines in the world to seek work:
    • Royal Caribbean International. The company’s fleet of 38 ships is sailing to fascinating destinations worldwide, including Dubai, Australia, Bahamas, Europe, and South America.
    • Carnival Cruise Lines. The whole Carnival group has over 120,000 employees from all parts of the world. It’s one of the largest companies.
    • Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL is popular because of its modern fleet of cruise ships. They sail to Alaska, Bahamas, Caribbean, Europe, and many other destinations.
    • American Cruise Lines. This is a relatively small company, which has only six ships and offers cruises in the USA, including Alaska. Yet it is one of the most desired cruise lines for job seekers.
  3. Look for a recruitment agency. It is one of the easiest ways to find a job on a cruise ship. Many companies hire outsource employment specialists. They are responsible for selecting the best candidates from a variety of applicants. The Directory of Recruiters for Cruise Lines has contact information for a variety of recruitment agents and employers in 62 countries.
  4. Update your CV and create a cover letter for each position you want to apply for. As we’ve already mentioned, a professional resume and cover letter that shows your previous experience and relevant skills can be your pass to an interview, and possibly to the job of your dream. Thus, make sure these documents match to each particular vacancy.
  5. Attach some additional documents like letters of recommendation from past jobs and copies of certificates/diplomas relevant to the applying position. This will increase your chances to sign a contract.
  6. Be ready for an interview. It is the next stage of the selection process. Recruiters and cruise companies receive tons of applications, and usually, only the best candidates are invited to an interview. Interviews are held in person or online, via Skype or another video conference app. Get ready for general interview questions, show enthusiasm, and demonstrate the value that you can add to the ship team.
  7. Get your job offer. The successful candidate will receive an official job offer by email. And don’t forget to check your spam folder.

Required documents

Once you’ve received an official offer, the process of preparing the documents starts. You should keep in mind that every company has its own requirements. We’ve created a list of the standard papers you will need to get a job on a cruise ship:

  • valid passport
  • relevant visa or work permit – depending on where you are from and which countries you will be traveling to

US citizens and people who have Green Cards can work on US-flagged vessels. If your ship stops in a US port, you will need the C-1/D visa. Cruise lines with European routes mainly employ citizens of the European Union.

  • certificate that proves you don’t have any criminal background
  • valid medical certificate

You will need to pass a medical examination and get the ENG1. It is a medical fitness certificate confirming that you are in adequate fit condition to work onboard.

  • valid STCW Basic Safety Training certificate

Some companies organize STCW training for their employees after they join a ship. However, many candidates are required to have a valid STCW BST certificate before they start a job.

Since cruise companies usually hire people from all over the world, they know how to get all the relevant visas and permits. After they offer you a job and you accept it, they will help with the document process.


How Long Does it Take to Get Hired on a Cruise Ship

The whole hiring process can take from 30 to 90 days. But in a worse case scenario, it can even last 6-8 months.

For entry-level positions that are mainly hired through the recruitment agents, you will have to pass 2 interviews in approximately 30 days after applying. For managing jobs, you may have 2-4 interviews. The first interview will be held with an agent and the second one with an official cruise company representative. Managers will also meet Operation Department Heads and other representatives. Usually, this stage will take 3-6 weeks. You will get informed about the successful results in 10-14 days following the meetings.

Then document preparation starts. As we’ve already mentioned, you will need to go through a medical examination and do a criminal background check. Depending on the country you are from, the criminal check can take from 24-48 hours up to several weeks. The medical tests will be done in 2-4 weeks, based on the doctors you need to visit and your current location.

However, some others aspects can influence the time it will take to get an offer to work on a cruise ship:

  • Each company has a time frame for the hiring process and additional requirements that could make it longer.
  • During the summer, which is the busiest season, companies may need to fill some vacancies immediately. Thus the process sometimes can be very quick.


Working on a cruise ship can pay well and open up a very exciting opportunity to see the world. Anyone can go cruising and earn money, but not everyone is ready to leave their lives, families, and friends onshore to work 7-day-a-week for 6-10 months.

Make a wise decision after considering all the advantages and disadvantages of working on a cruise ship. If you feel you are ready, then your cover letter and CV need to perfectly present your relevant skills to impress the potential employer.

Not sure how to best present yourself to get a job on a cruise ship? Our online cover letter builder will help you create a paper that will highlight your key strengths in 3 simple steps.
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