Have you ever wondered how much cruise ship employees make? Perhaps you’ve noticed that many cruise ship waiters originate from countries like India and the Philippines where wages are lower?
Or maybe you’ve seen that the cruise director always looks happy and are wondering how much he must be making to have such a big smile on his face?
Perhaps you’ve always fancied a life at sea and want to know how much money you make working on a cruise ship? This article looks at the average salaries of cruise ship workers with cruise lines such as Carnival, Disney and Royal Caribbean.
Once you have this knowledge, you may then be interested in finding out how to get a job on a cruise ship.
How much do cruise ship workers make?
The median average salary for a cruise ship worker is less than that of the average American, but more than the average salary of many other countries.
The three largest cruise companies reported the median annual earnings of their employees in 2018. They were:
- Carnival: $16,622
- Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings: $20,101
- Royal Caribbean Cruises: $19,396
Figures are in US dollars (Source)
We can compare these with the median annual earnings of the populations of various countries:
- USA: $35,600
- Australia: $31,590
- UK: $23,717
- Spain: $21,788
- Russia: $16,810
- Lithuania: £12,695
- Chile: $10,102
- India: $2,502
Whilst the average cruise ship workers earn less than the average American, this amount is more than the average salary in many countries in Asia, South America and Eastern Europe.
One American cruise ship worker recalled how crew members from developing countries would show him photos of their new three-bedroom houses with swimming pools and ocean views which they bought with their cruise ship salaries.
Of course, average salary data doesn’t take into account the number of hours worked. Some cruise ship workers work up to sixteen hours per day, seven days per week. Others, such as entertainers, may work for only a few hours each day.
Cruise ship contracts can last between two and eleven months, with most lasting four to eight months. In between contracts, cruise ship employees usually get to go home for a couple of months.
What benefits do cruise ship workers get?
A cruise ship employee’s living costs are generally much lower than they would be for someone employed on land.
Employee benefits for cruise ship crew may include:
- Flights to and from the ship
- Medical care
- Health insurance
- Dental insurance
- Retirement plan
- Life insurance
- Cruise discounts for family members
Cruise ship workers have access to a crew bar with a bar allowance. If they go over the allowance they must pay for drinks, but these are lower-priced than in the guest bars.
Cruise ship staff do not get access to free wifi, which is why you’ll often see so many of them heading to the nearest wifi hotspot on port days.
Cruise line employee salaries
How much does a cruise ship captain make?
The average salary of a cruise ship captain is $98,000. Cruise ship captain salaries vary from $44k for a less experienced captain of a small cruise ship to $177k for a captain of a mega-ship with over 20 years experience.
On top of their salary, cruise ship captains may get bonuses of up to $40k per year, as well as profit sharing of up to $3k.
Cruise ship captains often work for three months and then get three months off. They are on call 24 hours per day.
How much does a cruise director make?
The average cruise director salary is $58,887. A newly-appointed cruise director can expect to make around $45,000, whereas the most high-profile cruise directors will make over $100,000 per year.
Guests usually see cruise directors up on stage introducing entertainers and making people laugh, but behind the scenes, a cruise director has much more responsibility.
The cruise director is the head of the entertainment department and is responsible for hundreds of staff including performers, stage staff, sound and lighting technicians, musicians, activities staff and youth staff.
Cruise directors work 11 to 14 hours per day on a sea day and six to eight hours per day on a port day. They usually work for six months at a time, with six weeks off to go home in between contracts.
How much do cruise ship waiters make?
Cruise ship waiter salaries vary from $1,200 per month for a junior waiter to $5,000 per month for the head waiter on an ultra-luxury cruise ship. These salaries generally include gratuities which are collected and shared automatically.
If people choose to tip extra in cash on top of the standard gratuities, then waiters can make more money.
Suggested read: Things to know about Royal Caribbean gratuities
The hours for a cruise ship waiter or waitress can be very long, as they often have to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner with little time off in between.
How much does a chef make on a cruise ship?
The executive chef on a cruise ship will make up to $6,500 per month, depending on the ship. A Chef de Partie will make $3,200 to $4,600 per month. Trainee cruise ship cooks make from $800 per month with wages rising as they work their way up the ranks.
Cruise ship chefs usually have several years’ experience working in similar roles in luxury hotels, restaurants or other high-volume food service facilities.
Cruise ship chefs work long hours, usually at least ten hours per day, up to seven days per week.
How much do cruise ship bartenders make?
Cruise ship bartenders make between $1,400 and $2,600 per month depending on the cruise line. This includes gratuities which are automatically collected and shared, but they can make more if people tip extra in cash.
Cruise ship bartenders work long hours, often around 12 hours per day with few days off.
How much do cruise ship doctors make?
Cruise ship doctor salaries range from $7,500 per month for a cruise ship physician to $12,000 per month for a chief doctor, depending on the cruise line and the level of experience.
Most cruise ships have one doctor and two nurses on board, but larger ships will have two doctors and three or four nurses.
How much do cruise ship nurses make?
Cruise ship nurse salaries range from $4,200 per month for a ship nurse to $4,800 per month for a chief nurse and $5,200 to $6,100 per month for a nurse practitioner.
Each cruise ship will have up to four nurses on board, as well as one or two doctors and some paramedics.
How much do cruise ship performers make?
The salary of cruise ship entertainers varies depending on the cruise line, the job that they do and how much experience they have. Here are some averages.
Musicians – The salary for cruise ship musicians starts at $1,400 per month for Caribbean Calypso band members up to $3,500 per month for piano bar entertainers.
Dancers – Cruise ship dancers who perform in the various productions make between $2,400 and $3,800 per month.
Guest entertainers – Comedians, magicians, ventriloquists and acrobats make upwards of $6,000 per month, depending on the popularity of the act.
How much do cruise ship beauticians make?
Most cruise ships have spas, beauty salons and hair salons that offer services such as massage, hair styling, nails, acupuncture, teeth whitening and skin treatments.
As well as earning a salary, those working in the spa and salon can make extra money by earning a commission on products sold and from tips.
Beauty therapist – Salaries for cruise ship beauty therapists and aestheticians range from $2,400 to $4,200 per month.
Nail technician – Salaries for cruise ship nail technicians range from $2,400 to $4,200 per month.
Hairdresser – Cruise ship barbers and hairstylists make between $2,200 and $4,400 per month.
Massage therapist – Cruise ship massage therapists make between $2,800 and $4,500 per month.
Cruise ship jobs that make the most money
Here are the cruise ship jobs in order of salary:
|Job||Approximate monthly earnings|
|Gift shop assistant||$2,400|
The top-paying job on a cruise ship isn’t always the captain. Often chief engineers and ship doctors earn more, along with celebrity guest entertainers who are hired for short contracts.
There is no correlation between the hours worked and the money earned. Room stewards, waiters and captains work some of the longest hours at sea, while musicians, photographers and entertainers have much shorter days.
FAQs about working on a cruise ship
Most cruise ship workers will work between 10 and 12 hours a day, seven days a week. They are normally given a number of breaks. Regulations state that crew members can’t work more than 14 hours per day.
Generally, cruise ship works don’t get days off. Instead, they work intensively for seven days a week for the duration of their contract. Many crew members then choose to have a break on land for a month or two, before returning for another contract.
Cruise ship employees live on one of the crew decks. These are situated below the guest decks, normally just above the waterline. Officers and the Captain sometimes have their own accommodation close to the bridge.
Most cruise ships have two-berth rooms, so most cruise ship workers share a bedroom with someone else. Modern ships have private bathrooms but some older ones have shared bathrooms between crew rooms too.
Tax rules vary depending on where you live, but most cruise ship workers will pay tax in their home county on any earnings at sea. UK cruise ship workers can claim a Seafarers’ Earnings Deduction if they spend fewer than 183 continuous days on land.
Cruise ship employees do get free food at sea, although it may not be to the same high standard as the food that the guests enjoy. Crew members will have their own cafeteria away from the guests.
Most cruise ship workers aren’t entitled to free WiFi on board their ship. They can choose to pay for it just as the guests do, although most prefer to wait until a day on land and find a free hotspot to catch up with family.