How to get a job on a cruise ship (even with no experience)

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Have you ever fancied working on a cruise ship? Me too! When you’re on a cruise ship it’s a common feeling to never want to get off. And, to start thinking about whether there’s a way that you could live the cruise life full time.

Around a quarter of a million people work on-board cruise ships and new vacancies come up all the time. So, how do you go about getting your dream job on a cruise ship?

I know that many people struggle to find out how to apply for cruise ship jobs because I regularly get asked this question in my Instagram DMs. I had no idea either, so I spent eight hours doing the research online to find all the answers for you.

In this guide to getting a job on a cruise ship, I’ll show you the best cruise ship jobs that don’t require any experience, where to find these jobs and how to apply for them.

Is it hard to get a job on a cruise ship?

It’s always been hard to get a job on a cruise ship, but the global pause in cruising has made it so much harder as there are thousands of experienced cruise ship workers that are now out of work.

The easiest way to get your dream cruise ship job is to take an entry-level job to get your foot through the door and then you can work your way up to the job that you aspire to do.

The requirements to work on a cruise ship

To work on a cruise ship, you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Be at least 18 or 21 years old
  • Meet the language fluency requirements
  • Have a valid passport
  • Have the required visa or work permit
  • Have a basic safety training certificate
  • Pass a medical examination
  • Pass a criminal background check
  • Have no visible tattoos or piercings

Depending on the job you are interested in, there will be some additional requirements specific to that job. Whatever job you do, being multi-lingual will certainly increase your chances.

Can you get a cruise ship job if you have tattoos?

Most cruise lines require that crew with passenger-facing roles do not have any visible tattoos. Some cruise lines are more strict than others and you may be allowed to cover any tattoos with make-up or a plaster.

On a recent cruise that I took, our waiter in the main dining room had a noticeable tattoo on his hand. So, it’s certainly possible to get a job on a cruise ship with tattoos. It just might mean that you’re limited in terms of the jobs you can do or the cruise lines you can work for.

cruise job with tattoos

Jobs on cruise ships

There are hundreds of different job roles that you can do on a cruise ship. If you’re already a qualified nurse, massage therapist or IT professional, then it makes sense to apply for one of those jobs on board.

But can you work on a cruise ship with no experience or qualifications? In many cases, yes. There are some entry-level cruise ship jobs that don’t require you to have done the job before or to have ever been on-board a ship.

If you’re open to suggestions about your future career and would do almost anything for the chance to work at sea, then perhaps you should consider these entry-level cruise ship jobs…

A list of cruise jobs that don’t require experience

  • Galley cleaner – Cleaning the kitchens
  • Potwasher – Washing dishes
  • Bar utility – Cleaning and restocking bars
  • Deckhand – Cleaning deck areas and stacking deckchairs
  • Ordinary seaman – General cleaning and maintenance
  • Cabin steward – Cleaning passenger cabins
  • Bell staff – Moving luggage, running errands and cleaning
  • General cleaner – Cleaning public areas
  • Laundryperson – Washing and ironing clothes, bedding and towels
  • Engine wiper – Cleaning machinery and equipment

If you want to work on a cruise ship with no experience or qualifications, one thing’s for sure, you’d better like cleaning! A cruise ship cleaning job, whether you’re cleaning the kitchen, the cabins or the engine room can get your foot in the door so that you can work your way up to a better-paid and more exciting position.

cruise ship cleaners

Alternatively, you look to gain qualifications and work experience in the area that you’re interested in. Look for jobs in large hotels or on smaller ships or sailboats as a way to gain the experience that you need before applying for your first cruise ship job.

What are the best jobs on a cruise ship?

The best job on a cruise ship is totally subjective. A job that would be an amazing job to one person would be unbearable to the next. However, certain cruise ship jobs do have a very high level of job satisfaction.

The 10 best cruise ship jobs

  1. Doctor – The ship’s doctor is often the highest-paid person on the ship with average monthly earnings of $9,750
  2. Captain – Cruise ships captains get the best staterooms on the ship and typically work for three months then get three months paid leave
  3. Youth Staff – If you love kids then working in a cruise ship kids’ club can be a lot of fun
  4. Cruise Director – Friendly and charismatic, cruise directors are often up on stage, making people laugh as they introduce entertainers
  5. Gentleman Host – The sole purpose of this role is to dance with ladies who have nobody to dance with!
  6. Entertainer – Whether you’re a singer, dancer, acrobat or comedian, you’ll have lots of free time when you’re not on stage
  7. Shore Excursions Manager – The biggest perk of this job is that you get to try out all of the shore excursions before you sell them
  8. Bartender – If you’re sociable and like to meet new people, a cruise ship bartender job can be a lot of fun
  9. Firefighter – Fires on cruise ships are very rare, so you’ll spend a lot of time checking equipment and training crew on fire safety
  10. Hairdresser – Helping people to look glamorous for formal nights is very rewarding

How much do cruise ship jobs pay?

The pay for working on a cruise ship ranges from $500 per month for a galley cleaner to over $10,000 per month for a cruise ship doctor. The hours vary as well, which means that some jobs are paid at a much lower rate than the US minimum wage. These jobs are usually done by people from countries with a low cost of living, who want to send money back home to their families.

Suggested read: How much do cruise ship workers make?

What is the best cruise line to work for?

Which is the best cruise line to work for depends on many factors such as the salary for your role, hours, progression opportunities, food and policies. 

Several cruise ship workers report that the ship is just as important as the cruise line, as each ship in a fleet may have a different culture. Some cruise ships might have amazing crew parties, others may be more relaxed.

Generally speaking, the best cruise lines to work for are large companies that you know will not go out of business.

The best cruise lines to work for:

  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Princess Cruises
  • MSC Cruises
  • P&O Cruises
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Disney Cruise Line
  • Holland America Line
  • Cunard
  • Costa Cruises
  • AIDA Cruises
  • Marella Cruises

How to apply for cruise ship jobs

Some cruise lines require you to apply directly via their head office and some require you to apply via their preferred agency or hiring partner. You’ll find the application instructions in the careers section of each cruise line website.

Once you’ve found a job that you’d like to apply for, you can follow the instructions to apply online. You’ll need to submit a cover letter and resume along with anything else that is specified in the job advertisement.

There are several fraudulent companies in the world that claim to represent cruise lines’ human resource departments. To check that any company that you are working with is legitimate, look at the official cruise line’s website for a list of authorised recruitment partners. If you can’t find their name listed, be careful.

Cruise ship job vacancies

Here are some links to the best places to find cruise ship jobs:

The bottom line

Living and working on a cruise ship is a dream job for people from all over the world and from all walks of life. Getting work on a cruise ship can be hard, but if this is your dream then don’t give up.

If you have no cruise ship experience, you may need to work your way up from an entry-level position. Getting a job in a large hotel, on a yacht or developing your language skills will all help you to prepare to apply for your dream cruise ship job.

Header image credit: P&O Cruises

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How to find your perfect cruise, for cheap

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Instructions

  1. Know which is the best cruise line for you
  2. Pick a ship with facilities you'll actually use
  3. Don't assume that you need a balcony
  4. Consider a cruise from your nearest port
  5. Look out for free or cheap kids places
  6. Book over a year in advance
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