How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

Cruise ships provide dream vacations for millions of passengers each year. But have you ever wondered how much the hardworking staff on cruise ships get paid? With long hours and months spent away from home, a cruise ship job may seem glamorous, but it requires major sacrifices.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Cruise ship workers typically make between $1,200 and $4,000 per month depending on their position and experience level.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll break down the pay for various cruise ship jobs, discuss factors that impact salary ranges, and provide tips for getting hired.

Salary Ranges For Common Cruise Ship Jobs

Room Stewards: $1,300 – $1,800 per month

Room stewards, also known as cabin stewards, play a crucial role in ensuring that cruise ship guests have a comfortable and enjoyable stay. They are responsible for cleaning and maintaining the cabins, making beds, restocking supplies, and providing excellent customer service.

On average, room stewards can earn between $1,300 to $1,800 per month. However, it’s important to note that gratuities and tips from guests can significantly increase their earnings. So, providing exceptional service can lead to higher income for these hardworking individuals.

Waiters/Waitresses: $1,200 – $2,500 per month

Waiters and waitresses on cruise ships are responsible for providing exceptional dining experiences to guests. They take orders, serve meals, and ensure that guests’ needs are met throughout their meals.

The salary range for waiters and waitresses can vary depending on several factors such as experience, position, and cruise line. On average, they can earn between $1,200 to $2,500 per month. Additionally, like room stewards, tips and gratuities can significantly increase their overall earnings.

Bartenders: $1,500 – $2,500 per month

Bartenders on cruise ships are responsible for preparing and serving a wide variety of beverages to guests. They must have excellent knowledge of cocktails and be able to provide top-notch customer service.

The salary range for bartenders can vary depending on the cruise line and their level of experience. On average, bartenders can earn between $1,500 to $2,500 per month. Similar to other positions, tips and gratuities can significantly boost their earnings.

Gift Shop Staff: $1,000 – $1,500 per month

Working in the gift shop onboard a cruise ship can be an exciting opportunity for individuals who enjoy sales and customer service. Gift shop staff are responsible for assisting guests in finding the perfect souvenirs, handling transactions, and maintaining the shop’s inventory.

The salary range for gift shop staff can vary, but on average, they can earn between $1,000 to $1,500 per month. It’s worth mentioning that some cruise lines offer commission-based incentives, which can increase their earnings based on sales performance.

Entertainers: $2,000 – $4,500 per month

Entertainers on cruise ships bring joy and excitement to guests through their performances. From singers and dancers to magicians and comedians, these talented individuals play a vital role in creating memorable experiences for passengers.

The salary range for entertainers can vary significantly depending on their level of experience, talent, and the cruise line they work for. On average, entertainers can earn between $2,000 to $4,500 per month.

It’s important to note that some entertainers may receive additional benefits such as accommodation and meals.

Spa Staff: $1,500 – $3,000 per month

Spa staff onboard cruise ships provide a range of services including massages, facials, manicures, and pedicures to help guests relax and unwind. The salary range for spa staff can vary depending on their position, experience, and the cruise line they work for.

On average, spa staff can earn between $1,500 to $3,000 per month. Additionally, they may also receive commissions from selling spa products or services, which can further boost their earnings.

Factors That Impact Cruise Ship Salaries

When it comes to working on a cruise ship, salaries can vary depending on several factors. Understanding these factors can give you a better idea of how much cruise ship workers make. Here are some key factors that impact cruise ship salaries:

Job Title and Department

The job title and department play a significant role in determining the salary of cruise ship workers. Positions such as captain, engineer, or executive chef often come with higher salaries compared to entry-level positions like housekeeping or server.

Additionally, workers in departments like entertainment or casino may have the opportunity to earn additional income through tips or commissions.

Experience Level

Experience level is another important factor that affects cruise ship salaries. As with any job, the more experience you have, the higher your earning potential. Cruise lines often offer incremental salary increases based on years of service or promotions within the company.

Workers with several years of experience in the industry may also have the opportunity to negotiate higher salaries.

Cruise Line

The cruise line you work for can also impact your salary. Different cruise lines have varying pay scales and benefit packages. Some luxury cruise lines may offer higher salaries but have stricter requirements for experience and qualifications.

Meanwhile, larger mainstream cruise lines may offer competitive salaries but with more opportunities for career growth and advancement.

Ship Size and Class

The size and class of the ship can influence the salaries of cruise ship workers. Larger ships with more amenities and a higher number of passengers may generate higher revenue, allowing for higher salaries.

Additionally, working on a luxury cruise ship may result in higher salaries due to the premium experience provided to passengers.

Contracts and Tips

Contracts and tips also play a role in cruise ship salaries. Some cruise lines offer fixed-term contracts for their workers, typically ranging from a few months to a year. These contracts may include additional benefits such as free accommodation and meals, which can offset lower base salaries.

Furthermore, tips from passengers can significantly boost income, especially for positions that have direct contact with guests, such as waitstaff or cabin stewards.

It’s important to note that the salary range for cruise ship workers can vary widely. Factors such as location, nationality, and union agreements may also impact wages. For the most accurate and up-to-date information on cruise ship salaries, it is recommended to consult official cruise line websites or reputable industry resources.

Requirements and Qualifications For Employment

Minimum Age Requirements

To work on a cruise ship, there are minimum age requirements that must be met. Most cruise lines require employees to be at least 18 years old, while some positions may have a minimum age requirement of 21.

This is to ensure that employees have the maturity and responsibility necessary to handle the demands of working on a cruise ship.

Education and Experience

The educational requirements for cruise ship employment vary depending on the position. Some entry-level positions may only require a high school diploma or equivalent, while others may require a college degree or specialized training.

Experience in the hospitality or service industry can also be beneficial when applying for certain positions, such as bartenders or waitstaff.

Language Skills

Since cruise ships cater to a diverse group of passengers from around the world, language skills are often a requirement for employment. Fluency in English is typically required, as it is the primary language spoken on most cruise ships.

Additionally, proficiency in other languages, such as Spanish, French, or German, can be a valuable asset and may increase job opportunities.

Physical Abilities

Working on a cruise ship can be physically demanding, so employees must be in good physical health. This includes having the stamina to work long hours, the ability to lift heavy objects, and the agility to maneuver around the ship.

Some positions may also require employees to pass a medical examination to ensure they are fit for the job.

Background Checks and Drug Tests

Before being hired, cruise ship employees are typically required to undergo background checks and drug tests. These checks are done to ensure that potential employees have a clean criminal record and are drug-free.

The safety and security of passengers and crew members are of utmost importance, so cruise lines take these checks seriously.

Perks and Benefits

Room and Board

One of the biggest perks of working on a cruise ship is that most of your expenses are covered. Cruise ship workers are provided with free accommodations and meals while onboard. Whether you are a crew member or staff, you can enjoy comfortable living quarters and access to a variety of dining options.

This not only saves you money but also allows you to fully immerse yourself in the unique experience of living and working at sea.

Travel and Adventure

Working on a cruise ship gives you the opportunity to travel to different destinations around the world. From the stunning beaches of the Caribbean to the historic cities of Europe, you’ll get to explore new places and cultures while getting paid.

Imagine waking up in a different port every day, with exciting adventures awaiting you. It’s like being on a permanent vacation, but with the added bonus of earning a salary.

Low Cost of Living

Living expenses can often be a significant drain on your income, but not when you work on a cruise ship. With free accommodations and meals, your cost of living is significantly reduced. This allows you to save a larger portion of your salary or spend it on experiences and souvenirs during your time off.

Plus, you don’t have to worry about utility bills, property taxes, or rent. It’s a great way to make your hard-earned money go further.

Tips and Bonuses

Cruise ship workers also have the potential to earn additional income through tips and bonuses. Many cruise lines have a gratuity system in place, where passengers tip crew members for their exceptional service. The amount of tips received can vary, but it can be a significant boost to your earnings.

Additionally, some positions offer performance-based bonuses, providing an incentive to excel in your role and go above and beyond for guests.

Free Medical Care

When you work on a cruise ship, you have access to free medical care. Cruise lines have medical facilities onboard staffed with qualified healthcare professionals. Whether it’s a minor illness or a more serious medical issue, you can rest assured that you will receive the necessary medical attention without worrying about the cost.

This is a valuable benefit that provides peace of mind and ensures your well-being while at sea.

Tax-Free Income

One of the most appealing aspects of working on a cruise ship is the tax-free income. Since cruise ships operate in international waters, crew members are not subject to income tax in most cases. This means that the salary you earn is yours to keep, allowing you to maximize your earnings and save for the future.

It’s a significant financial advantage that can make a big difference in your overall financial situation.

Downsides and Challenges

Long Hours and Few Days Off

Working on a cruise ship often means long hours and limited time off. Cruise ship workers typically have demanding schedules, working for extended periods without a day off. They may work up to 10-12 hours a day, sometimes even more during peak seasons.

This can be physically and mentally exhausting, requiring a high level of dedication and stamina.

Months Away From Home

One of the biggest challenges faced by cruise ship workers is being away from their loved ones for months at a time. While this can be exciting for some, as they get to explore different destinations, it can also be emotionally challenging.

Missing family events, birthdays, and holidays can take a toll on their well-being. It requires a certain level of resilience and adaptability to cope with the homesickness that may arise.

Physically Demanding

Working on a cruise ship is physically demanding. Many roles require manual labor and being on your feet for long hours. From housekeeping to restaurant service to entertainment, each job comes with its physical challenges.

Workers need to be in good physical condition to handle the demands of their roles and maintain a high level of service throughout their contracts.

Shared Living Quarters

Cruise ship workers often have to share living quarters with their colleagues. Cabin space can be limited, and privacy may be minimal. This can be challenging for those who value personal space and privacy.

However, it also provides an opportunity to build close relationships with fellow crew members and create a supportive community onboard.

Limited Communication

While technology has made communication easier, cruise ship workers still face challenges in staying connected with their loved ones back home. Limited internet access and expensive satellite connections can make it difficult to communicate regularly.

However, many cruise lines are constantly improving their onboard communication facilities to allow workers to stay in touch with their families and friends.

Strict Company Policies

Cruise ship workers are subject to strict company policies and regulations. These policies govern various aspects of their work, including appearance, conduct, and adherence to safety protocols. Breaking these policies can have serious consequences, including termination of employment.

It is important for workers to familiarize themselves with these rules and regulations to ensure a smooth and successful experience onboard.


Working on a cruise ship can be an exciting opportunity to travel and earn a living, but it requires major sacrifices. Salaries vary greatly based on the job, experience, cruise line, and other factors. While perks like travel and room/board are enticing, the lifestyle also has significant downsides.

With hard work and persistence, a cruise ship job can provide valuable experience, chances to visit dream destinations, and reasonable income. Just be sure you understand the realities before signing a contract.

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