Cruise Ship Salaries: A Comprehensive Guide

20 April 2023


The cruise industry has experienced significant growth in recent years, attracting millions of passengers annually and becoming a popular choice for holidays. With this expansion comes an increasing demand for skilled and dedicated professionals to work on these vessels, making cruise ship jobs an attractive option for many.

Take a look at our piece on wages in commercial shipping to learn more about salaries on a merchant ship.

Factors Affecting Cruise Ship Salaries

Several factors can influence the salaries of cruise ship employees. To gain a better understanding of the earning potential in the industry, it's essential to consider these factors:

  • Job position and responsibilities: Salaries vary depending on the role and the level of responsibility. Entry-level positions tend to have lower salaries, while management and specialised roles command higher pay.
  • Experience and qualifications: Those with more experience, relevant qualifications, and certifications can expect to earn more than their less experienced counterparts.
  • Cruise line and its reputation: High-end luxury cruise lines often offer higher salaries to attract top talent. However, competition for these positions can be fierce.
  • Geographical location and itinerary: Cruise ship salaries may vary depending on the region in which the ship operates. Itineraries in more remote or exotic locations may offer higher salaries due to the unique challenges and requirements associated with these routes.
  • Tips and gratuities: Many cruise ship roles, particularly in the service industry, rely on tips and gratuities to supplement their income. The tipping culture and expectations can vary depending on the cruise line and its clientele.

By understanding these factors, potential cruise ship employees can set realistic expectations for their earning potential and make informed decisions about their career paths.

Before diving into the world of cruise ship salaries, we recommend creating a profile on Liveseas to discover exciting career opportunities and stay ahead in the ever-growing cruise industry.

Salaries for Various Cruise Ship Positions

Entry-Level Positions

Entry-level positions are often the starting point for many professionals in the cruise industry. These roles typically require less experience and qualifications, but they provide valuable opportunities to gain hands-on experience and learn the ropes. Below is an overview of some common entry-level positions and their respective salaries.

  • Housekeeping: Housekeeping staff are responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of cabins and public areas on the ship. They ensure that passengers have a comfortable and pleasant experience during their stay. Salaries for housekeeping staff usually start around $1100 to $1,800 per month, depending on the cruise line and the specific role. Supervisory positions within housekeeping, such as cabin stewards or head housekeepers, can earn higher salaries.
  • Food and Beverage Staff: Food and beverage staff work in various roles, including waiters, bartenders, and buffet attendants. They serve meals and drinks to passengers, ensuring their dining experience is enjoyable. Salaries for these roles typically range from $1,200 to $2,000 per month, with the potential for higher earnings through tips and gratuities.
  • Retail and Customer Service: Retail staff work in the ship's shops and boutiques, selling merchandise, assisting passengers with their purchases, and managing inventory. Customer service staff work at the ship's reception or guest services desk, addressing passengers' needs and inquiries. Salaries for retail and customer service roles can range from $1,300 to $1,900 per month, depending on the cruise line and the level of responsibility.

It's essential to remember that these salary ranges are not definitive and may vary depending on the factors discussed earlier. However, they provide a general idea of the earning potential for entry-level positions in the cruise industry.

Skilled Positions

Skilled positions on cruise ships require more specific expertise and qualifications, making them ideal for professionals with relevant experience in their respective fields. These roles offer higher salaries compared to entry-level positions and often include additional benefits, such as increased opportunities for career growth. Let's take a closer look at some skilled positions and their corresponding salaries.

  • Chefs and Cooks: Cruise ship kitchens are bustling environments that require skilled chefs and cooks to create delicious dishes for passengers. These professionals work in various culinary positions, from line cooks to sous chefs and executive chefs, depending on their experience and expertise. Salaries for chefs and cooks can range from $2,000 to $5,000 per month, with executive chefs earning even higher salaries.
  • Entertainment and Activities Staff: Entertainment and activities staff are responsible for creating an enjoyable atmosphere for passengers by organising and leading various events and activities, such as live shows, dance classes, and game nights. Roles in this category include dancers, singers, musicians, and activity coordinators. Salaries for entertainment and activities staff can vary greatly, starting from around $1,500 per month for junior roles and going up to $3,500 or more per month for more experienced performers or coordinators.
  • Spa and Fitness Professionals: Cruise ships often feature luxurious spas and fitness centres, providing passengers with various wellness and relaxation services. Professionals working in this field include massage therapists, fitness instructors, and beauty specialists. Salaries for spa and fitness professionals range from $1,700 to $3,500 per month, depending on the role and the level of experience.

It's important to note that these salary figures are approximate and can vary based on the factors mentioned earlier, such as cruise line reputation and geographical location. However, they can provide a general understanding of the earning potential for skilled positions in the cruise industry.

Management and Supervisory Roles

Management and supervisory roles on cruise ships are vital for ensuring smooth operations and maintaining high-quality services for passengers. These positions typically demand substantial experience in the industry, excellent leadership skills, and a deep understanding of their respective departments. As a result, salaries for management and supervisory roles are generally higher than those of entry-level or skilled positions. Here's a breakdown of some key management roles and their salary ranges.

  • Hotel Operations: Hotel operations managers oversee the entire hotel department on a cruise ship, which includes housekeeping, food and beverage, guest services, and more. These professionals are responsible for ensuring that all services are delivered efficiently and to the highest standards. Hotel operations managers can earn between $3,500 and $5,500 per month, depending on the size of the ship and their experience.
  • Food and Beverage Management: Food and beverage managers supervise all aspects of dining and bar services on board. They are responsible for managing budgets, ensuring food safety standards, and coordinating with chefs and other kitchen staff to create memorable dining experiences for passengers. Salaries for food and beverage managers typically range from $3,000 to $4,500 per month, with variations based on the size of the operation and the individual's experience.
  • Cruise Director and Other Leadership Roles: Cruise directors play a significant role in shaping the overall guest experience on a cruise ship. They are responsible for managing the entertainment and activities departments, liaising with other departments, and maintaining high levels of guest satisfaction. Cruise directors can expect to earn between $3,500 and $5,000 per month. Other leadership roles, such as pursers or guest relations managers, can have salaries that range from $2,500 to $4,500 per month, depending on their specific responsibilities and experience.

As with other positions, the salaries mentioned above can vary based on several factors, including the cruise line's reputation, the ship's location and itinerary, and individual qualifications. However, they provide a general understanding of the earning potential for management and supervisory roles within the cruise industry.

Deck and Engine Department Positions

The deck and engine departments are essential components of a cruise ship's operations, ensuring the safety and technical functionality of the vessel. These roles often require specialised training and qualifications, and the salaries reflect this expertise. Here's an overview of some key deck and engine department positions and their salary ranges.

  • Deck Officers and Crew: Deck officers, including captains, chief officers, and other officers, are responsible for navigation, safety, and overall management of the ship. Salaries for deck officers can vary significantly depending on their rank and experience. Captains may earn between $8,000 and $18,000 per month, while chief officers typically earn between $6,000 and $14,000 per month. Other deck officers can expect to earn between $3,000 and $7,000 per month. Deck crew members, such as able seamen and ordinary seamen, have salaries ranging from $1,800 to $3,500 per month.
  • Engineering Officers and Crew: Engineering officers oversee the maintenance and repair of the ship's machinery and systems, ensuring smooth operations and compliance with safety regulations. Chief engineers can earn between $7,500 and $15,000 per month, while second, third and fourth engineers can expect to earn between $5,000 and $10,000 per month. Engineering crew members, such as motormen or fitters, may earn between $1,800 and $3,500 per month.
  • Electro-technical Officers and Crew: Electro-technical officers (ETOs) and crew members are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the ship's electrical and electronic systems. This includes power generation and distribution, communication systems, and navigation equipment. ETOs typically earn between $4,000 and $7,500 per month, while electro-technical crew members can expect salaries between $2,000 and $4,000 per month.

As with other positions, the salaries mentioned above can vary based on factors such as the cruise line's reputation, the ship's location and itinerary, and individual qualifications. However, they provide a general understanding of the earning potential for deck and engine department roles within the cruise industry.

Disclaimer: Please note that the salary figures mentioned in this article represent industry averages and are subject to change. Actual salaries may vary depending on factors such as the specific cruise line, job position, experience, and other individual circumstances. This article is meant to serve as a general guide and should not be considered a guarantee of earnings.

Tips for Maximising Your Cruise Ship Salary

While the cruise industry offers competitive salaries and the opportunity to travel the world, it's essential to know how to make the most of your earnings. Here are some useful tips to help you maximise your cruise ship salary.

Gaining Relevant Experience and Qualifications

Investing in your professional development by acquiring relevant qualifications, certifications, and experience is key to earning a higher salary. Many positions on cruise ships require specific skills and training, so obtaining these credentials will make you a more attractive candidate and increase your earning potential. For example, pursuing certifications in hospitality management, food safety, or maritime safety can be valuable assets in various cruise ship roles.

Networking and Choosing the Right Cruise Line

Networking within the industry can open doors to new opportunities and help you land a job with a reputable cruise line, which often translates into better pay and working conditions. Attend industry events, engage with professionals on social media, and join relevant online forums to expand your network. Additionally, do your research on different cruise lines and their reputations, as working for a prestigious company can make a difference in your salary.

Providing Exceptional Customer Service to Increase Tips

Many cruise ship positions, particularly in the hospitality and service sectors, receive a significant portion of their income from tips and gratuities. To maximise your earnings, focus on providing outstanding customer service to create memorable experiences for guests. This will not only lead to increased tips but also improve your chances of receiving positive feedback and recommendations, which can help you advance in your career.

Pursuing Promotions and Career Growth Opportunities

Once you've established yourself in a cruise ship role, seek out opportunities for career growth and advancement. This may involve taking on additional responsibilities, participating in professional development courses, or actively seeking promotions within the company. Demonstrating a strong work ethic and commitment to your role can make you a prime candidate for more senior positions, which typically come with higher salaries and better benefits.

In summary, maximising your cruise ship salary requires a combination of acquiring relevant qualifications and experience, networking within the industry, providing exceptional customer service, and pursuing career growth opportunities. By focusing on these areas, you'll be well-prepared to make the most of your earnings and enjoy a rewarding career in the cruise industry.

If you're a first-time applicant seeking to work on a cruise ship, we suggest reading our article on joining a cruise ship for valuable insights and advice.


Embarking on a career in the cruise industry can be both exciting and rewarding. To truly make the most of this opportunity, it's essential to understand the factors affecting cruise ship salaries and how to maximise your earning potential.

As we've discussed, factors such as job position and responsibilities, experience and qualifications, cruise line reputation, geographical location and itinerary, and tips and gratuities all play a significant role in determining your salary. By keeping these factors in mind and actively working to improve your skills and qualifications, you can increase your income and enjoy a more fulfilling career.

In addition, focusing on networking, choosing the right cruise line, providing exceptional customer service, and pursuing promotions and career growth opportunities can further enhance your earnings and job satisfaction. The cruise industry offers a unique blend of travel, adventure, and professional development, making it a fantastic choice for those who are well-prepared and dedicated to their craft.

So, as you chart your course in the cruise industry, remember to weigh anchor with a strong understanding of the salary landscape and a commitment to making the most of your seafaring career. Fair winds and following seas, future cruise ship professionals! For those looking to find opportunities in the cruise industry, make your profile on Liveseas and take control of your career at sea today.