Frequently Asked Questions
We hope the answers to the following questions will help you in your search for a job on board a cruise ship. Each cruise line also has their own FAQs on their career websites.
- What types of jobs can be found on a cruise ship?
- How much will I be paid working on a cruise ship?
- What will it be like to live and work on a cruise ship?
- Where will I travel as a cruise ship employee?
- Can I work on the same ship as my friend or my partner?
- Can I apply to work on a specific ship?
- What happens if I break my contract?
- What if I am sick or injured while working on board a cruise ship?
- What are the rules about citizenship and working on a cruise ship?
- What language do I need to speak to work on board a cruise ship?
Q: What types of jobs can be found on a cruise ship?
A: A cruise ship is essentially like a floating town or city and as such, there is a wide range of different job roles available to ensure each cruise sails smoothly. Every ship needs a huge variety of staff, both behind the scenes and customer facing, right through from technical roles, to food & beverage, accommodation, entertainment, medical, sports & fitness, guest services, office, and many more.
Q: How much will I be paid working on a cruise ship?
A: A typical cruise ship salary is usually somewhere between $1,500 and $8,000 a month. However, the size of the ship, the company and the position you are working as will all affect this amount. If you are in a guest facing role you can expect to earn much more in tips on top of your basic salary.
Because there are so few expenses while you are away at sea, there is great potential to save lots of money. Living expenses, such as room and board and uniform, are provided by the cruise line as well as benefits packages (which will vary slightly by company) such as insurance, dental, travel benefits, laundry, phone, internet, travel discounts, etc.
Read more about employee expenses.
Read more about income tax while working on a cruise ship.
Q: What will it be like to live and work on a cruise ship?
A: Living quarters on a cruise ship are generally small and will be shared by groups of staff. This typically offers little or no personal space and on smaller vessels the living conditions can be especially cramped.
Usually the staff can enjoy employee-only dining halls and lounges as well as access to public cruise ship amenities like the pool, spa and gym when they are in need of time alone. While living conditions are typically on par with what might be expected from sharing a room with two or three other people, the sunsets at sea, crew bars and time off in breath-taking locations will hopefully make up for the lack of personal space!
Read more about life on board.
Q: Where will I travel as a cruise ship employee?
A: Cruise ships sail all over the world from the UK, across Europe and the Mediterranean, to the Atlantic, Bahamas, Asia, the Caribbean and Alaska, Scandinavia and the Baltic Sea. The list is endless and will depend on each cruise line, so research the cruise line before applying if there are particular areas of the world that you would like to see as part of your career.
There are also many river cruise operators which travel on the waterways of Europe, Russia, Asia (Vietnam and China) and the southern states of the USA.
Q: Can I work on the same ship as my friend or my partner?
A: Getting hired as a couple or with a friend can be difficult, although it is not impossible.
Special arrangements are more commonly made for married couples, however, there are no guarantees. The process is the same for a couple or set of friends as it is for an individual. You need to apply separately and progress through the interview process as such. Once you are in the later stages of the interview process you can let your recruiter or the HR department know of your request to work on the same ship. If there is a position available for both of you aboard the same cruise line, most employers will do their best to accommodate requests of this kind.
Married couples will request to share a room on board and if you have both been hired then typically the cruise line will be happy to accommodate this. You can also request to share with a friend if you have both been lucky enough to be hired on the same ship, but there is no guarantee.
Read more here:
Q: Can I apply to work on a specific ship?
A: The best advice would be to apply to the cruise line that you would most like to work for and if you are successful you will complete your first contract. When it comes to your second contract, you can then request for a role on a particular ship but be aware that this may or may not be accepted.
Q: What happens if I break my contract?
A: The contract with each cruise line employer will be different so it is difficult to outline the specific outcome of breaking your contract. Typically, you would incur any costs to return home and may lose aspects of your benefits package as well. You would also be blacklisted by the employer so you will find it very difficult to find another job on board.
Q: What if I am sick or injured while working on board a cruise ship?
A: You are covered medically for any injury or sickness you sustain for the duration of your employment. There is a doctor and medical facilities onboard that all staff members have access to for free (there will be specific crew opening hours).
If you are on any medication, it is recommended that you take enough with you to cover one contract as you may not be able to get the same medication when you are away at sea, and that you inform the medical centre in the first few days after you sign on.
It is always wise to investigate the company’s health insurance policy before you embark, and if comprehensive coverage is not available seek out independent or traveller’s health insurance for yourself.
Read more about health care on board cruise ships.
Q: What are the rules about citizenship and working on a cruise ship?
A: Cruise ships are typically made up of numerous nationalities with a highly diverse staff working on board. It is important for you to research the cruise line that you are applying to work for as each company has its own specific requirements for their employees.
Generally speaking, the following rules apply:
- If the ship is US flagged, then you will need to be a US citizen or hold a green card to be able to work on board.
- If the ship is EU flagged, then you will need to be an EU citizen to apply.
- For EU river ships you will need to be an EU national.
- There are some exceptions. For example, if the European cruise line can’t find suitable candidates within the EU countries, then the market is opened up to non-EU citizens.
- There are certain conventions e.g. security guards will almost always be hired from Asian countries such as Philippines or Malaysia.
Q: What language do I need to speak to work on board a cruise ship?
A: This depends on who the clientele of the ship is. The guests on board will determine which language you will be required to speak. Most ships have English-speaking customers and employers usually demand that their staff speak and understand English well. This is especially true for positions which require a large amount of contact with guests. But English is often used as the common language to communicate between all the various nationalities working on board.
Ships where the customers are predominantly from a different country will require its staff to speak that language, e.g. German.
For guest-facing roles on board any ship, it is always an advantage to have knowledge of another language and the roles most recruited for include English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese speakers.