How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship (With no Experience)

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Dining staff in the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas serve food to a young girl

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You’re not alone if you’ve ever looked around during a cruise vacation and thought it would be fun to work on a cruise ship.

Nearly half a million people work on cruise ships. (Source)

And whenever we talk to a crew member, we can’t help but notice how much they love their job.

Cruise life isn’t for everyone, but if you’re interested in traveling the world and making new friends, keep reading.

Here’s how to get a job on a cruise ship.

Meet the Basic Requirements

Dining staff in the Windjammer on Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas serve food to a young girlPin
(Credit: Royal Caribbean International)

Some cruise ship jobs like Bridge Crew members or Technical positions require post-secondary training at a certified Marine School. However, the vast majority of cruise line jobs don’t need any post-secondary education.

Cruise lines like to see at least 1-2 years of relevant experience in a related role. For example, if you apply for an onboard server role, cruise lines want to see 1-2 years of serving experience.

It also helps to have a degree in tourism and hospitality, though it’s not a requirement. There are additional online programs to teach relevant skills to cruise line workers.

For the most part, a cruise ship job isn’t much different than a similar job on land. And the basic requirements are very similar.

But, some requirements are unique to cruise ship jobs, including:

  • Meet the Age Requirement: Most cruise lines require applicants to be 18 or older, but some may have a minimum age requirement of 21.
  • Language Fluency: All passenger-facing crew members should be fluent in English. Major cruise lines cater to international passengers, but English is the primary language on board. Fluency in more than one language is a plus, especially if the additional language is French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Japanese, Russian, or Arabic.
  • Valid Passport, Visa, and Work Permit: Working on a cruise ship requires proper documentation. Other paperwork may be required depending on the cruise line and ship deployment.
  • Medical Examination: Cruise ship crew must be in good physical health. Cruise ship contracts can last several months, which could be challenging for people with health conditions.
  • Criminal Background Check: Crew members have access to sensitive parts of the ship and close contact with guests and other crew members. A criminal background check is essential for the safety of everyone on board.
  • Tattoos, Piercings, Non-Traditional Hair: Each cruise line has different rules regarding tattoos, piercings, and non-traditional hair. Most positions in the cruise industry don’t permit visible tattoos, piercings, or non-traditional hair coloring. Facial hair is generally not allowed.

Cruise Ship Jobs

A room steward staff member folds a towel animal for cruise guests in a stateroom on Norwegian Cruise LinePin
(Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Cruise ships employ thousands of crew members from around the world. There are hundreds of jobs on cruise ships.

The most prominent job on a cruise is the captain. The captain serves at the top of the ship’s hierarchy and oversees all cruise ship operations.

Other high-paying jobs include medical staff, bridge crew, entertainment staff, engine room technicians, and cruise director.

These positions typically require specialized education and years of experience.

However, you can find a cruise ship job that doesn’t require any experience.

Here’s a list of ten cruise ship jobs that require no experience or minimal training:

  1. Galley cleaner
  2. Potwasher
  3. Bartender
  4. General cleaner
  5. Server
  6. Deckhand
  7. Cabin steward
  8. Bell staff
  9. Laundry services
  10. Engine wiper

If you want a job on a cruise that requires no experience, you better like cleaning. Most of the entry-level positions are cleaning, maintenance, or serving roles.

They are also among the lowest-paying jobs on a cruise ship. But if working on a cruise ship is your goal, these positions provide an excellent opportunity to get your foot in the door.

How Much Money Does Cruise Ship Crew Make?

A crew member at guest services helps a passenger on NCL cruisePin
(Photo Credit: Norwegian Cruise Line)

Cruise ship jobs pay an average annual salary of $16,000 to $20,000. The lowest-level positions have annual wages as low as $6,000, while a cruise ship captain can make up to $180,000 annually.

Cruise ship crew members don’t make a lot of money. But while they’re working on a cruise, crew members receive accessible accommodations and food. Some cruise ships also provide free WiFi and an allowance for drinks and alcoholic beverages.

We spoke to one former cruise ship employee who said she was able to “pay off my student debt of $30,000 in two years, even on the low salary.”

According to Sara, she didn’t have any expenses when she was working on cruise ships. She added, “every dollar I made went straight to paying off debts or savings.”

Understand The Employment Contract

Crew members standing on the deck of a Princess crusie shipPin
(Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises)

Cruise lines employ staff on contracts to work onboard cruise ships. A typical employment contract lasts between four to ten months though contracts can be longer or shorter depending on the cruise ship job.

Most positions require crew members to work 10 to 13 hours per day, seven days a week.

It sounds like a lot of work.

And it is.

Due to the long hours and demanding responsibilities of working on a cruise ship, most employees take time off between contracts. Typically a few weeks or a couple of months break.

While between contracts, crew members can fly home and go back to regular living before the start of their next contract.

But not all positions are that demanding. While a cruise ship job such as bartending or serving may require long working hours, the entertainment staff might only work three or four hours a day.

And crew members working in the most demanding positions may get one day off each week. If a crew member gets a day off when the cruise ship is in port, they are free to explore the port or take a shore excursion just like guests.

And there are several perks to working onboard cruise ships, including:

  • Free accommodations
  • Free food
  • Discounted WiFi packages
  • Discounted alcohol at the crew bar
  • Free flights to and from the cruise ship at the start and end of a contract
  • Crew discounts for personal vacations with the cruise line

New cruise ship employees often forget to consider transportation to and from the cruise ship at the start of a new contract. Cruise lines provide flights to get employees to their designated ships.

Cruise ship workers love their work despite the long hours and demanding responsibilities. When speaking to crew members, we often find that most have worked several contracts.

After speaking with more than two dozen staff members on our last cruise, we didn’t find anyone who wasn’t excited about their cruise ship job.

Beyond the perks written in the contract, crew members spoke highly of the camaraderie and friendships made with other staff members.

How to Apply for a Job on a Cruise Ship

Laundry crew member on a cruise ship folding towelsPin

Some cruise lines allow you to apply online through their website, while others accept applications through a recruitment agency. Each cruise line lists the employment requirements and application information.

If you find a job you like, you’ll need to submit a cover letter and resume. Depending on the cruise line and position, you may need to submit additional documentation.

Below are some links where you can apply for cruise ship jobs:


What are the Best Paying Jobs on a Cruise Ship?

Captain and crew of a cruise ship looking out for icebergs in GreenlandPin

The best-paying jobs on a cruise ship include:

  • Captain
  • Bridge crew
  • Cruise director
  • Doctors, nurses, and medical staff
  • Shore excursions manager
  • Entertainers

Do I Need Experience to Work on a Cruise Ship?

Many entry-level cruise jobs don’t require any experience. However, technical jobs and higher-paying careers may require several years of experience and specialized training.

Bottom Line

A cruise ship might provide your dream job if you love to travel, meet new people, and have a sense of adventure.

You’ll have a better chance of getting hired if you have relevant experience when you apply for the job. If you don’t have any experience or training, you’ll need to start with an entry-level position.

A cruise ship job doesn’t pay well, but you won’t have many expenses while working. If a fast-paced and exciting adventure of life on the high seas is calling your name, you might want to apply to work on a cruise ship.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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