We’ve written articles about the general characteristics of cruise ship jobs and the many different cruise ship jobs available. However, we haven’t written about some of the details of working on a cruise ship, like living arrangements and amenities offered to crew members. In this article, we address this aspect of cruise ship jobs, explaining some of the specifics of working on a cruise ship. While the information below has broad applicability to cruise ship jobs, it should be noted that there are many different positions to hold on cruise ships and many different cruise lines to work for, meaning the specifics may vary from cruise ship to cruise ship and from position to position.
Let’s begin with a practical topic: healthcare on board a cruise ship. To get a cruise ship job, must you meet certain health requirements, and if you are offered a job, will you have health insurance? With respect to the first question, yes, you will have to pass a medical examination once you are accepted for a position, and often you will have to pay for this out of pocket (although many employees are reimbursed). However, once you have passed this exam, you will have full health insurance while on board the cruise ship, and U.S. citizens are covered ashore in the U.S. as well. If the cruise ship is traveling outside the U.S. (as most do), you might consider purchasing travel medical insurance in case you need to seek medical attention in a foreign country. In general, cruise lines do not provide dental insurance. (For more information, check our article about cruise travel insurance.)
Another practical concern: how are your earnings taxed when working on a cruise ship? U.S. citizens have taxes deducted from their paychecks, but other nationalities are personally responsible for declaring their income.
Speaking of money, how much can you expect to make working on a cruise line? It depends primarily on two factors: how long your contract is with the cruise ship (contracts tend to be four to eight months) and what position you hold on the cruise ship. The longer your contract is, the more money you can expect to make (for the simple reason that you will have worked more hours when it’s complete). The job you hold will also determine your pay, but in general the pay corresponds to about what you would make in a similar position on land (you will, after all, be doing similar work). The benefit of working on a cruise ship is that you get to save most of your money because your expenses are largely paid for during voyages.
Your expenses get paid? That’s right, if you work on a cruise ship, your two main expenditures, room and board, are covered by the cruise line. If you are working an entry-level position, the accommodations won’t exactly be luxurious – you’ll likely have to share a cabin with another employee, for example – but hey, you don’t have to pay rent or anything like that. In addition to your cabin, you’ll also have access to an employee fitness center and a recreation area (one that likely includes a pool), and when the ship is at port and you’re not on duty, you can explore the port, so it’s not like you have to spend your free time cramped in a small cabin.
As you can see, working on a cruise ship is a lot like working any other job in important respects. The main difference is that you get to keep more of your earnings because you don’t have to pay for food or rent, and you’ll also be sailing around the world as you perform your work.