How Much You Can Make Working on a Cruise Ship

We’ve covered the benefits of cruise ship jobs, and we’ve covered the disadvantages. We’ve written of the specifics of cruise ship employment, and we’ve written of the general characteristics. One thing that we haven’t touched on in too much detail, however, is the amount of money you can expect to earn while working on a cruise ship. What is the salary of a typical cruise ship job, if indeed there is such a thing as a typical cruise ship job? How much money will you make during your contracted period of work for a cruise line? Are the wages high or low for cruise ship jobs? It is the purpose of this article to answer these and similar questions.

As is so often the case, we must begin our discussion with a general remark, the point of which has been made many times before, on this site and elsewhere. It is this: on account of the cruise lines providing their employees with room and board, those who work cruise ship jobs tend to save most of their earnings during their period of employment. In this respect (and only this respect), cruise line employees are rather like soldiers. This is a key point that must always be taken into consideration when analyzing the earning potential of cruise ship employees. Even if a normal (i.e., land-based) job pays you, say, $500 more a month than a cruise ship job, it may very well be in your financial best interest to take the cruise ship job, as you’ll likely spend at least $500 a month (and probably a lot more) on room and board when it isn’t provided for, making your net earnings on land worse than your net earnings at sea. Also, depending on what cruise line you work for, and depending on what country you are a citizen of, you may not have to pay income taxes on your cruise-ship-job earnings. (This is a complicated matter, one that likely needs to be worked out with an accountant or tax specialist, but it’s something to keep in mind.)

There is a fundamental divide between the majority of cruise ship employees: there are those who get tipped and those who don’t get tipped. The former group is composed of personnel like waiters, busboys (or girls), and bartenders. These employees make a small base salary, relying on tips for the majority of their wage (just as their land counterparts do). A waiter can earn somewhere in the ballpark of $2,000-$3,500 a month, while bartenders and busboys tend to make around $1,500 – $3,000 a month, with bartenders on the upper end. (These figures include tips.) The members of the staff that don’t get tipped, like a generic able seaman, make a larger base salary – perhaps around $350 to $500 a week – making their earnings less than many of the employees who get tipped, generally speaking.

The positions covered so far are basically entry-level, or in any case they don’t require advanced skills, so there are of course many cruise line employees who make significantly more than waiters and deckhands. Anyone involved in management can expect to make a respectable salary, with the higher management levels corresponding with higher levels of pay. Someone who is, for example, a cruise director, the person who is responsible for all on-board entertainment, can make up to $7,000 a month.

When you consider that a typical cruise job contract locks you in to about four to six months of work, it is clear that you can stockpile a decent amount of money working on a cruise ship. Even if your monthly earnings are on the lower end of the scale (the fate of dishwashers and laundry staff, e.g., who can sometimes makes as little as $1,000 a month), you’ll still likely come away from your time at sea a wealthier person. That’s the clear advantage of cruise ship employment.

All of the figures listed above are rough estimates. How much you make will depend on your level of experience, the cruise ship you work for, and so on. Even so, the information given provides a helpful approximation of what you can expect to earn in a cruise ship position.

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