Cruise Ship Workers


Exploring this Job

Do you want to learn more about this exciting industry? Since firsthand experience is the best, why not book a Caribbean cruise for your next family vacation? Most cruise lines offer competitive prices along with a selection of cruises and destinations. Also consider inland cruises as a less expensive option.

In many cities located near water, such as Chicago, there are cruise tours running up and down the city's lakefront and the Chicago River. Some even provide entertainment and dinner shows. Many talented performers hone their skills before "trying out" with the bigger cruise lines. Does your city or town offer something similar?

Some cruise lines hire college students for some of their entry-level positions. Don't forget to apply early, as these jobs are quickly filled.

If you live near a cruise line office or headquarters, contact media relations or human resources for a tour of the department.

The Job

Many modern cruise ships are similar to floating resorts offering fine accommodations, gourmet dining, and every possible activity and form of entertainment. It takes a staff of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, to ensure the smooth operation of a cruise ship and the comfort of all passengers. All employees, regardless of their rank, are expected to participate in routine lifesaving and safety drills. Crew organization is divided into six different departments (smaller liners may not have as many divisions of organization); the captain, or the master of the ship, oversees the entire crew.


This department is responsible for the navigation of the ship, and oversees the maintenance of the hull and deck. It is also tasked with safety systems maintenance, ensuring that the lifesaving and fire fighting equipment are in working order and available in an emergency, and managing shipboard security (although this may be handled by other departments on some cruise lines). 


This staff operates and maintains a variety of state-of-the-art systems such as the vessel's power plant; environmental systems; and the heating, ventilation, air conditioning system. Together, deck and engine staffs include officers, carpenters, seamen, maintenance workers, electricians, engineers, repairmen, plumbers, and incinerator operators.

Radio department

Chief radio officers oversee and operate their vessel's radio and other communications equipment. 

Medical department

Physicians treat passengers whose maladies range from seasickness to more serious health problems. Nurses assist the doctors and provide first aid. Large vessels have fully-equipped intensive care units, as well as laboratory and x-ray equipment, and medical professionals are needed to staff these areas. 


This department, one of the largest on board, is concerned with the comfort of all passengers. The food staff includes specially trained chefs who prepare meals, ranging from gourmet dinners to more casual fare poolside. The wait staff serves guests in the formal dining room and provides room service. Wine stewards help passengers with wine choices, and are responsible for maintaining proper inventories aboard the ship. Bartenders mix and serve drinks at many stations throughout the ship. From simple blocks of ice, sculptors create works of art that are used to decorate dining room buffets. The housekeeping staff is composed of executive housekeepers and room attendants who keep cabins and staterooms orderly, supply towels and sheets, and maintain public areas throughout the ship.


This large department is responsible for guest relations and services. The chief purser, much like a hotel's general manager, is the head of this department and is the main contact for passengers regarding the ship's policies and procedures. Assistant pursers, considered junior officers, assist the chief with various duties, such as providing guest services, ship information, monetary exchange, postage, safety deposit boxes, and other duties usually associated with the front desk department of a hotel. The cruise director heads the cruise staff and plans daily activities and entertainment. The youth staff director plans activities and games specifically designed for children. Ships with a casino on board employ casino workers, including game dealers, cashiers, keno runners, and slot machine attendants. Sound and lighting technicians are needed to provide music and stage lighting for the many entertainment venues found on board. Many entertainers are hired to sing, dance, and perform comedy skits and musical revues. Dance instructors teach dance classes ranging from ballroom to country. Also, many employees are hired to work in duty-free shops and souvenir stores, beauty parlors, spas, health clubs, and libraries.

Other occupations in the cruise ship industry include clerical workers, human resources workers, Information Technology specialists, security workers, and learning and development managers (who onboard, train, and develop new employees).