Cruise Ship Workers


Employment Prospects


There are 83,400 water transportation workers, and 408,300 recreation workers, including cruise ship workers, employed in the United States. More than 50 cruise lines are members of the Cruise Lines International Association; these lines comprise more than 95 percent of global cruise capacity. Most employees are contracted to work four or more months at a time. Some major employers include Royal Caribbean International, Carnival Corporation (Cunard Line, Holland America, Princess Cruises, etc.), and Disney Cruise Line.

Starting Out

Applicants without college degrees and little shipboard experience are usually assigned to entry-level positions such as wait staff or housekeeping. If you have experience in retail sales, then you may be given a job at the duty-free shop; hospitality experience may land you a position in the purser's office. 

The best way to learn about jobs is to visit the Web sites of major cruise lines. At many sites, you can apply for jobs. Visiting Cruise Ship Jobs (, which provides job descriptions, salary ranges, and job listings, will also be useful.

Advancement Prospects

With cruise experience, a cruise staff member can advance to assistant cruise director, and in turn become cruise director. Assistant pursers can be promoted to chief purser. Even people in entry-level positions can be promoted to jobs with more responsibility and, of course, better pay. Bussers can become assistant waiters and then head waiters. Room stewards can be promoted to housekeeping manager and supervise a team of cleaners or a specific section of the ship.

Tips for Entry

If you have a degree or certification in a specialty field, such as information technology, finance, or medicine, you will have an edge when pursuing a position on a cruise ship.

Travel on a cruise ship and observe all the different jobs on one vessel.

Talk to the human resources department of a cruise line to learn about all the different job options.

Start out in an entry level job such as dishwasher or housekeeping and work your way up.

Gain experience working on local day cruises in harbors or on rivers.