Cruise Ship Workers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

Cruise lines require at least a high school education, or equivalent, for most entry-level jobs. While in high school, you should concentrate on classes such as geography, sociology, and a foreign language. Fluency in Spanish, French, or Mandarin is highly desirable.

Postsecondary Training

Officer-level positions, or jobs with more responsibility, require college degrees and work experience. Many employees, especially those on the cruise staff, have an entertainment background. Youth staff members usually have a background in education or recreation.

Other Education or Training

Cruise ship workers continue to refine their skills throughout their careers by participating in continuing education opportunities offered by cruise lines, professional associations, and colleges and universities. For example, nurses may take classes on critical care techniques, infectious diseases, or new treatment strategies for various conditions.  

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Most entry-level jobs do not require certification. Some technical positions, such as those in the engine room, may require special training. Physicians and nurses must be licensed to practice medicine. Child-care workers should have experience and proper training in child care. Some cruise line employees may belong to the Seafarers International Union. 

Other Requirements

You will need a valid U.S. passport to work in this field. If you hold a passport from another country, you will need to obtain a work visa for the country where the cruise ship is registered. Check with your country's embassy for details and requirements. Water transportation workers are also required to have a TWIC (Transportation Worker Identification Credential, https://www.tsa.gov/for-industry/twic) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This credential verifies that workers are U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States and have passed a security screening.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Cruise ships are like small cities, with a variety of jobs to match. Some are related to the function of the boat itself, such as the engine room workers, navigators, deck hands, and of course the captain. Others are concerned with day-to-day operations, such as human resources, financial services, housekeeping, and kitchen. And others are there for the safety and entertainment of their guests, such as the medical staff, social staff, instructors, photographers, and entertainers. These different jobs make it difficult to point to any one body of experience or traits. Number one, you must be comfortable at sea, and you must not mind a lack of privacy. You should be interested in people and willing to enhance the quality of their experience. Working in the service industry prior to embarking on this career will be good experience for working on a cruise ship. Knowledge of a foreign language will also come in handy.

Besides having the proper education, experience, and credentials, employers look for applicants who have excellent communication skills, are outgoing, hardworking, friendly, and enjoy working with people. It is important to make a positive impression with the passengers, so cruise ship workers should always be properly groomed, neatly dressed, and well behaved at all times. Inappropriate contact with passengers is not tolerated.