Getting a Job on a Cruise Ship… and Getting Paid, Part 1

Excerpted and adapted from the ebook “How You Can Get a Job on a Luxury Cruise Ship Quickly and Easily” by Neil Maxwell Keys.

To get that position with a cruise line, you’ve got to have SOME kind of skill or talent or you can at least justify how your current life experience and skills can be directly related to the position in question. For example, you’ve either worked with children and have qualifications relating to this. Or you’ve worked in a bar/shop/restaurant part-time while studying. Or you’re a professional entertainer or even amateur musician. It could even be that you have a natural talent such as being a particularly outgoing, sociable person who wouldn’t be bothered about standing on stage and speaking to an audience (i.e. a Social Host, Lecturer, Cruise Director, etc).

The Wages

I’m sure you’re keen to know how much money you’ll earn and how you actually get paid. To start with, I can’t tell you the exact amount of money you’ll be earning. The reason is simple; not only does each cruise line have its own pay-scale and rates, but each of the hundreds of positions onboard also have differing pay-scales and rates. What’s more, how much money you’ll earn can even vary from ship to ship depending on where you go, the clientele onboard and how busy the ship is. But I can give you some rough guidelines to work to.

There are so many different factors that come into play here and any book or “agency” that promises you’ll earn a specific amount of money is probably not being totally honest. You see, for one type of job you might get paid a weekly wage (say a Social Host), but if you work in the Gift Shops you will be paid a set wage PLUS a percentage of the total sales of the shop (commission). So if you’re on a busy ship or a ship with lots of wealthy passengers, then you’re likely to earn more money.

On the other hand, if you worked in (say) the Casino or Restaurant department you would normally be paid a low-ish salary PLUS tips (that’s if your ship is a ‘tipping’ ship). So your wages could vary from month to month depending on how good a service you offer and how generous the passengers are. So you can see that there is no specific wage that covers “the cruise line industry” and no agency or book should promise that you will earn a specific amount. This is research that you simply have to do yourself.

You will be pleased to know however that the salaries are often competitive with those in the market place and in many cases, even better.

Regardless of what you’re paid, you will probably find that you’ll have more money left over at the end of the month than you do at present! Remember, you have no rent or mortgage to pay and no food, heating, lighting or water bills to pay. In fact almost every penny you earn goes straight into your back pocket. What’s more, if you’re a non-US Citizen (sorry to our American readers, but thank old Uncle Sam for this one) then you don’t even pay any tax on your income!

How often you’re paid, again depends on the company and department you’re working in. Normally you are paid voyage by voyage or twice monthly, in cash. Often you’re paid in US Dollars but if you’re on a British ship with predominantly British passengers then it’s likely that you’ll be paid in Sterling. If you’re on a European Ship doing a Mediterranean Cruise with predominantly European passengers then you’ll be paid in Euros.

It’s all common sense really and besides as long as you’re getting paid who cares what currency it’s in?

In Part 2 of this article series, Neil describes the work force aboard a typical cruise ship and the job opportunities available to (and appropriate for) North Americans. Click here to read “Getting a Job on a Cruise Ship… and Getting Paid, Part 2.”

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