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How much do cruise ship workers make and other crew member questions

11 Mar 2021
Matt Hochberg

There is something intriguing about the crew members that work on a cruise ship and what it's like to live and work on a cruise ship for months at a time.

Many cruisers are curious about what life is like for crew members onboard, as well as the nature of the lifestyle and daily routine for a crew member.

Just like everything, people will search the internet for answers to these questions, and I have assembled the top questions about crew members on a cruise that people are searching for on the internet.

Keep in mind that it is impossible to give an answer that encompasses all crew members' experience, just like doctors, mechanics, postal workers, teachers, and CEOs do not all make the same income, or work exactly the same way.

Do cruise ship employees get free food?

Yes, crew members receive free food for working onboard a ship, along with a cabin to sleep in (more on that later).

Similar to the guests, crew members have their own buffet style restaurant to get their meals from throughout the day.

Known as the crew mess, this restaurant offers prepared foods, ready-to-go foods, and ways to heat up food that crew members already have. There is seating provided as well in booths or tables.

Often there will be regional dishes from the crew members' home countries.

How many dining venues and where they are located, will vary from ship to ship.

Read moreTop 10 things you didn't know about what it's like working on a cruise ship

What are the highest paying jobs on a cruise ship?

Just like any job on land, how much someone makes doing their job will vary depending on a person's experience, what their employer is willing to pay, where they live, and other factors.

As you might imagine, the best paying jobs on a cruise ship are going to generally be held by the highest ranking crew members onboard: officers.

Just like a job on land, everyone's salary is not public information, so I have to rely on job recruiting websites for some insight.

According to BestHospitalityDegrees, the top five jobs on a cruise for salary are:

  1. Executive Chef
  2. Cruise Director
  3. Chief Purser
  4. Hotel Director
  5. Human Resources Manager

ZipRecruiter also notes that Cruise Ship Physician Assistant and Cruise Manager also rank well in terms of salary.

Do cruise employees hook up with passengers?

Despite what you may have seen on the television show, "The Love Boat", crew members are strictly prohibited from any kind of relationships with passengers onboard.

Royal Caribbean's cruise contract states guests are, "prohibited from engaging in physical relationships with crew members. Guests are not permitted in any restricted or crew area of the ship, including crew staterooms and corridors."

In fact, crew members are not allowed to go into passenger cabins unless there is an official reason.

Any crew member that is caught engaging in any kind of a personal relationship with a guest can be terminated immediately.

Do cruise ship employees get days off?

Crew members work very hard onboard, and their schedule is different than the 9-to-5 schedule many Americans think of when it comes to a work day.

Rather than getting full days off, crew members get large gaps in their schedule, but they work every day of their contract. This is because crew members work around the schedule of the cruise ship.

As an example, a stateroom attendant will work the morning to go through all of his/her cabins, and then take a few hours off in the afternoon, before returning for work in the evening.

Often crew members will disembark the ship while it is in port during the afternoon for a break to visit the port of call. Others may simple enjoy some downtime back in their cabin.

Read more8 cruise ship tips from a former employee

Do cruise ship employees share rooms?

Many crew members do share a room with another crew member, although it does depend on their rank or title.

The most common scenario is two crew members will share a cabin together, although on some ships larger cabins can accommodate a third crew member.

Crew cabins are basic and typically smaller than guest cabins, and offer the basics: bed, desk, closet, shelves, and a small bathroom.

Bunk beds seem to be the norm for crew cabins, as it maximizes the space available for them.

Officers, higher ranking crew members, and temporary crew may earn themselves a larger room, or even the opportunity to not share a cabin with someone else.

This may actually change somewhat once cruises begin again. One of the 74 recommendations of the Healthy Sail Panel is "Crew should be placed in single-occupancy crew cabins whenever possible to minimize extended periods of close contact with other crew members."

Do cruise ship employees pay room and board?

Cruise lines cover the cost of food and a place to stay for crew members working onboard.

On top of their pay, crew members on a ship can expect to receive a variety of benefits, such as:

  • Accommodations
  • Meals
  • Medical care

A contract ranges anywhere from three to approximately eight months, depending on the position. Most senior management roles have 4-month contracts while most of the rest of the positions have 6-8 month contracts. Employees live onboard for the total length of their contracts.