What’s It Like to Actually Work on a Cruise Ship?

earl on the jobBefore I went on my cruise, a lot of people said they wouldn’t cruise because of their poor labor practices. Cruises exploit workers, they said. I’ve heard about the long hours and low pay that most cruise workers endure but rather than assume, I turned to Wandering Earl, who for a number of years worked on cruise ships as a tour director. Earl and I spoke about what it’s really like to be a member of the “crew” on a cruise ship:

Nomadic Matt: How did you end up working on a cruise ship?
Wandering Earl: Back in 2000, I met a fellow traveler who told me about his experiences working on board cruise ships. I was intrigued by his stories of waking up one morning in Jamaica, the next morning in Barbados, and the next in Costa Rica. I also liked the idea of more travel and vacation time.

He spoke of working with hundreds of crew members from around the world, of crew parties, of free activities in every port, and of a working/living/social environment that seemed like something I wanted to experience.

After I finished teaching in Thailand, I contacted him and he put me directly in touch with a Vice-President he knew at Carnival Cruise Lines.

Tell us about your job(s) over the years. What do you do exactly?
I began as an Assistant Tour Manager but during my first contract I was promoted to Tour Manager, a position I held for the remaining 4.5 years I worked on ships. As a tour manager I was in charge of the Tour Office, which is the department that organizes land excursions for passengers in all the ports of call.

For me, my schedule involved being the first person off the ship in the morning, dispatching the tours for a few hours, enjoying some free time in port, then returning to the office in the evening where I would continue organizing the excursions for the following ports and complete the necessary daily reports to be sent to the head office.

On days when the ship wasn’t in port, I would be in my office still communicating with the tour operators, organizing the tours for future voyages and dealing with any number of unexpected situations that would arise.

During sea days, I would also give presentations in the main theater where I would talk about the ports the ship was scheduled to visit and which excursions we offered. [Editor’s Note: I don’t remember any of these on my cruise!!]

A lot of people criticize cruise liners for their poor working conditions. Have you ever felt mistreated?
Not at all. While crew members do work long hours, the staff are treated quite well. Most ships these days offer very high quality crew accommodation, along with several dining halls, crew bars, crew shops, internet cafes, coffee bars, crew gyms, and party areas all specifically for crew. There are language courses you can take, and even business courses and other certifications available to all crew members. There are frequent movie nights, theme parties (cruise lines organize parties for the major holidays of every nationality working on board the ship) and plenty of other crew activities.

Out of the thousands of crew members I’ve interacted with, I’ve never heard of any major incident of a crew member being mistreated.

Have working conditions improved over the years?
Absolutely. There is simply no way in this day and age that cruise lines would be able to survive if the working conditions were poor. And with every new ship that is built, the crew areas are always improved in order to ensure that the quality of life is as high as possible, something that is important when you are working in such an enclosed environment.

There are always very specific rules in place as to how many hours every crew member can work, how much free time they must receive each week, and what their specific duties entail. And the safety of every crew member really is a priority, at least with the 3 cruise lines I worked for. In my experience, the officers in command of every ship do whatever it takes to ensure that the crew members are as happy as possible.

wandering earl hard at workMany people say most cruise liners hire people from developing nations because they are less likely to speak out, especially for lower level positions. Thoughts?
In my opinion, the reason why many of the ‘lower’ jobs are filled with people from developing nations is because the cruise lines can get away with paying them lower wages. Most of the ‘lower’ jobs receive very little money from the cruise lines (maybe $200 – $500 USD per month), with gratuities making up the rest of their salary. It would be a lot harder to convince people from the western world to take a job for such a small base pay, but for those from developing countries, this amount is often much more than they would earn back at home.

As for keeping crew members in control, every cruise ship I’ve worked on had a Crew Office that was serious about listening to crew member issues and complaints, regardless of the position they held. And crew members were encouraged to speak out about anything they felt needed to be changed, whether it pertained to work safety, improved crew facilities, salaries or anything else. As a result, changes were made on a regular basis and crew members who suggested major changes that were indeed implemented were often rewarded for voicing their concerns in the first place.

What are common misconceptions people have about life on a cruise ship?
Most of the people I meet either think that crew members work 24 hours per day for 6 months straight, without any time off or they think that crew members just party all the time because such work is not really ‘work’ at all. But both of these are untrue.

Working on a cruise ship involves long hours for sure, but every crew member does have free time and there are always crew activities organized to ensure that ship life involves much more than just work. Likewise, while there are crew parties organized every week or two, working on a cruise ship does involve real responsibilities and anyone who doesn’t take their job seriously will find themselves out of a job before long.

Another misconception is that the pay on board cruise ships is quite low. And while some positions earn a low base salary, when combined with tips, usually these crew members are earning much more than they would earn in their home countries. Also, for other positions, such as those in the Front Office, Tour Office or Entertainment Department, the salaries can be quite generous. And when you consider that crew members have very little expenses during their contracts (room and board, health insurance, flights to/from the ship, etc. are all taken care of), it is possible to save much more money during one contract than most people would save in a year or more working a job back on land.

Really? A guy in Haiti was telling me that after working 8 months on a ship, his brother would bring home $5,000 USD. While that might be a lot for Haiti, it still seems like sub-human, sweatshop labor pay. How much did you make?
To bring home over $600 per month (which is more than the average salary in dozens upon dozens of countries) while having all of your expenses paid for is quite a good setup and any crew member is always free to leave if they feel the pay isn’t worth it. That guy from Haiti can work for 5 – 10 years on a cruise ship, go home and live quite well, and in many cases, retire. I can’t tell you how many times fellow crew members from developing countries would show me photos of the brand new 3-bedroom house, complete with a swimming pool and ocean views, that they just bought back home from their cruise ship salaries. As for my salary, it varied depending on bonuses, but was generally between $3000 – $4500 per month.

What’s one of your “day from hell” stories?
This would be a tough call. Maybe it was the day our ship arrived in Colon, Panama and I found out that our tour operator had to cancel the “Panama Canal Tour” (which was the highlight of the cruise), a tour that 800 passengers had booked. After explaining the situation to those 800 people from the stage of the ship’s theater, I then spent one hour being screamed at, being called nasty names, having fruit thrown at me, having one man spit on me, being threatened and having one guy jump over some seats to try and attack me. And the abuse continued for the rest of the cruise.

Best day on the job was _____________
The day I disembarked the ship in order to escort a multi-day overland tour to Jordan and Egypt. During our 2.5 month World Cruise on one particular ship, our department offered several of these extended excursions to our passengers and each tour was to be escorted by a member of our team. So, I enjoyed a 5-Star, 8-day trip through Egypt and Jordan, visiting Amman, Petra, Wadi Rum, Sharm el-Sheikh, the Sinai Desert, Cairo and Luxor, all without having to spend a single dollar. It was definitely one of the best perks of my job.

For more about Earl, life on cruise ships, and how you can work on cruise ships, check out Earl’s phenomenal and detailed definitive book on getting a job on a cruise ship. It’s an excellent resource for anyone looking to get into the cruise industry and it’s updated every year. Earl is the best expert I know on the subject!

  1. I have little interested on going on a cruise, not my style of travel, but have contemplated working on one, just to save up some serious cash and make a dent in my student loan and travel funds… maybe one day! thanks for this honest interview, was a good read!

      • Patrick

        Hi. awesome article man. Me and a friend want to work for a cruise boat to travel, save money and just experience the world a little bit. But we have basically no experience in that field…we both work fast food. we are also both 20 live in Canada. So i’m wondering if we get our stcw 95 and apply for jobs…will that be enough?

        My cousin got a job on a crusie ship but he had a firefighting degree to work with

  2. I’ve never been on a cruise yet. Is it anything like the old 1980s TV series, “The Love Boat” ;P Good to hear from the other side of the fence from the people who work on a ship.

  3. Alex

    Okay, definitely have to disagree with this post. I worked on a cruise ship with Princess Cruises as a Seasonal Youth Staff and I had a pretty different experience (probably because I wasn’t a Tour Manager, which is probably one of the best positions on the ship).

    In my position as a Youth Staff, most days I worked for 11 hours – best case scenario I would work for 4. That made for roughly 50 hour weeks. I was making 300USD/week, which equals out to about 6USD/hour. Oh, and because I was a ‘Seasonal’ Youth Staff, I was actually making MORE than full-time staff, who made 100USD LESS per month. The best part? My MANAGER was making less than me. Why? Because she’s Filipino of course! With Princess, wages aren’t based on your job but rather what country you’re from. While it’s true that 300USD will go a lot further in the Phillippines than in Canada, where I’m from, is it fair that my manager, who had a lot more responsibility and been working on cruise ships for years, was making less than me, a first-time, seasonal worker?

    On the up side your room and food are included, but I found both to be severely lacking: the vast majority of staff rooms are about 200 sq. feet with no windows – and this is for 2 people! As for the food, it wasn’t fresh, nor was there much variety (and I don’t consider myself to be a picky eater).

    All in all I’m glad I tried working on a ship, it was a neat experience and I met some really fun people. That being said I don’t think the working conditions are all that great, and I wouldn’t go out of my way to work on one again.

    • Earl

      Hey Alex – I can definitely see your point, however, earning $1200 USD per month for a job that provides you room and board while giving you an opportunity to see a little bit of the world and to network with hundreds of people from around the world is not so bad at all. It’s natural that the pay will be less for any job that offers such benefits simply because you have those extra benefits to enjoy as well.

      As for your Filipino boss, of course that’s not fair but I don’t think that’s a common practice at all. In fact, on one cruise line I worked for, as a Tour Manager I was earning less than my Bulgarian Assistant Tour Manager because she had been working for the cruise line longer than I had. So it was the opposite.

      I’m not sure if you’ve only worked on one ship or not but the above answers I gave are based on my experience of working for 4 different cruise lines and on board 12 different ships. Also, while my job might have been a good one, I was speaking above about the experiences of all crew members, something I was quite familiar with after 4.5 years on board ships, at least with the 4 cruise lines I worked for.

      Always interesting to hear different sides though…and if you ever do decide to return to ship life, let me know and I can recommend some cruise lines that you might want to apply to!

      • Sean

        Thanks for the interview. Useful!
        Can you recommend any cruise companies who were good to work for? Also any tips on how to find work with them.
        Much appreciated.


  4. I have been on 12 cruises (all with the same cruise line) and have taken the time to talk with crew members from various countries. They are hard working, polite and pleasant people. You may see your waiter from dinner (late seating which ends about 10 p.m. for us but not for the crew) working diligently at the breakfast seating the next morning. They don’t complain about their hours or their duties. I can’t see American people working for their wages and doing the work they are required to do. They’d rather be on welfare. The crew members work hard for their wages and generally all send money home to their families. I appreciated every crew member I encountered during all 12 cruises and those I plan to make in the future.

  5. This reminds me of the time that I spent working on an island in the Whitsundays, Australia.
    The pay was very bad (they got away with paying lower that Australian awards because of a loophole) and they charged staff a small fee for food and accomodation. But it was great fun because all of the staff were fellow travellers from around the world and no one took it very seriously.
    The thing that got to me in the end, which I imagine would be the same on a cruise ship, is that you never leave work. You eat at work, sleep at work and socialise at work. I couldn’t cope with the lack of down time.

    • Earl

      Hey Bianca – Yes, that is definitely one of the more challenging aspect of being on board cruise ships. Work and play is all mixed together and it can be difficult to get some quiet, alone time or just time to escape from the ship altogether. Some people thrive in this environment but others find it more difficult. I really enjoyed having it all mixed together for the first couple of years as I was fascinated by the unique atmosphere of ship life, but eventually it took its toll on me as well.

  6. I agree with Alex above. A tour manager position gets paid better and the more higher you go up in rank, the better perks you get (ie) your own room with window, better chance at eating at a higher ranked crew mess). I’m from Canada and was a receptionist on Norwegian and back in ’04 was paid $900/month, working 7 days a week, living in a tiny quad room with no windows. Food for the crew was nothing great, but depends on the cruise line. Luckily i had already lived 4 years in a uni dorm so I was used to shared accommodation. The cruise ships do have on site jail, doct office, HR, national theme nights, crew bar nights, but there are also lots of strict rules (had to keep my hair in a bun the whole time, ugh).

    Upside, still one of my fave times meeting so many crew members from around the world and whoever works on one will find it challenging, but if you can survive, you’ll have plenty of fun tales to tell!

  7. Earl

    Hey Pam – I wonder if we worked on the same ship for NCL. I was on the NCL Wind back in 2004.

    And I’m definitely not trying to say that cruise ship employment is a breeze. It obviously requires hard work like many other jobs and with rules to follow as well (which is natural in the tourism industry). But overall, it is what it is…a good way to save money, travel the world a little, meet people from all corners of the globe, enjoy a nearly expense-free lifestyle, have a great social life….that’s not bad at all, even at $900/month!

    • Hi Earl,
      I was on the NCL Sea for a couple of weeks before being transferred to the NCL Sun for the rest of my contract back then. Lots of memories! Yes, i definetely wouldn’t discourage anyone from working on cruise ships, but it’s definetely not as glamourous or easy as some people may think and experiences do vary. It was a good way for me to save a little and pay off my student loans. For North Americans & Europeans in general, it ends up being more of a temporary job for college students and more of a permanent gig for those from Asia, Central and South America. My friend from India tried leaving cruise ship jobs and enter the tourism field in Mumbai, but back home she’d make about $400US a month and on a cruise ship was making close to $2000US. Definetely an attractive deal.

    • Earl

      Hey Michael – Ha…I’m not sure about that. Cruise lines do prefer to have crew members who are relatively sane :)

  8. My girlfriend and I have been talking about doing cruise ships for ages and we’re really keen to do it, but we’re worried about the difficulty of finding work together. We’re planning on seeking out a hiring fair or a recruitment agency when we get closer to the date we’re allowed to leave (have to be here for my brother’s 21st or we’ll be disowned), but I was wondering if you could give any advice on this?

    • Earl

      Hey Rachel – Finding work together can be a challenge but it’s not impossible. The key is to actually apply to smaller cruise lines that have fewer ships. This way, it becomes much easier for them to schedule two people onto the same ship. With the larger cruise lines that have 10 or 15 ships, it’s very difficult for them to ensure you will be on the same ship because there are so many positions they need to cover.

      Not to sound like a salesman but I do have a guide about finding work on board cruise ships over on my site. It’s helped a lot of people get hired so far and covers everything you could possibly need to know. If you’re interested, just head over to my site and you’ll find the link on the home page or feel free to send me an email and I’d be more than happy to answer any questions you may have!

  9. Anne-Laure

    Hi Earl !! I am already a huge fan of your travel experiences on Facebook and I read this article with interest since I am seriously thinking of stepping into a new career. What would it require to enter a tour operator department? Any suggestion for cover letter, resume?
    Thank you very much for your reply !

  10. Earl

    Hey Anne-Laure – I’m not sure if you’ve seen this page on my site but you might want to have a look: http://www.wanderingearl.com/travel-resources/work-on-cruise-ships/

    It might give you exactly what you’re looking for :)

    As for entering the tour department, the main factors involved are having a university degree, some travel experience and an ability to prove that you are comfortable working and living in challenging, diverse environments, such as the one you would find on a ship. And any customer service/people skills would be beneficial as well.

    With the cover letter/resume, I actually go into quite a lot of detail in the guide I linked to above but in general, you need to arrange your resume so that your travel/cultural experiences really stand out and you should try and describe all of your past work/education experiences in terms of how they would ensure you would be successful working in the unique environment found on ships. That’s usually more important than having a lot of direct experience with the actual job you are applying for. Anyone can learn most of the jobs on ships, but not everyone is suited to work in that environment, so that’s what you really need to show them!

  11. Barbara

    I worked on the ships for about 3 years, and it was and I believe always will be, the most fun job I ever had. I was able to pay off a large student loan and met hundreds of interesting people from all over. (And this was in the “old” days when the conditions weren’t as good!) I think it’s a great experience for young people who don’t know what they want to do and who don’t mind the long hours and small “private” space! I recommend it often.

    • Earl

      Hey Barbara – Thank you for sharing your own experiences and I agree, it is great for those who are not sure of what they want to do. Why not spend some time on a ship, paying off those loans (major bonus!), meeting all those people and seeing some of the world. And I always tell people that the networking aspect of ship life is even better than the money as you never know what kind of opportunities will come your way when you meet so many people from all over the world. It can open up many new doors for the future.

  12. Earl

    Thanks Amy! And if you do decide to try ship life, let me know and I’ll offer as much advice as I can.

  13. Dreamergirl

    Hi Earl! Its always been a dream of mine to travel the world while working. Some of my friends and relatives have careers in cruise lines and they have been successful. Since 2005, I have been contemplating on applying to one but never had the chance.
    Now, I’m 34 and still doesn’t want to give up that dream. Is there still a chance for me to be hired, even in housekeeping? I have experience in the front office and customer service. Thanks, Earl! You inspire me more. :)

  14. Earl

    @Dreamergirl – There’s definitely still a chance! In fact, the average age of crew members on board cruise ships is much higher than most people think. On the last ship I worked on, the average age was about 33. And if you have experience with front office and customer service, I would apply to the front office department. This is a much better department to work for on ships – in terms of pay, benefits, privileges, free time, etc. – than the housekeeping department which requires much longer hours and much less pay.

  15. I follow both of your blogs and love this post. I’ve always wondered about working on a cruise ship and am happy to hear that a lot of what you hear is hype…not that I’m surprised at all. I’d have to agree with Earl…if you put a price on room and board (and the bonus of being able to easily save money) it seems like the pay is very reasonable. Thanks for sharing.

    • Earl

      Hey Pamela – Exactly…there’s definitely hard work involved when you work on cruise ships and it’s a working environment that is unlike any that you would find on land, but at the same time, the value of those benefits cannot be underestimated!

  16. I loved my experience working on a cruise ship–then again, it was for a non-profit institution sponsored by a university, so I guess it’s a bit different. Still, I loved this interview!

  17. Wow! That was a thorough Q&A, great effort on the part of both Matt and Earl. I’m off the mind that it’s best to experience for yourself. If I were to work it would most likely be in the capacity of a croupier, though it would be nice to try another social role.

  18. Earl

    Hey Loz – It is one of those things that each person needs to experience on their own as in the end, it is such a unique environment on those ships that some people will love it, some people will hate it and plenty of people will fall somewhere in between. It’s not for everyone but for those who try and do enjoy it, it’s an unforgettable experience. And being a croupier on a ship isn’t so bad at all…plenty of free time usually as the casinos are required to be closed while the ship is in port :)

  19. Meredith

    Thanks for this article. It sounds like most the ship employees are young single people. Do the cruise lines have interest in older couples (in early retirement, but looking for new challenges)?

  20. Earl

    Hey Meredith – The average age of crew members is not as young as most people think as it’s generally around the early 30s. However, there are crew members ranging all the way up to 70 or 75 on most ships…as for your situation, there is always a chance you can be hired. The only thing is that a cruise line will never guarantee that you will remain on the same ship with your spouse. Some cruise lines will do their best to ensure you are together but with all of the crew scheduling involved, there are times when they might need one of you on another ship.

    At the end of the day, it also depends on your experience and which position you are interested in applying for. If you have the background to be a good fit on board a ship, then cruise lines generally are open to hiring people of any age.

  21. Hayden

    What an interesting article – I’ve always wondered what goes on in the staff quarters and how they are treated. I feel that if the staff are well looked after, it will show in superior customer service. I guess it all depends on the cruise line!

    Thanks for sharing. Perhaps you should similar articles for other jobs in the travel industry like FA’s, pilots, hotel workers etc etc…?


  22. Excellent and honest review of your experience! It’s something I’ve thought about doing but, after reading this piece, I would be even more inclined to do so! The future is very flexible for me so this is something I might have to look into!

  23. Susan

    Hey Earl
    Thanks for this interview. I only recently discovered your blog and have been reading it with interest. I’m in a similar situation as Meredith and have wanted to travel the world for a long time. This may be something to consider, especially if the cruise lines are open to hiring slightly older people.

  24. Travel addict

    I have heard that if you are working on a cruise ship, some of the cruise lines let their staff have a guest or family member come to the ship and cruise for free. They must share the room with the staff who invited them. If this is true, about how long would you have to work on a cruise ship to get this benefit. I am thinking about working on one for a few years to pay for graduate school but I know I will get lonely.

    • This is generally only possible for those in an officer/management positions as it only applies to those crew members who have their own private cabin. If you are in one of these positions, it generally takes about 1 year before you are allowed to have someone cruise for free with you. But you really don’t have to worry about being lonely on a ship as you will be surrounded by hundreds of other crew members from around the world!

  25. Sweetnsassie Sonya

    Hi Earl-Thank you for such a very informative article! I am considering applying for a job as a production singer on a cruise ship. Can you please tell me everything that you can about this job and the best way to prepare for this job? Thank you very much for your insight! :)

    • Hey Sonja – To be a production singer, you generally have to apply to either an entertainment agency that places singers on board cruise ships or to the specific entertainment department of those cruise lines that do not use separate agencies. And you would have to send in a portfolio, have an audition or two and then see how it goes. The best way to prepare is to ensure that you have plenty of samples of your singing and it is even better if you have samples of many different song styles as cruise lines prefer singers who have a wide variety of performance abilities. In the end, the best way to get such a job is to start applying!

  26. Pearl Lee

    Hi Earl, Thank you for the article. I have been interested in cruise job. Your article and many comments above are very helpful to think seriously getting a job on cruise. Can you please tell me about tour escort role? Actually I am thinking of applying for the position of Tour Escort at Costa. I am Korean and they are hiring Korean tour escort now. I have been worked at hotel and resort out of Korea for about 6 years and have many travel experience all over Asia, Australia, USA, India, Dubai, Maldives etc. As I passionate to travel over the world, this role is just perfect to me. Thank you in advance!

    • Hey Pearl – Thanks for the comment and sorry for the late reply! But the tour escort role is only possible on a few cruise lines but in general you will escort groups of people as they participate in various tours and activities while in each port. It’s generally not a high paying job and often times, they don’t pay at all. In exchange for being an escort, you get to cruise for free. But it all depends on the cruise line as some treat this as an actual position on the ship and others treat it as an independent contract in which you don’t become an actual crew member and you don’t stay on board the ship for more than one or two voyages at a time.

      Hope that helps!

  27. I just wanted to reveal a site that I’ve used for getting a cruise ship position this past month to everybody searching for a cruise ship job. They supply many hundreds of up-to-date cruise ship work industry contacts and plenty of other resources. Their web-site is: http://www.howtoworkonacruiseship.com Apparently, they had been one of the 1st cruise ship employment web pages on the internet.

    • @plumoutsill Funny you mention that site as that is actually mine :) I sell my eBook “How to Work on a Cruise Ship” on my blog and on that separate site as well. I’m thrilled to hear you landed a job on a ship and wish you the best with your introduction to ‘ship life’!

  28. Jacqueline

    I’m joining Princess as Junior Assistant Purser in less than 3 weeks. I was wondering if you could tell me what kind of promotion chances there are since I would like to work my way in to a position as a trainer in the future. My background is hospitality and training. I was a flight attendant(and trainer) for 6 years and have a bad condition of traveler-itis. I am SO excited about this opportunity though. I’m from South Africa and can honestly say that the salary is above par even for a country such as mine. You would have to have some serious paperwork behind your name to earn anything close to what I will be getting. Thanks for a great blog. Put some of my worries to rest!

    • Hey Jacqueline – Once you’re onboard, no matter what the position, there are ALWAYS chances for promotion. And your position will be part of the larger Front Office department which has dozens of positions available, including many minor and senior officer positions…assistant managers, managers, etc. The key is just to work as hard as you can and to learn as much as possible about your job. The better you are at what you do, the quicker you’ll get noticed and the faster you’ll get that promotion. I wish you the best over there on Princess!

  29. Fernando Celis

    Hi, I have a lot of friends who are working already on a cruise as photographers, most of them for Royal Caribean, but my question is do I really need to be 21 to go working on a cruise? ‘Cause apparently I wasn’t given the job because of my age, and I’d really love to work on a cruise since I’ve read a lot of awesome reviews and heard good comments from people I know. I hope you can help me out, guys 😛

    • Hey Fernando – In general, yes, you do need to be 21 years of age to work on a cruise ship. I have met a few crew members younger than that but this is quite rare and usually it is because the person either had a lot of good work experience already or they already finished university at an early age.

  30. vero

    Hey Earl !
    That’s a great article ! I am actually applying for the cruise staff position as well as the photographer one as I have qualification in both entertainment and photography.

    Do you have any advice on which cruise line is best and what is the best position ?

    Thank you and maybe see you soon on board !!!!!


    • Hey Vero – Every cruise line is completely different but in my opinion, the larger cruise lines (those with the most ships) tend to offer the lowest pay and the least enjoyable crew atmosphere. I prefer the smaller companies such as Cunard, Crystal, Seabourn, etc. But in the end, no ship offers conditions that are terrible these days and you can have a wonderful time with any company!

      As for the best position, I am a little biased but I always say that working in the Tour Office / Shore Excursion Office is the best :)

  31. perry reyes

    Hi Earl .. This blog of yours really giving me guts to work at sea .. i really love to travel, i worked as a cabin crew in one of the airline company here in Philippines .. my dream is to work in a cruise line .. I’m 29 already, could you tell me where do i start ..?
    -Perry from Philippines

  32. Anil; mahajan

    haiiiiiiiiiii Earl

    i would like to inform that.my fast dream in my life i want to do job on

    cruise and for this sucess mission i need help to some one.plz i sourad u can help me

    plz connect with me by mail nd outher comnication,i swear i will give the 100% effort to

    the company.my connect number is 09871425700.

    Thanx a lot

  33. Chelsea

    Hey Earl- What’s the scoop on being an art auctioneer. Do you have any ship friends willing to offer advice on the position? Thank you!

    • Hey Chelsea – The art auctioneer is an interesting position. It offers the potential to earn an incredible amount of money but at the same time, it is a bit on the sleazy side. The selling techniques that you are forced to use (as directed by the art agency that hires art auctioneers and sends them to ships) are questionable. But if you’re good at sales, again, the pay potential is very high.

      At the moment I don’t have any friends who are working in that position as many ships have actually stopped this activity altogether. But if you have any further questions, please post them here or send me an email at “earl @ wanderingearl.com” and I’d be more than happy to answer.

  34. Amanda

    Hello Earl,

    This article was very informative and definitely appreciated! My boyfriend and I are interested on working on a cruise ship together but in different positions. While we both went to culinary school, he’s continued to further his career in the culinary field while I’ve gone back to child care. If we were to be hired in different positions, what is the likelihood of us seeing each other?

    Much thanks!

    • Hey Amanda – Getting hired as a couple is possible but usually not on the bigger cruise lines. The tricky part is keeping you on the same ship and those cruise lines with 8 or 10 or 15 ships can’t guarantee that at all so they prefer not to hire couples. But the cruise lines that only have 2 – 5 ships are often quite open to hiring couples as they are able to ensure that you are on the same ship (for the most part). So if you can land jobs on a cruise line such as Seabourn or Crystal or Regent, you’d be all set.

      And applying for two different positions is the way to go. Even the small cruise lines won’t hire couples applying for the same position or for positions in the same department. They prefer to have each person working in a separate department, so the two jobs you’re looking at would be perfect.

  35. peggy

    hey i’m looking at getting a job on a cruise ship just not sure what position is best ? and is it good money ?

    • Hey Peggy – There are hundreds of jobs on board cruise ships and it really all depends on your interests and what skills/knowledge you have in order to determine what is really best for you. And in terms of good money, it all depends on the position as salaries range from $500 – $10,000 per month.

  36. Shelby

    I just graduated from college with a BA in international studies and communication studies but I will not be 21 for another year. I want to work on a cruise ship but I am under the impression that age requirements are generally 21+ an was considering Americorps NCCC in the mean time but I have heard mixed reviews… Any suggestions?

  37. Jon

    Hi Earl,

    Great website first of all, found it really useful and interesting. Basically I live in the UK and am in my last year at University studying English (didn’t know what I wanted to do in life so chose something broad) I still don’t know what I want to do really, job-wise but from going on a couple of cruises with my family, I’d love to travel the world and possibly work on-board at the end of my degree maybe for a year or two. I was thinking that maybe the youth club would be ideal but what are the possibilities and opportunities for a new graduate to find a job on a ship? I’m a student ambassador, meaning I work with teenagers and those who are younger on a weekly basis so I have some experience but I don’t know whether that’s enough? I’m guessing not. If you could get back to me with some more information I’d really appreciate it and your verdict on the matter.


  38. Ngan

    I’m very interested in working on a cruise. What kinds of jobs do they have on the cruise? To be a server, do they require experience? Plus, how to apply to work on a cruise?!
    Thank you.

  39. Seagirl

    I really enjoyed this article. I used to work on ships as a member of youth staff. It was very hard and my last day I threw my uniform in the trash to ensure I wasn’t gonna come back. I was thinking until the very last moment whether or not to send a resignation letter.
    Two years later I live outside my home country, I have a great job (for an expat) and my shipboard experience is probably the thing that shaped me the most. I am still secretly dreaming of going back (but I don’t wanna work with kids this time around) cause that was the most exciting part of my life. You feel the whole world is in your hands, that you can do anything. You have friends from all over, you learn so much about yourself and the world. There are bad times, as always in life, but the positive sides outweigh the bad. :)

  40. Santana

    Hi Earl,

    My interest in working on cruise ships over that past few months has greatly intensified. This article and interview has done so even more, answering some queries i had myself. Great work!

    I applied for a position as a Sports Activity Staff member for RoyalCarribean, and have been given a Skype interview next week. I have never worked on a cruise ship before, nor have i ever been interviewed for one.

    Do you have and advice/tips for the interview? Or more importantly, any advice on working on-board RoyalCarribean cruise ships? are there any other company’s you think i should look at?

    Any help would be great so thank you in advance :)

  41. Ange

    Hi Earl,

    Great article! Thank you so much for sharing your view and personal experiences.
    I really like the fact that your story and your responses to questions on this feed are very well balanced.

    Sometimes with these type of blogs and especially with this topic people are often one-sided in their opinions and feedback only pointing out the positives or most often the negatives of this unique work situation.

    I often think when I read some of the negative comments from former or current staff if it really was that bad why did you choose to hang around or stay on and complete further contracts???
    There is good and bad with everything in life and at the end of the day we all do still have a choice.

    I’m sure this article will help a lot of people contemplating a career at sea.

    I myself was curious on your opinions of a Training & Development Manager Role.
    I have a fair idea what this role on board entails – generally 4 months on/2 months off, reports to HR Manager, conducts orientations, inductions, ship familiarisations, work place safety, harassment , ESL etc. there is also some HR generalist work, record keeping and they also play a part in crew welfare i.e.- organising activities & events and so forth.
    I was wondering if there was anything you might be able to tell me about this role or duties that I might not know and your experiences with T & D Mangers during your time at sea. I’m assuming hours are the same 10+ / 7days although there is always extra work/ time required in these roles that people never see like what goes into preparation etc.
    Is a T & D Manager considerd an officer? I read somewhere that in some lines they have a rank like 2.5 Stripes but it can vary.

    Anyway additional information would be great.

    Thanks so much :)

  42. Jonathon

    Hi Earl,

    For a while now I have been considering applying for a role onboard. My experience is bar work for a year and the last five years spent as a retail manager for J Sainsbury’s PLC. I am 23 years of age and can commit to life at sea. What role and company would you suggest my experience is best suited too? Thanks alot. Jonny

  43. Jill

    Hi Earl,

    That’s a great interview!

    I have an interview Feb. 16, 2013 with Carnival Cruise Lines for Entertainment Staff.
    What are your thoughts on that position?
    I have wanted to do that job since 2005. I am excited and nervous at the same time! I’m not sure if I will take it if I get it, but I think it would be a great experience! I am 27 years old. I am not married or in a relationship, and I don’t have any kids, or a house to pay for. The only things I have to pay for are a car and a phone.
    I think now is the time to do this, if i’m going to do it!


  44. Shar

    Hi there Earl!

    Do you think a cruise line would hire someone age 50 with not much work experience? :)

    My husband passed away a year and a half ago and I have not yet enter into a career of my own,I LOVED every munute of being a homemaker and mom, so now being alone as the kids are grown I would just love to work on a cruise ship for the work experience and the lifestyle.

    My husband owned his own business, I would do odd jobs now and then.

    I have volunteer experience in my church with being a group leader and on the ushering team, I am very responsible, have high integrity, flexible, quick learner and a fun person!

    With that being said again would a cruise line company hire someone like me? And what positions would you suggest I start? Btw I am a young 50 yr old 😉

    Blessings to you!!!

  45. Danica Krenson

    Hi! I have recently been applying as Youth Staff on a few different cruise lines, including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Disney, Holland America, Princess, and some that are more local (Southern California). I have been working with kids in a summer camp status since 2008 and am about to graduate with a BA. Do you have any tips or insider advice for me specifically?

  46. NomadicMatt

    If you want to find out more, please contact Earl on his website. Comments are no longer answered on this post.