The cruise industry is more than a job, it's a lifestyle bursting with excitement, travel, and endless opportunities. Discover if you have what it takes to apply

With cruise line companies constantly trying to build bigger and better ships, there are always opportunities to work at sea for those who wish to do so. From accommodation, bar work, fitness, entertainment, childcare and retail, these roles can be found aboard every cruise liner.

Why work on a cruise ship?

Working on a cruise ship has many advantages, the most obvious being the opportunity to travel the world. As an onboard member of staff, you'll visit destinations such as the Caribbean, South America, the Mediterranean, Europe, and Asia.

When working on a cruise ship, your accommodation and food expenses are covered and as you're usually onboard for at least six months of the year, you can save a lot of money without having to worry about rent or other living expenses. Additionally, you keep whatever you earn as disposable income.

Another advantage of working on a cruise ship is the opportunity to make connections and build relationships with people from various backgrounds. You'll forge new friendships and make international contacts that will be valuable throughout your career.

Cruise line companies invest time and money into training their employees, which presents excellent opportunities for career progression. Once you're onboard, you'll be encouraged to seek promotion, and your hard work will be recognised.

Are there disadvantages to working on a cruise ship?

While working on a cruise ship seems like an attractive prospect, it's not for everyone. While accommodation and living expenses are taken care of, salaries are often low. You'll also have to work long hours, with little time off. Homesickness can also be a challenge, making it a difficult experience for some.

Living quarters on a cruise ship can be cramped, and you'll have to adapt to living in small spaces with other crew members. It's also hard to achieve a good work-life balance as you're confined to the ship for most of the time, with no option to clock off and go home like those working on land.

What jobs are on offer?

Whether you have experience in hospitality, entertainment, or IT, there's likely a role tailored to you:

  • Accommodation - keep cabins clean and guest areas comfortable. This department suits those with a passion for hospitality. Positions include laundry staff, cleaners, and stewards.
  • Food and beverage - bartenders, waiters, waitresses, and chefs are needed to provide meal services to passengers.
  • Casino - experienced croupiers can find excellent opportunities dealing cards and managing table games.
  • Deck and engine - these technical roles are ideal for individuals with engineering degrees or relevant experience. Strong language skills can be a bonus.
  • Entertainment - singers, dancers, activity hosts, and qualified swimming instructors are needed alongside holiday representativestourism officers or tour managers.
  • Fitness and beauty - qualified professionals in hairdressing, massage therapy, personal training, and other beauty services provide treatments to passengers.
  • IT - keep the ship's IT systems running smoothly. If you have a degree or experience in information technology, this could be your ideal role.
  • Management - lead the way and oversee various onboard operations. Cruise lines offer management positions for individuals with experience or qualifications in business, leisure, travel, or tourism management. Discover how to answer common management interview questions
  • Medical - ensure the wellbeing of passengers and crew. Doctorsnurses and paramedics are essential roles on every cruise ship.
  • Children's services - keep young passengers entertained and safe. Qualified nannies and experienced children's entertainers are in high demand.
  • Retail - on-board shops will employ graduates with experience working in a retail environment to sell duty-free goods or other onboard merchandise.

Cruise lines offer both seasonal and full-time work, and often promote from within, so starting in an entry-level position can open doors to advancement. Employers value strong administrative, management, customer service, and sales skills.

Which cruise companies can I work for?

Cruise ship jobs are available with a variety of cruise companies, including:

  • Avalon Waterways
  • Carnival
  • Celebrity Cruises
  • Costa Cruises
  • Crystal Cruises
  • Cunard
  • Disney Cruises
  • Fred Olsen Cruise Lines
  • Holland America Line
  • Marella Cruises
  • MSC Cruises
  • Oceania Cruises
  • P&O Cruises
  • Princess Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Saga Cruises
  • Seabourn
  • Silversea Cruises
  • Titan River Cruises.

What qualifications do I need?

Working on a cruise ship can be highly competitive, so it is important to have relevant qualifications and work experience to make your CV stand out to potential employers. The qualifications required for a particular job in the cruise industry depend on the position and the cruise company you are applying to. Entry requirements can vary between different cruise operators, so it is essential to do your research before applying.

For IT, management, and medical roles, it is likely that you will need to have at least a degree-level education. A degree in an engineering subject can be useful for those interested in working in the engine room. On the other hand, professional qualifications are typically preferred if you want to work as a chef, beauty therapist, personal trainer, or nanny.

When it comes to accommodation, bar and restaurant staff, and entertainers, some previous experience in a similar role is usually required. However, it is possible to get a job on a cruise ship with no qualifications or experience, but you will need to be prepared to start at the bottom and work your way up.

Basic safety training is essential for anyone working on a cruise ship, and it includes personal survival techniques, basic firefighting, and first aid. These training programmes are incorporated in the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) for mariners. In addition, you must also pass and hold a seafarer's medical certificate. Many ports around the world also have various visa requirements that you need to fulfil.

If you are interested in pursuing further education, you can search postgraduate courses that can help you advance your career in the cruise industry.

How do I get a cruise ship job?

As a minimum, you will need to:

  • be 21 years old
  • possess the necessary qualifications for the desired position
  • hold a valid passport
  • maintain a clean criminal record
  • demonstrate English language proficiency.

Before applying for jobs, thoroughly research the cruise line you're interested in. Understanding their offerings and target market is essential. Each company has a unique brand identity, so familiarise yourself with their mission statement.

Many large cruise lines utilise recruitment agencies for hiring. Ensure you understand both the agency's and the cruise line's application procedures.

Most applications involve submitting a CV and cover letter, or completing an online form. Be sure to tailor your application to the specific role, highlighting your relevant experience. This is crucial, as competition can be fierce with hundreds of applicants per position. For entertainment roles, it's important to include a professional photograph. Remember, you're applying to the cruise line, not a particular ship.

There will likely be several application stages and these may include a video or telephone interview before you receive an invitation to be interviewed face-to-face.

Personality is a key factor in selection - applicants should possess a positive and can-do attitude, as cruise lines seek confident, outgoing team players with a passion for exceptional customer service.

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