A cruise ship is in many ways like a floating city. Passengers are on board for many days or weeks and need a wide range of services. The ship usually has several different departments, which support a wide range of jobs. Ship’s officers and crew look after the general running of the ship. The captain is in overall command of the ship.
Ship's Officers and Crew
As a deck officer or engineering officer, you would be responsible for:
navigating and sailing the ship
the operation, maintenance and repair of engines and technical equipment
the safety of the ship
you may take part in social events with passengers.
As a ship’s rating (deck, engine room or catering), you would:
carry out skilled and unskilled maintenance work
do cleaning and repair work both above and below deck
provide certain food, drink and accommodation services on board.
As a ship’s telephone operator, you would:
operate the ship’s switchboard
receive and place ship to shore telephone calls.
Purser's Office (or administration)
As a purser, you would be responsible for:
management and administration on board ship
accounts and finance
As a purser’s assistant, you would:
carry out general office and administrative duties
deal with enquiries and complaints from passengers
work on the front desk organising passenger requests, such as excursion bookings.
Hotel, Catering and Bar Staff
On a cruise ship, hotel staff takes care of the cleaning and upkeep of the areas used by passengers, such as cabins, dining rooms, recreation areas and bars. Members of the catering department work shifts to provide food and drink for the passengers and some crew.
Many different jobs are available in this department of a cruise ship.
As a cruise director you would:
be in charge of all onboard entertainment
have overall responsibility for looking after the passengers
make sure they enjoy the facilities and get the most out of their time aboard ship.
As a cruise assistant (or assistant cruise director) you would:
meet and greet passengers on their arrival
act as a host or hostess to make sure passengers enjoy their cruise
organise and take part in daytime and evening activities and entertainments.
A wide range of people provide entertainment and activities. You could find work as a:
On most cruise ships there are services provided by outside companies (concessionaires). They include facilities such as:
health and beauty salons
The jobs in these areas are the same as they are on shore.
Most cruise ships employ health professionals to look after passengers and crew. There are opportunities if you are a:
Most of these jobs are the same as they are on shore – see the Health and Medicine section for more specific details.
Pay rates vary depending on:
the type of work you do
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Some cruise ship jobs are well paid, but others have a low basic salary, which you are expected to top up with tips. Your salary may also be tax free. You will have your accommodation and food provided.
Some cruise lines take on cadets and provide training, practical experience and the chance to gain a qualification.
Pursers often come from a background in hotel management.
Experience in tour guide or holiday centre work is helpful for work as a cruise assistant.
For specialist jobs, you need the same qualifications as you would for a job on land. You should have a few years' experience of your profession or trade before applying for a job at sea. You can apply directly to a cruise line or a concessionaire.
It may help if you have some experience working on a passenger ferry. Ferries sail from UK ports to the Scottish islands, Ireland, Scandinavia, France, Spain, and the Netherlands.
It is an advantage for some positions if you can speak at least one foreign language.
You can find jobs advertised on specialist recruitment websites such as allcruisejobs.com, as well as individual cruise operator and general recruitment websites.