Though cruise patrons used to be stereotyped as silver haired folks with money, the cruise industry today caters to a much wider demographic cross section of the population. There are cruises that specifically cater to singles, to families, and there is even a behemoth under construction now that is selling apartments for permanent residents.

As of 1999, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines’ Voyager was the largest cruise ship at sea. Among Voyager’s amazing attractions are an ice rink and a rock climbing wall. They carry 3100 guests and 1200 crew. Do the math, and you’ll see that this is roughly 1 crewmember for every 2.5 passengers. The crews are the real full time residents, usually signing 6 – 8 month contracts with little or no time off for the entire period. The ship sails 50 weeks per year with a 24-hour turn around between trips.

Voyager, due to it’s great size is able to offer it’s crewmembers more amenities than most cruise ships, including a crew gym, crew mess hall, crew break room, crew stores with special low crew pricing, crew internet cafĂ©, a crew movie theater, $0.75 beer, and lots of crew parties. All this sounds good, but you must remember that it is all designed to try and keep the crew happy, and why do they have to try so hard to make the crew happy? You got it, work on a cruise ship is long and hard, and bears little resemblance to the glamorous “Love Boat” ideal many people have when starting out in this profession. And speaking of romance, if you sign on as a single person, you’d best plan to remain that way for the full length of your contract. Romance between crewmembers is strongly discouraged.

Here is a quick rundown of the contract crew positions, (successful applicants are usually at least 21 years old):

Ship’s Officers – should have studied navigation and/or engineering at university. These positions are highly technical, and salaries are high.

Head Chefs and Pursers – these positions are also well paid, and require prior experience and training.

Other Jobs – waiter


kitchen staff

cabin stewards

deck hands

pool attendants, etc.

You’ll find fierce competition for these jobs from nationals of less developed countries. The salaries are very low. In fact since the ships sail in international waters, there is no minimum wage, but the tips can be quite good. Hours are long and you won’t get off the boat much. Accommodations tend to be cramped with generally 4 to a cabin. Voyager is exceptional in this respect with only two per cabin. I repeat, these jobs are HARD WORK. Though you’ll be traveling, you’ll see next-to-nothing of your destinations. These are jobs for people looking to save or send home money, since room and board are covered you can save most of your salary. TIP: If you take one of these jobs, set a time limit on it.

Shipboard Services Staff Members – These employees staff the shops, boutiques, work in the purser’s office, in the bars and casinos, beauty shops, discos, spas, gyms, etc. These are perhaps more attainable positions for someone seeking a change of pace for the term of one or two contracts. Their jobs are basically the same as they’re on land counterparts, with less time off.

Cruise Director’s Staff – Cruise Director

Assistant Directors

Special Hostesses

Children’s Activities Director

Teen Activity Director, etc.

This entire group of employees spends their working hours smiling and trying to make the passengers feel at home. If you have to work at putting on a smile each day, this is not the job for you. The job can be boring and repetitious for the employee, though the passengers are playing the game for the first time each time. People in these positions do sometimes get to go ashore with the passengers.

Medical Staff – These are fully licensed and qualified physicians and nurses. Some are on salary and some retain a portion of their fees. Some are permanent full time employees while others come aboard for only a few weeks at a time. These can be great positions for retired health care professionals who enjoy travel.

Enrichment Providers – All sorts of “experts” fill these short term fun positions which allow them to expound on their areas of expertise. They give talks, seminars and workshops. Generally they’ll be expected to speak for 40 minutes at a time and then field questions for 10 minutes or so. They’ll make one to three presentations per week usually on days at sea. They get to then spend the rest of their time enjoying the cruise. Talks or class can be on just about anything. Terms of temporary employment vary widely, with some cruise lines hiring enrichment providers directly and some working through employment agencies. Some lines pay a stipend, and some do not, or they may pay all air fares, or pay air fares when the provider does two cruises back to back, and some lines pay NO air fare. A few lines give the provider free drinks, laundry service and even tips. The majority of cruise lines do give the Enrichment Provider plus his/her companion free cruise tickets. In addition, EP’s nearly always eat with the passengers and are given regular passenger cabins. 10 – 24 day trips are common, and 4 month round-the-world trips are occasionally available. Retirees can do well in this area as can professors who have a semester off.

Here are some agencies that place enrichment providers:
International Voyager Media 11900 Biscayne Blvd., Suite 300 Miami, FL 33181 (305) 892-6644

Karp Enterprises, Inc. 1999 University Dr., Suite 213 Coral Springs, FL 33071 (305) 341-9400

Lectures International P.O. Box 35446 Tucson, AZ 85740 (520) 297-1145

Lauretta Blake, The Working Vacation 4277 Lake Santa Clara Drive Santa Clara, CA 95054-1330 (408) 727-9665

On Board Promotions 777 Arthur Godfrey Blvd., Suite 320 Miami Beach, FL 33140 (305) 673-0400

Program Experts, Inc. P.O. Box 510 Cresskill, NJ 07626-0510 (210) 569-7950

Posh Talks P.O. Box 5417 Palm Springs, CA 92263 (619) 323-3205

Semester at Sea, Institute for Shipboard Education University of Pittsburgh 811 William Pitt Union Pittsburgh, PA 15260 (800) 854-0194

Entertainers – are employed directly by large cruise lines, but are contract temporary employees. It is also possible to get gigs through agencies which keep a percentage of the entertainer’s salary. (My guitar teacher at university spent her summers cruising back and forth to the Mediterranean while playing jazz flute and guitar. In her spare time she combed the hillside villages for makers of unique renaissance style instruments which she taught her students to play each fall.) Contracts can run from just a few days in length to several months. You may work on 1 ship or rotate between several. If you are a professional entertainer, one of the following agencies should be able to assist you in finding a position on a cruise ship.

Bramson Productions 1501 Broadway New York, NY 10036 (212) 354-9575

Fiesta Fantastica 230 S. W. Eighth St. Miami, FL 33130 (305) 854-2221

Jean Anne Ryan Productions 308 S. E. Fourteenth Street Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316 (305) 523-6399

Peter Grey Terhune Productions P.O. Box 715 Cape Canaveral, FL 32920 (407) 783-8745

Ray Kennedy Production Co. 244 S. Academy Street Mooresville, NC 28115 (704) 662-3501

Ship Services International, Inc. 370 W. Camino Gardens Blvd., 3rd Floor Boca Raton, FL 33432 (407) 391-5500

Showmasters 3038-D N. Federal Highway Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33306 (305) 563-8028

There is one other short-term temporary position available on many cruise ships, and I would be remiss if I failed to mention it. There is sometimes a need for Male Escorts of a “certain age”. This role is best filled by gentlemen who are good conversationalists and dancers. In exchange for keeping single ladies company they earn free cruises. Contracts usually last 2 – 4 weeks. Applicants for this position should be well groomed, out-going and courteous, with some ability on the dance floor. Their health must be good, and they should not be heavy drinkers. Contact the cruise lines directly to learn more and to apply for jobs.

Here is a list of websites to contact if you are interested in finding a job on a cruise ship:

And finally, I found several books listed at about working on cruise ships:

Working on Cruise Ships, by Sandra Bow, 192 pages, $15.95 new, $7.50 used

How to Get a Job With a Cruise Line: How to Sail Around the World on Luxury Cruise Ships and Get Paid for It, by Mary Fallon Miller, 352 pages, $11.87 new, $5.05 used

American and Canadian Cruise Ship Employment Manual, by John, Degolacao Rodrigues, 120 pages, $19.95 new, $17.00 used

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship, by Steve Hines (editor), Don
H. Kennedy, 152 pages, $14.95 new, $10.64 used

Cruise Ship Jobs!, by Cynthia Ossenfort, 80 pages, $12.95 new

About the author:
(c)2002, Kim Davis Subscribe to her FREE e-zine for job seekers in the adventure travel industry, “Extraordinary Jobs for Ordinary People”,