It is incredible to think that there can sometimes be at least 3,000 people on board a cruise ship. The captain running the show is responsible for everybody’s safety so must really make a lot of money and earn a high annual salary. But I wondered how much money a cruise ship captain would make in a year, so I did some investigating, and this is what I found.

How much do cruise ship captains make? Cruise ship captain can earn on average between $110,981 and $153,000 a year in wages. They tend to work for two months on and two months off. Cruise ship captain salary will depend on the size of the ship and the experience of the captain. 

Cruise ship captain salary guide

Cruise ship captains certainly do make some good money and earn a decent wage. But being a cruise ship captain must be a fascinating, yet stressful job. If you are like me, and always want to look into new possibilities, keep reading!

Perhaps you are looking to become a cruise ship captain, or you are just curious about what they actually do to make so much money, then this article is for you.

What do cruise ship captains do to earn such a great salary?

Cruise ship captains are in charge of pretty much everything! They are in charge of the operation of the ship, as well as overseeing the staff aboard the ship, and the passengers. Cruise ship captains need to make sure of the safety of everyone on board as well as the cargo.

The bigger cruise liners have about between 5,000 and 6,780 passengers on board with about 2,300 staff members. It’s a massive responsibility to be in charge of so many people.

Ship captains also need to navigate the ship, determine the ships speed, location and avoid hazards. They also make sure that all maritime protocol and safety regulations are followed.

how much do cruise ship captains make

How much do cruise ship captains make? Average salaries range from $110,981 and $153,000 a year.

The captain is also in charge of maintenance of the ship’s engines and making sure the ship stays in tip top shape. They also are in charge of keeping everyone on board safe from hijackers, pirates and terrorists.

If you’re thinking of becoming a stowaway, think again, the cruise ship captain is in charge of checking for stoaways too.

If you love your social life, being a cruise ship captain could be a great career choice. Cruise ship captains are also required to socialize with the guests and maintain immigration and customs laws.

Why do cruise ship captains make so much money?

It’s interesting to note that cruise ship captains earn more money than an airline pilot.

You might wonder why?

Well the answer is that to be a cruise ship captain is a highly skilled profession and at the moment there are less and less people who are meeting the qualifications.

The pool of those who are able to meet those specific skills are becoming few and far between, so those who do meet these qualifications are able to make good money. 

Which cruise ships offer the best salaries?

So far, with a bit of research, some of the best cruise liners to work for are:

  • Carnival Cruise Line
  • Norwegian Cruise Line
  • MSC Cruises
  • Royal Caribbean
  • Princess Cruises
  • Disney Cruise Lines
  • Seabourne
  • Holland America

If you had to apply to any of these cruise lines, you would definitely be taken care of as an employee.

Depending on your position some employees are paid between $1,200 and $2,500 a month. As a cruise ship employee (on most ships) you wouldn’t pay for food or accommodation, hence you would be able to save your money.

Do all cruise ship captains make the same amount of money all over the world?

Cruise ship captains make different amounts of money around the world. For example, the average salary of a cruise ship captain in the UK is £59,481 pounds a year. In South Africa a cruise ship captain can make R500,000 in average salary.

The pay also varies on the size of the ship as well as the cargo the ship is carrying.

The lowest income in the US for a cruise ship captain was reported as being $35,640 for the year in 2017.

What qualifications do you need in order to become a cruise ship captain?

A cruise ship captain would need a postgraduate degree at a maritime academy or they would need at least 1,000 hours as a deckhand.

Some of the best maritime academies in America include:

  • Massachusetts Maritime Academy
  • United States Naval Academy
  • The University of New Orleans
  • SUNY maritime college

A cruise ship captain would also need a background in maths, science and naval science. It could take up to 22 years to earn your bars as a cruise ship captain. So, if this is what you want to do, be prepared to work and study hard if you want to earn a good cruise ship captain salary.

Is there a job growth trend in this industry?

There is a great opportunity for growth in this industry. Tourism is at an all-time high. It is estimated that 30 million people will take a cruise in 2019.

Job opportunities are said to rise by 8% from now on till 2026.

The best places offering the most positions for ship captains is in Florida, Louisiana, Alaska, Hawaii and Mississippi. So, if you’re looking to become a cruise ship captain, have a look for where there is a demand.

What other jobs are available on cruise ships?

So perhaps you don’t have the patience to study for 22 years to become a full-on cruise ship captain, but you would still love to work out at sea.

There are many other job opportunities aboard cruise ships which you could apply for.

  • Nurses: There is a great need for nurses onboard cruise ships. There are sometimes medical emergencies and nurses can be of great importance.
  • Paramedics: They are also needed on cruise ships in case of emergencies.
  • Retail assistants: On cruise ships there a few shops that need great sales people, so if you are a good sales person, you could always apply to work onboard a cruise ship. Customer service is of great importance on cruise ships. Some of these shops include perfume shops and jewelry shops.
  • Housekeeping: This is a really important job on cruise ships. These wonderful people keep the ship tidy and service all the rooms on board. You can imagine the amount of germs that there are with so many people in such close proximity. Hence housekeeping is really important to keep things sanitary.
  • Cruise staff: Staff who work on cruise liners are in charge of activities for all the passengers. They make sure that each passenger has an incredible and memorable stay. They manage parties on board, dance lessons and even trivia games.
  • Security: A security officer would be in charge of all the security on board. They would monitor guests and crew on board and report any security issues that arise.
  • Yoga and gym instructors: Many cruise liners are on the lookout for various gym instructors, including yoga instructors.
  • Massage therapists: On many cruise liners, there are also Spas. Spas need massage therapists to help destress the passengers.
  • Food and beverage managers: The food and beverage manager is in charge of all the food on board. They do the best they can to make sure the guests have an incredible culinary experience.
  • IT officer: They are responsible for all the maintenance and operation of the computer systems onboard the cruise ship.
  • Plumbers: A plumber would install, maintain and fix any plumbing issues on the cruise ship.

The last word…

Recently, I was fortunate to break away from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy a magical cruise of the Mediterranean. The water was this incredible azure blue and I soaked up the warm sun, when the ship’s captain came to chat to me.

This was what sparked up my thoughts on how much money than can make each year.

Having looked into and seen some of the high annual salaries that cruise ship captains can earn, I reckon they earn every cent or penny!