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Work on a Cruise Ship: Travel the World and Get Paid

Work on a cruise ship and visit Venice
A cruise ship port stop in Venice, Italy.

A great way to see the world and get paid at the same time is to work on a cruise ship. I just completed my first contract with Princess Cruise Lines and it was utterly fantastic. My itinerary took me all over the Mediterranean and across the Atlantic into the Caribbean. The ports I saw included Naples, Florence, Monte Carlo, Cannes, Barcelona, Venice, Istanbul, Croatia, Jamaica, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and Mexico — just to name a few.

There are of course numerous paid positions on a cruise ship and numerous cruise ships to choose from. However, not all positions are desirable and not all cruise companies are worth your efforts. Many cruise ship jobs will have you working 12-14 hour days, with no time to see the world except through the ship windows. Paid jobs that give you time to explore each port are the ones that make cruising worthwhile.

As a theater technician I mostly work nights. So I spend most of my days seeing the ports: taking free tours offered by the ship or bicycling around with a bike I brought with me. Production is one of the best positions on the ship. Also, entertainers have more free time then they know what to do with and the pay is also a bit higher than for other positions. For production jobs, a multitude of sites offer assistance. These include Cruise Ship Jobs and CruiseJobFinder. Often it is best to go directly to the cruise line's homepage and check out their employment opportunities. To work behind the scenes you will often need to have had a few years of experience or schooling.

Dancers and musicians must audition, and the competition is stiff. Musicians often go through an agent, who will help them acquire jobs on a variety of cruise lines. Websites for musicians and performers include Proship Entertainment and Cruise Ship Entertainment Agencies & Contacts (see our resources for travel jobs to discover more hiring cruise ship companies).

Other jobs on ships that give you the time to get off the ship and explore include work as a youth or teen staff employee. When the ship is in port you will not work; the hard days are sea days when you watch the children all day.

If you like retail and enjoy working with the passengers, then you can work in one of the shops on board. These are never open when the ship is in port, so you have free time to see the country. The casino is much the same, but the nights are long. Photographers also have some free time but less than all the above. You may have to spend time photographing ashore and developing photos.

Taking photos between work in Grenada
Exploring a waterfall during a port stop in Grenada. Photo by Kristin Carter.

The rest of the jobs on a cruise ship for those in the dining room, galley, officers, and spa involve many hours of work and little time to see the outside.

The pay on a cruise ship is a bit less than what you would make on land for the same work, but your room and board are free and there is nothing to buy. There are crew food areas, crew bars, crew pools, a crew fitness area, movies, theme parties, and much more to keep you entertained while not working. The fun never ends.

Be careful what ship you work for. I have nothing but good things to say about working for Princess Cruise Lines, and Royal Caribbean. Carnival, Norwegian, and Holland America got mediocre reviews from my peers and the pay and hours are not as good.

After a 6-week break I will start in the southern Caribbean and then cross the Atlantic for a summer in England, Scotland, Ireland, and some of the Baltic countries. I will continue cruising until I see most of the world  — at least the ports I can see on a cruise ship.

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