The 27 Different Types of Cruise Ship Jobs

Cruise ships are often called “floating cities” and with good reason. The average cruise ship employs over 1,000 people on any given voyage, and there are typically about four passengers per crew member.

But is working on a cruise ship a fun job?

Many people see working aboard a cruise ship as a life of travel and adventure, not to mention opportunities to meet people from all over the world.

However, there is no “one size fits all” staff position aboard each ship, and getting the right job for your personality and interests is key to enjoying your time at sea.

Of course, knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming, considering there are so many types of cruise ship jobs.

Furthermore, the amount of jobs available depends on several factors, including the type of ship, the specific cruise line, the destination(s) and length of the voyage, and even the intended passenger demographic (a family-focused cruise, for instance, will have different crew needs than an adults-only cruise).

If you think this could be an exciting new career choice, it’s a good idea to go over the 27 types of cruise ship jobs and where exactly they fit in the “floating city.”

1. Deck Personnel

Deck Personnel
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Every cruise needs people to actually keep the ship running and afloat. Deck personnel encompasses a range of positions responsible for the ship’s navigation, safety, and security.

These include the ship captain, safety officer, and other officers on the bridge, as well as able seamen who may work on the bridge or other areas of the ship to keep things running smoothly.

Few entry-level positions are typically available among the deck personnel, as a high level of maritime and/or practical maintenance experience is required.

2. Engineers

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Modern cruise ships no longer run on furnaces, but they do run on systems that consist of gas turbines, diesel-electric power, or in many cases, a combination of power sources.

These complex systems require a lot of knowledge and human surveillance to function properly, which is where the ship’s engineers come in.

Like the deck personnel, being among the cruise ship engineer team or “engine team” is typically not an entry-level position.

This type of work requires years of training, either aboard another vessel (often military or industrial transportation) or on land in an industrial capacity.

3. Deckhands

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In addition to the more technical ship crew, there are also members of the deck crew who may perform support work in non-mechanical capacities.

These deckhands are considered to be the general handymen of the ship staff.

This portion of the crew can include janitorial work, carpentry, and stateroom maintenance. For example, if a passenger arrives onboard and finds that their bathroom door is not shutting, a member of the deck crew may be called to fix it for them.

Both the general deck crew and deck personnel may be grouped in the ship’s “deck department.”

4. Office Staff

Office Staff
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All cruise lines have office staff who are responsible for arranging the cruise itineraries, passenger bookings, accounting, sales and marketing, clerical work, and general office tasks.

Most of these positions are performed on shore at the cruise line’s main office, but some of these team members may be expected to go aboard cruises to work.

For example, marketing staff may take part in an active cruise to take photos and otherwise capture the experience for advertising and PR purposes.

All cruise ships have their own office staff members who keep worker schedules and itineraries organized and help handle any issues while at sea.

5. Activity Staff

Activity staff
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Passengers need activities to keep them occupied while they’re aboard the cruise ship! Activity staff members are vital parts of the cruise voyage, coordinating and running different activities throughout the day and evening.

From running shuffleboard tournaments by the pool to hosting trivia games in the theater at night, these crew members are considered vital to the cruise experience.

The ship’s cruise director is typically considered the head of the activity staff. They are typically the most visible and vocal members of the ship’s crew, often making daily announcements on the ship intercom and serving as hosts for the main activities on the itinerary.

6. Entertainers

cover band
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Cruise entertainers often work closely with the activity staff, and in some cases, they may all fall under the department under the cruise director.

These crew members are responsible for putting on shows and providing visual and audible entertainment for the ship’s passengers.

They also may function as DJs or musicians, providing background music in various areas throughout the day.

In addition to working in the ship theater (or theaters, depending on the size of the ship), entertainers may work during lunch or dinner, in the ship bars or lounges, or otherwise work to provide entertainment during the day and evenings.

7. Fitness Team Members

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The ship’s fitness team may be in their own category or considered part of the activities and entertainment crew members.

Typically led by the fitness director and a gym manager, these crew members are responsible for scheduling workouts and physical fitness activities for passengers to participate in.

They may run classes, act as personal trainers, host special yoga sessions, conduct dancing lessons, or even just be available to provide general advice and instruction in the ship’s gym.

In many cases, some level of experience and fitness knowledge is required to work on the ship’s fitness team.

Depending on the type of physical activity and equipment involved, some certification may be required.

8. Spa Staff

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Most large cruise ships have a spa these days, and some may even offer spa services in passenger staterooms.

The spa staff encompasses a wide range of positions, from receptionists to massage therapists, cosmetologists, and beauticians.

Though there may be some exceptions, spa staff members of the crew typically only work during daytime hours aboard a cruise ship.

While some spa positions may have entry-level availability, many of these positions require at least basic certifications and training.

In some cases, cruise ships may hire specific spa or beautician companies to supply these staff members.

Depending on the special events (like weddings) booked on the ship, cosmetologists and beauticians may also be scheduled to work additional hours.

Some may also do the makeup and hair of performers in the cruise’s shows.

9. Food and Beverage (front of house)

F & B servers
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In the world of food and beverage, there are two kinds of staff – front of house, and back of house.

The same goes for the food and beverage team on cruise ships.

The front-of-house staff members consist of the people who work directly with passengers at the ship’s restaurants, bars, and buffets.

These crew members are the ship’s bartenders, servers (waiters), back servers, barbacks, restaurant hosts, and food runners.

They may be assigned to just one location on the ship, or their shifts may rotate locations.

Depending on the special events scheduled for the voyage, the front-of-house staff may also perform catering duties.

10. Food and Beverage (back of house)

back of house
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Although passengers typically only interact with front-of-house food and beverage staff, the back-of-house staff is just as important.

These crew members make and plan all of the food in the ship’s restaurants, bars, and dining halls.

The back-of-house team consists of the head chef, sous chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, and sometimes others.

Some members of the back-of-house food and beverage staff will also be responsible for feeding the ship crew in general.

Since many crew members work while restaurants and buffets are open, they need other options in the crew-only portions of the ship.

11. General Hospitality Team

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Some cruise ships have a general hospitality team, which may work in a variety of positions throughout the ship and often is closely aligned with the activity and entertainment crew members.

However, the hospitality crew interacts more directly with the ship’s passengers and performs duties aligned with those of a hotel.

They help handle issues with any of the passenger’s accommodations, can assist with restaurant reservations, and field general questions during the voyage.

This team also includes the cruise’s customer service professionals.

12. Bedroom Stewards

Bedroom Stewards
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In addition to general hospitality staff, cruise ships have a team of bedroom stewards that act as cleaning and maid service for all passenger rooms.

These team members are a vital part of the hotel portion of the cruise experience, ensuring all rooms (typically hundreds to thousands) on the ship are cleaned and turned down daily.

On some cruise ships, these stewards participate further in creating a fun atmosphere for passengers by setting up regular towel displays or leaving fun surprises in public areas or staterooms.

13. Retail Staff

Retail Staff
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Nearly all large cruise ships these days have a selection of retail options right aboard the ship. From kiosks to physical stores, these areas need staff to run them.

Working in retail aboard a cruise ship is fairly similar in job function to working in retail in a mall or other shopping experience, and there may be many positions open that are entry-level.

Retail staff typically work daytime hours, though some ships may have certain stores or kiosks open late.

There may also be pop-up sales areas during shows or special events.

14. Childcare and Youth Staff

child care
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Not all cruises are child-friendly, but many are, and these require various activities throughout each day to both keep children occupied and provide a source of relief for parents when needed.

Functioning in roles similar to camp counselors, cruise childcare and youth staff run child-exclusive and family-friendly activities in different areas around the ship.

Some also provide babysitting services that can be booked at any time during the voyage.

Many of these childcare and youth staff positions are entry-level, but supervisory positions may require prior experience working in childcare on cruise ships.

15. Medical Team

Medical Team
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Accidents happen, and every cruise ship, therefore, requires a medical team to be on board at all times during the voyage.

These vital staff members deal with everything from minor injuries during ship activities to major, unexpected events like someone going into cardiac arrest or having a severe allergic reaction at the buffet.

Prior experience and certifications are typically required of medical team crew members, though there may be some assistant positions open in this department that require less training.

16. Photographers

ship photographers
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If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you may have noticed that there are often people wearing uniforms (or at the very least, nametags) who stop passengers and ask for photos.

These are the ship photographers, and they are there to both document the voyage for the cruise line and to provide passengers with the opportunity to commemorate their experience with a professional photograph.

The number of hours a ship photographer works on each cruise will vary depending on special events and cruise line needs, but many will end up doing at least one day of taking scheduled photos with passengers who want them.

In some cases, professional cruise ship photographers may have to provide their own equipment.

17. IT Personnel

IT staff
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Information Technology or “IT” staff have become increasingly important on cruise ships over time.

That’s because more cruise ships are offering WiFi and other technological amenities to passengers, and they need IT staff to ensure it all works properly.

The IT team may also be expected to help set up lighting and other equipment for events and help troubleshoot anything that is not functioning as expected.

IT staff may also assist the ship’s captain and deck department with technological needs around the ship.

There will be a higher level of expertise required in these cases, but generally speaking, IT positions on a cruise ship may call for only general IT experience that does not necessarily need to have been on a cruise.

18. Excursion Managers

passengers deboard
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Most cruise ships have various stops during the voyage, during which passengers deboard and head on land for some planned excursions.

This is why many cruise lines have a team of excursion managers on staff.

These crew members help plan and coordinate excursions with teams (sometimes external companies and people in different countries) on land and they help passengers book them.

They also are in charge of ensuring passengers have a safe, successful time on the excursion and are provided with all the information they need to make it back on the ship as scheduled.

Excursion managers may be considered part of the activities and/or entertainment crew, but the key difference is that their jobs focus primarily on what passengers do while off the ship.

19. Casino Staff

casino on a cruise ship
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Not all cruise ships have casinos, but many do. Casino staff members are similar to activity, entertainment, and even front-of-house food and beverage staff in that they interact directly with guests and help ensure they have a good time.

However, they are in their own category because working on a casino floor requires its own set of skills and specific rules that must be followed.

Depending on the specific job within the casino, a high level of experience may be required. For example, someone working as a blackjack dealer must be an expert at the game and be prepared to help even the most inexperienced passengers play.

Cruise casino staff may also include cocktail servers and bouncers, similar to a regular casino on land.

20. Ship Naturalist

Ship Naturalist
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Many cruise ships have at least one naturalist on staff, though they may be considered part of the general hospitality team.

What makes the naturalist unique, however, is that they are expected to both interact with passengers and help passengers interact with the world around them.

Because cruises are vacations, passengers are often exposed to wildlife and sights that they may not be familiar with.

The ship’s naturalist helps interested passengers learn more about these things and may also host events that go into more detail.

They may also be expected to provide fun information for the passenger’s welcome materials and itineraries.

21. Lifeguards and General Safety Staff

lifeguard cruise
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Most modern cruise ships have pools and hot tubs. Lifeguards are therefore required during most hours to ensure the safety of all guests.

These jobs are highly similar to lifeguard positions on land, and they may require the same level of training.

Many cruise ships also have general safety staff who patrol the ship on a routine basis, helping to spot any issues and intervene when passengers are engaging in potentially dangerous activity.

22. Security Personnel

security personnel
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Because cruise ships are like floating cities with so many passengers and crew members, there’s a need for 24/7 security personnel to help prevent issues.

Major cruise lines in particular are known for having fleets of security staff members on board, often run by people with prior experience in law enforcement on land.

There may be a mix of entry-level and experience-required positions here. There may also be stricter requirements in terms of drug testing and references for security positions on cruise ships.

23. Pursers

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Pursers are like the accountants of a cruise ship at sea who also act as part of the hospitality team.

They help settle passenger accounts and deal with any billing issues, and they may work closely with casino staff as needed.

They also may be highly front-facing and work in a concierge-like capacity, fielding general questions in addition to those related to money.

Behind the scenes, cruise ship pursers have strict codes and systems they must adhere to in order to ensure passenger accounts are handled with care.

Any financial issues must be dealt with delicately and as safely as possible. Pursers often start in lower-ranking crew positions first before advancing.

24. Instructors

dancing instructor
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Many cruise voyagers feature special instructors as part of their entertainment programs. However, the instructors themselves may not be considered a part of the regular entertainment staff or other entertainers.

Instead, they come on cruises on a limited basis to provide passengers with various types of instruction and classes, from philosophical lectures to painting and dancing.

Many cruise lines partner with outside agencies to bring on various instructors for their voyages.

25. Production Managers

cruise show
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Production managers aboard a cruise ship are in charge of ensuring every show and event goes off without a hitch.

They help set up the equipment and make sure entertainers and other crew members are all where they need to be, on schedule.

They also ensure that doors are open on time and that the event starts when it should.

Cruise ship production managers are like TV or movie producers but for live events, and their positions typically require years of experience to fill.

They often work closely with the cruise director and activity staff.

26. Gentleman Host

ensuring a good time
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A cruise ship gentleman host is among the more unique jobs in this industry by far. The gentleman host is solely in charge of ensuring single individuals have a good time.

They are there to step in as dance partners when one is needed, to provide conversation, and suggest fun activities on the itinerary that are friendly to solo travelers.

The gentleman host traditionally is there to accommodate single female passengers, but they are really there to mix and mingle with all passengers.

Some cruises may also have a “lady host” – a woman in this capacity. People serving in this role are typically selected for having a charming, easygoing personality, being outgoing but approachable, and having great dance skills, among other qualities.

27. Wine Steward

wine steward
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Not to be confused with one of the ship’s bartenders, the wine steward solely focuses on wine.

They make pairing suggestions for guests and answer questions about the ship’s wine options, and they participate in putting together ship menus.

They also may host tasting classes during the voyage.

The wine steward is often a sommelier, a certified expert on wine and food pairings that go with it.

They are considered an important part of creating an “elevated” experience for guests.