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How to Get A Job Onboard A Cruise Ship

Each year, more and more people are leaving their 9-5 jobs behind for a more adventurous travel lifestyle. Jobs in travel are vast, and if you’re looking to make the change from the office to the sea, life aboard a cruise ship may be for you. Getting started can be challenging, especially if you have no prior history working in the cruise world, but we’re here to help. From choosing your company to embarking on your first day, you’re in for the experience of a lifetime onboard your first cruise ship. 

Cruise Ship Crewmebers Off Duty
Working on a cruise ship means your time off may just be spent in the Bahamas ✨

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Where To Apply

There are loads of different cruise lines offering various vacation styles, itineraries, and crew benefits. Know that contract length varies depending on the position and department, but expect no less than five months and up to a year. 

You should consider what cruise line suits your personality best before applying.

For example, if you don’t like working with children, Disney probably isn’t the cruise line for you. 

MSC is the perfect place to fine-tune your skills if you excel in multiple languages and want to showcase them. 

Spend time researching companies, but we recommend applying to several cruise lines, as getting on board can be quite a long process. Some major lines do not often accept applications from first-time crew members, so understanding working for a different line could also be a stepping stone toward your end dream career. You might even surprise yourself and fall in love with a line you never previously considered.

How To Apply

Many cruise lines allow crewmembers to apply directly through a portal on their site. Look for a careers page or sign up for emails to receive notifications when job availabilities open up. 

Recruitment agencies can also be very helpful in securing a job onboard and can help manage all the details of your embarkation and contract. Contact the agencies closest to your residence for more details. 

Specific jobs onboard, typically in the entertainment department, are externally contracted by talent agencies.

No matter your route, you will need a resume and LOTS of patience. It is not uncommon for the application process to take several months from the start of the application process to your arrival on your first day onboard. Expect several levels of video call interviews before the job is confirmed. 

What You’ll Need


Any mariner that works on international waters is required to have an STCW. (Standards of Traning, Certification, and Watchkeeping) The STCW basic training course is a group of courses and training that ensures seafarers have basic skills to work safely at sea. There are four required certificates received during the training: Personal survival techniques, fire prevention and firefighting, medical first aid, and maritime security. 

Fire Fighting Course During the STCW Training (I'm the third one from the left 😉)

The course, as a whole, can be completed in as little as a week and is currently valid for five years. 

Prices vary depending on the maritime institution and are not typically re-embursed by the cruise line of employment. 

After the original certificate passes its expiration point, refresher courses are offered at a discounted rate. 

Passport and Visas

Passports are required for all crew members. Depending on your cruise itinerary and nationality, some crewmembers will also require work visas. Although you will have to acquire your passport on your own before applying, your employer will help you obtain your visa after you have been given the job prior to your embarkation.


An extensive physical is required before embarkation as well. This includes everything from sharp eyesight and hearing to no big prior medical, mental, or physical conditions. As a crewmember, if there is an emergency, it is your responsibility to keep all the passengers safe, so anything that can constrict helping them disembark off the ship could affect your application process. These are typically valid for two years. 


Although experience is not required, it is highly recommended and will help fast-track your application process. If you have no prior experience on ships themselves, any experience in the hospitality industry will help expedite your application process. Consider working in hotels and resorts. Etc. to gain this experience.


One of the most beautiful benefits of working onboard cruise ships is the mix of cultures among crewmembers and passengers. If you speak more than one language, highlight it on your resume. Crew members who speak multiple languages have a higher probability of getting hired. 

For advice on learning a new language, make sure to read "How To Learn Any Language You Want."

Flexible Availability

Although getting hired may take a long time, the time will fly once you’re offered a contract. Denying an initial boarding date may hurt you in the long run, as the company will have to find someone else to find your spot, forcing you to wait much longer until another position opens up.

Ensure all your affairs are in order to leave the country for the length of your contract. 


Cruise Ship Crew Member Sunset
Watching the sun go down leaving Miami

Remember, even if you don’t have prior ship experience, an upbeat personality and willingness to work hard and learn will help significantly in landing your first job onboard a cruise ship. 

If you don’t hear back after applying, stay patient and try applying again in a few months. The cruise industry is constantly growing, and a job will eventually appear on your radar. 

For more information about what to expect during your first contract at sea, check out "The Truth About Working Onboard."

Good luck and happy sailing!

Love Kait

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