Cruise Ship Captain Salary: How Much Do Captains Make?

cruise ship captain salary

Tired of working that nine to five? Maybe it's time you took a vacation. Better yet - what if you could take a vacation while you were at work? Seems impossible until you think about the life of a cruise ship captain. These guys get to sail the seven seas in the lap of luxury and get paid for it. So if you were thinking of a career change, this might be it.

But for as fun and exciting as a cruise ship captain's life might seem, you still need to put food on the table. So you gotta ask - how much is a cruise ship captain salary? Find out whether this exciting new career can earn you as much as (or more) than your current line of work with this comprehensive guide.

How Much Does a Cruise Ship Captain Make in the US?

Wondering what kind of salary cruise ship captains make? Well, cruise ship captains have one of the best salaries of any professional in all of the maritime industry. Of course, annual salaries fluctuate depending on a range of factors.

So how much does a cruise ship captain make?

Well, recent data from the United States of America states that a cruise ship captain can earn upwards of $200,000 a year or $16,500 a month.

However that figure represents cruise ship captains in the upper crest. More often, captains on cruise ships earn an average salary between the range of $110,000 to $150,000 per year which admittedly still isn't that bad. That's roughly $12,000 per month.

How Much Do Captains on Cruise Ships Make in the UK and Australia?

How do cruise ship captains in other countries compare to the US? In the UK, the country logs around 2 million cruise ship passengers annually. Even more surprising, a data report states that roughly 5% of all Australians go on an annual cruise. So it's safe to say that the cruise industry is booming in both of these locations.

That said, cruise ship captains who find themselves in these countries are in the position to earn just as much as US-based cruise ship captains. In fact, data claims that UK-based cruise ship captains earn an average salary of US$140,000 per year or US$11,500 a month, while Australian captains can make an average of US$95,000 to US$100,000 a year or US$8,500 a month.

Which Cruise Liners Offer the Highest Salaries?

One of the factors that will make the biggest impact on salaries would be the brand of the cruise ship liner you work for. So it goes without saying that choosing to work for a well-established cruise liner brand also puts you in a better position to earn a better salary.

Here's a list of the best paying cruise liners for applicants looking to max out their potential cruise ship captain salary:

Royal Caribbean

The Royal Caribbean Cruise has a fleet of 20 cruise ships and is one of the biggest lines in the industry. Because their ships can accommodate thousands of guests at a time, the liner has the leverage to keep their prices reasonable for the average passenger.

They offer European, Caribbean, and Alaskan destinations at an average of under $300 per person.

Celebrity Cruises

These cruise liners don't accommodate quite as many passengers at a time as the the previous liner, but this allows a more intimate experience for cruise guests.

The liner also charges much less money, with some of their trips an average of just $130 per person.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Offering an opulent sea cruise experience, the Regent Seven Seas Cruises are known for their ultra comfortable and sophisticated liners that deliver a truly lavish vacation.

They have 34 cruises exploring some of the most beautiful destinations across the globe, including trips to Barcelona, Jerusalem, and Athens.

Seabourn Cruise

Their luxurious cruise packages combine comfort, style, and relaxation, letting guests enjoy serenity and calm that maximizes tranquility. Their destinations include the ever popular Caribbean, but they also have trips that explore Africa, India, the Arctic, and New England.

The company claims they offer the best value for money despite their price per head.

Crystal Cruises

With a staff to guest ratio of 1:1.5, the Crystal Cruises guarantee that every need, whim, and fancy will be met. The luxury cruise liner claims to offer 6-star service along with a world class dining experience that's said to be far superior compared to any other cruise liner's.

Prices per head may be steep, but past guests say the money is well worth it.

Factors Affecting a Cruise Ship Captain's Salary

Some cruise ship captains get a salary of as little as $50,000 a year, while data shows that some liner's offer to pay their captains an average of up to $400,000 annually or $35,000 a month.

So what's with the wide range?

There are various factors that can impact the salary that a chief gets, including:

Cruise Liner

Of course, the brand of the cruise ship liner you work for will significantly impact the amount you get.

Companies like the Royal Caribbean have budget packages for families and passengers with limited resources. But then again, they also have high end options like the Allure of the Seas which is considered the most expensive liner to date.

Serving as the cruise ship captain for these high end lines can definitely bump up your salary.

Ship Size

The bigger the cruise line size, the more passengers it can carry on board. That means more people pay money to be on board, and the cruise ship ends up earning more to pay its workers.

But there are special cases. For instance, some luxury cruise liners will deliberately accommodate less guests despite its size to make the ambiance more exclusive. This also entails that guests pay a premium price for the elite treatment and accommodations.


Just like any other job, your employer will pay more the longer your years experience. Cruise ship captains increase in value with more hours worked on board.

While newbie skipper might earn salaries between $50,000 to $60,000 per year, the average tenured cruise line captain stands the opportunity to earn upwards of $100,000 in salaries since cruise liners are more willing to pay for experience if it guarantees that their ship will be in good hands.

Benefits of Being a Cruise Ship Captain

Maybe you're just toying with the idea of changing careers, or maybe you're seriously considering ditching the desk job for something a little more exciting. Whatever the case, there are loads of perks to being a cruise ship captain, including:


Very few professionals can say that every day at work feels like a vacation. Cruise ship captains get to travel to all the corners of the world while enjoying the most exclusive facilities on a cruise.

Of course, it can still get tiring after so many hours at the helm. But with picturesque scenes of the sea or ocean at every turn, it's hard not to enjoy the everyday grind.


Cruise ship captains can get paid a lot of money. And the longer you're in the business, the bigger the salary you stand to earn.

Very few people can claim that they get paid to travel on ships, and cruise ship captains find themselves in the position to say exactly that.


Unlike other cruise ship crew members that have to interact with guests, the chief gets to sit at the control room the entire day without having to worry about addressing passenger concerns onboard.

Sure, problems may get escalated to the captain, but they can usually be resolved by the crew before it gets that bad.


As the head of the ship, the cruise ship captain is responsible for calling the shots.

It can get stressful at times since you can work odd hours, but being the head of the vessel comes with the perks of special treatment and respect that crew members, staff, and guests are almost obligated to serve.

What Does a Cruise Ship Captain Do?

how much do cruise ship captains make

So what exactly does a cruise ship captain do? Well, there's a big responsibility under a cruise ship captain's belt that can be condensed into just four items:

Navigation and Boat Operation

The ship captain is responsible of making sure you're on the right course to your destination. They use technical data from a variety of instruments to fulfill this responsibility.


Cruise ships need routine maintenance and repairs onboard even while they're underway. The cruise ship captain is in charge of making sure the right crew members and staff are delegated at the necessary sites of repair.

Overseeing Proper Procedures

There are various steps to making sure that the cruise ship is working in proper order. Captains are responsible of making sure that every crew member and staff fulfill their duties.

Safety and Security

The ship captain is mainly responsible for everyone onboard and their safety, security, and comfort. In the event of an emergency, the captain is the one who will call the shots.

Requirements for Cruise Ship Captains

Are you qualified to become a cruise ship captain? Here are some education and work requirements that you should have at the ready if you're looking to get a job as the captain of a cruise:

  • Education: Master's Degree in Marine Engineering or Marine Science
  • Captain's license from a Federal Maritime Authority
  • Preferably no significant medical conditions
  • An average or at least 10 years experience in a relevant field
  • Pass an exam through your chosen cruise liner
  • Any relevant certifications or proof of hours of training

Tips on Becoming a Cruise Ship Captain

According to statistics, cruise line captain jobs are expected to grow by 8.8% by 2026. This means that you might be able to snag a job as the ship captain of a cruise if you play your cards right.

So if you're serious about the career change, here are some tips to get you started:

  • You can't expect to be hired as a captain of the crew right away. Start from the bottom and work your way towards the captain title.
  • Get as much experience as possible. The more skills you have, the better your chances of getting promoted to captain.
  • Attend seminars and courses that can give you certifications that improve your captain resume.
  • Demonstrate the right attitude. Captains need to be calm, collected, and quick on their feet.
  • Last but not least: keep fit. The job can be physically demanding - staying healthy and fit should make it easier to keep up with the requirements of the work involved.

Life on the Seven Seas

The life of a cruise ship captain is without compare. Operating a massive vessel all while making sure that everyone else is doing their job can be a serious task that not everyone can handle.

So if you were lured in by that enticing cruise ship captain salary, there's a lot more to think about than just the pay. Are you qualified for the job? Consider all the angles before you quit your nine to five.

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