Coronavirus Update: Our team is here to help our clients and readers navigate these difficult times. Visit our Resources page now »

Skip to Main Content

Cruise Ship Workers

The Job

Many modern cruise ships are similar to floating resorts offering fine accommodations, gourmet dining, and every possible activity and form of entertainment. It takes a staff of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, to ensure the smooth operation of a cruise ship and the comfort of all passengers. All employees, regardless of their rank, are expected to participate in routine lifesaving and safety drills. Crew organization is divided into six different departments (smaller liners may not have as many divisions of organization); the captain, or the master of the ship, oversees the entire crew.


This department is responsible for the navigation of the ship, and oversees the maintenance of the hull and deck.


This staff operates and maintains machinery. Together, deck and engine staffs include officers, carpenters, seamen, maintenance workers, electricians, engineers, repairmen, plumbers, and incinerator operators.

Radio department

Videographers are responsible for the maintenance and operation of the ship's broadcast booth, including radio and news telecasts. Telephonists help passengers place phone calls shoreside.

Medical department

Physicians treat passengers whose maladies range from seasickness to more serious health problems. Nurses assist the doctors and provide first aid.


This department, one of the largest on board, is concerned with the comfort of all passengers. The food staff includes specially trained chefs who prepare meals, ranging from gourmet dinners to more casual fare poolside. The wait staff serves guests in the formal dining room and provides room service. Wine stewards help passengers with wine choices, and are responsible for maintaining proper inventories aboard the ship. Bartenders mix and serve drinks at many stations throughout the ship. From simple blocks of ice, sculptors create works of art that are used to decorate dining room buffets. The housekeeping staff is composed of executive housekeepers and room attendants who keep cabins and staterooms orderly, supply towels and sheets, and maintain public areas throughout the ship.


This large department is responsible for guest relations and services. The chief purser, much like a hotel's general manager, is the head of this department and is the main contact for passengers regarding the ship's policies and procedures. Assistant pursers, considered junior officers, assist the chief with various duties, such as providing guest services, ship information, monetary exchange, postage, safety deposit boxes, and other duties usually associated with the front desk department of a hotel. The cruise director heads the cruise staff and plans daily activities and entertainment. The youth staff director plans activities and games specifically designed for children. Ships with a casino on board employ casino workers, including game dealers, cashiers, keno runners, and slot machine attendants. Sound and lighting technicians are needed to provide music and stage lighting for the many entertainment venues found on board. Many entertainers are hired to sing, dance, and perform comedy skits and musical revues. Dance instructors teach dance classes ranging from ballroom to country. Also, many employees are hired to work in duty-free shops and souvenir stores, beauty parlors, spas, health clubs, and libraries.

Other occupations in the cruise ship industry include clerical workers, human resources workers, computer specialists, and security workers.