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What Is a Cruise Ship Captain Salary?

Like pilots, cruise ship captains have a lot of job responsibilities. Not only does their career require long hours, but they are responsible for the safety of hundreds and even thousands of people on board.

With such a big responsibility, what is a cruise ship captain’s salary? In this article, we will explore what a cruise ship captain’s career entails and how they are compensated.

How Much a Cruise Ship Captain Makes

A cruise ship captain salary will vary depending on several factors. The amount of experience, the level of education, the grades they received, location, and company all can determine the year’s salary. In general, a cruise ship captain salary ranges between $54,000 and more than $100,000.

This may seem like a low pay scale considering the responsibilities that come with the job. However, because cruise ships are on the water for long periods of time, captains get to enjoy a wide range of other benefits that make their careers highly desirable.

What Are a Cruise Ship Captain’s Responsibilities?

As a whole, a cruise ship captain is responsible for leading the crew in order safely navigate a vessel. On board a cruise ship, there can be between hundreds and thousands of people who are enjoying activities. In order for the passengers to enjoy their vacation, the cruise ship captain needs to ensure the voyage is safe and compliant with maritime regulations.

A cruise ship captain has a lot of responsibilities, including setting the ship’s course, navigating through sea traffic, supervising the crew to ensure all safety protocols are followed, monitoring weather conditions, and ensuring passenger safety in case of an emergency. In addition, the captain needs to abide by customs and immigration laws and ensure the ship’s maintenance is working efficiently.

While it isn’t likely, a cruise ship captain also has to have a security plan in place. This situation may include dealing with hijackings, smuggling, and terrorist threats. Cruise ship captains also need to be social as they are the face of the ship and need to mingle with passengers to ensure they are satisfied with their trip.

To become a cruise ship captain, a person needs to gain certain skills and qualifications. Typically, becoming a cruise ship captain requires the following steps:

Obtain a High School Diploma

Most cruise ship captains will first need to earn a high school diploma to be on course for their careers. For young people who want to pursue this career, it is wise to take classes in math and science to be prepared for the next step.

Get a Secondary Degree and Maritime Qualifications

After high school, earning a bachelor’s degree and maritime credentials is the next step. In addition, many will apply for internships while finishing their education to gain experience. Then aspiring captains will get a master’s degree in marine science or marine engineering. This is usually obtained from a reputable maritime academy or college.

Start with Entry Level Jobs

After earning a degree and the proper credentials, most people begin as a third mate or deck officer. Like with other careers, entry-level positions give you an opportunity to learn from experienced professionals.

However, it may take several years before you become a cruise ship captain. The reason is that individuals need to have a strong understanding of logistics, maritime laws, safety laws, navigation, leadership, and management.

After putting in the hard work, an individual will get a captain’s license from a federal maritime authority. Depending on the skills, experience, and time served, someone may become a captain in 10 to 20 years.

In addition to a diploma and degree, a cruise ship captain will need to obtain certain certifications. The common ones are the Transportation Work Identification Credential and a Merchant Mariner Credential. In order to get these certifications, they will need to pass a number of exams, a vision test, a drug test, and a physical.

Is There a Need for Cruise Ship Captains?

Now that the pandemic is over, tourism is quickly rebounding. This means there is a need for cruise ship captains to fill the gap.

Cruise lines continue to launch new vessels which need people to run them. In the future, there will also be new cruise lines appearing in the industry. For example, Virgin Voyages is one of the newest cruise lines and has launched a new ship almost every year since its debut in 2021.

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What Are Cruise Ship Captains’ Schedules?

Cruise ship captains don’t work a normal 9-5 job. It requires long hours and extensive travel. On average, a cruise ship captain will work full-time for three months straight. However, that is typically followed by three months off.

Can Cruise Ship Captains Bring Their Family?

A three-month-on and three-month-off work schedule could be difficult if you have a family. Some companies will allow relatives to travel if the captain or other crew members have met certain work-of-service criteria.

Do Cruise Ship Captains Live on the Ship?

During the time when they are required to work, the cruise ship captains and other crew members will eat, sleep, and live on the vessel. However, when they are not working, they usually stay in ports or their homes.

While cruise ships don’t have underwater rooms for passengers, there are crew members’ quarters under the water line on most cruise ships. In these areas, the crew members will have dorms, a cafeteria, and sometimes a bar for after-work socializing.

How Many Cruise Ships Have Sunk?

In the last 100 years there have been around 22 cruise ships that have sunk. Some have been tragic accidents, while others have been caused by negligence. However, a majority of cruise ships have sunk when they are berthed (parked) or being towed due to a breakdown.

Overall, a cruise ship sinking is unlikely, so don’t worry if you are going to board one. The safety measure in the cruise industry continues to improve, and so does the technology on modern-day vessels.

Do You Have What It Takes to Be a Cruise Ship Captain?

If you have dreams of being a cruise ship captain, then know it is a long road to get there. It is important to have a full understanding of what it takes for this career and decide whether you are willing to put in the time and energy into becoming one. In addition, there is a lot of responsibility that comes with the job.

However, there is something rewarding about seeing the world, visiting exciting ports of call, and working with a team to ensure passengers have an enjoyable vacation. With that said, if you are passionate about this career path, then start getting your high school diploma and begin exploring what it takes to become a cruise ship captain.

Would you rather be a passenger than a cruise ship captain? We have articles that can help you pick the perfect cruise for you, including Virgin Voyages Cruise Review, Virgin vs. Celebrity, Royal Caribbean vs. Celebrity, Virgin Voyages vs. Carnival, Norwegian vs. Carnival, Royal Caribbean vs. MSC Cruises, Royal Caribbean vs. Princess Cruises, Viking vs. Oceania, Why Are Disney Cruises So Expensive?, Norwegian vs. Princess, Carnival Cruise vs. Royal Caribbean, and 10 Best Honeymoon Cruises and Cruise Lines.