So you’re interesting in working on a cruise ship? It’s an amazing experience which affords you the opportunity to not only travel, but make money at the same time. Where else do you go to sleep in one country, and wake up in another almost every night? Before you apply though – you need to make sure that you’re going to be prepared to commit to the working and living styles aboard – some of which are very different from ashore.

Check out this article for more information on what life aboard is like.

If you’ve read over that, and are still feeling like ship life might be for you, here are the eight steps to embarking on a voyage of a lifetime.


Step One: Do Your Research

There are quite a few different cruise lines out there – and they’re all looking for different things. Some sail exclusively around North America, others go all over the world. Some have big ships, some have small ships – and you can bet that each of them has a different hiring process, and job descriptions. Put the pen to the paper and get some notes going to see which cruise lines might be for you.

Step Two: Create Your Resume

Always re-write your resume for every job you apply for. This goes for cruise ships too. Many times, you can be qualified for more than one position, but putting all that information on one resume can dilute your accomplishments. If you’re applying for Youth Staff, create a resume that highlights your experience working with children. If you’re applying for the galley, make sure you’re listing all your experiences ashore working in restaurants. You should have a different resume (and cover letter) for each position, at each cruise line, you intend to apply for.

Step Three: The Initial Application

Now comes the time to send in your application. Depending on the cruise line, they will either accept your resume directly, or use a designated recruiter – most choosing the latter. This designated recruiting agency does all the leg work for the cruise line; they are your ticket to getting your foot in the door. Send in your resume, cover letter, and anything else they request initially – sometimes a photo, and get ready to wait. It can take a few days, all the way to a few months for a recruiter to get back to you. During some months, they’re not hiring for a specific position – so patience is key here.

Note: A recruiter should not be charging you an application fee. They are paid on commission from the cruise lines themselves. Make sure you’re applying to the recruiter that the cruise line’s official website recommends.

Step Four: Your Initial Interview

The recruiter has read over your resume, likes your experiences, and wants to invite you for an interview. Congratulations – you’ve made it to the first stage of the process. Your interview will either be by phone, Skype, or sometimes in person. Make sure you do lots of background research on the specific companies they recruit for, before you go in. If your interview is by Skype or in person, make sure you’re also dressing to impress.

Now I’m a firm believer in that people should judge you by the content of your character, and not the clothes on your back, but unfortunately, the world doesn’t work that way yet – so for now, don those fancy clothes.

Make sure you’re also asking questions in your interview – it shows that you’re keen to get the job. One of my favourite questions I like to ask is “Can you give me any advice you would want me to know if you were in my position, starting now?”. Also make sure you ask about follow up timelines; when can you expect to hear back from them? What are the next steps in the process? etc.

Step Five: Your Cruise Line Interview

Your recruiter likes you, and is ready to move you to the next stages. They have officially recommended you to a position on a cruise line, and it’s now time to schedule an interview with your future company. This interview can be done over Skype, the phone, or in person again, so those dress standards still apply – even over Skype. Make sure you’re brushing up on your knowledge here. You want to go into this interview knowing as much as you can about the position and the cruise line. The more you know, the more you can relate your skills and previous experiences to the responsibilities on board.

Smile, do your best, and don’t sweat it. They’re interested in you enough to hold an interview, so you’re in the clear. Make sure you’re also asking those follow up questions.

Step Six: You’ve been hired! Kind of…

Congratulations! You’ve been offered a position… kind of. You’ll be pre-cleared for a specific position, pending medical results, background checks, and a whole lot of other things to do.

Over the next few weeks to a month, you’ll be working with your recruiter to gather medical documents, get blood work done, chest x-rays, fingerprints, background checks and more. You’ll need to be cleared by a doctor (either your family doctor, or your recruiter will recommend one) in order to work at sea. They’ll ask you questions about your medical history, check your overall health, run a series of blood panels, x-rays, and do a drug screening.

Depending on your position, you might also need to get a criminal background check, with fingerprinting, from your local police detachment. Your recruiter will have more information on this.

Step Seven: Your Final Offer

You’ve sent everything back in, and your cruise line through your recruiter has extended you an offer for a specific position, aboard a specific ship. It will have your sign on date, the length of your contract, your ship, and your flight information there. Depending on the cruise line, flights are sometimes your responsibility for the first contract. I’m not going to mention names, but do your research and you should be good. Check your email frequently, pack your things and print your boarding passes.

Step Eight: Embarkation

Depending on your cruise line, you’ll be flown to a city to meet your ship. You might or might not spend the night in a hotel, and in the morning, you will board your new home for the next few months. It’s here that you’ll sign your contract, meet new friends, and hopefully travel as much as you possibly can on your time off.

The best of luck to you all. If there’s anything I’ve missed – or if you have any questions about the process – feel free to post comments below. Happy travels!


  1. My only question is I’ve heard it’s hard to get a job on a ship if your 50 and over? I look like I’m in my thirties, exercise stay active all the time and love cruises been on so many from all different cruise lines. And after much thought and after working in retail I feel I would make a great employee on a ship. I have no ties, husband, kids nor family. So I can stay out for months at a time with no problem. Being ex military and retail used to working holidays, and weekends to. So is it to I will have problems due to my age working on a cruise ship?

    1. Hey Racquel,

      Great question! While I was on my ships there were people of all ages working. The entertainment department (cruise staff, youth staff, etc) trended towards younger, but there were plenty of people of various ages. From your past experiences it sounds like you’d be well equipped at handling ship life. If it’s something you’re interested in doing, I’d recommend it. Best of luck in your applications!

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