How Much Does A Captain Of A Cruise Ship Make? A Must-Know 

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How Much Does A Captain Of A Cruise Ship Make

Do you fancy becoming a cruise ship captain? If yes, then there’s no denying that “How much does a captain of a cruise ship make” is one of the top questions on your mind.

Cruise ship captains have a rewarding career. They’re one of the highest-paid professionals in the maritime community. 

So, how much do they even make? Is becoming a cruise ship captain worth it? You’ll get some thought-provoking insight from this post, so keep reading. 

How Much Does A Captain Of A Cruise Ship Make? 

The annual salary of a cruise ship captain can range from $70,000 to over $200,000. The lowest salary for a cruise ship captain ranges from $70,000 to $80,000. 

Furthermore, a cruise ship captain’s average salary ranges from $100,000 to $150,000. Several factors determine a cruise ship captain’s salary. These include experience, qualification, cruise company, cruise ship type (luxury ships pay far higher), and location. 

Cruise ships cost a fortune. So, if you’re going to become a captain, you must be ready to take responsibility and do a proper job. 

Cruise ship interviews for captains can be tough. The hiring company will ensure you are the right fit for the job before assigning you to a cruise ship. 

You’ll operate a cruise ship that costs billions of dollars in a rough sea, carrying hundreds of people. So, there’s much at stake, and the cruise ship owners wouldn’t want to take any risks. They want to ensure you are the right fit for the job before hiring. 

How Can You Become A Cruise Ship Captain?

Cruise ship captains receive a massive salary. But note that their job isn’t as easy as it seems. 

You must possess substantial experience and speak several foreign languages fluently to increase your chances of securing a job. However, we have explained the steps to becoming a cruise ship captain. Check them out below. 

1: Obtain a degree:  

You need a degree to become a cruise ship captain. So, the first step isn’t to garner experience but to secure a degree. 

Get a post-secondary education from any accredited merchant marine academy you know. They are usually four-year programs designed to introduce you to marine transportation courses that will prepare you for the job. 

The marine transportation courses will train you in the following areas:

  • Mathematics
  • Aquatics 
  • Naval science

Choose an area you want to major in. You can go for any of the following:

  • Technology
  • Hospitality
  • Maritime operations

However, we suggest you do some proper digging about each area of focus before diving in. Learn about your job responsibilities, job prospects, salary, and any other aspect you would like to know about the career.

Most maritime schools expose students to operations on a cruise ship. They facilitate internships for students where one can witness the daily operations of cruise ship crews.

This sea training will prepare you for the job, as experience is a cruise to executing the job successfully. 

A Handy Tip: You can attend maritime high school if your dream is to become a cruise captain. After high school, you can obtain a university degree. 

Attending maritime high school and then University will give you some edge in the labor market. The cruise ship industry is highly competitive, so you must be the best to stand a chance.  

Most of these maritime high schools offer specialized high-school diplomas that can set you apart.  

2: Get your credentials: 

You need solid credentials before you can call yourself a cruise ship captain. These include licenses and credentials like Merchant Mariner Credentials, Transportation Worker Credentials, etc. 

You might need other credentials in the future to become a cruise ship captain. So, it’s best to research the credentials you need and go all out to acquire them. 

Get the necessary Coast Guard credentials to operate as a cruise ship captain genuinely. You must also ace your licensure competency exam to obtain a relevant license.

3: Get a master’s degree:

Is a master’s degree compulsory to work as a cruise ship captain? The answer is no! You can secure a cruise ship job without a master’s degree. But like other jobs, having a master’s degree gives you an edge. 

Most cruise companies also appreciate captains with master’s degrees. You may find a master’s degree a major qualification for a cruise ship captain job. Thus, you may miss out on such jobs if you don’t have a master’s degree. 

So get a master’s degree if you can. It will be an added advantage to you. 

What master’s degree should you pursue as a cruise ship captain? Here are the three options:

  • Maritime Engineering
  • Maritime Hospitality
  • Maritime Science

The most important thing is to choose courses relevant to your career. 

A Handy Tip: As an aspiring cruise ship captain, strive for academic excellence. Employers in this industry favor applicants with high grades. So, do everything you can to secure high grades. 

4: Prepare a professional CV:

You need a professional CV to apply for jobs online or in person. The quality of your CV will determine if you’ll eventually land an interview. 

Capture all your educational qualifications, experiences, skills, licenses, and credentials in your CV. In addition, remember to tailor your CV to every job application. 

Including keywords that match the job description posted by the employer or recruiter in your CV is important. This way, your CV can scale through the applicant tracking system (ATS) and be among the relevant ones the employer or recruiter might see. 

A Handy Tip: The ATS searches for key terms or phrases in applications and bypasses CVs that don’t have relevant key terms. 

5: Gain entry-level experience:

Now that you have your educational qualifications, license, and relevant credentials, what’s next? Most cruise ship captains may dream of earning a huge salary, forgetting they are still a newbie in the industry.

The massive salary will come if you’re serious and focus on building a robust career. You may not start receiving a huge salary, but you will earn a decent income in entry-level positions. 

So, start looking for entry-level jobs. Visit the websites of cruise companies, and search for job opportunities. 

Here are some of the entry-level positions you’ll find:

  • Third mate
  • Deckhand
  • Deck officer

A Handy Tip: It will make sense to change location when seeking cruise captain jobs. Move to areas with many maritime vessels and a massive opportunity to land a job as a cruise captain. 

The good news is, if you’re in the United States, you won’t have to travel far to be close to maritime vessels. Carnival Corporation and Royal Caribbean are the two leading cruise ship companies in the United States.   

The Number of Cruise Ships In The World

A cruise ship captain needs a cruise ship to get employed. So, it is important to know the number of cruise ships worldwide before deciding if pursuing a career is worth it. 

So, how many cruise ships are out there? In total, there are only 314 cruise ships in the world. But the thing is, less than 50 of these are luxury cruise ships. 

The competition in the cruise ship industry is a tough one. So, you have to stand out if you want to secure a job. 

What do we mean by standing out? Get the relevant qualifications (a master’s degree), license, credentials, and experience. In addition, ensure you graduate with good grades. 

A Handy Tip: A report from Statista is that the number of cruise ships worldwide will increase by 86 in 2027. So, if you’re worried about securing a job in the future, you should change that idea. 

Seafaring companies will continue to grow, and if you have the experience and skills, you’ll secure a job in no time. Just get yourself ready to take advantage of any opportunity that comes knocking. 


How much does a captain of a cruise ship make? Here is a summary of the response we gave earlier. You can earn around $70,000 to $200,000+ per year as a cruise ship captain. Some cruise ship captains may earn even more. 

Cruise ship captains are one of the highest-paid in the maritime industry. But keep in mind that the cruise ship industry is highly competitive. You need relevant qualifications, licenses, credentials, experience, and skills to stand out. 

We advise that you focus on getting good grades, as many employers favor candidates with good grades though experience remains a key factor. 

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Susan Tapia is an ambitious, savvy news writer with a vibrant personality and an eye for detail. She is highly experienced in crafting compelling stories and dedicated to seeking out the truth. With her inquisitive nature, she delves deep into every subject she touches, uncovering unexpected facts that help her engage her readers. Susan has an unbridled passion for writing, and she strives to inspire others through her work. She confidently shares her thought-provoking ideas with enthusiasm and candor, making sure the world can see the truth no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Simply put, Susan Tapia is a trailblazer in the journalism industry who never fails to deliver her readers riveting stories they won't soon forget.

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