How Much Do Waiters Earn on a Cruise? - Cruise with Leo

How Much Do Waiters Earn on a Cruise?

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Modern cruise ships are huge and can accommodate thousands of people.

Along with the passengers, there is also a large number of workers involved in making this vacation as enjoyable as possible.

One of the most in-demand positions on a cruise is that of waiter. They are needed in many areas of the ship: at the main restaurant, buffet, bars, and poolside.

For this reason, cruise lines are often looking for waiters, and being able to get a job is quite easy.

But how much can you make as a waiter on cruise ships? Let’s find out, along with all the details of this profession on cruise ships.

What are the responsibilities of waiters on cruise ships?

Independence of the Seas
Independence of the Seas

As I’ve already said, waiters on cruise ships play a critical role in ensuring an exceptional service experience for passengers.

Most of the time, they are also the people with whom passengers interact the most, so it is important that they represent the cruise line in a very good way.

For this reason, waiters must ensure a warm welcome and a pleasant dining experience, and on some small cruise ships, they should even learn and use guests’ names to provide personalized service.

On a daily basis, they take orders, recommend menu items, and explain dishes, including ingredients and potential allergens.

Then they serve food and beverages promptly and should coordinate with assistant waiters to maintain service efficiency​.

On many cruise lines, after the service, they also set up tables, clean up, and verify that all hygiene standards and public health regulations are respected.

Of course, the duties may change slightly depending on whether you are a restaurant waiter or a bar waiter, but in general, both positions are very similar (and so is the salary).

The things that can affect the salary

Drink by the pool on a cruise
Drink by the pool on a cruise

From what I know, it is uncommon for cruise lines to hire completely inexperienced people, unless they are offered an apprenticeship contract.

More often, at least one or two years of experience in the role is required, preferably in high-end restaurants or hotels.

In addition, it is very important to have excellent interpersonal and communication skills, a positive attitude, and proficiency in English and any other foreign language.

Cruises are very international and multicultural places, so it is important to know languages and to be able to relate to different cultures.

Obviously, the more experience you have, the higher the salary will be.

If you do not have much experience you can be hired as an assistant waiter, you will then be paired with an experienced waiter, and your salary, at least in the beginning, will be lower.

Average pay by cruise line

Drinks on the cruise deck
Drinks on the cruise deck

Let me also add that the salary can change a lot depending on the cruise line, the job position you are offered, and even the itinerary the ship will take.

In general, if you are hired in the United States or Europe, the salary will be higher than in other parts of the world.

According to the data I have, the average salary by cruise line is about:

  • MSC Cruises: offers a moderate base salary that starts at about $1700.
  • Carnival: offers a good base salary that starts at about $1800.
  • Royal Caribbean: offers a good base salary that starts at about $1800.
  • Princess Cruises: offers a good base salary that starts at about $2000.
  • Holland America: offers a generous base salary that starts at about $2200.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line: offers a generous base salary that starts at about $2200.
  • Regent Seven Seas Cruises: offers a generous base salary that starts at about $2500.

As you can clearly see, the more the company caters to a premium clientele, the higher the salary will be. That’s why there are some cruise lines that are better to work for.

However, at the same time, the service will have to be more elaborate and precise, and passengers may be more pretentious.

After this analysis, we can say then that the average salary of a cruise waiter is about $2,000.

A figure that can certainly increase if you move up and, for example, you become a head waiter or a maître.

Benefits and tips

Waiter serving drinks on a cruise
Waiter serving drinks on a cruise

There are quite a few benefits for waiters working on cruise ships.

One of the most significant ones is free accommodation and meals while on board. This arrangement can lead to substantial savings since waiters do not have to pay for rent, food, or transportation.

Many cruise lines also offer comprehensive medical and dental insurance, and of course, waiters on cruise ships have the unique opportunity to travel to various destinations around the world. This can be a major perk for those who enjoy exploring new places.

Another thing I want to point out, which several employees have told me during my cruises, is that cruise lines often promote from within, giving waiters the chance to advance to higher positions even if they start from the bottom.

ALSO READ: The Real Salary of a Cruise Ship Captain


On the matter of tips, there is always so much confusion, and it is not easy to find reliable answers.

From what we know, most of the main cruise lines say that 100% of the gratuities go to crew members, but it’s difficult to estimate the amount.

You also have to consider the cash tips that can be given directly to workers, and that further increases the total.

According to our estimate, waiters can earn anywhere from $500 to $3,000 per month in tips alone.

A figure that obviously can greatly vary depending on different conditions.

For example, a waiter working in an area of the ship dedicated to suites, and thus serving wealthy passengers, might receive much more generous tips than waiters working in the standard main dining room.

If you want to know the salaries of all other workers on cruise ships, take a look at how much cruise ship workers make: cabin stewards, chefs, musicians, etc.


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