How Much Do Cruise Ship Captains Make? (Salary in 2024)

Are you curious about how much cruise ship captains make?

Cruise ship captains are responsible for the safety and navigation of the ship, as well as managing the crew and ensuring a positive experience for passengers. With all these responsibilities, it’s no surprise that cruise ship captains earn a significant salary.

According to various sources, the average annual salary for a cruise ship captain ranges from $92,000 to $150,000 annually. However, this can vary based on factors such as experience, certifications, and employer.

It’s important to note that cruise ship captains work long hours and are on duty 24/7, which is reflected in their compensation.

In this article, we’ll explore the factors that influence a cruise ship captain’s salary and provide insight into what it’s like to work in this role.

Average Salary Of A Cruise Ship Captain

A cruise captain’s salary range can vary depending on several factors, including experience, certifications, licensure, and employer. The average annual salary for a cruise ship captain is around $93,000 to $150,000 per year.

Based on data from Comparably, the average annual salary for a US cruise ship captain is approximately $93,328.

Another reputable source, Payscale, reports that the average salary for a ship captain in the cruise industry is around $96,347 per year.

These figures indicate that there might be slight variations in reported averages from different sources.

Both Comparably and Payscale provide insights into the salary distribution among cruise ship captains.

According to their statistics, the bottom 10% of cruise captains earn an estimated $48,000 annually, while the top 10% can earn as much as $190,000 annually.

This wide salary range reflects the influence of factors such as experience, qualifications, the cruise line’s reputation, and the size and type of the ship they command.

In addition to their base salary, cruise ship captains may also be eligible for performance-based or profit-sharing bonuses. Some cruise lines offer additional benefits, such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.

Average Salary Of A Cruise Ship Captain

Monthly Salary Of Cruise Ship Captain

The average monthly salary of a cruise ship captain is around $7,750 to $12,500, depending on the experience, cruise line, destination, and various other factors.

However, based on the average annual salary figures provided earlier (around $93,328 according to Comparably and $96,347 according to Payscale), we can estimate the monthly salary for a cruise ship captain as follows:

Estimated Monthly Salary: Approximately $93,328 / 12 months = $7,777 to $8,029 (rounded off to the nearest dollar).

Salary Of Captains Of Popular Cruise Lines

The salary of cruise ship captains can vary significantly among popular cruise lines due to differences in ship sizes, itineraries, and operating policies.

Specific salary figures for captains are often not publicly disclosed by cruise lines and are subject to change based on various factors.

What is a Carnival Cruise Captain’s Salary?

Carnival Cruise Line captains typically earn competitive salaries, reflecting their years of experience, maritime expertise, and the significant responsibilities they hold on board.

While specific salary figures are not publicly disclosed by cruise lines, including Carnival Cruise Line, the salary of a captain is often in the range of approximately $95,000 to $160,000 or more per year.

What is a Royal Caribbean Captain’s Salary?

While specific salary figures for Royal Caribbean captains are not publicly disclosed by the company, captain salaries in the cruise industry generally fall within a competitive range.

On average, Royal Caribbean captains can earn salaries in the ballpark of approximately $120,000 to $180,000 or more per year.

What is a Disney Cruise Captain’s Salary?

Similar to other premium cruise lines, Disney Cruise also pays its captains a handsome chunk of money. It is estimated that Disney Cruise pays upwards of $100,000 for captains.

Factors Determining A Cruise Ship Captain’s Salary

Factors Determining A Cruise Ship Captain's Salary


As with any job, experience plays a big role in determining the salary of a cruise ship captain. The more experience one have, the more they can expect to earn. According to Indeed, an experienced cruise captain can earn up to $190,000 a year.

Cruise Line

The cruise line one work for can also impact their salary. Some cruise lines may offer higher salaries than others, depending on their budget and other factors.

Size Of The Cruise Ship

The size and prestige of the ship one are captain of can also impact their salary. Larger and more luxurious ships typically pay their captains more than smaller or less luxurious ships.

For example, the captain of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas or Carnival’s Mardi Gras cruise ship can earn up to nearly $200,000 per year, while the captain of a smaller ship offering day cruises out of ports like San Diego or Miami can earn around $50,000 per year.


The region or area where the ship operates can also affect a captain’s salary. Some regions may offer higher pay due to the cost of living or other market factors.

What Cities Have the Highest Pay?

According to the data furnished by ZipRecruiter, below are the average annual salary of cruise ship captains in different cities in the U.S.

CityAverage Annual Salary (USD)
San Mateo, CA$65,871
Berkeley, CA$63,567
Daly City, CA$63,389
Richmond, CA$61,874
Irvine, CA$61,498
Odessa, CA$60,539
Stamford, CA$60,250
Bellevue, CA$60,079
Orange, CA$60,070
San Francisco, CA$59,961

The cities with the highest pay can vary depending on the industry, occupation, and economic conditions.

In general, major global financial hubs, technology centers, and cities with a high cost of living tend to offer higher salaries.

Which Cruise Line Pays The Highest Salary?

There isn’t a single cruise line that universally pays the highest salary for all its captains.

The salary offered to cruise ship captains can vary significantly depending on several factors, including the cruise line’s size, reputation, financial performance, ship types, and itineraries.

Luxury cruise lines and high-end operators are generally known to offer higher salaries to their captains compared to budget or mid-range cruise lines.

The cruise ship size plays a major role here. The bigger the vessel, the more the salary.

How Many Captains Are On A Cruise Ship?

In general, there is usually only one captain who holds the highest authority and responsibility for the safe navigation and overall operation of the ship. This individual is often referred to as the “Master” or “Captain.”

On most cruise ships, especially those of standard size and capacity, there is only one captain. This captain is supported by a team of officers, including staff captains, chief officers, and other deck officers, who assist in various navigational and operational duties.

However, on some of the largest and most sophisticated cruise ships, especially those with complex operations or multiple bridge wings, there might be additional officers with captain-level certifications who assist the main captain in managing the ship’s navigation and overall operation.

These additional officers are usually referred to as “Staff Captains” or “Second Captains.”

Perks Of A Cruise Ship Captain

Being a cruise ship captain comes with a range of perks and benefits that make the job appealing to many maritime professionals.

While these perks can vary based on the cruise line and the size of the ship, here are some common advantages that cruise ship captains often enjoy:

  1. High Salary and Benefits: Cruise ship captains typically receive competitive salaries, and many cruise lines provide attractive benefits packages. These packages may include health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off.
  2. Accommodations: Captains are usually provided with private cabins or staterooms, often more spacious and well-appointed than those of other crew members.
  3. Meals and Dining: Captains have access to the ship’s various dining options, including special dining areas exclusively for officers, where they can enjoy delicious and diverse cuisine.
  4. Travel Opportunities: As part of their job, cruise ship captains get to travel to different destinations worldwide, visiting exotic ports and experiencing various cultures.
  5. Access to Ship Amenities: Captains typically have access to many of the ship’s amenities, such as fitness centers, pools, lounges, and recreational areas.
  6. Off-Duty Privileges: When not on duty, captains often have more freedom to explore the ship and enjoy recreational activities.
  7. Interaction with Passengers and Crew: Captains have the opportunity to meet and interact with passengers, creating memorable experiences and fostering positive guest relations.
  8. Career Advancement: Successful captains may have opportunities for career advancement within the cruise industry, such as moving to larger or more prestigious ships.
  9. Leadership and Management Experience: Serving as a cruise ship captain provides valuable leadership and management experience, which can be beneficial for career growth both within and outside the maritime industry.
  10. Recognition and Prestige: Captains are respected figures on the ship, and their role is highly regarded by both the crew and passengers.
  11. Work-Life Balance: While cruise ship captains work long hours during their contracts, they also enjoy extended periods of time off between assignments, allowing for work-life balance and opportunities to spend time with family and friends during their leave periods.

It’s essential to note that while being a cruise ship captain offers many advantages, the role also comes with significant responsibilities, including the safety of passengers and crew, adherence to regulations, and effective management of the ship’s operations.

How To Become a Cruise Ship Captain?

Becoming a cruise ship captain is a distinguished achievement in the maritime industry, requiring a combination of education, experience, and licensing.

Aspiring captains typically start by obtaining a high school diploma or its equivalent and then pursue specialized education in maritime studies. Maritime academies and universities offer degree programs that cover crucial subjects such as nautical science, ship navigation, and marine transportation.

This educational foundation equips future captains with the knowledge and skills necessary for a successful career at sea.

After completing their education, aspiring captains embark on a journey of gaining practical experience through employment as deck officers on various commercial vessels.

This sea time is essential for building expertise in ship navigation, understanding different weather conditions, and honing overall maritime proficiency.

Aspiring captains gradually progress through the ranks of officer positions, including Third Mate, Second Mate, and Chief Mate, accumulating valuable experience and qualifying for higher responsibilities.

One significant milestone in a captain’s career is passing the Federal Maritime Authority captain’s license exam.

This critical exam typically becomes available once an individual has accumulated around 10 years of relevant experience in the maritime industry.

The exam rigorously assesses candidates on their navigation skills, knowledge of maritime laws and regulations, and their ability to handle emergency situations.

Successfully passing this exam is a pivotal step toward becoming a licensed captain.

Duties Of A Cruise Ship Captain

As the highest-ranking officer on a cruise ship, the captain holds significant responsibilities and duties to ensure the safe and smooth operation of the vessel and the well-being of its passengers and crew. The duties of a cruise ship captain include:

Duties Of A Cruise Ship Captain
  • Navigation and Safety: The captain is responsible for navigating the ship, ensuring it follows the planned course and avoids hazards such as storms, icebergs, or other vessels. They must make decisions based on weather reports, charts, and other navigational aids to ensure the safety of the ship.
  • Overseeing Ship Operations: The captain oversees all aspects of the ship’s operations, coordinating with various departments such as the deck, engine, and hotel staff. They work closely with department heads to maintain efficient shipboard procedures.
  • Compliance with Regulations: The captain ensures that the ship complies with international maritime laws, safety regulations, and environmental standards. They must keep up to date with maritime regulations and ensure the crew follows proper protocols.
  • Passenger Safety and Satisfaction: The captain is responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. They work with the hotel staff to ensure a positive guest experience and address any passenger concerns or issues.
  • Emergency Response: In the event of emergencies, such as fires, medical incidents, or man-overboard situations, the captain leads the ship’s response efforts. They coordinate emergency drills and ensure the crew is prepared to handle any crisis.
  • Communication: The captain maintains constant communication with the ship’s officers, crew, and shore-side management. They relay important information and updates related to the ship’s status, weather conditions, and itinerary changes.
  • Port Operations: The captain coordinates with port authorities for docking and departure procedures. They ensure that all necessary paperwork and customs formalities are completed.
  • Vessel Maintenance: The captain ensures that the ship is well-maintained and that necessary repairs are addressed promptly to keep the vessel in optimal condition.
  • Brig: The cruise ship captain is responsible for sending guests to brig or jail.
  • Morgue: The captain works with the medical team to manage the morgue.
  • and more


Who is the highest paid on a cruise ship?

The cruise ship captain is among the highest-paid individuals on a cruise ship, commanding a substantial salary and prestigious position. As the highest-ranking officer on board, the captain carries the ultimate responsibility for the safety, navigation, and overall operation of the vessel.

Can Women Be Cruise Captains?

Yes, women can be cruise ship captains. In the maritime industry, including the cruise sector, there is a growing representation of women in leadership roles, including as ship captains.

Historically, the maritime industry has been male-dominated, but in recent years, there has been a positive shift towards greater gender diversity and inclusion.

What is a Mega Cruise Ship Captain’s Salary?

The salary of a mega cruise ship captain is likely to be on the higher end of the average salary range for cruise ship captains, which can range from approximately $120,000 to $150,000 or more per year.

Captains of mega cruise ships may earn salaries well above the average, with figures potentially reaching $200,000 or more annually.

Wrap Up

The salary of cruise ship captains in 2024 can vary based on several factors, making it challenging to pinpoint an exact figure.

Cruise ship captains play a crucial role in ensuring the safety, navigation, and overall operation of these floating cities, as well as providing a positive experience for passengers.

The average salary for cruise ship captains is estimated to be between $92,000 to $150,000 annually, although individual circumstances and the cruise line’s policies can lead to variations in compensation.

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