How Much Does a Cruise Director Make?

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No doubt, during a cruise vacation you’ve heard or seen the ship’s cruise director, the person making sure guests have the best and most fun featured time aboard. Have you ever thought about “how much does a cruise director make?” Find out more about this popular cruise ship leadership position, including salary and duties depending on the cruise line.

Responsibilities of a Cruise Director

This position is responsible for the entertainment, activities, and services provided to passengers aboard the cruise ship. The cruise director coordinates between the vessel’s staff and guests to make sure passengers are comfortable and safe.

They oversee coordinating events, hospitality, and administration functions. This includes budgeting, scheduling, billing, tracking many events simultaneously, and keeping track of any injuries/accidents in addition to conducting evaluations and reviews.

A cruise director will go throughout the ship. They work outside and inside the vessel regardless of the weather. They tend to the needs of guests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and they make sure entertainment runs smoothly. They also oversee recruiting talent.

Cruise Director on Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock

Their number one goal is to uphold the image and reputation of the cruise line and ensure that guests are completely satisfied.

To obtain this position, individuals must have a bachelor’s degree in hospitality or a hospitality-related field, along with previous work history in hospitality management or the cruise ship industry. Often, cruise directors work their way up on a cruise ship and may occupy the role of assistant director prior to advancement.

Read Also: How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

Many cruise directors work in areas like tourism, hospitality, business, and management prior to going on board a ship. Some will be employed from land-based jobs, while others will work their way up through the ranks on a ship.

This job requires individuals to work long hours and be away from home for months at a time. Before taking this position, you may need to get accustomed to this way of life. This is the main reason that recruitment often takes place within the ranks of a ship.

What Do They Do?

Cruise directors are the “friendly face” of any cruise line. They will often bridge the gap between guests and the cruise line, acting as a go-between. If a guest has any questions or requires information, they turn to a cruise director for answers.

Cruise directors make announcements on board using a tannoy system. They will announce information on a port the ship is entering, let passengers know when they are about to arrive at port, and when disembarkment will occur. They may also inform guests about conditions and weather at the port.

The cruise director will also announce the daily event schedule. They’ll announce the times of upcoming events so that guests can plan to attend things that capture their interest.

Cruise Director on Stage
Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock

This person will also host events onboard. Larger ships may have the assistant cruise director do the hosting, but on smaller ships, it tends to be the cruise director. They will host theater shows by coming out on stage to introduce the feature attraction. Sometimes, they will be required to provide an introduction in up to seven different languages, depending on the cruise line.

Additional events may include game shows, trivia, and parties. A question-and-answer time may be held with the ship’s captain or any celebrities onboard.

Aside from events, cruise directors are responsible for the security and safety of guests. They need to be continually informed about rules and regulations, so this position does require several meetings. They play an important role when emergencies arise.

Much of the time, a cruise director plans pre-cruise events. They lead a huge team, and it is their responsibility to fill staffing shortages. They must be skillful at organizing and planning what activities and events will occur and when.


Cruise directors should be fun-loving, outgoing, and have superior organizational skills. They must be effective communicators and love socializing with others. A cruise director must also be able to effectively manage time, as there are many aspects to this job. Individuals need to adapt to situations at a moment’s notice and adjust to potential delays when they arise.

These people always have a Plan B in any given situation and can think well on their feet. This is where good problem-solving skills are an asset.

How Much Does a Cruise Ship Director Make?

According to ZipRecruiter, the average pay for a cruise director in 2022 is $63,185 USD annually. In terms of hourly salary, this equates to $30.38 an hour. Salaries can range from $20,000 to $152,000 USD per year, with the average wage being between $39,000-$70,000.

The pay for a cruise director varies by upward of $31,000, indicating that there are vast opportunities available for increased pay based on skill, location, and experience, in addition to advancement opportunities.

Cruise Director
Photo Credit: Luca Santilli / Shutterstock)

Top 10 Highest-paying Cities For this Position

These are the top locations where a cruise director’s salary is above the national average. The salaries vary by port city according to the cost of living. Most cruise line’s want their employees to reside in the state from which the ship is deployed rather than having them travel to the port to ship out. They are willing to pay more so the cruise director can afford to live in those higher-priced cities.

Most people who work for a cruise line tend not to be assigned to different ports. They sail out of the same port each time and are usually on the same ship. This is reflected in the salary paid in each port city. These are the highest-paying cities to work out of when it comes to cruise lines.

All wages listed are in USD. The top cities are:

  1. Sunnyvale, California ($79,835)
  2. Santa Rosa, California ($77,171)
  3. Cambridge, Massachusetts ($74,833)
  4. Vacaville, California ($73,394)
  5. New York City, New York ($72,576)
  6. Fairfield, California ($72,505)
  7. San Mateo, California ($72,087)
  8. Lynn, Massachusetts ($71,460)
  9. Anchorage, Alaska ($71,348)
  10. Baltimore, Maryland ($70,253)

If you are wondering about the pay on different cruise lines, they are as follows (in USD and as per

  1. Royal Caribbean: $93,797 to $183,229 
  2. Princess Cruises: $166,408
  3. Carnival Cruises: $135,273 
  4. MSC Cruises: $56,882

While being a cruise director may be a demanding job, if you really enjoy working with guests and planning events, you will do well in this position. In terms of how much a cruise director makes, it varies according to cruise line, employment history, education, and experience.

Most cruise lines find it easier to promote someone through the ranks over hiring from outside, although they have been known to do both. Promoting from within gives the company assurance that the individual can handle the time away from home, which is not the case for everyone.

Cruise directors spend a great deal of time at sea, and this is something that needs to be prepared for.

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