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The Average Salary of a Waiter on a Cruise Ship

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The cruise industry is continuing to grow around the world, even during tough economic times. Larger ships employ over 1,000 crew members, most of whom typically work for a hotel like division. Many people are attracted to the idea of working as a waiter on a cruise ship for the opportunity to see the world, live rent free, and have a steady job and salary. The average salary of a cruise ship waiter can vary depending on companies, positions, and other factors.


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While technically a specific college education or training course is not needed to become a waiter or waitress, most cruise ship positions are reserved for those who already have experience in restaurants or hotels on their resume. Furthermore, a position may be difficult to obtain without having already worked as a waiter on a ship. Higher level positions require much greater amounts of experience and credentials, but also come with higher salaries.


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At the entry level is the dining room junior waiter. This employee is reported to make an average of $1,200 to $1,800 per month depending on tips from passengers. However, the real salary is difficult to determine as many of these types of cruise ship employees make a base salary of under $500 and gratuities are inconsistent and often not reported. A dining room waiter typically has more direct interaction with guests and valuable language skills, therefore making a reported $2,200 to $3,800 per month. A head waiter on a cruise ship will have a higher base pay than most and can make $2,600 to $4,800 per month.

Cruise Lines

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There are dozens of cruise lines in operation based out of several countries around the world. Each cruise company will have its own ways of hiring waiters and of course different salaries. There are certainly industry standards and expectations, but more expensive cruise ships or ships that go to more exotic locations will likely have higher base salaries for their employees. Along with these salary offers naturally comes the expectation of higher levels of training, experience, and talent among waiters applying for the positions.


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As many of the world's cruise ships operate from or are based out of foreign countries, laws regarding employment and wages may differ. This is how virtually every cruise line can hire people from so many nations and have such wide pay scales. Frequently in positions requiring little or no formal training or degrees, such as food service, cruise lines will hire almost exclusively employees from less wealthy nations. This allows them the opportunity to pay a waiter or waitress a wage that is more valuable in his or her home country, but that is much less than an average salary in more affluent nations.


Kara Page has been a freelance writer and editor since 2007. She maintains several blogs on travel, music, food and more. She is also a contributing writer for Suite101 and has articles published on eHow and Answerbag. Page holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the University of North Texas.

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