Cruise Ship Nurse Salary, Requirements, and Duties

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Are you a nurse who is looking for new opportunities? Do you desire to have a change of workplace? Do you have an itch to explore new places in the world? If you answered yes to these questions, then becoming a cruise ship nurse may be for you.

What is a cruise ship nurse salary? In 2012, the average cruise ship nurse salary fell somewhere between $4200 and $4900 per month. For the nurses who occupy a chief nurse position, their average salary range fell somewhere between $4800 to $5800 per month. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the average salary of land-based nurses is about $5500 per month. This is higher than the salary of a cruise ship nurse, but some perks come with being a nurse on a cruise ship that cannot be found in typical land-based nursing jobs. 

When you are a cruise ship nurse, you get free board and lodging on the cruise ship. There are even some cruises where the nurses get to have four free meals each day on the cruise. You get to go and see different countries for free on your days off from work. Because of your included board and lodging, you will get an opportunity to save more of your earnings as a cruise ship nurse. 

Read on to learn more about a cruise ship nurse salary, as well as the duties and requirements of being a cruise ship nurse.

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Requirements for Becoming a Cruise Ship Nurse

For you to be able to become a cruise ship nurse, you must meet the basic requirements for it. The first requirement is that you have your nursing license. If you are from the US, a nursing license from any state will already do.

In addition to that, you need to have at least two to three years of working experience as a nurse. Your nursing experience must also include giving acute or emergency care to patients. That means that if you are a fresh graduate, you need to have a land-based nursing job first, for two to three years, to be eligible to apply for a cruise ship nurse position.

You also need to get certified in advanced cardiac life support so that you have the skills and knowledge to assist any medical emergency that may happen onboard.

Nursing Duties Onboard the Cruise Ship

If you are wondering how a typical day goes for a cruise ship nurse, there are similarities and differences compared with their land-based counterparts. 

Cruise ship nurses provide all kinds of patient care while they are on duty onboard. They provide care for mild cases such as seasickness and sunburn. They also give out first aid care to those who are in need of it. But there are also serious cases that they get to assist with, such as a patient suffering from a cardiac arrest.

There are even some cases when the medical team on board, including the nurse, needs to keep the patient stable while they wait for the helicopter ride to bring the patient to the nearest hospital. In such a case, when the patient needs to be transferred by airlift to be given further medical attention in a hospital, a cruise ship nurse stays by the patient’s side for the ride. 

Cruise ship nurses form part of a small medical team onboard a cruise ship. A majority of cruise lines are equipped with a medical facility that has a lab, X-ray equipment, pharmacy, and others. But of course, the features found in their medical facility will be limited to one that is based on land. Since there is only a small medical team onboard to handle medical-related situations, then a cruise ship nurse will have more hands-on time to provide patient care. 

Similar to their land-based counterparts, cruise ship nurses also work 12-hour shifts. However, the days off are rotated among them to ensure that there are always a few nurses onboard a cruise ship. And they take turns too in being the on-call nurse. 

Cruise Ship Nurse Salary

salary of cruise ship nurse

If you are just looking for the highest paying nurse position possible, then you wouldn’t want to become a cruise ship nurse. Instead, you would probably work for one of the big private hospitals in a big city or work as a home-care nurse. As a matter of fact, this is because a cruise ship nurse salary would be lower than the nurses that work in typical medical facilities such as a clinic or a hospital. Those who apply to become a cruise ship nurse do not do so mainly for the salary that it offers.  

To be more specific on the difference in salaries, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2012 showed that nurses working in typical medical set-ups receive an average monthly salary of $5500. In the same year, nurses working on cruise ships got a monthly salary ranging between $4200 and $4900. The chief nurses in the cruise ship earn more with their salary ranging from $4800 to $5800. 

So it is clear that land-based nurses earn more than their counterparts on the cruise ship. But the main difference is that the cruise ship nurses have many perks that the land-based nurses do not have. They get to stay in a private cabin for free while they are on board the cruise ship. They also get to have free meals, and some cruises even offer four meals to their crew, including the nurses. This adds up to amazing savings for the cruise ship nurse compared to a land-based nurse.

The contract for a cruise ship nurse is also typically good for six to seven months at a time. These nurses get to enjoy a few weeks off after their contract has ended. They can then spend these weeks off on things that they would like to do, such as relaxing with friends and family. Land-based nurses do not have the privilege of such a long vacation. 

All of these perks are seen by the cruise ship nurses as more than enough to compensate for their lower salary compared to those nurses that are working on land.

The main perk that they get is traveling to new places during their days off. And after a day of traveling, they do not have to pay for their accommodation as they can just easily retreat to their very own private cabin on the cruise ship. They only spend their own pocket money when they go out to explore the port cities that the cruise ship docks to. Some cruise ships even offer free travel costs to the nurses to get them to the cruise ship.

So if you are a beginner nurse, you are single with no children, and you want to have a career and travel the world for free at the same time, being a cruise ship nurse is one wonderful opportunity. In your old age, you will look back on your adventures there with fondness and feel that you have lived a full life because you went on an adventure. 


Many advantages come with being a cruise ship nurse. Perhaps the best advantage is that you get by becoming one is that you get to travel the world while making money. On your days off, you can freely explore the port city where the cruise ship is currently docked in. Since cruise ships dock in many port cities, you get to go to different cities too. 

When you explore the port city, you only need to spend some pocket money. You don’t need to pay for accommodation because you already have a comfortable and private cabin on the cruise ship. So you can easily explore the wonderful spots in the port city and have a good night of sleep at the end of the day for free in the privacy of your cabin. So you get to save a lot on your travel expenses. You are even spending way less than a typical backpacker. 

If you have always dreamed since you were a child of being able to go to faraway places, then being a cruise ship nurse is one of the best ways that you can satisfy that dream of yours while earning at the same time. Essentially, you get to travel for free. 

Being a cruise ship nurse is a great way to spend your single years as you have all the time and freedom in the world to devote to your career. You also have more time to meet new people and explore. On the cruise ship, you will get a wonderful opportunity to meet people from different walks of life. You get the chance to speak with interesting people whom you may even befriend.

And while you are traveling on your day off in the port city, you can interact with both other tourists and locals there. By speaking with people from different backgrounds, you get to grow as a person and increase your understanding of other cultures. 

Another advantage of being a cruise ship nurse is that you can save a lot from your earnings. This is because you don’t spend on your accommodation and meals. Thus you can keep most of your salary as savings. 

Another thing that cruise ship nurses like about their job is that they get a few weeks off when their contract has ended. Thus, they get to have more time for rest and relaxation during this time off.


One disadvantage that comes with being a cruise ship nurse is that this job may not work if you want to start a family. This is because you will be away from your family when you have this kind of work. If there is a family emergency, you cannot immediately go to your family because that would be in violation of your work contract. 

If you are single and close to your family, this may also be a disadvantage for you because when you work onboard a cruise ship, you will not be able to see your family for several months. Because of this, you won’t be there for all memorable family events and gatherings that may happen during your absence. 

Another disadvantage is that there are only a few jobs available in this line of work. The application for it will surely be competitive because many nurses also want the benefit of traveling while working at the same time as a cruise ship nurse. 

If your main priority is to make the highest salary possible, then you would want to go for a land-based nursing position. The cruise ship nursing position does have a slightly lower salary; however, the savings on your expenses could balance that out. 

How to Find Work as a Nurse on a Cruise Ship

If you think that you want to take a grand adventure and have a career at the same time, being a cruise ship nurse is the perfect fit for you. If you want to find out about the current openings in this field, you need to contact the medical departments of the cruise line ships. You may be able to get their contact information from the cruise line’s website. You need to contact many cruise lines to have more opportunities to apply as a cruise ship nurse. 

The cruise ship nurse salary may be lower than that of the land-based nurses, but you will save a ton on expenses. You will also get to travel the world for free and have many experiences to look back on.

Related reading:

How to Get a Job on a Cruise Ship with No Experience

How Much Do Cruise Ship Workers Make?

How to Become a Cruise Ship Captain

What Is It Like to Work on a Cruise Ship? Pros and Cons