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Cruise Ship Housekeeping: Responsibilities, Salaries and Benefits

If you’ve ever considered taking a cruise or are looking for a job on a cruise ship, you may have heard housekeeping mentioned.

The cleanliness of cruise ships is more important than ever, following the 2020 Coronavirus outbreak.

Who keeps the ships looking so spectacular? You guessed it – Housekeeping.

norwegian prima emma cruises
Norwegian Prima – spotless underneath the bed!

What is Housekeeping on a Cruise?

On a cruise, Housekeeping is a team of crew members who are responsible for cleaning the cabins, and public areas, disposing of waste, and sanitization of the ship.

Cruise ships carry thousands of people, so housekeepers are essential for ensuring the guests and crew stay healthy. 

This post will discuss the many roles of housekeeping personnel, the conditions they work under, and the average salary expectations that are associated with the job.

housekeeping cruise ship

What Do Housekeeping Do on Cruise Ships?

Housekeeping personnel have many roles and responsibilities. Most are categorised as “Accommodation Crew” as a large percentage of the housekeeping team work cleaning guests’ cabins.

On a cruise, every cabin is cleaned at least once – sometimes twice a day.

Since the pandemic many cruise lines, like P&O, have reduced their cabin service and the rooms are only cleaned once, usually in the morning. You may see your room steward working in other parts of the ship in the evenings.

When I recently sailed on P&O’s Arvia, you had to put a magnetic sign on the door to say you were out and wanted your room cleaned.

If you don’t do that, they won’t come into your cabin to clean. Our Cabin Steward said he wasn’t allowed to enter unless you had put that sign on the door.

Housekeeping on a cruise ship is very similar to the housekeeping operations seen in most hotels.

Housekeeping personnel duties are primarily associated with cleaning and maintaining areas of the ship, to keep all passengers and crew members safe.

Some examples are listed below:

  • Steward / Stewardess. This is an entry-level position for job seekers looking to get experience on a cruise ship. Typically a steward or stewardess is tasked with cleaning assigned passenger cabins daily.
  • Public Area Attendant / Utility Cleaner. This is another entry-level position, in which personnel are tasked with cleaning public areas. Some duties may include vacuuming, cleaning upholstery, reporting equipment malfunctions, and ensuring overall cleanliness.
  • Laundry / Linen Keeper. This job includes assisting in the laundry facility and collecting dirty laundry, washing or dry cleaning garments for passengers or other cruise ship staff, and transferring the laundry to designated areas.
  • Butler. As a butler, a crew member is assigned to provide personalised services for guests. These services could be anything from serving food to running errands for specific guests.
  • Supervisor. With every position in housekeeping, there is always a supervisory role. Whether that be a Head Butler, Floor supervisor, or Chief housekeeper, each supervisory role is responsible for managing and directing staff in their department.

The roles listed above are just a few of the many positions in housekeeping that are available on cruise ships.

How Long are Housekeeping Contracts on a Cruise?

Depending on the company, cruise housekeeping contracts can last anywhere from 2 months to 12 months long. However, most contract lengths are between 6-9 months.

After each contract, you will receive approximately 60 days of vacation before your next assignment.

Your daily work schedule while onboard will depend on your particular position, but you can expect to work seven days a week and anywhere between 10-13 hours per day.

The crew of cruise ships work really hard, often for between ten to thirteen hours a day.

When i was lucky enough to be invited on the Super Yacht Emerald Azzurra, I found that the ratio of crew to passengers was very high.

As a consequence, our wonderful cabin steward had time to make up various senarios for our channel mascott Captain Hudson, whilst I was off the ship!

When I got to the end of the holiday, I found that Captain Hudson has been out an about meeting other members of the crew whilst i was out!

You would never get that on a normal mainstream cruiseline.

Hudson's adventures on Emerald Azzurra
Captain Hudson’s adventures with the crew of Emerald Azzurra

Why Do Many Staff Have Short-Term Contracts?

Due to the fact that housekeepers are employed on separate short-term contracts, not one long contract, there are usually no healthcare benefits or other benefits that are usually associated with a full-time job in the U.S.A.

Cruise lines are able to do this because they don’t register their cruise ships in the U.S.

Flagging a cruise ship in another country is known as a “Flag of Convenience” and there are many other reasons why a cruise line would do this, such as taxes and marriage licenses.

To learn more about flags of convenience, including why only one cruise ship is flagged in the US, check out this post:

Almost All Cruise Ships Fly Foreign Flags, Heres 3 Reasons Why

The crew do get other unique benefits as per the terms and conditions of their contracts, and health care onboard the cruise ship is covered for staff.

One benefit that cruise ship members have is access to free food 24/7.

That means they are able to have any food they want whilst on their breaks and on their time off – and don’t have to spend any of their salary on food while on their contract.

Of course, many crew members do purchase additional food and snacks in port, but they don’t need to if they would rather save the money.

Other perks include free accommodation and travel. They get to live on the cruise ship and travel all over the world.

When the ship is docked, they are able to explore the ports, if they don’t have to work.

How Long Do Housekeeping Work Per Day?

Housekeeping personnel can expect to work 8-12 hour days on average.

On some days, such as turnaround day where guests disembark and embark, the housekeeping teams may be required to work longer hours.

Working on a cruise ship requires you to work more hours than in a typical full-time job.

Crew members are expected to work long hours on their shifts. Usually, they are anywhere between 6-20 hours long.

Not only that, but they also work anywhere from 5 to 7 days a week. In many cases, employees work 12-hour shifts, 7 days a week.

It’s not a job for everybody!

housekeeping cruise cleaning

How Much Do Housekeeping Personnel on Cruise Ships Get Paid?

In many situations, housekeeping is considered to be an entry-level job, so the salary can be lower than other ship employees.

According to ZipRecruiter, a popular job search engine, the average salary range for housekeeping personnel can be anywhere from $25,000 to $100,000.

This is a wide range, which includes management personnel, so the majority of housekeeping staff earn on the lower end, or even lower than this.

The statistic above includes Cabin Attendants, Butlers, Laundry Attendants, Supervisors, and all other positions.

Supervisors and other similar roles get paid more annually than the average attendant, because of their experience and responsibilities.

Working in the housekeeping team of a cruise ship has good progression opportunities. The majority of higher-level employees started in entry-level positions and worked their way up.

How Much Do Cabin Attendants Earn Working on a Cruise?

A cabin attendant’s salary usually ranges between $650 to $1,150 per month (that’s $7,800 to $13,800 a year).

A floor supervisor might take home $1,300 or more a month. These figures do not include gratuities that the crew sometimes receive on top.

Overall, housekeeping salaries aren’t very high. But gratuities make up a large portion of the crew’s take-home salary.

Gratuities for Housekeeping on a Cruise Ship

Most cruise ship crew members’ wages are low by Western standards, with many crew members relying on gratuities (tips) to support their families.

Many cruise ships add an “Auto-gratuity” charge, this was designed to make the process of tipping easier and it is automatically added onto your cruise account, rather than guests having to tip in cash. Of course, many people do also tip in cash.

Gratuities are charged per person per night and go towards paying the crew. This does range by cruise line, but typically it’s around $15-$25 per person, per night.

Below are gratuity prices on the largest cruise lines:

Cruise LineGratuity Cost
(Standard Cabin)
Gratuity Cost (Suite)
Royal Caribbean$18$20.50
Princess Cruises$16$18
Celebrity Cruises$18$23
Holland America$16$17.50
Norwegian Cruise Line$20$25
Cruise Line Gratuity Price Guide 2023

I took a cruise on Celebrity Edge. Celebrity charge a daily service charge, as well as gratuities on every drink, spa treatment and speciality meal.

Find out what I thought of that cruise here:

An extra percentage of gratuity is also added for services at the bar, spa and sometimes meals in speciality restaurants.

I recently took a cruise on Celebrity Edge where there was an additional service charge on every drink and speciality restaurant meal. Find out all about that wonderful ship in the video below:

Not all cruise lines charge an auto-gratuity and many are moving towards including this in the cruise price.

This move to include gratuities in the cruise price is particularly popular in Europe, where cruisers are less accustomed to tipping.

If you’re looking for a cruise where gratuities are already included, check out this post:

Which Cruise Lines Include Gratuities? (Cruise Line Guide)

Why Do Cruise Lines Charge the Auto-Gratuities?

Auto-gratuities are a way of sharing gratuities among all crew members who don’t have front-facing roles, such as laundry attendants or kitchen staff.

This way, the gratuity is being shared out to all of these workers. In a traditional tipping system, these crew members are often missed.

Around 25% of the automatic gratuities go to the housekeeping teams.

There are some cruise line jobs that do not receive anything from the auto-gratuity charges.

When this is the case, cruise lines encourage guests to provide additional gratuities to these crew personnel – such as Butlers or Concierge staff.

Many cruise lines offer ways in which guests can pay auto-gratuities before their cruises, so they don’t end up with a large bill at the end of the holiday/vacation.

To learn more about cruise gratuities including how you can remove them (but why I’d recommend you don’t) check out this post:

Cruise Gratuities: A Simple Step by Step Guide For First Time Cruisers

Before You Go

Find out more about other expenses you may have to allow for when cruising in the post below:

Onboard Expenses – What Costs Extra On A Cruise? Gratuities, Wi-Fi And More…

Find out how to plan and pack for your long-awaited cruise here:

Planning And Packing For Your Cruise, Things to Organise in Advance, Packing Essentials And More

Free Insiders Cruise Line Guide

Ever wondered how the mainstream cruise lines compare? Cruise lines won’t tell you this, but I will.

This FREE guide shows you everything you need to know to find your perfect cruise line.