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.
What is Housekeeping on a Cruise?
On a cruise, housekeeping is a team of crew members who are responsible for cleaning the cabins, 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.
What Do Housekeeping Do on Cruise Ships?
Housekeeping personnel have many roles and responsibilities. Most are categorized as accommodation crew, as a large percentage of the housekeeping team work cleaning guests’ cabins.
On a cruise, every cabin is cleaned twice a day.
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 through 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 personalized 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 the 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.Princess Cruises
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 US.
Cruise lines are able to do this because they don’t register their cruise ships in the US. 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:
The crew do get other unique benefits as per the conditions of their contracts, and health needs onboard the cruise ship, which are 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 on their breaks and on their off-times and don’t have to spend any of their salary on food while on contract.
Of course, many crew members do purchase additional food and snacks in port but this isn’t required.
Other benefits include their accommodation and travel where 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 (just so long as it’s during their off-time).
How Long do House Keeping Work Per Day?
Housekeeping personnel can expect to work 8-12 hour days on average. On some days, such as turn around day where guests disembark and embark, the housekeeping teams may be required to work longer hours.
Working on a cruise ship requires more hours than a typical full-time job.
Crew members are expected to work long hours for 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.
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 $96,000. 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 and 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 usually receives 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’ compensation is low by Western standards, with many crew members relying on gratuities (tips) to support their families.
Many cruise ships now 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 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 $13-$15 per person, per night.
Below shows gratuity prices on the largest cruise lines:
|Cruise Line||Gratuity Cost |
|Gratuity Cost (Suite)|
|Norwegian Cruise Line||$14.99||$17.99|
An extra percentage of gratuity is also added for services at the bar or spa.
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-gratuity?
Auto-gratuities are a way of sharing gratuities among all crew members that don’t have front-facing roles, such as laundry attendants or bussers. This way, the gratuity is being divvied 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. If this is the case, cruise lines encourage guests to provide additional gratuities to these crew personnel, such as butlers or concierge.
Many cruise lines offer ways in which guests can pay auto-gratuities before their vacation, so as not to spend it at check-out time.
To learn more about cruise gratuities including how you can remove them, but why I’d recommend you don’t, check out this post:
There are many roles that can be associated with housekeeping personnel, but each of them is equally important.
Housekeeping crew members are hard workers, typically working over 60 hours a week to care for guests and other crew members. Their contracts can last anywhere from 2 to 12 months.
As part of their contract, they are provided with a cabin to stay in, free food, and transportation in-between contracts. They also get to travel the world and have things like laundry done free of charge,
However, even with their hard work, they typically earn lower wages than a lot of other employees. This is why cruise lines encourage guests to provide more gratuities, and cruise lines typically include an auto-gratuity charge to your cruise.
Want to learn how to cruise well on a budget? Start here: How to Cruise For Less
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