What Do Cruise Directors Do? How Much Do They ACTUALLY Earn?

On almost every cruise you will find a cruise director. A cruise director has a number of roles on board and is often a very recognizable face around the ship. Both Ocean and River cruises have cruise directors who are sometimes referred to as ‘cruise hosts’.

What is a Cruise Director?

A cruise director is a senior member of the cruise line staff who oversees the entertainment and activities happening on board a cruise. The most common way to become a cruise director is by working within the entertainment teams onboard and working up to the role of director.

Being a Cruise Director is a very demanding but rewarding job. The activities undertaken by the cruise director will vary dramatically day by day and will often require long working hours.

Cruise Director Job
Cruise Director Adam Onboard The Marella Discovery

What do Cruise Directors do?

A cruise director is in charge of onboard announcements, hosting events, and presenting theater shows, they also hold port talks and other events. Cruise directors have many responsibilities when it comes to onboard security and a big part of their job is related to safety procedures on board. 

A big part of the cruise director’s job is to provide be the friendly face of the cruise line. They often act as go-betweens to bridge the gap between guests and the cruise line itself. When passengers have questions or need help the cruise director is often the person that they will ask.


Cruise directors make announcements across the ship on a tannoy system.

I personally can’t think of anything worse than having to do this, I used to work in a supermarket where I lived in constant fear of having to make a tannoy announcement. That said, cruise directors are well practiced in this skill.

The announcements can vary but common themes include:

  • Information about the port of call being visited. – The cruise director may let the guests know when the ship is expected to arrive and when they will be able to disembark. On occasion, the cruise director may also let guests know about the weather and conditions in the port.
  • The daily schedule of events. – It is the job of the cruise director to read out the schedule of daily events. A typical cruise director’s announcement may say something like ‘tonight we have trivia in the lounge at 4 pm, live music by the pool at 5 pm and a welcome drink with the captain at 7 pm’. The captain may also do announcements on the ship’s tannoy.

Hosting Events

Events around the ship may be hosted by the cruise director or another member of the entertainment team. On some larger ships, the cruise director may have an assistant cruise director who is the cruise director’s second in command.

Theatre Shows

The cruise director will usually host the evening’s entertainment in the theatre. Pre-show they will come out onto the stage and introduce the show. This is particularly impressive if you are cruising on a cruise line where multiple languages are spoken. On cruises with MSC and Costa, the cruise director will often do the introductory speech in 6 or 7 languages. I am continually impressed by people who speak multiple languages, I only speak English and I still struggle with that sometimes!

Cruise Director Marella Discovery Theatre

Other Events

Other events that may be hosted by the cruise director includes things like trivia, game shows, and parties. The cruise director will usually host a Q&A with the captain if the ship has one, if there are any celebrities onboard they’ll also host the Q&A with them.

Port Talks

On some cruise lines, the cruise director will be responsible for providing information about the ports of call. On a river cruise line, this is almost always the job of the cruise director. Ocean cruises work slightly differently as they may have a member of the excursions team or a local guide speaking about the destinations you will visit. On occasion, you will find the cruise director doing this.

Port Talk Saga River Cruise
A port talk by the Saga team

Safety and Security

The cruise director has a big role to play when it comes to safety and security. They need to be constantly kept up to date with regulations and rules so the job includes quite a few meetings!

The priority of all cruise lines is to keep the guests safe, all crew members are responsible for playing different roles in emergency situations and the cruise director is no different.

Are There Cruise Directors on River Cruise Ships?

On most river cruise lines you will find a person who has a role similar to that of a cruise director. They’re not always called a ‘cruise director’ but will usually perform similar tasks.

On a river cruise, the cruise director may be supported by a small entertainment team or 1 or 2 other staff members.

Cruise directors on river cruises will oversee the entire cruise operation and will be available to answer passengers’ questions at almost any time. Unlike ocean ships, there aren’t really any staff areas on river cruise ships, which means that the cruise director is almost always available to passengers.

How do You Become a Cruise Director?

The easiest way to become a cruise director is to work your way up through other roles within the cruise line. A popular route is to start a career as a member of the entertainment team then move up to assistance cruise director. Cruise lines do not hire cruise directors without experience on cruise ships. 

Working in industries such as hospitality, tourism, business, and management are always useful. Some cruise directors will come from land-based jobs in hotels/restaurants before transferring into the cruise industry.

Cruise directors work long hours and are away from home for months at a time so it is essential that any potential cruise directors are used to this way of life. This is the reason why most cruise directors are recruited from within.

Cruise Director Costa Cruises

What Skills do you Need to Become a Cruise Director?

Cruise directors have to be outgoing, fun-loving, and have great organizational skills. They must have great communication skills and be happy to talk to guests all day every day.

Organisation is a big part of being a cruise director, great time management skills is a must. Problem-solving skills are also important as the cruise director is often responsible for implementing a ‘plan B’ when things don’t go to plan. As a result, staying calm in stressful situations is important.

Getting a job as a cruise director is very competitive. Once a person has a job as cruise director they’ll usually work on different ships within the cruise line. They may complete a contract on the Marella Discovery then move to the Marella Explorer for an example. Some cruise directors will also change company once they have been in the role for a while.

How Much do Cruise Directors Make?

The average salary of a cruise director is $56,000 per year. This varies from $51,000 on the low end to $90,000 on the high end. 

According to Job Monkey (source) the average salary of a cruise director is £44,000 ($55,000) per year.

Glass Door (source) estimates an average salary of £3500 per month which is £42,000 ($51,000) per year.

Bizfluent (source) suggests between £37,000 ($46,000)  – £73,000 ($90,000) per year.

Payscale (source) estimates a salary of £46,000 ($57,000) per year.

Ziprecruiter (source) suggests an average salary of £53,000 ($66,000) per year.

Careerbliss (source) estimates a salary of £48,000 ($60,000) per year.

How Much Do Cruise Directors Earn?

What Other Perks Do Cruise Directors Receive?

In addition to salary cruise directors receive a number of other perks:

  • Accommodation on the ship free of charge
  • Meals onboard
  • (Usually) transport home and to the ship
  • Laundry
  • Discounts, often on cruises and/or shops onboard

Cruise directors live onboard during their contract so are usually able to save quite a high percentage of their salary. I have met a couple of crew members who work onboard while saving money for a house deposit or other expenses. Many crew members also send home their salary to support a family.

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Emma Le Teace

Hey! I'm Emma. A cruise blogger, YouTuber and founder of the 'Cruising Isn't Just For Old People' Facebook community and website. You can learn more here: About Me.

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