Each crew member has an employment contract that specifies their salary, but how do you really get paid when you work on board a cruise ship? What are the taxes and deductions for cruise ship crew? How do you get your salary from the ship to your bank account and is it possible to save money while working on a cruise ship? Here are some answers.
Cruise Ship Employee Contract and Agreements
Each crew member must sign an employment agreement or an employment contract before starting each contract. They may do this before they leave home or once onboard their ship. The contract lists the crewmember’s position, the length of the employment agreement and how much they will be paid.
The employee’s employment contract also states the expected hours that will be worked. For example an employment agreement may state that you can expect to work an average of 11 hours per day, seven days per week. Alternatively, the contract may state that the employee may work up to 70 hours per week, seven days per week.
Some contracts may pay overtime. In the case of Royal Caribbean, their Getting Onboard Employee Handbook states, “You may be required to work more than 70 hours per week, or overtime. If so, non-management employees will be paid for the overtime hours worked.” Check with your recruiter if overtime is paid and at what number of hours is considered overtime.
Cruise Ship Jobs Salary
Not all employees that work in the same department and in the same position make the same salary. Each employment contract is different depending on crewmember’s nationality. For example, a youth counsellor from the Philippines makes less than a youth counsellor from Canada. This also explains why some cruise lines hire a limited amount of counsellors from North America. Each employee must sign their employment agreement, agreeing to the specified salary.
How Are Tips Paid?
Cruise lines generally do not make any promises as to how much tips or gratuities will actually be paid. Some all-inclusive cruise lines (where tips are included on cruise fare for passenger) pay a higher wage for cabin stewards and waiters because there is no tip pool. Alternatively, many cruise lines pay a lower wage because passengers do pay tips.
Generally speaking, during each cruise on each ship, passengers pay gratuities which go into a “pool” that is divided between the crewmembers that are part of the hotel and dining pool. For many cruise lines, the gratuities are automatically deducted from the passenger’s onboard account to be paid out to the crew at the end of the month.
Taxes on Cruise Ship Employment Income
Crew members are responsible for any taxes due to their country of origin. Only United States citizens or employees that reside in the USA will have US federal taxes deducted from their pay. Depending on your employment contract and the country where you are a citizen will determine how you are paid onboard also.
Some countries do not require their citizens to pay taxes on employment income if they are a seafarer. On the other hand if you are a citizen of a country that requires you to report your worldwide income on your tax return, you may have to pay taxes when you file your tax return at the end of the year. The bottom line is that taxes will not be deducted from your payroll, but some nationalities will be responsible to remit taxes at the end of the year.
Seafarers need to educate themselves about their own countries tax rules. Here two useful links:
The cruise line’s hiring partner or human resource recruiter will discuss with the employee how they will be paid, how much they will be paid and what deductions will be made on their payroll.
How Cruise Ship Crew Members Get Paid
Crew members are paid on a monthly basis at the end of each month. Depending on your nationality and what you have organized with your hiring partner or human resource recruiter will determine what currency you will be paid in, if you will be paid in cash, or if you will be paid by direct deposit.
If the crew member starts their contract halfway through the month they may have to wait until the end of the next full month to be paid. This depends on the cruise line you work for and your employment agreement.
Many cruise lines have a direct deposit option for their employees working on cruise ships. This is typically set up before the crewmember even leaves home. Crew members may also choose to wire transfer money to their land-based bank account for a fee. Make sure to bring a void check and a bank statement that shows the bank account number and the name on the account. Alternatively, crew members can obtain a crew safety deposit box onboard some cruise ships to keep their money secure.
Be aware of how much cash you want to travel with on your way home. Most countries make you declare how much currency you have in your possession. Plus, you may not to want to make any large one lump sum once you get to your home bank. Most banks must report single deposits in excess of $10,000.
The Crew Office
The Crew Office on a cruise ship is managed by the Crew Purser or Crew Administrator. This office looks after the crew payroll including the payment of gratuities. They also collect crew expenses (ie. bar bills) at the end of each month. While working onboard, the crew office is your link to head office and all correspondence about payroll issues need to be sent through the crew office.
How to Save Money Working on a Cruise Ship
The best way to save money is to not have the cash on board. By either direct deposit or wiring your money home, having no access to the cash virtually eliminates the temptation to spend it. You have very few expenses working onboard since your normal monthly expenses (like rent, food, etc.) are covered or inexpensive. If you want to end your contract with a large amount of savings, you’ll need to learn to resist shopping in the ports and in the shops on board.