The Salary of a Cruise Ship Captain

Cruise ship captains have the ultimate responsibility for the passengers, crew and vessel. They supervise the navigation and operation of the ship, setting the course with reference to weather information and liaising with harbor masters. The captain also keeps the ship’s log. A cruise ship captain’s salary is affected by factors including location and employer type.

P&O Sapphire Princess Visits Sydney
Cruise ship captain poses for a photo in Sydney, Australia
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Three Superliners Arrive In Sydney As Cruising Industry Thrives
Cruise ships in Sydney Harbor
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A cruise ship captain manages the staff onboard, overseeing the use of steering, navigational, maintenance and loading equipment. He ensures that all cargo, fuel and supplies are correctly logged and stored, that the ship avoids treacherous weather conditions and ocean geography, such as reefs, and that it does not pollute the sea. The captain also interacts with the passengers, usually hosting a cocktail party during the cruise, dining with passengers, and inviting some to observe the bridge.

Average Pay

Costa Atlantica Makes It's Maiden Call to Singapore
Cruise ship in Singapore
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For its May 2009 survey of employment throughout the United States, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics categorized cruise ship captains along with other captains, mates and pilots of water vessels. It calculated that the average yearly salary across the profession was $70,740. This equates to a monthly income of $5,895 and an hourly average of $34.01. Top earners in the field, those in the highest 10 percent bracket, received an average in excess of $114,720, while those among the bottom 10 percent earned less than $30,760, on average.

Pay by Industry

Queen Mary 2 Berths At Circular Quay
The Queen Mary 2 berthed in harbor
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Of the industry sectors detailed in the BLS survey, cruise ship captains might work within three of them: inland water transportation; deep sea, coastal, and great lakes water transportation; and scenic and sightseeing water transportation. The BLS lists the average annual salaries within these sectors of the nautical industry as $69,500, $87,750 and $44,160, respectively.

Pay by Location

Cruise Ships in Miami
Cruise ships docked in Miami, FL.
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The BLS survey listed Delaware, Texas and Virginia as some of the states in which a cruise ship captain was likely to achieve the highest pay rates, with averages of $102,290, $84,250 and $79,520, respectively. Hawaii was listed at just $58,020. Among the most lucrative single metropolitan areas were the Miami, Miami Beach, Kendall area of Florida -- $105,210 – and Anchorage in Alaska -- $102,460. The New Orleans, Metairie, Kenner district of Louisiana was listed at just $72,780. In its analysis of passenger ship captains in some major cities, listed Miami and Houston at the top of the table, averaging $85,884 and $72,880, respectively, while Boston, Massachusetts was listed at $36,877.