Here’s How Much Carnival Pays Its Employees

No other topic can raise as much controversy among cruise passengers as tipping. Many people see it as a way that cruise lines nickel and dime guests. It’s not unusual for automatic gratuities to add up to $13-15 per person, per day. A couple taking a cruise for a week can expect another $200 added to their bill for gratuities alone.

Still, according to our recent survey, more than 80% of those surveyed said they leave additional gratuities (in addition to those automatically charged) at least sometimes.

A common reason for being so generous with tips? Not only does the staff work extremely hard to keep passengers happy, but the general consensus is that people working on a cruise ship are paid relatively little while working long hours.

But we wanted to get the real scoop on what a cruise line pays its employees. For that, we turned to some recent financial statements from Carnival Corporation.

Carnival is the world’s biggest cruise line. Across 10 brands (including AIDA, Holland America, and Costa), it has more than 100 ships sailing around the world. In total, the cruise line carried more than 11.5 million passengers on its ships last year.

As a public company, Carnival is required to release periodic reports on its financial performance. This gives us a glimpse into everything from the value of its ships to exactly how much it pays its crew.

What the latest financial report reveals about worker pay may surprise you…

Uncovering Average Salaries on a Carnival Ship

For our analysis, we looked through Carnival Corporation’s latest 10-K. This is an annual report that covers all 2016. Within this report are facts and figures about every aspect of the cruise line’s business… including what it pays employees.

Digging through the report, we found the following passage regarding the cruise line’s employees:

“Our shipboard and shoreside employees are sourced from over 100 countries. We employ an average of 84,600 crew members, including officers, onboard the 102 ships we currently operate, which excludes employees who are on leave.”

You read that right — across more than 100 ships the cruise line has nearly 85,000 crew members, coming from over 100 countries! These workers range all the way from engineers that keep the ship running to the captain to the waitstaff in the dining rooms.

So how much do these employees make?

In another section of the report, we see exactly how much Carnival spent to pay these employees for all of 2016:

Carnival cruise employee pay

This number is in millions, so the company spent $1,993,000,000 (nearly $2 billion) to pay its employees in last year.

Meanwhile, the annual report also says exactly who is included in this payroll figure:

“Payroll and related costs, which represent all costs related to our shipboard personnel, including deck and engine officers and crew and hotel and administrative employees, while costs associated with our shoreside personnel are included in selling and administrative expenses”

In other words, this is the payroll for all those crew members working on the ship. People that work in Carnival’s offices, such as executive, marketing, and more, aren’t figured into the payroll figure shown above.

Determining an Average of About $24,000 Per Person

Now that we know the total payroll amount for all the ship employees and the number of employees, it’s simple division to see that the average Carnival employee working on a ship earns $23,558.

What we don’t know is exactly how much each different employee makes. The average salary listed here includes everyone from the captain of the ship to the steward cleaning the room.

According to an article on CruiseCritic, salaries can range wildly, with the captain bringing in six-figures, with a cabin steward earning between “$650 and $1,150 per month.”

All in all, however, with an average salary of under $24,000, it’s clear that most cruise lines employees aren’t getting rich by American standards. So be sure to tip generously for the staff and crew that make your trip so enjoyable.

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  1. Another point I would like to make is that the staff is hired from 100 different countries
    but I have yet to meet any from the USA. These young people are drawn from countries that have a very low annual income in comparison to the US and Canada. For them this is a well paying job.
    I spoke to a fellow a few years ago that was planning to switch ships at the next port to catch one headed to a port that he could switch again to finally arrive back at his home port. This way, he would work his way home. He also planned to take a season off to spend with his family then catch another ship to get back into the work force of Carnival.

  2. The employees we spoke to were on board for at least a 6 month tour of duty. Most if not all of them have chances to leave the ship at different ports to shop or visit on shore. I am sure this is scheduled to allow everyone a chances to get off at different ports of call.

  3. Just returned from a 5 day Carnival cruise. Was told by three different employees (wait staff) that they were paid only from tips and some thing about having to split tips with 5 different areas. Which according to them gave then very little in pay per month. I also take into account that you have to figure in the room and board of living at your job. I did notice that some of the staff were moved around the ship to perform duties in different areas Not just as one job.

    • Not sure of the specifics of who is paid what. Our article just looks at the financial reports published by the company, compared to the overall workforce.

  4. We ask a hotel steward and she said $585 per month. This was a person mopping the deck…not a cabin steward. Another staff member told us dish washers make somewhere in the $500’s per month.

    • Thanks for the anecdote. We don’t know if that’s accurate or not. Also keep in mind that room and board is usually included as well.

    • We don’t know the specifics of who is paid exactly what, but we would be very surprised if any staff is paid no wage and only tips.


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