How Much Do Doctors On Cruise Ships Make

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Not all ship doctors earn the same salary, and it may differ quite a bit with different cruise lines. Cruise ship jobs are advertised regularly and many of them include medical personnel that will join a medical team on the ship.

The job of a ship’s doctor is to provide medical care for the staff and the passengers that travel on these ships. But the question often comes up, what salaries do these ship doctors earn when they join any of these cruise ships?

To find out what doctors earn on cruise ships all around the world and if it is worthy of your effort, read on.

How Much Do Doctors Earn On a Cruise Ship?

Before we answer this, let’s take a look at some interesting facts about cruise ships and the lives of their physicians. Most of us saw the Love Boat series and may think that this is the type of life a cruise doctor has.

What Do Cruise Doctors Do?

Some people may think that the doctor in the medical center of a cruise ship is just there to provide a band-aid and headache pills. But that is very far from the truth; a cruise ship’s medical center contains the same equipment you will find in a small hospital.

This includes an intensive care unit, a high dependency ward, and an emergency unit that does not include the general ward. They usually have a team of nurses and sometimes two doctors, a junior and a senior doctor per team.

Cruise doctors provide standard emergency medicine for any type of ailment that may occur among passengers or staff members of the ship. A medical center on a cruise ship has all the emergency equipment and personnel you will find in a normal hospital.

This means that a cruise doctor must also be able to perform those types of services when they occur on a ship. A standard cruise ship can easily have 5000+ people aboard, which is the same as in a small town.

Life onboard a ship may be fun for the passengers, but that is not the case most of the time for cruise ship doctors. You will be out on the sea for long periods, so all the people on that ship are the responsibility of the doctors.

The clinic hours on a cruise ship may be long and exhausting, so you will work hard for every dollar you earn. You will also work seven days per week on a cruise ship while it is out on the sea, so there is very little rest for the weary.

A large ship has a complement of 1000 crew members and about 4000 passengers on a single trip which may keep you very busy. It might actually be a bit safer on a cruise line when you get sick than when it happens at home.

At home, you need to wait for an ambulance, but while on a cruise ship, the emergency personnel is always available where you need them. That is because they are only a short distance away from you and can be on the scene in a very short time.

The health care facilities and services on a cruise ship are state of the art and must meet specific standards for it to stay in business. So you can be sure you will get just as good if not better treatment from a ship doctor than at home.

In most cases, there is more than just one doctor available on a cruise ship, so you do not need to wait too long. Extensive onboard training is also available for all medical personnel so that they can be efficient in this environment.

Overall, the doctors on a cruise ship are even more qualified to provide passengers with only the best medical services. This will be an invaluable experience for anyone trained to become a doctor, which can be used in their future career.

Personnel You May Find In a Ship’s Medical Center

A cruise ship physician will be in charge of a full complement of a standard medical emergency center you find in any town. This will include nurses and paramedics as well as other hospital personnel to keep the center in peak condition all the time.

A medical center on a cruise ship will keep the same types of records you will find in hospitals of all patients and their treatments. This means that there must be an admin department as well to keep these records safe and up to date as they change.

There should also be a dispensary where drugs are kept and issued when needed, which will need a pharmacist. 24/7 medical services are provided to the passengers and crew members of the ship, so there must be enough personnel to comply.

A medical emergency is something that can happen any time and anywhere, so they must be ready to react promptly. Doctors on a cruise ship do not have office hours; they must be available for 24 hours while the ship is out on the sea.

That means they must be available for a medical emergency all the time and be ready to help when they are needed.

Standard Salaries For Cruise Doctors

The industrial standard of salaries for junior doctors working on cruisers can be anything from $9,000 to $12,000 per month. For senior physicians, it can start at $12,000 and can go as high as $14,000 per month.

Not all cruise lines offer the same salary for ship doctors, but you can expect anything from $8,000 up to $14,000. Some doctors will stay with a specific cruise line for many years to enjoy the benefits that come with the job.

This will include free food and an officer’s single cabin as accommodation, and they get to see a lot of places around the world. 

The average benefits for cruise ship doctors are usually the same as most cruise lines, including free vacation travel. Junior doctors earn as low as $7,500 per month at some cruise lines, while senior doctors earn $12,000 and more.

Contracts for working on some cruise lines are typically four months work and two months vacation but not all are the same.

What Cruise Lines Are the Best To Work For

One of the very popular cruise lines to work for is the Royal Caribbean as it has very competitive salaries and a rewarding work environment. Working with this cruise line is great if you want to see many different places when you are working with them.

They also have a variety of ship sizes available, and if you are on a larger ship, your life will be full and fast-paced. Another cruise line is Princess Cruises, which also offers a lot of jobs for the medical profession and especially for doctors.

Most cruise lines provide very close or slightly higher salaries than the industry standard for doctors working on cruise ships. You will not get a lot of leave per year which in some cases is only two weeks per year while working for them.

Other cruise lines such as Carnival Cruise Lines and Costa Cruises are also looking for medical personnel from time to time. Then there are also Norwegian Cruise Lines and Morella Cruise Lines, to name only a few of a very long list of cruise lines.

There are hundreds of cruise lines around the world, and all of them need to have doctors on board to look after the passengers. You will find a long list of these cruise lines on Wikipedia with all the necessary information about all of them that might help you.

Who Can Apply for these Jobs

Anyone qualified as a medical doctor can apply for a ship’s physician’s job on a cruise ship. The requirements are a professional medical degree and at least three years of experience in specific fields of the medical profession.

There are other requirements as well, such as fluency in the English language and basic and advanced life support certifications.


Reading through this makes it clear that a short career as a cruise ship doctor will be an experience of a lifetime for any doctor. If you are interested in seeing many places around the world and getting paid for it, this is for you.

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