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Cruise Ship Job: Doctor

Working as a doctor on a cruise ship is a thrilling and diverse experience that combines the responsibilities of a healthcare professional with the excitement of life at sea. As a vital member of the cruise ship medical team, the cruise ship doctor plays a pivotal role in providing medical care and assistance to both passengers and crew members, as well as managing a skilled team of nurses and assistants. From treating minor ailments to responding to emergencies, your skills are put to the test in a dynamic and fast-paced environment that is constantly rocking from side to side.

Responsibilities of a Doctor on a Cruise Ship

The role of a cruise ship doctor is vital to maintaining the health and well-being of passengers and crew members throughout their cruise. As a cruise ship doctor, you are responsible for providing comprehensive medical care, responding to emergencies, and managing the ship’s medical facility. Your primary objective is to ensure the safety and health of everyone on board, both guests and crew. This demanding role requires extensive medical knowledge, experience in emergency medicine, and the ability to make quick and critical decisions. Strong communication and interpersonal skills are essential, as you’ll be working with individuals from diverse backgrounds and cultures, where English might not be their first language.

Requirements for Doctors to Work on cruise ships

PEME Medical - Requirements to Work on a Cruise Ship
Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

To work as a doctor on a cruise ship, there are specific requirements and qualifications that need to be met. While these requirements can vary slightly between cruise lines, here are some common prerequisites:

1. Medical degree and licensure: To work as a doctor on a cruise ship, you must hold a valid medical degree (MD or equivalent) from an accredited institution. Additionally, you must be licensed to practice medicine in the jurisdiction of the cruise ship’s flag state.

2. Specialization and experience: Specialization in emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, or a related field is typically preferred. Prior experience in emergency medicine, general practice, or a relevant specialty is often required, with a minimum number of years of postgraduate clinical experience.

3. Certifications: Basic life support (BLS) and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certifications are commonly required. These certifications demonstrate proficiency in responding to medical emergencies. Additional certifications such as Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS), Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS), or other relevant certifications may also be advantageous.

4. Language proficiency: Fluency in English is typically required as it is the primary language used for communication on most cruise ships. Proficiency in other languages may be beneficial, especially if the ship caters to international clientele or travels to regions where knowledge of local languages is necessary.

5. Medical assessments and vaccinations: Prior to employment, cruise ship doctors may be required to undergo medical assessments to ensure they are fit for the job. Vaccinations and immunizations may be required to meet health and safety standards on board.

6. Interpersonal skills: Excellent communication, leadership, and interpersonal skills are crucial for cruise ship doctors. The ability to work well in a multicultural environment, collaborate with a diverse medical team, and provide compassionate care to passengers and crew members is essential.

It’s important to note that specific requirements and hiring processes may vary between cruise lines. Therefore, it is advisable to check with the individual cruise line or recruitment agency for their specific qualifications and prerequisites when applying for a doctor position on a cruise ship.

Example of Job Requirements for Doctors

Doctor applicants must hold a Medical Degree and current registration and licensing with an appropriate governmental or national regulatory body. Applicants must have at least three years of post-graduate clinical experience in emergency medicine, acute care, or ICU, and the most recent work experience should be in a clinical setting. Experience and certification in point-of-care ultrasound is preferred. Additional requirements include:


A valid accredited ALS/ACLS certificate prior to joining a vessel

PALS certification may be required before completing the first year of employment

A Valid passport and Eligibility to be issued a United States C1/D Visa (Not applicable for US and Canadian citizens)

Fluency in English, both conversational and technical

Computer literacy and experience with Microsoft Windows 7 (or higher) and MS Office programs

Experience with the use of electronic health records is preferred

Outstanding interpersonal, customer service, and communication skills
A commitment to completing at least two four-month contracts within a twelve-month period

Additional training in advanced airway management, ICU, Primary Emergency Care, Immediate Medical Care, ECG, Advanced Trauma Life Support, and Advanced Pediatric Life Support is highly recommended, and experience working in private healthcare settings is preferred.

Source: Norwegian Cruise Line YouTube Channel

Most Common Cruise Ship Emergencies

For a doctor preparing to work on a cruise ship, understanding the most common cruise ship emergencies is essential for providing prompt and effective medical care onboard. Among the prevalent emergencies encountered, seasickness often tops the list, affecting both passengers and crew members. Accidents and injuries, such as slips and falls, are also frequent occurrences due to the ship’s dynamic environment.

Gastrointestinal issues, like food poisoning or viral outbreaks, commonly known as Norovirus, can rapidly spread on a vessel with a large number of people in close quarters. It affects everyone from every age group, especially the elderly.

Outbreaks of the stomach bug have surged on cruise ships this year, reaching the highest levels seen in 10 years. Since January 2023, there have been 13 confirmed norovirus outbreaks on cruise ships under U.S. jurisdiction — that’s more outbreaks in six months than there have been during any full year since 2012, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


I myself was once isolated for 48 hours in the medical facility due to catching Norovirus, or as we call it, GI.

Respiratory infections, including influenza or the common cold, are also common due to the proximity of individuals from various regions. Moreover, cardiovascular events and other medical emergencies can arise unexpectedly, necessitating quick and precise interventions. As a cruise ship doctor, being well-prepared to handle these common emergencies ensures the well-being and safety of everyone onboard, fostering a sense of confidence and trust among the ship’s community.

How Much do Doctors Make on a Cruise Ship?

Cruise ship doctors typically receive a competitive salary that is commensurate with their experience, qualifications, and responsibilities. Salaries can range from around $4,000 to $10,000 or more per month, depending on various factors.

Additional Benefits

Working on a cruise ship can offer various perks and benefits beyond the salary, depending on the position and the cruise line. Some of the perks include:

  • Travel Opportunities: You will get to travel to various destinations and explore different countries and cultures. Say goodbye to your normal routine of working in the same place all the time. Every day your view will change and you will get used to sleeping in one country and waking up in another. Lunch in Italy and breakfast in France? Why not!
  • Free Accommodation and Meals: Cruise ship employees, as part of their compensation, receive free onboard accommodation and meals. This is a huge perk of working on a cruise ship. Not having to cook and wash dishes is definitely a perk for me.
  • Networking and Career Advancement: Cruise ship jobs provide opportunities to meet people from around the world and build valuable professional connections. It can also lead to potential career advancement within the cruise industry or related fields.
  • No Commuting Costs: You live and work on the ship, what else can I say? A five-minute commute is the max you will have here. No more waking up one hour before work, driving another 30 or so minutes,s and repeating the commute back.
  • Access to Ship Amenities: As a cruise ship doctor, you will have access to certain onboard amenities, such as crew lounges, fitness centers, and recreational facilities, as well as the option to dine at the finest restaurants on board, use all the cruise ship facilities guests also enjoy, like spas, gym, entertainment shows and much more.
  • Tax-Free Income: You may be eligible for tax-free income, depending on your home country’s tax laws and the duration of your contract. Cruise ships are mostly registered in the Bahamas but a lot of them have a base in the US. If you are a US Citizen, you will have to pay federal taxes only on your paycheck and self-report your state taxes, if required. Everyone else will have to report and pay their own taxes, according to their local law on the county they are from.
  • Diverse Work Environment: Working on a cruise ship allows individuals to interact with people from various backgrounds and cultures, providing a unique and enriching experience. There are crew members from over 65 different nationalities onboard. Always wanted to learn a second language? This might be your golden chance to have at it!
  • Discounts and Deals: Cruise ship crew enjoy discounts on merchandise, excursions, or services offered on board or by partnering businesses at port destinations. Cruise lines also have a crew-only discount if you want to cruise on your vacation, as well as a family and friends discount.

It’s essential to recognize that working on a cruise ship can also be demanding, with long hours and limited time off. However, for those who enjoy travel, adventure, and meeting new people, it can be a rewarding and unforgettable experience.

Can Cruise Ship Doctors Bring Their Families?

Cruise ship doctors may have the opportunity to bring their families on board, but it largely depends on the policies and accommodations provided by the specific cruise line. Some cruise lines do offer family accommodations for certain positions, including doctors, which allow them to bring their families on board. These accommodations are typically larger and more suitable for family living. However, it’s important to note that family accommodations may be limited, and there may be specific requirements or restrictions in place. Cruise ship contracts and policies can vary, so it’s best to inquire directly with the cruise line recruiter regarding their policies on family accommodation for doctors before signing up if that’s important to you.

From my own experience at Norwegian Cruise Line, doctors are considered high-ranking officers and therefore have extra privileges other crew do not. They can bring families to live in their cabins for a certain period of time. I remember there was a doctor from South Africa who often brought their family to stay with him. They stayed for three months onboard, the family had crew and guest privileges, and their kids frequented the cruise ship kids club, so it’s definitely possible!

Do Cruise Ship Doctors Get Their Own Cabin?

Cruise Ship Crew Single berth cabin
Source: Adventour Begins

Yes, cruise ship doctor has their own cabin. Having your own cabin allows you to have privacy and personal space to rest and recharge during your time off. The cabins are typically equipped with basic amenities such as a bed, storage space, a desk, a small couch, and bathroom facilities.

Also, a perk as a doctor on a cruise ship is that you also get free laundry done for you, with pick up and delivery service, as well as housekeeping, so you don’t even have to make your own bed. You also have the option to order room service whenever you feel like a grilled cheese sandwich at midnight.

How Long Do Cruise Ship Doctors Work?

Photo by Adam Tinworth on Unsplash

As a cruise ship doctor, your contract duration can vary depending on the cruise line and specific job arrangement. Typically, cruise ship doctor contracts last anywhere from 3 to 6 months. Keep in mind that contract durations may differ, so it’s essential to clarify the specific terms and conditions with your employer before embarking on your adventure as a cruise ship doctor.

What to Pack Cruise Ship

Cruise ship life is very exciting and visiting awesome locations around the world is just one of the many benefits of working on a cruise ship. If this is your first time going to work on a cruise ship, you might be wondering what you need to pack for a cruise ship contract. This post might just be what you are looking for.

Final Words

Working on a cruise ship offers a world of perks, from a unique and dynamic work environment to the chance to explore breathtaking destinations worldwide. Imagine waking up each day to the ocean breeze, knowing that you’ll get to provide medical care while sailing to bucket-list-worthy locations. From the Caribbean’s turquoise waters to the majestic fjords of Norway, the opportunities to explore these awesome places are endless. As a cruise ship doctor, you’ll not only be healing and helping people but also satisfying your adventurous spirit by traversing the globe, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others

Mahatma Gandhi.