You are currently viewing Cruise Ship Jobs: Waiter (and Assistant Waiter)

Cruise Ship Jobs: Waiter (and Assistant Waiter)

What is the first question guests ask when they come on board?  Where’s the food? Where’s the buffet? When you think of a cruise vacation, you think of food, lots of food available 24/7!

Waiter and assistant waiter jobs make up a big chunk of the crew onboard a cruise ship. On a small ship, you can expect to have approximately 10 different restaurants, or on a big ship, like the Symphony of the Seas, there are 65 different restaurants, cafes, and places to eat. One of the more abundant jobs you encounter on a cruise ship is going to be in the food and beverage department and positions are always in high demand in this department.

Waiters and assistant waiters are a very important part of a successful cruise ship. Being a waiter, you have many responsibilities and are a big part of ensuring that guests feel welcome the moment they step into your venue. You also work for tips, so the more the guests enjoy your service, the better tips you will get.

If you’re interested in applying to be either a waiter or an assistant waiter on a cruise ship, then there are several things you need to know, and we will try our best to cover them in the post. Take a look below to learn more about these jobs and how you should prepare for them.

What’s the Job of a Waiter/Waitress?

The job of a waiter is much more than just serving food.  You’re actually doing more than one job at a time. The job consists of acting as a host, welcoming the guests to their table, and making small talk so that the guests feel welcome. You also need to have great memory and organization skills to remember each table you are working on. You will be working with more than one table at a time, so being quick is very crucial.  Remembering who ordered what, where they are seated at the table, if the guests have any allergies or special requests. There are a lot of things that go on at the same time, and it’s very important to not get overwhelmed.

You will work as part of a dynamic team, collaborating with chefs, kitchen staff, and other waitstaff to ensure smooth and efficient service. All waiters and waitresses will be expected to perform to a very high standard. You need to try to know the passengers by name and will need to provide them with the most personable service possible. Waiters and waitresses also need to be able to answer specific questions about the menu, promote dishes and offer suggestions. You also need to have a good knowledge of the wine, recommending which wines go well with certain foods, and also dealing with very common meal substitution requests. These are just some of the many different tasks a waiter has to do.

Side Duties and Special Events

Italian Night on Costa Cruises.

As a cruise ship waiter, you’ll find that your responsibilities extend beyond just taking orders and serving meals. Alongside your primary duties, you’ll likely be involved in several additional side tasks that contribute to the overall dining experience for passengers. You might assist in organizing special events or themed nights, helping to create a unique ambiance for guests.

What’s the Job of an Assistant Waiter?

Assistant waiters and waitresses, also called junior waiters, will be tasked with providing general assistance to the waiting staff. Keeping track of inventory and restocking items like napkins, condiments, and utensils is also part of your role. Clearing tables efficiently and resetting them for the next guests will help maintain a smooth flow of service. Setting up tables, taking orders when needed, picking up food from the galley, serving food and drinks, as well as cleaning tables,  are all common tasks performed by assistant waiters. Assistant waiters might be required to participate in special events as well, hosted by the restaurant they are working on.

Assistant Waiter Job Cruise Ship
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Replenishing important supplies at the tables is one of the most common tasks that assistant waiters perform. They’ll need to refill napkins, condiments, and other important items when necessary. Assistant waiters will also be removing plates, silverware, and glassware from tables when customers are finished

Cleaning and sanitizing workstations is another important function of an assistant waiter. They need to clean their stations in the end, dispose of food in the galley, and bring garbage down to the recycling area.

Asst. Waiter on Disney Cruise Line

What Are the Job Requirements for Waiter/Assistant Waiter Position?

The job requirements for waiters and assistant waiters are going to differ slightly. Both will need to have prior experience and it will also be important to be highly motivated to succeed in a fast-paced environment.

Getting a job as a waiter or waitress on a cruise ship requires at least two years of experience. Ideally, the best candidate for the job will have experience working in a hotel, resort, or restaurant. Having prior cruise ship experience may make a candidate even more desirable. Waiters and waitresses are also required to have excellent interpersonal skills, great communication skills, a positive attitude, and the ability to quickly calculate numbers in their head.

Language Skills can Help

Language Skills Cruise Ship Job
Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

English knowledge is essential to be able to properly explain to the guests the menu items, wine list, etc. If you speak a second language, it can also boost your chances of landing a job. Although the majority of the customers will be speaking English, a big chunk will not.

Knowledge of at least one of the following languages can be beneficial:

As an assistant waiter or waitress, you also going to need prior experience working in the field to be considered but the requirements are much more relaxed. You need to possess the same great interpersonal skills and experience as a waiter and you also need to be highly skilled when it comes to working as part of a team. It’s much easier to start as an assistant waiter and then, later on, move to a waiter position since cruise lines tend to promote from within.

Example of a Waiter’s Job Description from Norwegian  Cruise Line:


The Waiter leads the service for food and beverage in an assigned station in the restaurants or Buffet. He/she ensures that guests are consistently provided with courteous, prompt and efficient service according to company standards. They are responsible for assisting with the on-going training of assistant waiters also assists with room service deliveries as needed.


  • Assist with achieving departmental guest satisfaction targets and food and beverage revenues by following established service strategies and optimizing up-sell opportunities.
  • Follows and is compliant with all Public Health rules and regulations.
  • Responsible for safeguarding all equipment and materials required for operation by ensuring self and team are adhering to proper handling procedures.
  • Ensures that assigned station is properly setup with the required amounts of china, glassware, silverware and mis-en-place prior to the start of service.
  • Ensures satisfaction of service with guests in assigned station and resolves any service and/or product deficiencies that may occur.
  • Man non-cooking buffet action stations (i.e. carving station, dessert station)
  • Assists with Room Service deliveries when needed
  • Assists with private parties and functions
  • Assists with conducting service training with Assistant Waiters and Restaurant Stewards.


  • Must be able to manage and service a workstation in a restaurant that is comprised of 16 to 24 seats.
  • Must be able to direct and supervise 1 Assistant Waiter.
  • Must be able to carry up to 12 covers on a waiter tray or 16 glasses in the same fashion.
  • Must have working knowledge of the service requirements/styles/food for all meal periods (breakfast, lunch and dinner) across various restaurant concepts (Italian, French, Casual-fare, Oriental, Steakhouse, Brazilian Steakhouse, etc.)


  • Minimum two-year experience as a front waiter with fine dining and banquet service experience in any of the following settings: 3 Star – 4 Star land-based hotel/resort; free-standing restaurant with at least 180 seats; or previous shipboard experience in a similar position is required.
  • Minimum one year experience selling and serving wine and other beverage products is required.
  • Intermediate to Advanced level English verbal and writing skills, including the proper use of English grammar is required.
  • Associates Degree, Secondary Education Degree or foreign equivalency is required.
  • Certificate of completion in safety, environmental, public health and sanitation regulations and procedures from a recognized institution is required.


  • Proactive, Team Player, Problem Solver.
  • Passionate about hospitality and customer service driven
  • Must have a professional appearance and good hygiene
  • Respect for all co-workers and guests
  • Pride in your work by creating positive energy, excitement and fun
  • Able to work 7 days a week
  • Demonstrate positive behaviors; smiling, being polite and courteous
  • Able to develop a camaraderie with team members
  • Ability to live in close quarters, share limited space with other cabin-mates


  • While performing the essential functions of this job, all team members are required to stand; walk long distances on the ship; use hands to touch, handle or feel; reach with hands and arms; talk, hear, taste and smell.
  • All vessel positions require repetitive motion of bending, climbing, going up and down stairs and lifting more than 25 pounds.
  • This job requires specific vision abilities to include close vision, distance vision, color vision, peripheral vision, depth perception and ability to adjust focus.


How Much is the Salary of A Waiter on a Cruise Ship?

Cruise Ship Salary Waiter
Image by Peter Stanic from Pixabay

As you might expect, the salaries for waiters/waitresses and assistant waiters/waitresses are going to be different.

You can expect to earn approximately:


 $2,000 and $3,500 per month

Assistant Waiter/Waitress

 $1,200 and $2,500 per month

Gratuities will also play a big role in determining what the overall salary ends up being, so it can vary drastically between two different members of a waitstaff team. Waiters can also work toward being promoted to a head waiter or waitress position to increase their salary potential.

Most assistant waiters or waitresses will be working toward earning a position as a waiter or waitress. The most motivated assistant waiters or waitresses can earn close to what an entry-level waiter or waitress will earn on a cruise ship if they get great tips.

Where Would I be Working on The Cruise Ship?

Cruise Ship Restaurant
Raffaello Restaurant, Costa Fortuna – Source: Flicker

As a Waiter or Assistant Waiter, you can work in different venues onboard the ship, the main venues being the main dining rooms or specialty restaurants.

These are some of the locations you could be working onboard:

Main Dining Room

Where the majority of the guests will eat. Main Dining rooms are included in the ship fare and guests don’t have to pay extra. The Main dining rooms tend to be much busier than the specialty restaurants but the busier the restaurant, the more chances you have of making better tips.

Specialty Dining Room

Cruise Ships offer specialty restaurants that cater to a specific cuisine. Such specialty restaurants include Mexican, French, Italian, and Brazilian ( Moderno Brazilian Steakhouse on NCL), among others. Guests need to pay to eat at these restaurants, either paying a flat fee or a la carte.

How Much Time Off Do I Get?

The average contract of a cruise ship employee is going to last between six and eight months, with a six to eight weeks vacation. When you’re a member of the waitstaff on a cruise ship, you’re going to be working a lot. You will be working a lot of hours and expect to have little time off.  Normally, waiters and assistant waiters work breakfast, lunch, and dinner services, with a few hours off in between. There will be times when you will be working only breakfast or lunch service, having some time off to explore the ports, but you are always expected to work dinner service.

On your time off and depending on the ship’s rules, you might be able to enjoy some time in the ship’s public areas. You might even be the one being served at one of the ship’s main restaurants.

Tips on How to Prepare for the Interview

Interview Job Cruise Ship
Image by Coffee Bean from Pixabay

Most interviews directly with the company will be conducted via Skype or some other video conferencing tool. You need to know your job and you need to be able to sell yourself. Think about what makes you qualified to provide passengers with the best possible service.

 If you are interviewed by a hiring agency, the interview might be in person or via phone as well. Each hiring agency has its own techniques for interviews.

This type of career is all about being motivated to succeed. You have to be a positive person who is willing to go above and beyond to meet the needs of passengers. Be ready to showcase what makes you qualified and try to remember some stories from your past jobs that relate to what you’re going to be expected to do on the ship. This should give you the best chance of standing out and you’ll be able to get the job that you want.

Know All About Aspects of Ship Life

Also, be sure to show that you have a great personality, get along with others, and know all aspects of ship life such as long hours, long contracts, and shared cabins. Don’t hesitate during these questions because f they sense that you will be the type of crew that won’t be able to handle these aspects of ship life, even if you have all great qualifications, they might not offer you the job. 

The recruiter wants to know if you will adapt to ship life, which is very different from a job on land. You live where you work and you work where you live.

Final Words

Working as a cruise ship waiter or assistant waiter is not going to be easy. If you are a motivated individual, outgoing and like to interact with people, and of course, love traveling around the world, then this might be a perfect match for you.

If you have the necessary skills, consider applying and see where a career at sea can take you.

Visit our Cruise Lines page to learn how to apply for each cruise line.

A Person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter is not a nice person.

Dave Barry