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How Big is a Cruise Ship?

The fact that many modern cruise ships are referred to as floating cities is wholly justified, as the sheer size of some of these cruise ships is astonishing.

Even experienced cruisers are still mesmerized when they encounter some of the impressive cruise ships sailing the seas today. Some cruise ships are so immense that most passengers tend to lose their way quite a bit even after several days at sea.

So how big is a cruise ship, really? Here, we will cover the size of the average cruise ship in addition to the largest cruise ships in the world.

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How Big Are Average Modern Cruise Ships?

Modern cruise ships take all kinds of shapes and sizes. The world’s largest cruise ship measures 1100 feet long and has a passenger capacity of over 6000. In contrast, the smallest ship in the world is comparable to a yacht and can only accommodate a handful of passengers.

It’s difficult to estimate the average size of a cruise ship, as dozens of new vessels come and go annually. To shed some light on more or less how big cruise ships are, we will consider cruise ships with an average gross tonnage of 125 000, a 1000 feet length, and an approximate passenger capacity of 3000.

Some examples of cruise ships representing the average cruise ship size include MSC Fantasia, Celebrity Apex, and Voyager of the Seas.

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How are Cruise Ships Measured?

Three primary methods are used to measure and compare the sizes of cruise ships, namely the gross tonnage (internal volumes), the length of the ship, and its maximum passenger capacity.

Most cruise ship experts refer to the gross tonnage to compare cruise ships. The gross tonnage of a ship takes more factors into consideration than just the width and length of a cruise ship, making it a sound tool.

Most medium to larger ships that have a gross tonnage of between 150 000 and 225 000 gross tons measure about a thousand feet in length. Although this doesn’t seem like much, cruise ship length is limited by the ports it needs to dock at around the world. As most ports don’t undergo frequent expansions and upgrades, even the largest cruise ship has to consist of a length appropriate for most ports.

Therefore, the width and height of cruise ships are the distinguishing factors between medium ships and large cruise ships. The internal volume is dramatically expanded as ships are built taller and broader, even when the length is limited to 1000 feet.

To put things in perspective, the largest cruise ship in the world today has a mere 20% longer length than the Titanic, which was built in 1909. However, the height and width of the largest cruise ship account for its incredibly vast internal volume.

The bigger the gross tonnage (internal volume) of a cruise ship, the bigger its passenger capacity and the more facilities, amenities, and activities it can hold.

Regarding passenger capacity, another measuring tool used to compare cruise ships, there are two distinct means to measure it: maximum capacity and double occupancy. Very few cruise ships ever reach their maximum capacity, as every single stateroom would need to be occupied by the maximum number of guests it can house.

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Cruise lines would certainly be pleased if there was a guest for every bed on the cruise ship, but this is rarely the case. Families of three will typically book cabins that sleep four passengers, and solo travelers often book cabins with a two-passenger capacity, leaving some beds unoccupied.

For this reason, most cruise lines refer to double occupancy to measure the ship’s passenger capacity. The term double occupancy represents what the passenger capacity of the cruise ship would be if every stateroom slept two guests.

Moreover, although there is some extent of correlation between a ship’s passenger capacity and its gross tonnage, it does not serve as a clear and consistent size-measuring tool.

For instance, smaller ships may consist of a surprisingly large passenger capacity when passengers are accommodated across bunk beds. Similarly, larger cruise ships might indicate a low passenger capacity when all guests sleep in a private suite. Therefore, passenger capacity cannot be used as a definitive measure of the size of a cruise ship.

Consider this example. The cruise ship Global Dream has a lower gross tonnage than Oasis of the Seas but a greater than 40% passenger capacity.

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What is the Size of the World’s Largest Cruise Ship?

Launching in early 2024, the largest cruise ship, built in 2021, is Royal Caribbean International’s Icon of the Seas. Icon of the Seas has a gross tonnage of 250 800, a length of 1198, a passenger capacity of 7600, and 2350 total crew members.

As Icon of the Seas has not yet deputed, the world’s largest cruise ship sailing the seas today is Wonder of the Seas by Royal Caribbean. Wonder of the Seas has a gross tonnage of 236 857. A close second is Symphony of the Seas, which is also part of the largest ships of the Royal Caribbean International fleet. This Oasis Class ship weighs 228 081 gross tons and was deputed in 2017.

Icon of the Seas will also be the world’s longest cruise ship, with Harmony of the Seas as a close second. Harmony of the Seas is a mere four inches longer in length than its sister ship, Wonder of the Seas.

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How Many Passengers Can a Cruise Ship Carry?

The cruise ship with the largest passenger capacity currently sailing is Wonder of the Seas, which accommodates up to 6998 guests.

Though still under construction, Global Dream is expected to have an astonishing passenger capacity of 9500 at maximum capacity.

Similarly, Icon of the Seas, which will set sail soon, has a passenger capacity of 7600 guests and 2350 ship crew members.

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The World’s Largest Cruise Ships Compared to World Objects

It isn’t easy to comprehend the magnitude of modern cruise ships without a visual reference point. To provide you with an idea of how enormous these ships are, we’ve compared them to well-known structures and landmarks.

For the purpose of comparing cruise ships to real-world objects, we’ve used a length of 1000 feet to represent average-sized cruise ships.

How Big is a Cruise Ship VS. the Empire State Building?

The Empire State Building is one of the most commonly used points of reference to indicate size, as most people are familiar with it. The foot to the very top of the building measures 1454 feet, with its top floor at 1224 feet.

If a cruise ship were to be hoisted up next to the building, it would be about 80% the length of the Empire State Building.

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How Big is a Cruise Ship VS. Aircraft Carriers

Similar to the largest cruise ships in the world, aircraft carriers are renowned for their immense size. Aircraft carriers are ocean airbases consisting of a large deck where planes land and take off.

The USS Gerald R. Ford is the largest aircraft carrier in the world, with a length of 1092 feet. This aircraft carrier is a bit longer than most average-sized cruise ships but still shorter than the world’s largest cruise ship.

With a length of 1188 feet, Wonder of the Seas is just under 100 feet longer than the world’s longest aircraft carrier.

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How Big is a Cruise Ship VS. a Football Field

A standard American football field is 300 feet long, so the average cruise ship is approximately three and one-third football fields long. Wonder of the Seas, with a length of 1188 feet, is almost four American football fields long.

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How Big is a Cruise Ship VS. a Whale

A rather common question among cruisers is how big is a cruise ship compared to an average whale. Much like cruise ships, whales can take all sorts of sizes and shapes. Dwarf sperm whales measure a mere 9 feet, whereas blue whales can grow to be a hundred feet long.

As average cruise ships have a length of 1000 feet, a cruise ship is the same length as ten blue whales lined up beside each other. With a length of 1188 feet, Wonder of the Seas is as long as just over 11 blue whales.

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Sizes of the Parts of Cruise Ships

Considering the incredible size of cruise ships, it comes as no surprise that its parts and components and just as immense, proportionally.

Ever wonder what a cruise ship engine entails or how much a cruise ship anchor typically weighs? Well, you’re about to find out.

The Size of a Cruise Ship Propeller

The Oasis Class ships of the Royal Caribbean fleet have propellers of around 20 feet in height. Most modern cruise ships use azipods for propulsion instead of the typical rudder and propeller that older ocean liners used to have.

Azipods have propellers that are mounted on pods. Azipods are preferred over traditional propellers because they increase operating efficiency and maneuverability, as they have a rotation range of 360 degrees. Azipods decrease the ship’s fuel consumption to the extent that ships use 20% less fuel than they did with traditional propulsion systems, according to Marine Insight.

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The Size of a Cruise Ship Fuel Tank

Cruise ship fuel tanks can store up to two million gallons of fuel. Incredible, right? This allows cruise ships to continue sailing for up to two weeks before running low on fuel.

The majority of the more traditional and older cruise ships have diesel engines, but as environmental sustainability becomes a concern, many of the newest cruise ships use liquefied natural gas, as it emits much less carbon dioxide and burns cleaner.

Liquefied natural gas fuel tanks measure around 115 feet in length and 26 feet in diameter.

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The Size of a Cruise Ship Engine

Diesel engines in modern cruise ships have around 500 revolutions per minute, so they have anything from four to six medium-speed engines. Every engine generates 25 000 or more horsepower, which is comparable to around 18 to 19 megawatts.

Cruise ship engines can have weights of up to 275 tons, 27 feet in height, and 45 feet in length. Cruise ship diesel engines have to consist of exhaust treatment systems and catalytic-reduction equipment to lessen their impact on the environment. These immense engines give rise to an average cruising speed of between 18 and 22 knots.

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The Size of a Cruise Ship Anchor

The anchor of an average cruise ship can weigh up to 17 tons, which is the equivalent of four elephants.

As every anchor is designed and calculated precisely for an individual cruise ship, they vary widely in shape and size.

The renowned Queen Mary II contained two anchors of 13 tons in weight, 9 feet in width, and 14 feet in height.

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The Size of a Cruise Ship Lifeboat

Modern cruise ships contain more than enough lifeboats to accommodate every guest and crew member on the ship. These lifeboats are located on the lower decks on the side of the cruise ship.

There are also enclosed lifeboats available that contain motors and protect passengers from the elements. The lifeboats on most modern cruise ships are relatively large. For instance, the Oasis Class ships of Royal Caribbean International can accommodate up to 372 passengers. Although it would be a tight fit, every guest is guaranteed a spot in the case of an emergency.

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10 Largest Cruise Ships in the World

For the purpose of this list, we will only consider cruise ships that have already set sail and disregard those that are expected to set sail in the coming years, such as Icon of the Seas and Global Dream.

#1 Wonder of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas is the biggest cruise ship in the world. This Oasis Class ship is fully equipped with a total of four bow thrusters, each delivering 7500 horsepower and an average cruising speed of around 22 knots.

This large cruise ship was built much differently than its sister ships, with state-of-the-art swimming pools, pool decks, theaters, and suites, and will stand as the largest ship of the fleet until Icon of the Seas launches.

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#2 Symphony of the Seas

Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas was known as the biggest cruise ship in the world until its sister ship, Wonder of the Seas, came along. Symphony of the Seas is the ideal cruise ship for a family cruise vacation, as it boasts a myriad of incredible onboard attractions, activities, and adventures.

From laser tag to towering waterslides, you can expect nothing but the best from this leading cruise line in the cruise industry.

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#3 Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas is an Oasis Class cruise ship of the cruise line Royal Caribbean International.

Harmony of the Seas has a gross tonnage of about 226 964 and a maximum passenger capacity of 5479 at double occupancy.

Just like many of its sister ships, Harmony of the Seas features many exclusive facilities, including a fitness center and spa, an entertainment area, and a Central Park neighborhood.

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#4 Allure of the Seas

Another one of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships, Allure of the Seas, is the fourth largest cruise ship in the world, weighing 225 282 gross tons and measuring 362 meters long.

Allure of the Seas is a lavish cruise ship featuring a theater, a dance hall over two decks, an ice skating rink, a fitness center and spa, and so much more.

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#5 Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the seas was the first Oasis Class cruise ship Royal Caribbean ever built and stands as the fifth biggest cruise ship in the world today. The cruise line amazingly took the top five spots of the world’s biggest cruise ships.

With a total length of 361 meters, a height of 72 meters, and a gross tonnage of 225 282, Oasis of the Seas is sure to take your breath away.

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#6 Costa Smeralda

Costa Smeralda was named after Sardinia’s Emerald Coast and features an innovative liquefied natural gas-powered engine. The cruise ship is owned and operated by Costa Cruises, and the cruise line spared no expense to make this cruise ship the magnificent retreat it is today.

Costa Smeralda is the biggest cruise ship Costa Cruises has ever commissioned and has a gross tonnage of 185 1000 and a maximum passenger capacity of 6554.

This LNG-powered cruise ship had her maiden voyage at the end of 2019 and still cruises frequently across the Mediterranean Sea.

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#7 P&O Iona

P&O Iona is another example of an LNG-powered cruise ship. A gem of P&O cruises, Iona was planned to set sail in May of 2020 but got delayed because of the pandemic and only took her maiden voyage in October.

Though only the seventh largest cruise ship in the world, Iona is the biggest cruise ship of the many cruise lines based in the UK, having a length of 345 meters and weighing 185 000 gross tons.

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#8 Aida Nova

Owned by Aida Cruises, Aida Nova is the first ship that is able to be powered by LNG both at the port and at sea. Aida Nova is the eighth largest ship worldwide, weighing 183 900 gross tons and measuring 337 meters in length.

Aida Nova was the first ship of its class built for the cruise line Aida cruises by Meyer Werft. Carnival Corporation is following in the footsteps of Aida Cruises by releasing ten cruise ships that can also be powered at ports and at sea.

#9 MSC Grandiosa

Launched in 2019, MSC Grandiosa is the biggest cruise ship owned by MSC Cruises and weighs around 181 540 gross tons with a flagship length of 330 meters.

This MSC Cruises treasure accommodates up to 6334 guests across over 4000 staterooms and boasts the biggest shopping area of all ships in the cruise industry.

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#10 Carnival Mardi Gras

Owned and run by the largest cruise line in the world, Carnival Cruise Lines, the impressive Mardi Gras weighs an average of 180 000 gross tons and is powered by LNG.

This cruise ship incorporated a number of health and safety measures to make it as pandemic-friendly as possible. Mardi Gras has a maximum passenger capacity of 6630 and 1745 crew members aboard.

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