How Big is a Cruise Ship?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cruise ships sure are big! The first time I ever stepped on a cruise ship I couldn’t believe how big it was. It took me almost a week to learn where everything was on the ship.

Even now, I always struggle to remember which way is the front and which is the back when I’m on-board a ship and that’s something you need to know to work out which is port and starboard.

But how big is a cruise ship, exactly? This article will give you statistics on cruise ship size, as well as how cruise ships compare to other things, to help you to understand how big cruise ships really are.

An average-sized cruise ship is 1,000 feet long – the same length as three football fields or ten blue whales. The largest cruise ship in the world, Harmony of the Seas is 1,188 feet long.

How big is the world’s biggest cruise ship?

In 2020, the biggest cruise ship in the world, in terms of volume, is Symphony of the Seas. Launched in June 2017, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ship has a gross tonnage of 228,081 GT. The ship is 1,184 feet long with a capacity for up to 6,680 guests and 2,200 crew members.

However, Symphony of the Seas is not quite the largest cruise ship in terms of length. Sister-ship Harmony of the Seas is four feet longer at 1,188 feet.

Symphony of the Seas is almost five times larger than the Titanic! You can read more about how these two ships compare in my post: Symphony of the Seas Vs Titanic.

In 2021, a new Royal Caribbean ship, Wonder of the Seas, will launch. She is expected to be the biggest cruise ship in the world both in terms of length and volume. However, she will have fewer passengers, offering more space for each guest on-board.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ships by size

Harmony of the Seas - the longest cruise ship in the world
The Central Park area in the middle of Harmony of the Seas
Photo credit: Royal Caribbean

The biggest cruise ships can carry almost 9,000 people, including passengers and crew.

How big is the average cruise ship?

Cruise ships vary in size from the largest ships which carry over 6,000 passengers to the smallest cruise ships which carry around 100 passengers.

The average cruise ship carries 3,000 passengers, is 1,000 feet long with an internal volume of 120,000 gross tonnes.

Examples of average-sized cruise ships include Celebrity Apex, Disney Fantasy, Explorer of the Seas and MSC Preziosa.

MSC Preziosa is an average size cruise ship
MSC Preziosa is an average-sized cruise ship

How to compare the sizes of cruise ships

Cruise ships are usually measured in terms of length, internal volume (gross tonnage) and passenger capacity.

Most medium- and large-sized cruise ships are of a similar length. The difference between mega-ships and their medium-sized cousins comes in terms of width, height and internal volume.

The largest cruise ships are wider and have more decks than smaller-sized ships. This adds more weight, as does the addition of more swimming pools, hot tubs and other weighty facilities.

Passenger capacity is a good way to compare cruise ships. However, it’s important to consider that there are two different measures of passenger capacity for a ship – double occupancy and maximum occupancy. For a ship to sail at maximum occupancy, every bed would need to be filled in every stateroom. In reality, this very rarely happens as sofa beds and extra bunk beds which come down for the ceiling aren’t always used.

How many people fit on a cruise ship?

The most people that can fit on a cruise ship is 8,980 people. The largest cruise ships in the world in terms of maximum passenger capacity are Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class sister ships Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. These ships each have a maximum passenger capacity of 6,780 as well as a crew capacity of 2,200.

P&O Cruises Britannia is a mid-size cruise ship
A busy day on-board Britannia

How big can cruise ships get?

Cruise ships have been getting larger all the time, with a demand for mega cruise ships coming from cruisers championing the notion that ‘bigger is better’.

Of course, cruise ships will always limited in terms of size by the ports that they visit. Some ports can only handle ships of a certain size because the dock is only so big, the water is only so deep and the port itself only has the staff and facilities to handle so many passengers at one time.

Since the events of 2020, it’s possible that new cruise ships may become smaller in size, at least in terms of passenger capacity. Social distancing measures may require that fewer passengers are permitted to embark each ship.

Contracts are signed on the build of new cruise ships years in advance of their completion, so if this is the case, it may be several years before we see the trend for smaller cruise ships becoming a reality.

Comparing cruise ships to other things

It can be tricky to understand exactly how big a cruise ship is without seeing it with your own eyes. How big is 1,000 feet in real life? To help you to visualise the size of cruise ships, I’ve made comparisons between average cruise ships and other large things.

For these cruise ship size comparisons, I’ve used 1,000 feet as the average length of a large cruise ship.

How big is a whale compared to a cruise ship?

Whales range in size from the dwarf sperm whale which is the smallest known whale at nine feet long to the blue whale, which is the largest whale in the world at up to 100 feet long. The average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long, which is ten times as long as the largest blue whale.

blue whale at sea

How big are aircraft carriers compared to cruise ships?

An aircraft carrier is a warship that serves as an airbase at sea with a flight deck from which planes can take off and land. But which is bigger, an aircraft carrier, or a cruise ship? In fact, they are roughly the same size.

The largest aircraft carrier at sea in 2020 is the Gerald R Ford Class aircraft carrier which has a length of 1,106 feet. The world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, is 1,184 feet long. Therefore, the world’s largest cruise ship is 82 feet longer than the largest aircraft carrier.

aircraft carrier
Photo Credit: Military_Material

How big is a cruise ship compared to a football field?

An American football field is 100 yards in length (300 feet). The biggest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas, is 1,184 feet long, which is almost as long as three football fields.

Football (soccer) pitches, in comparison, vary in size from 100 yards to 130 yards.

Some small luxury cruise ships such as Crystal Esprit and expedition ships such as those belonging to Hurtigruten are roughly the same length as a single American football field (300 feet).

How big was Noah’s Ark compared to a cruise ship?

According to the Bible (Genesis, 6:15), the dimensions of Noah’s Ark were: 300 cubits in length, 50 cubits in width and 30 cubits in height.

A cubit is an ancient measurement of length which is based on the distance from the elbow to the tip of the longest finger. This makes the exact length of a cubit uncertain, but it is most likely to be around 20 inches.

Based on the information in the Bible, we can estimate that Noah’s Ark would have been about 510 feet long and 50 feet tall. This means that Noah’s Ark was around half the length and one-quarter of the height of the world’s largest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, which is 1,184 feet long and 238 feet high.

Noah’s Ark would have been similar in size to small luxury expedition cruise ships such as Silversea’s Silver Cloud.

Silver Cloud is a small cruise ship
Silver Cloud
Photo credit: Silversea

How big was the Titanic compared to cruise ships today?

The infamous and ill-fated cruise ship, RMS Titanic, had a length of 882 feet and a gross tonnage of 46,428 GT. She could accommodate 2,435 passengers and 892 crew members.

The largest cruise ship in the world, Symphony of the Seas, is 34% longer, 36% higher, over twice as wide and has four times the internal volume of the Titanic.

This video demonstrates visually how the Titanic compares to modern mega-ship, Symphony of the Seas:

By today’s standards, Titanic would have been a medium-sized ship. Her dimensions and capacity are not dissimilar to Royal Caribbean’s smallest ship, Empress of the Seas.

The following table compares the size of Titanic to Symphony of the Seas and Empress of the Seas:

TitanicSymphony of the SeasEmpress of the Seas
Length882 ft1,184 ft692 ft
Width92 ft215 ft100 ft
Gross Tonnage46,328228,08248,563

For a whole lot more stats on how modern cruise ships compare to the titanic, I recommend you also take a look at this article by Emma Cruises.

Cruise ship components

As we’ve learnt, cruise ships are pretty massive. But what about the parts that make up the cruise ship? Let’s find out how big they are…

How big is a cruise ship propeller?

The propellers on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships (the largest cruise ships in the world) are 20-feet tall. Known as azipods, each ship has three of these huge propellers to propel the ships and manoeuvre them in port.

Get a close up look at Royal Caribbean ships’ propellers in this video:

How big is a cruise ship fuel tank?

A large cruise ship can store 1-2 million gallons of fuel in its fuel tanks.

The newest cruise ships use liquefied natural gas (LNG) rather than diesel. LNG is a relatively new fuel source for cruise ships and is used to power the latest ships such as P&O Cruises’ Iona and Costa Smeralda.

LNG has a lower fuel density than diesel, so a vessel using LNG needs to have twice as much tank space available. LNG-powered cruise ships store fuel across three tanks. Two of the tanks are 115 feet long and 26 feet in diameter, the other is 91 feet long with a diameter of 16 feet.

Both diesel and LNG-powered cruise ships are able to sail for up to two weeks without refuelling.

How big is the engine on a cruise ship?

The engine room on a cruise ship is at least three decks high. The different parts of the engine are divided into separate water-tight compartments, one for the main engines and another for the heating and air-conditioning system. This is for safety reasons. If a penetration to the hull or fire happens, multiple compartments help contain the damage.

If you’d like to see what it looks like inside a cruise ship engine room, take a look at this fascinating video:

Suggested read: Where Are The Engines Located On A Cruise Ship?

How big is a cruise ship anchor?

Queen Elizabeth 2 had two forward anchors, one of which is displayed as a landmark in the ship’s homeport of Southampton. The anchor is 4.3m (14ft) high, 2.7m (9ft) wide and weighs 13 tonnes.

Each cruise ship has two anchors. Anchor designs vary, as do the weights and dimensions, which are carefully calculated for each ship.

This video shows Legend of the Seas dropping her anchor:

How big are cruise ship cabins?

Cruise ship cabins are generally the size of a small hotel room with enough room for a queen-size bed, wardrobe, bathroom and a small desk or vanity area. On most cruise ships, inside cabins are between 150 and 185 square feet and balcony cabins are between 170 and 220 square feet.

Each ship will have many different cabin types, ranging from single inside cabins to huge suites.

Luxury cruise ships often have much larger suits than regular cruise ships. The Regent Suite on-board Regent Seven Seas Splendor is the largest suite at sea and measures 4,443 square feet. This is over four times the size of the average UK home.

This video shows what an inside cabin is like on a cruise ship and how it can accommodate a family of four.

I hope that this article will help you to understand how big a cruise ship is. I do believe, however, that until you step on-board for yourself, the sheer scale of a cruise ship is quite a difficult thing to comprehend.

Get a Discount on Your Cruise

The price of your cruise will be different depending on who you book it with. It’s always cheaper to use a travel agent with access discounted rates.

See the best cruise deals from all travel agents in one place.

Of course, not all travel agents are equal in terms of the service that they provide, and a great travel agent is worth their weight in gold!

I’ve booked 21 cruises with Cruise118 and I recommend them 100%. They offer a best price guarantee so they’ll match any price you.

Visit now.

Related posts:

Before you go!

I'd love to help you to...

1. Find a cruise - See today's top cruise deals

2. Save money - Get an exclusive discount from my trusted travel agent

3. Cruise smarter - Join my email list for insider tips

Found this to be useful?

You're welcome to share this guide with your friends if you think it may help them too.

2 thoughts on “How Big is a Cruise Ship?”

  1. One serious correction is needed. Gross tonnage is NOT a measurement of weight. It is a measurement of volume. One gross ton is equivalent to a space 10 feet long, 10 feet high, and 10 feet deep. This measurement applies to all fully enclosed space aboard a ship. Modern cruise ships tend to stack a multitude of extra decks higher up on the superstructure resulting in a huge increase of gross tonnage, but minimal increase of actual weight as modern superstructures are very lightly built. Ocean liners, as apposed to cruise ships, must be more heavily built to endure rougher seas. Displacement tonnage often approximates the actual weight of a vessel.

    • Oh my goodness, thank you so much, that’s really helpful! I’ve updated the article to reflect this. Thanks! Jenni

Leave a comment