How Big is a Cruise Ship?

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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.

How big is an average cruise ship?

An average-sized cruise ship is 1,000 feet long – the same length as three football fields or ten blue whales. The average cruise ship carries around 3,000 guests and has 15 decks.

Cruise ships are measured in terms of gross tonnage (GT), which is a measurement of the internal volume of a ship. The average cruise ship has a gross tonnage of 120,000 GT.

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

However, cruise ships come in all different sizes, ranging from small yacht-style cruise ships carrying fewer than 100 guests, to huge mega-ships that can accommodate over 6,000 guests plus more than 2,000 crew members.

How big is the world’s biggest cruise ship?

In 2022, the biggest cruise ship in the world is Wonder of the Seas with a gross tonnage (internal volume) of 236,857 GT. The ship is 362m (1,118 ft) long and is capable of carrying 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members.

Before the launch of Wonder of the Seas, the biggest cruise ship in the world, in terms of volume, was Symphony of the Seas. Launched in June 2017, this Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ship has a gross tonnage of 228,081 GT and a capacity of up to 6,680 guests and 2,200 crew members.

The longest cruise ship in the world is Harmony of the Seas. This ship is four inches longer than Wonder of the Seas, with a length of 1188.1 feet compared to 1187.8 feet.

Read more: Royal Caribbean ships by size

Wonder of the Seas
Wonder of the Seas

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 9,288 people. The largest cruise ship in the world in terms of maximum passenger capacity is Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas. This ship has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,988 as well as a crew capacity of 2,300. [Source]

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 be 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.

Contracts are signed on the build of new cruise ships years in advance of their completion, so we can spot whether the trend is for cruise ships to get larger or smaller. Royal Caribbean’s next class of cruise ship, Icon class, will be considerably smaller than its Oasis-class ships.

Suggested read: Royal Caribbean Ship Classes Comparison

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?

Cruise ships are at least ten times larger than whales. The average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long, whereas the largest blue whales are no more than 100 feet long. Some whales are very small, such as the dwarf sperm whale which is just nine feet long.

blue whale at sea
Blue whale

How big are aircraft carriers compared to cruise ships?

Aircraft carriers and cruise ships are roughly the same size. The largest aircraft carrier at sea, the Gerald R Ford Class aircraft carrier, has a length of 1,106 feet, only slightly smaller than the world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, which is 1,188 feet long.

aircraft carrier
Photo Credit: Military_Material

How big are container ships compared to cruise ships?

Most container ships are of a similar size to large cruise ships. However, the largest container ships in the world are longer than cruise ships. Container ships can be up to 400 meters in length – around 10% longer than the biggest cruise ships.

The gross tonnage (volume) of container ships versus cruise ships is roughly equivalent. However, the world’s biggest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, has a gross tonnage of approximately 65,000 GT greater than the largest container vessels. The largest cruise ships also have a greater beam (width).

Whereas the largest container ships operate with around 25 crew members, cruise ships like Wonder of the Seas have up to 2,300 crew on board to look after the guests.

The photo below shows a 400-meter-long container ship, one of the biggest in the world. It was taken by my port pilot friend, John. You can read what it’s like to be a ship’s pilot here.

container ship
Photo: John P

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

The biggest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas, is three times longer than an American football field. Smaller expedition yachts or river cruise ships are more similar to the size of football fields, with a length of around 300 feet.

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

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

Noah’s Ark was much smaller than most modern cruise ships. It would have been similar in size to Silversea’s luxury expedition cruise Silver Cloud, which carries around 250 guests. The average cruise ship carries around 3,000 guests.

Suggested read: Silversea Cruise Ships By Size

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 that 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, Wonder of the Seas, which is 1,188 feet long and 236 feet high.

Silver Cloud is a small cruise ship
Silver Cloud

How big was the Titanic compared to cruise ships today?

The average modern cruise ship is two and a half times bigger than the Titanic, which was 882 feet long with a gross tonnage of 46,428 GT and space for 2,435 guests. The average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long with a gross tonnage of 120,000 GT and space for 3,000 guests.

The largest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas, is 34% longer, 36% higher, over twice as wide and has four times the internal volume of the Titanic. You can read more about how Wonder of the Seas compares to the Titanic here.

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

Suggested read: Symphony of the Seas Vs Titanic

By today’s standards, the 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 that’s between 900 and 1,100 feet in length can store 1-2 million gallons of fuel in its fuel tanks. Smaller cruise ships will carry significantly less, with yacht-style cruise ships carrying about 200,000 gallons. [Source]

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 three to five decks high. Most cruise ships have four engines, each of which is around 25 meters long and around 17 meters high. The largest cruise ships have six of these engines.

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?

Cruiser ship anchors are usually 10 to 20 feet high and weigh around 30,000 pounds (13,600 KG). The anchor chain is around 1,400 feet long and each individual link weighs over 100 pounds.

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

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.

This video shows Legend of the Seas dropping her anchor:

How big are cruise ship cabins?

Most cruise ships have standard inside cabins that are between 150 and 185 square feet and standard balcony cabins that are between 170 and 220 square feet. 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..

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.

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

  1. I greatly enjoyed your article! I’ve only been on one cruise at sea thus far, but certainly hope to enjoy others. Ever since that trip, I have been fascinated by the size of cruise ships—and everything having to do with them. Standing on my balacony watching the ship “park” in between two other cruise ships was a thrill for me. I should be so precise in parallel parking, ha!
    I’m a little surprised and disappointed, however, that you did not address today’s lifeboats—especially in an article comparing the Titanic! I will say that I not only felt more secure after learning about these wonders (today’s lifeboats) during our drills, but was completely fascinated by them! I think your readers would find it interesting to learn of these!

  2. 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

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