At the time, the Titanic was an epic achievement in engineering – or at least, so people thought until she sank on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic.
But she was still seen as an impressive feat. Yet the Titanic remains one of the most iconic ships ever built despite being over 100 years old. How does she compare in size with the modern cruise ships of today?
Was she ahead of her time, or when the Titanic is compared to a modern cruise ship, does she now seem like a small boat in comparison?
Was the Titanic a cruise ship?
The Titanic was not considered a cruise ship. She was a passenger liner and also a Royal Mail ship. Rather than being designed for a pleasure cruise, she was carrying passengers and mail on a one-way trip to New York from the UK.
A cruise liner is a ship that is designed for one-way travel, and we don’t tend to have them in modern times – people prefer to use planes since they’re so much faster. But in 1912 when commercial flights weren’t a thing (the first aircraft was only successfully trialed 9 years earlier), passenger ships were the default option for long-distance travel.
That doesn’t mean they weren’t comfortable. The Titanic had multiple restaurants, in the same way that a cruise ship today does, and served high-quality food. There were a number of leisure activities available to guests too, including tennis, shuffleboard, quoits and a card room. There was also a gym and even a swimming pool.
So while the Titanic was not a cruise ship, it did have many of the features that have since become standard on modern cruise ships.
How does the Titanic compare to today’s cruise ships?
Modern cruise ships tend to be much larger than the Titanic on average – not so much in length, but in width and height. The Titanic was considered more luxurious than many (but not all) modern cruise ships, but of course, was a lot less safe too.
There are so many ways you can compare the Titanic with modern ships.
You can look at how many dining venues they have, with modern ships having a lot more choice (although the Titanic wasn’t just a single-restaurant ship).
Or the style of cruising – the Titanic was very much a formal ship, particularly in first class, while many of today’s modern ships have abandoned a lot of the formality in favour of a more family-friendly approach.
For the purpose of this guide, let’s focus more on the difference in size, since that really tells you the most about modern ships and the space they offer passengers.
Titanic Vs Modern Cruise Ship Size
How big was the Titanic compared to a cruise ship?
The Titanic was about as long as the average modern cruise ship – she was 882 feet long. There are a wide variety of small and super-size ships sailing the ocean now, averaging at 830 feet. But in terms of height and width, the Titanic was smaller than average modern ships.
While in 1912 the race was often to build bigger and bigger ships, that approach is slightly different today. Because while we are seeing new ships launching every few years that do break the record in terms of size, we’re also seeing many cruise lines launching smaller ships.
These smaller ships are sometimes aimed at offering a more luxurious experience to guests, ensuring a higher staff-to-guest ratio. Or they’re built to explore areas of the world few passengers have been able to, including the polar regions.
I’ve taken a look at around 300 of the world’s most popular cruise ships to get to some average figures in terms of the modern ship size, so we can compare them against the Titanic. I’ll pick out a couple of key ships in the stats too, so you can see just how the Titanic ranks when put against modern ships.
Read more: How big is a cruise ship?
Gross tonnage is one of the best ways to compare ships. The Titanic’s gross tonnage was 46,328 while the average ship in today’s world would have a gross tonnage of around 77,000. So the Titanic was around 40% smaller than your average cruise ship today.
Gross tonnage isn’t anything to do with the weight of the ship, despite the word “ton” being in the term. That can confuse a lot of people. It’s instead got to do with the internal volume of the ship.
One gross ton is the same as 100 cubic feet. The higher the gross tonnage, the bigger the ship is overall as it has more internal space.
So this is the best way to compare the Titanic to modern ships since it takes into consideration all of the measurements and explains just how much more spacious today’s ships would be.
While the Titanic may be slightly longer than the average cruise ship today, she has a much smaller gross tonnage, because she wasn’t as wide nor was she as tall. She may have had a similar number of decks, but each deck would have felt more spacious.
It’s worth pointing out that when you look at one of the smallest cruise ships you can book right now – Celebrity Xploration – she has a gross tonnage of just 319.5 – less than 10% that of the Titanic.
And if you look at one of the smaller luxury ships that isn’t a specialist exploration ship – such as Silversea’s Silver Shadow – she has a gross tonnage of just 28,258, only around 60% of the size of the Titanic.
We’ll compare Titanic to the largest ships just below, but the key point to make is that Titanic wouldn’t be completely dwarfed in today’s cruising world, although from a gross tonnage perspective she would be well below average.
One of the easiest ways to visually compare a cruise ship is by looking at the length. The Titanic was 882 feet long, and when you take all modern cruise ships into account, including dedicated exploration ships, the average is around 830 feet. So the Titanic was actually longer.
Some context is important here though – that average, as I’ve stated, includes the many small exploration ships that are purpose-built to be smaller, so that they can either get around the polar ice caps or into ports that aren’t designed for larger ships.
If you were to take only the top 150 cruise ships in the world in terms of length, every single one of them would be longer than the Titanic. But we’ll get to the comparisons against the larger ships shortly.
The Titanic is significantly longer than the smallest ships currently sailing. Going back to the Celebrity Xploration, which is only 98.3 feet long, the Titanic is almost 10 times the length.
But the Silver Shadow, one of the smaller luxury ships, isn’t quite as dramatic a difference. She’s 610 feet long, which puts her at around two-thirds of the length of the Titanic. That might still sound significant, but we’re talking about one of the very smallest ships of 300 that currently sail.
The average of modern cruise ships is definitely weighted lower by these speciality exploration and luxury ships, but remember that there are many ships that are longer than the Titanic was too.
The Titanic may have been slightly longer than the average cruise ship but in terms of width, she was slightly more narrow. She measured 92.5 feet across, while the average cruise ship in the modern world is 110 feet across.
But again there is context to consider as this also includes the smallest ships in the world, of which there are many. And these smaller ships are often designed for very small passenger numbers, meaning they aren’t particularly wide at all.
If you once again restrict the stats to only the top 150 cruise ships in the world, the average width is even larger at 128 feet. That’s over 35 feet wider than the Titanic was, around 33%.
But let’s again see how she compares to the most narrow cruise ship, which again is Celebrity Xploration (although Le Ponant, a luxury yacht-style cruise ship, is the same width). These two ships are just 36 feet wide, so around 40% of the width of the Titanic that was built around a century earlier.
And if we look at the Silver Shadow, she is 79 feet wide – around 85% of the width of the Titanic.
As I’ve covered, a lot of modern cruise ships aren’t built to be the biggest but instead target a particular market. And sometimes, they’re built to certain dimensions to be able to sail to a specific destination.
And one of those is the canals of the world, including the Panama Canal – one of the most popular since it allows cruise ships to easily travel between the American coastlines.
The newest locks in the Panama Canal have a set of restrictions that ships cannot exceed if they want to be able to sail through. These ships are classified as New Panamax.
And it’s interesting to note that, with the dimension restrictions set at 168 feet wide and 1,201 feet long, the Titanic would have been able to sail these locks quite easily. She could also navigate the Suez Canal.
The Titanic had 9 decks that passengers could access. While modern cruise ships can have between 3 and 18 decks, the average cruise ship will have a similar number to the Titanic – usually between 9 and 11.
The largest ships in the world often have more – of the 18 decks on the Wonder of the Seas, 15 are passenger decks. And some MSC Cruises and P&O Cruises ships have decks numbered as high as 20, although not all of these are open to guests.
Of course, it’s worth remembering that the Titanic had a class system in place, and some of the areas of the ship would be out of bounds to third- and second-class passengers. And conversely, first-class passengers would have avoided the areas where third-class passengers tended to mingle.
Modern cruise ships don’t have anything like those restrictions. There will be some facilities that are exclusive to certain suite guests – things like the Haven on NCL, MSC Cruises’ Yacht Club or the Family Lounge on Carnival – but the majority of the ship’s decks are open to all guests at almost all times.
The Titanic, at maximum capacity, would have been able to hold 2,435 passengers and 892 crew, for a total combined capacity of 3,327 people. If you take the average cruise ship today, including all the small ships that often have fewer than 100 passengers, then the average is almost identical – around 2,450 guests and 750 crew.
Again, if we take that average to just being of the top 150 cruise ships in the world, it jumps up significantly to around 3,500 passengers and a crew of around 1,400, for a total capacity closer to 5,000.
Of course, there are some ships much larger than this again, but there are a lot of ships that have a passenger capacity between 3,000 and 3,500 so the super-ships don’t skew these averages too much.
Here’s a quick comparison of the Titanic against the average cruise ship:
|Titanic||Average Cruise Ship|
|Gross Tonnage||46,328 GT||77,000 GT|
|Length||882 feet||830 feet|
|Width||92.5 feet||128 feet|
And here’s the same table comparing the Titanic to an average of just the largest 150 cruise ships in the world:
|Titanic||Average Large Cruise Ship|
|Gross Tonnage||46,328 GT||119,000 GT|
|Length||882 feet||1,000 feet|
|Width||92.5 feet||110 feet|
Cruise Ships That Are A Similar Size to Titanic
Here’s a list of just some of the cruise ships that are very similar to the Titanic.
In Gross Tonnage:
- Seven Seas Mariner, a luxury ship for Regent Seven Seas with a GT of 48,075
- Empress of the Seas, a ship sailing for Indian line Cordelia Cruises, despite sounding like a Royal Caribbean ship, with a GT of 48,563
- Norwegian Spirit, a ship sailing for NCL and measuring 879 feet
- Majesty of the Seas, a former Royal Caribbean ship now sailing for Seajets and measuring 880 feet
And in terms of passenger capacity:
- Norwegian Pearl, an NCL ship with a capacity of 2,394 passengers
- Queen Elizabeth, a ship sailing for Cunard with a maximum capacity of 2,547 passengers
Most of the ships to have launched more recently are a little bigger than the Titanic, so there aren’t a lot still sailing that closely match her for size. Ships are either being built for more capacity and features or specifically for a luxury cruise market, where they tend to be smaller and have fewer than 1,500 passengers.
Largest Cruise Ship Vs Titanic
The current largest ship in the world is the Wonder of the Seas, the latest Oasis-Class ship from Royal Caribbean.
And while it is interesting to compare the Titanic to average cruise ship sizes, it’s worth remembering that when she was launched in 1911, she was the largest ship in the world at that time.
And so it definitely makes for an interesting comparison when you look at the Titanic against the current largest cruise ship in the world.
How big is the biggest cruise ship compared to Titanic?
The biggest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, is approximately five times the size of the Titanic. While the Titanic is similar in size to some of the smaller cruise ships still being built, she is significantly smaller than today’s largest ships.
|Titanic||Wonder of the Seas|
|Gross Tonnage||46,328 GT||236,857 GT|
|Length||882 feet||1,188 feet|
|Width||92.5 feet||210 feet|
The best way to compare the two ships is in gross tonnage, as this tells you the overall volume of the ships. And with the Titanic’s 46,328 GT against Wonder of the Seas’ 236,857, that’s where we can see just how stark the difference is.
In terms of length, Wonder of the Seas is not that much bigger – around 300 feet longer, so around 33% bigger compared to the Titanic. If you were to put the Titanic next to a cruise ship like the Wonder of the Seas though, she would still look tiny despite not being drastically shorter – so how does Wonder of the Seas end up being 500% of the Titanic’s total size?
The answer comes when you look at the width and the number of decks.
Wonder of the Seas is over twice the width of the Titanic, at 210 feet compared to just 92.5 feet. That’s a mammoth difference. It’s also where the Wonder of the Seas exceeds many of the other ships being built today, which will average often as little as half that again.
And with 15 passenger decks, she is another 66% times bigger again. This gives guests a lot more space to roam and explore and allows for a wealth of extra features. Wonder of the Seas has four swimming pools to Titanic’s one, for example.
Interesting point – technically there are 16 decks that passengers can access, but Royal Caribbean doesn’t list Deck Two as an official passenger deck on their own deck plans. The only features on Deck Two are two tendering areas and the Medical Center, so it’s no surprise that Royal Caribbean isn’t too concerned with listing it officially.
In terms of passenger capacity, Wonder of the Seas can carry almost three times the number, and it has almost 2.5 times the number of crew working the ship.
Interestingly, the Titanic had a better crew-to-passenger ratio. On the Titanic, there was 1 crew member for every 2.7 passengers, while on Wonder of the Seas that ratio becomes 1 crew to every 3 passengers.
But also worth noting is the extra space guests can enjoy. The Titanic had 19 gross tons for every passenger, while Wonder of the Seas has 34 gross tons per passenger – so almost twice as much space per passenger.
Want to learn more about how the Wonder of the Seas compares to the Titanic, including the available activities, the dining options, and how much it cost to buy a ticket? Read more on the Wonder of the Seas vs the Titanic.
It would be natural to assume that modern cruise ships would all be larger than the Titanic, since they’re all around a century newer.
But the Titanic isn’t completely dwarfed by all modern ships – with the concept of small ship cruising becoming extremely popular.
But place the Titanic next to the very largest ships in the world that are sailing today and you will absolutely see just how different they are. Modern cruise ships feel like vast cities compared to the passenger liner that was intended to ferry people – in relative comfort – across the Atlantic.
Have you enjoyed this comparison, and want to learn more about the Titanic? Read more about Titanic ticket prices here.
Plus, if you want to learn more about the cost of cruising on a modern ship, so you can compare those Titanic prices with the latest itineraries, I have a guide on cruise costs here.
And while the Titanic famously sank on her maiden voyages, do cruise ships sink with any regularity these days? Read my article on how many cruise ships have sunk.