How Big is a Cruise Ship?

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Cruise ships are marvels of modern engineering, often compared to floating cities due to their immense size and the plethora of amenities they offer.

But just how big is a cruise ship?

The average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long and accommodates around 3,000 passengers.

The below article will give you everything you need to know about the massive ships.

How Big is the Average Cruise Ship?

Celebrity Apex at SeaPin

Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes. The average cruise ship is 1,000 feet long, the size of three football fields, and carries over 5,000 passengers and cruise members. In contrast, the smallest is the size of a small yacht with a passenger capacity of a couple of dozen.

The size of cruise ships can vary significantly, but they are generally categorized into small, midsized, and large ships.

Small cruise ships typically hold between 70 and 350 passengers, offering a more intimate experience and access to smaller, more exotic ports. These ships are often more luxurious and focus on personalized attention but may have a higher price tag​​.

Midsized cruise ships can accommodate 400 to 1,700 passengers. They offer a balance of amenities and fewer crowds, providing various entertainment, dining options, and personalized services. These ships can access various destinations, including some exotic ports​​.

Large cruise ships are like floating resorts, accommodating between 1,800 to 6,500 passengers. They boast many amenities, activities, and dining options for a wide age range. However, due to their size, these ships can only dock at larger ports​​. The world’s largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean’s ‘Icon of the Seas,’ measures a gross tonnage of 250,800 GT, a length of 1198 feet (365 meters), and room for 7,600 guests and 2,350 crew​​.

Average-sized cruise ships include Disney Dream, Voyager of the Seas, Celebrity Apex, and MSC Fantasia.

How Are Cruise Ships Measured?

Cruise Ships docked at Caribbean portPin

Cruise ship size is typically measured using several key dimensions and metrics:

  1. Length: This is the most straightforward measure and refers to the distance from the bow (front) to the stern (back) of the ship.
  2. Gross Tonnage (GT): A measurement of a ship’s internal volume, including all passenger and crew spaces and operational areas. One gross tonnage unit equals 100 cubic feet of enclosed space. It’s a common way to compare the sizes of cruise ships, as it indicates the total space available on the ship rather than just its physical dimensions​​.
  3. Beam (Width): The beam of a ship refers to its width at its widest point.
  4. Draft: This is the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull (keel). It indicates the minimum depth of water a ship or boat can safely navigate.
  5. Passenger Capacity: While not a physical measurement of size, passenger capacity is often used to describe a ship’s size in terms of how many guests it can accommodate.
  6. Crew Size: The number of crew members needed to operate the ship also gives an indication of the ship’s operational scale.
  7. Number of Decks: This indicates how many levels or floors are available for passengers and crew. It’s a measure of a ship’s height.

These measures are used not just for technical purposes but also to help passengers get a sense of the scale and capabilities of a cruise ship. The choice of measurement often depends on the context in which the ship’s size is being discussed.

At High Seas Cruising, we typically use gross tonnage when comparing the size of cruise ships. We prefer gross tonnage as a comparison tool because it considers more factors than just the length or width.

How Measurements Tell Us the Scale of Ships

Surprisingly, most medium and large cruise ships (150,000 GT to 225,000+ GT) have a length right around 1,000 feet (300 meters). The reason cruise ships aren’t built longer is that cruise ships sail to many ports around the world. These massive vessels must dock and maneuver in ports that don’t require frequent upgrades and expansions.

The difference between medium and large cruise ships primarily comes from the differences in height and width.

While cruise ships can’t increase in length much beyond 1,000 feet, they can be taller and broader, resulting in an exponential growth in internal volume.

For instance, while today’s largest cruise ship is only 20% longer than the Titanic. Yet the largest cruise ships in the world are five times larger when measuring gross tonnage.

The larger internal volume, or gross tonnage, means cruise ships can add more passengers, activities, amenities, and facilities to the vessel.

Passenger capacity is another standard measurement for comparing cruise ships. However, it is essential to consider two different measures of guest capacity: double occupancy and maximum capacity.

A cruise ship rarely sails at maximum capacity. Every stateroom must be filled with the maximum number of occupants for the vessel to reach full capacity. Although cruise lines would love to fill every bed on a ship, it’s nearly impossible.

Consider when a family of three books a cabin with a four-passenger capacity. Or a solo traveler booked in a standard two-guest stateroom.

Many cruise lines use double occupancy to measure passenger capacity for the above. Double occupancy would be the ship’s passenger capacity if every cabin had two people.

Further, while there is some correlation between the gross volume of a ship and its passenger capacity, it’s not a consistent measurement of size.

For example, a small ship (less than 800 ft in length) may have a high passenger capacity if every guest sleeps in a bunk bed. At the same time, a large vessel (over 1000 ft in length) may have a lower passenger capacity if every passenger gets a private suite.

The examples above are extreme, but they show why passenger capacity isn’t the best way to compare ships.

For a real example, consider that Dream Cruises’ Global Dream is slightly smaller by gross tonnage than Royal Caribbeans’ famous Oasis of the Seas ships. Still, it has a maximum guest capacity of over 40% greater.

Unsurprisingly, our preferred measure of cruise ship size is gross tonnage.

How Big is the World’s Largest Cruise Ship?

Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship by gross tonnage. The icon-class cruise ship has a gross tonnage of 250,000 GT and a length of 1,198 feet (365 meters).

The ship has room for 7,600 guests at maximum capacity and 2,3500 crew.

Icon of the Seas became the largest ship upon its debut in 2024, taking over the spot from sister ship Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.

How Many People Can Fit on a Cruise Ship?

An average cruise ship has accommodations from 3,000 to 5,000 passengers.

The most people that can fit on a cruise ship is 7,600 passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas.

Cruise Ships Compared to Real-World Objects

It’s challenging to grasp the size of modern cruise ships without a visual reference. We’ve compared familiar buildings and reference points to help you visualize cruise ships’ size.

For the below comparisons, we’ve used 1,000 feet as the average length of a cruise ship.

How Big is the Cruise Ship Compared to the Empire State Building?

Cruise Ship size comparison chartPin

The Empire State Building is an iconic skyscraper in New York City. The famous building has a total height of 1,454 feet (443.2 meters) to the tip, including its antenna.

On the other hand, Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas is 1,198 feet (365 meters) long​​. Icon of the Seas is about 84% of the total height of the Empire State Building.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Compared to an Aircraft Carrier?

Like cruise ships, aircraft carriers have a reputation for their massive size. An aircraft carrier is an at-sea airbase with a flight deck from which planes can take off and land. The largest cruise ships and the biggest aircraft carriers are somewhat comparable in size, but there are notable differences.

The world’s largest aircraft carrier is the USS Gerald R. Ford, with a length of 1,092 feet. While slightly longer than the average cruise ship, it’s still behind the biggest cruise ship.

The world’s largest cruise ship, Icon of the Seas, has a length of 1,198 feet (365 meters), which is 106 feet longer than the USS Gerald R. Ford.

However, while the cruise ship is longer, the aircraft carrier is a more specialized vessel designed for military use, with capabilities such as a flight deck and the ability to launch and recover aircraft. On the other hand, cruise ships are designed primarily for passenger comfort and entertainment, featuring a wide variety of amenities like dining areas, entertainment venues, and recreational facilities.

How Big Was the Titanic Compared to a Cruise Ship?

Titanic vs Wonder of the Seas front view comparisonPin

The Titanic, once the largest ship afloat at the time of her maiden voyage in 1912, was significantly smaller than modern cruise ships.

  • Length: The Titanic measured approximately 882 feet (269 meters) in length. The world’s largest cruise ship measures 1,188 feet (362 meters) long. Icon of the Seas is around 34.7% longer than the Titanic.
  • Gross Tonnage: The Titanic had a gross tonnage of about 46,328 GT. Icon of the Seas is more than five times larger than the Titanic, with a gross tonnage of 250,000 GT​​.
  • Passenger Capacity: The Titanic could accommodate up to 2,435 passengers, along with a crew of 892. Icon of the Seas can accommodate up to 7,600 passengers and 2,350 guests.
  • Width and Height: The Titanic was about 92.5 feet (28 meters) wide, whereas modern cruise ships are over twice as wide. In terms of height, modern cruise ships are also significantly taller, providing more deck levels and passenger amenities.

The Titanic was a marvel of engineering in its time. Comparing the Titanic to modern cruise ships, newer vessels are substantially larger in every dimension – length, width, height, gross tonnage, and passenger capacity. This growth reflects over a century of advancements in shipbuilding technology and changes in the demands of passenger travel.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Compared to a Whale?

Whale shows its tail with Disney cruise ship in the background in AlaskaPin

From the nine-foot dwarf sperm whale to blue whales measuring around 100 feet, whales come in all shapes and sizes.

With the average cruise ship being approximately 1,000 feet in length, a cruise ship is the length of ten blue whales.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Compared to a Football Field?

An American football field is 100 yards or 300 feet. The average cruise ship are more than three football fields long at a length of 1,000 feet.

The average European football field, or soccer field, is anywhere between 110 to 120 yards long.

How Big are Cruise Ship Parts?

Cruise ships are massive. It’s no surprise that their components are equally proportionally large.

If you’ve ever wondered how much a cruise ship anchor weighs or what size engine powers these great ships, keep reading to find out.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Propeller?

Spectrum of the Seas Propeller and AzipodPin
The 20.5-megawatt azipod is installed onto Spectrum of the Seas (Photo by Royal Caribbean International)

The size of a cruise ship’s propeller can be quite impressive, reflecting the power needed to propel such large vessels through the water. The propellers on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships stand 20 feet tall.

These propellers are typically part of an advanced propulsion system known as Azipods. Unlike traditional shaft-driven propeller systems, Azipods are electrically driven and are housed in a rotating gondola (pod) suspended under the ship, which can rotate to provide improved maneuverability.

The size of a propeller is directly related to the ship’s size and power requirements. Larger and heavier ships require bigger propellers to move efficiently through the water. The design and size of a propeller also influence the ship’s speed, fuel efficiency, and vibration levels, contributing to passenger comfort.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Fuel Tank?

Royal Caribbean Construction Update Icon of the Seas LNG TanksPin
Icon of the Seas LNG fuel tanks being installed (Photo by Royal Caribbean International)

The fuel tank size of a cruise ship varies depending on the ship’s size, type, age, and operational requirements. Most modern cruise ships have large fuel tanks hold between one and two million gallons of fuel. This large capacity allows them to travel thousands of miles without refueling.

Smaller cruise ships have smaller tanks, holding only a few hundred thousand gallons.

A large cruise ship, such as Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, can carry approximately 1.33 million gallons (approximately 5 million liters) of fuel. The exact amount of fuel a cruise ship needs to fill its tank varies depending on the size of the ship, its engine efficiency, and the length and nature of its voyages.

Most traditional cruise ships use diesel-powered engines to propel themselves through the ocean. However, many newer cruise ships use the more environmentally friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG). Compared to diesel, natural gas burns cleaner, produces lower CO2 emissions and has a lower odor.

LNG fuel tanks are typically 115 feet long with a 26-foot diameter.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Engine?

Modern cruise ships have four to six medium-speed engines, each capable of generating upwards of 25,000 horsepower or nearly 18.5 megawatts. These engines are substantial in size, with some being up to 45 feet long, 27 feet high, and weighing up to 275 tons.

Cruise ships that run on diesel engines must carry catalytic-reduction equipment and exhaust treatment systems to reduce the environmental impact of the machines.

These massive engines can propel cruise ships at an average speed of 18-22 knots.

A cruise ship’s engine room spans several decks and includes the vessel’s water systems, generators, control rooms, and other essential navigation systems.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Anchor?

Costa Fascinosa docked at Rhodes island, Greece with two cruise ship anchors visiblePin
Two anchors are visible on the Costa Fascinosa

A cruise ship anchor can weigh up to 17 tons or four male elephants.

Cruise ship anchors are typically quite large, with lengths ranging from 10 to 20 feet, widths from 15 to 20 feet, and weights anywhere from 10 to 20 tons. Each cruise ship generally has two anchors, and the specific designs, weights, and dimensions of these anchors vary, being carefully calculated for each individual ship​​.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Life Boat?

Oasis of the Seas LifeboatPin
Oasis of the Seas Lifeboat (372 passenger capacity)

Modern-day cruise ships have enough lifeboats and life rafts for every passenger and crew member on board. They are usually visible on the sides of cruise ships on the lower decks.

The fully enclosed lifeboats provide shelter from the elements and are motorized.

The lifeboats found on modern cruise ships are pretty large. The rescue vessels found on Royal Caribbean International’s Oasis-class ships have enough room for 372 individuals. They are cramped; remember, they are only a last resort in emergencies.

Article by

Marcello De Lio

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