How Big is a Cruise Ship?



Victoria Ridley

I love to travel, see new places, and meet new people. I have been lucky enough to travel on multiple continents, as well as several cruise lines. I am passionate about sharing my experience with readers.
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There is a reason why today’s cruise ships are called floating cities. They are massive!

Even after dozens of cruises, I am still taken aback by the size of these vessels. Cruise ships are so big that passengers can easily get lost on board. I often get lost, even after seven days on the ship. Never mind trying to remember which side is port and which is starboard.

But just how big is a cruise ship?

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 Sea

Cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes. The largest ships are over 1,100 feet long and carry over 6,000 passengers and cruise members. In contrast, the smallest is the size of a small yacht with a passenger capacity of a couple dozen.

Determining the average size of a cruise ship is complex, with dozens of new vessels entering and leaving service every year. For this article, we will consider an average cruise ship with a volume of around 125,000 GT (more on that later), a passenger capacity of approximately 3,000 guests, and a length of 1,000 ft (300 meters.)

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 port

There are three standard ways to measure and compare cruise ships; length, internal volume (gross tonnage), or passenger capacity.

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.

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, its increase in width and height gives it an internal volume that is five times greater.

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. For the vessel to reach full capacity, every stateroom must be filled with the maximum number of occupants. 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.

For the above, many cruise lines use double occupancy as a measure of passenger capacity. 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.

It’s no surprise that our preferred measure of cruise ship size is gross tonnage.

How Big is the World’s Largest Cruise Ship?

Wonder of the Seas rendering in open ocean
Rendering Credit: Royal Caribbean International

Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas is the world’s largest cruise ship by gross tonnage. The Oasis-class ship has a gross tonnage of 236,857 GT, a length of 1,188 feet (362 meters), and a width of 210 feet (64 meters).

The ship has room for 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew at maximum capacity.

It became the largest ship upon its debut in 2022, taking over the spot from sister ship Symphony of the Seas.

How Many People Can Fit on a Cruise Ship?

The most people that can fit on a cruise ship is 6,998 passengers on Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas.

The amount of people that can fit on a cruise ship is sure to rise with the future release of Dream Cruises’ Global Dream. The ship, still under construction, is expected to have a maximum capacity of 9,500 guests.

Cruise Ships Compared to Real-World Objects

Without a visual reference, it’s challenging to grasp the size of modern cruise ships. To help you visualize cruise ships’ size, we’ve compared familiar buildings and reference points.

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 chart

The Empire State Building is one of the most famous architectural buildings globally. It’s also one of the most commonly used reference points for measuring large structures.

The tip of the Empire State building stands at 1,454 ft (44.2m) in height. And its top floor is 1,224 ft (373.1 m) high.

If you were to stand on a cruise ship next to the Empire State Building, the ship would be two-thirds the high to the tip or 80% of the top floor height.

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 functions as an at-sea airbase with a flight deck from which planes can take off and land.

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, Wonder of the Seas, has a length of 1,188 feet (362 meters) which is 96 feet longer than the USS Gerald R. Ford.

How Big Was the Titanic Compared to a Cruise Ship?

Titanic vs Wonder of the Seas front view comparison

Upon its debut in 1912, RMS Titanic was the world’s largest and most luxurious ship.

She had a gross registered tonnage of 46,328 tons and measured 882 feet 9 inches (269 meters) long, 92 feet 6 inches (28.2 meters) wide, and 175 ft (53.3 meters) tall. The Titanic could accommodate up to 2,435 passengers with a crew of 892 members.

So how does a modern cruise ship compare to the Titanic?

Modern cruise ships are, on average, 20% longer than the Titanic and twice as tall. While it may not sound like much, the average cruise ship’s internal volume is nearly three times greater than the Titanic.

The world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, is 35% longer and over twice as wide. It may not seem like much of a difference. But Wonder of the Seas has five times the internal volume of the Titanic.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Compared to a Whale?

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

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 is three and a third football fields in length. And at 1,188 feet long, the world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, is nearly four football fields long.

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

The propellers on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships stand 20 feet tall. Modern cruise ships are propelled by azipods rather than the traditional propeller and rudder found on older vessels.

An Azipod consists of a propeller mounted on a rotating gondola (pod). According to Marine Insight, an Azipod “can rotate 360 degrees to increase maneuverability and operating efficiency, with the proven ability to cut fuel consumption by up to 20 percent compared to traditional shaft line propulsion systems.”

How Big is a Cruise Ship Fuel Tank?

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

The fuel tanks on a cruise ship can store between 1 and 2 million gallons of fuel. With this much fuel, cruise ships can sail for up to two weeks without refueling.

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 diesel-powered cruise ships have between four to six medium-speed (500 revolutions per minute) engines. Each engine can generate upwards of 25,000 horsepower or nearly 18.5 megawatts.

The engines on a cruise ship can be up to 45 feet long, 27 feet high, and weigh 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 engine room is located on the lowest decks of the vessel, giving the ship a lower center of gravity.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Anchor?

Cruise Ship Anchor
Cruise Ship anchors can weigh up to 17 tons!

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

Cruise ship anchors come in all shapes and sizes. They need to be individually calculated and designed for each ship.

The famous Queen Mary 2 had two forward anchors, which measured 14ft (4.3m) high, 9ft (2.3) wide, and weighed 13 tonnes.

How Big is a Cruise Ship Life Boat?

Oasis of the Seas Lifeboat
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, but remember, they are only a last resort in emergencies.

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About the author

Victoria Ridley

I love to travel, see new places, and meet new people. I have been lucky enough to travel on multiple continents, as well as several cruise lines. I am passionate about sharing my experience with readers.

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