How Much Does a Cruise Ship Weigh?

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Cruise ships are impressive structures. These vessels are enormous, towering 20 stories above the water. They are long and weigh an enormous amount.

Most people can only speculate how much a cruise ship weighs. We are here to provide you with the impressive facts and figures, according to popular cruise ship lines.

Many wonder how such a massive, heavy ship can glide so effortlessly across the seas. They float with such grace that people often wonder whether they weigh as much as their appearance leads them to believe.

In This Article…

Changes in Design?

Cruise ships are modern engineering wonders. Their designs are continually being improved. Many new ships are taking cues from ocean liners in terms of durability.

While it is true that cruise ships will either change course or slow down when approaching bad weather, the design is changing slightly to enable these ships to better handle storms when they arise.

AIDA Cruises introduced the AIDAprima, which added a vertical bow like classic ocean liners. The purpose of this style of bow is to enable the ship to handle tougher waters and provide a smoother experience while on board. The bow is placed at a 90° angle and allows this area to be filled with a greater amount of steel.

AIDAprima Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: 13threephotography /

Most ships contain a bulbous bow that rests below the surface of the water. The design creates an improvement in the flow of water, generating reductions in drag and better fuel efficiency. The design of the AIDAprima allows it to cut through waves more efficiently.

Norwegian Cruise Line revealed that Project Leonardo would contain a slightly inverted blunt bow. Known as the “X-BOW,” it is curved backward to provide more volume in the ship’s fore. This makes the design of the bow particularly well-suited to sailing through rough waters.

The bow is designed to effortlessly slice through waves. It prevents them from crushing while at the hull and permits the cruise ship to proceed on a smooth course. Guests experience a softer motion with fewer vibrations or jarring.

Norwegian Prima Render
Render Courtesy: Norwegian Cruise Line

This type of design displaces more water, beginning from the waterline. This design allows for quicker speed, lower air emissions, and improvements in fuel consumption.

Worth Reading: Ocean Liner vs Cruise Ship – What are the Differences?

Over half of new cruise ships ordered this year and in subsequent years will be powered by Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), which is the cleanest fossil fuel available.

It is a better alternative to diesel fuel and reduces the amount of greenhouse gas emissions affecting climate change. Liquified Natural Gas contains almost zero emissions of sulfur.

How Can Something that Weighs So Much Effortlessly Glide Through Water?

The steel contained in cruise ships is what tends to make them so heavy. Generally, cruise ships contain steel that is thinner than the steel of ocean liners. However, with new changes being made to bows and design, we may see an increase in tonnage.

Yet despite the increased tonnage of these vessels, they are buoyant enough to slice through waves due primarily to design.

In order to float, cruise ships are required to displace a set amount of water. Additionally, large cruise ships will rest under 10 meters below the surface. This allows them to navigate through ocean water more easily than smaller ships. This allows for improvements in forward navigation despite their huge size.

Measuring a Cruise Ship’s Weight

Cruise ships are measured in gross registered tons. This unit of measurement is calculated from space. Tonnage is generally a measurement regarding the ship’s measurement. Thus, we automatically assume the weight of the ship is the gross tonnage. But this is not the case.

Read Also: Port and Starboard – Which Side Is Which?

Gross tonnage is not a weighted measurement; it’s measured in volume. A cruise ship’s gross tonnage is determined by the volume inside. To put it in perspective, if you had 100 cubic feet containing closed space located on a cruise ship, it would register at one gross ton (GT).

Symphony of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

Today, ships weighing over 100,000 GTs are being designed at double the weight of the ships designed a century ago.

Heaviest Cruise Ships Globally

This is the gross tonnage of the 10 largest cruise ships as of April 2022:

Cruise ShipGross Tonnage
1. Wonder of the Seas236,857
2. Symphony of the Seas228,081
3. Harmony of the Seas227,500
4. Oasis of the Seas226,838
5. Allure of the Seas225,282
6. Costa Toscana & Costa Toscana185,000
7. P&O Iona184,700
8. AIDAnova & AIDAcosma183,900
9. MSC Grandiosa & MSC Virtuosa181,541
10. Mardi Gras180,800

Impressively, Royal Caribbean International pushes the boundaries of designing cruise lines each year. Symphony of the Seas had a long-standing record of being the heaviest and largest ship. Yet the recent addition this year of the Wonder of the Seas has pushed the limits even further.

In fact, Royal Caribbean’s fleet ranks in the top five of the largest and heaviest ships.

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas Cruise Ship
Photo Courtesy: Royal Caribbean

The second two on the list belong to Costa Cruises. In terms of weight, these ships are identical. P&O Cruises sneaks in at No. 7 with the Iona, while AIDA Cruises brings up the rear.

Larger cruise ships can accommodate more passengers. This equates to a ship that has increased tonnage. The bigger the vessel, the more space is available for relaxation, activities, or privacy. The cabins and activity spaces all add to the increased tonnage of the vessel.

In determining how much a cruise ship weighs, the average answer for a modern large ship is 200,000 GTs. A higher gross tonnage means more passengers, restaurants, entertainment, and activities can be contained within the ship.

Read Also: How Big is a Cruise Ship?

With ships becoming larger, people can expect the gross tonnage to increase. However, this increase in gross tonnage may be due to improvements made in designs, not the increased capacity of more passengers, areas for entertainment, culinary experiences, etc.

Cruise lines will always strive to create bigger and better amenities on board. They will also strive to increase the number of passengers the vessel can comfortably hold. These increased activities will fill the cabin spaces and drive more revenue to the company. Yet with safety always being the primary concern, increases in weight may eventually be attributed to changes in design.

How Much Does a Cruise Ship Weigh

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