How does one calculate exactly what weight a cruise ship can carry?
And how much space does that weight take up?
How Much Does A Cruise Ship Weigh In Pounds?
The Allure of the Seas is a cruise ship with an average capacity of around 225,282 gross tons or 504,631,680 pounds. It can hold up to 5,400 passengers on board to travel across oceans and rivers! The Oasis only weighs about 20% less than its competitor. A decent ship occupancy limit is desired while still manageable during rough seas or heavy winds.
When you take a trip on a ship that’s more than 400 feet (152 meters) long — like the most significant cruise liners out there today — it can be easy to forget all those minor details. For example, when you’re off at your port-of-call, what things should you pack for an overnight stop or two ashore before returning home?
It takes some planning to maximize your time spent away from the sea. You’ll need clothes appropriate for any climate you may encounter during your travels, including toiletries and other essentials. And then there are souvenirs to buy once you get back to shore.
But cruising isn’t all fun and games. While cruises offer plenty of activities and adventures for travelers, the fact remains that these huge floating hotels have one purpose: To transport passengers across oceans and seas.
They must carry enough fuel to keep their engines running around the clock. The bigger the vessel is, the greater cargo space must be reserved for fuel tanks. In addition, because cruise lines typically dock only every few days, large ships often spend much of their lives docked somewhere while awaiting orders to set sail.
Onboard crew members eat most of the food supply before disembarking onto another continent. So even though many cruise tourists might enjoy exploring destinations after disembarkation, sometimes it makes sense not to stray too far outside the bounds of the boat itself.
That said, there are lots of interesting facts associated with cruise ships. One such statistic that will probably catch your attention relates to weight. Yes, we mean total weight. Because cruise ships travel so fast through open water, their size doesn’t always allow them to use bridges or causeways to cross rivers and lakes.
They usually rely on locks and dams instead. As a result, France’s Compagnie de Navigation S.A. constructed the largest passenger liner ever built, better known under its former name, la Compagnie des Indes. La Cimade could hold 5 million tons (4.5 metric tons), equal to nearly 50 Eiffel Towers stacked together [sources: CNN, Wikipedia].
But that’s nothing compared to the world’s current record holder: Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas weighs approximately 622,000 tons (600,000 kilograms).
So, where does this extra bulk come from? Most of it comes from the propulsion system used by modern cruise ships. Instead of relying solely on wind power, ocean-going vessels now run on diesel engines powered by onboard nuclear reactors.
This allows them to progress faster against strong headwinds without tacking into the breeze. However, that additional mass still requires a lot of energy to move.
In terms of sheer length alone, some cruise ships dwarf others. Take Carnival Splendor, for instance. At 469 feet (143.8 meters) long, she’s the most extended pleasure craft in active service anywhere globally. With her enormous hull, splendor holds the distinction of being able to fit five football fields side by side!
Of course, that figure doesn’t include the bow thruster near her superstructure’s front. This device extends beyond the ship’s main body and uses high-pressure air jets to push it forward. If you were standing near it, you’d feel quite uncomfortable due to the force exerted by the thrusters.
If you’re hankering for something less imposing, check out our next section, “The Biggest Cruise Ships in the World Today.
The Biggest Cruise Ships in the World Today
While Carnival Splendor is currently the world’s longest passenger ship, she wasn’t the first to break 400 feet (121.9 meters). That honor goes to Queen Elizabeth 2, which began making regular transatlantic voyages between 1967 and 2006. She measured 440 feet (129.6 meters) overall length, including her bowsprit, masts, and antennae. Her successor, Crystal Cruises’ Dream, surpassed her with a length of 457 feet (139.7 meters).
As for width, the largest cruise ship in the world belongs to Royal Princess, which measures 210 feet (64.2 meters) wide. Not surprisingly, her namesake line has been the leader among the major cruise companies for the past decade.
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas tops 186 feet (57.9 meters) wide. Another competitor, Norwegian Cruise Lines, offers Zenith and Star Pride sister ships. Each of these three ships is significantly wider than the average ship on the market.
Length accounts for only part of the equation, however. When measuring volume, it’s important to consider height. It’s worth noting that none of those mentioned above ships exceeds 100 feet (30.5 meters) in overall height.
Here, the tallest ship in the fleet would seem to belong to MSC Yacht Club, whose flagship, M.S. Mediterranea, stands 127 feet (38.6 meters) tall.
Another way to measure the size of a ship is displacement, which refers to the maximum buoyant load it can safely support above the water’s surface. There are several different ways to calculate a ship’s displacement, although the most straightforward method involves adding the weights of everything that makes up the ship.
By doing this calculation, we find that the largest cruise ship in the world today is the Majestic Sun, which displaces approximately 1.25 billion pounds (550 million kilograms).
Of course, no discussion of cruise ship sizes would be complete without mentioning speed. What determines speed is the thrust output generated by the engine. Since larger ships require more power to propel themselves, they tend to reach higher speeds than smaller ones.
An exception to this rule exists, however. Some luxury yachts can achieve top speeds of 20 knots thanks to their highly efficient designs. These vessels work best when traveling down narrow waterways.
Next, let’s look at the technology behind the magic of cruise ships.
Some experts believe the Titanic sank mainly due to poor design choices made by the ship’s chief designer. He thought his creation looked sufficiently stable while having great speed capabilities. Unfortunately, he underestimated the effects of ice crystals forming below the waterline.
The metal froze once the temperature dropped and prevented seawater from circulating correctly. As the ship approached a glacier, it could not turn away quickly enough before colliding. Eventually, the lower compartments flooded with water, which caused the stern to rise upward.
What About Passenger Capacity?
Many cruise ships indeed have a capacity exceeding 3,000 passengers. For example, the largest cruise ship currently operating in North America is Celebrity Summit, accommodating 3,750 guests per voyage. Yet, it’s important to remember that each guest gets their cabin.
Therefore, the number of beds aboard a typical cruise ship falls short of the actual population count—additionally, many ships in the industry host special events, training sessions, and conferences. Allowing nonpaying customers access to certain areas helps ensure profit margins remain healthy.
One final point is that cruise lines don’t charge admission prices based on the number of seats available. Instead, ticket costs are determined according to the amenities offered onboard. Many upscale ships boast fancy restaurants, spas, and golf courses, demanding hefty price tags.
Smaller cruise ships generally cost less to fly to ports throughout Europe and Asia. Finally, booking a weeklong vacation on a small ship with fewer than 300 cabins is possible.
Although Carnival Liberty was the second-largest passenger ship, it didn’t last very long. After completing construction in 2007, the vessel suffered problems with both steering and propellers. During shakedown tests, engineers discovered cracks in the ship’s outer skin and damage to vital structural components.
Ultimately, the Federal Maritime Commission ordered the ship to withdraw from commercial operations until repairs could be completed.