There is a real astonishment when witnessing a cruise ship for the first time. As the floating pleasure palace gracefully draws closer, we get an insight into the sheer size and beauty of the ship. Some cruise ships are 20 stories high and the length of four football fields. They are a marvel of modern engineering and beyond the scope of most of us to fully understand. Cruise ships are incredibly heavy yet perfectly buoyant, providing maximum efficiency when cutting through ocean swells. So how much does a cruise ship weigh and how do they stay afloat?
The weight of a ship is most easily ascertained using the theory of displacement. That is, the water a ship must displace in order to stay afloat. Water is heavy and fills all corners of any container, whereas a cruise ship has plenty of open space. A cruise ship is long, wide and deep, resulting in ample floatation through water displacement in the surrounding ocean.
Although all major cruise lines have large ships, some companies specialise in the mega-ship marketplace made popular due in part to increased family cruising. Most notably, Royal Caribbean International have the four largest and heaviest cruise ships in the world. Norwegian Cruise Line follows closely behind with its own unique brand of mega-ships. Here are some details regarding the largest cruise ships.
New and older cruise ships
Symphony of the Seas: As of 9 July 2017, this cruise ship is the largest passenger ship in the world by gross tonnage (228,021 GT).
Allure of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Launched in late 2010, Allure of the Seas has a gross tonnage of 225,282 and a passenger capacity of 5,400 at double occupancy.
Oasis of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. The older sister ship of Allure, Oasis of the Seas was launched in 2009, weighing 225,282 tonnes and carrying 5,400 passengers.
Anthem of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. This new vessel in the Royal Caribbean Quantum class is a slight step-back in size yet full of innovations. Anthem weighs 168,666 tonnes and hosts up to 4,180 passengers.
Quantum of the Seas: Royal Caribbean. Another signature ship for Royal Caribbean, Quantum of the Seas heralded a new look and style. Launched in 2014, Quantum weighs 167,800 tonnes and welcomes up to 4,180 passengers.
Norwegian Escape: Norwegian Cruise Line. This vessel, launched in 2015, introduced us to the new Norwegian Breakaway Plus Class ship. The cruise line’s biggest mega-ship to date, Norwegian Escape is 165,300 tonnes and caters to 4,200 passengers.
Norwegian Epic: Norwegian Cruise Line. This vessel, launched in 2010, weighs in at 155,873 tonnes, with a passenger capacity of 4,100 at double occupancy. Norwegian Cruise Line is definitely among the mega-ship pioneers.
A ship that can host 4,000 or more passengers is mind-boggling for most of us. And don’t forget the ship’s crew of another 2,000 people. That’s around 6,000 people adding further weight to the vessel. Fortunately, the very best expertise and technology is utilised in modern cruise ship design, with superior floatation, performance and economy.
A comparison between the above mentioned vessels and more commonly known ships helps give some indication of their size. The Queen Mary 2, for example, comes in 10th on the list of heaviest cruise ships and at 149,215 tonnes, weighs around 40 percent less than Allure of the Seas. The tragic RMS Titanic, which sank in 1912 is another suitable comparison. The Titanic weighed 46,328 tonnes, around one quarter the weight of Allure of the Seas.
Cruise ship draught
Although only a small percentage of a cruise ship sits below the water, they are built very wide, allowing them to counter ocean swells and waves with ease. Even the largest cruise ships will sit less than 10 meters below the water surface, with the majority of the vessel visible above water level. The result is that larger ships ride the ocean swells better than smaller vessels, a benefit that has not gone unnoticed by cruise ship operators.
Mega-ships are the latest wave in the cruise industry and their popularity is undeniable. The size of a floating city with entertainments and attractions at every turn, it’s no wonder that entire families are joining the cruising revolution. Cruise ships are now being designed with all passenger styles and groups in mind, with shipboard ‘neighbourhoods’, kids clubs, and adults-only retreats springing up all over the place.
Although large in scale, cruise ship design is also geared toward provision of personal space and privacy. Open public areas are social and casual places, yet there are many nooks and corners to get away from it all as well. Intimate environments, piano bars, clubs and Wi-Fi all provide opportunities to be yourself while onboard.
It won’t be long before you get used to the pampering, the carefree cruise lifestyle becomes second nature and the cruise ship becomes your second home.