Ship boat

How much does a cruise ship weigh?

Cruise ships are impressive structures. These ships are enormous, rising 20 stories above the water. They are long and weigh a lot.

Most people can only speculate on the weight of a cruise ship. We’re here to provide you with the awesome facts and figures, according to popular cruise lines.

Many wonder how such a massive and heavy ship can glide so easily across the seas. They float with such grace that people often wonder if they weigh as much as their appearance suggests.

Design changes?

Cruise ships are marvels of modern engineering. Their designs are continuously improved. Many new ships are inspired by ocean liners in terms of durability.

While it is true that cruise ships will change course or slow down when bad weather approaches, the design changes slightly to allow these ships to better handle storms when they do occur.

AIDA Cruises presented the AIDAprima, which added a vertical bow like the classic ocean liners. The purpose of this bow style is to allow the vessel to handle more challenging waters and provide a smoother onboard experience. The bow is placed at a 90° angle and allows this area to be filled with a greater quantity of steel.

Photo credit: 13threephotography /

Most ships contain a bulbous bow that sits below the surface of the water. The design creates improved water flow, resulting in drag reductions and improved fuel efficiency. The design of AIDAprima allows it to cross the waves more efficiently.

Norwegian cruise line revealed that the Leonardo project would contain a slightly inverted blunt arc. Known as the “X-BOW”, it is curved aft to provide more volume in the bow of the vessel. This makes the bow design particularly well suited for cruising in rough waters.

The bow is designed to effortlessly cut through the waves. It prevents them from crashing when hulled and allows the cruise ship to follow a smooth trajectory. Guests experience smoother motion with less vibration or shaking.

Norwegian Prima Render
Rendered courtesy of: Norwegian Cruise Line

This type of design displaces more water, starting at the waterline. This design allows for faster speed, reduced air emissions and improvements in fuel consumption.

Read: Ocean Liner vs Cruise Ship – What are the differences?

More than half of new cruise ships ordered this year and beyond will be powered by liquefied 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. Liquefied natural gas contains almost no sulfur emissions.

How can something that weighs so much glide effortlessly through water?

The steel in cruise ships is what tends to make them so heavy. Typically, cruise ships contain thinner steel than ocean liner steel. However, with further changes to the bows and design, we might see an increase in tonnage.

Yet, despite the increased tonnage of these ships, they are buoyant enough to ride through waves mainly due to their design.

To float, cruise ships must displace a certain amount of water. In addition, large cruise ships will rest less than 10 meters below the surface. This allows them to navigate ocean waters more easily than smaller ships. This helps improve forward navigation despite their huge size.

Measure the weight of a cruise ship

Cruise ships are measured in gross tonnage. This unit of measurement is calculated from space. Tonnage is generally a measurement concerning the measurement of the vessel. Thus, we automatically assume that the weight of the ship is the gross tonnage. But this is not the case.

Also read: Port and starboard – Which side is which?

Gross tonnage is not a weighted measure; it is measured in volume. The gross tonnage of a cruise ship is determined by the volume inside. To put it into perspective, if you had 100 cubic feet containing an enclosed space located on a cruise ship, that would register at one gross ton (GT).

Symphony of the Seas cruise ship
Photo credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

Today, ships weighing over 100,000 GT are designed to double the weight of ships designed a century ago.

The heaviest cruise ships in the world

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

Cruise ship Rough measure
1. Wonder of the Seas 236,857
2. Symphony of the Seas 228,081
3. Harmony of the Seas 227,500
4. Oasis of the seas 226,838
5. The lure of the seas 225 282
6. Costa Tuscany and Costa Tuscany 185,000
7. P&O Iona 184,700
8. AIDAnova & AIDAcosma 183,900
9. MSC Grandiosa and MSC Virtuosa 181,541
10. Mardi Gras 180,800

Impressively, Royal Caribbean International pushes the boundaries of cruise line design every year. Symphony of the seas had a long-standing record of being the heaviest and largest ship. However, the recent addition this year of the wonder of the seas pushed the boundaries even further.

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

Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas cruise ship
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean

The other two on the list belong to Costa Cruises. In terms of weight, these ships are identical. P&O Cruises sneaks into No. 7 with the Ionawhile AIDA Cruises brings up the rear.

Larger cruise ships can accommodate more passengers. This is equivalent to a ship that has increased its tonnage. The larger the ship, the more space is available for relaxation, activities or privacy. Cabins and activity spaces all contribute to the increased tonnage of the vessel.

To determine the weight of a cruise ship, the average answer for a large modern ship is 200,000 GT. Higher gross tonnage means more passengers, restaurants, entertainment and activities can be accommodated on board the ship.

Also read: How big is a cruise ship?

With bigger and bigger ships, people can expect the gross tonnage to increase. However, this increase in gross tonnage may be due to improvements in designs, not increased capacity for more passengers, entertainment spaces, dining 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 ship can comfortably accommodate. These increased activities will fill the booths and generate more revenue for the company. Still, with safety still being the primary concern, weight increases can possibly be attributed to design changes.

How much does a cruise ship weigh