How Big is a Cruise Ship?

Cruise ships can be enormous, leaving guests wondering: exactly how big is a cruise ship and why does it need to be that size? Here, we’ll answer all your questions, ranging from mega-ships down to smaller vessels.

Cruise ships – especially modern cruise ships – are large, expansive vessels capable of carrying thousands of passengers, not to mention staff, from port to port. They contain not only cabins, but also numerous areas designated for activities, clubs, entertainment, and food. With all this going on, it is easy to see why these ships are so enormous! But exactly how big is a cruise ship?

Ship Sizes and What They Have to Offer

The average size of a cruise ship is 1,000 feet in length, or roughly three football fields. Ships are measured by gross tonnage (GT). Each ship size comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on what type of experience you are looking for.

Choosing between a small cruise ship, a midsized cruise ship, or a large cruise ship will affect all aspects of your cruise, including how many guests you will interact with, dining/entertainment options, activities, and the ports you visit.

If you are looking for a more intimate experience, you may want to book a smaller vessel. On the other hand, if you are very social or enjoy participating in activities, a larger cruise ship may be the way to go.

Small Cruise Ships

A small ship holds 70-350 passengers and provides an intimate retreat. This is for someone who wants to relax while onboard and engage in more off-ship activities. The activities available onboard tend to be small-scale entertainment, lectures, and how-to demonstrations.

In terms of dining, there may be a couple of restaurants. The trade-off for a scaled-back ship environment is that these ships go to more exotic ports that larger vessels are unable to visit due to size.

Celebrity Flora
Celebrity Flora (Photo Courtesy: Celebrity Cruises)

Small ships excel at visiting out-of-the-ordinary locations. This is due to the compact size of these cruise ships, as they can access intimate ports. While they don’t contain many extras in terms of activities, they often do have more luxurious accommodations and spaces.

The overall environment is intimate because there are fewer guests. Again, this translates into personalized attention. Yet this often comes with a higher price tag. Unusual locations or activities are the focus of these ships.

It should be mentioned that these ships are geared more toward singles or couples, as there isn’t much to do for children.

Midsized Cruise Ships

Midsize ships hold 400-1,700 passengers. They feature numerous activities but with decreased wait times. These vessels are more focused on what they offer. Dining options may be limited but there are typically several choices of accommodations.

In terms of itinerary, there are things to do that are common and more unusual than those that are included in larger ships.

Viking Cruise Ships
Photo Courtesy: Viking Cruises

Passengers appreciate that these cruise ships provide a balance between large ship amenities, fewer crowds, and intimate spaces. There is an abundance of features and entertainment on these ships, but the difference is that they do not contain many extravagances.

Guests can expect a great nightlife, alternative dining options, casinos, spas, and shows. Some ships in this category have been refurbished and offer great value, while others provide a luxury experience.

Even though these ships are smaller, they have a sizable staff and provide a high passenger-to-staff ratio. This means more personalized attention. They can go to almost any destination and travel to many exotic ports that larger ships can’t access.

Large Cruise Ships

Large cruise ships are like huge floating resorts. They contain anywhere between 1,800-6,500 passengers at a time. Onboard attractions are numerous as they cater to every age group conceivable.

There are a wide variety of restaurants available, ranging from fast food to five-star cuisine. They offer itineraries to popular ports.

Big vessels have more room for amenities. They contain all the “WOW” factor that guests expect from cruising these ships. Passengers come to be amazed at all the ship has to offer and expect to relax and be pampered. They are paying for a luxurious, fun experience.

MSC Virtuosa Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Wayleebird /

This type of ship is promoted across generations with a “we have something for the entire family” appeal. The price is usually more budget-friendly depending on the cruise line. These vessels tend to draw people who are younger or with families. Popular spots will be flooded with people, so crowds should be expected while docking at ports, as well as at pools, spas, and one-time events such as shows and performances.

These types of ships are only able to dock at larger, well-trafficked ports.

Available Cruise Ship Sizes

Depending on what you are looking for, we illustrate below the sizes for the varying cruise ship categories and what they have to offer. This will provide you with an idea of what to expect when booking your cruise and what size of vessel will work best for you. We also list the best-ranked ships in terms of customer satisfaction.

Large Ships

Royal Caribbean outdid themselves once again with Wonder of the Seas. This cruise ship boasts a weight of 236,857 GT and has 16 passenger decks. Its length is 1,188 feet and accommodates an impressive 6,988 passengers. 

This massive ship has a Big Time Playtime filled with climbing walls, slides, puzzles, and games. In terms of restaurants, they have added The Mason Jar which serves bold barbecue flavors, Bayou favorites, and low country classics.

Read Also: Wonder of the Seas vs. Titanic – A Giant Comparison

It also has El Loco Fresh, a Mexican restaurant. The Vue Bar serves cocktails while guests are surrounded by a panoramic view under a mosaic canopy.

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

The third largest ship to date is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. This Royal Caribbean International vessel weighs 228,081 gross tons and is equipped with 18 decks. It is 1,184 feet long. Amenities include a water park, a 10-story dry slide called the Ultimate Abyss, and a large climbing wall.

Dining includes Izuma and Jamie’s Italian, in addition to a plethora of other astonishing culinary delights.

Coming in fourth is Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. Considered to be the finest Oasis-class ship worldwide, it weighs 226,963 gross tons.

This ship contains 2,747 staterooms and can accommodate 5,000 guests simultaneously. Suites are equipped with floor-to-ceiling screens and are elaborately furnished. The ship has a Vanity Spa, Casino Royale, Splashaway Bay Waterslide for children, a royal theater, aqua theater, 10 jacuzzis, and four swimming pools.

Midsized Ships

Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Gem is the largest midsized ship available. It weighs 93,530 gross tons and allows 2,394 passengers on board. The staff-to-guest ratio is 1:2, providing a more intimate and personalized experience.

This cruise ship offers guests the opportunity to relax in the Mandara Spa or work out in the Body Waves fitness center. The nightlife aboard the ship also provides a plethora of entertaining activities. Additionally, this vessel has two main dining rooms, casual cafes, buffets, and on-the-go options.

Norwegian Gem Cruise Ship
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

Second is the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Pearl, which boasts the same statistics as the Norwegian Gem. The difference between the two ships is the dining experience. The Pearl also has more to offer in terms of nightlife.

Guests can experience multicourse meals accompanied by a fabulous bottle of wine. With several dining options to choose from and a variety of culinary categories, guests are certain to find cuisine they will enjoy.

This ship hosts the liveliest of nightlife, ranging from dance parties in the Bliss Ultra Lounge and Night Club, to a comfortable chair at Maltings Beer and Whiskey Bar. For something more casual, O’Sheehans Bar and Grill is open all day long.

Small Ships

Our first choice in the small ships category is Lindblad Expeditions, which provides soft-adventure cruises carrying 48-148 passengers. It goes to all seven continents, which includes the Arctic, Antarctica, the South Pacific, and the Galapagos Islands.

Experts in their field often accompany these trips, which come equipped with technology to experience the wonderful aspects of nature.

Second is Silversea’s expedition fleets: Silver Origin (5,800 GT), Silver Explorer (6,072 GT), Silver Cloud (17,400 GT), and Silver Wind (17,400 GT). They accommodate 100-274 passengers and contain luxurious, spacious suites. Guests will enjoy high-end touches and butler services.

Silver Muse Cruise Ship
Silver Muse Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Chris Lawrence Travel / Shutterstock)

Passengers will be taken to less crowded destinations with a mix of mainstream places to visit. Itineraries may include shore excursions, nature hikes, kayaking, and snorkeling.

When we break down cruise ships by size, we must be mindful as to what size we are referring to. While it’s fun to outline the largest ships and all the luxuries they have to offer, we would miss out on some amazing ships in other categories.

Read Also: How Much Does a Cruise Ship Weigh?

In determining how big a ship is, we listed the size, category, and which cruise lines had the best ratings. What size cruise line you choose will depend on your own preferences and what you expect from your experience. For some, it may not be necessary to go aboard a large cruise line when a smaller vessel is better suited for their tastes.

Whatever size of cruise ship you choose, be sure that it is from a reputable line and exceeds your expectations for what a vacation should be.

Haiyan Ma
Haiyan Ma
I absolutely love cruising with my favorite ports of call being in the Caribbean. As a former crew member for Disney Cruise Line, Royal Caribbean, and Carnival Cruise Line I can continue my passion by sharing my experiences with readers. Find out more about us here.


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