How Much Does It Cost to Build a Cruise Ship?

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Today’s cruise ships are incredible feats of technology and engineering and have a certain “wow” factor. However, these floating delights are very expensive to create.

While ships come in many sizes and contain a variety of amenities, it costs millions of dollars to build them due to how many details go into the planning. We delve into how much cruise ships cost.

Most medium to large cruise ships combine theaters, hotel operations, restaurants, entertainment, and bars into a large floating resort. To build a ship that competes in today’s market, designers include only the best and latest technology onboard. Many push the envelope in what they offer to set them apart from their competition.

Cost of Newest Cruise Vessels

The largest ships cost billions of dollars to build. However, the exact price depends on the size of the ship. For example, the Oasis Class from Royal Caribbean, the largest on a global scale, cost $1.3 to $1.4 billion.

In 2021 Carnival Cruise Line launched Mardi Gras, which cost $800 million to construct. MSC Cruises’ Virtuosa also cost $800 million to create.

Mardi Gras Cruise Ship
Photo: Carnival Cruise Line

If you move away from the luxury fleets, Atlas Cruise’s World Navigator came in at under $80 million, while the mega yacht known as Evrima (part of the Ritz-Carlton Yacht Collection) took $320 million to build. 

The most luxurious cruise ship ever created, the Regent Seven Seas Explorer, cost $450 million to construct. While there is a wide variety of costs to build each ship, note that they are very expensive. 

The Most Expensive Ships Built

To discover why the cruise ship cost is in the millions to billions of dollars range, let’s inspect some of the most popular and most expensive cruise ship fleets available in today’s market.

Titanic I and II

The Titanic was history’s most infamous ship, and the story of its construction, voyage, and ill-fate is known around the world. Movies were made about this vessel, and extensive documentaries have examined why the Titanic, touted as unsinkable, met an icy grave.

Completed on April 2, 1912, the Titanic was considered an engineering feat of its time. The measurements were 882’ 0” for the beam, with a width of 92’6”, and a height of 175’.

Its sister ships were the Britannic and the Olympic, also large vessels of the era. They were so massive when under construction at the former Queen’s Island (now Titanic Quarter located in Ireland’s Belfast Harbour) that three slipways were demolished to accommodate them.

Read Also: Titanic vs. Modern Cruise Ship – How Do They Compare?

The size, specs, and amenities of the Titanic all contributed to the cruise ship’s ultimate cost of $3,080/berth. In today’s dollars, this would be an astonishing $7.5 million. With inflation included, this is the equivalent of $84,199.99/berth. Overall costs for this ship is $198,691,237.11 USD.

Amazingly, they are constructing another Titanic to launch in 2022. This new addition is supposed to be a replica of the original Titanic. However, it incorporates modern engineering techniques. It is also being built by following current economic conditions and safety regulations.

Titanic Replica Construction
Photo Credit: Romandisea Resort

The exterior, size, and interior are like the original. However, the gross tonnage (56,000) is more than the previous vessel’s 46,328 GRT. The cost to construct the new ship is estimated to be $213,000/berth costing $500 million – a more expensive cruise ship than the original.

Royal Caribbean Oasis Class

Built at the Chartier de l’Atlantique shipyard in St, Nazaire, France, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class is the largest in the world. With all the onboard features and size, the ships are also among the most expensive. Ships included in the class:

  • Oasis of the Seas (2008)
  • Allure of the Seas (2009)
  • Harmony of the Seas (2016)
  • Symphony of the Seas (2018)
  • Wonder of the Seas (2022)
  • Utopia of the Seas (Coming in 2024)

From Oasis of the Seas to Symphony of the Seas, the average measurements are 1,181’ for length, 154’ for width, and 236’ in height. Average gross tonnage is 225,282-227,700 GT.

Oasis of the Seas Dry Dock

The ships contain 16 passenger decks and can hold 6,296 guests. The most unique aspect of this class cruise ship is the “neighborhood.” Each vessel has seven separate areas with a designated specialization and each contains different amenities.

Worth Reading: Wonder of the Seas vs. Titanic – A Giant Comparison

With attractions and size, Oasis-class ships don’t just cost millions to construct – they are in the billions. Harmony of the Seas was $119,900/berth to construct whereas Symphony of the Seas was $196,000/berth. The overall cost of both ships comes out to $1.35 billion.

Oasis of the Seas was $240,000/berth with a total cost of $1.3 billion. Allure of the Seas was also $240,000/berth. However, the total cost of building this massive vessel was $1.43 billion.

MS The World

Completed in 2002, MS The World is the largest privately-owned residential vessel in the world. With measurements of 644.2’ (length), 98’ (width), and 22’ (draft) it weighs 43,520 GT.

The capacity of this ship is 150-200 guests with a crew of 280. Only a small group of very wealthy individuals from over 40 countries have ever come aboard the ship.

The World
The World (Photo Credit: Chuck Wagner / Shutterstock)

The cruise fare to rent the cabin is $2,000/night USD. If a unit sells, the cost is close to $2-15 million USD. This price difference is due to the deck location and size of the suite. In addition, owners pay $60,000-$500,000 as a yearly maintenance fee depending on the room.

The World contains 198 cabins with 165 residential apartments. 

While the cost to board this ship may appear to be very extravagant, the price to construct the ship was $213,000/berth. The overall cost was $366 million.

Why Do Cruise Ships Cost So Much to Build?

The price for building a cruise ship depends on size, the shipyard (which includes taxes), quality of service and taxes, the economy, and onboard features like facilities and amenities. Cruise lines price the cost of their new ships by the number of beds (berths) available.

Building the Cruise Ship

Each ship takes approximately 18 months to create. Furthermore, the work begins years in advance. Major construction manufacturers that construct ships are Meyer Werft in Germany, Meyer Turku in Finland, Chantiers de l’Atlantique in France, and Fincantieri in Italy.

Each ship is made in a port or shipyard within industrial facilities. Ships are constructed in a dry dock before being tested in water. The ship’s hull is built on land with the components being constructed and welded upside down. Each piece, when completed, is subsequently flipped over. Then they are positioned in place, similarly to piecing together a giant puzzle. 

Cruise Ship Under Construction
Cruise Ship Under Construction (Photo Credit: INTREEGUE Photography / Shutterstock)

Each ship has onboard suites and cabins for guests, plus crew cabins, restaurants, bars, swimming pools, stages, theaters, cinemas, and sun decks. Each feature must be made off-site and then later fitted into the structure over an established time.

Interior design plays a factor in the overall appearance of the cruise ship. Guests are anticipating something spectacular, so experts need to consider limited space within the cabins, color palette, textures, and lighting. 

Expert designers create a space where guests feel relaxed while on the ship. They also need to generate the motivation for guests to explore amenities and enjoy all the ship’s various features.  

Why Do Companies Elect to Renovate Their Ships Instead?

Since the construction costs of new ships are high in today’s market, companies are upgrading and refurbishing their existing fleets. The cost depends on how much the price is for a complete refit.

Luxury lines are at guests’ mercy who demand nothing less than a five-star rating aboard their ships. They are searching for that world-class experience.

Carnival Cruise Ship Dry Dock
Photo Credit: Ramunas Bruzas / Shutterstock

Most will add additional water slides, thrill rides, swimming pools, relaxation spas, renowned restaurants, theaters, attractions, and movie experiences to their fleet. However, this desire to be the best comes with a hefty price tag.

With over 100 ships forced to dry-dock in 2020, this generated an unprecedented year for refits in the cruise industry. Allure of the Seas had its first refit since 2010 and its overall budget was $165 million.

Explorer of the Seas saw a $110 million refit, bringing it up to standard. It was refitted to include the latest features Royal Caribbean is known for.

Read Also: How Much Does a Cruise Ship Weigh?

Furthermore, the average cruise ship’s lifespan is 30 years. With costs climbing and strict environmental regulations being put into place annually, a logical choice often becomes refitting a vessel over buying or retiring a ship. Refitting becomes a more feasible option for most owners.

The latest concern for those who want to renovate an older ship is regulations reducing sulfur emissions that ships produce. This was implemented two years ago.

Carnival Dream
Photo By: Russell Otway

Despite refit costs, most liners in the cruise industry continue investing several million dollars in updating their fleet to stay ahead of their competition.

Cruise lines continue to grow at a rapid pace, and they need to continually reinvent themselves to catch the attention of the average consumer. They need to be forward-thinking in what they offer.

When looking at how much cruise ships cost to build, cruise lines examine their existing fleet. They will look at the age of their existing vessels, the market, and the amenities they currently offer.

Whether a new ship is constructed or an old one refitted will depend on attracting and maintaining business – will this option be cost-effective?

How Much Do Cruise Ships Cost?

Every cruise company needs to make money, and building ships is expensive. Therefore, they need to ensure a good return on investment.

Worth Reading: Port and Starboard – Which Side Is Which?

Ships need to have a wow factor to be appealing to guests and bring in the highest cruise fare. Amenities and the overall appearance are the two largest factors that drive up the cruise cost. They need to be able to recoup their original investment.

Whenever possible, many cruise lines will opt to refit their current vessels. They expand the amenities and upgrade the suites to draw in more guests. Sometimes, this is the most cost-effective method of generating revenue. Some may additionally refit old fleets and create a new ship. It all depends on what works best for the cruise company.

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