How Much Does it Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

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A ticket for a cruise can be pricey, and you may wonder where exactly that money is going in terms of the ship’s operation. While paying staff and food costs are notable expenses for every cruise ship, one of the highest costs for your cruise is actually the fuel needed to run the ship.

As you can imagine from their size, the cost of running a cruise ship is significant. But how much does it cost to fuel a cruise ship? How much fuel does a cruise ship need? Keep reading to find out.

How Much Does It Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

The cost to run a cruise ship is difficult to determine, as it varies based on many different factors. 

Bigger cruise lines will have much higher fuel costs as they typically operate larger ships and significantly more sails throughout the year. In contrast, smaller cruise ships will, of course, need less fuel.

Refueling a Holland America Cruise Ship
Refueling a Holland America Cruise Ship (Photo Credit: Solarisys / Shutterstock)

In general, the cost to fuel a cruise ship ranges from $80,000 a day to $200,000 a day. To illustrate, here are some estimates of how much it costs to fuel some of the most popular cruise ships:

  • Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas (227,000 gross tons): $200,000 per day
  • Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas (154, 407 gross tons): $115,000 per day
  • Norwegian Spirit (75,500 gross tons): $80,000 per day

How Much Fuel Can a Cruise Ship Hold?

Another question to help understand how much it costs to fuel a cruise ship is how much fuel it can even hold. A larger cruise ship can typically hold around two million gallons of fuel, while smaller cruise ships might hold 130 000 gallons. 

Let’s check out the factors that largely affect how much it costs to fuel a cruise ship.

Factors that Affect the Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship

When considering how much it costs to fuel a cruise ship, you must also consider the factors that determine this cost.

Several elements go into the price of fuelling a cruise ship. These factors are so crucial that virtually no two cruise ship sailings will cost the same to fuel.

Cruise Ship Fuel Depot
Photo Credit: Darryl Brooks / Shutterstock

The top factors are the cost of fuel, fuel type, size of the ship, length of sailing, and speed. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these elements requires. 

Cost of Fuel

There’s no standard price for the cost of fuel for cruise ships. Much like how filling up your car depends on the price of gas that day, the same goes for fueling up a cruise ship. It can be different every day! 

Fuel Type

The type of fuel that the cruise ship needs also affects the total fuel cost.

The most common fuel cruise ships use is marine diesel fuel, similar to the diesel fuel used in trucks, except formulated for ships. The price of this type of diesel will largely depend on where the cruise ship fuels up.

Many newer cruise ships are powered by liquified natural gas (LNG). The benefit of LNG fuel is that it burns cleaner than a traditional diesel engine or gas-powered engines. Moreover, while LNG fuel provides many environmental benefits, it has a lower fuel density than diesel.

Size of the Ship 

The size of the ship plays a huge role in how much fuel will cost. Generally, the larger the ship, the more fuel it will take!

Large Cruise Ship Refuel
Large Cruise Ship Refuel (Photo Credit: Riccardo Arata / Shutterstock)

The cruise ship’s size also dictates the fuel tank’s size. Small cruise ships may only be able to hold 100,000 gallons of fuel, while the fuel tanks of some of the biggest cruise ships may hold upwards of four million gallons of fuel.

Length of Sailing

Another factor that significantly affects the cost of fuelling a cruise ship is the length of sailing. Logically, the longer the sailing, the more fuel the cruise ship will consume. For especially long sailings – more than 14 days – there’s a chance that the ship will also have to stop to refuel. 

Beyond the length of sailing, the itinerary also plays a vital role in fuel costs. A ship with many ports that are close together will require less fuel than one that stops at ports far away from each other. 


Finally, speed is a major factor in the cost of fueling a cruise ship. The faster a cruise ship goes, the more fuel it burns because of the power required to propel the ship forward. This is one reason why cruise ships usually sail leisurely throughout your voyage.

Fueling a Cruise Ship FAQ

How long can cruise ships go without refueling?

Depending on the ship, cruise ships can sail for 10 to 14 days before refueling. However, there are a lot of factors that go into this number, such as size of the ship, number of days spent at sea, and the fuel efficiency of the ship.

How much fuel does a cruise ship use per day?

A large cruise ship can use up to 250 tons of fuel daily, equivalent to over 80,000 gallons of gas.

How much does fueling a cruise ship on a seven-day cruise cost?

Asset America estimates that a cruise ship with 1000 passengers and 700 crew members could spend about $15,000 a day on fuel. This means a seven-day cruise can cost $105,000 in fuel alone. This cost can, of course, be more for larger cruise ships. Based on these numbers, imagine what the fuel for a mega ship like Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas can cost!

Wrap-Up: The Price of Your Cruise

The answer to “how much does it cost to fuel a cruise ship” is that it depends. However, fuel is one of – if not the largest – costs a cruise ship must incur. 

Some cruise lines add a fuel surcharge to their cruise fare, which you’ll see when you book your ticket in times of high fuel prices. However, for the most part, the cruise ship’s fuel is not something you have to worry about on your vacation.

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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