Never before have so many mega-shops been at sea. With their obvious success formula for passenger enjoyment and the cruise industry’s profits, there are more on the way.
THE LARGEST SHIPS OF THE PAST
Cruising dates back further than most people realise to the 19th century, where passenger ships transported people across the Atlantic. The largest cruise ship of that time held only 241 passengers.
The first pleasure cruise ship would naturally be the largest and the man who had the vision to pursue this further was Albert Ballin. Constructed exclusively by Hamburg-America Line in 1900, the Prinzessin Victoria Luise was geared towards luxury travellers and was known as a large yacht rather than a steam ship. It was the largest cruise ship built up to that point at 4,409 gross register tons.
White Star’s RMS Celtic in 1901 was one of the first ships to weigh over 20,000 GT. It was later surpassed by White Star Line’s very own Cedric, being 100 tons heavier. Cedric retained the tile of the world’s largest ship not only in weight but biggest ship in length.
As the popularity of transatlantic crossings increased, so did the size of the ships. Perhaps the best known ship of this era and the largest was the RMS Titanic. With a length of 269.06 m and a weight of 52,310 gross tons, the Titanic famously sank before she could complete her journey.
In 1961 it was the SS France who ruled the seas as the largest passenger vessel in the world, at 1,035 ft. and 66,343 GT. She was later purchased by NCL and became the SS Norway and was considered the first ‘mega-ship’ to sail in the Caribbean.
Royal Caribbean unveiled their first Sovereign-class ship, Sovereign of the Seas at 73,192 GT. Sovereign was at the top of the biggest cruise ship ranking at the time of her maiden voyage on January 16, 1988.
They and Carnival were the pioneers that added plenty of glitz and glamour and included the now commonplace glass elevators and multi-story atriums.
THE 21ST CENTURY
NCL’s CEO, Colin Veitch tells it straight as to why there are more mega-ships than ever before. “The thing that’s attractive about bigger ships is you have more choice and variety on board. We make a lot more money on them. Ticket revenue and on-board revenue is dramatically higher on larger ships than on smaller, older ships.”
Those on a holiday onboard a mega-ship can experience on-board activities, dining and accommodations that could rival the most luxurious resorts on the ground. Cruise lines are getting bigger: currently, there are more than 60 cruise ships with a gross tonnage exceeding 100,000.
Gone are the days of the old squeezed in steam ship cabin as seen in the Marx Brothers ‘A Night at the Opera’. Dining options are amazing and there may be simulators onboard for instance where you can learn to surf or maybe take part in some rock climbing. The best part for any passenger booked on these floating hotels is that they get to experience a number of destinations too.
Both RCCL and Norwegian Cruise Line rank as having the most ships on the 10 largest cruise ships list at present. Other lines have taken notice of their success and are experimenting with the ‘bigger is better’ concept.
TEN LARGEST CRUISE SHIPS AT SEA
The list is ranked by gross tonnage rather than length or passenger count. As of this writing the 10 largest cruise ships are:
1. Allure of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2010): 225,282 gross tonnage; 5,412 passengers.
2. Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2009): 225,282 gross tonnage; 5,412 passengers.
3. Quantum of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2014): 168,666 gross tonnage; 4,180 passengers.
4. Norwegian Epic (Norwegian Cruise Line 2010): 155,873 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.
5. Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2006): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.
6. Liberty of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2007): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.
7. Independence of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2008): 154,407 gross tonnage; 3,634 passengers.
8. Queen Mary 2 (Cunard 2004): 148,528 gross tonnage; 2,592 passengers.
9. Norwegian Breakaway (Norwegian Cruise Line 2013): 146,600 gross tonnage; 3,988 passengers.
10. Norwegian Getaway (Norwegian Cruise Line 2014): 145,655 gross tonnage; 3,910 passengers.
FUTURE MEGA SHIPS
Will these 10 hold the record? There are new ships debuting soon not only from RCCL or NCL but other companies as well. Some of them will knock a few off of the list.
Anthem of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2015) 167,800 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.
Britannia (P&O Cruises 2015) 141,000 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.
Norwegian Escape (Norwegian Cruise Line 2015) 163,000 gross tonnage; 4,200 passengers.
Ovation of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International 2016) 167,800 gross tonnage; 4,100 passengers.
TBA (Star Cruises 2016) 150,000 gross tonnage; 4,500 passengers.
TBA (Royal Caribbean International 2016) 227,700gross tonnage; 6400 passengers – scheduled to be the largest in the world.
The cruise lines continue to flourish and thrive with technological and societal innovations and will continue to do so.
Written by Veronica Shine