Cruising fans all remember in 2009 when Oasis of the Seas stunned the cruising world as the largest cruise ship afloat. And for the time being, at least 10 years, her class of ships remains the largest to ever be built. However, cruise ships in general have been getting larger and larger over the past two decades. It will be interesting to see how that trend continues. Other cruise lines have been building ships that are coming close in size to what was the former largest in the world (Freedom of the Seas – and class). Norwegian Cruise Lines has built their Breakaway Plus class, Princess has their Royal Class, and Royal Caribbean went down in size with their Quantum Class. These ships all hover around 150,000 Gross Tons – a solid 50-75,000 gross tons below the behemoth that is Harmony of the Seas (the world’s current largest ship). But is this trend going to continue?
Some would argue that ships are going to continue getting larger and larger. Carnival and its subsidiaries have seven ships that are supposed to be around 180,000 gross tons, Star Cruises has two ships scheduled to be slightly over 200,000 tons and MSC has the World Class of Ships that will also be above 200,000. To top all of that off, Royal Caribbean is not only building more Oasis Class Ships that are 230,000 tons, but they are also going to introduce the Icon Class of ships which will also hover around 200,000 tons. However, while there clearly are extremely large ships that are being built, none of the scheduled new builds are expected to exceed the size of the Oasis Class, meaning the world’s largest ship will retain that title for a while to come.
I actually believe that the industry may not really be pushing for bigger and bigger ships. Why? Because there are a significant amount of smaller ships that are still being ordered and built. For example, Carnival Cruise Lines has one of the 180,000 ton ships on order, but they have an entire class – the Vista Class- of ships that fall around 130,000 tons. Norwegian Cruise Lines, which is building a Breakaway Plus Class of ships that is 170,000 tons, just placed an order for up to six new ships – all back at 140,000 tons. Celebrity Cruise Lines is about to launch their Edge Class of Ships, which is extremely innovative with a new type of cabin and a moving platform on the edge of structure. Yet, this class is only going to be 130,000 tons. To continue, many cruise lines are following this trend. Even Virgin Cruises, which is a brand new line, will be debuting ships that are around 110,000 gross tons. I think there are plenty of mid-size ships that are going to set sail in the next decade.
The real question than becomes: Why is this happening? The answer? I am not sure. Clearly there must be a market for cruises with fewer passengers, and ships that are small enough to go to more ports. The allure of massive ships may be wearing off a little bit, as long as new ships still have innovative features. However, I don’t think this trend will last forever. One day, I really do believe that we will continue building larger and larger ships, even over 300,000 gross tons. For the current day though, I think we just need to redefine categories of ships. Ships that are 90,000 tons used to be considered mid-size. I think the categories should now be as follows:
0-60,000 = extra-small ships
60,001-100,000 = small ships
100,001-145,000 = medium ships
145,001-175,000 = large ships
175,001-250,000 = extra-large ships