How much does the average cruise ship cost? You may be surprised

We’re often asked, “How much does a cruise ship cost to build?” These mega-vessels are so big and expensive, that they’re not purchased very often. As such, most people have no idea how expensive these things actually are.

We’ve analyzed over 200 cruise ship purchases throughout the last few decades. This post will provide you with the most comprehensive analysis of cruise ship cost that exists anywhere. Trust us, we scoured the internet. Nowhere does anyone do justice to the question, until now.

First, let’s go over a few items. It’s difficult to compare ships due to their differences in age, size, type, etc. A 400 person cruise ship purchased in 1985 and a 4,000 passenger ship bought in 2015 are going to have drastically different prices. Comparing the costs of each would be like comparing apples and oranges.

To make the ships more comparable, we played with a few of these factors.

Year: we analyzed 200 ship costs over a period of a period of 47 years. The median age in our data set is 2002. Obviously a dollar today has a different value than a dollar 40 years ago. As such, we took the cost of the ship and applied a cost index to find the value in today’s dollars. As an example, the Empress of the Seas was purchased in 1990 for $500 million dollars. By applying a cost index, we can see that today’s value of that ship would be $924 million dollars. In included “Cruise Ship Cost” chart, you’ll see a column titled “Cost Today.”

Tonnage:  a Cruise Ship’s “tonnage” describes the volume of that ship. It’s a standard unit of measurement used in the nautical world to compare the size of a ship. A larger ship will typically be more expensive than a smaller ship (obviously). We included an infographic below comparing each cruise ship’s cost per gross tonnage.

Cost:  The price paid for the cruise ship at time of purchase.

Cost Today:  as mentioned above, this figure is the cruise ship’s cost in today’s dollars. We got to this number by applying the accepted CPI (consumer price index) as provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By playing with a few of these, we’re pretty confident in our ability to compare cruise ship cost across all lines, sizes and years.

Ok – now that the boring vocabulary lesson is done, let’s get to the fun stuff.

Cruise Ship Cost by Size (Passenger Capacity)

The graph below shows Cruise Ship Cost based on a ship’s capacity. It’s not surprising that ships that hold more passengers, cost more money.

We’ve broken down the 200+ cruise ships into the following buckets.

  • 0 to 499 passengers
  • 500 to 999 passengers
  • 1,000 to 1,999 passengers
  • 2,000 to 2,999 passengers
  • 3,000 to 3,999 passengers
  • 4,000 to 4,999 passengers
  • 5,000+ passengers

The figure on the left shows the average cost of a cruise ship within those capacity ranges. This number is the “Cost Today” figure mentioned above. We used this to account for the time difference between ships.

cruise ship cost by size

 

Which cruise ship has the largest passenger capacity?

The Harmony of the Seas has the largest maximum passenger capacity at 6,780. The ship also holds 2,300 crew members, for a total capacity of over 9,000!

Which cruise ship costs the most?

The “most expensive cruise ship” award goes to the Oasis of the Seas. It was built in 2009 for $1.4 billion! Six years later, the Ovation of the Seas was built at the same price of $1.4 billion.

We gave the prize to The Oasis of the Seas because it was purchased a few years before the Ovation. If we apply the pricing index, the Oasis of the Seas “cost today” would be $1.58 billion!

Cruise Ship Cost by Year

Next we wanted to look at the price of cruise ships over time. To figure this out, we put ships into the following buckets:

  • purchased before 1985
  • purchased from 1985 to 1990
  • purchased from 1990 to 1995
  • purchased from 1995 to 2000
  • purchased from 2000 to 2005
  • purchased from 2005 to 2010
  • purchased from 2010 to 2015
  • purchased after 2015

The prices shown are an average of the actual costs (not “today’s cost” as used above).

ship cost by year

 

Ship Cost by Cruise Line & Tonnage

Next, we were really curious of the following:  Which cruise lines spend the most on their ships? 

In order to compare these hundreds of ships with varying ages and sizes, we had did the following. First, we used our pricing index to bring all ships to “today’s cost.” That allowed us to compare ships across all years.

Next, we looked at cost by size. In order to compare ships across varying sizes, we used the standard measurement, tonnage.

In doing so, that allowed us to look at which cruise lines spend more / less for their ships.

The results were exactly as expected. The cruise lines catering to the masses (Carnival, Princess, Royal Caribbean, etc) spend less on ships.

The high-end cruise lines, like Crystal, Seabourn, and RSSC spend much more.

In our infographic, we broke up the ships into three buckets.

  • Small ships (tonnage less than 25k)
  • Medium ships (tonnage between 25k and 50k)
  • Large ships (tonnage over 50k)

Check out the results below.

biggest shipsLarge Ships

Within the “Large Ships” bucket are the following cruise lines.

  • MSC
  • Princess
  • Carnival
  • Norwegian
  • Holland America
  • Royal Caribbean
  • P&O
  • Celebrity
  • Cunard
  • Disney
  • Costa

These cruise lines had an average ship size with gross tonnage of 97k.

You can see that, of all of the large ship cruise lines, MSC spends the least on its vessels at $5,000 per gross tonnage. Costa spends 60% more per ship, or $8,000 per gross tonnage.

medium ships

Medium Sized Ships

These “mid-sized” ships have an average gross tonnage between 25k and 50k. Included in this group are the following.

  • Azamara
  • Regent Seven Seas
  • Thomson
  • Oceania
  • Crystal

Cruise ship costs are significantly higher than the large ships, but not quite as expensive as the smaller vessels.

small ships

Small Ship Costs

These include ships with gross tonnage less than 25k. Among those are the following.

  • Silversea
  • Seabourn
  • Paul Gauguin
  • Seadream

You can see that Seadream spends the most. Their cruise ships cost a whopping $17,000 per gross tonnage. That’s more than 3x of the average purchase price for MSC.

For the raw data, check out our raw, Cruise Ship Costs stats below.

Cruise
Line
Cruise
Ship
Gross Tonnage (k) Year Purchased Cost ($Millions) Cost Today ($Millions)
Costa Costa Marina 26 1969 $130 $855
Costa Costa Allegra 28 1969 $175 $1152
MSC MSC Melody 35 1981 $100 $266
Thomson Cruises Thomson Spirit 34 1983 $150 $364
SeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream I 4 1984 $32 $74
Thomson Cruises Thomson Celebration 34 1984 $150 $349
SeaDream Yacht Club SeaDream II 4 1985 $32 $72
P&O Pacific Sun 47 1986 $134 $295
Thomson Cruises Thomson Dream 55 1986 $150 $331
Seabourn Seabourn Pride 10 1988 $50 $102
Seabourn Seabourn Spirit 10 1988 $50 $102
Holland America ms Prinsendam 38 1988 $125 $255
Silversea Silver Explorer 6 1989 $50 $97
P&O Pacific Pearl 64 1989 $200 $390
P&O Pacific Jewel 70 1989 $277 $539
Carnival Carnival Fantasy 70 1990 $250 $462
Seabourn Legend 10 1990 $350 $647
Royal Caribbean Empress of the Seas 49 1990 $500 $924
Carnival Carnival Ecstasy 70 1991 $250 $443
P&O Pacific Dawn 70 1991 $277 $491
Costa Costa neoClassica 53 1991 $287 $509
Crystal Crystal Esprit 34 1991 $500 $887
Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas 74 1991 $625 $1108
Thomson Cruises Thomson Majesty 41 1992 $229 $394
Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas 74 1992 $300 $516
Costa Costa neoRomantica 57 1993 $105 $175
Holland America ms Maasdam 56 1993 $180 $301
Holland America ms Statendam 55 1993 $180 $301
P&O Pacific Eden 55 1993 $220 $368
Carnival Carnival Sensation 70 1993 $250 $418
Silversea Silver Cloud 17 1994 $125 $204
Holland America ms Ryndam 56 1994 $215 $350
P&O Pacific Aria 55 1994 $220 $359
Carnival Carnival Fascination 70 1994 $250 $407
P&O MV Oriana 69 1994 $320 $521
Silversea Silver Wind 17 1995 $125 $198
Carnival Carnival Imagination 70 1995 $250 $396
Crystal Symphony 51 1995 $250 $396
Costa Costa Victoria 76 1995 $300 $475
Princess Sun Princess 77 1995 $300 $475
Celebrity Celebrity Century 72 1995 $320 $507
Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas 70 1995 $325 $515
Holland America ms Veendam 57 1996 $215 $331
Carnival Carnival Inspiration 70 1996 $250 $385
Princess Dawn Princess 77 1996 $300 $462
Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas 74 1996 $300 $462
Royal Caribbean Splendour of the Seas 70 1996 $325 $500
Thomson Cruises Thomson Discovery 69 1996 $325 $500
Carnival Carnival Sunshine 101 1996 $400 $616
Paul Gauguin Cruises Paul Gauguin 19 1997 $150 $226
Royal Caribbean Rhapsody of the Seas 78 1997 $275 $414
Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas 74 1997 $300 $451
Celebrity Celebrity Mercury 78 1997 $350 $527
Princess Sea Princess 77 1997 $350 $527
Holland America ms Rotterdam 62 1997 $400 $602
Oceania MS Insignia 30 1998 $183 $271
Oceania MS Regatta 30 1998 $183 $271
Carnival Carnival Elation 70 1998 $250 $370
Carnival Carnival Paradise 70 1998 $250 $370
Royal Caribbean Vision of the Seas 78 1998 $275 $407
P&O MV Oceana 78 1998 $300 $444
Norwegian Norwegian Spirit 75 1998 $350 $519
Paul Gauguin Cruises Tere Moana 4 1998 $35 $52
P&O MV Aurora 76 1998 $375 $556
Disney Disney Magic 83 1998 $385 $570
Princess Grand Princess 109 1998 $450 $667
Costa Costa Voyager 24 1999 $150 $217
Oceania MS Sirena 30 1999 $183 $265
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Navigator 29 1999 $200 $290
Princess Ocean Princess 30 1999 $240 $348
Princess Pacific Princess 30 1999 $240 $348
Holland America ms Volendam 61 1999 $300 $435
Norwegian Norwegian Sky 77 1999 $330 $478
Costa Costa neoRiviera 48 1999 $335 $486
Disney Disney Wonder 83 1999 $385 $558
Carnival Carnival Triumph 102 1999 $410 $594
Costa Costa Atlantica 86 1999 $550 $797
Royal Caribbean Voyager of the Seas 132 1999 $650 $942
Azamara Azamara Journey 30 2000 $150 $210
Azamara Azamara Quest 30 2000 $150 $210
Oceania MS Nautica 30 2000 $183 $257
Silversea Silver Shadow 28 2000 $150 $210
Holland America ms Zaandam 61 2000 $300 $421
Celebrity Celebrity Millennium 91 2000 $350 $491
Celebrity Celebrity Xpedition 3 2000 $350 $491
Holland America ms Amsterdam 63 2000 $400 $561
Carnival Carnival Victory 102 2000 $410 $575
Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas 137 2000 $500 $701
Silversea Silver Whisper 28 2001 $150 $205
Fathom Adonia 30 2001 $240 $327
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Mariner 48 2001 $240 $327
MSC MSC Armonia 59 2001 $245 $334
Norwegian Norwegian Sun 78 2001 $330 $450
Celebrity Celebrity Infinity 91 2001 $350 $477
Celebrity Celebrity Summit 91 2001 $350 $477
Royal Caribbean Radiance of the Seas 90 2001 $350 $477
Carnival Carnival Spirit 86 2001 $375 $511
Holland America ms Zuiderdam 82 2001 $400 $545
Norwegian Norwegian Star 92 2001 $400 $545
Princess Golden Princess 109 2001 $450 $614
Royal Caribbean Adventure of the Seas 137 2001 $500 $682
MSC MSC Sinfonia 59 2002 $245 $329
Princess Coral Princess 92 2002 $330 $443
Royal Caribbean Brilliance of the Seas 90 2002 $350 $470
Celebrity Celebrity Constellation 91 2002 $350 $470
Carnival Carnival Legend 89 2002 $375 $503
Carnival Carnival Pride 89 2002 $375 $503
Norwegian Norwegian Dawn 92 2002 $400 $537
Princess Star Princess 109 2002 $430 $577
Norwegian Pride Of America 80 2002 $450 $604
Carnival Carnival Conquest 110 2002 $500 $671
Royal Caribbean Navigator of the Seas 138 2002 $500 $671
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Voyager 42 2003 $240 $315
Princess Island Princess 92 2003 $330 $433
Royal Caribbean Serenade of the Seas 90 2003 $350 $459
Crystal Serenity 69 2003 $350 $459
Holland America ms Oosterdam 82 2003 $400 $525
P&O MV Arcadia 87 2003 $400 $525
Carnival Carnival Glory 110 2003 $500 $656
Costa Costa Mediterranea 86 2003 $550 $722
Costa Costa Fortuna 105 2003 $600 $788
Royal Caribbean Mariner of the Seas 138 2003 $650 $853
Cunard Queen Mary 2 151 2003 $900 $1181
Holland America ms Westerdam 82 2004 $225 $288
MSC MSC Lirica 59 2004 $266 $340
MSC MSC Opera 59 2004 $266 $340
Royal Caribbean Jewel of the Seas 90 2004 $350 $447
Carnival Carnival Miracle 89 2004 $375 $479
Princess Sapphire Princess 116 2004 $400 $511
Princess Caribbean Princess 113 2004 $500 $639
Carnival Carnival Valor 110 2004 $500 $639
Princess Diamond Princess 116 2004 $500 $639
Costa Costa Magica 105 2004 $600 $767
Norwegian Norwegian Jewel 94 2005 $390 $482
Carnival Carnival Liberty 110 2005 $500 $618
MSC MSC Musica 90 2006 $360 $431
Norwegian Norwegian Jade 100 2006 $390 $467
Norwegian Norwegian Pearl 94 2006 $390 $467
Holland America ms Noordam 83 2006 $425 $509
Cunard Queen Victoria 90 2006 $442 $529
Princess Crown Princess 113 2006 $500 $599
Princess Emerald Princess 113 2006 $500 $599
Costa Costa Concordia 115 2006 $618 $740
P&O MV Ventura 116 2006 $700 $839
Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas 154 2006 $800 $958
MSC MSC Poesia 93 2007 $360 $419
MSC MSC Orchestra 90 2007 $480 $559
Carnival Carnival Freedom 110 2007 $500 $582
Costa Costa Luminosa 93 2007 $618 $720
Costa Costa Serena 115 2007 $687 $800
Norwegian Norwegian Gem 94 2007 $700 $815
Royal Caribbean Liberty of the Seas 154 2007 $800 $932
Princess Ruby Princess 116 2008 $400 $449
Holland America ms Eurodam 87 2008 $447 $501
MSC MSC Fantasia 138 2008 $550 $617
Costa Costa Pacifica 115 2008 $687 $771
Carnival Carnival Splendor 113 2008 $697 $782
P&O MV Azura 115 2008 $700 $785
Celebrity Celebrity Solstice 122 2008 $750 $841
Royal Caribbean Independence of the Seas 154 2008 $828 $929
Seabourn Odyssey 32 2009 $250 $281
Silversea Silver Spirit 36 2009 $250 $281
Holland America ms Nieuw Amsterdam 87 2009 $450 $507
MSC MSC Magnifica 95 2009 $547 $616
MSC MSC Splendida 138 2009 $550 $619
Costa Costa Deliziosa 93 2009 $618 $696
Costa Costa Favolosa 115 2009 $687 $773
Carnival Carnival Dream 130 2009 $740 $833
Celebrity Celebrity Equinox 122 2009 $750 $844
Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas 225 2009 $1400 $1576
Seabourn Seabourn Sojourn 32 2010 $250 $277
Cunard Queen Elizabeth 91 2010 $560 $620
Norwegian Norwegian Epic 156 2010 $700 $775
Celebrity Celebrity Eclipse 122 2010 $750 $831
Disney Disney Dream 128 2010 $900 $997
Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas 225 2010 $1200 $1329
Seabourn Seabourn Quest 32 2011 $250 $268
Oceania MS Marina 66 2011 $650 $698
Carnival Carnival Magic 130 2011 $740 $794
Celebrity Celebrity Silhouette 122 2011 $750 $805
Disney Disney Fantasy 128 2011 $900 $966
Oceania MS Riviera 66 2012 $500 $526
MSC MSC Divina 139 2012 $550 $579
Costa Costa Fascinosa 115 2012 $625 $657
Princess Royal Princess 141 2012 $735 $773
Carnival Carnival Breeze 130 2012 $740 $778
Celebrity Celebrity Reflection 126 2012 $750 $789
MSC MSC Preziosa 139 2013 $550 $570
Costa Costa Diadema 133 2013 $700 $726
Norwegian Norwegian Breakaway 144 2013 $840 $871
Princess Regal Princess 141 2014 $735 $750
Norwegian Norwegian Getaway 147 2014 $900 $918
Royal Caribbean Anthem of the Seas 168 2014 $940 $959
Royal Caribbean Quantum of the Seas 168 2014 $940 $959
P&O MV Britannia 141 2015 $750 $764
Norwegian Norwegian Escape 165 2015 $950 $968
Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas 228 2015 $1350 $1376
Seabourn Encore 40 2016 $300 $300
Regent Seven Seas Cruises Seven Seas Explorer 54 2016 $450 $450
Holland America ms Koningsdam 100 2016 $520 $520
Carnival Carnival Vista 134 2016 $800 $800
Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas 169 2016 $1400 $1400
Silversea Silver Muse 23 2017 $500 $500
MSC MSC Meraglivia 168 2017 $956 $956
MSC MSC Seaside 154 2017 $956 $956

 

Hopefully that answers the question, “how much does a cruise ship cost?”

If you found this helpful, please share using the buttons below!

 

[wpsm_comparison_table id=”3″ class=”hover-col1 center-table-align”]

2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Scott Downen November 5, 2016 at 2:34 am

    OVATION of the SEAS is NOT OASIS of the SEAS sister ship…it is a different class ship all together and much much smaller…

    • Reply
      Captain Cruise November 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      You’re right, Scott – that’s fixed now. Thanks!

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