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.
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 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.
Within the “Large Ships” bucket are the following cruise lines.
- Holland America
- Royal Caribbean
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 Sized Ships
These “mid-sized” ships have an average gross tonnage between 25k and 50k. Included in this group are the following.
- Regent Seven Seas
Cruise ship costs are significantly higher than the large ships, but not quite as expensive as the smaller vessels.
Small Ship Costs
These include ships with gross tonnage less than 25k. Among those are the following.
- Paul Gauguin
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.
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Hopefully that answers the question, “how much does a cruise ship cost?”
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