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

How much does a cruise ship cost average

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.

Gross Tonnage (k)Year PurchasedCost ($Millions)Cost Today ($Millions)
CostaCosta Marina261969$130$855
CostaCosta Allegra281969$175$1152
MSCMSC Melody351981$100$266
Thomson CruisesThomson Spirit341983$150$364
SeaDream Yacht ClubSeaDream I41984$32$74
Thomson CruisesThomson Celebration341984$150$349
SeaDream Yacht ClubSeaDream II41985$32$72
P&OPacific Sun471986$134$295
Thomson CruisesThomson Dream551986$150$331
SeabournSeabourn Pride101988$50$102
SeabournSeabourn Spirit101988$50$102
Holland Americams Prinsendam381988$125$255
SilverseaSilver Explorer61989$50$97
P&OPacific Pearl641989$200$390
P&OPacific Jewel701989$277$539
CarnivalCarnival Fantasy701990$250$462
Royal CaribbeanEmpress of the Seas491990$500$924
CarnivalCarnival Ecstasy701991$250$443
P&OPacific Dawn701991$277$491
CostaCosta neoClassica531991$287$509
CrystalCrystal Esprit341991$500$887
Royal CaribbeanMonarch of the Seas741991$625$1108
Thomson CruisesThomson Majesty411992$229$394
Royal CaribbeanMajesty of the Seas741992$300$516
CostaCosta neoRomantica571993$105$175
Holland Americams Maasdam561993$180$301
Holland Americams Statendam551993$180$301
P&OPacific Eden551993$220$368
CarnivalCarnival Sensation701993$250$418
SilverseaSilver Cloud171994$125$204
Holland Americams Ryndam561994$215$350
P&OPacific Aria551994$220$359
CarnivalCarnival Fascination701994$250$407
P&OMV Oriana691994$320$521
SilverseaSilver Wind171995$125$198
CarnivalCarnival Imagination701995$250$396
CostaCosta Victoria761995$300$475
PrincessSun Princess771995$300$475
CelebrityCelebrity Century721995$320$507
Royal CaribbeanLegend of the Seas701995$325$515
Holland Americams Veendam571996$215$331
CarnivalCarnival Inspiration701996$250$385
PrincessDawn Princess771996$300$462
Royal CaribbeanGrandeur of the Seas741996$300$462
Royal CaribbeanSplendour of the Seas701996$325$500
Thomson CruisesThomson Discovery691996$325$500
CarnivalCarnival Sunshine1011996$400$616
Paul Gauguin CruisesPaul Gauguin191997$150$226
Royal CaribbeanRhapsody of the Seas781997$275$414
Royal CaribbeanEnchantment of the Seas741997$300$451
CelebrityCelebrity Mercury781997$350$527
PrincessSea Princess771997$350$527
Holland Americams Rotterdam621997$400$602
OceaniaMS Insignia301998$183$271
OceaniaMS Regatta301998$183$271
CarnivalCarnival Elation701998$250$370
CarnivalCarnival Paradise701998$250$370
Royal CaribbeanVision of the Seas781998$275$407
P&OMV Oceana781998$300$444
NorwegianNorwegian Spirit751998$350$519
Paul Gauguin CruisesTere Moana41998$35$52
P&OMV Aurora761998$375$556
DisneyDisney Magic831998$385$570
PrincessGrand Princess1091998$450$667
CostaCosta Voyager241999$150$217
OceaniaMS Sirena301999$183$265
Regent Seven Seas CruisesSeven Seas Navigator291999$200$290
PrincessOcean Princess301999$240$348
PrincessPacific Princess301999$240$348
Holland Americams Volendam611999$300$435
NorwegianNorwegian Sky771999$330$478
CostaCosta neoRiviera481999$335$486
DisneyDisney Wonder831999$385$558
CarnivalCarnival Triumph1021999$410$594
CostaCosta Atlantica861999$550$797
Royal CaribbeanVoyager of the Seas1321999$650$942
AzamaraAzamara Journey302000$150$210
AzamaraAzamara Quest302000$150$210
OceaniaMS Nautica302000$183$257
SilverseaSilver Shadow282000$150$210
Holland Americams Zaandam612000$300$421
CelebrityCelebrity Millennium912000$350$491
CelebrityCelebrity Xpedition32000$350$491
Holland Americams Amsterdam632000$400$561
CarnivalCarnival Victory1022000$410$575
Royal CaribbeanExplorer of the Seas1372000$500$701
SilverseaSilver Whisper282001$150$205
Regent Seven Seas CruisesSeven Seas Mariner482001$240$327
MSCMSC Armonia592001$245$334
NorwegianNorwegian Sun782001$330$450
CelebrityCelebrity Infinity912001$350$477
CelebrityCelebrity Summit912001$350$477
Royal CaribbeanRadiance of the Seas902001$350$477
CarnivalCarnival Spirit862001$375$511
Holland Americams Zuiderdam822001$400$545
NorwegianNorwegian Star922001$400$545
PrincessGolden Princess1092001$450$614
Royal CaribbeanAdventure of the Seas1372001$500$682
MSCMSC Sinfonia592002$245$329
PrincessCoral Princess922002$330$443
Royal CaribbeanBrilliance of the Seas902002$350$470
CelebrityCelebrity Constellation912002$350$470
CarnivalCarnival Legend892002$375$503
CarnivalCarnival Pride892002$375$503
NorwegianNorwegian Dawn922002$400$537
PrincessStar Princess1092002$430$577
NorwegianPride Of America802002$450$604
CarnivalCarnival Conquest1102002$500$671
Royal CaribbeanNavigator of the Seas1382002$500$671
Regent Seven Seas CruisesSeven Seas Voyager422003$240$315
PrincessIsland Princess922003$330$433
Royal CaribbeanSerenade of the Seas902003$350$459
Holland Americams Oosterdam822003$400$525
P&OMV Arcadia872003$400$525
CarnivalCarnival Glory1102003$500$656
CostaCosta Mediterranea862003$550$722
CostaCosta Fortuna1052003$600$788
Royal CaribbeanMariner of the Seas1382003$650$853
CunardQueen Mary 21512003$900$1181
Holland Americams Westerdam822004$225$288
MSCMSC Lirica592004$266$340
MSCMSC Opera592004$266$340
Royal CaribbeanJewel of the Seas902004$350$447
CarnivalCarnival Miracle892004$375$479
PrincessSapphire Princess1162004$400$511
PrincessCaribbean Princess1132004$500$639
CarnivalCarnival Valor1102004$500$639
PrincessDiamond Princess1162004$500$639
CostaCosta Magica1052004$600$767
NorwegianNorwegian Jewel942005$390$482
CarnivalCarnival Liberty1102005$500$618
MSCMSC Musica902006$360$431
NorwegianNorwegian Jade1002006$390$467
NorwegianNorwegian Pearl942006$390$467
Holland Americams Noordam832006$425$509
CunardQueen Victoria902006$442$529
PrincessCrown Princess1132006$500$599
PrincessEmerald Princess1132006$500$599
CostaCosta Concordia1152006$618$740
P&OMV Ventura1162006$700$839
Royal CaribbeanFreedom of the Seas1542006$800$958
MSCMSC Poesia932007$360$419
MSCMSC Orchestra902007$480$559
CarnivalCarnival Freedom1102007$500$582
CostaCosta Luminosa932007$618$720
CostaCosta Serena1152007$687$800
NorwegianNorwegian Gem942007$700$815
Royal CaribbeanLiberty of the Seas1542007$800$932
PrincessRuby Princess1162008$400$449
Holland Americams Eurodam872008$447$501
MSCMSC Fantasia1382008$550$617
CostaCosta Pacifica1152008$687$771
CarnivalCarnival Splendor1132008$697$782
P&OMV Azura1152008$700$785
CelebrityCelebrity Solstice1222008$750$841
Royal CaribbeanIndependence of the Seas1542008$828$929
SilverseaSilver Spirit362009$250$281
Holland Americams Nieuw Amsterdam872009$450$507
MSCMSC Magnifica952009$547$616
MSCMSC Splendida1382009$550$619
CostaCosta Deliziosa932009$618$696
CostaCosta Favolosa1152009$687$773
CarnivalCarnival Dream1302009$740$833
CelebrityCelebrity Equinox1222009$750$844
Royal CaribbeanOasis of the Seas2252009$1400$1576
SeabournSeabourn Sojourn322010$250$277
CunardQueen Elizabeth912010$560$620
NorwegianNorwegian Epic1562010$700$775
CelebrityCelebrity Eclipse1222010$750$831
DisneyDisney Dream1282010$900$997
Royal CaribbeanAllure of the Seas2252010$1200$1329
SeabournSeabourn Quest322011$250$268
OceaniaMS Marina662011$650$698
CarnivalCarnival Magic1302011$740$794
CelebrityCelebrity Silhouette1222011$750$805
DisneyDisney Fantasy1282011$900$966
OceaniaMS Riviera662012$500$526
MSCMSC Divina1392012$550$579
CostaCosta Fascinosa1152012$625$657
PrincessRoyal Princess1412012$735$773
CarnivalCarnival Breeze1302012$740$778
CelebrityCelebrity Reflection1262012$750$789
MSCMSC Preziosa1392013$550$570
CostaCosta Diadema1332013$700$726
NorwegianNorwegian Breakaway1442013$840$871
PrincessRegal Princess1412014$735$750
NorwegianNorwegian Getaway1472014$900$918
Royal CaribbeanAnthem of the Seas1682014$940$959
Royal CaribbeanQuantum of the Seas1682014$940$959
P&OMV Britannia1412015$750$764
NorwegianNorwegian Escape1652015$950$968
Royal CaribbeanHarmony of the Seas2282015$1350$1376
Regent Seven Seas CruisesSeven Seas Explorer542016$450$450
Holland Americams Koningsdam1002016$520$520
CarnivalCarnival Vista1342016$800$800
Royal CaribbeanOvation of the Seas1692016$1400$1400
SilverseaSilver Muse232017$500$500
MSCMSC Meraglivia1682017$956$956
MSCMSC Seaside1542017$956$956


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

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Comments 2

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

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