What are the largest passenger ships of all time? We’ve created the ultimate cruise ship size comparison timeline so you can take a deep dive through maritime history to discover when famous ocean liners and cruise ships such as the the SS Great Eastern, RMS Titanic, SS France, RMS Queen Mary 2, and Symphony of the Seas have held the title of biggest passenger ship in the world. Take a look below at our illustrated timeline of the largest ocean liners in history and cruise ship size chart.
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Complete Timeline of the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World by Year Since 1831, Ranked by Tonnage
- SS Royal William (1831-37): 1,370 GRT
- SS Great Western (1837-39): 1,340 GRT
- SS British Queen (1839-40): 1,850 GRT
- SS President (1840-41): 2,366 GRT
- SS British Queen (1841-43): 1,850 GRT
- SS Great Britain (1843-53): 3,270 GRT
- SS Atrato (1853-58): 3,466 GRT
- SS Great Eastern (1858-88): 18,915 GRT
- SS City of New York (1888-93): 10,499 GRT
- RMS Campania and RMS Lucania (1893-97): 12,950 GRT
- SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse (1897-99): 14,349 GRT
- RMS Oceanic (1899-1901): 17,272 GRT
- RMS Celtic (1901-03): 20,904 GRT
- RMS Cedric (1903-04): 21,035 GRT
- RMS Baltic (1904-06): 23,876 GRT
- SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria (1906-07): 24,581 GRT
- RMS Lusitania (1907): 31,550 GRT
- RMS Mauretania (1907-11): 31,938 GRT
- RMS Olympic (1911-12): 45,324 GRT
- RMS Titanic (1912): 46,328 GRT
- RMS Olympic (1912-13): 45,324 GRT
- SS Imperator (1913-14): 52,117 GRT
- SS Vaterland (1914-22): 54,282 GRT
- RMS Majestic (1922-35): 56,551 GRT
- SS Normandie (1935-36): 79,280 GRT
- RMS Queen Mary (1936): 80,774 GRT
- SS Normandie (1936-46): 83,404 GRT
- RMS Queen Elizabeth (1946-72): 83,673 GRT
- SS France (1972-87): 66,343 GRT
- MS Sovereign of the Seas (1987-90): 73,529 GT
- SS Norway (1990-95): 76,049 GT
- Sun Princess (1995-96): 77,499 GT
- Carnival Destiny (1996-98): 101,353 GT
- Grand Princess (1998-99): 109,000 GT
- Voyager of the Seas (1999-2000): 137,276 GT
- Explorer of the Seas (2000-02): 137,308 GT
- Navigator of the Seas (2002-03): 139,999 GT
- RMS Queen Mary 2 (2003-06): 148,528 GT
- Freedom of the Seas (2006-07): 154,407 GT
- Liberty of the Seas (2007-09): 155,889 GT
- Oasis of the Seas (2009-16): 225,282 GT
- Harmony of the Seas (2016-18): 226,963 GT
- Symphony of the Seas (2018 to present): 228,081 GT
What Is the Largest Cruise Ship in the World?
By gross tonnage, the largest cruise ship in the world is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. The megaship has a gross tonnage of 228,081, is 1,184 feet (361 meters) long, and has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,680 people. Interestingly, its predecessor, Harmony of the Seas, retains the largest cruise ship capacity title, with the ability to hold 6,687 people at maximum, seven more than Symphony. Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class and Oasis-class ships have held the title of largest passenger ship continuously since 2006. In 2021, Royal Caribbean is projected to retain the title with the launch of Wonder of the Seas, which will become the new largest cruise ship in the world once construction is completed.
The biggest Carnival ship, Carnival Panorama, pales in comparison at a mere 1,055 feet (322 meters) in length, a gross tonnage of 135,225, and maximum passenger capacity of 5,146 people.
How Big Was the Titanic vs. Modern Ships?
In April 1912, the RMS Titanic was not only the largest passenger ship in the world, but it was the largest ship ever built. The Titanic was 882 feet (169.1) meters long and had a gross tonnage of 46,328 and a maximum passenger capacity of 2,435 people. Comparing the Symphony of the Seas vs the Titanic, Royal Caribbean’s biggest ship categorically dwarfs the Titanic’s size in every way, more than doubling its passenger capacity and nearly quintupling its gross tonnage. The Titanic’s length, however, is still competitive at about 75 percent of Symphony’s. Conducting a Titanic size comparison with ships built in more than a century of technological advancements since isn’t exactly fair, but it helps provide a relatable benchmark nonetheless.
What Are the Top 10 Biggest Cruise Ships in 2020?
You now know that the largest cruise ship in 2020 is the Symphony of the Seas, but what is the biggest cruise ship in the world after that? Here are the top 10 biggest cruise ships in 2020:
- Symphony of the Seas: Royal Caribbean International (gross tonnage 228,081 GT, length 1,184.42 feet)
- Harmony of the Seas: Royal Caribbean International (gross tonnage 226,963 GT, length 1,188.1 feet)
- Oasis of the Seas: Royal Caribbean International (gross tonnage 226,838 GT, length 1,180 feet)
- Allure of the Seas: Royal Caribbean International (gross tonnage 225,282 GT, length 1,180 feet)
- Costa Smeralda: Costa Cruises (gross tonnage 185,010 GT, length 1,106 feet)
- AIDAnova: AIDA Cruises (gross tonnage 183,858 GT, length 1,106 feet)
- MSC Grandiosa: MSC Cruises (gross tonnage 181,541 GT, length 1,087.4 feet)
- MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima:MSC Cruises (gross tonnage 171,598 GT, length 1,036 feet)
- Spectrum of the Seas: Royal Caribbean International (gross tonnage 169,379 GT, length 1,138.8 feet)
- Norwegian Encore: Norwegian Cruise Line (gross tonnage 169,116 GT, length 1,094 feet)
What Is the Difference Between an Ocean Liner and a Cruise Ship?
An ocean liner is typically used as a means of transportation across oceans or seas (such as transatlantic voyages), whereas cruise ships are typically used for leisure and sightseeing and start and stop at the same port. Both ocean liners and cruise ships are passenger ships.
What Is the Biggest Ship in the World?
The biggest ship in the world by gross tonnage is the crane vessel Pioneering Spirit at a staggering 403,342 GT. The ship was launched in 2013 and is used in the installation of oil platforms at sea.
The largest ship in the world by length is the oil tanker Seawise Giant at 1,504 feet (458.46 meters). It was in service from 1979 to 2009. In the decade since its retirement, no ship has surpassed its length.
What Are the Longest Ships in the World by Type?
Compare yachts and ships to the largest ocean liners and cruise ships of all time.
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|Oil tanker||Seawise Giant||458.46 meters (1,504 feet)|
|Container ship||Barzan||400 meters (1,312 feet)|
|Crane vessel||Pioneering Spirit||382 meters (1,253 feet)|
|Passenger ship||Harmony of the Seas||362.12 meters (1,188.1 feet)|
|Bulk carrier||Vale Brasil||362 meters (1,188 feet)|
|LNG carrier||Q-Max (Fleet of 14 ships)||345 meters (1,132 feet)|
|Naval ship||USS Enterprise||342 meters (1,122 feet)|
|Lake freighter||Paul R. Tregurtha||309 meters (1,014 feet)|
|Private motor yacht||Azzam||179.7 meters (590 feet)|
|Wooden ship||Wyoming||140 meters (450 feet)|