When Ferdinand Magellan led the first circumnavigation of earth in the 16th century, his 5 ships were about 100 feet (33 metres) long each and reached 10 knots. Today, cruise liners exceed 1,000 ft (300m) in length and reach 30 knots.
The Queen Elizabeth was the longest cruise liner when she was launched in 1938, being 1,030 ft (314 metres) long (she was destroyed in a fire while being renovated in Hong Kong harbor in 1972).
Other beauties in the big league include the Norway, at one stage the longest liner at 1,035 ft (315,5m). The Grand Princess, which cruises the Mediterranean, is, at 109,000 tonnes, one of the biggest. She accommodates 2,600 passengers. The Carnival Destiny – at 101,000 tonnes the first liner to displace more than 100,000 tonnes – entertains 3,400 passengers at a time in the Caribbean. The two 142,000 tonnes sister ships Voyager of the Seas and Explorer of the Seas are not shy of their size, either. They cruise in at 1,025ft (308m) in length. The Titanic, built for $10 million in 1911, was 883 ft (265m) long.
Not to be outdone in any manner Queen Mary 2, launched by Cunard on January 12, 2004, is 1,132 ft (345 metres) long, displaces 150 000 tonnes and accommodates 1 253 crew members at the service of 2 620 passengers in the grandest luxury. Queen Mary 2 was the world’s largest, longest, tallest ocean liner… until Royal Caribbean International’s Freedom of the Seas was launched in April 2006. Although QM2 is 20 ft (6m) longer, Freedom of the Seas comes in at 160,000 tonnes, is 1,112 ft (339m) long, 184 ft (56m) wide and has a cruising speed of 21.6 knots. She is 50 ft (15m) wider than QM2 and pampers 4,375 lucky passengers in her 1,800 rooms across 15 decks. Her sister ship, Liberty of the Seas, was launched a year later, then being considered the largest ocean liner. She features a water park, cantilevered whirlpools, and onboard surfing. The third liner in the famous Freedom Class, the magnificent Independence of the Seas, was launched in April 2008.
Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, featuring 17 decks and towering 62 metres (200 ft) above the waterline. At 72m (236.2 ft) from keel to the top of her funnel, she is one and half times higher than the Statue of Liberty.
In November 2009 Royal Caribbean introduced their Oasis Class of liners with the launch of the Oasis of the Seas – the sister ship will be launched in 2010 – setting a new standard for cruise ships. With Gross Tonnage at 225,282, she stretches out for 1,186.5 ft (361.6m) to fit 2,700 state rooms over 16 decks for maximum 6,292 happy cruise addicts who are served by 2,290 staff. The Oasis of the Seas is longer than any US aircraft carrier and features the Central Park with 12,000 real trees and plants.
The world’s largest cruise ship
Oasis of the Seas was the largest cruise ship until the launch of her sister ship, Allure of the Seas, in November 2010. Although they share the same superstructure, the Allure of the Seas is a mere 2 inches (50 millimetres) longer. Her length is given at 1,187 ft (362m).
The biggest ship in the world, the oil tanker Knock Nevis (formerly Jahre Viking) is 458 metres (1,502 ft) long. A big oil tanker ships about 132 million litres (34 million gallons) of petrol. Enough to drive a car 47,000 times around the earth.
Gross Registered Tonne (GRT) is 100 cubic feet. It is a measurement of space, not weight.
Brian Jeffers contributed to this story
Updated August 2013