June 12, 2024

How Long Is the Average Cruise: Decoding Ship Sizes and Amenities

Understanding Cruise Ship Metrics and Travel

Cruise ships come in various sizes, each tailored to provide different types of cruising experiences. This article will explore the reasons behind the varying lengths of cruise ships, the impacts of size on travel experience and amenities, and the differences between river and ocean cruises. Understanding these nuances can help aspiring travelers select the cruise that best fits their preferences and travel goals.

Why Cruise Ships are Big

Capacity and Distance

Ocean-going cruise ships travel vast distances and carry many passengers and crew members. These ships need to be self-sustaining communities, complete with facilities to accommodate thousands of people for extended periods at sea.

"Croatia-01778 - Visiting Cruise Ships" by archer10 (Dennis) is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/.

Onboard Amenities

Large cruise ships offer a wide variety of amenities aimed at enhancing the travel experience. These include theaters, swimming pools, casinos, nightclubs, restaurants, and even amusement parks. The goal is to keep as many people as possible entertained and engaged throughout the trip.

Variations in Cruise Ship Sizes

Ocean Liners

These are generally the largest types of cruise ships. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas, which holds the title for the largest internal volume (gross tonnage), measures around 1,200 feet in length and has 18 decks. It can carry over 7,000 passengers and 2,200 crew members.

River Cruise Ships

These ships are much smaller due to the constraints of navigating rivers. They must fit through narrow locks and under low bridges, making them more compact. For instance, the American Star has a capacity of 100 passengers and is 215 feet long, while the Safari Voyager holds 62 guests and is 174 feet long.

Impacts of Ship Size

Travel Experience

Ocean liners offer extensive amenities but can feel crowded and impersonal. Larger ships are generally more stable in rough seas, considered to offer smoother sailing. Conversely, river cruise ships provide an intimate experience with personalized services. However, they're often subject to the vagaries of river conditions, such as choppy waters in canals, but many find the ride smoother due to gentler river currents.


"Not your Average Pilgrims..." by Peter E. Lee is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.

Ocean liners boast multiple restaurants, pools, theaters, and recreational activities. River cruise ships, while limited in space, focus on cultural activities and local experiences. They resemble boutique hotels versus the resort-like atmosphere of ocean liners.

Destinations and Itineraries

Ocean cruises cover broader ranges and longer distances, offering diverse itineraries that often include stops at major ports and popular destinations. River cruises specialize in localized tours, including smaller towns and significant cultural spots, providing a unique, in-depth exploration of regions like the Rhine or the Mississippi.


Generally, river cruises appear more expensive due to their exclusive, personalized nature and the intimate, smaller settings they offer. Ocean cruises, with their extensive facilities and range of activities, may be cost-effective for those looking for more entertainment onboard.

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