Last updated: 12:15 PM ET, Wed July 27 2016

The Importance of a Cruise Vessel's Passenger Space Ratio

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Royal Caribbean International | Jason Leppert | July 27, 2016

The Importance of a Cruise Vessel's Passenger Space Ratio

 Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International 

Here’s something you might not know: the listed gross tonnage of a cruise ship is not a measure of weight but rather of size. So, when Royal Caribbean International’s new Harmony of the Seas is considered the world’s largest cruise ship by way of its 226,963 gross tons, just what exactly does that mean, and why should you care?

By definition, gross tonnage is a measurement of a ship’s internal volume, that is, its overall interior space. The modern gross tonnage calculation for ships determines rules and regulations, registration fees and port dues, as well as, and most importantly to the cruise experience, the amount of passenger space to go around.

Any cruise ship over 200,000 gross tons sounds impressive, and it is because only within the last two decades did they begin to exceed 100,000. However, a number that should matter even more is known as the passenger space ratio. By dividing the overall gross tonnage by a ship’s passenger capacity, the resulting digits indicate how much onboard space there is per person, and not all ships are created equally in this regard.

 READ MORE: Top 10 Coolest Things Aboard the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World 

Have you ever been on a ship that, regardless of its size, just feels busy? That’s because there are more guests than can comfortably fit within its gross tonnage, and as capacities increase, the biggest ships in the world are not necessarily the most spacious to move around in.

For a point of reference, let’s calculate the passenger space ratio of Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas. By dividing its 226,963 gross tons by its 5,479 double occupancy, the passenger space ratio comes out to 41.4. Mind you when taking into account greater maximum capacities, this number decreases.

 READ MORE: TravelPulse On Board: EUROPA 2 Review 

Going down the line of the largest cruise ships in the world below Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class and Quantum-Class vessels is Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Escape. At 164,600 gross tons and a capacity of 4,200, the passenger space ratio tallies at 39.2, not far off from the Harmony’s.

Where you start to see a more significant difference is with luxury cruise ships. Take, for instance, Hapag-Lloyd Cruises’ EUROPA 2. It has a much smaller gross tonnage of 42,830, but its limited guest capacity of only 516 puts the passenger space ratio at a staggering 83. That means there is more than double the space available per person than aboard the Harmony of the Seas, despite its grander overall scale. Quite simply, you will never feel overcrowded on the EUROPA 2.

So does size matter? Yes it does, but the density of passengers onboard matters even more. As one would expect, guests aboard a luxury cruise ship are bound to be more comfortable than on a standard mainstream one. Just remember to divide a vessel’s gross tonnage by its passenger capacity to see for yourself.


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