How much does it cost to build a cruise ship?

Today’s cruise ships are akin to floating resorts, so it’s perhaps not surprising that building a ship can get pricey.

The newest vessels often feature multiple decks with numerous restaurants and bars, entertainment venues, various types of cabin configurations and every attraction you can imagine (such as roller coasters, zip lines and ice skating rinks). The price tag could be astronomical.

The cost of building a cruise ship can vary due to many factors, some of which include ship size, amenities, technology and design. If you’re curious just how much money a cruise line needs to construct a new ship, here’s everything you need to know.

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How much does it cost to build a cruise ship?

On average, modern cruise ships cost between $500 million to over $900 million to build.

Cruise ship costs were much different back in the day. When the Titanic entered service in 1912, the 3,300-passenger ship was the world’s largest and cost $7.5 million to build (almost $239 million by today’s standards).

While we might think of the Titanic as a cruise ship, it was technically classified as an ocean liner. While its main purpose was transporting passengers across the Atlantic, it also carried mail and products. However, it was designed to offer passengers comfort and luxurious sea travel, making it similar to today’s cruise ship experience.

Mardi Gras, the first ship in Carnival Cruise Line‘s fleet, cost $5 million to renovate and carried 1,248 passengers when it launched in 1972. (The ship was the refurbished Empress of Canada, originally constructed in 1961.)

Carnival’s cruise ships have certainly evolved over the years. The line’s new Mardi Gras debuted in 2020, showcasing a seemingly endless list of attractions, including the first roller coaster at sea called BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster. The cost to build the 6,500-passenger ship was around $950 million.

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Why do cruise ships cost so much to build?

Many components factor into cruise ship construction costs. The bigger the ship and the more passengers it holds, the more money it will cost to build. Also, the number of cabins and suites, as well as onboard features like restaurants, bars, spas, pools and ship attractions (water park, climbing walls, sports areas and the like) add to the final cost.

Additionally, new ships often employ cutting-edge technology and engineering, and cruise lines must pay for the teams of experts needed to turn design dreams into reality. The type of materials used can also drive up the cost, especially if sustainable or ultra-high-end products are used.

Where are cruise ships built?

Construction of Princess Cruises’ Sun Princess at Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard. GENE SLOAN/THE POINTS GUY

The shipyards that build most modern-day cruise ships include the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in France, the Meyer Turku shipyard in Finland and several Fincantieri shipyards in Italy.

At the shipyard, cruise ships are built in a special dry dock. The dry dock is an open dock area that’s been drained. When construction is complete, the ship is launched into the water using a float-out technique — shipyard workers flood the dock with seawater, and the ship floats out. Interior work will continue even as the ship takes to the water for sea trials.

What is the most expensive cruise ship?

Le Commandant Charcot. DANIEL ERNST/PONANT

Size doesn’t always matter when it comes to shipbuilding expenses. Ponant Cruises‘ 245-passenger Le Commandant Charcot reportedly cost $430 million for a ship with just 123 rooms. Launched in 2021, the vessel is the first expedition cruise ship capable of reaching the North Pole.

Related: The most epic cruise ever? What it’s like traveling to the North Pole on a luxury icebreaker

Allure of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Royal Caribbean corners the market for building expensive cruise ships. Allure of the Seas, which debuted in 2010, is currently the world’s most expensive cruise ship. It was constructed at the STX Europe Turku shipyard in Finland for a cost of around $1.43 billion.

The 18-deck, 8,454-passenger ship was the second vessel in the line’s groundbreaking Oasis Class series. It’s one of the world’s largest. The ship is chock-full of amusements — multiple dining and drinking venues, a zip line, the FlowRider surf simulator, an ice skating rink and an AquaTheater.

Wonder of the Seas, the line’s newest ship, is the second-most-expensive ship at a construction cost of approximately $1.35 billion. Built at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Naizaire, France, the 6,988-passenger vessel, which debuted in 2022, currently holds the title of the world’s largest ship. As you can imagine, it also holds a dizzying array of diversions. Additionally, it’s the first Oasis Class ship to feature a dedicated neighborhood of exclusive amenities for suite guests.

Set to debut in early 2024, Icon of the Seas might overtake the top spot in the list of most expensive cruise ships to build — just as it will surpass Wonder of the Seas as the largest cruise ship in the world.

Icon is Royal Caribbean’s first ship in the line’s all-new Icon Class, so its design and style will differ from previous vessels. The 7,600-passenger, 20-deck-tall ship will also be around 6% larger and about 10 feet longer than Wonder of the Seas. Early estimates have the construction cost at $2 billion.

Refurbishing older ships vs. building new ones

The Blaster waterslide on Navigator of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

While it’s more cost-effective to refurbish an older ship than to build a new one from the ground up, those enhancements don’t come cheap. Sometimes, the renovations require a complete overhaul, including changing the ship’s layout and adding cabins, restaurants and attractions.

For example, 17 years after it launched, Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas received a glow-up in 2019 at a cost of $115 million. Improvements included everything from new furniture, carpeting and upholstery to expanded onboard amenities, entertainment and cabins.

Bottom line

The next time you board a cruise ship teeming with every diversion you can imagine, think about how much it cost to build that floating megaresort. It might give you new appreciation for just how much the cruise line has invested to create your ideal vacation at sea.

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