How Much Fuel Does a Cruise Ship Use?

Cruise Ship fuel consumption happens on a grand scale

Beyond providing everything you need for a vacation, a cruise ship also provides transportation to a destination. Indeed, the demands of a cruise ship are extraordinary and so is the fuel consumption. It takes a significant amount of fuel to move these behemoths. Of the many fascinating questions cruise ships inspire, the most common is how much fuel they use. For the biggest of these ships, the answers are quite remarkable.

Cruise Ship Fuel Usage

Size is key to fuel consumption and efficiency. A smaller ship will use less fuel than a large ship to travel the same distance. Both size and the average speed a cruise ship travels impact how much fuel it uses. On average, ships use 140-150 tons of fuel per day, which works out to roughly 30 to 50 gallons per mile. Similar to a car, traveling at higher speeds means an increase in aerodynamic drag, which directly impacts fuel use. Given that most cruise ships travel at 21-24 knots, this isn't often an issue.

Queen Mary 2 Fuel Usage

In the QM2's case, the ship is huge at 1,132 feet long and a weight of 151,400 tons. This storied passenger liner is built for speed and is capable of a cruising speed of 29 knots and a top speed of 32.5 knots. Compare this to most cruise ships, which travel at 21-24 knots, and you can see that the QM2 is a water rocket. It travels at a brisk clip that requires more fuel. According to Cruise Ship Engine Power, Propulsion, Fuel by Chavdar Chanev, the QM2 averages uses six tons of marine fuel per hour.

The Norwegian Spirit

At a petite 878 feet long and 75,500 tons this ship is much more fuel efficient. When sailing, the Spirit chugs along at an average speed of 24 knots and burns approximately 1,100 gallons per hour. Thus, it can conceivably remain at sea for 12 days without refueling.

Freedom of the Seas

Freedom class ships are all 1,112 feet long with an average speed of 21.6 knots. The are rumored to have a standard fuel consumption of 2,800 gallons of fuel per hour. Their propulsion systems are state of the art, providing a 10 to 15 percent fuel savings overall.

Size Matters

When considering how much fuel it takes to move one these massive vessels, it depends on the size. Liners like the QM2 will need far more fuel than a smaller ship. The concept is similar to land vehicles. Naturally, a small economy car will run longer on less gasoline than a big utility truck.

Though cruise ships continue to get bigger, there's always hope for better fuel efficiency. Yet when it comes to large ships, fuel efficiency is a concept that needs some modification, to account for the size and function of these floating resorts.

How Much Fuel Does a Cruise Ship Use?