Even though cruise ships are huge, it’s amazing how fast they can travel. The average speed for the larger cruise ships from Royal Caribbean, Carnival, and Norwegian is anywhere from 20-24 knots. This speed translates into around 23 mph – 27 mph.
How does knots translate into miles per hour? You can simple multiply the knots speed by 1.15 to figure out how fast that is in miles per hour.
So what’s the fastest cruise ship in the world? Well it really depends what class of cruise ship you are talking about. The 25,000 ton Olympia Voyager (aka Costa Voyager, Voyager, and Grand Voyager and now owned by Bohai Ferry Company) can travel as fast as 27 knots or 31 miles per hour. But 25,000 tons is very small by the standards of today’s cruise ships, and the Voyager is really an ocean liner and not a cruise ship. When you have ships like the Oasis of the Seas which is 9 times larger at 225,282 tons, traveling at speeds of 22.5 knots or 26 mph, it really is astounding.
The Queen Mary 2 holds the title of fastest ocean liner in the world with speeds of 30 knots. This is a phenomenal speed considering the ship is close to 150,000 gross tons in size . This fast speed allows Cunard to offer 7 day transatlantic cruises between Southampton and New York on Queen Mary 2.
Royal Caribbean’s Radiance Class ships are quite speedy as well, being able to travel at speeds of 25 knots or 28 mph.
But just because these cruise ships CAN travel that fast doesn’t mean they ever do. Usually the cruising speed of one of these massive ships is around 18-22 knots. Going any faster really uses up fuel quickly and for longer trips they need to conserve as much as they can. Sometimes if there is a storm at sea they will have to go a little faster to get around it, though.
The reason these ships don’t travel at higher speeds is that because they are so large, more of the ship rests beneath the waters which causes more resistance. If they wanted to, they could design these cruise ships to come out of the water more but then it would cause a bumpy ride for the passengers. By allowing the hull to be more submerged it allows for a smoother ride on the high seas. Even when traveling at 24 knots, you barely feel the ship is even moving.
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