When you think of the largest cruise ship in the world, you probably think of one of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class cruise ships, including Wonder of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas.
But back in 1912, the most infamous cruise ship of all time, RMS Titanic, was the world’s largest cruise ship. Built by the White Star Line, Titanic departed Southampton for its inaugural (and final) voyage in April 1912.
You might wonder how the Titanic compares to modern cruise ships. Like most things in history, a lot has changed since the Titanic was built. Engineering has revolutionized the cruise ship industry, with ships being built wider, taller and more technologically advanced than ever.
Ocean Liner or Cruise Ship?
Most people assume that the Titanic was a cruise ship, but this actually isn’t true.
In fact, the Titanic wasn’t even considered a cruise ship at the time it was built; the ship was actually classified as an ocean liner.
This is an important distinction because ocean liners are meant to transport passengers across the ocean. Ocean liners are engineered and built to be used for the purpose of regular transportation across the ocean.
However, the White Star Line chose to make both luxury and comfort key components of the Titanic. This helped differentiate Titanic from other ocean liners being built by Cunard Cruise Line, which was the White Star Line’s biggest competition at the time. Both companies were racing to dominate the Atlantic, but Cunard focused on making ships that could cross the ocean quickly while White Star Line focused on building a ship full of luxury.
Because of this, the Titanic would be more comparable to a cruise ship today than an ocean liner.
As a matter of fact, ocean liners are becoming a thing of the past with an overall preference shift towards cruise ships. Currently, the RMS Queen Mary 2 is the only operational ocean liner that regularly transports passengers across the Atlantic.
When Titanic was built, she was considered massive for that time in history. The ship was able to hold 3,353 passengers, which included 900 crew members. People were astonished by the sheer size of Titanic - of course, she was also considered to be unsinkable. We all know how that aged.
When it comes to Titanic’s length, she was 882 feet long. In comparison, Wonder of the Seas is 1,187 feet long, which is around 35% longer. As the world's largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas holds 8,000 passengers.
Keep in mind that Wonder of the Seas is substantially larger than most modern cruise ships. It’s tough to compare Titanic to cruise ships that are being built to out-compete one another in terms of size.
Some modern cruise ships are actually quite comparable in length to Titanic. In fact, some modern cruise ships are even shorter in length than Titanic!
For example, Carnival’s smallest operating cruise ship (as of 2022) is Carnival Paradise. This cruise ship measures at 860 feet long, which is shorter than Titanic. Similarly, Royal Caribbean’s Grandeur of the Seas measures at 915 feet long, which is only 33 feet longer than Titanic.
While Titanic holds her own when it comes to length, the ship’s width is substantially smaller than modern cruise ships.
Titanic’s length from one side to the other measured 92.5 feet. Modern cruise ships are typically around 120 feet today, which is about 22% bigger than Titanic. Wonder of the Seas is an astonishing 210 feet wide and clocking in at more than double the width of Titanic.
Deck and Height Comparison
Titanic’s height is where she really starts to show her age in comparison to modern shipyard engineering. When it comes to Titanic’s height, she was nearly 104 feet tall with only 9 passenger decks.
Modern cruise ships are double that size, averaging around 190 feet tall with 12-14 passenger decks. The largest cruise ship in the world is 235 feet tall with 18 passenger decks, which is double the number of decks that Titanic had.
Because of engineering limitations at the time, Titanic had to be built in one piece, which limited the overall height of the ship. Today, cruise ships are built in smaller sections and loaded onto large cranes. These chunks are pieced together one by one, which allows the engineering process to be much faster than traditional building methods.
The Titanic did not have a single balcony cabin, while today's cruise ships, particularly Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class vessels, have multiple categories of balconies: Oceanview, Central Park, and Boardwalk. The Titanic's most luxurious suites were comprised of two bedrooms, ensuite bathroom, and separate parlor room.
Cruisers today would never fathom paying to share a bathroom like second and third class passengers on this ocean liner did!
Titanic’s Gross Tonnage Comparison
Although smaller than most modern cruise ships, Titanic was a historic 46,328 gross tonnage for its time. In comparison, modern cruise ships have a gross tonnage around 120,000. This is more than 150% heavier than Titanic.
The largest cruise ships in the world come in at a whopping 230,000 gross tonnage. This means Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships are nearly 4 times as heavy as Titanic.
This isn’t surprising, as cruise ships are being built bigger than ever before. Nearly every major cruise line has been building cruise ships that are bigger than anything built before.
Efficiency is the reason why, as cruise ships are operating bigger ships at lower costs. Royal Caribbean investors mentioned recently they can breakeven at 35% capacity on their biggest ships compared to 50% capacity on older, smaller ships.
Titanic Speed Comparison
Titanic can hold its own when comparing its speed to modern day cruise ships. Titanic’s maximum speed was 23 knots, which is roughly 26.5 miles per hour. Historical records show that the Titanic sailed around 22 knots on average.
In fact, it’s believed Titanic was sailing around 22 knots when the ship unfortunately struck an iceberg, causing her to start sinking into the frigid Atlantic waters.
Most modern day cruise ships have a maximum speed of 30 knots and an average speed of 20 knots. The largest cruise ships in the world have a maximum speed of 22 knots, which is slower than Titanic.
Titanic’s Legacy Lives On
After Titanic’s tragic sinking, the White Star Line was merged with Cunard Cruise Line, which is known for currently operating Queen Mary 2. Cunard is now operated under Carnival Corporation.
There's been rumors of the Australian-based company Blue Star Line building a Titanic II, which will set sail as a replica of the RMS Titanic. Its estimated gross tonnage, however, is projected to be roughly 9,600 more than the original vessel. The project has been delayed multiple times since its intended 2016 launch, but the company claims the ship will be able to set sail as early as 2022.