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Why are cruise ships white?


Though cruise lines such as Carnival, Celebrity, and Norwegian have started to implement colorful hull designs, the base of the ship, also known as the superstructure, remains white. Have you ever wondered why? 

According to an article published by Aronfeld Trial Lawyers, the color of cruise ships has to do with the temperature of the vessel. 

Since white reflects light, the ship doesn't heat up as quickly, which is important for vessels that sail in warmer climates like The Caribbean, South Pacific, and Mediterranean with temperatures that can soar over 80℉. In contrast, darker colors absorb the light and heat up faster. 


Ships with a cooler overall temperature have air conditioning units that do not have to work as hard, helping to conserve energy and reduce operating costs. Having a basic paint color makes maintenance easier, too. With the world's largest cruise ships costing upwards of $1 million to operate daily, reducing costs whenever possible is crucial for cruise lines to maximize their profits. 

Plus, white ships have a cleaner aesthetic, which enhances their appearance. As cruise ships operate within the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is paramount. Boarding a visually appealing ship is more exciting than boarding a vessel with a less polished exterior. 

Which cruise lines have painted ships?


Today, many mainstream cruise lines have begun painting their ships to make them more identifying. Carnival, for instance, released a new hull design in 2021. Now, more than 24 ships in the "FUN Ship" fleet have the bright red, white, and blue livery, including the flagship Carnival Jubilee

Similarly, Norwegian Cruise Line has been painting hull art on their ships since Norwegian Dawn entered service in 2002. The designs tend to be related to the vessel's name or homeport. 

Norwegian Sun, for example, is recognizable by the vibrant orange and yellow waves and large sun, whereas the New York City skyline is proudly displayed on Norwegian Breakaway. 


At one point, the Breakaway Class vessel was the largest homeported year-round from New York City before her departure in 2018. 

Moreover, though the majority of the ships' superstructures are white, Disney Cruise Line opted to keep with the maritime tradition of a darker hull, which was traditionally used to hide rust and coal dust. 

Oceanliners, such as the Titanic, burned coal in large furnaces to heat water for steam to power the vessel. Had these ships been white, they would have easily revealed the accumulation of coal dust and tarnished their appearance.

Bow of Disney ship

While black was the classic go-to, Disney decided it was too depressing. Plus, they didn't have to worry about coal dust. Therefore, they settled on a color that was 87% black and 13% blue, creating a unique mix that can cause the vessel to change colors depending on factors like the weather, light, and time of day. 

Each ship has special artwork on the bow, too. Captain Minnie, for instance, can be found on the upcoming Disney Treasure, while Disney Wonder's bow features Steamboat Willie as an ode to Disney's heritage. 

Just as with Disney, Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises have also embraced darker hulls. Ships such as Celebrity Ascent, MS Eurodam, and Celebrity Eclipse all sport a dark hull, which is not only visually striking but aims to embody the sophistication of the cruise lines. 

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