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What Speed Do Cruise Ships Go


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Opalina Judkins



Cruise ships, the magnificent vessels that take passengers on unforgettable journeys across the vast ocean. From exploring tropical destinations to experiencing the beauty of icy landscapes, cruises offer a unique and immersive vacation experience. But have you ever wondered how fast these floating marvels can go?


Understanding the speed of cruise ships is not only intriguing but also essential for various reasons. Whether you’re planning a cruise or simply intrigued by these majestic vessels, knowing their speed can give you insights into how long your journey may take and what to expect during your time onboard.


In this article, we will delve into the world of cruise ship speeds, exploring the factors that influence their velocity, the average speeds of various vessels, and even highlight some of the fastest and slowest cruise ships in the world.


So, fasten your seatbelts, or rather, life jackets, as we embark on a journey to uncover the secrets behind cruise ship speeds!


Understanding Cruise Ship Speed

The speed of a cruise ship refers to the rate at which it travels through the water. It is usually measured in nautical miles per hour (knots), with one knot equaling 1.15 miles per hour. Understanding cruise ship speed goes beyond simply knowing how fast they can go; it involves comprehending the various factors that affect their velocity.


One crucial aspect to note is that cruise ships typically operate at different speeds depending on the voyage’s purpose. During the open sea portion of the journey, cruise ships often cruise at higher speeds to reach their destination quickly. On the other hand, while navigating through narrower waterways or when approaching ports, they tend to slow down for safety reasons, maneuverability, and fuel efficiency.


Another factor that influences cruise ship speed is the size and design of the vessel. Larger ships generally have more powerful engines, enabling them to achieve higher speeds. Additionally, their streamlined designs reduce drag and resistance, allowing for smoother and more efficient travel through the water.


It’s worth noting that cruise ship speeds are not comparable to those of speedboats or racing yachts. While these smaller vessels can reach high speeds of 40-50 knots, cruise ships typically have a maximum speed of around 20-25 knots. This slower speed is necessary to ensure stability and the comfort of passengers onboard, as excessive speed can lead to increased motion and discomfort.


Furthermore, the reliability and safety of a cruise ship are of paramount importance. These factors take precedence over attaining top speeds. Cruise ships are built and designed with the primary purpose of providing a secure and enjoyable experience for passengers rather than focusing solely on speed.


Now that we have a basic understanding of cruise ship speed and its influencing factors, let’s explore the average speeds you can expect during a typical cruise voyage.


Factors Affecting Cruise Ship Speed

Several factors contribute to the speed at which a cruise ship can travel. Understanding these factors can provide insights into why cruise ships operate at specific velocities and why they may vary from one vessel to another. Here are some key factors that affect cruise ship speed:

  1. Ship Size and Design: The size and design of a cruise ship play a significant role in determining its speed. Larger ships often have more powerful engines, enabling them to achieve higher speeds. Likewise, ships with streamlined designs experience less resistance, allowing for smoother and faster travel through the water.
  2. Engine Power: The engine power of a cruise ship dictates how fast it can propel through the water. Ships with higher engine power can generate more thrust, allowing them to reach higher speeds. The engines’ efficiency and design also play a role in the ship’s overall speed and fuel consumption.
  3. Weather Conditions: Weather conditions, such as wind and sea currents, can impact a cruise ship’s speed. Strong headwinds can slow down a ship’s progress, while favorable tailwinds can provide a slight boost in speed. Likewise, sea currents can either assist or hinder a ship’s journey.
  4. Water Depth: The depth of the water can affect a cruise ship’s speed, especially in shallow waters. Ships traveling in shallow areas may need to reduce their speed to ensure the vessel’s safety and avoid collisions with the seabed.
  5. Navigation Routes: The specific route taken during a cruise can impact a ship’s speed. Some routes may necessitate slower speeds due to narrow waterways, congested areas, or areas with specific regulations regarding ship speeds for environmental or safety reasons.
  6. Passenger Comfort: While speed is an important consideration for cruise ships, passenger comfort and safety take precedence. Excessive speed can increase motion and vibrations, causing discomfort for passengers. Therefore, cruise ships often operate at speeds that strike a balance between reaching the destination efficiently and ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for passengers.

By understanding these factors, you can gain a better appreciation for why cruise ships operate at specific speeds and the various considerations taken into account to ensure a safe and pleasant journey for passengers.


Average Cruise Ship Speeds

The average speed of a cruise ship can vary depending on several factors, such as the size of the vessel, its design, and the specific itinerary. While it’s important to note that individual ships may have slightly different speeds, we can provide a general idea of the average cruise ship speeds.


Most cruise ships operate at an average speed of 20-25 knots, which is equivalent to approximately 23-29 miles per hour. This speed allows for a balance between efficient travel and passenger comfort. It provides a relatively smooth and stable experience for those onboard despite the vessel traversing through different weather conditions and waves.


Longer cruises that involve crossing vast open seas tend to have higher average speeds. For example, transatlantic cruises, which cross the Atlantic Ocean, can reach speeds of 22-24 knots. These faster speeds help ensure timely arrival at the intended destinations, minimizing voyage duration.


On the other hand, cruises in coastal regions, where ships navigate through narrower waterways and approach ports, may have slightly reduced speeds. This reduction allows for better maneuverability in congested areas and adherence to safety regulations.


It’s important to note that the cruise industry focuses more on providing a relaxing and enjoyable experience rather than emphasizing speed. The journey itself is a significant part of the vacation, allowing passengers to revel in the amenities and activities provided onboard. So, even if the speed may not be exceptionally high, the voyage offers ample opportunities for relaxation, entertainment, and exploration.


Ultimately, the average speed of a cruise ship ensures a balance between timeliness, passenger comfort, and memorable experiences throughout the journey.


Fastest Cruise Ships in the World

While most cruise ships operate at relatively moderate speeds for the comfort and safety of passengers, there are a few vessels known for their impressive speed capabilities. These ships are often designed to offer thrilling and exhilarating experiences. Here are some of the fastest cruise ships in the world:

  1. Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class: Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, including Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas, are among the fastest cruise ships. These massive vessels can reach a top speed of around 22 knots, allowing passengers to experience the thrill of sailing at a faster pace.
  2. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus-class: Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus-class ships, such as Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy, are known for their impressive speeds. With a maximum speed of approximately 22 knots, these ships offer exciting voyages while ensuring a comfortable journey for their guests.
  3. Cunard’s Queen Mary 2: Queen Mary 2, belonging to the prestigious Cunard Line, is one of the fastest cruise ships in the world. With a top speed of around 30 knots, this ocean liner can sail at a considerably higher velocity than most other cruise ships. It offers a unique blend of luxury and speed, providing a remarkable experience for its passengers.
  4. MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia-class: MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia-class ships, including MSC Meraviglia and MSC Bellissima, are known for their elegant design and impressive speed. These vessels can reach speeds of up to 22.7 knots, ensuring efficient travel while offering a wide range of amenities and entertainment options.
  5. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class: Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships, such as Quantum of the Seas and Anthem of the Seas, are renowned for combining innovative features with impressive speeds. With a top speed of about 22 knots, these ships offer a perfect balance of excitement and comfort for passengers.

These ships push the boundaries of cruise ship speeds, allowing travelers to experience high-velocity voyages without compromising on luxury and onboard amenities. They offer passengers the opportunity to explore exciting destinations in less time while indulging in a wide array of entertainment options and activities onboard.


It’s important to note that while these cruise ships can reach impressive speeds, the majority of vessels prioritize passenger comfort and safety over maximum velocity. The aim is to create a memorable and enjoyable vacation experience rather than focusing solely on speed.


Slowest Cruise Ships in the World

While some cruise ships boast impressive speed capabilities, there are also vessels that prioritize a leisurely pace, allowing passengers to unwind and savor the journey. These ships embrace the idea of a relaxed and unhurried vacation experience. Here are some of the slowest cruise ships in the world:

  1. Holland America Line’s Prinsendam: Prinsendam, a mid-sized ship in the Holland America Line fleet, is known for its slow and graceful voyages. With an average speed of around 18 knots, it offers a serene and leisurely way to explore various destinations while providing impeccable service and a more intimate onboard experience.
  2. Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic and Disney Wonder: Disney Magic and Disney Wonder, two of the ships in the Disney Cruise Line fleet, prioritize the enjoyment of their passengers with slower speeds. These vessels typically cruise at an average speed of approximately 19 knots, allowing families and Disney enthusiasts to immerse themselves in the enchanting atmosphere aboard.
  3. Celebrity Cruises’ Constellation: Celebrity Constellation, a beautiful ship in the Celebrity Cruises fleet, offers a relaxed pace for its guests. It typically cruises at a leisurely speed of around 19 knots, providing a serene atmosphere and elegant experiences for those seeking a more tranquil cruise vacation.
  4. MSC Cruises’ Lirica-class: MSC Lirica and the other ships in the MSC Cruises’ Lirica-class fleet emphasize a more relaxed approach to cruising. These vessels maintain an average speed of about 20 knots, allowing passengers to unwind, enjoy the onboard amenities, and immerse themselves in the destinations they visit at a leisurely pace.
  5. Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Sun: Norwegian Sun, a ship in the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet, offers a slower pace to enhance the vacation experience. With an average speed of approximately 20 knots, this ship allows passengers to embrace a more laid-back ambiance, fully enjoying the onboard activities and spectacular destinations along the way.

These cruise ships prioritize passenger comfort, relaxation, and a slower pace, allowing guests to unwind and appreciate the journey as much as the destinations. They offer a perfect opportunity to disconnect from the fast-paced world and embrace a more leisurely and indulgent vacation experience.


While these ships may not reach the same speeds as their faster counterparts, they create an ambiance that encourages passengers to savor every moment, take in the picturesque views, and indulge in a more unhurried approach to cruising.


Importance of Cruise Ship Speeds

The speed at which a cruise ship operates holds significant importance for both passengers and the cruise industry as a whole. While speed may not be the sole focus, it plays a crucial role in shaping the overall cruise experience. Here are some reasons why cruise ship speeds are important:


Timely Arrivals: Cruise ship speeds are essential in ensuring timely arrivals at scheduled ports of call. By maintaining efficient speeds, cruise lines can adhere to planned itineraries, allowing passengers to explore various destinations within the expected timeframe. This helps passengers plan their excursions and make the most of their time at each port.


Passenger Comfort: The speed at which a cruise ship travels greatly affects passenger comfort. Excessive speed can lead to increased motion, vibrations, and swaying, which may cause discomfort and seasickness among passengers. By maintaining a moderate and stable speed, cruise lines prioritize passenger well-being, ensuring a pleasant and enjoyable journey onboard.


Fuel Efficiency: Cruise ships consume a significant amount of fuel to operate their engines. Maintaining an optimal cruising speed helps in conserving fuel and maximizing efficiency. By finding the balance between speed and fuel consumption, cruise lines can reduce their environmental impact and operating costs, ultimately contributing to a more sustainable industry.


Operational Safety: Operating cruise ships at appropriate speeds is essential for safety reasons. Slower speeds in congested areas, narrow waterways, or near shores ensure better maneuverability, reducing the risk of accidents or collisions. By adhering to established speed regulations, cruise lines prioritize the safety of their passengers, crew, and the environments they sail in.


Onboard Experience: Cruise ship speeds also impact the onboard experience for passengers. While faster speeds may appeal to thrill-seekers, most cruise lines prioritize a more relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere for guests. Operating at moderate speeds ensures that passengers can make the most of the onboard amenities, entertainment, and activities without feeling rushed or overwhelmed.


By considering these factors, cruise lines can strike a balance between reaching destinations efficiently and providing a memorable and comfortable vacation experience for their passengers. The importance of cruise ship speeds lies in ensuring timely arrivals, passenger comfort, fuel efficiency, operational safety, and a relaxed onboard atmosphere, ultimately contributing to an enjoyable and well-rounded cruise journey.



Understanding cruise ship speeds is an intriguing and essential aspect of the cruise experience. While cruise ships may not travel at the same speeds as speedboats or racing yachts, their velocities are carefully calculated to provide a balance between efficiency, passenger comfort, and safety. The average speed of most cruise ships ranges from 20-25 knots, providing a steady and enjoyable journey for passengers.


Various factors influence cruise ship speeds, including the size and design of the vessel, engine power, weather conditions, water depth, and navigational routes. These factors are carefully considered to ensure a smooth and safe voyage. While some cruise ships, such as the Oasis-class by Royal Caribbean or Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, are renowned for their faster speeds, others, like Holland America Line’s Prinsendam and Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Magic, embrace a slower pace to create a more relaxed and indulgent experience.


The importance of cruise ship speeds cannot be overstated. They play a crucial role in ensuring timely arrivals at ports of call, maintaining passenger comfort, maximizing fuel efficiency, prioritizing operational safety, and enhancing the overall onboard experience. By striking a balance between speed and other considerations, cruise lines provide memorable and enjoyable vacations for passengers of all ages.


So, whether you’re seeking the thrill of a faster cruise or prefer a leisurely journey, understanding cruise ship speeds allows you to choose the perfect voyage to suit your preferences. Embarking on a cruise is not just about reaching the destination; it’s about immersing yourself in a world of luxury, relaxation, and exploration. So, sit back, relax, and let the cruise ship speed take you on an unforgettable adventure across the vast ocean.