Does size matter?

Well, I’m talking about cruise ships! That being the case, does size matter? We have sailed on small, medium, and large ships …….. so what is the difference in size and how do you tell the difference! When people talk about cruise ships, they usually compare the gross tonnage of one ship to the gross tonnage of the other.  Because the word “tons” is used in connection with this measurement, people often think the gross tonnage is the weight of the ship. However, as Captain Herman Zini of Royal Caribbean explains, “The tonnage is not the weight, it is a volume measurement. So when we are talking about the tonnage of a ship, we are talking about the volume inside.”

The measurement was developed in order to be able to assess a ship’s cargo capacity. In fact, “tons” as used here is a corruption of “tuns”, an archaic term for casks of wine!

Traditionally, one gross ton was equal to 100 cubic feet of Space. Today, however, tonnage is worked out using a formula but still translates into the internal capacity of the ship.

Gross tonnage is a different standard of measurement than displacement. As Captain Stig Nilsen of Royal Caribbean explains, “Displacement is the weight of the water that a ship displaces. It is actually the weight of the ship.”

Military ships are often stated in terms of its displacement. For example the USS Ronald Regan had a displacement of 102,000 tons while the Brilliance of the Seas measures 90,000 gross tonnage. It would be a mistake to compare these two ships as to tonnage as you would be comparing apples and oranges!

Similarly, gross tonnage is different than deadweight. Deadweight is the amount of load that a ship is allowed to take on board. While the Oasis of the Seas has a gross tonnage of 225,000, her deadweight is only about 25,000 tons!

All that being said, as to cruise ships if we compare gross tonnage, we should have an apples to apples comparison. The gross tonnage normally relates to passenger load also. For example the Azamara Quest has a gross tonnage of about 30,000 tons and a passenger capacity of about 600. Royal Caribbean’s Brilliance has a gross tonnage of about 90,000 tons and a passenger capacity of about 2000, therefore the Brilliance is about three times larger than the Quest!

As most of you know the trend is to build larger and larger ships. For example, the evolution of Royal Caribbean ships has been: Vision class – 78,340 tons, Radiance class – 90,000 tons, Voyager class – 138,000 tons, Freedom class – 160,000 tons, Allure class – 225,282 tons. However RCCL’s new Quantum class will only be 167,800 tons. As a rule gross tonnage does translate into not only the size of the ship, but also number of passengers, added activities, more open space, more restaurants, etc. So, size does matter.

Personally we prefer the smaller ships, like the Azamara Quest or RCCL Radiance class, but we have also had some great cruises on larger ships.

As for me, going forward I am going to think not only of the ship’s gross tonnage …………. but that the ship might be able to hold that much wine!!!

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