The United States has the largest civilian aircraft fleet in the world, with more than 8,000 planes. China is second with just over 5,100 airplanes and Russia comes in third at 4,600. This number does not include military planes or drones which would alter the rankings significantly.

The “largest airlines in the world by fleet size” is a question that has been asked for years. The answer to this question is easy, and it’s not what you think.

Who Has the Largest Fleet?

Being the “biggest” is a nice title to have, particularly in the cruise line business, where various lines compete to show off the largest ship, the largest onboard venues, the largest suite sizes, and other record-breaking amenities.

However, which cruise company has the world’s biggest fleet? The solution isn’t as straightforward as cruise passengers would believe.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean have the two largest fleets.

The two indisputable leaders of the cruise travel business in terms of fleet size are Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, however comparing the two lines’ actual fleet numbers might be unexpected.

In many respects, many ardent travelers think Carnival Cruise Line is by far the biggest cruise line in the world, however this isn’t the statistical fact. Royal Caribbean International, in reality, has more ships, with more gross tonnage and passenger capacity, as of early 2022.

Cruise ShipsPhoto credit: Shutterstock/Wangkun Jia

The Carnival Cruise Line fleet (as of May 2022) looks like this:

  • There are currently 23 operational boats (does not count ships on order or not yet delivered from shipbuilders)
  • The combined gross tonnage of the vessels is little over 2.5 million gross tons.
  • Approximately 70,000 people may be accommodated on a single cruise with double occupancy.

Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International’s figures (as of May 2022) are as follows:

  • There are 26 active boats (does not count ships on order or not yet delivered)
  • Total vessel tonnage is estimated to be about 3.8 million gross tons.
  • A total of 91,000 people may be accommodated on a single cruise with double occupancy.

But what do these figures really mean?

The cruise line’s active boats are ones that are presently under its control. This does not include future ships that have been ordered or are currently being built but have not yet been delivered to a cruise line or put into service.

Active cruise ships must also be available for reservations by the cruise company, not leased out or on other temporary assignments, such as being chartered for emergency usage.

Carnival Cruise Business had 27 ships before the COVID-19 pandemic and worldwide cruise industry shutdown, however five of the Fantasy-class ships were scrapped when the line regrouped. Mardi Gras joined the fleet when the cruise line relaunched, bringing the total number of ships in the fleet to 23.

Carnival Mardi Gras Cruise ShipMelissa Mayntz contributed to this image.

Prior to the closure, Royal Caribbean still had 26 ships, but it had retired two of its smallest ships and added two of its biggest, Odyssey of the Seas and Wonder of the Seas. Royal Caribbean’s fleet remained at 26 ships, allowing it to overtake Carnival as the world’s biggest fleet by total number of ships.

Vessel tonnage is a straightforward method to determine a ship’s size since it measures the whole volume of the vessel. This does not, however, account for crew quarters or operational rooms like as the engine room, washing facilities, galley, or other behind-the-scenes areas that may take up space on a ship.

Wonder of the Seas Cruise ShipRoyal Caribbean provided this image.

As a result, a “bigger” ship in terms of gross tonnage may really be “smaller” for passengers due to the way space is utilised. Nonetheless, the gross tonnage measurement is important for getting a feel of a ship’s size in general.

Also see: What Are the Differences Between Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise Lines?

As is customary in the cruise business, the passenger capacity figures are based on double occupancy, which is two people per cabin. However, depending on how many cabins can accommodate a third, fourth, or even fifth passenger, a cruise ship’s maximum capacity may be substantially higher if all berths are full.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean are somewhat equivalent lines based on these data, however there are other ways in which they vie for the “largest” and “biggest” designations.

The World’s Largest Cruise Ships

Royal Caribbean is well-known for having the world’s “biggest” individual ships, with the top five of the top ten largest cruise ships all belonging to the Royal Caribbean fleet. The line’s newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, is now the world’s biggest cruise ship, with the Oasis-class Utopia of the Seas, set to launch in 2024, set to be even bigger.

Wonder of the Seas Cruise ShipRoyal Caribbean provided this image.

By contrast, Carnival Cruise Line’s award-winning flagship Mardi Gras is the biggest ship in the company’s fleet, approximately 50,000 gross tons more than the next-largest fleet mate, yet it just narrowly cracks the top ten list of the world’s largest ships.

However, when Royal Caribbean’s new Icon class of ships debuts with Icon of the Seas in autumn 2023, Mardi Gras is likely to be pushed totally out of the top 10, since the new ship is expected to have a gross tonnage of over 200,000, significantly more than Mardi Gras’ 180,800 gross tons.

The Cruise Line That Offers the Most Cruises

Another metric for determining how “large” a cruise company is its total passenger sailings, or the number of passengers that sail with the line each year. Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean are now much more competitive as a result of this number.

According to figures from 2021, Royal Caribbean handled about 3.2 million passengers, while Carnival Cruise Line handled over 2.5 million.

However, this information is deceptive since both fleets were only partly operational in 2021, and individual ships resumed post-pandemic sailings at different periods and in different parts of the globe.

Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipsRoyal Caribbean Cruise Ships (Shutterstock photo by Joni Hanebutt)

In reality, Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas was able to begin sailing in December 2020, which means it carried more passengers in 2021 than any Carnival cruise ship, based on the number of sailings. Carnival Vista was the first Fun Ship to resume sailings, and it did so only in July 2021, months after Royal Caribbean reopened its doors to passengers.

In most years, Carnival Cruise Line would easily outnumber Royal Caribbean in terms of total passenger numbers, as Carnival offers a greater number of short 3-4 night cruises, allowing even its smaller ships to carry more passengers.

This is especially true in the Caribbean, where nearly one-third of all passenger cruise travel takes place.

Carnival Measurements vs. Royal Measurements

While Royal Caribbean now holds the “largest” and “biggest” titles in many aspects, and Carnival Cruise Line is closely followed, and even exceeded, by Royal Caribbean in several categories, how do these two cruise lines compare in other areas?

Which cruise company has the longest voyage? This honor also belongs to Royal Caribbean, which will cruise the Serenade of the Seas on a 274-night Ultimate World Cruise.

After the COVID-19 epidemic, which cruise company was the first to resume its complete fleet? Carnival Cruise Line receives this honor when the Carnival Splendor starts her Alaska season in 2022.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise ShipsCruise ships from Carnival and Royal Caribbean (photo credit: SeregaSibTravel / Shutterstock)

What is the highest observation deck on a cruise ship? The North Star observation pod on the Odyssey of the Seas belongs to Royal Caribbean as well.

What is the fastest roller coaster on a cruise ship? Carnival Cruise Line’s Mardi Gras has the distinction of being the only roller coaster at sea.

Cruise companies often use such customized “titles” as smart promotions or to highlight the fleet’s distinctive attributes.

How Do Other Cruise Lines Compare?

Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Line are without a doubt two of the most popular cruise lines in the world, but they are far from the only ones. How do other well-known lines fit in terms of size?

The following is a list of cruise lines’ total fleet size, combined gross tonnage, and estimated double occupancy passenger capacity:

  • MSC Cruises has 19 ships with a gross tonnage of 2.4 million tons and a passenger capacity of 64,000 people.
  • Norwegian Cruise Line has 17 ships, a gross tonnage of 1.9 million tons, and 51,000 passengers.
  • Princess Cruise Line has 15 ships with a total capacity of 46,000 people and a gross tonnage of 1.8 million tons.
  • Costa Cruises has 12 ships with a gross tonnage of 1.4 million tons and a passenger capacity of 45,000 people.
  • Celebrity Cruises has 12 ships with a total capacity of 32,000 people and a gross tonnage of 1.4 million tons.
  • Holland America Line has 11 ships with a gross tonnage of little under 1 million tons and a passenger capacity of 23,000 people.

Of course, different metrics can always be used to show just how “big” any cruise line may be. Cruise line with the longest history? That title belongs to P&O Cruises, which began sailing in 1837. Cruise line with the greatest number of Disney fans? No surprise that this would be Disney Cruise Line.

What is the largest cruise line for adults only? Although two other companies with smaller ships are also adults-only, and other bigger lines provide certain boats or sailings that are adults-only, this belongs to the new Virgin Voyages.

What other grandiose titles will other cruise lines and fleets have in the years to come? What other largest, biggest, longest, most, tallest, or other grandiose names will different cruise lines and fleets have in the years to come? Cruise Hive will keep you up to speed on all the latest news from the world’s largest and greatest cruise lines!

Note: Fleet statistics were correct as of May 2022; data may vary as new ships join various fleets and older ships are modified or decommissioned, and cruise lines will continue to compete for the title of world’s biggest.

Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruise Ships

The “what are the 10 largest airlines in the world” is a question that has been asked many times. The answer to this question is different depending on who you ask.

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