How Much Fuel Do Cruise Ships Use?

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Today’s cruise ships are extravagant, to say the least. From magnificent dining halls and towering water parks to skydiving simulators and bowling alleys, their decks are brimming with a huge array of impressive facilities. And that’s without mentioning all the machinery putting it in motion. Throw in hundreds, sometimes thousands, of passengers on top of all that and you’ve got a seriously heavy ship. So, what powers these super-vessels and all their technical wizardry from A to B? The answer, of course, is fuel and lots of it.

Fuel capacity plots the voyage

Did you know that there’s a direct correlation between fuel capacity and the fuel consumption/fuel efficiency of the ship? This largely fluctuates depending on how much fuel the ship leaves port with, the rate at which fuel is burned and how much fuel it has left. These factors dictate how far a ship can travel between ports and what route it should take.

To give you an idea of what today’s state-of-the-art liners drink up, we’ve taken a look at some of the biggest names in the business and how much fuel they consume on the average voyage.

Queen Mary 2

Norwegian Spirit

Freedom of the Seas

MSC Magnifica

P&O Britannia

Fred Olsen Boudicca

Queen Mary 2

Lauded as the fastest cruise ship on the planet, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 has a total fuel capacity of 4,381 metric tonnes. This propels the 151,400-tonne luxury liner at a rate of 41 feet for every gallon. At her average speed of 29 knots, this gives her 10 days at-sea without having to refuel. On an hourly rate, this translates to six tonnes. If she’s hitting her top speed of 32.5 knots she’d get to her destination faster but drink up a lot more fuel.

Norwegian Spirit

This 76,000-tonne, 878-foot long ship may be Norwegian’s smallest fleet member but it is still capable of carrying 1,150 metric tonnes of fuel, or the equivalent of 354,144 gallons.  Her small size makes her extremely fuel efficient, with her average speed of 24 knots chewing up 1,100 gallons of fuel per hour. This gives her an average of 12 at-sea days before she needs to return to port to refuel.

Freedom of the Seas

At 160,000 tonnes and 1,112 feet, Freedom of the Seas is over twice the size of Norwegian Spirit. It has an increased fuel capacity to match, with its tanks able to carry 3,533 metric tonnes at a time. At its average speed of 21.6 knots, she burns around 2,800 gallons of fuel an hour. Thanks to advanced eco-friendly propulsion systems Royal Caribbean is able to save 10-15% on fuel usage and costs every voyage.

MSC Magnifica

Smaller than the other ships listed so far, MSC Magnifica still has 95 tonnes and a plethora of facilities to ferry around, including 1,259 cabins, 1,038 crew members and almost three times as many passengers. With an average speed of 18 knots that can reach 22.90 knots when pushed to its maximum, Magnifica also has an energy saving and monitoring system for more eco-friendly energy usage which helps bring down the fuel consumption.

P&O Britannia

P&O’s flagship vessel, Britannia, is like a five-star hotel at sea, weighing in at an impressive 143,730 tonnes. With 4,324 passengers and 1,398 officers onboard when at sea, Britannia needs some serious power to travel the waters; its average speed of 21.9 knots is more than up to the task, burning just 3,000 gallons of fuel every hour.

Fred Olsen Boudicca

Fred Olsen’s nimble, streamlined Boudicca is on the smaller side of things, with a collected crew and passenger number of around 1,200 and a total tonnage of 28,388. Averaging 18.5 knots with a max speed of 22 knots at its very limit, Boudicca uses less fuel than most liners currently criss-crossing the world’s waters.

How important is the ship’s size?

Ultimately, size has a weighty impact on how far a ship can sail. On a daily basis, the average cruise ship uses around 140-150 tonnes of fuel, or 30 to 50 gallons per mile. Like vehicle travel, hitting higher speeds increases drag which results in more fuel usage. Generally speaking, the majority of cruise ships find that 21-24 knots to be the most efficient speed.

Eco-friendly technology

The world is becoming increasingly knowledgeable about eco-friendly technology and the appropriate solutions for minimising carbon footprints. Accordingly, the cruise sector has taken some important steps to maximise efficiency and slash CO2 emissions wherever possible. New legislation coming into force in 2020 will require cruise ships to reduce their sulphur emissions from 3.5% to 0.5%, with several companies already complying through the use of scrubber technology, which uses seawater to wash exhausts. Other methods that cruise ships are using to become more eco-friendly include:

  • Plugging ships into electrical power sources when in port rather than leaving their motors idling.

 

  • Implementing construction features such as energy efficient LED lighting, twilight sensors, augmented heat recirculation and eco-friendly air cooling systems that maximise fuel efficiency.

 

  • Silicon coatings applied to ships’ hulls to help reduce friction as they plough through bodies of water. Celebrity Eclipse employs this method, reportedly reducing friction by 5%.

 

  • Employing solar panelling to certain areas of the ship. For example, Celebrity’s Solstice Class of ships have a field of solar panels over its enclosed Aquaspa pool area that helps to reduce electricity usage and lessens the demands on its engines.

 

  • The use of exhaust gas economisers that employ waste heat from the ship’s engines to produce steam, and in turn, reduce energy. On ships such as Queen Mary 2, this can be used to heat accommodation, do the ship’s laundry, and heat fuel amongst other things.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article. Fancy fuelling your next adventure? Head over to our dedicated homepage to view our full list of cruises, or give our friendly customer care team a call on 0808 274 6777.

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About Author

Claire Wilde

Claire has worked in the travel industry since leaving college in 1994. One of this blog's most regular contributors, Claire covers cruise news and industry trends.

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