The passenger shipping industry, or cruise industry in the modern world, has truly been transformed over the past few decades, with ships that were the largest in the world in the late 90s now barely maintaining their position in the list of the world’s top ten largest cruise ships.
Indeed, in 1912 when RMS Titanic was launched, she was the largest passenger ship ever built and a modern wonder of her age, yet today her 46,328-gross tons would make her a small to mid-size cruise ship in the modern cruise industry.
However, the same competition that drove the development and construction of Titanic remains at work in the cruise industry today: cruise lines are constantly vying with one another to build the biggest, the best, the most luxurious or the most exciting cruise ship. The current largest cruise ships, the Oasis-class operated by Royal Caribbean International, are only the size they are because of the many facilities and amenities Royal Caribbean wanted to offer on board.
Our list of the top ten most expensive cruise ship concepts includes ships that are currently under construction, as well as outrageously large and expansive design concepts that are unlikely to leave the drawing board for years to come, if ever! Ambitious projects such as the gargantuan Freedom Ship at number 1 may seem far-fetched, but remember that when Isambard Kingdom Brunel first launched the 211m SS Great Eastern, by far the largest ship ever built in 1858, a project like Titanic would have seemed inconceivable. Indeed, Great Eastern was too large for her time, a concept too advanced for the 19th century shipping industry and she was unable to make a profit for her owners. Similarly, when Titanic was launched in 1912, a ship such as the Oasis of the Seas, or Allure of the Seas, would have seemed too far-fetched by far to ever sail.
Constant innovation and progress in engineering, design and construction are signature hallmarks of the cruise industry, and its part of why Cruise Arabia & Africa loves it so much.
10. Seven Seas Explorer, $450-million
Seven Seas Explorer is under construction in the Fincantieri shipyard in Italy and is expected to cost the Regent Seven Seas cruise line $450-million when she is launched in 2016. She will be the cruise line’s third all-suite and all-balcony luxury vessel. At 54,000-gross tons, she is 10,000-gross tons larger than Titanic, yet is considered a ‘small’ and ‘intimate’ cruise ship by modern standards, carrying just 738 guests in 369 suites. The ship will boast six restaurants, a nine-deck atrium, and a two-deck theatre, and will offer itineraries in Alaska, the Mediterranean, and the Caribbean.
9. Titanic 2, $500-million
RMS Titanic sailed from Southampton in 1912 bound for New York, she was the largest ocean liner ever built and a modern wonder of the age, but within a few days she would become the greatest peacetime maritime disaster in history. Today, she remains an iconic symbol of mans’ folly and human arrogance. More than 1,500 people died after she struck an ice-berg in the North Atlantic, most of them were immigrants in search of a better life in America, but what made Titanic particularly shocking to the public was the fact that some of the most famous and richest men in the world died in the disaster as well. Now, Australian billionaire Clive Palmer is planning to put the icon to sea once more with an ambitious project to build a replica Titanic (Titanic II) in a Chinese shipyard. The project was announced in 2012, on the 100th anniversary of the original ship’s sinking. When she is launched, Titanic II will sail for Blue Star Line, a reference to the owners of the original ships, White Star Line, and her maiden voyage will be… yes, you guessed it, a cruise from Southampton to New York, following the exact route taken by RMS Titanic more than 100 years ago. She is due for launch in 2016, and while some might call it madness, we call it genius. Cruise Arabia & Africa intends to be onboard!
8. Eoseas, $740-million
This is undoubtedly the largest sailing ship concept ever envisaged and although construction has not yet begun, a memorandum of understanding has reportedly been signed between Stirling Design International and STX Europe, the same shipyard that built Queen Mary 2 (currently the largest ocean liner in the world) and Oasis and Allure of the Seas (the two largest cruise ships in the world). She will be the largest sailing ship ever built, accommodating 3,311 passengers and displacing 105,000-gross tons. Her innovative sail plan is intended to cut her fuel consumption by up to half, and if she is actually launched by 2016, and if her design proves feasible in operation, she may just become the cruise ship of the future.
7. P&O Britannia, $820-million
The largest cruise ship ever built specifically for the British cruise market, P&O Britannia will be launched in early 2015 and will herald a new chapter in the illustrious history of P&O Cruises, the world’s oldest cruise line. Carrying 4,372 passengers and 1,400 crewmembers, she will have the same basic hull design as Royal Princess, the new flagship for Princess Cruises launched in 2012, but will have a much stronger British atmosphere on board, with hull livery proudly proclaiming her heritage. At 141,000-gross tons she will be in the top ten largest cruise ships in the world and will sail from Southampton as her homeport. Facilities on board include a large spa, 4 swimming pools, 13 bars, and 13 restaurants across 15 decks.
6. Norwegian Bliss, $900-million
Norwegian Cruise Lines are famous in the North American cruise market for their Freestyle Cruising concept, which revolutionized the cruise industry and had rival cruise lines scrambling in recent years to introduce similar options at sea. The cruise line is adding a new vessel to their fleet in 2017. Norwegian Bliss will weigh 163,000 tons and will accommodate 4,200 passengers on its colorful and fun decorated decks. She will be one of two new ships ordered on the same design platform, but Norwegian Bliss will be the first. Similar in design and concept to the company’s current flagship Breakaway class, Norwegian Breakaway, which was launched in May 2013, Norwegian Bliss will feature multiple bars and lounges, Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and luxury villas at sea.
5. Carnival Vista, $975-million
Announced last year, Carnival Vista is currently under construction in Fincantieri shipyard in Italy, with her launch scheduled for 2016. She will be the largest cruise ship ever ordered by the cruise line, which is itself the largest cruise company in the world, and will feature a design that departs significantly from the current Carnival fleet, according to Jim Berra, Chief Marketing Officer at Carnival Cruise Lines. She will, however, retain the Carnival Cruises elements that have made the cruise line a world leader in passenger shipping. Accommodating 4,000 passengers, the Vista-class cruise ship will sail at 23-knots and will likely be home ported out of Fort Lauderdale with a year-round Caribbean itinerary, although her cruise destinations are yet to be confirmed.
4. Oasis 3 and 4, $1.4-billion (each)
Royal Caribbean, the second-largest cruise line in the world, which may soon eclipse even Carnival Cruises, has made a name for itself for constantly evolving the cruising experience, corning the market when it comes to ships full of endless activities and forms of entertainment, from ice rinks and rock climbing walls to surf simulators and zip-lines. The Oasis-class ships are the largest in the world and it has now been confirmed that Royal Caribbean are building two more. Oasis 3 and 4 will be nearly identical to their two sister ships and will accommodate 6,360 passengers in 2,700 staterooms on 16 decks. They will be built at STX Finland in Turku and will feature the same emblematic Central Park with its own 82-foot long zip line, an elevating bar, and an Aqua Theater. Oasis 3 is expected to set sail in 2016, with Oasis 4 due for launch in 2018 – both vessels are yet to be named.
3. Carnival Pinnacle, $1.5-billion
Designed by Maurizio Cergol of Fincantieri shipyards, Carnival Pinnacle was first leaked to the media way back in 2004, when she would have been the largest cruise ship in the world at 180,000-gross tons and certainly the largest ever built by Carnival Corporation. However, the project never got off the drawing board and was abandoned following the 2008 financial crash, with Carnival instead choosing to focus on their new cruise ship Carnival Vista, which no doubt borrowed some design elements from Pinnacle. The ship was to be Carnival’s response to Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class, and she would have featured some incredible on board attractions, such as a carousel that would take passengers right round the exterior of the ship. Her passenger compliment would have been 6,000. We can only hope that one day she will take to the seas.
2. Princess Kaguya, $5.4-billion
Despite what the name of this project may lead you to believe, it is in fact in no way related to Princess Cruises. Instead, this gargantuan cruise ship concept was developed by Ocean Silk Road and was to be built at Aker Yards under Japan Contents Network’s supervision. This mammoth project was to be a floating apartment-block or hotel apartment-style cruise liner, with 3,610 suites accommodating up to 8,400 passengers across 20 decks and a crew of 4,000. Her 500m length and 450,000-gross ton size would have made her far and away the largest passenger ship ever built, but for obvious reasons that project has been put on indefinite hold. Apart from the staggering cost of building and operating her, it is unclear if any port in the world would be able to accommodate the ship, let alone the smaller ports of call favoured by the world’s current cruise fleet. The project is incredible though; general layouts for the ship suggest a floating ‘city state’ concept, with three independent hotels, a shopping mall, convention hall, sports event hall, concert arena and 50 restaurants and bars. Never say never, this is the direction in which the cruise industry is headed.
1. Freedom Ship, $10-billion
This is by far the most ambitious and far-fetched passenger ship design concept ever created. Not just in terms of size (1,280m long!), but also because of the extraordinary cost. The estimated funding needed for such a concept to be built is roughly a third of the entire federal budget for the United Arab Emirates in 2014 and a tenth of what the South African government spent on running the country in 2013. For the same amount of money, Royal Caribbean could build seven more Oasis-class cruise ships! If such a monster were ever launched, however, it would likely have to be built at sea because no shipyard could accommodate her and the final result would be terrifying. The design calls for a 25-deck floating city with its own airport and a permanent on board population of 70,000 people (50,000 residents and 20,000 crew), as well as 10,000 daily visitors. The Freedom Ship would have its own schools, parks, hospitals and a casino (just one?) and would permanently circle the globe like some sort of self-navigating island from a dystopian post-apocalyptic future.