How Much Diesel Does A Cruise Ship Use?

Small ships spend far less fuel than huge ships traveling the same distance, which is the most clear solution to this topic. A huge ship might burn up to 250 tons of fuel every day, according to the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. To put it in context, that’s over 80,000 gallons of gasoline per day. Ships of normal size, on the other hand, can consume up to 150 tons of fuel every day. Fuel usage decreases as the size of the vessel decreases. A larger thing, in general, requires more energy to move. Fuel is the source of that power.

What Is a Large Cruise Ship?

While cruise ship sizes are defined differently, large ships normally carry more than 2,500 passengers. Around 1,500 passengers are carried on medium-sized ships, give or take. Typically, small ships carry less than 800 people. Windstar’s ships are on the smaller end of this spectrum, with capacity ranging from 250 to 300 passengers.

How much diesel does a cruise ship burn?

When it comes to fuel consumption and economy, size matters. To travel the same distance, a smaller ship will require less fuel than a larger ship. The amount of gasoline consumed by a cruise ship is influenced by its size and average speed. A large cruise ship can consume up to 250 tons of fuel every day, or around 80,000 gallons. According to, a typical cruise ship consumes roughly 140 to 150 tons of gasoline each day, or 30 to 50 gallons every mile traveled.

Traveling at faster speeds, similar to driving a car, increases aerodynamic drag, which has a direct impact on fuel consumption. This isn’t frequently an issue because most cruise ships cruise at 21 to 24 knots.

A large cruise ship with a length of up to 1,100 feet may carry up to two million gallons of petroleum on board. In example, a private motor boat between 40 and 60 feet holds only 200 to 1,200 gallons, whereas the Exxon Valdez can carry up to 55 million gallons.

According to the Guardian, the Harmony, which is owned by Royal Caribbean, features two 16-cylinder Wärtsilä engines that are four stories tall. They would use roughly 1,377 gallons of high-polluting diesel fuel every hour at maximum power, or around 66,000 gallons per day. It’s worth noting that until the new Symphony of the Seas debuted in 2017, Harmony of the Seas was the world’s largest cruise ship.

How much does fuel for a cruise ship cost?

The expenditures of running a cruise ship are truly astounding. In 2018, Royal Caribbean Cruises spent $9.5 billion operating its cruise ships. Fuel is one of the most expensive items.

What is the cost of fueling a cruise ship? Fuel costs roughly $80,000 per day on a smaller cruise ship like the Norwegian Spirit. The cost of fueling a larger cruise ship like the Freedom of the Seas might reach $2 million per day. The cost of fueling a cruise ship is determined by the ship’s size and speed.

Continue reading to learn more about cruise ship fuel use, including costs, distance traveled, and alternative fuels.

How much diesel Do ships use?

Finally, a ship’s size has a significant impact on how far it can travel. The average cruise ship consumes about 140-150 tonnes of fuel each day, or 30 to 50 gallons per mile. When traveling at faster speeds, the drag increases, resulting in additional fuel consumption. The majority of cruise ships find that cruising around 21-24 knots is the most efficient speed.

How many miles per gallon does a cruise ship get?

Although specific mpg estimates for smaller cruise ships are difficult to come by, an estimate based on engine outputs can be made. The Voyager class of cruise ships is around 311 meters long, yet only has a tonnage of “only” 138,000 tons (compare that to the Oasis of the Seas, which comes in with 225,282 gross Tons). The Voyager class boats are powered by diesel engines with a combined output of 75,600 kW.

Assuming a 30% efficiency, the boat consumes around 1.84 gallons of fuel every second, or 6640 gallons per hour. The cruise ship’s fuel efficiency is around 0.004 mpg, based on its cruising speed of 23.7 knots, or 27.3 mph. The ship’s gas mileage is 12.79 mpg per passenger, or 17.65 mpg per person including crew, due to the ship’s 3114 passengers. Surprisingly, this isn’t all that dissimilar to the much larger Oasis of the Seas.

How much fuel did the Queen Mary use?

The Queen Mary was also excessively thirsty, expending 1 gallon of fuel for every 13 feet traveled. On a daily basis, she used roughly 1100-1500 tons of gasoline.

How long can a cruise ship go without refueling?

A cruise ship can stay at sea for up to twelve days without needing to refuel. The majority of ships, however, will never stay at sea for this long, with the majority completing cruises of 7-10 days or less.

Do cruise ships use diesel fuel?

If you drive a car on a daily basis, you’ve probably seen how numerous factors influence how much fuel you use. For example, if you choose to go on a road trip with your truck hauling a boat, you’ll undoubtedly have to stop for petrol more frequently than you did on your last trip by yourself. If you’ve ever been in a situation like this, you know that carrying greater weight necessitates more fuel.

The similar concept can be applied to ships. Ships, unlike cars, must sail forward against a variety of sea conditions as well as other distinct factors. Here are some of the most important factors that influence cruise ship fuel use.


The amount of gasoline consumed by a cruise ship is mostly determined by its speed. In general, the faster a cruise ship travels, the more gasoline it consumes. As a result, cruise lines strive to sail at a leisurely pace from port to port, allowing passengers to take in the sights. Fuel accounts for around 80% of a cargo ship’s running costs, according to CARB.

Due to the power required to propel ships forward, speed has a considerable impact on fuel consumption. When you consider how much energy it takes to set a big vessel in motion while contending with wind and water resistance, it’s clear to see why acceleration necessitates more effort and consumes more fuel. Setting sail on a smaller ship, such as a Windstar vessel, requires less energy. Cruise ships must, however, maintain a minimum speed in order to function.

What is the speed of a cruise ship? According to the International Maritime Organization, the average speed is around 20 to 25 knots (IMO). A knot is a unit of speed that is equal to one nautical mile per hour or 1.15 land miles per hour. To put it another way, most cruising ships travel at a speed of roughly 23 miles per hour.

Slowing down even farther, to around 18 to 20 knots, saves considerably more gasoline. Slow steaming is when you go at a pace less than 20 knots. It’s a great method to save money on fuel. According to the American Bureau of Shipping, a 10% drop in speed saves a ship around 20% in fuel. The captains of Windstar cruise at about 15 mph.

A cruise ship’s maximum speed is around 30 knots. Captains, on the other hand, generally avoid moving as quickly as possible because it is inefficient and, depending on the sea conditions, may result in a rougher ride. However, under exceptional instances, like as when fleeing a storm, the captain may accelerate to maximum speed.


The greater distance a ship travels, the more fuel it will require. According to the University of Colorado Boulder, a cruise ship can consume a gallon of fuel for every 30 to 60 feet it goes, depending on its size. Assume you’re sailing from New York to London. Assume a distance of approximately 3,342 nautical miles. A nautical mile is about 6,076 feet long. As a result, a cruise liner traveling one way from New York to London would use roughly 338,000 gallons of fuel.

A ship traveling from San Juan to St. Thomas, on the other hand, would travel roughly 70 nautical miles and consume about 7,088 gallons of fuel. These figures aren’t accurate, and they don’t take into account other aspects like speed, but they show how distance affects gasoline use.


A large vessel, as previously said, requires a lot of fuel to go through the water and stay afloat. A small ship may go the same distance using far less fuel. A large cruise ship, for example, may be close to 70,000 tons. This ship will consume more fuel than a smaller ship half its size since it will need to displace a lot more water to maintain its buoyancy.

It’s difficult to imagine any size cruise ship gliding across the water as if it were weightless, but that’s part of the technical magic. Cruise ships can only stay afloat for as long as they can displace (or push aside) the same quantity of water as their own weight. These passenger boats can go around effortlessly because to the combination of displacement and powerful engines. Smaller ships often employ the same dynamics as larger ships, but consume less fuel.


For propulsion and electric power, cruise ships use gas turbines, diesel-electric engines, or diesel engines. The most common form of engine is a diesel engine. The diesel powers the pistons and crankshaft of this type of engine, which connects to the propeller and propels the ship forward.

A diesel-electric engine is linked to generators, which supply electricity to operate the propellers and power the ship’s lights, appliances, and air conditioning systems, among other things. Several engines are coupled to generators on most modern cruise ships. Wind Surf, for example, features four diesel-electric generating sets. Regardless of the ship’s speed, these engines perform well. Gas turbines are comparable to diesel-electric engines in their operation.

The engines are hidden from view for the majority of cruise ship guests. Because ships must have their heaviest weights positioned at the lowest point feasible, their engine rooms are located near the ship’s bottom. Engines for big ships can be enormous since they must propel them over the sea. A nine-cylinder engine for a large cargo ship, for example, might be 65 feet long, 60 feet tall, and weigh around 1,500 tons. An engine that big would take up nearly a quarter of Windstar’s 148-passenger ship.

Larger ships require heavier engines than smaller ships, which adds weight to the ship and necessitates carrying more fuel.


Consider a sleek, aerodynamically designed sports automobile. Why is it important for automobile makers to consider aerodynamics? Objects with rounded or narrow surfaces have less drag than flat, broad surfaces, according to NASA. Drag is the force that tries to slow down a moving object. The more surfaces the air comes into contact with, the greater drag it produces. It is easier for such an automobile to reduce drag and “slide” past a wall of air. On a windy day, an aerodynamic vehicle accelerates more quickly than a car with a bulkier design. As a result, the engine won’t have to work as hard to push through the air, and the vehicle will consume less fuel.

In the same way, you might consider ship design. Water, on the other hand, creates more drag than air. As a result, ship designers analyze how both air and sea forces affect fuel use when designing more efficient ships. A boat’s propulsion fuel consumption could be reduced by up to 8% by optimizing the hull form and surface, as well as the propellers. A vessel’s hull is its main body. Ships also make an effort to maintain a clean hull. Depending on how much slime is present, removing it can result in a 7 to 30% reduction in propulsion fuel usage.

Sailing ships, such as Windstar’s Wind Surf, are tiny cruise ships. Wind Surf combines diesel-electric engines with wind assistance to save fuel while providing a spectacular trip for customers.


Finally, changing weather conditions, notably wind and wave strength and direction, have an impact on fuel use. According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a modest increase in wind hitting the front of a vessel might result in a 4% increase in fuel usage. Sidewinds can increase fuel usage by 2%, while tailwinds can increase it by 1%. The skipper may take an alternate route to avoid bad weather and greater fuel expenditures. The quickest route will typically use the least amount of gasoline and have the least amount of weather-related damage.

Another example of how the environment and weather conditions effect fuel use is the Louis, a Canadian icebreaker ship that we discussed before. The Louis burns roughly 7,925 gallons per day or 330 gallons per hour when cruising across open water. When traveling through thick ice and needing to run all five engines, the amount of fuel consumed per day rises to over 24,000 gallons.

How long does it take to fill a cruise ship with fuel?

Cruise ships are available in a variety of sizes. There is too much variation in the length of cruise ships and their general fuel capacity to provide a definitive answer, but here is a rough breakdown of size in relation to the amount of fuel that a cruise ship can hold:

There are cruise ships that are under 400 feet long and many cruise ships that are between 500 and 900 feet long. These are only rough estimates to give us a starting point.

It may appear improbable that anything can carry a million gallons of fuel in terms of fuel capacity. This is especially true when looking at a common car like a Honda Civic, which has a gas tank that contains roughly 12 gallons (12.4 to be exact).

We can see that a cruise ship carrying 1 million gallons of fuel has the same amount of fuel as roughly 80,650 Honda Civics after doing the calculations. These massive cruise ships, which contain 4 million gallons of fuel, have enough fuel to fill approximately 240,000 Honda Civics! Thankfully, cruise ships are not required to refuel at a Shell gas station, since the rest of us were unable to do so.

We can calculate how long it takes to completely refuel a cruise ship with a little extra arithmetic.

A cruise ship can refill at a rate of around 3,500 gallons per hour. Applying this to a typical small vessel, which contains roughly 130,000 gallons of fuel, it would take over 40 hours to fill it completely.

To fill a medium-sized cruise ship with 1 million gallons of fuel, it would take around 285 hours of continuous fuelling! We’re not even going to talk about how long it takes to refuel a major cruise liner.

It’s the Barge’s Job to Refuel Cruise Ships

Thankfully, the cruise ship captain will not wait until the tank is completely empty before replacing it. As a result, a cruise ship captain is unlikely to wait nearly 12 days at sea to refuel the tank. However, whether at sea or in port, the cruise ship will require the assistance of a much smaller ship called a barge, whose main mission is to assist with refueling.

Barges are flatboats that are usually square in shape and appear to be submerged deep beneath the surface of the water. Barges have traditionally been used to move bulk cargo, and while they still do so, some types of barges are designed expressly to transfer fuel and replenish other ships.

Cruise ships can be refueled at over 400 marine ports throughout the world. The cruise ship can be met by barges, or the cruise ship can be refueled while in port. So, if a cruise ship is sailing from Los Angeles to Anchorage, Alaska, the ship may or may not be refueled while on the way, but it will undoubtedly be refueled while in Anchorage and again when it returns.

How Often Does A Cruise Ship Need To Be Refueled?

The frequency with which a cruise ship’s fuel is replenished varies greatly. Smaller cruise ships will naturally burn less fuel, as would cruise ships operating at a slower pace. This means that a tiny cruise ship traveling slowly will use the least amount of gasoline, whereas a huge cruise ship traveling quickly will use the most. Every other ship is located somewhere in the middle.

Other factors, as previously indicated, influence how quickly a cruise ship burns gasoline. The ship’s speed and size are significant, but the weight it carries and the weather it experiences — such as wind speed and direction — are also important considerations.

When considering how often a cruise ship needs to be refueled, there are two things to bear in mind. The first is that a cruise ship burns 30-50 gallons of fuel each nautical mile on average. The second point is that a large barge can contain around 450,000 gallons of fuel to feed cruise ships.

With these statistics in hand, let’s look at some real-life cruise ship examples to see how often — and how much — they require refueling.

Norwegian Spirit

The Norwegian Spirit, a European cruise ship, is slightly over 880 feet long and falls into the small-medium category. The ship has a fuel capacity of 350,000 gallons and travels at a speed of 24 knots (nautical miles per hour). A nautical mile is a mile that is slightly longer than a regular mile. The Spirit will consume 960 (almost 1,000!) gallons of fuel each hour at a rate of 40 gallons per knot.

That’s at least 160,000 gallons of fuel per week, which means the Spirit will need to be refueled every two weeks. If the ship is fully depleted of fuel and a barge pumps 3,500 gallons per hour, it will take a long time for the ship to be filled!

If the ship averages 24 knots per hour throughout the day, it will travel roughly 4,000 knots in a week, which is more than enough distance to sail practically anyplace without refueling.

Even if the tank is just half full, it will take a few days — 50 hours — to refuel it.

Queen Mary 2

The Queen Mary 2, another famous cruise ship, is right on the verge of the medium-large size category, measuring 1,132 feet – more than three football fields combined. The cruise ship is known for its speed, with an average speed of 29 knots per hour. It can also hold roughly 1,150,000 gallons of gasoline.

We’ll use the highest average of 50 gallons per knot for the Mary because it’s so big and fast. It consumes roughly 1450 gallons of fuel every hour at 29 knots! However, according to some reports, the Mary appears to be refueled every two weeks or less. This implies that it might use up to 50 gallons per knot!

Fueling will take almost 165 hours if the tank is half full — almost a week! — to complete. Fortunately, cruise ships undergo extensive maintenance before to and after journeys, giving crew members and mechanics adequate time to ensure that the ships’ tanks are full and ready to go.

What fuel do large cruise ships use?

The nature of propulsion is the next important step after considering design and performance issues. The amount of fuel used by a cruise ship is determined by the changing propulsion architecture and source.

Conventional Diesel Propulsion

Diesel engines will undergo considerable adjustments with the implementation of MARPOL’s 0.5 percent sulfur content rule. The change in specific gravity of the fuel in use in the engine is the main cause of this change.

Fuel Consumption (Metric Tons) = Fuel Consumption (meter cube) X Fuel Specific Gravity

Because mixed oils and VLSFO fuel have a lower density, their volume is increased. As a result, the bunkering staff takes this into account when estimating fuel use.

The propulsion of typical cruise ships is heavily reliant on diesel (less than 0.1 percent sulfur). This fuel is also used to power the ship’s power system, which includes the generators and boilers.

Electric Propulsion

The main engine in electric propulsion systems does not use any driving fuel. In comparison to traditional diesel propulsion, this greatly reduces usage. The large sets of alternators generate the necessary power to run heavyweight electric motors.

A twin-screw or triple-screw propeller is used on most electric cruise ships. As a result, when the load is reduced, the propeller capability is used appropriately.

Shaft generators are also beneficial for reducing electrical power production use. This eliminates the need for supplementary machinery while sailing, lowering fuel consumption.

LNG Engines

Modern cruise ships use LNG propulsion to eliminate the disadvantages of diesel fuel. LNG storage and consumption criteria are distinct from those of any other accessible fuel. Its higher calorific value has a significant impact on engine fuel economy.

The LNG-compatible ships, on the other hand, are equipped with a branded LNG engine. This fuel cannot be burned by cruise ships with normal engines. Furthermore, with LNG as a bunker, the refrigeration system and inert gas regulation change dramatically.