How Much Does It Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

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The costs of operating a cruise ship are indeed extraordinary. Royal Caribbean Cruises spent about $9.5 billion to operate its cruise ships in 2018. One of the highest costs is fuel.

How much does it cost to fuel a cruise ship? A smaller-sized cruise ship like the Norwegian Spirit costs about $80,000 per day on fuel. A larger cruise ship like Freedom of the Seas can cost up to $2 million per day to fuel. The cost to fuel a cruise ship varies by the size and speed of the ship.

Read on to learn more about cruise ship fuel consumption, including the cost, distance traveled, and cleaner fuel options.

How Much Does It Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

First, let’s look at how much fuel a cruise ship uses. The size of the ship holds the key to fuel efficiency and consumption. Traveling the same distance will use more fuel for a larger ship than a smaller one. Fuel use is also impacted by the average speed and size of a cruise ship.

Generally, up to 250 tons a day will be used up by a large cruise ship. If converted to gallons, this would be around 80,000 gallons.

Average-sized cruise ships can have a daily fuel consumption of between 140 and 150 tons. This means that the ship will be consuming 30 to 50 gallons per day per mile traveled.

Cruise ship lines are not forthcoming with fuel cost information. However, we can develop a rough estimate cost of fuel based on rumored fuel consumption and real current fuel costs. We can calculate even with our limited mathematical grasp!

Average fuel prices as of July 6, 2019:

RegularMid-GradePremium Diesel
Current Avg./gallon$2.757$3.078$3.330$3.007

Modern cruise ships use either diesel-electric or gas turbine engines as their source for propulsion. For a cruise ship using 80,000 gallons of fuel a day x an estimated $3/gallon = $240,000 per day on fuel.

As much as two million gallons of fuel are carried by a mammoth cruise ship measuring up to 1,100 feet. So a lot of fuel is used, and the cost can be a bit mind-blowing.

Royal Caribbean’s Harmony Cruise Ship

Harmony from the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship Line is a 16-cylinder and four-story-high cruise ship. Its per hour fuel consumption is estimated at 1.377 gallons. And its daily fuel consumption is around 66,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

This would mean that the Harmony, long noted as the world’s largest cruise ship until 2017, has a rough estimated daily fuel cost consumption of about $198,462.

Norwegian Spirit

At 75,500 tons and 878 feet long, the Norwegian Spirit can be seen as the petite version of cruise ships. The Spirit, when traveling, chugs along at 24-knots average speed. The hourly fuel consumption of 1,100 gallons is more fuel-efficient compared to its bigger sisters.

By doing a rough estimate, 1,100 gallons x $3.007 diesel cost per gallon = $3,307.70. Multiply $3,307.70 by 24 hours, and we get a daily fuel cost of $79,384.80.

Freedom of the Seas

Traveling on 21.6 knots average speed, Freedom of the Seas has an approximate size of 1,112 feet long. The ship’s standard fuel consumption is rumored to be around 28,000 gallons per hour. Doing our math on this gives us 28,000 gallons x $3.007 per gallon diesel cost.

This means that Freedom has an estimated hourly fuel cost of $84,196. Multiply $84,196 by 24 hours, and fuel consumption per day is an astounding $2,020,704.00!

Compared to other similar ships, the fuel cost of Freedom is mind-boggling, to say the least. However, the ship claims that 10 to 15 percent fuel savings are now given to them using state-of-the-art propulsion systems.

P&O Britannia

Britannia is the flagship of the P&O shipping line. Weighing at 143,730 tons, this five-star sea hotel can accommodate 1,398 officers and 4,324 passengers. This means that Britannia must have serious power as it traverses the sea.

The average speed of 21.9 knots is up to par with the course. The ship’s hourly fuel consumption of 3,000 gallons roughly estimates a fuel cost of $9,021. Roughly translated, Britannia has a fuel cost of around $216,504 per day.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary is humongous at 1,132 feet long with a total gross weight of 151,400 tons. Built for fast sea travel, 29 knots is considered average cruising speed with 32.5 knots top speed.

This makes us see that Queen Mary 2 is a water rocket compared to similar cruise ships. The brisk clip travel also means more fuel consumption as well. The QM2 is reputed to have an hourly consumption of six tons of marine fuel! 

Size ultimately has a say when it comes to fuel cost per day. Needless to say, more fuel usage means higher fuel consumption and cost. This makes us understand why cruise ships consider their average speeds as the most cost-efficient speed.

Distance Traveled by Cruise Ships on a Gallon of Fuel

The sheer size of cruise ships is always a jaw-dropping sight for all new and seasoned travelers. The fact that they are capable of floating, much less move is already awesome. 

The average speed of most cruise ships at 25 knots per hour or 30mph may not sound that impressive. However, the average speed becomes amazing when you consider that most cruise ships weigh more than 140,000 tons.

You’re right to think that it will take a lot of fuel to push that kind of weight at an average speed of 25 knots. It’s been estimated that around 2,871 gallons an hour are used by ships traveling at 25 knots.

Just for comparison’s sake, let’s compare this to a passenger vehicle that can hold an average of 20 gallons in the tank. Using 20 gallons on a cruise ship will allow it to move for only 25 seconds, tops!

Put another way, most large cruise ships can burn an astounding 104 gallons for them to travel one mile.

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LNG Fuel as a Cost-effective and Safer Solution

Now that I’ve addressed the primary question of “How much does it cost to fuel a cruise ship?”… I want to discuss more cost-effective fuel options. The year 2019 sees the dawn of the new age of LNG fuel for cruise ships. LNG fuel is not something new.

Something new is using the fuel for cruise ships. LNG was used and seen as suitable for ships traveling on repetitive sea routes with strict emissions controls.

Cruise ships sailing NECA or nitrogen oxide emission control areas such as the Baltic and the North Seas are given two options. The ships either have to use LNG or low sulfur MDO to be allowed passage to the areas.

The attractions LNG offer for cruise ships ranges from affordable price and savings in maintenance cost with the engines using cleaner fuel. 

One of the first cruise liners to follow the LNG fuel change is Carnival Cruise Line. AIDAnova is the liner’s first cruise ship powered wholly by LNG. Some of the biggest cruise liners betting big on the LNG technology include:

  • Royal Caribbean
  • Carnival
  • TUI
  • Disney
  • MSC

Cruise ships that used to rely on heavy fuel oil are now required to either pay a premium price for low sulfur fuel or install scrubber systems.

LNG as the Cleaner Fuel Alternative for Cruise Ships

The cruise industry is more affected than other travel sectors due to the public’s environmental pollution concerns. Smoke emissions coming from the cruise liners are seen to become things of the past.

The absence of smoke emissions is due to LNG. Sulfur emissions from fuel oil are cut to zero levels with the switch to LNG. LNG fuel also cut NOx emissions by 85%, greenhouse gas emissions by a quarter, and particulate emissions by 98%.

LNG Fuel Complex Problems That Need to Be Surmounted by Cruise Ships

The particular problem cruise ships have with LNG is not the fuel but the additional storage space needed. LNG needs more tank space like the one used by diesel fuel. For cruise ships, a cubic meter lost means loss of additional cabin space.

Stainless steel pressure tanks seem to provide the safest technology for cruise ships switching over to LNG. This means that the paralleled LNG tank systems are ready to step in should a sudden failure occur. 

This has also made way for sufficient quantities of diesel fuel to be stored in the engines. The diesel fuel can only be used as a last resort remedy if the dual LNG tank systems fail to function.

Doing it this way with cruise ships gives them a safe and effective way of reaching their destinations without unnecessary delays.

LNG as the Clean Fuel of the Future

The arrival and support of the cruise giants this year up to 2026 to LNG will finally make it come of age. As more and more cruise ships fuelled by LNG hit the market, bunkering will finally happen in all key ports of call. 

The time when LNG was compared to the “chicken-and-egg situation” has come to pass. With the cruise liners veering towards LNG, airlines are set to follow.

Conclusion – How Much Does It Cost to Fuel a Cruise Ship?

To revisit our initial question: “How much does it cost to fuel a cruise ship?”

A smaller-sized ship like the Norwegian Spirit costs upward of around $80,000 per day. A larger cruise ship like Freedom of the Seas can cost a staggering $2 million per day.

Large cruise ships can use as much as 250 tons of fuel a day (80,000 gallons). Medium-sized cruise ships can have a daily fuel consumption of between 140 and 150 tons. This means that the ship will be consuming 30 to 50 gallons per day per mile traveled.

The speed and size of the massive cruise ships are the elements that determine their amount of fuel consumption. A smaller ship will obviously need less fuel than gigantic liners like the QM2. 

A similar concept applies to land vehicles as well. A small economy car will naturally need less gasoline to run longer than a large truck. 

The hope is for better and more efficient fuel usage as cruise ships continue to get larger and more luxurious. This will be better for the environment and maybe will mean cheaper cruise tickets for you and me!

Related reading:

What Is the Newest Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship?

How Long Does It Take to Build a Cruise Ship?

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Cruise Ship?

What Is the Best Norwegian Cruise Ship?