The Next P&O/Carnival Megaships: The World’s Most Crowded?

Back to the subject of VERY BIG ships:

Carnival has announced that they have ordered seven 180,000 gross ton mega-ships from the German ship builder Meyer Werft: two for Costa, two for Carnival, two for AIDA and one for P&O between 2019 and 2022.

Each ship will accommodate 5,200 passengers double occupancy and up to a maximum of 6,600 passengers, which is a world record.

Carnival’s new ships won’t be the largest by size (gross tonnes/volume), as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships at around 225,000 gross tons still wear that crown. However they could be called the biggest by passenger capacity.  The new Carnival mega-ships will carry up to 300 passengers more than the ‘Oasis of the Seas’, yet are smaller.

Carnival were obviously well aware that their initial press release might attract some media criticism (see here) regarding the high passenger capacity. Therefore they were careful to state that they will be: “making much more efficient use of the ship’s spaces”.

Too crowded?

The big question is: Will these be the most crowded cruise ships in the world?

Carnival Corp. chairman Micky Arison, who has been involved with the design process, said that the space ratio on the new vessels is the same as most of the existing ships in the AIDA and Carnival Cruise Line fleets.


We need to do a little math(s) to check if Micky is right.

There are a number of factors which determine how crowded a ship is and/or feels. This includes the ship design which hopefully allows for a good passenger flow, without too many bottle-necks. However passenger-flow cannot be easily measured, it has to be ‘experienced’.

A quantifiable gauge is to compare the space available per-passenger, on-board Carnival’s new mega-ships, then compare the figures with some other big mass-market* ships. Although this will not reveal the whole story about how a ship feels,  it is a reasonably good measure.

The Math

Space per passenger can be calculated by dividing the ships gross tonnage (a measurement of volume) by the passenger capacity, to get a passenger-to-space ratio. So in the case of Oasis it’s 225,000 gt/ 6,296 (maximum occupancy) and you get a figure of 35. This represents 35 gt of space per passenger.

RCI’s ‘Quantum’ class ships have a similar ratio to ‘Oasis’ at 34.


Oasis on the far right dwarfing Carnival, Disney and MSC ships. (Click to enlarge)

We do know that the new Carnival ships will be around 180,000 gt, which is 20% smaller (approx. 45 gt) than RCI’s  ‘Oasis’ class. However the Carnival ships will carry a maximum of 6,600 passengers. That’s 304 more passengers than ‘Oasis of the Seas’, to be precise. If we calculate the ratio we get 27, which clearly means less room per-passenger, than on-board the Oasis and Quantum classes.

Let’s have a look at the Norwegian Cruise Lines ship, ‘Escape’ (2015). At 164,600gt and carries a maximum of 5,400 passengers, she has passenger-to-space ratio of 30. So less generous than Oasis, but only slightly better than the Carnival new builds.

Carnival’s latest ship, ‘Vista’ (2015) is 133,500gt and carries a maximum of 4,683 passengers. That gives us a ratio of 28, only one point more than there 180,000gt new-builds.

The latest Costa ship ‘Costa Diadema’ (2014) is 132,500gt and carries a maximum of 4,947 passengers. This gives us a ratio of 27. (The same as the 180,00gt newbuilds).

The statistics available about AIDA fleets maximum passenger capacity are a little vague. Only the double occupancy figures are generally available. However if I am correctly informed, AIDAstella and AIDAmar appear to have a passenger to space ratio of 26. (Fractionally less than the 180,00get newbuilds)

Costa 180,000gt ship (Courtesy Carnival)

Costa 180,000gt ship (Courtesy Carnival)

In Conclusion, the media and many commentators have simply picked up on the figure “6,600 passengers” and have assumed that the Carnival new-build megaships will be the most crowded ships ever built. This is simply not true.

Micky Arison is correct; there are many ships in service out there, with passenger-to-space ratios of 27 or lower. These do includes Carnival, AIDA and Costa ships.

However I am told that Carnival have sales policy which involves doing their best to sell every berth. For example, I believe they will not sell a 3-4 berth cabin to a couple, if they can avoid it. I’m told that some other cruise lines impose this rule far less rigorously. Therefore it is said that Carnival ships often sail fuller than the industry standard of 104%.

If the above is true, these new mega-ships are bound to feel busier. A quiet corner to read a book will not be so easy to find. However the on-board passenger density will not be unique in the mass-market (or budget) cruise industry and should not feel unbearable. Carnival are very unlikely to sell every berth, every cruise.

It will be interesting to see if Carnival really can ““make more efficient use of the ship’s spaces” to benefit the passenger experience, or is that just sales talk?


(*Premium and Luxury ships, even big ones, always offer more space per-passenger.)

Oasis Review: HERE


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5 Responses to “The Next P&O/Carnival Megaships: The World’s Most Crowded?”

  1. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    Hi David, the QM2 is probably my favourite ship. Yes she is very spacious, there are mass-market ships of a similar size that carry 1,000 more passengers! (I’ve not been on-board her since the refit.)

  2. Malcolm Oliver Says:

    A valid point Felipe, but I do not want to pay for 72! ;-)

  3. Edwin Todd Says:

    Malcolm, for us the ships are are too big. The sharing of a confined place with 5000 – 6000 people for any length of time is not for us. We are happier with the smaller ships where you do get the chance to rest, read and/or enjoy the sky and sea without too,much disturbance.

  4. David in Toronto Says:

    These mega-ships have no appeal to me. I am not against large ships, though. Earlier this month we had our seventh voyage on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 and, although full, it never seemed crowded. Even with the recent addition of 35 double and 15 single cabins the ratio is 55 – far more spacious than any other large ship.

  5. Felipe Ordóñez Says:

    By way of comparison, it is worth mentioning the space ratios of some of the “luxury” ships, as this is one of the measures of what one is paying for when sailing on them. For example:

    Hapag-Lloyd “EUROPA 2”: 83
    Regent “SEVEN SEAS EXPLORER”: 74
    Silversea “SILVER SHADOW”: 67

    Where would you rather be, on a ship with a space ratio of 27, or 72?

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