How long does it take to build a cruise ship?


Have you ever marveled at the sheer size of these ships and how long it takes to build a modern cruise ship?

If you’re asking this question, you might also be wondering how much time it takes to create a small city that’s exactly what cruise ships are today—a floating city. It takes a lot of planning, effort and time to build these floating wonders.

With an incredible array of amenities, features, entertainment, activities and culinary dining, there are many details that go into creating these modern day cruise ships in the cruise industry. But despite their sheer size, building one doesn’t take as long as you might think.

How long does it take?

The time required to create a new cruise ship depends on the size of the ship and the desires of the owner. Regardless of overall size, the overall time to build most cruise ships depends on the experience of those building them.

The construction of a cruise ship usually takes between 12 and 18 months. Construction begins with the laying of the keel and ends with the launch.

Why so long?

Modern cruise ships contain all the amenities and features of a modern city. Her focus is on entertaining all passengers on board. As in Las Vegas, these ships contain movie theaters, casinos, playgrounds, and numerous restaurants.

That’s not small either. Every cruise line wants to take their offering to the next level. So they’re looking for the next exciting adventure ride, how to make things even bigger or more exciting, and how to appeal to different demographics.

The features and entertainment are getting bigger and bigger. Movie theaters are integrating more technology than ever before, and every cruise line strives to be first in one area or another. They all compete for people’s attention in a highly competitive market. You must be the best.

Meyer Shipyard Turku (Image credit: Jamo Images/Shutterstock)

A cruise line strives to provide the best possible experience for its guests. Standard amenities on a cruise ship include spas, gyms, fitness equipment, and swimming pools. There are also various restaurants that appeal to most guests.

Where cruise lines try to outdo the others, they offer unique attractions to their guests. This can include water parks, miniature golf courses, zip lines, go-karts, ice rinks, and more. In addition, hundreds of accommodations for crew members, guests, cabins and cabins must be built.

Worth reading: How big is a cruise ship?

With all these details, you would think that building a cruise ship would take forever. But once you understand how cruise ships are built, the time frame seems more plausible.

Stages of cruise ship construction

Cruise ships go through various stages before being launched. Here are the highlights of the typical steps in building a cruise ship from start to finish:

  1. order is placed – Although it seems obvious, this is the first step. Whoever owns the shipping company orders his ship. The design of the cruise ship was approved before the order was placed.
  2. Ceremonial steel cutting – It cuts the first piece of steel that is part of the cruise ship. It will be cut in front of the cruise ship owner/management.
  3. keel laying – The keel is the lowest part of the ship. It is set with absolute precision using GPS coordinates to ensure accuracy. The process must be accurate to the centimeter in order to be successful.
  4. Launch of the cruise ship – Once the frame is built and the cabins are installed, the ship is launched. It will be flushed out and moved to another area of ​​the company’s shipyards for additional equipment to be completed.
  5. trials at sea – Insurance agents and shipyard officials board the cruise ship for sea trials. Representatives from government agencies responsible for shipbuilding will join the group to verify that the cruise ship can be navigated.
  6. handover ceremonies – The cruise ship is handed over to the owner.
  7. The Shakedown Journey – The cruise ship is moved from the shipyard to the home port.
  8. Baptism – A ‘godmother’ will be chosen to reveal the cruise ship’s name.
  9. maiden voyage – The cruise ship is ready to receive paying passengers on the first sea voyage.

While most large cruise ships take 12-18 months to build, some take even longer. For example, Royal Caribbean’s Wonder of the Seas took three years to complete, although that was partly due to delays caused by COVID.

Which companies build cruise ships?

Large cruise lines don’t employ their own staff to build their fleets. This is due to the high cost of the equipment needed for construction, which increases the cost of the cruise ship.

It also requires a high level of expertise and knowledge to build them. There are numerous specialized shipbuilders responsible for building megaships. Major shipbuilders include Meyer Werft in Germany (also owns Meyer Turku in Finland), Fincantieri in Italy and Chantiers de l’Atlantique in France.

These ship builders have huge shipyards in river and coastal cities. They build multi-million dollar ships from sea to surface before they set sail.

Meyer shipyard shipyard
Photo credit: MartinLueke /

If we look at the location, there are only four major shipyards that can build large cruise ships. We’ve already mentioned the first three, but there’s also Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. Another shipyard to consider is MV Werften in Germany, which was owned by the now bankrupt Genting Cruise Lines.

Fincantieri is located in Italy. It built its first cruise ship in 1990. Today it is the largest European manufacturer. Meyer Werft is a family business based in Papenburg, Germany, which also owns the popular Meyer Turki shipyard in Finland.

Meyer Werft began building cruise ships in the mid-1980s. The shipyard is in a unique location as there is no direct access to the sea. Ships have to be transferred to the North Sea via the Ems.

Chantiers de l’Atlantique was formerly known as STX Europe/France and is based in France. The shipyard is known for building Oasis-class cruise ships for Royal Caribbean and larger ships for MSC Cruises.

Which materials are used?

High-strength steel and aluminum are used to maintain a low center of gravity despite the cruise ship’s massive size. The heaviest items such as propellers, engines and fuel tanks are housed in the lower section of a cruise ship.

Fincantieri shipyard
Credit: Mark Hu/Shutterstock

Despite the top-heavy look shipbuilders distribute the weight of the cruise ship to ensure its stability. Lightweight materials help reduce emissions and fuel consumption. They also help the cruise ship perform well in difficult sea environments.

Carbon fiber and fiber reinforced plastics are often considered. In theory, they can reduce the mass of the cruise ship, thereby lowering the center of gravity and reducing the weight above the ship’s waterline.

Towering Structures

Because some ships reach heights of 500 feet, assembling these ships requires structural engineering. The hull is the first part to be built on land. This is the base of the ship. It must be waterproof before anything is placed on it.

Superstructures are built remotely in smaller blocks and then placed onto the hull piece by piece, almost like a solid Lego build.


Cruise ship cabins are magnetized. This increases storage space and helps organize items more efficiently. Magnetism is also important to the building process.

Carnival Sunrise cabin
Photo: Copyright Cruise Hive

Cabins are usually created separately from the rest of the cruise ship. The construction is like a car factory adding every aspect including built-in furniture and plumbing. Once they are ready, they will be taken to a shipyard. There they are pushed into the cruise ship by magnetic force.

water tests

Water control systems are included, allowing crews to build the ship out of and in the water. This allows them to check the newly designed hull for watertightness at the same time. It also allows engineers to carry out any necessary work on the underwater sections.

By installing artificial dams, the shipyard team can empty and fill their construction site as often as they like.

final touch

Major cruise lines offer the finest decorations and details that money can afford. By employing experienced interior designers and top artists, they ensure that cruise ships appear more like high-end resorts than simple transport vessels.

When completed, the cruise ship will be a luxury floating vessel that will amaze a multitude of new guests. Cruise ships will be delighted with the latest technology, amenities, dining and entertainment offerings.

Also Read: How Much Does It Cost to Build a Cruise Ship?

How long it takes to build a cruise ship depends on its size and the amenities required for construction. The duration also changes based on the experience of the shipbuilders.

The most experienced team will get the job done faster than one with moderate experience. Regardless of cruise ship size, there is a basic schedule based on actual experience.

How long does it take to build a cruise ship

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