Just a few weeks ago Micky Arison, CEO of Carnival Corp., reiterated that Carnival would never build a ship the size of Oasis of the Seas, and in fact Oasis is about 35% larger at 220,000-tons and a berth capacity of 5400 passengers. Still, these new ships actually represent a significant size. The number 139,000-tons is the same as Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class which was the standard bearer of mega-ship status for many years.
What will these new Princess ships be like? At a passenger capacity of 3600 people they will be fairly dense in terms of passenger/space ratio. The Voyager class has a passenger capacity of 3114 for a ship the same size. The larger Queen Mary 2, which boasts 148,000 gross tons, carries almost 1000 fewer guests.
Meanwhile - the cruise line that is most often cited as Princess' nearest competitor, Celebrity, has the Solstice class of ships that comes in at 122,000-tons and a passenger capacity of 2850 berths.
At first blush, it appears that Princess is packing an awful lot of passengers into these new ships for their size, but they are not anywhere close to what Carnival has in its newest ship, Carnival Dream, with 3652 passenger berths on a 130,000-ton ship.
There is a ship standard for comparing the available space onboard a ship called the "passenger space ratio." It is derived by dividing the gross tonnage by the ship's berth capacity. We use the berth capacity because few ships ever sail completely full. On average throughout the industry, most cruise ships sail at 2% to 4% more passengers than the berth capacity.
So, comparing the passenger space ratio on these larger cruise ships we get:
The larger the number, the better. It represents the number of square meters available per guest on the ship. Of course, it is a very loose interpretation because it includes the entire ship and does not compare public spaces to staterooms or the crew area, for example. Still, it actually turns out to be a very useful comparator.
Queen Mary 2 is the clear winner, and certainly enough the available space onboard is used to give it grandeur. The rooms are large and majestic, much like Grand Central Station in New York with its ten story ceiling but only one ground floor.
Celebrity Solstice is Similar to Queen Mary 2 in terms of using size for grandeur, although the ratio is lower and more space is given over to additional alternative dining spots and special lounges such as the wine bar. Still, Solstice has grandeur with long and tall corridors filled with flowing floor to ceiling drapes.
Royal Caribbean ships are slightly different. They have plenty of size but are not as majestic as the ships listed above. The space is packed with a greater variety of public rooms and onboard attractions. The newer ones have a huge internal horizontal atrium
Oasis of the Seas is unique among all cruise ships. Much of the size is given over to public space including massive open air corridors between the staterooms for Central Park and the Boardwalk. Oasis is one of the least crowded mainstream ships despite its record breaking passenger capacity.
So, what remains to be seen is how well Princess will utilize the space onboard these new ships. Even with the larger passenger capacity they will be more spacious than the latest ships to arrive from Princess, Ruby and Emerald Princess. Plus, Princess innovated the concept of making large ships feel smaller. Sapphire Princess has five separate dining rooms, each of them able to feed just about 400 people at once. That makes the ship feel much smaller than it is, especially compared to Oasis of the Seas which has just one dining room for as many as 2500 diners at the same time.
No matter what, Princess always excels in the ways that are most important to passengers, food, service and destinations. Their staterooms are roomy and their crewmembers are loyal and efficient. Even if these ships are bigger and hold a larger number of passengers, size has its advantages and it is extremely interesting to explore the different ways in which space has been utilized on different ships.
It will be interesting to see what Princess does with these new designs. Of all of the Carnival Corp. ships, their biggest ships; Queen Mary 2 and Grand Princess, for example, tend to have the most interesting designs.