How Long Does It Take to Build a Cruise Ship?

Want to get an idea of how long it takes to build a brand new cruise ship? As you might imagine, it can take a long time… but what might surprise you is that it doesn’t take as long as you might think.

Think about what today’s modern cruise ships actually are. Ever been to Las Vegas? A cruise ship is a resort on par with the nicest Vegas hotels. And not only are there thousands of cabins for passengers, there are also an unbelievable amount of amenities.

On a cruise ship you’ll find pools, gyms, and spas. There are typically more than a dozen restaurants, including not just the space for guests, but all the kitchen and food storage needed to serve a small city of guests every day.

MSC Seaside docked in Costa Maya

There is everything from casinos to grand theaters, not to mention unique activities like waterslides, climbing walls, mini-golf courses, and even an IMAX theater and go-kart track on some ships.

As if that weren’t enough, all of these features have to be built onto a ship more than 1,000 feet long with a curved hull that doesn’t allow for a square and solid foundation like you’d find on land. Oh yeah, it also has to be able to move at 20 miles per hour and be stable in ocean swells.

If all that sounds like a daunting task, you’re right. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think it would take a decade or more to get a ship built. Truth is that some of the largest cruise ships in the world can be built in less than two years.

The Time It Took to Build Major Cruise Ships

Below, we’ve rounded up the time it took to build many of the newest cruise ships. Keep in mind that this time doesn’t include much of the “backend” work that goes into building a ship, including drawing up plans, sourcing materials, securing financing and more. Instead, this is simply the time it takes to build from the start of construction.

For our research we looked at the time it took to build the Carnival Horizon, MSC Seaside, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas, Carnival Vista, and Norwegian Bliss. These represent the newest ships in major cruise line fleets and give us the best estimate of the time it takes to build a ship today.

Table of time to build cruise ships

As you can see, today’s cruise ships take roughly 18-30 months to complete. Considering the size and scope of these ships (it’s not unusual for a new ship to cost more than $1 billion), it’s our opinion that is an amazingly short time to complete such a large project.


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