Ocean Liner vs Cruise Ship – What are the differences?


Often the words cruise ship and ocean liner are used interchangeably. Most people don’t realize that there are significant differences between the two types of ships. Some are fundamental, while others are measurable. We dig deeper into what constitutes an ocean liner as opposed to a cruise ship.

Differences between ocean liners and cruise ships

Ocean liners are used to travel from one destination to another. There are usually no arrivals at multiple ports as they generally cross larger stretches of ocean, including from the United States to Europe. Since they can experience various weather changes, they must be solidly constructed using large amounts of steel in the hull.

The bows of these ships are tapered and long, allowing them to cut through the waves. Deep air currents allow them to be more stable while remaining being built for speed.

Cruise Ship Wake (Photo credit: atm2003 / Shutterstock)

Ocean liners can be used as passenger ships or transport goods overseas. Freighters are often referred to as ocean liners. They transport goods, pallets and containers to various destinations. Ocean liners will sit lower in the water than cruise ships, making them more capable of dealing with poor weather conditions.

Cruise ships, on the other hand, make multiple stops at different ports. They have multiple destinations and the purpose is recreational rather than commercial. Cruise ships also tend to take shorter trips.

Physical differences

Since the two ships have different purposes, they are designed very differently.

  • Primary function – Cruise ships were built for leisure activities while ocean liners were created for multiple purposes like transporting passengers, cargo, containers, pallets and large quantities of items from a port to the other.
  • Shape – A cruise ship will sit higher in the water and be more subject to weather differences. An ocean liner sits lower in the water with a pointed prow. This allows it to better withstand the weather. The bow tends to be longer to protect the vessel against waves.
  • Hull thickness – A cruise ship will have a standard thickness, whereas an ocean liner is designed to be extra thick to improve its durability and support the weight it carries. The steel tends to be several centimeters thicker than that found on a cruise ship.
  • Speed – Cruise ships move at a standard speed due to the passengers on board. There are downsides to it moving quickly through water. An ocean liner moves quickly through the water. Ocean liners make regular trips, which require more speed. A liner’s schedules must be maintained despite weather changes.
  • Onboard experience – Since a cruise ship is designed for leisure and carries thousands of guests, the experience on board is luxurious, fun and elegant. On a cargo liner, the atmosphere is varied.
  • The bridge is higher on the ship – The navigation bridges on an ocean liner sit on top of most decks. This provides a good view and acts to protect navigational equipment in stormy weather.
  • Location of lifeboats – Since ocean liners experience rough seas – especially when crossing during the winter months – the deck of the boat is closer to the top of the ship, allowing the boats to be better protected from dampness .

Design difference

As mentioned, ocean liners sit lower in the water and have a pointed bow. They are better equipped to deal with inclement weather and minimize the feeling of movement aboard the ship. Cruise ships, on the other hand, are more elevated and less aerodynamic.

ship design
Photo credit: shaineast / Shutterstock

They are not at all equipped to deal with bad weather. The captain of an ocean liner will be able to navigate successfully through a storm due to the construction of the ship. A cruise ship captain will need to be able to change course and maneuver around a storm because the ship will not be able to withstand the force against the boat.

Faced with bad weather, a cruise ship will slow down, while ocean liners will go full steam ahead.

When it comes to materials, ocean liners contain stronger hulls made up of a durable steel. Cruise liners are usually made of steel; however, they are not as strong or as thick as the liners. A cruise ship, by its destinations, does not need to be built as sustainably as a ship crossing the ocean.

Speed ​​differences

Ocean liners are designed to go faster than a cruise ship. The fastest liner, the SS United States, traveling at 39 knots, or 45 miles per hour. Currently, the fastest liner is the Queen Mary 2, which goes at 30 knots (35 miles per hour).

SS United States
Photo credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

Recently, cruise ships have increased their speed. Some cruise lines run repositioning cruises that start and end at different ports. Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas cruises at 22 knots at full speed.

Norwegian Cruise Line Jade, pearl, Dawnand Gem can cruise at 25 knots (29 miles per hour). His fastest ship to date is the Norwegian jewelwhich has a maximum speed of 26 knots.

Atmosphere variations

Sailing on an ocean liner is like traveling on a modern cruise ship. The Cunard Line luxury cruise line strictly enforces dress codes and has set meal times. The overall ambience includes touches of elegance.

Cruise ships are designed specifically for onboard activities. Their goal is to create an overall experience for customers. This is what is detailed in their design. Cruise ships contain several bars, restaurants, swimming pools, choices of cabins, casinos, theaters, gymnasiums and spas.

When they go on a cruise, passengers look forward to the experience, which is just as important as the destination.

ocean liners

Today, few ocean liners are still in service. The only one still in operation is the Queen Mary 2, which belongs to Cunard Line. Queen Mary 2 frequently sails transatlantic cruises, as well as short trips from South Hampton and New York.

As a hotel, guests can choose from queen mary, SS Rotterdamand Queen Elizabeth 2which are all floating hotels.

Queen Mary 2 ship
Queen Mary 2 (Photo credit: Stephan Backensfeld / Shutterstock)

Traditional ocean liners are used the same way one would use a bus, train or plane. The overall experience depends on the cost of boarding the ship. For those who paid more to be in a higher class, the experience is like that of a cruise ship.

Passengers experience fine dining and can also work out in gyms, relax in a spa, go swimming and enjoy the upper deck space. If the passenger has paid for affordable tickets, the trip will not include many extras.

Why aren’t more ocean liners being built?

The last liner designed was the Queen Mary 2 in 2003. These ships are no longer created because cruise ships can do similar things. Modern cruisers are capable of traveling long distances and traversing poor weather conditions.

Queen Mary 2 ocean liner
Photo credit: Wayleebird / Shutterstock.com

Changes in cruise ship design

The recent decline of ocean liners may be due to the fact that cruise ships are now pushing the boundaries of ship design. Ships faster and bigger than ever are being built.

The cruise industry has discovered the opportunity to increase revenue by charging for cruise repositioning. This compelled them to make onboard experiences more enjoyable in inclement weather.

When you compare liners and cruise lines, you will notice that there are big differences. In years to come, there may not be a need to make the distinction as the liner’s fate is still unknown. Maybe instead of being a passenger ship, the focus will be more on carrying cargo.

Also read: How big is a cruise ship?

Although few remain in service, ocean liners have been around for a long time. Their gradual decline is explained by the emergence of cruise passengers offering a more relaxed atmosphere, favoring on-board activities accompanied by port excursions. For a cruise line, it’s as much about the experience as it is about the destination.

For a liner, there is comfort, but it sails more according to the destination because the activities tend to be less.

Ocean liner versus cruise ship

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