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

Asking this question, you might as well wonder how long it takes to create a small town, which is exactly what today’s cruise ships are: a floating town. 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 restaurants, there are many details that go into creating these modern cruise ships in the cruise industry. Yet despite their sheer scale, building one may not take as long as one might think.

How long does it take?

The time it takes to create a new cruise ship will depend on the size of the ship and the demands of the owner. Regardless of overall size, the general build time for most cruise ships will depend on the experience of those building them.

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

Why so long?

Modern cruise ships contain all the conveniences and features of a modern city. Their goal is to entertain all passengers on board. Like Las Vegas, these ships contain cinemas, casinos, playgrounds and numerous restaurants.

Nor is it on a small scale. Every cruise line wants to take their offering to the next level. So they research the next thrill-seeking adventure, how to make things even bigger or more exciting, and how to appeal to different demographics.

Features and entertainment expand. Movie theaters are integrating more technology than ever before, and every cruise line is striving to be the first in one area or another. They are all competing for people’s attention in a highly competitive market. They must be the best.

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

A cruise line is dedicated to providing its customers with the best possible experience. Standard features on a cruise ship include spas, gyms, fitness equipment, and swimming pools. There are also a variety of restaurants available which appeal to most guests.

Where cruise lines try to outdo the others is in offering unique attractions to their guests. This can include water parks, mini-golf courses, zip lines, go-karts, ice rinks, etc. Plus, there are hundreds of accommodations to build for crew members, guests, cabins, and cabins.

To read : How big is a cruise ship?

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

Stages of cruise ship construction

Cruise ships go through different stages before they are launched. Here are highlights of the typical steps to build a cruise ship from start to finish:

  1. The order is placed – Although it seems obvious, this is the first step. The owner of the cruise line places the order for his ship. The cruise ship design will have already been approved before placing the order.
  2. Ceremonial Steel Cup – This is to cut the first piece of steel that is part of the cruise ship. It is cut in front of the cruise ship owner/management.
  3. Laying the keel – The keel is the lowest part of the ship. It is compiled with absolute precision using GPS coordinates to provide accuracy. The process must be centimeter correct to be successful.
  4. Launch of the cruise ship – Once the framework has been built and the cabins installed, the ship is launched. She was floated and transferred to another section of the company’s shipyards so that further fittings could be carried out.
  5. sea ​​trials – Insurance representatives and shipyard officials board the cruise ship for sea trials. Representatives of government agencies responsible for shipbuilding will join the group to verify that the cruise ship can be sailed.
  6. Handover ceremonies – The cruise ship is given to the owner.
  7. The Shakedown Journey – The cruise ship is moved from the shipyard to the home port.
  8. Baptism – A “Godmother” is selected to reveal the name of the cruise ship.
  9. Inauguration trip – The cruise ship is ready to receive paying passengers on the first sea voyage.

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

Which companies build cruise ships?

Major cruise lines do not employ in-house staff to build their fleets. This is due to the high costs of the equipment needed to build them, which adds to the cost of cruise ships.

There is also a great level of expertise and knowledge required to build them. There are many specialized shipbuilders responsible for assembling the mega-ships. The main shipbuilders are Meyer Werft in Germany (which also owns Meyer Turku in Finland), Fincantieri in Italy and Chantiers de l’Atlantique in France.

These shipbuilders have huge shipyards located in riverside and coastal towns. They build multi-million dollar ships from the sea to the surface before leaving.

Meyer Werft shipyard
Photo credit: MartinLueke / Shutterstock.com

When looking at location, there are only four major shipyards that can create 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 belonged to the now bankrupt Genting Cruise Lines.

Fincantieri is in Italy. It created its first cruise ship in 1990. Today, it is the largest European builder. Meyer Werft is a family business from Papenburg, Germany, which also owns the famous Meyer Turki shipyard in Finland.

Meyer Werft began creating cruise ships in the mid-1980s. The shipyard is in a unique location as there is no direct ocean access. Ships must be transferred via the Ems River towards the North Sea.

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

What materials are used?

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

Fincantieri Shipyard
Photo credit: Mark Hu/Shutterstock

Despite a very heavy look, shipbuilders evenly distribute the cruise ship weight to ensure its stability. Lightweight materials help reduce emissions and fuel consumption. They also help the cruise ship perform well in harsh marine environments.

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

Imposing structures

With some ships reaching 500 feet tall, assembling these ships requires structural engineering. The hull is the first part built on dry land. This is the base of the ship. It must be waterproof before placing anything on it.

Superstructures are built in smaller blocks at a distance, then placed on the hull piece by piece, almost like a massive Lego construction.


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

Carnival Sunrise Cabin
Photo: Cruise Hive Copyright

Staterooms tend to be created separately from the rest of the cruise ship. The construction resembles a car factory where every aspect is added including furniture and plumbing. Once done, they are taken to a shipyard. This is where they are inserted into the cruise ship using magnetic force.

water tests

Water control systems are included, allowing crews to build the ship outside and inside water. It allows them to simultaneously test the watertightness of the newly built hull. It also allows engineers to carry out all necessary work on underwater sections.

The incorporation of man-made dams allows the shipyard crew to empty and refill their construction yard as often as they wish.

Final touches

Major cruise lines place the finest decor and details money can afford. By employing experienced interior designers and top artists, they ensure that cruise ships appear to be high-end resorts rather than mere transport vessels.

When completed, the cruise ship will be a floating luxury vessel that will wow a plethora of new guests. Cruise passengers will be wowed by the latest technology, amenities, restaurants and entertainment.

Also read: How much does it cost to build a cruise ship?

The duration of construction of a cruise ship depends on its size and the equipment necessary for its creation. The duration also changes depending on the experience of the shipbuilders.

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

How long does it take to build a cruise ship