Just how much fuel does a cruise ship burn?

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299 Posts
Joined Apr 2008
We were told last week on the Mariner of the Seas that the captian Told all of us on a symposium that he runs 35000, gallons of fuel each day. To me that is alot of fuel and everyone complains about paying a few extra dollars a day like 5.00 pp per day on fuel... I felt that if you want to have a good time you gotta pay the price!!
1,318 Posts
Joined Apr 2006
Originally posted by RED HOT ITALIAN TRAVELER
We were told last week on the Mariner of the Seas that the captian Told all of us on a symposium that he runs 35000, gallons of fuel each day. To me that is alot of fuel and everyone complains about paying a few extra dollars a day like 5.00 pp per day on fuel... I felt that if you want to have a good time you gotta pay the price!!
or about 116 metric tons, based on 300 gal per ton. A metric ton is 2200 pounds, and given the specific gravity of diesel, 300 g/ton is an approximation. That's a mere $69,600 USD per day for fuel, assuming $600 per ton.
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Two weeks ago while doing a transatlantic (RCI Jewel of the Seas) a bridge officer said they changed out the gas turbine for a Diesel as its about half
the fuel cost per ton.
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23 Posts
Joined Feb 2008
I just got off a cruise last week and asked your questions. Your looking at it from the wrong view. Yes it does cost around 200 to 250 bucks a person...but the crew laid it out for me. Philip is correct is in the 1200 tons of fuel burned for a ship around 120,000 tons of displacement...such as Royal or Carnival ships. On my particular cruise of 2600 passengers, and 5 day per day fuel charge for a 7 day cruise thats $35 per person X 2,600 passengers = $91,000 the cruise gets towards fuel...it wont cover all of it.

Ships hold more then they burn for a whole cruise, but for simplification purposes we will just talk about what they use. Fuel is bought in contracts for about a year....they pay spot prices if they use more then contract allows..but at the last Royal cruise it was about $600 a ton for fuel. $600 per ton of fuel X 1200 tons = $720,000 per fill up

So now lets talk about what customers pay to get on the ship. This is more estimated then the ther figures. The cheapest rooms were about 650, but I was told the average of all the rooms, is around $800 a person.

$800 per person X 2600 people = $2,080,000 per cruise....each week

$2,080,000 in customer payments
+ $91,000 fuel surcharges
- $720,000 in fuel costs
$1,451,000 before paying its employees...which isnt as much as you think...most jobs on the ship pay low becasue tips are involved...minus officer, and engineers and cooks. But lets also as to the equation the cost of your fruity drinks. $7- to $9 .....trust me they make a decent profit per cruise....easily a million..... so do not feel bad for them. They do mighty fine.....and you really are only paying $91,000 out $720,000 for fuel...thats only 12.6% so no complaints.

-J man
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On a tour of Fort Lauderdale in March (on the water taxi) the guide was telling us about the QM. Said it took 1 gallon to move her 1 inch!?????
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If you want to cruise, do you REALLY care how much fuel it burns??? I mean--this is "discretionary" money you're spending--it's not your necessary income!
Think of how much fuel an airplane uses... if you want to fly--would that really stop you?
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Joined Sep 2005
On a tour of Fort Lauderdale in March (on the water taxi) the guide was telling us about the QM. Said it took 1 gallon to move her 1 inch!?????
Humm... that doesn't sound right.

The great circle distance between Southampton and New York is just over 3300 miles, so let call it 3300 miles, which is 209,088,000 inches.

One U.S. gallon of bunker fuel weighs around 7-8lbs (give or take). I'll use 7lbs.

Which means the QM2 would need over 600,000 tons of fuel to cross the Atlantic.... perhaps your guide was "misinformed"
Castle Rock CO
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Joined Feb 2007
Originally posted by klfrodo
I don't know where you got your research. My research indicated that it takes 15 gallons to move a cruise ship 1 foot.

However, I've also read a lot of Phillips posts. He seems to be very knowledgable about the industry and has never given me any reason to question his integrity. Therefore, my vote goes with Philip.

Besides, your last statement validates why the cruiselines are instituting a fuel surcharge.
Agree... Here, here to Phillip.

Am I the only one that does not have a problem with a fuel surcharge?
341 Posts
Joined Mar 2008
Originally posted by Deaf Dude
Found this on snopes. It doesn't tell you how may MPG a ship uses but how may FEET per gallon the QE2 gets ! ! eeeek !!!!!

Wow! that's a real eye opener isn't it? Just glad there are 3 or 4,000 other people to help share this expense.
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I posted this on another fuel topic, so thought I'd repost here. Of course, the figures aren't exact, but it'll give you a general idea.


According to Wikipedia, the average cruise ship (950 feet long) uses 1 gallon of fuel for every 40 to 50 feet traveled. I wouldn't BEGIN to know how many "feet" a cruise line travels in a weeks time, but if you figure 50 feet per gallon, and there are 5280 feet in a mile, that's approx 105 gallons per mile. Times that by $3.00 per gallon (I'm being conservative on the price) that's $3168 per mile! Most ships that size don't hold over 2000 people and that includes those that are 3 and 4 in a cabin. Guessing that 1500 of the 2000 are only 2 in a room, the fuel surcharge adds up to $94500, The other 500 would pay the lesser surcharge adding up to $14000...grand total of surcharge, $108,500. Divide that by the cost per mile and the surcharge pays for 34 miles
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From RCCL's 2007 Annual Report

2007 fuel cost $354,371,000
2007 passenger days 26,594,515
Cost per passenger per day $13.33

Anticipated 2008 fuel costs $595,000,000 (or $484/metric ton)
Anticipated 2008 passenger days 28,721,000
Cost per passenger day (2008) $20.71

Hmmmm.....$ 7.00 per day increase....sound familiar.
8 Posts
Joined Apr 2011
From Carnival's 2011 annual report; they used 3,395,000 metric tons of fuel in 2011. There are 307.86 us gal. per metric ton or Carnival used 1,045,184,700 gallons to move 9,559,000 passengers that year. That is an average 109.34 gallons per passenger in 2011.
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I asked this question to a ships officer on the NCL Sun in 2007. He said the ships burns one gallon of fuel every fifty feet.
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This is all very interesting. Lots and lots of numbers, but amongst it all seems to be a thought that a fuel surcharge has been imposed.

Did I miss something? AFAIK, while the cruise lines reserve the right to impose the $xx per person, per day fuel surcharge, very few have actually done so.

Cunard is the only one that actually started to do so, if I recall correctly.

Are there others?
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We seem to have some varying numbers, but also seem to have settled on about 50 feet per gallon. I cannot speak for cruise ships, but once calculated our aircraft carrier's fuel usage -- 1 gallon moved us about 10 yards at our most efficient speed. We were not as hydrodynamic as some of the newer ships, so the 40 - 50 feet per gallon sounds reasonable.

It is, however, impossible to untangle the entire equation for a cruise line's costs and profits, but suffice it to say that fuel is more expensive, and the fuel surcharge is one way to raise prices slightly but still explain why. I wish I weren't paying $4 a gallon now, but I am and it's more than it used to be!
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People, you need to re-calculate.
As of August 2012, one ton of bunker fuel (the fuel that most cruise ships burn most of the time) is averaging US$800 per ton in North American ports.
This price is going up very fast.
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Joined Jul 2007
Originally posted by BruceMuzz
People, you need to re-calculate.
As of August 2012, one ton of bunker fuel (the fuel that most cruise ships burn most of the time) is averaging US$800 per ton in North American ports.
This price is going up very fast.
You need to realize that you're looking at posts from 2008. Someone decided to reopen a thread that had been dormant for four years. None of the posts made in the last couple of days makes any assumption or statement about the price of fuel.