Engineering the Biggest Cruise Ship in the World: Symphony of the Seas

The ship has a 10 story water slide that plunges down 10 of the ship's 18 decks.
Trevor English

If you're looking to take a cruise, then you might want to take one on the largest cruise ship ever built – the Symphony of the Seas.

Completed in April of 2018, this ship, owned by Royal Carribean, has a gross tonnage of 228,021, beating out its sister ship, the Harmony of the Seas, by 1,058 tons. The SotS is an Oasis-class cruise ship, of which there are currently 4 in service by Royal Carribean with 2 more planned or under construction in the coming years.

All that said, just hearing gross-tonnage numbers probably doesn't mean a lot to you if you're not familiar with ships or even just the cruising industry. One of the best points of reference to her size is that of the Titanic, a ship most people know about. The Titanic was 46,328 gross tons, making the Symphony of the Seas roughly 5 times as big in weight.

That still might mean nothing to you since, well, we've never seen the titanic in person. So, let's break it down even further.

Just how big is the symphony of the seas?

The ship measures 361 meters or 1,184 feet in length. It has a total of 18 decks and can carry up to 6,680 passengers with a 2,200 person crew. For reference, the world's largest aircraft carrier, the Gerald R. Ford-class, owned by the U.S. can carry a total of 4,539 personnel.

Inside the massive space of the Symphony of the Seas, there are 22 restaurants, 24 pools, and 2759 total cabins. One unique feature about this ship is the fact that there's a central open-air boardwalk/park that literally looks like you're walking down a normal city street... except you're on a ship. You can also zipline over this giant internal cavernous space, or take a waterslide down from the upper decks. 

You can get a pretty good look at just how big and exciting the ship is in the following video.

History and how it was built

The keel for the Symphony was officially laid on October 29, 2015, making it the 4th Oasis-class ship to go into production. Currently, the Wonder of the Seas is the next ship in the lineup being built and it is slated to become the largest cruise ship ever once completed, overtaking the Symphony.

These styles of ships are notable for their split structure down the middle, with all having unique center parks or boardwalks. This style element plays well with the size of the ship, acting to bring you away from feeling like you're stuck in a monolith of rooms and into one of openness.

The design of the ship is unique in that as the ships have been scaled up, the hulls have been made especially wide to ensure stability. Engineers were able to do their job properly too, as the captains of this ship's class have all praised how well they handle... you know, for 200,000 ton hotels on water.

As for how the ship is powered, it has six marine-diesel sets each made up themselves of three 16-cylinder Wärtsilä 16V46D common rail engines and three 12-cylinder Wärtsilä 12V46D engines. 

All these engines drink up fuel at a rate of between 1,033 and 1,377 gallons of fuel per engine per hour. 

On the propulsion front, the ship is powered by three 20,000 kilowatt azipod engines, which are electric thrusters. Mounted under the stern of the ship, they each drive 20 foot wide propellers which are rotatable for precise ship control. In addition to these three main engines, there are also four bow thrusters used for docking that each makes 5,500 kilowatts of power or 7380 horsepower.

How much does a ride on the ship cost?

Prices for a journey on the ship vary drastically depending upon the time of year and destination, however, right now it looks like you can pick up a room starting at $731 USD for an 8-day, 7-night journey. Which, is actually incredibly affordable.

Now that said, that's just for a basic interior room. If you want a room with a view, that price goes up a few hundred dollars and if you want a suite, expect to pay roughly $2500 USD. 

In perspective though, a 7-night stay at a hotel in the Bahamas, the usual destination of the Symphony of the Seas, would run you about $2000, so the prices for a journey on the ship actually seem pretty reasonable.  

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