The cruise ship business used to be a significant part of the global travel industry. Huge ships took hundreds, if not thousands, of people per ship on trips that ranged from several days to several months. Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean had stock market values of $50 billion each. Royal Caribbean had revenue of almost $11 billion in 2019.
The cruise business is among the older parts of the overall travel industry. Huge luxury liners, including the Titanic, were part of a business that goes back to the early years of the 20th century.
Apart from World Wars I and II, the cruise industry is in as bad a shape as it has been since it began. The COVID-19 virus caused large outbreaks on the largest ships. In early 2020, the outbreaks on some ships rose into the hundreds. Cruise companies were at risk for bankruptcy, although the largest were able to raise money to tide them over until customers return. Unfortunately, the current wave of the COVID-19 virus has caused a new set of outbreaks on ships recently.
Before the crippling interruption of COVID-19, cruises were so popular that companies in the industry began to build larger and larger ships so that they could hold thousands of passengers per trip. Some of these are over 1,000 feet long, which makes them longer than aircraft carriers, and some house over 5,000 people.
The mega-cruise ships have been built mostly in the past decade and a half. Most of the largest have been built by Royal Caribbean International and Carnival Cruise Lines.
The largest cruise ship probably will not hold the crown for long. Even larger ones have already started to be built, and one is in trials at sea.
The largest cruise ship in the world today is Symphony of the Seas, part of the Royal Caribbean fleet. It weighs 227,625 tons and is 1,187 feet long. Put into commission in 2018, it carries 5,400 passengers. It will soon be replaced by Wonder of the Seas, another ship in the Royal Caribbean International fleet. It is only slightly larger than Symphony, and it goes into commission this year.