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How cruise ships got so big

Today’s cruise ships are several times as big as the Titanic.

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

Cruise ships are freaking big. They’re the biggest passenger vessels humans have ever built. In size and appearance, they look nothing like almost any other boat. So how did they get that way?

The predecessor of today’s cruise ships was the ocean liner: big, beautiful ships that sailed across the Atlantic. But ocean liners had a totally different purpose from cruise ships: They were for transportation. Everything about them was designed to facilitate an ocean voyage from one continent to another.

But air travel changed that. Planes eliminated the main reason to take a ship somewhere, and the ocean liner business plummeted. So the industry pivoted and began selling the ship as the destination itself. The cruise ship was born. But the ocean liners, built for a voyage, weren’t ideal for the purposes of a cruise, and over the next few decades, the cruise ship began its evolution. And it has culminated in the behemoths we see today.

This is our fourth of five videos on design trends and systems in travel! Check out last week’s episode on why Americans love big cars.

You can find this video and the entire library of Vox’s videos on YouTube.

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