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The World's Largest Passenger Ships in History

Updated on December 24, 2017
jasonponic profile image

Recently married on Sept. 8, 2017, Jason Ponic works in the exciting world of Hollywood film and television by day and writes by night.

Titanic and Oasis of the Seas. Big difference, huh?
Titanic and Oasis of the Seas. Big difference, huh?

The Title

It is a title of prestige, networth and historical importance. Since the dawn of sailing, builders have fought for this badge of power. The few that have achieved this, earn a spot in a very elite club. During the golden age of sailing, this title was never more important and passenger lines fought for market control over their rivals. Each year, the ships got bigger and bigger, but there was always only one title holder at a time. Let's take a look back at these former champions from the 20th century to present day. Some are more famous than others but every one had the title of the World's Largest Liner.

I've scavenged the net and have noticed that isn't a simple one stop shop list of every liner that has held the title of "World's Largest Liner." For all you history and ship enthusiasts, now there it!

1901 RMS Celtic

OWER: White Star
LENGTH: 701 feet
TONNAGE: 20,904
FATE: Scrapped in 1933

The RMS Celtic was one of the "Big Four", the first liners ever built above 20,000 tons. She was launched in 1901 and served the White Star Line until begin scrapped in 1933. She survived a german U-Boat attack during World War I and even ran aground in 1928.

1902 RMS Cedric

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 700 feet
TONNAGE: 21,073 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1932.

The second of the "Big Four" series ordered by White Star Line at the beginning of the 20th century. While the Celtic was one foot longer, the Cedric was 100 tons heavier, making it the World's Largest Liner for a short time. She served in World War I as an armed merchant cruiser.

1903 RMS Baltic

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 729 feet
TONNAGE: 23,876 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1933

The third of the "Big Four" series ordered by White Star Line. This vessel became part of the Titanic Legend on April 14, 1912 after it sent the ill-fated Titanic its final ice warning.

1906 RMS Empress of Scotland

OWNER(S): Hamburg America Line, US Navy, Cunard, Canadian Pacific Steamships
LENGTH: 677.5 feet
TONNAGE: 24,581 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1930

Originally named the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria she was built for the Hamburg American Line in 1906. The ship transferred owners several times. The ship did not see service in World War I, rather it was laid up for the duration of the war in Hamburg before being surrendered to the British in 1919.

1907 RMS Lusitania

OWNER: Cunard Line
LENGTH: 787 feet
TONNAGE: 31,550 tons
FATE: Torpedoed and sunk in 1915

On May 7, 1915, the Lusitania was hit by a German torpedo off the coast of Ireland. The resulting explosion blew a gaping hole in the starboard side. The ship began to list dangerously and while the order was given to abandon ship, the captain attempted a last ditch attempt to beach the vessel on the shore. Charging ahead at full speed only added to chaos of the evacuation. Lifeboats were getting snagged on the ship's hull plating and some were sucked into the ship's still turning propellors. In less than 20 minutes, the ship plunged beneath the waves, taking 1,198 of her 1,959 passengers and crew to their graves. The sinking helped to change public view on Germany and would help push the United States into the war.

1907 RMS Mauretania

OWNER: Cunard Line
LENGTH: 790 feet
TONNAGE: 31, 938 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1935

Sister to the Lusitania, the Mauretania was the slightly heavier vessel of the class. She was five feet longer and had slightly larger turbines. She served as Cunard's flagship and the World's Fastest Ship for over twenty years. During that time, she gained many dedicated passengers including Franklin D. Roosevelt who protested against the ship's scrapping in 1935.

1911 RMS Olympic

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 882 feet
TONNAGE: 45,324 Tons
FATE: Scrapped 1936

As lead ship of the Olympic Class liner, the Olympic was the only ship of the class to see a full service career. In total she made 257 round trips, logging nearly 2 million miles and 500,000 passengers. The vessel earned the nickname "Old Reliable" during World War 1 when she served as a troop transport.

1912 RMS Titanic

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 882 feet
TONNAGE: 46,000 Tons
FATE: Sunk in 1912 after hitting an iceberg.

The most famous liner of all time, the Titanic was a floating luxury palace. Additional refits, equipment and design even separated Titanic from her sister ship Olympic, out sizing her by 1,500 tons. Intended to be the White Star Line's flagship for the next twenty years, the expectations of the vessel were high.

She would sail into history as the greatest maritime disaster of all time. Over 1,500 souls would perish on the night of April 15, 1912, two hours and forty minutes after colliding with an iceberg. The sinking of the great liner would usher in a new era of change in Maritime emergency procedures, much of which are still in effect today.

1912 RMS Olympic

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 882 feet
TONNAGE: 46, 358 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1936

Immediately following the sinking of her sister, Titanic, in April 1912, the Olympic briefly regained the title of "World's Largest Liner." The liner was returned to the shipyard to begin a year long refit that would increase her gross tonnage to 46,358 tons. The refit included added safety features and additional lifeboats.

1913 SS Imperator

OWNER: Hamburg America Line
LENGTH: 906 feet
TONNAGE: 52,113 tons
FATE: Scrapped between 1939-1946

Construction of this gigantis was well underway during the maiden voyage of the RMS Titanic in April 1912. The vessel served the German American Line until 1919 when she was allocated to the United States for troop transport. She was then transferred to Cunard later that year and renamed the RMS Berengaria, a name she bore until scrapping began in 1939. Due to the outbreak of World War II, the scrapping wasn't completed in 1946.

1914 SS Leviathan

OWNER: United States Lines
LENGTH: 950 feet
TONNAGE: 54,282 feet
FATE: Scrapped in 1938

Originally built as the SS Vaterland in 1913 as an Imperator Class liner, she was seized by the United States during the war and pressed into service as the SS Leviathan troop transport. She remained in US hands for the rest of her career, operated by the United States Line until she was scrapped in 1938.

1914 RMS Majestic

OWNER: White Star Line
LENGTH: 956 feet
TONNAGE: 56, 551 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 1943

Originally built as SS Bismarck by Biohm & Voss, the Majestic was handed over to the british in compensation for the sinking of HMHS Britannic. She served until 1936 when she was transferred to the royal navy and renamed HMS Caledonia, a cadet training vessel. Three years later, it caught fire and sank at the dock. She was scrapped in 1943.

1936 RMS Queen Mary

OWNER: Cunard White Star
LENGTH: 1,019 feet
TONNAGE: 80,774 tons
FATE: Preserved as floating hotel in Long Beach California

Her construction began in 1930 but the Great Depression halted it for three years. During that time, Cunard Line and White Star Line merged to form Cunard White Star. Construction resumed with a grant from the British Government. Her 200,000 horsepower turbines captured the title as World's Fastest Ship, a title she held for over fourteen years. Her main rival was the SS Normandie. The two ships constantly battled for market control until the Normandie's destruction during World War 2. The Queen Mary went on to serve as a troop transport, and on one occasion accidentally rammed and sank her cruiser escort.

She was retired in 1967 and was converted into a hotel in Long Beach California. She remains the last surviving liner from the era.

1936 SS Normandie

OWNER: Compagnie Transatlantique
LENGTH: 1,029 feet
TONNAGE: 83,000 tons
FATE: Caught fire in 1942, Scrapped in 1946

Still considered the most powerful steam turbo-electric propelled passenger vessel ever built, the Normandie entered service as the world's largest in 1935. She was purposefully redesigned to increase her volume, recapturing the World's Largest Liner from Queen Mary. During World War II, she was seized by the United States and renamed USS Lafayette. During her conversion to a troopship, she caught fire and capsized at the shipyard in 1942. After being salvaged she was scrapped in 1946.

1940 RMS Queen Elizabeth

OWNER: Cunard White Star
LENGTH: 1,031 feet
TONNAGE: 83,673 tons
FATE: Caught fire and sunk in Hong Kong harbor in 1975

The running mate of the world famous RMS Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth had a distinguished career that spanned 50 years. She was retired from service in 1969 when passenger trade took to the skies. She was sold to a Hong Kong business man to be converted into a floating university. She caught fire and sank in the harbor where some of her remains still lay. Until 2012 and the sinking of the Costa Concordia, she was considered the World's Largest Shipwreck.

1975 SS France

OWNER: Compagnie Transatlantique
LENGTH: 1035 feet
TONNAGE: 66,343 tons
FATE: Scrapped in 2008

She became the world's largest liner only after the loss of the RMS Queen Elizabeth. Built in 1962, she was considered the last of the transatlantic superships. She served until 1974 when she was mothballed. After exchanging owners several times she was finally recommissioned as SS Norway, a cruise ship. She served until 2004 and scrapped in 2008.

1988 MS Sovereign

OWNER: Royal Caribbean
LENGTH: 880 feet
TONNAGE: 73,192 tons
FATE: In Service

With the age of transatlantic passenger travel now gone, the design and function of ships now focused on the cruise industry. The Sovereign of the Seas is the lead ship of the Sovereign Class cruise ship. At the time of her maiden voyage, she was the largest cruise liner in the world. She was refitted and sold in 2004 to Pulmantur Cruises.

1995 Sun Princess

OWNER: Carnival PLC
LENGTH: 857 feet
TONNAGE: 77, 499 tons
FATE: In Service

She was the world's largest cruise ship in 1995 and lead ship of her class. She currently operates in Sydney, Australia.

1998 Grand Princess

OWNER: Carnival PLC
LENGTH: 951 feet
TONNAGE: 109,000 tons
FATE: In Service

As one of the very first passenger ships to break 100,000 tons, the Grand Princess was considered the largest and most expensive cruise ship ever built at the time. She is the current flagship of the Princess Cruise Line. She was the setting for the UK version of The Apprentice and currently operates in Europe and the Caribbean.

1999 MS Voyager of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1,020 feet
TONNAGE: 137,276 tons
FATE: In Service

She is the lead ship of the Voyager class cruise ship and the largest vessel of the 20th Century. The vessel can transport over 3,100 guests and even has a built in science lab that is run by the University of Miami.

2002 Navigator of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1,021 feet
TONNAGE: 138,279 tonnes
FATE: In Service

A second generation Voyager class ship, the Navigator operates in the Mediterranean Sea She contains over $3,000,000 in art.

2004 RMS Queen Mary 2

OWNER: Cunard Line
LENGTH: 1,132 feet
TONNAGE: 148,528 tonnes
FATE: In service

She is the first major ocean liner built since QE2 in 1969 and the direct successor of the RMS Queen Mary. She became the world's largest liner in 2004 and in 2006 she met her namesake for the first time in an event that became known as The Royal Rendezvous. Her design was intended to salute the early twentieth century ocean liners, including the red and funnels and black hull.

2006 MS Freedom of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean Cruises
LENGTH: 1,112 feet
TONNAGE: 154,407 tons
FATE: In Service

The name ship of the Freedom Class, she was launched in 2006 as the world's largest ship. She is over 100,000 tons heavier than the Titanic.

2007 MS Liberty of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1112 feet
TONNAGE: 154,407 tons
FATE: In Service

Only larger than her sister Freedom of the Seas by a few micro tons, the Liberty of the Seas is equally as impressive.

2008 MS Independence of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1,112 feet
TONNAGE: 154,407 tons
FATE: In Service

The third in the Freedom Class, The Independence of the Seas cost $828 million to build.

2009 MS Oasis of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1,181 feet
TONNAGE: 225,282 tons
FATE: In Service

Over 200,000 tons makes Oasis of the Seas over five times larger than the Titanic. She is so large, she is almost as large as a Nimitz-class carrier.

2010 MS Allure of the Seas

OWNER: Royal Caribbean International
LENGTH: 1,181.1 feet
TONNAGE: 225, 282 tons
FATE: In Service

Longer than her sister, Oasis, by only two inches, the Allure is currently the World's Largest Liner. The ship cost a staggering $1.2 billion to construct.


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    • Que Scout profile image

      Stephen Hodgkinson 4 years ago from Sydney Australia

      Hi jasonponic

      Nice informative hub. Most seem to think the Titanic is the biggest ever. The Seawise Giant is according to Wikipedia at 1504 feet.

      I supose everyone now knows about the new Titanic being buit as we speak

    • jasonponic profile image

      Jason Ponic 5 years ago from Albuquerque

      They sure did!

    • the girls profile image

      the girls 5 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Impressive history. So the Royal Caribbean found a multi billion nich in sea tourism industry :-)