One of the most common objections I hear to taking a cruise is that the potential client will tell me “I don’t like crowds, so I don’t think I would like a cruise.” The perception seems to be that every cruise is packed wall to wall at every event with overflowing crowds of people. This usually isn’t the case at all, but often the booking policies of one particular cruise line over another can greatly impact the crowded or uncrowded feel of a ship. When trying to figure out “crowd” aspect of a ship one can simply take the gross tonnage of the ship and divide it by the number of passengers, but that simple formula doesn’t always tell the whole tale. The booking policies of the cruise line must also be factored in when determining the actual number of people who might actually be sailing
For the sake of this article we will be comparing two cruise lines that offer differing on board feel and ambiance. Carnival, a contemporary cost leading line, and their Fun Ships, do “fun” probably better than anyone else. They always have activities going on and make sure that passengers know about the upcoming daily announcements through their intercom systems and frequent announcements. If there is a “fun” event coming up they’ll draw a crowd by announcing it over the PA. On the other hand Celebrity, a premium line with a more laid back feel, has many activities, but passengers keep track of their own schedules only by reading the published schedule of events and only one PA announcement is made per day.
More importantly, the two lines have very different policies when it come to room occupancy. In the case of Carnival, they will only allow agents to book 4 people in their rooms that hold 4 and 5 people in their rooms that hold 5. If the room has 4 beds, it cannot be booked for two. (If they run out of double occupant rooms, they can get around this policy by offering category guarantees.) If they have rooms that will sleep 2 but can accommodate a 3rd person, but they will usually allow bookings for 2 or 3 passengers in these rooms. The other exception to this policy is that, as is the case on most cruise lines, solo passengers generally pay one set of taxes and port fees, but two cruise fares to occupy a single cabin Carnival cruise ships tend to have more quad occupancy cabins than their premium line competitors. On the other hand, Celebrity allows two passengers to be booked into the cabins that hold 4 on a regular basis. Most of their cabins, in fact, hold at least three, and only every other cabin accommodates 4. These cabins, however, tend to be booked only for two people. In general, simply because of the booking policies, a Carnival ship will have more full quad cabins than a Celebrity ship. To add to the difficulty of understanding the passenger to space ratio, when cruise lines calculate their passenger capacity it is done at the double occupancy level. Carnival cruise ships would almost always be sailing at occupancy rates well over the industry standard l104%. A cruise line like Celebrity, which tends to mostly have their cabins at double occupancy, will usually sail at close to the standard of 104%.
Some Carnival ships, like the Dream, have a double occupancy capacity of 3690, but if they were to sail with every birth occupied, it would be over 4800 passengers. While these ships rarely sail at that completely full capacity, they are more likely to have their 4 birth cabins filled with 4 passengers. The celebrity Solstice class, double occupancy of 2850, has a little less than 50% of its rooms at 4 passenger capacity, so if every birth was full, they would sail with about 3145 people. However, because Celebrity’s booking policy allows any room, except family rooms, to be booked at double occupancy at any time during the bookings period, those ships are more likely to sail closer to the industry standard of 104% or around 2964 passengers.
I found complete chart on the web of ship capacity, tonnage, crew and ratio. There are many choices for cruisers and for many the fun atmosphere of a Carnival Cruise is a perfect fit for their style and budget, but for those who want to avoid crowds, a line with a higher space to passenger rating may be a better fit. If crowds are not your thing, consult with your travel agent, who will be able to find the perfect fit for your needs and expectations.