How Is a Cruise Ship Powered?

By Anna Duncan

Cruise ships offer a unique and luxurious way of traveling the open seas with luxury cabins, multiple dining options and a variety of activities. It is easy to forget the technical aspects of how these huge ships are powered, but its important to understand how they work.

Cruise ships are traditionally powered by marine diesel engines or gas turbines. The engines use either heavy fuel oil or light fuel oil.

The heavy fuel oil is heated up to create steam which then powers the engines which in turn drive the propellers. Gas turbines also generate power for propulsion but require much higher temperatures and pressures than diesel engines, making them more expensive to maintain.

The power generated by these engines is used for several different purposes on cruise ships including powering the air conditioning, electrical systems and other onboard equipment such as elevators and escalators. In addition, some cruise ships have diesel generators that provide back up power in case of emergency or when there is an interruption in the main power supply from the engine room.

Another important source of power on board a cruise ship is its auxiliary propulsion system which helps maneuver the ship in tight turns or when docking at port. This system typically consists of thrusters located at both bow and stern which provide additional thrust when needed.

Finally, modern cruise ships are beginning to incorporate more renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines into their design as they strive to become more environmentally friendly while still providing all their guests with luxurious amenities and experiences.


Cruise ships are powered by marine diesel engines or gas turbines that generate electricity which is used for powering all sorts of onboard equipment from air conditioning to elevators. Auxiliary propulsion systems also help maneuver the ship when needed while some modern designs incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar panels or wind turbines for added environmental benefits.