Updated January 8, 2020
Cruise ship captains often impart a great deal of information about your sailing during daily announcements. One of the tidbits usually shared is the speed of the ship, given in knots. But how fast is a knot?
A knot is equal to 1 nautical mile per hour. That, of course, raises the question of what the difference is between a nautical mile and a regular (statute) mile. A nautical mile is the distance between two points or minutes of latitude on the globe, which is equal to roughly 1.15 statute miles. So, to calculate knots versus miles per hour, simply multiply knots by 1.15 to get miles per hour. If your ship is traveling at 20 knots, that means it is going 23 miles per hour. The standard symbol for knots speed is kn.
Most cruise ships can cruise at a speed around 21 to 23 knots, or 24 to 26 mph. Obviously, many factors influence the speed of the ship at any given time, including distance to the next port, wave height and fuel conservation. The fastest cruise ship in service today is Cunard's Queen Mary 2, with a reported top speed of 30 knots, or 34.5 mph.