How Much to Fill Freedom's Tank?

May 10, 2006

As the world's newest and biggest-ever ship arrives in New York, inquiring minds at Cruise Critic want to know: In light of the ever-increasing prices for fuel, what does it cost to fill up Freedom's tank?

First we have to give the folks at CNBC a nod of thanks -- an assignment editor called us yesterday wanting to know how big Freedom's tank was, and so we set out to find out. The scoop? The tank itself, according to a Royal Caribbean spokesman, can hold 3,533 metric tons of fuel. That's actually not a record-setter even if the ship's overall tonnage is; Cunard's Queen Elizabeth 2, for instance, has a tank capacity of 4,381.

QE2 can run for 10 days on that fill-up, sailing at an average 32.5 knots -- and for a distance of some 7,800 nautical miles.

Even if we don't have an actual price-per-ton for Freedom of the Seas' fuel, we have to assume that the ship runs up a hefty bill at the pump, especially these days. Royal Caribbean won't divulge its actual costs but in an experiment, the crew at Cruise Critic came up with these figures: According to our calculations (remember, we're not mathematicians by trade!), 3,533 metric tons is 7,788,852 pounds -- and with diesel fuel weighing about 7.1 pounds per gallon, that's approximately 1,097,021 gallons! If you pay $2.89 per gallon (the average diesel price in the nation as of today), it would cost $3,170,391 to fill the tank just one time. Imagine the pain if the ship guzzled regular unleaded -- we estimate that would tack on another $545,274!

Freedom of the Seas most likely gets better mileage than QE2 -- not just because it's a new ship with state of the art engineering but also because it doesn't run as fast as QE2, which was built for speed. The new ship is capable of about 22 knots.