Explaining the difference between a liner and a ferry

Do you know how a cruise ship differs from a sea ferry? In appearance, both are large, multi-deck. Everywhere there is mirrored glazing, smooth contours of a fashionable superstructure and an abundance of lights in the evening.

So, let’s begin …

The main distinguishing features of the cruise ship:

1. A cruise liner is a comfortable tourist vessel capable of covering long distances.

2. Cruise ships are generally from 200 to 300 meters long, 12 to 16 decks high. A kind of house on the water. Although there are liners 360 meters long. Passenger capacity – up to 6000 people. The level of comfort is an order of magnitude higher than that of ferries.

We go to sea
We go to sea

3. The main purpose – comfortable rest of passengers on the ship during travel, including tourist excursions in port cities along the route.

As a rule, call at a new port every day. Sometimes cruise ships stay in ports for a couple of days. The average cruise duration is from 7 to 14 days.

Cruise ships at the pier
Cruise ships at the pier. And on the right there is a ferry. Such a humble little brother.

4. There is an extensive entertainment program on board the cruise ship. There are basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, mini golf courses, water parks with water slides and outdoor pools, artificial waves for surfing, spa areas, climbing walls and racetracks.

Water park
Water park on the deck of a cruise ship

There is also a wide choice for spiritual needs: theaters, 3D and 4D cinemas, libraries, planetariums, performances by world stars and famous show programs, exquisite cigar salons.

Show program on the cruise
Show program on the cruise

And also whole galleries of boutiques! In general, it is impossible to list everything. I want to note that cruises of different classes offer different entertainment. Cruise ships come in standard, premium and luxury class.

Restaurant on board the cruise ship
Restaurant on board the cruise ship

5. On cruise ships from 6 to 12 restaurants and 7-10 bars. It is clear that these are average figures.

Meals on board the cruise ship are usually included in the cruise price. And practically without restrictions. Of course, depending on the categories of the cruise, the food is different. The higher the cruise level, the more options are offered for free. Usually beer and wine are practically unlimited. Various packages of alcoholic drinks are often offered.

Impressive, isn't it?
Impressive, isn’t it? And this is, in general, a strong cruise middle of the Costa Cruises company.

Distinctive features of ferries:

1. The ferry is intended for regular transportation of passengers and wheeled vehicles (trailers, cars) on a permanent route between seaports located in relative proximity to each other.


I’m not talking now about small ferries that scurry between the islands of Scandinavia and the Baltic states, Italy and Greece.

Roughly speaking, the ferry’s task is to deliver the passenger and his car from point A to point B.

Ferries are sometimes called floating bridges. This is also partly true. Mostly ferries are used as a means of transportation on water.

Such a small ferry connects the Helsinki embankment and the old fortress Suomenlinna (aka Sveaborg).
Such a small ferry connects the Helsinki embankment and the old fortress Suomenlinna (aka Sveaborg). The whole journey takes 12-14 minutes.

Since ferries are clearly tied to ports and schedules, ferry transportation of goods and wheeled vehicles is often the main link in the logistics chain for the transport of goods. But this is logistics, a completely different story. We’re not talking about that at the moment.

The vehicle is being loaded onto the ferry
The vehicle is being loaded onto the ferry. A large opening is visible in the stern, where cars, trailers and buses enter

2. Of course, now ferries are far from being Spartan, they are quite comfortable, but in any case, they cannot be compared with cruise liners, where everything is aimed at a full, very comfortable and eventful rest of passengers.

However, there are also spa areas and pools. And also various shows and dance programs, nightclubs and discos.

Almost all ferries on the Baltic Sea have casinos. And of course, duty-free shops – Duty Free.

Show program on the ferry
Show program on the ferry

It’s no secret that our Scandinavian friends love to go to Estonia for inexpensive alcohol, or just shop on ferries at Duty Free shops. I often saw in Stockholm how respected Swedes unloaded with an imported analogue of our country carts (the very ones with which summer residents were sometimes not allowed on the subway), literally packed with boxes of beer and stronger alcoholic beverages.

Ferry restaurant.  Also not an orphan.
Ferry restaurant. Also not an orphan.

3. Meals are usually not included in the ferry ride cost. Although if you buy a full package: a cabin with meals, you can save a lot.

There are from 2 to 5 restaurants and the same number of bars on ferries.

Ferry bar
Ferry bar

4. Modern ferries are no longer kids either:

  • length up to 220 meters
  • number of decks: up to 12 decks.
  • number of passengers: up to 2800 people
  • number of cars: up to 450 passenger cars

A purely visual difference between a ferry and a sea liner is the stern, where there is a special device for driving in wheeled vehicles – a descending ramp.

A ramp is visible at the stern
A ramp is visible at the stern

Ferries, in turn, are divided into auto-passenger ones, which carry passengers and wheeled vehicles, and railway ones, which transport railway cars and large-capacity wheeled vehicles. These ferries are usually purely freight, i.e. they have no more than 12 passenger seats (usually for drivers), and there is no passenger certificate.

Ferry at the pier
Ferry at the pier

In practice, it is quite difficult for the “naked” eye to visually distinguish a ferry from a medium-sized cruise ship. Nevertheless, I hope I gave some useful information about the differences between these ships.

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