Symphony of the Seas Sets Record Number of Souls on Atlantic Crossing

Symphony of the Seas record Atlantic crossing
Symphony of the Seas departing France in 2018 (Chantiers de l'Atlantique)

Published Mar 21, 2023 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

One of the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean International’s Symphony of the Seas is claiming a passenger ship record with reports it carried the most people on a trans-Atlantic crossing. It is especially remarkable as it was an eastbound crossing early in the season as the cruise ship repositioned from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean on a 12-day trip that was mostly spent at sea with few ports of call.

Introduced in 2018, the Symphony of the Seas is 228,081 gross tons and the fourth cruise ship in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class. Each of the ships, so far, has been the world’s largest cruise ship when introduced. The Symphony of the Seas was surpassed just slightly by her sistership Wonder of the Seas. The sixth and final member of the class, so far, is Utopia of the Seas currently under construction in France but they will all be surpassed in size in 2024 by the Icon of the Seas.

The Symphony of the Seas departed Miami on March 9, and as she reached Malaga, Spain on March 19, her captain informed passengers of the record. During his announcement, he said the cruise ship had a total of 7,604 individuals aboard. This included 5,350 passengers with an additional 2,224 crewmembers. 



The cruise ship was however below her full capacity. She has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,680 when all the third and fourth berths are in use. The cruise ship has 2,759 cabins which give her double occupancy of 5,518 if there were two passengers in every cabin on the ship.

This level of passengers harkens back to the heyday of the immigrant trade when liners carried masses of souls on their way to a new life in America. At the turn of the twentieth century, Britain’s famed White Star Line introduced the Celtic a 20,900 gross ton ship that had accommodations for 2,350 steerage (immigrant) passengers in addition to approximately 500 in first and second class. In 1904, she claimed the title of the largest number of passengers landed in New York after a crossing from Liverpool carrying 2,937 passengers and a total of 3,318 souls.  A decade later, just before World War I, the German liner Imperator (52,000 gross tons) arrived with what was reported to be a record 3,193 passengers, including over 1,100 immigrants. In addition, she had a crew of approximately 1,200 for a total of nearly 4,400 people on her August 1913 crossing. 

Westbound crossings had higher totals as they carried immigrants, but the end of World War I saw the United States start its immigrant quota system effectively putting an end to mass migration. Steerage class disappeared from the Atlantic in the 1920s.

While the Symphony of the Seas carried an impressive number of people it still paled in comparison to the all-time records. During World War II, the liners were converted to troopships, with the Queen Mary claiming the all-time record in July 1943 carrying a total of 16,683 troops and crew. The UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill later credited the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth with shortening World War II by at least a year due to their massive troop capacities.

Passengers disembarked the Symphony of the Seas today, March 21, in Barcelona at the end of the record crossing. The cruise ship, which is too large for any of the drydocks in North America, first proceeds to Navantia in Cadiz for her five-year certificates and maintenance. She will then be cruising in the Mediterranean. She returns to the Caribbean with a westbound crossing from Barcelona departing October 29, 2023, giving her another chance at setting an Atlantic record.