Boat vs. Ship

Rotterdam 300x200 Boat vs. Ship

Holland America Line’s Rotterdam – Port of San Diego/flickr Creative Commons

What is the difference between a boat and a ship?  I like calling cruise liners boats, but should I be calling them ships?  Most often, it’s the people who live and work on ships that get their feathers ruffled by hearing their vessel called a boat.  There is no difference between a boat and a ship; at least, not officially.  Unofficially, it’s generally accepted within mariner circles that anything larger than 60 feet in length is a “ship.”  Since most cruise vessels exceed this figure by a considerable amount, they’re called ships, and anything less is a boat.  Using “ship” instead of “boat” can be seen as a sign of respect towards mariners and the vessel itself, although one would not be incorrect to use “boat.”


  1. Gary Knox says:

    Steve – on your defination of a “boat” versus “ship” – according to US
    Coast Guard customs, not official in any way, a ship is defined as capable of carrying a boat on board. A boat cannot carry a ship.
    Really like your site.