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How Fast Is a Knot in Mph and Why Cruisers Need to Know?

Do you hear the captain announce the ship's speed in knots on cruise ships?

By Cruise Booking Team

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Captains of cruise ships often provide a lot of information about your sailing during daily announcements. The boat's speed, expressed in knots, is often shared.

How fast is a knot? How do nautical miles relate to knots? How fast does a cruise ship go on the high seas?

In addition, we found out how to easily convert knots to miles per hour (mph). This way, you will understand what your captain says about the ship's speed.

How Does a Knot Work?

In nautical miles per hour, one knot equals one nautical mile. Of course, that raises a different question: how do nautical miles differ from land miles (statute miles)?

To comprehend ‘how fast is a knot’, it is essential to delve into the method of measuring ocean travel. Here are the fundamentals:

  • A statute mile, synonymous with a land-measured mile.
  • A nautical mile is a distance measurement equivalent to 1.1506 statute miles.
  • Notably, one nautical mile corresponds to one minute of latitude.

In maritime navigation, the term "knot" refers to the speed of a vessel, measured in nautical miles per hour. This unit of speed is derived from the historical practice of using knots on a log line to measure a ship's speed through the water. Understanding the relationship between statute and nautical miles and their connection to latitude is fundamental for accurately interpreting maritime distances and speeds.

How Does a Nautical Mile Work?

The nautical mile is the distance between two global points or minutes of latitude, or roughly 1.15 statute miles. Nautical miles are a measure of distance, whereas knots are a measure of speed.

MPH to Knots Conversion

The knot value can be converted to miles per hour by multiplying it by 1.15. On the other hand, if you want to convert miles per hour to knots, divide the miles per hour value by 1.15.

The speed of your cruise ship is 23 miles per hour at 20 knots (kn). Is 10 knots equal to 10 mph? That's 11.5 miles per hour. A knot is similar to 115 mph, and 100 knots equals 115.

KM to Knots Conversion

To convert kilometers per hour (km/h) to knots, you can use the conversion ratio of 1 km/h = 0.54 knots. Multiply the speed in kilometers per hour by 0.54 to obtain the equivalent speed in knots. 

So, how fast is 1 knot?

It is approximately equal to 1.1508 statute miles or 1.852 kilometers. Therefore, when a vessel or aircraft is said to be traveling at one knot, it covers a distance of one nautical mile in one hour.

And, how fast is 20 knots in mph?

A speed of 20 knots translates to 23.0155 miles per hour or approximately 37 kilometers per hour. One nautical mile is equivalent to 1.1506 statute miles, therefore, a cruise ship traveling at 20 knots covers a distance of 23.0155 miles in one hour.

Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 ship set to reach port
Photo Courtesy: Crunard

Cruise ships: How Many Miles Per Hour Does a Cruise Ship Go?

The average speed of cruise ships is between 21 and 23 knots (24 and 26 mph). Several factors play a role in determining a cruise ship's speed, including distance to the next port and wave height. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has a top speed of 34.5 mph or 30 knots.

Cruise ships: how fast do they go?

The speed of most cruise ships is between 21 and 23 knots (24 and 26 mph). Several factors play a role in determining a cruise ship's speed, including distance to the next port and wave height. Cunard's Queen Mary 2 has a top speed of 34.5 mph or 30 knots.


A nautical knot, commonly called a "knot," is a unit of speed used in maritime and aviation contexts. One nautical knot is equal to one nautical mile per hour. Regarding land-based measurements, this is approximately 1.1508 statute miles per hour or 1.852 kilometers per hour. Therefore, expressing speed in knots signifies the distance traveled in nautical miles in one hour. This unit is widely utilized for measuring the speed of vessels and aircraft, making navigation and communication standardized across maritime and aviation industries.

Cruise ships maintain relatively consistent speeds during the day and at night, typically cruising at speeds ranging from 21 to 23 knots. This speed range is achieved with around 75% to 85% of the ship's engine power. The choice of speed depends on various factors, including the ship's design, size, and the desired balance between fuel efficiency and travel time. Cruise ships generally operate at a speed that ensures passengers' smooth and comfortable journeys while optimizing fuel consumption. During the night, cruise ships only go as fast as during the day. The perception that they may travel faster at night could be influenced by weather conditions, water currents, or the ship's schedule rather than a deliberate change in speed. Ultimately, cruise ship speeds are carefully managed to provide passengers with an enjoyable and efficient travel experience.

The typical speed of contemporary cruise ships is approximately 20 knots (23 miles per hour), while their maximum speeds can reach up to 30 knots (34.5 miles per hour). A ship's sailing speed is contingent on various factors such as engine power, weather conditions, and the state of the sea.

One knot equals one nautical mile per hour, 1.852 km/h. Big passenger cruise ships will travel around 21 to 24 knots, 38.9 to 44.4 km/h.
Tags: cruise lines
Header Image by lazy_bear at Freepik

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