vessel types

Merchant ships are classified as passenger carriers, cargo ships, and tankers. During the height of passenger travel by ship, the largest as well as the most glamorous ships afloat were the famed liners of the North Atlantic, which, beginning in the mid-19th century, sailed regular schedules between the Americas and Europe. Competing in speed as well as in size and appointments, such ships as the Mauretania, the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth, the United States, and the France gradually reduced the time for the North Atlantic crossing to less than four days. Their size, from about 45,000 to 75,000 metric tons and up to 300 m (1,000 ft) in length, was gigantic by the standards of the first half of the 20th century, but they have been dwarfed by the oil tankers of the 1970s and '80s. Today's passenger liners operate principally in the cruise trade.