Fifteen years ago, a passenger vessel over 100,000 tons was newsworthy. But today, ships twice that size are pleasing cruisers with amenities and activities that would have been unheard of back then. Pretty much everything you enjoy ashore — from bowling to ice skating — is now offered at sea. And the biggest cruise ships can compete with their land-based rivals when it comes to spa services, fitness facilities, dining, and entertainment.
Royal Caribbean has consistently raised the bar with bigger ships and industry-changing innovations. And their new Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas are no exceptions. The biggest ships in cruising, these twins will likely hold the title for years to come.
Here’s our list of the Top 10 Largest Cruise Ships:
1) Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas
Launched in 2009, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships weigh in at a mind-boggling 220,900 tons. Carrying 5,400 passengers on seven-night voyages in the Caribbean, these larger-than-life vessels introduced living parks, bars that can raise and lower themselves several decks, synchronized swimming shows, zip lines, Broadway musicals, and more to eager cruisers looking for unique experiences.
2) Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas
Named for Freedom of the Seas, which launched in 2006, Royal Caribbean’s 3,634-passenger Freedom Class vessels have a water park on the top deck with slides, surf simulators, and plenty of ways to get wet. In fact, the pool areas on these ships is 43% bigger than on Voyager Class. They offer seven-night itineraries in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.
3) Norwegian Epic
Launched in 2010, Norwegian Epic introduced studio cabins for single travelers, cruising’s first ice bar, and arguably the best entertainment at sea with Blue Man Group, Cirque Dreams, Second City, and Legends in Concert. Carrying 4,300 travelers, and weighing 153,000 tons, she offers seven-night voyages from Miami and Barcelona.
4) Queen Mary 2
The only ocean liner purpose -for crossing the Atlantic, the 148,528-ton Queen Mary 2 was the largest ship when she launched in 2004. And at a cost of $780 million, the most expensive too. With a capacity of 2,620, she offers guests some of the glamour of bygone days. Fine dining, a Canyon Ranch SpaClub, and a top-notch enrichment program make time at sea fly by.
5) Voyager, Explorer, Adventure, Mariner, and Navigator of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class ships were introduced to much acclaim in 1999. The first to feature rock-climbing walls, ice-skating rinks, and multi-deck promenades filled with shops and restaurants, these 137,308-ton ships carry 3,634 passengers.
6) MSC Fantasia and Splendida
When she launched in 2008, Fantasia was the largest ship ever built for a European cruise line. Constructed of 67 individual blocks, she carries 3,274 passengers and weighs 133,500 tons. The hotel-within-a-hotel concept of The Yacht Club gives guests in suites additional services and facilities. Nearly all of the outside staterooms have balconies, and there are French, Italian, and Tex-Mex restaurants on board. Expect lots of European passengers.
7) Carnival Dream
This long awaited, 3,652-guest vessel has an indoor-outdoor plaza, a waterslide that plunges four decks, and a full promenade. Especially family friendly, Carnival Dream has lots of cabins that sleep five comfortably and a good kids’ program. She offers seven-night programs from Port Canaveral.
8) Celebrity Eclipse, Equinox, and Solstice
When Celebrity Solstice launched in 2008, many travel industry pundits named her Best New Cruise Ship — and with good reason. Real grass lawns, glass-blowing studios, gorgeous dining rooms, and innovative wine programs make these 2,852-passenger vessels elegant and refined.
9) Azura and Ventura
P&O’s twin sisters are the largest ships built specifically for British cruisers. While Ventura, which launched in 2008, is family friendly, Azura was created for couples. Offering longer itineraries, private cabanas, and Indian food from a Michelin-star chef, Azura also has 18 cabins for singles with no surcharge. Both carry 3,092 guests and weigh 116,000 tons.
10) Diamond and Sapphire Princess
The first Princess vessel built in Japan, Diamond Princess was launched a year later than planned due to a fire at the shipyard. These Grand Class ships boasted a pod propulsion system that was innovative in 2003. With four pool areas — one of which is covered by a retractable glass dome — a balcony off the Skywalker lounge, and a club with 42 video screens, the 2,674 cruisers have lots of distractions.