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Compare: 10 Most Popular Cruise Ships
Compare: 10 Most Popular Cruise Ships

Compare: 8 Most Popular Cruise Ships

Nearly everyone has a favorite cruise ship. In this chart, we outline the key distinctions among the 8 most popular cruise ships in the industry. Look for highlights of onboard accommodations, dining and entertainment, as well as ship itineraries. Don't have a favorite cruise ship just yet? Our picks just might inspire you to find the perfect vacation match.

Want more info about these top 8 cruise ships? Click on the vessel name below to read about ship highlights and find links to itineraries, a photo tour of the ship, a comprehensive expert review and hundreds of reader-submitted critiques.

Updated April 12, 2019

1. Harmony of the Seas

Harmony of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

It's hard to miss Harmony of the Seas' standout feature -- a pair of purple slides cascading down the back of the ship -- but the Ultimate Abyss isn't this Royal Caribbean ship's only claim to fame. Harmony provides an Oasis-class experience (different "neighborhoods," adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities and high-class entertainment), as well as a taste of the line's Quantum class, with robotic bartenders at the Bionic Bar and a family-style dinner at Jamie's Italian.

Deployment: Year-round Caribbean cruises out of Fort Lauderdale and Orlando.

  • Cabins are compact but cozy, with lots of storage space.
  • Solo cabins do not bear a single supplement.
  • Family Presidential Suite can accommodate 14 people.
  • A variety of free and for-fee options offers something for every taste.
  • Wonderland serves up whimsical cuisine using molecular gastronomy.
  • Johnny Rockets is a great, free alternative for breakfast.
  • "Grease" production show brings the Broadway original to life.
  • Escape room makes for a fun, challenging group activity.
  • Outdoor entertainment includes water slides, zipline and surf simulators.

Photo Tour of Harmony of the Seas

2. Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)

Carnival Vista epitomizes the line's "Fun Ship" moniker. It offers the most variety of restaurants, bars, entertainment and outdoor fun of any Carnival ship (alongside its newer sister, Carnival Horizon). There's even an exclusive Havana area with a pool, hot tubs and bar available during the day to those staying in Cabana cabins. (A separate, Cuba-themed Havana Bar is open to all passengers, day and night.)

Deployment: Year-round Caribbean cruises from Miami and Galveston.

  • All cabins are capable of fitting two to five people.
  • Family Harbor cabins include a private lounge and free group babysitting.
  • Cloud 9 Spa cabins come with spa freebies.
  • Bonsai Sushi serves some of the best rolls and sashimi at sea.
  • Staples such as Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina.
  • DIY pasta bar for lunch at Cucina del Capitano.
  • Outdoor recreation includes sky-high bike and ropes course.
  • RedFrog Pub & Brewery offers craft beer, tours and tastings.
  • IMAX theater, perfect for rainy days and lazy nights

Photo Tour of Carnival Vista

3. Norwegian Escape

Norwegian Escape

The first ship in Norwegian's massive Breakaway Plus class, Norwegian Escape is an ideal choice for people who want high-quality entertainment and variety. The 4,200-passenger ship features two Broadway-style shows, 28 bars and restaurants and a handful of recreational activities -- including one of the scariest water slides at sea.

Deployment: Caribbean cruises from Miami; Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda and Canada/New England cruises from New York.

  • Cabins boast a contemporary, sophisticated design.
  • Variety of categories include family, spa and solo.
  • The fleet's largest suite-only enclave, The Haven.
  • Alfresco dining offered in The Waterfront.
  • Traditional Spanish tapas served at Pincho.
  • Norwegian staples like Cagney's and Teppanyaki.
  • The District Brew House is a beer lover's dream.
  • Largest ropes course at sea.
  • Spice H2O turns into an outdoor nightclub.

Photo Tour of Norwegian Escape

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4. Anthem of the Seas

Anthem of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

The innovative, 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas is all about the wow factor, with attractions like a skydiving simulator and a London Eye-style glass pod that rises over the pool deck. Tech-savvy cruisers also will love the ship's fast Wi-Fi, the ability to make onboard bookings via tablets and apps, and RFID bracelets for cabin access and on-ship purchases. The look is classy and modern, and cruisers are spoiled for choice in dining, accommodations and sea day fun.

Deployment: Bahamas, Bermuda, Caribbean and Canada/New England cruises from Bayonne.

  • 75 percent of cabins have balconies.
  • Inside rooms feature "virtual balconies" with ocean views.
  • Choice of suite types, all with extra perks and exclusive dining room.
  • Jamie's Italian offers family-style dinner in a colorful space.
  • Find macarons, petits-fours and chocolates galore at La Patisserie.
  • Vegetarian dishes and healthy options are indicated on menus.
  • SeaPlex offers bumper cars, roller skating and trapeze lessons.
  • Hit shows "We Will Rock You" and high-tech "Spectra's Cabaret".
  • Gorgeous adults-only Solarium with cascading pools.

Photo Tour of Anthem of the Seas

5. Norwegian Breakaway

Norwegian Breakaway (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Rocking a New York theme, Norwegian Breakaway very well might be the ship that never sleeps, with all the activities on offer. The 4,028-passenger ship is jampacked with restaurants and entertainment options -- including a rock 'n' roll bar and a special musical just for wine lovers -- and prides itself on freestyle dining, which means there are no set dining times or seat assignments.

Deployment: Caribbean cruises from New Orleans, Miami and Orlando; Europe cruises from Copenhagen.

  • Energy-efficient cabins require key cards to operate lighting and power.
  • Haven suites get private courtyard with a small pool, exclusive lounge and restaurant.
  • No-supplement solo cabins have private lounge access.
  • Many restaurants offer alfresco dining.
  • Free options include supper club, noodle bar and grill.
  • Cirque Dreams and Dinner show is family-friendly.
  • Popular shows include "Rock of Ages" and "Burn the Floor".
  • At night, enjoy live jazz, comedy, dueling piano players and theme parties.
  • Top-deck attractions like rock climbing, water slides and ropes course.

Photo Tour of Norwegian Breakaway

6. Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

The 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas builds on the blueprint introduced by its Royal Caribbean sister, Oasis of the Seas (and now found on Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas). The ship features attractions like ziplining and a handmade wooden carousel, but Allure has its own twists, including a Brazilian churrascaria and the Broadway show "Mamma Mia!"

Deployment: Year-round Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

  • 20-plus cabin categories ranging from insides to suites.
  • Cabin TVs let cruisers book tours, order room service and more.
  • Top-end rooms include lofts, two-bedroom suites overlooking the AquaTheater.
  • 20-plus dining options, both free and for a fee.
  • First-ever "food truck" at sea serves hot dogs and sausages.
  • Alternative venues: Japanese, Italian, steakhouse, Mexican.
  • Coney Island-style Boardwalk with a carousel. 
  • Outdoor AquaTheater for daredevil diving shows.
  • "Beach" and "sports" pools, plus H2O Zone for kids.

Photo Tour of Allure of the Seas

7. Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic (Photo: Norwegian)

Fit for every type of traveler -- couples, solos, families and groups alike -- Norwegian Epic offers a variety of activities day and night, from cooling off with the largest bowl slide at sea to dining in the midst of an acrobatic performance at the Cirque Dreams & Dinner show. When you need an escape, head to the adults-only, Ibiza-inspired sun deck, where plenty of lounge chairs and a refreshing pool await.

Deployment: Caribbean and Bahamas cruises from Orlando and San Juan; Mediterranean cruises from Barcelona and Rome.

  • Every outside cabin has a balcony.
  • Two-deck complex for solo travelers.
  • Unique design with separate rooms for sink and toilet.
  • Great Outdoors alfresco restaurant serves world cuisine for free.
  • Asian food lovers can dine at four free and for-fee options.
  • Intimate specialty restaurants are perfect for date nights.
  • Full-sized, three-lane bowling alley beckons competitive cruisers.
  • Splash Golf (nine holes with water jets) is perfect for families.
  • Beatles-themed bar offers great beer and live music.

Photo Tour of Norwegian Epic

8. Liberty of the Seas

Liberty of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas might not be one of the biggest ships in the fleet, but it offers no shortage of activities. In fact, it's home to a slew of features not found on most -- if any -- other ships, including a cupcake eatery, kids-only Splashaway Bay water park and one of the most thrilling water slides at sea. Don't worry: You'll still get to enjoy Royal Caribbean staples like the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall and Perfect Storm pair of high-speed water slides -- as well as dining favorites like Giovanni's Table and Chops Grille.

Deployment: Year-round Caribbean cruises from Galveston.

  • Select interior cabins offer views of the Royal Promenade.
  • Family-friendly options in each category offer more beds and storage space.
  • One Presidential Family Suites sleeps up to 14.
  • Burgers and shakes at Johnny Rockets make for tasty casual eats.
  • Cupcake Cupboard satisfies any sweet tooth (and offers decorating classes).
  • Specialty Mexican restaurant Sabor serves tableside guacamole.
  • Thrilling Tidal Wave is the only boomerang-style slide at sea.
  • Main street-style Royal Promenade is lined with bars, eateries and shops.
  • Ice skating rink theater puts on jaw-dropping shows.

Photo Tour of Liberty of the Seas

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Popular on Cruise Critic

How To Choose a Cruise Ship Cabin: What You Need to Know
Your room on a cruise ship is called a cabin (or stateroom) and is akin to a hotel room, but typically much smaller. Choosing a cruise ship cabin can be fun and challenging at the same time, and not just a little bit frustrating on occasion. Cabins fall into different types or "categories," and some cruise lines will present as many as 20 or more categories per ship. Before you get overwhelmed, it's helpful to remember that there are essentially only four types of cabins on any cruise vessel: Inside: the smallest-sized room, with no window to the outside Outside: a room with a window or porthole (a round window) with a view to the outside, often similarly sized to an inside cabin or a bit larger; also known as oceanview Balcony: a room featuring a verandah that allows you to step outside without going up to a public deck Suite: a larger cabin, often with separate living and sleeping areas, and a wide variety of extra amenities and perks It's the permutations (size, view, location, amenities and price, for example) of the four basic cabin types that can make choosing difficult. In addition to knowing your cabin options, you need to know yourself: Do you tend to get seasick? Do you prefer to nest peaceably on your balcony rather than hanging with the crowd around the pool area? Conversely, is your idea of a stateroom simply a place to flop into bed at 1 a.m. -- no fancy notions necessary? Are there certain amenities you are willing to splurge on, or can you simply not justify paying for unnecessary perks? The answers will help guide you toward selecting the best stateroom for your money. If you're feeling overwhelmed by choice, we'll help you get started with this guide to choosing the best cruise cabins for you and your travel party.
8 Best Luxury Cruise Ships
The moment you step aboard a luxury cruise ship, a hostess is at your arm proffering a glass of bubbly while a capable room steward offers to heft your carry-on as he escorts you to what will be your home-away-from-home for the next few days. You stow your things (likely in a walk-in closet) and then emerge from your suite to get the lay of the ship. As you walk the decks, friendly crew members greet you ... by name. How can that be? You just set foot onboard! First-class, personalized service is just one of the hallmarks of luxury cruise lines. You can also expect exotic itineraries, varying degrees of inclusivity in pricing, fine wines and gourmet cuisine as well as universally high crew-to-passenger ratios. That being the case, you might think any old luxury cruise ship will do, but that's not quite true. Like people, cruise ships have their own unique personalities -- and some will be more suited to your vacation style than others. Lines like SeaDream might not offer the most spacious suites, but their intimate yachts can stealthily visit ports that large ships can't manage. Regent Seven Seas and Oceania Cruises are owned by the same parent company but Regent offers a completely inclusive vacation experience, while Oceania draws travelers with a more independent streak. Take a look at Cruise Critic's list of best luxury cruise lines and ships to see which one resonates with you.
6 Cruise Ship Cabins to Avoid
You might expect loud noises, close quarters and crazy maneuvers in the dance club onboard your cruise ship -- but not in your cabin. Even if you don't plan to spend much time there, it should be a restful and private place so you can maintain that much-needed vacation stamina. To help you do so, we've compiled a list of cabins you'll want to avoid booking if closet-like dimensions or scraping chair sounds overhead aren't appealing to you. Heed our advice, and you might be feeling a bit less claustrophobic and a tad more refreshed come disembarkation.