Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Find the best cruise for you: Here’s the scoop on the top large-ship cruise lines, as selected by T+L readers.

No. 11 Norwegian Cruise Line

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Since innovating “Freestyle cruising” (a break from a more formal onboard experience), Norwegian Cruise Line hasn’t stopped pushing the envelope: the 2010 Norwegian Epic introduced solo traveler cabins and the first ice bar at sea. NCL has also been a leader in the home porting trend, offering sailings that depart from New York, Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle.

What’s New: Haven, the ship-within-a-ship complex on Norwegian Breakaway, will launch in April 2013 with around-the-clock butler service, poolside valets, and sumptuous suites with wraparound balconies.

Number of Ships: 11.

Destinations: Year-round, more than half of NCL’s fleet sails to the Caribbean and Bermuda from various domestic ports. The rest of the ships are deployed in Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Best Large-Ship Cruise Lines

No. 11 Norwegian Cruise Line

Since innovating “Freestyle cruising” (a break from a more formal onboard experience), Norwegian Cruise Line hasn’t stopped pushing the envelope: the 2010 Norwegian Epic introduced solo traveler cabins and the first ice bar at sea. NCL has also been a leader in the home porting trend, offering sailings that depart from New York, Boston, New Orleans, and Seattle.

What’s New: Haven, the ship-within-a-ship complex on Norwegian Breakaway, will launch in April 2013 with around-the-clock butler service, poolside valets, and sumptuous suites with wraparound balconies.

Number of Ships: 11.

Destinations: Year-round, more than half of NCL’s fleet sails to the Caribbean and Bermuda from various domestic ports. The rest of the ships are deployed in Europe, Canada and New England, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Best Large-Ship Cruise Lines

Is the most magical place on earth a cruise ship? The new Disney Dream surely gets close. With a 765-foot water slide, a two-deck spa, and a French restaurant inspired by the film Ratatouille, it’s no wonder Disney ranked as one of the World’s Best Large-Ship Cruise Lines.

Every year, T+L asks readers to rank their favorite cruise lines based on staterooms, food, activities, service, and value. Delivering on these characteristics is especially challenging for large-ship lines, which have capacities of more than 600 passengers, and can be as large as the No. 9-ranked Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and the Allure of the Seas, each of which can carry up to 5,400 passengers.

Related: Great All-Inclusive Cruises

But what a large ship can deliver is a seemingly endless variety of amenities and curated programs. And it’s these features that are luring passengers: according to a recent Cruise Lines International Association report, the number of travelers that have been opting for a cruise trip has grown at an average rate of 7.6 percent annually over the past 10 years.

More travelers don’t mean higher prices this year, thanks to the launch of new-build ships: 15 total in 2011. “More luxury ships—along with the state of the economy—have driven down pricing to unprecedented levels,” says Monty Mathisen of Cruise Industry News. As a result, he suggests travelers should be on the lookout for steep discounts, two-for-ones, and added value in the form of free airfare, shore excursions, and onboard spending credits.

Further discounting is likely in the wake of the January 2012 Costa Concordia incident off the coast of Tuscany. While it has rattled the nerves of some potential cruisers, the industry’s overall record for safety remains strong. And there are concrete precautions you can take such as buying travel insurance (from a non-cruise owned company), checking Coast Guard vessel inspection reports, and reviewing the evacuation plans posted on the back of their cabin doors and the safety videos that run in most cabins.

Selecting the right cruise line and itinerary to fit your own interests and comfort level has never been easier. No. 7-ranked Celebrity Cruises’s Silhouette, for example, has a multimillion-dollar modern art collection, while foodies will gravitate to the Oceania Marina, operated by No. 3 cruise line Oceania, for Jacques Pépin’s first Lyonnaise-inspired namesake restaurant.

To lure even more new travelers to the seas, cruise lines are updating ship interiors and adding extra panache on new builds. Who does it best? According to T+L readers, the No. 1-ranked Crystal Cruises, which earns top marks for its exemplary service. On the cruise line’s Serenity and Symphony ships, travelers are escorted to chic staterooms with Egyptian-cotton linens; some have mosaic-tiled bathrooms.

Read on for the inside scoop on what’s new and notable for the best large-ship cruise lines.

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