Find the best cruise for you: Here’s the scoop on the top large-ship cruise lines, as selected by T+L readers.
No. 9 Royal Caribbean International
Best Large-Ship Cruise Lines
No. 9 Royal Caribbean International
Royal Caribbean’s fleet ranges in size and style, but it’s probably best known for these most recent builds: the Oasis and the Allure of the Seas, two massive (and nearly identical) vessels weighing 225,282 tons and carrying up to 5,400 passengers. Besides the sheer size, the ships boast plenty of other wow factors, from the sprawling tree-lined “Central Park” and bi-level Loft suites to the 82-foot-high zipline and 450-slot casino.
What’s New: Starting in February, the 1,830-passenger Splendour of the Seas will feature iPads in all staterooms—it’s the first large ship in the industry to do so.
Number of Ships: 22.
Destinations: As its name suggests, the line is reputed for its Caribbean itineraries, though its reach extends far beyond the region, to 72 countries on six continents: North America, Northern Europe, Italy and Turkey, Spain and Portugal, Dubai, South America, and Asia and the Pacific.
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.