The Top 10 Mega-ship Ocean Cruise Lines

This year's World's Best Awards survey was open for voting January 11 through May 10, 2021, as destinations around the world were lifting COVID-19 restrictions. Survey rules have always allowed readers to reflect on their travel experiences over a three-year period. We hope that this year's honorees will inspire your own travels as you get back out into the world.

It may be cliché, but it was a year like no other for cruise lines. Though the pandemic forced a halt to sailing around the world, readers nevertheless recalled the good times at sea while ranking the world's top 10 mega-ship ocean cruise lines.

Every year for our World's Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated individual cruise ships on their cabins and facilities, food, service, itineraries and destinations, excursions and activities, and value. Those assessments were combined to generate results for the cruise lines in five categories; mega-ship ocean cruise lines have ships that can carry 2,200 passengers or more.

Many of the world's best-known and most-loved brands maintained their positions in T+L's annual ranking of the top cruise lines. Two favorites of readers, No. 2 Cunard and No. 3 Holland America Line, remained near the top of rankings this year. Also high on the list for readers were No. 4 Celebrity Cruises, No. 5 Princess Cruises, and No. 6 Royal Caribbean International, all of which held steady in their rankings year over year.

Disney Fantasy at Castaway Cay
Kent Phillips/Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

But there were some surprising shake-ups in this year's voting. Costa Cruises climbed to the No. 7 spot, from No. 10 in 2020. Readers gave the line, which focuses on trips in Europe, considerably higher marks this year, with a score of 82.77, much improved over last year's score of 73.59. The rating for No. 8 Norwegian Cruise Line, which slid one spot from its 2020 position, was nevertheless higher this year than last.

One other thing that didn't change? Disney Cruise Line held its top spot as the favorite mega-ship ocean cruise line. Readers had effusive praise for the "amazing" trips that the company delivers, time and again, on a fleet of four ships that sail worldwide. Among the most praised aspects were the crew ("wonderful"), the cleanliness of the ships, and the excellent food and beverage options. (While some did describe the trips as pricey, many voters said Disney delivered an extraordinary value.)

As the pandemic abates in the U.S., Disney is planning a phased return to sailing, with trips slated to resume this summer and fall. Fans of the brand have more to look forward to in coming years: next year will see the launch of a new ship, Disney Wish, which will feature "a Frozen-themed theatrical dining experience, a Marvel dinner adventure, an Imagineering lab for kids, and an adults-only Star Wars lounge," as T + L reported earlier this year.

1. Disney Cruise Line

The Disney Dream docks at Castaway Cay
David Roark/Courtesy of Disney Cruise Line

The magic still shines for the world's No. 1 mega-ship line. Disney remains a reader favorite this year, as it was in 2020, thanks to its enchanting trips that charm parents and kids alike. "I absolutely love them," raved one reader, who traveled on the Disney Fantasy. "We love the live entertainment, the food is always excellent, and we're fans of the cabin sizes and verandas. I wish they had more itineraries out of Port Canaveral, Florida." Other commenters praised the way the line makes trips easy for families of all sizes. "Disney has it all figured out, and they make sure nothing goes wrong," said one reader, who has taken many trips with the company. "We've traveled the Caribbean and Alaska several times with Disney, with a mix of our kids and grandkids. They have stuff to do for every age group. They can even keep teens happy!" Even those traveling without young ones were enthusiastic about Disney's trips. "Our first sailing in the last 15 years without our kids and it was just as magical," said one reader who took an eight-night Mediterranean trip aboard the Disney Magic.

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 89.35
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2. Cunard

Queen Mary2 Arrives NYC Celebrates Cunard Line 175th
Jonathan Atkin/Courtesy of Cunard Line

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.76
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3. Holland America Line

Koningsdam ship from Holland America Line
Courtesy of Holland America Line

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 86.69
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4. Celebrity Cruises

Celebrity Edge Naming Ceremonies. Fort Lauderdale, Florida USA. November 2018
Steve Dunlop/Courtesy of Celebrity Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.14
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5. Princess Cruises

Majestic Princess at Sea Trials
Filippo Vinardi/Courtesy of Princess Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 83.15
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6. Royal Caribbean International

Aerial view of the Symphony of the Seas at Royal Caribbean International
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 82.88
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7. Costa Cruises

The Costa Smeralda ship from Costa Cruises
Courtesy of Costa Cruises

Score: 82.77
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8. Norwegian Cruise Line

Norwegian Getaway Aerial in Stockholm, Sweden
Danny Lehman/Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Score: 81.93
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9. Carnival Cruise Line

The Mardi Gras ship from Carnival Cruise Line
Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Score: 80.17
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10. MSC Cruises

MSC Virtuosa sailing on the ocean
Ivan Sarfatti/Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Score: 79.49
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See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2021.

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