By Hannah Walhout
Updated: July 10, 2019
Courtesy of Disney

For many travelers, a mega-ship cruise is a no-brainer — especially for large family trips during which you want to spend time together, but not too much time. The largest ships at sea have something for everyone on board, from babysitting and kids’ clubs to adult-oriented activities like casinos and dinner theaters.

So, what exactly is a mega-ship, and how do readers decide which ones are best? 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.

RelatedThe World's Best Awards 2019

While 2,200 passengers may seem like a lot, some of these ships can carry upwards of 6,500 guests — all of whom want to be entertained, fed, and treated like they’re the most important people on board. If over-the-top attractions are what you want, mega-ship is the way to go.

Many of the best mega-cruise ships are pushing boundaries with their entertainment options — for example, Norwegian Cruise Line, coming in at No. 7, recently unveiled the renovation of Norwegian Joy complete with laser tag and go-kart racetrack. Royal Caribbean International, No. 6 this year, offers surfing simulators on many of its ships. Carnival Cruise Line, No. 8, is working on a new ship, Mardi Gras, set to launch next year with the first-ever roller coaster at sea.

Another place these mega-ship lines are innovating? The kitchen. Chef collaborations abound: Daniel Boulud with Celebrity, Curtis Stone with Princess. MSC Cruises, No. 1 this year, teamed up with Ramón Freixa of the namesake Michelin two-starred restaurant in Madrid — but is also leaning into its Italian roots, with one reader noting, “This is an Italian cruise line that has real pizza chefs tossing real pizza dough cooked in real pizza ovens. The pizza is outstanding.”

One line, coming in second place after topping the list for years, is particularly known for its cuisine — and for its sophisticated approach. Cunard defies mega-ship stereotypes on its largest vessel, the Queen Mary 2, which does transatlantic crossings in addition to sailings in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean. (Wrote one reader, “I've always wanted to journey across the Atlantic on a White Star ocean liner, à la F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. The very name Cunard breathes glamour and romance.”) Readers praised the “old-world ocean service” on board, with refined cuisine and daily tea time. Plus, wrote one respondent, “they also know how to make a proper cocktail.”

The best mega-ship ocean cruise line this year isn’t exactly synonymous with “glamour and romance” — and that’s exactly the way they like it. Read on for the full list.

10. MSC Cruises

Courtesy of MSC Cruises

Score: 75.07

More information: msccruisesusa.com

9. Costa Cruises

Courtesy of Costa Cruises

Score: 75.86

More information: costacruise.com

8. Carnival Cruise Line

Courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line

Score: 75.88

More information: carnival.com

7. Norwegian Cruise Line

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Score: 77.78

More information: ncl.com

6. Royal Caribbean International

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean International

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 78.96

More information: royalcaribbean.com

5. Celebrity Cruises

Andrew Hetherington

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 83.03

More information: celebritycruises.com

4. Princess Cruises

Courtesy of Princess Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 83.88

More information: princess.com

3. Holland America Line

Courtesy of Holland America Line

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.34

More information: hollandamerica.com

2. Cunard

David Alexander Arnold

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.71

More information: cunard.com

1. Disney Cruise Line

Courtesy of Disney

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.34

More information: disneycruise.com

This line comes from No. 2 last year to claim the top spot, buoyed by its four colorful mega-ships: Magic and Wonder, with capacity for 2,713 guests each, and the newer Dream and Fantasy, which can accommodate 4,000. Of course, Disney cruises are a hit for young children (“the kids barely slept from so much excitement”) and multigenerational groups (“a tremendous experience for all ages on the trip, from eight years old to 70!”). But, as one reader remarked, “Disney is not just for kids, but for all ages” — a sentiment echoed by many respondents, who noted the top-notch entertainment, adults-only pools and social spaces, and refined dining options. “The adult-only venues, like the Skyline bar, are top quality, and we barely even noticed that we were on a ‘family cruise line.’ People sometimes fail to consider how many adult-only areas there are on the ship — adults traveling without children should take advantage of them.”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2019.

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