20 Biggest Cruise Ships in the World

The cruise industry is continuously expanding and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. With cruise ships featuring g-force-inducing mega slides, bionic bars, high speed internet and world-class theatre productions, not to mention award-winning restaurants by celebrity chefs, it comes as no surprise that 2019 will most likely bear witness to further groundbreaking technological innovations that will pave the way for a new era of technologically advanced cruise ships.

Technologically advanced cruise ships come in bigger packages.  Join us as we countdown the world’s 20 largest cruise ships, ranked according to gross tonnage, maximum passenger capacity and dimensions.

20. Royal Princess

Gross Tonnage:                 142,229 gt
Length:                               330.10
Beam:                                66.14 metres
Maximum Capacity:       3,560
Crew:                               1,346
Guest cabins:                   1,780
Decks:                               19

Royal Princess honours a more traditional style of cruising with a dining room dedicated to set-seating, cocktail lounges boasting elegant ambiances, jazz music and a staple tea time.  However, it does occasionally push the boundaries in terms of innovation with an expanded piazza, an upgraded Movies Under the Stars, and the recently introduced SeaWalk that hangs off the side of the ship from the 16th deck.  A magical fountain stuns with a water-and-light show at night.  Royal Princess also introduced a new concept to modern cruise entertainment with the first television studio at sea, complete with audience seating and participation.

While it can be argued that Princess “plays it safe” to please everyone, it certainly has set the standard in some way for onboard cruise features.  In fact, the adults-only sanctuary and vibrant Piazza are now widely adopted by other lines.  Guests can choose among 16 eateries to dine at, including Seafood Bars, gelato parlours, pizzerias and pop-up restaurants.  The Royal Princess was launched in August 2012 and christened by the Duchess of Cambridge in June 2013.  The 2019/2020 cruise season will see the Royal Princess embark on Mexican Riviera cruises from Long Beach, including voyages to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta.

19.  Norwegian Getaway

Gross Tonnage:                 146,600 gt
Length:                               326.14 metres
Beam:                                 50.90 metres
Maximum Capacity:        4,819
Crew:                                 1,640
Guest cabins:                    2,014
Decks:                               14

Featuring art by Miami artist David “LEBO” Le Batard on the ship’s hull, an interior palate straight out of the Versace Mansion, and public spaces featuring exotic bars and restaurants, passengers soon become captivated with the Norwegian Getaway in all its Miami-inspired splendour.  Other than its 28 restaurants, over a dozen bars and an extravagant waterfront, Getaway boasts a theatre fit for Broadway excellence, a dinner theatre production “The Illusionarium”, five multi-storey waterslides and an action-packed sports complex. 

Europe, Bahamas, the Caribbean and Bermuda are among the cruise destinations.  It was christened in Miami on February 7, 2014, with the Miami Dolphins Cheerleaders serving as godmothers, and departed on its maiden voyage the next day.  At the time of its christening, it was the world’s ninth largest cruise ship.  Today, it makes the list at number 19. 

18. Queen Mary 2

Gross Tonnage:                148,528 gt
Length:                              345.03 metres
Beam:                                45 metres
Maximum Capacity:       2,620
Crew:                                 1,200
Guest cabins:                   1,360
Decks:                               12

Queen Mary 2 is the largest ocean liner ever built, and as of 2019, the only passenger ship operating as an ocean liner.  Due to her designation as an ocean liner intended for routine crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, she was designed differently from other passenger ships, requiring 40% more steel.  She also boasts faster speeds than a contemporary cruise ship, cruising at a maximum speed of just over 30 knots. 

Following the ship’s £90 million transformation in 2016, traveling on board the world’s biggest ocean liner is simply fascinating.  Passengers step back in time with only one daily captain’s announcement at noon, rows of wooden sun loungers bearing the ship’s royal motif on the Promenade deck, the Art Deco-style Britannia Restaurant and basic internet speeds.  The Queen’s Room is a grand ballroom that hosts afternoon tea and whimsical dinners.

17. Independence of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                 154,407 gt
Length:                               338.94 metres
Beam:                                 56.08 metres
Maximum Capacity:        4,375
Crew:                                  1,360
Decks:                                 15

Royal Caribbean’s Freedom-class ships were the largest passenger ships in the world until the cruise liner launched its Oasis-class ships.  The 15-deck Independence of the Seas, known as Indy, underwent a significant refurbishment that saw a host of new on-board features including Sky Pad, a virtual reality trampoline experience; a laser tag arena, a puzzle break room, an observatory; two water slides and an aqua park for kids, as well as new dining and drinking venues and 107 new cabins.  

The eleven-year-old ship excels in its family offerings and even lays claim to be the UK’s favourite family ship.  However, adult passengers will still find plenty of space for more grown-up pursuits, with a great selection of restaurants, a vast number of bars and huge amount of entertainment options. Beyond the bars and casino, adults will find the solarium, specialty restaurants and late-night comedy.  Independence of the Seas was the seventh ship to offer the new Royal smartphone application and, as on every Royal Caribbean, provides Voom, the fastest internet at sea.  It has revolutionized maritime connectivity with 99% coverage of the globe.

16. Freedom of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                154,407 gt
Length:                              338.94 metres
Beam:                                56.08 metres
Maximum Capacity:       4,515
Crew:                                 1,360
Guest cabins:                   1,817
Decks:                               14

At the time of its launch in May 2006, Freedom of the Seas was the world’s biggest cruise ship measuring 154,407GT with a maximum capacity of 4,500 passengers.  Freedom famously introduced the Royal Caribbean’s popular surf simulator, FlowRider, to the cruise industry.  Although the ship is no longer the biggest in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, it feels neither outdated nor crowded.  In 2015, fresh cabins, a new nightclub and two additional restaurants were introduced.  Quiet nooks are easy to come by, and the library, Café Promenade and solarium pool serve as great hideaways. 

Freedom of the Seas arrived in New York Harbour USA for its official naming ceremony on 12 May 2006, which was broadcast live on NBC’s The Today Show from Cape Liberty Cruise Port in Bayonne, New Jersey.  It recently moved from Florida to its new home port of Puerto Rico, taking on seven-night Southern Caribbean cruises.

15. Norwegian Epic

Gross Tonnage:                155,873 gt
Length:                              329.49 metres
Beam:                                52.12 metres
Maximum Capacity:       4,100
Crew:                                 1,724
Decks:                                19

With a maximum capacity of 4,100, Norwegian Epic is a 19-deck megaship that is sure to dazzle, whether in the Mediterranean, Bahamas, Caribbean or Atlantic.  In fact, Macy’s 34th annual Fourth of July Fireworks display was broadcast from its decks.  Epic pushes the boundaries with smaller studios and shared living spaces, making it stand out for solo travellers. Award-winning Broadway shows like “Ballroom Blitz” and “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” are some of the ship’s top attractions, along with an ice bar where customers need to wear parkas.

Passengers are free to dine when and where they wish, with over 20 different dining options that run around the clock.  A recent facelift saw improvements to the ship’s theatre, spa, Bliss Ultra Lounge nightclub and the exclusive Haven suite complex.  With 4,100 passenger berths and the only tube and bowl water slide at sea, the Norwegian Epic lands at number 15 on the list.

14. Liberty of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                154,407 gt
Length:                              338.94 metres
Beam:                                56.08 metres
Maximum Capacity:       4,960
Crew:                                 1,360
Guest cabins:                   1,896
Decks:                               14

Liberty of the Seas surpassed its Freedom-class sister ships and boasts a contemporary feel after undergoing renovation in 2016.  On-board attractions include a FlowRider surf wave generator, 3D movie theatres, and the first boomerang-style slide at sea at the time of fitting.  The grand main dining room is sprawled across three levels, with each level named in honour of an Italian Renaissance painter.  Liberty’s dramatic effects continue into the central Royal Promenade, with glass staircases and bridges illuminated in bright tones. 

Along with three distinct pools, on-board facilities for children, such as Aquanauts and Splashaway Bay, make Liberty of the Seas an ideal cruise for families.  When children are kept busy, parents can retreat to the adults-only solarium pool, casino or spa, amongst others.  Liberty undoubtedly offers families adventure of “Texas-sized proportions” as it sails the Caribbean.  With a gross tonnage of 154,407GT, Liberty of the Seas earns the 14th spot on the list.

13. Norwegian Escape

Gross Tonnage:                 164,600 gt         
Length:                               325.83 metres
Beam:                                 41.45 metres
Maximum Capacity:        4,266
Crew:                                  1,733
Guest cabins:                    2,175
Decks:                                16

The Norwegian Escape became the first NCL ship to be delivered with an exhaust gas cleaning (EGC) system in 2015.  The technology that “scrubs away” sulphur oxide and other toxic particles has since been added to other vessels, making it possible for them to sail in areas with very strict environmental regulations.  The ship is based in Miami and offers cruises to the Caribbean and the Bahamas.

Escape’s glitzy three-level 678 Ocean Place is the heart of the evening entertainment, with its assortment of bars and restaurants.  An enormous LED chandelier complements the sweeping glass staircase, creating dramatic effect.  Stellar entertainment and variety can be found at the ship’s two music theatres, its 28 bars and restaurants, and the Waterfront.  Boasting a ropes course and four water slides, even the top decks are bold.

12. Norwegian Joy

Gross Tonnage:                167,725 gt
Length:                              333.45 metres  
Beam:                                41.45 metres    
Maximum Capacity:       3,883
Crew:                                 1,821

This 300-metre-long vessel has been active since 2017 and was custom built for China.  Its hull even features a design by Chinese painter Tan Ping.  Cruising between China and Australia, the Norwegian Joy can accommodate up to 3,883 guests in its cabins, which include luxurious concierge cabins, a new category unique to the Joy.

While styled exclusively for Chinese passengers, with Mandarin as the official on-board language, Norwegian Joy will undergo extensive refurbishment to make it more like Norwegian Bliss, so that she can join her sister ship on cruises from the west coast to Alaska, the Mexican Riviera, and Panama Canal from Miami and Los Angeles.  Joy features a two-level race track on the top deck and a galaxy pavilion with simulator rides and interactive video walls, immersing passengers in thrilling virtual-reality experiences.

11. Ovation of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                167,666 gt         
Length:                              347.78 metres  
Beam:                                41.45 metres
Maximum Capacity:       4,905
Crew:                                 1,500
Guest cabins:                   2,088

Ovation delights with its innovative features and entertainment shared with Quantum and Anthem (see below), from dining at celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant, Jamie’s Italian, to witnessing the blend of technology with live performance at the state-of-the-art Two70.    Alluding to the ship’s original deployment in China, a 10-metre panda and cub grace the side of the ship, joining the ranks of Felicia the pink polar bear on Quantum and Gigi the giraffe on Anthem.

Ovation boasts 11,000 pieces of eccentric art incorporated into walls, installations, paintings and sculptures, such as Sky Wave, the first moving sculpture at sea, and the Flutter Wall, a three-metre screen featuring interactive butterflies.  Ovation of the Seas offers some of Royal Caribbean’s most advanced staterooms and holds the industry’s first virtual balcony staterooms.  In early June 2018, Ovation of the Seas had a maiden call in the Philippines and, so far, remains the largest cruise ship to dock in any port in the Philippines.

10. Anthem of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                167,666 gt
Length:                              347.78 metres
Beam:                                41.45 metres
Maximum Capacity:       4,905
Crew:                                 1,500
Guest cabins:                   2,088

Anthem of the Seas, the second ship in Royal Caribbean’s Quantum Class, embarked on its maiden voyage in April 2015.  It was the largest cruise ship to ever visit a Canadian port when it sailed to Halifax in 2016.  Anthem raises the bar for the cruise industry with its innovative implementation of technologies.  Other than fast internet, iPad check-in, RFID bracelets, online bookings and bionic bartenders are the norm.

While Anthem carries over unique features introduced on Quantum, including the largest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea, Gigi, a two-deck giraffe wearing an inner tube, steals the show.  Royal Caribbean also dabbles in molecular gastronomy with the introduction of a restaurant called Wonderland.  Art throughout the ship is quirky and beautiful, with a piece translating heartbeats into pulsating lights and a multi-deck cherry blossom piece adorned in gold and crystal.  With 18 dining venues and 375 rooms equipped with virtual balconies, Quantum is entertaining and flashy, and can be likened to a hotel in the heart of Las Vegas.

9. Quantum of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                 167,666 gt         
Length:                               347.78 metres  
Beam:                                 41.45 metres
Maximum Capacity:        4,905
Crew:                                  1,500
Guest cabins:                    2,092

Quantum of the Seas burst on to the scene in 2014 with many of the state-of-the-art features that would propel Royal Caribbean forward for the next five years. It features a London Eye-inspired gondola that whisks passengers 300 feet above sea level for exhilarating 360-degree views.   Passengers can suit up for a thrilling experience in an indoor skydiving simulator, fly on a trapeze at circus school and visit Two70, a venue where seamless video projections, robotics and human artistry combine to create the ultimate virtual entertainment.

While Quantum is somewhat smaller than the Oasis ships, it offers a similar experience by employing bold features that appeal to the modern cruiser seeking the comforts and perks that land has to offer.  An assortment of bars and restaurants offers delectable dining opportunities, including a Bionic Bar where robotic arms prepare immaculate cocktails.  Regularly departing from China, some of Quantum’s features have been adapted to meet local Asian tastes and consumption habits, such as an extended casino and more Asian food options. 

8. Norwegian Bliss

Gross Tonnage:                 168,028 gt
Length:                               302.97 metres  
Beam:                                 41.45 metres    
Maximum Capacity:       4,004    
Crew:                                  1,716
Guest cabins:                    2,043
Decks:                                20

Norwegian Bliss, the newest and largest member of the Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway-Plus class, embarked on its maiden voyage in April 2018.  Along with the NCL’s signature colourful hulls, Norwegian Bliss boasts another distinctive feature, with restaurants lining the deck alongside the ship.  Its most striking feature is the Observation Lounge which dominates the entire forward section of the ship on Deck 15 and was originally designed to serve as a space for cruisers to relax and unwind during its Alaska sailings. A refined indoor haven of calm, the Observation Lounge is a unique concept aboard a mainstream ship.

Accommodating up to 4,004 passengers, it is a big ship, with numerous dining venues, top-deck attractions and evening entertainment, including a Beatles cover band and Broadway hit musical, the “Jersey Boys”.  Norwegian Bliss also has the largest competitive go-kart race track at sea and an open-air laser tag course.  An evolution that started with Norwegian Escape and Norwegian Joy, the combination of upscale and mainstream provides a perfect mix of high energy and quiet relaxation, without having to go to an adults-only solarium.

7. MSC Meraviglia

Gross Tonnage:                 171,598 gt         
Length:                               315.83 metres
Beam:                                 43 metres
Maximum Capacity:        5,714
Crew:                                  1,540
Decks:                                 14

Fit for the seventh biggest cruise ship sailing the earth’s seas, Meravigla translates to “wonder”. Her contemporary design and action-packed decks are complemented by the improved MSC Yacht Club and its exclusive restaurants, private lounge, private whirlpool baths and spacious suites. From the double-story amusement park and outdoor water park to the indoor promenade lined with restaurants and shops, the MSC Meraviglia caters for passengers from all walks of life. 

While the ships’ central promenade and high-tech theatre are similar to those found on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum-class ships, Meraviglia makes her mark with a digital ceiling that changes its display depending on the time of the day, stairs studded with Swarovski crystals, and joint ventures with LEGO and Eataly.  The ship also uses RFID wristbands, which will eventually replace cruise cards.  The MSC Meraviglia’s most iconic feature is the on-board performances by Cirque du Soleil, 12 times a week.  The ship was formally named in June 2017 by her godmother, Italian actress Sophia Loren.  While the ship originally operated in the Mediterranean, she’s set to relocate to Miami and sail the Caribbean as part of a North American expansion program by MSC.  

6. Costa Smeralda

Gross Tonnage:                 182,700 gt                         
Length:                               337 metres        
Beam:                                 42.06 metres
Maximum Capacity:       6,522
Crew:                                  1,678
Guest cabins:                     2,612
Decks:                                 20

Costa Cruises will introduce their first liquified natural gas (LNG) -powered ship when Costa Smeralda makes her debut in November 2019.  Liquified natural gas is currently the cleanest burning fossil fuel in the world.  Featuring a three-level Colosseo lined with bars and lounges, a multi-deck glass-bottom Piazza di Spagna, and an on-board museum dedicated to Italian design, Smeralda pays tribute to her Italian heritage and offers Italian flair throughout. 

In addition to the numerous Italian eateries on board, passengers are in for a unique experience with a make-your-own-dinner “taste lab”.  With each deck themed according to a different Italian city, the cabins have been designed by a Milan-based architectural studio and will feature custom-made Italian furniture.  Named after Sardinia’s popular tourist coast and translating to mean ‘Emerald’, Smeralda will operate in the Mediterranean, with destinations including Barcelona and Marseille.

5. AIDAnova

Gross Tonnage:                183,900 gt
Length:                               337.11 metres  
Beam:                                 42.06 metres    
Maximum Capacity:       6,600
Crew:                                  1,500
Guest cabins:                    2,500
Decks:                                20

The first of the new Excellence-class ships, AIDAnova revolutionized the industry as the first cruise ship to be powered by liquified natural gas.  Featuring multilingual humanoid Pepper robots that assist passengers and are even able to interpret their emotions, AIDAnova is among the most technologically advanced vessels in the world.  Along with multiple on-board features, and with over 2,600 passenger cabins, AIDAnova boasts a TV studio, a jungle theme complete with tree tops, a river and waterslides, and a spa that features two private “islands”.

Costing a reported $800 million to build, AIDAnova was named on 31 August 2018 at a concert headlined by David Guetta.  The AIDAnova can accommodate up to 6,600 passengers and 1,500 crew members, making it the fifth-biggest ship in the world. 

4. Oasis of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                 225,282 gt         
Length:                               362.10 metres
Beam:                                 65.68 metres
Maximum Capacity:        6,780
Crew:                                  2,100
Guest cabins:                    2,743
Decks:                                 16

The debut of the Oasis class, as well as the first ship to introduce Royal Caribbean’s unique “neighbourhood” concept and the live plants of Central Park, Oasis has been embraced as one of Royal Caribbean’s most loved vessels and is the fourth biggest cruise ship to sail the earth’s waters.  Oasis features a boardwalk inspired by Coney Island.  It boasts two rock-climbing walls and a carousel, which give way to deck sports and an activity area several decks above.  There, passengers will find the FlowRider surf simulator, a basketball court, mini-golf course, table tennis area and a zipline.

These are but a fraction of the onboard entertainment, but Oasis shares many of the same attractions with her sister ships that made it to the top three on the list.  In fact, its onboard attractions are so popular, up to 30% of passengers choose to stay onboard when the ship docks in port.  Guests can cruise to the Bahamas, Europe, Canada & New England, as well as the Caribbean and Transatlantic.

3. Allure of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                225,282 gt
Length:                              362.10 metres
Beam:                                 65.68 metres
Maximum Capacity:        6,687
Crew:                                  2,193
Guest cabins:                    2,706
Decks:                                18

Despite being built to the same specifications as her sister ship, Oasis, Allure of the Seas earns the title of being the third largest cruise ship by only 50 millimetres.  Allure eclipsed Oasis upon her launch in November 2009, making her maiden voyage in December 2010.  Allure of the Seas shares roughly 95% of her DNA with her famous sisters Oasis and Harmony.  A unique feature is the “neighbourhoods” dividing the ship into seven distinct spaces, as well as inward-facing balcony cabins.   A bar spreading over three decks, simulated surfing and an outdoor high-diving AquaTheatre are among Allure’s popular attractions.

Allure of the Seas was formally named by her godmother, the fictional character Princess Fiona, in a ceremony held on 28 November 2010.  Up to 6,687 guests can embark on journeys to the Caribbean as well as the Mediterranean. 

2. Harmony of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:                226,693 gt         
Length:                              362.10 metres
Beam:                                65.68 metres
Maximum Capacity:       6,687
Crew:                                 2,193                    
Decks:                                18

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class Harmony of the Seas comes in at second place with a gross tonnage of 226,693 GT and spanning 362.10 metres in length.  The ship can accommodate up to 6,687 guests and boasts 2,193 crew members among its 18 decks.  Harmony of the Seas is almost identical in layout to her successor, Symphony of the Seas, and shares many of the same state-of-the-art features, including three water slides known as ‘The Perfect Storm’, two surf simulators and two rock-climbing walls. 

Harmony of the Seas made waves when it debuted the fear-invoking ‘Ultimate Abyss’, the tallest water slide at sea.  Those in pursuit of more leisurely activities will find what they’re looking for by the ship’s three big pools and lounging areas, the adults-only solarium, a relaxing spa and live music around every corner.  Harmony made her maiden voyage in June 2018 and currently cruises the Bahamas and Caribbean out of Florida.

1. Symphony of the Seas

Gross Tonnage:               228,081 gt
Length:                             362.10 metres
Maximum Capacity:       6,680
Crew:                                 2,200
Guest cabins:                    2,759
Decks:                                18

With a jaw-dropping gross tonnage of 228,021 GT, 18 decks, 22 restaurants, 2,759 cabins, and a park hosting a staggering 20,000 tropical plants, to name but a few, Symphony of the Seas has been designated the World’s Largest Cruise Ship as of 22 January 2019.  

Royal Caribbean designed Symphony of the Seas with the goal to be the ultimate family-friendly cruise ship in the world, and the staggering size of the ship is merely a by-product of this.  Its top attractions include the tallest slide at sea, with passengers experiencing an average G-Force of 1.46, a new laser tag, the Broadway hit Hairspray, and a state-of-the-art Bionic Bar.  Symphony also boasts 65 bars, restaurants and cafés, and a total of 24 pools, whirlpools, surf simulators and waterslides.  She sets the standard for the “green” future of cruise liners by implementing a no-straw policy on her decks.

Bigger than its fleet mates by just around 1%, the focus on improvements rather than size is what has propelled Royal Caribbean to improve on its successful formula for family vacation experiences.  Sadly, Symphony of the Seas’ days as the world’s biggest cruise ship are already numbered.  The fifth ship of the Oasis class is expected to come into operation in 2021.