What does it take to make the list of the eight most popular cruise ships? Every ship on our list has one thing in common: An enormous amount of people sail on them every year. But beyond that, these cruise ships all appeal to a wide array of travelers. Ships that become crowd favorites invariably have great food, a wide choice of comfortable rooms, and enough entertainment to last through the cruise.
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Read on to see how the world's most popular cruise ships stack up against each other and start your cruise vacation planning off on the right foot.
One of the largest vessels at sea, Harmony of the Seas has pretty much everything you could imagine on a mega ship -- and more. From giant water slides and ziplines to Broadway musicals, there's no lack of things to do, see, eat and explore on board. All 2,747 rooms on Harmony of the Seas come in dozens of varieties that range from two-story suites to solo studios. Restaurants top the two-dozen mark, some included in the cruise fare, others bearing an additional charge.
Deployment: Caribbean and Bahamas from Fort Lauderdale (2022 and early 2023), Miami (2023) and Galveston (late 2023 and 2024).
Celebrity Apex is the second ship in Celebrity's distinctive Edge Series, which has taken cruising -- and the Celebrity brand -- in a new direction by applying innovation on par with sister-line Royal Caribbean. Celebrity Apex cruisers will find themselves on a high-tech ship with plenty of large windows, indoor greenery, swanky lighting and outdoor dining and bar options. The ship's stand-out feature is the bright-orange, tender-platform-turned-exclusive-eatery-and-lounge known as the Magic Carpet.
Deployment: Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico from Fort Lauderdale; Mediterranean from Civitavecchia (Rome) and Piraeus (Athens); Northern Europe from Amsterdam.
Carnival's most popular ship, Mardi Gras is named after Carnival's first Mardi Gras ship, which retired in 1993. This new ship shows just how far cruising has come in the decades since. One of the most obvious upgrades on the newer Mardi Gras is BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea. It also includes Carnival's first-ever Grand Central Atrium, complete with three-story walls of glass overlooking the sea. Of course, sticking to Carnival's brand, the vibe onboard still skews upbeat (in other words, it's a party).
Deployment: Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico and Central America from Port Canaveral.
Anthem of the Seas may not be the newest of Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships, but it is a beautiful example of what Quantum-class ships do best. Expect an activity-packed home base from which to explore the world by sea. Anthem of the Seas is a popular step up to mega-ship status for lovers of smaller ships, avoiding that lost-in-the-crowd feeling of the larger Royal Caribbean Oasis Class ships.
Deployment: Bahamas and Caribbean from Bayonne, New Jersey; Canary Islands, Mediterranean and Northern Europe from London (Southampton).
Norwegian Joy is part of Norwegian Cruise Line's iconic Breakaway Class, but has a distinct personality of its own. Cruisers looking for a traditional Norwegian (NCL) experience will not be disappointed, thanks to the inclusion of the line’s hallmarks like the French-inspired Le Bistro, Cagney’s Steakhouse, and plenty of entertainment and activities for all ages. Just keep in mind that, despite the wealth of excellent specialty dining and activities like go-karts, VR games and laser tag, NCL price tags are less inclusive and most of these features will cost extra.
Deployment: Caribbean and Bahamas from Miami; Canada and New England from New York (Manhattan) and Quebec; Bermuda from New York; Mexico, Central America and Panama Canal from Los Angeles and Miami.
Discovery Princess is the final ship in the Princess Royal Class. The design will be familiar to past Princess guests, with a large central atrium, a handful of complimentary eateries and a nice balance of specialty restaurants. The vibe is classic and relaxed, but the look is modern. With 753 balcony cabins and a great selection of suites to choose from, this is a ship that is focused on getting you to your destination in comfort and class over offering a too-long list of attractions. Since this ship tours Alaska for half of the year, it’s a formula that works. Even the main dining rooms on Discovery Princess are named for Alaska’s top cruise ports: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.
Deployment: Alaska from Seattle; Hawaii and Mexico from Los Angeles.
Holland America Koningsdam led the way for two more Pinnacle Class ships, now Holland America’s largest ships in the fleet. It features long-time Holland America (HAL) favorites like the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse and Canaletto featuring Italian fare. Art and classic decor have always been front and center on the line’s ships, giving it an upmarket vibe. It's one of the most high-tech ships in HAL's fleet and the farm-to-table dining onboard shouldn't be missed.
Deployment: Alaska from Seattle, Vancouver, and Anchorage; Hawaii, South Pacific, and Mexico from San Diego.
Mariner of the Seas serves as the grand finale of Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Class. The entire class changed what cruisers expect from a mega ship: A multitude of choices for everything from rooms to food as well as a ship packed with stuff to do. The ship underwent extensive renovations to public areas in 2018, with additions including Playmakers Sports Bar and massive twin water slides called The Perfect Storm. It's also one of the most budget-friendly ships in the Royal Caribbean line and its short itineraries make it a popular Caribbean option.
Deployment: Caribbean and Bahamas from Port Canaveral
Updated August 24, 2022