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16 Unusual Cruise Ship Balcony Cabins
16 Unusual Cruise Ship Balcony Cabins
Compare: 8 Most Popular Cruise Ships
The two-level pool deck on Odyssey of the Seas (Image: Royal Caribbean)

Compare: 8 Most Popular Cruise Ships

Compare: 8 Most Popular Cruise Ships
The two-level pool deck on Odyssey of the Seas (Image: Royal Caribbean)
Aaron Saunders
News and Features Editor
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Nearly everyone has a favorite cruise ship. In this chart, we outline the key distinctions among the eight most popular cruise ships in the industry, as searched for by our very own readers. Look for highlights of onboard accommodations, dining and entertainment, as well as the itineraries and destinations that each vessel sails to.

Don't have a favorite cruise ship just yet? Our picks just might inspire you to find the ship that perfectly fits your vacation style.

Hungry for more information about these top eight cruise ships? Click on the vessel name below to read about ship highlights and find links to itineraries, a photo tour of the ship, a comprehensive expert review and hundreds of reader-submitted critiques.

1. Celebrity Edge

Ship Exterior on Celebrity Edge (Photo: Cruise Critic)

One of the most distinctive vessels at sea, Celebrity Edge has taken cruising -- and the Celebrity brand -- in a new direction by applying the same innovation typically rolled out by sister-line Royal Caribbean. On Celebrity Edge (and sister ship Celebrity Apex), cruisers will find themselves on a high-tech with plenty of large windows, indoor greenery, swanky lighting, and numerous outdoor dining and bar options, including the ship's most distinctive feature: the bright-orange, tender platform turned exclusive eatery and watering hole known as Magic Carpet.

Deployment: Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale; Mediterranean from Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome).

Sleep:

  • Trendy cabins, some of which offer "infinite verandas".
  • Top-of-the-line Retreat cabins offer access to private facilities and deck areas
  • Ocean view and interior rooms are an economical option.

Eat:

  • One of the most spacious, bright casual dining venues at sea.
  • Dinner on the Edge (on Magic Carpet) is a unique thrill.

Fun:

  • Light and dance shows illuminate select bars and lounges.
  • Upper deck space is sumptuous and spacious.
  • The multi-level, stern-facing Eden Bar is one of the most interesting concepts at sea.

2. Allure of the Seas

Ship Exterior on Allure of the Seas

Although not the newest of its class, Allure of the Seas is still a crowd-pleaser, providing a big-ship, Oasis-class experience (think: different "neighborhoods," adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities and high-class entertainment). It also has popular Royal Caribbean Oasis trademarks like the Rising Tide Bar and the onboard zipline.

Deployment: Caribbean Cruises out of Fort Lauderdale & Port Canaveral; Mediterranean voyages from Barcelona and Civitavecchia (Rome).

Sleep:

  • Cabins are compact but cozy, with lots of storage space.
  • Solo cabins do not bear a single supplement.
  • Family Presidential Suite can accommodate 14 people.

Eat:

  • A variety of free and for-fee options offers something for every taste.
  • Samba Grill offers Brazilian-style dining in a great space.

Fun:

  • "Mamma Mia!" production show brings the classic ABBA musical to life.
  • Diversions like rock climbing, ice rink games and onboard parades keep entertaining.
  • Outdoor entertainment includes pools, zipline and surf simulators.

3. Carnival Vista

Carnival Vista (Photo: Carnival)

Carnival Vista epitomizes the line's "Fun Ship" moniker. Along with its newer sister, Carnival Horizon, it offers a plethora of bars, dining venues and entertainment options that exceed most other ships in the Carnival fleet. There's even an exclusive Havana area with an aft-facing pool, hot tubs and outdoor bar available during the day to those staying in Cabana cabins. (A separate, Cuba-themed Havana Bar is open to all passengers, day and night.)

Deployment: Year-round Western Caribbean cruises from Galveston.

Sleep:

  • All cabins are capable of fitting two to five people.
  • Family Harbor cabins include a private lounge and free group babysitting.
  • Cloud 9 Spa cabins come with spa freebies and amenities.

Eat:

  • Bonsai Sushi serves some of the best rolls and sashimi at sea.

Fun:

  • Outdoor recreation includes sky-high bike and ropes course
  • Carival's own RedFrog Pub & Brewery offers craft beer, tours and tastings.
  • Onboard IMAX theater, perfect for rainy days and lazy nights

4. Norwegian Encore

Norwegian Encore (Photo: Norwegian Cruise Line)

The 3,998-passenger Norwegian Encore is one of Norwegian Cruise Line's newest and most diverse cruise ships. The first ship in the world to boast an onboard go-kart track, Norwegian Encore further raises the bar on excitement with the virtual reality Galaxy Pavilion; onboard performances of the Tony Award-winning Broadway hit, Kinky Boots; and an onboard aqua park that rivals any land-based resort. Cruisers looking for a more traditional experience will not be disappointed, either, thanks to the inclusion of Norwegian Cruise Line hallmarks like the French-inspired Le Bistro; Maltings Whiskey Bar; and plenty of entertainment and activities for all ages.

Deployment: Caribbean from Miami; Alaska from Seattle; Bermuda from New York.

Sleep:

  • Norwegian's Studio cabins are perfect for the solo traveler.
  • The Haven Suites offer a luxury ship-within-a-ship concept.
  • Dedicated Family Staterooms are available across most cabin grades.

Eat:

  • Seven complimentary dining options.
  • Authentic Texas barbecue at Q Texas Smokehouse

Fun:

  • Encore Speedway go-kart track.
  • Three major onboard production shows.
  • The District Brewhouse, offering over 70 different beers.

5. Brilliance of the Seas

Exterior on Brilliance of the Seas

One of Royal Caribbean's most beautiful ships, the 2002-built Brilliance of the Seas is part of the four-ship strong Radiance Class that also includes Radiance, Serenade and Jewel of the Seas. The ship has won legions of fans thanks to its wide-open deck space, classic wraparound promenade, and banks of wall-to-wall glass. The ship even offers exterior glass elevators, and has self-leveling pool tables -- perfect for a little pub games, even in rough seas. Renovated and refreshed, Brilliance of the Seas still packs a big cruising punch for those looking for a quality ship operating runs at a lower price point than some of the newest vessels out there.

Deployment: Caribbean and Bahamas from Tampa; Mediterranean from Civitavecchia (Rome) and Ravenna (Venice), Italy.

Sleep:

  • Most oceanview rooms offer oversized circular windows.
  • Cabins are among the most spacious in the Royal Caribbean fleet.
  • Numerous suite, balcony and connecting stateroom options.

Eat:

  • The ship offers an elegant two-storey main dining room.
  • Numerous specialty restaurants, including the Chops Grille steakhouse.
  • The Chef's Table offers a small-group degustation experience.

Fun:

  • Pub tunes and music in the onboard English Pub.
  • Game shows, pool parties and Broadway-style productions are offered.

6. Odyssey of the Seas

Odyssey of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

It is no surprise that Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship to launch is already one of the most popular vessels at sea. Odyssey of the Seas debuts in early 2021 and will immediately begin operations in Israel for local citizens vaccinated against COVID-19. The ship offers more Quantum Class hits, like the SeaPlex with its onboard bumper cars; the hydraulically elevated North Star platform; and ground-breaking entertainment options in the stern-facing Two70 lounge.

Deployment: Haifa, Israel (Spring-Summer 2021); Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale; Mediterranean from Civitavecchia (Rome).  

Sleep:

  • Royal Suite Class offers some of the most lavish accommodations at sea.
  • Virtual Balcony rooms bring the outside views to inside cabins.
  • Plenty of family accommodations and connecting rooms.

Eat:

  • Imaginative, whimsical dining in Wonderland.
  • Casual Mexican fare at El Loco Fresh.
  • Plenty of free and for-fee dining options.

Fun:

  • Surfing and skydiving simulators onboard, along with laser tag and bumper cars.
  • High-tech production shows in Two70.
  • Classic cruising diversions like Bolero's and pub trivia.

7. Mardi Gras

Carnival Mardi Gras (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival's newest and most hotly anticipated ship, Mardi Gras is a Fun Ship gamechanger. Named after Carnival's first Mardi Gras, which retired in 1993, this new iteration shows just how far cruising has come in the intervening decades. Mardi Gras debuts BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, along with a brand-new design that includes Carnival's first-ever Grand Central Atrium concept, complete with three-storey walls of glass overlooking the sea beyond. Passengers will also find plenty of the warm, whimsical and outrageous fun that has defined Carnival for decades.

Deployment: Caribbean from Port Canaveral

Sleep:

  • Carnival's most spacious and elaborate cabins to-date.
  • Family Harbor Staterooms and Suites offer additional living space.
  • Cloud 9, Havana and Excel Suites boast additional perks and unique spaces.

Eat:

  • Emeril's Bistro 1396 is the seagoing debut of Chef Emeril Lagasse.
  • Casual favorites include Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina.
  • Rudi's Seagrill becomes Carnival's first seafood-focused eatery onboard.

Fun:

  • New additions include RedFrog Tiki Bar, Brass Magnolia Jazz Club, and others.
  • Ride the first and only roller coaster at sea.
  • Take part in game shows, comedy clubs, and full-blown production shows.

8. Celebrity Reflection

Exterior on Celebrity Reflection

One of Celebrity Cruises' most elegant vessels, Celebrity Reflection offers a premium cruise experience wrapped up in a big-ship package. Passengers can indulge in the upper-deck Lawn Club (featuring real grass), amble up to the dedicated Martini Bar, or even grill your own meal at the Lawn Club Grill. Celebrity has kept Celebrity Reflection sparkling, with cabins and suites to suit every taste and budget.

Deployment: Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale; Mediterranean from Civitavecchia (Rome); Northern Europe from Amsterdam.

Sleep:

  • The Retreat cabins offer Celebrity's luxe ship within a ship concept
  • Aqua Class staterooms offer additional perks and benefits
  • Interconnecting and accessible cabin options across all grades.

Eat:

  • Le Petit Chef at Qsine offers an animated take on culinary experiences.
  • Enjoy seafood and a raw bar at The Porch
  • Grill your own food at the Lawn Club Grill.

Fun:

  • Try lawn bowling at sea at the Lawn Club.
  • The Sky Observation Bar offers unrivaled bow-facing views.
  • Celebrity Reflection boasts an elaborate (and soothing) spa.

Updated March 25, 2021

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