Nearly everyone has a favorite cruise ship. In this chart, we outline the key distinctions among the 8 most popular cruise ships in the industry. Look for highlights of onboard accommodations, dining and entertainment, as well as ship itineraries. Don't have a favorite cruise ship just yet? Our picks just might inspire you to find the perfect vacation match.
Want more info about these top 8 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.
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Updated February 9, 2020
1. Harmony of the Seas
It's hard to miss Harmony of the Seas' standout feature -- a pair of purple slides cascading down the back of the ship -- but the Ultimate Abyss isn't this Royal Caribbean ship's only claim to fame. Harmony provides an Oasis-class experience (different "neighborhoods," adrenaline-pumping outdoor activities and high-class entertainment), as well as a taste of the line's Quantum class, with robotic bartenders at the Bionic Bar and a family-style dinner at Jamie's Italian.
- A variety of free and for-fee options offers something for every taste.
- Wonderland serves up whimsical cuisine using molecular gastronomy.
- Johnny Rockets is a great, free alternative for breakfast.
- "Grease" production show brings the Broadway original to life.
- Escape room makes for a fun, challenging group activity.
- Outdoor entertainment includes water slides, zipline and surf simulators.
2. Carnival Vista
Carnival Vista epitomizes the line's "Fun Ship" moniker. It offers the most variety of restaurants, bars, entertainment and outdoor fun of any Carnival ship (alongside its newer sister, Carnival Horizon). There's even an exclusive Havana area with a pool, hot tubs and 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.)
- Bonsai Sushi serves some of the best rolls and sashimi at sea.
- Staples such as Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina.
- DIY pasta bar for lunch at Cucina del Capitano.
- Outdoor recreation includes sky-high bike and ropes course.
- RedFrog Pub & Brewery offers craft beer, tours and tastings.
- IMAX theater, perfect for rainy days and lazy nights
3. Norwegian Escape
The first ship in Norwegian's massive Breakaway Plus class, Norwegian Escape is an ideal choice for people who want high-quality entertainment and variety. The 4,200-passenger ship features two Broadway-style shows, 28 bars and restaurants and a handful of recreational activities -- including one of the scariest water slides at sea.
- Alfresco dining offered in The Waterfront.
- Traditional Spanish tapas served at Pincho.
- Norwegian staples like Cagney's and Teppanyaki.
- The District Brew House is a beer lover's dream.
- Largest ropes course at sea.
- Spice H2O turns into an outdoor nightclub.
4. Anthem of the Seas
The innovative, 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas is all about the wow factor, with attractions like a skydiving simulator and a London Eye-style glass pod that rises over the pool deck. Tech-savvy cruisers also will love the ship's fast Wi-Fi, the ability to make onboard bookings via tablets and apps, and RFID bracelets for cabin access and on-ship purchases. The look is classy and modern, and cruisers are spoiled for choice in dining, accommodations and sea day fun.
- Jamie's Italian offers family-style dinner in a colorful space.
- Find macarons, petits-fours and chocolates galore at La Patisserie.
- Vegetarian dishes and healthy options are indicated on menus.
- SeaPlex offers bumper cars, roller skating and trapeze lessons.
- Hit shows "We Will Rock You" and high-tech "Spectra's Cabaret".
- Gorgeous adults-only Solarium with cascading pools.
5. Norwegian Breakaway
Rocking a New York theme, Norwegian Breakaway very well might be the ship that never sleeps, with all the activities on offer. The 4,028-passenger ship is jampacked with restaurants and entertainment options -- including a rock 'n' roll bar and a special musical just for wine lovers -- and prides itself on freestyle dining, which means there are no set dining times or seat assignments.
- Many restaurants offer alfresco dining.
- Free options include supper club, noodle bar and grill.
- Cirque Dreams and Dinner show is family-friendly.
- Popular shows include "Rock of Ages" and "Burn the Floor".
- At night, enjoy live jazz, comedy, dueling piano players and theme parties.
- Top-deck attractions like rock climbing, water slides and ropes course.
6. Allure of the Seas
The 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas builds on the blueprint introduced by its Royal Caribbean sister, Oasis of the Seas (and now found on Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas). The ship features attractions like ziplining and a handmade wooden carousel, but Allure has its own twists, including a Brazilian churrascaria and the Broadway show "Mamma Mia!"
- 20-plus dining options, both free and for a fee.
- First-ever "food truck" at sea serves hot dogs and sausages.
- Alternative venues: Japanese, Italian, steakhouse, Mexican.
- Coney Island-style Boardwalk with a carousel.
- Outdoor AquaTheater for daredevil diving shows.
- "Beach" and "sports" pools, plus H2O Zone for kids.
7. Norwegian Epic
Fit for every type of traveler -- couples, solos, families and groups alike -- Norwegian Epic offers a variety of activities day and night, from cooling off with the largest bowl slide at sea to dining in the midst of an acrobatic performance at the Cirque Dreams & Dinner show. When you need an escape, head to the adults-only, Ibiza-inspired sun deck, where plenty of lounge chairs and a refreshing pool await.
- Great Outdoors alfresco restaurant serves world cuisine for free.
- Asian food lovers can dine at four free and for-fee options.
- Intimate specialty restaurants are perfect for date nights.
- Full-sized, three-lane bowling alley beckons competitive cruisers.
- Splash Golf (nine holes with water jets) is perfect for families.
- Beatles-themed bar offers great beer and live music.
8. Liberty of the Seas
Royal Caribbean's Liberty of the Seas might not be one of the biggest ships in the fleet, but it offers no shortage of activities. In fact, it's home to a slew of features not found on most -- if any -- other ships, including a cupcake eatery, kids-only Splashaway Bay water park and one of the most thrilling water slides at sea. Don't worry: You'll still get to enjoy Royal Caribbean staples like the FlowRider surf simulator, rock climbing wall and Perfect Storm pair of high-speed water slides -- as well as dining favorites like Giovanni's Table and Chops Grille.
Deployment: Year-round Caribbean cruises from Galveston.
- Burgers and shakes at Johnny Rockets make for tasty casual eats.
- Cupcake Cupboard satisfies any sweet tooth (and offers decorating classes).
- Specialty Mexican restaurant Sabor serves tableside guacamole.
- Thrilling Tidal Wave is the only boomerang-style slide at sea.
- Main street-style Royal Promenade is lined with bars, eateries and shops.
- Ice skating rink theater puts on jaw-dropping shows.