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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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
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.
Updated February 09, 2020