Royal Caribbean ship classes offer a mind-boggling array of choices for almost every cruise style. The line is known worldwide for its wow-factor mega-ships -- including Wonder of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship.
Royal Caribbean's fleet consists of 26 ships divided into six classes. There are similarities between all classes, with a number of signature Royal Caribbean attractions throughout the fleet.
So what are the differences between the Royal Caribbean cruise ships' classes? To help make sense of it all, Cruise Critic has broken down the Royal Caribbean ship classes so you can book the right vacation. Let's dive in, starting with the line's largest ships: the Oasis Class.
Among the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships can carry close to 7,000 passengers each at full capacity. That includes Wonder of the Seas, the largest passenger ship in the world. The ships feature numerous specialty restaurants, some of the line's most innovative attractions and straight-from-Broadway shows.
The line's five Oasis-class ships sail the Bahamas and the Caribbean, with two ships alternating between the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Choosing among them is often a matter of deciding your embarkation port and your preferred itinerary, rather than a question of sacrificing amenities.
Royal Caribbean's Oasis-class ships are huge, but themed neighborhoods help make them more manageable. Those include Entertainment Place, Central Park, Youth Zone and the Boardwalk, among others. The design is meant to prevent crowding and keep passengers busy all day long.
Attractions include FlowRider surf simulators, ziplines, rock climbing walls, multiple swimming pools and whirlpools, high-speed water slides (on all but Allure of the Seas), splash parks for the little ones, plus AquaTheater stunt diving shows and Broadway-style musicals (including "Mamma Mia!," "Grease," "Cats" and "Hairspray").
All Oasis-class ships also feature an ice skating rink, carousel, and a comedy club. Some Oasis-class ships have escape rooms, laser tag and facilities for learning to scuba dive onboard.
Royal Caribbean upped their dining game on the massive Oasis-class ships, with eight to 10 free restaurants and as many as 15 fee or a la carte options if you count bars with food menus. The restaurant lists contain new specialty dining venues like Port Side BBQ on Oasis and Mason Jar on Wonder plus the top-deck Vue Bar.
For those who enjoy the suite life, Oasis-class ships feature the full Royal Suite Class experience, which can include a host of perks like butler service, free internet, free specialty dining and drinks and free access to the spa's thermal room. On Wonder of the Seas, suites have their own neighborhood.
Any of Royal Caribbean's five Oasis-class ships are perfect for adrenaline junkies, groups of friends and families with varied tastes and cruisers looking for that all-in-one mega-resort vibe at sea. While options for rest and relaxation are available, Oasis-class ships are best for active travelers.
Looking for the extras offered on Oasis-class ships in a smaller package? Royal Caribbean's Quantum-class ships feature a massive array of activities, entertainment and technology but hold just over 4,000 passengers.
There are three ships in the Quantum class and two in the Quantum Ultra class. These five ships visit a wide range of destinations, covering the globe from Alaska to Australia (Quantum and Ovation) and Asia (Spectrum), as well as the Caribbean, Mediterranean and cruises to Europe (Anthem and Odyssey).
These Royal Caribbean ships are a part of the Quantum and Quantum Ultra classes: Quantum of the Seas, Ovation of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas , Spectrum of the Seas (Quantum Ultra class) and Odyssey of the Seas (Quantum Ultra class).
Quantum-class ships overflow with things to do, eat and see and feature some high-tech activities on board. That includes the North Star, a glass-enclosed capsule that lifts cruisers into the air and out over the side of the ship for 360-degree views and dramatic photo ops.You can also expect surf and skydive simulators, bumper cars, roller skating, laser tag and more.
Each Quantum-class ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet has several pools and whirlpools, including an adults-only, forward-facing Solarium and a covered family pool. There are small splash areas on the Quantum Class ships and the larger Splashaway Bay on the two Quantum Ultra ships, though there are no waterpark-ready waterslides.
Spectrum of the Seas is the only Quantum-class ship with the SkyPad virtual reality bungee jump/trampoline.
You'll find an average of five specialty restaurants, several a la carte eateries, and as many as ten free dining options on Quantum-class ships. The list of bars and lounges overlaps with unique entertainment venues like the two-story Music Hall and the ultra-high tech Two70, featuring moving robotic screens that are integrated into the shows.
The suite experience on Royal's Quantum-class ships includes a range of perks, from a suite-class only restaurant called Coastal Kitchen to Royal Caribbean's version of the butler, called Genies, for the top-level bookings.
Quantum- and Quantum Ultra-class ships are best for cruisers traveling to port-intensive destinations like Alaska, Australia, and the Mediterranean, who need a home base to return to with enough activity to keep the vacation momentum going -- in other words, to keep the kids from getting bored between ports.
There are also opportunities for relaxation as well as plenty of adult-friendly entertainment.
Many of Royal Caribbean's most iconic features made their first appearances on Voyager-class ships. Built between 1999 and 2003, these five ships were the first to have indoor shopping and dining along the Royal Promenade, plus rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks. The ships were also the line's first foray into carrying more than 3,000 passengers.
Three of the five ships -- Voyager, Navigator and Mariner -- are considered "amped," meaning they have undergone an enormous overhaul, adding entertainment, activity and dining options like the ones found on much newer ships. You'll also find budget-friendly shorter sailings on most of these ships.
Royal's Voyager-class ships have plenty to keep cruisers busy, including multiple pools and whirlpools, an ice skating rink, rock climbing wall and mini-golf. All also feature the Royal Promenade where cruisers can enjoy people-watching, have a drink in a pub, stop at the Café Promenade for a quick snack or go shopping.
When it comes to dining, all Voyager-class ships have several alternative dining venues, including Chops Grille, Izumi and an Italian restaurant. Johnny Rockets is available on most as well.
You'll also find Royal Caribbean favorites like the Schooner Bar and the Viking Crown Lounge. Mariner of the Seas features the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Voyager Class ships are the smallest in Royal Caribbean's fleet to have the line's popular top-deck water slides. Mariner of the Seas is the only Voyager-class ship to feature the high-tech SkyPad virtual reality bungee/trampoline experience.
Voyager-class ships are best for cruisers who want an active cruise experience without being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people and places to see on larger ship categories. While Voyager ships are large, they are manageable.
You can also expect cheaper prices for vacations on Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships. They are slightly older, even though many have been updated, and often sail shorter itineraries that help keep nightly rates low.
The three Freedom-class ships are the Royal Caribbean fleet's Bahamas and Caribbean workhorses, typically operating alternating three- and four-night cruises from Miami or seven-night cruises from Galveston.
Launched between 2007 and 2008, they were the first ships to introduce the FlowRider surf simulator to the cruise industry. Freedom-class ships also have rock climbing walls, mini-golf courses and multiple restaurants like their bigger Oasis-class siblings, but with a capacity of around 4,000 passengers.
Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas have been through Royal's amplification renovations, bringing their lists of attractions closer to that of newer and larger ships.
All Freedom-class ships feature multiple pools and whirlpools, some of which are cantilevered over the edge of the ship. And in addition to FlowRider surf simulators and water slides on the top deck, Splashaway Bay aqua park is available for kids.
You'll also find an ice skating rink for free skating during designated hours and professional ice shows. Independence of the Seas has a Sky Pad bungee/trampoline virtual reality experience.
Free dining includes the main dining room, Windjammer Marketplace buffet, plus Sorrento's Pizza and Café Promenade in the Royal Promenade. Freedom-class ships also feature specialty dining venues like Giovanni's Table (or Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen, in the case of Freedom), Chops Steakhouse, Chef's Table and Johnny Rockets.
Each ship also has at least one additional specialty restaurant -- Sabor on Liberty of the Seas, and Izumi Hibachi and Sushi on Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.
Broadway shows are on offer on Independence of the Seas ("Grease") and Liberty of the Seas ("Saturday Night Fever"), with all three featuring a variety of traditional juke-box and revue-style productions as well.
Royal's three Freedom-class ships are best for couples, groups of friends or families who want a big ship with lots of entertainment and dining choices but might not want to sail with 5,000-plus cruisers. Fares for cruises on these ships, while not the highest, are also not at the lowest end of the line's pricing.
Royal Caribbean's Vision-class ships are generally the smallest options in the fleet. All were built in the 1990s and carry either just under or just over 2,000 passengers. Age shouldn't necessarily be the deciding factor when looking at these ships, though, as all are well-maintained and updated.
The glass-lined exteriors are built to soak in views, which is important as these ships spend most of their time in the Mediterranean, Alaska, New England and Canada. Grandeur of the Seas, however, spends most of the year in the Caribbean, and itineraries on it can be lower than other ships in the fleet.
Vision-class ships offer a bit less variety of things to do than their behemoth counterparts in the fleet. The vibe is more intimate, with just a small selection of specialty restaurants and a handful of Royal Caribbean staples, such as the rock climbing wall, Solarium adults-only pool and the line's signature steakhouse, Chops Grille.
All four ships have a main outdoor pool and multiple whirlpools. Enchantment of the Seas has a second outdoor pool. However, zip lines, giant water slides, surf simulators, skydiving simulators, ice rinks, and the Aqua Theaters are all missing.
Dining is a bit limited, but there are still options ranging from the main dining room and Windjammer Marketplace buffet to Park Café in the Solarium (free), and paid extras like Chops Grille and Chef's Table. All but Enchantment of the Seas also feature Izumi and Giovanni's Table, which also cost extra.
The Vision-class ships are best suited for people seeking a quieter, more traditional cruise experience that stresses activities like trivia, bingo, dance classes and song-and-dance revues in the main theater. These ships are also suited to travelers who feel overwhelmed by Royal Caribbean's larger ships classes.
Built between 2001 and 2004, Royal Caribbean's mid-size Radiance-class ships are made for enjoying ocean views. A vast amount of interior space on these ships is enclosed in glass, providing nearly nonstop views of the ocean.
Despite being larger than Vision-class ships, Radiance-class ships are relaxed -- don't expect the high-octane thrills available on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet. That being said, there are plenty of activities and entertainment to keep everyone happy.
Royal Caribbean's Radiance-class ships have more space for top-deck activities -- including additional pools and mini-golf courses -- than their Vision-class relatives. While Radiance-class ships still lack adrenaline-pumping activities like surfing or skydive simulations, you'll find traditional activities like trivia, bingo, silly pool games and dance classes in spades.
Most Radiance-class ships have a decent selection of eateries, with options varying from ship to ship. All Radiance-class ships feature Chops Grille, Izumi, Chef's Table and Giovanni's Table; all also have the grab-and-go Cafe Latte-Tudes, for extra-fee specialty coffees and pastries.
All four ships also feature Royal Caribbean's Schooner Bar and enough other bars and lounges to entertain most cruisers. Casino Royale is also a popular spot on the Radiance-class ships.
The four Radiance-class ships are best for cruisers looking for a smaller mainstream ship with a focus on relaxation and casual fun. Think: port visits and some old-fashioned cruise entertainment. Cruises on Radiance-class ships tend to be more moderately priced than those on Oasis- and Quantum-class ships, but more expensive than those on Vision-class ships.