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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Cruise ship bathrooms get a bad rap. They're too cramped, the shower curtains cling and there's hardly enough space for all your toiletries. Yet move beyond the cookie-cutter loos in standard staterooms, you can find incredible bathrooms onboard that give their five-star hotel counterparts a run for their money.
The total price of a cruise is rarely just the ticket price and some government fees. While accommodations, most meals and tons of activities are included in your fare, you will have to pay extra for an array of tempting amenities and activities, like spa treatments, shore excursions and cocktails. If you're on a budget, it can be tricky to figure out just what your total vacation cost will be and what kind of extra charges to anticipate. While a $7 pina colada likely won't break the bank, you might be surprised to discover how quickly an exercise class here and a round of bingo there can add up. To help you figure out how much you might actually spend on a cruise vacation, we've culled and tallied the prices of common extra charges found on weeklong Caribbean cruises and listed them for eight popular -- and amenity-laden -- cruise ships. We've also added in the daily gratuities for each passenger in a standard cabin. (Tips for suite passengers might be higher.) Use these numbers as a guide to help you calculate the total price of a cruise. Editor's Note: Prices may vary by ships within the same cruise line, as well as by itinerary, and they're subject to change at any time, without notice; these prices were accurate as of July 2018. We realize that travelers will not rack up every one of these charges every day, but we have presented both the prices and a sample a la carte cost for one day to make the point that onboard charges can accumulate rapidly.
New cruise ships are built with more balcony cabins than they are with any other accommodation type, but not all veranda cabins are created equal. Some have more interior space, while others have larger balconies or extra amenities. If you're looking for the best balcony cabin you can book -- without having to upgrade to a mini-suite or suite -- here are our five favorites across mainstream lines.
Although many people think that Australia and New Zealand are the same, the island nations coexist in the South Pacific as close neighbors with completely different personalities. Aussies and Kiwis enjoy a healthy sibling rivalry on the sporting field, but New Zealand has its own distinct offerings that cannot be compared to Australia's. The Maori culture is one of the strongest in all of Polynesia, and if you've seen the breathtaking, sweeping vistas portrayed in blockbuster movies like "Lord of the Rings," you won't be disappointed; this is where they were filmed. The early Polynesian inhabitants called New Zealand "Aotearoa," which means "The Land of the Long White Cloud." Ever since European traders and whalers arrived in the late eighteenth century, it has retained a reputation for being ruggedly beautiful and mysterious, a land of geysers and glaciers that's a fusion of Maori and British. The country is neatly packaged up in two halves. The North and South islands are separated by the Cook Strait, which is just more than 19 kilometers wide at its narrowest point. The North Island is more heavily populated, featuring bigger cities that include Auckland and the nation's capital, Wellington. The South Island is the true star of the show, with its wide-open spaces, spectacular mountains, lakes and glaciers. From the Bay of Islands at the top of the North Island to dramatic Fiordland in the far south, cruising New Zealand opens up a world of natural wonders and reveals a vibrant culture. It's also one of the safest countries in which to travel, with efficient airline networks, generally good roads, and excellent healthcare, and emergency and hospital facilities.
As you lie on a massage table, legs tucked into a soft sheet, hot stones soothing the tired muscles of your back and arms, you will most certainly not be thinking about cruise ship spa ratings. And while you relax on a heated tile lounger or in a steamy sauna, eyes drooping, thoughts of work and bills scurrying far away, you're probably not wondering about your cruise line's philosophy on its spa product. But when you sit down at your computer to research your next cruise vacation, you might very well want to know where to find the best spas at sea -- and we'll be there to help.
When Royal Caribbean's gargantuan and game-changing Oasis of the Seas debuted as the then-world's largest ship in 2009, people wondered if anyone would bother to get off the ship in port, as it could take a week to try out all the onboard activities. With 24 dining options, 21 pools and hot tubs, multiple live performance venues (including an ice rink and AquaTheater for high-diving shows) and seven "neighborhoods," the ship practically guarantees that no one will have trouble finding something to do. But you don't need to sail on a 5,400-passenger ship to get the most from your days at sea. Any ship will do if you're content to spend your onboard time passed out on a sun lounger. But if you want the right mix of activity and relaxation options, it's key to pick the right ship with enough onboard attractions and programming to keep you entertained from sun-up to sun-down. Here's our selection of the best ships for days at sea, chosen based on their variety of indoor and outdoor pursuits, plus plenty of daytime dining options. And if you need more inspiration, check out our companion piece: Top 10 Things to Do on Sea Days.
Romance and cruising would seem to go hand in hand, particularly if you've spotted any of the cruise lines' advertisements showing photos of couples snuggling at the bow at sunset, or sipping orange juice on their private veranda in bathrobes, or even -- and this one we have a hard time believing -- spending time alone on a deserted beach with their mega-ship anchored in the background. Advertisements notwithstanding, cruising can be one of the most romantic vacation options, but choosing the right cruise line and, even more specifically, the right ship within the fleet, can be a challenge. You don't want that sunset marred by crowds on deck, the romance of a dinner for two killed by the whiny kids at the next table or a cozy evening ruined by cramped cabins with minimal amenities. For our top picks, we looked at criteria that we would deem universally romantic: ships that offer cabins with private balconies, great bathrooms and extra-special amenities; options for dining a deux; cozy nooks and date-night venues; and almost-private open-deck spaces for relaxing by day and stargazing by night. Here are our favorite ships for celebrating or rekindling romance with your sweetheart.
Cruise ship sun decks are much more than a simple place to swim and sunbathe. Modern top-of-the-ship activity centers can feature multiple pools and hot tubs, water parks with slides and splash zones, outdoor movie screens, active pursuits (ropes courses, ziplines, rock climbing walls and surf simulators) and serene, adults-only lounge spaces. And you're never far from a place to grab a drink or bite to eat. If outdoor relaxation and entertainment are priorities when choosing a cruise, check out our favorite cruise ship pool decks.
If you've got a reason why you couldn't possibly like cruising, we can guarantee we've heard it before. And while not every cruise ship or type of cruise will suit every vacationer out there, the explanations people give for why they'd dislike a vacation at sea are generally unfounded. In fact, we'd bet that for every excuse, a cruise line exists that proves the stereotype wrong. That's because cruise ships and itineraries come in all shapes and sizes, and not as cookie-cutter as the uninitiated might fear. If you think there can't possibly be a cruise you'd like -- or have a friend or relation who feels that way -- here are our favorite cruise lines for non-cruisers that defy cliches and win over skeptics.
A cruise gift card is one token of affection that extends far beyond the holiday season. Birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, even divorces (hey, everyone's got their reasons for celebrating) are perfect occasions to spoil your loved ones with a prepaid shore excursion, spa treatment or free cruise. If you'd like to learn how to gift a cruise, we've compiled a list of what some of the major lines offer.
No, "cruises for millennials" is not an oxymoron. The emergence of smart-ship technology, Broadway-quality entertainment, designer stores and an emphasis on current culinary trends means that cruising has caught up to many other forms of travel, in terms of hipness. And what other type of vacation can guarantee you'll have just as good of a time getting to your destination(s) as actually being there? If you were born between 1982 and 2004, face it: You're more or less an M-word. Some traits we arguably share include addiction to our phones, high expectations, the need for constant stimulation and the desire to travel and acquire experiences. Luckily, all of these things --and more -- can be sated on a cruise. Finding the single, perfect cruise for everyone born over the course of two decades -- it's a tall order. The millennial generation is often lumped together as one group, but in fact, these children of the '80s, '90s and early '00s are all at different points in their lives, and looking for different things from a cruise and from a vacation. Someone in their late-30s with a six-figure salary is going to want something different from someone in their mid-20s with kids, than someone who is still in college. That's why we are counting down nine different cruise options for the millennial with a young family, the millennial couple looking to spend their hard-earned money on a getaway and the millennial scraping together tips to just leave it all behind with a group of friends.
Cruise ship buffets -- you either love the smorgasbord of all-you-can-eat fare and the uber-casual setting, or you hate the crowds, queues and food that's sat out a bit too long. Whether you're a fan or not, you have to admit that some cruise lines have put more effort into their pool deck dining venues than others. Our favorite buffets stand out from the rest with countless cuisine options, pleasant dining areas, helpful staff and a navigable layout, often with separate self-service stations. Feast your eyes on the five best cruise ship buffets you'll find at sea.