HomeTravelThese are the world’s biggest cruise ships

These are the world’s biggest cruise ships

As the newly crowned world’s largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas, prepares to take its first voyage on Friday afternoon, the league table of mega-ships has once again shifted.

But you may be surprised to know that the whole top five – in terms of size and weight – is now dominated by the same operator, Royal Caribbean.

The 18-deck Wonder of the Seas departs Florida’s Fort Lauderdale this afternoon for its inaugural sailing, travelling to Labadee, Haiti, San Juan, Puerto Rico, Nassau, Bahamas and Perfect Day at CocoCay – a private island in the Bahamas – over a seven-day itinerary.

It is followed in the size stakes by four of its RC siblings – and will be overtaken in 2024 by another “Oasis-class” ship from the brand, which is yet to be named.

Here’s the lowdown on the Big 10 when it comes to cruising, and their larger-than-life features – from onboard surfing lessons to ziplines.

The world’s top 10 biggest cruise ships

1. Wonder of the Seas

Operated by: Royal Caribbean

Weighing in at 236,857 gross tonnes and measuring 362m long and 64m wide, this hulking liner has capacity for 6,988 passengers, with more than 20 dining venues and 11 bars catering to them. Its mind-boggling facilities include the tallest waterslide at sea (the Ultimate Abyss), a casino, a carousel, a Flowrider surf machine, jogging track, zipline and outdoor cinema. The fifth in the operator’s “Oasis class” series of mega-ships has eight “neighbourhoods” or leisure zones, while all other Oasis ships have seven. The new ’hood is the “Suite Class” zone – essentially a lavish VIP area over three decks, where suite-class guests can bask on their own sundeck, plunge pool, bar and lounge.

2. Symphony of the Seas

Operated by: Royal Caribbean

This 362m-long vessel weighs in at 228,081 gross tonnes – 8,776 less than its gigantic new sibling. It has capacity for 6,680 passengers, to Wonder’s 6,988. But its facilities are no less showy: a laser-tag attraction, an ice-skating rink and AquaTheatre, rock-climbing walls, a FlowRider, an escape room and 21 food and drink outlets. Symphony also made a splash with its Ultimate Family Suite, which was deemed “cool” but also incredibly expensive by critics. Costing from $25,492 (£19,210) for a seven-night cruise for four, this multi-level candyland stateroom has its own tube slide, cinema, gaming tables and “genie” butler.

3. Harmony of the Seas

Operated by: Royal Caribbean

Only a metre shorter in size than both Wonder and Symphony (361m), Harmony weighs in at 227,000 gross tonnes and can accommodate 6,780 guests. It has many of the same headline features of its bigger siblings: the Ultimate Abyss waterslide, the FlowRider, zipline, and seven distinct “neighbourhoods”. Of the diverse crew, RC says: “there is one ice skate sharpener, a face painter, seven high divers, and two tight-rope walkers – not to mention two robots who staff the Bionic Bar.”

4. Oasis of the Seas

Operated by: Royal Caribbean

Getting marginally smaller at this stage, Oasis is 362m long and weighs 226,838 gross tonnes, with room for “just” 5,400 passengers. There are plenty of places to take a dip onboard, with four pools and 10 whirlpools, while its full-service spa, basketball court, ice rink and climbing walls all stack up to the top three’s facilities. The ship underwent a refurbishment in late 2019, with the cruise line’s first barbecue restaurant, Portside BBQ, added, along with the Ultimate Abyss slide and Music Hall theatre.

5. Allure of the Seas

Operated by: Royal Caribbean

The 16-deck Allure is 362m long and weighs 225,282 gross tonnes, hosting 6,780 passengers. It held the title of world’s largest cruise ship for six years, before its hefty siblings set sail. It delighted fans with its world-beating kids’ club and also has the seven “neighbourhood” zones shared by all Oasis-class ships, including a youth zone and a Coney Island-style boardwalk. Its swish 150 Central Park restaurant (a premium add-on) has a six-course tasting menu, but there are 10 food outlets included in your cruise price.

(Getty Images)

6. Costa Smeralda/Costa Toscana

Operated by: Costa Cruises

Costa Smeralda (337m long, 180,000 gross tonnes) was christened in February 2020, with Rome-inspired features such as a “Trastevere” area and “Piazza di Spagna” steps. Costa ships tend to have a more muted, traditional and grown-up look than RC’s “colour explosion” vibes – Smeralda also has a waterpark, spa and swanky restaurant with menus by top global chefs Bruno Barbieri, Hélène Darroze and Ángel León. It was awarded Green Plus status by certification body RINA for its compliance with sustainability measures, including the use of LNG (liquefied natural gas) and onboard desalination for water use. Twin ship the Costa Toscana – the same length, with just 5 more gross tonnes to its name – will set sail later this month.

7. Iona 

Operated by: P&O Cruises

The 344m-long, 184,700 gross tonne Iona launched in February 2020, with room for 5,200 guests. It’s double-height “Sky Dome” area serves as a pool, bar and leisure area by day, and is used for entertainment at night. The vessel’s new “Conservatory mini suites” also added an affordable suite option for passengers. The greenest member of P&O’s fleet, and the first British cruise ship to be powered by LNG, it has a four-screen cinema, a teen “Scene” area, spa and 30 restaurants. Iona will depart on many European itineraries this year, including the Norwegian Fjords, Northern Europe, Spain and Portugal, and the Canary Islands.

8. AIDAnova

Operated by: Aida Cruises

The first of seven next-generation LNG-powered cruise ships ordered by Carnival Corporation – to sail under its German Aida brand – AIDAnova is 337m long and weighs in at 183,900 gross tonnes. Mostly serving itineraries around the Canary Islands, Germany, Norway and Madeira, she has specially designed single occupancy cabins and a “time travel” dinner experience. An onboard TV studio can produce its own quiz or game shows, with guests as the audience, while its foodie streak extends across 17 restaurants, including a teppanyaki bar and “Street Food Mile” serving global bites.

9. AIDAcosma

Operated by: Aida Cruises

At 337m long, 183,200 GT heavy and 20 decks high, accommodating 5,200, Cosma is the only-marginally little sister to Nova. This cruiser launched on 26 February with a climbing wall and running track for fitness devotees, a waterpark area with slide that families love, and a sea-view sauna. It’s the second sustainable, LNG-run vessel in the series, with a pampering Body & Soul organic spa as well as lots of kid-friendly restaurants. Its standout “Ocean Deck” zone is a wraparound area of pools and sun terraces spread over four decks.

10. Mardi Gras

Operated by: Carnival

At 181,808 gross tonnes and 340m long, Mardi Gras is a mere minnow compared to some of the new-generation megaships. But she packs a lot into that size: housing 6,500 passengers, she has a spa and casino, six themed areas – including one zone inspired by New Orleans’ French Quarter, and a high-ceilinged, glassy atrium known as Grand Central – plus the first-ever rollercoaster at sea. She was North America’s first ship to be powered by LNG, and has the largest water park of Carnival’s fleet.

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