The 15 Largest Cruise Ships in the World

A large white cruise ship sitting crystal blue water

The largest cruise ships tend to have the most to offer. | iStock.com/Rawpixel

The size of the ship may not seem so important at first, but wait until you’re in the middle of the sea. Bigger cruise ships allow for more activities while out at sea and hold more people to meet, which means the largest cruise ships tend to have the most to offer.

Since cruise vacations can be the best (or worst) trips ever, you have to make sure you choose one that’s not going to disappoint you. So whether you’re a cruising connoisseur or a first-timer interested in testing your sea legs, we’ve compiled this list of the world’s largest cruise ships.

15. Britannia

A general view of one of the largest cruise ships in the world, the Britannia, ahead of the naming ceremony for the P&O Cruises vessel.

Britannia may be the smallest of the largest cruise ships, but it’s still an award winner. | Chris Jackson/Getty Images

P&O Cruises, 2015
Gross Tonnage: 143,000
Length: 1,083 feet
Beam: 144 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,324

While it may be the smallest of the world’s 15 largest cruise ships, the Britannia is far from a shrimp. As the winner of the “Best New Ocean Ship” in the Cruise International Awards, 2015, the Britannia has proven itself worthy of being the flagship of the P&O fleet. What else would you expect from a ship named by Queen Elizabeth II herself?

14. Norwegian Getaway

Employees of the Meyer Werft shipyard watch the Norwegian Getaway cruise

The Norwegian Getaway boasts a two-story private beach club with 24-hour butler service. | David Hecker/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line, 2014
Gross Tonnage: 145,655
Length: 1,068 feet
Beam: 169 feet
Max. Passengers: 3,963

Aside from being one of the world’s largest cruise ships, the Norwegian Getaway also distinguishes itself with its Waterfront — a quarter-mile oceanfront promenade that blurs the line between boat and beach. Other of its famous features include the Illusionarium, a dinner-theater show featuring some of the world’s greatest magicians; the Haven, a two-story private beach club with 24-hour butler service; and the Mandara Spa, with more than 50 treatments including hot stones, oxygen facials, and acupuncture.

13. Norwegian Breakaway

The Norwegian Breakaway cruise liner leaves the Meyer Werft shipyard in Papenburg, Germany

The Norwegian Breakaway has won numerous awards. | Carmen Jaspersen/AFP/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line, 2013
Gross Tonnage: 146,600
Length: 1,068 feet
Beam: 169 feet
Max. Passengers: 3,963

With about 1,000 extra tons on its sister ship, the Norwegian Breakaway takes the 13th spot on our list. The Breakaway is one of the most acclaimed cruise ships to date, with an impressive list of awards and accolades, including:

  • Best Cruise Ship for Entertainment, Cruise Critic, 2015
  • Best Cruise Ship for Families, USA Today, 2015
  • Best Cruise Ship for Families, Yahoo!, 2013
  • Best New Ship, Cruise Critic, 2013
  • Best Rookie Cruise Ship, Travel Weekly, 2013

Like its sister ship, the Breakaway also features a Waterfront promenade and critically-recognized entertainment venues.

12. Queen Mary II

Cunard, 2004
Gross Tonnage: 148,528
Length: 1,130 feet
Beam: 148 feet
Max. Passengers: 3,090

As the oldest ship on the list, the Queen Mary II remains not only relevant, but competitive among its younger rivals. The flagship of the Cunard cruise line (and its only representative on this list) has recently been remastered and refitted inside and out, giving it a modern appeal to match even the 2016 cruise ships. The Queen Mary II highlights its own luxury and elegance, proudly touting how haute and sophisticated its voyages are.

11. Independence of the Seas

A helicopter flies over the Independence of the Seas cruise liner

Independence of the Seas | Terje Bendiksby/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2008
Gross Tonnage: 154,407
Length: 1,112 feet
Beam: 185 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,375

The Independence of the Seas is Royal Caribbean’s first entry on our list, but certainly not the last. While the Independence is the smallest of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class, it still offers many of the same features as its larger sister ships — an extensive spa, four swimming pools (including the adults-only Solarium), cantilevered whirlpools, a mini-golf course, and the Royal Promenade.

10. Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean, 2006
Gross Tonnage: 154,407
Length: 1,112 feet
Beam: 185 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,515

While roughly the same size, the Freedom of the Seas beats out its sister Independence due to its greater passenger capacity. In addition to the regular features of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class ships, the Freedom of the Seas also offerss passengers a 3D theater, vintage wine bar, and art gallery. The Freedom was the first to offer the DreamWorks Experience, which includes specialty events such as parades and meet-and-greets with characters from DreamWorks movies like Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda.

9. Norwegian Epic

The Norwegian Epic, one of the top 10 largest cruise ships in the world, dwarfs the Statue of Liberty as it sails past.

The Norwegian Epic sails past the Statue of Liberty. | Don Emmert/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line, 2010
Gross Tonnage: 155,873
Length: 1,081 feet
Beam: 133 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,100

Another individually honored ship from Norwegian Cruise Line, the Norwegian Epic has racked up its own list of awards in its six years at sea. Best Cruise for Sea Days (Cruise Critic, 2012), Best Mega-Ship (Porthole, 2012), and Best Overall Individual Cruise Ship (Travel Weekly, 2012) are just some of its trophies. Though originally built in 2010, Epic was recently refurbished in 2015.

8. Liberty of the Seas

The Liberty of the Seas arrives at the Port of Southampton

At the time of it first sail, the Liberty of the Seas was the largest cruise ship in the world. | Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2007
Gross Tonnage: 160,000
Length: 1,112 feet
Beam: 185 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,960

The last and largest of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class, the Liberty of the Seas makes use of its extra room with even more attractions than its sister ships. The Liberty proudly features the Splashaway Bay water park, which hosts the three “Perfect Storm” water slides — the Tidal Wave, the Cyclone, and the Typhoon. Along with the usual Freedom Class attractions (including the DreamWorks Experience), the Liberty also offers special itineraries for children, including the Royal Tots, Royal Babies, and Adventure Ocean youth programs.

7. The Norwegian Escape

Pitbull performs onstage at the Christening Ceremony for the Norwegian Escape

The hull of the Norwegian Escape features a 1,000-foot marine wildlife mural. | Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images

Norwegian Cruise Line, 2015
Gross Tonnage: 164,600
Length: 1,069 feet
Beam: 136 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,266

The Norwegian Escape from Norwegian Cruise Line is known for its variety, offering a little something for everyone in entertainment, dining, and recreation — although you may need to pay in subversive cover charges. Conservationist artist Guy Harvey made excellent use of the larger-than-life ship hull by painting a gorgeous 1,000-foot mural of marine wildlife.

6. Ovation of the Seas

Ovation of the Seas anchored in the Waitemata Harbour

Ovation of the Seas is the smallest member of Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class ships. | Fiona Goodall/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2016
Gross Tonnage: 167,666
Length: 1,138 feet
Beam: 136 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,905

Royal Caribbean takes over with the six largest cruise ships in the world, starting with the Ovation of the Seas the smallest member of its Quantum class. This ship earns excellent reviews and ratings with some of the most modern technology and attractions. Its maiden voyage was just April 14, 2016, so it was designed to house the state-of-the-art features the Quantum class is known for. Among its high-tech activities are the iFly’s RipCord skydiving simulator and the North Star capsule that takes passengers 300 feet in the air for breathtaking views.

5. Quantum of the Seas

A visitor takes a photograph from the North Star observation capsule onboard the cruise ship Quantum of the Seas

A view from the North Star observation capsule on board Quantum of the Seas | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2014
Gross Tonnage: 168,666
Length: 1,139 feet
Beam: 136 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,905

A couple years older than the Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas was Royal Caribbean’s original attempt at a high-tech cruise ship. It was the most advanced ship of its kind when it was built in 2014, and today still impresses with the same RipCord and North Star attractions as its more modern descendants, along with environmentally efficient lighting. Their “Dynamic Dining” layout swaps a single central dining hall with multiple smaller venues, encouraging passengers to discover new culinary experiences.

4. Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean, 2015
Gross Tonnage: 168,666
Length: 1,142 feet
Beam: 136 feet
Max. Passengers: 4,905

Beating out Quantum of the Seas by just a few feet, Anthem of the Seas is the largest of Royal Caribbean’s three Quantum-class ships. Like its two sister ships, Anthem also offers the same attractions — RipCord, North Star, bumper cars, trapeze classes, Broadway-level musicals, and more. When it was originally built, this cruise ship had the biggest indoor sports and entertainment complex at sea.

3. Oasis of the Seas

People taking pictures of Oasis of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships, while it's anchored.

Oasis of the Seas is one of the most popular cruise ships. | Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2009
Gross Tonnage: 225,282
Length: 1,186.5 feet
Beam: 215 feet
Max. Passengers: 6,296

Getting to the three largest cruise ships in the world, Oasis of the Seas has over 50,000 more gross tonnage than Anthem of the Seas, putting a huge distance between third and fourth place. The Oasis is also one of the world’s most popular and beloved cruises, with 78% positive feedback on Cruise Critic. We’ve even listed it ourselves as one of our Top 10 Best Cruises to Take. This voyage is so popular, it often sails at 100% capacity. One of the secrets to its success is its division into “neighborhoods,” which divvy the ships’ population into like-minded sections.

2. Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas dwarfs all of the buildings nearby while anchored in port.

Allure of the Seas only has half a foot on its sister ship, Oasis of the Seas. | Boris Horvat/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2010
Gross Tonnage: 225,282
Length: 1,187 feet
Beam: 215 feet
Max. Passengers: 6,296

Allure of the Seas beats out Oasis of the Seas as the second largest cruise ship in the world by only half a foot! In fact, the Oasis served as the basis for the design of Allure and the world’s largest cruise ship next — all three members of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class.

This behemoth mimics Oasis’s neighborhood concept, with inward-facing balcony cabins, an ice-skating rink, a three-deck bar, surfing simulation, and an outdoor high-diving AquaTheater. Allure also boasts one of the biggest and most popular children’s programs for a cruise line.

1. Harmony of the Seas

The cruise liner Harmony of the Seas is towed by tug boats into its new moorings at the STX Shipyards

Harmony of the Seas only made its maiden voyage in spring 2016. | Georges Gobet/Getty Images

Royal Caribbean, 2016
Gross Tonnage: 226,963
Length: 1,188 feet
Beam: 215 feet
Max. Passengers: 6,780 

Finally, we come to the single largest cruise ship on the planet: Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas, which only recently stole the crown from its sister ship Allure of the Seas. This young Leviathan of the seas just had its maiden voyage on May 29, 2016.

Harmony of the Seas has the same design as its sister ships in the Oasis Class, except bigger. With a maximum capacity of nearly 7,000 people, this cruise ship is a lot like a small, floating city. Its attractions are just as luxurious and versatile as you’d expect, divided along the same “neighborhood” structure as Allure and Oasis.

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