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Which is the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship?


If you are looking for the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship, you have plenty of great choices to consider.


Royal Caribbean offers cruises around the world on more than two dozen ships that will provide a great family vacation.

Narrowing down the best ship means finding the right ship for you, depending on your personal tastes, budget and who is cruising with you.

The best ship depends on you

Picking the best ship is a lot like picking out the best movie or best restaurant: it is a subjective choice based on a variety of factors that every person weighs differently.

Since no one likes to hear that the answer is "it depends", here is as objective a breakdown as possible of what to look for in the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

Amenities, activities, and accommodations

At the heart of any cruise ship is what the ship offers onboard, and where you will call home during your vacation.

Royal Caribbean's cruise ships have four basic types of staterooms: inside, oceanview, balcony and suite cabins. These types of cabins offer varying amount of living space and luxuries, and the some ships have more impressive cabins than others. 

Ultimately, the decision for which room you want is a question of what you can afford, but the larger and newer ships tend to offer the most expansive and luxurious accommodations.

What you do onboard is what makes Royal Caribbean stand out, and you will find various signature activities, fun things to do and multitudes of dining choices across an expansive layout.

Each cruise ship is made up of a different combination of onboard offerings and over the last decade, Royal Caribbean has varied these amenities considerably from ship to ship. So it behooves you to figure out which are the most important and pick the right ship for you.

Oasis Class

Best ship: Symphony of the Seas or Oasis of the Seas

These are the largest cruise ships in the world, and they simply offer the latest and greatest that Royal Caribbean is known for onboard.

The four Oasis Class ships (with Wonder of the Seas eventually joining the fleet sometime beyond 2021), have FlowRider surf simulators, zip lining, rock climbing, waterslides, clubs, specialty and complimentary restaurants and scenic evening strolls.

There is no shortage of things to do on an Oasis Class ship, including waterslides, Ultimate Abyss slide, two FlowRiders, mini-golf, zip line and more.

There are seven neighborhoods on an Oasis Class ship, including Central Park outdoor space and the seaside-inspired Boardwalk. 

The shows on an Oasis Class ship are the best in the fleet, with three different theaters offering entertainment throughout your cruise. Watch a full Broadway show (such as Mamma Mia or Hairspray), check out the thrills of the AquaTheater performances, and be dazzled by ice shows in Studio B.

Oasis Class ships also have the most dining options of any Royal Caribbean ship, such as Chops Steakhouse, Izumi Hibachi and Sushi, Portside BBQ, classic Italian and much more.

Where they sail: Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas offer 7-night Eastern and Western Caribbean cruises that include stops at the private destination of Perfect Day at CocoCay.

Quantum Class

Best ship: Anthem of the Seas or Ovation of the Seas

The newest class of Royal Caribbean ship does not compromise on entertainment, dining, or things to do with the Quantum Class ships.

Looking for some incredible things to do on a cruise ship? How about a skydiving simulator, or smash bumper cars into your fellow guest vehicles.  Then there is the observation capsule that takes you 300 feet in the air for breathtaking, 360-degree views. 

The Quantum Class ships are the only ones that feature Two70, which is a large circular space at the back of the ship where you will not only find a great view of the ocean, but also floor-to-ceiling screens that can transform the space along with their Roboscreen technology.

Music Hall is the perfect venue for anyone that loves live music performances, where cover bands perform and you can dance the night away.

The Royal Esplanade is located in the center of the ship and features dining and shopping opportunities.

Where they sail: Anthem of the Seas sails primarily from Bayonne, New Jersey to destinations in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, New England and Canda. She also started spending summer in Europe, sailing from Southampton, England for the summer, visiting coastal towns along the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and the Canary Islands.

Spectrum of the Seas is the newest Royal Caribbean cruise ship and sails from Shanghai, China to destinations in China and Japan.

Quantum of the Seas offers cruises to China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Beginning in 2021, she will start sailing to Alaska.

Ovation of the Seas splits her time between Alaska cruises out of Seattle, as well as cruises down under in Australia.

Freedom Class

Best ship: Freedom of the Seas or Independence of the Seas

One of the most versatile cruise ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, the Freedom Class vessels combine large size with lots to do onboard. In fact, the Freedom Class ships have been upgraded in the last few years with waterslides and other new features onboard.

You will find Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids on all three ships, along with Perfect Storm waterslides on Independence and Freedom. Liberty of the Seas has her own set of water slides, including the only ship to feature a boomerang slide.

Independence of the Seas is the only Freedom Class ship to offer the Sky Pad virtual reality bungee jump trampoline experience.

If you are looking for dining, Independence has Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi & Sushi and Fish & Ships, a poolside eatery where guests can grab quintessentially British seaside treats. Freedom of the Seas launched the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen specialty restaurant concept in the fleet, that features made-to-order pizzas, freshly made pastas and a wide selection of wines and limoncellos.

All three ships offer great shows onboard, including ice skating performances in Studio B.  Independence of the Seas has its own Broadway show with Grease, while Liberty of the Seas has Saturday Night Fever Broadway show.

Where they sail: Independence of the Seas sails four and five night cruises the Caribbean from Port Everglades (Fort Lauderdale), as well as three and four night Bahamas sailings from Port Canaveral.

Liberty of the Seas sails from Galveston, Texas and offers seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean.

Freedom of the Seas is homeported in San Juan, Puerto Rico, but will transition to Bayonne, New Jersey in 2021.

Voyager Class

Best ship: Navigator of the Seas or Mariner of the Seas

One of the best values in Royal Caribbean is the Voyager Class ships. These multifaceted vessels are a great choice for first-time cruisers, as well as anyone on a limited budget.  They are still "big ships" and offer plenty to do onboard, but at a fraction of the price of their mega ship sister vessels.

The Voyager Class is perhaps the most varied ships in the fleet, as the Royal Amplification process has added so many new and different options to these ships.

Mariner and Navigator of the Seas received the most striking changes in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Mariner of the Seas has a Sky Pad and Perfect Storm waterslides. Navigator has The Blaster aqua coaster, the longest waterslide at sea, and Riptide, the industry’s only head-first mat racer waterslide. Both ships also now feature Battle for Planet Z and Royal Escape Room: The Observatorium.

There are plenty of other additions to both vessels, including hibachi on Mariner and Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant on Navigator. Both ships have a Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, as well as a Bamboo Room Polynessian-themed bar.

The other Voyager Class ships also have their own share of fun onboard, including a FlowRider surf simulator, mini-golf, rock climbing wall, ice skating rink and shows each evening. Adventure of the Seas has its own set of water slides that were added a few years ago.

Where they sail: Mariner of the Seas offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Port Canaveral. Navigator of the Seas also offers short sailings to the Bahamas from Miami.

The other Voyager Class ships move around a bit more, offering cruises around the world. Adventure of the Seas will sail from Galveston and Bayonne in the winter, in addition to cruises in Europe from Copenhagen and Stockholm in the summer.

Explorer of the Seas also splits time between North America and Europe, with cruises from Rome in the summer, and Galveston or Miami in the winter.

Voyager of the Seas offers cruises in Australia or China, depending on the cruise season.

Radiance Class

Best ship: Brilliance of the Seas or Radiance of the Seas

An underrated, yet impressive class of ships is the Radiance Class ships that combine sleek elegance with varied itineraries around the world.

Just because they are smaller than other ships, does not mean they compromise on the fun onboard. Royal Caribbean added new features and amenities to these ships, and you will find an outdoor movie screen, full-scale entertainment productions in the three-story theater, and plenty of restaurants, bars, clubs and lounges.

Radiance class ships are popular with Royal Caribbean veterans for their elegant offerings and relaxing atmosphere. In fact, Radiance Class ships have one of the best adults-only Solarium areas across the entire fleet.

Where they sail: The Radiance Class ships are world travelers, offering lots of places to visit. Brilliance of the Seas spends her winters in Tampa with short sailings to the Caribbean, along with cruises from Boston and Miami.

You can cruise on Jewel of the Seas from Amsterdam to Northern Europe in the summer, while choosing between cruises from Galveston or Miami to the Caribbean.

Radiance of the Seas offers some really interesting cruises, including open-jaw sailings (one-way) to Alaska in the summer.  She then transitions to Australia and sails the South Pacific.

Serenade of the Seas also splits her time between Australia and Alaska itineraries.

Vision Class

Best ship: Grandeur of the Seas or Enchantment of the Seas

Royal Caribbean uses the Vision Class ships to offer cruises to the most exotic locations around, because they can fit almost anywhere.

Like the Radiance Class, Vision Class ships still offer plenty to do onboard and have amenities such as a rock climbing wall, great pool deck, poolside movie screen, specialty dining and a grand Atrium area.

The lounges on these ships are equally impressive, and many repeat cruisers love the warm and thoughtful staff onboard these ships.

Where they sail: Vision of the Seas offers cruises in the winter from Fort Lauderdale, and Barcelona in the summer.

Rhapsody of the Seas calls Tampa and Venice/Ravenna, Italy home, with cruises to the Western Caribbean and Greek Isles.

Enchantment of the Seas (the last Royal Caribbean ship to be stretched) offers cruises from Galveston, Baltimore and San Juan.

Grandeur of the Seas sails year-round from Baltimore.

Empress of the Seas

Empress of the Seas is the smallest and oldest ship in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but she maintains Royal Caribbean's high standards and received a big update when she rejoined the fleet in 2016.

The appeal of cruising on Empress of the Seas is two-fold: fantastic prices and a throwback to the old style of cruising. You can enjoy a classic cruise experience for an incredibly low rate.

Empress also sails some very interesting routes, such as down the St. Lawrence River in Canada.

If you are looking for something different and out of the ordinary when it comes to mainstream cruising, Empress of the Seas is a compelling choice.

Majesty of the Seas

Similar to Empress, Majesty of the Seas exemplifies a classic cruising experience (even though when she debuted, Majesty was considered a new kind of mega cruise ship).

While she may be an older ship, she makes up for her age in offering great getaway cruises the Bahamas at low prices.  Do not judge these ships by their age alone, because they still offer a fun atmosphere onboard, with an impressive pool deck and dining choices.  

You will find pools, whirlpools and even a Splashaway Bay aquapark for kids onboard. Royal Caribbean updated her in 2016 to offer more for families to enjoy.

What should you look for in the best cruise ship?

When you want to find the best Royal Caribbean cruise ship for you, the key is to understand what the ship offers and what it does not offer, and then weigh that against how much it will cost you.

Some important considerations you should look at in any ship is what it offers in:

  • Kids Programming
  • Signature activities (waterslides, Broadway shows, thrill attractions, open spaces, et al)
  • Where it is sailing

If you want a never ending array of "things to do," then lean towards taking a cruise on the larger ships.  

If your idea of a good time is lounging by the pool and exploring the ports of call you visit, then any size ship will be fine.

The important thing to remember is to figure out if the ship you are looking at has a FlowRider, particular specialty restaurant or something else important to you onboard the ship.

My recommendations for the best ships

If you just want to know which ships I think might be best for certain people, here are my top picks for best Royal Caribbean ships.

  • Best ships for new cruisers and families: Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas or Anthem of the Seas
  • Best ship if on a budget: Mariner of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Best ship if you don't care about crazy activities: Brilliance of the Seas or Empress of the Seas
  • Best combination of value (price for what you get): Freedom of the Seas or Navigator of the Seas
  • Matt's favorite ships: Harmony of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas

Where are all of Royal Caribbean's cruise ships right now?


Ever since Royal Caribbean shut down cruises in March, many cruise fans have wanted to know where the cruise ships are in the world.

Royal Caribbean's 26 ships are spread throughout the world, with many having spent time getting crew members back to their home country.

Royal Caribbean's ships are currently spread out around the world, but "are ready and anxious to come back, and we're making sure that when we have the opportunity to do so, we will be able to do so as quickly as possible," Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chairman and CEO Richard Fain said.

Information accurate as of July 15, 2020

CocoCay - Anchored off the coast

  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas

Barbados - Drifting off the coast

  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas

St. Maarten

  • Independence of the Seas

Southampton, England - Anchored off the coast

  • Empress of the Seas
  • Majesty of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas

Brest, France - Cruising to

  • Anthem of the Seas

Gibraltar - Drifting off the coast

  • Explorer of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas

Hong Kong

  • Radiance of the Seas

Singapore - Anchored off the coast

  • Ovation of the Seas

Manila - Anchored off the coast

  • Voyager of the Seas
  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas

Repatriating crew

While the cruise ship locations are interesting to note, the fate of the crew onboard is something Royal Caribbean has prioritized to ensure they are not only taken care of, but given the opportunity to go home.

In an update with travel agents, Fain explained the hard work it has undertaken to get its crew members home across 120 countries that have different rules and regulations.

While it has been a colossal effort to get crew home, Royal Caribbean has successfully gotten 97% of its crew home, with the remaining 3% making up about 40,000 crew onboard.

"It's been it's been horrific for the crew members who are stuck and haven't been able to get home, and it's been very wrenching for us, to know that and not to be able to solve the problem," Fain said in his webinar. "The people who are remaining are mostly from two countries which have sent severe restrictions on allowing anybody to come into the country, even their own citizens."

What was added to each Royal Caribbean ship during its Royal Amplified refurbishment


The Royal Amplification project added a bunch of new activities, entertainment, dining and more to a variety of Royal Caribbean ships over the last few years.

While the Royal Amplified program is on hold at the moment, six Royal Caribbean ships were updated and refurbished in the first few years of the program, and here is a look at what was added to each ship.

Ships that have been updated offer a tremendous value, as guests can enjoy brand new features often found on the Royal Caribbean's newest vessels, but at much less of a cost than sailing on a new ship.

What is Royal Amplified?

While the range of upgrades varies by ship, the goal was to add innovative attractions, pools, bars, and dining to each ship.  In addition, new staterooms were introduced on most vessels.

The Royal Amplified program focused on three main areas:

Pool Deck & Attractions: A re-imagined outside pool deck to discover everything under the sun – from pools specifically designed with prime ways to lounge, to those programmed with diverse activities day and night, plus the boldest attractions and first-of-a-kind thrills on deck. Examples of these experiences are: Sky Pad, The Perfect Storm, Laser Tag and Escape Room.

Bars & Nightlife: We will give your clients the chance to drink, clink and live it up in distinct new bars and nightlife spots that deliver on the three tenets of a great night out: unique drinks, ways to be entertained, and good food. Examples of these experiences: The Bamboo Room and Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade.

Dining Mission: We will make delectable strides in delivering the cornerstone cuisines that guests have told us they crave – like great seafood, Mexican food, and Italian food – while upping our game in the fast, casual, grab & go category to keep our guests fueled between their adventures. Examples of these delicious culinary options are: El Loco Fresh, Hooked and Jamie’s Italian.

Amplified Ships

Freedom of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas was the last Royal Caribbean ship to be amplified, and it was completed in early 2020. In total, Royal Caribbean spent $116 million on her work, which added many new features, including water slides, a new Caribbean pool deck look, the cruise line’s first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and new, dedicated spaces for kids and teens. 

What's new on Freedom of the Seas

  • Resort-style Caribbean poolscape
  • The Lime & Coconut pool bar
  • Splashaway Bay kids aqua park
  • Renewed adults-only Solarium
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Clash for the Crystal City Laser Tag
  • Revamped Adventure Ocean
  • New Social033 teen club
  • App updates
    • Expedited arrival
    • App can control stateroom TV

Freedom of the Seas refurbishment photos

Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas underwent her Royal Amplification in late 2019 that added a number of changes, including the cruise line’s first barbecue restaurant, Portside BBQ; and guest favorites, from the tallest slide at sea–the Ultimate Abyss–to popular live music venue Music Hall, and a reimagined, Caribbean pool deck. 

What's new on Oasis of the Seas

  • Caribbean-style pool deck
  • Lime & Coconut signature bar
  • Ultimate Abyss slide (dry slide)
  • The Perfect Storm water slides
  • Splashaway Bay aqua park
  • Portside BBQ specialty restaurant
  • El Loco Fresh complimentary Mexican restaurant
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Sugar Beach candy shop
  • Spotlight Karaoke venue
  • Music Hall venue
  • Bionic Bar
  • Revamped Adventure Ocean
  • Mission Control: Apollo 18 escape room

Oasis of the Seas refurbishment photos

Voyager of the Seas

In October 2019, Royal Caribbean completed the Royal Amplification for Voyager of the Seas, which cost $97 million and took 41 days to complete.

Voyager of the Seas received a number of upgrades, including The Perfect Storm water slides and Battle for Planet Z laser tag. 

What's new on Voyager of the Seas

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • Battle for Planet Z laser tag
  • Reinvigorated Vitality Spa and Fitness Center
  • Redesigned kids and teens spaces
  • 72 new inside and balcony staterooms
  • Support for Royal Caribbean's app

Voyager of the Seas amplification photos

Navigator of the Seas

Arguably one of the best updates to any Royal Caribbean ship as part of the Royal Amplified program, Navigator of the Seas had a $115 bow to stern refurbishment in February 2019.

Royal Caribbean added water slides, dining venues, activities and more to the ship.

What's new on Navigator of the Seas

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • To Dry For Blow-dry bar at sea
  • Reimagined poolscape
  • The Lime & Coconut pool bar
  • Hooked Seafood specialty restaurant
  • Bamboo Room
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Jamie’s Italian specialty restaurant
  • Upgraded Windjammer furnishings
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Solarium upgrades
  • Laser tag in Studio B
  • Starbucks

Navigator of the Seas refurbishment photos

Mariner of the Seas

Royal Caribbean invested $120 million into the refurbishment of Mariner of the Seas and the results are astounding.

From the bright yellow globe at the top of the ship that houses the virtual reality trampoline experience Sky Pad to the addition of two restaurants, two bars, FlowRider surf simulators, the Perfect Storm water park and an escape room, Mariner's got plenty to keep you entertained.

What's new on Mariner of the Seas

  • Sky Pad bungee trampoline experience
  • The Perfect Storm waterslides 
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z
  • Escape Room: The Observatorium
  • The Bamboo Room
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Jamie’s Italian specialty restaurant
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi specialty restaurant

Independence of the Seas

The first Royal Caribbean ship to be amplified was Independence of the Seas, which boasted a number of new and exciting activities.

  • The Perfect Storm waterslides
  • Laser Tag: Battle for Planet Z
  • New escape room
  • New lounges
  • New Panoramic Oceanview staterooms 
  • Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade
  • Izumi Hibachi & Sushi
  • Fish & Ships
  • Sugar Beach candy shop

Independence of the Seas refurbishment photos

Allure of the Seas

Allure of the Seas was the first Royal Caribbean ship to have her Royal Amplification delayed, and then postponed.

Allure of the Seas did undergo a "technical dry dock", which means the propulsion and navigation was repaired.

Once the Royal Amplification is undertaken again, the ship was scheduled to undergo a 58-day, $165 million transformation to add the Ultimate Abyss, the tallest slide at sea; The Perfect Storm trio of waterslides, completely redesigned Adventure Ocean kids and teens spaces, the first Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar, and Music Hall.

Explorer of the Seas

Like Allure, Explorer of the Seas had her Royal Amplification delayed and then postponed.

Explorer will get a "technical dry dock" to repair the vessel's propulsion and navigation.

Explorer of the Seas was scheduled for a $110 million Royal Amplification that would have added a number of changes from bow to stern. However, the closure of shipyards and disruption to the supply chain around the world has delayed the work from being done on time

Postponed Amplifications

Due to Royal Caribbean's financial situation, the cruise line postponed scheduled Royal Amplifications for Adventure of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas in 2021.

Royal Caribbean's newer ships break-even quicker than older ships


During Wednesday's call with Wall Street analysts, Royal Caribbean revealed some pretty intriguing statistics about the break even point for its ships.

One analyst asked how many ships Royal Caribbean needs to have sailing to reach a "break even" point in terms of costs.

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. Chief Financial Officer Jason Liberty answered by saying the company could break even with use of fewer, but newer cruise ships, in lieu of older ships.

"For our newer ships, you need about 30 percent load factors to kind of break even. And then they skew to about 50 percent load factor on onto our older ships."

With the cruise line's recent cost-cutting measures, their return to service does not need the entire fleet operating at full levels to break even. In fact, load factors do not need to be exceptionally high either.

Essentially, Royal Caribbean is eyeing a slow return to service that gets them back to a break even point in a relatively short period of time.

Selling off older ships?

Another question was raised about older ships and if there is a prolonged suspension of cruises, would Royal Caribbean consider selling off or even scrapping its older ships.

Once again, Mr. Liberty answered the question:

"I do think that you will see ships that are retired at a much higher pace than what we have seen in the past with really because there hasn't been that much on the scraping side. I think the combination of what's happening with COVID and then the IMO regulations, you'll see interest in some of the older vessels for possible sale."

"And so you're going to see a permanent shift in the way of new buildings for some time, which is going to weigh on capacity growth numbers for the foreseeable future. Because these, especially the new building side, it's not a shift and catch up. It's what's likely to be a very permanent shift."

Mount Rushmore of Royal Caribbean: Top 4 cruise ships of all time


Mount Rushmore is one of America's most well-known and distinguished sites that honors presidents that have reached a pinnacle of excellence. The four presidents immortalized in granite are a testament to their legacy, and it has me wondering which Royal Caribbean ships are worthy of being called the best of the best.

The idea behind this exercise is determining which Royal Caribbean cruise ships paved the way for not just the cruise line, but the industry as a whole.

When considering which ships make the cut, I think it is important to consider the ship's significance in its own time (especially when it debuted), what made it different, and of course its legacy today.

Over the 50 years of Royal Caribbean's history, there are many ships that might considered for this list, but here are my top picks.

Song of Norway

Just like George Washington's significance as the first president, Song of Norway was Royal Caribbean's first ship and she brought with her a new distinction.

This was a true trailblazing ship.  When she was introduced in 1970, Song of Norway was the industry's first ship built for warm-weather cruising. Later, Song of Norway became the first ever passenger ship to be lengthened.

Prior to the launch of Song of Norway, cruise ships were built for point-to-point ocean transportation with significantly less open space.

Song of Norway introduced the Viking Crown Lounge concept, which was branded in some quarters as a "crazy idea," later softened to "that funny-looking stack."

The Song of Norway was also notable for its open pool and lounging area, which since has become an industry standard.

In short, Song of Norway ushered in a new epoch in Caribbean cruising her success is what paved the way for every other Royal Caribbean ship since.

Sovereign of the Seas

When we look at cruise ships today and are amazed by the features onboard, as well as their sheer size, every single megaship's legacy can be traced back to the original "megaship," Sovereign of the Seas.

At 73,192 tons, the ship featured a five-deck Centrum, glass elevators, fountains in marble pools, and sweeping staircases. She was almost twice the size of Song of America and completely dwarfed every competitor of her time. A ship that large, with those kind of features was unheard of at the time.

Sovereign also has the distinction of introducing the now well-known naming convention for every Royal Caribbean ship.

Sovereign of the Seas demonstrated that it is possible for a modern cruise ship to offer a balance of beauty and function and be something more than a container carrier or a ferry. 

Voyager of the Seas

With Sovereign of the Seas' launch in 1988, the cruise industry changed and for about a decade, Sovereign was the defacto standard all other ships were held to, until Voyager of the Seas.

Historically, cruise ships were built following the model set forth by ocean liners of the classic period of transportation.  These ships were designed to be a floating hotel that offered rest, relaxation and a great view.  But as times changed, guests wanted to do more onboard and have a greater variety of choices with it.

Voyager of the Seas launched in 1999, and introduced the first ice-skating rink at sea, the first rock climbing wall at sea, and indoor promenade.These were onboard activities that was previously not available on a cruise ship.  More importantly, it introduced the concept of guests being able to do physically activities onboard that were never considered previously.

Like Song of Norway and Sovereign before her, Voyager of the Seas would innovate ship design for decades and become the new standard going forward.

Oasis of the Seas

If there is a common theme among the Royal Caribbean ships that have made my Mount Rushmore, it has been about redefining what a cruise ship is, incredible innovations, and a new legacy for the cruise line.  You cannot talk about these three categories without instantly thinking about Oasis of the Seas.

There is big, and then there is Oasis of the Seas big. 

In late 2009, Oasis of the Seas became the world's largest cruise ship by a factor previously unseen.

Oasis was more than 40 percent larger than the previous largest ships in the world (Freedom Class), coming in at 225,282-tons and accommodating 5,400 passengers.

Beyond her size, Oasis of the Seas introduced the crowd-control concept of "neighborhoods", with seven in total.  Oasis also was the first ship to have a split-back design that opened the back of the ship up (Boardwalk), as well as an open-air park featuring 12,000 plants in the middle (Central Park).

Then there's the first AquaTheater at sea, the first zip line at sea and much more.

In short, Oasis of the Seas continued Royal Caribbean's legacy of revolutionary cruise ship design.  Any new mass-market cruise ship built since has had to compare itself to the game-changing Oasis of the Seas.

Which ships make your list?

These four ships changed the world, and that's why I put it on my Mount Rushmore, but which ships stand out to you as the "best of the best"? Share with everyone your top four Royal Caribbean ships of all time, and why, in the comments below!

What Is the Biggest Royal Caribbean ship?


Updated March 1, 2020

The largest Royal Caribbean ship is the Symphony of the Seas, which measures 228,081 gross tons. Symphony is 1,188 feet 1 inch in length (362.12m).

She is very close in size to her sister Oasis Class ships (Harmony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas).

Symphony of the Seas has a capacity of 5,518 passengers at double occupancy, or 6,680 passengers if at maximum capacity.

Symphony offers plenty for guests to do onboard, such as the Ultimate Abyss, waterslides and FlowRider surf simulators. Dining is major component to a cruise on Symphony, with choices of complimentary and specialty dining, including Hooked Seafood, Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and El Loco Fresh.

While not confirmed, the next Oasis Class ship is very likely to be the next biggest Royal Caribbean ship, as each new Oasis Class ship has been slightly larger than the previous one. Wonder of the Seas will debut in 2021.

Newest Royal Caribbean ships


Are you trying to figure out what the newest cruise ships are in Royal Caribbean's fleet? Here is a breakdown of the top ten newest Royal Caribbean ships.

1. Spectrum of the Seas

Year: 2019

Last refurbishment: N/A

Gross Tonnage: 169,379

Passengers (double/max): 4,246/4,905

2. Symphony of the Seas

Year: 2018

Last refurbishment: N/A

Gross Tonnage: 228,081

Passengers (double/max): 5,518/6,680

3. Ovation of the Seas

Year: 2016

Last refurbishment: N/A

Gross Tonnage: 168, 666

Passengers: 4,180/4,905

4. Harmony of the Seas

Year: 2016

Last refurbishment: N/A

Gross Tonnage: 226,963

Passengers: 5,497/6,410

5. Anthem of the Seas

Year: 2015

Last refurbishment: N/A

Gross Tonnage: 168,666

Passengers: 4,180/4,905

6. Quantum of the Seas

Year: 2014

Last refurbishment: 2019

Gross Tonnage: 168,666

Passengers: 4,180/4,905

7. Allure of the Seas

Year: 2010

Last refurbishment: 2015. Next one scheduled for Summer 2020

Gross Tonnage: 225,282

Passengers: 5,492/6,410

8. Oasis of the Seas

Year: 2009

Last refurbishment: 2014. Next one scheduled for Summer 2019

Gross Tonnage: 225,282

Passengers: 5,400/6,360

9. Independence of the Seas

Year: 2008

Last refurbishment: 2018.

Gross Tonnage: 154,407

Passengers: 3,634/4,375

10. Liberty of the Seas

Year: 2007

Last refurbishment: 2016. Next one scheduled for 2021.

Gross Tonnage: 155,889

Passengers: 3,798/4,960

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Best Royal Caribbean ships and cruise guide


This guide to Royal Caribbean ships contains short reviews of the best cruise ships based on a variety of considerations.  If you are planning to take a cruise and want the perfect ship for your family, this guide aims to help you. You may be familiar with some of Royal Caribbean's ships, but the different ship classes mean there is a lot to consider.

Of course, everyone has different preferences, so we will also provide a brief description of each ship to give you an idea of whether a particular ship might be a good fit for your family. 

This should help give you an idea of which Royal Caribbean cruise ships are a great choice for you. We are firm believers in the idea that all of Royal Caribbean's ships offer a really fun vacation experience. There is not one ship in the fleet that we would not sail on, but we also recognize there may be some ships better suited for the personal preferences of a family or group.

Let's take a look at the best Royal Caribbean ships for every need.

Thrills and fun aplenty

Symphony of the Seas - There is no denying Royal Caribbean's newest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, is filled to the brim with the cruise line's latest and greatest offerings.  Not only does it have the coolest new things onboard, but it has them in spades.  Water slides, laser tag, escape room, zip line, Broadway show are just a few of the incredible options available on Symphony of the Seas (with many of those features also available on other Oasis Class ships).

Anthem of the Seas - The Quantum Class ships offer a sleek, yet compelling cruise experience that offers guests onboard a lot to see and do.  In fact, entertainment is at the heart of Anthem of the Seas, with terrific venues to see it all.  In addition, Anthem of the Seas offers the giant indoor sports zone, North Star observation pod and a sky diving simulator.  

Harmony of the Seas - She may be only the second largest cruise ship in the world and second newest ship in the fleet, but Harmony of the Seas remains a great choice for those wanting lots of fun onboard.  In fact, Harmony of the Seas redefined the Oasis Class of cruise ships when she first offered water slides, an interactive aqua park, a new take on the Boardwalk and more. Taking a cruise on Harmony of the Seas means enjoying some of the best Royal Caribbean offers.

Families with young children

Oasis of the Seas - Oasis class ships have redefined what family cruising is all about, and if you have younger children, a cruise on Oasis of the Seas is a great choice.  We like Oasis for a few reasons.  First, she lacks the slides her newer sister ships have and that is not usually a concern for those with young children.  Moreover, she is priced slightly lower (on average) relative to her newer sisters.  Oasis of the Seas still offers plenty for young kids, such as a baby splash area in the pool, nursery, and open play area in Adventure Ocean.

Allure of the Seas - Like her sister Oasis of the Seas, Allure of the Seas is quite similar in her offerings for families with young children. In our experience, having young kids means a slower pace while cruising, but it is important to have the facilities and options for young kids.  Allure of the Seas also offers the DreamWorks experience onboard, which means additional programming for kids of all ages.

Freedom of the Seas - Families with young children will likely find the best value with Freedom of the Seas.  She offers the type of facilities families look for in a cruise ship (nursery, baby splash pool, DreamWorks experience, etc) and is usually priced much less than any Oasis Class ship.  Later in 2018, she will move to San Juan, Puerto Rico and that means some incredible itineraries to enjoy alongside a fabulous ship.

Families with older children

Liberty of the Seas - If there is one thing older children typically enjoy a lot of, it is water slides and Liberty of the Seas has arguably the best collection of water slides in the fleet.  It has racer water slides, which typical now of any Royal Caribbean ship that has water slides, but it is the only ship with the Tidal Wave slide.  Liberty of the Seas also offers a rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator, ice skating and more.  Moreover, Liberty of the Seas is a terrific value.

Anthem of the Seas - Older kids will find Anthem of the Seas to be one of the best suited for them, especially teens.  The SeaPlex area alone is home to so many activities that are perfect for older kids.  Bumper cars, roller skating, XBox, circus school...there is so much.  Plus, Anthem of the Seas has the FlowRider surf simulator, Ripcord by iFly sky diving simulator and an impressive teens club.  If you are a parent, do not plan on seeing much of your kids if cruising on Anthem (that is not a bad thing)!

Symphony of the Seas - The strength of the Oasis Class ships are the staggering amount of activities and things to do.  For older kids, having plenty of options is usually the best bet and Symphony of the Seas has plenty to keep the older kids busy.  Dual FlowRiders, ice skating, a large Adventure Ocean area, teens club, Boardwalk...that just barely scratches the surface of what is offered.  

Need to get away

Mariner of the Seas - Following Mariner of the Seas finishes $90 million refurbishment, Mariner of the Seas will call Miami, Florida home in 2018, and will be the first Voyager Class ship to offer short Caribbean sailings. Mariner of the Seas will offer 3- and 4-night itineraries from PortMiami.  That means an impressive ship offering the weekend getaways you are looking for without compromising on the ship.

Navigator of the Seas - Navigator of the Seas will also offer short Caribbean sailings, beginning in 2019.  Navigator of the Seas is a fabulous choice for the amount of fun activities onboard, plus the great prices we typically see on Navigator of the Seas. In addition, Navigator of the Seas will offer short cruises with stops in the newly expanded Perfect Day at CocoCay. Talk about an incredible long weekend!

Brilliance of the Seas - In the winter, Brilliance of the Seas offers short sailings that mix a great price and a terrific ship.  Being a Radiance class ship, weekend getaways on Brilliance of the Seas means a classic, relaxing cruise experience. If your idea of a get away cruise is enjoying drinks by the pool, Brilliance of the Seas is a perfect choice for you.


Harmony of the Seas - Love birds will find lots to do and plenty of time for romance on Harmony of the Seas.  Harmony boasts a ton of activities, terrific specialty dining choices, adults-only Solarium, a beautiful spa and more. With all of the fun things to do onboard, we think Harmony of the Seas is a great choice for honeymooners that want fun in the sun.

Freedom of the Seas - Of all the cruise ships we have cruised on, Freedom of the Seas stands out as a great ship for nearly any cruiser.  It offers a well-rounded cruise experience, with enough activities and dining choices to cater to any honeymooner.  On top of that, Freedom of the Seas is priced so well, that a honeymooner can likely get more for their money and perhaps upgrade to a higher category stateroom than if they went on a newer ship.  

Anthem of the Seas - Going on a honeymoon? Anthem of the Seas is hard to beat as a great  option.  You can sip a fine wine at Vintages, take a dip in arguably one the most beautiful adults-only Solarium, watch the sunset from North Star observation pod, or maybe just enjoy a brunch date on your balcony. With sailings to Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada and more, Anthem of the Seas is a new ship with lots of options.

Exotic itineraries

Empress of the Seas - One word: Cuba.  Perhaps no cruise stop in the Caribbean is as intriguing or fun to try as Cuba.  Empress of the Seas was refitted specifically for the Cuban cruise market, and is the best choice for taking a cruise that will bring you to any one of the Cuban ports of call.  In fact, Empress of the Seas also offers to stops in Cuba beyond Havana, which means a greater opportunity to tour this newly opened up country.

Ovation of the Seas - Australia, the South Pacific, Alaska...a cruise on Ovation of the Seas is very likely to bring you to some of the most beautiful spots on the planet.  Perhaps no other Royal Caribbean cruise ship can boast the sort of impressive itineraries that Ovation of the Seas enjoys. Being a Quantum Class ship, she offers an equally fun time onboard as well.

Rhapsody of the Seas - If exploring Europe is more your game, Rhapsody of the Seas will take you to some of the most beautiful European ports around.  Visits in the Adriatic, Aegean and Mediterranean seas will bring you to iconic ports of call.  Rhapsody of the Seas is no stranger to Europe, having become a stalwart of Royal Caribbean's European cruising season. 

Budget cruising

Majesty of the Seas - If your goal is to get on a cruise ship for as little money as possible, Majesty of the Seas is typically the first place to look.  Sure she is an older ship, but Majesty of the Seas offers the kind of chill cruise experience we all need from time to time.  Majesty was recently updated and has several whirlpools, plenty of bars, a revamped casino, and full-service spa. Majesty of the Seas often has some of the lowest cruise fares available on any Royal Caribbean ship, so it is unlikely to break any budget, regardless of time of year.

Enchantment of the Seas - Enchantment of the Seas combines a fun ship experience for bargain prices.  There are some great dining choices onboard, an expansive pool area, and all for a price you will likely not have to think twice about. For families, Enchantment of the Seas packs a lot into a small package, with an outdoor poolside movie screen, three pools—including the adults-only Solarium—and six different whirlpools. After a day spent lounging, there’s plenty of nighttime entertainment, like Broadway-style shows in the main theater, blackjack at Casino Royale, and eight different bars and lounges.

Mariner of the Seas - By offering short 3- and 4-night cruises, Mariner of the Seas is set up to offer a big ship experience for a small ship price.  Those that want to save money, but not compromise on the onboard experience may find the perfect fit with Mariner of the Seas.  With a full-sized basketball and volleyball court, as well as a rock-climbing wall that shoots up 200 feet above the sea, there’s no shortage of athletic action onboard any ship. The Royal Promenade regularly hosts parades, dance parties and many wonderful bars.

Your thoughts

Which Royal Caribbean ships are your favorites and which might you skip?  Do you agree or disagree with our ratings?  If you have not taken a Royal Caribbean cruise yet, which cruise ships are you most excited about?  Hearing from you is half the fun, so please share your questions and thoughts in the comments!