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Best Royal Caribbean ships and cruise guide

In:
26Apr2018
By: 
Matt Hochberg

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.

Honeymooners

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!