Barely a month passes without an announcement about the launch of a new mega ship, offering more berths than any other cruise liner in service, or a range of new features never before seen on the oceans. But this is not just another misconception that the passing of time and nostalgia tricks us into believing (TV is getting worse and footballers seem to be younger than ever), cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger.
Just a decade ago, Queen Mary 2 was the largest cruise ship in operation but has since been surpassed by 11 different vessels; so more than one massive new ship every year has taken to the seas. And this trend doesn’t look set to stop any time soon, with as many as 20 new ships capable of dwarfing the QM2 set to launch by 2020.
The World’s Largest Cruise Ships
This all demonstrates the growing hunger for cruise holidays, with the leading lines struggling to meet the demand of cruise lovers from all around the world. The industry is growing in the established European and North American markets, and has also enjoyed increased popularity in newer markets (Australia and China, in particular). This is good news for us cruise fans, as we’re enjoying more choice than ever when it comes to choosing a cruise line, ship and itinerary.
So to celebrate the growing cruise ships, we’ve compiled the world’s ten largest currently in service (combining class-mates so more ships get included in this exclusive list).
1. Harmony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
Launched earlier this year, Harmony of the Seas has just pipped her Oasis Class fleet mates, Allure and Oasis of the Seas, to the title of the world’s largest cruise ship. With a maximum capacity 64 people more than her older sisters, Harmony of the Seas took to the seas in May. She has been a long time in the planning, with Royal Caribbean placing her order in 2012 following the success of the first two Oasis Class ships.
Harmony of the Seas is currently undertaking Mediterranean itineraries, sailing out of Barcelona, but will soon move to Florida to complete Caribbean journeys.
2. Oasis of the Seas & Allure of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
Launched in 2009 and 2010 respectively, Oasis and Allure of the Seas enjoyed a good few years of being the world’s largest cruise ships. The two class-mates brought about a new generation of cruising when they launched, with each ship split into seven neighbourhoods, reaffirming the principle of offering a floating resort rather than a floating hotel.
Although they are built to the same specifications, Allure of the Seas is reportedly a few inches longer than her sister.
3. Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas & Ovation of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
The amazingly popular Quantum Class by Royal Caribbean has really made a splash since the Quantum of the Seas was first launched in 2014. With new ships launched in the subsequent years, the Quantum ships are now a cornerstone of the Royal Caribbean fleet. And despite being amongst the largest cruise ships in the world, their reputation is more for their software than hardware.
Known as the most technologically-advanced cruise ships in operation, the Quantum Class brought about a number of revolutionary cruising features, including bionic bartenders and the NorthStar observation capsule.
4. Norwegian Escape – Norwegian Cruise Line
The first non-Royal Caribbean entry in the list, the Norwegian Escape is still just shy of her first birthday. An extended version of the Norwegian Breakaway, the Escape is the sole member of the Breakaway Plus class, and has a number of on-board fleet exclusives. The ship is home to a vast number of dining venues including Jose Garces’ Bayamo and Food Republic, where diners can make their food and drink orders from iPads.
5. Liberty of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
For two short, sweet years, Liberty of the Seas was the largest cruise ship in the world. Once the pride of the Royal Caribbean fleet, the Liberty of the Seas has been upgraded twice since she took to the seas in 2007. Although smaller than Oasis and Quantum Class ships, Liberty of the Seas’ upgrades have blessed the ship with features from the two more recent classes.
6. Norwegian Epic – Norwegian Cruise Line
Slightly smaller than new fleet mate Norwegian Escape, the Epic had long been the flagship of the Norwegian Cruise Line fleet. Popular amongst families, the Epic hosts a range of great on-board features which are unique to the ship, including the amazing tube and bowl water slide, and the freezing Ice Bar.
7. Freedom of the Seas & Independence of the Seas – Royal Caribbean
The other two members of Royal Caribbean’s Freedom Class (alongside Liberty of the Seas), Freedom and Independence, were built to the exact same specifications and were slightly smaller than their class-mate. Freedom of the Seas even enjoyed roughly 11 months where she could boast the title of the world’s largest cruise ship, before ol’ Liberty reared her head.
8. Queen Mary 2 – Cunard Lines
Cunard may not be known for engaging in the race to build to biggest and flashiest cruise ships, preferring to build a trusted fleet and their stellar reputation. But in 2004, they launched the spiritual successor to the legendary QE2. The Queen Mary 2 combines the elegance of the golden age of cruising with the large scale and mass amenities now favoured by the industry big boys. So, if you want space but also intimacy, QM2 is your gal.
9. Norwegian Breakaway & Norwegian Getaway – Norwegian Cruise Line
Launched within 12 months of one another, the sisters Breakaway and Getaway are a charming pair of twin ships specialising in on-board dining. Offering as many dining options to passengers as any other cruise ship in the world, the Breakaway Class is perfect for those looking for a little culinary delight whilst holidaying on the seas.
10. Britannia – P&O Cruises
The largest cruise ship dedicated to serving the UK cruise market, P&O Cruises’ flagship is quintessentially British. Not content with just being named Britannia, the ship’s bow also features a 94-metre Union Jack, demonstrating sheer Britishness. Throughout the summer months, the Britannia’s home is Southampton, from where she conducts itineraries around the Mediterranean, Norwegian Fjords, Atlantic Islands and the Canary Islands.
But 10th on the list is a precarious position when there’s a glut of new mega ships on the horizon. Check back when we update this list in a year, and we guarantee it will be pretty different.