Not Your Average Boat
It seems that bigger is always better when it comes to building cruise ships. For centuries, shipbuilders and cruise lines have been in a race to see who can build the largest, most luxurious, most amenity-packed ship. From the “unsinkable” Titanic to the floating cities of modern cruise lines, these megaships offer everything from suites as large as an average home to waterparks and golf courses.
While the military has a lock on the largest ships ever built, cruise ships are not far behind. These are some of the largest ever to sail the high seas.
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas
Clocking in at 1,187 feet long and weighing more than 225,000 tons, the Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas are certainly alluring oases to those who love huge ships. Able to accommodate almost 4,000 passengers, the Allure of the Seas offers luxury staterooms, including the 1,600-square-foot Presidential Family Suite, which features four bedrooms and four baths.
Even if you’re not sleeping in president-worthy quarters, there is plenty to do aboard these megaships. Two rock-climbing walls, an ice-skating rink, a mini-golf course and a zip line spanning nine decks are available for adventurers, while more laidback travelers can relax in one of four swimming pools or at the full-service spa.
The Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas sail to the eastern and western Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and visits ports including the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Thomas and Cozumel.
Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas
At over 1,100 feet long and weighing 160,000 tons, the Freedom of the Seas was once the largest cruise ship in the world, until it was overtaken by the Allure of the Seas. The ship can accommodate approximately 3,600 passengers on its 15 decks – which make the ship as tall as two Statues of Liberty placed end to end. The Freedom of the Seas is one of three virtually identical ships in the Freedom class, which also includes Liberty of the Seas and Independence of the Seas.
Truly a floating city, the Freedom of the Seas offers a full waterpark, a 3,600-volume lending library, an indoor shopping mall (complete with nightly parades) and several live entertainment venues. Freedom of the Seas docks in Port Canaveral, Florida and sails to the Caribbean. Independence of the Seas and Liberty of the Seas depart from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and sail to the Caribbean as well as on transatlantic and European cruises.
Sailing to both the Caribbean and Europe, Norwegian Cruise Lines’ Epic is 1,081 feet long and weighs more than 155,000 tons. It’s so large that it barely fits into New York Harbor; in fact, several lifeboats had to be removed when the ship pulled in for its christening in 2010.
The Epic can accommodate 4,100 passengers in staterooms and suites, and it features a waterpark, climbing walls, more than 20 restaurants and world-class entertainment.
Queen Mary 2
Harkening back to the Golden Age of ocean travel, when passengers dressed for dinner and retired to the brandy lounge for a nightcap, Cunard’s RMS Queen Mary 2 is one of the more opulent and luxurious ocean liners in the world. At 1,150 feet long, it’s just a few feet shorter than Royal Caribbean’s ships, but offers a vastly different traveling experience.
The Queen Mary 2 is the only cruise ship that still maintains a regular transatlantic cruise schedule, sailing between New York and Southampton, England. While onboard, passengers enjoy formal dining in opulent dining rooms, attend grand balls and relax by taking advantage of stimulating educational programs or the onboard spa—or even the only shipboard planetarium in the world. The Queen Mary 2 is not just tea, crumpets and white gloves, though. For those looking for more active pursuits, the ship has several pools and a golf simulator with more than 50 course options.
Royal Caribbean’s Voyager Ships
When it comes to large ships, Royal Caribbean leads the pack, rounding out the top five with the Voyager class of ships, which includes the Voyager of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Adventurer of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas. These ships are each 1,000 feet long, weigh 138,000 tons and accommodate 3,100 passengers.
The Voyager ships, while slightly smaller than some of the others in Royal Caribbean’s fleet, don’t skimp on the amenities. Pools, spas, skating tracks, mini-golf, shopping and restaurants are all available for guest entertainment in these cities-at-sea.
Voyager class ships sail from several U.S. ports, including Galveston, Texas and New Orleans, Louisiana, to destinations all over the world, such as Bermuda, the Caribbean and Europe, as well as some transatlantic voyages.
While megaships were the trend among cruise lines for many years, thanks to passenger demand, cruise lines are shifting back to offering smaller, more intimate cruising experiences. Ships that accommodate fewer than 1,000 passengers—while still offering all the amenities travelers expect—are becoming more popular. As long as people keep filling the staterooms, though, expect megaships to sail the high seas for years to come.
This guest post was provided by Shannon Pierce, who is a freelance writer and cruise coordinator. She helps people find great cruise deals, and believes that whether you are booking a Bahamas cruise or visiting New York City, it is important to get out and experience the world. Image by Josh Friedman Luxury Travel