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Royal Caribbean Cruise Review — Ships, Destinations, Dining, and More

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Royal Caribbean Cruise Review — Ships, Destinations, Dining, and More

Basic Information

Departure ports, private ports/islands, formal nights, complimentary dining, specialty dining, bars and beverages, accommodations, crown & anchor society, final thoughts.

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Royal Caribbean is a large cruise line offering mega-ship cruises across the globe. The company has been on the cutting edge of the cruise industry since it launched in 1969. Since then, it has continued to push the boundaries of cruise ship size and amenities, offering lots of “firsts” including the first rock climbing, ice skating, and surfing at sea.

Today, Royal Caribbean has 26 ships sailing to hundreds of destinations every day . If you’ve never cruised before, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find on a Royal Caribbean ship. If you are a cruising veteran, you probably look to Royal Caribbean for some of the biggest and most innovative ships at sea.

Name: Royal Caribbean International

Parent Company: Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd. (also owns Celebrity Cruises , Azamara, and Silversea Cruises)

Number of Ships: 26 (2 more will be added in 2024)

Destinations: 300+

Loyalty Program: Crown & Anchor Society

Credit Card : Royal Caribbean Visa Signature ® Card

Royal Caribbean boasts a fleet of 26 cruise ships :

  • Adventure of the Seas
  • Allure of the Seas
  • Anthem of the Seas
  • Brilliance of the Seas
  • Enchantment of the Seas
  • Explorer of the Seas
  • Freedom of the Seas
  • Grandeur of the Seas
  • Harmony of the Seas
  • Independence of the Seas
  • Jewel of the Seas
  • Liberty of the Seas
  • Mariner of the Seas
  • Navigator of the Seas
  • Oasis of the Seas
  • Odyssey of the Seas
  • Ovation of the Seas
  • Quantum of the Seas
  • Radiance of the Seas
  • Rhapsody of the Seas
  • Serenade of the Seas
  • Spectrum of the Seas
  • Symphony of the Seas
  • Vision of the Seas
  • Voyager of the Seas
  • Wonder of the Seas

Two additional ships will be added in the coming years: Icon of the Seas will debut in January 2024 and Utopia of the Seas is coming in spring 2024.

Odyssey of the Seas

Royal Caribbean sails to more than 300 destinations around the world from 50 departure ports.

Owning a private island or beach resort is a common thing among large cruise lines and is something many passengers have come to expect.

The Royal Caribbean “Perfect Day Island Collection” consists of 1 current location and 1 in the works:

  • CocoCay: Located in the Bahamas, this destination features the largest freshwater pool in the Bahamas and the tallest waterslide in North America. You’ll also find a swim-up bar, wave pool, zip line, beaches, a kid’s area, and more.
  • Lelepa: Located on the island of Vanuatu in the South Pacific, this destination was originally scheduled to open in 2022. However, the pandemic has put those plans on hold and there’s not currently an updated opening date.

Perfect Day at CocoCay

Hot Tip: You can earn points and miles each time you set sail if you book your cruise with one of these credit cards .

Onboard Activities

There is so much to do on a Royal Caribbean cruise, including pools, a casino, themed parties, Broadway-style shows, youth programs, and art auctions, to name a few.

Icon of the Seas Thrill Island

Royal Caribbean is also an industry leader in offering some of the most unique and interesting experiences at sea. Next time you’re on a Royal Caribbean cruise, keep your eye out for some of these activities (not all activities are offered on every ship):

  • Bumper cars
  • Central Park
  • Cooking classes
  • Dance classes
  • Escape Rooms
  • H20 Zone Water Park
  • Ice Skating
  • Mystery dinner theater
  • Outdoor movies
  • Ripcord By iFly
  • Rock climbing wall
  • Scuba certification
  • Sky Pad bungee trampoline
  • Spanish classes
  • Table tennis
  • Tidal Wave boomerang slide
  • Trapeze school
  • Waterslides: Typhoon, Cyclone, The Blaster, Riptide, Supercell

Royal Caribbean still offers formal nights on its cruises. Most itineraries will have 1 to 4 formal nights :

  • 3- to 5-night cruises: 1 formal night
  • 6- to 10-night cruises: 2 formal nights
  • 11- to 14-night cruises: 3 formal nights
  • 15+ night cruises: 3-4 formal nights

Dress on formal nights can include suits and ties, tuxedos, cocktail dresses, or evening gowns. On formal nights, many of the restaurants require formal dress and The Chef’s Table dining experience requires formal attire.

If you don’t want to dress up, that’s fine, too. Just stick to the buffet or some of the more casual spots for dinner.

Hot Tip: Royal Caribbean is considered one of the best cruise lines for families , so bring your whole crew onboard.

Dining and Beverages

Like most cruise lines, Royal Caribbean offers both complimentary dining that’s included in your cruise fare and specialty dining that has either a flat fee or à la carte pricing.

Sorrento's Pizza

There are lots of dining options that are included in the price of your cruise , so you can eat every meal on your ship without paying an extra dime. The following locations are always complimentary, however, not all of these options are offered on every ship:

  • Cafe Promenade
  • Coastal Kitchen
  • El Loco Fresh
  • Main dining room
  • Solarium Bistro Restaurant
  • Sorrento’s Pizza
  • Splashaway Cafe
  • The Cafe @ Two70
  • Vitality Cafe
  • Windjammer Buffet

Hot Tip: Beverages like wine, beer, cocktails, and even soda will usually cost extra even at the complimentary restaurants. You can purchase a beverage package when you book your cruise or once you get on board. There are different drink package options available including ones that include alcoholic beverages, soda-only packages, and water bottle packages.

You’ll also find restaurants on every Royal Caribbean ship that come with additional charges — either a per-person fee or à la carte menu pricing.

The following dining options will cost extra over what you pay for your cruise:

  • 150 Central Park
  • Cafe Latte-Tudes
  • Chef’s Table
  • Chops Grille
  • Coffee and Tea Shop
  • Cupcake Cupboard
  • Fish & Ships
  • Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen
  • Giovanni’s Table
  • Hooked Seafood
  • Izumi Hibachi and Sushi
  • Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver
  • Johnny Rockets
  • Johnny Rockets Express
  • La Patisserie
  • Portside BBQ
  • Room Service
  • Samba Grill
  • Sichuan Red
  • Sugar Beach

If you would like to try out some of the specialty restaurants, you can purchase a dining package ahead of time or once you are on board the ship. You’ll be able to choose between a 3-restaurant package or an unlimited package. Kids ages 6 to 10 can dine at specialty restaurants for only $10. Kids ages 5 and under are free.

Hot Tip: How about specialty dining for free? Look out for deals when you book your cruise. Lots of websites offer perks like free specialty dining when you book with them. Be sure to check out our guide to the best websites to book a cruise to get you started.

There are plenty of places on Royal Caribbean ships to kick back and relax with your favorite beverage. Bars and lounges offer à la carte pricing or you can use your beverage package.

Bionic Bar

Here are the bars and lounges you may find on your Royal Caribbean ship (not all locations are offered on every ship):

  • The Bamboo Room
  • Champagne Bar
  • Diamond Club
  • English Pub
  • The Lime and Coconut
  • North Star Bar
  • Playmakers Bar & Arcade
  • Rising Tide Bar
  • Schooner Bar
  • Solarium Bar
  • Suite Lounge
  • Trellis Bar
  • Wipe Out Bar

If you would prefer to pay for your drinks upfront, you can choose one of Royal Caribbean’s beverage packages:

Deluxe Beverage Package

  • Bottled water
  • Coca-Cola souvenir cup
  • Cocktails, spirits, and liquor
  • Coffee and tea
  • Freshly squeezed juice
  • Non-alcoholic cocktails
  • Unlimited soda and Coca-Cola Freestyle beverages
  • Wine by the glass

Refreshment Package

Classic Soda Package

Water Package

  • 6-, 12-, or 24-packs of water delivered to your stateroom

Hot Tip: The drinking age onboard any Royal Caribbean ship is 21+ on sailings from North America and 18+ on sailings from South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

There are so many different types of rooms you can book on your Royal Caribbean cruise. The 4 basic types of rooms include interior, oceanview, balcony, or suite, but there are many different types of rooms among those categories.

No matter what room category you choose, you’ll enjoy the following amenities:

  • Drawer and closet space
  • Flat-screen TV

Royal Caribbean offers a few unique room categories as well:

Virtual Balcony Staterooms — These rooms are available on select ships (including every interior room on Quantum of the Seas). They feature an 80-inch screen that gives you a virtual ocean view via a live camera outside of the ship.

Virtual Balcony Stateroom

Unique Interior View Rooms or Balconies — These rooms have a window or a balcony, but the view isn’t of the ocean! These rooms look out on the action inside the ship like The Royal Promenade or Central Park.

Royal Suite Class — This is a category of rooms that offer the highest level of luxury . You’ll not only enjoy fantastic accommodations but amazing experiences as well. These rooms offer 3 tiers of luxury — Sea Class, Sky Class, and the most luxurious, Star Class.

The Ultimate Family Suite — This one-of-a-kind room at sea is only available on Symphony of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. It features 2 stories of the ultimate in family luxury including a balcony with a Jacuzzi, private game room, in-suite slide, and tons of other VIP perks!

Ultimate Family Suite on the Symphony of the Seas

Hot Tip: Tight budget? Why not pay for part or all of your cruise with points and miles ? 

Royal Caribbean offers a loyalty program called the Crown & Anchor Society .

Crown Anchor Society

After you’ve sailed with Royal Caribbean once, you’ll be automatically enrolled as a member of the Crown & Anchor Society. As a member you’ll earn 1 Cruise Point for every night you sail . Your points are doubled if you book a suite.

There are 6 tiers of membership in the Crown & Anchor Society:

  • Gold: 3+ Cruise Points
  • Platinum: 30+ Cruise Points
  • Emerald: 55+ Cruise Points
  • Diamond: 80+ Cruise Points
  • Diamond Plus: 175+ Cruise Points
  • Pinnacle Club: 700+ Cruise Points

Benefits vary by membership tier and can include things like onboard discounts, priority check-in, onboard lounges, private departure area, and free or discounted cruises .

Hot Tip: Make sure you’re prepared — check out our printable cruise packing list before you set sail.

Cruising is a great way to spend your vacation and Royal Caribbean offers some of the biggest and best ships around.

On a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll enjoy onboard activities like waterslides, zip-lining, bumper cars, and rock climbing. You’ll be able to dine at one of the many included restaurants, or you can choose a specialty restaurant like Giovanni’s Table, Jamie’s Italian by Jamie Oliver, or Johnny Rockets.

After a long day at sea, you’ll rest comfortably in your stateroom, whether you choose a Virtual Balcony room or opt for luxury in a Royal Class Suite. Plus you’ll earn perks and bonuses each time you cruise as a member of the Crown & Anchor Society.

Royal Caribbean offers cruises to over 300 destinations, so no matter what part of the world you want to visit, chances are you can get there on a cruise.

The information regarding the Royal Caribbean Visa Signature ® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best ship on royal caribbean.

Royal Caribbean’s biggest and best ships are the Oasis Class ships — Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, and Wonder of the Seas. However, the new Icon of the Seas which will debut in 2024, is set to be the biggest cruise ship in the world.

How much are drink packages on Royal Caribbean?

Beverage package prices on Royal Caribbean vary based on length of cruise and your itinerary. Here’s a look at what kind of pricing you can expect:

  • Deluxe Beverage Package (includes alcohol): $63 to $89 per day
  • Refreshment Package (includes soda, coffee, mocktails, juices, and water): $29 to $38 per day
  • Soda-only package: $12.99 to $15 per day

What is Royal Caribbean's newest ship?

The newest ship in Royal Caribbean’s fleet is currently Wonder of the Seas. However, there are 2 new ships debuting in 2024: Icon of the Seas and Utopia of the Seas.

Is food free on Royal Caribbean?

Yes, Royal Caribbean has multiple dining venues on each ship that are included in the price of the cruise so you don’t have to pay anything extra onboard. There are also specialty restaurants that charge extra.

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About Katie Seemann

Katie has been in the points and miles game since 2015 and started her own blog in 2016. She’s been freelance writing since then and her work has been featured in publications like Travel + Leisure, Forbes Advisor, and Fortune Recommends.


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Symphony of the Seas

The 6,680-passenger, 2,200-crew-member Symphony of the Seas set sail in 2018 and features 18 decks packed with activities.

For heart-pounding fun, travelers will find a surf simulator, an indoor ice skating rink, two 40-foot rock walls, a zip line and a 10-story slide. Meanwhile, relaxation seekers can unwind in the spa, sip cocktails made by robotic bartenders or stroll through the Central Park -inspired neighborhood.

Onboard snacks and meals are served at 20 quick-service and sit-down eateries. The Main Dining Room is where the ship's traditional, complimentary dinners are provided nightly, but specialty options like a steakhouse, a bistro and a Johnny Rockets outpost are also available. What's more, cruisers can dine at Jamie's Italian, a restaurant helmed by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

After filling up on gourmet fare, passengers can retreat to their cabins, all of which include work desks, flat-screen TVs and minibars. Guests can choose from 149-square-foot Interior Staterooms, some of which have virtual balconies with real-time views of the ocean, or opt for upgraded cabins with furnished balconies and up to 1,524 square feet of space. Select suites also feature two bedrooms, whirlpool tubs and dining rooms.

Symphony of the Seas departs from Cape Liberty, New Jersey, Miami , Fort Lauderdale, Rome and Barcelona for sailings throughout the Caribbean and Europe.

U.S. News Insider Tip: If you’re on one of the 19 Royal Caribbean ships that have a FlowRider, like Symphony of the Seas (which has two!), reserve a private lesson with a pro. For a small fee, you'll save yourself some embarrassment and get more ride time. – Skye Sherman, Contributor

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Odyssey of the Seas

Launched in July 2021, the Odyssey of the Seas holds 5,498 passengers and 1,550 crew members. Royal Caribbean's latest ship is the first Quantum Ultra Class vessel to sail in the United States. As a member of this class, Odyssey of the Seas offers standout amenities like RipCord by iFLY, billed as the only skydiving simulator available at sea, and the FlowRider, a 40-foot-long surf simulator. There is also the North Star observation capsule, which hoists guests 300 feet above sea level over the cruise ship to enjoy unparalleled views below. 

In addition to these thrilling activities, the ship comes equipped with standard facilities like pools, an arcade, a spa, a fitness center with classes, kids clubs and shopping venues. There are also 15 dining options, ranging from Japanese fare to all-you-can-eat buffets to Starbucks. For drinks, the ship offers nine bars and lounges, giving passengers plenty of places to enjoy libations. Entertainment options include theatrical performances, live music, a casino, outdoor movie nights and more. 

As far as cabins go, cruisers can choose between Interior, Ocean View, and Balcony staterooms, as well as suite accommodations and new Virtual Balcony rooms. These technologically advanced cabins feature floor-to-ceiling displays that project real-time views of the sights and sounds from the outside of the ship. 

Odyssey of the Seas sails to ports in Europe, as well as to various destinations in the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale, Florida and Cape Liberty, New Jersey.

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Wonder of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas, which embarked on its maiden voyage in March 2022, holds 7,084 passengers and 2,204 crew members. The ship measures 1,188 feet long and 215 feet wide, and it weighs 235,600 gross tons. It surpasses its sister ship, Symphony of the Seas , as one of the largest cruise ships in the world.  

Guests can enjoy plenty of thrill activities on board, such as the Ultimate Abyss – a 10-story dark tunnel slide – or the 40-foot-long FlowRider surf stimulator. The ship also offers a fitness center, shopping venues, rock climbing, a carousel and clubs for kids and teens. When it's time to dine, cruisers have the option of 21 dining venues ranging from Italian fare to Southern cuisine. Travelers can also indulge in a few cocktails at 14 bars and lounges.

Accommodations include Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite staterooms. If you're looking for something more spacious, check out the ship's all-new Suite Neighborhood. Located on the upper decks, these suites offer guests ample private quarters to recharge during the cruise. Amenities included in the exclusive suites include priority boarding, a members-only dining facility and a dedicated check-in line. For families, the new neighborhood may be of particular interest because it features the Ultimate Family Suite. The family suite offers two floors of space with stunning ocean views, in-suite movies and video games and a kids slide between the floors.  

Wonder of the Seas sails from Orlando , Florida, to ports in the Caribbean.

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Allure of the Seas

The 6,826-passenger Allure of the Seas, unveiled in 2010, is among the largest cruise ships in the world. There are a whopping 2,054 crew members on board to cater to passengers' needs. Along with signature line amenities like rock climbing walls and ice skating rinks, the ship houses seven unique neighborhoods with a variety of activities, shows and dining options. The ship underwent a $165 million refurbishment in 2020, which added approximately 50 new staterooms, the Ultimate Abyss (the tallest slide at sea), redesigned kids and teens spaces, new dining venues and more.

Other standout features include a zip line that descends 10 decks, two surf simulators and a science lab. Plus, with 19 dining options – and a Starbucks at sea – every member of the family will be satisfied.

In terms of lodging, about 65% of cabins feature balconies, and all staterooms are appointed with TVs and minifridges. Interior staterooms are the most economical option, but those who splurge on Suites are granted larger balconies and concierge service. Crowd-free areas might be difficult to find due to the outrageous capacity of the ship, but some recent cruisers praise the nonstop activity and entertainment. 

Allure of the Seas departs from Miami, Orlando, Florida, and Galveston , Texas, for sailings in the Caribbean.

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Harmony of the Seas

Welcoming up to 6,687 passengers and 2,200 crew members, Harmony of the Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world. Launched in 2016 and tuned up in 2021, the ship features Royal Caribbean staples like surf simulators and rock climbing walls, as well as innovative amenities like the Ultimate Abyss (a 10-story slide) and three multistory waterslides. Plus, while younger passengers play in the arcade or at age-appropriate clubs, adults can relax at the spa or sip cocktails at multiple bars and lounges.

After working up an appetite, guests can choose from 20 dining options. Past cruisers especially praised the multitude of specialty restaurants, which range from Mexican to Japanese fare and require reservations and an additional fee.

When it comes to lodging, Harmony of the Seas offers a wide variety of cabin categories, with more than 70% of cabins featuring balconies. While Interior staterooms are the most economical choice, those looking for a little more space and luxury should consider upgrading to a Suite, which range from Junior Suites to four-bedroom Villa Suites. While all cabins offer flat-screen TVs and minibars, suites include access to a private restaurant, lounge and sun deck.

Harmony of the Seas sails from Miami and Galveston, Texas , to destinations throughout the Caribbean.

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Mariner of the Seas

Introduced in 2003 and overhauled in mid-2018, Mariner of the Seas features passenger favorites like the Escape Room, the Izumi Japanese restaurant and a surf simulator. During the ship's refurbishment, Royal Caribbean also added 100 new staterooms, updated cabins and public spaces and added fan-favorite restaurant Jamie's Italian by chef Jamie Oliver.

Though the 4,000-passenger ship features a 1-to-3 crew-to-passenger ratio, recent cruisers said the vessel still maintains a high level of customer service. When it comes to dining, the ship offers 11 venues, including a multilevel main dining room. The ship's 10 bars and lounges and onboard entertainment, which includes Broadway-style shows, earn a consistent nod of approval from past cruisers. Kids have plenty of age-appropriate entertainment, too, including youth programs and teen lounges. Mariner of the Seas touts three pools and six whirlpools. These areas of the ship attract a high concentration of children.

Past travelers were generally complimentary of the staterooms. Similar to its sister ships, Mariner of the Seas offers four stateroom categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. All staterooms include flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi accessibility. 

Mariner of the Seas departs from  Orlando , Florida, and Galveston, Texas, for sailings in the Caribbean, Bermuda and the  Bahamas .

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Adventure of the Seas

Adventure of the Seas (first launched in 2001) underwent an extensive renovation in January 2018. It boasts modern amenities like an outdoor movie screen and Wi-Fi (for an extra fee). Other highlights include an ice skating rink, a surf simulator and a rock climbing wall. 

There are seven dining venues across the ship, the newest of which is the Izumi Japanese specialty restaurant. While adults can relax at the ship's nine bars and lounges, youngsters can mix and mingle at age-appropriate youth clubs and a teens-only disco. Among other onboard amenities, Adventure of the Seas features an abundance of pools and whirlpools, including an indoor/outdoor pool and lounge area exclusive to adults called the Solarium.

When it comes to lodging, recent cruisers found staterooms to be comfortable and spacious. Cabins come in four categories – Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite – and about 60% offer ocean views. The ship's 2018 revamp brought with it new Interior and Ocean View staterooms, as well as a new Suite Lounge. While it may be difficult to find quiet spaces on the 3,807-passenger ship, recent guests were still complimentary of the service on board and the 1-to-3 crew-to-guest ratio. 

Adventure of the Seas sails to various destinations in the Caribbean from Fort Lauderdale , Florida and Orlando , Florida. The ship also completes transatlantic voyages.

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Oasis of the Seas

The 6,771-passenger Oasis of the Seas saw an extensive refurbishment in late 2019, unveiling the line's first dedicated karaoke venue, a live music space with a large dance floor, brand-new dining options (including a barbecue restaurant), three waterslides, new bars and more. 

While this ship is not for those seeking secluded spaces, most cruisers say the seven distinct onboard neighborhoods make up for that. The behemoth ship features designer boutiques and larger staterooms than other ships in the fleet.

Like other Royal Caribbean vessels, Oasis of the Seas offers four cabin categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. Interior rooms average about 150 square feet, while Suite category cabins can span anywhere from 287 to 1,524 square feet and include added amenities like Jacuzzis and expansive balconies.

While recent cruisers were impressed with the ship's abundant amenities, they noted that with 2,109 crew members, there aren't many tailored onboard experiences – especially when the ship is filled to capacity. Oasis of the Seas caters to those looking for nonstop onboard action.

Oasis of the Seas sails from Miami , Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Barcelona and Rome to destinations in the Bahamas , the Caribbean, Europe and the Mediterranean. The ship also offers transatlantic voyages.

U.S. News Insider Tip: On Oasis-class ships, stop at Vitality Café for protein shakes and fresh juices. – Skye Sherman, Contributor

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Ovation of the Seas

The 4,905-passenger, 1,500-crew-member Ovation of the Seas features a skydiving simulator, an observation pod that hovers 300 feet above the sea and a bionic bar where robots mix cocktails. Other highlights include a rock climbing wall, a surf simulator, an outdoor movie screen and upscale boutiques like Cartier.

After working up an appetite, passengers can take their pick of 16 eateries, including six signature restaurants that require reservations and an additional fee. Many recent cruisers praised the cuisine, from the main dining room buffet to the Italian menu created by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.

Travelers were also mostly complimentary of the staterooms, 75% of which boast balconies. The ship offers Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite category accommodations, all of which are equipped with flat-screen TVs, safes and sitting areas. Even those staying in Interior rooms can catch a glimpse of the sea with virtual balconies that give a real-time view of the ship's location.

The most common drawback, according to cruisers? You're likely to encounter long lines and crowded common areas. Some recent travelers also felt the service was not as good as expected. 

Ovation of the Seas sets sail from Vancouver ,  Honolulu , Seattle  and  Sydney  for itineraries in Alaska, Australia, Hawaii and the South Pacific.

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Vision of the Seas

Most recently updated in late 2018 (with the exception of routine maintenance in 2022), the 2,514-passenger, 742-crew-member Vision of the Seas offers Royal Caribbean staples like diverse dining venues and nonstop entertainment. Past cruisers especially praise the ship's appealing decor and the Solarium, an adults-only pool and lounge area. 

In terms of food, travelers can choose from the main dining room, the buffet and several casual eateries. Cruisers recommend springing for a meal at the ship's specialty restaurants, which range from the Chops Grille steakhouse to the Izumi Asian venue. Food in the main dining room received mixed reviews, but travelers praised the service around the ship.

When it comes to daytime activities, guests can try rock climbing, swim in the pools (which can become crowded) or play games in the casino. There are also sushi- and cupcake-making classes available.

In terms of lodging, Vision of the Seas touts four staterooms categories: Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite. Interior cabins range from 136 to 252 square feet, while Suites on the opposite end of the spectrum range from 243 to 1,140 square feet. Opt for a balcony-equipped Suite and you'll enjoy cushier extras like whirlpool bathtubs. All cabins include amenities like flat-screen TVs and vanity areas. 

Vision of the Seas departs from Baltimore for itineraries in the Caribbean, New England and Canada.

Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by

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Royal Caribbean is in its own class19

Royal Caribbean would be succinctly described as " Mass with class " within the industry. While pricing and amenities are similar to other lines ( mostly under the Carnival umbrella or NCL ) RCL elevates most on board experiences. The ships have been more understated and tasteful ( although the icon class could nudge the taste level in the wrong direction) the service level is EXCEPTIONALLY higher and consistent across all ranks of crew. The Achilles heel of RCL might be the food. Whilst not bad by any stretch it is rather bland. There' is also a concerning extra tariff creep at RCL which mitigates one of the most relaxing aspects of cruising is the inclusivity in the pricing , now however seeing your cruise- to - date on board spend for the first time is tantamount to facing the cost of a daughter's wedding its a something you know is THERE but you just want to continue to pretend it's not!

Date of experience : September 16, 2023

Worst Customer service ever!

Call their support line to move a person out of one room and so I can book that person with another person, in a new room that we are going to get. The Person who work with me on the phone didn't mention that if doing any change will effect the other peoples who is in the old room. After doing the change all of our discount stuff we got where all remove and refunded. Try to have them revered it back and after waiting for Three hours on hold they told me that they will call me back after reviewing it. No call back and so I have to call them back the follow day. They again put me on hold and say they where going to call me back, I insisted that I want to talk to a Supervisor after being put on hold for hours. Was able to talk to the Supervisor after waiting for a hour and all the supervisor say was "it unfortunately but there's nothing we can do, other then giving you $50 credit on the cruise". After being frustrated and wasting my time being on hold, there was nothing they can help with me. So now we have to pay full price for all the stuff that we already got for a deal. Frist and last time we are going with Royal Caribbean, one of the worst customer service I have ever deal with. For any one who going to make change on their cruise, I recommend not to do so or they will screw you over and say "it unfortunately but there's nothing we can do, other then giving you $50 credit on the cruise".

Date of experience : February 18, 2024

Royal Caribbean IT needs an upgrade

My wife and I went on a 5-day Royal Caribbean cruise on Explorer of the Seas in early February 2024. The cruise itself was great, but the IT department needs to make some improvements. We received a link to "Check In" for our cruise a few days before sailing. I tried to access this multiple times on the Royal Caribbean app as well as on a desktop computer. Each time I would get a message that "Check in has checked out". Unsure if I needed to check in before the date of departure, I called the customer service hotline and spent 2 hours trying to get the situation fixed. All to no avail. Really all I needed to know was 1) will I be able to check in on the day of the cruise and 2) what time do I need to be at the port? On the day of departure, we just showed up to the cruise terminal and thankfully were able to check in on site. However, the gal that helped us with check in didn't give us room keys, which we didn't realize until we got to our stateroom and realized we couldn't unlock the door. So we waited in line an additional hour at the main service desk to get our keys made. Again, the cruise itself was great, but Royal Caribbean could make some improvements on the customer experience.

Date of experience : February 04, 2024

Royal Caribbean - Poor Customer Experience

We understand that sometimes things change and with that there are cancellations. However, Royal Caribbean have been completely unsupportive following a cancelled cruise me and my family were due to embark on. The level of compensation for all the planning, accommodation around the cruise and plans we had, is not proportionate. I sent three emails with not a single reply and I was consistently told that they can cancel cruises as it is inline with their T&C. Yes, I respect that but what happened to customer service. The cruise we are on has now doubled in price, we are in different rooms and sailing to a different location. All with a $50 in room credit for compensation. That is not proportionate to the troubles we have gone through, the customer service do not care, find a cruise line that looks after you from the beginning, despite what happens and are not just after your money.

Date of experience : February 16, 2024

Sadly we never got to go on the cruise…

Sadly we never got to go on the cruise to celebrate my mother’s 65th birthday. We booked for 9 of us to go away on the symphony of seas last week (feb 24) over a year ago back in feb 2023. It was meant to be a big family celebration with my mums brothers sisters, children and grandkids. At the start of feb my nan, my mums and her sister mum was diagnosed with terminal Cancer and put on an end of life plan meaning potentially weeks to live. Naturally we could not go around the Caribbean knowing her death was imminent. Amongst all the heart ache and turmoil of this news we had to look at how we postpone the cruise, this is where my mind was blown! We were told nope! As mum/nan wasn’t going on the cruise herself no change or refund would happen. You can have 10% back! We didnt even want a refund, just stick us on a cruise later in the year, next year, Anything! I can’t express in words how messed up this company is! Zero compassion, terrible service and completely lacking in any understanding about death and the emotions that has on a human. All we were told is use your insurance! Once the rooms were cancelled which we had to do to eventually start an insurance claim, a friend contacted them to see about taking our room, bear in mind they had already taken £4,000 from us they then quoted him £8,000 For the same room. He declined, a day later he called back to se if it was still Available and told it had been sold. RC sold that one room twice and made £12,000 from it! I have no idea what their cruises are like but to have such poor understanding of a families distress should tell you all you need to know about the individuals at this company. They should be ashamed and I can only hope that none of the employees ever have to experience what they put us through.

Date of experience : February 20, 2024

Dreadful experience booking

Dreadful experience, attempted to book a 7 Day Norwegian Fjords Cruise for our Anniversary, the price increased by 9% (£230) in front of our eyes when we placed the deposit and then we had to argue for 30 minutes to get a refund. Devious, misleading and untrustworthy. Having sailed with Royal Caribbean on a number of occasions previously we will take our money elsewhere in the future.

Date of experience : February 12, 2024

Worst experience ever

Worst experience ever. We were supposed to go on a family cruise as part of my aunts bucket list, she was likely going to need full time care so my mother and I both took time off work to go with her. I as a nurse have the ability to care for many of her possible needs. About 10 days before the cruise was to depart my aunt wound up in the hospital, we spoke to Royal Caribbean, told them we would be happy to accept future credit in leu of a refund however, we would be unable to make it on our scheduled sailing. This company offered my aunt, who is terminal and will likely not get another chance to go on a cruise, 50% future credit. To myself and my mother they offered nothing, not even the option to give our tickets to someone else that could use them. Terrible service from an inhumane company.

Date of experience : February 07, 2024

Overcharged us for an excursion we did not book

They messed up an otherwise good experience with their customer service for a charge we did not have. Had to dispute the charge with my credit card company.

Royal Caribbean cruise lines canceled…

Royal Caribbean cruise lines canceled the cruise that I had been booked on out of Vancouver. Obviously they could make more money cancelling my cruise and sailing somewhere else. They refused to cover my losses on the cruise. The cruise I was booked on went to Hawaii, I had scheduled business class airfare for two back from Hawaii to Austin. The only thing the airline offered me was a credit on their airline which I can never use. I am out $3500 and Royal Caribbean could care less. They have definitely demonstrated to me that they are way more concerned with their own profits then the losses that they have caused for their customers. The first cruise I ever took was for my honeymoon in 1987 on the Song of America. I have also sailed on the Song of Norway (the very first RCCL ship), along with about 40 other RCCL cruises. I will never sail with them or Celebrity again and have already cancelled some future cruises that I have booked with them.

Date of experience : February 13, 2024

Dishonest and BS company that I will…

Dishonest and BS company that I will never ever again consider using. They tell you they can refund your deposit if it's >3 months then they make you hold for 1/2 hour before transferring your to wait another hour then they tell you they won't refund your deposit because "you bought a non-refundable ticket." That is not what they told me when I bought it!!!! Total BS. DO NOT GIVES THIS CRAP COMPANY YOUR MONEY unless you're 100% sure nothing will happen that may cause you to miss your trip. They rep wouldn't even give his last name "DIEGO" is all he would say. THIS IS A RIP-OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Date of experience : February 03, 2024

Unless you are a frequent Royal…

Unless you are a frequent Royal Caribbean passenger, look at another cruise line. You will be a second class passenger in every way. Before you can even get on the ship, all amenities, shows and reservations will be unavailable to the casual passenger. You will spend your cruise looking from the outside wondering why you cannot be part of their advertised services. To a degree, every cruise line does this, but Royal has taken it to a new level that is actually discouraging new customers.

Hiding the Truth

It feels like the cruise staff was hiding something when it came to us staying at our first port (Cozumel) and skipping the second (Costa Maya). I do understand there were strong winds, but what we were told didn’t add up. The captain made an announcement as soon as we got back to the ship at the end of the first day in port & let us know that neither us or the Princess ship would be leaving the port, but didn't know what was happening with the Carnival ship. To our surprise, the princess ship was gone by the morning, and replaced with another RC ship. We were the only ship that “couldn’t” leave Cozumel. There were recent problems with the "Radiance of the Sea" ship (around Sept 2023). One crew member said it was "against the law" for us to have left the port, but the other ships were allowed to leave & another Royal Caribbean ship was able to arrive at the port (please let me know how this all add up if someone else sees that it does). This crew member was not the captain, but they shouldn't have said this to a group of people at one of the ships activities. There was no compensation for our change of itinerary. What happened to or port fees for the second port? The staff at guest services weren’t helpful when we asked for documentation about this itinerary change for our travel insurance. We asked for this documentation just under 24 hours after the decision was made to stay in Cozumel, but we were told they didn’t have anything yet and we needed to "be patient" with them until at least 30 hours after the decision by the crew to change the ship's itinerary. They also said that they couldn’t send an email to our travel agent unless we purchased their internet package and sent it ourselves once they came up with this documentation (why should I pay more money because of something that I couldn't control). This documentation did come to our staterooms shortly before leaving the port on the second day in Cozumel, so we weren’t able to send it to our travel agent until after the cruise (luckily it wasn’t too late for our travel insurance purposes). One thing that really got under my skin was how they constantly referred to Carnival Cruise Lines as "Schmarnival" (not sure how that would be spelled). I have been on Carnival cruises, and I had a much better time for less money. The beds on RC were not very comfortable. The activities onboard were really short, and there weren't very many. There were a few that we tried to go to that were cancelled without notice or acknowledgement (including a comedy show that was supposed to be right after one that we went to). Also, the main dining was not good. The vegetables were not seasoned, the meat was overcooked, and there was a staff member who came to our table and talked way to long to us about how we should spend more money on the ship (it felt like an uncompensated timeshare presentation). Speaking of that, this happened at quite a few of the activities we went to. Honestly, the whole thing was odd, and I was disappointed that I made the decision to spend the money to go on a more "luxury cruise line" when I could've spent the same money (or less) on a better experience somewhere else. If I didn't feel lied to, the rest would've been swept under the rug, but there is something that wasn't told to the customers on the ship.

Horrible speaking with customer service…

Horrible speaking with customer service today. We booked a cruise online on the New Icon after receiving a emailed promotion for up to $650 in onboard credits. After selecting the room I believe we were supposed to receive a $250 credit after selecting the room but never received it on our documents. I called Royal Caribbean, the rep kept stating he did not see prior call notes in the file offering the credit although this was an online transaction. Just horrible . I recommend calling to book a cruise and get everything emailed in writing before ending the call.

Date of experience : January 31, 2024

Trip cut in half, no explanation given

My wife and I spent thousands of dollars to go on the first vacation we've had since we got married a decade ago. We booked a cruise on which we would spend two days in Cozumel. Well, a week and a half before sailing, we can an email saying that our first day shore excursion has been moved to the second day (now overlapping with our second day excursion by two hours). No reason given. Thinking this must be some kind of clerical error, I call them. Nope. We now only get one day in Cozumel and the rest of the time at sea. And only one shore excursion. While they refunded the excursion we had to cancel, the only compensation for literally halving the time we get to spend in Cozumel is a $50 on-board credit. I will never be sailing with Royal Caribbean again. That is a truly pathetic excuse for customer service. Oh, and to make matters worse? I STILL don't know why they made the change in the first place.

Date of experience : January 30, 2024

Inflexible system and awful customer service

So your online booking system doesn’t let you process discounts, nor can you add notes to the booking. So you are forced to have to phone and make a booking, which may I add is a PREMIUM phone number and cost me £30. During that call, your advisor hung up on me, and I had to phone back and re-explain everything. Then to top it off I get an AWFUL customer service rep who won’t do anything, just says no and refuses to pass it onto a supervisor. Concerned for my cruise now if this re-cruise level of service is anything to go by! Absolute disgrace!

Date of experience : January 10, 2024

Not a good company

Went to start work with this company. Paid out for the Medical £470 - £850 for Training- £180 - security course - £220 upgrades for flights - £350 visas - £300 fuel - £300 hotels. Completed all this ready to fly out this week and they canceled my medical certificate with no notice or explanation from them. Went to login to my portal and they had removed all my flights and details. Would not grant me a medical due to having asthma and having a hospital scan in 2016- which there was no treatment for at all. Email Micheal CEO He was meant to look into this and surprise he’s never got back to me just like the rest of his staff.. such a big company that takes money from little people and leaves them jobless and now on benefits / Welfare as I spent all my saving on these courses / Visa’s / Medical etc to work for his company Two weeks later Michael Bayley CEO still no response at all from this guy. Absolutely disgusting company

Date of experience : January 16, 2024

Lost my wallet and got treated like a criminal

Lost my wallet on the ship after final port visit. I went to guest services and reported it missing, the attendant was completely useless and failed to make me a new access card (new one didn’t open my door nor did it work when paying for items). I furthered the report to security (for insurance) and they treated me like a criminal and demanded to search my cabin. Upon searching my cabin they turned up with three guards and went through both my and three other cabin mates items asking about them. I found this experience completely appalling and I would never ever go with Royal Caribbean again (even if it was the only way off a sinking ship).

Date of experience : January 15, 2024

Standards have slipped

Just completed 10 night cruise on Brilliance of the Seas to South Pacific islands Noumea / Vanuatu This was our 4th cruise with Royal Caribbean and will probably be our last. Was surprised at how far the standards have slipped in all areas of entertainment, food quality, customer service. Their main focus now is making money. By 7th day we were looking forward to getting home which has never been the case on our total of 10 previous cruises. For the price Royal Caribbean charge compared to other cruise lines they no longer deliver value for money or an enjoyable experience. It is a shame as we throughly enjoyed our previous cruises with them. We completed a cruise with Carnival in June 2023 which was far more enjoyable and much cheaper with included cruise credit to spend on board. Would not recommend Royal Caribbean now to family, friends & work colleagues.

Date of experience : December 30, 2023

Allure of the Seas

This ship experience was below average from our past cruises with Royal as a whole. The primary issue other than below average service was that the royal groups dept. had reserved what was supposed to be connecting rooms reserved for our two young daughters, my wife and I. Come to find out the group booking dept had an outdated deck plan and the rooms they reserved for us were not connecting. This forced my wife and I to sleep in separate rooms for our trip (our ten year anniversary celebration). After the cruise I contacted their guest experience dept and they offered my wife and I a $188 credit each towards a future sailing, but said there was notching else they could do. Mind you we booked 13 rooms for 24 people bringing $60K+ to the ship and this offer was the icing on the cake. I expected more from Royal as they had in the past exceeded my expectations.

Date of experience : December 26, 2023

NOT celiac friendly! Food quality has gone down considerably…

Food quality has gone down considerably since COVID. I have celiac and they do not accommodate like they did previously. I found out why from the head waiter. They have frozen appetizers and “kit”meals. You will find higher quality food at Ruby Tuesday or Chili’s. NO selection for dessert! Pudding that is all they can make, only pudding based desserts. Gone are the incredible cakes, pies, and creative choices. Will not sail with them again! Going to try other lines and see if better?

Date of experience : November 11, 2023

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Royal Caribbean Review

Thursday, February 22nd

2024 Cruise Line Reviews

Top Consumer Reviews Best-In-Class Blue Ribbon Award

  • Royal Caribbean
  • Best for guests of all ages
  • 27 ships in the fleet
  • Some of the largest ships in the cruise industry: from 2,400 to 6,000+ passengers
  • Exciting onboard activities can include rock climbing, ice skating, escape rooms, FlowRider and waterslides, and much more
  • 300+ ports of call
  • Two private islands: CocoCay (Bahamas) and Perfect Day (Labadee, Haiti)
  • Great last-minute cruise deals

Excellent safety record

Royal Caribbean International is a popular cruise line that offers a wide variety of cruise itineraries, ranging from short weekend getaways to longer multi-week cruises. Founded in 1968, the company is headquartered in Miami, Florida, and operates a fleet of 27 ships that sail to destinations all over the world, including the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Alaska.

Large ships with lots to do

The Royal Caribbean fleet includes some of the largest cruise ships in the world, such as the Symphony of the Seas and the Harmony of the Seas, which can accommodate over 6,000 passengers each. These ships feature a wide range of amenities and activities, such as multiple pools and water slides, rock-climbing walls, zip lines, miniature golf courses, ice skating rinks, and even surf simulators. That's part of what makes Royal Caribbean one of the most popular cruise lines for teens and young adults: there's so much more to do than just hang out in the teen club or drink pina coladas by the pool.

Smaller ships too

In addition to its large ships, Royal Caribbean also operates smaller vessels like the Empress of the Seas and the Majesty of the Seas. These ships are better suited for shorter itineraries and port-intensive cruises. They still offer a wide range of amenities and activities, but with a more intimate and personalized feel.

Unique onboard experiences and entertainment

Royal Caribbean is known for its innovative onboard experiences, such as the Broadway-style shows in the main theater, the Bionic Bar where robots mix and serve drinks, and the Virtual Balcony cabins that feature floor-to-ceiling screens displaying real-time views of the ocean. The company also offers a wide range of onboard activities and entertainment, including live music performances, comedy shows, game shows, dance classes, and trivia contests. While the specific opportunities vary depending on the class of ship you sail on with RCCL, there's always something to do.

Best Cruise Lines

Food quality varies

The company also offers a variety of dining options, ranging from casual eateries to specialty restaurants featuring celebrity chefs like Jamie Oliver and Michael Schwartz. In our own experience, we weren't as impressed with the overall food quality on Royal Caribbean - for example, the meal served on Thanksgiving Day didn't include pumpkin pie (but rather some brownie-crust pumpkin cheesecake that was just a "no" ), and a lot of the buffet options felt a little tired. However, your results may vary: some cruisers absolutely rave about the food on Royal.

Private island paradise

One place where we loved the dining options was on Royal Caribbean's private island in the Bahamas, CocoCay. You'll have access to plenty of complimentary drinks, snacks, and meal options while on the island - and the same goes for RCCL's other private island, Perfect Day in Labadee, Haiti. Those islands are prominently featured in much of Royal's advertising, and there's a lot that will get your attention there, from hammocks scattered throughout to sand volleyball on demand, plus kid-friendly and adults-only snorkeling opportunities.

Not all-inclusive

But, those islands also taught us something we weren't aware of when we booked our last Royal Caribbean cruise: not everything is included as part of your fare. Those amazing waterslides and pools on CocoCay? Expect to pay about $90 per person just to access the waterpark (though it could be higher or lower, depending on any available promotions and whether you book in advance or wait until you're onboard). Some of the amenities on the ship come with an extra cost too, like playing the escape room or using the indoor skydiving simulator.

Something for almost every traveler

Still, it's hard to beat Royal Caribbean in many ways: affordable pricing, especially for last-minute cruises and with deals and promotions; plenty of itineraries to choose from; over 300 ports of call, you get the picture. Unless you're looking for an ultra-luxurious cruise, RCCL is really a one-size-fits-all option.

Best Cruise Lines

Best selection of cruises for all destinations

Just take a look at our comparison cruise, a March sailing to the Caribbean booked a little less than a year in advance: Royal had a staggering 48 options to consider, starting with a 3-night Bahamas & Perfect Day itinerary priced at $250 per person, and going up to $2,235 for a 7-night sailing on Royal's newest ship, Icon of the Seas (with six waterslides in the largest waterpark at sea). Or, you could take a longer vacay and spend 12 nights on a Southern Caribbean itinerary with ports of call in the USVI, St. Maarten, St. Lucia, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, starting at $861 per person and sailing out of Baltimore.

Great deals if you can travel last-minute

If you're more the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants type, there are some great deals to be had with Royal Caribbean too. In doing the research for this review, it was hard not to yell out "Sign me up!" when spotting 17-night transatlantic sailings with dream ports of call like Greece and Israel, priced at under $1,000 per person - if we were willing to leave in a week. Just look for the Last Minute Cruises section of the RCCL website and start packing your bags.

We're also happy to say that Royal Caribbean Cruise Line has an impressive record for safety. Despite being one of the largest cruise lines in the world, there haven't been any major incidents that we're aware of. The company invests heavily in safety training and technology, and its ships are equipped with advanced safety features such as GPS tracking and fire suppression systems.

Top-ranked cruise line

Royal Caribbean is a popular cruise line that offers a wide range of cruise itineraries and onboard experiences. The company's large ships offer impressive amenities and activities, while its smaller vessels offer a more intimate and personalized feel. With its commitment to family-friendly entertainment and activities, as well as its focus on safety and sustainability, Royal Caribbean is a great choice for travelers looking for a fun and immersive cruise experience - practically anywhere in the world. This cruise line earns our top ranking.

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The 15 Best Cruise Lines

Which cruise line is the best.

Cruising is a popular way of traveling for many people, offering a unique experience that combines the convenience of a floating hotel with the excitement of visiting multiple destinations in one trip. In an average year, over fifteen million people say "all aboard" and set sail on an amazing vacation.

There are many different cruise lines to choose from, and each one offers a different type of experience. Some are geared towards families, while others are more focused on luxury or adventure. What would you like to see and do while you're onboard? Is a casino a must-have or a rather-avoid? Would a Broadway-caliber show tip the scales for you? Do you need a wide range of activities to keep the kiddos happy while the adults live it up or relax? The onboard activities and amenities can really make or break your vacation, so be sure you know what you're getting.

The Best Cruise Lines

Cruise Line FAQ

Which cruise line is the best, what is included in the cost of a cruise, what is the minimum age to cruise, what are the dining options on a cruise ship, are cruise ships crowded, do i have to dress up, are activities included at destination ports, can i bring my own alcohol onboard.

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Continued from above...

Another factor that can influence which cruise line you choose is the itinerary. Cruise ships travel all over the world, but some cruise lines may not have destinations available where you're hoping to go. You should also consider the size of the ship: larger ships offer more amenities, but smaller ships can access ports that bigger ships can't.

Speaking of amenities, make sure you understand what you'll get as part of your fare and which extras will come with an additional cost. For example, most cruises offer drink packages for alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, but a few have drink stations where you can get complimentary lemonade, coffee and tea. Other amenities that might be important to you are Wi-Fi, spa services, babysitting, fitness classes, and upgraded dining experiences. You can usually get a decent discount if you sign up for an amenities package before you sail, so keep an eye out for promotions in the months leading up to your sailing.

When you take a cruise, it's almost always expected that you'll tip the crew members who have attended to your needs while onboard: your cabin steward ( who probably leaves your towels folded into fun shapes every night ), your servers at your nightly meals, and the head waiter. Cruise lines have a recommended gratuity to cover all three of those staff members, usually $15-$20 per traveler, per day; the total gratuity amount may be charged automatically to your account, or you may be given envelopes to make cash payments.

While it usually isn't mandatory to pay those gratuities - you can ask to have them removed if they're applied automatically, especially if you've received poor service - it's typically considered in poor taste not to tip at the suggested levels (because crew members' salaries, much like servers at your local restaurant, are based on the expectation of tips paid by guests). And, if you receive service that goes above and beyond, adding to the recommended gratuity is always appreciated. Be aware that tips for bartenders, poolside servers, and professional services provided in the spa or elsewhere are not included in the daily suggested gratuity and may be charged automatically at the time of service.

Now that you have a good overview of the cruising experience, which cruise line should you choose? Beyond the points we already covered, here are a few additional criteria that might make it easier to pick:

  • Embarkation port. You could get a great deal on a cruise, but what will it cost you to get to the port? That could involve airfare, an overnight stay or two in a nearby hotel (so that you're less likely to be affected by travel delays), and transportation from the airport or hotel to the port. This is especially true if you're taking a cruise that departs from an international destination.
  • Perks for repeat cruisers. Like frequent flyer programs on airlines, most cruise lines offer benefits the more you sail. If you find yourself absolutely loving cruise vacations, it can be advantageous to put all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak. Rewards programs can include casino benefits, complimentary meals at the upgraded dining experiences, exclusive sail-away parties with free cocktails and tchotchkes, early-access booking on future cruises, and much more.
  • Reputation. It's a really smart idea to see what other travelers have said about their overall experience with a cruise line before booking your trip. The ads on TV may make that private island look amazing, but someone who's been there might point out that you'll pay extra to get on that waterslide. Or, previous cruisers could tell you that despite having several formal nights on the schedule, a particular cruise line has no problem with people showing up to dinner in flip-flops and swimsuit coverups. Find out if the cruise line you're considering lines up in reality with what they advertise.

Here at Top Consumer Reviews, cruising is one of our favorite ways to travel and experience new things. And with so many different cruise lines to choose from, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. But, don't worry: take a look at our in-depth analysis of today's most popular options, find the one that's the best match for your vacation ideas and your travel party, and book that trip you've been dreaming of. Bon voyage!

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Royal Caribbean

These big, bold, loud ships are packed with activities you wouldn't expect to find at sea — from ice skating rinks and rock climbing walls to skydiving simulators, bionic bartenders, bumper cars, and even surfing simulators. Just how big are these vessels? The fleet includes the largest cruise ships in the world, among them 2024’s Icon of the Seas , which accommodates as many as 7,600 guests, and 2022’s  Wonder of the Seas , which sails with 7,084 passengers when it is at full capacity. 

Nightlife:  Night owls will find plenty of action. Spend the evening in the Vegas-style Casino Royale, toast with cocktails and a view in the Viking Crown Lounge, check out the two-level disco, or try salsa dancing at Boleros.

Cabin Choices:  Royal Caribbean’s ships have as many as three dozen or more cabin categories, and there’s a price level for everyone. Look for innovative designs, including two-story loft suites, cabins with views of the ship’s mall-like promenade, and inside cabins with “virtual balconies,” designed around a full-length LCD screen that displays a real-time video feed of the sea.

Staying Connected:  This is the line for you if you want to Instagram, Snapchat, FaceTime, Skype, and even stream movies while on board. Royal Caribbean’s high-speed Wi-Fi is among the fastest at sea, and it’s available fleet-wide — perfect for passengers who hate the idea of unplugging. To enjoy the cruise line’s Voom internet service, however, you’ll need to pay a daily fee that’s considerably more than you pay at home.

Johnny Rockets:  On a dozen of the ships, for a $6.95 cover charge you can sit in a poolside diner with a retro 1950s theme and order those familiar burgers, chili fries, and onion rings for lunch or dinner — although shakes, sodas, and alcoholic beverages cost extra.

Nightlife:  Night owls will find plenty of action. Spend the evening in the Vegas-style Casino Royale, toast with cocktails and a view in the Viking Crown Lounge, check out the two-level disco, or try salsa dancing at Boleros.

Johnny Rockets:  On a dozen of the ships, for a $4.95 cover charge you can sit in a poolside diner and order those familiar burgers, chili fries, and shakes.

The Young (and Young at Heart): This mainstream line appeals to cruisers of all ages, with plenty of activity and entertainment options as well as extensive kids clubs. Families flock to the larger, newer ships while the more seasoned crowd is more often found on the line’s smaller, older ships.

You Can Get Lost: On the first day, you’ll need to consult the deck plan often, or download an app, to be able to figure out how to get around.

Crowds Are Unavoidable: These are big ships, and you’ll be one of many searching for an available lounge chair on the sun deck on a sunny day, or hoping to catch the last seat in a show lounge, or waiting for your omelet at the buffet.

Food Isn’t the Main Draw Here:  Our opinion of most food on board? It’s okay, not great. The few exceptions include 150 Central Park and several other top specialty restaurants on the line's newer ships, including the molecular gastronomy-inspired Wonderland and Jamie’s Italian, which was designed in partnership with British TV personality, Jamie Oliver.

Fran Golden Deal Expert / Travel Blogger

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Cheap Royal Caribbean Cruises

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5 Night Cruise to the Western Caribbean

  • You want a freshly renovated older ship with lots of activities
  • You like plenty of open decks and cabins with balconies
  • You want a ship that provides fun with a touch of class
  • You want a quiet, classically understated cruise experience
  • You need diversions like massive waterparks and ziplines

4 Night Cruise to Canada & New England

  • You want mega-ship fun with innovative onboard features
  • You need a cruise that is suitable for families of all ages
  • You want your ships big and bold but with a touch of class
  • You hate crowds; things can get competitive at the buffet
  • You are looking for cruises longer than a week in duration
  • You don't enjoy being upsold for promotions and packages

5 Night Cruise to Bermuda

4 night cruise to alaska.

  • You like scenic cruising; this bright ship is perfect for it
  • You appreciate a traditional look with high-tech features
  • You want big ship amenities wrapped up in a smaller package
  • You're after active diversions like ziplines and surf simulators
  • You want nonstop activities and a party atmosphere onboard

14 Night Cruise to the Middle East

  • You want to sail one of the most high-tech ships afloat
  • You are cruising with kids; the bumper cars are a big hit
  • You want a weeklong cruise to the most popular ports of call
  • You dislike having to make reservations for nearly everything
  • You're unimpressed by techy features like robot bartenders

7 Night Cruise to the Western Caribbean

  • You want an energetic cruise that's impossibly fun for all
  • You love action; the Ultimate Abyss slide is heart-pounding
  • You enjoy big, busy ships filled with plenty of dining options
  • You prefer a more traditional, laid-back cruise experience
  • You love watching the sea; some public rooms lack windows

4 Night Cruise to the Western Caribbean

  • You a value-packed cruise on a ship with plenty of features
  • You find Royal Caribbean's newer ships to be just too big
  • You like to keep busy and want a full schedule of activities
  • You want the wow factor of Royal Caribbean's big new ships
  • You need spacious cabins; standard cabins are fairly tight
  • You want all the latest bells and whistles to be onboard
  • You want to be wowed by glitzy, Vegas-style attractions
  • You need plenty of exciting activities and nonstop nights
  • You are traveling as a family and need something for everyone
  • You want cutting-edge design and all the latest features
  • You dislike crowds and additional charges; both are here

3 Night Cruise to the Bahamas

4 night cruise to bermuda, 8 night cruise to the bahamas.

  • You like lots of fun activities on a big ship with fewer people
  • You are on a budget, and need a ship offering plenty of value
  • You don't need the latest bells and whistles to have a good time
  • You prefer Royal Caribbean's bigger, more feature-rich ships
  • You want spacious cabins; Vision's are on the small side

4 Night Cruise to the Bahamas

4 night cruise to the mexican riviera.

  • You want new features like virtual balconies in inside cabins
  • You want a big-ship experience with family-friendly fun
  • You want a splash of traditional grandeur with lots of choice
  • You want a ship with plenty of massive, windowed public rooms
  • You want a quiet cruise experience that focuses on relaxation
  • You want a ship that will offer something for the whole family
  • You like having plenty of choices for dining and entertainment
  • You want a big-ship experience that won't break the bank
  • You want the newest, flashiest diversions available at sea
  • You hate crowds and lines; this is a big ship that has both

5 Night Cruise to Alaska

  • You want a fun, big-ship cruise with classic nautical motifs
  • You love open deck space; this ship has plenty to go around
  • You want a variety of window-lined restaurants and lounges
  • You want the gadgets found on Royal Caribbean's newer ships
  • You think bigger is better and want a Vegas-style experience

3 Night Cruise to Asia

7 night cruise to the southern caribbean.

  • You like your ships big on features but manageably sized
  • You want lots of activities suitable for families of all ages
  • You want a cruise with consistent service and good value
  • You are looking for the latest jaw-dropping onboard features
  • You need lavish cabins and suites with lots of space
  • You want solid entertainment and splashy, Broadway-style shows
  • You like to keep busy, and want active days and vibrant nights
  • You want a big ship cruise with plenty of bang for your buck
  • You want longer cruises that explore uncommon destinations
  • You prefer a more traditional, laid-back kind of cruise vacation

7 Night Cruise to the Western Mediterranean

  • You want an energetic, action-packed resort-at-sea experience
  • You like the sound of surfing, climbing and ziplining at sea
  • You enjoy Vegas-style experiences, with glitz at every turn
  • You want to see the sea; many interiors have few windows
  • You like traditional touches; this ship is about rule breaking
  • You're looking for an intimate cruise; this ship is huge

Travelers are discussing:

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Royal Caribbean vs. Carnival: Which big-ship cruise line should you choose?

Fran Golden

If you're considering a cruise with Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line, you're looking at an affordable big-ship experience with lots of activities.

These two companies are the largest in the cruise industry, each with two dozen ships carrying millions of passengers a year. They are popular for a reason: Their ships offer something for everyone, from kids to seniors.

Let's go head-to-head, Carnival versus Royal Caribbean, to highlight their similarities and differences and help you choose the line that's right for you.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG's cruise newsletter .

Size of ships

Both Carnival Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean have two sizes of megaships. Their smaller ships carry 3,000 to 4,000 passengers; their larger ones are huge and carry more than 5,000 guests. Royal Caribbean wins the battle of size, with five of the world's largest ships — including Wonder of the Seas and new Icon of the Seas, the two largest cruise ships afloat.

Related: The 8 classes of Carnival Cruise Line ships, explained

Royal Caribbean's largest classes — Oasis Class and Icon Class — are so big they are divided into neighborhoods. Oasis Class ships feature a Central Park with real trees and a Boardwalk area with a carousel, slides that drop multiple decks and a special theater for high-diving shows.

Not to be outdone, Carnival's largest ships — Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee — are divided into zones, such as Mardi Gras' French Quarter with a live jazz club.

No matter the size, all the ships of both lines qualify as floating resorts, with onboard casinos, pools, live entertainment, elaborate spas, lively dance clubs, lots of bars — and crowds.

Related: The 6 classes of Royal Caribbean ships, explained

Cabins and suites

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Both lines cite with pride their price range for all vacationers, but you'll notice each excels in a different accommodation area.

Royal Caribbean is a better option if you want a huge selection of cabin categories. The cruise line offers everything from tight inside cabins with virtual balconies (an LED screen that looks like the ocean) to fancy two-story loft suites . Its largest ships have the most room choice, and you can book suites with views of the high-diving show or the ships' Royal Promenade, Central Park or Boardwalk areas. The soothing decor is like a Marriott or Hilton hotel, nice and slightly upscale.

Related: Everything you want to know about Royal Caribbean cabins and suites

Carnival wins for the size of its standard cabins, which are the largest in the industry. The decor is typically bright and casual. Specialty cabins on select ships include Family Harbor cabins, with access to a shared family lounge, and Havana suites, with daytime access to a private pool area. The newest ships have more suites than earlier vessels.

Related: Everything you want to know about Carnival cabins and suites

Food and drink

When looking at dining options on Royal Caribbean versus Carnival, Carnival has the edge for abundant included offerings, and Royal Caribbean leads with its number of extra-fee specialty restaurants .

Carnival fans will tell you the food on board is great, and most travel writers will agree the line shines in this area — including extra-fee options, such as impressive steakhouses and JiJi for Asian cuisine. Carnival's lineup of free eats is impressive — headlined by poolside burgers by Food Network star Guy Fieri, but also including Mexican, barbecue, excellent Italian-style pizza and Shaq's fried chicken.

If you like Indian cuisine, you are in for a treat with delicious vegetarian dishes on the main dining room menu each night. On select ships, Carnival has its own New Orleans bistros by Emeril Lagasse and breweries where the drink is accompanied by Fieri's barbecue (for a fee).

Most of Royal Caribbean's free food is found in its Windjammer Marketplace ( the buffet ) and main dining rooms, the focus again on normal cuisine you'd expect to find at a hotel. Ships offer a variety of extra-fee restaurants, with specialties ranging from sushi to steak . A shining point in these alternative venues is Jamie's Italian, in partnership with British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. You also can pay for a burger and milkshake at Johnny Rockets on Royal Caribbean's larger ships.

Related: The ultimate guide to cruise ship food and dining

Kids activities

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Both cruise lines have well-established programs to keep your kids happy, so you can get some downtime to relax and do grown-up things. Both lines host more than a million children a year. The camp-like programs include age-appropriate activities like arts and crafts, movies and sports and cool clubs for tweens and teens.

Royal Caribbean's Adventure Ocean program (for ages 3-12) includes an opportunity for kids to become Certified Jr. Adventure Scientists. There are also Royal Babies and Royal Tots options for those travelers with infants and toddlers, and cool hangouts for tweens and teens.

Carnival's Camp Ocean program (for ages 2-11) has some activities designed to educate kids about the ocean. Carnival also has a partnership with Dr. Seuss that includes encouraging children to read the classic books and get to know the characters in a participatory parade, during story times and at an extra-fee Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast hosted by the Cat in the Hat. Tweens and teens have separate lounges with video games, comfy seating and versatile spaces for games or dancing.

Related: 5 best cruise lines for families

Onboard attractions

Active cruisers take note: Royal Caribbean is an innovative company and pushes the envelope on activities. All the cruise line's ships have rock climbing walls, and many have FlowRider surfing simulators .

Among the activity choices on various ships are ice skating rinks, carousels, zip lines, miniature golf, laser tag, escape rooms, waterslides , simulated skydiving setups, a 10-story thrill slide called Ultimate Abyss , a mechanical arm that lifts a London Eye-style pod high above the ship for views and other mind-blowing features. The larger the ship, the more onboard activities you'll find.

Carnival can't quite compete in this department, but its ships don't lack things to do. It's known for its WaterWorks water parks with multiple waterslides and splash areas for little kids, as well as for Bolt, the first roller coaster at sea (found only on Mardi Gras , Carnival Celebration and Carnival Jubilee).

On select ships, you will find outdoor ropes courses where you can walk a plank off the ship (while in a harness), a top-deck ride involving pedaling a hanging recumbent bike, miniature golf, Imax theaters and indoor trampoline parks.

Related: The 10 wildest attractions you'll find on a cruise ship


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Royal Caribbean and Carnival take different approaches to onboard entertainment as well, though you'll never be bored on either line.

Royal Caribbean produces real Broadway shows (albeit shortened versions), such as "Grease," "Hairspray" and "Cats" on its biggest ships. Select ships feature innovative performance spaces; you'll find outdoor shows starring acrobats and high-divers at the line's AquaTheaters and ice skating shows at its ice skating rinks.

Multimedia shows in high-tech Two70 theaters on the Quantum Class ships feature performers and robotics. A popular late-night hangout spot is the Boleros salsa dance club.

Carnival also excels at live entertainment, but its style is different from Royal Caribbean's. Instead of Broadway musicals, it offers 35- to 45-minute high-tech Playlist Productions, featuring singers and dancers performing to original compilations of familiar tunes. Carnival puts a big emphasis on comedy; the line's Punchliner Comedy Clubs host more than 27,000 live performances a year, which makes Carnival the largest employer of comics in the world.

Carnival also puts together its own live bands and musical acts — whether jazz, rock 'n' roll, show band or classical — that entertain at various bars and public areas throughout its ships.

While both lines offer a roster of games and contests — think Battle of the Sexes, the Newly (and Not So Newly)wed Game and some version of an adult scavenger hunt — Carnival has shipboard versions of the popular show "Family Feud." It's also known for audience participation games around the pool and rollicking music trivia.

Related: Which cruise ship activities should you book ahead of time?

Who is on board?

Carnival's focus is affordable contemporary cruising for everyone, with an emphasis on fun. Its "Fun Ships" provide a casual and carefree experience; the crowd consists mostly of American, young and young-at-heart adults and their families. A lot of people come aboard looking for fun times — but don't think it's a haven for debauchery. It's still a family cruise line.

Since Carnival sails from many U.S. ports, you'll find that a high percentage of cruisers on board hail from nearby states and have driven to the ship — meaning different ships can have different vibes and passenger bases.

Royal Caribbean's crowd is a mix of international travelers and those from North America, including couples, families and singles from all walks of life. You'll find night owls on Royal Caribbean, too, though the crowd is a tad more upscale and less rowdy than on Carnival. That's partly because Royal Caribbean ships have a higher percentage of expensive suites on board and attract travelers who can afford to pay for that type of luxury.


Carnival ships mostly cruise in North America, with voyages in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Alaska, Canada/New England and the Mexican Riviera (from California). The line offers limited sailings in Europe.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Carnival ship

Royal Caribbean puts much emphasis on North America — the Caribbean, Bahamas (including the line's own extravagant private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay ), Alaska, Canada/New England and the Mexican Riviera — but also sails several regions in Europe. Its ships can be found in other international destinations, such as Australia, New Zealand, China and Singapore.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Royal Caribbean ship

Bottom line

As a first-time cruiser, you can't go wrong with either Royal Caribbean or Carnival Cruise Line. Pick Royal Caribbean if you are looking for innovative attractions and a slightly more upscale atmosphere. Choose Carnival if you want great food and to have a blast in a casual environment at a more affordable price.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

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  • A beginners guide to picking a cruise line
  • The 8 worst cabin locations on any cruise ship
  • A quick guide to the most popular cruise lines
  • 21 tips and tricks that will make your cruise go smoothly
  • 15 ways cruisers waste money
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  • The ultimate guide to what to pack for a cruise

My $540-a-night cabin on the world's largest cruise ship was shockingly small and disappointing

  • I recently sailed on the world's largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's new Icon of the Seas .
  • I stayed in an ocean-view balcony cabin, which starts at $3,790 a person in 2024.
  • My stateroom was a letdown and had a tiny bathroom — I'm not sure it would be comfortable for a family.

Insider Today

If you're assuming the world's new largest cruise ship, Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas , has giant guest cabins, I'm here to give you a reality check.

You're wrong. So wrong. 

Sure, if you’re shelling out over $100,000 a week for the ship’s most expensive Ultimate Family Townhouse suite , you’ll probably find the 2,523-square-foot, three-floor mansion perfectly comfortable. 

But if you’re like me — a normie who can’t afford a seven-day vacation that costs more than a luxury car — your stateroom on the behemoth 1,198-foot, 20-deck ship might be smaller than you’d expect.

Royal Caribbean invited me on the Icon of the Seas' complimentary three-night preview sailing in late January — a week before the ship's official debut.

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I was assigned one of the ocean-view balcony cabins on deck 14, near the spa.

A cool 80% of its 2,805 cabins were designed for families — a sharp increase from previous vessels, Michael Bayley, the president and CEO of Royal Caribbean International, told reporters.

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The cruise operator is going after families. It makes sense — the Icon of the Seas looks like a giant floating amusement park .

But I'm not sure a family of four could peacefully coexist in my balcony cabin.

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I can be a picky cruise cynic . But I have a right to be disgruntled by a stateroom bathroom so small that it made a cryotherapy chamber look like a mansion.

Equally disgruntling could be its price: The Icon’s ocean-view balcony cabins start at $3,790 a person in 2024.

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The megaship is spending its first year operating weeklong cruises from Miami to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Royal Caribbean’s private island, Perfect Day at CocoCay . So the price comes out to $540 a night per person.

At least the stateroom guarantees great views of the ocean.

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Some of the ship's balcony cabins face the interior, either the Icon’s plant-filled Central Park or the colorful, kid-friendly Surfside neighborhood.

Thankfully, my 50-square-foot balcony — one-fourth the size of the cabin's interior — overlooked the ocean, serving as my meditative reprieve from the chaotic megaship.

But when I dragged myself back inside, my ocean-breeze-induced peace was quickly replaced with a list of complaints.

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Two twin mattresses were pushed together to make the king-size bed.

Unfortunately for my back pain, the hard ridge where the two beds met made me feel like a princess sleeping on a pea.

It didn't help that the sheets were unusually uncomfortable.

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But I'll pretend my bed's view of the TV, which included Chromecast, makes up for this.

The hotel room at sea can sleep up to four travelers thanks to the living room's sofa bed.

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I'm using "room" loosely. Like most cruise cabins, it was just a couch and a desk with a vanity.

Not much to say here: The space wasn't a standout.

(I'm just saving my breath for all my gripes with the bathroom.)

I've seen some small bathrooms. I live in a New York City apartment, after all.

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But the one in my stateroom made my apartment's box of a bathroom seem like a palatial retreat fit for a king (of a porcelain throne).

The room couldn't fit more than one person at a time. It could barely accommodate my bony elbows.

And the amenities fell short. I was hoping for more than a two-in-one body wash and shampoo.

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Some hair conditioner would’ve been nice, especially after a few hours at the ship’s chlorine-filled water park and hot tubs.

But I should’ve expected it — I had the same complaint when I sailed on the Icon’s predecessor and the world’s previous largest cruise ship, Wonder of the Seas .

Is it too much to ask for bath towels that don’t pill all over your face? I have a skincare routine to upkeep here.

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Problems aside, I'll admit the bathroom carried surprisingly decent storage: three sets of shelves and a deep drawer.

Ample storage should be a priority for any cruising family, especially in a small four-person cabin.

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Thankfully, I have minimal complaints in this department.

Small shelves were subtly integrated near the TV, the desk had plenty of drawers, and the closet was, well, a closet.

But I, ever the opinionated, have a bone to pick with the latter.

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The wardrobe's metal bins let out ear-piercing screeches at every move. It was a lazy design decision, and I'm sure some cheap felt pads could've saved me a few winces.

In defense of Royal Caribbean, my balcony cabin did come with all the bare essentials.

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And I'll admit I found myself retreating to my stateroom more times than I'd expected during my three nights on the Icon.

The ship was overwhelming. My cabin was not.

But at $540 a night per person, I had hoped for a nearly perfect hotel room at sea.

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The cost to vacation in the Icon's balcony cabin is comparable to that of an ultraluxury cruise ship .

Please, sir, I want some more square footage in the bathroom, towels that don't shed, a comfortable bed, and maybe even a drop of hair conditioner. (That's what Oliver Twist said, right?)

However, some traveling families could find this price justifiable.

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Cruises are often seen as a reasonable vacation value proposition . 

Besides the cabin, the cost to sail on the megaship includes fun nighttime entertainment, half the ship's restaurants, and activities like mini golf.

So think of it this way: You're not paying $3,790 per person to bicker with your kids about who gets to use the tiny bathroom first.

royal caribbean caribbean cruise reviews

You're paying to spend your afternoons flailing around the Icon of the Seas' six-slide water park and indulging in as many hot dogs as your heart desires.

royal caribbean caribbean cruise reviews

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On the World’s Largest Cruise Ship, Thrills and Space to Chill

Our reporter joined thousands of passengers on the inaugural sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas. Yes, the water rides were wild. But the most surprising thing she found? Some actual peace and quiet.

Ceylan Yeginsu, a reporter for the Travel section, tries out a ride in the sprawling water park on Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas cruise ship. Credit...

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By Ceylan Yeginsu

Photographs by Scott McIntyre

  • Feb. 9, 2024

One man got down on his knees and kissed the rug emblazoned with the ship’s logo. Another lifted his wife and swung her around, ecstatic to be among the roughly 5,000 passengers to embark on the inaugural sailing of the world’s largest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas.

For months, the 250,800-ton ship, which can carry nearly 8,000 people, has been making headlines — including some that have criticized its size and potential to damage the environment . But the passengers who plunked down $1,800 to $100,000 and boarded the ship at Port Miami in Florida on Jan. 27, said nothing could have prepared them for the vessel’s sheer scale.

“It’s stunning,” said Christina Carvalho, a 43-year-old accountant from Oakland, Calif., as she stood on the ship’s Royal Promenade, gaping up at “The Pearl,” a gigantic kinetic art installation. “It feels even bigger than I expected.”

While Royal Caribbean has packed the ship with amenities to craft “the ultimate family vacation,” the company’s design team has tried to defy negative stereotypes like crowded decks and long lines. Instead of steel walls, the interior is open and airy, with floor-to-ceiling windows to bring passengers closer to the water and make the central thoroughfare feel less like a shopping mall.

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“Over the years our customers told us that despite being on the ocean, they did not feel connected to it, so with Icon we wanted to bring water everywhere,” said Jennifer Goswami, the director of product development at Royal Caribbean International.

I was on board the Icon of the Seas for five days of its seven-night inaugural sailing to the eastern Caribbean. Here are some of my takeaways:

Passengers board a ship, taking photos with their cellphones.


Embarkation starts through Royal Caribbean’s app. After some glitches, it took me 10 minutes to scan identification documents, fill out a health form and pick a time slot for boarding.

On the day of the sailing, I headed to Port Miami expecting chaos, but as I got out of the taxi, I was greeted by a porter who took my bag and ushered me to the terminal. I scanned my app, showed my passport and went through security in less than 10 minutes. I lingered, waiting to see if others had as smooth an experience as I did, but there was just a steady flow of passengers ascending the gangway.

The ship has the feel of a city, with eight distinct “neighborhoods.” My favorite, Central Park, was filled with 20,000 plant species; it was the perfect place to stroll or read on a bench. The Royal Promenade, with karaoke and a piano bar, could get crowded and noisy at peak times.

The seven swimming pools are designed for different vibes and demographics: The Hideaway is an adults-only infinity pool, with D.J. sets and cocktails; another adult pool has an adjacent children’s splash pool. Empty lounge chairs were plentiful for sunbathers across the ship.

On our first sea day, I was so surprised by the relative absence of crowds that I walked the ship trying to find them. But with so many venues, including 40 restaurants, bars and entertainment spaces, passengers were constantly moving around.

Seeking a quiet space one afternoon, I found the Aquadome , a tranquil lounging area with wraparound windows. Fellow passengers napped there.

Entertainment and activities

From a sunrise surf simulator lesson to late-night dancing in the nightclub, the ship seems to offer something for everyone, most of it free. The water park with six slides was a big draw. One ride, the Crown’s Edge, is not complimentary: Starting at $49, it tosses you (in a harness) above the sea, leaving you dangling.

There is a fitness center, jogging track, a basketball and soccer court, a putt-putt course, pickleball, rock climbing and dancing. A wellness center and spa offers treatments for an additional cost. All can be reserved on the app; for popular attractions like the Crown’s Edge it’s helpful to book ahead because places fill up fast.

For nightly entertainment, “Aqua Action” was a standout, with aquatic entertainers performing under a 55-foot waterfall, as was the comedy club.

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Not surprisingly, some passengers felt overprogrammed. “There’s almost too much to do,” said Nancy Carter, 54, a nurse from Brighton, England. “It’s hard to plan your day and even when you are busy doing something, you feel like you are missing out on something else.”

At the Surfside neighborhood, there are pools and restaurants for both adults and children so that families can spend time together. For parents wanting alone time, the Adventure Ocean child-care facility has play areas and programs for ages 6 months to 12 years that is included in the fare.

There’s a social center for teenagers, too, with games and music. “It’s a great place to meet new people and make friends,” said Madison Foxx, 14, from Morrisville, N.C. Her mother, Ashley, a 38-year-old federal prosecutor, said the ship kept her two children entertained and allowed her both alone time and quality family time.

“I can relax and the kids are happy and busy all day," she said. “Then we have many special moments together.”

One of the biggest surprises was the array of dining choices.

The Windjammer Cafe and the main dining room were the busiest all-inclusive options. My daily go-to was the Aquadome food hall, with crepes made-to-order and a Greek food stand. Another favorite of mine was Pier 7, a restaurant in Surfside that served raw-tuna Buddha bowls, mango-lime shrimp tostadas and other dishes.

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Meals at specialty restaurants, such as Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen and Hooked Seafood, come at an additional cost, or are included in some food and beverages packages that range from $9.99 to $115 per day. Reservations are recommended.

The Empire Supper Club offers an eight-course meal paired with cocktails. At $200, the tasting menu included Wagyu rib-eye, rabbit and sea bass topped with parsnip and red beets.

Cabin prices — which recently increased, because of high demand — range from $2,699 per person for an interior cabin to over $100,000 for a three-story townhouse with an indoor slide and backyard. Some family accommodations have connecting rooms and large terraces.

Though only 204 square feet, my ocean balcony room did not feel cramped thanks to minimalist design and the views.


Royal Caribbean says it set a new standard for sustainability with this ship, installing advanced water-treatment and waste systems, among other features. But some environmental groups say that building a vessel this size is not compatible with the cruise industry’s long-term sustainability goals.

On board, I saw staff sorting through the trash to take out misplaced items to recycle, and single-use plastic appeared to be minimal; passengers were given reusable cups at drinking stations.

That the water slides remained on, even after they were closed to passengers, caught me by surprise. It seemed like an unnecessary waste of energy. (Royal Caribbean did not respond to a request for comment.)

Passengers I spoke to did not seem too concerned about the ship’s potential to harm the environment, with some arguing that land and air travel are not climate-friendly either.

Our seven-night itinerary started with two days at sea. The first stop was on Day 4 at Basseterre, the capital of St. Kitts and Nevis. Excursions ranged from a hike up Mount Liamuiga to a food-and-rum tour, with prices from $39 to $249. I chose a sailing and snorkeling excursion ($155) and enjoyed the secluded bay, but the beach was crowded and touristy.

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An anticipated excursion for Ms. Foxx, the federal prosecutor, and others was Coco Cay, Royal Caribbean’s private island. When I asked about her visit — I called later, having to disembark before the excursion — Ms. Foxx said her children loved the slides and snorkeling.

And would she sail on the Icon of the Seas again?

“Yes, but I might wait a bit,” she replied. “I want everyone to get a chance to try it out.”

Follow New York Times Travel on Instagram and sign up for our weekly Travel Dispatch newsletter to get expert tips on traveling smarter and inspiration for your next vacation. Dreaming up a future getaway or just armchair traveling? Check out our 52 Places to Go in 2024 .

Ceylan Yeginsu is a travel reporter for The Times who frequently writes about the cruise industry and Europe, where she is based. More about Ceylan Yeginsu

Come Sail Away

Love them or hate them, cruises can provide a unique perspective on travel..

 Icon of the Seas: Our reporter joined thousands of passengers on the inaugural sailing of Royal Caribbean’s Icon of the Seas . The most surprising thing she found? Some actual peace and quiet .

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Royal Caribbean Unveils 2025-26 Cruise Line-Up

Time to start planning: Royal Caribbean International has unveiled its cruise lineup for 2025-26.

The cruise line opened 2025-26 bookings today to members of its loyalty program, the Crown & Anchor Society. Bookings will open to the general public on February 15.

In the summer and winter of 2025-26, Royal Caribbean’s ships will depart from seven U.S. cities in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Northeast. Itineraries range from five to 12 nights.

Here’s a snapshot of some of the upcoming offerings:

  • Odyssey of the Seas will homeport in the New York area (at Cape Liberty in Bayonne, New Jersey) and offer getaways to The Bahamas, including stops at the cruise line’s private island destination Perfect Day at CocoCay .
  • Symphony of the Seas will depart from Bayonne in the summer of 2025 before returning to Miami in October 2025. From there, the Oasis Class-ship will offer 7-night eastern and western Caribbean voyages.
  • Allure of the Seas will offer 6- and 8-night eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Fort Lauderdale, followed by 7-night western Caribbean voyages departing from Galveston.
  • Liberty of the Seas will depart from Bayonne and offer 4-, 5- and 9-night journeys to the eastern Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada and New England.
  • Brilliance of the Seas will offer 7-night cruises from Boston north to Atlantic Canada, followed by southern Caribbean voyages departing from Puerto Rico.
  • Jewel of the Seas will homeport in Puerto Rico and offer 7-night southern Caribbean getaways.
  • Vision of the Seas will offer roundtrip sailings from Baltimore to Bermuda, Perfect Day at CocoCay or Canada, followed by voyages to The Bahamas and the southern Caribbean.

Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's 9-month world cruise rerouted amid Red Sea attacks

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Royal Caribbean International is rerouting its nine-month world cruise amid continued attacks in the Red Sea.

The line’s Ultimate World Cruise, currently sailing on the line’s Serenade of the Seas ship, was set to transit through the Suez Canal in May. The vessel will now sail one of two alternate routes – and passengers get a say.

“In keeping with the adventurous spirit of our guests, we are engaging them for their thoughts and preference between two alternative itineraries that will take them on an epic adventure to Africa,”  a Royal Caribbean spokesperson told USA TODAY in an emailed statement. “They will receive compensation for the adjustment, and guests who prefer to not sail on the updated itinerary will receive a full refund and support for their travel arrangements.”

The spokesperson did not immediately respond to an additional question about how much passengers would be compensated.

The news comes as luxury line Crystal made similar changes to avoid the Red Sea, canceling a March 27 cruise on Crystal Symphony from Mumbai to Piraeus. The line is also rerouting multiple segments of Crystal Serenity’s 2024 world cruise , though the sailing’s length and its June 8 end date will remain the same.

“We are in the process of notifying all impacted guests on both ships,” Crystal said in a statement on Friday. “We greatly appreciate our guests and crew for their understanding and patience during this process.”

Was your cruise itinerary changed?: Here's what to do next

The Iranian-backed Houthis have launched repeated attacks on commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea amid the Israel-Hamas war . The Yemen-based militants have claimed they are showing solidarity with the Palestinians, but experts say there is more to their motivations .

Many other lines, including Virgin Voyages, MSC Cruises and Silversea Cruises, have recently canceled or rerouted sailings away from the area.

Nathan Diller is a consumer travel reporter for USA TODAY based in Nashville. You can reach him at [email protected].


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