What are the top 3 biggest cruise ships in the world?

Cruise ships have grown tremendously in size over the past few decades. As cruise lines compete to offer the most amenities and attractions, ship sizes have increased. The largest cruise ships today are essentially floating cities, with capacities above 6,000 passengers and crew.

For cruise enthusiasts, ship size is an important factor. Bigger ships mean more options for dining, activities, and entertainment. They also mean more spaces to explore and get lost in. Smaller ships have their perks too, but the mega ships definitely make a statement.

If you’re curious about the biggest cruise ships plying the seas today, here are the top 3 based on gross tonnage.

1. Symphony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean

The current largest cruise ship in the world is Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas. This massive ship has a gross tonnage of 228,081 and has capacity for nearly 6,700 passengers at double occupancy. She displaced the previous RC ship on this list and took the crown for size in 2018.

Some vital statistics on the Symphony of the Seas:

  • Tonnage: 228,081 GT
  • Length: 1,188 feet
  • Decks: 18
  • Passenger capacity: 5,518 at double occupancy, nearly 6,700 maximum
  • Crew size: 2,200
  • Top speed: 22 knots

The Symphony is part of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class of ships. These massive ships have a unique structure with ‘neighborhoods’ and large open-air parks, gardens, and recreation areas.

Some of the most amazing features and attractions on the Symphony of the Seas include:

  • The Ultimate Abyss – one of the tallest slides at sea
  • 10-story zip line
  • Carousel on the Boardwalk
  • 2 FlowRider surf simulators
  • 20 dining venues
  • 4 large pools
  • 2 rock climbing walls
  • Full-sized basketball court
  • Minigolf course
  • Ice skating rink
  • Aquatheater with high diving shows
  • Spa and fitness center
  • Youth zones for all ages of kids

With so many features and amenities, it’s no wonder the Symphony of the Seas can command over 6,000 guests at maximum occupancy. This ship has set a new high bar for ‘largest cruise ship’ in the contemporary cruising market.

2. Harmony of the Seas – Royal Caribbean

The second largest cruise ship in the world is the Harmony of the Seas, another Oasis-class vessel from Royal Caribbean. The Harmony of the Seas held the ‘world’s largest’ title for 2 years before being displaced by her newer sister ship.

Here are some key details on this huge cruise ship:

  • Tonnage: 226,963 GT
  • Length: 1,188 feet
  • Decks: 18
  • Passenger capacity: 5,479 at double occupancy, over 6,300 maximum
  • Crew size: 2,100
  • Top speed: 22 knots

As an Oasis-class ship, the Harmony of the Seas shares many features with her newer larger sister. She has ‘neighborhoods’ and large recreation spaces like Central Park and the Boardwalk. Entertainment programming is top-notch.

Some attractions and amenities onboard Harmony of the Seas include:

  • Ultimate Abyss slide
  • 3 multi-story waterslides called the Perfect Storm
  • FlowRider surf simulators
  • 9-hole minigolf course
  • Sports court and ropes course
  • Ice skating rink
  • Aquatheater with high diving shows
  • 20+ dining options
  • Robotic bartenders at the Bionic Bar
  • Youth activities zones
  • Vitality Spa

Though just barely smaller than her newer sister, Harmony of the Seas still offers one of the most action-packed cruise experiences at sea. For travelers who love non-stop entertainment, dining, and attractions, this Royal Caribbean ship delivers in a big way.

3. Allure of the Seas – Royal Caribbean

Rounding out the top 3 largest cruise ships is yet another Royal Caribbean Oasis-class vessel, Allure of the Seas. Like her slightly larger sisters, this ship provides action and amenities around every corner.

Here is a snapshot of some stats for Allure of the Seas:

  • Tonnage: 225,282 GT
  • Length: 1,187 feet
  • Decks: 18
  • Passenger capacity: 5,400 at double occupancy, over 6,000 maximum
  • Crew size: 2,000
  • Top speed: 22 knots

Despite being the 3rd largest cruise ship in the world, the Allure still feels massive. It has all of the iconic Oasis-class features like the Royal Promenade, Central Park, Boardwalk, and Pool and Sports Zone.

Entertainment and attractions aboard the Allure of the Seas include:

  • Ultimate Abyss slide
  • FlowRider surfing
  • Carousel
  • Ice skating rink
  • Zipline
  • Aquatheater with high diving shows
  • Rock climbing walls
  • Minigolf course
  • 20+ dining options
  • Bionic Bar
  • Luxury spa
  • Youth zones

The Allure of the Seas may technically be the smallest ship on this list, but it still out-sizes almost every other cruise ship sailing today. For travelers who want to experience one of the Oasis-class ships, the Allure is a top option.

Comparing the Big 3 Cruise Ships

To summarize, here is an at-a-glance comparison of the 3 biggest cruise ships in the world currently:

Ship Tonnage Passenger Capacity Crew Size Notable Features
Symphony of the Seas 228,081 GT 6,680 max 2,200 Tallest slide at sea, largest RC ship
Harmony of the Seas 226,963 GT 6,360 max 2,100 Ultimate Abyss slide, 3 waterslides
Allure of the Seas 225,282 GT 6,000 max 2,000 Central Park, rock climbing

While very similar, each Oasis-class Royal Caribbean ship has a few unique attractions. But they all provide an unparalleled cruising experience with many of the same signature amenities.

Why So Large?

One may wonder, why do cruise lines keep making bigger and bigger ships? What is the benefit of mega cruise ships?

There are a few key reasons the largest cruise ships today are over 50% larger than ships were just 10-15 years ago:

  • Economy of scale – Bigger ships can carry more passengers at reduced individual cost
  • Onsite amenities – Large ships have more room for activities, dining, entertainment, etc
  • Making a splash – Large new ships draw media coverage and impress first-time cruisers
  • Lots of choices – With more passengers, ships offer more options to attract different groups
  • Stability – Larger ships use hydrodynamics for a smoother, more stable ride

The giant sizes certainly have advantages, but also downsides. Bigger crowds can sometimes lead to congestion. Ports have to be able to accommodate massive ships coming to visit. Environmental impacts increase with ship size as well.

But the cruise industry shows no signs of downsizing yet. As technology and engineering allow for ever larger ships, cruise lines seem eager to go big. The enjoyment from all the activities and amenities also draws in a lot of repeat cruisers.

Growth of Largest Cruise Ships

Though today’s sizes seem impossible, the growth of the world’s largest cruise ships has been steadily increasing for decades:

  • 1970s – New ships are around 20,000 GT
  • 1980s – Some ships reach 70,000+ GT, carrying 2,000 passengers
  • 1990s – Mega ships over 100,000 GT emerge, like Carnival Destiny
  • 2000s – Ships grow rapidly, with Freedom of the Seas at 154,000 GT
  • 2010s – Oasis class hits 220,000+ GT carrying over 6,000 passengers

The leader for largest cruise ship has been claimed by Norwegian, Carnival, and Royal Caribbean at different times. But since 2009, Royal Caribbean has held the ‘world’s largest’ title firmly.

Based on the trajectory, it seems likely a cruise ship over 250,000 GT is on the horizon. But only time will tell if or when that benchmark is reached and what cruise line accomplishes it first.

Biggest Does Not Mean Best

It’s important to note that the largest cruise ships do not necessarily mean the best cruise lines or experiences. Mega ships have pros and cons.

For some travelers, boutique luxury ships under 1,000 passengers provide a better experience than floating cities with 5,000+ people. Smaller ships offer more intimate environments and access to unique ports.

But the biggest class of ship certainly makes sense for some travelers too. Families can find endless activities and entertainment options for kids. Outgoing groups may enjoy the constant stimulation and people watching on a huge ship.

When choosing a cruise, passengers should consider their own preferences and travel style. The mega cruise lines like Royal Caribbean have many ship classes to suit different needs too. Their largest vessels may not be ideal for everyone.

No globally recognized awards name the ‘best’ cruise ships overall. But travel agents can help match travelers to the right cruise line and ship class for their needs.

Safety and Comfort

Despite their enormous size, modern mega cruise ships are engineered for passenger comfort and safety. Some features include:

  • Stabilizer fins minimize side-to-side rocking motion
  • Gyroscopes and active stabilizers reduce pitch and roll motion in waves
  • Multiple engine pods allow greater maneuverability
  • Strong safety barriers around all passenger decks
  • Life jackets for all guests and crew
  • Muster stations for emergency evacuation
  • Water-tight doors, backup systems, damage control contingencies
  • Satellite links, radar, GPS, and communication systems

Safety regulations are set by the IMO (International Maritime Organization) and classification societies. Cruise ships have excellent maritime safety records, as incidents are extremely rare despite the enormous number of passengers carried globally each year.

Top Cruise Lines with Large Ships

While Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships are the clear size leaders, other lines also operate increasingly large vessels. Here are some top cruise brands with mega ships carrying 3,000+ passengers:

  • Royal Caribbean – Oasis, Freedom, Voyager, Quantum classes
  • Carnival Cruise Line – Vista, Dream, Conquest classes
  • Norwegian Cruise Line – Breakaway Plus, Escape, Epic classes
  • MSC Cruises – Meraviglia, Seaside, Fantasia classes
  • Costa Cruises – Vista, Diadema, Fascinosa classes

All of these major cruise lines compete on offerings for meals, entertainment, activities, and more. Launching progressively larger ship classes is one way they entice cruisers.

But larger ships don’t automatically mean a better experience. Passengers should research individual ships and classes to understand the amenities and options. Newer bigger ships often command higher prices too.

Largest Cruise Ships on Order

To retain their dominance, cruise lines have more giant ships on order for the coming years. Some upcoming large vessels under construction include:

  • Celebrity Beyond – Royal Caribbean, 117,000 GT
  • Disney Wish – Disney Cruise Line, 144,000 GT
  • MSC World Europa – MSC Cruises, 205,700 GT
  • Norwegian Prima – Norwegian Cruise Line, 143,500 GT
  • Icon of the Seas – Royal Caribbean, 250,800 GT (expected 2023)

The Icon of the Seas will claim the new largest cruise ship title with capacity for nearly 9,000 passengers at maximum occupancy. She’s expected to debut in late 2023.

More giant cruise ships are in the works through 2025 and beyond. The largest classes today may seem enormous, but companies are committed to creating even more supersized vessels going forward.


In the cruise industry, newer and bigger seems to be the name of the game for many lines. Launching increasingly massive ships is seen as progress and allows cruise companies to boast record-breaking size specs and carry more passengers.

The current largest cruise ships in the world are Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels, led by Symphony of the Seas. At over 1,180 feet long and 225,000+ gross tonnage, these ships feel like small cities on the water.

For some travelers, the mega ships are too crowded. But others enjoy endless choices for dining, activities, entertainment and amenities. First-time cruisers are often wowed by the sheer scale.

Safety regulations ensure proper precautions are taken even as ships grow. And propulsion systems provide maneuverability. While they seem gargantuan, the largest cruise ships today are engineering marvels.

The near future will bring more record-setting cruise ships with capacities over 5,000 passengers. But size is not everything. When choosing a cruise, travelers should focus on finding the right ship and itinerary for their needs and interests.

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