Ideal ocean cruise ship: Ship sizes and what they mean for your cruise

Ships sizes range from megaships (over 4,000 passengers) to very small vessels and luxury yachts whose passengers number in mere dozens, and knowing the differences is key to planning your best cruise vacation.

Cruise experts have divided today’s ships into six categories and provides information on the benefits each provides: XS, S, M, L, XL and XXL.

Extra, Extra Large Ships (XXL) – 4,000+ passengers

These megaships boast unparalleled options in entertainment and amenities. They truly give the impression of being on board a floating city and provide endless choices in dining, activities and shopping (some are so large as to even incorporate a “mall” area with brand name stores). If you desire a resort-type feel from your cruise or worry about sea-sickness, this may be your best option.

Some benefits of XXL ships:

•A large variety of cabin options in every price range
•Dining options that range from small, informal cafes to 5-star restaurants
•Over the top entertainment options that include Broadway-quality shows, 3-D movie theaters, large casinos, extensive waterpark areas and more
•Extremely comprehensive children’s programs and amenities
•Increased ship stability; little sea motion

Example XXL ships:

•Royal Caribbean International: Allure of the Seas, Spectrum of the Seas; Ovation of the Seas, Quantum of the Seas, Anthem of the Seas, Harmony of the Seas, and Oasis of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Odyssey of the Seas
•Disney Cruise Line: Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy
•Costa Cruise Line: Costa Diadema, Costa Venezia, Costa Smeralda
•MSC Cruises: MSC Meraviglia, MSC Seaside, MSC Virtuosa; MSC Grandiosa, MSC Bellissima, MSC Seaview, MSC Preziosa, MSC Divina MSC Splendida,
•Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Bliss, Norwegian Epic, Norwegian Escape
•Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Panorama, Carnival Vista, Carnival Mardi Gras

Extra Large Ships (XL) – 3,000-3,999 passengers

These extra-large ships are a destination unto themselves and are especially good for families and multigenerational cruises due to the many amenities found onboard. There is something for everyone, and many cruisers enjoy their time onboard as much as they do the destinations they visit.

Some benefits of XL ships:

•An abundance of cabin options in many different price ranges
•A variety of dining options, ranging from ultra-casual to very upscale and formal
•A popular favorite with families due to the extensive children’s amenities and programs
•Round-the-clock facilities and activities, such as casinos, water parks, gyms and spas
•Excellent entertainment options and Broadway-quality shows like Royal Caribbean’s productions of Chicago, Hairspray and Saturday Night Fever

Example XL ships:

•Royal Caribbean International: Adventure of the Seas, Explorer of the Seas, Mariner of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas, Voyager of the Seas, Freedom of the Seas, Independence of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas
•Princess Cruises: Caribbean Princess, Crown Princess, Emerald Princess, Majestic Princess, Ruby Princess, Regal Princess, Royal Princess, Sky Princess
•Carnival Cruises: Carnival Splendor, Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Dream, Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Sunrise
•Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Reflection,
•MSC Cruises: MSC Poesia, MSC Magnifica, MSC Musica,
•Costa Cruises: Costa Fascinosa, Costa Favolosa, Costa Magica, Costa Pacifica
•Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Breakaway, Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Getaway, Norwegian Joy

Large Ships (L) – 2,000 to 2,999 passengers

Large ships offer many of the same amenities as the XL ships, on a slightly smaller scale. They don’t necessarily require a ship map to navigate to entertainment and activity options, and tend to have more personal touches.

Some benefits of L ships:

•Many cabin options in different price ranges
•Numerous dining options, ranging from very casual to formal
•A popular favorite with families due to the extensive children’s amenities and programs
•Also popular with older cruisers, as the pace onboard is not as frenetic
•A variety of activities, such as casinos, gyms and spas and often there are bridge instructors on longer itineraries
•Entertainment options may include things like a fireworks display, outdoor movies and stage shows
•Onboard lecturers are often more cerebral with topics like history, politics and geography.

Example L Ships:

•Royal Caribbean International: Enchantment of the Seas, Rhapsody of the Seas, Vision of the Seas, Grandeur of the Seas, Brilliance of the Seas, Jewel of the Seas, Radiance of the Seas, Serenade of the Seas, Majesty of the Seas
•Princess Cruises: Coral Princess, Golden Princess, Grand Princess, Star Princess, Diamond Princess, Sapphire Princess, Sun Princess
•Cunard Cruises: Queen Victoria, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Mary 2
•Holland America Line: Eurodam, Nieuw Amsterdam, Koningsdam,, Nieuw Statendam
•Disney Cruises: Disney Magic, Disney Wonder
•Carnival Cruises: Carnival Elation, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Sensation, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Legend, Carnival Miracle, Carnival Pride, Carnival Triumph, Carnival Victory, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Liberty, Carnival Glory, Carnival Valor, Carnival Conquest
•MSC Cruises: MSC Opera, MSC Armonia, MSC Lirica, MSC Orchestra, MSC Seaview
•Costa Cruises: Costa Mediterranea, Costa Luminosa, Costa Deliziosa, Costa Serena, Costa Fortuna, MSC Sinfonia
•Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Constellation, Celebrity Edge, Celebrity Summit, Celebrity Infinity, Celebrity Millennium, Celebrity Eclipse, Celebrity Equinox, Celebrity Solstice Celebrity Silhouette
•Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Dawn, Norwegian Gem, Norwegian Jade, Norwegian Pearl, Norwegian Sky, Norwegian Spirit, Norwegian Star, Pride of America

Medium Ships (M) – 951 to 1,999 passengers

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Medium ships generally offer a slower pace than their large counterparts, with fewer crowds, less noise and more modest offerings when it comes to activity and entertainment options. Many cruisers prefer this size of ship for its “relaxation” vibe. Many of these ships tend to be more luxurious with more personal service.

Some benefits of M ships:

•Many of the premium cruise lines have ships that fall into this category
•Several dining options
•Medium-size ships still tend to have amenities like casinos, pools and spas
•Entertainment options tend to include more enrichment activities
•Attracts a more mature crowd that is focused on relaxation and enjoyment of the voyage
•Smaller size of the ships open up options as far as itineraries and ports
•Itineraries are likely to be 10 days or longer

Example M Ships:

•Holland America Line: HAL Maasdam, HAL Veendam, HAL Amsterdam, HAL Rotterdam, HAL Volendam, HAL Zaandam, HAL Oosterdam, HAL Westerdam, HAL Zuiderdam, HAL Noordam
•Princess Cruises: Coral Princess, Island Princess, Dawn Princess, Sea Princess, Sun Princess
•Crystal Cruises: Crystal Serenity
•Oceania Cruises: Oceania Riviera
•Costa Cruises: Costa Classica, Costa Victoria, Costa neoRomantica, Costa neoRiviera
•Bahamas Paradise Cruise Line: Grand Celebration
•Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Sun

Small Ships (S) – 950 passengers or less

Small ships fill a niche for cruisers that are looking for more in-depth exploration of the regions they visit. They can visit ports that are inaccessible to larger ships, and exotic itineraries are the standard. Most river cruise ships and almost all the luxury lines have ships that fall into this category.

Some benefits of S ships:

•Most cabins are suites and have balconies
•Luxury and service are frequently a focal point of a small ship voyage
•Amenities, while limited, tend to be very high end, including dining, shore excursions, spas and enrichment activities.
•Small ships trend toward a truly all-inclusive fare
•Smaller dining and shared areas lend themselves lively conversations and closer relationships with fellow passengers.
•Itineraries tend to be 10 days or longer

Example S ships:

•Princess Cruises: Pacific Princess
•Crystal Cruises: Crystal Symphony
•Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Mariner, Seven Seas Voyager, Seven Seas Explorer
•Oceania Cruises: Oceania Insignia, Oceania Nautica, Oceania Regatta, Oceania Sirena, Oceania Marina
•Silversea Cruises: Silver Muse, Silver Moon
•Azamara Club Cruises: Azamara Journey, Azamara Quest, Azamara Pursuit
•Costa Cruises: Costa Voyager
•Viking Ocean Cruises: Viking Star, Viking Sea, Viking Sky, Viking Sun, Viking Orion, Viking Jupiter
•Seabourn: Seabourn Encore, Seabourn Ovation

Extra Small Ships (XS) – 201-499 passengers

Very small ships offer a private, exclusive ambiance, along with personalized service and the advantage of being able to port almost anywhere. Passengers get a feel for the water and experience destinations in a very close-up, personal way.

Some benefits of XS ships:

•The most important benefit of small ship cruising is an immersive experience in the destination. Very small ships allow an in-depth exploration of nature, culture, history and learning not possible on larger ships.
•Passengers tend to be a well-traveled, worldly crowd who enjoy the pursuit of education and exploration of the destinations they visit
•Very personal attention from the crew; with luxury cruises this translates to personal attendants that see to your every need
•More solitude and the opportunity to relax and pursue your own interests
•Seating is usually open, with no set tables

Example XS ships:

•Regent Seven Seas Cruises: Seven Seas Navigator
•Silversea Cruises: Silver Cloud, Silver Wind, Silver Shadow, Silver Whisper, Silver Spirit
•Seabourn: Seabourn Legend, Seabourn Pride, Seabourn Odyssey, Seabourn Quest, Seabourn Sojourn, Seabourn Spirit,
•Windstar Cruises: Wind Surf, Star Pride, Star Breeze, Star Legend
•Paul Gauguin Cruises: MS Paul Gauguin
•Voyages to Antiquity Cruises: MV Aegean Odyssey
•Star Clippers: Royal Clipper

Extra-Extra Small Ship-XXS- Under 200 passengers

Example of XXS ships:

•Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Flora-100 Celebrity Xpedition, Celebrity Xperience, Celebrity Xploration
•SeaDream Yacht Club: Sea Dream I, SeaDream II
•Silversea Cruises: Silver Discoverer, Silver Explorer, Silver Galapagos
•Windstar Cruises: Wind Spirit, Wind Star, Wind Spirit,
•Star Clippers: Star Clipper,Star Flyer

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