World’s largest cruise liners: luxury ships boast water slides, spas, ice rinks and more

Dwarfing the 'Titanic' with space for more than 5,000 passengers, these mega ships lead the way in the world of cruising

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Cruising is back.

After the industry was decimated during the global pandemic when cruise lines from North America to Australia docked their ships, cruising is now getting back to a new version of the pre-Covid normal.

Royal Caribbean’s’ Wonder of the Seas made its maiden voyage last month, becoming the largest cruise liner at sea with a capacity for almost 7,000 passengers and weighing in at more than 237,000 gross tonnes.

Royal Caribbean’s 'Wonder of the Seas' is the world's largest cruiseliner. Photo: Royal Caribbean International

The Oasis-class ship is the latest of Royal Caribbean's vessels to dominate the rankings of the world's biggest ships.

And the cruise line has already unveiled plans for Utopia of the Seas, which will be the next biggest in the world when it sets sail in 2024.

Until then, read on for more details on the world's biggest cruise liners at sea today.

1. 'Wonder of the Seas', Royal Caribbean — 236,857 gross tonnes

The largest cruise ship in the world in 2022 is the Wonder of the Seas.

This 362-metre vessel made its maiden voyage in March, cruising from Florida to the Caribbean. The mega-ship can host 6,988 guests and 2,300 crew members, and weighs more than 237,000 gross tonnes.

It features eight distinct neighbourhoods, including Central Park, where travellers will find real trees and plants stretching from one end of the deck to the other. It's also home to the tallest water slide at sea and the biggest AquaTheatre where divers, dancers, acrobats and more put on Broadway-standard performances.

The mega cruise ship had been scheduled to sail to Dubai in 2021 as part of its initial season at sea, but the plans were shelved because of the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, she's sailing around Europe this summer.

2. 'Symphony of the Seas', Royal Caribbean — 228,081 gross tonnes

Royal Caribbean's 'Symphony of the Seas' features bionic robot bartenders, a waterfront entertainment zone and a water park with the Ultimate Abyss slide. Reuters

In 2018, Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas set off on its maiden voyage with a seven-night sail around the Mediterranean.

Weighing in at more than 228,000 gross tonnes, the Oasis-class ship was the biggest in the world and is now ranked the second-largest. It has a seven-neighbourhood concept that includes bionic robot bartenders, a waterfront entertainment zone and a first-rate water park where travellers can brave the Ultimate Abyss, a water slide that swings down 10 decks from more than 45 metres above sea level.

With capacity for up to 6,400 passengers, the 17-deck, $1.35 billion ship sails around the western Caribbean, with voyages to St Kitts, St Thomas, Nassau, St Maarten, Puerto Rico and Haiti.

3. 'Harmony of the Seas', Royal Caribbean — 226,963 gross tonnes

'Harmony of the Seas' is famous for its water-based attractions, including two surf simulators, three water slides, three swimming pools and an Ultimate Abyss water slide. AFP

Setting sail in May 2016, Harmony of the Seas was named after the Harmony module (also known as Node 2) in the International Space Station. She took her maiden voyage to Southampton in the UK and is billed as a family-friendly cruise liner known for a fantastic line-up of water-based attractions. These include two surf simulators, three water slides, three swimming pools, and what was Royal Caribbean's first Ultimate Abyss water slide. Hanging off the back of the ship, this twin-tube slide plunges nine decks, spinning and twisting as it goes. The ship also has an adults-only solarium, an ice-skating rink, two rock-climbing walls and a basketball court.

Harmony of the Seas can carry 6,780 passengers and has a gross tonnage of 226,963. She was also the first Oasis-class ship to showcase virtual balconies for the cruise liner, offering travellers staying in interior cabins real-time views of the outdoors. Harmony currently serves itineraries in the Caribbean, Mexico and Honduras.

4. 'Allure of the Seas', Royal Caribbean — 225,282 gross tonnes

Royal Caribbean's 'Allure of the Seas' made its maiden voyage in 2009, when it accidentally became the world's longest ship. Reuters

Constructed in Finland, the Allure of the Seas set sail in November 2009 when she somewhat accidentally became the world’s longest ship, surpassing her sister ship Oasis of the Seas with a tiny 50-millimetre advantage. According to the shipyard, this was not intentional and such a small difference in length is most likely down to the temperature of the steel at the time of measurement. She has a gross tonnage of 225,282 and can accommodate 6,780 travellers.

While Royal Caribbean’s other cruise liners count the likes of Gloria Estefan, Steffi Graf and Whoopi Goldberg as godmothers, the Allure of the Seas is rather bizarrely godmothered by the fictional Princess Fiona from the 2001 animated film Shrek.

With several restaurants, bars and upscale shopping, the ship also has four outdoor swimming pools, a casino and a comedy club. Based at her home port of Miami, she currently sails year-round on seven-night Western and Eastern Caribbean cruises. However, later this year, she’s set to move to a new home port in Texas.

5. 'Oasis of the Seas', Royal Caribbean — 225,282 gross tonnes

'Oasis of the Seas', which has an escape room game, a music hall and 30 ultimate panoramic suites, in the harbour of Rotterdam. EPA

The first of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships, hence its name, this vessel debuted in 2009 when she set a new capacity record for carrying more than 6,000 passengers and became the largest cruise ship in the world at that time with a gross tonnage of 225,282, identical with her sister Allure of the Seas.

In 2019, the ship underwent a major refurbishment, with Royal Caribbean adding lots of new facilities including an escape room game, a music hall and 30 ultimate panoramic suites located above the navigation bridge.

The ship currently sails from Miami and New York to the Caribbean, Canada, Bermuda and the Bahamas, and also has transatlantic crossings to the UK.

Since her maiden voyage, Oasis of the Seas has been involved in more than a few unlucky incidents including crashing into the dock during her float-out, an almost collision with a Carnival cruise liner in 2019 and partially sinking in the Bahamas after two cranes collapsed on top of her.

6. 'Costa Smeralda', Costa Cruises — 185,010 gross tonnes

'Costa Smeralda' has 13 swimming pools and hot tubs, 11 restaurants 19 bars and even a museum. Photo: Costa Cruises

Italian cruise line Costa owns the sixth largest cruise ship in the world and the first that is not a Royal Caribbean vessel. Costa Smeralda is an Excellence-class ship and has a capacity for 6,554 passengers and a gross tonnage of 185,010, the largest ship ever commissioned for Costa.

Godmothered by Penelope Cruz, the 337-metre long vessel had her maiden voyage in Spain in 2019. With 13 swimming pools and hot tubs, 11 restaurants and 19 bars, the ship is also home to a museum, conceived by Adam Tihany, that displays upscale Italian design.

Costa Smeralda was also only the second cruise ship in the world to be fully powered by liquefied natural gas or LNG, making it more sustainable than traditional cruise liners. The ship operates on seven-day cruises around the Mediterranean.

6. 'Costa Toscana', Costa Cruises — 185,010 gross tonnes

The open-air deck of 'Costa Toscana', the decor of which is inspired by Italian art, culture and striking landscapes. Photo: Costa Cruises

Costa Cruises' second LNG-powered cruise ship is also the world’s sixth-largest, with the exact same gross-tonnage, length and passenger capacity as its sister ship. Costa Toscana is named as a tribute to the region in Italy — one of the country's most popular locales and the birthplace of the Italian Renaissance, and the ship's design is inspired by Italian art, culture and striking landscapes. It was launched in December 2021, after several delays owing in part to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ship has 2,600 staterooms, designed by Milanese company Dordoni Architetti, as well as 16 restaurants, 18 themed bars and a state-of-the-art spa and gym. There is also an indoor swimming pool with salt water, along with a beach club, attempting to recreate the atmosphere of a real seaside escape.

Designed to be Costa's most environmentally-friendly cruise liner, Costa Toscana also has special desalination plants on board to process seawater to meet the ship’s daily water supply requirements.

7. 'MS Iona', P&O Cruises — 184,089 gross tonnes

'MS Iona' has a Skydome, a three-tier glass grand atrium and conservatory mini-suite cabins that help travellers bring the outdoors inside. EPA

At 344 metres in length and with a capacity for 5,200 guests, P&O Cruises’ MS Iona ranks among the world's largest cruise liners. With a capacity of just over 184,000 gross tonnes, she is named after one of Scotland’s most beautiful western islands. And, on her 2021 maiden voyage, Iona made the journey to her namesake Hebridean isle.

The ship is the greenest member of P&O's fleet and the first British cruise ship in the world to be powered by LNG.

Designed to make the most of its ever-changing horizons, it has a Skydome, a three-tier glass grand atrium and conservatory mini-suite cabins that help travellers bring the outdoors inside. The ship is currently sailing on several itineraries including through Norway’s fjords and to Spain, Portugal and northern Europe.

8. 'Aidacosma', Aida Cruises — 183,900 gross tonnes

'Aidacosma' has 17 restaurants and offers evening entertainment at the Theatrium and the Beach Club. AFP

German cruise line Aida, a subsidiary of Carnival, is the operator of the world’s eighth-largest cruise ship, after Aidacosma set sail earlier in April. The colourful Helios Class ship accommodates upwards of 6,000 passengers and has a 183,900 gross tonne capacity.

Seventeen restaurants and evening entertainment can be found at the Theatrium and the Beach Club, where temperatures are constantly maintained at a pleasant 25 degrees no matter where in the world the ship happens to be.

A boulder wall and water slides keep the adrenalin up on board and Cosma also has an open pool deck, with an infinity pool, pool bar and stage. The first-class Body & Soul Sport area includes a fitness suite and an organic spa with five saunas, a fireplace lounge and an outside area with Jacuzzis.

Aida is soon to launch an even bigger ship, the Aidaflex. The so-called Tethys-class mega-ship is scheduled for completion in 2024 and will have a staggering 260,900 gross tonnes capacity with space for 8,400 passengers on board.

9. 'Aidanova', Aida Cruises — 183,858 gross tonnes

Cruise ship 'Aidanova', with 2,600 staterooms, is the first in Aida's fleet to offer rooms for single travellers. EPA

Wrapping up the rankings of the world’s 10 largest cruise liners is Aidanova, the world’s first-ever ocean liner with an LNG drive system. Aidanova made her maiden voyage in December 2018, when she sailed around the Canary Islands and Madeira.

As the largest and cleanest cruise ship ever built in Germany, the ship has space for 5,200 passengers, is 337 metres long and has a registered gross tonnage capacity just shy of 184,000.

With 2,600 staterooms, the ship was also the first in Aida's fleet to offer rooms for single travellers. Travellers can also enjoy the ship's multi-deck luxury day spa, three giant water slides, a water park, climbing garden and a mini golf course. Aidanova currently sails in Europe, with trips around the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.

Updated: April 15, 2022, 4:24 AM