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The Largest Cruise Ships in the World

by Kristen O'Neal | September 01, 2016

Cruise ships keep getting bigger — and packing more and more activities on board. The largest ships have evolved to be part city, part resort, and part amusement park with so many different attractions, restaurants, bars, and entertainment options that you have to wonder how it's possible that the ship can still float. In fact, Voyager of the Seas even has its own zip code (33132-2028 to be exact).

Right now, the largest cruise ship in the world is Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas, which launched in May 2016 and can carry up to 6,780 passengers. (Shocking, right?) It's also the largest ship not just in terms of capacity, but also size — Harmony of the Seas is 1,188 feet long and weighs a whopping 226,963 gross tons.

The runners-up for the largest cruise ship in the world are also from Royal Caribbean: Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the SeasAnd they are actually not that much smaller than Harmony of the Seas in terms of physical size: Each is 1,187 feet long with a weight of 225,282 gross tons. Allure of the Seas has room for 5,492 passengers while Oasis of the Seas can fit 5,400. Like Harmony of the Seas, these ships are also more like entire cities at sea with lots of neighborhoods to explore. Surprisingly, though, you can actually feel the difference in Harmony's more spacious cabins, since that's where the extra width went when they expanded the design.

For even more perspective, Norwegian Epic and Norwegian Escape are the next largest cruise ships in the world. Norwegian Epic is the larger of the two with a length of 1,081 feet and a gross tonnage of 155,873, carrying "just" 4,100 passengers. The 4,248-passenger Norwegian Escape measures 1,069 feet with a gross tonnage of 164,600. They will be dethroned in June 2017, when MSC CruisesMSC Meraviglia is set to launch. The new ship will cary 4,500 passengers and will be a bit shorter than the Norwegian ships at 1,034 feet in length (the gross tonnage will be 167,600).

That's a lot of space for the line to fill — and for passengers to navigate. So what do cruise lines do with all that space?

Harmony of the Seas' 18 decks are separated into seven different neighborhoods, which makes the ship feel more manageable. (It really does help you get lost less often on your first day aboard.) It also helps that these neighborhoods are filled with amusement park-style activities: There's a festive boardwalk with a classic carousel as well as a Central Park lined with shops and restaurants plus thousands of plants and trees. Up on deck, the ship has two FlowRider surfing simulators, a zip line, water slides, a miniature golf course, and two rock climbing walls. At the indoor skating rink there is skating for all levels plus shows by professional ice dancers.

Other live shows include an impressive production of the Broadway musical "Grease" — a first at sea — plus dramatic, gasp-worthy acrobatics shows at the AquaTheater, where divers plunge 33 feet down into a pool that is almost 18 feet deep. Also breaking records on the largest cruise ship in the world is the Ultimate Abyss: The tallest slide at sea starts at more than 150 feet above sea level — from a glass-bottom platform — and zooms down 10 full decks, a trip that can be accomplished in as little as 12 seconds if you don't grab onto the sides.

Our suggestion? Eat breakfast or lunch after the slide, not right before. 

Kristen O'Neal

Kristen O’Neal is a New York City-based freelance writer and editorial intern at ShermansCruise.

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