Cruising is a popular vacation for many different travelers. Nothing beats the endless food, gorgeous destinations, stunning entertainment, and overall convenience of cruising. Families, couples, and older travelers can all enjoy cruising for different reasons.
The most popular cruise lines have itineraries and ships that operate around the world. Cruise lines typically offer a wide variety of cruises that offer different itineraries on ships of all sizes with varying amenities. This gives travelers so many options for finding a cruise line that fits their needs and travel style.
Plus, you do not have to worry about taking the same vacation twice! There is an endless combination of destinations and ships to choose from.
The most popular cruise lines continue to innovate ships that are bigger and better than ever before. These mega ships can hold up to 7,000 passengers and have more things to do than most cruisers would even have time to complete during their sailing. As technology continues to evolve, cruise ships become more advanced than ever.
In this way, the most popular cruise lines have a large fleet of ships to appeal to a wide variety of cruisers. Here’s our list of the most popular cruise lines and why these continue attracting travelers around the world!
It is no surprise that one of the most popular cruise lines is Royal Caribbean with its unbelievable and innovative cruise ships, which are basically floating cities. The cruise line sails to the Caribbean, Asia, Europe, Australia, and Alaska.
In 2022, the cruise line’s newest ship, Wonder of the Seas, broke the record for largest cruise ship in the world. Royal Caribbean also holds the next 4 slots for biggest ships in the world with Harmony of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas, Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas. The cruise line has held the title for largest cruise ship since 2008 with the debut of the Freedom of the Seas.
In fact, they are going to (once again) break their own record when Icon of the Seas sets sail in January 2024. This 250,800 gross ton ship will be 6% larger than Wonder of the Seas and will be unlike any other ship in their fleet. From the record-breaking Category 6 water park, to brand-new bars and restaurants, and the AquaDome, it will be the ultimate family vacation for thrill seekers!
These mega ships have more to do than you can imagine: a waterpark, ice skating rink, promenade mall, central park, aqua theater, and even surf simulators. You can watch a full-length Broadway musical while enjoying world-class cuisine during your sailing. There is so much to do, you might not even want to get off the ship!
If you prefer a smaller ship, Royal Caribbean has a large fleet of 24 ships that offer a huge variety of itineraries and experiences. For example, one of the cruise line’s smallest ships, Vision of the Seas, will be sailing to picturesque towns along the French Riviera in the summer of 2022.
Cruising with Royal Caribbean won’t break your bank either. It is one of the most affordable options for cruising that is sure to offer a memorable experience.
In 2018, they introduced the Royal Amplified® program in which they are refurbishing and upgrading their older ships with newer amenities.
- Oasis of the Seas
- Independence of the Seas
- Freedom of the Seas
- Mariner of the Seas
- Navigator of the Seas
- Voyager of the Seas
With so many ships and itineraries to choose from, Royal Caribbean remains one of the most popular cruise lines. You are almost guaranteed to see Royal Caribbean sailing anywhere that you want to cruise!
Carnival Cruise Line
If you are looking for family fun at an affordable rate, Carnival Cruises will be a perfect fit for you. The cruise line is most popular for offering low fares to sail but plenty of family-friendly activities onboard that won’t cost you extra.
In fact, Carnival Cruise Line was one of the first companies to make cruising accessible to travelers who couldn’t afford the traditional luxury liners. As one of the first pioneers of the leisure cruise industry, Carnival continues to focus on offering exciting and affordable vacations.
The cruise line brands itself as having the most fun ships at sea with plenty of things to do like waterslides, 24-hour pizza, miniature golfing, 4D theaters and more. The party does not stop onboard Carnival’s cruise ships with entertainment, live music and DJs that keep the atmosphere lively and full of energy.
With 24 ships in its fleet, Carnival offers sailings around the world to Hawaii, Mexico, Europe and the Caribbean. For those looking to getaway for a weekend, Carnival offers plenty of sailings that are 3 to 4 night cruises. These are perfect for cruisers looking to have a fun weekend at sea without breaking the bank.
Since 2011, Carnival has been upgrading older ships as part of their Fun Ship 2.0 initiative. Three of their Destiny Class cruise ships received a near overhaul to become the Sunshine Class, offering new dining and entertainment venues, as well as updated staterooms.
Recently, Carnival Cruise Line announced their newest initiative: Costa by Carnival. Costa's Costa Venezia and Costa Firenze will be joining Carnival's fleet. Guests will be able to see take pleasure in the Italian-inspired interior of the ships while enjoying the benefits of sailing with Carnival (think VIFP benefits, food, entertainment). Think of the traditional fun Carnival experience but with an Italian flair!
Carnival Cruise Line offers a fun experience with friendly service and delicious food onboard. You can expect to find nonstop activities during your cruise - from sunrise to sunset!
Norwegian Cruise Line
Gaining momentum in the cruise industry is Norwegian Cruise Line. The cruise line has been focusing on upgrading its fleet and building new ships with innovative design, all while offering fairly affordable itineraries. Cruisers love that Norwegian offers an upscale experience with plenty of family-friendly activities for the whole gang to enjoy.
However, upscale does not mean you will find a stuffy atmosphere onboard any of Norwegian's ships. The cruise line was the first to ditch longtime cruising traditions like formal night and set dining times in the evening, making it a popular choice for travelers who want a carefree cruise. The cruise line was the first to offer Freestyle cruising, which is meant to be more convenient and relaxing than traditional cruises.
Another reason for its popularity is that Norwegian Cruise Lines offers cruising to exotic destinations. For example, you can find sailings on Norwegian to incredible destinations like Namibia, South Africa, Antarctica and Brazil.
In 2023, Norwegian Cruise Line will launch its highly anticipated Viva cruise ship, which is expected to debut some firsts for the cruise industry. Viva will offer the most outdoor space of any cruise ship, along with a three story GoKart track!
As a sister brand to Carnival Cruise Line, Princess Cruises is another popular cruise line for those looking to have a more in-depth exploration. Princess Cruises offers longer voyages to international destinations without breaking the bank for most travelers.
You might also know Princess Cruises from a little show called The Love Boat. This propelled Princess Cruises into stardom when one of its ships, Pacific Princess, was featured on the show in 1977!
Princess Cruises caters to an older audience overall with activities like wine tasting, cooking classes and even history lectures. You can find craft beer tasting through the cruise line’s Seawitch program, offering craft beers from around the world.
The long itineraries are meant to provide enriching voyages that allow cruisers to be immersed in different cultures. On some of these longer voyages, Princess Cruises offers sailings to incredible destinations like South America, Morocco, Taiwan and Thailand.
Princess Cruises has a modest fleet of 14 ships that sail around the world. Its ships aren’t the biggest compared to other cruise lines, but Princess Cruises aims to offer a refined, enriching experience for its guests.
European-based MSC Cruises has some of the biggest cruise ships in the industry, holding 5 slots of the 15 biggest ships in the world. These include ships like MSC Virtusoa and MSC Bellissima, each holding around 5,500 passengers.
The momentum isn’t stopping anytime soon for MSC Cruises, as the company announced 4 new ships being built for its new mega ship World class. MSC World Europa, the first of its class, is debuting in 2022 with highly anticipated sailings from the Dubai, UAE.
MSC Cruises caters mostly to European travelers, although the cruise line does offer a few limited itineraries from North America as well. The cruise line also offers sailings to exciting locations like South America, Northern Europe, and Asia.
They have six ships that rotate sailing the Caribbean to maintain a year-round presence making stops at their private island, MSC Ocean Cay Marine Reserve.
Onboard MSC cruise ships, you can expect to find European culture and service for an affordable price. Although MSC offers a more upscale experience, families will still find plenty of fun activities that kids of all ages will enjoy, like waterslides, zip lines, and teen clubs.
An older sister to Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises earns a spot on our most popular cruise line list. With new ships offering world-class cuisine, service and entertainment, it’s no surprise cruisers are loving the experience onboard Celebrity’s cruise ships.
Although the cruise line has a smaller fleet with only 12 ships, Celebrity offers an intimate and quality experience for cruisers with voyages around the world. Those looking for an extreme adventure flock to one of the cruise line’s three Xpedition-class vessels, which carries a maximum number of 100 passengers. These ships sail to remote locations, like the Galapagos Islands in South America.
The cruise line’s bigger ships have taken innovation to heart with features that appeal to even non-cruisers. For example, Celebrity Edge features Eden, which is a 3-story restaurant featuring a craft cocktail lounge, a 4D dining experience, and a performance venue.
Celebrity Cruises has no plans of slowing down its fleet expansion, with Celebrity Ascent in 2023 and another unnamed Edge Class cruise ship launching in 2025. These innovative ships will sail from Europe and North America.
Virgin Voyages is a relatively new cruise line that offers the ultimate adults-only. Currently, they only have two ships at sea, and unlike some other mainstream cruise lines, you will not find any mega "thrills" onboard.
Where they shine is the is one-of-a-kind entertainment -- think drag shows, interactive late-night cabaret shows, circus-like performances, and some of the craziest dance parties at sea! If you really want to make your trip memorable, there is a tattoo parlor onboard.
Virgin Voyages has also strayed away from the traditional cruise main dining room experience. You will not find a main buffet, main dining rooms, or set dining times. Every single restaurant onboard is included, and passengers can walk in anytime to be seated. There are enough options to satisfy everyone's palette, including Mexican, vegetarian, steak and seafood, Italian, Korean BBQ, and more.