2023 was a big year for Cruise.Blog! Between eight staff members, over 380 days were spent onboard cruise ships that sailed to the Bahamas, Caribbean, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Europe, South Pacific, Antarctica, the Panama Canal, and South America.
Additionally, not all cruises were on the same cruise lines, as we had the opportunity to report on lines ranging from Royal Caribbean to Norwegian Cruise Line, MSC Cruises, Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Virgin Voyages, Carnival Cruise Line, and Celebrity Cruises.
We loved having the opportunity to share our experiences, tips, and tricks with you all and look forward to continuing to do so in 2024!
As the year comes to a close, we asked everyone on the team to share their favorite cruise that they went on in 2023. From the brand-new Norwegian Viva to older ships like Radiance of the Seas, there was a wide variety of responses, showcasing how there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to cruising.
MSC World Europa
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 205,700
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 6,762
🛳️ Length: 1,093 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2022
In 2023, Jenna cruised on nine different ships, ranging from the world’s biggest ships to a small expedition vessel. As with any cruise, each had its own set of positives and negatives. Her favorite of the year, however, was MSC World Europa.
Currently, MSC World Europa is the seventh largest cruise ship in the world, following Royal Caribbean's Icon and Oasis Class vessels. It's also the largest ship in MSC Cruises' fleet and features district zones onboard, including the adults-only Zen Pool and dynamic indoor thoroughfare. According to Jenna, the ship's design was modern, elegant, and inventive.
"My favorite zone was the World Promenade, an outdoor walkway that featured a seafood restaurant, cafe, ice cream shop, bar, and retail venues," she said, "The World Promenade led to The Lanai, an outdoor lounge with comfortable seating and wide view of the ship’s aft."
She found herself at The Lanai just about every day of her cruise and thought it was the best spot onboard to take in the sailaway and sunset views.
Additionally, despite the ship's capacity of over 6,700 guests, it never felt crowded. The innovative elevator system contributed to the distribution of passengers, and the ship's zones helped ensure that everyone was spread out.
"Another plus of MSC World Europa was the ship’s Speakeasy Bar, a secret, invite-only bar with live music and imaginative cocktails," Jenna added.
"I was fortunate enough to receive an invite to the bar, and it was definitely the most memorable evening of my sailing."
Having sailed on over 20 different cruise ships, MSC World Europa stood out with its public spaces, dining choices, onboard activities, and competitive prices. Jenna's already looking forward to the launch of MSC World America in 2025!
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 169,400
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 5,877
🛳️ Length: 1,112 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2021
After primarily sailing with Royal Caribbean, Elizabeth took her first MSC cruise around the Mediterranean onboard MSC Seashore. Even though she was weary, as MSC Cruises tends to get pretty negative reviews, she loved her time onboard.
As the itinerary was port-intensive, she found the size of the ship to be perfect for someone who prefers to sail on larger vessels but also did not want to be overwhelmed when returning to the ship each evening. Plus, since it's a newer vessel, everything felt modern and updated, and she loved how spacious her interior room felt!
MSC Seashore isn't as large as mega-ships like Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class; however, it isn't as small as other ships she sailed on in 2023, including Navigator of the Seas and Carnival Vista.
What impressed her the most, however, was the complimentary dining, as the options were more adventurous than those found on mainstream cruise lines, and she appreciated the opportunity to expand her palette. Her favorite dish from the Main Dining Room was the beetroot risotto, which is something she hasn't seen offered on Royal Caribbean.
"Overall, I thought the main dining options onboard MSC Seashore were akin to what I can find in specialty restaurants on mainstream lines, especially the pasta dishes," she said. "Rather than having to spend upwards of $45 on Jaime's Italian on Royal Caribbean ships for fresh pasta, there are dishes of the same quality served in MSC's Main Dining Room."
Additionally, she loved how the ship was themed after New York City. Having lived in the Big Apple for two years while pursuing her Master's Degree, walking through "Times Square," dining in the Central Park Restaurant, and grabbing a drink at the Long Island Bar felt nostalgic.
Symphony of the Seas
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 228,081
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 6,680
🛳️ Length: 1,118 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2018
Nicole's favorite ship of 2023 was Royal Caribbean’s Symphony of the Seas! She's no stranger to Oasis Class vessels, as they're some of her favorite ships at sea; however, this year was her first time cruising onboard Symphony.
"We sailed on a 7-night port-intensive Mediterranean itinerary and were worried that we wouldn’t have time to enjoy such a large ship," Nicole said, "Luckily for us, that wasn’t the case, and we felt that this was the perfect ship for us."
Symphony of the Seas is part of Royal Caribbean's Oasis Class. These five ships – soon to be six when Utopia joins the fleet in mid-2023 – hold the record for some of the largest ships at sea, directly behind the brand-new Icon of the Seas. Onboard, you'll find activities like ice skating rinks, zip lines, surfing simulators, mini-golf, and more.
Symphony of the Seas has over fifteen dining venues, and she appreciated the variety of food options, particularly the Solarium Bistro for dinner. Plus, there was always an activity going on to enjoy, such as comedians and live music. If anything, there were numerous pools to relax by after spending long days ashore.
"Our only regret was not having more time to spend onboard during this sailing!"
Radiance of the Seas
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 90,090
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 2,466
🛳️ Length: 962 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2001
The newest ships aren't always the best. After sailing onboard Wonder of the Seas, Calista decided to embark on a cruise on Radiance of the Seas, and it ended up being her favorite cruise of the year!
"My cruise on Radiance opened my eyes to the potential charm and advantages of a smaller cruise adventure," she said, "I discovered that a smaller ship offered a peaceful, refreshing change of pace."
Due to the smaller size of the vessel, passengers are able to experience a more intimate cruise. Radiance of the Seas, however, is not Royal Caribbean's smallest ship. That title is currently held by Grandeur of the Seas, which is part of the cruise line's Vision Class. Grandeur measures only 73,817 gross registered tons with a double passenger capacity of fewer than 2,000 guests.
Unlike Royal Caribbean's larger, bustling ships, Calista thought that the environment on Radiance of the Seas was more tranquil, especially at night. Her favorite place onboard was the Solarium, as it was gorgeous and well-lit.
"[On Radiance], I would walk around a completely quiet ship. That was a stark contrast to my cruises on larger ships where I could barely find a quiet place, much less with no people around."
She recommends that anyone looking for a peaceful cruise sail on Radiance of the Seas.
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 130,000
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 4,000
🛳️ Length: 1,115 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2012
As someone who loves all things Disney, it's no surprise that Hayley's favorite cruise of the year was on the Disney Fantasy. Even traveling without children, she thought that there was so much to do onboard, from the spectacular entertainment to magical artwork and beautiful ship design.
"While Disney Fantasy is a haven for families, it is also a great choice for couples looking for a fun Disney adventure together. I appreciate that there are not one but three adult-only areas onboard, featuring great pools, bars, and lounges to explore," Hayley said.
During her 7-night cruise, she sailed to St. Thomas, Tortola, and Castaway Cay, Disney's private island in The Bahamas, where she was able to snorkel around a sunken ship and find some hidden Mickeys underwater!
One of her favorite aspects of the cruise, however, was her cozy interior stateroom. In fact, she claimed that it was her favorite interior cabin she's ever stayed in, as it had so many little details and features that made it a great home at sea.
She also got to dine at Remy, the luxury adults-only specialty restaurant, and said it was one of the best dining experiences of her life! While dining on Michelin Star-quality food, she and her husband were transported to France during this one-of-a-kind meal. The quality of the ingredients was top-tier, and there was so much flavor in eat bite of every course!
"Sailing onboard the Disney Fantasy was a childhood dream of mine and getting to embark on a sailing this year was a truly incredible experience!"
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 122,000
🛳️ Maximum passenger capacity: 3,148
🛳️ Length: 1,041 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2009
The main reason Chantal booked a 10-night cruise onboard Celebrity Equinox was the price. For just $750, she couldn't say no to sailing on this medium-sized ship!
Celebrity Equinox is part of Celebrity Cruises' Solstice Class and is a sister ship to Celebrity Solstice (2008), Celebrity Eclipse (2010), Celebrity Silhouette (2011), and Celebrity Reflection (2012).
"This ship has this inherent casual elegance that made for one of the most relaxing vacations I have ever had," she claimed, "Its expansive atrium is filled with light and is a hub for many activities. It is the perfect place to have a European-style coffee and pastry at Café al Bacio or a thirst-quenching beer at the Craft Social gastropub."
There were numerous top-notch dining options, too, such as Murano. This specialty dining venue serves classic French dishes with a contemporary twist.
While this ship doesn't have all the bells and whistles that newer vessels do, there's a relaxing rooftop area where guests can take a leisurely stroll on real grass! Plus, since it's a smaller ship, it is able to dock at some lesser-visited ports.
Chantal said that she spent many of her five sea days hanging out on the deck because of the scenic views of the mountainous islands of the Lesser Antilles.
"After sailing on the biggest ship in the world (Wonder of the Seas) six months earlier, this more modest-sized ship charmed me with its character and made for a wonderful cruise vacation."
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 142,500
🛳️ Passenger capacity (double occupancy): 3,099
🛳️ Length: 965 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2023
Not having sailed with Norwegian Cruise Line since 2012, Angie was most excited to sail onboard Norwegian Viva, Norwegian Cruise Line's newest ship, and her experience did not disappoint!
Norwegian Viva is the second ship in the cruise line's Prima Class. While newer than the Breakaway Class, these aren't the largest ships sailing for the cruise line. However, they are packed with equally unique experiences, such as the largest go-kart tracks at sea, Broadway-style musicals, and free-fall dry slides.
As most of her cruises have been with Royal Caribbean, she was interested to see how the onboard experience would compare. Overall, she was pleasantly surprised!
"The ship is absolutely gorgeous. I loved all the modern amenities and unique spaces on Viva," she said.
One of her favorite aspects of the cruise was the Indulge Food Hall. Rather than a standard cruise ship buffet, you order what you want on an iPad, and it is delivered to your seat. She loved this concept because she was able to try food from a variety of different stations. Her favorite dish from Indulge was the pesto gnocchi.
Additionally, Angie enjoyed the Broadway-style musical Beetlejuice. Prior to this 4-night cruise, she had never seen it before and highly recommends it to all who cruise onboard Norwegian Viva in the future!
🛳️ Gross registered tonnage: 91,740
🛳️ Passenger capacity (double occupancy): 2,348
🛳️ Length: 965 feet
🛳️ Year launched: 2001
In keeping up with the theme that newer isn't always better, Allie's favorite cruise of 2023 was onboard Norwegian Star. For a port-intensive 10-night cruise around the United Kingdom, the size of the ship was perfect, and by the end of the sailing, it felt like home!
While on the smaller side, the stateroom was comfortable and even had a huge walk-in shower! Having a shower with so much space sets Norweigan Star apart, as most older vessels often feature tiny capsule showers with curtains.
Despite being over 20 years old and one of the oldest ships in the fleet, Norwegian Cruise Line has done numerous upgrades to keep it feeling modern. Additionally, there were six different complimentary dining rooms onboard, and Allie said they were all fantastic.
"We loved watching the scenery of the British Isles around the top deck, especially Spice H2O in the back," she said.