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10 cruise ships to book right now instead of Royal Caribbean's Icon of the Seas


It seems as though all eyes have been locked on Icon of the Seas, Royal Caribbean's newest ship and the largest at sea. While Icon is definitely worth all the hype it has been receiving, sailing onboard this record-breaking ship is going to cost you a pretty penny. 

The cheapest sailing in July 2024 starts at $3,589 per person for an interior cabin. If you're someone who likes access to fresh air from the comfort of your stateroom, a Central Park Infinite Veranda will set you back $4,559 per person. 

It can be hard to justify spending that much money on a weeklong vacation that isn't all-inclusive. If you're planning a cruise and want some more affordable (but fun) options, we've compiled a list of 10 cruise ships that you should consider booking instead of Icon of the Seas

Wonder of the Seas

Wonder Europe

Having launched in March 2022, Royal Caribbean's Wonder of the Seas is just under two years old, and prior to Icon's debut, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. As the fifth Oasis Class ship, the overall design wasn't anything new; however, Royal revamped many of its features and even added a brand-new Suite Neighborhood. 

In place of one of the FlowRiders, for instance, guests will find the Wonder Playscape, an underwater-themed climbing playground for children. Connected to the Playscape is a redesigned miniature golf course. They also removed one of the cantilevered hot tubs to add a new bar called The Vue, which is the ideal spot for those craving a drink and picture-perfect ocean views. 

A 7-night cruise in July 2024 starts at $1,336 per person for an inside cabin, which is over $2,000 cheaper than a sailing on Icon! 

Read more: 11 things I wish I knew before setting foot on a Royal Caribbean ship

Utopia of the Seas

Utopia of the Seas

Perhaps you've never been on a cruise before and don't want to commit to seven nights at sea but still want to experience the best of what Royal Caribbean has to offer. In that case, a sailing onboard Utopia of the Seas is perfect! Launching in July 2024, this ship will exclusively sail 3- and 4-night cruises from Port Canaveral to Nassau and Perfect Day at CocoCay, Royal Caribbean's private island in The Bahamas. 

While in the same class of ships as Wonder of the Seas, there are some onboard experiences that you won't find on any other vessels in the fleet, such as the immersive train car specialty restaurant and Pesky Parrot Bar. Izumi is also going to be relocated to Central Park and feature a to-go window, a first for Oasis Class ships. 

Pricing for July 2024 currently starts at $979 per person; however, that's the month the ship sets sail. If you wait two or three months and look at sailings in October, the price drops to $546 per person. 

Norwegian Viva

Norwegian Viva

Norwegian Viva is Norwegian Cruise Line's newest Prima Class ship that set sail in August 2023. From a 3-story go-kart track to two dry slides and musical production, there's so much to experience onboard, despite not being the largest NCL ship. 

If you want to cruise onboard a new ship while also visiting exciting destinations outside of the Caribbean, consider sailing on Norwegian Viva, as the vessel will be based in Europe from March through November 2024. 

A 10-night Mediterranean cruise in July starts at $2,229 per person. Throughout this voyage, you'll visit places like Florence/Pisa (Livorno), Italy; Nice/Monaco (Villefranche), France; Palma (Majorca), Spain; Seville (Cadiz), Spain; and Gibraltar, United Kingdom. 

Read more: I’ve been on 10 European cruises, and I see people making the same 12 mistakes: here’s how to avoid them

Norwegian Encore


Measuring 169,100 gross registered tons, the largest cruise ship in Norwegian's fleet is Norwegian Encore. While not anywhere close to the size of Icon of the Seas, there's no shortage of onboard activities. 

Guests sailing on Norwegian Encore can zoom around the go-kart track, play a game of open-air laser tag, ride the double-loop water slide that hangs 11 feet off the side of the ship, or indulge in modern Italian cuisine at Scarpetta's. 

This summer, Norwegian Encore will sail to Alaska. July is part of the region's peak season; however, a cruise on Encore is still affordable, starting at around $1,429 per person for a 7-night roundtrip cruise from Seattle. After exploring everything the Last Frontier has to offer, you can return to your "home away from home" and enjoy all the comforts of a modern cruise ship! 

Carnival Jubilee


Sailing out of Galveston, Texas is Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, Carnival Jubilee. It's the third Excel Class ship built for the line and has some notable differences compared to her two predecessors. First, whereas the second meal at ChiBag and Cucina del Capitano incur an additional fee on Mardi Gras and Carnival Celebration, both venues are complimentary on Jubilee, no matter how many times you visit! 

There are also two brand-new zones for guests to enjoy: Currents and The Shores. The latter will transport you to an underwater world, whereas The Shores was inspired by the classic beach boardwalk. Don't worry, you'll still find the roller coaster BOLT onboard! 

A 7-night cruise to the Western Caribbean in July starts at $1,139 for an interior room or $1,429 for a balcony. 

Read more: Eastern vs. Western Caribbean Cruises

Carnival Celebration


Having launched in 2022, Carnival Celebration is still a relatively new cruise ship that's a great option for your next family vacation, especially if you don't care about the minor tweaks that were made onboard Carnival Jubilee. 

Since the ship sails from Miami, Flordia, Carnival can offer cruises to the Eastern and Southern Caribbean, whereas due to Jubilee's homeport in Texas, the newest ship in the fleet can only visit the Western Caribbean. You can find anything from a 6-night Eastern Caribbean cruise starting at $879 per person to a longer 8-night Southern Caribbean voyage for $1,389 per person in July 2024 on Carnival Celebration. 

Aside from the two new zones and capped complimentary meals at ChiBang and Cucina del Capitano, there's not too much that's different between Carnival Jubilee and Celebration. If you happen to live on the East Coast, traveling to Florida might be easier than Texas. Plus, since some fares are cheaper, you might have some extra money left over for cruise add-ons! 

Read more: Eastern vs. Western Caribbean Cruises

Disney Wish 

Disney Wish at Port Canaveral

Are you a lover of all things Disney? Then you'll certainly love a cruise onboard Disney Wish, the cruise line's newest ship that launched in 2022. From Marvel and Frozen-themed dining experiences to the Pirates Night deck party and Broadway-style musicals, every aspect of your cruise vacation will be filled with Disney magic. 

Since Disney Wish sails out of Port Canaveral on 3- and 4-night cruises to The Bahamas, it's easy to tack on a pre- or post-cruise visit to Disney World! After some exhausting days trekking around Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot, and/or Hollywood Studios, lounging on Disney's private island, Castaway Cay, sounds pretty good, doesn't it? 

The cheapest sailing in July currently begins at $1,497.50 per person, or $2,995 for two people in a standard inside cabin. While that seems pricey compared to some other options, especially considering it's a 3-night cruise, Disney includes more than most mainstream cruise lines. You won't, for instance, have to worry about paying extra for a soda package, as it's included in the base fare

Read more: Guide to Disney Cruise Line

Disney Treasure 

Disney Treasure

In December 2023, the second Triton Class ship, Disney Treasure, will enter service. Onboard, guests will find new venues that aren't available on any other ship in the fleet, such as "Plaza de Coco," the first dining experience themed after the movie Coco. Disney Treasure will also feature a Haunted Mansion-themed bar, as well as a redesigned AquaMouse water coaster

Starting at over $4,000 per person, the maiden voyages are rather pricey. If, however, you look at cruises in January and February of 2025, you'll find more reasonably priced sailings. A 7-night Western Caribbean cruise starts at $4,952, or $2,476, per person. 

This is still roughly $1,000 less than sailings onboard Icon, and you'd be one of the first passengers to step foot on Disney Treasure! Plus, that price is for an oceanview room on the February 8 sailing, as interior rooms have already sold out.

Valiant Lady

Valiant Lady aerial

Parents, don't feel guilty about wanting to take an adult-only vacation. Some time alone will help to recharge and return home ready to tackle everyday problems with a fresh pair of eyes. Rather than take a cruise surrounded by children, perhaps you will benefit from a cruise on Virgin Voyages, the only mainstream cruise line that caters to passengers 18+. In other words, you won't find a single child onboard. 

In addition to being an adult-only cruise line, Virgin Voyages has also strayed away from the traditional cruise ship dining experience. You won't find any large main dining rooms or buffets onboard. Instead, all 20+ specialty venues are included in the cost of your cruise fare. Essentially, you can equate the dining experience on Virgin ships to what you'd find at upscale restaurants on land. 

A 4-night cruise to Key West and The Bahamas in July 2024 starts at $1,824 total for two people in an inside room. You can upgrade to a balcony for about $230 more, which breaks down to $115 per person. A 5-night sailing to Mexico and Bimini starts at $2,160 for two. 

Read more: I stayed in a 177-square-foot room on a Virgin Voyages cruise that starts at $1,734 for almost a week. For a tiny space, it was big on luxury

MSC Seashore 

MSC ship docked at Ocean Cay

MSC Seashore is a Seaside EVO ship, meaning that she is different from other vessels in MSC's Seaside Class. The ship recently moved to Port Canaveral and will be making short 3-night cruises to The Bahamas this summer, as well as longer 10-night voyages to the Western Caribbean. No sailing in July is over $1,109 per person. 

From the delicious specialty dining to the kids' water park and adults-only infinity pool, there's so much to love about this ship. In fact, my cruise onboard MSC Seashore was my favorite sailing of 2023! 

Since MSC Cruises is known for having cheaper fares, you can rest assured knowing that you'll get your money's worth. In fact, a family of four can take a 7-night cruise onboard MSC Seashore in an ocean-view room for roughly $3,500, or $875 per person. Considering this cruise is in July, which is part of the Caribbean's peak season, that's not a bad rate at all! 

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