What’s the difference between a cruise ship and an amusement park these days?
Modern cruise ships are nothing short of engineering marvels complete with water parks, movie theaters, go-kart tracks and enough new technology to make even the biggest tech nerds giddy. But always true to their roots, these ships have plenty of ways to kick back and relax as well.
One of the most popular Porthole Cruise Readers’ Choice Award categories is ‘Best Ocean Ship’ and we always get strong opinions as to why one ship is better than another. Here are five of the best ocean ships to book a cruise on according to Porthole Cruise readers. Click the links below to jump to each section!
Norwegian Encore, Norwegian Cruise Line
The fourth of Norwegian Cruise Line’s Breakaway Plus Class of ships, Norwegian Encore is a ship tailor-made for those who don’t like to waste a second of their precious vacation. An incredible mix of advanced technology and luxury amenities, this state-of-the-art ship features fun hull art, tons of activities and a focus on high-end cuisine. There are familiar features, like The Haven by Norwegian and the go-kart track, and some never-before-seen features like a virtual laser tag arena which could set the standard for new ships moving forward. The ship even caters to single travelers with solo studios and lounges so it’s truly a ship for everyone.
MSC Meraviglia, MSC Cruises
With a name that means “wonder” in Italian, cruising on board MSC Meraviglia highlights the best of Mediterranean culture. With a special Cirque du Soleil performance venue and flexible dining options, the ship goes above and beyond everywhere it can. Enjoy speciality dining like Butcher’s Cut modern American steakhouse; Kaito Teppenyaki and Sushi Bar Japanese cuisine; and HOLA! Tapas Bar by Ramón Freixa featuring authentic Spanish cuisine. The elegant South Beach–inspired main pool is a popular hangout spot and if the weather doesn’t cooperate, there’s a covered pool as well. The ship pairs well with the MSC for Me app, which also lets guests browse dinner menus; make a reservation; unlock your cabin door and make purchases with the wristband; check out and book shore excursions on digital screens throughout the ship; and even find the nearest bathroom.
Harmony of the Seas, Royal Caribbean International
Huge, bold and colorful, Harmony of the Seas has received rave reviews since the first day she set sail. The ship is one of the largest at sea and with that size comes a plethora of activities, dining venues and hangout spots for cruisers to enjoy. The ship is divided into seven distinct neighborhoods, each featuring some of the most incredible pieces of art at sea. The main dining room is excellent, but guests have plenty of specialty dining options like Chops Grille, 150 Central Park, Jamie’s Italian, Izumi (hibachi and sushi), Sabor Taqueria & Tequila Bar and more. The cruise ship even made its Hollywood debut in the Netflix original movie Like Father, starring Kristen Bell, Kelsey Grammer and Seth Rogan.
Carnival Breeze, Carnival Cruise Line
She isn’t the newest ship on our list, but there’s a reason Carnival Breeze consistently ranks near the top of Porthole Cruise reader rankings. Whether it’s lunch from Guy’s Burger Joint by the pool or singing your heart out at Lip Sync Battle, there’s no shortage of ways to spend the day on board Carnival Breeze. The ship features a tropical decor with plenty of chill-out spots so you can feel as relaxed as the islands you’re visiting. The ship is packed with entertainment like Hasbro, The Game Show and the always popular Punchliner Comedy Club. Kids will love Carnival WaterWorks while adults take a much needed spa day at Cloud 9 Spa and the Serenity Adults-Only Retreat.
Viking Star, Viking Ocean Cruises
With a reputation so clean you could eat off of it, Viking Ocean Cruises is frequently among the top rated cruise lines and ships we cover. Viking Star made her debut in 2015 and has lived up to the Viking name in every way possible. This luxury cruise ship isn’t as large as some of the others, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in style, comfort and enrichment programming. What sets Viking Star apart from other ships is that all five stateroom categories have a private veranda, so you’ll never get stuck sailing in an inside room on this ship.
At the end of the day, they’re all magnificent ships and you’ll be happy with whichever one you choose for your next cruise vacation! If you missed out on your chance to vote for your favorites, make sure to keep an eye out for RCA 2021 coming next year!