Even identical twins have different personalities, and so it is with twin 122,000-ton cruise ships. You may deck them out the same, they may hit the same ports, but slight tweaks to layout, amenities, and crew—even the entertainment choices and talking heads—add up to an ambience unique to each ship. And as the number of ocean cruising and river ships has grown well into the hundreds, those differences are important to passengers. (Nobody wants to accidentally pick the evil twin.)
In this year’s annual World’s Best survey, T+L readers voted on staterooms, restaurants, itineraries, service, excursions, and onboard activities. The results: even within beloved cruise lines, readers were more passionate about specific ships when it came to their favorite five.
For instance, in the Mega Ship group—ocean liners holding more than 2,200 passengers—three of Celebrity Cruises’s Solstice-class ships made the cut, but they didn’t sweep it with all five. Disney Fantasy (No. 2) andEmerald Princess (No. 5) held their own, even if their line’s sister ships missed the list altogether. The oceangoing Large Ship (600 to 2,199 passengers) and Small Ship (under 600 passengers) categories, as well as River Ships, saw similar splitting of hairs and high-thread-count sheets.
But whether it be a floating city or a souped-up luxury skiff, if you’re looking to go cruising, you can’t go wrong by choosing one of the world’s best cruise ships. Anchors aweigh!
No. 1 Celebrity Silhouette
Celebrity Silhouette may carry up to 2,886 passengers, but it never feels crowded, thanks to its 10 restaurants—including a grill-with-the-chef restaurant on the top-deck lawn—more than a dozen lounges, and art-filled nooks with hideaway reading pods. Other top-of-class touches include an art studio, craft beers in Michael’s Bar (a Celebrity Solstice–class clubby staple), a cool hummingbird video in its molecular cocktail bar, and, of course, superb service on itineraries from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean. Rates: from $100 per day
No. 2 Disney Fantasy
No cruise line caters to family quite like Disney, with split baths and separate sinks, imaginative restaurants, and unparalleled children’s programs like an interactive Muppets mystery game—not to mention appearances by Mickey and friends. Designed for seven-night Port Canaveral–Caribbean itineraries for up to 2,500 passengers, the line’s newest ship ranks high thanks to luxe Art Nouveau styling (a sweeping grand staircase, stained-glass chandelier), plus expansive water-play area and adults-only sundeck. Rates: from $425 per day
No. 3 Celebrity Reflection
Celebrity Reflection wins with smart, spacious cabins, an ice bar, a wine-tasting room, and inventive restaurants like Qsine, where iPad ordering and food presentations max out the fun scale. A slightly broader beam than its four Solstice-class siblings allows for 3,046 passengers and 42 suites with one-of-a-kind amenities, like an all-glass cantilevered shower that offers thrilling 360-degree views of the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Rates: from $100 per day;celebritycruises.com
No. 4 Celebrity Equinox
Another of Celebrity Cruise Line’s five Solstice-class ships, the 2,850-passengerCelebrity Equinox features sun-themed artwork, a hot glassblowing show, and some of the best-designed cabins at sea. Standouts of its multiple dining venues include the Asian fusion Silk Harvest and, for AquaClass guests, the spa-inspired Blu. Unlike some sister ships, its broad top-deck lawn is free of alcoves, leaving plenty of space for picnics on sailings to the Caribbean and Mediterranean. Rates: from $100 per day
No. 5 Emerald Princess
The 3,082-passenger Emerald Princess and its sister ships, Ruby Princess and Crown Princess, create an atmosphere that’s equally welcoming for families and those traveling without children. For instance, guests can dine at assigned times or at their leisure in the Italian and surf-and-turf specialty eateries or three main dining rooms. But the best evenings may be spent on cushioned loungers watching first-run movies under the stars of the Caribbean, Baltic, and Mediterranean, popcorn provided.Rates: from $100 per day