The 8 classes of Royal Caribbean cruise ships, explained

Sep 23, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Thinking of booking a cruise on a Royal Caribbean ship? You have no shortage of choices.

The world’s biggest cruise line by passenger capacity currently operates 26 vessels — more than any other ocean ship operator. These vessels fall into a wide range of sizes and designs.

Even if you’re a newcomer to cruising, you’ve probably heard of Royal Caribbean’s giant Oasis Class ships, which are more than 20% bigger than any other cruise vessels afloat. The line is particularly known for these groundbreaking, amenity-packed floating megaresorts, which include Symphony of the Seas, the world’s biggest cruise ship.

For more cruise news, reviews and tips, sign up for TPG’s new cruise newsletter.

But not all of Royal Caribbean’s vessels are similarly supersized. While the line is perhaps best known for giant vessels — it operates 11 of the 20 biggest cruise ships in the world — it also markets some smaller, more intimate ships.

Indeed, one of the line’s ships, Empress of the Seas, is less than a fourth the size of Symphony of the Seas.

All 26 Royal Caribbean ships fall into eight broad classes, each of which has its own look and feel.

Related: Which cruise brand is right for you? 

In This Post

An introduction to Royal Caribbean ships

For the most part, Royal Caribbean operates big, bustling megaships that will appeal to people who like a megaresort experience. The company has built its brand around offering vacationers a ton of diversions on its ships, whether for dining (some vessels have more than 20 distinct places to grab a bite) or entertainment. They’re lively and fun.

But just how over-the-top the megaresort experience on a Royal Caribbean ship will be varies from class to class.

The line’s four Oasis Class ships are unlike anything else you’ll find at sea when it comes to size, amenities and capacity. They each can hold more than 6,600 passengers with every berth full.

Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class ships are so big that there’s room for three distinct pool areas plus a kiddie splash zone on their top decks. They also have mid-ship openings that are home tree-lined central parks. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Somewhat smaller in size, but still giant by any measure, are the line’s four Quantum Class and three Freedom Class vessels, which each have total capacities ranging from around 4,500 to 5,600 passengers. With room for around 3,800 passengers at maximum occupancy, the line’s five Voyager Class vessels are relatively large, too.

Together, the 16 vessels of these four classes — Oasis, Quantum, Freedom and Voyager — make up Royal Caribbean’s big-ship fleet. The line’s remaining 10 vessels, split among four classes, are smaller, with maximum occupancy topping out around 2,500 passengers.

While no longer the focus at Royal Caribbean, the smaller ships, which in general are the line’s older ships, allow it to offer itineraries to places that aren’t as easy for big ships to visit. Not all ports in the world can handle a ship the size of Symphony of the Seas.

The smaller ships also appeal to a subset of Royal Caribbean fans who like a little more intimacy in a cruise vessel and don’t mind giving up some onboard amenities to get it. They also often are less expensive to sail on, on a per-day basis.

Related: How to book a cruise with points and miles

The Royal Promenade on Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships have interior, mall-like Royal Promenades with shops, eateries and bars. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

As you might expect, the biggest Royal Caribbean ships have the most amenities. With each step down in size, you’ll find fewer restaurants, bars, entertainment offerings and attractions. But even the smallest of Royal Caribbean ships still have quite a bit to offer.

Still, if you’re sailing with the line for the first time, it’s important to understand that not all of Royal Caribbean’s signature attractions and venues are on all its ships. For instance, while every Royal Caribbean vessel now has one of the line’s iconic climbing walls (some have two!), only the 16 ships of the line’s big-ship classes have a FlowRider surfing simulator. Only the 12 ships of the Oasis, Freedom and Voyager classes have ice skating rinks.

Quantum Class

Ships in class: Quantum of the Seas (2014); Anthem of the Seas (2015); Ovation of the Seas (2016); Spectrum of the Seas (2019)

Size: 168,666 to 169,379 tons

Quantum of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Unveiled in 2014, the Quantum Class is Royal Caribbean’s newest class, and perhaps its most innovative class ever.

In addition to a wide range of restaurants, bars and showrooms, the four ships in the class feature some of the most unusual new attractions you’ll find at sea, including bumper car pavilions (really, somehow they found room for these) and skydiving simulators.

The ships also have glass-enclosed capsules mounted on mechanical arms that will take you soaring into the sky for bird’s-eye views. Seriously. They’re called the North Star rides, and they may be the oddest attractions ever added to the top of a cruise ship.

The North Star attraction on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
The North Star attraction on Royal Caribbean’s Quantum of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Quantum Class ships are also home to unusual, multilevel entertainment spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass walls called Two70. The spaces feature live aerial performances as well as moving “roboscreens” that take part in the shows. At certain times of the day, the glass walls transform into an expansive ambient surface called Vistarama that projects real and imagined scenes.

Related: The 9 craziest attractions you’ll find on a cruise ship

All the above are in addition to many of the brand’s core attractions you’ll find on most Royal Caribbean ships, including pools, rock-climbing walls, casinos, spas and Broadway shows. But don’t expect all of the classic Royal Caribbean features on Quantum Class ships. For instance, you won’t find ice skating rinks, though they’re a staple of most big Royal Caribbean ships. They also don’t have waterparks.

The Quantum Class ships aren’t quite as big as Royal Caribbean’s Oasis Class vessels (and thus don’t have quite as much room for things like ice-skating rinks). But at around 169,000 tons, they’re still among the biggest ships at sea, with a significant number of venues.

They also can carry a lot of people. Most of the ships in the class hold 4,180 passengers at double occupancy — 4,905 if every berth is filled. The exception is Spectrum of the Seas, which was specifically built for the China market with some design differences. It can hold up to 5,622 passengers.

One more big difference between the ships of the Quantum Class and other big Royal Caribbean ships is that Quantum Class ships are designed to be more versatile.

If you look closely at their deck plans, you’ll notice that more of their main attractions are indoors, protected from the elements, than the ships of, say, the Oasis or Freedom classes.

Bumper cars in The SeaPlex on Royal Caribbean's Spectrum of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
The indoor SeaPlex venue on Quantum Class ships is a bumper car pavilion that doubles as a roller-skating rink and can be used for basketball and games. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

One of the two main pool areas on each of the Quantum Class ships is enclosed, for instance. So are the bumper car pavilions, which double as roller-skating rinks and also can be used as indoor basketball courts. This allows Royal Caribbean to send the ships to cooler regions of the world such as Alaska and Northern Europe where the temperatures aren’t always conducive to outdoor activity.

Royal Caribbean also has used some of the Quantum Class ships for sailings out of China.

Oasis Class

Ships in class: Oasis of the Seas (2009); Allure of the Seas (2010); Harmony of the Seas (2016); Symphony of the Seas (2018)

Size: 226,838 to 228,081 tons

The launch of Royal Caribbean International's Oasis of the Seas, the worlds largest cruise ship.Aerial views off Miami. Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean International.
The launch of Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

If you’re the kind of person who loves nothing better than a big, bustling resort with every sort of amusement known to humans, then this is the cruise ship class for you.

As mentioned above, the Oasis Class ships are more than 20% bigger than any other cruise vessel afloat, and for big-ship lovers, there’s really nothing quite like them.

Each of the Oasis Class vessels has three separate main pool areas, a kiddie splash zone, surfing simulators, miniature golf courses, basketball courts and even zip lines. And that’s just on their top decks. Inside the vessels, you’ll find more lounges, bars, restaurants and shops than you can imagine, plus huge casinos, spas and showrooms with real Broadway shows. They even have indoor ice-skating rinks, just in case you want to get your Michelle Kwan on.

Royal Caribbean's giant Oasis Class vessels feature miniature golf courses, basketball courts and surfing simulators on their top decks, among other amusements. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).
Royal Caribbean’s giant Oasis Class vessels feature miniature golf courses, basketball courts and surfing simulators on their top decks, among other amusements. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

What you won’t find on the Oasis Class ships is intimacy. These are vessels that can carry as many as 6,780 passengers when every berth is filled. They operate with around 2,200 crew. That means you could be sharing your vacation with nearly 9,000 people.

If the above sounds downright insane to you, it is. But keep in mind that the biggest megaresorts on land are even bigger. The biggest resort in the U.S., The Venetian in Las Vegas, has 7,092 rooms. That means it can hold more than 14,000 guests, assuming two people per room.

By that measure, Oasis Class ships are almost small.

Oasis Class ships also don’t necessarily feel as crowded as they are. Royal Caribbean’s designers are masters at creating vessels that can carry thousands and thousands of people but still feel relatively uncrowded — at least in some areas. You can have a quiet afternoon reading a book on a bench in the tree-lined Central Park area of Symphony of the Seas while just a few decks above thousands of vacationers are frolicking away at the ship’s pools.

The Perfect Storm complex of waterslides is a highlight of the top deck of Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean).
Three of the four Oasis Class ships have a complex of waterslides called The Perfect Storm. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Note that there are a few differences from ship to ship in the Oasis Class series. For starters, the two newest and largest ships in the series — Harmony of the Seas and Symphony of the Seas — have a few additional attractions and venues. Among them: The Ultimate Abyss, a terrifying slide that drops nine decks (Royal Caribbean says it drops 10 decks, but don’t be fooled; the line is counting a nonexistent Deck 13).

There also are giant waterslides on three of the four ships. Only Allure of the Seas is missing them. There are plans to add waterslides to Allure of the Seas, but they’ve been put on hold since the coronavirus-caused cruising shutdown earlier this year.

Related: The 6 most spectacular waterslides and watery fun zones at sea

A handful of restaurants also are different from ship to ship in the series.

Radiance Class

Ships in class: Radiance of the Seas (2001); Brilliance of the Seas (2002); Serenade of the Seas (2003); Jewel of the Seas (2004)

Size: 90,090 tons

Radiance of the Seas
Radiance of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Not sure that you want to sail on a megaship with 6,000 people but still want a vessel with a good amount of features and activities? The Radiance Class ships may be the perfect solution.

At 90,090 tons, the four vessels in the series are less than half the size of Royal Caribbean’s massive Oasis Class ships, but still big enough that they have a lot to offer.

Each of the vessels has more than a half-dozen food outlets including a main restaurant, casual buffet eatery, steakhouse, Italian restaurant and Asian venue.

You’ll also find three pools on each of the ships, whirlpools, rock-climbing walls, miniature golf courses, sports courts and adults-only solariums. Each of the ships also has a theater, spa, casino and multiple bars and lounges.

Jewel of the Seas
The pool decks on Radiance Class ships aren’t nearly as big as on Oasis Class or Quantum Class vessels. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

What you won’t find on the ships, because of their smaller size, are all the gee-whiz attractions, such as ice-skating rinks, surfing simulators, giant waterslides and bumper cars pavilions, that Royal Caribbean has put on its bigger vessels. If you can’t live without those sorts of features on a cruise ship, then the Radiance Class probably isn’t for you.

Each of the Radiance Class ships holds a bit over 2,100 passengers at double occupancy (plus a few hundred more with every berth filled). That’s less than half the amount of passengers you’ll find on the biggest Royal Caribbean ships.

That makes them perfect for cruisers who want to get away from the sort of crowds that are on the biggest megaships without giving up many of the amenities that big ships have to offer.

Freedom Class

Ships in class: Freedom of the Seas (2006); Liberty of the Seas (2007); Independence of the Seas (2008)

Size: 154,407 to 156,271 tons

Independence of the Seas
Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

As recently as 2009, these were the biggest cruise ships in the world, and they’re still quite big as compared to almost all other cruise vessels afloat.

While no longer on the list of the Top 10 biggest cruise ships — they’ve been displaced by Royal Caribbean’s Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels, as well as a few ships from other lines — they offer a classic, big-ship experience with lots of restaurants, bars, showrooms and deck-top attractions.

The Freedom Class ships, notably, were the first Royal Caribbean ships to feature a FlowRider surfing simulator on their top decks — now a signature attraction for the line. They also have multiple pool areas, waterparks, miniature golf courses and rock-climbing walls on their top decks, which are among the most activity-packed at sea.

Liberty of the Seas
Every Freedom Class ship has a FlowRider surfing simulator on its top deck. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Indeed, the top decks of Freedom Class ships are more loaded with attractions than any other Royal Caribbean vessels except the Oasis Class vessels. You just won’t find several of the most over-the-top attractions that are atop Oasis Class ships, such as zip lines.

On their interiors, Freedom Class vessels have the mall-like Royal Promenade spaces filled with eateries, bars and shops that have become standard on bigger Royal Caribbean ships. They also have large casinos and spas.

Related: Royal Caribbean just fixed the worst part of cruising

At around 156,000 tons, the Freedom Class ships are about 31% smaller than the Oasis Class ships, a significant step down in size. They’re nearly 8% smaller than the Quantum Class ships.

They also carry significantly fewer passengers than the Oasis Class ships. Freedom of the Seas and Independence of the Seas carry around 3,900 passengers at double occupancy (closer to 4,600 with every berth filled). Liberty of the Seas can carry several hundred more.

Voyager Class

Ships in class: Voyager of the Seas (1999); Explorer of the Seas (2000); Adventure of the Seas (2001); Navigator of the Seas (2002); Mariner of the Seas (2003)

Size: 137,276 to 139,999 tons

Mariner of the Seas
Mariner of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The Voyager Class ships are similar to Freedom Class ships, but shorter in length. Or put another way, the Freedom Class was a stretched version of the Voyager Class.

Like the Freedom Class vessels, the Voyager Class ships have many of Royal Caribbean’s signature attractions, including rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks. In fact, the ships were the first at Royal Caribbean to have those attractions.

Voyager Class ships also were the first to feature a mall-like Royal Promenade with bars, cafes and shops in their interiors. They also each have several alternative specialty restaurants in addition to their main dining rooms and casual buffet eateries, including a version of Royal Caribbean’s signature Chops Grille steakhouse and an Italian restaurant.

One of the main differences between the Voyager Class and the Freedom Class is that the Royal Promenades on Voyager Class ships are shorter. The top-deck areas of the Voyage Class ships also are more truncated as compared to the Freedom Class vessels.

Navigator of the Seas
The pool deck of Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, one of the line’s Voyager Class ships. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

There also are fewer cabins on the Voyager Class ships, resulting in fewer passengers on board a typical sailing. Most of the ships carry around 3,100 passengers at double occupancy — about 800 fewer than the typical Freedom Class ship.

At around 139,000 tons, the ships are about 11% smaller than the Freedom Class ships.

Note that there are some variations in attractions between the five Voyager Class vessels. Navigator of the Seas has a new waterslide zone that’s home to The Blaster, the longest waterslide at sea. You won’t find that on the other ships, though most of them have different waterslides. Only three of the five ships — Voyager of the Seas, Navigator of the Seas and Mariner of the Seas — have laser tag courses. Adventure of the Seas is the only vessel in the class with a kiddie splash zone.

In a major overhaul of Mariner of the Seas in 2018, Royal Caribbean added a new attraction called SkyPad. It’s a virtual reality bungee-trampoline experience.

Related: Our take on the revamped Navigator of the Seas

Vision Class

Ships in class: Grandeur of the Seas (1996); Rhapsody of the Seas (1997); Enchantment of the Seas (1997); Vision of the Seas (1998)

Size: 73,817 to 82,910 tons

Rhapsody of the Seas
Rhapsody of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

Dating to the 1990s, the Vision Class ships are among the smallest at Royal Caribbean, and they offer fewer onboard attractions and amenities than is typical for the line’s vessels.

In general, they appeal to cruisers looking for a more intimate experience on a cruise ship than what you’ll find on the big Royal Caribbean ships. They also draw cruisers who care more about the destinations that they visit on a cruise than onboard attractions.

Along those lines, Royal Caribbean often sends some of its Vision Class ships to Europe in the summer to operate port call-intensive itineraries. The vessels also often sail longer trips in the Caribbean that take in less-visited southerly islands. In both cases, the allure of the cruises has more to do with the ports that the ships visit than the onboard experience.

Vision Class ships also sometimes are based in secondary ports such as Baltimore or San Juan, Puerto Rico, that might not warrant a larger vessel.

Except for rock-climbing walls, the Vision Class ships have none of the signature Royal Caribbean deck-top attractions such as surfing simulators and skydiving simulators. For the most part, their top decks are filled with pools, whirlpools and sunning areas, as is typical for ships built in the 1990s. All of them have at least two pools and six whirlpools, except for Enchantment of the Seas, which has three pools and six whirlpools. Enchantment of the Seas also has a bungee trampoline area, something none of the other vessels offer.

Related: Surprise! Royal Caribbean just changed its name — without telling anybody

In addition to main restaurants and casual buffet eateries, each of the ships has at least one and often several additional specialty restaurants such as the line’s signature Chops Grille steakhouse and Italian eatery Giovanni’s Table. Rhapsody of the Seas has the biggest selection of dining; Enchantment of the Seas has the smallest. Three of the four vessels — all but Enchantment of the Seas — have an Izumi Asian eatery.

Each of the ships vary slightly in size. Grandeur of the Seas is the smallest of the four vessels, measuring around 74,000 tons. Enchantment of the Seas is the biggest, measuring around 83,000 tons (it was, notably, lengthened by 73 feet in 2005).

Sovereign Class

Ships in class: Majesty of the Seas (1992)

Size: 74,077 tons

Royal Caribbean's Majesty of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean’s Majesty of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The Sovereign Class is one of Royal Caribbean’s oldest — and smallest — classes of vessels.

Originally, the line operated three of the ships — all built between 1988 and 1992. But these days, it’s down to just one: Majesty of the Seas.

The other two Sovereign Class ships — Sovereign of the Seas and Monarch of the Seas — were transferred out of the Royal Caribbean fleet in 2008 and 2013, respectively, for a second life sailing for Royal Caribbean-affiliated Pullmantur. They were finally retired and scrapped just this year.

Related: Why the scrapping of Sovereign of the Seas is so heartbreaking 

It’s likely that Majesty of the Seas, too, soon will be on the way out at Royal Caribbean. But, for now, it offers cruisers a rare chance to experience one of the most famous classes of ships in modern cruising history.

The Sovereign Class is widely recognized as the class that “began it all” when it comes to modern-day megaship cruising. While small by today’s standards, the ships were not only giants for the time, they were chock full of what were then-revolutionary features, from soaring central atriums with glass elevators and sweeping staircases to multiple entertainment venues.

It’s a testament to just how much cruising has evolved over the past three decades that such features now seem almost quaint.

These days, the only remaining ship in the series, Majesty of the Seas, is considered a relatively small vessel —  at 73,941 tons, it’s just a third the size of Symphony of the Seas — and appeals to cruisers who don’t mind a ship without a lot of standout features.

While Majesty of the Seas has two pools, two whirlpools, a kiddie splash zone and a rock-climbing wall, it lacks many of the snazzier deck-top attractions that have become commonplace on newer Royal Caribbean ships. You definitely won’t find a surfing simulator a zip line here.

For dining, the options are limited to a main dining room, casual buffet eatery and a few quick-serve outlets including a Johnny Rockets burger joint.

Related: The best cruise ship steakhouses

Empress Class

Ships in class: Empress of the Seas (1990)

Size: 48,563 tons

Royal Caribbean's Empress of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)
Royal Caribbean’s Empress of the Seas. (Photo courtesy of Royal Caribbean)

The Empress Class is another one-ship class at Royal Caribbean, with its only vessel being Empress of the Seas. And, like the Sovereign Class, it’s a class that might not be around at Royal Caribbean for long.

Built in 1990, Empress of the Seas is the oldest ship at Royal Caribbean. It’s also by far the smallest ship at the line. In fact, at just 48,563 tons, it’s an outlier for the line in its smallness. It’s less than a fourth the size of Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships.

Empress of the Seas, notably, already has been removed from the Royal Caribbean fleet once, in 2008, when it was transferred to Pullmantur. But Royal Caribbean brought it back to its fleet in 2016 to operate sailings to Cuba, which due to port limitations could only be done with smaller vessels. Cruises from the U.S. to Cuba have since ceased due to changing U.S. government policy.

We suspect that Royal Caribbean has kept Empress of the Seas around on the chance that the U.S. government loosens its policy on cruises to Cuba.

Like Majesty of the Seas, Empress of the Seas lacks most of the iconic attractions for which Royal Caribbean has been known. All you’ll find on its top deck, for the most part, is a pool and a rock-climbing wall. The interior features a small number of entertainment venues and eateries, including a main restaurant and a Chops Grille steakhouse.

Planning a cruise? Start with these stories:

Featured image courtesy of Royal Caribbean

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 80,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,600

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,000 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide, eligible delivery services, takeout and dining out & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,000 toward travel.
  • Get unlimited deliveries with a $0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash's subscription service. Activate by 12/31/21.
  • Earn 5X points on Lyft rides through March 2022. That’s 3X points in addition to the 2X points you already earn on travel.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
15.99%-22.99% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.