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The 6 classes of Royal Caribbean cruise ships, explained

Dec. 21, 2022
22 min read
Allure of the Seas
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Even if you’re a newcomer to cruising, you’ve probably heard of Royal Caribbean‘s giant Oasis-class ships. With the exception of a single MSC Cruises vessel, they’re far bigger than any other cruise vessel afloat and like nothing else you’ll find at sea.

Indeed, when you hear people talking about the wow factor of Royal Caribbean's “floating megaresorts,” it’s likely they’re referring to the five ships in the Oasis-class series, which includes the just-unveiled Wonder of the Seas — the world’s biggest cruise vessel.

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That said, not all Royal Caribbean ships are similarly supersized. While the line is perhaps best known for giant vessels — it operates 13 of the 30 biggest cruise ships in the world — it also markets some relatively smaller, more intimate ships.

In fact, Royal Caribbean has eight vessels that are less than half the size of the Oasis-class ships.

If you’re thinking about booking a Royal Caribbean cruise, you’ll find the line offers a wide range of ship styles and designs.

With the relatively recent removal of two older ships from its fleet, Royal Caribbean — the world’s largest cruise line by passenger capacity — now has 26 oceangoing vessels in all. That’s more than any other major cruise line, and it means that you have a lot of choices when it comes to picking the perfect Royal Caribbean ship for you.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean

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The good news for those of you trying to get a handle on all the options is that the 26 ships can easily be bunched into just six groups of vessels that have similar amenities. If you know one member of the group, you know them all.

These six groups are made up of ships constructed around the same time to the same basic design. They’re known in cruise industry lingo as “classes,” and each has its own look and feel.

An introduction to Royal Caribbean ships

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships are so big there’s room for three distinct pool areas plus a kiddie splash zone on their top decks. They also have midship openings that are home to tree-lined central parks. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

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. Its vessels are lively and fun.

The over-the-top megaresort experience on a Royal Caribbean ship varies from class to class, though.

Related: Everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean cabins and suites

The line’s five 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.

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

Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships have interior, mall-like Royal Promenades with shops, eateries and bars. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Together, the 18 vessels of these four classes — Oasis, Quantum, Freedom and Voyager — make up Royal Caribbean’s big-ship fleet. The line’s remaining eight vessels, split among two classes, are smaller, with maximum occupancy topping out at 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 prefer more intimacy in a cruise vessel and don’t mind giving up some onboard amenities to get it. They are also often less expensive to sail on, on a per-day basis.

Related: A beginners guide to picking a cruise line

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 venues and attractions. Even the smallest of Royal Caribbean ships still have quite a bit to offer, though.

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 present 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 18 ships of the line’s big-ship classes have a FlowRider surfing simulator. Only the 13 ships of the Oasis, Freedom and Voyager classes have ice skating rinks.

Note that Royal Caribbean is currently developing an entirely new class of even bigger ships, the Icon class. The first of the vessels, Icon of the Seas, is scheduled to debut in early 2024, with two more ships coming in 2025 and 2026, respectively. It'll measure a record 250,800 tons and have room for more than 7,000 passengers.

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) and Odyssey of the Seas (2021).

Size: 168,666 to 169,379 tons.

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 five ships in the class feature some of the most unusual new attractions you’ll find at sea, including bumper car pavilions (yes, 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. 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. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Quantum-class ships also feature unusual, multilevel entertainment spaces with floor-to-ceiling glass walls called Two70. The spaces are home to innovative shows that often feature aerial performers, singers and dancers who emerge from openings in the floor or the ceiling. 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 come in addition to many of the core Royal Caribbean attractions you’ll find on most of the brand’s ships, including pools, rock climbing walls, casinos, spas and Broadway-style shows. However, don’t expect all of the classic Royal Caribbean features on Quantum-class ships. For instance, you won’t find ice skating rinks on the vessels — although they’re a staple of all other big Royal Caribbean ships. Quantum-class ships also don’t have water parks.

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). At around 169,000 tons, though, 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. One 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. Additionally, the newest ship in the series, Odyssey of the Seas, can hold up to 5,498 passengers.

Related: 4 things we love about Odyssey of the Seas

One more big difference between the ships of the Quantum class and other big Royal Caribbean ships: The 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 and protected from the elements, than the ships of the Oasis or Freedom classes, for example.

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. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

One of the two main pool areas on each of the Quantum-class ships (except Odyssey of the Seas) is enclosed, for instance. The bumper car pavilions are too, doubling as roller skating rinks or 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.

Related: Everything you need to know about Royal Caribbean’s loyalty program

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), Wonder of the Seas (2022) and Utopia of the Seas (coming 2024).

Size: 226,838 to 236,857 tons.

Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, one of the world’s largest cruise ships. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

If you’re the kind of person who loves nothing more 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 bigger than any other cruise vessel afloat, and for big-ship lovers, there’s really nothing quite like them.

Related: MSC Cruises is building a ship nearly as big as Oasis-class vessels

Each of the Oasis-class vessels has three separate main pool areas, a kiddie splash zone, surfing simulators, a miniature golf course, a basketball court and even a zip line. 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 Broadway-style 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. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

What you won’t find on the Oasis-class ships is intimacy. These are vessels that can carry as many as 6,988 passengers when every berth is filled. They operate with around 2,200 crew members. That means you could be sharing your vacation with more than 9,000 people.

If the above sounds downright outrageous to you, it is. Keep in mind, though, 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 there are 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 sometimes nearly empty, tree-lined Central Park area of Wonder of the Seas while just a few decks above thousands of vacationers are frolicking away at the ship’s pools.

Three of the four Oasis-class ships have a complex of waterslides called The Perfect Storm. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Note that there are a few differences from ship to ship in the Oasis-class series. For starters, the three newest and largest ships in the series — Wonder of the Seas, Symphony of the Seas and Harmony of the Seas — have a few additional attractions and venues. Among them is 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 are also giant waterslides on four of the five ships. Only Allure of the Seas is missing them. There are plans to add waterslides to Allure of the Seas, but they were put on hold after the COVID-19-caused cruising to shut down in 2020.

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

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

The newest and largest ship in the series, Wonder of the Seas, has the most differences from the other Oasis-class vessels. At 236,857 tons, it’s about 4% bigger than the next biggest ship in the series; the extra space is devoted to such additions as a dedicated suite area with a private lounge, restaurant and sun deck.

Related: Why Wonder of the Seas is awesome for families | Wonder of the Seas cabin comparison | A wild race to try every Wonder of the Seas attraction in 2 days

A sixth ship in the Oasis-class series, to be called Utopia of the Seas, is scheduled to debut in 2024. Construction of the vessel began in April 2022 at the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in St. Nazaire, France — the same shipyard that built Wonder of the Seas.

Radiance class

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

Size: 90,090 tons.

Radiance of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Not sure 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 places to eat including the main restaurant, casual buffet, steakhouse, Italian restaurant and Asian venue.

You’ll also find three pools on each of the ships, whirlpools, a rock climbing wall, a miniature golf course, a sports court and an adults-only solarium. Each ship has a theater, spa, casino and multiple bars and lounges.

The pool decks on Radiance-class ships aren’t nearly as big as on Oasis-class or Quantum-class vessels. 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 car pavilions — that Royal Caribbean has put on its bigger vessels. If you can’t live without those sorts of features on a cruise ship, the Radiance class probably isn’t for you.

Each of the Radiance-class ships holds more than 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 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) and Independence of the Seas (2008).

Size: 154,407 to 156,271 tons.

Royal Caribbean’s Independence of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

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

While no longer on the list of the top 25 biggest cruise ships — they’ve been displaced by Royal Caribbean’s Oasis- and Quantum-class vessels, as well as several ships from other lines — the Freedom-class vessels 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. The vessels also have multiple pool areas, a water park, a miniature golf course and a rock climbing wall on their top decks, which are among the most activity-packed at sea.

Every Freedom-class ship has a FlowRider surfing simulator on its top deck. 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, such as zip lines, that Oasis-class ships have.

In 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) and Mariner of the Seas (2003).

Size: 137,276 to 139,999 tons.

Mariner of the Seas. 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 were also the first to feature a Royal Promenade with bars, cafes and shops in their interior. Each also has several specialty restaurants in addition to the main dining room and casual buffet; speciality restaurants include 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 Voyager-class ships also are more truncated as compared to the Freedom-class vessels.

The pool deck of Royal Caribbean’s Navigator of the Seas, one of the line’s Voyager-class ships. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

There are also 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.

There are also some variations in attractions among the five Voyager-class vessels. Navigator of the Seas has a relatively 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 Sky Pad. It’s a virtual reality bungee trampoline experience.

Related: Why the overhaul of Navigator of the Seas was so great

Vision class

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

Size: 73,817 to 82,910 tons.

Rhapsody of the Seas. ROYAL CARIBBEAN

Dating to the 1990s, the Vision-class ships are 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 as well as those cruisers who care more about the destinations they visit than the 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 include less-visited southerly islands. In both cases, the allure of the cruises has more to do with the ports the ships visit than the onboard experience.

Vision-class ships are also sometimes based in secondary ports such as Baltimore or San Juan, Puerto Rico, where the size of the local cruise market 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 and skydiving simulators. For the most part, their top decks are lined 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: Is cruising right for you? Start by asking yourself these 7 questions

In addition to main restaurants and casual buffets, each of the ships has at least one, and often several, additional specialty restaurants. The line’s signature Chops Grille steakhouse and Italian eatery Giovanni’s Table are two of them. 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 restaurant.

Each of the ships varies 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).

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