World's 10 biggest cruise ships: Monsters of the sea

Big isn't necessarily best, but when it comes to cruise ships it certainly helps.

 The biggest cruise ship in the world, Royal Caribbean's Allure of the Seas, carries a mind-boggling 8000 people when you add crew and passengers – that's more than the population of many Australian country towns. 

And later next year Sydney will become a home port of Australia's first mega liner, Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas, which has a capacity of almost 5000 passengers. 

But the size of a cruise ship isn't just measured by how many people it accommodates, or how long or wide or tall it is – it's all about tonnage. 

In a nutshell, tonnage is not how much a ship weighs – it's the volume inside it. On cruise ships, the volume, or interior space, determines how many people the ship can accommodate; some ships may be of similar tonnage but carry more or fewer people, depending on the style of the ship.

Here's a look at the highlights of today's modern mega ships.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN, ALLURE OF THE SEAS 

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 6360 (5400 double occupancy)

Length 360 metres

Tonnage 225,282 

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Launched 2010

Cruising grounds Caribbean and Mediterranean

The biggest cruise ship in the world is just five centimetres longer than its older sister, Oasis of the Seas. Both ships feature the huge Central Park area, home to living, breathing plants and trees. Allure and Oasis boast FlowRiders, ziplines, dazzling shows and a whole lot more – some passengers don't even get off the ship.

ROYAL CARIBBEAN, OVATION OF THE SEAS

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 4905 (4180 double occupancy)

Length 348 metres

Tonnage 167,800 

Launching April 2016

Cruising grounds China, Australia, New Zealand

Ovation of the Seas is virtually identical to Quantum and Anthem of the Seas and will be the biggest, newest ship to cruise Down Under when it arrives in December 2016. Ovation's fabulous playthings include a skydiving simulator, North Star viewing capsule and SeaPlex indoor space (for bumper cars, circus school and roller-skating).

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE, NORWEGIAN ESCAPE

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 5400 (4248 double occupancy)

Length 334.6 metres

Tonnage 164,600 

Launching November 2015

Cruising grounds Eastern Caribbean

The first of NCL's new Breakaway Plus class of ships, Escape will be the biggest in the fleet and has supersized many popular attractions from Breakaway and Getaway. Thrill-seekers will flock to the ropes course, Sky Rails and massive Aqua Park, and those seeking exclusivity can check in to the Haven, a "ship within a ship".

 NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINES' NORWEGIAN EPIC

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 5183 (double occupancy)

Length 329 metres

Tonnage 155,873 

Launched 2010

Cruising grounds Mediterranean and Caribbean

Epic introduced a host of "first at sea" features when it launched: solo cabins, an ice bar, a rapelling wall, the biggest bowling alley at sea and the popular Blue Man shows. Big sister Escape might have more whiz-bang features but Epic has plenty to offer families and young adults looking for a fun-filled holiday. 

ROYAL CARIBBEAN's FREEDOM OF THE SEAS

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 4375 (3634 double occupancy)

Length 339 metres

Tonnage 154,407

Launched 2006

Cruising grounds Western and Eastern Caribbean

Freedom was the world's biggest cruise ship when it launched. It had the first FlowRider at sea and in 2011 had a multi-million-dollar makeover that added many signature Royal Caribbean features: DreamWorks "live" cartoon characters, a cupcake shop and a vast poolside movie screen.

CUNARD'S QUEEN MARY 2

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 3090 (2592 double occupancy)

Length 345 metres

Tonnage 148,528

Launched 2004

Cruising grounds World cruises, transatlantic crossings

The world's only true transatlantic ocean liner, Cunard's flagship might not be the biggest cruise ship but it's the fastest: QM2's maximum speed is just over 30 knots (56 km/h). Special attractions include the planetarium, traditional afternoon tea in the Queen's Room, and the only kennels at sea.     

NORWEGIAN CRUISE LINE'S NORWEGIAN BREAKAWAY

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 3998 (double occupancy)

Length 325 metres

Tonnage 146,600

Launched 2013

Cruising grounds Bermuda, Bahamas, Caribbean

Norwegian Breakaway is very similar to its year-younger sister Getaway. Both have studio cabins for solo cruisers; The Waterfront's al fresco restaurants and bars; and 678 Ocean Place, three decks of dining and entertainment venues. Spice H2O is a day and night adults-only retreat.

PRINCESS CRUISES' REGAL PRINCESS 

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 3600 (double occupancy)

Length 330 metres

Tonnage 141,000

Launched May 2014

Cruising grounds Caribbean, Northern Europe

Like its sister ship Royal Princess, Regal features the SeaWalk, a glass walkway cantilevered off the side of the ship. They also share the dazzling Piazza, a three-deck atrium that is linked by spiral staircases and houses restaurants, bars, cafes and shops. Just off the Piazza is the lavish Lotus Spa.

P&O CRUISES WORLD CRUISING'S BRITANNIA

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity  4100 (3611 double occupancy)

Length 330 metres

Tonnage 141,000

Launched March 2015

Cruising grounds  Mediterranean, Baltic Sea, Caribbean

The massive Union Jack on the bow of P&O's new flagship reinforces its very British character. Five British "Food Heroes" have designed menus for their signature restaurants and passengers can take cooking classes in The Cookery Club. In a first for P&O, all outside cabins have balconies. 

MSC CRUISES' MSC PREZIOSA

Vital statistics

Maximum passenger capacity 4345 (3502 double occupancy)

Length 333 metres

Tonnage 139,400 

Launched 2013

Cruising grounds Mediterranean and South America

MSC Cruises became the world's third-largest cruise line when it launched MSC Preziosa. The ships are very family-friendly – all children under the age of 18 (accompanied by adults) travel free. MSC Cruises' Yacht Club is another "ship within a ship" and offers 69 suites, a private pool and sundeck, and its own restaurant. 

See also: Twenty amazing cruises for first-timers
See also: How to cruise like you're at a high-end hotel
See also: How to bluff your way around a cruise ship

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