The Best Royal Caribbean Ships For 2018

best royal caribbean cruise ships 2018
Which Royal Caribbean ships should be on your radar in 2018? - Photo by Royal Caribbean

Thinking about a Royal Caribbean cruise in 2018, but not sure which ship to sail on? Using thousands of review scores submitted in 2017 by Cruiseline.com members, we’ve ranked the top ships across seven categories, from dining and cabins to onboard activities and entertainment. So whether you’re a foodie looking for some Broadway-caliber entertainment or a family of adrenaline junkies who need to stay moving at all times, there’s a perfect Royal Caribbean ship for you.

Ship Quality

best royal caribbean ships 2018 quality
Allure of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Allure of the Seas - 4.56
2. Harmony of the Seas - 4.54
3. Oasis of the Seas - 4.53
4. Liberty of the Seas - 4.44
5. Anthem of the Seas - 4.41
6. Explorer of the Seas - 4.38
7. Brilliance of the Seas - 4.32
8. Navigator of the Seas - 4.32
9. Independence of the Seas - 4.31
10. Freedom of the Seas - 4.31
11. Ovation of the Seas - 4.27
12. Voyager of the Seas - 4.27
13. Jewel of the Seas - 4.26
14. Mariner of the Seas - 4.25
15. Adventure of the Seas - 4.25
16. Serenade of the Seas - 4.25
17. Grandeur of the Seas - 4.23
18. Rhapsody of the Seas - 4.22
19. Vision of the Seas - 4.21
20. Radiance of the Seas - 4.20
21. Empress of the Seas - 4.20
22. Enchantment of the Seas - 4.13
23. Majesty of the Seas - 3.78

 

What We Expected: Not surprisingly, this is the first of many categories where newer tends to mean better. After all, there’s only so much you can do to improve the look of a ship over 20 years old. The top three finishers here were Royal Caribbean’s three Oasis-class ships, all of which were built within the last decade. 

What Surprised Us: With that said, it is worth nothing that Royal’s newest ships, Anthem and Ovation, did not perform as well some older vessels in Royal Caribbean’s fleet. Brilliance and Navigator, both nearly 20 years old, also appear to be holding their quality well as they beat out several newer vessels. And finally, it’s hard to miss the huge drop in second-to-last place Enchantment (4.13) and the last place Majesty (3.78). 

 

Cabins

best royal caribbean ships 2018 cabin
Balcony cabin - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Anthem of the Seas - 4.52
2. Harmony of the Seas - 4.51 
3. Allure of the Seas - 4.50
4. Oasis of the Seas - 4.47
5. Liberty of the Seas - 4.44
6. Explorer of the Seas - 4.43
7. Navigator of the Seas - 4.42
8. Independence of the Seas - 4.40
9. Freedom of the Seas - 4.39
10. Jewel of the Seas - 4.38
11. Ovation of the Seas - 4.38
12. Voyager of the Seas - 4.37
13. Brilliance of the Seas - 4.37
14. Mariner of the Seas - 4.36
15. Rhapsody of the Seas - 4.35 
16. Radiance of the Seas - 4.34
17. Grandeur of the Seas - 4.34
18. Serenade of the Seas - 4.33
19. Vision of the Seas - 4.28
20. Adventure of the Seas - 4.28
21. Enchantment of the Seas - 4.27
22. Empress of the Seas - 4.19
23. Majesty of the Seas - 3.96

 

What We Expected: The design of cruise ship cabins have come a long way in the last 30 years, so it’s not surprising that this list is practically in chronological order (with the notable exception of Ovation). The new cabin innovations on Anthem and Harmony like virtual balconies and family staterooms were clearly a hit, while the smaller, older staterooms on Majesty and Empress struggled to keep pace.

What Surprised Us: Nothing was all that surprising here, except perhaps the lagging performance of Ovation of the Seas. It’s Royal’s newest ship, but it’s also stationed in a very new market (Asia), and attracting lots of first-time cruisers with different expectations.

 

Food & Dining

best royal caribbean ships 2018 dining
Jamie's Italian by Jamie Oliver on Harmony of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Liberty of the Seas - 4.32
2. Allure of the Seas - 4.24
3. Oasis of the Seas - 4.24
4. Enchantment of the Seas - 4.19 
5. Harmony of the Seas - 4.19
6. Empress of the Seas - 4.19
7. Grandeur of the Seas - 4.19
8. Explorer of the Seas - 4.18
9. Adventure of the Seas - 4.16
10. Navigator of the Seas - 4.16
11. Voyager of the Seas - 4.14
12. Rhapsody of the Seas - 4.14
13. Majesty of the Seas - 4.14
14. Mariner of the Seas - 4.13
15. Ovation of the Seas - 4.11
16. Freedom of the Seas - 4.11
17. Radiance of the Seas - 4.11
18. Anthem of the Seas - 4.11
19. Vision of the Seas - 4.09
20. Serenade of the Seas - 4.08
21. Brilliance of the Seas - 4.07
22. Jewel of the Seas - 4.07
23. Independence of the Seas - 4.03

 

What We Expected: Newer ships still dominated the top spots here, although the rest of the list is a more of a mixed bag. Unlike cabins and ship quality, newer isn’t always an advantage when it comes to dining. 

What Surprised Us: Older ships like Empress and Majesty, found at the bottom of the ship quality and cabins rankings, still outperformed ships less than half their age, with the nearly 30 year-old Empress actually tying Harmony of the Seas, a ship that’s only two years old. 

Liberty of the Seas, a lesser known Royal Caribbean ship that only sails out of Galveston, Texas, surprised us with the first of two wins. Their first-place finish was even more surprising considering their sister ship, Independence of the Seas, finished last. Dining scores seem to be very closely related to service scores, which brings us to our next category...

 

Service & Staff

best royal caribbean ships 2018 service
Bartenders at the R Bar - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Liberty of the Seas - 4.62
2. Grandeur of the Seas - 4.60
3. Oasis of the Seas - 4.60
4. Rhapsody of the Seas - 4.58
5. Empress of the Seas - 4.58
6. Adventure of the Seas - 4.55
7. Allure of the Seas - 4.55
8. Enchantment of the Seas - 4.54
9. Voyager of the Seas - 4.54
10. Explorer of the Seas - 4.54
11. Radiance of the Seas - 4.53
12. Mariner of the Seas - 4.52
13. Serenade of the Seas - 4.51
14. Brilliance of the Seas - 4.51
15. Freedom of the Seas - 4.50
16. Ovation of the Seas - 4.50
17. Jewel of the Seas - 4.50
18. Harmony of the Seas - 4.49
19. Vision of the Seas - 4.49
20. Navigator of the Seas - 4.49
21. Majesty of the Seas - 4.46
22. Anthem of the Seas - 4.45
23. Independence of the Seas - 4.42

 

What We Expected: This may actually be the only category where newer ships are at a disadvantage. Ships that have been around for some time have been able to hone their workflows to a science, whereas ships with new staffs are still working out the kinks. This is why out of the top 5 finishers, three were launched before 2000, while new ships Anthem and Harmony finished 18th and 22nd. Think of it as a hardware vs. software issue: older ships can’t make themselves look that much younger, but they can make up ground against their newer, sleeker counterparts by focusing on delivering the best customer service possible. 

Another thing we couldn’t help but notice was how much higher the scores are across the entire category, with even the last-place finisher Independence scoring a respectable 4.42, a higher score than the first place finisher in other categories. Exceptional service scores are something we’ve been talking about for years now, and this just confirms what we’ve already known: the cruise industry knows service. 

What Surprised Us: This list is remarkably similar to the dining category, with sister ships Liberty and Independence finishing first and last place.

 

Onboard Activities

best royal caribbean ships 2018 activities
There's plenty to do on Harmony of the Seas - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Harmony of the Seas - 4.30
2. Allure of the Seas - 4.29
3. Oasis of the Seas - 4.24
4. Liberty of the Seas - 4.19
5. Explorer of the Seas - 4.10
6. Independence of the Seas - 4.07
7. Freedom of the Seas - 4.07
8. Anthem of the Seas - 4.07
9. Adventure of the Seas - 4.06
10. Voyager of the Seas - 4.06
11. Navigator of the Seas - 4.05
12. Mariner of the Seas - 4.01
13. Radiance of the Seas - 4.00
14. Ovation of the Seas - 4.00
15. Brilliance of the Seas - 3.97
16. Enchantment of the Seas - 3.96
17. Serenade of the Seas - 3.96
18. Vision of the Seas - 3.95
19. Empress of the Seas - 3.94
20. Rhapsody of the Seas - 3.93
21. Grandeur of the Seas - 3.91
22. Jewel of the Seas - 3.83
23. Majesty of the Seas - 3.77

 

What We Expected: Once again, the top three finishers all come from Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class. Royal Caribbean has always excelled at Onboard activities, but they took their game to the next level on Oasis, Allure, and Harmony, with even more rock climbing walls, water slides, surf simulators, and zip lines. 

What Surprised Us: Once again, despite having the newest features available, Anthem and Ovation didn’t quite measure up.
 

Entertainment

best royal caribbean ships 2018 entertainment
The Aqua Theater is one of Royal Caribbean's unique venues - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Allure of the Seas - 4.43
2. Harmony of the Seas - 4.37
3. Oasis of the Seas - 4.29
4. Liberty of the Seas - 4.27
5. Independence of the Seas - 4.23
6. Freedom of the Seas - 4.16
7. Explorer of the Seas - 4.15
8. Empress of the Seas - 4.15
9. Anthem of the Seas - 4.13
10. Voyager of the Seas - 4.11
11. Grandeur of the Seas - 4.11
12. Ovation of the Seas - 4.11
13. Mariner of the Seas - 4.11
14. Serenade of the Seas - 4.08
15. Brilliance of the Seas - 4.08
16. Navigator of the Seas - 4.06
17. Vision of the Seas - 4.06
18. Radiance of the Seas - 4.05
19. Rhapsody of the Seas - 4.05
20. Enchantment of the Seas - 4.04
21. Adventure of the Seas - 4.02
22. Majesty of the Seas - 3.97
23. Jewel of the Seas - 3.91

 

What We Expected: Newer ships have more entertainment venues and larger theaters, so Allure, Oasis, and Harmony easily secured another 1-2-3 finish. Cruise ship entertainment has improved by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, and newer ships are being designed from the ground up with Broadway-level productions in mind. 

What Surprised Us: Empress once again caught us off-guard, finishing eighth.

 

Children’s Programs

best royal caribbean ships 2018 kids
Splashaway Bay - Photo by Royal Caribbean

1. Harmony of the Seas - 4.08
2. Oasis of the Seas - 4.07
3. Allure of the Seas - 4.06
4. Liberty of the Seas - 4.04
5. Explorer of the Seas - 3.95
6. Freedom of the Seas - 3.95
7. Radiance of the Seas - 3.93
8. Independence of the Seas - 3.92
9. Anthem of the Seas - 3.92
10. Serenade of the Seas - 3.92
11. Adventure of the Seas - 3.92
12. Mariner of the Seas - 3.91
13. Navigator of the Seas - 3.89
14. Voyager of the Seas - 3.89
15. Vision of the Seas - 3.85
16. Grandeur of the Seas - 3.85
17. Ovation of the Seas - 3.84
18. Rhapsody of the Seas - 3.83
19. Majesty of the Seas - 3.82
20. Enchantment of the Seas - 3.80
21. Brilliance of the Seas - 3.78
22. Empress of the Seas - 3.72
23. Jewel of the Seas - 3.72

 

What We Expected: Okay, okay, we get it. Allure, Oasis, and Harmony, are good at pretty much everything. Liberty is pretty great, too. These new ships have activities for families to enjoy together (see onboard activities), plus kids-only lounges stocked with games and other entertainment. 

What Surprised Us: Radiance and Explorer performed surprisingly well, despite not having the bells and whistles of newer ships. The two also performed well in the service category, so we’re getting the sense that the staff knows what they’re doing.  

 

What We Learned

- Oasis-class ships are phenomenal at pretty much everything, and they're undoubtedly among the top ships in the entire industry.

- Liberty of the Seas is an extremely well-run and meticulously maintained ship. It may not have all the new tech of Oasis-class ships, but its crew is top-notch, and it should be a no-brainer for cruisers living in and around Texas. 

- Empress and Majesty are rough around the edges but held together by hard-working crews.

- Anthem and Ovation have a lot of potential with cutting-edge amenities and great designs, but they still have work to do. 
 

 

Join The Discussion

What's your favorite Royal Caribbean ship?

2 Comments

Posted by clean1owner

I am not at all surprised to see Liberty Of The Seas near the top of the list. We have sailed several Royal ships, and Liberty is by far our favorite.

Posted by cruisellama

Liberty offers many family activity / venues. Its Gavalstens gem.

Post A Comment