Last updated: 07:00 AM ET, Thu September 15 2016

Cruising 101: Selecting an Ocean Cruise Ship

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Jason Leppert | September 15, 2016

Cruising 101: Selecting an Ocean Cruise Ship

Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises

In the first of an ocean Cruising 101 series, we outlined what to consider to choose a cruise line or brand best suited to your personality and budget, but that’s only part of the picture. Within each cruise line there can be up to 25 individual ships, like in Carnival Cruise Line’s expansive fleet, in which to select from.

Here are some additional guidelines to point you in the right direction.

In regards to a specific ship selection, the things you’ll want to primarily focus on are vessel size and capacity, its modernity and the specific features and style onboard. Of course, fleets are ever changing as new ships come online and older ones are transitioned out, so be sure to do your research.

READ MORE: Cruising 101: Choosing an Ocean Cruise Line 


The size of a ship is generally and indicator of its capacity and class. Some cruise lines have only one class of ship – that is a single design or at least basic layout usually repeated as several sister ships – like Viking Ocean Cruises’ new Venice-class ships, the identical 930-guest Viking Star and Viking Sea. Royal Caribbean International, on the other hand, has 8 classes of ships, ranging in size from the one 1,840-passenger Empress of the Seas Empress-class ship to the three over 6,000-passenger Oasis-class ones led by the largest cruise ship in the world, the Harmony of the Seas.

Needless to say, by capacity alone, you are likely to have a very different experience cruising together with several hundred passengers or less versus thousands.


More often than not, the size of the ship is an indicator of its age as well. Generally, the larger ships are also the newer ones, but some new ones like Viking’s are trending smaller.

While a small ship is not likely to have all the bells and whistles of a larger one, older ones are not necessarily passé. In order for cruise line’s to sustain interest in their existing fleets, they have spent million of dollars updating them over the years to be as consistent across the board as their size will allow.

READ MORE: Choosing a Stable Cruise Ship to Avoid Seasickness 


Of course, a larger ship will spatially be able to accommodate a greater list of features which are sure to attract those looking for the most to do, but less can be more if you prefer a classic relaxed atmosphere focused more on the destination than elaborate onboard attractions.

Again, it comes down to which feature set best suits your personality. Regardless of their overall size, one thing that is more common on newer ships are more comfortable private accommodations, namely larger bathrooms and showers.


If there’s one last thing to consider, it’s specific style. Sister ships within a class can often be identical from one vessel to the next, but subtle to obvious differences can also exist. The best thing to look at are the deck plans for each ship to see if any particular layout is more to your liking. Also, photos and videos of each ship will show off the aesthetic of each. Carnival Cruise Line ships, for instance, vary greatly in their theme.


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Journey on an Avalon River Cruise

Cruise Lines & Cruise Ships