Just as there are all kinds of cruise lines in which to choose from, there are even more individual cruise ships, and their stability and means to offset seasickness do vary. Thankfully, it's not terribly difficult to select ones for the smoothest ride.
Fear of seasickness is probably one of the greatest stumbling blocks for potential cruisers to overcome. After all, ships do move. The degree in which a ship will roll, pitch and yaw in different sea conditions depends on its inherent stability. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the ship, the less likely it is to be affected by rough weather.
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When onboard Silversea Expeditions' small 120-guest Silver Discoverer in heavy swells in Micronesia, the ship moved every which way, and avoiding seasickness was a challenge. The ship does feature stabilizers and is relatively solid in the water, at least for its size. Nonetheless, I measured rolls of 11 or so degrees to either side, but consider that some ships are able to surpass 45 degrees and safely recover. Still, the more upright a ship can ride, certainly the more comfortable it will be.
On its own, a ship is designed to withstand significant motion, but stabilizers are extra fins that extend from the hull below the waterline that serve as active wings to further reduce its rolling. Of course, even the largest ships will still move about, but some are better at handling it.
Cunard Line's Queen Mary 2, for instance, was built as a genuine ocean liner, which means it has a larger draft below the surface. That is there is more of the ship below the waterline relative to the superstructure above compared to most other cruise ships. It also features four stabilizers when most only have two. Collectively, this makes it better prepared to handle North Atlantic storms during crossings.
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Facing 100-plus-mile-per-hour wind gusts perpendicular to its side on my last cruise, the Queen Mary 2 only heeled, or listed, 5 degrees from vertical. For comparison, any other cruise ship of its size would have behaved closer to the Silver Discoverer in Micronesia in such conditions.
But crossings are unique and, save for repositioning sailings, are usually not frequented by cruise ships. Most itineraries stick to the calmest waters possible in their respective regions. Even in say the Caribbean though, larger ships will be the most stable options. Once Royal Caribbean International's new Harmony of the Seas sails there, it will likely be the best at combating roll. The ship is considerably wider that most, in part responsible for making it the biggest cruise ship in the world, and will naturally be less top heavy.
Even in rougher areas like the notorious Drake Passage towards Antarctica, larger ships are more likely to ride atop the waves instead of within the swells for a smoother sailing. For example, this will make Silversea Expeditions' larger Silver Cloud more desirable than its Silver Explorer when it begins sailing there by November 2017.
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