Compare: 14 Best Cruise Ships in the Caribbean

June 2, 2017
Carnival Sunshine

When sunshine, frozen pina coladas and steel drums call, you know it's time for a Caribbean cruise. Luckily, you can choose from a wide variety of ships and itineraries throughout the Eastern, Western and Southern regions. Whether you're keen on visiting a particular port (scuba diving in Grenada, anyone?) or simply in need of some vitamin D, we make it easy to decide which option is best for you. Compare everything from onboard activities to price tags in our breakdown of the 14 best cruise ships in the Caribbean.

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Ziplining on Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas

Size matters, and if you have a "bigger is better" mentality when it comes to cruise ships, Oasis of the Seas is a perfect choice. The 5,400-passenger behemoth (along with island-hopping sister ship Allure of the Seas) feels more like a floating resort than a ship, thanks to its Coney Island-style boardwalk; array of restaurants, bars and activities; and double the fun with two rock-climbing walls and surf simulators. 

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale and Orlando (Port Canaveral)

Standout Features:

  • Zip line that soars above nine decks
  • High-diving aerial performances at the AquaTheater
  • Boardwalk with dining, games and carousel

Best for:

  • Families with tons of adrenaline
  • Active couples
  • Those who don't want to feel like they're on a cruise ship


North Star Bar

Anthem of the Seas

With innovative features like a skydiving simulator and London Eye-inspired ride perched on the top deck, Anthem of the Seas is unlike any other ship in the Caribbean. The 4,180-passenger ship spoils cruisers with an array of dining options (including readily available gluten-free and vegetarian options), activities and cutting-edge extras you have to try at least once. Ever thought you'd get to order a drink from a robot bartender or ride bumper cars at sea?

Sailing from: Bayonne, NJ (Cape Liberty)

Standout Features:

  • Multipurpose sports complex with roller skating, bumper cars and trapeze lessons
  • Broadway musical "We Will Rock You" headlines main theater
  • Whimsical "Alice in Wonderland"-inspired restaurant specializes in molecular gastronomy

Best for:

  • Active families who have "been there, done that"
  • Adrenaline junkies
  • Multigenerational groups, thanks to two-story suites and interconnecting cabins


Ice show on Independence of the Seas

Independence of the Seas

"Indy" is a favorite among Royal Caribbean cruisers, who continue to return to the ship for its classic Royal Caribbean feel and fun for all ages. Day and night, passengers can choose from a slew of dining, recreational and entertainment options. The 3,634-passenger ship also offers plenty of opportunities to unwind; head to one of the ship's six hot tubs, two of which are adults-only and cantilevered off the edge of the ship, for some of the best views onboard.

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale

Standout Features:

  • Promenade acts as "Main Street" with shops, bars and cafes
  • Action-packed top deck with rock-climbing wall, surf simulator and mini-golf
  • Must-see ice-skating shows

Best for:

  • Families who want an even balance of recreation and entertainment
  • Couples who don't mind cruising with lots of families
  • Those who want mega-ship features but not a 5,000-plus-passenger ship


SportSquare on Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze

Carnival Breeze offers a fresh twist on the line's popular "Fun Ship" concept. It's filled with family-friendly activities, casual eateries and plenty of cozy spots for adults to escape. While you'll notice Carnival favorites like Guy's Burger Joint and the Serenity sun deck, you might not recognize the interior at first glance; the 3,690-passenger ship has a more toned-down color scheme than its flashy fleetmates.

Sailing from: Miami and Galveston

Standout Features:

  • Top-deck water park with slides and pools
  • SportSquare includes ropes course, mini-golf and multi-use court
  • Thrill Theater plays hit movies in 3D

Best for:

  • Families who spend most of their time by the pool
  • Couples who want to unleash their inner child
  • Those who value good food, but don't want to pay lots of cover charges


Lido deck on Carnival Sunshine

Carnival Sunshine

Carnival Cruise Line loves families, but perhaps no other ship in its fleet caters to adults more than Carnival Sunshine. The 3,006-passenger ship features the largest adults-only Serenity space of any Carnival ship -- spanning three decks and tucked away at the front of the ship, away from all the bustle. Additionally, the ship has one of the largest spas in the fleet, as well as an eclectic mix of bars. Don't worry, parents; with a high-energy waterpark and expanded kids club, little ones have their fair share of fun, too.

Sailing from: New York and Orlando (Port Canaveral)

Standout Features:

  • Thrilling waterslide and ropes course
  • Cuban-style Havana Bar serves handcrafted cocktails
  • Ji Ji Asian Kitchen serves up eclectic regional dishes

Best for:

  • Families with daredevil kids in tow
  • Couples looking for a cheap romantic getaway
  • Cruisers with disabilities, who desire large accessible cabins


Henri's Dance Club on Carnival Conquest

Carnival Conquest

Cruisers on the 2,980-passenger Carnival Conquest know how to have a good time. They epitomize Carnival's personality: laidback, fun and outgoing. The Lido Pool hosts all the action by day, and evening entertainment kicks off early at the Punchliner Comedy Club at night. Whether you enjoy a good hairy chest contest or like to dance the night away, Carnival Conquest is a perfect ship for letting loose.

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale

Standout Features:

  • Filled with "Fun Ship" favorites like Guy's Burger Joint and and the RedFrog Rum Bar
  • One of the best nightclubs at sea
  • Parisian-style theater hosts production shows, magicians and hypnotists

Best for:

  • Couples who like to party
  • Girlfriends on a group getaway
  • Families with teens


Norwegian Escape waterslides

Norwegian Escape

If Jimmy Buffet had a favorite cruise ship, we bet it would be Norwegian Escape. The 4,248-passenger floating resort has two Buffett franchises onboard, 28 restaurants and 21 bars, so you'll never have to wait for it to be five o'clock somewhere. It also has myriad activities for all ages, including a waterfall grotto, ropes course and some of the fastest waterslides at sea.

Sailing from: Miami

Standout Features:

  • Oceanfront promenade offers alfresco dining and bars
  • Broadway entertainment includes Tony Award-winning musical "After Midnight"
  • Spa features snow room and salt room

Best for:

  • Families with picky eaters
  • Couples who love to bar-hop
  • Active solo travelers, who like Escape's Studio cabins for one


Rock Climbing Wall on Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic

Splitting its time between the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mediterranean, Norwegian Epic is a favorite among cruisers in the U.S. and across the pond. The 4,100-passenger ship offers some of the best entertainment at sea -- including two Broadway shows and a special treat for Beatles fans at the Cavern Club. Need to cool off? Head to the Aqua Park, where you can choose from two pools, five hot tubs or three slides; the bowl slide is a must!

Sailing from: Orlando (Port Canaveral)

Standout Features:

  • Cirque Dreams & Dinner features acrobats and aerialists
  • Bowling alley has three full-sized lanes
  • Ice Bar lets you sip cocktails in parkas and gloves

Best for:

  • Families who love playing in the water
  • Couples who plan to spend a lot of time at shows
  • Outgoing solo travelers, who like having their own onboard hangout


Aerialists Show on Norwegian Dawn

Norwegian Dawn

You won't find water parks or bowling alleys here; cruisers on the 2,340-passenger Norwegian Dawn embrace a simpler vibe -- fewer crowds and frills, but with plenty of entertainment and dining variety. Rock out to the sounds of Styx and Queen in "Band on the Run," or grab your glow stick and head to the pool deck for Norwegian's much-loved White Hot Party. When hunger strikes, head to one of the ship's 17 restaurants, ranging from steak to teppanyaki. (Chocolate-lovers: Keep an eye out for "Chocoholic Night" at the Aqua main dining room.)

Sailing from: New Orleans

Standout Features:

  • Some of the largest suites at sea
  • Moderno, one of our favorite cruise ship steakhouses
  • Six hot tubs offer plenty of opportunities to unwind

Best for:

  • Families who value evening entertainment
  • Couples who enjoy drinking and dining and don't need gimmicky attractions
  • Multigenerational groups on a budget, thanks to family suites and low fares


Regal Princess - SeaWalk

Regal Princess

Regal Princess is prime for those who seek a more refined atmosphere but don't want to sacrifice fun. The 3,560-passenger ship is glamorous -- with its sparkling fixtures, warm tones and contemporary touches such as the SeaWalk, a glass-bottom walkway with panoramic views. Meanwhile, passengers can still enjoy fun favorites like Movies Under the Stars on the pool deck (popcorn, blankets and ocean breezes included) and a bar-lined, high-energy atrium (known as the Piazza) that hosts activities, music and dancing. There's also the occasional pool game; just don't expect any bellyflop contests.

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale

Standout Features:

  • Excellent pools, including one tucked away on the back of the ship
  • Piazza atrium offers restaurants, bars and entertainment
  • Adults-only pool and sun deck, with cozy loungers and cabana massages

Best for:

  • Couples who love to sip and socialize
  • Multigenerational groups who don't need all the "mainstream gimmicks"
  • Cruisers with disabilities who need large accessible cabins and wide decks


B.B. King's Blues Club on the Eurodam

Eurodam

It's all about tradition on Holland America's Eurodam. The 2,104-passenger ship, one of the more relaxed options in the Caribbean, looks and feels like the ocean liners of yesteryear -- and has classic touches like afternoon tea to boot. Passengers love dressing up on formal night; during the day, you're likely to see more of them in a cooking class than on the sport court. If you have a more refined taste, and are content with peaceful sea days and far-from-wild nights, Eurodam is a fitting choice.

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale

Standout Features:

Best for:

  • Seniors looking for an island getaway not overrun with kids
  • Couples who prefer a slower-paced vacation schedule
  • Foodies, thanks to quality restaurants and cooking classes


Reflection Suite

Celebrity Reflection

Celebrity touts itself as a "modern luxury" cruise line, and Celebrity Reflection is a shining example. The 3,046-passenger ship is bold, chic and sophisticated -- from its decor, such as a live tree adorning the atrium, to its features, which include some of the best dining in mainstream cruising as well as the widest variety of suites in the fleet. On sunny days, head to the Lawn Club, where wine and cheese picnics are considered casual affairs.

Sailing from: Fort Lauderdale and Miami

Standout Features:

  • Grass-covered sun deck, great for sunbathing, grilling and picnics
  • Two-bedroom Reflection Suite features cantilevered, sea-view bathroom
  • Award-winning restaurants and bars

Best for:

  • Sophisticated couples
  • Discerning foodies and cocktail connoisseurs
  • Those who want a more upscale feel without breaking the bank


Disney Fantasy - Animator's Palette

Disney Fantasy

Disney takes the cake when it comes to family cruising. The 2,500-passenger Disney Fantasy wows little ones with character meet-and-greets, a watercoaster, action-packed kids' clubs and magical nighttime shows. But kids aren't the ship's only focus. Adults, even without kids in tow, have plenty of spaces to themselves. The District, for example, is a hub of multiple bars and lounges that enforces an "18 to enter, 21 to drink" policy after 9 p.m.

Sailing from: Orlando (Port Canaveral)

Standout Features:

Best for:

  • Families whose kids want to feel like superheroes
  • Multigenerational groups willing to splurge
  • Couples who love Disney


The Infinity Pool on MSC Divina

MSC Divina

What was once an unfamiliar option in the Caribbean is now a top choice for budget-conscious cruisers. European cruise line MSC continues to turn heads with its first U.S.-based ship, MSC Divina, which offers low fares comparable to lines like Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian. The 3,502-passenger ship is full of sophisticated panache, thanks to unique touches like a Swarovski crystal staircase and Sophia Loren-style suite. When it comes to fun, MSC Divina satisfies with its massive theater, nightclub and wine-making venue, where you can blend, bottle and label your own creation to enjoy during the cruise or at home.

Sailing from: Miami

Standout Features:

Best for:

  • Families who can take advantage of MSC's kids-sail-free policy
  • Couples who want to relax by day and let loose at night
  • Foodies keen on Italian cuisine

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