Modern cruise ships continue to grow in size, with the biggest cruise ship, the Icon of the Seas, launching at the start of this year, and her sister ship the Star of the Seas expected to surpass her in size.

Both of these ships are operated by Royal Caribbean International, which operates five of the ten largest cruise ships in the world. Carnival Corporation, arguably the biggest cruise company in the world, features three times on the list through its subsidiaries P&O Cruises and Costa Cruises.

All of the heaviest cruise ships in the world were built within the last 20 years, although the majority – six of the ten – were built within the last five years.

So, here are the top ten biggest cruise ships in the world, by gross tonnage. 

The MS Arvia leaving La Coruña Port in Spain. Credit: Daniele Speranza/Shutterstock

10. P&O Cruises MS Arvia: 185,581 gross tonnes

The MS Arvia is P&O Cruises’ fourth ship to be built by German shipyard Meyer Werft. Weighing in at 185,581 gross tonnes, the 345m (1,130-foot) Arvia is slightly larger than her sister ship, the MS Iona. The 20-deck ship is the largest ship commissioned for the British cruise market and has a maximum passenger capacity of 6,264 passengers, with 1,800 crew onboard. 

The ship is the second liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered Excellence-class vessel for P&O, following the Iona. Arvia is powered by a 61,760kW LNG drive system, with a propulsion power of 37 megawatts. The LNG-powered propulsion system allows the vessel to sail at a maximum speed of 21.5 knots.

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After being floated out in August 2022, the Arvia mainly operates itineraries around the Caribbean or the Mediterranean.

The Costa Smeralda was christened in February 2023 by her godmother, actress Penelope Cruise. Credit: maudanros/Shutterstock

9. Costa Cruises – Costa Smeralda: 185,010 gross tonnes

The Costa Smeralda is the first LNG-powered vessel in the Costa Cruises fleet. With a gross tonnage of 185,010gt, the 20-deck Excellence-class ship measures 337m (1,106 feet) in length. The second LNG-powered cruise ship to enter operation in the world, she has a maximum capacity of 6,554 passengers with 1,646 crew and a service speed of 21.5 knots.

Construction of the Costa Smeralda began at the Meyer shipyard in Turku, Finland, in September 2017. Meyer Turku collaborated with the Meyer Werft Papenburg shipyard to develop and integrate the LNG propulsion plant for the ship. She is fitted with four 16-cylinder, Caterpillar MaK 16VM46DF engines, with 15.4 megawatts (20,710 horsepower) output per engine, resulting in a maximum power of  37 megawatts (50,000 horsepower).

The ship, which was named after the Emerald Coast of Sardinia, entered service in December 2019, departing Savona on its maiden voyage in the Mediterranean, where it has sailed since.

The Costa Toscana docked in the Doha Old Port during one of its cruises around the Arabian Peninsula. Credit: SLSK Photography/Shutterstock

8. Costa Cruises – Costa Toscana: 186,364 gross tonnes

The Costa Toscana is the sister ship of the Costa Smeralda and is also powered by LNG. measuring 337m (1,106 feet) long and weighing in at 186,364 gross tonnes, the Toscana has a maximum capacity of 6,338 passengers and 1,678 staff across her 20 decks.

Like her sister ship, the Toscana was also built at the Meyer shipyard in Finland, with construction completed in 2021. She is also powered by four MaK-Caterpillar engines, with a total power of 57.2 megawatts (76,706 horsepower), and two ABB Azipod motors, resulting in a service speed of 17 knots.

Named in homage to the Tuscany region of Italy, Costa Toscana mainly sails around the Mediterranean Sea but Costa Cruises has also used the ship to sail itineraries further afield, such as around Brazil and the UAE.

The MSC World Europa in the Port of Genoa in Italy. Credit: maudanros/Shutterstock

7. MSC Cruises – MSC World Europa: 215,863 gross tonnes

The only entry in the top ten from MSC Cruises, MSC World Europa measures 333m (1,094 feet) in length. With 215,863 gross tonnage, she can house more people than any other ship in the MSC fleet: up to 6,762 passengers across 2,633 cabins spread over 22 decks, in addition to 2,138 crew.

Built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire, France, the World Europa’s LNG-power propulsion system was subcontracted to Finland-based Wärtsilä. Five LNG-powered, 14-cylinder Wartsila 46DF dual-fuel engines power the vessel, with a propulsion power of 44 megawatts ( 59,005 horsepower). She also features nitrogen oxide reduction (NOR) units, two Wartsila LNGPac fuel storage and supply systems, seven thrusters, and two fixed-pitch propellers. 

The MSC World Europa was floated out at the end of 2021 and was initially used as an accommodation vessel for fans attending the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the ship berthed at Doha Port in Qatar during the tournament. Following the competition, the ship subsequently travelled several routes around the UAE, before sailing to the Mediterranean, where it has sailed itineraries since.

The Allure of the Seas at the Malaga Harbor in Spain during her first stop on a European itinerary in 2015. Credit: Aitormmfoto/Shutterstock

6. Royal Caribbean International – Allure of the Seas: 225,282 gross tonnes

The first of many entries on this list operated by Royal Caribbean, Allure of the Seas weighs in at 225,282 gross tonnes. Measuring 362m (1,187 feet), she is only 50mm (2 inches) longer than her sister ship the Oasis of the Seas. The Allure has a maximum capacity of 6,780 passengers and 2,200 crew across 18 decks.

Built at the Turku Shipyard in Finland, the Allure took two years to build, floating out in 2010. She features six Wärtsilä 46 diesel engines with a total power output of 97 megawatts (130,053 horsepower). It is propelled by three electric Azipod azimuth thrusters. The ship can travel at a cruising speed of 22 knots.

With a homeport of Galveston, Texas in the US, the Allure mainly serves itineraries around the Bahamas but she is scheduled to sail routes around the Mediterranean in 2025.

The Oasis of the Seas docked at the Cozumel port in Mexico during a Western Caribbean itinerary. Credit: Solarisys/Shutterstock

5. Royal Caribbean International – Oasis of the Seas: 226,838 gross tonnes

The oldest ship on this list, the Oasis of the Seas has been in service for over a decade. She was the biggest cruise ship at the time when floated out in 2009, with a gross tonnage of 226,838gt and a length of 360m (1,181 feet). The Oasis has a maximum capacity of 6,699 passengers and 2,181 staff across 18 decks.

The Oasis took two years to build at the Meyer shipyard in Turku, Finland, with the keel laid on 12 November 2007 and the ship arriving at her homeport of Port Everglades in Florida, US, on 13 November 2009.

The Oasis is powered by eight Wärtsilä V12 diesel engines, which generate 5.6 megawatts (7,500 horsepower) each, alongside four bow thrusters. The main propulsion system consists of three 20-megawatt (26,820 horsepower) electric Azipod motors, resulting in a combined propulsion power of 82 megawatts (109,964 horsepower) and a standard cruising speed of 23 knots.

The Oasis mainly operates routes around the Caribbean, but occasionally repositions to offer itineraries in the Mediterranean.

Harmony of the Seas docked at Royal Caribbean’s private port of Labadee in Haiti. Credit: Vintagepix/Shutterstock

4. Royal Caribbean International – Harmony of the Seas: 226,963 gross tonnes

The third Oasis-class ship built by Royal Caribbean, Harmony of the Seas weighed in bigger than her existing sister ships at launch in 2016, with 226,963 gross tonnage, but she has since been surpassed by newer vessels. With a total length of 362m (1,188 feet), Harmony has a maximum capacity of 6,780 passengers and 2,300 staff across 18 decks.

Royal Caribbean placed an order with STX France for the construction of Harmony of the Seas in December 2012. The first steel for the ship was cut at STX France’s Saint-Nazaire shipyard in September 2013, while the keel-laying ceremony was held in May 2014.

The Harmony is powered by three 18.9-megawatt Wärtsilä 16V46 16-cylinder main generator diesel engines and three Wärtsilä 12V46 12-cylinder engines producing 13.9 megawatts each. The propulsion power is provided by three electric Azipod azimuth thrusters and manoeuvring is assisted by four 5.5-megawatt Wärtsilä CT 3500 tunnel thrusters. The propulsion system results in 82 megawatts (109,964 horsepower) and enables the ship to sail at a standard speed of 23 knots.

Harmony of the Seas embarked on her inaugural seven-night Western Mediterranean cruise from Barcelona, Spain, in June 2016, and currently operates itineraries around the Western Caribbean from her homeport of Galveston, Texas in the US.

The Symphony of the Seas at Miami Beach in 2019. Credit: Mia2you/Shutterstock

3. Royal Caribbean International – Symphony of the Seas: 228,081 gross tonnes

At launch in 2018, the Symphony of the Seas surpassed the Harmony as the biggest cruise ship, weighing in at 228,081 gross tonnes. Measuring 361m (1,185 feet), the Symphony has a maximum capacity of 6,680 passengers and 2,200 staff across 18 decks and was the testing ground for Royal Caribbean’s new muster drill. With a total length of 361m (1,185 feet), She is roughly 30 metres (98 feet) longer than the largest military ships, the US Nimitz-class aircraft carriers and the USS Gerald R. Ford.

The keel-laying ceremony for the Symphony of the Seas was held in October 2015 at STX’s Saint-Nazaire shipyard in France, and the ship sailed out in June 2017. She is powered by six diesel sets, each composed of three Wärtsilä 16V46D engines and three Wärtsilä 12V46D engines, as well as three 20-megawatt electric Azipod main engines – resulting in 82 megawatts (109,964 horsepower) of propulsion power and a standard cruising speed of 22 knots.

The Symphony commenced her seven-day maiden voyage from Barcelona in April 2018, and since then has mainly operated itineraries around the Caribbean from her homeports of Miami, New York, and Fort Lauderdale.

The Wonder of the Seas in port at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: EWY Media/Shutterstock

2. Royal Caribbean International – Wonder of the Seas: 235,600 gross tonnes

Royal Caribbean’s flagship, Wonder of the Seas is the fifth Oasis-class cruise ship built for the cruise company. Weighing in at 235,600 gross tonnes, the Wonder was the largest ship in the world when she was completed in January 2022. Measuring 362m (1,187 feet) in length, the 18-deck Wonder has a maximum capacity of 7,084 guests across its 2,867 staterooms, as well as housing 2,369 crew.

Built by Chantiers de l’Atlantique in Saint-Nazaire, Wonder is powered by two Wärtsilä 16V46D engines and four Wärtsilä 12V46D engines; and uses three 20-megawatt electric Azipod engines for propulsion, combining for a propulsion power of 82 megawatts (109,964 horsepower and a standard cruising speed of 22 knots.

The Wonder sailed her maiden voyage in March 2022 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and has since served itineraries around the Caribbean from her homeports of Miami and Cape Canaveral.

The Icon of the Seas is currently the largest cruise ship in the world. Credit: Jouni Niskakoski/Shutterstock

1. Royal Caribbean International – Icon of the Seas: 248,663 gross tonnes

Weighing 248,663 gross tonnes and measuring 365 metres (1,1967 feet), the Icon of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world. Christened on 23 January 2024, the Icon has a maximum capacity of 7,600 passengers and 2,350 crew across 20 decks. She is the lead ship of the new Icon-class, with a sister ship the Star of the Seas due to be delivered in 2025 and another ship planned for delivery in 2026.

Built by Meyer Turku in Finland, the Icon is the first ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet that can be powered by LNG. It uses three Wärtsilä 14V46DF and three Wärtsilä 12V46DF for its main generator engines, which provide 67.5 megawatts of energy to run the ship. She is propelled by three 20-megawatt Azipod thrusters as well as five 4.8-megawatt Wärtsilä WTT-45 CP bow thrusters, with a cruising speed of 22 knots.

After sailing her maiden voyage on 27 January 2024, the Icon now sails year-round itineraries of seven-night trips around the Eastern and Western Caribbean from her homeport of Miami, Florida.