The world’s largest cruise ships are less like vessels, more like cities

Thirty of the world’s largest cruise ships measure more than 1,000 feet in length. That’s roughly the length of four Boeing 747s or nearly three football fields, and that measurement doesn’t even account for the height and width of these ships. The largest ship ever built, the Allure of the Seas, can carry up to 6,296 passengers, making it more of a floating town (filled with stores, restaurants, museums, and plazas) rather than simply an ocean vessel. It’s even longer than the U.S.S. Nimitz aircraft carrier. And with the passing of every decade, it seems a new ship vies for the record of world’s largest.

Some experts think the Allure of the Seas (and a similar-sized sister ship that’s currently planned) could be the biggest these ships will ever get. They are worried about these large ships’ ability to handle emergency scenarios, like fires, as well as the ability of ports to accommodate them. The Costa Concordia, which sank in 2012 and killed 32 (its captain was recently found guilty of manslaughter), is being seen as an example of how perilous a situation can be when disaster strikes these essentially small towns. But these experts probably thought the same thing about the ships built a decade ago. As technology and engineering continue to advance, who knows how big the cruise ships of tomorrow will become?

Until then, here are some of the world’s largest cruise ships.

Allure of the Seas, Oasis of the Seas

Oasis of the Seas
Oasis of the Seas

At 1,187 feet, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and sister ship Oasis of the Seas are the world’s largest, weighing 225,286 gross tons (a third, just-barely larger and heavier ship is being planned). Allure of the Seas has a skating rink, theater featuring Broadway musicals, carousel, zip line, casino, park with real trees, shops, and 25 restaurants (including a Starbucks), and it’s divided into seven neighborhoods. The ships are also equipped with solar panels to generate energy for various areas.

Quantum of the Seas

Quantum of the Seas

Also from Royal Carribbean, Quantum of the Seas – the newest of the fleet – is a bit smaller than Allure and Oasis, measuring 1,139 feet and weighing 168,666 gross tons. With a max capacity of 4,905 passengers, what Quantum lacks in size, it makes up for with crazy amenities, such as a skydiving simulator, bumper cars, open-air park, and 360-degree views from a hinged capsule that floats over the water. The ship is also one of the most high-tech: there’s the Bionic Bar with a robotic bartender that mixes drinks, mobile check-in and boarding, RFID used for purchases (via wristband) and luggage tracking, virtual concierge, iPad photo gallery, USB charging, virtual theater, and satellite-based Internet that’s robust enough for streaming videos and multiplayer games.

Norwegian Epic

Norwegian Epic

The Epic, measuring 1,081 feet and weighing 155,873 gross tons, claims the largest bowl slide in its water park. For sports buffs, there’s a center equipped with rock climbing and basketball court, and a bowling alley. If you’re into off-Broadway productions, you can partake in a Blue Man Group performance. There are dedicated rooms and a lounge for solo travelers, and an Internet café if you must check your e-mail (how 1999!).

Freedom of the Seas, Liberty of the Seas, Independence of the Seas

Freedom of the Seas
Freedom of the Seas

Royal Caribbean must have an obsession with building big ships, because the company also owns these three (all measuring 1,112 feet and weighing 154,407 gross tons). From 2006 to 2009, Freedom of the Seas was the world’s largest, and as one of the Royal Caribbean’s “older” ships, its amenities may not sound as impressive. Still, the ship boasts 10 pools and whirlpools, a surfing simulator, skating rink, mini golf course, and 3D theater.

Queen Mary 2

Queen Mary 2

When it made its maiden voyage in 2004, the Queen Mary 2 from Cunard was not only world’s largest (1,132 feet, 148,528 gross tons), but it was arguably the most luxurious. Its size pales in comparison to Royal Caribbean’s big ships, but its unique livery and services make it still one of the grandest. QM2 was the first to have a planetarium, as well as a library and live-performance theater. Inside its stately exterior are desalination plants for providing fresh water and a sophisticated engine system.

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