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I’d been on the world’s longest megaliner, Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas, for two days shortly after its maiden voyage in December 2010. As I rode a glass elevator up, up, up through the ship’s expansive atrium, two women chatted about how much they loved the ship.
“You know,” one excitedly said, “I haven’t even seen the ocean yet!”
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To some, that might be the ultimate indictment of the new trend toward cruise ships such as the Allure,which could contain almost five Titanics. But for those women, sailing the Caribbean on a floating megalopolis (that atrium, named Central Park, boasts a tree-studded football-field-size glen with a meandering path) was perfect.
I long ago decided that when you figure in the costs of lodging, food and transportation, cruising is by far the most economical way to see the world in comfort — even with a family in tow. What’s more, because cruise ships come in all shapes and sizes, if you scan the horizon long enough, you’ll spot a vessel that’s perfect for you.
2,500 to 6,000 passengers
Fares typically start around $150 per day.
(Norwegian Breakaway, Queen Mary 2, Carnival Breeze, Disney Fantasy, Royal Princess, Quantum of the Seas)
The best news for vacationers is this: More cabins require more passengers and on megaships, good deals are pretty easy to come by. After reigning as one of the Caribbean’s most expensive ships a year ago, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas is down to just over $100 a night per person for an inside cabin.
“Families take over these cruises,” says Carolyn Spencer Brown, editor in chief of Cruise Critic (cruisecritic.com). “There's something for everyone.”
In the 1980s I sailed on Royal Caribbean’s now-defunct Song of Norway, and one night’s featured entertainment was, no kidding, a guy playing the entire 1812 Overture on an accordion. Today’s megaship features at least one Broadway-type theater — and a show to match: Royal Caribbean has been staging Saturday Night Fever, Mamma Mia! and Cats, while Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 offers a domed star show created with NASA. For quieter pursuits, Holland America’s Eurodam has paintings by Dutch masters and the line’s Rotterdam features exact replicas of China’s famed terra-cotta warriors.
Take your pick: You’ll find at least two and as many as five.