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Cunard Line vs. P&O Cruises
Cunard Line vs. P&O Cruises
Compare: 10 Most Popular Cruise Ships
Britannia in Norway (Photo: P&O Cruises)

Compare: 10 Most Popular Cruise Ships

Compare: 10 Most Popular Cruise Ships
Britannia in Norway (Photo: P&O Cruises)
Adam Coulter
UK Managing Editor
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Everyone has a favourite. Our goal with this chart is to outline the key distinctions among the 14 most popular ships for UK passengers in an easily digestible way. So how do we define "popular"? – Put simply it's how many visits each ship gets on the Cruise Critic website since the start of the year.

If you want more information about a particular ship or to see photos, just click on the vessel name for a comprehensive expert review and hundreds of reader-submitted critiques.


1. Iona

Iona (Image: P&O Cruises)

P&O Cruises' latest ship has not welcomed a single passenger onboard (it was due to launch in summer 2020) due to the Coronavirus pandemic, yet it is your most popular ship by a wide margin. The 5,200-passenger vessel is the line's first liquefied natural gas- (LNG) powered and the line's biggest.

The ship's main feature is the Atrium, which will have glass panels, letting in loads of natural light. There will also be a grand staircase, a gallery and overhead walkways.

A giant dome called SkyDome, will feature aerial performances, projections onto the roof and immersive shows.

The ship will include 30 places to eat including seven speciality restaurants and celebrity wine and food partnerships -- Michelin-starred chef Marco Pierre White, master patissier Eric Lanlard and Alex James, of Blur fame, and now better known for cheeses -- are just three big names.

Iona will also have 12 bars, 13 entertainment venues, three pop-up entertainment spaces/venue, four swimming pools (three outside and one inside) and 16 whirlpools.

Deployment: When Iona finally launches, it will spend the summer in the Norwegian fjords and the winter in the Canaries.

Sleep

  • 95 Conservatory Mini-suites
  • 2 Family cabins
  • 2,614 cabins, including 24 suites and 22 singles

Eat

  • 30 places to eat, including pubs and bars
  • Old favourites Sindhu, fine-dining restaurant Epicurean and The Glass House all return
  • New venues include Keel & Cow, a steakhouse and gastropub; and The Quays piazza, which will serve as a foodie market

Fun

  • SkyDome, a glass dome at the top of the ship's atrium, will be the hub of action onboard
  • Gary Barlow will oversee the "hidden" 710 Club showcasing new talent
  • P&O's first gin distillery

2. Marella Explorer

Marella Explorer (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Marella Explorer started out at Celebrity Galaxy in 1996 and later became TUI Cruises' Mein Schiff 1 before undergoing the transformation that turned it into Marella Explorer. Despite its age (23 years old), this ship is extremely popular with Brits -- and the first of four Marella ships which dominate this chart.

It has 10 dining venues, including favourites Kora La and Surf & Turf, as well as sushi, pizza and tapas restaurants, and a bar-nightclub-casino called Indigo as well as 13 brand-new, hi-tech production shows. One of Marella's key selling points is that it is largely all-inclusive with drinks and tips included in the fare.

Deployment: Marella Explorer alternates between Europe sailings in the summer and the Caribbean during the winter season.

Sleep

  • 14 family balcony cabins
  • Standard balcony cabins with more external space.
  • The largest standard inside cabins in Marella's fleet.

Eat

  • 10 restaurants, including favourites Kora La, Surf & Turf, as well as ...
  • New eateries Umi Sushi and The Mediterranean (pizza and tapas).
  • Scoops ice cream parlour, offering quirky bicycle-style seating.

Fun

  • 13 new production shows, featuring steampunk and cinema themes, as well as 4D smells.
  • Onboard partnership with luxury spa brand Champneys.
  • New Indigo lounge combining a bar, nightclub and casino.
  • The Verandah adults-only sun deck.

3. Britannia

Britannia (Photo: P&O Cruises)

The largest ship specifically built for the U.K. (up until Iona)  debuted in March 2015 -- with HM The Queen presiding over the naming ceremony.

The 3,647-passenger vessel combines all the most popular aspects of the rest of the fleet -- Sindhu restaurant, Olly Smith's The Glass House and the Strictly Come Dancing tie-up -- and adds some brand new features such as the Cookery Club and a TV Studio.

The ship also has a stunning stage show devised by BGT magician Stephen Mulhern, called "Amazing", which debuted in 2019.

Deployment: Based in Barbados during winter for Caribbean cruises, Southampton in summer for the Mediterranean.

Sleep

  • First purpose-built single cabins with balconies.
  • All outside cabins have balconies.
  • All suites are butler-serviced.

Eat

  • High-end molecular gastronomy in The Epicurean.
  • Dine with the celebrity chefs in the Cookery Club.
  • Sindhu for high-end Indian cuisine.

Fun

  • Limelight Club: A chance to see celebrity performers up close and personal.
  • Crystal Room showcases ballroom dancing and Strictly dance offs.
  • The biggest Crow's Nest bar in the fleet -- with 20 different type of British-distilled gins to choose from.

4. Marella Explorer 2

TUI Discovery 2

A sister to our Number 2 ship, ME2's key difference is that it is adults only -- Marella's first. It started life as Celebrity Century in 1995, but went through a similar substantial refurbishment as sister Marella Explorer.

There are a number of differences between ME2 and its sister, namely: four brand-new venues for the line: a pizzeria-style dining option called Nonna's; a clubhouse bar called The 19th Hole; an elegant Prosecco and Champagne bar called Flutes, and The Beach Cove with a beach-barbecue theme.

It also has those popular features which debuted on Marella Explorer, including a Champneys Spa, a number of brand-new shows and speciality dining and drinking venues, including Asian-fusion restaurant Kora-La and Surf and Turf Steakhouse.

Deployment: Marella Explorer 2 is based in Naples with seven-night itineraries with stops in Venice, Rome and Dubrovnik.

Sleep

  • 14 family balcony cabins.
  • Standard balcony cabins with more external space.
  • The largest standard inside cabins in Marella's fleet.
  • The Royal Suite which measures 102 square metres, features separate bedroom, dressing room, dining area and whirlpool bath.

Eat

  • Two new-to-the line restaurants -- Nonna's, a pizzeria-style restaurant; and The Beach Cove, for a BBQ theme.
  • Favourites Kora La, Surf & Turf and Snack Shack, Umi and The Mediterranean (pizza and tapas).
  • Scoops ice cream parlour.

Fun

  • 13 new production shows.
  • Onboard partnership with luxury spa brand Champneys.
  • A new Champagne bar called flutes.
  • New clubhouse bar called the 19th Hole.

5. Azura

Azura

The 3,100-passenger Azura is Ventura's younger sister (by two years), and has the same vibe and feel as her older sibling: family friendly, superb dining options, an adults-only area, plus one or two extra features, including SeaScreen, an outdoor cinema.

The ship offers something for everyone: from Brodie's sports bar playing Premier League football around the clock (as well as evening bingo and pub quizzes) to ballroom dancing lessons in the impressive atrium and a posh curry in Sindhu.

Deployment: Azura spends the winter in the Caribbean in Barbados; and the summer in Southampton cruising to Northern Europe and the Baltic.

Sleep

  • Superior Deluxe Balcony Cabins come with Champagne, fruit and chocolates on arrival.
  • The Suites have butler service, daily canapes, a coffee machine, newspapers and exclusive use of Seventeen for breakfast.
  • Families can be accommodated in all cabin grades except those for singles.

Eat

  • Dozen-plus dining options focus on casual eats.
  • Main dining room, Crimson, is one of most vibrant at sea.
  • Surprisingly good for-fee steakhouse.

Fun

  • Adults-only areas including The Retreat.
  • Great kids' facilities including appearances from Mr. Men and Little Miss Sunshine.
  • There are 12 bars, including Brodies, a cross between a sports bar and traditional pub but with a small casino attached.

6. Marella Discovery

Marella Discovery

The 1,830-passenger Marella Discovery made its debut in June 2016 and marked the start of Marella (then Thomson Cruises) move towards bigger and newer ships. Though not new -- the ship is more than 20 years old and once sailed as Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas -- it did have a complete makeover and boasts a number of popular features including Kora La Asian restaurant, a puzzle room, a virtual band, revamped kids' facilities and redesigned public spaces.

Deployment: Palma de Mallorca until the end of the cruise season in October, before spending the winter in Barbados.

Sleep

  • The largest number of balcony cabins of any Marella ship.
  • All cabins were completely refurbished.
  • Suites have access to the Executive Lounge.

Eat

  • The upper level of the main dining room has been turned into a (free) Italian restaurant, Gallery 47°.
  • Two popular for-fee dining options: Asian restaurant Kora La and Surf & Turf Steakhouse.
  • Plenty of free options including Snack Shack and The Glass House for tapas.

Fun

  • Debut of the first Puzzle Room on a Marella ship.
  • Climbing wall and mini-golf.
  • West End-quality shows and entertainment.

7. Ventura

Ventura (Photo: P&O Cruises)

The older sister of P&O Cruises' Azura by two years, the 3,100-passenger ship has a similar family-friendly feel with great kids' facilities and children's programme.

There is also a strong emphasis on food, with dining options including Sindhu and The Epicurean, as well as popular spots including The Glass House for wines and tapas.

Ventura also has an adults-only area called The Retreat.

Deployment: Ventura spends the winter in the Caribbean in Barbados; and the summer in Southampton cruising to Spain, the Canaries and the Eastern Mediterranean.

Sleep

  • Ventura has 1,555 cabins, of which 434 are inside, 1,103 are outside and 881 have a balcony.
  • The Suites have butler service, daily canapes, a coffee machine and newspapers.
  • Two AE grade suites at the forward end of Deck 9 have a second bedroom -- ideal for families.

Eat

  • High-end molecular gastronomy in The Epicurean.
  • Marco Pierre White prepares the Gala Dinners.
  • Sindhu replaced 17.

Fun

  • Adults-only area, The Retreat.
  • Great kids' facilities including appearances from Mr. Men and Little Miss Sunshine.
  • There are 12 bars, including The Glass House, wine bar with tapas from wine guru Olly Smith.

8. Anthem of the Seas

Ship Exterior on Anthem of the Seas

Royal Caribbean's second Quantum Class ship made its UK debut in 2015 and was due to sail a season here in 2020. The ship has a whole array of stand-out features including simulated skydiving, dodgems and a capsule that will take you 100ft above the deck.

The ship showcases dazzling entertainment using the most sophisticated new technology, as well as the slightly gimmicky but still fun Bionic Bar.

There is also a strong emphasis on food

Deployment: Southampton-based during the summer, offering cruises to France, the Iberian Peninsula, the Mediterranean and the Baltic; before heading over to Florida for a winter Caribbean season.

Sleep

  • 2,090 cabins, including 1,570 with balconies
  • Split-level Sky Loft Suites
  • Multiple family cabin options

Eat

  • Four "main dining restaurants" to choose from
  • Fleet favourites Sorrento's and Windjammers
  • For-fee options include Jamie's Italian and the amazing Wonderland

Fun

  • Simulated surfing on FlowRider
  • Simulated skydiving on RipCord by iFly
  • Roller disco and dodgems

9. Marella Discovery 2

Marella Explorer 2 (Photo: Marella Cruises)

Marella Discovery 2 entered service on May 14, 2017, having sailed as Royal Caribbean's Legend of the Seas. Sister ship to Marella Discovery (the former Splendour of the Seas) Marella Discovery 2 received a bow-to-stern makeover with stunning results.

Many of the features from Marella Discovery have been carried across to Marella Discovery 2, including Bar Eleven, Snack Shack, Movies at Moonlight, and the popular Sushi Bar within Kora La restaurant. Marella Cruises has pared back some of the ship's former loud decor to create a more harmonious feel that will appeal to its British market.

Deployment: Homeported in Malaga, with additional sailings from Corfu, offering a total of six different itineraries through October 2017.

Sleep

  • Cabins range from 39-sqft single inside cabins to the 154-sqft executive suite with balcony.
  • 366 balcony cabins -- that's 40 per cent of all cabins with outside space
  • All cabins benefit from a cosmetic makeover, including fresh carpets, artwork and updated soft furnishings.

Eat

  • The Glass House serves deli-cuisine until evening, when the menu turns to Hot Stone and a tapas-style offering.
  • Two popular for-fee dining options: Asian restaurant Kora La and Surf & Turf Steakhouse.
  • Snack Shack is the ship's informal outdoor dining destination, serving festival-style fast food with a trendy British beach hut theme.

Fun

  • A rock climbing wall and mini-golf course.
  • The Broadway Show Lounge features 11 shows, four of which are brand-new for Marella Discovery 2.
  • Bar Eleven is located at the highest point of the ship, on Deck 11, and offers a chilled vibe during the day and a lively ambiance at night.

10. Celebrity Silhouette

Celebrity Silhouette Activity/Entertainment

The 2,850-passenger Silhouette is the fourth of Celebrity's sleek, sophisticated and extremely popular Solstice-class ships, which replaced Celebrity Eclipse in the U.K.

Combining big-ship amenities such as a huge spa and gym, big-production shows and a number of high-end restaurants, with small ship service and sophistication, Silhouette regularly gets 90 per cent + approval ratings from Cruise Critic members.

Silhouette has the popular Lawn Club Grill, a space previously occupied (on Eclipse) by a glass blowing show.

Deployment: Southampton during the summer, offering seven- to 14-night Norwegian fjords, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean, Canaries & Azores and Iceland and Ireland sailings until October; and Fort Lauderdale during the winter for Caribbean cruises.

Sleep

  • 121 connecting staterooms and four Family Ocean View Staterooms with verandahs.
  • AquaSpa cabins include spa-oriented cosmetics, gels and bath amenities; upgraded linens and access to an exclusive room service menu.
  • The 44 Sky Suites have a 79-square-foot verandah accessed through floor-to-ceiling sliding-glass doors.

Eat

  • The top deck Lawn Club Grill features DIY steaks and seafood.
  • Tuscan Grille has the best view of any restaurant afloat, being situated all the way aft.
  • The Porch is a casual top deck eaterie with an emphasis on seafood.

Fun

  • New Hideaway replaces Team Earth.
  • World Class Bar features craft cocktails and top mixologists.
  • For-fee "Alcoves" area for a VIP experience on the top deck lawn.

Updated March 25, 2021

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