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- #1Royal Caribbean International#1 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Introduced in 1997 and last refurbished in 2016, Rhapsody of the Seas lacks some of the flashier hallmarks of most Royal Caribbean ships. However, you'll still find a rock climbing wall and an LED poolside movie screen. Plus, with the capacity to transport 2,416 guests and 765 crew members, the ship offers a moderate 1-to-3 crew-to-passenger ratio.
About 60 percent of staterooms feature ocean views. Interior cabins range from 136 to 256 square feet, while the largest suites span more than 1,000 square feet. All cabins include flat-screen TVs and minibars. Past cruisers were particularly impressed with the service across the ship, especially in the accommodations.
In addition to the comfortable cabins, travelers enjoyed the cuisine. Guests can choose between the main dining room or the extensive buffet, as well as three specialty restaurants. Afterward, grab a nightcap in one of the multiple bars and lounges.
- #2Norwegian Cruise Line#2 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Refurbished in 2017, Norwegian Pearl shuttles 2,394 passengers and 1,072 crew members to a variety of destinations. With its diverse selection of onboard offerings, Pearl has something for cruisers of all ages.
Families can spend quality time playing basketball, bowling or playing cards in the LifeStyle Room. Alternatively, parents can send their youngsters to age-appropriate youth clubs while they enjoy some grown-up time at the Mandara Spa or the Pearl Club Casino.
As far as lodging goes, the Inside and Oceanview cabins are comparable to many other Norwegian ships, ranging from 138 to 161 square feet. Cruisers can find more room in the Balcony and Suite staterooms or The Haven, which offer between 205 and 4,200 square feet.
Norwegian Pearl boasts seven complimentary eateries and seven specialty restaurants. Passenger favorites include the 24-hour O'Sheehan's bar and grill and the specialty Cagney's Steakhouse.
- #3Holland America Line#3 in Best Cruises from Tampa (tie)
Last renovated in late 2017 (and first launched in 1997), ms Rotterdam can carry up to 1,404 guests and 600 crew members. The ship was the first to feature the fleet's Lanai staterooms, which offer sliding glass doors and direct access to the ship's Lower Promenade Deck.
The ship is also equipped with the Crow's Nest, a panoramic lounge at the top of the ship. If you're traveling with tots or teens, you'll be happy to find several Club HAL youth areas, as well as The Loft, an area designed for teens. The ship also houses a unique multimillion-dollar art and antique collection.
The ms Rotterdam's collection of distinct eateries range from the Lido Market buffet to the casual New York Pizza to the more formal Pinnacle Grill steakhouse.
In 2018-19, ms Rotterdam departs from ports in Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, San Diego, Amsterdam, Rome and – its namesake – Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It sails to destinations in the Caribbean, Europe and the Panama Canal.
- #3Royal Caribbean International#3 in Best Cruises from Tampa (tie)
Most recently refurbished in 2016, Majesty of the Seas is one of the smaller ships within the fleet, welcoming up to 2,767 guests and 912 crew members. Although it lacks some of the big-ship amenities of larger Royal Caribbean vessels, passengers can still enjoy a rock climbing wall, a basketball court and a casino, plus four bars and lounges. Guests can also choose from six dining venues, including Johnny Rockets for an extra fee.
Due to the ship's relatively compact size, it offers fewer stateroom categories than others in the fleet. Passengers can choose from Interior, Ocean View and Suite cabins, all of which come outfitted with flat-screen TVs and minibars. Overall, travelers were complimentary of the staff, noting that the crew members were attentive and friendly.
- #5Carnival Cruise Line#5 in Best Cruises from Tampa
First introduced in 2002, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend was last updated in May 2018 to include cosmetic updates and traveler favorites like the Alchemy Bar, BlueIguana Cantina and Tequila Bar, Guy's Burger Joint and the RedFrog Rum Bar. The ship provides a wide array of entertainment and activities to satisfy multigenerational crowds.
Young ones (ages 2 to 17) can play at organized, age-appropriate clubs while adults attend a show at the comedy club or hit the casino. The ship is also one of the first to include the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea.
When it comes to lodging, about 80 percent of the ship’s staterooms offer ocean views, and 80 percent of those cabins feature balconies. While Interior staterooms are more budget-friendly, Balcony and Suite category rooms are worth the splurge, according to recent passengers. All staterooms include flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
The ship's food options include two main dining rooms, a steakhouse, a sushi restaurant, a buffet with everything from pizza to Chinese fare and more.
- #6Royal Caribbean International#6 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Introduced in 2002, Brilliance of the Seas houses 2,543 passengers and 848 staff members. The ship's last major refurbishment was in 2013, but it received some minor updates in April 2018 (like new furniture and fresh carpeting). The ship is big enough to offer an array of activities, yet small enough to pass through canals and offer more unique itineraries than larger ships in the fleet.
Brilliance of the Seas offers nine restaurants, including six specialty options. The ship also provides entertainment for the whole family, including poolside movies, a three-story theater, a rock climbing wall and a mini-golf course. While adults grab a cocktail at one of the bars, kids and teens can enjoy age-appropriate youth clubs, like the teens-only disco or the Royal Babies & Tots nursery.
As far as lodging goes, about 75 percent of the ship's cabins offer ocean views (and about half of those come with balconies). The most budget-friendly cabins are Interior staterooms (170 square feet). All include amenities like flat-screen TVs and minifridges.
In 2018-19, Brilliance of the Seas departs from Tampa, Amerstadam and Barcelona for sailings in the Caribbean, the British Isles (including stops in Edinburgh, Dublin and more) and throughout the Mediterranean.
- #7Norwegian Cruise Line#7 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Extensively renovated in 2016, the 2,340-passenger Norwegian Dawn includes guest favorites like the Los Lobos authentic Mexican cantina and The Cellars wine bar.
While younger cruisers can take advantage of kids and teens clubs, play in the dinosaur-themed kids pool or hang out in the video arcade, adults can relax in six hot tubs, test their luck at the casino or get treatments at the Mandara Spa.
Passengers were impressed with the variety of the 14 dining options, including eight specialty venues that range from a sushi bar to a Brazilian steakhouse. More casual spots include the newly refurbished O’Sheehan’s Neighborhood Bar & Grill, which is open 24 hours a day.
The ship's accommodations also received a makeover; notably, the expanded Garden Villa Suites can comfortably sleep up to seven passengers. Other lodging options include Mini-Suites and Balcony, Oceanview and Interior category cabins. All staterooms come equipped with flat-screen TVs and minibars.
- #8Carnival Cruise Line#8 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Launched in 1998 and most recently updated in early 2018, Carnival Paradise carries up to 2,124 passengers and 920 crew members. It is now outfitted with Carnival's WaterWorks water park and a new deck with dozens of new staterooms, as well as several acclaimed eateries and bars, such as BlueIguana Cantina (which replaced Mongolian Wok), Guy's Burger Joint and RedFrog Rum Bar. Other onboard entertainment options include the Punchliner Comedy Club, Lip Sync Battle and stage shows. Plus, kids ages 2 to 17 can participate in supervised programming at one of the youth clubs while parents get treatments at the spa or relax at the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat.
Dining ranges from the new venues to a buffet to the classic dining rooms. As for sleeping arrangements, Paradise offers Interior and Ocean View staterooms (185 square feet), Balcony cabins and Suites (250 to 400 square feet). All cabins include flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
- #9Carnival Cruise Line#9 in Best Cruises from Tampa
Like other Carnival ships, the 2,124-passenger Carnival Miracle boasts activities and entertainment geared toward travelers of all ages. Thanks to a renovation in 2015, the ship features some "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades, including dining and entertainment options like the Punchliner Comedy Club, the SkyBox Sports Bar and the Seuss at Sea program. The ship's next refurbishment is set for 2020.
Even with the added venues, a nearly 2-to-1 guest-to-crew ratio ensures service is a priority. And compared to other Carnival ships, Miracle offers a higher percentage of cabins with ocean views. While Interior staterooms provide more wallet-friendly digs, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite category cabins offers more space and scenery. All cabins come equipped with flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
During days at sea, grown-ups can enjoy poolside lounging or the adults-only Serenity Retreat, while kids ages 2 to 17 can play at age-specific programs. Once the family works up an appetite, they'll have their pick of the main dining room, the Lido buffet, a specialty steakhouse (for an extra fee) and more.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.