The debut of outrageously extravagant ships was a theme in 2010, but which one rules the seas? We pit Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas against Norwegian's Epic, comparing activities (surfing!), over-the-top extras (ice bar!), and more.
>SCORE: 1 for Epic! We are totally on board with the fact that Epic treats solo and budget cruisers best. So much so that we gave Norwegian Cruise Line an Extra Mile Award this year for offering the solo cabins.
Most Satisfying Dining Choices
Oasis: Of the 24 restaurants—including a sushi bar and a Spanish-themed wine bar—cruisers eat for free at 12. The 150 Central Park restaurant is the priciest: $35 covers all food and some non-alcoholic drinks like coffee and tea; wine pairings cost extra and complement the six- to eight-course tasting menu that changes twice each voyage and seasonally each year.
Epic: Of the 20 restaurants—including a 24-hour sports pub and Shanghai's, a Chinese restaurant that has a noodle bar—cruisers eat for free at 11. Brazilian steak-house Moderno Churrascaria is the most popular option, where diners pay $18 for the salad bar and unlimited selections of meat.
>SCORE: 1 for Oasis! We did the math. On a seven-day cruise, you could eat every single meal in a different restaurant on the Oasis—no repeats. What's more, that extra free restaurant option really counts in our book.
Smackdown Verdict! Oasis Wins 4 to 3
Royal Caribbean is clearly doing something right. Not only is its Oasis the ruler of the seas when it comes to megaships, we know Budget Travel readers prefer it above all other lines. In our 2010 Readers' Choice poll, it was ranked No. 1. Get the scoop by reading profiles of real-life RCI-loving cruisers (on a different ship).
Most affordable itinerary: A five-night Western Caribbean cruise in an interior room for $749 per person. The ship departs December 18, 2010, and docks in Cozumel, Mexico, and Nassau, Bahamas.
Most affordable itinerary: A four-night Western Mediterranean cruise in an interior room from $509 per person. The ship departs May 18, 2011, and docks in Barcelona, Marseille, and Mallorca.