When the subject of the world’s largest cruise ship comes up, there’s no lack of qualified candidates.

The problem with bestowing a title on one mega-liner is a question of definition: Is the world’s largest cruise ship the one that carries the most passengers, or is it the one that weighs the most, or is it the ship that’s wider and/or longer than the competition?

In terms of passengers, Carnival’s Imagination currently ranks among the leaders, with cabins that can accommodate more than 2,500 passengers and a staff of more than 900.


Both records will be eclipsed in about a year, when Carnival Cruise Lines’ superliner Destiny is christened.

Now being hammered together in a massive dry dock on the Italian coast near Trieste, the ship, to be based in Miami, will have a capacity to carry 3,350 passengers and is expected to carry a staff of 1,050. At its highest point--207 feet--the Destiny will tower 55 feet above the Statue of Liberty.

If you’re talking big as in length, the Norway from Norwegian Cruise Lines is the current champ. The Norway is 1,035 feet long--that’s almost 3 1/2 football fields--and it ranks with the largest in terms of gross tonnage, weighing in at 75,200 tons.

Other close runners-up in the tonnage category include three of Royal Caribbean’s ships, Monarch of the Seas at 74,000 tons, Majesty of the Seas also at 74,000 and Sovereign of the Seas, 73,000.

Princess Cruises is planning a major entry into the mega-ship sweepstakes. The gigantic Grand Princess, due in 1997, will carry 2,600 passengers and weigh 104,000 tons. Like the Destiny, it will be too wide to float the Panama Canal, and is to be outfitted with a nightclub hanging off the stern, accessible by a glass-enclosed walkway 15 decks above the sea.