Cruising is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to see the world. Unpack once and take in the sights of the world’s rivers and seas from your floating hotel.
More than 26.6 million passengers boarded cruise ships in 2017, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, and that number is likely to grow. More than 50 cruise lines set sail in all seven regions of the globe, and more than a dozen new vessels are introduced each year. The sheer variety of cruises can be overwhelming.
To help you narrow it down, we asked a panel of cruise industry experts to nominate their favorite lines and ships across 10 categories. For the past four weeks, our readers have been voting daily for their favorites, and the results are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners.
Best Adventure Cruise Line: Adventure Canada
This is the second straight win for Adventure Canada — Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt
While Adventure Canada does indeed lead small ship adventures through the rivers, icy fjords and secluded waterways of Canada, this adventure cruise company also takes travelers to experience landscapes and cultures further afield – places like Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
Best Boutique Cruise Line: Azamara Club Cruises
Passengers on Azamara Club Cruises enjoy more time in port and inclusive amenities — Photo courtesy of Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara Club Cruises sets themselves apart from the competition with their focus on Destination Immersion – allowing passengers to stay longer in ports of call to experience the nightlife of Stockholm or enjoy an all-day expedition into the Costa Rican rainforest. On board, luxury takes the form of complimentary AzAmazing Evenings and inclusive amenities like alcoholic beverages, gratuities, self-service laundry and shuttle service to port communities.
Best Ocean Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Line
You’d be hard-pressed to feel bored on a Carnival Fun Ship — Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Line caters to families and casual cruisers with its fleet of “Fun Ships.” On these big ship cruises, passengers have no excuse to feel bored; ships come equipped with water parks, glitzy casinos, live entertainment and a focus on diverse, casual dining. The food scene is highlighted by a partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri to bring Guy’s Burger Joint to the fleet. All of this comes at affordable price points.
Best River Cruise Line: Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises has long been a leader in river cruising — Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises
Founded in 1997, Viking River Cruises plies the waterways of Europe, Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt with its fleet of more than 60 vessels. While Viking has also launched an award-winning ocean cruise line, the company built its reputation in river cruising. These all-inclusive cruises feature outside staterooms, Wi-Fi, wine and beer with meals, shore excursions in every port and Viking’s signature Culture Curriculum program.
Best Cruise Ship for Dining: Royal Princess – Princess Cruises
Royal Princess offers a traditional dining room, three specialty restaurants and several casual eateries — Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
Passengers aboard Royal Princess can opt for set-time dining in the Traditional Dining Room, or go with more flexibility at one of the ship’s numerous restaurants through the Anytime Dining option. The ship’s three specialty restaurants, Sabatini’s, Crown Grill and Crab Shack, serve Italian, steaks and fresh succulent seafood respectively, while casual eateries include Horizon Court top deck buffet, Chocolate Journeys, Alfredo’s Pizzeria and Vines wine, sushi and tapas bar.
Best Cruise Ship for Families: Carnival Breeze – Carnival Cruise Lines
The young and young at heart will find something fun aboard Breeze — Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines
Breeze is a breath of fresh air for cruising parents. Kids have a blast at Camp Ocean in hang-outs lively with activities, and tweens and teens love the thrill of plummeting down the 320-foot Twister Waterslide at WaterWorks. While the youngins are enjoying thrills at the SportsSquare ropes course or the 5D Thrill Theater, parents can indulge in some R&R at the Cloud 9 Spa.
Best Large Ship (>3,000 Passengers): Regal Princess – Princess Cruises
Regal Princess carries 3,560 passengers — Photo courtesy of Princess Cruises
The 3,560-passenger Regal Princess launched in 2014 – an elegant vessel with plenty of fun to be had on board. The ship shines in terms of dining options, with lots of options to choose from. Other highlights include a Movies Under the Stars poolside screen, lawn game area, basketball and volleyball courts and the glass-bottomed SeaWalk.
Best Mid-Sized Ship (1,000-3,000 Passengers: Carnival Sunshine – Carnival Cruise Lines
Sunshine boasts Fun Ship amenities at a manageable size — Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Lines
Launched in 2013, the 3,000-passenger Carnival Sunshine has many of the same bells and whistles that Carnival is known for but at a manageable size. Active passengers have a spread of outdoor games and activities at SportSquare. Hasbro, The Game Show and Suess at Sea keep kids and teens entertained, while the Punchliner Comedy Club offers up laughs. What really sets Sunshine> apart are its rotation of themed shows, each performed in front of a digital backdrop courtesy of the ship’s ultra-HD graphics system.
Best Small Ship (< 1,000 Passengers): Viking Sea – Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Sea is the second ship in the Viking Ocean fleet — Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
The 930-guest Viking Sea was built in 2016 as the second oceangoing vessel in the Viking fleet. Itineraries are destination-focused, but on board, passengers enjoy an inclusive experience with all-veranda staterooms, plenty of public spaces to spread out, excellent alternative dining options and top-notch service.
Best River Ship: Viking Hild – Viking River Cruises
This winning river ship takes its name from a Norse goddess — Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises
Named after a Norse goddess, Viking Longship Hild debuted in 2017 with the all-inclusive river experience Viking is known for. Passengers enjoy at least one included shore excursion each day, and Hild’s restaurants now feature some favorite menu items from Viking Ocean ships. Bathrooms come with heated floors and no-fog mirrors, and cabins have plenty of drawer and closet space.
Congratulations to all these winning cruise lines and ships!