Like the readers of Travel + Leisure magazine, Conde Nast travelers' select their top travel picks annually.
The publication’s Readers' Choice Awards 2017 for The World's Best Cruise Lines are once again telling.
A total of 10 to 14 cruise brands are listed per category: Large Ships (more than 2,500 passengers), Medium Ships (500 to 2,000 passengers), Small Ships (less than 500 passengers) and River Ships. Some lines qualify for multiple groupings but often rank highest in the one they are most known for.
Let’s first look at the results for Large Ships. Proving family travel continues to be a popular segment, Disney Cruise Line took the top spot thanks to its larger Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy. Just behind it came Cunard Line for its one-of-a-kind Queen Mary 2 ocean liner. Princess Cruises and MSC Cruises are also family friendly in third and fourth place, respectively.
Next to follow are two competing premium lines: Holland America Line at five, and Celebrity Cruises at six. The latter’s corporate cousin, Royal Caribbean International is ranked just below. The international brands of P&O Cruises (British) and Costa Cruises (Italian) come in at eight and nine, respectively. Rounding out the list of ten is Norwegian Cruise Line, another mainstream line geared towards parents and children.
Surprisingly not placing at all with Conde Nast readers, in this or any other category, is Carnival Cruise Line, though the lists here do begin to lean more towards upscale and luxury brands.
Leading the Medium Ships category is Crystal Cruises followed by Regent Seven Seas Cruises and then Viking Ocean Cruises—all considered luxurious. Even Cunard Line again—considering its Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria—in fourth offers luxury accommodations. In fifth is Oceania Cruises, an upmarket example, and then Disney Cruise Line makes another showing at six due to its Disney Magic and Disney Wonder.
Back to luxury is Seabourn at seven and Silversea Cruises at eight. Premium Princess Cruises, Holland America Line and Celebrity Cruises infill nine, ten and eleven, respectively, before foreign P&O Cruises ends the list at twelve.
Always an eclectic list is the Small Ships, beginning once more with Seabourn first and Crystal Cruises second.
In more of a niche of its own is Windstar Cruises at third, sailing a number of former Seabourn ships. Luxury line Regent Seven Seas Cruises again comes in at four ahead of other small but respected players—fifth Paul Gauguin Cruises and sixth SeaDream Yacht Club.
Premium Celebrity Cruises with its one-off Celebrity Xpedition is honored at seven, and then expedition brands Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic at eight, Ponant at nine and Quark Expeditions at ten.
This market, in particular, is poised to grow considerably in the coming years, so these rankings might rise in time.
Boutique American Cruise Lines at eleven indicates a high level of interest in domestic voyages conveniently closer to home before luxury Silversea places in the twelfth position with its own expedition ships.
Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria were also slightly above the 2,000 passenger limit of the Medium Ships category, but Azamara Club Cruises’ ships are squarely outside the 500 passenger Small Ships category. Still, they are listed here at number thirteen—itself a coup—instead of Medium Ships, where they more accurately belong.
Getting a final shoutout in its rightful spot is also Star Clippers and its acclaimed sailing ships at fourteen.
Transitioning to River Ships, Viking River Cruises impressively takes the gold for the first time this year, according to Conde Nast. Returning to its readers’ penchant for the less ubiquitous is Grand Circle Cruise Line in second place followed by luxury lines again with Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection in third and Tauck in fourth.
Well-known AmaWaterways at five then leads niche Aqua Expeditions at six ahead of luxurious Crystal Cruises at seven. Avalon Waterways and Vantage follow in the eighth and ninth spots, respectively, and French Country Waterways gets love for its unique barge cruises at ten. Finishing off with more praise for domestic sailings is the eleventh American Queen Steamboat Co.
Source-TravelPulse by Jason Leppert