Small Ship Line #: Ecoventura
As Ecoventura operates a fleet of three expedition yachts with a capacity of only 20 passengers, you know youre getting a personalized experience on board. The ships sail two week-long itineraries in the Galápagosyou can combine them both if you want more time with the islands incredible wildlife. The luxurious ships each have 10 well-appointed cabins, a lounge where naturalists provide lectures and briefings before excursions, a dining room and bar, a library filled with scholarly tomes on the Galápagos, and a sundeck for relaxation.
Medium Ship Line #1: Princess Cruises
Of Princess Cruises 17-ship fleet, its five smallest include the Coral Princess, Island Princess, Sun Princess, Sea Princess, and the infamous Pacific Princess, which was the star of the TV show The Love Boat. The Pacific Princess is by far the smallest, holding just 680 passengers. The four other ships carry around 2,000 passengers and are the perfect size to sail through the Panama Canal.
Best For Cabin Choice
Royal Caribbean: Royal Caribbean features a large selection of cabin types. Whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, with family or as part of a large group, there’s a cabin to accommodate you and your budget. Those with the highest price tags offer jaw-dropping amenities like two decks of space and private kids’ play areas.
Disney: Disney Cruise Line gets a nod for the sheer functionality and thoughtfulness of its staterooms. Done up in nautical decor, they include touches like virtual portholes that make inside cabins feel more open and curtains that can separate kids’ sleeping areas from those of their parents.
Celebrity: With its large number of stateroom choices, dedicated spa suites and chic style, Celebrity offers some of the most well-appointed and functional cabins at sea.
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Viking Venus Wins Cruise Critic Uk Editors’ Picks Luxury Ship Of The Year 2021
Viking Venus launched here in the UK two days after MSC Cruises and Viking made an industry first, christening the ship in the middle of the English Channel.
The reason we chose Viking Venus as our Luxury Ship of the Year was both as an acknowledgement to the line for restarting luxury cruising in the UK, and also to the ship, for maintaining its astonishing standards in service, design, food quality and luxurious ambience — but it’s Viking Venus’ new COVID-19 lab and daily testing that prove in 2021, feeling safe onboard is the ultimate luxury.
As Coulter put it: “Viking Venus is the latest ocean cruise ship built by Viking, and remains as contemporary, innovative and luxurious as it did when the first ship debuted in 2015.”
Cruise Critic’s annual Editors’ Picks took a hiatus in 2020 because of the industry pause. This year represents the 13th iteration of the awards, which annually honour cruise lines and cruise ships in multiple categories in segments including Ocean, Luxury, River and Expedition cruising.
In 2021, a year in which cruising has been slowly returning, we selected our top award only in Ocean and Luxury cruising. Cruise Critic hopes to return to a full list of Editors’ Picks awards in 2022.
Check out our full description of our 2021 winners in Ocean and Luxury.
The Best Cruise Lines For Families
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Planning a family cruise can be tough, and one of the main problems that families face is being overwhelmed by all the options. There are so many cruise lines for families to choose from, each with their own unique offerings.
Some cruise ships which are fantastic for teenagers, would be a nightmare for parents of toddlers. Some family cruise lines have lots of activities for parents and kids to do together, where others have fantastic kids clubs that your children wont want to leave.
When considering the best cruise lines for families, you should look at all the options and decide which aligns best with what you and your kids will enjoy.
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Further Insight Into Our Methodology
Ah, cruise lines. Love them or hate them, cruise lines are a popular vacation alternative for travelers of all ages, incomes, and backgrounds. They are convenient and accessible, requiring little planning of anything other than your budget. As the market has diversified, now there are cruises of every size visiting destinations worldwide and catering to just about every demographic. Booking a cruise is no longer as easy as defaulting to the biggest, most magnificent ship docked at the nearest port.
When researching cruise lines, our goal was to understand the industry as a whole first, and then how the companies operated individually. We started by searching for news and reports about recent developments in the industry, especially as concerns COVID-19. We read about cruise ships, how they work, and how they impact the environment. We also compiled preliminary data about fares and the other costs of going on a cruise. Once that was done, we made a list of the companies that best aligned with our designated criteria and values.
We split our criteria into three groups:
Beverages Packages Often Are Not Worth It
Often advertised as an easy way of saving money, beverage packages cover various refreshments and drinks, such as bottled water, sodas, and alcoholic beverages. The thing is, theyre pretty expensive. For example, a Royal Caribbean drinks package can cost as much as $89 per day, and one Norwegian drinks package is over $120 a day.
Beverage packages can save you money, but only if you were going to spend a lot of it on drinks in the first place. In other words, they only make sense if you routinely spend more than what those packages covered in drinks on a per-day basis. Packages become even less desirable in cruises where certain drinks are already included, such as soda on the Disney Lines, specialty coffees on Sea Cloud Cruises, and beer and wine with lunch and dinner on Viking Cruises.
Do the math before getting on your cruise. Carefully think about the type of drinks and how many of them youd typically order while on vacation. Also, consider that some lines include drinks packages as a perk during limited-time booking promotions, making such a package turn from an expensive luxury to an affordable benefit.
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Best For Solo Cruisers
Holland America: HAL’s newest and largest vessels are equipped with solo cabins. For those wishing to share a cabin, the line also offers the Single Partners Program, which pairs cruisers of the same gender to share staterooms. Dedicated solo events like cocktail parties, mixers and games are scheduled, and gentleman hosts are available on longer sailings to dance with women cruising alone.
Norwegian: Norwegian was the first line to introduce dedicated areas for people cruising solo. Its newest ships feature cabins for one, as well as exclusive enclaves with a special lounge where lone passengers can mingle and enjoy drinks and snacks. Cruisers booked in this area also have access to concierge services.
Royal Caribbean: Royal’s Quantum-class ships include accommodations for solo travelers, but unlike the single staterooms found on Norwegian, Royal’s come in a variety of types that range from insides with virtual balconies to actual open-air balconies.
How To See What Your Cruise Ship Scored
Headed on a cruise soon and want to know what your specific ship scored on its latest inspection? You can search the VSP database by ship using this page. Simply find your ship in the list and then click search. It will also allow you to see reports, which you can read to see the specific violations found on the ship.
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River Ship Line #: Tauck
Taucks nine river ships specialize in navigating Northern Europe, with itineraries that highlight the castles of Germanys Rhine River or explore Paris and Monets gardens at Giverny on a Seine cruise. Special departures throughout the year welcome multigenerational family groups, including young childrena unique offering among river cruise lines.
Our Top Picks: Cruise Lines Reviews
As a disclaimer, we advise anyone who is considering going on a cruise to keep their best interests in mind when it comes to COVID-19. People on cruise ships spend a lot of time close together, often with travelers from many countries. Due to this high population density, outbreaks are not unheard of. In fact, as the outbreak on the Diamond Princess shows, cruises are a perfect breeding ground for highly contagious viruses like COVID-19. 17% of the people aboard the ship contracted the virus from the moment that the ten infected passengers were identified, to when the ships quarantine was lifted.
If you suffer from a preexisting condition or belong to a population that is particularly vulnerable to the virus, please think twice before boarding a cruise ship. Here are some additional resources if you are considering boarding a cruise ship during the ongoing pandemic:
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The Floating Megaresort Lines
Are you a fan of big, bustling megaresorts with every sort of amusement known to humans? Youll probably want to gravitate toward Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises. These three brands are what I call the floating megaresort lines lines that offer unusually giant ships that are the seagoing equivalent of land-based megaresorts such as Atlantis in the Bahamas.
Were talking ships with a seemingly endless array of deck-top fun zones, from waterparks and surfing pools to go-kart tracks and laser tag courses, as well as oodles of restaurants, bars, entertainment venues, spas, casinos and more. Were also talking ships that can hold as many as 5,000 or even 6,000 people, not including the crew.
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These are brands designed to appeal to a wide demographic, including families with children of all ages. They offer cabins for $100 per night, cabins for $1,000 a night, and everything in between. The best way to describe them is that they are like the big Las Vegas resorts, except they float.
Note that the size of each ship operated by these brands varies. In general, the newer vessels in their fleets are the biggest, most megaresort-like vessels.
Best Safety Steps For Cruising
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Large Ship Line #: Princess Cruises
Part of the Carnival family, Princess Cruises has a fun claim to famethe TV show The Love Boat was set on its Pacific Princess ship. If youve never seen an episode, youre in luck, as one of the onboard TV channels airs reruns around the clock. But you wont want to stay cooped up in your stateroom when you discover all the activities on board its 17 ships, from its special Seawitch craft beer program that sees the cruise line partner with breweries around the world to Discovery at SEA, a series of programs based on TV shows from the Discovery, Inc. family of networks, including Animal Planet, the Discovery Channel, and the Science Channel. In October 2019, Princess Cruises newest ship, the Sky Princess, set sail, debuting a new class of stateroom called Sky Suites, which is the lines most luxurious offering. Its next two ships, Enchanted Princess and Discovery Princess, are scheduled to launch by the end of 2021.
Best Cruise Lines In The Mediterranean
With another win, Viking tops three of U.S. News’ six categories, this time for its presence in the Mediterranean. In every instance, it is followed by Seattle-based Seabourn Cruise Line, Carnival Corporation‘s ultra-luxury brand.
Seabourn has five ships, which hold between 450-600 passengers and cruise to more than 400 destinations. As part of a multi-year agreement, the cruise line has contributed more than $1.5 million to support UNESCO, which grants its guests “unique access” to more than 170 World Heritage Sites, according to its website.
Also on the list: Oceania Cruises , Crystal Cruises , Costa Cruises , MSC Cruises , Silversea Cruises , Holland America Line , Norwegian Cruise Line , Princess Cruises , Royal Caribbean International and Cunard Line .
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Faqs About Cruise Lines
Can I do laundry onboard?
Most large or mid-sized ships offer wash and press services on board for a fee. In ships with laundry service, there should be a laundry bag inside your room that you can leave for your room steward to pick up. The bag should be back with your clothes the next day, or on the same day if you pay extra. Some cruise lines offer laundry packages that must be booked and paid for in advance. Some cruise lines also feature self-service laundries.
If you dont want to pay for your laundry, you can always bring detergent onboard and hand wash it yourself. In-cabin showers should have retractable clotheslines so you can hang your clothes to dry. Certain upper-tier suites may also include laundry with their fare.
Whats the dress code?
Dress codes can be confusing since they vary from one cruise line to another. Historically speaking, guests had it way easier at the dawn of the cruise line era. Evening wear, for example, was straightforward: the men wore white tie, and the ladies wore evening gowns. As dress code enforcement became progressively laxer, guests began wearing a wider variety of clothes to activities on a regular basis. Your best guess as to what clothes to bring will be whatever your cruise ships individual dress code dictates is appropriate.
Will I get seasick onboard if I suffer from motion sickness?
Should I book a cruise early or late?
Do I need to pay for drinkable water?
Travel Insurance And Covid
The novel COVID-19 has forced many people to rethink their vacation plans, or even cancel them outright. Whether or not travel insurance covers COVID-19 depends on each companys policy. Many companies are now rushing to cover it to satisfy consumer demand, but as of September 2020, coverage is still limited. So far, the few policies that have been written with COVID-19 include at least one of the following:
- emergency medical and medical evacuation coverage if a traveler contracts the virus while on a cruise.
- trip cancellation coverage if a traveler contracts coronavirus, or is quarantined, and unable to travel as planned.
If you have already purchased travel insurance and your provider has not updated their policy to include situations that could result from exposure to COVID-19, your best bet might be upgrading to a Cancel for Any Reason policy. This is an optional upgrade that can reimburse 75% of the traveler’s trip cost. It is also the only option that allows travelers to cancel their trip for any reason not covered by a standard policy, such as travel bans or fear of traveling due to coronavirus.
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Best For Casual Party People
Carnival: Of all cruise lines, Carnival is most synonymous with parties and fun. Passengers choose this line to relax, let loose and indulge without worrying too much about dress codes, diets or taking themselves too seriously. You’ll find them at sailaway parties, by the pool for belly-flop contests and dance parties, and in the club, drink in hand, until the wee hours of the morning.
Norwegian: Norwegian is so casual that there are no official formal nights. In terms of celebrations, passengers can head to the top decks for sailaway or take advantage of one of many poolside dance celebrations. The line also features themed nighttime shindigs that include Latin, 70s, 80s and, of course, its signature White Hot night, where cruisers wear white and dance under black lights.
Royal Caribbean: With plenty of clubs, bars and lounges, and enough live music for just about every taste, there’s always a casual party vibe on Royal Caribbean’s ships. All passengers can enjoy sailaway parties, and exclusive siorees are held for the highest-tiered members of the line’s loyalty program. Passengers on ships with Royal Promenade thoroughfares can also expect lively parades.
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