Photo courtesy of Crystal Cruises
Not long after Travel + Leisure magazine revealed its readers’ choices for the publication’s World’s Best Awards for 2016, Conde Nast Traveler magazine has done the same with its World's Best Cruise Lines: Readers' Choice Awards 2016. Let’s take a look at how ocean and river cruise lines ranked this year across five categories.
Immediately, Conde Nast remarks how every cruise line that made it to the top of the lists are all repeaters with one notable exception: Viking Ocean Cruises. The freshman line made it in at number six in the medium ships category whereas among Travel + Leisure readers, the new line came in as number one in its large ship category. In that instance, Viking managed to knock Crystal Cruises off the top spot, which it had held for 20 consecutive years. Rest assured for the luxury line, Crystal rated as number one in the category for Conde Nast at least, for the 23rd time.
The means in which the two magazines delineate their categories might have contributed to the outcome as T+L spreads ocean ships out across four size categories and Conde Nast across only three starting with Large Ships (more than 2,500 passengers) and descending to aforementioned Medium Ships (500 to 2,000 passengers), Small Ships (fewer than 500 passengers) and then River Ships.
Large Ships led with Disney Cruise Line barely beating Cunard Line, interesting in that the brands share similar aesthetics but very different products onboard. In descending order, three through six went to Princess Cruises, likely thanks to its newer ships; Celebrity Cruises, which has yet to introduce a new vessel since 2012; Norwegian Cruise Line and Royal Caribbean International, both of which have launched new vessels in the last couple of years.
Despite the launch of ever larger ships, the Medium Ships category was actually the most crowded with a dozen winners. Crystal Cruises bested, in descending order, Disney Cruise Line, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Cunard Line, Oceania Cruises, Viking Ocean Cruises, Holland America Line, Princess Cruises, Silversea Cruises, Celebrity Cruises, Royal Caribbean International and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Clearly, Disney has a product that readers consider on par with luxury lines such as Crystal and Regent, and upscale Viking is making a niche for itself near direct competitor Oceania but interestingly above luxurious Silversea, which was also topped by premium lines Princess and Holland America, suggesting some work is needed to raise its standards.
Luxury Seabourn Cruise Line was crowned as the best of the Small Ships, a rating I would concur from recent excellent experience, and a number of boutique operators followed in descending order: Paul Gauguin Cruises, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Windstar Cruises, SeaDream Yacht Club, Celebrity Cruises, Lindblad Expeditions – National Geographic, American Cruise Lines, Silversea Cruises and Star Clippers.
This clearly goes to show that expedition cruises are growing in popularity as even Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises, under its wonderful Silversea Expeditions banner, offer such adventure products.
Meanwhile, River Ships led with Grand Circle Cruise Line, which just beat out Viking River Cruises for the top spot, indicating parent company Viking Cruises’ ubiquity worldwide. Overall, river cruise satisfaction is higher than on the ocean as the remaining Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, Tauck, Vantage, American Cruise Lines, AmaWaterways and American Queen Steamboat Co., in descending order, scored in the 90s. Avalon Waterways came in ninth place, still in the high 80s.