Last updated: 11:11 AM ET, Tue September 13 2016

What’s the Best: An Upscale Cruise Line Shootout

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Azamara Club Cruises | Jason Leppert | September 12, 2016

What’s the Best: An Upscale Cruise Line Shootout

Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises

The upscale cruise brands – nestled between the quality of premium and luxury ones, all with exceptional value propositions – are Azamara Club Cruises, Oceania Cruises and Viking Ocean Cruises.

Which of the three comes out on top in six categories and overall in our shootout?

Design ~ Winner: Viking Ocean Cruises

Design wise, Azamara has a fleet of two existing, albeit majorly retooled, former Renaissance Cruises ships; Oceania has four of its own previous, almost original Renaissance vessels, plus two newly-built evolutions, and Viking has two of its own new ships. While the Azamara and Oceania ships get honorable mentions across the board for including welcome observation lounges, Viking’s bright double-decker equivalent is hands down the best.

Oceania’s newest pair of ships comes close to Viking with expanded ceiling heights and cozy public venues, but the latter’s overall great layout and set of superb venues collectively surpass the competition.

 READ MORE: TravelPulse Exclusive: Torstein and Karine Hagen Discuss Viking Ocean Cruises 

Accommodations ~ Winner: Viking Ocean Cruises

Viking wins the accommodations category on one attribute alone: ample private showers. The ones on the former Renaissance R-ships that Azamara and Oceania have inherited and even Oceania’s new ship stalls are the smallest at sea. Other comforts are uniformly plush across the lines, but Viking also wins in regards to practicality for offering plentiful USB charging ports and well-spaced traditional electrical outlets.

Activities ~ Winner: Oceania Cruises

The focus of all three lines is more on explorations ashore than activities onboard, but as far as facilities are concerned for enjoying what the brand is all about, Oceania is something special for including the Culinary Center and Artist Loft on its Marina and Riviera. Viking comes in only slightly behind, especially with its excellent Liv Nordic spa facility for utter relaxation across a thalassotherapy pool, whirlpool, plunge pool, sauna, steam room, snow room and heated tile recliners.

Dining ~ Winner: Oceania Cruises

All three upscale brands serve fantastic cuisine, but Oceania Cruises is the clear winner in the fine dining category for even besting some food on luxury lines. Its main dining room crafts courses a la minute to the same level of excellence as its included specialty restaurants, and the broad variety of choices that are offered from Asian and Italian to French and steaks is extraordinary, allowing for great repeatability at each venue.

READ MORE: What Defines Oceania Cruises?

Entertainment ~ Winner: Azamara Club Cruises

Entertainment can be tricky to get right on small ships where theaters are smaller and performances are less lavish, and this is an area where Viking struggles and Azamara and Oceania take up the baton. Production shows are almost neck and neck between Azamara and Oceania, but Azamara’s programming, including superior solo acts, is better overall.

Service ~ Winner: Viking Ocean Cruises

When service comes across as effortless, staff are doing things right behind the scenes to make it appear so. Both Azamara and Oceania have great service to be sure, but Viking’s is consistently on point. Crew members are genuinely friendly and add to the casual refined nature of the line’s ships.

Overall ~ Winner: Viking Ocean Cruises

For offering the newest ships, best overall hardware design and expert delivery of service software, Viking is setting a new bar in its category, altogether approaching luxury lines closer than Azamara and Oceania, which remain excellent choices in their own right.


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