October brings a lot of change to the cruise line business. The seasonal shift of cruise ships transiting the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans is underway. Major U.S.-based cruise lines are bringing ships home from their summer tours in Europe to spend winter cruising the Caribbean, Bahamas and Mexico. Some are leaving North American shores destined for Australia and South America, spending the winter south of the equator.
Just in time, CondÃ© Nast Traveler has announced its latest winners in the Readers' Choice Awards, now in its 25th year. The awards cover travel categories from hotels to airlines to resorts and cruise ships and cruise lines.
If you don't find your favourite cruise line among the leaders, keep in mind the average reader of CondÃ© Nast earns $163,750 a year. Having said that, all the major mass-market cruise lines are there.
Travel is subjective, of course, but I would like to see one change to the CondÃ© Nast Traveler picks: The mid-size category of cruise lines ranges from 600 to 2,500 passengers. At 2,500, it's starting to creep into the large category, yet you will find the same lines showing up in both mid-size and large.
The criteria for cruise lines are activities/facilities, staterooms, crew/service, design/ship layout, food/dining, itineraries/schedule, and shore excursions. Each is ranked on a five-point scale for excellent (5), very good (4), good (3), fair (2) and poor (1). A nomination process takes place to determine which lines will qualify for votes.
There are a lot of old favourites on the lists, some are making their first appearance, and one has moved to a new category.
The small ship category is dominated by the luxury cruise lines. Regent Seven Seas, a sister line to Oceania, showed up in this category for the first time and bumped Windstar out of the top five.
In the mid-size category, Crystal was on top again (for the 19th year) with the highest score for ocean-going ships. Norwegian is making its first appearance in this category after missing out in the top five in the large ship category. Disney left the mid-size group with the addition of two new larger ships, Disney Dream and Fantasy, and for the first time showed up in - and led - the large ship category. Disney's ascension sailed by Celebrity, now a close second.
The top river cruise line is Grand Circle. Never heard of it? Not a surprise. Repeat business and word of mouth keeps this line successful. Grand Circle is interested only in the American market.
The following list should make for interesting debate between family and friends.
1. Seabourn 90.3
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises 89.6
3. Silversea 89.1
4. Lindblad Expeditions 88.3
5. SeaDream Yacht Club 86.8
1. Crystal Cruises 94.2
2. Regent Seven Seas Cruises 91.6
3. Oceania Cruises 88.9
4. Azamara Club Cruises 87.3
5. Cunard 84.0
6. Holland America 81.3
7. Celebrity Cruises 80.3
8. Princess Cruises 79.6 9. Royal Caribbean 76.3
10. Norwegian Cruise Line 65.0
1. Disney 88.4
2. Celebrity Cruises 87.7
3. Princess Cruises 0.2
4. Royal Caribbean 77.1
5. Carnival 69.3
RIVER CRUISE LINES
1. Grand Circle Cruise Line 94.3
2. Uniworld Boutique River Cruises 92.0
3. Viking River Cruises 88.3
4. Avalon Waterways 86.5
5. AmaWaterways 83.2
Check out more results in the October edition of CondÃ© Nast Traveler or at cntraveler.com/readers-choice-awards.
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