Travelling to exotic locations as you lounge in the lap of luxury on a cruise liner can be the holiday of a lifetime.
If you’re spending thousands of pounds, you’ll expect nothing but the best – and to shine a spotlight on first-class cruising, an annual cruise awards list has just announced its winners, including those in a new luxury category.
A global panel of impartial cruise experts from Cruise Critic, a cruise reviews site, selected the winners of its UK Editors’ Picks Awards for 2016 to highlight the best cruise lines across numerous categories under three broad headings – Ocean, River, and Luxury awards.
We look at some of the winners:
1. Best New Ship (Ocean): Thomson Cruises’ TUI Discovery
Launched in June, the TUI Discovery was commended for introducing a number of firsts for a UK cruise line, including a climbing wall and an outdoor cinema.
2. Best Cruise Line (River): Uniworld
The line sailed away with a trio of awards in the River category for its combination of beautiful décor, outstanding service and sublime cuisine.
It also won Best for Luxury and Best Dining in the River category.
3. Best Cruise Line (Luxury): Seabourn
Seabourn won the top Luxury award for its ‘intuitive service’, high crew-to-passenger ratio, and exotic itineraries.
It also won Best Cabins in the Luxury category, as Cruise Critic says its cabins are exceptionally large, with separate living and bedroom areas, marble-clad bathrooms, luxury Molton Brown toiletries, and a welcome bottle of Champagne on embarkation.
Cruise Critic says: “This highbrow cruise line sets the bar in luxury cruising.”
4. Best New Luxury Ship: Regent Seven Seas’ Regent Explorer
This all-inclusive cruise ship finely balances luxury with comfort, says Cruise Critic.
Beautiful public spaces, extravagant details and intuitive service complement spacious suites and some of the largest balconies at sea.
The sumptuous ship also boasts a spa club and fitness centre, eight restaurants and a culinary arts kitchen.
5. Best Luxury Refurbishment: Azamara Quest/Journey
Cruise Critic says Azamara has transformed its older ships Quest and Journey into “modern masterpieces”.
It says the ships still have a ‘country-club vibe’, but with improved up-to-date décor and plenty of light and airy spaces.
Azamara Club Cruises also won Best Shore Excursions in the Luxury category for its cultural performance evenings in breathtaking settings like cathedrals and opera houses, and its “widely different from average” shore excursions.
6. Best Dining: Oceania Cruises
Renowned chef Jacques Pepin is Oceania’s executive culinary director, creating impeccable standards fleet-wide according to Cruise Critic.
It says all Oceania’s restaurants are outstanding and its Polo Grill is “perhaps the best steakhouse afloat”.
7. Best Itineraries: Crystal Cruises
Covering all seven continents, from a 10-day Reykjavik-to-Portsmouth cruise to a 99-day Melbourne-to-Tokyo sailing, Crystal Cruises offers a diverse collection of itineraries that features Antarctica and the Panama Canal, plus Transocean and world cruises.
The line also won Best Enrichment for its themed sailings, engaging guest lecturers and well-stocked libraries.
8. Best Value: Viking Ocean Cruises
Cruise Critic says Viking excels in its inclusivity, as not only is its thermal suite - which helped it win the Best Luxury Spa award too - included in the price, it also includes wine and beer at lunch and dinner, Wi-Fi and a good choice of shore excursions.
“This means that rather than worrying about extras adding up, passengers can relax and enjoy their cruises,” says Cruise Critic.
What’s the best cruise you’ve been on? Tell us in the Comments section below