Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2015


Cruise lines

AmaWaterways

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways will have grown into a river cruise line with 18 vessels in its European fleet by 2016 with the launch of its two newest river cruise vessels, the AmaStella and AmaViola. Additionally, AmaWaterways operates two vessels on Vietnam and Cambodia’s Mekong River, one on Myanmar’s Irrawaddy River and offers safari sailings on the Zambezi Queen in Botswana. In 2015, AmaWaterways inked a deal with Adventures by Disney to have the tour operator arm of the Walt Disney Co. sail seven family-friendly river cruises in Europe next year. 

Avalon Waterways

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

Avalon Waterways, owned by the Globus Family of Brands, began with its first river cruise vessel in 2004 and will consist of a fleet of 16 vessels by 2016, when it launches two new river ships and retires one of its older vessels. In 2010, Avalon unveiled its Panorama Suite class of vessels, with staterooms that feature a floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall sliding glass door that transforms the stateroom into an open-air balcony, a concept the company has stuck with ever since. Avalon also sails vessels on the Mekong, Irrawaddy, Yangtze, Amazon and Nile rivers and has a small-ship charter in the Galapagos Islands. 

Azamara Club Cruises

NOMINATED: PREMIUM, UNDER 1,000 BERTHS

Azamara Club Cruises, a Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. brand, sails two 694-passenger ships, the Azamara Journey and Azamara Quest, in Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, South America and Mexico. It also offers Panama Canal and transatlantic crossings. The Quest will go into drydock in January and the Journey in April for comprehensive upgrades that include a redo of all the suites and brighter, more contemporary furnishings. Some 93% of the cabins offer ocean views, and 68% have a private veranda.

Carnival Cruise Line

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, ALASKA, CARIBBEAN, FAMILY EXPERIENCE, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

The world’s largest cruise line, Carnival has more cruises to the Caribbean from more U.S. homeports than any other cruise line. Carnival has been adding features to its existing ships such as the Seuss at Sea kids program and a series of longer, nine-day-plus cruises with special itineraries called Carnival Journeys. Carnival plans to launch the 4,000-passenger Carnival Vista in Europe in 2016.

Celebrity Cruises

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, ALASKA, CARIBBEAN, EUROPE, HAWAII/PACIFIC, PREMIUM, FAMILY EXPERIENCE, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

In April, Celebrity introduced “Suite Class” which builds into the fare perks such as priority embarkation, premium drinks, dining across specialty restaurants, private minibar, exclusive access to Michael’s Club and a dedicated restaurant, Luminea. It has revamped its fare offerings into Go Big, Better and Best options that come with progressively more amenities. Celebrity has 12 premium-segment ships with features such as real grass lawns and a live tree suspended in a container in the atrium. 

Crystal Cruises

NOMINATED: UNDER 1,000 BERTHS, LUXURY, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY

Crystal Cruises operates the 940-passenger Crystal Symphony and the 1,080-passenger Crystal Serenity on itineraries of seven to 108 days. Acquired this year from its former Japanese owners by Genting Hong Kong, Crystal is building three ships for delivery starting in 2018 and has plans to enter the river cruise business in 2016. A 31-suite luxury yacht, the Crystal Esprit, debuts in the Seychelles in December.

Cunard Line

NOMINATED: LUXURY, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY

Cunard Line celebrated its 175th birthday this year, and heritage is a big theme on its three Bermuda-flagged ships. The biggest, the 2,600-passenger Queen Mary 2, is getting an upgrade after 10 years in service, with a more contemporary interpretation of art deco design in its suites and the addition of 15 solo cabins and 30 Britannia Club rooms. Cunard is a brand of Carnival Corp.

Disney Cruise Line

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, FAMILY EXPERIENCE

The four ships operated by Disney Cruise Line include the newly renovated Disney Dream with an all-new Star Wars section of its Oceaneer Club that features a Millennium Falcon simulator. Disney’s ships feature Disney production shows in the Broadway-style Walt Disney Theatre, such as the newly installed “Tangled” on the Disney Magic. Based out of Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line packages cruises with its theme parks in nearby Orlando. 

Holland America Line

NOMINATED: ALASKA, CARIBBEAN, EUROPE, HAWAII/PACIFIC, PREMIUM, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

HAL will have many new features on its Koningsdam, which debuts in February. The ship, the line’s largest, will introduce Blend, a wine-mixing experience in partnership with the Chateau St. Michelle winery. HAL will introduce a new logo in 2016 and a new tag line, “Savor the Journey,” to replace its current “Signature of Excellence” motto. With the addition of the Koningsdam, HAL will have 14 ships. 

MSC Cruises

NOMINATED: EUROPE

MSC Cruises is a family-owned cruise line with a fleet of 12 cruise ships. Known for its Mediterranean-style cruising, the MSC fleet sails year-round in the Mediterranean. Its MSC Divina has returned to Miami to sail the Caribbean, and MSC plans to put its next newbuild, the 4,170-passenger Seaside, in North America in 2017, a first for the Naples, Italy-based line. 

Norwegian Cruise Line

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, ALASKA, CARIBBEAN, EUROPE, HAWAII/PACIFIC, FAMILY EXPERIENCE, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

Norwegian’s latest ship, the Norwegian Escape, joins the Miami-themed Norwegian Getaway in offering Caribbean itineraries. CEO Frank Del Rio has focused on upgrading service and improving the soft goods on existing ships. Norwegian will devote its next newbuild to China, where it will sail year-round starting in 2017. It has the only full-time ship in Hawaii, the Pride of America, which will have a 24-day drydock for improvements next year.   

Oceania Cruises

NOMINATED: EUROPE, UNDER 1,000 BERTHS, PREMIUM, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY

Oceania Cruises, the world’s largest upper-premium cruise line, operates the 684-passenger Nautica, Insignia and Regatta and 1,250-passenger Marina and Riviera. Next year it will refurbish the former Pacific Princess and deploy it as the Sirena. Oceania recently introduced OLife Advantage, a package of amenities such as free shore excursions, unlimited Internet and prepaid gratuities as part of the fare.

Paul Gauguin Cruises

NOMINATED: HAWAII/PACIFIC

Paul Gauguin Cruises’ 332-passenger flagship the Paul Gauguin has been offering year-round luxury cruises in Tahiti, French Polynesia and the South Pacific since 1988, when it began sailing under the Regent Seven Seas brand. The 88-passenger Terra Moana, acquired in 2013, was sold this year to Grand Circle Cruises, but Paul Gauguin will continue to operate it through May. Both ships offer oceanview accommodations at every level and dining inspired by top chefs of Paris. 

Princess Cruises

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, ALASKA, CARIBBEAN,  EUROPE, HAWAII/PACIFIC, PREMIUM, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY, FAMILY EXPERIENCE, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

Agents and cruisers still love “The Love Boat,” but the line’s current marketing message is “Come Back New.” The 18-ship line has a worldwide reach, but it has focused on China lately and will send a ship currently under construction in Italy to Shanghai in 2017 to sail under the name Majestic Princess. Meanwhile, on current ships Princess is adding Share restaurants run by celebrity chef Curtis Stone, replacing its Italian-themed Sabatini’s restaurant on four ships initially.

Regent Seven Seas Cruises

NOMINATED: UNDER 1,000 BERTHS, LUXURY, WORLD CRUISE ITINERARY

Regent’s 738-passenger Regent Seven Seas Explorer, set for delivery in July in Monte Carlo, will expand the line’s fleet to four. Billed by Regent as the most luxurious cruise ship ever, the Explorer will have a 3,875-square-foot, $10,000-a-night suite as its centerpiece. Regent has renovated its existing trio of all-suite ships, which operate seven- to 119-night voyages to more than 300 destinations worldwide.

Royal Caribbean International

NOMINATED: DOMESTIC, ALASKA, CARIBBEAN, EUROPE, HAWAII/PACIFIC, FAMILY EXPERIENCE, SALES & SERVICE, OVERALL

Royal’s latest ship, the Anthem of the Seas, arrived in New York in November with a number of Quantum-class highlights such as the iFly skydiving simulator and the North Star, a crane-mounted observation gondola. By 2017, Royal’s fleet will have 26 ships, including two sister ships to the Anthem that will sail in China. Royal’s Voom high-speed Internet service is scheduled to be fleetwide by the end of 2016. Next year the Empress of the Seas will return to the fleet from Pullmantur. 

Scenic

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

In 2008, Australian company Scenic launched its first river cruise program with the christening of two vessels in Europe. In 2016, Scenic will have a 14-strong European river cruise fleet. Scenic vessels have multiple dining venues, and passengers benefit from the company’s investment in high-tech amenities, such as Scenic Tailormade, a GPS device that provides location-specific audio tours. Scenic also sails on the Mekong and Irrawaddy rivers in Southeast Asia, as well as on Russia’s Volga River.

Seabourn Cruise Line

NOMINATED: UNDER 1,000 BERTHS, LUXURY

Seabourn’s Odyssey class will expand to four next year with the addition of the Encore, which will have an extra deck and capacity for 600 passengers at double occupancy. The luxury cruise operator has a new partnership with Thomas Keller, the chef behind gourmet meccas such as the French Laundry in Napa Valley and Per Se in New York.

Silversea Cruises

NOMINATED: LUXURY

Silversea Cruises has five luxury and three expedition ships in its fleet, which travels the globe to more than 800 destinations. It is building the Silver Muse, an addition to the luxury fleet, for delivery in 2017. Silversea will shift its 296-passenger Silver Cloud to expedition itineraries starting in November 2017. The ship will be strengthened for greater resistance to ice and offer mainly polar cruises. The Silver Cloud, which entered service in 1994, is Silversea’s oldest ship.

Tauck

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

In 2004, Tauck entered the European river cruising game with its first river cruise vessel and has since expanded into a nine-ship operation. By 2016, Tauck will have increased its European river fleet size by 125% since 2014. Last year, Tauck completely overhauled the look and feel of the often overlooked lower-deck cabins by introducing a lofted lower-deck cabin concept, effectively bringing more light and space to the traditionally smaller and darker staterooms.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

One of the pioneers in the river cruise industry, Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection was founded in 1976 by Serbian entrepreneur Serba Ilich. The company was purchased by the Travel Corp. in 2004 and has since been transformed into a six-star luxury river cruise line with a fleet of 21 river cruise vessels in Europe, Russia, Asia and India. In 2015, Uniworld christened the 155-passenger S.S. Maria Theresa on the Danube River and will begin sailing the Ganges River in January. In 2016, Uniworld will sail a total of 21 river cruise ships in Europe, Russia, Asia and India.

Viking River Cruises

NOMINATED: RIVER CRUISING, RIVER CRUISE SALES & SERVICE

Viking River Cruises dates back to 1997 when company chairman Tor Hagen purchased four Russian river cruise ships. The company has since grown into the largest river cruise company in Europe. In 2012, Viking began launching its 190-passenger Viking Longships, kicking off a building spree that continues into 2016 with the launch of six new vessels, which will bring the number of ships Viking has launched in five years to 52. Viking also sails in Russia, Ukraine, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Egypt. 

Windstar Cruises

NOMINATED: UNDER 1,000 BERTHS

Windstar Cruises has added more itineraries since acquiring three 214-passenger ships from Seabourn. This year, it began sailing the Star Breeze and Star Legend, bringing its total fleet to six ships, three with sails. Windstar is packaging shoreside bicycle tours with cruises to Italy and has partnered with the James Beard Foundation for several food-themed cruises in 2016.


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