Travel Weekly Readers Choice 2016


Cruise Lines

Ama Waterways

NOMINATED: River Cruising, River Cruise Sales and Service

Founded in 2002 by Rudi Schreiner, Kristin Karst and Jimmy Murphy, AmaWaterways will have grown into a river cruise line with 19 vessels in its European fleet by 2017 with the launch of its newest river cruise vessel, the AmaKristina. Additionally, AmaWaterways operates one vessel 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 family-friendly river cruises on AmaWaterways vessels.

American Queen Steamboat Co.

NOMINATED: River Cruising

Founded in 2011, the American Queen Steamboat Co. is adding a third vessel to its river fleet in 2017, the 340-foot Mississippi riverboat American Duchess. The former gaming vessel was purchased from parent company HMS Global Maritime in August, and it is in the process of being converted into the all-suite Duchess. The company purchased its flagship vessel, the 436-passenger American Queen, in 2011. After receiving several million dollars in upgrades, the American Queen was relaunched on the Mississippi River in 2012. The American Queen Steamboat Co. expanded in 2014 with the addition of the 223-passenger American Empress in the Pacific Northwest.

Avalon Waterways

NOMINATED: River Cruising, River Cruise Sales and 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 in 2017. 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 on all of its new vessels 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 and Journey went into drydock last year for comprehensive upgrades that included 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: Alaska, Caribbean, Domestic, Entertainment, Family Experience, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Sales and Service

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 launched the 4,000-passenger Carnival Vista in Europe in 2016.

Celebrity Cruises

NOMINATED: Alaska, Caribbean, Cuisine, Domestic, Entertainment, Europe, Family Experience, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Premium, Sales and Service

Celebrity recently introduced Suite Class, which builds perks into the fare 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: Cuisine, 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 in 2015 from its former Japanese owners by Genting Hong Kong, Crystal is building three ships for delivery starting in 2022. A 31-suite luxury yacht, the Crystal Esprit, will move to the Caribbean in 2017.

Cunard Line

NOMINATED: Luxury, World Cruise Itinerary

Heritage is a big theme on Cunard Line's three Bermuda-flagged ships. The biggest, the 2,600-passenger Queen Mary 2, was "remastered" this year 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: Entertainment, Family Experience, Private Island (Castaway Cay)

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 "Tangled" on the Disney Magic. Based out of Port Canaveral, Disney Cruise Line packages cruises with its theme parks in nearby Orlando. Two as-yet-unnamed ships will join the fleet in 2021 and 2023.

Holland America Line

NOMINATED: Alaska, Caribbean, Cuisine, Domestic, Europe, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Premium, Private Island (Half Moon Cay), Sales and Service, World Cruise Itinerary

HAL introduced a new logo in 2016 and a new tag line, "Savor the Journey," to replace its "Signature of Excellence" motto. With the addition of the Koningsdam this year, HAL's fleet grew to 14 ships. Next year, the line will ban smoking on cabin balconies.

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. This year the line announced that in 2019 it would offer a 119-day world cruise aboard the MSC Magnifica from Genoa, Italy.

Norwegian Cruise Line

NOMINATED: Alaska, Caribbean, Cuisine, Domestic, Entertainment, Europe, Family Experience, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Private Island (Great Stirrup Cay), Sales and Service

Norwegian's 14-ship fleet sails itineraries in the Caribbean, Mexico, Europe, South America, Asia and more. Its Pride of America is the only ship that sails year-round In Hawaii. Harvest Caye, Norwegian Cruise Line's destination island in Belize, opened on Nov. 17. This year, the line announced that the 4,000-passenger Norwegian Bliss will become the first ship in the fleet to be christened in Seattle, positioned for Alaska sailings, when it arrives in June 2018.

Oceania Cruises

NOMINATED: Cuisine, Europe, Premium, Under 1,000 Berths, 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. It has refurbished the former Pacific Princess and deployed it as the Sirena. Oceania's OLife Advantage package includes amenities such as free shore excursions, unlimited internet and prepaid gratuities as part of the fare.

Princess Cruises

NOMINATED: Alaska, Caribbean, Cuisine, Domestic, Entertainment, Europe, Family Experience, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Premium, Private Island (Princess Cays), Sales and Service, World Cruise Itinerary

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 launched the Seven Seas Explorer this year, but the line didn't ignore its existing trio of all-suite ships, which operate seven- to 119-night voyages to more than 300 destinations worldwide. This month the Seven Seas Voyager emerged from a 25-day drydock with updated public spaces and suites, part of a $125 million refurbishment of the Regent fleet. The Voyager's dining options now include French restaurant Chartreuse, which debuted on the Seven Seas Explorer. Regent has also developed new Culinary Arts Center classes for ships sailing in the Caribbean this winter.

Royal Caribbean International

NOMINATED: Alaska, Caribbean, Cuisine, Domestic, Entertainment, Europe, Family Experience, Hawaii/Pacific, Overall, Private Island (Labadee), Sales and Service 

Founded in 1969, Royal Caribbean International's 25-ship fleet visits destinations throughout Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Mexico, Central and South America and more. In April, Royal took delivery of the Ovation of the Seas, and last month it christened the 5,479-passenger Harmony of the Seas, the world's largest cruise ship, in Fort Lauderdale.

Scenic

NOMINATED: River Cruising, River Cruise Sales and Service

In 2008, Australian company Scenic launched its first river cruise program with the christening of two vessels in Europe. In 2017, Scenic will operate a fleet of 16 luxury river ships in Europe, Russia and Southeast Asia. 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 owns the lower-priced boutique line Emerald Waterways, which will have seven vessels in its European fleet in 2017.

Seabourn Cruise Line

NOMINATED: Under 1,000 Berths, Luxury

Seabourn's fleet of all-suite ships, carrying between 450 and 600 guests each, sails to Australia and New Zealand, the Caribbean, Europe and beyond with a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio. Seabourn's Odyssey class expands to four next year with the addition of the Seabourn Encore; British soprano Sarah Brightman will name the Encore in a ceremony in Singapore on Jan. 7. The luxury cruise operator has a 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 and 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. In 2016, Tauck launched the Grace and the Joy, which more than doubled the size of its European river fleet, from four vessels at the start of 2014 to nine vessels this year. Last year, Tauck 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 and 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. Next spring, Uniworld will launch one of its Super Ship class of vessels, the 128-passenger Joie de Vivre, on France's Seine River.

Viking River Cruises

NOMINATED: River Cruising, River Cruise Sales and 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 2017 with the launch of two vessels, which will bring the number of ships Viking has launched in six years to 54. Viking also sails in Russia, Ukraine, China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia and Egypt and has been credited with bringing a great deal of exposure to the river cruise industry through its widely viewed TV ads, notably on PBS.

Windstar Cruises

NOMINATED: Hawaii/Pacific, Under 1,000 Berths

Windstar Cruises sails to 150 ports in Europe, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and Central America. Its fleet comprises three sailing yachts (the Wind Star, Wind Surf and Wind Spirit) and a trio of 212-passenger yachts (the Star Pride, Star Breeze and Star Legend). The line is a division of Xanterra Parks & Resorts.

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