Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Magazine announces awards for best cruise line

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It's time for some cruise awards.

Travel + Leisure Magazine has announced its awards for the best cruise lines in three categories -- small ships, large ships and river cruisers.

I can pretty much guarantee you will not agree with all their choices. I say that because many of you are long-time cruisers and you have your favourite cruise line (or lines). From talking to people on ships, I know that many of them stick with one line, believing it is the best even though they haven't experimented by trying the competition.

Cruise lines often have parties for frequent customers and it's not uncommon to see people who have been on well over 100 cruises on the same line... and every line has its loyalists. And yes, it's true that loyalty programs and their perks play a part in the process -- just as they do with airlines.

But in some cases, it probably comes down to that first cruise. If your maiden voyage was a great experience, why change? Many cruisers have their favourite hotel director on a ship, or favourite cruise director. For example, Carnival's John Heald is so popular he has his own blog and even runs a couple of "John Heald Cruises" every year.

Oh yes, about the Travel + Leisure Awards.

They are based on surveys of readers conducted from January to March every year. The magazine editors run the questionnaire in four issues of the magazine, and also for iPad readers of online newsletters and for website visitors. T+L claims that the independent firm responsible for compiling and managing results screens respondents to protect the integrity of the survey, eliminating "travel industry professionals."

Good luck with that one.

At the end of the day, or the survey, here is what the readers of Travel + Leisure think

Cruise Lines

1. Crystal Cruises: This luxury line has held first place for 17 consecutive years and is the only cruise line, hotel or resort to win its category every year since Travel + Leisure started the awards in 1995.

2. Regent Seven Seas: a bridesmaid once again

3. Azamara Club Cruises: a jump from sixth place last year

4. Oceania Cruises: down one spot

5. Disney: also down one

6. Cunard: fifth in 2011

7. Celebrity

8. Holland America

9. Royal Caribbean

10. Princess

-- The seventh through 10th positions were the same as 2011.

Top 5 Small Ship Lines

1. Seabourn

2. Paul Gauguin: first time in the top five

3. Sea Dream Yacht Club

4. Lindblad Expeditions: newcomer to top five

5. Silversea: fell three places

Top 5 River Cruise Lines

1. Viking: leaped to first from fifth

2. Uniworld

3. Tauck: last year's winner

4. Abercrombie & Kent: first time in top 5

5. Grand Circle: another newcomer

-- Most cruisers will agree service and the quality of the food are the two key elements in cruise satisfaction. A few rankings changed when T + L readers ranked the top 3 cruise lines just for service.

Large Ships

1. Crystal

2. Regent Seven Seas

3. Disney

Small ships

1. Seabourn

2. Silversea

3. Sea Dream

River cruises

1. Uniworld

2. Tauck

3. Viking

Now, you're already steaming, right? So how do you really feel about the Travel + Leisure choices? Let me know at portsandbows@gmail.com and I will post your comments on my daily blog, portsandbows.com.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 14, 2012 D6

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