We racked up quite a few miles this year, not to mention several days at sea. But, which cruise lines were the best?
SUMMARY OF OUR EDITORS' CHOICE AWARDS FOR 2014
Our awards are based on actual sailings aboard the ships and cruise lines listed below during the 2014 calendar year. Categories are based on service areas that we feel deserve special recognition.
- Best Luxury Cruise Line - Silversea Cruises - Silver Explorer - Even Silversea's expedition ship, Explorer, offers luxury that other cruise lines can only dream of. Daily activities include exploring nature on one of the ship's Zodiacs and evenings are spent in true luxury with full butler service and Silversea's impeccable dining. There's none better! Read review.
- Best Service - Silversea Cruises - Silver Explorer - When it comes to all-out service and attention to detail, few cruise lines can even come close to Silversea. They have extended their 5-star service to their small expedition ships. Read review.
- Best Food and Dining - Silversea Cruises - Silver Explorer - We were pleasantly surprised that the food served aboard the Silver Explorer was some of the best we have ever had on Silversea. Dining on Silversea is always something special, and they have not betrayed that reputation on this expedition ship.
- Best Expedition Ship - Silversea Cruises - Silver Explorer - We never expected a small, expedition ship to offer such amenities and great service. This award really takes into consideration all expedition ships on which we have sailed over the past 12 years.
- Read our Silver Explorer review
Simona, our waitress, is one reason Silversea gets our pick for best dining
- Best Enrichment Series - Voyages of Discovery - MV Voyager - All Discovery Cruises prides themselves on destination immersion, and it is easy to see why. On our Iceland cruise, we enjoyed excellent lectures from a variety of experts.
- Best Destination Experience - Voyages of Discovery - MV Voyager - Thanks to MV Voyager, we can now cross Iceland off of our bucket list. Without question, this was the most interesting destination we experienced in 2014.
- Read our MV Voyager review.
Mo Holland leads the team of lecturers on MV Voyager
- Best Idea - Azamara Club Cruises - Azamara Quest - Azamara Fist Bump - It may sound kind of ridiculous, but Azamara has a very clever way to help prevent the potential spread of intestinal viruses like Norovirus. Instead of shaking hands with guests, which is probably the most common way these little bugs are spread, Azamara crew have employed a "fist bump" when greeting guests. It is very clever and a great idea!
- Our Favorite Captain - Azamara Club Cruises - Azamara Quest - Captain Jose Vilarinho - Captain
Vilarinho was friendly and always accessible. He was an excellent host
at the Captain's dinner and is a great story teller! You can tell he
loves his job.
- Best Cruise Director - Azamara Club Cruises - Azamara Quest - Russ Grieve -
I swear, it had nothing to do with Russ dressed in drag sitting in my
lap and kissing my forehead, although that didn't hurt. Russ was the
most energetic and all-around entertaining cruise director of 2014.
- Read our Azamara Quest review
Russ Grieve is in his environment entertaining guests
- Best Alternate Dining - Carnival Cruise Line - Carnival Breeze - Fahrenheit 555 - It was a close call between Royal Princess' Crown Grill and Fahrenheit 555, but Carnival barely edged out her sister cruise line with the best combination of service, atmosphere and food quality. Read review.
- Best Hamburger - Carnival Cruise Line - Carnival Breeze - Guy's Burger Joint -The hamburgers on Carnival Breeze are so good that they deserve an award all to themselves. Food Network star, Guy Fieri, has figured out how to bring a truly great hamburger to a cruise ship---something that has been long overdue. On our 8-day cruise, I ate at Guy's at least four times. It's that good.
- Best Activities - Carnival Cruise Line - Carnival Breeze - When it comes to daytime activities and "stuff to do" on board, there's no beating Carnival. Even on days when the ship was in port, the cruise staff still was conducting onboard activities.
- Most Fun Cruise - Carnival Cruise Line - Carnival Breeze - After all, these are the "Fun Ships", right? They earn that moniker. You simply cannot go on a Carnival cruise and not have fun. It's impossible. One big reason is The Punchliner comedy club.
- Best Housekeeping/Stateroom Attendant - Carnival Cruise Line - Carnival Breeze - Here's a bit of a surprise (at least, to us). The only stateroom attendant to call us by name (on a mainstream cruise ship) in 2014 was Nur, our excellent stateroom attendant on Carnival Breeze!
- Read our Carnival Breeze review
Nur (Carnival Breeze) was the best stateroom attendant we had in 2014!
- Best Gourmet Pizza - MSC Cruises - MSC Divina - For the best gourmet pizza, you have to visit Cantina Di Bacco on MSC Divina. The pizzas are handmade with real Buffalo Mozzarella cheese and all ingredients are made fresh daily. But, it's the brick oven that makes the difference. Yes, there is a charge for the pizza here, but it is worth every penny!
- Best Entertainment - MSC Cruises - MSC Divina - Not only did MSC Divina have the nicest theater, but they had the best evening entertainment. A highlight was an afternoon matinee Italian opera!
- Most Beautiful Ship - MSC Cruises - MSC Divina - This was another close call between MSC and Princess. Both are beautiful ships. But, MSC Divina edges out Royal Princess when it comes to the WOW factor.
- Best Internet Service/Wi-Fi - MSC Cruises - MSC Divina -
I am not sure why every cruise line has not figured out how to offer
good Internet service, but MSC sure has. The Internet/Wi-Fi is the best
we have had on any cruise ship to date. Interestingly, only a couple of
years earlier, the Internet on MSC Orchestra was the worst we had ever experienced. Someone at MSC must be paying attention.
- Read our MSC Divina review
The pizza at La Cantina Di Bacco is the most authentic Italian pizza you will find on a cruise ship
- Best Bar Service - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Not only did we get great service from all of the bar staff, but we felt like the drink pours were more generous on Princess. They also serve Scotch in a traditional "rocks" glass instead of the wimpy water glasses on MSC and Carnival. Read review.
- Best Wine Bar - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Vines on Deck 5 is our pick for the best wine bar. Great service, great wine selection and excellent seating right off the Piazza make this the best wine bar. The tapas served in the evenings are also very good. Cantina di Bacco on MSC Divina is a close second.
- Best Pool/Lido Deck - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Definitely the nicest pool deck with tons of available deck chairs. The big screen TV is a neat little extra, too.
- Best In-Stateroom Entertainment - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Princess has everyone beat with their stateroom entertainment. A nice selection of movies and they re-broadcast onboard events recorded in the Princess LIVE! theater.
- Best Accommodations - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess -
We found our Deluxe Balcony Stateroom to have the perfect combination
of space, comfort and storage. Even with the smallish bathroom, this was
the nicest stateroom of 2014.
- Best Coffee Bar - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - International Cafe - This was my go-to place every morning for coffee and blogging. The coffee served here is not free, but it is reasonably priced and perhaps the best brewed coffee I have found on any cruise ship. A variety of complimentary pastries are offered in the morning and sandwiches in the afternoons. This is what a coffee bar should be.
- Best Lido Buffet - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Horizon Court - Royal Princess ran away with this award. The Horizon Court/Bistro was the best Lido buffet we experienced in 2014. The Gyro station was unique and delicious. There was a huge selection of international cuisines each day. The food was good and there was plenty of seating, both indoors and outdoors.
- Best Adult Retreat - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - The Sanctuary - The Sanctuary was so good, we went two days in a row while the ship was docked in St. Petersburg, Russia. We had visited St. Petersburg only a few months earlier, so we decided to stay onboard and we had The Sanctuary all to ourselves! This is what an adults-only retreat should be. The Cabanas are pure luxury with excellent service.
- The Most Romantic Cruise - Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Even though we did not avail ourselves of the on board wedding chapel, we did celebrate our 20th anniversary aboard Royal Princess. The ship is well equipped to deal with weddings, anniversaries, renewal of vows or just a romantic getaway. After all, this IS 'the Love Boat.'
- The Ship We Would Most Like To Sail On Again? Princess Cruises - Royal Princess - Looking back on 2014, our busiest cruise season so far, if I had to pick only one ship to go back on, it would be Royal Princess (or her sister, Regal Princess).
Read our Royal Princess review
The service and amenities of The Sanctuary make it the best adult retreat at sea
Best River Cruise Ship - Viking Longship Hlin - Viking River Cruises hit this one out of the park, so to speak. The new Viking Longships are the biggest sailing the European waterways, but they are also some of the nicest. A lot of thought has obviously gone into the design and construction of these floating hotels. Rich leather furnishings with a Scandinavian decor give the ship a classy and elegant feeling, like a 5-star hotel. Read our review.
- Best Lounge - Viking Longship Hlin - There is no better view than sitting in the Viking Lounge on a Viking Longship. Expansive views of the river are made possible by walls of floor-to-ceiling glass without the typical dividing structures to impede the view. Simply brilliant.
- Best Decor - Viking Longship Hlin - We really liked the light colors and Norwegian/Scandinavian decor theme on Hlin better than any river cruise ship we have been on to date. Very comfortable and very elegant..
- Best Sun Deck - Viking Longship Hlin -
Even though it was too cold to enjoy on our late November cruise, the Sun Deck on Hlin was the perfect design for enjoying the river scenery. There are plenty of deck chairs, many protected from the elements with canvas tarps. And, they have swapped the useless large chess set for a mini-golf putting area and herb garden!
- Best New Concept - Viking Longship Hlin - Aquavit Terrace - This alternate dining venue is positioned all the way forward on Deck 3 and offers both indoor and outdoor (al fresco) seating. A Continental breakfast is served here each morning as well as a light luncheon each day at Noon. There is an evening "bar menu" for those who would rather skip a trip to The Restaurant. Diners can also enjoy seating for two in Viking Lounge.
- Read our review of Viking Longship Hlin
The mini-golf putting and herb garden on Viking Longship Hlin Sun Deck
- Best Luxury River Cruise - Tauck MS Inspire - This was an easy decision as Tauck was the only river cruise that we would classify as luxury.
In part, this is due to the all-inclusive nature of the product. All
soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages are now complimentary on Tauck
river cruises. Gratuities are also included. However, what really makes
Tauck a luxury brand is the end-to-end service that guests receive from
the time they arrive at the airport, until it is time to depart for the
USA. Read our review.
- Best Service - Tauck MS Inspire - Tauck guests can expect true 5-star service from both Tauck directors, or Scylla staff. An example? I forgot to pack cuff links for my French cuff dress shirt. A call to Reception resulted in a knock on the door a few minutes later with a pair of loaner cuff links.
- Best Excursions - Tauck MS Inpsire
- The Tauck Directors are what make the difference. Tauck does not
depend solely on local guides to make sure guests are treated to the
best experience. Tauck's own directors are always on hand to deal with
any situation that may arise. And, the unique and special venues that
Tauck includes in its excursions are fantastic.
- Best Accommodations - Tauck MS Inspire - Loft Suite
- This was not even a fair fight. Tauck treated us to one of the new
Loft Suites, so how could we not pick this as our favorite river cruise
accommodation? Even with the noisy plumbing sounds, the Loft Suite is
hands-down one of the nicest staterooms/suites we have enjoyed on any
ship. Tons of storage, a cool elevated landing with floor-to-ceiling
windows, and a huge (by river ship standards) bathroom, make the Loft
- Best Special Event - Tauck MS Inspire - This is where decades of experience in the travel industry really pays dividends. How about a special luncheon in a cave at a Chateau? Or, how about a 5-star dinner in a WWI museum? Only Tauck can pull off events like this, and Tauck guests are the ones who benefit.
- Best Alternate Dining - Tauck MS Inspire - Arthur's Steakhouse - In spite of a few menu snafus, we really like the offerings and the quality of food served in Arthur's. However, the experience in AmaReina's Chef's Table was a very close second.
- Read our Tauck MS Inpsire review
Tauck continues to be one of our all-time favorite cruises
- Best Food and Dining - AmaWaterways - AmaReina
- AmaWaterways came out on top in food quality and preparation.
Although the service at dinner was a bit slow at times, the dishes served were
impressive. The pastry chef produced the best pastries and cakes we have ever had on any cruise ship. The Nasi Goreng (Indonesian rice dish) served at lunch one day was also the best I have ever had on a ship. We also gave extra consideration to the booths in the dining room...very comfortable! Tauck MS Inspire was a very close second in this category.
The Chaines des Rotisseurs dinner on AmaReina was impressive
Hotels and Resorts
- Best Luxury Hotel - Four Seasons Gresham Palace, Budapest - If you are looking for unmatched luxury and service, make sure to book your pre-/post-cruise stay at the Four Seasons Gresham Palace. It is our pick for the best luxury hotel for 2014. Read review.
DISCLAIMER: Travel Awards typically come from surveys from travel magazines or websites
from cruise enthusiasts. Many, if not most, who vote for their favorite cruise line
may have never sailed with another cruise line. Having little or no
basis for comparison, how valuable can these awards really be? Even our
Editors' Choice Awards are subject to scrutiny since we can only bestow
an honor on a cruise ship or line which we have personally experienced.
So, when you read this article announcing our Editors' Choice
Awards, realize that they are based solely on our personal experiences
and observations during that year.
Originally posted on: 1/15/2015