Cruising is quickly becoming among the most popular ways to see the world. Unpack once and take in the sights of the world’s rivers and seas from your floating hotel.
More than 30 million people were expected to cruise in 2019, according to the Cruise Lines International Association, and that number is likely to grow year over year. More than 50 cruise lines set sail in all seven regions of the globe, and more than a dozen new vessels are introduced each year. The sheer variety of cruises can be overwhelming.
We asked our readers to vote for their favorite cruise lines and ships in 2019, and the winners are in.
Click on each category below to see the full list of winners.
Best Adventure Cruise Line: Adventure Canada
This is the third straight win for Adventure Canada — Photo courtesy of Lydia Schrandt
While Adventure Canada does indeed lead small ship adventures through the rivers, icy fjords and secluded waterways of Canada, this expedition cruise company also takes travelers to experience landscapes and cultures further afield; places like Scotland, Iceland, Ireland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland.
The company shines with an always stellar lineup of onboard experts and guides.
Best Boutique Cruise Line: Windstar Cruises
Windstar ships carry a maximum of 350 passengers — Photo courtesy of Windstar Cruises
With fewer than 350 guests per sailing, Windstar Cruises promises passengers a cruising experience free of lines and waiting. Since the six boutique ships are smaller than a typical cruise ship, they can sail into small European villages, off-the-beaten-path harbors and hidden coves, giving guests the opportunity to visit both major capitals and smaller ports.
Windstar’s award-winning shore excursions offer guests the opportunity to immerse themselves into the local culture and cuisines of these special ports of call.
Best Cruise Ship for Dining: Viking Sea - Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Sea brings global flavors onboard — Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
All meals are free of charge aboard Viking Sea, even at specialty restaurants. The star of the ship, Manfredi's, serves a menu of hearty Italian fare in a homey setting. The Chef's Table is themed to a different region of the world each night, while The World Cafe serves global specialties buffet-style.
For an extra cost, guests can sign up for The Kitchen Table, part restaurant and part shore excursion into a local market to pick out ingredients for dinner.
Best Cruise Ship for Families: MSC Seaside - MSC Cruises
Family-friendly ship launched in 2017 — Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises
MSC Seaside brings loads of family-friendly amenities to the fleet, including family suites, an expanded kids club in partnership with LEGO and Chicco, multi-story water park with four slides, two full-size bowling lanes, a teens club and a high-tech theater.
Best Large Cruise Ship: MSC Meraviglia - MSC Cruises
Winning ship holds some 4,500 passengers — Photo courtesy of MSC Cruises
Introduced in 2017, the 4,500-passenger MSC Meraviglia has quickly become known for its family-friendly modular staterooms, private access MSC Yacht Club and loads of onboard entertainment.
The ship is home to the first custom-built Cirque du Soleil theater at sea, a dozen different dining venues, the longest LED dome at sea, a beautiful Mediterranean-style promenade, water park and five kids’ clubs.
Best Mid-Sized Cruise Ship: Koningsdam - Holland America Line
Winning ship known for its live music venues and range of onboard experiences — Photo courtesy of Holland America Line
The 2,650-guest Koningsdam keeps passengers entertained with a two-story World Stage to Music Walk, as well as a handful of other live music venues. Passengers can learn about destinations at Explorations Central, try a new recipe at America’s Test Kitchen, explore the wilds with BBC Earth Experiences or create unique cocktails at Blend.
Other amenities include a glass-roofed Lido Deck for under-the-stars movies, family cabins and two pools.
Best Small Cruise Ship: Viking Sky - Viking Ocean Cruises
Every guest has a veranda aboard Viking Sky — Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
The 930-passenger Viking Sky feels more like a resort than a cruise ship, thanks to its all-veranda staterooms, tasteful decorations and elegant public spaces for reading, relaxing or socializing. Little extras, like numerous USB ports, ocean-facing lounge chairs on the pool deck and floor-to-ceiling windows in most venues, make for a comfortable sailing experience.
Best Ocean Cruise Line: Viking Ocean Cruises
While relatively new to the ocean cruise scene, Viking has already made a name for itself — Photo courtesy of Viking Ocean Cruises
Viking Cruises earned its reputation through its affordable, destination-focused river cruises. With the debut of Viking Star in April 2015, the line made a grand entrance into the world of ocean cruising. Now the line has six ocean vessels (with a seventh on the way).
All cabins come with balconies and are notably larger than the industry average, and while the ships lack a casino and kids club, they offer the same destination-intensive programming that made river cruising so popular.
Best River Cruise Line: Viking River Cruises
Viking has a fleet of more than 60 river ships — Photo courtesy of Viking River Cruises
Founded in 1997, Viking River Cruises plies the waterways of Europe, Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Egypt with its fleet of more than 60 vessels. While Viking has also launched an award-winning ocean cruise line, the company built its reputation in river cruising.
These all-inclusive cruises feature outside staterooms, Wi-Fi, wine and beer with meals, shore excursions in every port and Viking’s signature Culture Curriculum program.
Best River Cruise Ship: AmaMagna - AmaWaterways
AmaMagna ranks as the largest river ship in Europe — Photo courtesy of AmaWaterways
The pet project of AmaWaterways’ co-founder, co-owner and president, Rudi Schreiner, AmaMagna ranks among the biggest river ships – twice as wide of its competitors. Guests enjoy suites with balconies, and the choice of four onboard restaurants, all included. The Zen Wellness Studio features a spacious fitness center with daily wellness programming.
Congratulations to all these winning cruise lines and ships!