For Condé Nast Traveler, by Cynthia Drescher and Jenna Scherer.
Condé Nast Traveler readers rank the best cruise lines in the world in our 2016 Readers’ Choice Awards survey, including large ships (more than 2,500 passengers), medium ships (500 to 2,500 passengers), small ships (fewer than 500 passengers), and river cruises. View the full list here.
1. Large Ship Line #1: Disney
This family-friendly cruise line carries the Disney experience to the high seas, with character appearances, extensive onboard children’s programs, and excursions to their private Bahamian island, “Castaway Cay.” The Caribbean is a constant focus for sailings, but changing seasons do see the ships visiting ports in the Mediterranean, Mexican Riviera, Norwegian Fjords, and more. Some 4,000 guests are able to sail on each of the line’s largest ships — Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy — so there’s always a party going on. Pack your craziest outfits to join in during special events like “Star Wars Day at Sea” and the “FrozenDeck Party,” unique to Disney Cruise Line.
2. Large Ship Line #2: Cunard
Formal black-tie evenings, a ballroom with an orchestra, proper afternoon tea, and varied itineraries all around the world make Cunard a popular choice for travelers who long for the ocean liners of old. The line’s largest ship — Queen Mary 2 with the capacity for more than 2,600 passengers — is a legend all her own, having the only planetarium at sea and being the only pet-friendly cruise ship, where dogs and cat are cozied into kennels with their own playroom, walking deck, and kennel master.
3. Large Ship Line #3: Princess
The cruise line of the original Love Boat, Princess hasn’t forgotten its pop culture history; a TV channel onboard is dedicated to 24-hour airings of episodes of the show. No one goes on a cruise to watch TV, though; the line’s newest ships thrill with a craft beer program, special menus designed by Chef Curtis Stone, and the “SeaWalk,” a glass-bottom walkway that extends out over the water. Princess sends its 17 ships around the world and is set to launch its 18th, Majestic Princess, in spring 2017 with sailings in Southeast Asia.
4. Large Ship Line #4: Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity’s fleet sails seasonally in some of the best-loved cruising regions, including the Caribbean, Mediterranean, and around Alaska. While 85 percent of the cabins on the five largest ships — Eclipse, Equinox, Silhouette, Solstice, and Reflection — have balconies, a focus on the outdoors continues up top, with a lawn of real grass flanked by cabanas, hammocks, and the Lawn Club Grill. Inside, slow down and look around, since these ships collectively hang more than $60 million worth of fine art with pieces by Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons, and Richard Prince.
5. Large Ship Line #5: Norwegian Cruise Line
While Norwegian’s ships sail in regions around the world, it’s the Breakaway that may be the most famous, all thanks to its allegiance to New York. Departing on weekly cruises from the Big Apple to the Caribbean or Bermuda, the ship is a colorful site at Manhattan’s piers owing to the Peter Max-designed, Lady Liberty-themed artwork splashed across the massive bow. As for Norwegian’s newest and largest ship, the Escape, it seeks to make headlines with the first Margaritaville at sea, the largest ropes course at sea, and a “ship-within-a-ship” district of suites complete with private pool, restaurant, concierge, and butler service.
See the rest of The Best Cruise Lines in the World on CNTraveler.com
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