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It is with great pleasure that we announce the names of the 2010 winners that you, our Cruise Passenger readers, voted for. Words: Toni Eatts

You have cast your votes, the results have been tallied and it’s time to reveal this year’s winners – but first we’d like to point out the changes that we’ve recently introduced.

After last year’s awards we decided to review our categories. As you are probably aware, an increasing number of Australians and New Zealanders are taking cruises. This means many people are going on a cruise for the first time, discovering the pleasures of a cruise holiday and becoming cruise fans.

As a result, we decided we needed to simplify the awards so that Cruise Passenger readers did not feel as though they had to have taken a dozen cruises before they were eligible to vote.

After some research, we also discovered that many readers might have a preferred ship and that this ship did not necessarily belong to their preferred cruise line. For example, a reader might prefer cruising with a particular cruise line because of the service, facilities or destinations provided by that company. However, they may have also cruised on a ship from a different cruise line and been impressed by that ship.

This is why you will find the categories split between lines and ships.

Thanks to everyone who voted. It is terrific to see how many of you are passionate about particular cruise lines, ships, destinations and agents and we appreciate your support.

And now to the winners…

Best Luxury Cruise Line

Silversea

To earn a place in the luxury category – no less win it – a line must be dedicated to providing exceptional service and exceptional ships. Steve Odell, senior vice president Asia Pacific for Silversea Cruises, says, “Silversea prides itself on outstanding personalised service including butler service across all suite categories; a beautifully designed fleet with suites that are some of the most spacious at sea, and an all-inclusive style of cruising that includes gourmet dining choices with menus designed by Relais & Châteaux and complimentary wines, champagnes and spirits.”

1st: Silversea

2nd: Crystal Cruises 2nd

3rd: regent Seven Seas

Best Luxury Cruise Ship

Silver Shadow

This category is always hard fought and the closeness of this year’s voting reflected this. Nevertheless, Steve Odell was thrilled that Silversea’s Silver Shadow took the honours. “Since making her debut in September 2000, Silver Shadow has provided guests with exceptional travel experiences, a convivial onboard ambience and outstanding levels of personal service,” Steve says. “Accommodating a maximum of 382 guests, she offers a truly intimate cruise experience, with one of the highest space-to-guest ratios in the industry today and a guest to crew ratio of 1.3 to 1.”

1st: Silver Shadow

2nd: Crystal Serenity

3rd: Silver Cloud

Best Premium Cruise Line

Princess Cruises

In the premium category, you’ll find lines that offer large and mid-sized ships. Generally, the standard of service and accommodation on these vessels would be equal or better than that of a four-star hotel. These cruise lines are as comfortable catering for the family market as they are pitching to cashed-up baby boomers. However, many premium lines also make a point of offering gourmet cuisine, educational itineraries and special touches such as giant movie screens or cooking classes run by master chefs.

Alan Buckelew, CEO of Princess Cruises, says, “We’re enormously flattered to have won this award. Princess Cruises has always been popular among Australians but our local following has really grown since we’ve based our twin superliners, Sun Princess and Dawn Princess, Down Under. Both ships offer a great range of longer cruises to amazing destinations, which our Australian passengers are clearly enjoying. Meanwhile, our international cruise holidays, particularly in Alaska and Europe, continue to be in demand.”

1st: Princess Cruises

2nd: Cunard

3rd: Holland America Line

Best Premium Cruise Ship

Queen Mary 2

The competition for this award was so tough that there were fewer than 25 votes between the first and third place winners. Queen Mary 2, however, has been a traditional favourite having won numerous Readers’ Choice Awards and she triumphed once again.

Peter Shanks, president and managing director of Cunard Line, was delighted. “Queen Mary 2 is still the largest ship to have visited Australia and will call Australia home for more than a month during her Royal Circumnavigation voyage in 2012. The 345-metre-long liner rules the waves with signature features including the largest ballroom at sea, the largest library afloat, the only planetarium at sea and a spectacular six-storey Grand Lobby.”

1st: Queen Mary 2

2nd: Sun Princess

3rd: Diamond Princess

Best Mid-Range Cruise Line

P&O Cruises

This is the segment that has seen the greatest increase of berths offered in local waters in recent years. P&O Cruises has been a key player in this expansion and it is reflected in its win.

As Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Australia, which operates P&O Cruises, says, “With Pacific Sun in Newcastle, Pacific Dawn in Brisbane, Pacific Jewel in Sydney and Pacific Pearl launching in December, we offer a fantastic choice of ships and itineraries for Australian travellers.

“The P&O Cruises fleet has become a favourite for families and couples alike, offering unrivalled entertainment, a variety of dining options and great
fun activities for the kids.”

1st: P&O Cruises

2nd: Royal Caribbean International

3rd: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best Adventure/Small Ship Cruise Line

Captain Cook Cruises

While there are some Cruise Passenger readers who prefer their ships to be small or boutique, the range of cruise lines covered in this category is far from small. For example, at the luxury end, there’s Orion Expedition Cruises. Orion offers itineraries to Antarctica, Northern Australia and Papua New Guinea. There are also other cruise lines offering itineraries that explore various parts of the Australian coast or more exotic destinations such as the Galapagos Islands or Greenland. But a favourite is the family-owned Captain Cook Cruises, which operates 16 vessels, some of which sail no further than Sydney Harbour.

Nick Hortle, CEO of Captain Cook Cruises, says, “Every day we strive to give passengers an intimate and unique small cruise ship experience, which takes them to remote places larger ships cannot go. This allows passengers to discover the natural beauty, culture and history of the waterways they explore, whether that be on the Murray River, Sydney Harbour or Fiji.”

1st: Captain Cook Cruises

2nd: Orion Expedition Cruises

3rd: Aurora Expeditions

Best Mid-Range Cruise Ship

Pacific Dawn

With P&O Cruises offering so many Australians – and, from December with the launch of Pacific Pearl, New Zealanders – the opportunity to cruise from their doorsteps it comes as no surprise that its ships have taken first and third in this category. But there’s more to a wonderful cruise experience than a convenient departure port. The line is diligent about regularly making improvements to its ships and upgrading its services and facilities.

As Ann Sherry points out, “Pacific Dawn offers a truly memorable travel experience for passengers. Earlier this year a range of new features were added to the ship, which is now home to a Salt Grill by Luke Mangan restaurant, a child-free Oasis, a newly refurbished spa and P&O Cruises’ popular circus show, Pacific Cirque.”

1st: Pacific Dawn

2nd: Rhapsody of the Seas

3rd: Pacific Sun

Best Adventure/Small Ship Cruise Ship

Orion

The 106-passenger Orion is definitely the star of this category, having cruised off with the award for six successive years. Orion has a strong base of loyal passengers who enjoy expeditions in Northern Australia, the Pacific and Antarctica. They cruise to these remote destinations with wildlife and marine experts who accompany shore tours and then passengers return to the ship to relax over gourmet cuisine.

Sarina Bratton, founder and managing director of Orion Expedition Cruises, says, “I believe the Orion concept has been well embraced because of our unique style of expedition operation and our unique range of destinations. This is enhanced by high-quality food and wine, high crew-to-guest ratio and highly qualified educational experts reinforcing our commitment to conservation and environmental sustainability.”

1st: Orion

2nd: True North

3rd: Coral Princess

Best River Cruise line

APT

As an increasing number of people discover the pleasure of cruising rivers, the popularity of this category grows and the competition increases between river cruise lines. Debra Fox, general manager marketing, APT, says Australian-owned APT pioneered luxury European river cruising in Australia and New Zealand.

“APT has more than 16 years of cruising experience, offering unmatched expertise and insight. APT’s European river ships present the largest range of onboard dining experiences and more space per guest than any other. They are the only ones that feature revolutionary Twin Balcony Suites, and more than 80 per cent of suites in our fleet’s ships boast innovative private balconies. APT offers fully-inclusive cruising along some of the most spectacular waterways throughout Europe, Russia, Egypt and Asia.”

1st: APT

2nd: Scenic Tours

3rd: Avalon Waterways

Best River Cruise Ship

MS Amabella

River cruise ships differ from ocean-going vessels in several ways, but there is one difference that passengers often comment on: the nature of cruising from one river port to the next means you tend to spend less time on board the vessel. It is obvious from the popularity of this year’s winner, however, that the ship’s facilities are still required to impress.

APT’s Debra Fox says, “Luxurious MS Amabella features twin-balcony suites, three decks, a swimming pool, three specialty restaurants, including the unique Erlebnis Chef’s table, a wine room and open fireplace in the library.

MS Amabella also includes innovative, state-of-the-art design features, several unique lounges to unwind in and it takes the river cruising experience in Europe to a whole new level.”

1st: MS Amabella

2nd: MS Amadagio

3rd: Scenic Diamond

Best Cruise Region

Alaska

Cruising is said to be the best way to experience Alaska and Cruise Passenger readers obviously agree. An increasing number of Australians and New Zealanders are heading north to admire Alaska’s wonderful wildlife and intriguing native culture.

Popular itineraries include Inside Passage cruises that depart Vancouver and stop at Ketchikan, famous for its scenic fjords, then head onto Juneau and Skagway where you can learn about the gold rush, go kayaking or dog sledding. Next you might cruise breathtaking Glacier Bay National Park and hear glaciers thunder as they ‘calve’ into the sea; or go on to Anchorage to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center. Along the way you may be lucky enough to spot wild bears, majestic whales and soaring eagles.

So many cruise lines offer itineraries that you can choose between small adventure-style vessels or large resort ships. The best will offer lectures from experts to give you a deeper insight into the wonders of the region.

1st: Alaska

2nd: Mediterranean

3rd: South Pacific

Best Cruise Port

Sydney

Perhaps it’s time we barred Sydney from being nominated for Best Cruise Port because it has won yet again. This makes it the sixth year in a row. However, if we barred Sydney, it would mean Venice would simply move into first position because that romantic city consistently wins second and Vancouver, with its glorious harbour, is a regular in third position.

Obviously, it’s their breathtaking combination of natural and man-made beauty that makes all three ports popular. Even so, there is probably nothing as wonderful as sailing through Sydney Heads and towards the harbour bridge and the magnificent Sydney Opera House. Let’s also not forget that, combined with those amazing landmarks, the harbour remains vibrant with ferries and yachts trailing white wakes in the blue water, boats bobbing at moorings and parks and natural bushland providing a lush fringing of green. As the ship draws closer to Circular Quay, office towers of sparkling glass rise from behind the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens; and cafés, restaurants and superb shopping beckon.

No wonder Sydney keeps winning.

1st: Sydney

2nd: Venice

3rd: Vancouver

Best Individual Cruise Agent

Seniors Holiday Travel

This is the third time in five years that Seniors Holiday Travel has won this category and as Perry Morcombe, managing director, says, “Our business motto is ‘Service with Expertise’ and our cruising experts strive to match our passengers with the very best cruise to satisfy their individual cruise dreams.”

1st: Seniors Holiday Travel

2nd: ecruising

3rd: Clean Cruising

Best Multiple Cruise Agent

Harvey World Travel

Harvey World Travel is a multiple winner of this category, having taken out the title last year as well as several previous years. David Rivers, managing director, Harvey World Travel, says, “We share a passion for cruising with our clients and have enjoyed tremendous growth in cruising over the last year. We work very closely with the cruise [lines] and airlines to put together the best international cruise packages to make wonderful itineraries at the best value for money.”

1st: Harvey World Travel

2nd: Flight Centre

3rd: Cruiseabout

Best Fly/Cruise Airline

Qantas

Qantas is also a regular winner of this category and Stephen Limbrick, executive manager Australia sales at Qantas, says he’s extremely pleased that Qantas has won again, making it the airline’s fifth consecutive win.

“Australia’s leading premium airline, Qantas, offers its customers outstanding service, premium food and wine and the finest in comfort and luxury aboard our award-winning aircraft,” Stephen says.

1st: Qantas

2nd: Singapore Airlines

3rd: Emirates

Click here for social snaps from the 2010 Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards event!

What do  you think of these winners? Are they who you voted for?