Our 2019 winners – a new record and some surprises
The verdicts are in – and a new era of Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Awards has been born.
Along with another record-breaking number of participants – our 11,451 readers voted an astonishing 286,275 times – we have introduced a host of new categories, including trending topics sustainability and overtourism.
And that has brought some new names to the winners’ rostrum.
These awards are the largest poll of true cruise passengers in the southern hemisphere – over half of our readers have been on more than six cruises, and 30 per cent on 12.
More than 85 per cent said they were planning a cruise in the next 12 months.
So who were the winners:
Princess Cruises took out five medals, including best ocean cruise line and best premium.
Royal Caribbean and P&O Australia won two each, and there were newcomers’ awards for Viking Ocean Cruises, Hurtigruten and Cruise&Maritime Voyages.
As always, these are the awards that really matter from the jury that counts: You, Australia’s cruise community.
We are especially grateful for your help this year, as we know you spend an average of almost 10 minutes with our survey.
Please let us know what you think of the awards – we know you are passionate and will have your own favourites.
Once again, the line which has the largest fleet in Australia, Princess Cruises has taken out this prestigious award. It’s now the fourth year in a row that Princess has taken out this award and it shows Australians’ love affair for the line. From its fabulous food, to stunning suites and wonderful Broadway entertainment. But the line also has fantastic spa facilities, especially onboard Australia’s Majestic Princess.
To show how much the Aussie and Kiwi market love Princess, the Ruby Princess’ arrival in the region is an indication that we love sailing with the line. Over the next two years, the line will also be launching the Sky and Enchanted Princess, which will have some stunning new features like the largest balconies at sea. These ships will also be the first to be fitted from ground up, as MedallionClass vessels.
Guests onboard are given an OceanMedallion which is used to unlock their staterooms, order food and drinks from anywhere on the ship as well as plan shore excursions and more. But it’s also Princess’ dedication to providing its guests with amazing food which makes it your favourite cruise line this year. Aside from restaurants from Michelin-starred chef like Richard Chen and Emmanuel Renault, Princess has partnered with Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone. SHARE, Curtis Stone’s restaurant on the ships offer guests dishes made from seasonal produce and of course, are designed to share. You’ll find freshly made pasta, duck leg confit as well as a delicious toffee cheesecake.
Highly Commended: Viking Ocean Cruises
This is the first year Viking Ocean Cruises has made an appearance in our Reader’s Choice Awards. The line’s Nordic design and feel, combined with an all-inclusive experience has made it an emerging favourite among Australian cruisers. This will be the second season the Viking Orion visits Down Under, but the line currently has a fleet of five ships, with a possibility of 11 set to debut by 2027. The other major selling point for Viking Ocean Cruises, especially for the premium market, is that children are not allowed on board.
Best Luxury Cruise Line
The ultra-luxury line has taken the award for the fourth year in the row as your favourite line in this decadent sector. Silversea has 10 ships which include newly launched vessels, but also expedition ships which take guests to some of the most remote destinations, in style. The Silver Muse which was launched in 2017 will be sailing on a number of itineraries this wave season from Sydney to New Zealand, before heading back through Asia to the northern hemisphere.
And the Silver Moon, which will be launched in August 2020 will feature some stunning new offerings like a new food lab, dedicated to the line’s S.A.L.T (Sea and Land Tastes) program, new public spaces and expansive, sophisticated suites. What has made Silversea, once again, the winner of this prestigious category is its attention to the service, food, suites, amenities as well as experiences on and off the ship. The line also offers Signature Cruises which are dedicated to opera, ballet or food. And as soon as you step aboard a Silversea ship, your personal butler will offer to unpack your luggage, as well as provide you with options for pillows, bathroom amenities, food and beverage preferences and more.
Highly Commended: Crystal Cruises
While the line might only have two ocean going vessels, the Crystal Cruises also has a yacht on its way, a small adventure ship and even an airplane. The luxury line recently refurbished both of its ships with unique and sophisticated touches to its décor. Crystal is also known for its partnership with Michelin-starred Japanese chef, Nobu Matsuhisa and guests can dine at a Nobu onboard the Crystal Symphony and Serenity.
Best Premium Cruise Line
Winner: Princess Cruises
It’s one of the most contested categories in the cruise industry and Princess Cruises has once again, won the category for Best Premium Cruise Line. The line epitomises everything quintessential about the premium category – great cuisine, higher staff to guest ratio, expansive spa amenities as well as great service – but not at luxury prices. Once again, Cruise Passenger readers have voted for Princess, highlighting the lines great service. Staff on board are known for their attentiveness and personalised service.
When it comes to food, Princess ships like the Majestic Princess, there are fine dining options from Michelin-starred chefs like Harmony from Chinese chef Richard Chen as well as French restaurant La Mer from Emmanuel Renaut. The ships also boast some fabulous spa options – the Diamond Princess has the largest and only Japanese themed spa, complete with Japanese bath as well as a special bath attendant. And while premium ships don’t have as many children onboard as contemporary lines, Princess also offers its guests The Sanctuary, an adult’s only retreat that features plush lounge furniture, beverages and spa fare as well as an open-air massage in your private cabana.
Highly Commended: Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity has always been a favourite among premium cruisers. With the refurbishment of ships like the Celebrity Millennium, Summit and Equinox, the line is modernising the premium cruise market. Last year we also saw the launch of the Celebrity Edge, one of the coolest ships sailing and next year, we’ll see her sister, the Celebrity Apex, sailing. The ship comes equipped with Edge-class features like the magic carpet platform, as well as cool new staterooms and public spaces.
Best Contemporary Cruise Line
Winner: P&O Cruises Australia
The homegrown Australian cruise brand, P&O Cruises, has for the third year in a row, taken out the award for the Best Contemporary Cruise Line. P&O has invested heavily in modernising its fleet for the new Australian cruiser. The Pacific Explorer, the flagship and sweetheart of the fleet, has some cool Aussie features onboard including a dedicated gin bar in partnership with Sydney-based distillery Archie Rose, and new concept restaurants from Luke Mangan and Johnny di Francesco, the creator of the world’s best pizza.
Also onboard is the raunchy and risqué show, Love Riot. The comedic show, from Australian director, producer and choreographer Scott Maidment has combined the best of burlesque with some hilarious elements. Next year, P&O’s new Pacific Adventure will be joining the fleet. She’ll have a private area called the Byron Bay Beach Club and designed in a sleek Scandi style. While more details are yet to be revealed, P&O has confirmed the Pacific Adventure will have the Blue Room live music venue where guests can listen to blues, soul and R&B in the evenings.
Highly Commended: Royal Caribbean
The line with the largest ships in the world has come in a very close second behind P&O. Known for its innovative rides, guests can find features like the FlowRider, a surf simulator, the amazing Aqua Theatre as well as virtual interior balconies. Ovation of the Seas has some 18 eateries ranging from Jamie Oliver’s Italian restaurant to the gastronomical delight, Wonderland. Guests will also find onboard laser tag courses, zip line courses and even a trapeze school.
Best Family Cruise Line
Winner: Royal Caribbean
Royal Caribbean’s reimagined ships have made them even more family friendly. Voyager of the Seas, which has returned to Australia after spending time in the northern hemisphere, comes with new family friendly activities. Aside from the amazing rides and water slides that guests can find on board, Royal has upgraded its offerings for the kids.
The water slides, sports deck, teens club, Adventure Ocean, gym and spa will be located on decks 12 and 13 of the ship. And having these facilities situated around the same area mean the entire family gets to hang out. On board, there is also the Battle for Planet Z laser tag, a favourite on other Royal ships such as Symphony and Spectrum of the Seas. Located in the ice rink at Studio B, the glow-in-the-dark adventure will allow family members to battle one another in an epic ‘Aliens versus Robots’ galactic showdown.
Voyager also will have a new nursery program for kids under three and the facilities have been designed for lots of open spaces. And there is a new teen centre called the Living Room which has outdoor seating and a play space. Royal Caribbean ships also offer a host of accommodation options as well including the fabulous family suite about ships like Spectrum of the Seas. This suite can accommodate up to 11 people and has a slide from the second story to the bottom floor as well as lots of interactive things for the kids to play like a climbing wall, LEGO wall and more.
Highly Commended: Carnival Cruise Line
The Carnival Spirit and Legend have held a special place in our hearts because of their amazing facilities for the entire family. The line has its famous Green Thunder water slide is the steepest at sea and has been a favourite amongst Aussie cruisers for years. This year, we are also seeing the arrival of Carnival Splendor, which will bring even more activities for the family Down Under.
Best Adventure Cruise Line
With so many luxury lines emerging in the adventure field, this year, the recipient of our award is the ultra-chic French company Ponant. The line is at the forefront of building expedition ice breaker ships which are bound for some of the most remote destinations on earth in style and sophistication.
Ponant offers its guests voyages to Antarctica which include visits to research and former whaling stations and excursions to see Gentoo penguins, leopard seals and seabirds. They can also take you the Kimberley region in Western Australia, one of the country’s most intrepid destinations. The trip includes meeting the Indigenous community, seeing the tidal phenomena at Horizonal Falls and Montgomery Reef and exploring the mangroves which is home to giant crocodiles.
This year, Ponant launched Le Bougainville and Le Dumont-d’Urville, the sister ships to Le Laperouse which frequently sails Australia and New Zealand. The ships come equipped with new underwater lounges, sophisticated suites and fine French cuisine. On the horizon, Ponant is launching the environmentally friendly Le Commandant-Charcot. She will be the first ship in Ponant’s fleet to run on liquefied natural gas and electric generators and will be exploring the polar regions. The Owner’s Suite onboard comes equipped with a private balcony and jacuzzi, butler service and 24-hour room service.
Highly Commended: APT
Australia’s oldest touring company, APT are still one of our favourite adventure brands. Their lovely fleet of small ships cater for only around 100 passengers. From the plains of the Serengeti to the lush mountains of the Norwegian fjordlands, APT offers its guests an intimate and bespoke experience. The company also offers small luxury yacht experiences along the shores of the Mediterranean and through the Balkans.
Best River Cruise Line
One of Australia’s favourite touring brands, APT has once again taken out the award for the Best River Cruise Line overall. The beauty of APT is that it takes you to hundreds of different river destinations through Europe, Asia and Africa. On the Nile, guests can explore the ancient Egyptian world on a stunning river voyage. In Europe, there is the world’s largest river ship, the AmaMagna which boasts some stunning features like a full-sized spa as well as water sports deck, will take you up and down the Danube. You’ll sail past the stunning parliament house in Budapest as well as under the iconic Charles Bridge. In China, a cruise with APT on the tranquil Yangtze River will take you to see the Three Gorges.
While on the Mekong through Vietnam and Cambodia, celebrity chef Luke Nguyen will take you on a food excursion through the local markets and show you how to make delectable Vietnamese cuisine. Also new this year, is APT with AmaWaterways offerings on the green and lush Douro River in Portugal. Some of the new amenities onboard the AmaDouro include the panoramic lounge and a dedicated massage and fitness room.
Guests can watch the rolling hills of the Douro pass by while soaking in the heated sundeck swimming pool, and guests will get to try local Portuguese delicacies and wines, which the region is renowned for. The line also offers specialised cruises like journeys with Botanica where landscapes that inspired Monet’s water lilies. What also makes APT stand out from the crowd is its all-inclusive offerings like premium wines, beautiful and spacious suites and bespoke shore excursions.
Highly Commended: Viking River Cruises
Like its ocean ships, a voyage aboard a Viking River Cruise vessel is like coming home. The bright and airy designs are emulated across the entire fleet, so most ships are the same. It makes return cruisers feel like they are coming home. The ship has light and bright staterooms, expansive public spaces and the beautiful Aquavit Terrace. Aside from a beautiful fleet, the line offers voyages through Asia, Egypt and Europe.
Best Luxury River Cruise Line
Winner: Avalon Waterways
This year, Avalon Waterways has taken out the category for the Best Luxury River Cruise Line. It’s the Australian company’s attention to detail and modern take to luxury river cruising which has made it stand out from the crowd. Avalon Waterways has ships based in European destinations like France and Germany as well as in Asia in Cambodia and Vietnam. Avalon has won awards for its innovative Panorama Suites. The line pioneered wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling windows which makes guests feel like they are part of the scenery as they sail past. But it’s Avalon’s recent investment into improving its shore offerings and theme cruises which have made the Avalon voyages much more luxurious.
Their ethos – luxury is about having the ability to choose your own holiday. The line now offers cruisers a range of excursions ranging from bespoke culinary cruises, to active themed ventures like kayaking and more. For example, on one of the line’s culinary cruises, you’ll explore different destinations in France. A Master of Wine will travel with you and will hold tastings and introduce you to the concept of food and wine pairing. In Lyon, a showcase of medieval and Renaissance architecture, you’ll join a culinary walk and taste Lyonnaise and French delicacies. On board, a French chef will share with you his secrets and expertise during a pastry demonstration. And in the city of Tournon, which is nestled among the vineyards, you’ll learn about the art of wine making, including drinking it.
Highly Commended: APT
The line’s all-inclusive offerings aboard its luxurious ships and great service, makes it a favourite among luxury river cruisers. The line also offers free flights with a lot of their European river cruises. But aside from European rivers, you can also find their stunning fleet on the Yangtze in China as well as the Mekong. Many of our readers have said that they feel incredibly pampered on an APT river cruise.
Best Cruise Line for Food
Winner: Oceania Cruises
This is the third year the premium cruise line has won the award for Best Cruise Line for Food. With dedicated culinary journeys and even a cooking school aboard its lovely ships, it’s no wonder that Oceania Cruises has won this food award. Since the inception of the line in 2010, the godfather of French cuisine, Jacques Pepin has been the culinary director. The line offers Culinary Discovery Tours on its ships, the Marina and Riviera. Part of this journey will take you on shore excursions to market places with the ship’s chefs, where you’ll shop for local produce, get to meet the community before heading back onboard to The Culinary Centre.
You’ll learn to make dishes indicative of the countries you visit. For the wine connoisseurs, magazine brand Wine Spectator, Moet & Chandon’s and Oceania have developed a partnership that offers guests an indulgent champagne pairing dinner. The six-course degustation menu is paired with different Dom Perignon vintages. Also new to the line this year, is a special plant-based menu, the line’s nod to healthier eating. Oceania is working with world-renowned chef, culinary instructor and author, Christophe Berg, to put together this new menu of 200 dishes that claim they can improve your ‘wellness’ and provide balance to the line’s fame culinary delights. And it’s not just salads on the menu. There are healthy Power Bowls and Poke Bowls, hearty pastas and pad Thai, light and refreshing salads and soups and even decadent items like an Impossible Cheeseburger, Truffle Mac and Cheese.
Highly Commended: Princess Cruises
While there are some amazing offerings from Michelin starred and celebrity chefs on board the Princess fleet, it is the lines signature food offerings that have been the crowd pleasers of the fleet. Some of our reader’s favourite dining venues include the Crown Grill which serve some of the best steaks at sea. And it’s also hard to go past the restaurant’s French onion soup. But Princess does also offer a number of specialty restaurants including Harmony, famous for their Asian duck-oriented dishes.
Best Cruise Line for Entertainment
Winner: Princess Cruises
Australia’s favourite cruise line has won the award for Best for Entertainment for the fourth year in a row. The line has partnered with Broadway director producer and director Stephen Schwartz who created Magic to Do, a collaboration of some of his hit shows like Godspell, Pipin and Wicked. The line also has the hit show, The Voice of the Ocean which is a spin off on the popular television program, The Voice. And on other ships like the Regal Princess, opera fans can get a taste of classic ballads like Time to Say Goodbye and Habanera from Carmen.
The Majestic Princess, which is one of the newest ships from the Princess fleet has some lavish musicals onboard like Fantastic Journey. The mesmerising theatrical show combines some stunning Hollywood costumes, special effects and high-flying aerialists. And, the show even uses drones in the production. On the line’s newest ships, the Sky and Enchanted Princess, a new show will premiere on the ship. 5-SKIES will be high-tech musical spectacular which will be enhanced with a contemporary song list, digital effects, acrobatic performances and elaborate costume and set designs. The story is set in a virtual gaming world where the lead, the gamer, must complete a series of levels while interacting with other players. And what’s the ultimate goal? To reach the Sky Princess.
Highly Commended: Norwegian Cruise Line
While Norwegian Cruise Line only has one ship in Australia, the ships sailing globally have some amazing entertainment options on board. On the Norwegian Bliss, the line has some fantastic shows like the Tony-award winning musical Jersey Boys. Guests can sing along to timeless hits like “Big Girls Don’t Cry”, “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” and “Walk Like A Man”. On some of other vessels, guests can watch shows like Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Rock of Ages and more.
Best Cruise Line for Activities
Winner: Royal Caribbean
The line has taken the award for the fourth year in a row for this category. And it’s no surprise why. Royal Caribbean is not only the line with some of the world’s largest ships, but also the most innovative activities for the entire family. On its latest ships like Symphony of the Seas, passengers will be able to experience activities which have been considered as game changers in the cruise world. Onboard, you’ll find features like a new laser tag course, ziplines across the Royal Promenade as well as some heart pumping waterslides.
On Australia’s largest ship, Ovation of the Seas, there is the famous surf simulator, FlowRider as well as iFly where passengers can practice their sky diving technique. Royal Caribbean last year also announced that it would be revamping their fleet to include new rides like the Sky Pad, a virtual reality ride which simulates bungee jumping with guests wearing virtual reality goggles. One of Australia’s favourite ships, Voyager of the Seas returns Down Under after a massive facelift. Catering for the family market, she comes decked out with more children’s activities which include The Perfect Storm water slide duo where guests can race each other down to the bottom of the waterpark.
Highly Commended: P&O Cruises Australia
Our home-grown family cruise brand is filled with activities so the entire family will be entertained on their holiday. P&O offers activities aboard its ships like The Edge. Guests can try their hand at ziplining across the top deck of the ship, walk the plan or even tackle an obstacle course on a Segway. Aside from the thrills at The Edge park, guests can also take part in mixology classes, deck games and more.
Best Cruise Line for Spa/Wellness
Winner: Princess Cruises
Following the line’s Come Back New promise, Princess Cruises’ spa and wellness facilities do help their guests return home refreshed and vitalised. The line offers guests a range of services like aroma stone therapy massages or detoxifying ocean wraps. Plus, onboard in the Lotus Spa, there is also a special aromatherapy thermal suite called The Enclave. There is a dedicated hydrotherapy pool that has a cascading rain shower and therapeutic air jets so guests can unwind and relax. Another feature of The Enclave is The Hammam, a Turkish-style steam bath to enhance wellbeing. The Hammam’s warm marble slab is a sooth addition, post massage and can be used with clay, mud or salt treatment.
The Diamond Princess, which is the line’s Japan based ship, boasts a special Japanese spa. Izumi, modelled on a traditional Japanese bath or “onsen” features indoor and outdoor Japanese bathing experiences, including steam rooms, saunas, and hot tubs with spectacular ocean views. Exclusively on Diamond Princess, it is the largest Japanese bath of its kind at sea and offers guests a chance to experience a little of a popular Japanese pastime. Men and women have separate facilities, except for one outdoor hot tub. The ships also have wonderful salons where ladies can get their hair and nails done, the lads can get their beards trimmed and you can even get your teeth whitened.
Highly Commended: Viking Ocean Cruises
While the cruise line is still relatively new in the market, Viking Ocean Cruises has offered its guests some remarkable features on its ship. The thermal suite on Viking Ocean ships is free of charge for all guests. Guests will find facilities like a sauna, the Snow Grotto, a room which is set at a sub-zero environment and more. It is all part of Scandinavian traditions which follows a cycle for health and wellbeing, which starts with heating the body, then plunging it in the cold, and ending with another treatment of heat.
Best Cruise Line for Service
Winner: Regent Seven Seas
This is a new category in this year’s Cruise Passenger Readers’ Choice Award, and it was a highly contested one at that. Every cruise line, no matter what category offers amazing service. But this year, the award has gone to luxury line Regent Seven Seas. The line is known for its intimate service, so a butler will be at your service at the drop of a hat. One is assigned to every suite and it is their personal touch which makes the experience of the cruiser. From choosing the type of toiletries, to beverages, to even pillows, it is this personal touch that attracts cruisers back.
From unpacking your case at the beginning of your voyage to shining your shoes to facilitating your laundry requests, the team of butlers are here to serve guests. The attendants and butlers will maintain your suite just the way you like it, ensuring a fresh, warm and comfortable home is awaiting your return each day. The direction of the maître d’, the expertise of the chef, the guidance of the sommelier and the attentiveness of the wait staff will make each dining experience feel like a symphony of refined flavours and impeccable service. The officers pride themselves in providing a safe and smooth voyage and should you desire anything “off the menu,” the concierge staff awaits you, desiring to fulfil your every request.
Highly Commended: Cunard
The traditional luxury line, famous for its lovely art décor interior, high tea afternoon and adorable bell boys. The Cunard bell boys, decked out in their red attire, go above and beyond to provide exceptional service. The Britannia suites are assigned a butler who will perform duties like shining shoes, unpacking your suitcase as well as making bookings for specialty restaurants, shore excursions as well as spa appointments.
Best Cruise Line for Sustainability
This cruise line has gone above and beyond with pioneering sustainable options for the future of the cruise industry. When climate change is one of the most highly debated topics of 2019, Norwegian cruise line, Hurtigruten this year unveiled the first cruise ship in the world that is partially battery operated. The new Roald Amundsen which sails the Norwegian coast, has been deemed by cruise experts as the greenest ship on the plant. She is the first hybrid-powered cruise ship in the world, propelled by electric motors and internal combustion engines – not dissimilar to the Toyota Prius. The line is claiming it will cut fuel consumption by 20 per cent. And instead of having dance floors and swimming pools onboard, Hurtigruten prides itself on the fact that the ship has naturalists and lecturers onboard as well as a laboratory.
The ship also has no plastic cups onboard and if guests wish for their stateroom not to be cleaned, they can simply hang a sign that says “Green Stay” on their doorknob. The money saved on detergent, water, etc is then donated by Hurtigruten to a good cause or charity. But it doesn’t stop here. Hurtigruten envisions a series of vessels that will be environmentally friendly. Roald Amundsen’s sister ships will be even more environmentally conscious – they will run on fuel from dead fish and organic waste. The cruise line signed a long-term agreement with Norway-based Biokraft to supply climate-neutral liquefied biogas. While it might not roll out on its ships until 2020, this is a massive step for any cruise company.
Highly Commended: Royal Caribbean
While they might have some of the largest cruise ships in the world, Royal Caribbean has worked hard to ensure that their future fleet is environmentally friendly. One example which will be coming to a Royal Caribbean ship near you, is the use of air lubrication system for their future fleet. These bubbles coat the ship’s hull, creating a blanket between the ship and water to make for a smoother and more efficient ride, meaning less fuel. Smaller enhancements on board, like installing LED lights and tinted windows to reduce the use of air conditioning will also make a massive difference.
Best Cruise Line for Shore Excursions
Winner: Princess Cruises
There are 20 Princess Cruises ships in the fleet that take you a variety of wonderful destinations. And what our readers believe Princess excel above the rest is the variety of shore excursions they offer guests. The Best Cruise Line for Shore Excursions is another new category we added to the list this year, but we believe that this is an important one. Princess’ work in New Zealand has made the onshore experience a unique experience. At the beginning of this year, Princess revealed new shore excursions as part of the Across the Ditch program. There are around 20 exclusive and immersive experiences, so guests learn and understand the Kiwi culture and environment.
One of the highlight shore excursions is a star-studded visit to the Great Barrier Island, one of only four Dark Sky Sanctuaries in the world. Only 1,000 people live on the eco-friendly island which is off the grid and powered by solar energy. It’s an amazing place to go star gazing. Princess are also offering more one of a kind experiences in Australia. In Adelaide, food aficionados can go on a food, art and wine experience with a well-known food celebrity, Mark Gleeson, founder of Providore at Adelaide Central Market. Gleeson is passionate about South Australian produce and is keen to share his knowledge on why the food is so exceptional. His 25-year-old store stocks a massive array of sweets, from muffins and biscuits to donuts and pavlova. In Broome, passengers step back in time on a guided Aboriginal Narlijia heritage and cultural tour with Bart Pigram. Born and bred in Broome, Bart tells the story of life in northwest Australia, drawing on his own experience from living a saltwater lifestyle.
Highly Commended: Regent Seven Seas
Hailed as having some of the most luxurious ships, Regent Seven Seas has come in a close second behind Princess for their opulent options for shore excursions. In South America, one of Regent’s bespoke shore excursions includes a cooking class before sitting down for an authentic Brazilian luncheon in a tree-themed restaurant. Or in Vietnam, Regent will take you to a tea farm where you’ll learn how tea is used in the cuisine and even dine on delicious vegetarian meals.
Best Cruise Line for Theme Cruises
Winner: P&O Cruises Australia
Whether it’s a short two-day weekend cruise packed with comedic acts, or a seven-night cruise heading down to Melbourne for the Melbourne Cup, P&O Cruises has won the category for Best Cruise Line for Theme Cruises. They’ll take you to the State of Origin games, have you singing with Elvis impersonators and much more. Next year for the State of Origin, footy fans will be joined onboard by a selection of former Blues and Maroons greats who have all made their mark in the game’s history. And P&O, every year, organise a jam-packed itinerary filled with referees and commentators with a host of rugby league themed activities including Origin trivia, Q&A sessions as well as photograph and autograph opportunities.
Aside from the State of Origin, P&O also host a glittering and glamorous cruise to the race that stops the nation. This year, the line celebrated 50 years since P&O started sailing to the Melbourne Cup. And part of the celebrations included media personality Fiona Falknier leading the Fashion at Sea glamour on Pacific Explorer. Guests were treated to a lineup of fashion, entertainment and culinary experiences. Produced by esteemed Australian fashion stylist Fernando Barraza and choreographer to the stars Amé Delves, the fashion extravaganza features more than 20 local and international designers and brands including Leona Edmiston, Colette by Colette Hayman, Elliatt, Czarina Kaftans, Peter Lang Jewellery and Tina Holy Couture. The line also regularly hosts comedy cruises and next year will be the first year, the line is heading to the Melbourne Comedy Festival. Aside from hilarious shows onboard, guests will also be treated to an exclusive set of acts at the Melbourne Town Hall.
Highly Commended: Celebrity Cruises
From fitness voyages to salsa itineraries, Celebrity Cruises also have their own host of themed events. For example, WOD on the waves is the world’s ultimate fitness cruise which has a combination of workouts, seminars, nutritional education classes and more. For the salsa lovers, there is a dedicated cruise which hosts the top salsa music artists such as Dom Perigon, Celeste “La Fiera,” La Sonora Ponceña, Ray Sepulveda and George LaMonde.
Best Cruise Line for Cabin Design
Winner: Viking Ocean Cruises
Since the line began operations in 2015, Viking Ocean Cruises has garnered a loyal following. Part of the success of the line is its attention to detail, especially in the design of the interior of the ship. This year, Viking Ocean Cruises has won the Best Cruise Line for Cabin Design, an inaugural award. And our readers have picked Viking as the winner. If you’ve never experienced a Viking cruise, they are known for their light, bright and airy designs, spacious public areas and little Scandinavian inspired accents like cushions, which are reminiscent of colourful Marimekko prints.
Viking has given a lot of thought into the design of its cabins and suites. Guests are surrounded by warm pine wood finishes and modern fixtures. There are thoughtful touches in the cabins like extensive closet space, hidden dressing table facilities and more. For guests in the suites, there is a mini bar which is restocked every day, guests are given a complimentary bottle of champagne and pressing and shoe shine services are also included.
Highly Commended: Norwegian Cruise Line
NCL’s newest ships should be recognised for their revolutionary designs. The cabins are spacious, large and filled with amenities like USB ports which make your cruise more convenient. On ships like the Norwegian Bliss, you’ll find large balconies designed for whale watching. And on ships like the Jewel which has undergone a massive refurbishment, staterooms have been upgraded with new televisions and USB outlets, as well as new carpet, artwork and furniture. The ship also boasts two new Haven Deluxe Owner’s Suites, at nearly 1,200 square feet and featuring large, 567-square-ft balconies, two private jacuzzis and accommodates up to four guests.
Best Australian Port
She’s considered the gateway to cruising in Australia, and her picturesque harbour and iconic landmarks makes Sydney the number one place to cruise to and from. Sydney not only boasts a fabulous view of the Opera House, Harbour Bridge and Circular Quay when your ship arrives, but it’s fast becoming a cultural hub. There is so much to do, with new bars, restaurants, pubs and breweries opening every week. The closure of vehicle traffic down George Street has transformed the CBD into a pedestrian haven, filled with high end shopping, slick hole in the wall cafes and cool architecture.
Beyond the CBD in the Inner-City suburbs like Darlinghurst and Surry Hills, you’ll find op shops filled with vintage designer goods as well as roof top bars, perfect for afternoon Aperol Spritzes. Bondi Beach is world famous for its stunning white sand, tranquil coastal walk and trendy restaurants. With two cruise terminals – White Bay and the Overseas Passenger Terminal – Sydney can host a range of cruise ships in all sizes. From our largest ship Ovation of the Seas, to the smaller boutique cruise lines, there’s a place for different vessels in Sydney.
Highly Commended: Brisbane
Coming a close second to Sydney is Brisbane, which has made a huge commitment to the cruise industry. Next year, we will see the opening of Brisbane’s international cruise terminal. The port will soon be deep enough to accommodate Royal Caribbean’s Oasis class ships. The cruise brands from Carnival Corporation will be sending ships like the Pacific Explorer as well as Carnival Legend to homeport. Brisbane is Australia’s fastest growing capital city with new developments transforming the city’s skyline and CBD. Brisbane hosts an impressive range of music festivals, special gastronomic events and big sporting contests. Thanks to its tropical climate, the city is a mecca for outdoor types who can go kayaking, cycling, jogging – or even climb the Story Bridge. Brisbane also makes a great base for trips to the Gold Coast and inland attractions such as the Scenic Rim, Somerset and the Lockyer Valley.
Best Cruise Travel Agent
Winner: Flight Centre
This year, Flight Centre has won the hearts of Cruise Passenger readers for their outstanding expertise. The have won this year’s Best Travel Agent for the second year in a row.
Flight Centre’s clients have spent more than 50,000 nights at sea and their experts are also passionate cruisers, so they know their stuff. They’ve been all around the world, on different ships, itineraries and cruise lines so they know cruise.
The company has been working hard to reinforce their cruise credentials in the rapidly growing sector. Flight Centre credits their in-store sales, who use their cruise expertise for our customers’ benefit.
Another reason for their success is the vast range of suppliers that they work proactively with. During the past few years, Flight Centre have cemented its relationships our key partners. This ensures our people have access to a world class product range at the best possible prices.
Judges Award for Best Emerging Cruise Line
Winner: Cruise & Maritime Voyages
While Cruise & Maritime Voyages is not a new brand to the British and German cruiser, up until a few years ago, very few Aussies had heard of the company. But the cruise line has become a force to be reckoned with in the Australian cruise market, offering voyages from Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. This year, the company celebrates ten years of global operations. And over the past decade, the cruise line has become known for its relaxed, convivial ambience, exacting standards, and high levels of attentive personal service aboard each of its small to mid-sized ships, reflected by a customer satisfaction rating of 95 per cent.
Nosing into smaller harbours off-limits to many others, CMV offers a range of exciting itineraries around Australia out of Adelaide and Fremantle, as well as through Asia, Africa, South America, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Europe, visiting Iceland, Greenland, the Baltics, Norwegian Fjords, Northern Lights, British Isles and more. The newest addition to the fleet is the 1,220 guest Vasco da Gama which mark’s CMV’s largest Australians deployment yet. Vasco da Gama offers two gorgeous pools, the state-of-the-art Jade Wellness Centre and Spa, a two-tiered theatre, five inviting bars and lounges, as well as a range of accommodation options, including 40 spacious solo traveller cabins. Six dining venues feature cuisine from around the world and the ‘Chef’s Table’ provides a degustation menu plus an insight into the workings of the galley.