Welcome to another great year for the Cruise & Travel Readers’ Choice Awards. And a big thank you to the 4000 readers who took the time to fill out our detailed questionnaire.


This year’s results are fascinating – and reflect the changes in your tastes since the pandemic. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is your admiration for the ships’ crews, particularly those who work so hard to create the delicious dishes that make cruising such a wonderful indulgence.


The local cruising scene has undergone a revolution since we started our awards a decade ago. Once, our wave season was the domain of… well… older ships.


In 2023, we can be proud that some of the world’s newest, most technologically advanced marine vessels have been sent to Australia and New Zealand. Virgin’s Resilient Lady, Silversea’s Silver Nova, Scenic’s Eclipse II and Celebrity’s Edge are all sailing our waters.


Our awards reflect those changes. Our readers have enjoyed some of the newest hardware and best luxury products in the past year. It all points to the work going on behind the scenes to improve our lives at sea. As a result, the winners of our awards are at once a reflection of old loyalties and new relationships.


Disney Cruise Line has rocketed into favour as the best cruise line for families. Wonder booked out almost before it went on sale. It’s the power of The Mouse – but also the fact so many speak highly of their Disney cruise experience.


Our prize for the most innovative ship goes to Oceania Vista. There are a lot of amazing new vessels out there, but Vista is the perfect craft for small ports, with a nice blend of luxury and learning on board. Vista’s food is a sensation – not just in taste, but also in its pioneering culinary school. That’s why Oceania is also still best for food.


In sustainability, Ponant takes the trophy not just for the promise of future ship design, but for the revolutionary vessel it sails today, Le Commandant Charcot.


Honorary President Sarina Bratton told us she particularly appreciated this aware. Not just because it came from readers but also because sustainability is a core value for the French luxury small ship line.


A strongly contested area is luxury, which is really a traditional mix of great service, fine ambience and brilliant hardware. It’s pampering – but in an individual way. Regent Seven Seas continues to dominate this market.


Indeed, the line was the year’s standout winner, taking our the trophies for luxury, service and wellness – all key comfort areas for luxe sailing.


But what about the big ships? The contemporary and premium lines? It is here, perhaps, that there has been the most progress – almost all to the advantage of passengers.


Princess once dominated this vast arena of cruise, and still takes out prestigious gongs, but there has been some tectonic shifts. NCL’s Prima ships in Europe offer entertainment and activities that are above and beyond.


Finally, a word for the unsung heroes. We have great ships, but they need to tie up at ports that cater for our needs. Sydney’s Overseas Passenger Terminal continues to win our hearts. This year, we launched a guide for cruisers who arrive at our premier port.


What’s next? That’s what makes cruise so exciting. Enjoy reading about our awards – but enjoy what the next year brings even more! Thanks again for voting.


Peter Lynch, Editor-in-chief 





Oceania Vista is Oceania Cruises’ seventh ship, the first new addition to the fleet for more than 10 years, and the first ship in the line’s new Allura class. She accommodates a maximum of 1200 guests and introduces a host of new and exciting features to the line.


Cruise & Travel readers awarded Oceania top place for dining and by all accounts Oceania Vista goes above and beyond your already high expectations for fine dining and wining. She offers an amazing 12 dining option including three new venues, Aquamar Kitchen, The Bakery and Ember.  A new bar program  comprises mixology experiences, curated cocktail menus, ultimate pairing experiences and specialty beverage carts. 


In another first for the line, Oceania Vista offers all-balcony staterooms and suites – elegantly decked out by Ralph Lauren Home – and features a new category of Concierge Level Veranda Staterooms dedicated to solo cruisers. The smallest stateroom is still a generous 24 sq m while the vast and opulent Owner’s Suites are 223 sq m. Bathrooms in almost every room category are also supersized, a real luxury on a ship this size. 


Working off the extra kilojoules on this floating foodie paradise is a breeze. As well as the signature Aquamar Spa and Vitality Center, which encompasses Wellness Discovery excursions, plant-based dishes on every menu, spa treatments and fitness classes, there are courts for pickleball, croquet and shuffleboard, plus a mini-golf course. 


Keen readers are thrilled with the library – handily next to Baristas coffee bar – and the Artist Loft featuring two artists in residence.


Having cornered the market in river cruising, in 2015 Viking launched the first of 10 ocean-going ships. Building on the success of the ‘kids and casino free’ line, in 2020 Viking established Viking Expeditions and launched its first expedition ships, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris in 2022. Designed by the same nautical experts who created Viking’s Longships and ocean ships, Octantis and Polaris are purpose-built for expeditions in remote destinations. Both state-of-the-art vessels accommodate a maximum of 378 guests, along with features such as an in-ship marina (The Hangar), The Science Lab and two mini-submarines.



It’s the Big One and year after year, Cruise & Travel readers vote Princess Cruises their favourite line in a multitude of categories. To be the best cruise line overall means it ticks a lot of boxes for a lot of cruisers. 


Consistency of quality across the fleet – whether we’re talking accommodation, dining, entertainment, public spaces or the friendly crew – is key to Princess’s enduring appeal. And the choice of destinations is impressive: Princess’s 15 ships call at more than 330 ports and destinations on all seven continents. 


Princess is recognised as the leading cruise line in Alaska and because it owns and operates five wilderness lodges there, many guests combine a cruise with an equally memorable stay in some of the most stunning locations in the state. Next year, Princess celebrates its 55th anniversary of sailing in Alaska and seven ships will offer 158 cruises ranging from seven to 14 days. 


Since the line was founded in 1965, it has introduced many features that cruisers now take for granted. Affordable balcony cabins, 24-hour dining, weddings at sea, the giant Movies Under the Stars poolside screen and the adults-only Sanctuary, to name a few. The six Royal-class ships (2013’s Royal Princess being the first, 2021’s Discovery Princess the last) mark an evolution in the fleet, boasting vast atriums, the over-water Sea Walk and the Lotus Spa’s gorgeous Enclave thermal suite. This season, Australia welcomes two Royal-class ships to our shores – Royal Princess and Majestic Princess – along with Grand Princess and Coral Princess


As many multi-gen cruisers have discovered, Princess is a very family-friendly line. There are kids’ clubs and family activities while accommodation includes various suite categories, including the Family Suite (on select ships) which has two interconnecting staterooms and sleeps up to eight.


Celebrity Cruises attracts mostly couples and single travellers – while children and families are welcome aboard, Celebrity’s ships are designed for those who enjoy the space and facilities of larger vessels but aren’t looking for wild rides and non-stop activities. Celebrity is renowned for fine dining in a great selection of venues; other features that get your votes include super-cool bars; stylish spas and fitness centres; beautifully designed cabins that range from single staterooms (on Edge-class ships) to butler-service suites in The Retreat that have exclusive access to Luminae restaurant and Michael’s Lounge.



For the second year in a row, Cruise & Travel readers have voted Avalon Waterways the winner of best river cruise line and awarded the highly commended category to Scenic River Luxury Cruises & Tours. Avalon operates 14 river ships in Europe, two in Asia, one in Africa (Egypt) and two in South America.


Most of the accommodation on board Avalon’s Suite Ships, as they are known, is in spacious Panorama Suites. Because of the ingenious design of their floor-to-ceiling panoramic windows, which turn the living area into the equivalent of an open-air balcony, these suites are more than 30 per cent larger than the industry standard. Another feature of Avalon’s suites that guests always comment on is that the beds are positioned so they face the windows – and all those wonderful views – rather than a wall. 


On board, it’s not all about the suites, though. Avalon aficionados give high praise to the variety of dining venues and menus on offer. Four-course dinners are served every evening, and dishes reflect the regions the ship is travelling through. Menus are designed by executive chefs Karl and Leo Wrenkh, founders of the Wrenkh Vienna Culinary School, and gourmet vegan or vegetarian dishes are included on every menu. Complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks are served with lunch and dinner. 


Avalon offers a great range of special-interest cruises in Europe. Experts in their fields present talks, lead tours and host tastings. Active & Discovery is a special-interest itinerary that appeals to active travellers. Every European Suite Ship carries bikes and walking poles.


Over the past few years, Scenic has added luxury expedition cruising and ocean cruising on intimate motor-yachts (Emerald Cruises) to its original portfolio of river cruising and land tours. However, its river cruising division remains extremely popular with Cruise & Travel readers, winning the highly commended category for both best river cruise line and best luxury river cruise line. Eleven of Scenic’s ultra-modern Space-Ships cruise in Europe, while Scenic Spirit – a boutique version – sails on the Mekong. The ships accommodate up to 163 guests.



Uniworld certainly knows how to do luxury. The much-awarded cruise line operates river ships that each resemble a boutique luxury hotel, which is not surprising seeing as one of its sister companies is the high-end Red Carnation Hotels group. Uniworld’s philosophy “no request is too large and no detail is too small” is borrowed from Red Carnation Hotels and it’s that highly focused attention to service, detail, presentation and superb cuisine that make it a standout. 


There are currently 12 Uniworld ships sailing in Europe, two in Egypt, and one each on the Mekong, Nile, Amazon and Ganges rivers. The line recently acquired two uber-luxe former Crystal Cruises river ships, both built in 2017 and each accommodating a maximum of 110 guests. Crystal Bach and Crystal Mahler will join Uniworld’s Super Ships as S.S. Victoria and S.S. Elisabeth, in 2024 and 2025. 


Each ship is a distinct individual, designed to reflect the regions it cruises through. S.S. Joie de Vivre (which sails France’s rivers), features sumptuous fabrics, hand-crafted furniture, antiques, original artworks and elements that reference Parisian design from the 1920s to 1960s – a visual and sensual feast. Restaurants include Le Bistrot and Le Restaurant Pigalle, and the chic Club L’Esprit is a spa and wellness centre by day that transforms into the glitzy Club Claude’s at night. 


Or, if cruising Venice is your dream, Uniworld’s destination-focused S.S. La Venezia is the way to go. It was completely redesigned in 2020 and is now resplendent with Murano glasswork, Venetian carnival masks, opulent furnishing and gold, silver and brass accents. 


Genuinely all-inclusive fares are a big drawcard for luxury cruisers. As well as unlimited premium drinks, Uniworld’s fares include excellent small-group shore excursions.


Scenic also rates highly in the luxury river-cruising stakes. Like Uniworld, Scenic’s fares include pretty much everything, from personal meet and greets at your arrival airport to butler service in every suite. Ultra-modern health and wellness facilities get a big tick from Cruise & Travel readers; Scenic is the first and only line to offer therapeutic salt therapy rooms, where guests can recharge with the help of climate-controlled negative ions. All the European Space-Ships were recently remodelled to include spacious Royal Suites, while on their French cruises Scenic Sapphire and Scenic Diamond offer Scenic Culinaire cooking classes.



Last year, Cruise & Travel readers voted Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) the best luxury ocean cruise line as well as the best cruise line overall for service. This year, the ultra-luxury line scoops three winning places in our Readers’ Choice Awards, reflecting the seemingly unstoppable demand for luxury cruising.


While high-end hotel brands such as Ritz-Carlton and Aman recently launched small luxury vessels in this expanding niche market, RSSC has been in the luxury cruise business since 1992 and is recognised as one of the world’s leading luxury lines. RSSC and thousands of delighted guests are now celebrating the maiden season of the line’s sixth ship, Seven Seas Grandeur, and eagerly anticipating her glamorous christening ceremony in Miami this December. 


Seven Seas Grandeur (the “Heritage of Perfection”) joins its near-identical sisters Seven Seas Splendor (2020’s “Luxury Perfected”) and Seven Seas Explorer (2016’s “Most Luxurious Ship Ever Built”), along with Seven Seas Voyager (2003), Seven Seas Mariner (2001) and Seven Seas Navigator (1999). The three newest ships each accommodate up to 746 guests in opulent, all-balcony suites that range in size from two vast Regent Suites to the more-than-respectably sized Veranda Suites, with various categories in between. The three older ships have been lavishly refurbished and maintained and also feature all-balcony accommodation – although Seven Seas Navigator, the baby of the fleet, does offer a few Deluxe Window Suites. 


RSSC is renowned for offering the most inclusive fares in ultra-luxury cruising. Almost everything is included. Luxury-lovers enjoy very high crew-to-guest and space-per-guest ratios, world-class dining, elegant lounges and award-winning service.


Like RSSC, Silversea has a long and highly esteemed history, and it will celebrate its 30-year anniversary in 2024. Silversea is now one of five brands owned by the Royal Caribbean Group and its fleet comprises seven “classic” ships and four expedition ships. The latest addition to the classic collection is Silver Nova – flip to the Best for Sustainability award on page 25 for more about this highly innovative vessel. Silversea’s Italian heritage, voyages that take in 900 destinations across all seven continents, and butler service in every suite are just a few of the reasons why this luxury line is a winner.



Princess Cruises has maintained a significant presence on the local cruising scene for decades, and Cruise & Travel readers are incredibly loyal supporters of the premium line. It is interesting to see that Celebrity and Princess are almost neck and neck in the best cruise line overall, too – once again, Princess takes the top spot. 


The coming Australian season is the biggest ever for Princess, with the line deploying four ships locally to sail around Australia, New Zealand and to Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands. Two Royal-class ships, Royal Princess and Majestic Princess, will homeport in Sydney, while fleetmates Grand Princess and Coral Princess will cruise from Melbourne, Brisbane, Fremantle, Adelaide and Auckland. 


All ships in Princess’s 15-strong fleet now feature MedallionClass technology, which is designed to make the cruise experience as seamless as possible. It combines an app with a wearable 20-cent-size medallion that replaces the traditional cruise card. So, what else does MedallionClass technology do? 


Long before you board your ship, you get yourself OceanReady at home by uploading all your identity and cruise documents, which makes the boarding process quicker and more efficient. Once you’re on the ship, you can, among other things, use the app to order food and drinks that will be delivered to wherever you are. But the main attraction is access to MedallionNet, Princess Cruises’ ultra-fast WiFi. 


Princess’s newest and biggest ship so far, the 4300-guest Sun Princess, will debut in the Caribbean in February 2024.


Celebrity Cruises is renowned for being a pioneer in cruise-ship design. The ‘modern luxury’ line brought us the gorgeous real-grass Lawn Deck on its Solstice-class ships and introduced futuristic features such as the Magic Carpet platform to the Edge-class ships; the tennis-court-sized deck moves up and down the ships’ exteriors, operating variously as a restaurant, tender station and bar. Celebrity fans are eagerly anticipating the arrival of Celebrity Edge to our shores this season, the first time she has sailed locally. Celebrity Edge will cruise out of Sydney to New Zealand, the Pacific Islands and around Australia until April 2024.



Is there no stopping the mighty Royal Caribbean line? It has been launching the world’s biggest ships for years and the next behemoth to hit the high seas, Icon of the Seas, brings the fleet to 27. Due to set sail in January 2024, the 7500-guest ship takes over as world’s biggest cruise ship from Wonder of the Seas and is first in the new Icon class. 


It’s not all about size, though. Since it was founded in 1969, Royal Caribbean has led the pack when it comes to innovation at sea. There are now seven classes of ships, each adding more fantastical features. Four Vision-class ships were built in the 1990s (many readers have fond memories of sailing locally on Rhapsody of the Seas) and four Radiance-class ships followed in the 2000s. Voyager-class ships introduced waterslides, rock-climbing walls and ice-skating rinks. 


Royal Caribbean continued to push the design envelope and break ever more records as its ships evolved through the Freedom, Oasis, Quantum, Quantum Ultra and now, Icon classes. In 2016, Aussie fans of contemporary cruising were thrilled to welcome Ovation of the Seas, the biggest and most modern ship ever to operate in Australia. Quantum-class ships famously sport jaw-dropping features such as RipCord by iFly skydiving, the North Star viewing capsule that takes you 100 metres above sea level and the huge indoor SeaPlex venue. 


Ovation of the Seas returns to sail out of Sydney from November 2023 to April 2024, along with Brilliance of the Seas, while Quantum of the Seas will be based in Brisbane for the season, operating Queensland and Pacific Islands cruises.


Another innovative cruise line that dates back to the 1960s, Norwegian Cruise Line has a sizeable fanbase in Australia. You can’t mistake NCL ships – all 19 sport vibrantly coloured designs on their hulls – and while the biggest ships in the fleet accommodate up to 4000-plus guests, they are not quite as massive as Royal Caribbean’s. Norwegian Viva debuted earlier this year, a near-identical sister to 2022’s Norwegian Prima, and four more Prima Class ships are to launch over the next four years. The popular Norwegian Spirit returns to Sydney in December for a series of Australia-New Zealand cruises.



Once again, French company Ponant has proved to be the crème de la crème of expedition cruising for our adventure-loving readers. A privileged few experienced the Kimberley this year aboard the line’s original ship, the 32-guest motor yacht Le Ponant, and although that was a once-only season, the supremely elegant Le Lapérouse will explore the remote coastal wilderness in a series of cruises between April and September 2024. She will be joined by fellow Explorer-class ship Le Jacques-Cartier and both ships are book-ending their Kimberley seasons with some very exciting itineraries in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea. 


Whether you’re looking for expedition cruising to the Polar regions and remote tropical archipelagos or wanting to delve into the cultures of Mediterranean, African and Scandinavian countries, Ponant offers an extraordinary range of luxury expedition, soft adventure and cultural cruises aboard its fleet of 12 beautifully designed ships. 


The four ‘sister ships’, L’Austral, Le Boréal, Le Lyrial and Le Soléal, accommodate up to 264 guests each. The six Explorers (best known for their multi-sensorial underwater Blue Eye lounges), Le Champlain, Le Lapérouse, Le Bougainville, Le Dumont-D’urville, Le Bellot and Le Jacques-Cartier, accommodate up to 184 guests each. While Le Commandant Charcot accommodates up to 245 guests and even has a heated indoor swimming pool.


Adding to the line’s appeal for Cruise & Travel voters, as of next year Ponant is offering guests one free excursion at every port of call.


Having been operating freight and passenger ships around the remote Norwegian coastline for 130 years, Norwegian company Hurtigruten knows pretty much everything about navigating challenging destinations. Today, its fleet of eight ships includes the world’s first hybrid-powered cruise ships, MS Roald Amundsen and MS Fridtjof Nansen, and the line operates expedition and soft-adventure cruises in some 30 countries, including Alaska, the Polar regions, Norway, South America and West Africa. Hurtigruten recently announced that its expedition arm will be renamed HX.



Considering that Scenic invented the phrase ‘discovery yacht’ for its uber-luxe expedition ships Scenic Eclipse and Scenic Eclipse II, it’s only fitting Scenic wins the Best for Yachts category. 


Scenic Eclipse set sail in 2019, wowing luxury lovers and adventurous cruisers alike with her design (inspired by the sleek private motor yachts of the mega-rich), top-of-the-range cabins, dining and service – plus expedition toys that go beyond zodiacs and kayaks with two helicopters and a mini-submarine. 


Staterooms and suites are enormous by expedition ship standards, starting at 32 sq m, and they all have balconies. The Owner’s Penthouse Suites are palatial, but all room categories include top-quality amenities and butler service. Scenic Eclipse also takes dining to incredibly high standards.


Another reason why Scenic’s discovery yachts get your vote is the fare inclusions. It’s easier to list what’s not included – namely, trips in the mini-sub and the helicopters, and spa treatments. 


Scenic Eclipse II set sail in April 2023. She is the same size and tonnage as her sister ship, and accommodates the same number of guests (200-228), but there are a few differences – or ‘tweaks’. These include a heated plunge pool, sun-lounging area and the smart Sky Bar on the top deck, and new additions to the Senses Spa.  


In April 2024, Scenic Eclipse II will visit Australia for the first time. She will sail 11-night Kimberley itineraries until August, and then a series of cruises in Indonesia, Polynesia and the Pacific islands.


If your definition of the word yacht includes a vessel with sails, Ponant’s original three-masted motor-yacht Le Ponant fits the bill. However, like Scenic’s discovery yachts, Ponant’s collection of 12 super-stylish expedition ships are more reminiscent of private luxury cruisers, aka yachts, and offer the same sort of bespoke service and amenities. Ponant’s environmentally friendly ships feature elegant, understated décor, French and international cuisine, and supremely comfortable staterooms and suites that all have private balconies. The company has a highly respected history of expedition cruising in remote regions, yet it is equally adept at exploring lesser-known spots in sought-after destinations.



Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL) and Royal Caribbean are both top of the class when it comes to taking onboard activities to new heights, but Cruise & Travel readers have awarded NCL the winning spot in
this category – by a whisker, we have to admit. And whoever invented go-karting on the top deck of a ship gets our vote, too! 


Norwegian Joy, which was built in 2017, was the first ship to feature a go-kart track and now five NCL ships have them: 2018’s Norwegian Bliss, 2019’s Encore, 2022’s Prima and 2023’s Viva. As you’d expect, the racetracks get bigger and better with each new ship; Prima’s track is 427 metres long and set over three top decks..


Norwegian Prima and Viva are the first in a set of six Prima-class ships – the next four are scheduled to launch between 2025 and 2028 and will boast yet more new adrenalin-pumping activities, as well as reiterations of those found on some of the earlier classes of NCL ships. These include the biggest ropes courses at sea and The Plank (on Breakaway and Breakaway-Plus ships); rock-climbing walls on Epic, Pearl and Gem; indoor tenpin bowling (Epic and Pearl); waterslides offering varying levels of scream therapy (Prima’s twin-racer Rush slides plunge down 10 decks); the Galaxy Pavilion, for VR games; and watersports areas that range from kids’ aquaparks to adults’ pools.


A word of advice to thrill-seeking cruisers: you’ll have to head overseas to enjoy the majority of these onboard activities – as clearly many of you already have – because the only NCL ship that cruises locally during the summer is Norwegian Spirit, the line’s oldest and smallest vessel. She was beautifully refurbished in 2020 and, although she has a sizeable sports court and mini-golf course, she doesn’t pretend to offer an activity-packed experience.


For six years in a row, Cruise & Travel readers voted Royal Caribbean the Best for Onboard Activities, but it has just been pipped at the post by NCL. Local cruisers are eagerly anticipating the return to our shores of Quantum of the Seas and Ovation of the Seas – both ships boast a plethora of activities. As well as skydiving and surfing simulators, the SeaPlex centres include a vast arena for roller-skating, bumper cars, a basketball court and a circus school. There are four pools, a sports court and a state-of-the-art fitness centre. 



High-octane entertainment is as integral to Norwegian Cruise Line’s cruises as its high-adrenalin activities and whichever ship you’re sailing on, you’re sure to find a terrific variety of Broadway-style stage shows and musicals, comedy clubs, live music, dance performances and interactive live gameshows such as Deal or No Deal.


Coming up this season on board Norwegian Spirit, Blazing Boots is a full-scale production show that pays tribute to the superstars of country pop. The choreography, music video visuals, fabulous vocals and the cast’s amazing energy will have you dancing in the aisles.  


Elements is another tightly produced music and dance spectacle on board Norwegian Spirit that will have you marvelling at its acrobatic skill. And if comedy is your thing, head to the Social Comedy & Night Club for a good laugh with the stand-up comedians. 


Entertainment venues and shows vary from ship to ship. Six is a successful British musical based on the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives, which you can catch on Norwegian Bliss and Breakaway; The Choir of Man is a high-energy, singalong music-and-dance show exclusively available at The Jungle pub on board Norwegian Encore and Escape. Norwegian Prima is presenting Summer: The Donna Summer Musical.


Cruising with NCL also offers plenty of opportunities to party. In keeping with the line’s Freestyle Cruising spirit, you’ll always find a lively event happening somewhere around the ship. Get in the mood at sailaway on the pool deck and don’t miss famous themed parties such as Caliente, Glow and Nashville Nights.


Although the line just missed out on winning best entertainment (after six years of being your number one), Princess Cruises certainly knows how to put on a show. And as fans of TV classic The Love Boat appreciate, Princess also knows how to star in a show. You’ll find musical extravaganzas created by top choreographers and directors; mesmerising magic shows; great comedy; and talented musicians who play everything from classical to jazz, pop and rock’n’roll. New-release movies and big sporting events are screened at Movies Under the Stars, and Club 6 is the spot for night owls.



Thousands of Aussie families have enjoyed the inimitable Disney cruise experience overseas, and for the second year running Disney Cruise Line (DCL) has scored the top spot in our best cruise line for families award category. Now that Disney Wonder is sailing our waters for her first season – it was sold out almost as soon as it was announced – you can be sure that her second season in 2024-25 will keep the line on top for upcoming Cruise & Travel Readers’ Choice Awards. 


Disney Wonder, which entered service in 1999, is one of five in DCL’s fleet, all of which were designed and built for maximum family fun. The sixth, Disney Treasure, is set to make her debut in 2024; the others, in order of youthfulness, are: Disney Wish (2022), Disney Fantasy (2012), Disney Dream (2011) and Disney Magic (1998). They vary in design and layout but basically the two older ships are smaller, accommodating up to 2700 guests, Disney Dream and Fantasy each hold up to 4000, while Disney Wish and her upcoming sisters are considerably bigger, accommodating up to 5000. 


All the ships are decked out in signature Mickey Mouse-inspired colours: black hull, white superstructure, gold trim and giant red funnels. However, the younger guests are more interested in what goes on inside the ships – namely, meeting characters such as Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Pluto, Cinderella and Stitch. Then there are Character Greetings and a whole host of Disney-themed parties, activities, interactive dining experiences and shows. 


DCL’s kids’ programs cater for kids aged three to 12, tweens and teens, and there are numerous age-appropriate clubs, hangouts and activities. Group babysitting and playtime are available for babies six months and older, and there are also family lounges and arcades.


Royal Caribbean’s innovative, resort-style ships don’t just offer thrilling activities and entertainment for kids of all ages. Accommodation, dining and kids’ clubs are designed to offer a multitude of choices to multi-generational groups and families. Connecting staterooms are a godsend for many families, especially when you have older kids; it’s important to book these well in advance. Kids’ menus are available in every ship’s main dining room and Windjammer eateries offer a terrific choice of dishes that appeal to the fussiest eaters. And Royal Caribbean’s Adventure Ocean Youth Programme offers age-appropriate activities to mini-cruisers from age three and up. 



Claiming that you serve “the finest cuisine at sea” is a big call, but Oceania Cruises is so confident of its expertise in the dining department that it has trademarked the phrase. Clearly, Cruise & Travel readers are happy to endorse the claim – you have voted Oceania the winner in the best line for dining category for six years running! 


Oceania is constantly revising its menus, but one thing that doesn’t change is that meals in all its prestigious, highly rated restaurants are included in the fare (apart from wine-paired dinners on board Oceania Marina and Riviera). Venues and menus vary depending on which ship you’re sailing; the R-class ships (Oceania Insignia, Nautica, Regatta and Sirena) have fewer restaurants than their bigger O-class relatives, Oceania Marina and Riviera; and the newest ship, 2023’s Oceania Vista, has an incredible 12 different dining options. 


Oceania Vista has three new eateries: Aquamar Kitchen, a casual venue that offers healthy breakfasts and lunches; The Bakery, which serves irresistible pastries; and Ember, a relaxed steakhouse.


Fleet favourites include Asian-inspired Red Ginger, Italian-flavoured Toscana, The Polo Grill steakhouse, and Jacques, a stylish bistro named for Oceania’s long-time culinary guide, French masterchef Jacques Pépin. Some of the dishes from signature restaurants on the larger ships are served in the R-class ships’ Grand Dining Room if they don’t have the actual restaurant on board – it’s a moveable feast. 


Culinary Discovery Tours and hands-on cooking classes in the Culinary Center take the gourmet journey to another level. Chef instructors lead market and tasting tours ashore and share their culinary knowledge with guests in state-of-the-art galleys on board.


Celebrity is highly praised for the quality of its restaurants, casual eateries and stylish bars across the entire fleet, but Celebrity Edge, arriving in Australia in November 2023, raises the wining-and-dining bar even higher. There are 29 distinct food-and-beverage experiences: starting with the complimentary offerings, there are four distinct ‘main dining’ restaurants – Normandie, Tuscan, Cosmopolitan and Cyprus. Other complimentary venues include the uber-stylish Eden Café, Spa Café, Oceanview Café and the poolside Mast Grill. Celebrity Edge’s specialty restaurants are well worth splashing out on – dining on the Magic Carpet is quite unlike anything else at sea.  



Women sitting on cruise ship balcony laughing

Wellness is a trillion-dollar business worldwide, according to the Global Wellness Institute, and as ‘wellness tourism’ alone is worth US$436 billion, it’s not surprising that the cruise industry – particularly the luxury sector – is all over it. 


Regent Seven Seas Cruises wins top spot for its wellness programs, services and treatments – as you would expect from ‘the world’s most luxurious fleet’. The line introduced the Serene Spa & Wellness program to Seven Seas Splendor in 2020. The in-spa program comprises a holistic array of treatments and services, developed to promote mental and physical rejuvenation, and are inspired by the 450 destinations RSSC visits around the world. 


However, Serene Spa & Wellness is more than its extensive spa menu (which runs to 36 pages). It is designed to be an integral part of guests’ total wellness experiences, and includes: onboard fitness programs; delicious, healthy dishes in most of the restaurants; and wellness-themed shore excursions. Classes in yoga, Pilates and meditation are led by expert instructors. Fitness centres sport top-of-the-range equipment. 


Serene Spa & Wellness tours integrate healthy living practices with exploring on shore. Seven Seas Splendor, Explorer and Grandeur also feature the Hydrothermal Suite, which offers a multi-sensory aromatherapy steam room, chill room, infrared sauna and several types of showers. Ultra-luxe wellness is taken up a further few notches on Seven Seas Grandeur; the spa menu includes new treatments involving an amber and quartz-crystal bed and an advanced treatment table for a Zero Gravity Wellness Massage


One of the best things about Viking Ocean Cruises’ and Viking Expeditions’ super-stylish LivNordic spa is that quite a few of its facilities are absolutely free of charge. You can wander in, no appointments required, lie back on a heated lounger, take a dip in the Vitality Pool and make the most of the thermal suite, steam room, saunas and bracing Snow Grotto. The fitness centre is equipped with TechnoGym machines and free weights, and you can join very reasonably priced yoga and TRX classes in the fitness studio. As on all cruise ships, spa and beauty treatments cost extra.



A high crew-to-guest ratio is one of the key elements for superlative service at sea – put simply, the fewer guests each crew member is looking after, the better the service should be. Regent Seven Seas Cruises’ ships have one of the highest crew-to-guest ratios in the cruise industry and Cruise & Travel readers have now voted the line best for service for the fourth year running. 


Providing the best service is about much more than numbers – professional training, experience, intuitiveness and good old-fashioned friendliness all play a huge part. And while we regularly interact with suite attendants, butlers, baristas, waiters and sommeliers, there’s lots of work going on behind the scenes to ensure the guest-facing staff can deliver what’s promised. Just think about RSSC’s free valet laundry service – a whole team is involved in getting your freshly washed, carefully pressed and folded laundry to your suite throughout the cruise.


Many of the crew on RSSC ships have been with the company for years, and as well as having their work ‘families’, they often have long-lasting friendships with guests who sail with the line regularly; it’s not unusual for repeat guests to ask which particular crew members will be on board their next cruise before they make a booking. 


Guests staying in penthouse suites and above enjoy 24/7 butler service – but what does that entail? In the simplest terms, your suite’s butler is your single point of contact to fulfill your requests. They can pack and unpack luggage, book shore excursions and spa services, make onboard and onshore dinner reservations or serve dinner in your suite. They will arrange the perfect cocktail party and assist with disembarkation, all while ensuring you are well looked after.


Cunard’s classic queens, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, Queen Victoria and the upcoming Queen Anne, offer cruising in a grand, traditional style. Guests expect – and receive – a commensurate level of service. The bellboys’ red uniforms and pillbox hats are recognised the world over and even though they don RM Williams kit when sailing Down Under, white gloves are standard everywhere. White-glove service is a hallmark of Cunard’s signature daily afternoon tea in the Queens Room, but our readers give high praise to Cunard’s warm and friendly service in all departments.



The serene interiors of Viking’s ocean ships are elegant, light-filled Scandinavian-style spaces that have proved to be big winners across the fleet. Viking’s ninth ocean ship, Viking Saturn, entered service in 2023 and all its ships accommodate a maximum of 930 guests in five categories of all-balcony staterooms and suites.  


At 25 sq m, even the smallest Veranda Stateroom is spacious. Deluxe Verandas are the same size but guests receive more amenities as the rooms increase in cost. Penthouse Verandas are 31.4 sq m and the gorgeous Explorer Suites, measure up to 108 sq m. 


All staterooms and suites have king-size beds (which can be divided into two twins), decent-sized showers, heated bathroom floors and anti-fog mirrors, and floor-to-ceiling windows that open onto private balconies. You’ll find plenty of USB ports around the staterooms, exceptionally well-designed storage spaces and interactive TVs that come with a great selection of movies and documentaries. 


The décor throughout the staterooms and suites is understated, complemented by subtle splashes of colour, and the blond-wood furniture, bedlinens and soft furnishings are top quality. 


Penthouse Verandas are the most popular on the ships. Amenities are added according to your stateroom or suite category. In Penthouse Verandas, extras include a minibar with alcoholic drinks that is restocked daily; a bottle of complimentary Champagne; an espresso machine; binoculars; free clothes pressing and shoeshine; priority reservations at restaurants and on shore excursions.


The lavish suites on Uniworld ships are all differently designed and decorated, in keeping with the destination-inspired look of each individual ship, but all are serviced by one, or sometimes two, dedicated butlers – you won’t see him or her doing any other work around the ship, as on some river lines. Butlers train at England’s Ivor Spence Butler School, so they know their stuff. The supremely comfortable beds are made by Savoir Beds of England and elegant, all-marble bathrooms are stocked with luxurious Asprey bath and body products. In-suite minibars are restocked daily and depending on your suite category, extras such as espresso machines are also included.



Whether you’re taking a Scenic cruise along the magnificent waterways of Europe or on the mighty Mekong in Southeast Asia, the proudly Australian-owned company really pushes the boat out when it comes to shore excursions. 


The fact that they are included in your fare is a major drawcard, but the quality and choice of excursions at every destination Scenic River Cruises visits is the main reason why you’ve voted them the winner in this competitive category. 


Scenic divides its shore excursions into Scenic Enrich and Scenic Freechoice, and also offers those who wish to explore independently the handy Scenic Tailormade app. It includes all the same functions: an audio guide system; the riverview commentary system that covers key points of interest such as history, culture, nature and local industry; and independent city tours complete with point-to-point navigation maps, commentary and an offline navigation system. No excuse for getting lost and missing the ship’s departure! 


Scenic Enrich tours take guests deep into the cultural heart of a destination, and often into private areas of châteaux, national monuments and palaces that are out of bounds to the general public.In France, one Scenic Enrich experience is a concert in Avignon’s 14th-century Palais des Papes. In Portugal, Scenic Azure stops at the picturesque village of Provesende, where guests meet villagers and explore with them; then there’s a recital in the historic church and a wine-tasting at a restored manor house. 


Freechoice offers an impressive range of daily tours and activities that are graded to suit different interests and fitness levels. Group sizes are limited to about 20, which gets your tick of approval.


Princess offers such a wide variety of excursions it’s impossible to list them all here, but here are some of your favourites. Discovery Family tours, many including hands-on activities, appeal to families with children under 12. Animal Planet excursions are small-group tours that allow up-close encounters with incredible creatures – irresistible whatever your age. Culinary excursions are popular – they might involve cooking paella with a chef in a Spanish port or visiting a pasta factory in Italy. Local Connections provide deeper insight into everyday life and there’s always the option of organising private tours.



Ponant has been long renowned for its commitment to sustainable travel well before sustainability became a 21st-century buzzword – in fact the company will celebrate its 35th year of responsible exploration in 2024.  


The list of global awards Ponant has received for its environmental initiatives and achievements over the years is too long to list here and Cruise & Travel readers are in good company nominating Ponant as the best cruise line for sustainability. The prestigious German organisation Nature and Biodiversity Union awarded Ponant “most environmentally friendly cruise line” in 2020. 


Nicolas Dubreuil, Ponant’s director of sustainability, says the award “encourages us to continue our efforts to promote sustainable tourism and to impose ever more ethical standards in this area. Stopping the use of heavy fuel oil, using the latest technological innovations … drastic reduction of single-use plastics, raising awareness among our passengers … These are all decisions that we have taken as passionate sailors and players in the tourism of tomorrow.” 


In 2021, Ponant launched the revolutionary hybrid-powered luxury icebreaker, Le Commandant Charcot, and now the line is developing a zero-emission sailing ship that is due to launch in 2030. This exciting concept combines six types of technology, including solar and wind power, to produce a ship that will produce no greenhouse gases when it is sailing, staying in port or at anchor. It aims to be a catalyst for new energy solutions for Ponant – and indeed the entire cruise industry. 


We can’t wait to see what Ponant’s next ground-breaking project will look like – and no doubt it will be très chic, too.


Silversea’s newest, most environmentally friendly ship Silver Nova only set sail in August 2023, but well before that the line was garnering awards for its sustainability and conservation initiatives. It recently become the first tour operator to gain certification in environmental management in the Galapagos islands, where it operates the elegant, purpose-built 100-guest Silver Origin. Silver Nova and her upcoming sister ship Silver Ray were designed with technology that will reduce their carbon footprints; with hybrid power sources, the ships are expected to achieve a cruise industry-first – local emission-free operation in port by using fuel cells and batteries.



Sydney is a major drawcard for cruisers on both international and domestic itineraries, so it’s not surprising that Cruise & Travel readers have given Sydney the Best Cruise Port award again. There’s nothing quite like sailing into Sydney Harbour to ignite a lifelong passion for its natural beauty, myriad waterways and distinctive skyline.


Sydney’s main attractions are close to Circular Quay’s Overseas Passenger Terminal, which is where ships that are too big to sail under the Harbour Bridge dock. Smaller ships dock at White Bay, which is still within easy taxi or shuttle-bus distance of the CBD. White Bay might not be quite as pretty or step-ashore convenient as Circular Quay but after years of investigation and reports there is still no likelihood of a third cruise terminal in the harbour itself. 


Meanwhile, this summer is shaping up to be the busiest since the pre-pandemic season of 2018-19, with 331 cruise ship calls on Sydney and NSW ports. A record number of ships are making their inaugural calls to Sydney, including Virgin Voyages’ adults-only Resilient Lady, Scenic’s stunning Scenic Eclipse, Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Wonder and Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Edge


Sydney has a feast of festivals, concerts, exhibitions and sporting events lined up for the coming months, along with new and favourite things to do. Sydney Opera House recently celebrated its 50th birthday and if don’t have time to catch a show, you can take a range of fascinating behind-the-scenes tours. 


Climbing the Harbour Bridge is always popular, but for the ultimate bird’s-eye view of the harbour, why not take a seaplane or helicopter ride? A ferry trip to Cockatoo Island or Manly showcases the diversity of the city’s history and attractions, and an Aboriginal cultural tour is a real highlight in the buzzy Barangaroo precinct.


Brisbane International Cruise Terminal (BICT) enjoyed a successful maiden season after its grand opening in June 2022, and is expecting more than 160 cruise-ship visits this summer. As Queensland’s capital city and major cruise port, Brisbane gets your highly commended award for a variety of reasons. BICT is only 15 minutes’ drive from the airport and 30 minutes’ drive from the CBD – and sorry, Sydney, but Brisbane is winning a lot more accolades on the nightlife front than you are right now, so cruisers from out of town should factor in a bit of extra time to enjoy a night out.