Cruise Critic 2011 Editors' Picks Awards: The Winners Home > Cruise Critic 2011 Editors' Picks Awards: The Winners
Editor's note: This story is from the Cruise Critic Archives. Content was up to date at time of publication.
Each year we honor the World's top cruise lines and celebrate the best of cruising with the announcement of the Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards. This year we have selected winners in 25 categories, reflecting the diversity of the cruise ships and amenities available to travelers today.
Cruise Critic editors evaluated lines and ships in 25 categories by comparing like-for-like, taking into account the audience to which each line markets, in order to highlight the very best cruise lines and their particular strengths. The annual Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards complement the Cruisers' Choice Awards, which are announced in the spring and highlight the cruise ships which receive the highest ratings from reviews posted on Cruise Critic.
The 2011 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Award winners are:
Best New Ship:Disney Dream
Disney's first new ship in more than a decade blends fantastic cruise innovations with the brand's signature land-of-make-believe panache. A bevy of Princesses and a dazzling Disney stage show are complemented by the AquaDuck, cruising's first "watercoaster," a buzz-worthy French restaurant and seamless technological innovations like interactive artwork.
Best New River Ship:Uniworld's S.S. Antoinette
S.S. Antoinette, Uniworld's first-ever new-build, is one stylish riverboat. Its whimsical and daring interior design, and lush cabin appointments, were modeled after Marie Antoinette's France. Its amenities, unusual for ships on Europe's rivers, include a cinema with surround sound, indoor lap pool and plush nightclub.
Best for Luxury:Seabourn's Odyssey Class
Seabourn's elegant Odyssey-class trio are large enough to allow for fantastic onboard options -- like Seabourn Square, a combination library, bakery and social hub -- and yet small enough to preserve the line's impeccable attention to detail in its cuisine, service and upscale yacht-like ambience.
Best for First-Timers:Princess Cruises
From kids' clubs to alternative dining, and from itinerary options to adult-only spaces, Princess pleases both traditional-minded cruisers and modern travelers. The line's broad approach allows first-timers to experience the best of big-ship cruising, which helps keep even the most disparate multi-generational group happy.
Best for Families:Royal Caribbean
With brand partnerships with companies like DreamWorks and Fisher Price, and an astonishing range of onboard activities, from rock-climbing to theater programs, Royal Caribbean offers a superb all-around family cruise experience.
Best Itineraries:Azamara Club Cruises
Azamara's pair of 694-passenger pathfinders visit more than 50 countries in Asia, South America and Europe, and itineraries are regularly timed to coincide with events like the Monaco Grand Prix and London's Chelsea Flower Show. But where the line really asserts itself as the leader in destination-intensive cruising is in its commitment to overnighting in port.
Best for Adventure:Lindblad Expeditions
No line can touch Lindblad's breadth of eco-cruise options, from the Arctic to Antarctica and everywhere in between. The line's go-anywhere ships are equipped with kayaks and underwater cameras, and Lindblad's association with NatGeo means passengers regularly include top-flight lecturers and photogs. And while this is experiential cruising to the core, the line doesn't skimp on onboard creature comforts like spa treatments and suites.
Best River Cruise Line:Viking River Cruises
Viking River Cruises has always been a well-respected line whose stand-out quality was the range of its itineraries in Europe, Russia, Egypt and China. Couple that with a new emphasis on contemporary ship design and an aggressive revamping of its fleet, and Viking becomes the best in the business.
Best Value for Money:Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Cruise Lines consistently offers great prices and exceptional value that's hard to beat. As part of its Fun Ship 2.0 initiative, the line is adding new gourmet burger and taco dining venues to a number of ships. And while competitors have increasingly adopted the a la carte dining model, these two new venues, at least, are surcharge-free. (Carnival does, however, charge for tapas in its new RedFrog pub.)
Best for Dining:Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity is the tapas bar of at-sea dining. Always innovative when it comes to onboard cuisine, the food-savvy line recently introduced yet another creative dining option on its new Celebrity Silhouette -- a combination cooking class-steakhouse. Fleetwide, the line excels when it comes to spa cuisine, French indulgence and high quality buffet and main dining room choices.
Best Alternative Restaurant: Celebrity's Qsine
With the whimsical Qsine, Celebrity puts the fun back in onboard dining. The restaurant focuses on comfort food with a twist -- think spring rolls served in actual springs and sushi lollipops -- all ordered off of iPad menus. The presentation -- and photo ops -- alone are worth the $40 per person surcharge.
Best Buffet:Norwegian Cruise Line
Norwegian Cruise Line pioneered the "action-station" setup, a casual dining format that transformed the clogged cafeterias of yesteryear into an appetizing array of sandwich, pasta and pizza bars. Combine that with delicious ethnic offerings and a fun kids' buffet section built to a miniature scale, and you have the best casual restaurants at sea.
Best for Entertainment: Royal Caribbean's Oasis and Allure
It's not just the scope of entertainment options -- ice skating shows, 3D movies, musicals, jazz and comedy shows in stand-alone clubs -- that set the Oasis-class duo apart. The quality of choices, culled from the Broadway stage and DreamWorks character army, is second-to-none. And we can't forget the AquaTheater; the outdoor amphitheater, which hosts jaw-dropping Cirque-style shows, is the most breathtaking performance venue at sea.
Best for Healthy Cruising:Celebrity Cruises
Celebrity's focus on offering a wide range of healthy dishes in formal restaurants and more casual venues makes it easier to stay on a wellness track, even when faced with the usual cruise temptations.
Best for Spa-Lovers: Seabourn's Sojourn and Quest
Simply put, the enormous two-deck spas on Seabourn Sojourn and Quest are stunning. The center piece is the Kneipp pool, with its varying hot- and cold-water temperatures, but passengers will also discover fantastic no-charge fitness options like Kinesis and yoga, and the prettiest spa sun deck at sea (pictured).
Best for Solo Cruisers:Norwegian Epic
Taking aim at the oft-beleaguered solo cruiser market, Norwegian Cruise Line introduced the Studio on Norwegian Epic, a 100-square-foot cabin priced for one. Tying the 128 accommodations together is the Living Room, a swanky communal gathering place with flat-screen TVs and a bar.
Best Suites:Oceania's Marina
Luxury-lite stalwart Oceania spared no expense with Marina's sophisticated suites. Even the standard bathrooms, gorgeous marbled affairs with a separate shower and tub, are buzzworthy. But the showstoppers are the palatial Owner's suites, 2,500-square-foot manses stretching from beam to beam, offering views port and starboard. One-of-a-kind decor, designed by Ralph Lauren Home, includes mahogany walls, faux Zebra rugs and tile insets.
Best Standard Cabins:Disney Cruise Line
Besides being among the largest at sea, Disney's standard cabins feature the ingenious split bath setup -- which provides one room with a shower, small tub and sink, and another with a toilet and sink. Other fabulous cabin touches include an iPod docking station and a pair of rechargeable "Wave Phones" that can be used throughout the ships.
Best Inside Cabins:Disney Dream
With its "virtual portholes," window-sized screens displaying real-time alfresco footage and the occasional dancing hippo, Disney may have finally discovered a cure for cabin fever. The inside cabin innovation is so elegant we wish we'd thought of it.
Best Shore Excursions:Holland America
Holland America runs its shore excursion program like a boutique tour operator, providing a blend of big-ticket tours of marquee attractions along with more intimate experiences, like a barbecue with Argentine gauchos. We also love its "Cruise with Purpose Collection," which gives passengers the chance to replant native forests or bring much-needed supplies to an orphanage.
Best for Enrichment:Crystal Cruises
Crystal's fantastic multi-tiered enrichment program offers classes on piano and foreign languages, top-notch lecturers from the world of entertainment, sports and academia, and courses on the latest high-tech gadgets. To ensure what passengers learn sticks, the upscale line sources its instructors from Yamaha, Berlitz Society of Wine Educators.
Best for Honeymoons:Princess Cruises
"The Love Boat" line offers all the amenities necessary for onboard romance -- fabulous dining, including a romantic multi-course balcony offering; indoor and outdoor pampering with alfresco massages in adult-only Sanctuary; and a mud room for two in the Lotus Spa.
Best for Wine Lovers:Celebrity Solstice-Class
Wine lovers will find no shortage of sipping options on Celebrity's Solstice-class ships, which introduced Cellar Masters, a self-service wine bar. Celebrity also offers a series of special food and wine sailings, which feature either a guest chef or wine maker, and a slew of special events. For the price conscious tippler, beverage packages, for which cruisers pay a flat daily fee entitling them to all the wine (and other drinks) in a certain price range, have been a huge hit.
Best Cruise Ship Bar: Carnival's RedFrog Pub
Carnival Magic's RedFrog Pub become an icon the moment it began serving its home brew, Thirsty Frog Red Ale -- suds so popular that they're now available nearly fleetwide. The bar features kitschy island decor, tantalizing tapas (grouper fingers), 100-ounce beer tubes and a roster of musicians that turn an already top-notch concept into Margaritaville. RedFrog has proven such a smash that Carnival has begun adding it to other ships, starting with Carnival Liberty.
Best U.S. Cruise Port:New Orleans
Whether you're boarding your ship in New Orleans or onboard a vessel that merely calls in for a day, this vibrant city just off the Gulf of Mexico has something for everyone. There are family-friendly attractions, world class museums, distinctive restaurants and, oh yes, there's the nightlife.