2013 in Review: Best Cruise Experience

December 30, 2013 | By | 1 Comment

Another year is winding down, and we here at Cruise Critic are taking stock of the hits, misses and outright surprises that made up our cruising year (and we invite you to share your own!) Today: Best Overall Cruise Experience:
Embarkation at Vancouver. Normally I hate the embarkation process. It’s long, there are lines, and security just stinks. Not so at Vancouver’s Canada Place terminal. It stands out for making my life easier with friendly staff and the fastest getting-on-the-ship time I’ve experienced anywhere. Plus, the terminal is housed below a hotel, so it’s super convenient for pre-cruise stays. — Ashley Kosciolek, Associate Editor
I love to try new things, so when I get to do something different, I’m a happy cruiser. On a Princess Cruise to Alaska, I tried snorkeling in Ketchikan and absolutely loved it. The visibility wasn’t great, but the guides were expert, and there’s something to be said for snorkeling mere feet from bald eagles perched atop rocks jutting from the water. — Colleen McDaniel, Managing Editor
Growing up in the ’80s when Russia was still considered “the evil empire,” I never imagined I’d be able to explore a city such as Moscow on my own. So my husband and I made the most of the free time we had on our Waterways of the Czars trip with Viking River Cruises. We stood in line to glimpse Lenin’s waxy body, got lost in the small labyrinthine turrets of St. Basil’s Cathedral, examined the Soviet-era artwork in the marble-lined subways and – in a true bucket list moment – caught an opera at the Bolshoi Theater. It all makes me wonder what countries that are now deemed “off limits” may be open in the future. — Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor
SS Rotterdam. This is an unusual one in that it wasn’t a cruise, but I did stay on a ship, albeit one that didn’t go anywhere. SS Rotterdam is moored in the city it’s named after, and décor and design is largely intact from its 50’s heyday – right down to the furniture in the cabins and incredibly ornate design. It was like stepping back into a different age. I also had dinner in the original offices of Holland America Line, in the boardroom where the documents were signed which formed the company 140 years ago. We also visited the world famous Keukenhof Gardens to watch the official unveiling of a tulip cultivated in the line’s honor – the Signature tulip. All this in 2 days! Phew!– Adam Coulter, UK Editor
My family and I spent a lovely day at the beach on Kauai during our Hawaii cruise on Pride of America. We rented a car and drove to Lydgate Beach Park. Rock walls form shallow ocean pools, protected from Kauai’s pounding surf, and the water is bathtub warm. We splashed about, looking for fish and crabs you could see without a snorkel and mask, watched the wild chickens strut about, made sand castles with my son and even borrowed a friendly family’s boogey board for a ride. When rain threatened we hopped back in the car and drove to a shave ice stand for a huge bowl of Hawaii’s favorite sweet treat. — Erica Silverstein, Features Editor
A big fan of all-the-comforts-cruises, I took a chance this year on trying my first expedition cruise. The trip, on International Expedition’s 34-passenger La Estrella Amazonica, focused on Peru’s Amazon and was a far cry from favorite itineraries in the Caribbean and Mediterranean. On this seven-night voyage, we spent most of our time bird-watching, fishing for piranha, swimming in and kayaking on the Amazon, and visiting tiny villages with names like La Nueva York to learn how life works in this rugged region. Onboard, we remained immersed in Amazon life and culture; crew all hailed from the area, including the chef (who specialized in Peruvian comfort food). I think it’s fair to say that not only did the passengers enjoy a very special camaraderie, but we also felt unusually connected to Amazonia.– Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Traveling with my family and best friend on a seven-night Florida/Bahamas cruise out of New York City for my 40th birthday. For me, it was the perfect way to be with the people who mean the most to me for a week, while still giving everyone a chance to do things on their own. And, boy did we rock the trivia contests! — Dori Saltzman, News Editor
Terranea, a luxury eco-resort just outside the Port of Los Angeles, makes for a great pre-cruise overnight, if you’re willing to splurge. The variety of dining options, pools, a spa and scenic hiking trail all on one property, made this the highlight of my 2013 travels. — Gina Kramer, Associate Editor
Sometimes, it’s enough to hear about a place to satisfy your travel bug. Case in point: My parents’ recent 11-night cruise on Norwegian Jade in the Mediterranean that included stops throughout Italy, Spain, France, Monaco and even Tunisia. They gushed about their experiences, which ranged from walking through the ruins of Pompeii to hearing a boys choir in the monastery in the cliffs of Montserrat, and the ship itself (they loved their suite’s bathtub with a view). It may seem corny, but hearing about the head-spinning amount of things they did only made me love cruising more. — Brittany Chrusciel, Editorial Assistant
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    One Response to “2013 in Review: Best Cruise Experience”

    1. Patty kechter
      December 31st, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

      When we did a cruise to Alaska (Royal Caribbean) leaving from Vancouver it was the worst embarkation in all of the 7 cruises I have taken. The lines were long, it was a cattle call. We needed to change our dining time and it took forever! I will really have to think hard about leaving from there even though it is within driving distance from my home.

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