Positive developments this year, particularly from our editors' perspectives, included the launch of the largest ship in the world, Oasis of the Seas; the first brand-new luxury ship in more than half a decade, Seabourn Odyssey; and a just-announced change in branding and direction for what's now Azamara Club Cruises. But our readers -- never shy about telling us what they want to know -- have the final word in which stories get viewed again and again (and again).
So, as a last hurrah for 2009, we give you the year's top 10 cruise news stories: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Oasis of the Seas! The ship's November launch was clearly the biggest news of the year. In fact, from January 1 onward, we wrote 45 stories just on Oasis of the Seas -- 8 percent of our total news output for 2009. The highlights of these pieces have a permanent home here.
Hot Topic: Tipping. In October, Royal Caribbean announced it was thinking about changing its tipping policy, and the fact that our story on the topic made our top 10 most-read list indicates to us that we haven't heard the last of this most controversial subject.
Big-Ship Deals? Cruise Critic readers love a bargain, so it's not a surprise that our Oasis of the Seas versus Norwegian Epic price comparison story got a lot of love.
Past-Passenger Perks, Slashed. In March, Royal Caribbean cut perks for its Diamond-level members (those who sailed 10 to 24 cruises), barring them from the concierge lounges on most ships. The criticism was so vocal that Royal Caribbean was forced to offer Diamond members some new perks, like a private party and exclusive breakfast.
Big Bang Theory. Remember way back in September when Carnival's Carnival Legend and Royal Caribbean's Enchantment of the Seas collided in Cozumel? Oops. Both ships were able to continue on their itineraries, probably boasting "you shoulda seen the other guy!"
Unfortunate Stowaway. Cruise Critic readers were truly concerned when Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess arrived in Vancouver with a surprise guest -- a dead whale caught in the ship's bow.
Swine Flu. Ah, the villain of 2009! H1N1 sent Mexico-bound ships back north to cruise the Pacific Coast, convinced passengers to cut short or even cancel their cruises, and generally made Norovirus look like a walk in the park. The coverage inspired this stay-healthy guide.
Crime Watch. Two Segway tour groups from Disney Cruise Line's Disney Wonder and Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas were robbed at gunpoint in November, forcing multiple cruise lines to cancel that tour and the Bahamas authorities to station more police in tourist areas.
Accidents Ashore. It was a sad day on Great Stirrup Cay, NCL's private island, this August when a Norwegian Sky passenger slipped on the rocks, fell into the water and was killed.
Murder. The lowest point of 2009, in my book? When a Carnival cruise passenger killed his wife with his own bare hands.
--by Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor