2017 Editors' Picks Awards: Ocean Cruises

See the lines and ships that best represent excellence in ocean, river and luxury cruising, chosen by Cruise Critic's international team of editors.

Ocean Cruise Lines

MSC Cruises has made its mark with MSC Seaside, destined to become one of the best Miami-based ships around. Inspired by the vibrant South Beach scene, Seaside features terraced cabins (some with private balcony hot tubs), a massive water and adventure park, lively nightlife and an open-air promenade with bars and alfresco dining. The ship offers nine restaurants, including the Asian Market Kitchen by chef-extraordinaire Roy Yamaguchi.
Best Ship Refurbishment
Sleek, sophisticated and vibrant -- just some of the words that describe Westerdam after an extensive makeover that introduced new and revitalized spaces, while still preserving the ship's traditional feel. Among the updates are the addition of popular music venues Billboard Onboard and Lincoln Center Stage, a total renovation of the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse, and cabin enhancements such as new bathroom vanities and USB outlets.
Lindblad Expeditions offers some of the most adventurous small-ship cruise experiences available, from explorations of the wild Alaska coast or one-of-a-kind Galapagos islands to snorkeling with whales in Baja California or traveling up the mysterious Amazon. But it's not just the itineraries that are exciting, on most sailings you'll have the chance to hike, kayak and snorkel. Plus onboard classes cover everything from geography to local culture to nature photography.
Celebrity's cabins perfectly walk the line between form and function. They're beautifully decorated, with modern, clean lines and neutral color schemes punctuated by pops of color. But cabins also are spacious; even at the small end, they start at 170 square feet. Rooms feature smart space for storage, from large closets to bureaus, and they include smart touches like interactive flat-screen TVs and large showers.
As part of a massive fleetwide reinvestment, Holland America has elevated the quality of its culinary offerings with a new pop-up seafood brasserie, enhanced room service menu and buffet, and has given the Pinnacle Grill steakhouse a sexy makeover. Plus, America's Test Kitchen offers the ultimate foodie experience with cooking demos inspired by the popular TV show.
It takes a lot to incorporate stellar singing and dancing, family-friendly storylines, jaw-dropping scenery, magical special effects and costumes worthy of Broadway, but Disney manages it effortlessly. From perennial favorite "The Golden Mickeys" to new show "Beauty and the Beast," the Mouse doesn't disappoint. Toss in character meet-and-greets, first-run movie screenings and a Pirate Night complete with fireworks, and Disney wins top honors.
With all the magic of The Mouse behind it, Disney Cruise Line features some of the most enchanting spectacles afloat, including at-sea fireworks, interactive art and phenomenal production shows. Plus, with character meet 'n' greets; kids clubs featuring Marvel-, Toy Story-, Star Wars- and Disney Infinity-themed play spaces; adults-only areas for parents; and family-friendly cabins, Disney's the clear winner.
From standard destinations like the Caribbean and Mexico to more exotic options like Asia and the South Pacific, Princess offers a well-rounded selection of itineraries and does a great job incorporating local flavor onboard through food, enrichment and children's activities. Sailings of varying lengths -- from two days for a preview voyage to more than 100 for a world cruise -- also add to the line's appeal.
From full-scale Broadway productions that include "Rock of Ages," "Legally Blonde" and "After Midnight," to comedy clubs, dinner theater shows highlighting acrobatics and aerial performances, nightly live music in multiple venues, and at least 10 bars and lounges on every ship, the nightlife on Norwegian Cruise Line is hard to beat. Plus, passengers love Norwegian's themed nights, which include the line's legendary glow party.
On Celebrity's Solstice Class, the Lawn Club remains one of the most romantic innovations at sea. The gorgeous real-lawn space beckons couples to throw down a blanket and picnic under the stars, maybe with some live jazz music to set the mood. Celebrity also knows how to throw a wedding, offering all-inclusive packages; in 2017, it became the first line to offer same-sex ceremonies onboard.
Friendly service with a smile is a hallmark of every Carnival sailing. But crew don't just remember your name or stop to chat; they get it right the first time, and if they don't, they work harder to make sure it's right every time after that. Carnival might be one of the most laidback lines out there, but it doesn't take service lying down.
Celebrity continues to bring passengers to exciting events, such as Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Carnival in Rio, the Cannes Film Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Plus, experiences that you'd normally only find on luxury lines -- chef market walks, evening port events, tasting experiences and customizable private tours -- have been added, giving cruisers more ways to explore the destination.
We don't see how any mainstream cruise line could be more solo-friendly than Norwegian. Every one of the line's ships built since 2010 is kitted out with a Studio complex with cabins sized and priced for solo travelers. Plus, there's the solos-only lounge to hang out in, which includes a big screen TV and self-service wine stations.
Royal Caribbean has some of the largest suites in the mainstream cruise industry, from the Royal Family Suites (found on 18 ships) to the two-level Loft Suites (on Oasis and Quantum Class) to the expansive Presidential Family Suites (on Freedom Class and Harmony of the Seas). Plus, the line's Royal Suite Class includes a menu of inclusions and amenities that give the entire experience a VIP feel.
It's hard to find a better value than with Carnival, thanks to lower fares, a variety of no-fee eateries, plus included recreational activities, nightlife and top-notch kids' programming. (Did we mention its adults-only sun deck is also free of charge?) With so much included in the cruise fare, Carnival is consistently on top when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck.
Quebec City
Best North American Homeport
Quebec City has a world-class terminal that offers high-tech amenities, like Wi-Fi, but is also within walking distance of the charming heart of Old Quebec. And while Canadians pride themselves on their friendly welcome, Quebec City has taken it further, transforming what was once a giant parking lot into an attractive park that greets cruise passengers with much lovelier views.

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