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2019 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

The last ship in Norwegian Cruise Line's Breakaway Class, Norwegian Encore has perfected the blueprint by taking everything cruisers love and amping it up. With 29 dining venues; The Haven's exclusive accommodations; ocean-facing spaces like the Observation Lounge and the Waterfront; and a slew of nonstop entertainment options, such as virtual-reality rides, go-kart racing, laser tag and Broadway musicals, passengers on this ship will never be bored.
Oasis of the Seas set the mega-ship bar high when it debuted in 2009, with a zipline, 20-plus restaurants and a plant-filled Central Park. The ship's latest refurbishment -- part of Royal's outstanding Amplified program -- has added the best of the line, including the Ultimate Abyss slide, the Perfect Storm water slide trio, a redesigned pool deck and several new bars and eateries.
Whether you want to bushwhack in Alaska, snorkel with whales in Baja California and Hawaii, come face-to-face with monkeys in Costa Rica or meet the giant tortoises of the Galapagos, UnCruise has you covered. Add in the most active itineraries on the Columbia and Snake rivers (hike, bike, kayak and whitewater raft!) and it doesn't get more adventurous than an UnCruise sailing.
Celebrity Cruises demonstrates how any cabin -- from insides to suites -- can be fully practical and impressively stylish at the same time. "Revolutionized" ships boast built-in USB ports in the bedside lamps, glass-fronted cabinetry and plenty of storage in all staterooms, while those awaiting refurbishment still offer enough space and amenities so all cruisers can feel at home in their room.
Holland America's culinary scene stands out from the rest with the help of diverse chef partnerships. Advisers of the line's celeb-chef-packed Culinary Council lend favorite recipes from seafood to chocolate. Dining expertise seasons everything from the tasty new Nami Sushi menu inside pan-Asian restaurant Tamarind, to the classic Pinnacle Grill and standout main dining menus fleetwide.
Royal Caribbean continues to entertain with original Broadway-style productions, parades and challenging escape rooms. High-tech enhancements elevate shows in the main theater and skating rink, as well as enable amusements like glow-in-the-dark laser tag and the trampoline-based Sky Pad. With surfing, rock climbing, water slides and flying (by zipline or skydive simulator) onboard many of Royal Caribbean's ships, it's impossible to get bored.
Disney Cruise Line sets a high bar for family offerings. In addition to stellar kids clubs where children can play in Andy's room or learn how to be superheroes, families can look forward to character meet 'n' greets, interactive meals, first-run movies and theater shows with jaw-dropping production values. Plus, grown-ups will appreciate the rarely crowded adults-only venues onboard.
Holland America not only covers serious territory at sea, traversing popular ports in the Caribbean, Europe and Canada/New England, but it's also constantly adding bucket-list trips. In addition to the line's Grand Voyages, circumnavigations and world cruises throughout Africa, Asia and Australia, Holland America has debuted its In-Depth Voyages -- sailings that explore remote destinations, like Papua New Guinea -- with expedition-style immersion.
Night owls, rejoice! From amazing theater productions featuring musicians, magicians and even Cirque du Soleil at Sea to live music and DJ-spun tunes in the onboard nightclubs, MSC Cruises offers a fun but classy backdrop for passengers who can't stop, won't stop. For those seeking a solid party vibe, the discos on most ships stay open until the wee hours.
Friendly service and crew who remember your name are a hallmark of every Carnival sailing. But crew members do more than offer a smile; they are empowered to ensure everything is right. Whether you need extra hangers or are craving a bowl of chicken soup, Carnival's crew can be counted on to help.
Princess Cruises makes it easy to maximize time in port, thanks to smart partnerships. Foodies will appreciate culinary tours dreamed up with Bon Appetit, while nature-lovers will dig the Animal Planet and Discovery Channel choices. The line particularly shines in Alaska, where it celebrated 50 years of cruising in 2019, with a wide range of excursions designed to appeal to almost everyone.
Norwegian Cruise Line continues its reign as the most solo-friendly cruise line, and looking at the numbers, it's not difficult to see why. Norwegian sells its Studio solo staterooms across six ships fleetwide, including the line's newest vessels. Plus, it's made investments in dedicated solo lounges for hosted meetups. On the new Norwegian Encore, the Studio complex has expanded to include 82 solo cabins.
Royal Caribbean blends extravagance and inclusiveness in its perfectly conceived suites -- some ships offer up to a dozen top-level categories. Suite passengers get plenty of space, along with a bounty of perks, including special restaurants and "Royal Genie" personal concierges. Choose from suites with lavish penthouse trappings, duplexes with space for a full dinner party and family suites with slides.
From dining to entertainment, cruisers get more for their money with Carnival. Affordable fares include free access to top-notch theater shows, ropes courses, water slides and the line's exclusive SkyRide. Foodies will be delighted with the number of complimentary choices outside of the main dining room. Burgers, pasta, pizza, barbecue and burritos: They're all included, making Carnival one of the best values at sea.
Seattle
Best North American Homeport
Seattle has proved indispensable as the perfect Pacific Northwest jump-off to the Last Frontier. Passengers enjoy proximity to major attractions like Pike Place Market, along with Port Valet, a luggage transfer program that provides seamless airport ticketing and baggage delivery -- free of charge. The port is always innovating, including plans for a new environmentally forward terminal, debuting in 2023.

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