Royal Caribbean's 5,400-passenger Oasis of the Seas has swept the board in the first ever Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards, proving that big is beautiful in the eyes of the British cruise passenger.
The awards, announced this week, honour the top cruise ships based on reviews for cruises taken in 2010 which were submitted before February 15, 2011.
Here's how we worked it out. The awards are divided into three ship classes -- small (1,119 or fewer passengers), mid-sized (1,200 – 1,999) and large (2,000-plus) -- and are given to the top 10 ships in each class. Awards were also given to ships in special categories, which include: Value-for-Money, Service, Dining, Cabins, Entertainment, Shore Excursions, Public Rooms, Family, Fitness and Embarkation. A ship has to have a minimum number of member reviews to qualify for its category – but it's the scores given by Cruise Critic members to the ships, not the physical number of reviewers for each one, that have created the winners.
As well as receiving the highest score overall in its category, Oasis of the Seas was voted top big ship for cabins, dining, embarkation, entertainment, value, fitness and public rooms among British reviewers, making it a clear favourite. Two Southampton-based ships, Celebrity Eclipse and Royal Caribbean's Independence of the Seas, came second and third overall in this category.
And proving that not only the new and innovative vessels win awards, Thomson Spirit was voted best ship in the mid-sized class, as well as being ranked top in that category for dining, entertainment, value, service and shore excursions. Celebrity Century and Royal Caribbean's Splendour of the Seas, also older ships, were runners-up overall.
Meanwhile, Azamara Club Cruises is clearly ticking the boxes for British cruisers following a recent makeover; its 694-passenger Azamara Journey was voted best small ship overall, as well as winner in its class for cabins, dining, embarkation, public rooms and value. Twin sister Azamara Quest is also clearly a British favourite, coming second overall and top in the fitness and shore excursions categories.
In the Best for Families category, which was applied to all ship sizes, Celebrity Eclipse was the winner, followed closely by Norwegian Gem, Oasis of the Seas and P&O Cruises' Ventura.
For the complete 2011 list of Cruisers' Choice Awards winners, click here .
-- by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor