Best Cruise Experience of 2016

December 30, 2016
Aerial of Seven Seas Navigator

At Cruise Critic, we -- not surprisingly -- cruise a lot. Even when we're not out at sea, we're touring ships in port, visiting cruise tour stops, reading endless amounts of cruise news and monitoring what our readers say. It all adds up to a wealth of experience, all of which we pass on to you. Here are our picks for our best cruise experiences of 2016.

Two moms ditch their kids with their husbands, board a luxury cruise ship in Europe and proceed to spoil themselves rotten for a week. That was the theme of my sailing aboard Regent's Seven Seas Navigator. A good friend and I indulged in near-daily gelato in port and tea and scones onboard, tried all the fruity drinks (all-inclusive, baby!) and explored multiple countries that were new to both of us seasoned travelers. We even managed to hit the gym and kill it at Broadway musical name-that-tune. When can we go back?
--Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

A destination-intensive, sun-drenched, volcano-discovering, island-hopping, cove-exploring week-long cruise around the Greek isles on Celestyal Cruises' Crystal in August gets my vote for my best cruise experience this year. Why? -- a combination of the above. Visiting at least one, sometimes two, tiny islands per day, often by tender as there is no real port; each one holding a secret, whether it's a live volcano which heats the water round the coast, or a thriving honey industry, or breathtaking coves only reachable by boat, or having lunch -- literally -- on the beach. Onboard, the service is exemplary and the ship is charmingly quirky. Watching my boys swim in the warmish waters of the Med was a special highlight.
--Adam Coulter, U.K. Editor

Downtown of Dawson City

As part of a trip to Alaska to cover the expansion of Holland America's McKinley Chalet Resort, I visited Canada's Yukon territory for the first time and fell madly in love with Dawson City. Peaceful and small -- just a few blocks -- this town is often found on Alaska cruisetours and offers a calming escape for those used to the hustle and bustle of city life. While there, I learned about gold mining, went for a run along the Yukon River, ate the best BLT sandwich I've ever tasted, bonded with sled dogs, chatted with locals and even tried the local drink specialty -- a shot containing a real severed human toe. It's an absolute must for anyone who's interested in history, has a fascination with the Wild West or who appreciates the rugged, outdoorsy nature of untamed wilderness.
--Ashley Kosciolek, Editor

Regent Seven Seas welcomed its newest ship, Explorer, to the fleet over the summer. The christening ceremony took place in Monte Carlo, where the dynamic Princess Charlene of Monaco named the new vessel in a shipside event. Speeches were made, the bottle of Champagne was successfully broken across the ship's hull, but the highlight for many in attendance was a breathtaking concert by famed tenor Andrea Bocelli. The opera singer performed after the christening, wowing a crowd with a nearly hour-long show combining contemporary favorites and operatic classics. It's an experience I won't soon forget.
--Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor

Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park

I spent 11 days roaming throughout Alaska, researching what to do before and after an Alaska cruise, and updating port information in Whittier and Seward. The trip only renewed my love for our 49th State. The day trips you could take from either embarkation port are fantastic. Count the spectacular glaciers and say hi to sea otters as you take a day cruise on Prince William Sound, which departs next to the Whittier cruise terminal. Or, explore Kenai Fjords National Park; Seward is known as the gateway to this 1,047-square-mile preserve. One of the best things I did this year by far was stand-up paddleboard around Bear Glacier with Liquid Adventures out of Seward. Talk about an otherworldly experience. After that trip, I'm even more convinced that Alaska is the ultimate cruise destination -- and you don't even have to leave the country.
--Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor

As Cruise Critic's river editor, I have sailed the popular Rhine River itinerary before. But going with an all-inclusive line, Tauck River Cruise, elevated the experience. Everything on the line's new ship, ms Grace, was a notch better than what we'd seen before on river cruising, from our first included day trip to gorgeous Lucerne (where we were given 20 euros apiece for a lunch by the lake) to a multi-course dinner at a Michelin-star restaurant in a German vineyard to a moving visit to the American cemetery in Luxembourg (roses to put on graves was another nice touch). Plus our itinerary hit Baden Baden -- where the baths are a must -- and the gorgeous Moselle River, home to Germany's best wines. We also enjoyed the calm luxe feel of the ship itself; the fact that Tauck's compass logo, displayed everywhere from Arthur's specialty restaurant to the best bar napkins we've ever seen, matched my tattoo, made the line even more of a fit.
--Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor

My eyes light up anytime I meet someone who says they love Cruise Critic (cheesy, I know). So you can imagine how awestruck I was on Royal Caribbean's first President's Cruise, where I was joined by hundreds of Cruise Critic members who all had so many great stories from their experiences with the site. I loved hearing from those who met at Meet & Mingles and still keep in touch, and others who used the roll calls to plan excursions together. It was truly a heartwarming experience.
--Gina Kramer, Associate Editor

Aerial shot of Halong Bay

This is tough! It's a toss up between two Seabourn Sojourn experiences at the start of the year. Firstly, dodging the millions of mopeds flying through Ho Chi Minh City to go shopping with the ship's chefs in a busy food market. The market was abuzz with locals -- mainly female market traders -- shouting prices and bartering in Vietnamese to get the best rate. Fruit, vegetables and lots of fresh seafood (the live shrimp were jumping around in containers!) -- were purchased, and the best part was knowing we would sample that very same produce prepared by the chefs back onboard the ship. Waking early one morning and stepping out onto our suite's balcony to witness sunrise over the thousands of luscious-green monkey-filled islands of Halong Bay is pretty hard to top, too!
--Kerry Spencer, Editor, U.K.

Far and away my best cruise experience in 2016 was arriving in Havana on Fathom's first cruise to Cuba in May. The sailing was not only Fathom's first cruise, it was the first cruise ship from the United States to visit the island nation in decades and it represented a thaw between the two countries in a visceral way. The significance -- and not just the commercial and political implications, but the human import of the moment -- was driven home as our ship slowly approached Havana and glided past the Malecon. Hundreds of people were lined up against the railings waving and shouting "hola," while Cuban-Americans on the ship, mostly children of Cubans who had fled the country years ago, cried. It was the most moving moment I've ever experienced on a cruise.
--Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor