Carnival Spirit in Sydney Harbor

What makes one cruise in particular the best? Perhaps it's a new destination that you've always wanted to visit. Or you're onboard with loved ones or friends who are so much fun, your sides hurt from laughing by the end of the cruise. Or maybe you have one of those "magic moments" where you stop and say to yourself, I will always remember this.

This week, we are taking a look back at 2017, noting our favorite (and least favorite) cruise experiences of the year. We hope it inspires you to share your top cruise memories, and think about where you want to go in 2018. (read our Worst Cruise Experience from yesterday, our Favorite Shore Experience from Wednesday and Biggest Cruise Surprises from Tuesday). Today: we finish the year with our best overall cruise experiences of 2017.

My best cruise experience of the year was my vacation, a 17-night transpacific Carnival cruise from Honolulu to Sydney, with five stops in the South Pacific. It was the trip of a lifetime (though my husband and I have talked about doing it in reverse some day in the future). It was the perfect blend of time at sea (out of 11 days at sea, we only started to get bored with three days left to go), exotic ports -- our favorite by far was Bora Bora -- and amazing embarkation and debarkation ports. And what better way to arrive in Sydney than well-rested and without a trace of jetlag!

-- Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor

Fulfilling a life-long ambition to travel to Patagonia is my best cruise experience of this year (and perhaps, my career).  The four days and four nights cruise onboard the 100-passenger expedition ship Stella Australis, took us through the fjords and islands of Tierra del Fuego. I watched glaciers calve, penguins play, hiked through bogs and streams and visited the southernmost inhabited island on earth -- Cape Horn. Add the nights I spent either side in Santiago, Ushuaia and Buenos Aires and this truly was a trip of a lifetime.

-- Adam Coulter, Managing Editor, UK

Bonnie Tyler performing on the Oasis of the Seas - Solar Eclipse 2017 Cruise
In August, I cruised on Oasis of the Seas for its Total Eclipse voyage. The sailing featured an itinerary that allowed passengers to see the solar eclipse at totality, as well as a performance by DNCE and special guest Bonnie Tyler. Following the concert, I was able to meet the band and Bonnie, who I interviewed live about her recent resurgence. The whole experience was surreal, and the coverage was picked up by some big names, including Billboard and Rolling Stone.

-- Ashley Kosciolek, Editor

I never get to sail with my husband, either because we don't want to waste his vacation time on my business trip or because he has to stay home with the kids. In January, my parents stepped in so I could take him on SeaDream Yacht Club, a very romantic yacht-style cruise. The line fit us perfectly. We spent lots of time outdoors, either dining alfresco on the ship or hiking or snorkeling in the Virgin Islands. We even slept outside on the ship's Balinese beds one night! I had lots of choices of vegetarian fare and homemade ice cream; he communed with the head bartender who made him interesting craft cocktails and bought his favorite beer to keep on the ship. We didn't have to dress to the nines for dinner. The kids were in a different time zone. All work trips should be so fun.

-- Erica Silverstein, Senior Editor

Sometimes even the most well-intentioned programming on a cruise ship can feel gimmicky. So a friend and I were slightly skeptical about the upcoming silent disco on our Celebrity Equinox cruise. That is, until repeat cruisers -- namely a couple in their 80s who loved to dance -- began to convince us otherwise. The night of the disco, the crowd was spilling out from the nightclub into the atrium, eager to grab their headphones and begin marching to the beat of their own station. As movers and groovers switched between three genre presets, headphones illuminated different colors so everyone could see whether you were feeling the red Latin, blue pop or green oldies station. The crowd couldn't be more mixed -- young, old, families, couples and friend groups -- all having a total ball. Remove the headphones and it's easy to crack up at the rampant singalongs. (The best is when a faction of dancers suddenly erupt into the YMCA and the crowd eventually follows along.) The activity was so popular, it was also held during formal night. Needless to say, we had a total blast both times and can't wait for our next silent disco.

-- Brittany Chrusciel, Associate Editor

I've been fortunate enough to travel a lot, but I'd never actually visited Paris. I had the opportunity this summer with Tauck, which has a Paris extension as part of its Rhone River cruises on Tauck Emerald. Tauck is expert at giving you time to explore on your own while still holding your hand to make sure you see the biggest sites and get the must-have experiences. After a day of nonstop walking on our own in Paris (13 miles, according to my Garmin), we joined a Tauck tour that took us to a beautiful restaurant with the rest of our fellow passengers, where we had the first of many gourmet meals on this trip. We also heard live French jazz for the first time, and simply fell in love with it. Tauck smartly brings local acts onboard its ships in various ports, so we were lucky enough to enjoy jazz along the way while we cruised, too.

-- Colleen McDaniel, Senior Executive Editor

One of the reasons I was most excited to go on "The Walking Dead"-themed cruise was the slim chance that I might get to meet some of the actors (or that Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, would ask me to be his girlfriend). Not only did I get to meet Reedus and Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) at an autograph signing, but I also got to chat over cigars with Michael Cudlitz (Abraham) -- I just happened to be in the right place at the right time! For as big of stars as they are, they were all so friendly and down to earth, and took the time to actually get to know their fans. Reedus and I aren't dating yet, but there's always the next cruise.

-- Gina Kramer, Editor

Snorkelling with whale sharks in West Papua, Indonesia, is now in my top three cruise experiences of all time. It was certainly the most immersive, as we literally jumped into the ocean home of these gentle creatures and swam alongside them for hours. They seemed to want to play, circling around us, nudging us, swimming front-on into our faces (and underwater cameras). True North Adventure Cruises works with marine biologists and local fisherman to make sure passengers have two whole days interacting with the whale sharks, which aren't guaranteed year-round anywhere else in the world. The cruise ended with sunset drinks on an idyllic beach and an impromptu singalong with the Aussie crew -- a fun, special memory to wrap up an exceptional expedition.

-- Louise Goldsbury, Australia Editor

Viva la France! A Bastille Day baby, I've always been a closet Francophile, although it had been years since I had spent a significant amount of time in the country. I remedied that in 2017, visiting Paris three times and taking two extraordinary river cruises in different regions. The first, a Bordeaux river cruise on Scenic Diamond, introduced me to #chateaulife and enhanced several years of wine studies; until you actually walk among the terroir of the world's most famous wine region, it can be hard to grasp its complexity. The ship's fun-loving crew made the experience even more enjoyable. The second, a barge cruise among the small villages on the Upper Loire Canal with the Strasbourg-based company CroisiEurope, showed me that smaller is better when it comes to relaxation and service -- and that no one, really no one, can put together a cheese course like the French. Quand puis-je revenir?

-- Chris Gray Faust, Senior Editor