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What Is the Cruise Critic Ship of The Year? See The Editors' Picks for 2021

Cruise Critic

Last updated
Dec 4, 2021

Read time
3 min read

And the winner of Cruise Critic's Editors' Picks for Best New Cruise Ship is ...

Wait a minute, let's back up before the big reveal, and take a minute to celebrate all the new cruise ships that came out in 2021, a year for cruise unlike any other.

An unprecedented pause in the industry for more than 14 months, starting last March, meant that cruise ships scheduled to debut in 2020 didn't carry passengers until more than a year later. The COVID-19 pandemic caused all kinds of delays, both in the shipyard and in deployments.

Our 2021 Editors' Picks winner first hit water in early 2020 before the worldwide cruising closure took place. Yet it carried no paying passengers, making it eligible for 2021 consideration.

Sailaway around main pool on Scarlet Lady
Sailaway around main pool on Scarlet Lady (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)

Scarlet Lady Wins Cruise Critic's 2021 New Ship of the Year

Here's why Cruise Critic editors have named Scarlet Lady, the first cruise ship from Virgin Voyages, the best new cruise ship for 2021 in the U.S.

For one, we believe Scarlet Lady pushed the envelope on several fronts, including dining, cabin technology and entertainment. When our editors boarded Scarlet Lady, we thought that while the ship had some kinks to work out, it delivered an experience that was truly modern and ground-breaking, in terms of providing a new take on high-seas fun.

We also felt that by pushing through boundaries and past naysayers, Scarlet Lady had the potential to transform not just a cruise line but also provide excitement for the industry overall. After a year of setbacks, Scarlet Lady showed us that cruising continues to be a form of travel that's ever-evolving, with plenty of surprises along the way.

Take Squid Ink, the first U.S.-based tattoo parlor at sea. Not even the ship's designers dreamed that this Scarlet Lady venue would be so popular, so much so that another chair has been added. The line's adult-centric programming and focus on fitness also seemed to capture the 2021 zeitgeist, in a way unlike other cruise ships.

Silver Moon Exterior (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)
Silver Moon Exterior (Photo: Colleen McDaniel)

Silver Moon Wins Cruise Critic's 2021 Luxury Ship of the Year

Silver Moon, Cruise Critic's pick for top luxury ship of 2021, won its award for similar reasons as Scarlet Lady. In a year when even being able to get on a cruise seemed like unlikely for a time, Silver Moon did the best job of moving the luxury market forward.

Chief among the reasons: the line's new S.A.L.T. culinary program. What makes the immersive program so different from other lines is that the meals and culinary experiences that you have onboard actually tie into what guests see when they are on land in different destinations. S.A.L.T. ties the foodie and destination experience together in a way that hasn't been done on a luxury ship before.

We also believed that in a year when, quite frankly, everyone who embarked on a luxury cruise deserved some pampering, Silver Moon did an exceptional job of continuing the intuitive service  the line is known for, despite COVID-19 protocols.

Cruise Critic's annual Editors' Picks took a hiatus in 2020 because of the industry pause. This year represents the 13th iteration of the awards, which annually honor cruise lines and cruise ships in multiple categories in segments including Ocean, Luxury, River and Expedition cruising. In 2021, a year in which cruising has been slowly returning, we selected our top award only in Ocean and Luxury cruising. Cruise Critic hopes to return to a full slate of Editors' Picks awards in 2022.

Check out our full description of our 2021 winners in Ocean and Luxury.

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