Travel's Best Cruises 2014

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Holger Leue

August is the perfect time to start planning a cruise, especially if you’re looking for a holiday escape, winter getaway or even a spring break vacation. From exploring wildlife in New Zealand on a luxury cruise to island hopping in the Caribbean on a mid-sized cruise ship or taking a culinary tour of the Mediterranean on a fun river cruise, there’s a cruise to suite every type of traveler.

Choosing the right cruise line, though, can be a daunting task. So we decided to pull together a panel of 5 cruise and travel experts -- including Travel Channel host Samantha Brown, cruise expert Stewart "The Cruise Guy" Chiron and cruise writer Jason Leppert -- to share their recommendations for Travel's Best Cruises 2014.

This year’s list recommends boats of all sizes that offer unique opportunities for their passengers onboard or on the shore. These curated picks help cruisers choose the right ship for every destination, avoid the most overcrowded ports and prove there’s much to do out at sea -- while seeing the world.

Island Princess

Travel's Best Cruises 2014

Get inspired to sail the high seas! From Alaskan to Mediterranean, our panel of experts recommends the best seafaring voyages this year for Travel's Best Cruises 2014.
Best Alaskan Cruise, Princess Cruises, Island Princess

Best Alaskan Cruise, Princess Cruises, Island Princess

Only in Alaska can you take a breath of crisp air while gazing upon the pristine greenery of spruce trees that line the mountains of the Inside Passage. Princess Cruises features its own lodges along this route and is the finest cruise line to offer such multi-day shore excursions. “The Island Princess, in particular, is sized to fit through the Panama Canal, she’s more intimate in scale and more manageable to navigate once onboard," says Jason Leppert, editor-in-chief of PopularCruising.com. The Bayou Café & Steakhouse serves Cajun cuisine, and fleet-wide, Princess bakes some of the best pizza pies at sea. 960 1280

Princess Cruise Lines, Ltd.  

Best Caribbean Cruise, Star Clippers, Royal Clipper

Best Caribbean Cruise, Star Clippers, Royal Clipper

You'll find a very different tropical seagoing experience aboard Star Clippers' 227-passenger Royal Clipper, the world's largest and only 5-mast, full-rigged sailing ship. The elegant tall ship frequents small exclusive ports like Bequia, Tobago Cays and Iles des Saintes. “Attracting sophisticated travelers (roughly half are European), Royal Clipper offers open-seating, dining on sumptuous fare and fine wine. After dinner, guests gather around the grand piano or on deck to watch the enormous sails unfurl in the wind,” adds Anne Campbell. Don’t miss the beach-side barbecue on a deserted beach. 960 1280

Star Clippers  

Best European River Cruise, Viking River Cruises, Viking Longships

Best European River Cruise, Viking River Cruises, Viking Longships

The popularity of river cruising has exploded in recent years and for good reason. There’s no other way to conveniently unpack one time and then leisurely visit a string of legendary European cities. At the forefront of such travel is Viking River Cruises and the line’s innovative new Viking Longships. “These intimate vessels feature a clever offset cabin configuration that provides more spacious accommodations closer in size to those found on larger seafaring ships,” says Jason Leppert. Meals feature destination-inspired cuisine and include house wines and beers. And couples can take a romantic cruise on the appropriately titled Romantic Danube itinerary. 960 1280

Viking Cruises  

Best Family Cruise, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Fantasy

Best Family Cruise, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Fantasy

Get the best family cruising experience onboard the newest Disney Fantasy. Watch Aladdin take flight on his magic carpet or meet Mickey Mouse and the gang dressed in nautical attire. Live out your fantasy of being a Disney animator at Animator’s Palate. “At the end of the meal, you get the thrill of watching the artwork you created (before dinner) come to life,” says Samantha Brown. “I watched as my drawing danced with Jungle Book characters Mowgli and Baloo. Let’s just say I felt 8 years old again.” Regardless of your age, there’s something to keep everyone engaged with amenities like the full-service spa, 2 large theaters, 3 freshwater pools, 6 adults-only nightclubs/lounges and 9 clubs to keep the kids, tweens and teens happy. 960 1280

Disney  

Best Hawaiian Cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of America

Best Hawaiian Cruise, Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of America

Many cruise lines set sail in the Pacific to tour the beautiful Hawaiian Islands. “Norwegian’s Pride of America is the only US-flagged major cruise line ship, which means maximum port time of 85 hours for a 7-night cruise,” says Stewart Chiron. Enjoy 2 days in Maui and Kauai as well as stops at Kona and Hilo. In addition to great food and entertainment, this ship has more balconies than any ship that cruises Hawaii, making it perfect for whale watching, viewing the glow of Kilauea Volcano or witnessing the awe-inspiring views of the Napali Coast. Spend a few days in Honolulu before and after the cruise to experience the sights or to just relax. 960 1280

Norwegian Cruise Line  

Best LGBT Cruise, Atlantis Events, Celebrity Equinox

Best LGBT Cruise, Atlantis Events, Celebrity Equinox

As summer starts to wind down, cruisers begin packing their suitcases for Atlantis Events’ annual and largest gay European cruise on the Celebrity Equinox. “This year’s new route takes passengers to 4 countries and 8 cities, including Barcelona, Ibiza, Rome, Florence and Monte Carlo,” says Kwin Mosby. While at sea, this ship has plenty of amazing amenities to keep everyone occupied including sipping on a frozen cocktail at Slush, rejuvenating at Canyon Ranch SpaClub and dining at one of the seven restaurants on board – including the Italian steakhouse, Tuscan Grille. Passengers can dance into the wee hours of the morning thanks to organized, themed parties every night. 960 1280

Celebrity Cruises Inc.  

Best Luxury Cruise, Silversea Expeditions, Silver Discoverer

Best Luxury Cruise, Silversea Expeditions, Silver Discoverer

Embark on an exciting adventure on Silversea Expeditions’ newest ship, Silver Discoverer. In March, this small cruise ship became the third member of the fleet, and its inaugural expeditions allow guest to encounter Stone Age cultures in Melanesia, spot the rare yellow-eyed penguin in New Zealand’s sub-Antarctic islands and more. “Led by expert guides, you can’t beat the intimate shore experiences of hiking, snorkeling and diving in some of the most remote parts of the world,” says Kwin Mosby. Follow the routes of ancient seafarers to some of the most isolated ecosystems of Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Micronesia, Melanesia and the Russian Far East. All you need to pack is your sense of adventure. 960 1280

Silversea Cruises  

Best Mediterranean Cruise, Windstar Cruises, Wind Surf

Best Mediterranean Cruise, Windstar Cruises, Wind Surf

The Greek Islands and the coastline of Turkey may be unrivaled for world-famous antiquities and spectacular beauty. These locales are best visited aboard Windstar Cruises' intimate 148-passenger Wind Surf. “The motorized sail vessel boasts refined dining and spacious staterooms for pampering the body after a day exploring ports like trendy Mykonos, Santorini and Kusadasi, which is a hopping-off point to see the ruins of Ephesus, where Cleopatra and Marc Antony began their fabled romance,” says Anne Campbell. Passengers get the extra special treat of an after-hours tour of Ephesus and 5-course banquet in the ruins' library courtyard serenaded by a string quartet. 960 1280

Windstar Cruises/Moment/Getty Images  

Best Mexican Cruise, Holland America, ms Veendam

Best Mexican Cruise, Holland America, ms Veendam

Experience the best of the Mexican Riviera on Holland America's ms Veendam. This 7-day cruise whisks passengers off to the Mexican Riviera to experience horseback riding along the beach in Cabo San Lucas; watch traditional Hispanic dance in Mazatlan and swim with the dolphins in Puerto Vallarta. “This is a nice option for seasoned cruisers or first timers looking for traditional cruise experience on a medium-sized ship,” says Stewart Chiron. New staterooms offer special spa amenities and a private resort-style pool. The ‘Showroom at Sea’ and ‘Mix’ are just 2 places where passengers can mingle and meet new friends while sipping on a microbrew, mimosa or martini. 960 1280

Holland America Line Inc.  

Best Unexpected Cruise for Food, Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Dream

Best Unexpected Cruise for Food, Carnival Cruise Lines, Carnival Dream

The Carnival Dream offers some of the best food in cruising with the Chef’s Table experience, which allows passengers to tour the gallery that includes an amazing full-service dinner of tasty appetizers, entrees and desserts not found on regular menus. The ship's restaurants and buffets have left lasting impressions on those who have traveled the world including Samantha Brown. “The best food I’ve ever had on a cruise was on Carnival,” says the Travel Channel host. “They have an excellent chef and kitchen staff from India and Bangladesh. I found a small buffet off the side of the pool area, where they served wonderful curries, cumin-spiced vegetables, freshly-made naan and even a refreshing mango lassi.” Other must-try restaurants on this ship include The Taste Bar, Steakhouse and Mongolian Wok. 960 1280

Carnival Cruise Lines  

Best Cruises 2014 Advisors

Meet the advisors for the list of Travel's Best Cruises 2014.

Best Cruises 2014: Fan Favorite

What cruise would you recommend to other travelers?
Queen Mary 2

Leppert's List: Top 10 Cruises

Pack your bags and hit the high seas! Check out cruise expert Jason Leppert's list of the hottest cruises to set sail this year, including the Queen Mary 2 and Disney Magic.
10th Anniversary of Queen Mary 2

10th Anniversary of Queen Mary 2

Go back in time aboard the Queen Mary 2 and experience the grand elegance of transatlantic luxury. Cunard Cruise Line’s flagship, the last cruise ship to be built as a true ocean liner with a deeper draft and faster speed, celebrates 10 years of service this year. The ship preserves the aesthetics and lifestyle of a bygone era while providing the most modern comforts, including plush accommodations and the first ever planetarium at sea. 960 1280

Cunard Line  

Destination Immersion with Azamara

Destination Immersion with Azamara

Is this the year you seek a truly unique cruise? Escape the mega ships and hop onboard Azamara Club Cruises. The line’s luxurious 700-passenger ships avoid retracing the same old routes and instead cast off for exotic locales week after week. With next to no repetition, you can even create your own world cruise by staying on for as many consecutive sailings as you desire. Frequent latenight and overnight stays in port ensure plenty of time to experience destinations like no other cruise line. 960 1280

ChrisCruises, flickr  

The All-New Quantum of the Seas

The All-New Quantum of the Seas

Of the 3 mainstream American ships launching this year, only 1 is an entirely new design – Royal Caribbean International’s Quantum of the Seas. Setting sail in November, the ship will introduce a number of innovations. North Star will leisurely crane guests 300 feet above sea level for unprecedented vistas, and more thrillingly, RipCord by iFly will simulate skydiving up on deck. Two70° will be an expansive observation lounge by day and entertainment venue for aerial shows by night. 960 1280

Royal Caribbean  

Dancing with the Stars: At Sea

Dancing with the Stars: At Sea

Taking to the floating stage once more in 2014 is Dancing with the Stars: At Sea. Holland America has renewed its partnership with the hit TV show, and on nearly every sailing, passengers can participate in complimentary DWTS-branded dance classes and join a competition to possibly win a free cruise and become the year’s singular guest champion. Plus, professional dancers and celebrities from the show come aboard select theme cruises to mingle with passengers and showcase their signature moves. 960 1280

Holland America Line  

Carnival LIVE

Carnival LIVE

Enjoy epic concerts and fun cruises? Carnival Cruise Lines has you covered with this year’s Carnival LIVE Concert Series. Guests booked on any of 49 special sailings have the chance to attend onboard performances by their favorite musicians including Chicago, Foreigner, Lady Antebellum, REO Speedwagon and STYX. Individual tickets range in price from $20-40, depending on the performers, and $100-150 will grant you VIP access to preferred seats and an exclusive meet-and-greet with the band. 960 1280

Carnival Cruise Line  

Cruise Miami-Style on the Norwegian Getaway

Cruise Miami-Style on the Norwegian Getaway

The New York-inspired Norwegian Breakaway made quite the splash when the ship began sailing from the Big Apple last year. Norwegian Cruise Line’s follow-up is this year’s sister ship, Norwegian Getaway, sailing year-round from Miami. Only on this ship will you find the “Illusionarium” dinner magic venue and the GRAMMY Experience with performances by past award winners and nominees. Also, “Legally Blond” is exclusively onboard as the ship’s signature production show. 960 1280

Norwegian Cruise Line  

Top Chef on Celebrity Cruises

Top Chef on Celebrity Cruises

Culinary connoisseurs rejoice! Celebrity Cruises and Bravo have teamed up to present Top Chef at Sea. Excluding the Celebrity Xpedition, all cruises on the line’s ships feature Quickfire Challenges and main dining room menus inspired by the Emmy award-winning TV show. Activities expand on Top Chef Signature Sailings with the opportunity to meet and enjoy the food of 4 chef contestants from the show, as well as enjoy chef demos, private cooking classes and special dinners of their creation. 960 1280

Celeberity Cruises  

The Royal Experience on the Regal Princess

The Royal Experience on the Regal Princess

Be treated like royalty onboard Princess Cruises. Following last year’s introduction of the new Royal Princess – christened by Catherine Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge – its sister ship, the Regal Princess, will set sail this May. It’s not yet known who will christen the new cruise ship, but it will feature the same amenities as the Royal Princess including the cantilevered and glass-floored SeaWalk. 960 1280

Princess Cruises  

Family Fun on the Disney Magic

Family Fun on the Disney Magic

Telling new stories through new features, the redesigned Disney Magic from Disney Cruise Line is a cruising haven for families. The new AquaLab, along with the free-fall AquaDunk and oscillating Twist ’n’ Spout water slides, energizes aquatic play. Everyone can see their own character drawings come to life onscreen at Animator’s Palate, and kids can become an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. at Marvel’s Avengers Academy. Meanwhile, adults can escape to After Hours, an exclusive spot for those 18 and older. 960 1280

Disney/Matt Stroshane  

River Cruising Expands

River Cruising Expands

Looking for a more intimate cruising experience beyond the sea? Ever popular river cruises continue to make waves in 2014. Viking River Cruises has 14 new riverboats coming online for 2014, bringing the total count of its revolutionary new Longship vessels to 30. Also this year, Uniworld Boutique River Cruises goes entirely all-inclusive, bundling complimentary gratuities and unlimited beverages into the cruise fare. 960 1280

Viking River Cruises  

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