Travel's Best Cruises 2015 Pictures
Photo By: Celebrity Cruises Inc.
Photo By: SeaDream Yacht Club
Photo By: AmaWaterways
Photo By: Royal Caribbean International
Photo By: Danny Lehman
Photo By: Seabourn
Photo By: Viking Cruises
Photo By: (L) Carnival Cruise Lines, (R) Elena Elisseeva/iStock/Getty Images
Photo By: Carnival Cruise Lines
Photo By: (L) Carnival Cruise Lines, (R) Miguelangelbriones/RooM/Getty Images
Best Alaskan Cruise: Celebrity Cruises, Celebrity Solstice
"You've come to see such dramatic sights as glaciers calving, whales breaching and eagles flying overhead. Being on a ship that's itself a contemporary stunner only enhances the scenery," says Fran Golden, cruise expert for USA Today’s Experience Cruise site. The 2,850-passenger Celebrity Solstice is full of “firsts,” including the first Lawn Club, a half-acre of real grass on the top deck.
Best Caribbean Cruise: Sea Dream Yacht Club, Sea Dream I and Sea Dream II
Sea Dream’s twin luxury yachts, the Sea Dream I and Sea Dream II, carry 112 passengers each and visit the most exclusive ports, including St. Barts, Bequia and St. John. “The cruise line offers the Champagne & Caviar Splash, where guests wade into the surf to indulge in premium caviar and bubbles, served on a surfboard covered in white linens, and enjoy a barbecue feast on a secluded white-sand beach,” says Anne Campbell, editor of CruisingFromNewYork.com and ShipCriticBlog.com.
Best European River Cruise: AmaWaterways, AmaCerto
“Sailing aboard AmaWaterways’ AmaCerto provided a comfortable and intimate ambience, amazing food and service, and the ability to dock right in the heart of Europe’s fascinating cities,” says Bill Panoff, publisher and editor-in-chief of Porthole Cruise Magazine. As the ship sails along the Danube and Rhine rivers, among others, guests are afforded picture-perfect views of ever-changing scenery and regular ports of call such as Amsterdam; Zurich, Basel and Lucerne, Switzerland; Cologne, Germany; Vienna, Austria; and Budapest, Hungary.
Best Family Cruise: Royal Caribbean, Anthem of the Seas
"Royal Caribbean's new, 4,180-passenger Anthem of the Seas is one of the most exciting ships in years. It’s fun for the whole family," says Fran Golden. Kids can ride bumper cars in the SeaPlex sports center or feel what it’s like to go skydiving in the RipCord by iFly, while parents can grab a cocktail from the robot bartenders at the Bionic Bar. Beginning in the fall, this ship will start sailing to new ports of call such as Bermuda and the Bahamas.
Best Hawaiian Cruise: Norwegian Cruise Line, Pride of America
It made our Travel’s Best Cruises 2014 list, and this year, Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America remains the reigning champion in the Best Hawaiian Cruise category. It's the only major US-flagged cruise ship that offers passengers a total of nearly 100 hours of port time on all 4 main Hawaiian Islands during a 7-night voyage. "Other cruise lines sail to the islands from LA or San Francisco, which usually means passengers spend only 52 hours in port to see 3 islands on a 15-night cruise,” says Stewart Chiron, president and CEO of CruiseGuy.com.
Best Luxury Cruise: Seabourn Cruise Line, Seabourn Odyssey
Without a doubt, Seabourn Cruise Line's Seabourn Odyssey is for the traveler who wants to be pampered at sea. This ship has 225 ocean-view luxury suites, the Spa at Seabourn, and a few upscale bars and restaurants for passengers to grab a cocktail or enjoy a delicious meal. “World-renowned American chef Thomas Keller partnered with the cruise line to create new menu items and a signature restaurant (making its debut in 2016) across its entire fleet of ships,” says Stewart Chiron. The cruise line visits more than 170 World Heritage Sites, including Thebes in Egypt, Machu Picchu in Peru and the temple complex of Borobudur on Java, an island in Indonesia.
Best Mediterranean Cruise: Viking Ocean Cruises, Viking Star
On Viking Ocean Cruises’ first ship, the Viking Star, passengers can swim in the glass-backed infinity pool; watch a movie under the stars; and feel snowflakes descend onto their skin in the spa’s Snow Grotto. “The 930-passenger ship pleasantly draws guests’ attention to the picturesque Mediterranean and Baltic scenery with amenities including a double-decker observation lounge, 2-story panoramic windows in the Explorers’ Lounge, and alfresco dining experiences,” says Jason Leppert, editor of PopularCruising.com. With these amazing amenities and special features, the Viking Star is the only way to cruise in the Mediterranean.
Best Mexican Cruise: Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Miracle
Carnival Cruise Line's recently upgraded Carnival Miracle sails year-round to the Mexican Riviera from Long Beach, CA, for 6- or 7-day journeys. “With the new Fun Ship 2.0 features added this year, the ship is a perfect choice for heading to Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta,” says Jason Leppert. The additions include the RedFrog Pub and Alchemy Bar watering holes; Seuss at Sea for kids; Hasbro, the Game Show for families; and new, energetic Playlist Productions shows, such as Motor City. Have some fun exploring Mexico via fun excursions, including fly-fishing in the Sea of Cortez and horseback riding through the Sierra Madre.
Best Theme Cruise: Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Live
“One cruise line that has really met the demand for music lovers is Carnival Cruise Line, which launched its Carnival Live concert series cruises several years ago and continues to offer these special sailings,” says Bill Panoff. Past artists have included Chicago, Jennifer Hudson, Martina McBride, Lady Antebellum and Journey; upcoming performers include Heart, Boston and Lionel Richie. The line is expected to announce next spring’s lineup in the months ahead.
Unexpected Cruise for Food: Carnival Cruise Line, Carnival Breeze
While Carnival Cruise Line's ships are in the midpriced category, their food surpasses cuisine served by pricier competitors. The Carnival Breeze has something for even the most finicky eater, with 10 restaurants serving up a variety of lip-smacking food, including juicy burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint, owned by Food Network personality and restaurateur Guy Fieri. “I had a memorable meal in the Steakhouse, indulged at the Bonsai sushi bar and savored Italian delicacies at the Cucina del Capitano restaurant, topped off by some of the finest wines at sea,” says Anne Campbell.