Your favourite lines of 2018
Welcome to the awards that really matter from the jury that counts: You, Australia’s burgeoning cruise community.
Other awards use “peer groups” or industry insiders. Cruise Passenger taps into our own regular cruise travellers. This year, a record 10,700 voted.
While there were repeat winners, we have also seen newcomers earning nods in this year’s awards. It all makes fascinating ready. Keep your comments coming – cruise lines love to hear your views.
Once again, Princess Cruises came out on top, taking four categories including Best Cruise Line Overall and Best Premium Cruise Line. APT, Australia’s oldest touring company, also had a stellar year, winning Best River Cruise Line Overall, Best Luxury River Cruise Line and Best Adventure Cruise Line for the first time, and big-ship line Celebrity Cruises won Best for Wellness for their Canyon Ranch spa.
Australia’s cruise industry is growing at a rapid rate, with 1.3 million Aussies taking a cruise holiday every year, and it’s going to keep growing, with more lines sending ships and more regional ports opening up. These awards play a pivotal role in shaping how the cruise lines plan for the future – you are the voice and your feedback is a valuable contribution to them.
So, from all of us here at Cruise Passenger, thank you for taking part in our Readers’ Choice Awards.
2018 Readers’ Choice Awards – Results
Best Cruise Line Overall
Winner: Princess Cruises
What we say: It’s the third year in a row that Princess Cruises has won the Best Cruise Line award. Australians’ love affair with the line can be put down to its great service, fantastic Broadway-style shows and delicious food. The line also has fabulous spa facilities for rest and relaxation. The arrival of the line’s largest ship, Majestic Princess, in our waters is a testament to our love for Princess, and next year, the line will launch the beautiful Sky Princess and we’ll have the Ruby Princess heading our way.
What you say: “Our favourite cruise line is Princess. The staff are excellent and the ships are always clean and well presented. But it’s the staff that make the cruise. We have made good friends with both crew and the entertainers onboard.” Garry Hazell
What they say: “We’re excited to have been awarded Best Cruise Line Overall for the third year in a row. We’re humbled by the continued support of Cruise Passenger readers – and we love knowing that when they cruise with us they come back with fantastic memories.” Princess Cruises Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Commercial & Operations, Stuart Allison
Highly Commended: Royal Caribbean
It was a tight race between Princess Cruises and other Australian favourite Royal Caribbean, who sails the largest ship in the Southern Hemisphere, Ovation of the Seas. As well as high-tech features like robot bartenders and bumper car rings, the ship also has funky suites and delectable dining options such as Jamie’s Italian and Chops Steakhouse.
Best Luxury Cruise Line
What we say: This year, newcomer, French line Ponant, takes this category. Well known for their expedition cruises, the line has just launched its latest ship, Le Laperouse, which features an underwater lounge. Aboard all Ponant’s ships, you’ll find five-star, white-glove service, French-trained chefs and beautifully appointed suites with designer amenities. But it’s Ponant’s fantastic itineraries which mark it as the leader in luxury.
What you say: “Ponant go beyond to provide impeccable service as well as a great experience. Lots of luxury cruise lines have great food and lovely cabins, but Ponant takes us to intrepid destinations in style and sophistication.” Alice Jean
What they say: “What an honour to be recognised by the well-travelled readers of Cruise Passenger! This is a hard category because there are as many definitions of luxury as readers responding. For some it‘s about gourmet meals and wine, while others rank thread count, toiletries or tableware. For us, the destination and the experience is the key to luxury. Add attention to detail, intuitive service and stylish facilities and you have Ponant’s je ne sais quoi. We strive for this constantly, and I thank the Cruise Passenger readers who generously acknowledge this.” Sarina Bratton AM, Chairman Asia Pacific, Ponant Yacht Cruises & Expeditions
Highly Commended: Silversea
The Italian luxury line, which was acquired by Royal Caribbean, has to be given a notable mention. With personalised service and opulent suites, you’ll also get cuisine inspired by Relais & Chateaux, spacious lounges and intimate bars. The line will be launching several new ships in the coming years and will be refurbishing its existing fleet from the end of 2018 through to 2019.
Best Premium Cruise Line
Winner: Princess Cruises
What we say: Princess Cruises has once again taken the award. There is a lot of competition out there, but our readers have voted and it is Princess’ fine food, spa facilities and service which has put the line ahead of the others. It offers value for money and a great range of itineraries around Australia and New Zealand and, back by popular demand, sailings to South Africa.
What you say: “Out of all the cruise lines we have travelled on, we found that Princess Cruises was far superior to the other cruise line.” Kevin Haynes.
What they say: “To say we are absolutely thrilled with the result is an understatement. To have picked up Best Premium Cruise Line in 2018 – for the sixth year running! – is a testament to our ethos Come Back New, which is supported by phenomenal onboard dining, wellness and entertainment. We are truly honoured by the ongoing recognition of Cruise Passenger readers, and are looking forward to a stellar 2019. Princess Cruises will have a number of highlights next year, including the return of Majestic Princess, our newest Royal Class ship, to Australian waters over the 2019-20 summer cruise season.” Princess Cruises Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Commercial & Operations, Stuart Allison
Highly Commended: Celebrity Cruises
Famous for its Canyon Ranch spa offerings and health programs, intimate ships and fine dining, Celebrity Cruises has taken the highly commended award. The arrival of the Celebrity Edge means big changes for the line, with the ship introducing brand-new amenities.
Best Contemporary Cruise Line
Winner: P&O Cruises
What we say: Australian brand P&O Cruises has revamped its ships to offer new public spaces, fun shows and cuisine from modern Australian chefs like Johnny Di Francesco and Luke Mangan. P&O will have a new ship – Pacific Adventure – heading our way, with a private area called the Byron Bay Beach Club. Pacific Explorer, the flagship of the fleet, has the amazing comedy burlesque Love Riot show.
What you say: “Our trips with P&O have always been great – it’s remarkable what they have on their ships. Even as adults, my husband and I couldn’t get enough of Edge as well as the shows on Pacific Explorer!” Karen Hall
What they say: “We’re extremely proud that P&O Cruises Australia has been named Best Contemporary Cruise Line in the Cruise Passenger Awards for the third year in a row. The past 12 months have been incredibly exciting with the arrival of our flagship Pacific Explorer in July 2017, which marked the next stage in the evolution of the P&O brand. It’s an incredible achievement which reflects the passion and hard work of our team both on and offshore.” P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell
Highly Commended: Royal Caribbean
This was the closest contested category in this year’s Readers’ Choice Awards, thanks to Royal Caribbean’s innovative onboard features such as virtual balcony cabins, the amazing Aqua Theatre and family suite with a built-in slide. You’ll find a wide range of eateries, laser tag courses, zip lines across the Royal Promenade and even a trapeze school.
Best Family Cruise Line
Winner: P&O Cruises
What we say: Re-imagined and modified for the Australian market, P&O Cruises is this year’s Best Family Cruise Line. With ships sailing out of Sydney and Brisbane, and heading to a host of different destinations, particularly the South Pacific and around Australia, it’s no wonder P&O is so popular with families. The line has fantastic kids’ clubs for everyone from bubs to teens; onboard activities like waterslides, ziplining and trampolines; and interconnecting cabins just perfect for families.
What you say: “It’s our favourite cruise line to travel with for the entire family. But it’s not just great for the kids, we have the grandparents come with us as well. While we chill out, the kids can run amuck and be entertained for hours.” Dane Farrell
What they say: “At P&O Cruises Australia we pride ourselves on offering something for every Australian, from the young to the young at heart. We’re honoured to be named the number one modern family holiday destination. With more than 60 activities to choose from every day, including the longest and wildest waterslides on an Australian cruise ship, the choice for families of all ages is endless and this award goes to show that.” P&O Cruises Australia President Sture Myrmell
Highly Commended: Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend have a special place in our heart thanks to their family oriented programs. The famous Green Thunder waterslide, the steepest of its kind at sea, has thrilled guests for years. And Carnival Cruise Line’s partnership with Dr Seuss means you can have green eggs and ham for breakfast with the Cat in the Hat.
Best Adventure Cruise Line
What we say: With its range of immersive itineraries, APT has once again come out on top as the Best Adventure Cruise Line. The line, which is one of Australia’s oldest touring companies, has a fleet of lovely small ships which accommodate around 100 passengers and will take you anywhere from the migratory plains of the Serengeti to the Australian outback. Plus, when you travel with APT, you’ll also be able to book exotic pre- and post-cruise holidays to thoroughly explore some of the world’s most remote destinations.
What you say: “APT’s adventure itineraries are amazing. We’ve only travelled to the Kimberley and my family and I had a wonderful time. We felt like real explorers wandering through the outback. It was like no other holiday we’ve ever been on before.” Nancy Sawyer
What they say: “What an honour to win Best Adventure Cruise Line four years in a row! From the Kimberley to Antarctica, APT adventure cruises continue to offer
exclusive experiences and standout service. A huge thank you to all the Cruise Passenger readers who continue to support APT year on year.” Deb Fox ATG, Chief Commercial Officer
Highly Commended: Captain Cook Cruises
Captain Cook Cruises are one of our favourite intrepid cruise lines for sailings around the South Pacific. They are one of the few cruise lines that take you to remote parts of the islands for diving as well as snorkelling. This is the third year in a row Captain Cook Cruises has been recognised for their fantastic itineraries to the heart of Fiji.
Best River Cruise Line
What we say: Once again, APT has taken out the award for the Best River Cruise Line overall. The line takes you to hundreds of destinations throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Explore the Seine on an APT ship while letting loose your inner Picasso on an art cruise. Sail the Yangtze River in China visiting breathtaking sites like the Three Gorges. Cook with celebrity chefs like Luke Nguyen on a cruise in Asia. Take a Botanica cruise and see the landscapes that inspired Monet’s water lilies. The options are almost limitless, plus APT’s cruises are all inclusive and guests are treated to exclusive shore excursions.
What you say: “I’ve been on an APT river cruise… and it was absolutely lovely.” Pam McNaught
What they say: “Thank you to everyone who voted for APT for the Overall Best River Cruising company. With so many prestigious companies in the category it is a real honour to be the stand out choice for Cruise Passenger readers.” Deb Fox ATG, Chief Commercial Officer
Highly Commended: Avalon Waterways
This Australian river cruise line explores different estuaries around the world. Avalon Waterways will take you to France, Germany, Russia, Cambodia and Vietnam, and they’ll take you there in style. They offer great service, fantastic food and unique shore excursions.
Best Luxury River Cruise Line
What we say: With its all-inclusive cruises and bespoke shore excursions, it’s no wonder APT has taken out the award for Best Luxury River Cruise Line. The line also usually offers free flights with their cruises, and has itineraries on European waterways, the Yangtze River in China and the mighty Mekong River. APT also has cruises with celebrity chef Luke Nguyen, who will take you into the markets in Vietnam and host cooking classes onboard.
What you say: “We’ve travelled with APT several times on a number of itineraries and we’ve always found their cruises extremely well thought out.
We felt incredibly pampered.” Kylie Everton
What they say: “We are so proud and thankful to be voted Best Luxury River Cruise line. With over 90 years’ experience, APT continue to offer life-enriching luxury travel, ensuring every trip is unforgettable. To have this recognised by Cruise Passenger readers is extremely rewarding for the whole APT team. Thank you to everyone who took the time to vote.” Deb Fox ATG, Chief Commercial Officer
Highly Commended: Crystal River Cruises
A relative newcomer to the river cruise scene, Crystal River Cruises’ beautifully plush ships and special shore excursions (you can go speed boating down the Danube like James Bond) earn it a notable mention in our awards. There are five ships in the fleet sailing on the Rhine, Main and Danube Rivers, on which each suite is appointed a butler and everything is included.
Best Cruise Line for Food
Winner: Princess Cruises
What we say: With the arrival of Majestic Princess and restaurants from two Michelin starred chefs, Princess Cruises has won the Best for Food category for the first time. Majestic Princess has French bistro, La Mer, by decorated chef Emmanuel Renaut, and famous Hong Kong chef Richard Chen has created eatery Harmony. Classic favourites like Crown Grill can also be found across the fleet for the best lobster and steaks at sea, and you’ll always find good coffee on a Princess ship.
What you say: “My wife has a dietary problem and Princess Cruises was far superior and helpful when catering for her coeliac disease. They could not have been more accommodating.” Kevin Haynes
What they say: “We’re thrilled to win Cruise Passenger’s Best for Food award this year for the second time. The accomplishment is a testament to our phenomenal restaurant partnerships and talented crew. Across the fleet, guests have access to 14 food and drink offerings. Princess’ newest ship Majestic Princess offers on-demand Michelin-star dining and three ships in our fleet also offer the world-class cuisine of award-winning chef and restaurateur Curtis Stone. And we can’t forget our guest favourite, the award-winning Crown Grill steakhouse.” Princess Cruises Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Commercial & Operations, Stuart Allison
Highly Commended: Oceania Cruises
Luxury cruise line Oceania Cruises, famous for its partnership with French Michelin-starred chef Jacques Pepin, gets an honourable mention for its cruises dedicated to food and cooking. Chefs will take you out on special shore excursions to buy local produce, then teach you how to cook with it.
Best Cruise Line for Entertainment
Winner: Princess Cruises
What we say: Guests on Princess Cruises ships are treated to Broadway director and producer Stephen Schwartz’s bespoke show Magic To Do; a combination of some of his hit shows including Godspell, Pipin and Wicked. All ships feature The Voice of the Ocean, an at-sea version of the hit TV show The Voice, and guests are entertained by live bands, comedians and magicians. This is the third year in a row Princess has won this category.
What you say: “From our experiences, I can’t go past Princess Cruises. Their stage performances, Encore and Bravo, need to be seen. I am not a classical/opera type of person, but these shows could change my mind.” Gary Hazell
What they say: “To be awarded Best for Entertainment for the fourth year in a row is fantastic. We’ve added great new entertainment offerings this year, including Fantastic Journey, the multifaceted stage production produced exclusively for Majestic Princess that is the most technologically advanced show at sea. Guests also continue to enjoy our Discovery and Across the Ditch programs, as well as the Voice of the Ocean and Movies Under the Stars.” Princess Cruises Senior Vice President, Asia Pacific Commercial & Operations, Stuart Allison
Highly Commended: Royal Caribbean
As well as Broadway shows like Grease and Hairspray, the line has the Two 70 theatre, which combines theatre, moving LED screens and robotics. On Symphony and Harmony of the Seas, you can watch divers leap 60 feet into tiny pools and watch synchronised swimmers performing underwater.
Best for Cruise Line for Activities
Winner: Royal Caribbean
What we say: Royal Caribbean has taken the award for the third year in a row for its fabulous activities that cater to all types of cruisers. Onboard, you can play laser tag, swing through the air at the trapeze school, float in the sky-diving simulator or zip-line across the Royal Promenade. The ships also have insanely steep waterslides, rock climbing walls and much more. It’s no wonder Royal Caribbean is so popular.
What you say: “Royal Caribbean has some really unique activities which we have never seen before on a ship. But it’s not just for our teenagers, there is something for everyone in our family of all ages.” Kirsten Mallman
What they say: “If there’s one thing we’re proud of at Royal Caribbean, it’s the innovative ways we play on our ships, so we’re delighted to be recognised as Best for Activities. With our Only on Royal offerings we strive to give our guests a thrilling and unforgettable experience. This year, we launched the world’s biggest cruise ship, Symphony of the Seas, full of revolutionary firsts, like glow-in-the-dark Laser Tag, Playmakers Sports Bar and Arcade, and the Ultimate Family Suite. We can’t wait to deliver more incredible activities on Spectrum of the Seas in 2019.” Susan Bonner , VP and Managing Director, RCL Cruises, Australia and New Zealand
Highly Commended: Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line gets an honourable mention for its fun atmosphere. The family-fun ships are not just for the kids – adults love them too. Carnival Legend and Carnival Spirit are packed with activities and programs, and there is more to come when Carnival Splendour arrives late next year.
Best for Cruise Line for Spa/Wellness
Winner: Celebrity Cruises
What we say: Known for their pioneering work with renowned spa brand, Canyon Ranch, Celebrity Cruises has won this year’s category for spa and wellness. The ships are equipped with beautiful facilities like the Persian Garden, the aquatherapy area, and guests can indulge in vitamin infusion facials and organic sea salt scrubs. As part of the freshly redesigned wellness programme, cruisers can get acupuncture for pain relief, do pilates to pop tunes or try the Japanese interval workout, Tabata.
What you say: “Can’t go past Celebrity Cruises. We haven’t sailed on many other lines but their variety of classes as well as options to eat healthier, is second to none.” Amber Hogan
What they say: “We’re thrilled to be chosen by our cruisers as best at sea for spa and wellness. Our aspiration for all Celebrity Cruises ships is to provide our guests with a deeper, more profound connection to the sea through luxury and relaxation. Whether it’s onboard massages or shore excursions focused on wellness, it’s fabulous to know our guests love these experiences as much as we love providing them. We’re very much looking forward to unveiling The Spa to guests on Celebrity Edge in November, the height of luxury pampering at sea.” Susan Bonner, VP and Managing Director, RCL Cruises, Australia and New Zealand
Highly Commended: Princess Cruises
Princess won Best Wellness and Spa in 2017, and it earns a nod again this year. The line has beautiful facilities for those looking for some R&R, including stunning thermal spa, The Enclave, the largest Japanese spa at sea.
Best Australian Port
What we say: Sydney is the gateway for cruising in New South Wales and the whole of Australia. With two cruise terminals – White Bay and the Overseas Passenger Terminal – Sydney can host a range of cruise ships in all sizes. From the largest ship in the Southern Hemisphere, Ovation of the Seas, to smaller boutique ships like the luxurious Seven Seas Explorer, there’s a place for all vessels in Sydney. Arriving and departing Sydney affords guests stunning views of the iconic Harbour Bridge and the Opera House and travellers have easy access to the heart of the city.
What you say: “Coming into Sydney is one of the highlights of every cruise – the views are incredible. Plus, it’s right in the centre of the city for to make it easy to explore.” Lynn Morris
Highly Commended: Brisbane
Fast becoming one of the most popular ports for cruise lines such as P&O, Princess Cruises, Carnival Cruises and Royal Caribbean, Brisbane is just a hop, skip and a jump from domestic destinations like Airlie Beach and hotspots in the South Pacific. The Queensland state government and Carnival Corporation have both invested heavily in revitalising Brisbane’s port, and it’s well on its way to being a world premier cruise destination.
Best Cruise Travel Agent
Winner: Flight Centre
What they say: “We are delighted to have won Cruise Passenger’s Best Travel Agent award. During the past year, we have worked very hard to reinforce Flight Centre’s cruise credentials and our people’s expertise in this rapidly growing travel sector. It’s pleasing to see that these efforts are resonating with cruise customers, as evidenced by our success in winning this award. Of course, much of the credit must go to our sales people in-store, who use their cruise expertise for our customers’ benefit. Another reason for our success is the vast range of suppliers that we work proactively with. Over the past few years, we have cemented our relationships with our key partners, ensuring we have access to a world-class product range at the best possible prices. We hope to build on this success during the year ahead and the signs look promising at this early stage. Europe is looking as though it will hold strong as a top destination, particularly the Med, while luxury ships with great onboard offerings are trending, alongside small-ship cruising. Here’s to another great year!” Tom Walley, Flight Centre Brand General Manager