It’s down to the final round of our Coolest Cruise Awards: The coolest overall ship at sea. MSC Cruises and Royal Caribbean tied for first in the Ocean Premium segment, while in Ocean Luxury, Silversea was the clear favorite. Alaskan Dream Cruises won an overwhelming 84 percent of the vote in the Small Ship segment for its Alaska’s Grand Coastal Discovery voyage, while the River Luxury segment saw a narrow victory for AmaWaterways’ Discover Africa cruise.
MSC Cruises won the first category, Coolest Cruise Ship Pool, for the MSC Meraviglia’s Atmosphere pool, beating out the Celebrity Edge, Navigator of the Seas and Carnival Sunshine in a close race. For our second category, cruise ship features, we broke things down by industry segment. The Ocean Premium \ Contemporary ships had a three-way tie, with the BOLT Roller Coaster on Carnival Cruise Line’s upcoming Mardi Gras, the Magic Carpet on Celebrity Cruises’ new Celebrity Edge and the racetrack on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore all taking the top spot. For the Luxury \ Upper Premium segment, Viking’s signature snow grottos were the winner, garnering half of the overall votes. In Small Ships, the salt room on Alaskan Dream Cruises Chichagof Dream won out, while, for Premium \ Contemporary River Cruises, the opening bows on American Cruise Lines’ new Modern Riverboat series came out ahead. In the spas category, MSC Cruises and Seabourn both won decisive victories, each grabbing more than half the votes in their respective segments. For guest speakers, Cunard’s Insights Program and Seabourn’s Collin O’Brady tied for first in the luxury category, while Alaskan Dream Cruises overwhelmingly won the small ship category for its True Alaskan Guides.
For shore excursions, Celebrity Cruises’ Private Journeys and snorkeling at MSC Cruises’ Ocean Cay Marine Reserve tied for first in the premium and contemporary segment, while Crystal won the luxury segment for giving guests the chance to fly on a fighter jet. For small ships, Alaskan Dream Cruises won for its exclusive Orca Point Lodge excursion. Turning to the rivers, American Queen Steamboat Company’s exclusive excursion to the Nottoway Plantation won the premium and contemporary segment, while AmaWaterways’ traditional Buddhist blessing excursion won in luxury. In terms of kids’ clubs, MSC Cruises won again for the facilities onboard the MSC Meraviglia. MSC Cruises won the Ocean Premium and Contemporary segment for the Coolest Cruise Ship Bar, while SeaDream Yacht Club’s Top of the Yacht Bar took top honors in the Small Ship segment. Carnival Cruise Line took home top honors in the ocean premium and contemporary segment of the Coolest Cruise Ship Show category for the high-tech Rock Revolution, while Victoria Cruise Lines won river premium and contemporary for the traditional Thousand Arms of Bodhisattva Dance. Carnival Cruise Line won the Coolest Specialty Restaurant category for the Ocean Premium and Contemporary segment, while Seabourn took home the prize for Ocean Luxury. Both of the Small Ship contenders – Alaskan Dream Cruises and Hurtigruten – tied.
Celebrity Cruises’ Edge Villas won top suites in the Ocean Premium and Contemporary segment, joined by Oceania’s Owner’s Suites for Luxury, Sea Cloud Cruises’ Cabin #1 and Cabin #2 for Small Ship and the Grand Suite on Uniworld’s Joie de Vivre for Luxury River.
Now is the time to vote for the coolest ships afloat. Voting for this round closes Tuesday, February 18.
Ocean Premium and Contemporary
Carnival Cruise Line: Mardi Gras
The Mardi Gras is the first in Carnival’s XL class of cruise ships, and when it launches it will be the largest vessel in the cruise line’s fleet. As the first of a new ship class, it will sail with a number of new features, including the BOLT roller coaster on the top deck, restaurants by celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse and the line’s “chief fun officer” Shaquille O’Neal, and new, premium Carnival Excel suites, which will offer select amenities and access to a new resort-style, open-air enclave called Loft 19. Also planned is a new-to-the-fleet Family Feud Live experience, bringing the classic game show onboard via an exclusive partnership with Fremantle.
Celebrity Cruises: Celebrity Edge
The first in Celebrity Cruises’ Edge series, this high-tech new ship introduces new product innovations such as Edge Staterooms with Infinite Verandas; two-story Edge Villas with private plunge pools; and the Magic Carpet platform cantilevered off the side of the ship, which moves up and down between decks throughout the day to offer a variety of different experiences.
Costa Cruises: Costa Smeralda
The Costa Smeralda is the first cruise ship for Costa Cruises to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG), a fuel which almost entirely prevents emissions of particulate matter and sulfur oxides. Designed by Adam D. Tihany, the ship incorporates many of Italy’s iconic landmarks and piazzas into its design.
Holland America Line: Nieuw Statendam
Nieuw Statendam debuted in December 2018. The 2,666-guest ship has an ambiance that balances contemporary styling in perfect harmony with a mid-sized ship. Cuisine is at the forefront with Nami Sushi, a sushi bar where the rolls are made fresh and showcasing signature sushi rolls and sashimi by Culinary Council Member Andy Matsuda. Also new are the Club Orange restaurant for select suite guests and guests who purchased the Club Orange program and Rudi’s Sel de Mer, an intimate French brasserie. For entertainment, guests can head to Music Walk, which showcases four venues with distinct musical genres.
MSC Cruises: MSC Meraviglia
MSC Cruises’ newest mega-ship to hit the Caribbean arrived to the U.S. for the first time in October. A key design feature of the ship is the Swarovski crystal staircases greet guests on board, offering the perfect backdrop for a photo moment. At the center of the ship, MSC Meraviglia’s two-story Mediterranean-style promenade serves as its hub, topped by one of the longest LED Domes at sea. Guests can dine at one of the specialty restaurants along the promenade — including HOLA! Tapas, but Michelin-starred Spanish chef Ramón Freixa, — or grab a coffee or sweet treat at the chocolate shop and café by renowned pastry chef Jean Philippe Maury.
Norwegian Cruise Line: Norwegian Encore
The Norwegian Encore features the world’s longest race track at sea at 1,100 feet with four high-speed curves extending up to 13 feet over the side of the ship; the largest outdoor laser tag arena at nearly 10,000 square feet with the addition of augmented reality elements; and new immersive escape room and interactive theatre experiences in the 10,000-square-foot Galaxy Pavilion. Foodies can also dine at the new-to-the-fleet Onda by Scarpetta, serving elevated Italian cuisine; after, guests can check out a performance of the Tony Award-winning musical Kinky Boots.
Royal Caribbean International: Symphony of the Seas
The newest member of the line’s Oasis class, this ship brings back such guest favorites as the ten-story Ultimate Abyss slide and twin FlowRider surf simulators, plus firsts like glow-in-the-dark laser tag. Also new are the Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade and the Ultimate Family Suite.
Cast your vote here:
Ocean Luxury and Upper Premium
Cunard: Queen Mary 2
Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 combines almost 180 years of tradition with modern innovations. She is the only operational ocean liner afloat and the only passenger vessel to offer regularly scheduled transatlantic service between New York and London. Home to the largest planetarium, ballroom and library at sea, and the only ship to offer kennels, Queen Mary 2 creates experiences travelers will not find anywhere else.
Silversea: Silver Spirit
Silver Muse may be the newest ship in the fleet, but it is the 2009-built Silver Spirit that turns heads following a massive refit last year that saw the ship cut in two, lengthened and completely refurbished from stem to stern. Now with Silversea’s new dining concept that does away with a single main restaurant in favor of several smaller ones, Silver Spirit offers more dining choices, new bars and lounges – including the popular Arts Café serving up light bites and wine – and completely refurbished suites.
Cast your vote here:
Alaskan Dream Cruises: Kruzof Explorer
Alaskan Dream’s Kruzof Explorer was upcycled from an old Bering Sea crab fishing boat into a premier expedition cruise vessel. The former crab holding area is now a theater room. The Kruzof’s time as a Bering Sea crab boat means it has one of the toughest hulls on the planet, making it capable of exploring remote areas and bodies of water where few other small cruise ships can access. The five-ton crane on the back of the ship that was used to haul in crab pots is now used for loading and unloading a sport fishing vessel, high-speed Zodiac, kayaks and paddleboards. The 128-foot Kruzof holds only 12 passengers in six staterooms and cruises at a speed of nine knots.
Hurtigruten: MS Roald Amundsen
In 2019, Hurtigruten added a brand-new ship to its fleet: the MS Roald Amundsen. The state-of- the-art vessel features new and environmentally sustainable hybrid technology that will reduce fuel consumption and show the world that hybrid propulsion on large ships is possible, the cruise line says.
SeaDream Yacht Club: Sea Dream I & SeaDream II
What’s cooler than feeling like you’re on your own personal yacht? The expression “yachting” is not only a statement about size; it describes a lifestyle aboard the intimate vessels, SeaDream I and SeaDream II. The 56-stateroom twin yachts are favored for their elegant informality, personal service provided by a crew of 95, inclusive open bar and gratuities, ocean view accommodations, luxury Thai-Certified spa and world-class cuisine. With only 112 guests at a time, a SeaDream voyage feels like a personal getaway. Guests can be as pampered and relaxed, or as active and adventurous as they wish while traveling to some of the most intimate ports and destinations in the Mediterranean and Caribbean.
Star Clippers: Royal Clipper
The Royal Clipper is like no other ship sailing today. First, she holds the distinction of being the largest full-rigged sailing ship in the world. Inspired by the historic tall ship Preussen, the Royal Clipper is currently the only five-masted full-rigged sailing ship to be built since her predecessor was launched at the beginning of the last century. With her complement of 42 sails (comprised of 54,000 square feet of cloth), she has a historic look, but the guest experience is fully modern. The ships has a state-of-the-art navigation system, two-story dining room, spa, three pools, and spacious cabins. Guests are invited to climb the mast to the crows nest for the ultimate long view, or spend time lounging in the bowsprit new watching the world go by.
Cast your vote here:
River Premium and Contemporary
American Cruise Lines: American Song
American Song is the country’s first major style departure from the classic paddlewheel riverboats that have been plying U.S. rivers since the early 1800s. Showcasing gorgeous interior design elements, from a four-story glass atrium to a patent-pending opening bow and retractable gangway, American Song has the largest staterooms in the industry, private furnished balconies in every stateroom and suite, full-size bathrooms and the finest amenities available.
American Queen Steamboat Company: American Queen
The largest steamboat ever built, the grand American Queen is American Queen Steamboat Company’s flagship paddlewheeler, a gentle soul packaged within the ornate detailing that embellishes her exterior. Any traveler who chooses to cruise on this iconic riverboat will soon find that her steady heart beats to the rhythm of music and discourse that resound within her walls. Celebrating her 25th Anniversary in 2020, the American Queen is an authentic icon of the rivers on which she travels.
Cast your vote here:
River Luxury and Upper Premium
As imagined by AmaWaterways Co-founder and President Rudi Schreiner the new AmaMagna is the largest luxury ship to cruise any European river. Built to cruise only on the Danube, AmaMagna is twice the width of traditional river cruise ships, yet welcomes only 20 percent more guests, allowing generous personal space - with more than half of the 98 staterooms designated as suites measuring between 355 and 710 square feet. This unique ship provides enhanced amenities such as an onboard cinema; an expansive Zen Wellness Studio, complete with a large exercise area offering group classes, a juice bar and two massage rooms; four dining venues; and a sun deck with a large heated pool, relaxing whirlpool and sky bar.
U by Uniworld: The B
U River Cruises’ The B is a 120-passenger matte black ship with two rooftop venues, a spa, mixologists, international DJ’s, communal tables for dining and locally-inspired, farm-to-table and street food-inspired cuisine. Onboard accommodations include four Suites, 26 Balcony Bedrooms, 29 Studio Bedrooms and two Studio Bedrooms with triple occupancy, all with waterfront views and built-in Bluetooth speakers. The ship’s rooftop lounge is an open-air hangout with plenty of places to sit and chat with new friends, take in the sights along the river or grab a mat for morning rooftop yoga classes. Also on the rooftop is the Ice Bar that serves up craft beers and signature U cocktails – all at a bar with walls on hydraulics. DJs and a silent disco add to the scene for the coolest bar on the river. The ship’s décor of black and white with pops of bright color lean into the youthful and energetic active lifestyle the ship’s overall experience conveys.
Cast your vote here: