US News Brings Unique Method To Cruise Line Rankings

Last week it was all about the Porthole Cruise Magazine award winners as readers of the popular magazine for cruise travelers rated their favorites.  Released today, the U.S News & World Report 2018 Best Cruise Lines rankings go about the process a bit differently.  We’ll get to the methodology behind the U.S News & World Report ranking of 165 ships shortly, first the winners:

Best Cruise Line For the Money 
1. Royal Caribbean International
2. Celebrity Cruises
3. Norwegian Cruise Line

Best Cruise Line For Luxury
1. Crystal Cruises
2. Seabourn Cruise Line
3. Viking Ocean Cruises

For Families
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean International
3. Crystal Cruises

For Couples
1. Seabourn Cruise Line
2. Viking Ocean Cruises
3. Carnival Cruise Lines

In the Mediterranean 
1. Viking Ocean Cruises
2. Seabourn Cruise Line
3. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

In the Caribbean
1. Disney Cruise Line
2. Royal Caribbean International
3. Celebrity Cruises

 


So, jumping right off the page: Nothing for Norwegian, Carnival, Windstar, Silversea, Princess, Cunard, Azamara, Costa, Holland America Line or MSC.  Fans of those lines will either 1) want to know why or 2) discount this ranking as irrelevant…but before they do, the methodology used for this one is impressive and about as close to cold hard facts as we’re going to get.

General overall category wins are determined by an Expert Rating (30%) and Health Reports (20%) for half the score and traveler ratings from Cruiseline.com for actual Traveler Ratings (50%).  So still, the lions share of the rankings go to ratings by people…which pretty much levels the playing field between award programs.   Want to dig a bit deeper?  Read on.  The details are interesting.

Before lines are ranked against one another, they have to qualify to be rated at all.  The U.S News & World Report 2018 Best Cruise Lines rankings break that down to three factors:

  1. Traveler Type: Each cruise ship and cruise line’s placement on our traveler type cruise rankings takes into account the aggregate traveler rating among specific types of travelers. Cruise ships and lines with the highest Overall Ratings and the greatest approval rating among a certain traveler type (e.g., families), appear on such lists. To qualify for a cruise ship traveler type ranking list, a ship had to have a minimum of 10 total guest reviews, and a certain percentage of reviews had to come from the specified traveler type; the percentage required varies by list.
  2. Region: We rank the best cruise ships in seven popular regions: Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Mexico, the Pacific and Hawaii. We also rank the Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean. Regional scores are assigned based on percentage of itineraries a ship has in each of these regions over a 24-month basis. The ship-level regional scores are updated as new information is made available; however, the list of the Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and the Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean will only be updated once a year.
  3. Price Class: A cruise ship’s price class rating is based on its average daily price. Ships with average daily rates of $300 or more are rated 4; average daily rates of $150 to $299 are rated 3; average daily rates of $100 to $149 are rated 2; ships with average daily rates below $100 are rated 1. Cruise lines with average price class ratings of 3.5 and above are included in the Best Luxury Cruise Lines rankings. Cruise lines with average price class ratings of 2.5 or lower are included in the Best Cruise Lines for the Money rankings.

Rating 17 of the most popular ocean cruise lines (up from 15 last year) U.S. News & World Report ranks the 2018 Best Cruise Lines in six categories:

  1. Best Luxury Cruise Lines,
  2. Best Cruise Lines for the Money,
  3. Best Cruise Lines for Couples,
  4. Best Cruise Lines for Families,
  5. Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and
  6. Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean.

In order to qualify for a ranking, a cruise line must meet the requirements for that specific list.

  • Best Luxury Cruise Lines: For our luxury cruise lines ranking, we include only cruise lines with a price class rating of 3.5 or above. Qualifying cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest based on their Overall Rating.
  • Best Cruise Lines for the Money: For our affordable cruise lines ranking, we include only cruise lines with a price class rating less than 2.5. Qualifying cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest based on their average Overall Rating, which carries a 40 percent weight and their price class rating, which carries a 60 percent weight.
  • Best Cruise Lines for Couples: This ranking factors in (1) each line’s Overall Rating as well as (2) the aggregate traveler rating by “couples” travelers and (3) the percentage of a cruise line’s reviews on Cruiseline.com that are left by couples. For example, a cruise line that receives a high percentage of its reviews from couples is more likely to be couples-oriented. Cruise lines are ranked according to the weighted average of their rank within each of these three factors. For a cruise line to be eligible for inclusion in this ranking, at least 62 percent of its total traveler reviews had to come from couples.
  • Best Cruise Lines for Families: This ranking factors in (1) each line’s Overall Rating as well as (2) the aggregate traveler rating by “families with kids” and (3) the percentage of a cruise line’s reviews on Cruiseline.com that are left by family travelers. For example, a cruise line that receives a high percentage of its reviews from families is more likely to attract family travelers. Cruise lines are ranked according to the weighted average of their rank within each of these three factors. For a cruise line to qualify for this ranking, at least 25 percent of its total traveler reviews had to come from families.
  • Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean: This ranking is based on (1) each line’s Overall Rating as well as (2) the percentage of scheduled itineraries in the Caribbean over a 24-month period (3) the number and variety of Caribbean itineraries available over a 24-month period. Cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest according to the weighted average of their rank combined with the annualized rate of scheduled itineraries and the number of total Caribbean itinerary options over a two-year period. The Overall Rating carries a 50 percent weight. Line coverage components are both weighted at 25 percent.
  • Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean: This ranking is based on (1) each line’s Overall Rating as well as (2) the percentage of scheduled itineraries in the Mediterranean over a 24-month period and (3) the number and variety of Mediterranean itineraries available over a 24-month period. Cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest according to the weighted average of their rank combined with the annualized rate of scheduled itineraries and the number of total Mediterranean itinerary options over a two-year period. The Overall Rating carries a 50 percent weight. Line coverage components are both weighted at 25 percent.