Prizewinning Cruise Lines: Making Sense Of Awards

When you think about it, what travel company would not want to be an award-winning business?  The obvious answer: not a one.  Bragging rights over a competitor in any given category alone is good reason to want the recognition.  If wins and ranks come from a respected publication, organization or website, all the better.  Still, when it gets right down to it, does anyone actually book a cruise based on the results of any one survey, award results or ranking?  Probably not entirely.  Maybe a little influence there but not the determining factor.  Still, readers of the world’s leading cruise travel magazine bring us some rather unusually qualified results.

“This is always an exciting time of year for us, as we get to honor the best of the best in cruising, who are determined by those who know best — the cruisers themselves,” – Bill Panoff, publisher and editor-in-chief“

Porthole Cruise Magazine has been asking its readers for their opinion for nearly two decades.  These are readers who should be listened to, but probably not for the reason you might think.  Let’s get those wrong reasons out of the way right up front:

  • Chris has been featured in the magazine and therefore has a stake in its success.
  • Porthole Cruise Magazine readers probably don’t subscribe because they are interested in auto mechanics, gardening or cooking*
  • Like CruiseCritic, fans of Porthole Cruise Magazine love to cruise.

It’s that last one, the reference to CruiseCritic, that serves as a seriously differentiating factor in the realm of cruise line awards.  It also introduces a term I don’t think we have mentioned here before: paid circulation.

Circulation is the number of copies of a publication that are printed
Circulation is one of the principal factors used to set advertising rates.
Circulation is not always the same as copies sold, often called paid circulation, since some publications are distributed without cost to the reader.

How does this translate to prizewinning cruise awards?
Simple: The readers of Porthole Cruise Magazine paid for it.

They chose that source, perhaps among others, to make the jump from free viewing to paid publication, giving the Porthole awards a bit more klout.   Winners were determined by thousands of ballots completed by the magazine’s readers and online fans who voted on 55 cruise-related categories from best ships to best itineraries.


Float Your Boat

  • Best Small Ship (fewer than 500 passengers): Crystal Esprit
    (Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises)
  • Best Medium-Sized Ship (500-2,000 passengers): Azamara Quest
    (Azamara Club Cruises)
  • Best Large Ship (2,000-5,000 passengers) Norwegian Escape
    (Norwegian Cruise Line)
  • Best Mega Ship (+5,000 passengers) Harmony of the Seas
    (Royal Caribbean International)
  • Best Tall Ship: Wind Surf (Windstar Cruises)
  • Best River Ship: AmaKristina (AmaWaterways)
  • Best Luxury Ship: Seabourn Encore (Seabourn)
  • Best Value-for-the-Money Line: Carnival Cruise Line
  • Most Family-Oriented Line: Disney Cruise Line
  • Best Cruise Line for Teens: Carnival Cruise Line
  • Best Cruise Line for Solo Travelers: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Most Romantic Cruise Line: Windstar Cruises
  • Most Eco-Friendly Cruise Line: Holland America Line
  • Best Expedition Cruise Line: Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic
  • Best Cruise Line for Short Cruises: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Shore Excursions: Holland America Line
  • Best Private Island: Half Moon Cay (Holland America Line)

All Aboard

  • Best Onboard Activities: Royal Caribbean International
  • Best Onboard Enrichment: Cunard Line
  • Best Main Dining Room Cuisine: Celebrity Cruises
  • Best Specialty Restaurants: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Accommodations: Silversea Cruises
  • Best Computer Facilities: Carnival Cruise Line
  • Best Casinos: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Spa Facilities: Holland America Line
  • Best Fitness Facilities: Royal Caribbean International
  • Best Onboard Shopping: Princess Cruises
  • Best Medical Facilities: Holland America Line
  • Best Facilities for Guests with Disabilities: Holland America Line
  • Best Children’s Programs: Disney Cruise Line
  • Best Entertainment: Disney Cruise Line
  • Best Service: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
  • Best Website: Carnival Cruise Line
  • Best Social Media: MSC Cruises
  • Best Theme Cruise: MSC Cruises
  • Best Signature Cocktail: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Cruise Director: Ken Rush, Royal Caribbean International
  • Best Onboard Photography: Princess Cruises
  • Best Nightlife: Carnival Cruise Line

Hot Spots & Cool Places

  • Best Caribbean Itineraries: Royal Caribbean International
  • Best Alaska Itineraries: Princess Cruises
  • Best Canada/New England Itineraries: Holland America Line
  • Best Hawaii Itineraries: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Mexican Riviera Itineraries: Carnival Cruise Line
  • Best Central America Itineraries: Princess Cruises
  • Best South America Itineraries: Oceania Cruises
  • Best Northern Europe Itineraries: Holland America Line
  • Best Mediterranean Itineraries: Costa Cruises
  • Best Asia/Pacific Itineraries: Princess Cruises
  • Best South Pacific Itineraries: Paul Gauguin Cruises
  • Best Africa/Middle East Itineraries: Seabourn
  • Best Bermuda Itineraries: Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Best Trans-Atlantic Itineraries: Cunard Line
  • Best Australia/New Zealand Itineraries: P&O Cruises
  • Best World Cruise Itineraries: Cunard Line

Interestingly, Porthole readers have brought what looks to be a really accurate representation of what I hear every day, talking to would-be cruise travelers and those who have been sailing for decades.

Of particular interest in this space, multiple category wins by Holland America Line and Carnival Cruise Line, each worthy of mention.

Holland America Line came away from the Porthole Cruise Magazine’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards with eight honors. Readers from Porthole recognized Holland America Line in areas that covered everything from destinations to onboard and shoreside experiences.

  • Best Canada/New England and Northern Europe Itineraries;
  • Best Shore Excursions;
  • Best Spa Facilities;
  • Most Eco-Friendly Line;
  • Best Medical Facilities;
  • Best Facilities for Guests with Disabilities
  • Best Private Island for Half Moon Cay, the line’s exclusive island in the Bahamas.

Carnival Cruise Line earned six Porthole Cruise Magazine Readers’ Choice Awards

  • Best Value-For-The-Money Line
  • Best Cruise Line for Teens
  • Best Computer Facilities
  • Best Website
  • Best Nightlife
  • Best Mexican Riviera Itineraries

Note: that Best Value for the Money Line is the 19th consecutive win for Carnival where 152 individual honors have been won, the most of any cruise operator


*on the other hand, Porthole might inspire a gardener to see how others do it in different climates, a cruise ship can take us to Cuba to see a whole bunch of 1950’s classic cars and the culinary efforts experienced on a ship might inspire us in the kitchen at home.  See?  It’s all about cruising.

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