Travel + Leisure readers have spoken: Cunard is the best mega-ship line and relative newcomer Viking Ocean Cruises is the best large line. The annual 2017 awards also identify medium-size, small-ship and river cruise lines that took top spots.
The annual World's Best Awards survey asks readers to assess individual cruise ships on their cabins and facilities, food, service, itineraries, excursions, activities and value.
In the mega-ship category, which rates ships that can carry 2,200 passengers or more, Cunard rose to the top, which Travel + Leisure attributed to the recent $132-million refurbishment of 2,691-passenger Queen Mary 2, known for its transatlantic crossings.
In the large ship category (600 to 2,199 passengers), Viking Ocean Cruises, known mainly for its river cruises, scored the top spot, despite making the change from river to ocean-going ships only in 2015. Travel + Leisure suggests that the line's streamlined, Scandinavian design, coupled with its large spa and no-casinos, no-kids' policies, appealed to voters.
In the mid-size ship category (200 to 599 passengers), Paul Gauguin Cruises topped the score card for the second year in a row. The line, which has only one ship, sails through the Society Islands, home of Bora Bora, Tahiti, and hundreds of other French Polynesian islands. Other destinations include Fiji and the Cook Islands.
According to T + L, mid-size ships were applauded by readers for their "great service, luxurious amenities and exotic, destination-intensive itineraries."
Small ships, which carry up to 249 passengers, often sail to exotic destinations. Many are known as expedition ships. Despite their small size, some offer top-end luxury. The winner of the small-ship category this year, for instance, was Crystal Yacht Expedition Cruises and its 62-passenger Crystal Esprit, a luxurious yacht currently sailing in the Mediterranean, but bound for the Caribbean this fall.
Last but not least, the river ships category featured five high-rated lines. Leading the pack was Crystal Cruises again, which only began river sailing in 2016. Its 154-passenger Crystal Mozart makes regular round-trip sailings from Vienna along the Danube.
River ships sail picturesque waterways in Europe and places such as the Mekong in Asia and the Amazon in South America.