This week the 2016 Cruisers’ Choice Awards were announced by Cruise Critic (www.cruisecritic.com.au).
We were converted to cruising by our Disney Cruise last year. It was so kid-friendly! So while I was excited to see Disney’s 4 ships take out the top 4 places in the Best Cruise Ship for Families category, I was also interested to discover some other great ships.
I was particularly keen to find out which are the best cruise ships that cruise out of Australia.
Cruise Critic is a bit like TripAdvisor for cruising. Every cruise ship in the world is reviewed by one of their contributors, plus the public contribute their own ratings and reviews. This way you get an insight into what past passengers loved and didn’t love about their cruise experience.
There’s all sorts of categories of winners in the Cruise Critic awards, from dining to family, shore excursions to service. I find it interesting reading, however most of the ships listed don’t come to Australia, so its relevance is limited. The only ones I could find were –
- Celebrity Solstice got 4th place for Best Cruise Ship for First Timers and 6th place in Best Cruise Ship for Cabins, and
- Emerald Princess got 10th place for Best Cruise Ship for Embarkation
Australian-based cruise ships
Just because the Australian-based cruise ships are not dominating the awards doesn’t mean they’re terrible. But there are definitely some that are better than others.
Cruising has never been more popular here and each year more and bigger ships are visiting Australia. Plenty of Australian families have discovered the fun and relaxation of a cruising holiday and its popularity is sure to continue to grow.
Most Australian-based ships are owned by either Royal Caribbean Cruises or Carnival Corporation, although they operate under a number of different brand names.
Many of the ships are in the Large Ships category (2,000 + passengers based on double occupancy), with some slightly smaller in the Mid-Size category (1,200-2,000 passengers).
To compare, currently the largest cruise ship in operation in the world is Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas at 5,400 passengers and 360m long. These monster-sized ships typically operate in the Caribbean (departing from Florida), where the cruising market is huge. There is the perfect combination of the large U.S. customer base, the tranquil Caribbean Sea, plenty of picture perfect islands to visit, and year-round warm tropical weather.
Which cruise ship is best for your family?
The key statistic on Cruise Critic is the “Percentage of cruisers who loved it”. In the table below you can see that for the Australian-based cruise ships, that percentage currently ranges from 32% (dismal!) on Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden, to 83% (excellent!) on Celebrity Solstice and 80% on Radiance of the Seas and Carnival Legend.
I know which ships I’d rather be on!
When choosing the right cruise line for your family, think about your family’s needs. Those needs are going to be different to those of a young childless couple, an elderly couple or a group of friends travelling child free.
The “% who loved it” scores include all passengers. Not just families. So while Celebrity has a fantastic overall rating, its family rating is only 4.0. I suggest you might want to look more closely at Royal Caribbean and Carnival who both score 5.0 for families.
Disney won first place in 11 categories in the Cruise Critic awards, including Best Overall for the 4th year in a row. There is no doubt it is considered the best cruise line in the world, especially for families.
Disney doesn’t come to Australia, but to compare to the above table, Disney Fantasy (the ship we went on last year) scores 93% in the percentage who loved it, 4.5 for the Editor Overall Rating and 5.0 for the Editor Rating for Families.
As with most things however, you get what you pay for and Disney is not cheap. A 7 night Caribbean cruise for 2 adults and 2 kids (the same as we did last year) costs approximately US$5,700. At a strong exchange rate I think this is good value. However, at the current exchange rate it works out much more expensive – about A$ 8,000. Eeek!
More about why we chose a Disney Cruise here.
Have you been on a cruise?