December 06, 2023

The Best Cruise Lines of 2023, According to Cruise Critic

Virgin Voyages snags its second 'Best New Ship' award, Silversea Cruises named the 'Best Luxury Cruise Line,' Scenic Eclipse II receives 'Best New Expedition Ship' and Viking Cruises named 'Best River Cruise Line'

Cruise Critic® has named the winners of its 15th annual Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards recognizing the best cruise lines of the year, as chosen by the site's international team of cruise experts.

"This was a banner year for the cruise industry," explains Colleen McDaniel, Editor-in-Chief of Cruise Critic. "On Cruise Critic, we saw demand for cruises surpass pre-pandemic times, and a number of lines reported ships sailing at over 100% capacity. Cruising has always been a high-value vacation, but with costs of land- and air-based travel through the roof, the true value of a cruise really hit home this year."

Cruise Critic has been releasing its highly-anticipated Editors' Picks Awards for 15 years. This year's awards are the most thorough to-date, naming winners across four key areas – Ocean, River, Luxury and Expedition.

"The value of a cruise doesn't stop with mainstream sailings. From the fare inclusions on river and luxury sailings, to those on expedition sailings to further-flung destinations like Antarctica and the Galapagos, you'd be hard-pressed to find a land-based vacation that delivers the experience and value that a cruise offers," McDaniel says. "But beyond the overall value, the growing interest in cruises is also driven by the incredible range of destinations you're able to visit by water – from the poles of the earth, to inside riverways, and every trending destination in between. If you're looking to explore the world, there's often no better way than by cruise – and these are the best of the best."

2023 Award Highlights

Ocean Awards

  • Resilient Lady – the third ship in Virgin Voyages' award-winning fleet – rated a perfect five stars by Cruise Critic's editors – was named Best New Ship of the Year.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Resilient Lady isn't first in class, but it might be the best. Virgin perfected onboard entertainment in 2023, and the ship's detox-retox atmosphere carries over to ports like Santorini and Mykonos – thanks to exceptionally generous shore time."

  • Carnival's Carnival Venezia – formerly part of the Costa Cruises fleet – was named Best Ship Refurbishment, with editors praising its delivery of "Carnival Fun, Italian Style."

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Carnival has somehow achieved the impossible: taken a ship originally built for the Chinese market, with a strong Italian theme throughout, and successfully rebranded it for the U.S. market."

  • Disney Cruise Line was named Best for Families, lauded by Cruise Critic's editors for its dedication to crafting exceptional experiences for kids and adults alike.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "With its endless dedication to kids, Disney Cruise Line breezes to the top of the pack when it comes to the family cruise experience. But Disney doesn't forget that adults are footing the bill, and it crafts a memorable experience for them, too."

  • Carnival Cruise Line was named Best Value for Money, praised for its inclusive fares and limited upcharges:

    According to Cruise Critic's Editors: "With each new ship, Carnival packs more and more into its fares – with fewer upcharges than most lines. On Carnival, you know you're never going to be nickel and dimed. Whether you're with friends, a significant other or your family, you're bound to have a good time, with minimum damage to your wallet."

Luxury Awards

  • Silversea Cruises received the award for Best Luxury Cruise Line for a second year in a row, as well as Best New Luxury Ship for the line's newest ship, Silver Nova.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Silversea's constant innovation and a desire to set the luxury bar ever higher sets it apart from all others. Sure, the line has suites, butlers, Champagne and caviar across the fleet, but it's more than that – Silversea's restaurants rival Michelin-starred establishments, its S.A.L.T. enrichment program is outstanding, and its art and décor are reminiscent of a five-star hotel. And Silver Nova is a giant step forward for a cruise line that has never been content with the status quo."

  • Crystal – recently relaunched by new owner, Abercrombie & Kent Travel Group – received this year's award for Best Service in the Luxury Category.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Crystal has built a reputation on exceptional service, and it comes down to the crew onboard, who are empowered to keep guests happy and satisfied, no matter the issue. Sailing on a Crystal ship feels like a vacation with family. No ask is too small – or too big – and service always comes with a sincere smile."

  • Emerald Yacht Cruises – a line well-known on the rivers that debuted its first luxury ocean-going vessel in 2022 – was named this year's Best Value for Money in the Luxury Category.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Sailing on an Emerald cruise ship feels a lot like seeing the world on your personal yacht – yet prices for cruises generally are less than what you'd pay on other luxury lines."

Expedition Awards

  • Scenic Eclipse II was named this year's Best New Expedition Ship, for the ship's seamless combination of five-star luxury and destination immersion.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Whether you're traveling to Antarctica, the Arctic and Greenland or Australia's wild Kimberley, the ship allows you to get the most of your destination, by Zodiac, kayak, helicopter and submersible – and return to the best in creature comforts."

  • Atlas Ocean Voyages was named the Best Value for Money in the Expedition Category, praised by editors for its thoughtful inclusions and pricing.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Affordable and Antarctica? Believe it. With its fleet of small upscale expedition ships, Atlas has shaken up the pricing for adventure trips, offering a nice level of inclusions at the farthest reaches of the earth. As a result, the line is drawing younger passengers – many who are on their very first cruises."

River Awards

  • Viking received the award for Best River Cruise Line of the Year, for its consistency, breadth of offerings and fare inclusions.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "Viking has earned its reputation as the leader on Europe's rivers, where it sails with an enormous fleet designed in serene Scandinavian style. Ships are consistent and instantly feel like home; staterooms are thoughtfully designed; and cruises are inclusive of things like excursions and drinks at mealtimes."

  • American Cruise Lines' American Serenade received the honor for Best New River Cruise Ship, becoming the first American vessel to receive the award from Cruise Critic.

    According to Cruise Critic Editors: "With extra-large staterooms and suites, trendy interior décor and one of the most gorgeous sundecks we've seen on a river-going ship, American Serenade sets the bar for domestic U.S. river cruising high."

2023 Cruise Critic Editors' Picks Awards

Ocean Category

Best New Ship: Virgin Voyages' Resilient Lady
Best Ship Refurbishment: Carnival Venezia
Best Cabins: Celebrity Cruises
Best Dining: Virgin Voyages
Best Entertainment: Virgin Voyages
Best for Families: Disney Cruise Line
Best Innovation/Tech: Princess Cruises
Best for LGBTQ+ Travelers: Virgin Voyages
Best Nightlife: MSC Cruises
Best Service: Holland America Line
Best for Solo Travelers: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best Spa: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best Specialty Dining: Norwegian Cruise Line
Best Suites: Royal Caribbean International
Best Suite Complex: MSC Cruises
Best Value for Money: Carnival Cruise Line
Best App: Royal Caribbean International
Best North American Homeport: Miami

Luxury Category

Best Luxury Cruise Line: Silversea Cruises
Best New Luxury Ship: Silversea Cruises' Silver Nova
Best Cabins: Viking
Best Dining: Oceania Cruises
Best Enrichment: Windstar Cruises
Best for Families: Explora Journeys
Best Itineraries: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Best Service: Crystal
Best Shore Excursions: Oceania Cruises
Best for Solo Travelers: Crystal
Best Spa: Viking
Best Value for Money: Emerald Yacht Cruises

Expedition Category

Best New Luxury Ship: Scenic Eclipse II
Best for Adventure: Quark Expeditions
Best Cabins: Seabourn Cruise Line
Best Dining: Scenic
Best for Light Expedition: Viking
Best for Luxury: Silversea Expeditions
Best Science Offerings: Hurtigruten
Best Service: Silversea Expeditions
Best Spa: Viking
Best Value for Money: Atlas
Best in Alaska: UnCruise Adventures
Best in Antarctica: Scenic
Best in the Arctic: Ponant Cruises
Best in the Galapagos: Lindblad Expeditions

River Category

Best River Cruise Line: Viking
Best New River Cruise Ship: American Cruise Lines' American Serenade
Best for Active Cruisers: AmaWaterways
Best Cabins: Avalon Waterways
Best Dining: Riverside Luxury Cruises
Best Enrichment: Tauck River Cruising
Best for Families: Adventures by Disney/AmaWaterways
Best for First-Timers: Viking
Best for Luxury: Uniworld Boutique River Cruises
Best Service: Viking
Best for Solo Travelers: Avalon Waterways
Best Value for Money: Emerald River Cruises

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