Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships 2017 Winners announced

Having reviewed the following 295 cruise ships, Berlitz names the top-rated ships in their size categories in the world's most trusted guide to cruising and cruise ships
Europa 2
Europa 2

To kick off Plan A Cruise Month, Douglas Ward, 'the maritime Sherlock Homes' is back for the 32nd year of Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017. Completing over 6,000 days at sea, participating in more than 1,000 cruises, 158 transatlantic crossings and countless Panama Canal transits, shipyard visits, ship-naming ceremonies and maiden voyages, Ward has earned the title of 'most feared critic in the business'.

After examining everything from the fluffiness of the towels to the quality of the china and silverware, and from the welcome aboard to the disembarkation process, here are Ward's top picks:

Despite constant claims by cruise companies that their ship has been named 'Best Cruise Line' or 'Best Cruise Ship' by this or that magazine or online readers' poll, there really is no such thing-- there is only the right ship for you. Few operators can really deliver a ship, product, and crew worthy of the highest Berlitz star rating-- it's all about excellence, and passion.


For this 2017 edition, just two ships have achieved the score required for them to awarded membership in the most exclusive 'five-stars-plus' category:

Europa 2's layout

1. Europa 2
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
1,860 points
2. Europa
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
1,852 points

These are both beautiful ships to sail aboard, with an outstanding amount of space per passenger, passageways with high ceilings, a superb range of dining venues and types of cuisine, and attentive, friendly, yet unobtrusive personal service.

However, Europa and Europa 2 really are exclusive, high-priced ships, so we also included a selection of best cruise ships (sister ships, in some cases, where they are close to identical) in a number of categories, with the winners and runners-up denoted by the amount of points scored overall. Entries are listed according to their Berlitz score, where applicable, or else in alphabetical order by cruise line or ship's name.

THE TOP 5 LARGE RESORT SHIPS (2,501-6,500 passengers)

Queen Mary 2. Part transatlantic ocean liner, part cruise ship, this iconic vessel has something for all ages and types.

1. Queen Mary 2
1,685 points
2. Mein Schiff 5
1,674 points
3. Mein Schiff 4
1,669 points
4. Mein Schiff 3
1,665 points
5. MSC Preziosa
1,554 points

THE TOP 5 MID-SIZE SHIPS (751- 2,500 passengers)

Viking Star. Refreshingly, this premium ship has many elegant touches,; enjoy the touchy-feely comforts of home, Nordic history, excellent inclusive value, and unfussy cuisine.

1. Viking Sea
1,695 points
2. Viking Star
1,693 points
3. Crystal Serenity
1,688 points
4. Crystal Symphony
1,680 points
5. Riviera
1,679 points

THE TOP 5 SMALL SHIPS (251-750 passengers)

1. Europa 2
1,860 points
2. Europa
1,852 points
3. Silver Spirit
1,664 points
4. Silver Whisper
1,655 points
5. Silver Shadow
1,654 points

TOP 5 BOUTIQUE SHIPS (50-250 passengers)

SeaDream I. A beautiful, compact, and intimate ship with excellent food, for utterly relaxing cruising.

1. SeaDream I
1,754 points
2. SeaDream II
1,750 points
3. Hanseatic
1,721 points
4. Sea Cloud
1,702 points
5. Sea Cloud II
1,701 points


These ships have been chosen for their choice of family-friendly facilities, activities, and entertainment.

Allure of the Seas/Harmony of the Seas/Oasis of the Seas
Disney Dream/Disney Fantasy
Mein Schiff 3/Mein Schiff 4/Mein Schiff 5/Mein Schiff 6
MSC Divina/MSC Preziosa/MSC Meraviglia/MSC Seaside
Norwegian Breakaway/Norwegian Escape/Norwegian Getaway


Teenagers like space away from adults to hang out, meet others, and simply chill. Some ships get it, and some don't

Disney Cruise Line (Disney Dream/Disney Fantasy)
MSC Cruises (MSC Divina/MSC Preziosa/MSC Splendid)
Norwegian Cruise Line (Norwegian Breakaway/Norwegian Epic/Norwegian Escape/Norwegian Getaway/Norwegian Joy)
Royal Caribbean International (Anthem of the Seas/Ovation of the Seas/Quantum of the Seas)
TUI Cruises (Mein Schiff 3/Mein Schiff 4/Mein Schiff 5/Mein Schiff 6)


I have chosen one ship from each of five companies that are marketed as, or are best for, child-free cruising.

Arcadia (P&O Cruises)
Grande Mariner (Blount Small Ship Adventures)
Island Sky (Noble Caledonia)
Minerva (Swan Hellenic Cruises)
Saga Sapphire (SAGA Cruises)


Water slides are always a highlight for youngsters, who can't wait to go for a ride once they are on board.

Aquaduck (Disney Cruise Line)
Epic Plunge (Norwegian Cruise Line)
Kaleid-O-Slide (Carnival Cruise Line)
Parthenon Slide (Star Cruises)
Vertigo (MSC Cruises)


Suites are not just about the size and space (relative to the ship), but also the furnishings, service, and all those little details.

Crystal Penthouse Crystal Serenity (Crystal Cruises)
Owner's Suite Europa 2 (Hapag-Lloyd Cruises)
Owner's Suite Marina, Riviera (Oceania Cruises)
Royal Loft Allure of the Seas/Harmony of the Seas/Oasis of the Seas (Royal Caribbean International)
Sandringham Suite Queen Mary 2 (Cunard)


Wellness and pampering have become major attractions for people who want to take care of their bodies on vacation.

AIDA Cruises (AIDAprima)
Cunard (Queen Mary 2)
Hapag Lloyd Cruises (Europa 2)
MSC Cruises (MSC Divina/MSC Fantasia/MSC Preziosa/MSC Splendida)
Viking Cruises (Viking Star)


These cruise lines have been chosen for the quality and variety of ingredients, their creativity, and presentation.

Crystal Cruises
Hapag-Lloyd Cruises
Oceania Cruises
SeaDream Yacht Club
Silversea Cruises

To find out everything you need to know about cruising, including how over 250 other cruise ships ranked and 32 ways to upgrade your cruise, pick up a copy of Berlitz Cruising and Cruise Ships 2017.

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