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Highest Rated Cruise Lines

Ratings are from CruiseCritic.com and indicate the percentage of reviewers who "loved it", meaning their experience on the ship.  (Percentages, rankings, and information updated Jan 2019.)

According to websites such as CruiseMates, large ship lines are divided into somewhat subjective categories. These include:

Mainstream or Contemporary (Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, Costa, MSC, Thomson)

Premium (Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, P&O, Princess)

Deluxe (Azamara, Oceania, and probably Cunard)

Luxury (Crystal Cruises, Regent, Seabourn, Silversea,)


A notable difference between Deluxe and Luxury is usually that alcohol is included on a Luxury line.  Shore excursions may also be included on Luxury lines.

There is also a "Budget" category but apparently there are no established lines in the category at the moment.  There is a former European line, EasyCruise,  that had passengers buy their own meals, including sandwiches or room service. Most hotel services were also extra. EasyCruise was considered a budget line.  A mainstream line would include meals (except some premium restaurants), room service (usually), and entertainment.

There's also an "Expedition/Adventure" category although those aren't usually large ships.  Instead, they may be engineered with additional stabilizers for rougher waters (think Antarctica) or reinforced hulls in case there's need to act as an icebreaker. 

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    88% favorably rated -  Viking is a private Swiss line traditionally offering river cruises that has recently expanded into ocean voyages with six vessels, all of which are about 47,000 tonnes.  Viking is somewhere between a deluxe and luxury line.  Currently the line features balconies for all rooms, port-intensive itineraries, and expert enrichment lecturers.  Children under 18 are not allowed on their sailings. The line is adding new vessels to its fleet regularly.  

  • Photo: Scott Anderson / Flickr
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    Crystal Cruises

    83% favorable rating  - Crystal Cruise Lines is a luxury line with two ships, the Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony, and in 2015, added the Crystal Esprit, a yacht for 75 passengers. Their ships are between 50,000 and 70,000 tonnes which is still small for large ship lines.  Crystal has been voted favorite cruise line by readers of Condé Nast Traveler every year for more than a decade. 

    The Crystal Serenity earned a lot of press from an article detailing the life of a woman who pays $164,000 a year to live aboard ship. Crystal is owned by the Japanese shipping firm, Nippon Yusen Kaisha but is headquartered in Los Angeles.  

  • 82% favorably rated (down 2%) - a subsidiary of the Walt Disney Company.  Disney operates a fleet of four vessels and is considered a premium line like Celebrity, Princess, and Holland America with the difference being that Disney's ships are more welcoming to families with small children.  Disney also tends to be somewhat higher priced than the other premium lines. Disney is known to be a favorite for travelers who value onboard experience and fun above unusual or exotic ports of call.  

  • Photo: Matt Chan / Flickr
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    Celebrity Cruise Lines Inc

    77% favorably rated  (down 5%) - the premium line owned by Royal Caribbean.  Celebrity currently has a fleet of 9 large ships and the "soft adventure" yacht, the Xpedition, which is famous for its tours of the Galapagos.  About half of Celebrity's ships are about 90,000 tonnes which, until recently, was quite large for a cruise liner.  Most of the rest of their vessels are between 122,000 and 126,000 tonnes are, for now,  among the largest thirty passenger ships afloat.  Celebrity has two new cruise liners and two new expedition-class vessels on order.