Want to learn from historians in Spain, see penguins play in Antarctica, or relax in dreamy French Polynesian lagoons? These cruise lines go beyond the predictable. 

Celebrity wins for Best Large-Ship Cruise Line.
BEST LARGE-SHIP CRUISE LINE: CELEBRITY
Expect the rollout of a $500 million fleet renovation and a December 2018 launch of the new Celebrity Edge—complete with a cantilevered platform called the “Magic Carpet” that will allow guests to dine 13 stories above the water.

FINALISTS:
Cunard
Disney
Holland America
Princess
Norwegian
Carnival
MSC Cruises
Royal Caribbean

Viking’s medium-sized ships won over AFAR readers.
BEST MEDIUM-SHIP CRUISE LINE: VIKING
Private verandas for every stateroom and amenities such as a Nordic-inspired sauna and spa (with a “snow grotto” for an authentic Scandinavian bathing experience) guarantee that a trip with this midsize ocean line is luxurious.

FINALISTS:
Azamara

Crystal
Hurtigruten
Oceania
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Silversea

Windstar offers tasty treats onboard its small ships.
BEST SMALL-SHIP CRUISE LINE: WINDSTAR
Egyptian cotton linens and a relaxing whirlpool tub welcome you after a day spent exploring the crystal clear waters of a Tahitian atoll or hiking along Italian seaside cliffs from Santa Margherita to Portofino.

FINALISTS:
Crystal Yacht Expedition
Lindblad Expeditions
Paul Gauguin
Ponant
Quark Expeditions
SeaDream

See the rivers of the world on an AmaWaterways cruise.
BEST RIVER CRUISE LINE: AMAWATERWAYS
With this family-owned and -operated line (a two-time category winner), passengers can meander Christmas market stalls along the Rhine, drink local vintages with an expert on a Danube wine cruise, or explore other great rivers of the world, including the Mekong and the Seine.

FINALISTS:
Aqua Expeditions

Avalon Waterways
Belmond
Crystal River
Delfin Amazon
Scenic Luxury Cruises & Tours
Tauck River
Uniworld
Viking River

A voyage with Silversea Expeditions means personalized service and luxury adventure.
BEST EXPEDITION CRUISE LINE: SILVERSEA EXPEDITIONS
Adventure by day to remote corners of the Earth, where you might spy giant raptors flying above Australia’s Kimberley coast or penguins waddling across Antarctic ice. By night, unwind in an ocean-view suite with your favorite beverage; your butler has already stocked the refrigerator.

FINALISTS:
Australis

Hurtigruten
Lindblad Expeditions
Ponant
Quark Expeditions
Quasar Expeditions
UnCruise Adventures
Zegrahm

Uniworld and EatWith team up in multiple cities for local onshore experiences.
BEST EXPERIENTIAL SHORE EXCURSION: UNIWORLD
What better way to understand and enjoy local life and culture than to share a meal in someoneʼs home? Uniworld’s onshore programming helps travelers do just that, connecting guests to residents in 10 different European cities.

FINALISTS:
AmaWaterways
Azamara
Crystal
Crystal River
Hurtigruten
Oceania
Ponant
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Tauck River
Viking
Windstar
Silversea

AFAR readers love Azamara’s diverse entertainment programming.
MOST UNIQUE ONBOARD PROGRAM: AZAMARA
The wide variety of Azamara’s entertainment options, such as intimate cabaret nights featuring top Broadway stars, comedians, and musicians, proves that the fun continues once you’re back on board.

FINALISTS:
Cunard
Holland America
Oceania
Paul Gauguin
Ponant
Quark Expeditions
Seabourn
Silversea
Viking

Club HAL on the Holland America Line makes the trip memorable for all family members.
MOST NOTABLE KIDS PROGRAM: HOLLAND AMERICA
Nobody hears “I’m bored” when activities include dogsled rides in Alaska, pizza making in Italy (perfect for aspiring chefs), and video game competitions onboard.

FINALISTS:
Crystal
Disney
Hurtigruten
Lindblad Expeditions
Paul Gauguin
Ponant
Tauck River
UnCruise Adventures

Quark Expeditions has unique access to Snow Hill.
MOST UNIQUE ITINERARY: QUARK EXPEDITIONS
Only with Quark (and only on four sailings) could you ride on an icebreaker ship to the remote Antarctic island of Snow Hill, where Emperor penguins pair up and protect their newly hatched chicks.

FINALISTS:
Azamara
Cunard
Lindblad Expeditions
Aqua Expeditions
Uniworld
Windstar

Royal Caribbean tops the votes for best Caribbean cruise line.
BEST CARIBBEAN CRUISE LINE: ROYAL CARIBBEAN
Relax in the waters of more than 30 Caribbean ports of call, or see multicolored marine life up close: Royal Caribbean is the only cruise line to offer PADI scuba diving certification onboard.

FINALISTS:
Azamara
Crystal
Holland America
Oceania
Ponant
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Silversea
Viking Ocean
Windstar

Viking wins its second category: Best Mediterranean.
BEST MEDITERRANEAN CRUISE LINE: VIKING
Thanks to historians aboard all Viking’s ocean sailings, travelers gain in-depth knowledge about the cultural treasures they visit, such as the birthplace of the Olympics or the ruins of the Colosseum.

FINALISTS:
Azamara
Crystal
Cunard
Holland America
Oceania
Ponant
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Silversea
Windstar

Viking earns a hat trick by winning Best Northern Europe Cruise Line, too.
BEST NORTHERN EUROPE CRUISE LINE: VIKING
Spend time in the same waters as Norse explorer Leif Erikson, tour picturesque Baltic towns, or follow medieval trade routes on one of Viking’s 19 Northern European itineraries.

FINALISTS:
Azamara
Cunard

Holland America
Hurtigruten
Oceania
Ponant
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Windstar

When AFAR readers want to cruise to Alaska, they want to cruise with Princess.
BEST ALASKA CRUISE LINE: PRINCESS
In Alaska, where Princess has been sailing for nearly 50 years, guests can watch whales from a research vessel thanks to a partnership with Animal Planet.

FINALISTS:
Azamara
Crystal
Disney
Holland America
Hurtigruten
Lindblad Expeditions
Norwegian
Oceania
Regent Seven Seas
Seabourn
Silversea
UnCruise Adventures
Windstar

Paul Gauguin wins Best Tahiti & French Polynesia Cruise Line for a second year running.
BEST TAHITI & FRENCH POLYNESIA CRUISE LINE: PAUL GAUGUIN
The MS Paul Gauguin was built for sailing the isles of the South Pacific. With space for only 332 guests, the small ship navigates through reef passes for up-close island views and calls at certain ports, such as the remote Marquesas Islands, that few other ships can enter.

FINALISTS:
Oceania
Ponant
Windstar

 

>> Next: Travelers’ Choice Awards 2018: The Top Trips for Every Traveler