Cunard was rewarded for its $132 million investment in its flagship Queen Mary 2 last year, as readers of Travel + Leisure magazine rated the line tops in its annual World's Best Awards for mega-ship cruise lines. Similarly, consumers expressed their approval of Crystal Cruises' fresh approach to river cruising, naming the line number one a year after the company entered the market.
The 2,691-passenger QM2 went through a massive refurbishment and made its debut in the United States in July of last year, featuring Art Deco styled Princess and Queens suites and enhanced restaurants.
T+L quoted one of its readers as calling the renovations "nostalgic." "No ship will make you feel like Audrey Hepburn like the QM2," said another reader. Cunard ranked fourth on last year's World's Best list.
Rounding out the mega-ship category (vessels that can carry 2,200 passengers or more) were Disney Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Celebrity Cruises and Holland America Line.
Bounced out of the 2016 top five list were Crystal Cruises (#2), Regent Seven Seas Cruises (#3) and Azamara Club Cruises (#5).
Crystal takes river cruise crown
In its launch year, Crystal Cruises catapulted itself into the top spot of T+L's river cruise category.
The "beautifully designed" 154-passenger, four-restaurant Crystal Mozart has "some of the most luxurious" cabins in Europe, T+L said. One T+L reader put it succinctly: "Gorgeous ship. Fabulous service. Beautiful itinerary. Well-run." With a crew-to-passenger ratio of 1:1.75, the Mozart "feels like a floating palace on the Danube," T+L said.
Meanwhile, readers noted how Crystal's itineraries are "educational, enchanting, and exciting," and the Mozart's dining is "six-star for every meal."
Coming in second was Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection, followed by perennial favorite Viking Cruises, Aqua Expeditions and Tauck. Uniworld took first place in 2016 with its Boutique River Cruise Collection, following by Tauck and Viking Cruises.
In its description of the category, T+L noted how "immersive, high-end tours are all the rage these days," and how river cruise companies have responded with a product that pleases.
"Whether it's an adventure-and-wildlife trek along Peru's Amazon, a wine-and-food-focused sailing to Bordeaux, France, or a history-and-culture-rich trip along the Mekong from Vietnam to Cambodia, a river cruise can offer the chance to see smaller, more rural ports; eat hyper-local food both on and off the ship; and tour destinations with just a handful of other travelers," the magazine said.