A subjective list of awards for cruise experiences

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Seven Seas Explorer

here’s no shortage of travel industry awards and accolades. 

Today I’ll offer some cruise-only nods — a mini Academy Awards lineup, if you will —  based on my seven years of cruising for Travel Weekly. Unlike the Oscars, in which categories of longstanding tradition are properly judged, my award categories and winners are completely subjective and based mostly on one moment on one ship, rather than a studious fleetwide evaluation over time.

Plus, mine aren’t broadcast on national television. And there’s no statuette. But they’re fun. See what you think, and offer your own winners in the comment section below.

So, with no further ado:

Best naming ceremony: Princess Cruises. Skies were grey in Southampton, England, on that June day in 2013, but who can beat royal princess Kate Middleton christening the Royal Princess? The British pomp and pageantry and the ladies in their gowns and fascinators made it unforgettable. Runner up: More royals, plus opera great Andrea Bocelli singing “Nessun Dorma” for the Seven Seas Explorer in Monaco.

Meal: Celebrity Cruises. I think it was on the Celebrity Reflection with former Celebrity public relations spokeswoman Liz Jakeway that I had a nearly flawless Italian dinner at the Tuscan Grille. Runner up: Guy Fieri’s burgers on Carnival Cruise Line.

Suite:  Viking Ocean Cruises. The Owner’s Suite on the Viking Star duplicates owner Tor Hagen’s book collection and comes with a (faux) fireplace and a sauna with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall for ocean viewing. Runner up: the duplex suites on Royal Caribbean.

Service: Azamara. I know, not what you’re expecting, but I say: try it. The relaxed style really made me feel at home on a 2016 Central America and Mexico cruise on the Azamara Journey. When my time was up, I didn’t want to leave. Runner up: Seabourn.

Entertainment: Norwegian Cruise Line. “After Midnight” and “Million Dollar Quartet” on the Norwegian Escape in 2016 was a knockout one-two punch, and Norwegian has kept up the pace with each new ship: “Jersey Boys,” “Kinky Boots.” Great value for guests. Runner up: Royal Caribbean, where too much is never enough.

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Pool: Seabourn. The cosy aft pool on Seabourn’s 450-passenger ships puts sunbathers close to the water in stylish luxury. Runner up: the Solarium Pool on Celebrity, with its dancing waters fountain.

Cruise Director: Star Clippers. The line’s longest-serving cruise director, Peter Kissner, hails from Bavaria and is the most personable, knowledgeable, interesting person I’ve yet encountered in the job.  Runner up: Azamara cruise director Eric de Gray does it all.

Internet: Royal Caribbean gets the nod for its Voom, which not only is fast and simple but was first to market. What a difference in seven years. Runner up: MedallionNet on Princess Cruises is also fast and simple (but was not first).

Children’s character: Disney Cruise Line for Cinderella. As played by one of Disney’s cast members, the Cinderella I saw could have stepped out of the 1950 animated feature film. The children were enchanted. Runner Up:  Ellie, the towel elephant that prowls the post-turn-down cabins on Carnival ships.

Deck BBQ: Windstar Cruises. A twilight summer deck party anchored off the coast of Portofino. Trust me, it doesn’t get any better than that. Runner up: Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Technology and the shipboard library

Technology and the shipboard library

By Tom Stieghorst


The ship’s library has always been a small but special part of the cruise experience. But for how much longer?

The library at sea, like libraries everywhere, is under siege by changing technology. And whether ships need to set aside space for libraries in the future is very much being debated as new ships are designed.

Carnival cruise director and blogger extraordinaire John Heald said in a recent posting that the library on the recent transatlantic crossing of the Carnival Legend was full of books.  *TomStieghorst

“One thing all those transatlantic crossings had in common was that the library, by the end of the first sea day, sat entirely empty,” Heald wrote. “Here on the Carnival Legend, the bookcases are full.

“Yep, the book is dead, long live the Kindle. Every deck I walk on, I see young and old reading their Kindles.”

Even on an ocean crossing with presumably few younger, tech-savvy passengers on the manifest, the library remains fully stocked, Heald said: “Wherever I am, I see older people and their parents absorbed in their Kindles.”

Perhaps that’s just Carnival. Maybe the magnificent libraries on the Cunard Line fleet have emptier shelves on their Atlantic trips. But on most ships where space is at a premium, the library is an endangered species.

At the next major drydock nothing prevents a ship’s library from being converted to some other use. Heald suggested perhaps a cigar bar (a suggestion likely made for for comic effect, but maybe not.)

The trend is on display on Carnival Sunshine, the ship Carnival renovated from stem to stern earlier this year. While the library wasn’t eliminated or converted to another use, it now shares space with a bar.
Carnival is in the process of designing the next ship to set sail under its red and blue banner, the Carnival Vista. With Kindles in the hands of passengers young and old, it may well be the first Carnival ship without a library.

In his post Heald referred to a bookstore in Miami that he said was possibly a Borders, which he liked to visit when he comes to Miami. “It would not surprise me that, when I return there in November, it’s become a Walgreens or worse, a gym,” he wrote.

If in fact it was a Borders, it closed two years ago, along with the rest of the chain’s stores.  The Borders on South Dixie Highway in Miami reopened last week as a Trader Joe’s specialty market.

At least it’s not a gym.