Thursday, 17 November 2011

Now THAT'S How Cruise Awards Should Be Done

Having given the so-called British Travel Awards a major kicking recently for their laughable selection of Cruise Awards, it was refreshing to see the Cruise Critic UK Awards come out this week with a sane, sensible and highly credible approach to pretty much the same thing.

Using their own in-house editorial experts, led by extremely knowledgeable editor-in-chief Carolyn Spencer-Brown, they have 25 individual awards - from the obvious things of Best New Ship and Best For Kids to Best Itineraries and Best Buffet - and all have the ring of authenticity and genuine cruise know-how.

In full, the 2011 award winners are:

Best New Ship - Carnival Magic
Best New River Ship - SS Antoinette (Uniworld)
Best For Luxury - Seabourn Cruise Line
Best for First Timers - Ventura (P&O Cruises)
Best Line for Kids - Royal Caribbean
Best Itineraries - Cunard Line
Best for Adventure - Star Clippers
Best River Cruise Line - Viking River Cruises
Best Value for Money - Voyages of Discovery
Best for Fly-Cruises - Thomson Cruises
Best for Dining - Oceania Cruises
Best Buffet - Marina (Oceania Cruises)
Best Alternative Restaurant - The Verandah (Cunard's Queen Elizabeth)
Best for Entertainment - Cunard Line
Best for Healthy Cruising - Celebrity Cruises
Best Suites - Marina (Oceania Cruises)
Best Cabins - Holland America Line
Best Shore Excursions - Noble Caledonia
Best Guest Speakers - Voyages to Antiquity
Best for Honeymooners - Princess Cruises
Best for Wine Lovers - Celebrity's Solstice-Class
Best Cruise Ship Bar - The Glass House (P&O's Azura)
Best UK Port of Call - Newcastle
Best UK Departure Port - Southampton

All the category winners come fully explained with the 'why' of their choice and some useful info on the award-winner, and categories like Best Value and Best Suites are extremely relevant to today's cruisers (are you taking note, BTA?).

The categories like Best Bar and Best for Wine-Lovers are just plain fun, and the choice of Newcastle as best UK port of call is sure to start some earnest debate on the subject (as well as rewarding a go-ahead port authority - for my money, Lerwick in the Shetlands would be hard to beat as they simply work so hard to attract ships and provide a unique port experience, but that's a very minor quibble).

Do I agree with all the selections? No, but then you probably would struggle to get any two major cruise experts to agree anyway as there is so much that's subjective about these types of awards (as well as so much choice these days).

I probably wouldn't have given Cunard Best Itineraries as their ships are all so big there are many ports they CAN'T visit (unlike, say, Crystal, Silversea or even someone like Orion Expedition Cruises, whose itineraries are truly eye-catching), while I also think there are many other better contenders for Best Alternative Restaurant than QE's Verandah.

Ideally, I'd also like to see more categories to highlight the major differentiation these days between the large mega-ships and the smaller, more boutique types (for instance, how do you compare a new ship like Carnival Magic against the tiny-by-comparison Seabourn Quest?).

But that is really just nit-picking as against the big beefs I have with the comparable cruise section of the BTA. All in all, the Cruise Critic UK awards are a laudable and highly worthwhile exercise, and all the winners are to be congratulated.

For the full story, go to this page on Cruise Critic UK and click on the necessary link to see the Winners.