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Best cruise lines in the world revealed in new 2021 awards

Author: Harriet Mallinson

Published on:

Updated on:

Which cruise line is best? You may find yourself wondering. With many incredible cruising brands to choose from it can be hard to know - but new awards have given us the answer.

The best cruise lines in the world for 2021 have been named.

Awards to the crème de la crème of cruising were dished out by Condé Nast Traveller in its latest Reader Choice Awards today.

More than 800,000 UK and US readers submitted responses rating their travel experiences and tens of thousands of comments as part of the annual survey.

There was a prize for each of the following cruise line categories: Mega ships, large ships, medium ships, small ships and river ships.

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Best cruise lines in the world

The best cruise line for mega ships - vessels carrying more the 4,000 passengers - was revealed to be Norwegian Cruise Line, beating last year's winner Royal Caribbean.

Harry Sommer, Norwegian Cruise Line Brand President and CEO, said of the win: "This accolade is testament to the extraordinary experiences available on our ships, alongside the exceptional service and innovations delivered by our team members and crew... We are honoured and proud to receive this recognition and thank our loyal customers who voted for us. Stay tuned, there is so much more to come!”

The best cruise line for large ships - carrying 2,500 to 4,000 passengers - was Disney Cruise Line which clung onto the title for another year.

- READ MORE: Find your perfect cruise with our handy cruise finder -

The best cruise line for medium ships - 500 to 2,500 passengers - was Viking Ocean Cruises.

The best cruise line for small ships - fewer than 500 passengers - was luxury adventure cruise brand Lindblad Expeditions. Last year the title went to Crystal Cruises Yacht.

Sven Lindblad, Founder and Co-Chair of the Board, Lindblad Expeditions. said of the win: “Everyone in our company is guided by 10 principles, the first being `Ensure that everything adds value to the guest experience.’ Receiving this award from Condé Nast Traveler readers is both an honour and will serve to reinforce this primary principle for all of us at Lindblad Expeditions."

Dolf Berle, CEO, Lindblad Expeditions added: “This award inspires us to explore even farther in our pursuit of life-changing and wonder-filled expeditions.”

The best cruise line for river ships was Viking River Cruises.

Viking infinity pool
The best cruise line for river ships was Viking River Cruises. Credit: Viking

Viking is the only cruise line with the top scores in two categories in the same year - and the brand is "proud" of the achievement.

In 2020 Viking won best cruise line for river ships but the medium ship category went to Crystal Cruises.

- READ MORE: How to pick the river cruise line that’s right for you -

“Since we restarted operations in May of this year, tens of thousands of travellers have begun exploring the world in comfort once again," said Torstein Hagen, Chairman of Viking.

"The guests on these Welcome Back voyages enjoyed the experience so much that they have provided some of the highest-ever ratings in post-trip surveys.”

“In that same spirit, it is a great honour to once again be voted the number one river cruise line and the number one ocean cruise line in the world. Thank you to our guests and the readers of Condé Nast Traveller.”

Viking expedition ship
Viking will launch Viking Expeditions, with two purpose-built Polar Class 6 vessels in January 2022. Credit: Viking

Today’s announcement comes ahead of Viking’s 25th anniversary in 2022, which is slated to be the company’s biggest year yet.

In January 2022, the company will launch Viking Expeditions, with two purpose-built Polar Class 6 vessels, Viking Octantis and Viking Polaris, sailing voyages in Antarctica, the Arctic and North America’s Great Lakes.

- READ MORE: Viking's Marine scientist shares his love of Antarctica -

Next summer, Viking will launch its highly anticipated US river cruises and bring modern river cruising to the region with the debut of Viking Mississippi sailing between New Orleans and St. Paul.

The company will also continue to expand its award-winning fleet on the rivers and the seas – with the addition of Viking Saigon in Southeast Asia and Viking Osiris in Egypt, as well as its two newest identical ocean ships, Viking Mars and Viking Neptune.

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