By Paul Brady
July 08, 2020
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This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

When it comes to traveling by sea, there’s a cruise ship out there for everyone. Huge vessels and expedition yachts — and everything in between — have proliferated over the past decade. Yet readers of Travel + Leisure find much to love about the more traditional big-ship cruise, as evidenced by the stellar scores they awarded a number of large-ship lines, including No. 2 Crystal Cruises and No. 4 Regent Seven Seas Cruises.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated individual cruise ships on their cabins and facilities, food, service, itineraries and destinations, excursions and activities, and value. Those assessments were combined to generate results for the cruise lines in five categories; large-ship ocean cruise lines have ships that can carry 600 to 2,199 passengers.

To create that everything-for-everyone experience that readers expect of large ships, the winners relied on two factors: a dizzying mix of onboard amenities and a broad range of interesting itineraries. At No. 3 this year, Seabourn excelled in both regards. “The service is extraordinary,” said one reader, who cruised aboard the Seabourn Ovation, the line’s newest ship. “The staff read minds,” concurred another, who added that “the service is above and beyond, and ‘no’ has been removed from the dictionary!” Passengers also complimented Seabourn’s dining menus — created in partnership with chef Thomas Keller — and spacious staterooms.

Credit: Courtesy Viking Cruises

No. 5 Silversea Cruises  jumped three positions from last year’s ranking in this category. (Silversea also ranked on this year’s list of midsize-ship and small-ship lines.) “The crew was very attentive and accommodating, and they bent over backward to make our trip excellent,” said one voter, who sailed on the Silver Spirit, which was extended to accommodate more guests in 2018. “I love that it was all-inclusive and I didn’t need to worry about money aboard,” said another traveler.

The large ships of No. 2 Crystal Cruises also made waves with voters. Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony both got high marks for their guest speakers aboard — “enrichment is top notch,” said one guest — as well as the shore excursions. As one reader summed up, “We absolutely love Crystal Symphony. It's our favorite ship on our favorite cruise line. It's heaven.”

And while Viking may have begun as a river-cruise line, its expansion into ocean cruising has been met with much excitement by readers, who’ve voted the company as their favorite in this category for five straight years. Keep reading to find out why — and to see which other companies made the list of the best large-ship ocean cruise lines.

1. Viking Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Viking Cruises

Score: 94.61

More information: vikingcruises.com

The Scandinavian-minded line earned Travel + Leisure readers praise for its fascinating shore excursions, caring crew, and exceptional amenities and ship design. “My husband and I prefer Viking over all other cruise lines because of the ease and professionalism we have experienced,” said one traveler, who recently sailed on the Viking Sky. “From luggage handling to dining to excursions, nothing has come close to the care we have received from Viking staff.” Voters also commented on Viking’s onboard experience, which differs in feel from what some other cruise lines offer. “There are no casinos, climbing walls, or ziplines on board, which is just fine with me,” said one Viking Sky guest. “The ports and excursions are what people are interested in, and it’s here that Viking shines.” Viking launched ocean-going ships in 2015 and now sails six vessels, including most recently the Viking Orion and Viking Jupiter. Up next? The Viking Venus, set to debut in 2021. It’s sure to have some fans: “After my first cruise with them in November,” said one reader, “I will probably never use another cruise line again!”

2. Crystal Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Crystal Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 93.90

More information: crystalcruises.com

3. Seabourn

Credit: Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 92.53

More information: seabourn.com

4. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 90.07

More information: rssc.com

5. Silversea Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Silversea Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 88.64

More information: silversea.com

6. Cunard

Credit: Courtesy of Cunard

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 87.55

More information: cunard.com

7. Azamara

Credit: Courtesy of Azamara

All UsersWBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.99

More information: azamara.com

8. Oceania Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Oceania Cruises

WBA Hall of Fame honoree. Score: 85.46

More information: oceaniacruises.com

9. Hurtigruten

Credit: Courtesy of Hurtigruten

Score: 85.17

More information: hurtigruten.com

10. Costa Cruises

Credit: Courtesy of Costa Cruises

Score: 81.40

More information: costacruises.com

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.