The Top 5 Midsize-ship Ocean Cruise Lines in 2018

Windstar Cruises
Photo: Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

T+L readers have a soft spot for Wind Surf, Windstar’s 310-passenger sailing cruise ship. “From day one, we were treated like cherished members of family,” said a devotee, with another chiming in, “This is one fantastic yacht.” Indeed, many remarked that the intimate size of the vessel allowed them to feel as if they were traveling with dear friends. “The Wind Surf experience is romantic, unhurried, and relaxing,” added another loyalist. All these adjectives are hallmarks of a successful vacation, and are the reason readers voted Windstar No. 1 in the midsize-ship ocean cruise line category this year. 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; midsize-ship ocean cruise lines have vessels that can carry 250 to 599 passengers. Related: The 2018 World's Best Awards They may not be sailboats, but French line Ponant’s fleet of three 264-passenger luxury expedition vessels — L’Austral, Le Boréal, and Le Soléal — takes third place this year, no doubt because the ships move passengers to the polar regions in style. “Outstanding cruise to Antarctica,” said one reader. And several readers called out the Michelin-level meals inspired by French cooking. Paul Gauguin Cruises also specializes in sailing to remote corners — specifically, the South Pacific. Its sole vessel, the 332-passenger Paul Gauguin, travels to Fiji, the Cook Islands, and, of course, Tahiti and Bora-Bora. “I can’t think of a better way to see French Polynesia,” said one reader of the line, which was voted No. 2. “We have traveled on this ship 10 times since 2008, and will always choose it because the staff takes such good care of our families.” Read on for the full list of winners, and to see how they scored with our readers.

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5. Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Navigator, Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Courtesy of Regent Seven Seas Cruises

Score: 90.27

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4. Seabourn

Quest, Seabourn Cruise Line
Courtesy of Seabourn Cruise Line

Score: 92.16

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3. Ponant

Le Boreal, Ponant
Courtesy of Ponant

Score: 92.49

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2. Paul Gauguin Cruises

Stateroom, Paul Gauguin Cruises
Courtesy of Paul Gauguin Cruises

Score: 92.80

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1. Windstar Cruises

Wind Surf, Windstar Cruises
Courtesy of Windstar Cruises

Score: 93.70

Windstar has six ships in its fleet — five of which carry 212 passengers or fewer, meaning they fall into the small-ship ocean cruise line category. But the line’s sole midsize vessel, the 310-guest Wind Surf, was a particular favorite with T+L readers. On this newly renovated ship, which sails the Caribbean and the Med, all cabins have ocean views, and a new partnership with the James Beard Foundation takes the food to a new level. “Cabins are plush; food is great,” wrote one reader, as others praised the service: “Absolutely the best customer service I have ever experienced.”

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2018.

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