2018 UK Editors' Picks Awards: Ocean Cruises

See the lines and ships that best represent excellence in ocean, river and luxury cruising, chosen by Cruise Critic's international team of editors.

Ocean Cruise Lines

Celebrity Edge is innovative and game changing. Whether it's the "Magic Carpet," which transforms from tender platform to alfresco sushi joint to a spot for high tea; or the Infinite Verandas, which change the shape and size of the room with the touch of a button; or the high-tech theatre with three gigantic, moving projection screens, Celebrity Edge sets a new standard for cruise ship design.
Less of a refurb and more of a stunning overhaul, Independence of the Seas marks the start of Royal's massive ship-wide refresh programme and introduces a slew of outstanding new features, including the headline-grabbing VR trampoline Sky Pad; a puzzle break room, Observatorium; a laser tag arena; two new waterslides; a new kids' splash park; and new dining venues, including Playmakers Sports Bar & Arcade, Izumi Hibachi and Fish & Ships.
Husky sledding above the Arctic circle, sleeping in a snow hotel, king crab fishing, whale watching, spending the night in tent in Antacrtica, taking a dip in Polar waters, exploring the rugged coast of Greenland, watching glaciers calve or spotting icebergs. You'd be hard-pressed to find a line that offers more adventures -- all accompanied by expert guides, in-depth port talks and fabulous food.
Cunard has long been synonymous with lavish decor, but following ongoing fleetwide refurbishments, its cabins -- featuring rich colours, plush furnishings and functional layouts -- are looking better and feeling comfier than ever. Another notable selling point is the amount of space afforded. Wardrobes are large, and under-the-bed storage is plentiful, with room for several suitcases.
Celebrity Cruises raised the culinary bar this year with a fresh take on main dining rooms and six new-to-the-line speciality restaurants on its latest ship, Celebrity Edge. Fleetwide innovations include Le Petit Chef, a digitally animated character that pairs entertainment with gourmet creations. Traditionalists will rave about the wine lists, while exclusive dinners, cocktail events and "Movable Feast" sailings with celebrity chefs round out the line's focus on foodies.
Royal Caribbean continues to entertain with original West End-style productions, parades and now Sky Pad, a bungee-trampoline experience that also employs virtual reality. Additionally, you'll find laser tag being rolled out across the fleet and mind-blowing technology, including drones, enhancing new shows in the ice skating rink. And, as always, you can still surf, slide and fly (by zipwire or skydive simulator) onboard many of Royal Caribbean's ships.
Royal Caribbean has enough amusements to keep little ones entertained all day and mum and dad all evening. It offers wonderful kids clubs -- vast, well-thought-out spaces divided by age group, from 6 months to 17 years. Family-friendly programming includes discos, theatre shows and kid-friendly shore excursions. The ships also have a large number of cabins, suitable for any family size.
In addition to offering sailings in the fjords, Baltic and Caribbean, Fred. Olsen features world cruises that take passengers around the globe, highlighting far-flung ports in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and other destinations. The line's ships are also small enough to sail itineraries along French and Spanish rivers -- something lines with larger ships are unable to do.
There's partying, and, in the case of MSC Cruises, there's par-tay-ing, whether it's at the themed White Party, street parties in the promenade on the bigger ships, the discos in the basketball court, outdoor pool parties, or, in the case of Cuba-based MSC Opera, Cuban bands and dancers who are invited onto the ship to perform.
It's the little things -- such as your steward making ever more elaborate towel animals because you've mentioned your kids love them, your waiter helping your child carry his plate at the buffet or an excursion team that goes out of the way to tailor an experience for you -- that make a cruise line stand out in terms of service. Sailing with Celestyal is like coming home.
To complement its global itineraries, Fred. Olsen offers a variety of shore tours, from waterfall hikes to bus tours, that cater for different tastes and physical ability levels. What we like best is that the pace is often a bit slower than what you'll find with other cruise lines. That means you won't feel rushed as you take in your surroundings, ensuring your holiday actually feels like one.
Saga Cruises
Best for Solo Travellers
Saga sets the standard for solos in terms of accommodation, with 101 cabins dedicated for single use across its current fleet and 218 across its forthcoming new-build ships. But the best thing is that these aren't poky interiors; they're doubles allocated for singles -- with no supplement. Solos also have nightly ship-organised meet-and-greets, and they are added to groups at dinners, rather than forced to eat alone.
The lavishness, inclusivity and variety of Royal Caribbean's top cabins -- some ships offer up to a dozen suite categories -- can't be beat by any other mainstream cruise line. And on Oasis-class ships, you'll find many in an exclusive top-deck area, complete with a suites-only restaurant and bar. This year, the line even introduced the Ultimate Family Suite, complete with a bedroom-to-living-room slide.
Just imagine help-yourself beer buckets dotted around the pool deck and wine glasses stacked on help-yourself trays outside the theatre, included gratuities, seven-night Caribbean cruises (including flights) on offer for around £850 per person, and outstanding speciality restaurants starting at less than a tenner per person. Marella's newest ships offer extraordinary value for money, and from next year the whole fleet will be all-inclusive.
Best UK Departure Port
Central London's two cruise ports are centrally located, offering loads to see and do. Ships docking at Tower Bridge require passengers to board through HMS Belfast, a naval ship; when sailing away, ships docked there pass under Tower Bridge -- a great photo opportunity. Meanwhile, cruisers on vessels docking at Greenwich can visit the Cutty Sark, the Royal Observatory, Greenwich Market and the National Maritime Museum.
St. Peter Port (Guernsey)
Best UK & British Isles Port of Call
You'd be hard-pressed to find any British Isles port of call that goes as far as Guernsey to welcome cruise passengers. Thoughtful improvements are constantly made and feature parasols on the pier for hot or rainy weather, an army of helpers directing passengers towards the town, staggering tour times to avoid overcrowding, dredging the harbour and even a new section for disabled passengers to wait.

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