(4:10 p.m. EST) -- Roll out the red gangway for Cruise Critic's 4th Annual Editors' Picks Awards. We're showcasing the best of the best in cruise travel in categories covering both the big-ticket "Best New Ship of 2011" and "Best for Evening Entertainment," as well as hotly contested "Best Bar" and "Best for Solo Cruisers."
2011's 25 awards were hand-picked by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, experts in the field who've collectively spent thousands of days at sea, and who've been known to mumble ship passenger counts and alternative-dining fees in their sleep. Arriving at the list of winners wasn't without its gale-force debates. While some categories had an obvious champ, other superlatives, including "Best River Cruise Line," were fought tooth and nail until the most convincing viewpoint prevailed.
"Cruise lines offer exceptional hospitality and some of the best vacation experiences in the world, so to choose just a handful of ships and lines to honor is really tough," said Carolyn Spencer Brown, Cruise Critic's editor in chief. "We aim to highlight those lines that deserve credit in specific areas -- where we believe they truly excel -- such as dining, accommodations or onboard activities. Congratulations to all of this year's winners."
Several of 2011's most important categories, including "Best New Ship" and "Best for Families," have returned from 2010, but there are also a slew of enticing new awards highlighting ingenious inside cabin concepts and fantastic at-sea buffets. We've also established our first-ever port award.
Curious about which line earned the nod for best shore tours or which ship offers the most bang for you buck?
Drum roll please ...