Best Cruise ShipsQ – I am confused. Having migrated away from Holland America and Norwegian, we are now ready to do one of the top lines on a “try it out” Caribbean cruise. But your ratings list Hapag-Lloyd as the best while the Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Ratings are completely different and barely mention the line. CNT, for instance, lists Regent Seven Seas in the large ship category with Crystal # 1, while you have Crystal down on the list behind lines like Seabourn and Silversea. So, on the one hand, we’ve got highly respected magazines with large staff saying one thing and your web site saying another. See why I’m a bit confused. I want to believe your ratings but ………..”

A – Fair enough and really glad you asked. Yes, no one else offers the same rating positions/scores that we do. Here is why: The so-called rankings in the major consumer travel magazines are the result of polling of the readership. They are almost always identified as “Reader’s Choice” Ratings. Not surprisingly, those readers loyal to a line will vote for it. Sometimes, lines solicit votes via e-mail from their past guests when they know a reader’s poll is in the works. Since those voting do not work in the industry and do not have a significant frame of reference when it comes to product differentiation, you get skewed results. When you see professional evaluations that seem to be unbiased, you might want to skim the publication or the web site to identify heavy advertisers.

The big ship, medium, and small ship debate has never been settled. From a consumer standpoint, it is wise to consider any ship with more than 999 guests a “large” ship. For practical purposes, any vessel under 1000 guests is small. By breaking down ratings into large, medium, and small categories, web sites and publications get to name more names and please more advertisers. The name of the game is to give out Reader’s Choice awards so that a maximum number of cruise lines can use them in their advertising.

Top-Luxury-Yachts-In-The-World-06You’ve hit on some good points and when we started this massive project we put a great deal of thought into categories, size, and cruise type. Ultimately, we thought it would serve the consumer best to simply identify the world’s ten best cruise lines based on industry-standard measurements.

Our self-imposed standards are not perfect. How, for instance, do you place Oceania with two highly-recommended 1200 passenger ships? How do you place the Cunard liners given that they operate several classes of service? Should you include a line like Hapag-Lloyd that serves a primarily upscale German market? These are some of the questions we’ve grappled with in designing our ratings systems.