Q –  We are planning our first luxury cruise in Europe next summer. We like to research our vacations but finding the right cruise line was really challenging until we came across this site. Then, yesterday, we received the November Awards Issue from Conde Nast Traveler with whom, we believe, you have some sort of relationship. In the Ratings from Conde Nast we were surprised that Viking was rated above Regent and again in a list of smaller ships, Windstar was rated above Regent. This is in direct conflict with the ratings on your site where you have Viking and Windstar near the bottom. Our inclination is to trust you based on all of the great information you provide but  we wonder why your rankings are so different that the rankings in the same magazine that has been recommending your services for year.  Trust others may be confused by this “disconnect”.

A –  Many are confused. You are correct. People in the industry who have been studying, selling, and writing about these competing products for decades, have a clear idea as to which brands are best in terms of overall quality. We know what they spend on crew, on food, how inclusive their pricing tends to be, the size and structure of their staterooms, just how creative their itineraries are, and their level of customer service when something goes wrong. We also know that they vary in terms of safety issues and the demographics of typical guests.  But then along come the annual awards from a host of consumer travel magazines and all rankings seem to be up for grabs.

The Conde Nast Ratings are called the “Reader’s Choice Awards”. They are not compiled by a knowledgeable team of industry editors – they are simply a tabulation of the opinions expressed by the magazine’s readership. This is a practice that has been adapted by virtually every consumer travel publication. Readers like to feel included – they appreciate the opportunity to vote for their favorites. But the results of all of these polls is a collection of meaningless data. Many lines contact their past guests and ask them to vote. We have no idea about how qualified voters are – how many of the available lines have they actually sailed. In fact, there is no way to prove they have ever sailed at all. They have no means of comparison. 

Viking Cruises and Windstar are two lines we are looking at closely. They are excellent lower-cost options to the ranks of top-tier cruise lines. Viking’s ships are new, sleek Scandinavian minimalist beauties. They will get lots of votes in a Reader’s Choice poll because their sister line dominates the river cruise segment and there is lots of brand loyalty. But neither Viking or Windstar is all-inclusive. Many services included on the better lines are not included in the fare and, quite frankly, the ships carry a different clientele. 

Finally, you say that we list Viking and Windstar “near the bottom” in our ratings. They are on a very select list of the world’s best cruise lines. True that more luxurious, all inclusive, products rank above them; but they are still in a very select group that does not include the three lines that represent the vast majority of cruise bookings in the United States.

We launched  because we were frustrated by the consumer’s inability to find professional, untainted evaluations of the world’s top ten cruise lines. We think that reader polls do a major disservice to travelers seeking objective cruise information.

Finally, we have been named to the list of “The World’s Best Travel Specialists” by the Editors of Conde Nast Traveler. since 1999.  We have no business relationship with the  publication and we do not pay to be included on the list.