The winners column is dominated by small- and medium-sized luxury ships and even the large-ship winner is on the higher end compared with its in-class peers.
Queen Mary 2, Crystal Serenity, Europa, and SeaDream II have been named among the best performing cruise ships in an annual survey of nearly 300 vessels.
The four topped the “best large ship”, “best mid-size ship”, “best small ship” and “best boutique ship” categories, respectively, in the 2013 Berlitz Complete Guide to Cruising and Cruise Ships, compiled by Douglas Ward, Telegraph Travel’s cruise correspondent.
In terms of overall ratings, Europa, operated by Hapag Lloyd Cruises, was given 1,852 out of 2,000, ahead of SeaDream II (1,788). Smaller cruise lines dominated the rankings, with Seabourn Cruises, Silversea, and SeaCloud operating six, three and two ships, respectively, that were rated above 1,700. Just five large or mid-sized ships – Queen Mary 2 (1,702), Crystal Serenity (1,717), Riviera (1,702), Crystal Symphony, and Marina (both 1,701) – scored as highly. Celebrity Equinox and Celebrity Solstice (both 1,611) came joint second in the large ships category.
The worst performing large cruise ship was MS Grand Holiday, operated by Ibero Cruises, which scored 1,160. Coral, owned by Louis Cruise Lines, was named the poorest mid-sized ship, with 944. Arion, a Classic International Cruises vessel, scored 902 points, making it the worst performing small ship. National Geographic Expeditions’ two ships – Sea Bird and Sea Lion – scored the lowest rating (both 743) in the boutique category.
The ratings are based on 400 different criteria, from the quality of the on-board food and entertainment to the comfort of ccommodation.
In the guide, Mr Ward says that cruise companies are finding the current economic climate “unpleasantly choppy”, particularly after the fall in bookings that followed the Costa Concordia disaster in January.
He adds that many firms have relocated their ships from “low-profit regions”, such as the Caribbean and Alaska, to more cost-effective ones in Europe, Asia and Australasia. This increased capacity means that many of the best-value cruises are to be found on sailings around the Mediterranean and Northern Europe.
Joel Brandon-Bravo, the managing director of the website Travelzoo, agreed that the best cruise deals were to be found in Europe.
“There are a large number of cruise lines operating in the Mediterranean this year, which has contributed to the lower prices,” he said. “But the drive to encourage early booking has also pushed down prices.”
A further 19 ships are due to be completed in the next three years which should mean greater competition and more good offers.