By Simon & Susan Veness
We’re in the middle of cruising’s annual Awards Season, and there are usually plenty to go around. The ‘Best This’ and the ‘Best That’ are commonplace, but there are a few worth paying attention to, as they come from a panel of experts who really know their stuff.
Without wishing to impugn either the integrity or the intelligence of Joe Cruiser, we do question some of the ‘Readers’ Choice’ type awards that seem to be based on volume rather than reality. That can be the only way you can explain Viking Cruises being voted Best Luxury Line in the British Travel Awards (Viking? Really? An ocean-cruise line that has been around for less than three years is better than any of Crystal, Seabourn, Regent or Silversea? Really? We mean, really really?), or Viking also getting Best River Cruise Line (ahead of Crystal, Uniworld, Scenic, or AMAWaterways? Come ON).
It is obviously a highly subjective business, but some of these so-called ‘awards’ can be held up to a scrutiny that just does not pass the smell test (i.e. they smell distinctly fishy).
But then another batch of Awards come along that really make you feel like someone is paying close attention to the reality of today’s cruise world, and you consider that the balance has been redressed.
We refer most of all to the latest series of gongs handed out by the huge online presence that is Cruise Critic. If ever there was an organisation that genuinely pays attention to its mission statement and the fundamental basis of credibility, it is this particular maritime establishment.
And you know why? Because they let their editors make the final choice when it comes to handing out the serious awards. We know quite a few of the people involved, and they are among the most knowledgeable and well-travelled of the cruise cognoscenti, the crème de la crème of the sea-going smart arses, if you like.
It’s all very well letting your readers have their say, but that’s how you end up with Marella Cruises winning Best Family Line ahead of Disney Cruises (or just about anyone else, for that matter), or Princess Cruises being judged in the ‘Luxury’ category. Think, people, think.
But take a look at the latest Cruise Critic Editors Picks for 2017 and you see a real pattern of discerning astuteness. The top three awards in their ‘Luxury’ section went to Seabourn (Best Luxury Line), Silversea (Best New Luxury Ship) and Crystal (Best Luxury Ship Refurbishment). Hard to argue with any of those.
So, when you read on, you discover a really fascinating group of worthy winners in the sections for Best Enrichment (Seabourn), Best Cabins (Regent Seven Seas), Best Dining (Crystal), Best Itineraries (Silversea) and Best for Adventure (Silversea again with Silversea Expeditions).
But the next one really caught our attention. Best for Romance. And that’s a real poser. What’s the most romantic cruise you have taken? What is it your honeymoon, or an anniversary celebration? Was it that voyage where you met the one special person in your life? Perhaps it was the cruise where you visited Venice, Rome and Portofino on the same itinerary, three destinations that have ‘romance’ written all over them?
Or perhaps it was that unexpected ocean-going holiday when you and your loved one discovered you have a mutual love for being up at dawn for the arrival in every port, and you got to share that moment together, every time. And, while we’re on the topic, isn’t any cruise likely to be a source of major romance?
So, how do you decide on the most romantic line, when the idea of amour is so hard to identify but so easy to notice?
Step forward Cruise Critic. With this we simply could not argue. Best for Romance in the latest Editor’s Picks Awards is…..wait for it…..*Fanfare*…..Windstar Cruises.
And, yes, we think they nailed it. Because, when you boil it down to the essential elements involved in this particular decision, there are some obvious characteristics that you have to take on board.
Like, what does the ship look like, just to start with. Does it have the kind of appearance that makes you go, “I want to be on THAT ship’? Does it speak of elegance, individuality and distinction? In simple terms, does it look romantic?
Windstar’s three sail-cruise vessels (Wind Surf, Wind Spirit and Wind Star) all have that essential cachet of excellence, an air of feeling special and inspiring an atmosphere of, well, romance. They simply have the spirit of allure and adventure, two of key elements in the romantic roll-call.
Okay, you could also argue that Star Clippers might take the biscuit for eye-appeal in this instance, but there’s definitely more to it with Windstar. On any of their three distinctive sail-equipped vessels there is also a genuine feeling of being on your own private, contemporary yacht, with all the mod cons you could possibly want without the actual hassle of owning one.
The dining is also notably on the dreamy side, with restaurants that deal in a more intimate and discerning ambience; great for groups of four or six, but even better when it’s just the two of you. The entertainment and activities are also designed to bring the two of you together, rather than make them a spectator sport. You might learn to swing dance or salsa; kayak or paddleboard; or just enjoy the low-key atmosphere that encourages you to be together.
And, finally, there is that ‘X Factor’ of finding the essential connection between the two of you. Music is often a key component of that, and, when you have set sail to the sound of 1492: Conquest of Paradise by Vangelis or Bocelli and Brightman singing Time To Say Goodbye, there is just no doubting that extra frisson of pure romance in the air.
So, we have absolutely no qualms in whole-heartedly endorsing this latest award for Windstar, and that voodoo that they do, so well. Especially when our boss, Robin Maclear, was at the latest awards ceremony with Scott Collier, from Windstar UK, and Gavin Murray, the head of Expedition Cruises for The Cruise Line and Exclusive Expeditions. That’s a pretty worthy trio of cruise accomplishment. Just not quite as romantic as Windstar themselves.
Or are we wrong? Feel free to put down YOUR idea of the Most Romantic Cruise Line in the Comments section below. There’s no wrong answer, and you might just identify the next great cruise experience for one of your fellow travellers.