2018 Australia Editors' Picks Awards: Ocean Cruises

See the lines and ships that best represent excellence in ocean, river and luxury cruising, chosen by Cruise Critic's international team of editors.

Ocean Cruise Lines

Princess has quenched Australians' thirst for newer ships by sending its largest, latest and greatest to our shores. Introducing features never seen before on a local ship, Majestic Princess has an elegant, all-weather pool club and conservatory with a bar, hot tubs and enclosed cabanas; a glass walkway that extends over the ocean; a private karaoke room; bubble tea kiosk and restaurants created with Michelin-starred chefs.
Pacific Aria
Best Ship Refurbishment
Often overlooked in revamps, all suites, balcony cabins and the penthouse on Pacific Aria have been fitted with new carpets and outdoor furniture. The Dome nightclub has a fresh, modern look with nautical decor that makes it a pleasant room to relax in during the day, too. Elemis Spa has also been refreshed with a new barber shop. The overall result is that P&O's Brisbane-based ship looks better than ever.
With three small ships and a new-build on the way in 2019, this local line is known for its adventures in the Kimberley, Great Barrier Reef, Tasmania, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Cape York and Arnhem Land. It's also highly rated by passengers for its professional crew, excellent service, comfortable cabins and its shaded, easy-to-board expedition vessel for off-ship exploring.
Celebrity's standard cabins are equal to suites on other cruise lines. For dreamy views of the ship's wake on Sydney-based Celebrity Solstice, ask for a Sunset Verandah or Aqua Class aft stateroom. Families can snap up a Family Verandah with two bedrooms, separate dining and sitting areas and 270-degree views. Another standout is the classy, modern decor of the new Celebrity Edge.
Princess collaborated with top chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants to create the menus for its excellent new French and Cantonese restaurants on Majestic Princess, which also offers the novelty of poolside grills serving lobster, dim sum and noodle soups. Meanwhile, the whole fleet continues to shine at established venues, especially the Crown Grill steakhouse, the Chef's Table experience, Curtis Stone's Share and deluxe burgers at the Salty Dog gastropub.
As the leaders in technological innovations at sea, Royal Caribbean wields its wow power on the stage of every Broadway-style musical, acrobatic or visual effects production. Daytime entertainment is equally impressive and pioneering, particularly the kids shows and character parades, sky-diving and surfing simulators, and the SeaPlex hub of roller-skating, ice-skating and dodgem cars.
The vibe onboard Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend is pure, instant fun -- and not just for teenagers and children, who will obviously love the waterslides, kids clubs and free food. Parents (and grandparents) will enjoy the live music, a buzzing casino, Caribbean pub and poolside bars. But everyone will adore the helpful, often hilarious crew, who are exceptionally skilled at taking care of families.
From the Kimberley region of outback Australia, all the way to the Arctic and Antarctica, this small Aussie company is making big moves in the world's most remote areas. Its new, cutting-edge ship -- Greg Mortimer -- is launching in 2019 and has opened up more adventures in Latin America including the Caribbean and Galapagos Islands. A leader in responsible tourism, Aurora Expeditions is a top choice for cruising off the beaten track.
Royal Caribbean's world-class venues are unbeatable when it comes to adding pizzazz to parties at sea. Most striking is Ovation of the Seas' ocean-facing Two70 theatre with dancing robotic screens and multi-storey windows that transform into spectacular backdrops for virtual concerts, silent discos and the adults-only nightclub. The world's biggest ships also allow the world's biggest bar crawls afloat.
The attentive, friendly service on Azamara is such a drawcard that its senior officer schedule is published a year in advance, enabling passengers to choose their next sailing with their favourite captain, chef or cruise director. The line's smaller ships allow a more personalised approach and special touches, such as ice cream and a jazz band, to welcome you back to the ship at the end of a long day.
Aside from its excellent cycling and culinary tours, Azamara specialises in going 'behind the scenes' in private homes, family farms and restaurants where the locals eat. Late departures and overnight stays also allow passengers to explore a city after dark, enjoying the pubs and theatres on nightlife tours. All excursions are guided by independent, local operators and capped at 25 people to preserve the intimacy of the experience.
Norwegian's latest ships have the best and most studio cabins specifically designed for one person, as well as dedicated lounges for solo cruisers to mingle or watch TV. Most sailings have singles meetups and bar crawls hosted by cruise staff. Suiting solos who like to depart from local ports, many Australian and NZ departures offer Solo Cruiser Discount fares that are less than the double occupancy fare.
Royal Caribbean has some of the largest suites in the mainstream cruise industry, from two-level lofts to Presidential Family Suites, equipped with baby grand pianos and hot tubs on the balcony. Other perks might include complimentary drinks, free internet, priority access and the concierge services of a Royal Genie who gets in touch pre-cruise to personalise your holiday and provides VIP treatment at every step along the way.
Operating some of the most budget-friendly cruises from Sydney and Melbourne, Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend deliver plenty of bang for your buck. The food is remarkably good, drinks are affordable, and even the poolside Mexican, burgers, 24-hour pizza and pub snacks are free. With all activities, entertainment and waterslides at no extra cost, Carnival Cruise Line offers sensational value for a family holiday, whether you're comparing to land or sea.
No port can compete with the world's most spectacular harbour, where cruise ships routinely sail past the Sydney Opera House for every arrival and departure. The city delivers stunning beaches, museums, wildlife attractions, waterfront dining and lively bars, making it worthy of extending to a pre- or post-cruise stay, when one day in port is not enough.
Conflict Islands
Best South Pacific Port of Call
Exclusive to P&O Cruises, the uninhabited Conflict Group is the white-sand paradise of your holiday dreams. Passengers can visit a turtle nursery, sail on an outrigger canoe or snorkel in a lagoon with a higher diversity of fish than the Great Barrier Reef. Committed to conservation, self-sustainability and an ultimate goal to become 100 percent vegan, Conflict is a refreshing addition to the cruise scene.

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