(5 a.m. AEST) -- Cruise Critic has announced the winners of its first-ever Cruisers' Choice Awards in Australia and New Zealand. The awards name the most popular cruise ships for local travellers, based entirely on ratings and reviews posted to Cruise Critic over the past year from Australians and New Zealanders. Royal Caribbean, Cunard and Ponant are the most highly rated cruise lines, according to this year's awards.

Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas scooped the Large Ship category, topping seven out of ten categories – including Best Overall Ship, Best Dining, Best Shore Excursions, Best Public Rooms, Best Fitness and Recreation, Best Embarkation and Best Value for Money.

The big winner in the Mid-Size Ship category was Cunard's Queen Victoria. As the Best Overall Ship, it also won Best Dining, Best Cabins, Best Entertainment, Best Public Rooms and Best Value.

The most popular in the Small Ship category was Ponant's Le Boreal, rated most highly by passengers for service, value and shore excursions. Azamara Club Cruises' refurbished Azamara Quest also performed well, winning Best Cabins, Best Dining, Best Entertainment, Best Embarkation and Best Public Rooms.

In two specialty categories, the Best Cruise for Families was P&O's Pacific Aria, and the Best Cruise for First Timers was Princess Cruises' Sapphire Princess.

"This is the first time in the nine-year history of the global Cruise Critic Cruisers' Choice Awards that we have released winners specifically for Australians and New Zealanders," said Louise Goldsbury, Cruise Critic's Managing Editor, Australia.

"From the results, we can see what people really think about our local cruises as well as ships in all of the international destinations where Australians and New Zealanders go cruising. It goes to show that it's not always the newest ships that are considered the best. All of the winners have been around for a few years, and for Queen Victoria and Sapphire Princess, two overseas-based ships, to be so popular is something that nobody could have known without these awards."

Here is this year's full list of winners:

Large Ship Category

Explorer of the Seas (Photo: Royal Caribbean)

Best Overall Ship: Explorer of the Seas

Best Cabins: Sapphire Princess

Best Dining: Explorer of the Seas

Best Embarkation: Explorer of the Seas

Best Entertainment: Sun Princess

Best for Fitness & Recreation: Explorer of the Seas

Best Public Rooms: Explorer of the Seas

Best Service: Diamond Princess

Best Shore Excursions: Explorer of the Seas

Best Value for Money: Explorer of the Seas


Mid-Size Ship Category

Queen Victoria (Photo: Cunard)

Best Overall Ship: Queen Victoria

Best Cabins: Queen Victoria

Best Dining: Queen Victoria

Best Embarkation: Maasdam

Best Entertainment: Queen Victoria

Best for Fitness & Recreation: Pacific Aria

Best Public Rooms: Queen Victoria

Best Service: Maasdam

Best Shore Excursions: Pacific Aria

Best Value for Money: Queen Victoria


Small Ship Category

Le Boreal (Photo: Ponant)

Best Overall Ship: Le Boreal

Best Cabins: Azamara Quest

Best Dining: Azamara Quest

Best Embarkation: Azamara Quest

Best Entertainment: Azamara Quest

Best for Fitness & Recreation: Azamara Journey

Best Public Rooms: Azamara Quest

Best Service: Le Boreal

Best Shore Excursions: Le Boreal

Best Value for Money: Le Boreal


Best Cruise for Families

Pacific Aria


Best Cruise for First Timers

Sapphire Princess