(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' 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
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
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
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