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Explainer: Best new cruise ship of 2010? Oasis of the Seas

  • Image: Oasis of the Seas
    Michel Verdure
    Oasis of the Seas

    Roll out the red gangway for Cruise Critic's 3rd Annual Editors' Picks Awards, which showcase the best of the best in cruise travel in categories covering both the big-ticket "Best New Ship of 2010" and "Best for Evening Entertainment," as well as the targeted-but-intriguing "Best for Healthy Dining" and "Best Pool Scene."

    Each of 2010's 20 awards were hand-selected by Cruise Critic's editorial staff, experts in the field who've collectively sailed on hundreds of cruises, and who've been known to rattle off ship tonnages and alternative-dining fees at cocktail parties. Arriving at the final list of honorees wasn't without its gale-force arguments. While some categories had an obvious favorite, many superlatives, including "Best for Evening Entertainment" and "Best Budget-Friendly Line," were only determined following heated debate and passionate appeals.

    "It's incredibly hard to select winners in just 20 categories when all of the companies under consideration are among the best travel operators in the world," said Cruise Critic Editor in Chief Carolyn Spencer Brown. "But even with consistently high standards across the board, some cruise lines simply shine more in one area than another, making them more appropriate to certain travelers, such as those with children, and we aim to highlight this with these awards."

    Several of 2010's most important categories, including "Best New Ship" and "Best for Families," have returned from 2009, but there are also a bevy of enticing new awards that highlight cruising's rapidly diversifying passenger base, which now includes music enthusiasts ("Best Cruises for Music Lovers") and free-spirited travelers more interested in icebergs and kayaks than casinos and Broadway-style shows ("Best for Adventure").

    Read on to learn about this year's winners.

  • Best for luxury: Seabourn Odyssey & Seabourn Sojourn

    Seabourn's new Odyssey and Sojourn are the largest true luxury ships in cruising, and yet the size works. It allows for more onboard choice — especially the fantastic Seabourn Square, a combination library, coffeeshop, bakery and social hub — and yet attention to detail in its cuisine, service and upscale yacht-like ambience, is impeccable.

  • Best for evening entertainment: NCL's Norwegian Epic

    Image: Blue Man Group
    Neilson Barnard  /  Getty Images Contributor

    NCL's effort to offer a Las Vegas-style nightlife scene at sea means that once the sun goes down, activity, from dueling pianos and a Cirque acrobatics show to soulful blues and the famed Blue Man Group, is non-stop.

  • Best shore excursions: Disney Cruise Line

    Image: Disney Dream
    CHRISTIAN CHARISIUS  /  Reuters

    In an era in which cruise line shore excursions often are carbon copies of one another, Disney's collection of unique experiences, from adult-oriented cooking classes in Tuscany to a Royal Ball with princesses in St. Petersburg, stands out.

  • Best for music lovers: Sixthman's music-themed cruises

    Not a cruise line, Sixthman is a Georgia-based company that's pioneered the concept of music-oriented theme cruises at sea. Sixthman's lively floating festivals have featured all manner of acts, from Elvis tributes to platinum-selling hard rockers.

  • Best pool scene: Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas

    Image: Oasis of the Seas
    Hans Deryk  /  ASSOCIATED PRESS

    On Oasis of the Seas, you can choose your pool to suit your mood. Silly games? Beach? Kids' Aqua Park? Adults-only spa? Each offers a different ambience and experience.

  • Best for gamblers: Norwegian Epic

    Image: Norwegian Epic casino
    Norwegian Epic

    When NCL designed Norwegian Epic, it turned to Las Vegas for casino inspiration. The result? Its flashing lights, full range of table games, from poker to roulette, acres of slots, and a Players Club program has a Vegas vibe.

  • Best for healthy dining: Celebrity Cruises

    Celebrity’s focus on offering a wide range of healthy dishes in formal restaurants and more casual venues makes it easier to stay on a wellness track, even when faced with the usual cruise temptations.

  • Best for budget-friendly cruising: Carnival Cruise Lines

    Image: Carnival Liberty
    Andy Newman  /  AP

    Carnival Cruise Lines consistently offers great prices and exceptional value that's hard to beat.

  • Best for families: Royal Caribbean

    Image: Royal Caribbean and Dreamworks
    Royal Caribbean International  /  PRNewsFoto via AP

    With brand partnerships with family-friendly companies like Fisher Price and Johnny Rockets, and an astonishing range of onboard activities, both active and creative, Royal Caribbean offers a superbly well-rounded family cruise experience.

  • Best for adventure: Lindblad Expeditions

    Image: A polar bear looks up at guests aboard Lindblad Expeditions' National Geographic Explorer in Norway
    Michael S. Nolan  /  AP

    Lindblad's cruises range from nature-oriented to cultural and offer great creature comforts amid even more fantastic tours and lectures that meld the experience onboard to onshore.

  • Best river cruise line: Avalon Waterways

    With one of the youngest fleets in cruising, Avalon's breadth of itineraries spans Europe, Asia and Egypt, and offers an American-centric experience.

  • Best itineraries: Crystal Cruises

    Crystal's mid-sized pair of ships meander around the globe each year with itineraries that offer a blend of marquee ports, like Hong Kong, Sydney and San Francisco, with truly offbeat destinations, such as Burma, Ghana and Mauritius.

  • Best for kid-free travel: Oceania Cruises

    If kids are by no means off-limits on Oceania, the line still caters firmly to a more mature traveler via sophisticated dining and destinations.

  • Best main dining room: Princess Cruises

    Image: Princess Cruises dining
    Courtesy Princess Cruises

    Princess has succeeded mightily in creating dining rooms that appeal to travelers who want either flexible or traditional seating, and its menus bridge the gaps between the two as well, with daring fare balanced with comfort offerings.

  • Best new restaurant: Norwegian Epic's Brazilian steakhouse

    Norwegian Epic was the first this year to introduce to cruising the Brazilian churrascarria, in which pasadores, armed with various meats on skewers, go table-to-table; other lines have since adopted the concept.

  • Best for honeymooners: NCL's Pride of America

    Image: Pride of Hawaii
    AP

    NCL's Pride of America, with its jazzy interiors, varied nightlife, and roundtrip Honolulu sailings offers a great taste of the romance of Hawaii and a chance to island-hop without packing and repacking a suitcase.

  • Best for a second honeymoon: Paul Gauguin Cruises

    The elegant Paul Gauguin, the only ship based in French Polynesia that was designed and built for cruising in just that region, offers sophisticated romance.

  • Best for weddings at sea: Princess Cruises

    Image: couple on Princess Cruises
    Courtesy Princess Cruises

    Its "Tie the Knot" packages, onboard chapels (on most vessels), and even a live webcam at sea that videos the ceremony for friends back home, makes Princess a standout for weddings.

  • Best for classic cruising: Holland America

    Image: Holland America
    KEVIN P. CASEY  /  AP

    Holland America's nod to cruise traditions includes formal nights, captain's welcome parties and music to smooch to — and yet it continues to keep up with the times when it comes to offering more contemporary features, such as alternative restaurants and enhanced enrichment.

  • Best new ship: Oasis of the Seas

    Image: Oasis of the Seas
    Hans Deryk  /  ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sure, Oasis of the Seas is the biggest afloat, but that's not enough of a reason for it to be the best. Where it succeeds is creating the most innovative features you can imagine — zipline? Carousel? The first foliage-filled park at sea? — and then backing them up with key cruise features like spa and fitness facilities, kids' programs, and superb entertainment.

Photos: Allure of the Seas

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  1. World's biggest ship

    The Allure of the Seas sets sail from Turku, Finland, for Florida on Oct. 29, 2010. Royal Caribbean's brand new ship will be the largest in the world, barely edging out her sister, Oasis of the Seas. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. First Starbucks at sea

    The Allure of the Seas features the first Starbucks on a cruise ship. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Onboard entertainment

    The Move On! Move On! Parade on the Royal Promenade features characters from DreamWorks Animation's "Madagascar." (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. A floating city

    Allure of the Seas has 16 passenger decks, 2,700 cabins, and can accommodate 6,300 passengers and 3,000 crewmembers. (Markku Ulander / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Carousel at sea

    A carousel can be found on the Boardwalk aboard the Allure of the Seas. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Recreation

    The outdoor play area aboard Allure of the Seas includes a multifunctional court which can host games of basketball, volleyball and badminton. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Behemoth

    The gigantic vessel is the sister ship of the Oasis of the Seas, which Royal Caribbean has been running since its delivery in December 2009. Like Oasis, Allure of the Seas cost the cruise line about $1.5 billion. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. 'Something for everyone'

    "There's something for everyone to discover on the grandest ships the world has ever seen," Royal Caribbean boasts on its website. (Lehtikuva / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Entertaining options

    Allure of the Seas features an ice rink and entertainment including the Broadway musical "Chicago" and the aerial acrobatic show "Blue Planet." (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Just desserts

    There's no shortage of sweet treats aboard the Allure of the Seas, which has an onboard cupcake shop, ice cream parlor and doughnut shop. (Royal Caribbean) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. A thrilling ride

    The Allure of the Seas features a zipline that soars across an open-air atrium. (Rob Lovitt) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. One big ship

    The Allure of the Seas measures nearly 1,200 feet long, towers 236 feet above the waterline and weighs 225,282 tons — 12 times more than the Eiffel Tower. (Roni Lehti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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