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TPG readers select the top cruise lines of the year at the 2021 TPG Awards

Nov. 08, 2021
6 min read
Featured image for Readers' Choice winners during Travel Week at the 2021 TPG Awards
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Cruising is back after a 15-month hiatus due to the pandemic, and for a second straight year, we're giving away a number of awards to worthy cruise lines — as voted on by TPG readers. With the restart gaining steam and a lot of exciting developments on tap for next year, which brands are taking home hardware in 2021?

Read on for more details on this year's cruise line winners.

Best Big-Ship Cruise Line

While some cruisers want nothing to do with big ships, they nevertheless hold wide appeal for many travelers thanks to the array of options on board. And it's only fitting that this year's award recipient just happens to operate the largest vessels on the planet.

Winner: Royal Caribbean

After taking home the inaugural award as the best big-ship cruise line in 2020, Royal Caribbean is retaining its crown. The line officially restarted North American sailings — with a number of changes — in June 2021, and the sheer scale of Royal Caribbean's fleet dwarfs many others. The line has nine of the 20 largest ships in the world, including its amenity-packed Oasis class vessels. The Wonder of the Seas is the newest of the line's megaships, slated to launch in March 2022 and capable of housing nearly 7,000 passengers.

Royal Caribbean also made waves (pun intended) with its recent announcement of the Ultimate World Cruise — a nine-month odyssey that will take guests to all seven continents, 65 countries and 150 different destinations. Of course, voting was already completed by then, but TPG readers clearly felt that the line was doing things right — hence its repeat victory in this category.

Related: The 5 best destinations you can visit on a Royal Caribbean cruise

Best MidSize-Ship Cruise Line

Massive vessels may appeal to some, but enjoying a cruise on a midsize ship (one that still boasts an array of amenities) is a very viable alternative. And here again, the winner is a familiar one.

Winner: Disney Cruise Line

Disney has defended its title as the best cruise line operating midsize ships. Despite a fleet of just four vessels, the line has a lot to offer customers. From Broadway-caliber shows to first-run movies and an array of character interactions, boarding a Disney cruise can be a dream come true for families and other fans of the company's films and attractions.

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But the line isn't resting on its laurels. Its newest ship — the Disney Wish — is slated to set sail on June 9, 2022, the first of three new ships that will join the fleet in the coming years. And based on what TPG has seen, it's going to take the Disney cruising experience to an entirely new level.

Read more: 3 things we learned while previewing food from Disney Cruise Line’s new ship, Disney Wish

Best Small-Ship Cruise Line

And then there are the small ships, those lines that typically cater to luxury travelers and can visit smaller ports of call. And since the first two awards were repeats, why not keep the trend going?

Winner: Viking

Viking won the award as the best small-ship cruise line for the second-straight year based on votes from TPG readers — and it's not hard to see why. The perennial favorite is best known as a river line, but it began adding upscale oceangoing ships in 2015. These vessels operate with a "no nickel-and-diming" philosophy; all fares include onboard Wi-Fi, a shore excursion in every port and beer and wine with lunch and dinner.

It's easy to understand why travelers would enjoy their time on a Viking ship — and why readers voted for it in for 2021.

Best River Cruise Line

This was a new cruise award for 2021. With some river cruise lines able to start sailing earlier than larger ocean ships, it made sense to recognize the best (according to readers).

Winner: Viking

While Viking won the award for the best small ships at sea, the candidates it beat out were oceangoing companies. Viking actually got its start on the river, and it now boasts more than 60 river cruise vessels, making it the leader in the English-speaking market. It currently offers voyages in Europe, Asia and Egypt — though it will soon set sail on the Mississippi River.

As a result, readers felt that it deserved this honor, too.

Related: The 10 most exciting new river cruise ships of 2021

Best Cruise Loyalty Program

As The Points Guy, we can't give out a handful of cruise awards without mentioning loyalty, so our final readers' choice category for 2021 is for the line with the best loyalty program. And if the previous repeat winners hint at a trend, you won't be disappointed.

Winner: Royal Caribbean (Crown & Anchor Society)

The line with the megaships kept its title as offering the best loyalty program in the cruise world. The Crown & Anchor Society features six distinct levels, each of which confers an array of benefits for frequent guests. This includes discounts on cruises, onboard specials and even access to special events on the ship.

It's not in the same ballpark as an airline or hotel loyalty program (there's no option to earn points and then redeem them), but it can nevertheless make cruising a lot more comfortable for those who regularly sail with Royal Caribbean — so readers voted it as the best.

Related: The ultimate guide to Royal Caribbean cruise ships and itineraries

Bottom line

The cruise line winners at the 2021 TPG Awards are a familiar bunch — as all of last year's recipients defended their titles. But that doesn't mean the readers got them right. Do you agree with these selections? Be sure to tune in to Thursday's Facebook Live panel discussion at noon Eastern Time as we discuss that very question.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023