More than 75,000 readers voted in the 2015-16 Telegraph Travel Awards, announced this week. Here are the tour operators you rated most highly.
Not content with having to share its crown with a rival in 2014, Cunard is now sole occupant of the top spot. On-board enrichment, a stellar line-up of guest speakers and that legendary White Star Service have won the day for cruisers.
Last year Cunard marked the 175th anniversary of the day its first ship, Britannia, left British waters for America, with celebrations on every cruise. Having drawn the eyes of the world when its three ships the Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria danced on the Mersey for the 175th, attention now turns to the flagship. In June the iconic QM2 will emerge “remastered”, with 30 additional Britannia Club balcony cabins and dining upgrades.
Famed for its Transatlantic route, the three-strong fleet will next year visit 93 destinations in 32 different countries.
Hurtigruten remains popular for excursions north
Hurtigruten’s popularity shows no sign of waning among those seeking one-off experiences including seeing the Northern Lights, whale-watching and polar-bear spotting on informal and authentically Norwegian ships. The cruise line welcomes new vessel Midnatsol later this year. Excellent service, continued innovation and some of the most spacious cabins at sea have justly kept Celebrity Cruises, joint winner in 2014, in the top three. The line has recently announced two new ships for the Galapagos, a raft of chef-led shore excursions and a bespoke touring service.
Largest cruise ships
In the cruise world the category of “best small cruise line” is hard-won. The smaller, more luxurious cruise lines are expert at wooing passengers – with some of best service, facilities and fine-dining afloat.
But this is Saga’s year. The line has garnered a clutch of awards in 2016 – winning plaudits for its generous inclusions, stellar service and home-from-home ambience on ships carrying no more than 720 passengers. This is the cruise line that remembers your name and your favourite drink and sends a chauffeur to collect you from home and whisk you off to port. It has been known to send vintage fighter aircraft into the skies above Dover to provide stirring aerobatics for passengers and put on a surprise concert by the Gibraltar National Choir, under the rock of Gibraltar. With just two ships, Saga boasts one of the highest retention rates in the industry. On two recent Canary Islands (Saga Sapphire) and South America (Saga Pearl II) cruises, the operator scored 100 per cent and 98 per cent satisfaction rates, respectively.
The operator continues to diversify beyond its two award-winning ocean ships. Last month the over-50s specialist announced a river cruise exclusively for solo travellers and 13 new river cruises for next year.
Saga has stolen a march on last-year’s winner Seabourn, the line that put the “contemporary” into contemporary luxury cruising and is launching its fourth ship Seabourn Encore in December, and second runner-up Silversea, whose nine vessels between them visit more than 700 destinations.
The past eight years have seen a revolution on the rivers, giving travellers a way to experience some of the world’s most picturesque and exotic locations in comfort.
In that time, stylish new vessels have been built offering plush cabins, swimming pools and speciality restaurants.
Australia Pacific Tours (APT) moved into river cruising in 2006, and has met the new challenges head on, growing to be one of the most respected and innovative companies in the business.
Choose one of its river cruises and you won’t follow tried-and-tested routes, but instead be treated to inspiring and exclusive experiences, all included in the price, on rivers around the world.
They include favourites such as the Rhine and Danube, but also rivers in Vietnam, Cambodia and Burma. Pioneering new itineraries on the Lower Ganges last year were a sell-out.
The Danube at Budapest
It’s an incredible success story for a company that started in the Twenties as a bus company in Melbourne, Australia, and today is an international business offering touring and cruising holidays around the world. It remains a family-run company, with the third generation now at the helm. This is the second year running APT that has been voted best river cruise line.
Runner-up Uniworld Boutique River Cruises is known for its touring options and high-spec, standout interiors. Where other river cruise companies favour a minimalist look, Uniworld has gone for art deco and baroque finishes, bold colours and floral designs that really make it stand out from the pack. Fellow runner-up, Riviera Travel, is a long-standing favourite with Telegraph Travel readers, loved for its keen prices and British style. In 2017 it is launching four new vessels in Europe as well as new itineraries on the Ganges in India.
One of the most consistent performers in any of our award categories – year in year out you vote for Brittany Ferries as your favourite ferry operator. The standard of catering is a strong draw – you feel as though you are arriving in France as soon as you step on board. But high-spec ships, decent cabins and an appealing choice of destinations are also part of the secret. Readers seem to enjoy the longer, more relaxed crossings to Normandy, and Brittany much more than the more frenetic routes to Calais and Dunkirk. And the 24-hour “mini-cruises” to Santander and Bilbao on Spain’s north coast are another strong suit for the company.
Brittany Ferries is still your favourite
Once again, P&O wins the battle for the best operator on the short Channel crossings with its fast, frequent Dover-Calais ferries. But it also offers services on the routes from Hull to Rotterdam and Zeebrugge, and it operates across the Irish Sea to both Dublin and to Larne.
This is a good result for Stena Line, which offers the biggest choice of routes across the Irish Sea, as well as the Harwich-Hook of Holland service.
Best countryNew ZealandNew ZealandNew ZealandNew ZealandUSA
Best cityCape TownCape TownCape TownCape TownNew York
Best short-haul airlineBABABABABA
Best long-haul airlineEmiratesSingapore AirlinesSingapore AirlinesSingapore AirlinesEmirates
Best tour operatorAudleyTrailfindersAudleyTrailfindersRiviera Travel
Best specialist tour operatorWellbeing EscapesHF HolidaysRed SavannahN/ATrailfinders
Best escorted tour operatorTrafalgarScenic ToursN/ARiviera TravelN/A
Best ski operatorScott DunnMark WarnerMark WarnerNeilsonCrystal
Best rail operatorRocky MountaineerGreat Rail JourneysOrient Express TrainsN/AN/A
Best large cruise lineCunardCunard/CelebrityCunardCunardP&O
Best small cruise lineSagaSeabournSeabourn Noble CaledoniaNoble Caledonia
Best river cruise lineAPTAPTScenic Tours Scenic Tours Scenic Tours
Best hotel groupSix SensesFour Seasons Four Seasons N/AN/A
Best ferry operatorBrittany FerriesBrittany FerriesBrittany FerriesN/AN/A