The Bottom Line
Anyone who loves to cruise will love this book. The Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017 is one of the best "general" cruise guides you can buy. Author Douglas Ward provides an in-depth review of 295 cruise ships in this cruise guidebook, now in its 32nd year of publication. Mr. Ward is certainly a cruise expert--he has worked in the cruise industry for 50 years and averages about 200 days a year on cruise ships.
The guide book has exceptional information on ships of sizes and prices. Like me, Mr. Ward believes there is a cruise ship to suit everyone's taste.
- Exquisite details on 295 cruise ships - 1 or more pages on each ship
- Excellent advice for planning your first or next cruise with great list of Cruise FAQs
- Authoritative guide to all important cruise ship statistics
- Superb analysis/comparison of 10 major cruise lines
- Scoring system is well explained and helps with cruise planning
- Not all ships are updated each year
- Information on cruise destinations is excellent but limited; book focuses primarily on ships
- Different ships in the same cruise line sometimes have almost identical reviews
- May be too much information and too many ships for those who have not cruised much
- Alphabetical ratings for 295 cruise ships covering almost 700 pages
- Complete analysis of ship accommodations, food, service, entertainment, and destinations based on Mr. Ward's 6000+ days at sea
- Guidance on what to look for on a cruise ship and crew
- Information on ships debuting in 2017
- Describes different types of cruises (families, romantics, seniors, solo travelers, physically challenged)
- Almost 200 pages of relevant general cruise information and 500 pages of cruise ship reviews
- Briefly discusses alternatives such as sailboat cruises, expedition cruises, and coastal cruises
Book Review - Berlitz Cruising & Cruise Ships 2017
Mr. Ward does an excellent job of pointing out the pros and cons of cruise ships of all sizes, ages, and price ranges. Mr. Ward also reminds travelers that there is no perfect cruise ship or cruise line. People enjoy different activities and destinations and expect different amenities, and this guide will help them find the right cruise ship for the things that are important to them.
The first 176 pages of this 736-page guide also offer great general information useful for cruise planning and an interesting comparison of major cruise lines.
The rest of the book rate 295 ocean-going cruise ships. The point system used to evaluate the ships provide an excellent basis for comparing ships and cruise lines. The only small downside is that "sister" ships for the same cruise line often have the same rating and almost identical narratives. Those of us who have sailed on sister ships know that these ships are not always identical. However, this book is still one of my favorite resources for learning about ships and comparing features that are important for travelers.
What Are the Highest Ranked Cruise Ships?
The highest ranked cruise ship is the Europa 2, which is one of four ships of German line Hapag-Lloyd.
The Europa 2 scores 1860 points out of a possible 2000. Her sister ship the Europa was just behind, scoring 1852 points. Both these ships rated 5-star plus.
Five other cruise ships earned 5-stars, scoring between 1701 and 1850 points. These 7 ships scored highest in the 400 separate items evaluated in the scoring system, all of which are categorized into six categories: the ship, accommodations, food, service, entertainment, and cruise experience.
Of the seven highest ranked ships, I've been lucky enough to sail on four of them -- the Europa 2, Hanseatic, SeaDream I, and SeaDream II. All were fantastic ships. Thirteen other ships received 4-star plus ratings since they scored between 1551 and 1700 points.
Like everything else, the more you spend, the more you get. All of the Berlitz Guide highest-rated ships are small or boutique ships operated by luxury cruise lines Hapag-Lloyd, Silversea, SeaDream, and Sea Cloud.
Oceania, Crystal, and Viking Cruises had the highest rated mid-sized ships, and Mein Schiff, Cunard, and MSC had the highest rated large resort ships.