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Condé Nast Readers vote top 40 river cruise ships

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Home >> Condé Nast Readers vote top 40 river cruise ships

Condé Nast Traveler has published their new Readers' Poll for 2012. Here are a few thoughts, problems I see and interpretations by me.

On the method

The biggest problem is the question if the sample is valid. Readers' Poll means only some of those who know about the existence of CN do participate. So the sample is not taken from the population of all cruisers, but it represents those cruisers who read CN and were willing to participate (cruise guests -> readers of CN -> participants). If we check the list of companies, there are no australian cruise lines (like APT or AMA) included. One could claim that APT uses AMA Waterways' ships, so they could be subsumed under them. In fact they can't, as I am going to show you later on. But we can assume that the 28 876 thousand Condé Nast readers who participated in the survey may represent a fair sample of the US market.

CN says that some ships have been left out of the survey if they did not recieve enough votes. That bothers me, as they don't say when they left them out. Of course, a low number of participants for one ship would mean wrong results. If I would be the only one to rate a ship, it could get easily 100% in all categories. Unfortunately we do not know, if CN offered a selection of ALL ships on rivers (that would mean readers would had been able to pick one of est. 700 river cruise ships) or if they wrote their favorite ship to CN and they dropped those who were not mentioned often enough. So we are back at the sample - population problem.

The ships were rated on several criteria, from the ships equipment to excursion quality. You can see the detailed ratings list here. In my opinion it was not a good idea to include itineraries and excursion into the ratings. The survey asked for the top cruise ships, not the top cruises. If you read the detailed ratings, you can see, that nearly all itineraries and shore excursions correspond. A high rating of an itinerary means a similar high rating of the excursions during the trip. Most people know what they want to see during their holiday in Europe and are therefore expecting what they get. So these two categories actually help to raise ships to a higher score than the actual ships service would have given them. Just 5 out of 40 ships have a Itinerary / Excursion score

And the winner is...

After all that criticism, lets have a look at the TOP 10. I am actually a bit surprised, that none of the Scenic or Ama Waterways ships are included, but I think in the last chapter I made clear WHY I suspect them not to be on the list. I added a few more facts (e.g. correct PAX, a Passenger to Crew ratio and build year) to the list:

Place Shipname Company CN Rating Build Pax Crew Ratio
1 River Queen Uniworld River Cruises 96.0 1999 132 1 : 3.9
2 River Beatrice Uniworld River Cruises 93.5 2007 162 1 : 6.0
3 Viking Helvetica Viking River Cruises 91.7 2006 198 1 : 4.5
4 Viking Legend Viking River Cruises 91.4 2009 189 1 : 3.78
5 River Royale Uniworld River Cruises 91.2 2006 132 1 : 3.66
6 River Concerto Grand Circle Travel 91.1 2000 140 1 : 4.11
6 River Countess Uniworld River Cruises 91.1 2003 134 1 : 3.94
8 Avalon Scenery Avalon Waterways 90.8 2008 138 1 : 3.53
9 Viking Neptune Viking RIver Cruises 90.7 2001 150 1 : 3.75
10 River Duchess Uniworld River Cruises 90.5 2003 134 1 : 3.94


Ship Age:
First it show that cruisers do not really care about the new ships. Don't get me wrong, new ships are needed and build as the cruise lines are booked out much earlier than the last years. If one wants to satisfy the demand, companies need more capacities. For more information on the development of the fleets, read my article on the trend. But as you can see, the cruisers do not really care if a ship was built in 2000 or 2010 as long as it is well maintained. So this poll shows the success of Uniworlds strategy to refurbish their ships more often instead of buy ships, use them and sell them after a few years.

Ship Size:
This seems not to be one of the major considerations if cruisers like a ship or not. It is interesting to note, that none of the ships with

Crew to PAX Ratio:
The crew numbers have been gathered by me from different sources all over the web, so these numbers are unapproved. The numbers mean crew member : passengers, so it gives you a slight idea about service and the size of the ships staff compared to the total passengers. Of course this ratio changes if a cruise is not sold out, so it was not included in the survey by CN. As you can see, the ratio ranges around 1 : 3.x but there are even ships included that have a 1 : 6 ratio (assuming my data are correct).

Now lets see how the score will be next season.