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- #1Crystal Cruises#1 in Best Cruises from Charleston
On the heels of a dramatic 2017 redesign, Crystal Symphony (first launched in 1995) boasts new open seating and dining areas, new Penthouses and Penthouse Suites, high-tech features and reimagined public spaces. The one thing that hasn't changed is the exceptional customer service Crystal is known for; recent travelers noted the crew was warm, attentive and extremely professional.
The ship offers a variety of activities including fitness programs, musical performances and treatments at the feng shui-inspired spa. All accommodations offer ocean views, flat-screen TVs, mini fridges and bathtubs. Those who choose Penthouse category rooms receive additional privileges, like personal butler service.
New dining options include the Waterside dining room, modern Chinese-inspired fare at Silk Kitchen and Bar and a Marketplace and Churrascaria serving casual buffet breakfast and lunch options by day and Brazilian-style delicacies by night.
For 2018-19, Crystal Symphony cruises to destinations across the world, including ports in the Caribbean, New England and Canada, South America and the Far East. Its departure ports include Fort Lauderdale, Florida, New York, New Orleans and more.
- #2Silversea Cruises#2 in Best Cruises from Charleston
Debuted in 1995, the 296-passenger Silver Wind was most recently refurbished in 2017. The ship boasts a nearly 1-to-1 crew-to-guest ratio, offering a higher level of customization than larger ocean liners. Previous cruisers say the attentive staff kept the ship well-maintained throughout the entire journey.
Passengers are also quick to praise the all-suite accommodations. All offer ocean views and more than 80 percent are equipped with a private veranda. Suites measure between 240 and 827 square feet and come with butler service, walk-in closets, minifridges and marble bathrooms.
When it comes to dining, Silver Wind offers four restaurants, including specialty restaurant La Dame, affiliated with Relais & Châteaux. Silver Wind offers a variety of daytime activities, ranging from enrichment courses to fitness classes. There are also plenty of facilities to pass days at sea, like a pool, a casino and a spa. When it's time to wind down, grab a nightcap at one of several bars or catch a performance in the Show Lounge.
- #3Carnival Cruise Line#3 in Best Cruises from Charleston
Formerly known as Carnival Destiny, this ship was transformed into the Carnival Sunshine in 2013. The 3,002-passenger Sunshine was the first in the fleet to receive "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades. It offers several dining venues and bars, such as Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Pub and the Skybox Sports Bar. It was recently refurbished in October 2018.
Lodging is available in Interior, Ocean View, Balcony and Suite categories. Though Interior and Ocean View cabins are on the smaller end (185 to 280 square feet), they are the most affordable options. Meanwhile, Balcony and Suite cabins provide ample space and verandas. All rooms offer flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service.
While at sea, adults can unwind with treatments at the Cloud 9 Spa or the adults-only Serenity Retreat. Families looking to bond can enjoy the mini-golf course or the onboard waterpark. In the evenings, cruisers can laugh it up at the Punchliner Comedy Club or participate on the Lip Sync Battle stage.
- #4Carnival Cruise Line#4 in Best Cruises from Charleston
Built in 1991, the Carnival Ecstasy is one of Carnival's oldest and smallest ships, carrying 2,056 passengers and 920 staff. The ship's most recent dry dock in 2017 updated the carpeting and wall coverings in a number of public spaces. The renovation prior to that gave the ship some "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades, such as an onboard water park and the Punchliner Comedy Club. Other interactive and family-friendly entertainment options include Hasbro, The Game Show and a mini-golf course. While parents can enjoy the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat and the piano bar, children ages 2 to 17 can participate in programs specialized for their ages. Recent guests note that the pool is pretty small, so it can be difficult to find a spot unless you head out early.
When it's time to eat, guests can choose from a variety of options, including the new-for-2017 Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina and more. Lodging choices range from Interior staterooms (185 square feet) to Grand Suites with extended balconies (445 square feet). No matter which stateroom you choose, all accommodations offer flat-screen TVs and 24-hour room service. Those who splurge on Suites will find extra perks, such as VIP check-in, minibars and large balconies.
Disclaimers about ship ratings: A ship’s Health Rating is based on vessel inspection scores published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If a ship did not receive a CDC score within 22 months prior to the calculation of its Overall Rating, its Health Rating appears as N/A; in such a case, the ship’s Overall Rating is calculated using the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line. All ship Traveler Ratings are based on ratings provided under license by Cruiseline.com.