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U.S. News Travel Methodology

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The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on an analysis of expert and user opinions. We believe this unbiased approach makes our rankings more useful than simply providing our editors' personal opinions.

How We Do Our Travel Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report travel rankings are based on an analysis of expert and user opinions. We believe this unbiased approach makes our rankings more useful than simply providing our editors' personal opinions.

But even though our rankings of hotels, vacations and things to do are based on a wide collection of independent opinions, the best options for you may not be those ranked No. 1 or No. 2. Travel experiences are personal ones. Nonetheless, we hope that our rankings can serve as helpful guideposts as you plan your next trip.


Hotel Rankings

U.S. News & World Report releases annual rankings of the Best Hotels in the USA, the Best Resorts in the USA, the Best Hotels in the Caribbean, the Best All-Inclusive Resorts in the Caribbean, the Best Hotels in Mexico, the Best Hotels in Bermuda, the Best Hotels in Europe, the Best All-Inclusive Resorts in Mexico, the Best Hotels in Canada and the Best Resorts in Canada. In the future, we will continue to expand by adding hotel rankings in other geographic regions.

Selecting What to Include on the List

For now, we rank only luxury hotels and resorts. When people ask for guidance about the best hotels in a given place, they are typically looking for upscale options. U.S. News defines luxury hotels as those that consistently receive a 4-, 4.5- or 5-star "hotel class" rating, which is determined by comparing the published class ratings assigned by a number of sources. As an additional requirement, a hotel property must offer at least 20 rooms in order to be ranked by U.S. News. We do not rank condo properties, apartments, vacation rentals or timeshares. In the future, we expect to rank a wider variety of hotels and other accommodations.

Calculating the Rankings

Each hotel's place in our rankings takes into account the aggregate opinion of published travel experts and the overall customer satisfaction expressed in online guest reviews provided under license by TripAdvisor. The highest-ranking hotels are typically those that both experts and users recognize for their exceptional quality.

To rank hotels, we compute a Hotel Score based on the following underlying components:

  • Awards & Recognition: We evaluate the number and prominence of awards and recommendations a hotel has received from expert travel industry sources. A hotel with several accolades may accumulate a high number of Awards & Recognition points. However, all such awards and recommendations are not considered equal. Some are highly selective and may apply to only a handful of hotels across the globe; hotels that have earned these more selective accolades will receive a higher number of points in the Awards & Recognition category. Other awards apply to a vast number of hotels and are thus considered less selective and worth fewer points. Each year, we evaluate award sources and seek out the top industry influencers to take into consideration. A hotel may receive up to 10 points for Awards & Recognition. In addition, up to 3 more points may be earned by hotels with a higher than expected ratio of accolade points to popularity (as approximated by user review counts), acknowledging that newer or less-visited hotels may go above and beyond to earn critic accolades.
  • Hotel Class: A hotel's class rating – a 4-, 4.5- or 5-star rating – is a general indicator of quality. However, it is by no means universal. Many travelers may be surprised to learn that a hotel labeled a 3-star property by one publication may be considered a 4.5-star property by another. In our analysis, U.S. News editors have reviewed multiple sources to estimate the mean-average class rating for each hotel that we rank. In our rankings calculation, a hotel may receive up to 10 points for its average hotel class. The number of points is directly proportional to the class rating. A 4-star hotel receives 8 out of 10 points, a 4.5-star hotel receives 9 out of 10 points and a 5-star hotel receives 10 out of 10 points.
  • Guest Rating: A hotel's Guest Rating is calculated using data provided under license by TripAdvisor. The Guest Rating is worth between 7.5 and 12.5 points in our hotel rankings methodology, with the weighting based on the number of underlying guest reviews. Hotels with fewer guest reviews will see a guest rating weighted closer to 7.5 points, whereas hotels with thousands of guest reviews will have higher weightings for the Guest Rating.

We combine the number of points earned by the hotel and divide that by the number of points for which the hotel was eligible. On a given list, hotels are ranked highest to lowest according to the calculated Hotel Score.

Please Note: There are many unranked hotels on our website. Unranked hotels appear on our lists after ranked hotels and are ordered first by hotel class and then by guest rating. Over time, U.S. News will continue to evaluate and rank more hotel properties.

U.S. News Hotel Awards

U.S. News & World Report has identified luxury hotels that are the "Best" in their respective destinations as well as the "Best in the USA," "Best in Bermuda," "Best in the Caribbean," "Best in Mexico, "Best in Canada" and "Best in Europe."

Hotels named "Best" in their destination rank at or above the 70th percentile of all ranked 4-, 4.5- and 5-star hotels in that destination. For example, winners of the "Best Hotels in Atlanta" award are the hotels that score at or above the 70th percentile among U.S. News-ranked hotels in the Atlanta area. These properties are identified by Silver badges.

The highest-rated hotels have received a "Best Hotels in the USA," a "Best Hotels in the Caribbean," a "Best Hotels in Mexico," a "Best Hotels in Bermuda," a "Best Hotels in Canada," or a "Best Hotels in Europe" award; these properties fall at or above the 90th percentile of all ranked hotels in those regions. Hotels that have earned this distinction are identified by Gold badges. Some destinations may have several "Best Hotels in the USA," "Best Hotels in the Caribbean," "Best Hotels in Mexico," "Best in Bermuda," "Best Hotels in Canada" or "Best Hotels in Europe" award winners, while others might have none.

The U.S. News Best Hotel awards are released annually at the time the rankings are updated.

Best Resorts

U.S. News & World Report ranks the Best Resorts and Best All-Inclusive Resorts by using the hotel's overall score, as determined by its class, its Guest Rating and its Awards & Recognition points.

Vacation Rankings

We rank travel destinations against one another in specific categories (e.g., Best Romantic Getaways in the USA). All of our destination rankings are updated once per year on a rolling basis.

U.S. News vacation rankings are based on the following components:

  • User Score (50 percent weight): Our users have the ability to vote on the destinations included on any of our ranking lists. Specifically, we ask users whether they believe a destination belongs on the list. The User Score for a destination is calculated from the percentage of “yes” votes it receives on a given list.
  • Editors Score (50 percent weight):
    • Editors score individual destinations on a scale of 0 (N/A) to 5 (Phenomenal) in a number of categories based on the characteristics that location exhibits. Categories include: Sights, Culture, People, Food, Shopping, Family, Nightlife, Adventure, Romance, Value and Accessibility.
    • Editor scores for each category are then averaged together to calculate the “average” score for a category (for example the overall Sights average, Romance average, etc.)
    • Destinations’ overall scores are a weighted average of the individual editors’ averages, based on which factors users said were most important to them.

    Ranking List Qualifiers:
    • Seasonality: For seasonal rankings lists, each destination is given a score on a scale of 0 (not recommended at all) to 5 (recommended for all three months of a season) for the destination’s seasonality based on U.S. News’ recommended best time(s) to visit a destination. The U.S. News recommendations also dictate whether or not a destination qualifies for a specific seasonal ranking.
      Seasonal breakdown:
      • December – February = Winter
      • March – May = Spring
      • June – August = Summer
      • September – November = Fall
    • Affordability:
      • Based on hotel pricing data from Expedia (that includes 3-, 3.5- ,4- , 4.5- and 5-star hotels), each destination will receive an affordability score based on the average nightly cost of a room.
      • Annual and Seasonal: The annual 12-month average (and its converted score) is used to determine which destinations are eligible for the regional affordable lists (such as Best Affordable Destinations in the USA), while the seasonal average (based on the seasonal breakdown listed above) would be used to determine which destinations are eligible for seasonal cost-related lists (Best Cheap Summer Vacations, for example).
      • Cutoffs
        • $150 or less per night = eligible for affordable rankings
        • $200 or more per night = eligible for luxury rankings
    • Category Distinction:
      • Specific themed rankings (for example, Best Ski Destinations) are narrowed down to all destinations that meet the criteria for the individual ranking list. Then, all qualifying destinations are ranked by overall score.
    Ties:
    • Any ties that occur are broken by the Overall, Sights or Culture scores, depending on the ranking list.
    Update frequency:
    • In order to keep the rankings current, all categories (including editors’ scores, the affordability category, distinction categories and the seasonality scores) are updated annually.

Please note: The majority of destinations included in the rankings are places U.S. News covers with in-depth travel guides, but we strive to provide the most up-to-date content and therefore introduce new destinations (and remove destinations) to the rankings as needed. Newer destinations may be included on a vacation ranking list but may not have an individual travel guide. We aim to include a variety of destinations and will continue to add more destinations over time. We welcome suggestions for additional destinations to be included on our rankings, and encourage users to vote on which destinations should be included on our ranking lists.

Things to Do Rankings

We rank things to do within each travel destination that we cover. Our rankings of things to do are based on our editors' analysis of expert and user recommendations from a wide variety of websites. We believe that the best way to create useful rankings is to get as many opinions as possible from real tourists and travel experts. This is why we use the consensus-based approach.

Selecting What to Include on the List

For any given destination, the Best Things to Do are selected based on (1) our editors' analysis of what major travel publications recommend that you do and see and (2) a sampling of the opinions that real travelers have expressed across the web, and in select destinations (3) recommendations from local experts, such as hotel concierges, tourism board representatives and travel, food and lifestyle editors at local newspapers or magazines. You can expect to see some of the usual suspects on our lists (the Eiffel Tower and Louvre in Paris, for example), but you'll also find some lesser-known things to do. Some of the "must-see" things to do will be brick-and-mortar sites, but others will be can't-miss neighborhoods or even popular activities or tours.

Calculating the Scores and Rankings

About U.S. News Scores: Rankings are computed on the basis of an overall U.S. News score that reflects the extent to which previous travelers would recommend a certain thing to do to future travelers. The overall score also considers travel writers' and visitors' feelings about the value, atmosphere, facilities and, if applicable, the food scene of each thing to do. The relative weightings of these attributes are below:

  • Overall Level of Recommendation (50 percent weight): This is the overall sentiment expressed about a thing to do (e.g., "this is a must-see site" vs. "skip it if you're short on time").
  • Value (20 percent weight): The Value Score represents travelers' sense of whether the thing to do is a good value. Any things to do that are free to enjoy automatically get a value score of 5 out of 5.
  • Atmosphere (15 percent weight): The Atmosphere Score represents travelers' impression of a thing to do's vibe and aesthetics.
  • Facilities / Food Scene, as appropriate (15 percent weight): The Facilities Score represents travelers' opinion of the quality, availability and accessibility of a thing to do's restrooms, visitor centers, concession stands and other tourist conveniences. This score is not assigned for things to do that are neighborhoods. The Food Scene Score represents travelers' opinion on the availability, variety and quality of food options in a neighborhood. This score is assigned to things to do that are neighborhoods (in place of the Facilities Score).

About U.S. News Local Expert Scores: The Best Things to Do in select destinations are scored based on local expert input. These local experts include concierges at the top hotels in the destination, tourism board representatives and travel, food and lifestyle editors at local newspapers or magazines, among others. Experts were asked to score each attraction as "Must-see," "Recommended" and "Only if you have time." These scores help determine the attraction's overall score and are represented on the Local Experts scorecard within each destination.

Please Note: Scores are relative within a destination, so standards may vary by location. And opinions are subjective, so there can never be a true No. 1 thing to do for any destination. But our rankings do offer insight into what real tourists think, and hopefully this can help you prioritize which sites to visit during your trip.

Travel Rewards Programs Rankings

U.S. News & World Report ranks travel rewards programs in two categories: airline frequent flyer programs and hotel loyalty programs. Considering highly coveted factors, such as how easy it is to earn a free flight or stay and what extra perks (think: complimentary checked bags and discounted room rates) are awarded to members, the Best Travel Rewards Programs rankings aim to help everyday travelers find the best loyalty program for them. These rankings will be updated once a year.

Airline Rewards Program Rankings

Selecting What to Include on the List

For now, we only rank frequent flyer programs offered by airlines based in the United States. Nine programs have been evaluated for the Best Airline Rewards Program rankings.

Calculating the Rankings

The frequent flyer program rankings are based on a scoring algorithm, which computes an Overall Score based on the following components:

  • Ease of Earning Free Round-Trip Flight (45 percent weight): In order to evaluate the ease of earning a free round-trip flight, U.S. News analyzed two components: ease of earning and ease of redemption. The Ease of Earning a Free Round-Trip Flight score is a 50/50 composite of each program's earning and redemption scores.

    Each program's earning score measures the typical miles or points earned by a U.S.-based flyer on an average flight within or to/from the U.S. To identify the typical cost and miles required for the average flight, U.S. News analyzed price and mileage survey data published in the Department of Transportation's Domestic Airline Consumer Airfare Report and the Bureau of Transportation Statistic's Annual U.S. Domestic Average Itinerary Fare in Current and Constant Dollars and TranStats.

    The redemption score represents the average value an airline rewards program offers in points required for a free flight. The calculated redemption scores are based on searches conducted by U.S. News in July 2018. U.S. News analyzed up to 16 of each airline's highly trafficked routes within three round-trip mileage categories: short domestic (400 to 500 miles), medium domestic (2,200 to 2,600 miles) and long (4,800 to 5,200 miles) for four different round-trip dates between July and September to determine the average number of award points needed for a free round-trip flight across each airline.
  • Additional Benefits (25 percent weight): The Additional Benefits score comprises the number of ways members can earn and use points (other than for booking flights), whether or not points expire and additional perks that elite members and members with basic branded credit cards (with an annual fee of $100 or less) receive, such as a free checked bag and airport lounge access. Programs can earn a benefits score between 1 and 5 depending on whether points can be acquired through hotel stays and credit card purchases and used to cover cabin upgrades, experiences (like concert tickets and sporting events) and hotel costs. Programs can also earn credit depending on how many miles program members must fly to take advantage of benefits like free checked bags and complimentary upgrades. Additionally, programs that offer more than one affiliated credit card can earn a higher Additional Benefits score. Programs will earn additional points if they: do not require members spend a minimum amount of money to achieve elite status, let members with affiliated credit cards earn elite status or qualifying dollars toward elite status, and allow members to match elite status to the status equivalent from another airline or hotel loyalty program.
  • Network Coverage (10 percent weight): The Network Coverage score represents the breadth and diversity of routes offered by each airline and its alliance network. The score is based on the total percent coverage each carrier offers in major regions across the globe (i.e. Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, South America and North America). U.S. News referred to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to determine the percentage of cities within each region serviced by each airline and its partners. The programs that service the most cities in each region receive a 100 percent coverage rating and a higher overall Network Coverage score. Programs are awarded a composite score of 1 to 5 based on the passenger-weighted average of their individual region coverage scores.
  • Award Flight Availability (10 percent weight): The Award Flight Availability score represents the number and variety of award flights that can be purchased at a low cost using points or miles. In order to calculate this score, U.S. News compared the number of award flights available to program members at a lower threshold of point redemption (defined as flights that are at or below the average number of miles required to redeem across all airlines for a given mileage category). U.S. News calculated the volume of award flight options available at a low point value for up to 16 of each airline's highly trafficked short, medium and long routes on four different round-trip dates between July and September.
  • Number of Daily Flights (5 percent weight): The Number of Daily Flights is awarded a score between 1 and 5 with 5 being the highest score. The score is directly related to the number of domestic flights the airline operates, which reflects the level of opportunity a program participant has to earn or use rewards. If an airline offers between 1 and 499 domestic flights per day, then the airline Number of Daily Flights score would be 1 out of 5, while a carrier that provides 2,000 or more domestic flights per day would be awarded a 5.
  • Airline Quality Rating (5 percent weight):The Airline Quality Rating score is based on each airline's quality rating as determined in the annual Airline Quality Rating report published by Dean Headley, of Wichita State University, and Brent Bowen, of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The ratings represent each airline's performance in regard to on-time arrivals, lost or mishandled baggage rates, involuntary denied boarding rates and consumer complaint rates. Each airline with a frequent flyer program represented in our rankings receives a score of 1 through 5 based on its AQR score: Airlines with an AQR score of -0.4 or higher receive a 5, while AQR scores of -2 and lower translate to a score of 1.

Hotel Rewards Program Rankings

Selecting What to Include on the List

U.S. News Travel ranks 16 loyalty programs associated with major hotel brands that have at least 50 properties, 10 or more of which are located in the United States. For a loyalty program to appear on the list, it must allow potential members to join without any prerequisites. For example, a potential member should be allowed to join a loyalty program even if he or she has never stayed at a participating hotel. All programs that appear on our Best Hotel Rewards Programs list offer members the ability to earn rewards and privileges each time they stay at a participating property.

Calculating the Rankings

We compute each hotel program's Overall Score using an algorithm that comprises the following components:

  • Ease of Earning Free Night (45 percent weight): Each program is awarded a score of 1 through 5 based on the average number of paid nights members must accumulate to earn a free night in each of the 20 destinations referenced in the Geographic Coverage score. Because hotel rates change frequently and vary by travel date, all research for this scoring category is conducted on the same day for the same travel dates – arriving Saturday and departing Sunday four weeks from the research date. We calculate the average number of paid nights required to earn a free night in each destination based on the average price in points of a one-night stay. (Programs that do not allow members to earn free nights receive a score of 0.)
  • Additional Benefits (25 percent weight): The Additional Benefits score comprises the number of ways members can earn and use points apart from hotel stays, whether or not points expire and complimentary services offered to elite members. Programs can receive an Additional Benefits score between 1 and 5 depending on whether points can be earned for flights, credit card purchases and through other means, such as on dining or through shopping portals. Programs also earn Additional Benefits points for offering the following member perks: complimentary nights (that don't require any form of payment, whether in dollars or points), free room upgrades, priority check-in and checkout, complimentary amenities (like internet access or a free drink at check-in) and member discounts on room rates. New in the 2017-18 rankings. Programs that have more than one affiliated credit card and those that give members the opportunity to use points for experiences (like concert tickets and sporting events) are awarded additional points in this category. Programs that offer these benefits receive additional credit for making them available to basic members. Programs that give members with affiliated credit cards complimentary elite status or match elite status earned in other hotel or airline rewards programs are awarded additional points.
  • Geographic Coverage (15 percent weight): A program's Geographic Coverage score refers to the presence of participating hotels in the U.S. and abroad. This score represents how easy it is for members to take advantage of the program when traveling domestically and internationally. For our Geographic Coverage score calculation, we counted the number of participating hotels (with availability on the research date) within a 15-mile radius of 20 major business and leisure travel destinations in the U.S. and abroad. Points are awarded for each destination that contained a participating hotel, and additional credit is assigned to programs that feature more than nine participating hotels in a given destination.
  • Number of Hotels in Network (10 percent weight): Each program is assigned a score of 1 through 5 depending on how many properties are in the hotel group's portfolio – the more properties that participate in the program, the more opportunities members have to earn and redeem rewards. For example, a program that features more than 4,000 participating hotels receives a score of 5, while a program with fewer than 100 participating hotels earns a score of 1.
  • Property Diversity (5 percent weight): The Property Diversity score represents a variety of property types that participate in the program. A loyalty program that can be used across multiple property categories offers members more choice and flexibility in terms of style and price than a program that is only valid for one kind of hotel. We looked at each program to see what locations (beachfront, airport, city, mountains) and price ranges (luxury, upscale, mid-range, budget) are available within the program's network. A program can earn up to 8 diversity points, with 1 point awarded per applicable category. Programs with 8 points receive a Property Diversity score of 5, while programs with 2 or fewer points receive a score of 1.

Please Note: For each Ease of Earning a Free Night score for programs that reward members on a stay-by-stay basis rather than a dollar or nightly basis, we translated the number of stays needed into the number of nights needed assuming that the average stay equals 2.5 nights. According to research from the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 58 percent of business travelers and 51 percent of leisure travelers stay two or more nights during each hotel stay. Also, programs that charge a fee to join at the most basic level are penalized five points.

U.S. News Travel Rewards Program Awards

U.S. News has identified the best airline and hotel rewards programs; programs that score in the top 30 percent receive a U.S. News Best Travel Rewards Program award. These awards are scheduled to be released annually at the time the rankings are updated.

Cruise Rankings

The U.S. News & World Report Best Cruises rankings are designed to help you find a cruise that best suits your needs. Using the following methods, U.S. News has identified the best cruise ships and cruise lines in a variety of categories.

Scoring Components

To rank the best cruise ships and cruise lines, we use the following scoring components:

Overall Rating:

The Overall Rating is used to determine the placement of each ship or line on any given list. The Overall Rating comprises three elements:

  • Expert Rating (30 percent weight): Our editors assign each ship an Expert Rating between 1 and 5 based on the ship's level of luxury, with 5 being the highest score. This score represents our editors' analysis of a ship's atmosphere, facilities, activities, cabins, cuisine and service.
  • Traveler Rating (50 percent weight): A ship's traveler rating is provided under license by Cruiseline.com. Reviewers assign a rating between 1 and 5 based on their level of satisfaction with their cruise experience.
  • Health Rating (20 percent weight): A ship's health rating is based on sanitation inspection scores published by the Vessel Sanitation Program (VSP) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Individual ship inspection reports can be found here. The CDC defines "Satisfactory Scores" as those that are 86 or above (out of a possible 100 points). A ship's Health Rating is the average of the vessel's individual inspection reports from the 22 months prior to the calculation of the U.S. News Best Cruises rankings. For our rankings, CDC scores are translated to a five-point scale as follows: Vessels with average CDC ratings 97.5 or higher received a score of 5; vessels with average CDC ratings between 95 and 97.4 received a score of 4.5; vessels with average CDC scores between 92.5 and 94.9 received a score of 4; vessels with average CDC scores between 90 and 92.4 received a score of 3.5; vessels with average CDC scores between 87.5 and 89.9 received a score of 3; vessels with average ratings between 85.1 and 87.4 received a score of 2.5 and vessels with an average CDC rating of 85 or lower received a score of 1. If a ship has not received an inspection score within the past 22 months, its Health Rating appears as N/A; however, the average Health Rating of all CDC-rated ships within the cruise line is used as proxy in the calculation of the Overall Rating for a ship that lacks CDC scores.

A cruise line's Overall Rating is calculated as the average of its ship's overall ratings.

Filtering Lists by Criteria:

Cutoff points and other criteria are used to identify cruise ships or cruise lines that qualify for a given ranking list.

  • Traveler Type: Each cruise ship and cruise line's placement on our traveler type cruise rankings takes into account the aggregate traveler rating among specific types of travelers. Cruise ships and lines with the highest Overall Ratings and the greatest approval rating among a certain traveler type (e.g., families), appear on such lists. To qualify for a cruise ship traveler type ranking list, a ship had to have a minimum of 10 total guest reviews, and a certain percentage of reviews had to come from the specified traveler type; the percentage required varies by list.
  • Region: We rank the best cruise ships in seven popular regions: Alaska, Europe, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Mexico, the Pacific and Hawaii. We also rank the Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean. Regional scores are assigned based on percentage of itineraries a ship has in each of these regions over a 24-month basis. The ship-level regional scores are updated as new information is made available; however, the list of the Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and the Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean will only be updated once a year.
  • Price Class: A cruise ship's price class rating is based on its average daily price. Ships with average daily rates of $300 or more are rated 4; average daily rates of $150 to $299 are rated 3; average daily rates of $100 to $149 are rated 2; ships with average daily rates below $100 are rated 1. Cruise lines with average price class ratings of 3.5 and above are included in the Best Luxury Cruise Lines rankings. Cruise lines with average price class ratings of 2.5 or lower are included in the Best Cruise Lines for the Money rankings.

Inclusion in Cruise Ship Rankings

For now, we only rank cruise ships within 17 of the most popular ocean cruise lines.

Calculating Cruise Ship Rankings

Cruise ships are ranked based on each ship's Overall Rating. Some cruise ship rankings are tailored to specific interests using filter criteria, and these are still rank-ordered by Overall Rating. The overall rating is a numerical score that may include several decimal points; however, we represent this as a graphical star rating rounded to the nearest half-star. As a result, two cruise ships that show the same graphical star representation may have slightly different underlying ratings. The ranking reflects the specific underlying rating, and not the rounded graphical star rating.

Please note: Cruise ship rankings are updated regularly. As new vessels are launched and additional inspection scores and guest reviews become available, they are added to our rankings and affect how specific ships stack up against one another. Ships that feature N/A as their overall score have either not launched yet or have not received enough traveler reviews.

Cruise Line Rankings

U.S. News evaluated 17 cruise lines in this year's rankings, identifying the best cruise lines in a variety of categories. Whereas ship rankings are updated throughout the year, cruise lines are ranked only once per year.

Calculating the Cruise Line Rankings

We rank cruise lines in six categories: Best Luxury Cruise Lines, Best Cruise Lines for the Money, Best Cruise Lines for Couples, Best Cruise Lines for Families, Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean. In order to qualify for a ranking, a cruise line must meet the requirements for that specific list.

  • Best Luxury Cruise Lines: For our luxury cruise lines ranking, we include only cruise lines with a price class rating of 3.5 or above. Qualifying cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest based on their Overall Rating.
  • Best Cruise Lines for the Money: For our affordable cruise lines ranking, we include only cruise lines with a price class rating less than 2.5. Qualifying cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest based on their average Overall Rating, which carries a 40 percent weight and their price class rating, which carries a 60 percent weight.
  • Best Cruise Lines for Couples: This ranking factors in (1) each line's Overall Rating as well as (2) the aggregate traveler rating by "couples" travelers and (3) the percentage of a cruise line's reviews on Cruiseline.com that are left by couples. For example, a cruise line that receives a high percentage of its reviews from couples is more likely to be couples-oriented. Cruise lines are ranked according to the weighted average of their rank within each of these three factors. For a cruise line to be eligible for inclusion in this ranking, at least 62 percent of its total traveler reviews had to come from couples.
  • Best Cruise Lines for Families: This ranking factors in (1) each line's Overall Rating as well as (2) the aggregate traveler rating by "families with kids" and (3) the percentage of a cruise line's reviews on Cruiseline.com that are left by family travelers. For example, a cruise line that receives a high percentage of its reviews from families is more likely to attract family travelers. Cruise lines are ranked according to the weighted average of their rank within each of these three factors. For a cruise line to qualify for this ranking, at least 25 percent of its total traveler reviews had to come from families.
  • Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean: This ranking is based on (1) each line's Overall Rating as well as (2) the percentage of scheduled itineraries in the Caribbean over a 24-month period (3) the number and variety of Caribbean itineraries available over a 24-month period. Cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest according to the weighted average of their rank combined with the annualized rate of scheduled itineraries and the number of total Caribbean itinerary options over a two-year period. The Overall Rating carries a 50 percent weight. Line coverage components are both weighted at 25 percent.
  • Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean: This ranking is based on (1) each line's Overall Rating as well as (2) the percentage of scheduled itineraries in the Mediterranean over a 24-month period and (3) the number and variety of Mediterranean itineraries available over a 24-month period. Cruise lines are ranked highest to lowest according to the weighted average of their rank combined with the annualized rate of scheduled itineraries and the number of total Mediterranean itinerary options over a two-year period. The Overall Rating carries a 50 percent weight. Line coverage components are both weighted at 25 percent.

U.S. News Travel Cruises Awards

The highest ranking cruise line on each of the six rankings – Best Luxury Cruise Lines, Best Cruise Lines for the Money, Best Cruise Lines for Couples, Best Cruise Lines for Families, Best Cruise Lines in the Caribbean and Best Cruise Lines in the Mediterranean – have been identified with a Gold badge as the "Best." The No. 2- and No. 3-ranked cruise lines qualified as "finalists" in a category and are identified by Silver badges. The U.S. News Best Cruises awards are released annually at the time the rankings are updated.


We hope you find the U.S. News rankings useful. We continually update our lists based on the latest reviews and information. As we cover new travel destinations, hotels and things to do, we will add them to the rankings and this may affect how places rank versus one another. Check back periodically to see how the U.S. News travel rankings are shaping up.

If you have any questions about our travel rankings' methodology, please feel free to contact us.