As the only independent, global rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas, Forbes Travel Guide (FTG) has established itself as the authority on genuine Five-Star service.

Now the 63-year-old hospitality company is plunging into another vertical: luxury cruises. FTG will launch its inaugural Star Rating awards in 2023 for select ocean and river cruise ships.

‘Cruising holds the same goals as the world’s best hotels and resorts,’ says Filip Boyen, CEO of Forbes Travel Guide. ‘Likewise, FTG’s Star Rating standards for cruise ships emphasize the guest service experience, while also capturing the quality of facilities—just as we do with hotels, restaurants and spas.’


Starting as Mobil Travel Guide in 1958, the company created the first Five-Star rating system in the United States. Its long-running hotel, restaurant and spa ratings highlight the very best—there are nearly 2,000 properties in 72 countries with a Forbes Travel Guide Star Rating—and now the company seeks to help travelers choose the world’s top cruise experiences.

Cruising represents the first addition to FTG’s Star Rating system since spas were added in 2004. The company’s inspectors will set sail in early 2022 to prepare for the first Star Ratings reveal in 2023.

As part of FTG’s rigorous ratings process, a team of incognito, highly trained inspectors tests up to 676 objective, stringent standards, from modern-day luxuries—such as whether a stateroom is set up to enhance sleep with a high-quality bed and convenient blackout functionality, as well as addressing passenger wellbeing by offering services that address food choices, hydration and exercise. Traditional cruise activities, such as the quality of the shore excursions, entertainment and even the passenger docking and tendering experience, are looked at from a passenger experience view. 

The ratings weigh heavily on service—it accounts for 75 percent of a score, while 25 percent is determined by the quality of the facilities. The standards focus on graciousness, thoughtfulness and personalized service, but a strong sense of luxury must be present as well.

‘Whether you embark on a cruise, check into a hotel, dine at a restaurant or relax at a spa, your experience goes beyond looks—how the staff makes you feel is what you will remember most long after you return home,’ Boyen says.


FTG offers three award categories: The Five-Star designation—one of the most difficult and prestigious hospitality awards in the world—goes to outstanding ships with virtually flawless service and world-class facilities and experiences; the Four-Star rating indicates a ship and crew with exceptional service and the quality of facility to match; and Recommended ships are excellent with consistently good services and facilities.

The announcement of FTG’s first luxury cruise Star Ratings comes at a time when travel continues to open up domestically and abroad. ‘There is a lot of pent-up demand for travel, and people are looking to finally take those hard-earned trips and once-in-a-lifetime vacations,” Boyen says. “Forbes Travel Guide will be there to help them navigate through the overwhelming options and find an unforgettable luxury cruise.’

FTG has pre-approved multiple ocean and river ships to be evaluated starting next year. If you are interested in learning more or becoming approved for a future evaluation, contact Lourdes Hainlin, Vice President, Partner Services, at For media inquiries, email