The Best and Worst Cruise Lines
1 Worst: Dream (Carnival)
Carnival’s cruise ship Dream made headlines back in 2013 when it docked at St. Maarten and stopped passengers from leaving.
This was despite the fact that the ship had no power and all the toilets were malfunctioning, leading to the overflow of human waste into the ship.
2 Worst: Norwegian Cruise Line
This line will take you to the Caribbean, Alaska, Europe, Hawaii, and the Bahamas. These are beautiful destinations, but there are better ways to get there! Norwegian Cruise Line has ‘earned’ itself a bad reputation for poor customer service, pokey cabins, poor and over-priced food, and rigid cancellation policy.
Browse TripAdvisor and you will see a whole realm of complaints including one that criticizes the staff and facilities for being ‘unprofessional, unclean, unsecure, non-caring [sic].’ Your money, time and energy might be better invested somewhere else…
3 Worst: Costa Cruises
Another cruise line that has made headlines for all the wrong reasons, Costa experienced a serious incident in 2012 when a ship in its fleet capsized. Another then lost power for over 12 hours and caught fire. Let’s hope everyone had taken travel insurance on those ships…
If this isn’t enough to put you off, customers also criticize Costa for the lengthy list of exclusions to package rates, including Club Restaurant meals and drinks, the rudeness of staff and the poor food. Also, according to the FOE, Costa’s ships rank lowest in terms of their eco-friendly credentials.
4 Best: AmaWaterways
Named the world’s best cruise line by EscapeHere, AmaWaterways is a river cruise operator with a 20-strong fleet offering multi-day trips across Asia, Africa, and Europe. This line is the intimate choice, with the largest of its ships catering for just 164 travelers.
It has earned its 4.5/5 rating thanks to its spotless, comfy rooms, excellent customer service, and quality meals. However, you will pay a premium for this high standard of accommodation, food, and care, with week-long cruises starting at $3,000.
5 Worst: Royal Caribbean’s Ovation Of The Seas
The cruise line Royal Caribbean is highly-rated, with quality facilities, excursions, and cabins. However, there is a dud in its 27-strong fleet: Ovation of the Seas.
This ship was only launched a few years ago, in 2016, but it didn’t take long for customers to start complaining about its average pool and small dining areas. It began by sailing the waters around Australia and New Zealand but in the summer of 2019, it moved to Alaskan waters.
6 Best: Disney Cruise Line
A family favorite, Disney Cruise Line’s mission is to bring the magic and joy of Disney to the water. Its four ocean liners travel to, among other destinations, the Caribbean, the Bahamas, Canada, New England, the coast of California, Europe, Mexico, the Panama Canal, Hawaii, and Alaska, ensuring that you will find the ideal travel destination for your family.
The line boasts a 4.3-star rating but it should be noted that it may not be the best choice for a romantic getaway, unless you love Disney! You will typically pay more for a Disney Cruise Line cruise than for other family-friendly options but for this higher price, you’ll get huge staterooms, great Disney-themed activities, and baby-friendly facilities. A great investment for the family!
7 Worst: Triumph (Carnival)
Yep, it’s another Carnival ship, which, in 2013, subjected staff and over 4,000 passengers to a cruise without air-conditioning, lights, working toilets and little food and water.
Human waste backed up and began to overflow and this 2013 Carnival cruise has since become known as the Poop Cruise.
8 Best: Princess Cruises
Princess Cruises had just one ship when it began operating in 1965 and now has 18 vessels that take over 1,000,000 travelers to places across the world every year. This line is a mid-priced, good-quality option, making it popular for families and couples young and old.
Its relaxed, more sophisticated atmosphere, highly-rated children’s programs, and new-release films (shown by the pool on a massive LED screen and with free popcorn) have impressed its customers. A smart investment if we see one!
9 Worst: Helvetia (Viking)
Viking is in the list of the worst cruise lines worldwide but the Viking cruise ship Helvetia deserves a special mention.
Receiving a rating of just 2.3/5 from customers, one traveler went so far as to call it the worst cruise they had ever been on. This customer had been on 60 cruises.
10 Worst: Star Clippers
This cruise line’s fleet of three tall ships offers travelers a chance to experience real sailing and all the modern conveniences you could hope for with some luxury touches thrown in. This may sound great in theory but you need to think about it carefully. The tall ships offer a unique experience and one that is unlike that offered by other cruise lines.
This may be right up your street but the line’s three-star rating shows it’s not for the faint-hearted. A number of unsatisfied customers have criticized the ships for having no elevators and huge amounts of stairs and for not being child-friendly. Moreover, the rocking of the ship has been known to make customers seasick. Think twice before buying this travel experience.
11 Worst: Viking River Cruises
With a 3.4-star rating on Cruiseline.com, Viking River Cruises is on our list because of the line’s repeated changes to its itineraries, costliness, and cramped cabins. EscapeHere agrees, naming the line among the worst cruise options available.
Viking River Cruises is particularly unsuitable for people who enjoy a greater degree of autonomy when traveling and like to be in charge of their own schedule.
12 Worst: Fred Olsen Cruises
Cruise ships are especially susceptible to outbreaks of disease and Fred Olsen Cruises’ ships have been some of the worst affected. Approximately 1,400 customers were impacted by the eight outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness recorded on this cruise line’s ships in the years 2011 to 2015.
The next year, in 2016, the Balmoral experienced yet another outbreak of illness which laid low 252 of the ship’s 919 passengers. If you want to spend your time looking at the view rather than a toilet bowl, give this cruise line a wide berth.
13 Worst: American Cruise Lines
This cruise line has seven relatively small and intimate ships in its fleet. These ships travel within US waters only, taking travelers on historical tours. However, American Cruise Lines gets a place on this list thanks to the costliness of its cruises.
As EscapeHere states, ‘you could easily enjoy a luxury-level ocean cruise for less cost and get a longer experience […] for this price guests expect a lot and unfortunately, it’s just not there.’
14 Best: Carnival Cruise Lines
You may be surprised to find this cruise line operator on our best cruises list given the number of its ships that have found a place on the list above but, overall, Carnival can be a great choice. The line prides itself on offering a fun experience and hosts parties, comedy shows, zany contests, off-the-wall entertainment, and karaoke on its ships.
Brightly colored and with the music blasting, the 24-strong fleet is loved for being child-friendly and allowing adults to let their hair down. If you like to party, are an extrovert and want to mingle, or have a family and energetic young kids to entertain, Carnival is for you. Just remember to stay away from the ships we’ve previously mentioned.
15 Best: Celebrity
The Travel Weekly Reader Awards has voted Celebrity Cruises the Best Premium Cruise Line for an astonishing seven years in a row. Groups, families, and couples will all enjoy the comfort and chic styling on offer and all for comparatively low prices (for a luxury option). You may have heard of Celebrity Cruises because of its impressive onboard art collection and because it was the first cruise line to grew real grass on its ships.
It travels across the globe, with its most popular destinations including New Zealand, Australian, the Galápagos Islands, Bermuda, Europe, South America, and Hawaii. If you are ready to make an investment into yourself, this is the cruise line for you.
16 Worst: Breeze (Carnival)
Another member of the Carnival fleet, a CDC report published in 2017 named Breeze one of the dirtiest cruise ships in its survey of ships worldwide. Problems with cleanliness spring from food staff suffering from stomach issues and inappropriate food disposal practices.
Yuck! When you need to take a special health insurance to go on a cruise, you know you’re not getting your money’s worth out of that cruise…
17 Best: Holland America
Every year, Holland America provides travelers with over 500 sailing options to destinations in every continent on the globe.
The line’s 15 ships are comfortable and roomy and are ideally suited for older passengers and multi-generational families due to the line’s focus on professionalism and relaxing activities over sporty options and noisy activities for kids. Ideal for seniors and retired folks!
18 Best: Oceania Cruises
Oceania Cruises was established in 2002 and now has five vessels, three of which are ex-Renaissance ships, making it the largest upper-premium option in the cruise industry worldwide. Over three-quarters of its customers are couples and with a rating of 3.8/5, the line is a great choice for anyone who values good wine, service, art, and décor.
The line boasts a cooking school onboard, restaurants that specialize in wine pairings, and suites designed by Ralph Lauren. Literally a great investment, but it will be worth it.
19 Best: P&O Cruises
P&O Cruises is the United Kingdom’s leading cruise line. It’s also one of the oldest cruise lines in the world, as it first began taking passengers in 1837. That means P&O Cruises has had nearly 200 years to perfect its operations, leading to a comfortable, service-focused cruising experience.
Since P&O Cruises is best known in the UK, the majority of the passengers on board P&O’s ships are British. As such the amenities are also somewhat British-leaning, including a good, old-fashioned pub. Still, despite its British clientele, P&O still sails Europe, North America, and the Caribbean.
20 Worst: Marella Cruises
Marella Cruises is operated by TUI Group, a tourism company based in Hanover, Germany. Despite having roots in Germany, Marella Cruises is primarily a British cruise line. Unfortunately, the cruises Marella offers often fall short of the standard most passengers expect.
Not only do Marella cruises offer less space and inferior food, but their onboard facilities are also severely lacking in comparison to other boats. Previous passengers have complained about the lack of an indoor pool, as well as the tiny children’s area. Plus, many passengers have lamented about the quality of the food, as well as a general feeling that the boat isn’t as clean as it should be.
21 Best: Cunard
Cunard’s cruise experience is one of the best because it’s unique from other, more modern cruise lines. Rather than changing with the times, Cunard prides itself on staying true to its roots. Cunard was established in 1840, and the operations onboard the ship have hardly changed in the past 181 years. The ships, made for ocean crossings, offer old-fashioned services to their clientele, including a proper afternoon tea, black-tie dinners, and ballroom galas.
In other words, if you want to pretend you’re a passenger on the Titanic, Cunard is the cruise line for you. In addition, Cunard boasts the world’s only pet-friendly ship. While your animal may be confined to certain areas of the boat, you can still travel with your furry friend.
22 Worst: Silversea Cruises
Silversea Cruises has a fleet of 11 ships that they send all across the world. While it’s considered a high-end luxury cruise line, the environment onboard sometimes errs on the side of stuffy. Silversea leans into the lavishness of their cruise ships with Bulgari toiletries and Pratesi linens. Plus, many of the cabins are suites since the cruises are geared towards high-end clientele.
However, all this luxury caters to a certain type of person. Those looking for a more relaxed vacation may feel uncomfortable in this formal environment. In addition, families with children will certainly not be comfortable on board. Some customers also claimed that other cruise lines offer a similar experience for much less money.
23 Best: Viking Ocean Cruises
While Viking River Cruises should be skipped, Viking Ocean Cruises are worth every penny. Voted the #1 small ship cruise line by Travel + Leisure readers, Viking offers a luxurious cruising experience. The smaller boats only take on about 930 passengers, leading to five-star customer service.
In addition, Viking is highly rated in terms of space, food, and onboard facilities. The ships sail in gorgeous locations around the world, including Northern Europe, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, and Australia. Each ship is designed to offer a cultural experience along with your vacation. Plus, the ships include jaw-dropping elements like a salon and spa, a theater, and a sports area.
24 Worst: Regent Seven Seas Cruises
Regent Seven Seas Cruises truly offers an all-inclusive experience aboard their five ships. The price to board the boat includes everything—airfare, alcohol, gratuities, shore excursions, and more. However, that also means a Regent cruise may be quite pricey, as there’s little room to save money on certain luxuries.
In addition to the high price tag, certain features are missing from the boat. Wi-Fi isn’t available in all the cabins. In addition, the inability to choose your own excursions sometimes leads to a poor experience. While all-inclusive sounds good in theory, it’s always nice to have a little wiggle room to customize your vacation.
25 Best: Seabourn
Seabourn markets themselves as a luxury cruise vacation, and they certainly seem to live up to it. Most aspects of Seabourn cruises are highly rated by fans, though the food and drink options sometimes fall short of passengers’ expectations. Still, Seabourn offers an intimate vacation environment with all oceanfront suites.
Seabourn cruises are one of the top-rated experiences for couples, as well as one of the best cruise lines in the Caribbean. The Seabourn experiences are geared towards adults, meaning children aren’t often found on the boats. While the clientele on Seabourn Cruises are often a bit older, the cruise line still offers plenty of onshore experiences that will be exciting for all age groups and tastes.
26 Worst: Paul Gauguin Cruises
Paul Gauguin is a great cruise line if you’re a couple looking for a getaway with your special person. But with a fleet of only two ships, that’s pretty much the only client Paul Gauguin Cruises works for. These cruises are touted as all-inclusive, but still have some charges hidden beneath the high price tag. While you’ll get airfare from Los Angeles, only certain wine and spirits will be available to you once you step onboard.
On the positive side, the cabins on Paul Gauguin cruises are lovely and the expeditions are amazing, according to past customers. However, the high price tag, limited availability, and romantic atmosphere mean this cruise only works for a certain type of person. Even then, you may find yourself disappointed with the experience.
27 Best: Windstar Cruises
Windstar’s fleet of six boats offers cruises around the world, though they’re best known for their destinations in the northern Mediterranean. This cruise is unique, however, because it tries to recreate the experience of sailing the ocean, rather than just being on a motorboat.
In addition, Windstar offers plenty of exciting options for onboard entertainment that will keep passengers of all ages occupied. The boats sport retractable marinas perfect for waterskiing, snorkeling, and kayaking. While the atmosphere is less formal than other cruise lines, the many amenities onboard always lead to an enjoyable experience.
28 Worst: Azamara Club Cruises
While Azamara boasts a fairly high price tag, the amenities onboard aren’t up to the standard of many other cruise ships. The decor on Azamara boats is often dated, and the cabins are quite small, even for a cruise ship. In addition, the pool area is rather tiny, leaving little to do onboard the boat.
However, Azamara’s perks come with their onshore excursions. Offering plenty of options across the Mediterranean and Caribbean, the cruise line encourages its passengers to get off the boat as much as possible. Still, the excursions can’t make up for the poor facilities available on the boat. While setting off on an onshore adventure is enticing, passengers want their time onboard to be just as enjoyable.
29 Best: Crystal Cruises
Crystal Cruises touts itself as a luxury cruise line, and it certainly delivers. What’s more, Crystal Cruises aren’t nearly as ostentatious as some other luxury boats. While Crystal delivers world-class service and food, the boat boasts a more relaxed feel comfortable enough to bring children along, though there may not be many activities geared specifically towards kids.
Crystal travels to exotic locations around the world and offers fun excursions at every port. While Crystal may have a higher price tag than other cruise lines, the amenities it offers certainly make it worth the extra money.
30 Worst: MSC Cruises
Named one of the world’s worst cruise line, MSC Cruises has suffered a seemingly endless list of criticisms. The Switzerland-based company has been pilloried for its poor food, shabby rooms, inadequate customer service, and limited number of English-speaking staff.
Moreover, it ranks very poorly from an environmental perspective, with poor-quality sewage treatment practices and little effort to reduce the amount of air pollution its fleet emits.