Seated in the lap of luxury, surrounded by sparkling waters as far as the eye can see, exploring a new port each day…the experience of an ocean or river cruise is something you won’t soon forget. While few people would probably turn down a cruise no matter what provider it were with, there are definitely some cruise lines that have built a reputation as being better than others. Cruiseline.com provides real reviews from actual travelers and assigns each cruise line an overall average rating based on these customer reviews. Let’s take a look at the 15 best and worst cruise lines out there as ranked by passengers:
Best: AmaWaterways -4.5
If you’ve never heard of AmaWaterways you’re going to want to do some research as they are the highest ranked cruise operator on this list. A leader in the River Cruise industry, they have a fleet of 20 ships which offer multi-day excursions throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. If your idea of a perfect cruise is one with less crowds, you’ll enjoy the fact that AmaWaterway’s largest ships only hold 164 passengers. You won’t find the mega cruise liners of the Ocean Cruise company’s here. Small and intimate is the name of the game. AmaWaterway received an average 4.5 stars out of 5 with reviews highlighting the comfortable, spotless state rooms and excellent service and dining. The only drawback we can see here is the price which can start at $3,000-$4,000 for a 7 night cruise, however those who’ve paid the price obviously say it’s worth it.
Best: Disney Cruise Line -4.3
Widely regarded as one of the best family cruise lines in the world, it’s no surprise to see Disney Cruise Line near the top of this list. This leader in family fun brings the magic of the Disney Parks experience to the high seas with their fleet of 4 ocean liners. With sailing destinations including Alaska, Caribbean, Bahamas, Canada & New England, California Coast, Europe, Hawaii, Mexico, Panama Canal and Transatlantic, it’s almost guaranteed there’s a destination to suit your family. Cruiseline.com awarded Disney Cruise Lines an excellent average rating of 4.3 stars out of 5 with experts advising this cruise line is great for travelers with children but probably less fun for romantic honeymooners. The costs are generally higher than those of other family-geared cruise lines but this seems to get you massive state rooms, baby-friendly amenities and incredible Disney activities according to the review site.
Best: Celebrity -3.9
In addition to its high customer satisfaction, Celebrity Cruises has also been voted the “Best Premium Cruise Line” for 7 consecutive years as per Travel Weekly Reader Awards. With 10 ships and 3 classes ranging in occupancy from 3046 on the high end, all the way to the intimate 98 passenger Celebrity Xpedition, you’re likely to find a ship to suit your needs. Favorite destinations include Australia and New Zealand, Bermuda, Hawaii, Europe, Galapagos and South America. Cruiseline.com gives Celebrity 3.9 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews -of which, 64% were couples. The rating site describes this cruise line as perfect for couples, families and groups who want style and comfort without luxury-line prices. Some of Celebrity’s most memorable accomplishments are being the first to grow real grass on board ships and building an extensive on board art collection.
Best: Holland America -3.8
Holland America has been taking cruisers to historic and exotic destinations around the world for over 140 years. Their fleet of 15 spacious and comfortable mid-size ships offer more than 500 sailings each year and include destinations on all 7 continents of the world. In April 2016, the cruise line is adding a new 2,650 passenger ocean liner to their fleet which will be the first of its kind for Holland America. Cruiseline.com gives the cruise line a very good 3.8 stars out of 5 and advises this line is generally geared for multigenerational families or older more seasoned travelers as it focuses on professional service and relaxation over sporty recreational and flashy childrens activities.
Best: Oceania Cruises -3.8
If you consider yourself a foodie who loves to travel, you’ll want to check out the offerings of Oceania Cruises. Formed in 2002, with a current fleet of 5 ships including 3 former Renaissance vessels, they are the world’s largest upper-premium cruise line. In 2016 they plan to add a 4th ship to their mid-size class for a total fleet size of 6. Oceania received a 3.8 star overall rating by reviewers, of which 76% were couples. This reaffirms the review sites claims that this cruise line is best suited for sophisticated couples and friends who appreciate great wood, wine, art and service. Details like Ralph Lauren designed suites, on-board cooking school and wine pairing restaurants make this cruise line all the more enjoyable.
Best: Royal Caribbean -3.8
Royal Caribbean cruises may just be the best option for families right after Disney Cruise Line -and for significantly less money. With 7 classes of ships and a total fleet size of 25 (soon to be 25 in 2016) there’s guaranteed to be a ship size to suit your style. Royal Caribbean received 3.8 stars out of 5 based on thousands of customer reviews. Surprisingly, 53.3% of these were by couples and 15.8% by families with older children. This cruise line has made their mark in the action and adventure cruise market as ships are jam packed with amazing things to do including one of the best offerings of sports activities out there. This cruise line is definitely one to check out for the adventurous family or couple who likes non-stop action.
Best: Princess Cruises -3.7
From starting with a single ship in 1965, Princess Cruises has grown to an 18 fleet cruise line that carries more than 1 million passengers each year to destinations all over the globe. The customer blend is a mix of families and young couples looking for a quality mid-priced experience and older couples looking for a more sophisticated, relaxed approach to cruising. The cruise line was awarded 3.7 stars out of 5 based on customer reviews and has been noted for excellent kids programs like Science on the Sea (created in partnership with the California Science Center) and new release movies shown poolside on huge LED screens -with complimentary popcorn of course.
Best: Carnival Cruise Lines -3.6
Just squeaking into the ‘Best’ category by .1 of a star, Carnival Cruise Lines are definitely known as ’the fun ships’. This cruise line has built a reputation for offering non-stop fun in the form of parties, karaoke, comedy shows and wacky contests and entertainment. Carnival’s fleet of 24 ships are loud in color and volume with music pumping, adults letting lose and kids having a ball. This is definitely a cruise line for partiers, extroverts and boisterous families with young children. With an overall rating of 3.6 stars, the reviews on Cruiseline.com are generally favorable for this family favorite. If you’re looking for a good price and a good time Carnival Cruise Lines may be your best option.
Worst: Avalon Waterways -3.5
Avalon Waterways is leading the European River Cruise market with their fleet of 25 ships. If you’ve ever dreamt of traveling Europe, seeing a different city each day and experiencing local sights, you may really enjoy Avalon Waterways. However, if you enjoy making your own itinerary, following your own time frames and being in control of everything you see and do, this cruise line is not for you. Another 0.01 of a star rating and Avalon would have moved out of the ‘Worst’ category, but with a 3.5 star rating on Cruiseline.com it lands on the better side of our worst list. Complaints from passengers include such issues as slow wifi on board, a very noisy dining room, little independent exploration time during shore days and food that doesn’t quite compare to that of large ocean cruisers.
Worst: Norwegian Cruise Line -3.4
There are many things that Norwegian Cruise Lines is doing well; for example they were the first cruise line to introduce flexible dining options, they offer supplement-free studios for single cruisers and they have one of the youngest fleets of any major North American cruise line out there. Though still a popular choice, Norwegian received a 3.4 star rating from customers on Cruiseline.com. Complaints from passengers include the small size of cabin rooms, an excess of smoking areas on board and too many specialty food restaurants (that cost extra) with little focus on food quality.
Worst: Viking River Cruises -3.4
With a massive fleet of 40 longships and 23 other vessels, Viking River Cruises has firmly planted themselves as having the most river cruise vessels of any company in the world. That being said, the cruise line is a popular choice if you’re looking to see the sights of Europe, Russia, Asia or Egypt. Like other river cruise companies, Viking will be enjoyed by those who enjoy not having to plan anything on their own, but may not be a great option if you enjoy setting your own schedule. The company received a 3.4 star overall rating from customer reviews on Cruiseline.com and it’s important to note that over 81% of reviews came from couples… which shows you the demographics of this cruise line. Some complaints from passengers include last minute itinerary changes, small cabin rooms and expensive rates.
Worst: Costa Cruises -3.2
Originating in 19th century Genoa, Costa Cruises still maintain some of their signature Italian flair -although not quite to the extend as the old days. You’ll still find Italian favorites like thin crust pizza, Italian charcuterie and perfectly cooked pasta on board, but you’ll also find many partiers and screaming children aboard these ships as well. Costa’s 15 ship fleet has become a popular choice for budget cruisers, party-seekers and young families; thanks to frequent promotions like ‘children sail free’. The majority of Costa’s passengers are European which could be a reason that these ships have many designated smoking areas. If you’re looking to breathe fresh air and be surrounded by fellow americans, we suggest you look elsewhere. The 3.2 star rating on Cruiseline.com is the result of reviews claiming staff can be unhelpful and even rude, food is lackluster and overall quality has decreased over the years.
Worst: American Cruise Lines -3.0
American Cruise Lines specializes in river cruises that tour the historic waterways of the United States with their fleet of 7 small cruise ships. Occupancy ranges from between 150-50 passengers depending on vessel so whatever ship you’re guaranteed an intimate cruising experience. While the staterooms are described as some of the largest in the industry, the primary complaint with American Cruise Lines is the extremely expensive rates. You could easily enjoy a luxury-level ocean cruise for less cost and get a longer experience. Perhaps this is one of the reasons for a low 3 star customer rating from Cruiseline.com; for this price guests expect a lot and unfortunately it’s just not there.
Worst: Star Clippers -3.0
Star Clippers offers cruisers a completely unique experience, very different from the typical ocean liners of the big cruising companies. A fleet of 3 tall ships sails the seas and allows guests to enjoy a true sailing experience combined with the comforts and luxury of modern cruise ship. Sounds great right? Well this experience definitely isn’t for everyone so it’s important to do your research and decide if this is right for you or you may end up like some of the unhappy passengers in the reviews who complained about the ‘child-unfriendly’ nature of the ships, the abundance of stairs and no elevators, or the rocky motion of the ship causing seasickness. All of which were probably contributors to the 3 star rating.
Worst: MSC Cruises -3.0
MSC’s fleet of 12 ocean liners provide budget-conscious families and passengers a more European cruising experience than some of the other big cruise companies out there. Expect ships to be full of families since children up to 11 years old sail for free and those between 11-17 sail for a reduced rate. You may be surprised to see a popular cruise line such as MSC on the bottom of our worst list but the customer ratings speak for themselves. A 3 star overall rating was due to reviews which list issues such as lackluster food, dingy outdated rooms and countless reports of poor customer service with few English speaking staff members.