Best and worst cruise lines
Whether you're a complete novice, or an experienced cruiser keen to get back to the seas following the coronavirus pandemic, it always pays to do your research into the best and worst cruise lines.
Our ratings are driven by thousands of cruise line guests rating their experience of the facilities onboard, the cabin, food and drink and customer service so you can avoid finding yourself queuing for the restaurant every morning or being ripped off over tips.
From luxury small-ship cruises to big name brands with full entertainment and leisure facilities we know from guests that the cruise lines rated best are always those that have the best passenger to space ratio onboard — something that will be more important than ever as cruise lines look to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. See the full results below to find out which cruise lines give you room and which ones pack holidaymakers onboard.
Ocean cruise lines rated
In the table below, we show the latest results from our annual survey of Which? members. Viking takes the crown, with Hurtigruten, Noble Caledonia, Regent Seven Seas and Saga, also all receiving a Which? Recommended Provider rating.
Best cruise company reviews
Many cruise line passengers book with the same company over and over again. It’s that comfort of knowing what to expect on board, from the facilities and food to the general atmosphere. But the truth is that if you’re willing to try a different line you’ll probably have a better holiday. While passengers of the most popular cruise lines, like Cunard, P&O and Celebrity rated them well, there are eight brands rated far better.
Viking Ocean Cruises review — Which? Recommended Provider
Yet again, Viking has held onto the number one spot in our survey, earning an outstanding five stars in every category. It specialises in small to medium, adult-only ocean cruises, with all of its ships carrying fewer than 1,000 guests. It's not cheap, but the classy atmosphere, excellent food and unusual destinations are a winning combination, so it's no surprise customers rated value for money as outstanding.
Saga review — Which? Recommended Provider
Saga, which offers small-scale ocean cruises exclusively for the over-50s, is a new WRP for 2021. In the past, concerns over the transparency of its excursion prices have prevented us from recommending it, but it has made significant improvements in this area this year, without losing any of what makes its cruises so excellent. Customer service, quality of food and value for money are all second-to-none.
Hurtigruten review— Which? Recommended Provider
It's all about the destination on a Hurtigruten ocean cruise. Its vessels may not be the most luxurious around, but they are compact enough to access smaller ports and towns that large ships can't. Throw in exceptional customer service and there are few better ways to explore Norway and the Arctic.
Noble Caledonia review — Which? Recommended Provider
If a small ocean cruise is what you're looking for, you'll want to consider Noble Caledonia. Its cruise ships carry between 36 and 250 guests, making them some of the smallest you can sail on. As well as a personal on-board experience, it's one of just three companies to earn a full five stars for the quality of its port excursions, making it a compelling way to say to see the world.
Regent Seven Seas review — Which? Recommended Provider
For a luxurious, all-inclusive ocean cruising experience, it's hard to beat Regent Seven Seas. Almost every cabin has a balcony, staff are friendly and helpful, and the port excursions are consistently enjoyably and well-organised. The only real downside is the cost.
What makes a Which? Recommended Provider? Cruise line
Which? Recommended Providers are the cream of the crop and, as a minimum, we only consider giving the accolade to cruise lines that achieve a customer score of 70% or above.
That’s not all. We know that pricing transparency is important, so we only give the award to the companies that provide clear information about gratuities, excursions and drinks at the booking stage. After all, it's hard for customers to compare prices if they can't find these details before parting with their cash. If the companies fall down in more than one area, they’re not eligible to be Which? Recommended Providers, whatever score they receive in the survey.
Similarly, a cruise company can only be a WRP if it is committed to refunding customers promptly for any cancelled cruises. Neither Azamara or Seabourn could make this commitment for bookings cancelled due to COVID-19, so both have had their WRP status removed for 2021.
Which? is independent - we work for you, the consumer, so you can be sure that our product recommendations are influenced only by our survey results. We don’t take advertising or freebies, so our advice helps you to make the right choice first time and avoid costly mistakes.
Cruise refunds and cancellations
Any cruise lasting more than 24 hours is automatically considered a package holiday, regardless of whether or not your booking included a flight.
Package holidays are covered by the , entitling you to a full cash refund within 14 days if your booking is cancelled by the cruise operator. If you booked your cruise through a travel agent, they will return your money once they've received it from the cruise line.
During the coronavirus pandemic, however, many cruise lines have been illegally ignoring the Package Travel Regulations, with some taking more than a month to issue refunds and others refusing refunds altogether and issuing vouchers, instead.
If you're considering booking a cruise for later in 2021 or beyond, only do so with a cruise company that's quickly and consistently refunding customers for cancelled bookings. All our WRP cruise lines can be trusted to do this and they also all organise excellent cruises.