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Best and Worst Cruise Lines For 2020 Revealed

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The best and worst cruise lines of 2020 have been named by Which? – and it's Viking Ocean Cruises claiming the top spot once again and MSC anchored at the bottom for a second year running.

Viking was awarded five stars in every category while MSC received two or three stars across the board – and an overall customer score of just 57 per cent.

Second in the annual ranking was Saga Ocean Cruises, followed by Azamara in third. Second-bottom of the table was Holland America.

Cruise Ships

The research looked at 20 cruise companies and asked 2,253 passengers to rate their experiences out of five across 11 categories.

These included customer service, cabin space, onboard facilities, food and drink, port excursions, entertainment, atmosphere, WiFi and value for money.

Those polled were also asked how likely it was that they'd recommend the cruise lines in question to their friends and family.

Complaints about MSC from customers quizzed included poor customer service, surly staff and mediocre food.

MSC can carry almost 6,500 passengers at any one time across its fleet of 19 mega-liners. But Which? says this scale posed a problem.

One passenger summed up the complaints of many by telling the consumer watchdog: ‘The ship was huge, with a lot of people, resulting in queues at key times – like meals and entertainment.'

To make matters worse, one holidaymaker reported to Which? that they felt they had to ‘cheer up the staff'.

Which? says another described an unruly scene of people ‘smoking on decks where it wasn't permitted' and throwing cigarette ends everywhere. This led to a two-star social atmosphere rating. 

Food and drink was also rated just two stars, as were port excursions. Cabins were a little better with a rating of three stars, with many describing them as ‘average' or ‘disappointing'.

Which? also asked holidaymakers if they had had a problem during their cruise – and more than half of those who travelled on MSC said they did.

Which? says that a fifth (19 per cent) of those went on to lodge a complaint. This stands in stark contrast to an average of four per cent across all brands.

holland america

Second-bottom Holland America had a customer satisfaction score of 68 per cent and mainly received two and three stars across the categories. However, it scored four stars for its itineraries.

At the top end of the table, no other cruise company came close to Viking Ocean Cruises, which carries a maximum of 930 passengers per trip.

Which? says the upmarket, adults-only ships allow holidaymakers to avoid the rowdy bars, casinos and ‘the hard sell' synonymous with cheaper rivals – resulting in top marks for value for money.

Customers told the consumer champion they appreciated the ‘classy', ‘crowd-free' atmosphere with Viking, where relaxation is the focus and a Nordic spa is among facilities on offer.

There are also feature lecture theatres and jazz lounges.

Viking cruises

Second-place Saga Cruises had a customer satisfaction score of 88 per cent and scored five stars in six categories including customer service, food and drink, social atmosphere and value for money.

It only scored less than four stars in one category – onboard facilities, where it received three.

Third-place Azamara had a customer satisfaction score of 87 per cent and scored five stars in four categories – customer service, passenger to space ratio, social atmosphere and itinerary.

Its lowest scores were three stars, which it received for onboard facilities, port excursions and entertainment.

Meanwhile, almost a quarter of those responding to the Which? survey had cruised with P&O in the past two years.

Many of those were loyal customers who kept going back, helping earn the company a respectable 71 per cent customer score.

With most cruises departing from the UK to the Caribbean, passengers told Which? they liked the ease of flight-free travel with P&O as well as the absence of set dining times. The comedy acts also got a thumbs up, described as ‘straight from the 1970s'.

But several repeat travellers complained to Which? that standards have slipped and that it's become a ‘downmarket company, priced accordingly' and akin to ‘Butlins on sea'.

oceania cruise ship

The lowest star rating for P&O was for the social atmosphere, with a few of those surveyed describing the pool area as being ‘overrun' and ‘a nightmare'. There were also expensive add-ons, including WiFi says Which?

Lesser-known Oceania cruises found itself in the top half of the table with a customer score of 81 per cent.

While headline prices are high, this does include flights and food, and it's cheaper than other luxury rivals, says Which?

Passengers told the consumer group they were wowed by the 400 staff to 684 passenger ratio, with one revealing the team ‘could not have done more to make us feel like valued guests'.

This Miami-based luxury cruise line focuses on well-being, yoga and fitness but lost points when it came to entertainment. Those looking for a Broadway-style experience were disappointed with the ‘low-key' acts on offer, says Which?

We are thrilled to top the table in the Which? ocean survey for the second year in row. The fact that this survey was conducted by Which?, the independent champions of consumers in the UK, amongst guests who have actually travelled with us, makes it even more meaningful.’

top cruise lines which

Sources: Daily Mail, Which?

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Franc V.

Thursday 12th of August 2021

We went on a cruise in July and indeed MSC is not the same as before. Pizza's (their main food) are not tastefull as before, no variation and almost no toppings, for example a mushroom pizza wil contain a few very very thin slices of mushroom as if it caviar, same hing for cheese it must be very expesive since they almost put none of it on the pizzas.

And then there is the aurea experience still at the same high price however priority board was not allowed...the spa was closed completely if if you are fully vaccinated...and the massage had to be taken within the first two days or it would not be bookable anymore...stress...

And then there are the very strange drink package anomalies. When you have an non alcholic package you are allowed to drink juices from bottles, speciality coffees/choco and ice cream...but... When you upgrade to the easy package they tell you you can purchase anything up to 6 euro's except... drink juices from bottles, speciality coffees / choco and ice basicly you are downgraded if you purchase the upgrade (be WARNED), you get it all back when you purchase an even expensier upgrade package "drinkpackage Premium" (39 euro+15%=45 euro per day per person, who drinks that much when you go on excursions???), and you are not allowed to use your drink packages in speciality restaurants... who comes with all those stupid rules, it was so simple just to say what a price limit you have, but now upgrades become downgrades with all those exceptions. Financially it is even stupid, because since we were not allowed to drink a coffee like mochachino (coffee with whipped cream) which probable cost 1 euro to make in resources, we had to drink alcohol that probably cost the 3 euro in resources... On the card the coffee costs actually 5.6 euro+15% (more expensive then drinking coffee in Sint-tropez or a discotheque...)

Also note that upgrading your package also cost you 15% additional charge... And you are not allowed to downgrade(imagine you are aurea and you don't want to drink alcohol because you are alcholic), and if you upgrade it must be for all the passengers from your booking, so if you booked three cabins, all the passengers from those cabins must purchase the same upgrades.

It is also very stressfull to enter a ship and beeing attacked by all this staff that wants to upsell your drinking packages, that kills the first impression on the boot.


Monday 8th of November 2021

@Gary, I completely agree. MSC have definitely cut back on staff/service. Queueing times unacceptable for drinks and waiting for meals. Also very limited menu in dining area


Sunday 26th of September 2021

@Franc V., Agreed with you. We were on med cruising with MSC and after 5 days just want to f**k of this ship. Everything was just real annoying experience. Could specific our experience, but it's never ending story.NEVER EVER MORE MSC EVEN FREE!