The 12 Worst Cruise Ships (According to Real Reviews)

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Cruises promise sun-soaked decks, luxurious amenities, and ports bursting with exotic adventures. But not all ships sail to the same high standards, and some offer a much better experience than others.

I was curious about which were the worst cruise ships according to reviews. So, I sorted through reviews of hundreds of ships on Cruise Critic, and TripAdvisor to find the answers.

Cruise ship

Of course, I’ve not been on every ship, so these are not my personal opinions. Just the opinions of thousands of cruisers who have left reviews online.

Whether it’s cold food, cramped cabins, or disorganised excursions, these ships have made waves for all the wrong reasons.

So, let’s embark on a journey through the less glamorous side of cruising and uncover the ships you might want to think twice about before booking your next cruise.

Starting with the worst-rated cruise ship of all (by the reviews)…

1. Costa Fortuna

Costa Fortuna

Costa Fortuna sounds like the answer to a joke – “What do you call a rip-off cruise ship?” “Costa Fortuna!”

And even though cruises on this ship are actually pretty cheap, with prices starting at £149 for a four-night cruise, a lot of people still seemed to hate every moment of their time onboard.

With an average review score of just 2.83 out of 5, many angry reviewers voted Costa Fortuna as the worst ship on Earth. Yikes!

Among the myriad of complaints, many passengers noted the cabins, though spacious, weren’t always thoroughly cleaned, with some guests finding leftover items from previous passengers. Sanitation also seemed to take a back seat, with empty or malfunctioning hand sanitisers – a concerning oversight in the era of heightened health consciousness. 

When it came to dining, choices seemed scarce, especially for vegetarians, vegans, or those with dietary restrictions against pork or seafood. The food quality was repeatedly described as lacklustre in reviews, with the same menu on rotation for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

One of the more dramatic events shared by a reviewer was a meeting arranged with an English-speaking hospitality representative in response to the multitude of complaints. The ensuing conversation was less than satisfactory, with passengers being told they could leave the ship if they were unhappy – a suggestion met with disbelief given their location in the middle of the ocean.

Language barriers seemed to be a recurring issue on the Costa Fortuna, with many of the ship’s activities, games, and performances predominantly in Italian, leaving English-speaking passengers feeling excluded.

The entertainment, except for select theatre shows, was described as subpar, and the ship’s pool was reportedly crowded, with children dominating even the “adults-only” sections.

Several reviewers described the decor as “cheap” and “kitsch”, comparing the overall ambience to low-rated hotels and motels.

2. Costa Firenze

Costa Firenze

The second ship on this list, Costa Firenze, is actually joint first as the review scores were exactly the same as Costa Fortuna across Cruise Critic, Cruiseline and TripAdvisor. 

Many Costa Firenze reviews mentioned the food quality, with one cruiser stating that the food was “horrible,” and waiting times to enter restaurants often stretched to 30 or 40 minutes.

Not only did many find the a la carte restaurant’s offerings subpar, but several guests reported facing food poisoning incidents on board.

The onboard experience was continually marred with pushy solicitations to dine in extra-charge restaurants and an agonisingly long wait for drinks at the bar.

Buffets presented another area of contention. Not only was the setup poorly designed, particularly for beverages, but the choices were also limited, leading one reviewer to speculate that it was an intentional tactic to push passengers towards the speciality restaurants. 

English-speaking passengers felt particularly out of place, noting a stark language barrier and many of their tours had to be combined with other non-English speaking groups.

Entertainment seemed scarce, with one passenger highlighting, “I’ve never been on a cruise with so little going on aboard the ship.”

Several guests also found the ship’s design to be unfavourable, mentioning overcrowded areas and the constant obstruction caused by staff pushing large carts. The decor, notably the “gaudy paintings”, was another sore point for many.

The cleanliness of this ship was often brought into question, and one family even discovered small cockroaches in their cabin. Smoking areas, crucial for maintaining a pleasant atmosphere onboard, weren’t enforced, leading to hallways filled with cigarette smoke.

Suggested read: List Of The Cleanest Cruise Ships In The World

3. MSC Seascape

MSC Seascape

Well, it didn’t take long before an MSC Cruise ship made this list. And the worst MSC Cruises ship according to reviews is MSC Seascape.

Reviewers have extensively voiced their dissatisfaction with the MSC Seascape, citing a plethora of reasons for their negative experiences.

Guests commented on the disappointing food quality, both at the sit-down restaurants and buffets. The variety seemed lacking, with repetitive offerings, and many reported instances of cold or undercooked dishes.

The drink service was another area of contention. Many reviewers felt that the bar staff was inattentive, with long waiting times being a common complaint. On approaching the bars directly, guests were met with limited drink knowledge and, at times, unwelcoming attitudes.

The entertainment onboard also received flak, with the main grievance being the repetition of the same dance crew and the underwhelming performance of some acts, particularly the duelling pianos.

Additionally, many guests were upset with the general cleanliness and state of the ship. Rooms were cited as not being well-maintained, with one reviewer even finding leftover underwear on their balcony from a previous cruise.

Others found the hygiene in communal areas questionable, with a disturbing incident of finding waste in the water park.

A significant number of guests also experienced issues with the staff’s attitude. From being denied basic services with rudeness to having a spa treatment disrupted multiple times, there seemed to be a lack of hospitality. Some even mentioned feeling discriminated against based on nationality.

The overall sentiment was one of disappointment, with many vowing never to cruise with MSC Cruises again.

Suggested read: Why Are MSC Cruises So Cheap?

4. MSC Seashore

MSC Seashore

Next up on the list is MSC Seashore. This ship scored just 2 out of 5 according to TripAdvisor, although reviewers on Cruiseline seemed to quite like it, giving it a 4.

Several guests felt that service was underwhelming, especially considering the ship’s aesthetics which many agreed was commendable. The entertainment provided was criticised for its lack of variety and appeal.

Drink services were reportedly slow, often leading guests to serve themselves. Multiple reviewers commented on the subpar quality of food; be it the cold meals, the staleness of early morning coffee, or the repetitive nature of the buffet.

It was also noted that certain basic amenities like tissues, washcloths, and even sheets on beds were conspicuously absent. Beyond the physical, the soundscape of the ship was filled with the frequent flush of toilets echoing down corridors.

Another significant pain point was the lack of consistent and efficient service. Whether it was the lack of response from room service or crew members being publicly reprimanded by managers, the general consensus was that MSC Seashore’s staff were not well-trained in hospitality and customer service.

In particular, the Yacht Club, designed to be an epitome of luxury and service, failed to match the expectations of several guests, with many comparing its service unfavourably to other cruise lines.

5. Costa Pacifica

Costa Pacifica

Many reviewers conveyed strong dissatisfaction with their experience on the Costa Pacifica. Even though the majority of the crew spoke some English, most of the ship’s announcements were in other languages, leading to communication challenges.

Guests also recounted issues like overcrowding, with one likening the buffet area to a “rush hour underground.” This resulted in extended waits for almost everything, from drinks to water slides to shows. Lines for basics like restrooms and breakfast were disappointingly long.

Food quality was a recurring complaint; one traveller remarked the provided meals were of such poor quality they “would not even dare to give it to [their] dog.”

Drink packages seemed to be an area of contention, with limitations on offerings and the exclusion of bottled water being especially galling for some. This was exacerbated by poor communication about package details and a lack of clarification on additional charges. 

Entertainment was a mixed bag, with some praising offerings while others found it lacking. However, several pointed out the subpar service, especially at buffet counters, where staff could sometimes ignore guests or make inappropriate comments in other languages.

Overall, while there were some bright spots like the Rhapsody Bar and the My Way Restaurant, the general consensus was one of disappointment and frustration. 

6. Costa Smeralda

Costa Smeralda

Costa Smeralda is built using the same hull as ships like P&O Cruises’ Arvia and Iona as well as Carnival Celebration and Mardi Gras. But, as you’ll learn, that’s where the similarities tend to end. 

Language barriers seemed to be a common issue; many English-speaking passengers reported feeling isolated due to the predominant use of Italian on the ship. Whether it was comedy shows, pool activities, or general ship communications, the lack of translations and English-speaking personnel made the experience frustrating for some. Additionally, many felt ‘nickel and dimed’ by the ship, with even basic amenities like water coming at a cost.

Despite these challenges, some passengers did note positives. The ship’s aesthetic was appreciated by a few, and the ports visited during the cruise were highlights for many.

Service staff, especially those from the Philippines and India, were often mentioned for their exemplary service. Still, many other aspects of the voyage seemed to mar the overall experience.

Issues ranged from disorganisation, miscommunication regarding dinner timings and drink packages, and overcrowded buffets. Even on the logistics front, passengers noted challenges with luggage delays, trouble securing tour bookings, and general confusion regarding ship policies and amenities.

I recently took a cruise on Costa Smeralda, and I don’t think it’s too bad, for the money. You can read my review here.

7. Costa Toscana

Costa Toscana

Many reviewers have shared concerns and unfavourable experiences regarding cruising on the Costa Toscana. According to reviewers, queues formed for almost every amenity, from the buffet to the restrooms. Some travellers even compared the buffet’s bustle to a rush-hour subway. 

The ship’s capacity issues were further aggravated by seemingly understaffed or disorganised service areas. Maintenance decisions, like servicing coffee machines during peak breakfast hours or washing balconies while guests were enjoying breakfast below, raised eyebrows. 

Guests lamented the lack of inclusive amenities, citing that many essentials came with an added fee. For example, the so-called “all-inclusive” packages were reported to be misleading, with additional charges for items that many expect to be standard on a cruise. 

Another point of contention was the ship’s approach to announcements. As is commonplace on a Costa Cruise, multiple languages were used, leading to lengthy and disruptive interjections throughout the day.

On the bright side, amidst the wave of dissatisfaction, there were a few beacons of positivity. Several passengers praised individual staff members for their exceptional service, noting that these individuals stood out as dedicated and helpful in an otherwise challenging environment. There was also acknowledgement of the ship’s impressive aesthetics, with some mentioning the upmarket decor.

Though some had favourable moments onboard, many felt the overall experience did not match up to the standard set by other cruise lines.

8. Costa Diadema

Costa Diadema

The Costa Diadema is another ship with its fair share of negative reviews. While it is described as being aesthetically pleasing, many reviewers have found several significant shortcomings in their cruising experience.

Reviewers commented that they hated the plethora of hidden charges. One glaring complaint was the added fees for seemingly basic services, including charging for tap water at the bar. 

The internet plan aboard the ship also came under scrutiny, with many describing it as a scam. One reviewer detailed their experience with the Internet service, recounting how the purchase of a data plan led to unexpected additional charges.

The food onboard was another sore point for many. Some stated that the same buffet was offered daily, with few to no hot food options unless one dined at the restaurant, which was reportedly always crowded.

Another grievance was related to room service, with one diabetic cruiser stating that their breakfast, vital for their condition, was not delivered as requested.

Overcrowding appeared to be a persistent issue, with cruisers describing difficulty finding seating for meals and noting that the pools were small, dirty, and packed. The elevators were criticized for being slow, constantly packed, or reserved for luggage, forcing some passengers to resort to taking the stairs.

The entertainment was noted to be primarily in Italian, leaving those who didn’t understand the language feeling excluded.

On the brighter side, some mentioned the smooth embarkation process, and there was an acknowledgement of the ship’s aesthetics.

However, a particularly heart-wrenching review came from a passenger who had gifted their son and daughter-in-law a honeymoon cruise on the Costa Diadema, only for the newlyweds to be met with separate beds in their cabin. The ship’s refusal to accommodate them without an additional fee left the reviewer devastated.

9. Costa Deliziosa

Costa Deliziosa

To start off with the positives of the Costa Deliziosa, many reviews praised the ship for its aesthetic appeal, noting its beautiful layout and the convenience of the central elevators. Additionally, the service staff received high praise for their exceptional commitment and dedication. However, the commendations often stopped there.

Reviewers were particularly disappointed with the food on offer. Despite the ship’s promise of an “Italian influence”, many found it missing, with one traveller remarking that it felt like “basic transportation”.

A substantial number of guests fell ill during their voyages, with little visible precautionary measures taken by the ship beyond the placement of sanitiser stations in the buffet area. When complaints were lodged with Costa Customer Service, many felt their grievances fell on deaf ears, with responses that seemed to imply a lack of genuine concern.

Entertainment aboard the Costa Deliziosa also received a slew of negative reviews. From lacklustre performances by dancers who seemed more in rehearsal mode than ready for the spotlight, to an activities director who didn’t cater to English-speaking passengers, many felt excluded or simply bored.

A recurring theme was the ship’s apparent favouritism towards its Italian guests, with non-Italians feeling deliberately sidelined during activities and entertainment. Excursions were another sore point, with some being cancelled due to the lack of English-speaking cruisers.

Additionally, logistical issues with time management in ports, poor quality TV channels, subpar cabin conditions, and overpriced onboard amenities left many travellers frustrated. Several reviewers also expressed concerns over safety and hygiene, citing instances of passengers grabbing food with their hands.

Disembarkation procedures were described as chaotic, with passengers left waiting for hours without clear instructions.

While many reviewers shared negative experiences, some did express appreciation for certain aspects of the cruise, such as the beautiful destinations visited. However, the majority concluded that, given the vast array of cruise options available, they wouldn’t choose the Costa Deliziosa for their next voyage.

10. MSC Opera

MSC Opera

The overarching consensus from reviewers cruising on the MSC Opera was that the ship seemed understaffed, leading to numerous challenges.

Several travellers lamented the ship’s inability to handle its large number of guests, suggesting that the company might be cutting corners in areas such as food quality, employee count, and entertainment variety.

Dining was a particular sore spot, with the dining area on deck 11 often overcrowded, causing many to eat in their rooms or outside. Alarming concerns over hygiene arose as many reported non-functional hand sanitiser dispensers, which might have contributed to a number of guests falling ill.

Cleanliness seemed to be an issue elsewhere too, with dirty tables, hallways littered with debris, and occasional wafts of unpleasant odours.

However, it wasn’t all bad news. Reviewers did comment positively on certain aspects of their journey. They praised the destinations and the good weather, as well as some tasty pizza and coffee available onboard.

Additionally, some excursions were deemed worthwhile, and a few individual staff members, like cabin stewards and waiters, were complimented for their exemplary service.

Nevertheless, many felt that the ship’s management failed to provide optimal services. This sentiment was further exacerbated by a perceived lack of support from customer service both before and during the voyage. Travellers noted numerous difficulties ranging from the inability to secure simple pre-arranged accommodations, such as separate beds, to the aggravating experience of being overcharged.

One cruiser made a poignant observation that if the management treats its employees poorly or overworks them, it inevitably results in a subpar experience for the guests. This sentiment seemed to be echoed by many, with repeated references to the hardworking crew that seemed stretched thin.

Despite the affordable pricing of the cruise, many reviewers concluded that there are better options available and expressed a reluctance to recommend MSC to others.

11. MSC Orchestra

MSC Orchestra

Reviewers who travelled aboard the MSC Orchestra highlighted several significant areas of dissatisfaction. Many stated that it was one of the worst cruises they’ve ever experienced.

The ship’s old and outdated décor was a major letdown for many who expected a cruise of a lifetime. Several passengers experienced inadequate customer service and felt that the cruise line failed to provide the expected satisfaction on multiple occasions. From pre-paid internet packages that rarely worked to delayed luggage delivery causing inconvenience to passengers, the initial experiences onboard seemed to set a tone of frustration.

Entertainment on the ship came under scrutiny as well. Reviewers pointed out that the entertainment was sparse and repetitive, with limited options for those who wanted to relax in their cabins. The TV only offered a few movie options, which played repeatedly, and most other channels broadcasted ads for the cruise line.

The ship’s unusual “drink ticket” system was criticised as confusing, inefficient, and poorly organised. Dining was another sore point, with many finding the formal dining menus unappetising and the food poorly prepared. Steak, regardless of how it was ordered, was consistently overcooked, and some dishes lacked listed ingredients. While the buffet offered more variety, it was often overcrowded and the food quality was hit or miss.

However, it wasn’t all negative. Some passengers enjoyed the Shaker Lounge’s band every night, indicating that there were pockets of good entertainment onboard. A few reviewers also highlighted positive experiences with certain staff members who went out of their way to provide excellent service.

While the MSC Orchestra had a few redeeming qualities, the overwhelming consensus from the provided reviews suggests that there’s a lot of room for improvement.

12. Costa Fascinosa

Costa Fascinosa

Many guests have voiced their dissatisfaction about the food on the Costa Fascinosa. Reviewers commented that they often had to ask for everything at meals, including basics like salt and pepper. They also noted that food quality was inconsistent, with even pasta dishes – a staple in Italian cuisine – not meeting expectations.

On the other hand, the evening shows were a highlight for many, with performances boasting truly gifted performers and a delightful repertoire, though some felt the cruise director’s attempt at humour bordered on inappropriate.

Accommodation and onboard amenities also drew criticism. Many found their cabins to be average, with issues like non-working fridges or obstructed views being common grievances. However, others praised the ship’s aesthetics.

A glaring concern for many was the lack of activities, especially when shore excursions were cancelled, leaving them with little to do.

Above all, several passengers expressed serious concerns about security and customer service. Reports of theft, mismanagement of passports, and apathetic responses from the crew cast a shadow over their cruise experience. Some even mentioned that the staff seemed to lack motivation, attributing this to their supposedly low wages.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to cruising, it’s certainly true that you get what you pay for. All of the worst-rated cruise ships are owned by either Costa Cruises or MSC Cruises, which happen to be two of the cheapest cruise lines.

While these companies often entice travellers with budget-friendly prices, if guests expect the same experience as they’re used to with more expensive cruise lines, they’re sure to be disappointed.


Don’t miss these hot cruise offers…

Though some passengers have found joy in the small wins aboard these ships, many feel the quality of service, amenities, and overall experience doesn’t match up to the industry’s higher standards.

As always, it’s essential to weigh costs against potential compromises, ensuring your hard-earned cruise holiday provides the experience you truly desire.

Related Posts:

If you found this interesting, please share!

Cruise Mummy

Jenni Fielding is the founder of Cruise Mummy. She has worked in the cruise industry since 2015 and has taken over 30 cruises. Now, she helps over 1 million people per month to plan their perfect cruise holidays.

Read more about me

12 thoughts on “The 12 Worst Cruise Ships (According to Real Reviews)”

  1. Surprised to see MSC here, my personal experiences of them have been great, lovely food and stuff and fun and vibrant atmosphere, probably because if the mix of cultures and great latin vibes… what is a cruising experience without this fun? Been in Arvia recently and the entertainment there and general vibe just did not cut it for us.

    • I totally agree. We did a 23/24 Christmas New Year Cruise on Arvia and we could not believe how much P&O’s services and standards have fallen. The ship was not clean. Our balcony cabin had a hairball on the balcony when we arrived it looked as if it had not been cleaned our cabin had long dark hairs all over it. Our sheets were changed once on a 14 night cruise. There were queues to get served in bars a poor choice of drinks, Buffet restaurant with cold food, tables not cleared and if they were cleared they were not cleaned. Decks crowded on sea days, pools full, discarded plates, glasses, napkins lying all over the place, Theatre shows repeated, Arvia has 5200 passengers crammed onto a ship which is not big enough nor has nearly enough staff. We complained on board and got nowhere, Not to mention Maleth Aero scrapheap planes with no inflight entertainment that always run late are either frozen cold or swealtering. I wrote to P&O customer services when we got home and got an appology. A waste of time. We will never sail with P&O again!!

  2. Seems like a lot of disgruntled Americans not liking European based cruise lines. Wow what a surprise. How the hell did Carnival not make this list????

  3. How about a worst ship ranking that takes the worst ship from each major cruise line to see who has the best worst ship?

  4. You mentioned that there are Language Barriers for english speaking Costumers. Improve your Language Skills….
    What do you expect when a you book a Cruise in an Italian Ship?

  5. Looks that we have lot of good cruises ahead cause look that we have been almost only the worst ships. Year ago repositioning from Savona to Buenos Aires(Costa Fortuna) and we did not learn our lesson yet cause next Tuesday we are going to take second Costa Fortuna repositioning cruise. Looks that most dislikes are the language and mediterranian food. We had to learn different languages( our own language is Finnish) and tasting new foods we like a lot. We have been also in two NCL ships and strangely we like more Costa and MCL.

  6. Do you have a list of the twelve best cruise liners?

    • Not yet, it’s on the list though, thanks for the suggestion! Jenni

  7. Holland America should be in these as well. Since returning to cruises post covid, we have experienced many of the above problems on 3 of their ships, Nieuw Amsterdam, Koningsdam and Nieuw Statendam, in order of worst to better of the 3 we’ve sailed since December 2022. Rating I’d give would range from maybe a 2 star to max a 3 star!

  8. Since both Costa and MSC are European lines it is hardly surprising that multiple languages are spoken. Compare this with a good ol’ US line such as Norwegian where there are few if any announcements, menus or daily planners in anything other than English – even on Mediterranean cruises – everything priced in US$ not to mention lines for everything and that undrinkable American staple the Starbucks coffee SOLD in paper mugs like in an airport lounge! Bland food where the pinnacle of fine dining is an Olive Garden style restaurant where you get buzzed for your table. So unlike Costa and MSC who make their own fresh cheeses on board the best you get on NCL is generic rubber cheese. And NO fresh ingredients taken onboard at local ports. Even the San Pellegrino is sourced from the US. The fact that smoke permeates the entire ship from the overcrowded casino doesn’t help. While I agree that previous management ran Costa into the ground in their attempt to create a low-cost model I have taken over 20 cruises with Costa and MSC and even the worst was far better than any of the three NCL cruises I have taken in the last year. For a European being onboard a NCL cruise feels like being an illegal alien at a Trump campaign rally in middle-America.

  9. Re: the honeymoon cruise on the Costa Diadema

    My understanding of this story was that the mother/mother in law of the couple tried to save a few bucks by deliberately booking the guaranteed room knowing that there was a risk of getting a room with two single beds that could not be joined together. Her plan was, if this happened then the couple would simply ask for a free room change once onboard. Except that, this plan flopped when the cruise line asked for a fee to do this change, which the couple refused to pay.
    Now, if everybody had the expectation that guaranteed rooms could be changed for free once onboard, then what is stopping you, I or anybody else from knowingly booking guaranteed rooms, and then getting them changed for free if not up to our liking? Of course, the cruise line is going to ask for a change fee to stop this loophole from being exploited, it is there in the small print for a reason.
    As an Arbitrator with over 20 years experience, this case is as clear cut as they come. If the mother truly wanted the couple to have the right room and not ruin their honeymoon, then she should have paid extra and selected a more suitable room? She took the risk to save some money and it backfired on her. This is truly a sad case but at the end of the day, the mother has no one to blame, for ruining the couple’s honeymoon, but herself. Case dismissed.

  10. The worst day cruising is still a good day.

Leave a comment