Over the course of 26 years practicing maritime law, I have seen some remarkably bad conduct by cruise lines. Covering up crimes, abandoning injured passengers in foreign ports, or quickly concluding that "missing passengers" committed "suicide" are just a few examples.  I have kept a list of what I consider the most outrageous moments in cruise line history.  The lying and scheming I have witnessed over the years is pretty impressive.

Much of the trouble lies with the foundation of the cruise industry.  All of the cruise lines incorporate their businesses in foreign countries, like Liberia – a lawless and unstable African country where a civil war rages every few years and the rebels take their AK-47’s to the streets. They also register their vessels in places like the Bahamas or Panama where the "regulatory" authorities are more than willing to look the other way as long as the cruise lines fill their coffers with U.S. dollars. The cruise line mentality of avoiding U.S. taxes, U.S labor and wage laws, and U.S. safety regulations often leads to reckless and inexcusable behavior.

I have always thought that some cruise line shenanigans were so outrageous that they should earn a trophy.

One evening while watching MSNBC TV personality Keith Olbermann announce the "Worst Person in the World," an idea popped into my head. Why not recognize the cruise line demonstrating the worst in gross negligence and indifference towards passenger and crew member health and safety?

So with apologies to Mr. Olbermann and the MSNBC show "Countdown," CruiseLaw announces the "Worst Cruise Line in the World" award. There are 24 cruise lines who are members of the Cruise Line International Association. Several companies in this group are consistently strong contenders for the award. I will include some of the smaller lines who have done some terrible things as well.

The award is not limited just to the cruise lines, but will include cruise trade groups, cruise executives, cruise communities, and other individuals in the cruise industry.  We will consider nominations from passengers, crew members and the general public.  If you suffered a bad experience on a cruise ship which deserves special mention, send us your cruise line nominee. We will announce the winner once a month. 

Hopefully, some months we won’t have a reason to award anyone.

  • Based on the stories archived on my website, I would have to say Carnival Corp cruise lines in general is the worst. Their policies and track record of dealing with passenger customer service issues is the worst.

    The problem with Carnival is they target two markets, that simply do not mix well, the relaxed, dignified, socially responsible and respectful sector of society and the wild west, no boundaries, no rules sector. These two do not mix, and when you break that rule, it is a given you will get one sector victimizing the other sector.

    They need to make the agenda of their individual ships more clear, and help families understand that a 3 or 4 night booze fest cruise is not a good place for families with children.

    If those ships on the shorter voyages were designed for a maximum occupancy of two passengers per cabin, that would pretty much automatically exclude children on specific ships.

    Also, on those adults only ships raising the minimum occupancy age to 21 and closing alcohol sales from 2am to 10am would go a long way in ensuring a safer voyage for all.

    We stay at land-based properties that have a minimum age of 25 in order to book and yet they are always fully booked, way in advance. There is a place for the wild and the young, and it is not mixed in with families traveling with children and teens.

  • Jim Walker


    Exactly. I call the no-boundaries-Carnival passengers the “tank top – Bud Light” crowd. Its ugly when this crowd collides with families and their kids on a cruise trying to relax. It kinda like Kid Rock – I love his music but I don’t want his posse partying next door. Thanks for the post!

  • Paul

    CARNIVAL…without a doubt are the dregs of cruising. They endanger passengers in safety drills in 100 degree heat. They openly fleece passengers and do it without shame. Dreadful food and appauling service (due to the company’s mistreatment of their staff). Even the CEO doesn’t care enough to reply to direct emails to his email address (see ceoemail.com)