The annual research by consumer advice magazine Which? surveyed over 2500 passengers who sailed with 20 cruise companies.
The results were drawn up after scoring each cruise line on 11 individual categories.
These included customer service, cabin space, facilities, food and beverage offerings, excursions, entertainment, atmosphere, Wi-Fi and overall value.
THE TOP 3 CRUISE LINES FOR 2019
Viking Ocean Cruises: $650 per night; satisfaction 88%
The small but ambitious cruise line's pitch was as "the thinking person's cruise".
Swapping out the discos and casinos of other ocean-going gin palaces, Viking has instead decked out the fleet with lecture halls and libraries.
This move has done it plenty of favours in the audience satisfaction ratings. The liner only lost a single star (out of five) in the entertainment criteria.
Which? magazine said passengers praised the liner's organisation, range of port excursions and the approachability and knowledge of the crew.
Saga Ocean Cruises: $430 per night; satisfaction 87%
Pulling in second in the rankings and only a percentage behind the leader, Saga Ocean Cruises cater exclusively to the over-50s market.
Scoring five out of five in categories including customer service, food and drink, atmosphere and value, it has clearly carved a loyal customer base out of this market strategy.
The on-board facilities lagged behind the rest and let the overall score down.
According to Which? passengers appreciated the ability to socialise with "like-minded" people and the "small ships and high standards" lead to an intimate, clubbable atmosphere.
Noble Caledonia: $1140 per night; satisfaction 86%
The luxurious Noble Caledonia line had the third billing on the top cruises list for its exotic itineraries round Greece and Antarctica.
These outings in exciting destinations earned Caledonia a full five stars in the 'excursions' score – the only cruise line to be awarded full marks for the criterion.
Which? said its passengers felt well taken care of and were exhilarated by the itineraries on offer, but it was the on-board facilities that let down the liner.
Still, Caledonia passengers marked the line highly, seemingly putting more value on their time spent on exotic excursions rather than lounging on deck.
The magazine rationalised: "If you're more interested in well-run visits to remarkable destinations than gyms and pools, this is a recommended choice."
THE WORST CRUISE OF 2019
MSC Cruise lines: $290 per night; satisfaction 54%
Sinking to the bottom of the table the Swiss-based MSC has a fleet of 15 ships making sailings around the world.
Customer satisfaction was an abysmal 54 per cent and the only cruise line to earn only two out of five stars for customer service.
The main redeeming categories in which it scored a respectable 3 stars was on cabin rating and value for money.
Otherwise passengers complained of being "bombarded by promotions" and constant upselling and the "confusing" drinks packages left passengers with a headache.
A spokesperson for MSC said that: "MSC Cruises is dedicated to ensuring that every guest who travels with us has a memorable experience for all the right reasons. As such, we were disappointed that some of the 46 guests surveyed by Which? travel magazine were not completely satisfied with every aspect of their stay with us."
In an editorial from Which? Travel Editor Rory Boland, the magazine said: "It's not deep pockets and big names that guarantee plain sailing when it comes to choosing a cruise.
"Whether it's budget or luxury, it was the smaller brands and smaller boats that fared the best.
"Cruise-line passengers often book with the same company over and over again - it's that comfort of knowing what to expect on board that keeps you going back. But if you're willing to shop around, those who booked onto vessels with under 1000 capacity told us they had a better time."
The top five cruises
1. Viking Ocean Cruises - 88 per cent
2. Saga Ocean Cruises - 87 per cent
3. Noble Caledonia - 86 per cent
4. Hurtigruten - 85 per cent
5. Azamara - 84 per cent
The worst five
1. MSC Cruises - 54 per cent
2. Norwegian Cruise Line - 66 per cent
3. Royal Caribbean - 68 per cent
4. Cruise and Maritime - 69 per cent
5. Princess Cruises - 70 per cent