THE Carnival Cruise Guide To Make Sure You Have A Blast!
There are some affiliate links below, but they are all products I highly recommend. For more info, view my disclosure here.
Carnival Cruise Line is one of the most popular cruise lines in the world. They offer a variety of ships that cater to all types of passengers. Whether you are looking for a family-oriented vacation or a more adult-oriented getaway, Carnival has something for you.
Carnival Cruises are a great option for anyone looking for a budget friendly cruising option. This line is known for packing each sailing with as much fun as possible. You won’t find these ships lacking in entertainment and activities, unique dining options, and stellar bars and lounges perfect for relaxing.
Carnival cruise ships are perfect for families with Camp Ocean for kids and Club 02 for teens. Carnival also offers amazing shore excursions to help you immerse yourself in the port cities’ cultures. No matter what you choose to do on a Carnival Cruise it’s sure to be a vacation you’ll never forget.
Use this guide to Carnival Cruise Line to choose the best options to make your trip a once in a lifetime experience.
Carnival Cruise Departure Ports
- Baltimore, MD
- Barcelona, Spain
- Brisbane, Australia
- Charleston, SC
- Galveston, TX
- Jacksonville, FL
- Lisbon, Portugal
- London, England
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami, FL
- Mobile, AL
- New Orleans, LA
- New York, NY
- Norfolk, VA
- Port Canaveral, FL
- Rome, Italy
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Seattle, WA
- Sydney, Australia
- Tampa, FL
Carnival Cruise Destination Ports
- The Bahamas
- Canada + New England
- Panama Canal
- New Zealand
- Papua New Guinea
- South Pacific
Carnival Cruise Classes
Carnival Cruise ships are divided into 8 different classes including Excel, Dream (my favorite!), Splendor, Conquest, Spirit, Sunshine, and Fantasy. Each class differs in amenities, type of cruise, and destination. This can help you with narrowing down which Carnival ship is the best option for you.
Featured On: Mardi Gras, Celebration
Excel Class ships are the largest and newest in the fleet. The ships with Excel Class also have the most amenities and activities on board. Noteworthy amenities include restaurant options, bars, roller coasters, and fun games such as Family Feud. Due to their size these ships may be more crowded and have less of an intimate feel.
Featured On: Vista, Horizon, Panorama
Vista is the second more extravagant Carnival Cruise class. If you’re looking for a more classic Carnival experience, Vista Class is a great option for you. Highlights include SkyCourse and IMAX theaters.
Featured On: Dream, Magic, Breeze
Dream Class ships are very similar to Vista Class ships, although they are slightly smaller in size. Dream Class is great for families and includes amenities such as video arcades, waterparks, mini golf, and a karaoke bar.
Featured On: Splendor
Larger than the Conquest (below), Splendor Class activities include things like casinos, comedy shows, waterparks, multiple pools, and so much more.
Featured On: Conquest, Glory, Valor, Liberty, Freedom
While Conquest Class ships are slightly smaller they have plenty to offer guests in terms of amenities. They include activities like an adult-only top deck, great restaurants and dining options, and mini golf. If you’re looking to avoid crowds these ships are a great option for you.
Featured On: Spirit, Pride, Legend, Miracle
If you’re looking for adventure then the spirit class is for you! These ships sail to amazing locations such as Australia, Alaska, and Europe. There are plenty of amenities and activities on board to keep you busy such as spas, pools, waterparks, and the famous SkyCourse.
Featured On: Sunshine, Sunrise, Radiance
These are Carnival’s smaller and older ships. Don’t worry, these ships have all undergone various renovations and offer similar amenities to the newer Carnival cruises.
Featured On: Ecstasy, Sensation, Elation, Paradise
Fantasy Class ships are the smallest in the Carnival fleet. If you’re looking for a more intimate cruise experience then Fantasy Class is a great option for you. Be aware that there are fewer amenities onboard these ships.
Carnival Cruise Cabins and Suites
Carnival offers several different cabins and suites for cruisers to choose from. These include…
Offer: Family Harbor, Cloud 9 Spa, Havana
The specialty suites are the most extravagant on the ship. Depending on the specialty suite you choose, some of the suites cater specifically to families with kids, while others cater to couples, and those wanting more outdoor space. Specific ships offer different specialty suites. The Cloud 9 Spa rooms are my absolute favorite, especially on ships with a Thalassotherapy pool!
Suites are the most spacious onboard Carnival Cruises. They sleep 5 guests, have their own balconies, and offer a host of amenities. These include things like priority embarkment and disembarkment, priority dinner reservations, complimentary water, pillow-top mattresses, and comfy bathrobes.
Balcony staterooms are a step down from suites and feature their own balconies, which are fantastic for longer cruises with more time at sea.
Ocean view staterooms are larger than interior rooms and include a window. These rooms can accommodate up to 5 people, but only 3 people comfortably. You can request a connecting room for a bit more space.
Interior rooms are the most basic and budget friendly option on Carnival Cruises. Much like ocean view staterooms these rooms can accommodate up to 5 people, but only 3 people comfortably. You can request a connecting room for a bit more space.
What To Consider When Choosing A Ship
Of course, destination and budget needs to be taken into consideration when choosing a Carnival Cruise. While many of the cruises contain similar amenities, they may not all be included in certain packages.
If traveling as a family, parents will want to consider places to unwind and relax as well as kids clubs and fun spaces. Solo travelers and singles will want to consider the nightlife and choose a cruise geared more toward entertainment for adults.
The Best Carnival Cruise Ships
Carnival Mardi Gras
Sails To: Caribbean
Sails From: Port Canaveral, FL
Duration: 6-9 days
Carnival’s Mardi Gras is a salute to where the cruise line has been and where it’s headed in the future. The Mardi Gras is made for anyone and everyone! The goal was to create an atmosphere where cruising is a bit less stuffy and fancy. This new ship features zones, six themed areas bursting with new and innovative dining, drinking, and entertainment. Mardi Gras offers BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, as well as Emeril’s Bistro 1396. Enjoy new bars like The Brass Magnolia and Fortune Teller.
Sails To: Caribbean, Mexico
Sails From: Galveston, TX – Los Angeles, CA
Duration: 2-5 days, 6-9 days
Carnival Radiance is new to the fleet in 2022 and was designed for a more intimate cruising experience. With a mass occupancy of 2,984, this ship is perfect for you and your close travel buddies. Radiance features some exciting new restaurants including Shaq’s Big Chicken, Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint and Pigs & Anchor BBQ Smokehouse. Kids on board will love interacting with their Dr. Suess favorites including an onboard meeting with the Cat In The Hat. The ship also features a plethora of adult entertainment options including a SkyCourse, Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, and Alchemy Bar.
Sail To: Caribbean, Panama Canal
Sail From: New Orleans, LA
Duration: 6-9 days, 10+ days
Although Glory is a bit of an older ship, built in 2003, it is a beloved favorite with Carnival cruisers. It’s one of my favorite ships! The ship offers a wide variety of entertainment and activities. For adults there is a stand up comedy club, and Playlist Productions that features singing and dancing. Kids can enjoy Seuss at Sea, where they can meet their Dr. Suess favorites and watch the books be brought to life. The ship also features WaterWorks waterpark, Dive-In Movies, and many more fun activities.
Sails To: Alaska, Australia, New Zealand, South Pacific, Transpacific
Sails From: Sydney, Australia – Seattle, WA
Duration: 2-5 days, 10+ days
If you’re looking for exciting destinations and adventure you can’t do better than Carnival Splendor. This ship will ensure that you have a great time at sea with amazing entertainment and activities. Enjoy the El Morocco Lounge that offers musical performances, comedy shows, and fun karaoke. Have a great time at the Carnival WaterWorks or relax at the onboard Jazz Club, The Cool. For extra fun you can Lip Sync Battle fellow cruisers and make the crowd go wild! To fully unwind enjoy Serenity Adult-Only Retreat or the Cloud-9 Spa. Dining options include Masala Tiger, where you can get signature Indian cuisine and MongolianWok, where you can chow down on Asian goodness.
Highest Rated Carnival Shore Excursions
Segway Boardwalk Ride & Riviera Museum
$74 per person
This shore excursion explores beautiful Ensenada, Mexico. You’ll visit the famous fish market, Plaza Civica, dancing fountain, and Riviera Del Pacifico. Learn more about the Segway Boardwalk Ride excursion here.
Avalon Certified Scuba Adventure
Catalina Island, CA
This guided dive takes you to the beautiful and pristine kelp forest of Casino Dive Park. This site has become a bucket list destination for divers around the world. You’ll also get to see an abundance of local wildlife on this dive. Find out more about the Avalon Scuba Adventure here.
Secret Sands Beach & Skyline Drive
St. Thomas, USVI
Adult – $59.99
Children – $49.99
How does a relaxing day in a tropical paradise sound? Well, that’s exactly what you will get with this secret sands beach excursion. You’ll get 2.5 hours to lounge and sunbathe or enjoy the warm turquoise waters of the Caribbean. Find out more about this shore excursion here.
Kayaking The Panama Canal
$94.99 per person
Minimum age of 12
If you’re looking for adventure then kayaking the Panama Canal is a great shore excursion for you. Wildlife is abundant in the area so keep your eyes peeled while paddling. This tour lasts about 5 hours and includes kayaking on Gatun Lake and the Agua Clara Locks where you can see how the Panama Canal operates. To find out more about this shore excursion click here.
Helicopter Flightseeing & Glacier Trek
$483.99 per person
Minimum age of 12
Known as one of the most exciting shore excursions, adventure lovers can trek 2 hours througha a glacial landscape in Alaska. This 4.5 hour excursion is considered difficult and you will need to learn the proper use of mountaineering gear. The tour includes a once in a lifetime Glacial Walkabout. Make sure to wear comfortable and sturdy hiking boots for this excursion. You can find out more about the Glacier Trek here.
Bermuda Triangle Shipwreck Snorkel
Adult – $71.99
Child – $59.99
Minimum age of 5
Bermuda is home to around 200 miles of coral reef, and while it may be absolutely stunning it’s also treacherous. There have been over 300 shipwrecks in the area and on this shore excursion you’ll get to snorkel among them. Specifically, two of the most famous shipwrecks, the Montana and the Constellation. You can find out more about this Carnival shore excursion here.
French Cooking Class & Marigot Shopping
St. Marteen, NA
$129.99 per person
The chance for a cooking experience like this won’t come around often as you’ll learn to cook both European and Caribbean cuisine. A world renowned French chef will instruct you as you gaze out over Marigot’s waterfront. The chef will share trade secrets that you won’t learn anywhere else, and you’ll learn French cooking skills with Caribbean spices thrown in for good measure. Learn more about the French cooking class here.
Family Fun Entertainment On Carnival Cruise Ships
Carnival offers a variety of family fun options onboard their ships such as parties, activites, and fun for the whole family. These are a few of the family fun options onboard Carnival Cruises…
Sail Away Party
This is a great way to kick off your cruise! The Sail Away Party is full of energy and fun for the whole family. If you weren’t in the vacation mood before attending, you certainly will be after the epic Sail Away Party.
Featuring different genres of movies, the Dive-In Movie entertainment allows cruisers to watch movies on a jumbo screen from the comfort of poolside lounge chairs or even from the pool. You’ll find action, comedy, and even date night favorites at these family friendly events. You’ll discover that Carnival has you covered with delicious popcorn, plenty of blankets, and a night unders the stars you won’t soon forget.
At the Thrill Theater you are part of the action on the screen. These state-of-the-art 3D video effects transport you as you feel the wind in your hair, special lighting effects, and your seat even moves to fully immerse you in this theater experience. There are a variety of shows including family friendly showings, and adult only (17+) options.
Entertainment and Activities for Kids and Teens
The entertainment and activity options onboard Carnival ships are perfect for kids and teens during days and nights on ship. These are great ways for kids and teens to socialize and make new friends while parents get to enjoy time together.
Camp Ocean is designated for kids from the ages of 2-11 years old. They have enough fun and entertainment to keep even the most restless kids busy throughout the duration of the cruise. Kids are placed into age related groups and constantly supervised while enjoying activities such as Pirate Game Nights, Musical Icebergs, and Marine Life Trivia.
Carnival understands that teenagers need their own space, and they’ve got something special just for teens aboard their ships. Club 02 is made for teens from 15-17 years old and is the perfect hangout space on ship. Teens can watch movies, listen to music, have fun karaoke sessions, and enjoy their time aboard the ship in this entertaining hangout space.
Adult Entertainment and Activities
Adult Only Retreat
The adult only retreat is aboard each Carnival ship and offers a great escape for adults. Whether you are a solo traveler, part of a couple, or a parent, you’ll find complete relaxation in this adult only space. Relax and unwind in well appointed hammocks or day beds as you read your vacation book or do absolutely nothing at all.
Cooking Demonstrations – Carnival Kitchen
World class chefs aboard Carnival ships perform hour long cooking demonstrations, including taste testing. These events are incredibly popular and fill up quickly, so if you are interested in taking part in a cooking demonstration make sure to get there early.
Carnival’s resident DJ’s spin the latest hits, as well as old favorites that are guaranteed to get you on the dance floor. The Carnival Nightclubs stay open until the early hours of the morning! Don’t miss out on some of the incredibly fun theme nights.
Each Carnival ship has a casino onboard. They are usually right in the center of the main entertainment deck. Casinos include gaming such as Blackjack, dice/Craps, Roulette, Texas Hold’ Em, Caribbean Stud Poker, Three Card Poker, and Slots. There are also casino tournaments in Blackjack, Slots, and poker for fun prizes!
Best Restaurants On Carnival Cruises Ships
Ship: All Ships
Cost: Adults – $75-$95
Attire: Cruise Casual, Elegant
The top dining experience on any Carnival Cruise is a meal at the Chef’s Table. This is a culinary experience of a lifetime in a meal prepared by the Master Executive Chef. Reservations are necessary for this small group experience as seating is limited to 14 guests total. This VIP experience will begin with hor d’oeuvres and cocktails, followed by a full service dinner of amazing appetizers, entrees, and delicious desserts.
RedFrog Pub & Brewery
Meal: Drinks, Snacks
Cost: Additional $
Must be 21 years of age or older
The RedFrog Pub & Brewery, aboard Carnival Vista, gives you the unique ability to experience North America’s first brewery at sea. Beer lovers can delight in a great selection of craft brews including IPAs, Stouts, and Pale Ales. The brewmaster also has small batch season brews that are made aboard the ship. You’ll love the drinks but you’ll stay for the atmosphere including live music, delicious small bites, and fun pub games.
Best Places For Breakfast On Carnival Cruises
For breakfast on ship head to the Dining Room for a made to order meal. If you miss breakfast, don’t worry, you can grab Seaday Brunch! It’s a vacation, so sleep in and enjoy a delicious assortment of breakfast favorites and this included brunch spot. Dine on scrumptious favorites like huevos rancheros, french toast, or loaded mac-n-cheese. For a special morning on ship, kids will love the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast. For an additional fee you can sit down for breakfast in the world of Dr. Suess.
Best Places For Lunch On Carnival Cruises
There are an incredible number of options for lunch on Carnival Cruise ships. These include quick grabs like Big Chicken, Guy’s Burger Joint, and Street Eats. All feature classics like fried chicken, juicy burgers, and street food favorites. For something a little different try Mongolian Wok, where you can create your own stir-fry. At Masala Tiger enjoy fantastic Indian cuisine, while Carnival Deli provides juicy cuts of meat piled high, just like your neighborhood deli.
Best Places For Dinner On Carnival Cruises
Although you won’t find Carnival Cruise ships lacking in dinner options, many of them are specialty and are not included in your cruise fare. The Dining Room offers a three course meal each night without being pretentious. Other dinner options included in cruise fare are Big Chicken, Lido Marketplace, Carnival Deli, and the Kids Meal for Campers.
Carnival Cruises are perfect for anyone wanting to have a great time on a budget! You’ll have plenty of opportunities between entertainment, activities, and shore excursions. There won’t be a dull moment on ship. Dine at one of the many amazing restaurants or have a culinary experience at the Chef’s Table. What are you waiting for? Pack your bathing suite, sunscreen, and book a Carnival Cruise today!