Carnival Cruise Line is one of the largest cruise lines in the world, and they definitely deliver on the fun. After all, their cruises are referred to as the “fun ships.”
However, if you are familiar with the cruising industry, you know how polarizing Carnival cruises can be. It seems as though people either love cruising on Carnival or they avoid their ships at all costs. Just look at the comments on one of our recent TikToks and you’ll see how passionate (positive and negative) people are about Carnival.
Carnival cruises offer a casual and upbeat environment for all members of the family. This cruise line is also perfect for young couples and friends looking to have an inexpensive getaway.
All cruise lines have pros and cons, whether it’s the food, entertainment, cabins, or overall experience. Here are a few of those pros and cons for Carnival Cruise Line.
Please note that these opinions are my own and based on my experiences onboard Carnival's newer and older ships.
Pros of Carnival Cruise Line
#1: Affordable fares
Carnival Cruise Line is a budget-friendly cruise line. This means that Carnival cruises are some of the cheapest you can sail on. You can get a lot of bang for your buck!
MSC Cruises is also known for offering cheap sailings, but in general, you are likely to find a hot deal on a Carnival cruise.
Because Carnival cruises are cheaper than the competition, this attracts all kinds of cruisers, like spring breakers, family reunions, and bachelor(ette) parties. The low prices are especially enticing for those who have never cruised before.
It's not uncommon to spend less than $100 per day per person for an interior cabin onboard Carnival ships. You can often find balconies for around $150 per person per day, with the average 7-night cruise for two costing around $1,200 to $1,500. Shorter sailings of four nights or fewer tend to be around $500 for an inside cabin.
#2: Variety of included food
Undoubtedly, there are many places to eat when you’re on a cruise ship. Enjoying all the cuisine onboard is one of the best parts of cruising! In my opinion, the best part of cruising with Carnival is all the complimentary places you can eat.
My favorite Carnival ships are in the Excel Class, including Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and the brand-new Carnival Jubilee. On these mega ships, you will find nearly 20 restaurants onboard, and the majority of them are included in your cruise fare! My all-time favorite restaurant onboard is Big Chicken, where you can find me dining for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Even on Carnival’s oldest ships, you will find included venues like Guy’s Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina. These classic venues are strategically located near the pool deck, so you don't have to venture far to grab a bite to eat.
I also enjoy the Seaday Brunch offered on Carnival ships. Seaday Brunch is only on sea days, and the hours are at a reasonable time so you can sleep in and not have to worry about missing breakfast. The 12-hour french toast is a must-try!
Afternoon Tea is another fun option offered on sea days. I would definitely recommend you stop by and taste some of the delicious treats while sipping on your favorite tea.
#3: Large fleet to choose from
As of 2024, Carnival Cruise Line operates 27 ships (including Carnival Firenze that’s launching this spring). These ships are divided into nine distinct classes.
Because there is such a large fleet, there are plenty of sailings to choose from. Since Carnival primarily serves the American population, you will find the majority of sailings around North America, including Mexico, Canada, Alaska, and of course, the Caribbean.
Carnival is also known for offering short, weekend itineraries. This aligns with its affordable pricing strategy because short sailings help keep costs low for cruisers. Short cruises are also convenient for young adults since they don’t require much vacation time.
#4: Multiple ports to sail from
Most cruises leave from Florida (Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Tampa to name a few), but in addition to these ports, Carnival also sails from lesser-known ports.
Carnival offers cruises from unique ports like Mobile, Alabama; New Orleans, Louisiana; Jacksonville, Florida; and Norfolk, Virginia, among others. Throughout 2024, Carnival will sail from Charleston, South Carolina; however, they will not be offered in 2025 or beyond.
Carnival wants to sail from these smaller ports because having multiple ports within driving distance of major cities makes it accessible for more people to get on a cruise. And not having the expense of airfare makes cruising on Carnival that much more affordable.
#5: Fun for everyone
Carnival’s slogan, “Choose fun" is contagious. From comedy shows at the Punchliner Comedy Club and live music to fun game shows, there is no shortage of entertainment on Carnival cruises. It’s hard not to join in on the fun and let loose while onboard.
All Carnival cruises offer production shows, pools and hot tubs, games, trivia, bingo, and more. Certain ships have a Skyride and ropes course as well. These are both free activities for the whole family to enjoy.
On the Excel Class ships, you will find a roller coaster, mini-golf, and a waterpark at the Ultimate Playground. The roller coaster does cost extra at $15 per person, but I recommend you try it because it’s very thrilling!
I also appreciate how Carnival caters to a younger demographic with certain activities. For example, Carnival cruises offer trivia for topics like Spongebob Squarepants, Friends, and Harry Potter. You won't find this kind of trivia on Royal Caribbean ships, where the trivia is usually catered to baby boomers.
Something that I like about Carnival’s activities is that they are kept to around 30 minutes. This makes it easier to squeeze in more activities throughout your day. It's easy to join in on the fun all night long with so many activities happening around the ship.
Cons of Carnival Cruise Line
#1: Rowdy atmosphere
Carnival cruisers “Choose fun” when sailing on these ships, and this can sometimes cause a rowdy atmosphere.
Don’t get me wrong, vacations are meant to be fun; it’s wonderful to see people have fun and relax when they are on a cruise. There are a few instances, though, where it can get old and a little out of hand. Hearing upbeat, blaring music and loud events/announcements can be tiring for some people.
Carnival cruises are also very casual. When you look around, most people will be wearing swimming suits, t-shirts, and comfy clothing. Not too many passengers dress up while onboard, even for the main dining room experience. One time, I even saw someone wear pajamas to the teppanyaki specialty restaurant.
In my experiences, I have noticed that short itineraries are even more rowdy than normal. People seem to party harder on these itineraries because the average age of the cruisers tends to be younger. These passengers are looking to maximize the fun during a short vacation.
If you love a non-stop party vibe and a casual environment, then a Carnival cruise is perfect for you. If you want a more subdued cruising experience, consider a cruise on Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line.
#2: Carnival ships look the same
As mentioned previously, Carnival has lots of ships in its fleet. While there are lots of ships to choose from, they all look and feel the same.
Excluding the Excel Class, Carnival cruise ships are similar in size and design. Carnival ships are moderately sized, ranging from 90,000 to 130,000 gross tons, compared to Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise Line’s newer and larger ships.
I personally believe Carnival’s ships use an outdated design. For example, looking at Carnival Panorama, built in 2019, I would’ve guessed it was built in 2000 based on the looks of it. Many Carnival ships lack innovative and modern design (again, excluding the Excel Class).
When I sailed on Carnival Ecstasy back in 2022, I didn't like how dark and cramped the ship felt. The layout was extremely confusing and I would find myself getting lost onboard multiple times! The Excel Class ships are much more intuitive and thoughtfully designed.
#3: Not many ships go on exotic itineraries
Carnival Cruise Line sails around North America mostly, but if you want to sail with them to Europe, Asia, or the South Pacific, you will have fewer options to choose from.
Carnival only offers 2024 Europe itineraries on one ship, Carnival Legend, and sailings are only available during five months of the year (June through October). In 2025, Carnival Miracle will be the only ship offering European sailings.
For South Pacific and Asia sailings, there are only two ships to choose from: Carnival Splendor and Carnival Luminosa.
In the next year, Carnival Splendor will embark on a Carnival Journey with unique itineraries around the world; this is more exotic than what the cruise line typically offers.
Needless to say, there are way more Carnival ships and itineraries in North America.
#4: The Carnival HUB app is only useful onboard
Carnival Cruise Line’s app, Carnival HUB, is not useful until you are on one of their cruise ships.
I like Royal Caribbean’s app because I am able to use it prior to my cruise to look at deck plans, view upcoming events, and glance at my trip itinerary.
With the Carnival HUB app, it only shows you a countdown to your next cruise. If you want to take any next steps, it automatically redirects you to the website. It’s a first-world problem, but I wish I could do cruise planning within the app instead of on the website.
However, I do like the Carnival HUB app for reserving dining onboard. You can easily select how many people you are dining with and where you want to eat, and then the app tells you when your table is ready. The app will even tell you how long the wait is until you are seated. It is quite handy once you are onboard.
#5: Center Stage seating (Excel Class-specific)
This con is only applicable to Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration, and Carnival Jubilee.
One of the first things you’ll see when you board these Excel ships is the open-area Center Stage. It is a beautiful venue that hosts amazing performances and other game shows throughout your cruise. The seating situation is less than ideal, though.
Center Stage is spread out between three decks, so you’d think there would be a lot of space to sit and watch a show. Not exactly.
The stadium-style seats provide good views in some areas, but other areas are bad and you can hardly see the stage. Also, people tend to walk through the Center Stage to get to the other side of the ship, so people may walk in front of you during the show.
If you are planning on seeing a show here (and you definitely should), plan on getting there at least 30 minutes early to snag a good seat. The seats on the floor provide the best views!