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Pros and Cons of sailing on an older Carnival cruise ship


When the majority of people think of taking a cruise, they usually envision sailing on the latest and greatest available. 

Today, there's no shortage of onboard activities on cruise ships that will have you wondering how in the world you can go ice skating, ride a roller coaster, or race around a go-kart track at sea! 

With that, however, usually comes a premium price tag. Plus, newer ships tend to have more limited itineraries. For those reasons, among others, it's no surprise that you might be considering an older Carnival cruise ship for your upcoming vacation. 

Here's a breakdown of the pros and cons of sailing on an older Carnival cruise ship compared to a newer one. 

Pros of sailing on an older Carnival ship

The overall cost will be less

CCL Ecstasy

If you are hoping to take a cheap family vacation, you'll likely have to divert your search efforts to older vessels. While this might mean sacrificing sailing on a ship with updated amenities, it will be great for your wallet.  

When taking a look at current Carnival pricing for October 2024, a 7-night cruise onboard Carnival Liberty, an 18-year-old ship that's part of the cruise line's Conquest Class, starts at $549 per person, while a 7-night cruise onboard the brand-new Carnival Jubilee starts at $699 per person. 

While that's not the largest difference, if you have a family of four, five, or six, choosing to cruise on Carnival Liberty could save you $400 or $500. You can either pocket this difference or use it for cruise add-ons, such as shore excursions, Wi-Fi, or drink packages

Read more: 20 tricks for cruising cheap on less than $100 per day

More intimate cruising experience


Smaller ships don't have the same maximum passenger capacity as mega-ships. Carnival Celebration, for instance, can carry up to 6,631 guests on any given voyage, whereas Carnival Elation, a ship that launched in 1998, can only carry 2,697. That's quite the difference!  

Oftentimes, older vessels have an atmosphere that is more welcoming than newer ships that tend to focus on packing every inch of available space with activities, staterooms, etc. It is not uncommon to find crew members and passengers connecting more with each other on older Carnival ships. 

Additionally, this means that everything is more conveniently located, so it is much easier to get where you want to go without spending a chunk of time walking around the ship. 


Carnival has also spent a considerable amount of money updating older ships, so you will still find a variety of dining and entertainment options on even the oldest Fantasy Class vessels. 

You never have to sacrifice poolside tacos at BlueIguana or a juicy burger from Guy's Burger Joint!

Read more: I sailed on the oldest and smallest Carnival and Royal Caribbean ships. Here's how it went

Older ships can sail to more unique destinations 

Carnival Ecstasy sunset

Some cruise ports don't have the capacity to handle the intricacies of allowing mega-ships to dock, so this limits where larger ships can visit. When it comes to Carnival's biggest vessels, they're usually deployed to the Caribbean, Bahamas, Alaska, and Europe.

Want to sail to Asia in 2024? You'll have to cruise onboard Carnival Splendor, a 113,300 gross registered ton ship that launched in 2008. You will not find any cruises to Asia on their newest Excel ships. Similarly, Excel Class cruise ships don't cruise through the Panama Canal due to their size. 

Cruising onboard an older ship will allow you to cross more places off your bucket list! 

More departure ports to choose from


The newest ships usually sail exclusively out of South Florida or Galveston, Texas. For many, these ports require extensive travel, which can be expensive. 

Carnival made it a priority to sail from lesser-known ports to make cruising more accessible. In addition to popular ports like Baltimore, Miami, Port Canaveral, New York, and Los Angeles, you can also find cruises departing from Jacksonville, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia; and Mobile, Alabama. 

You'll often have to cruise on older ships, though. For example, the only Carnival ship sailing out of Jacksonville, Florida through April 2026 is Carnival Elation, a Fantasy Class ship that launched in 1998. Similarly, Carnival Spirit is the only ship that's set to homeport in Mobile through 2026. 

Carnival Spirit

The less money you have to spend on transportation, the more you can spend on the cruise fare or other add-ons! 

Read more: Why you should plan a cruise within driving distance

Cons of sailing on an older Carnival ship

Fewer onboard activities 


If you are someone who likes to be kept busy, you will want to focus your search on Carnival's newest ships. From roller coasters to suspended pedal bikes, ropes courses, water parks, and more, there's so much to do that it's unlikely you will get any rest on sea days. 

While that's not to say older ships do not have things to do onboard, you will find significantly fewer options. This could be a huge disappointment if you are someone who craves stimulation, even when on vacation! 

Carnival Celebration has so much to do at the Ultimate Playground. This is where you will find the roller coaster, mini-golf, ropes course, and water park. In comparison, some older Carnival ships have just one water slide, including Carnival Conquest. 

Read more: Things you'll notice when cruising on the newest cruise ship

Staterooms are not as modern and updated


Last year, I cruised onboard Carnival Celebration and Carnival Vista within one month. Doing so gave me the unique opportunity to compare how Carnival's newer staterooms compared to their older ones. Despite staying in a suite onboard Carnival Vista, I found my stateroom on Celebration to not only be in better condition but more stylish and modern, too. 

The orange color scheme of my suite onboard Carnival Vista felt outdated, and I cannot imagine how cramped an interior room would have felt with these darker tones. 

In addition to the blue color scheme and lighter wood tones of my room on Celebration, the ensuite bathroom was designed better, especially for an interior room. 


While my room on Vista also had a glass shower door, it felt more flimsy, whereas the newer door was more sturdy. 

Whether you're looking to splurge on a suite or want to cruise on a budget, you'll find the best accommodations on newer ships. 

Read more: I stayed in a windowless cabin onboard Carnival Celebration that cost $1,900 — here's what my inside stateroom looked like

There are also fewer balconies and suites on older ships


If scoring a balcony cabin is a must for you, then you'll want to either book your cruise on an older ship early or consider sailing onboard a newer one. 

On Carnival Elation, the oldest Carnival ship at sea, less than 20% of the rooms have balconies, whereas Carnival Jubilee, the newest ship in the fleet, was built with over half of their rooms containing balconies, including suites. 

Read more: Balcony cruise ship rooms: are they worth the splurge?

Carnival's suite experience is better on Excel Class ships


Speaking of suites, Carnival enhanced the suite experience on newer ships to be more akin to what other lines offer with their "ship-within-a-ship" concepts. 

If you book an Excel Suite, you'll receive the following perks:

  • Complimentary access to Loft 19 
  • Priority cabana reservations at Loft 19 
  • Dedicated concierge phone line 
  • Guaranteed Main Dining Room time assignment 
  • Guaranteed reservations at most specialty dining restaurants, when reserved 24 hours prior 
  • Sparkling wine and fruit bowl upon arrival 
  • Bottomless Bubbles drink package, the non-alcoholic soda package 
  • Complimentary room service 
  • Upgraded bathroom amenities 
  • Complimentary on-demand movies and laundry service 

Note that while Loft 19 isn't a suite-only enclave like Norwegian's The Haven or MSC's Yacht Club, it is a retreat-style oasis that Excel Guests can access for free. Those in standard staterooms will have to pay to get in and enjoy the infinity whirlpool, plush chairs, and cabanas (for an additional cost). 

If you don't want to splurge on one of those premium suites, you can book a specialty suite, which gives you access to exclusive benefits, such as the Havana pool area or Family Harbor Lounge. These rooms aren't found on the oldest ships in the fleet, though. Additionally, Loft 19 can only be found on Excel Class ships. 

Read more: I took my first Carnival cruise on its oldest ship. Booking a small ship was my biggest regret

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