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Carnival cruise line reviews

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Before you book, compare its 28 ships and read passenger reviews (Updated in January 2020)

Carnival claims to infuse a sense of fun into every cruise, from a roller coaster on the deck of its Mardi Gras ship — the first to ever be installed at sea —to lip-smacking menus at one-of-a-kind restaurants like Big Chicken and Guy’s Burger Joint. It’s even nominated an official Chief Fun Officer (CFO) — Mr. Shaquille O’Neal.

But what is life really like aboard a Carnival ship — and where in the world can it take you? Here’s everything you need to know before setting sail.

28 ships

Number of ships

Price

No

Price matches

Details

Target demographic Adults, Seniors, Teenagers, Toddlers, Honeymooners, Young Adults, Kids
Number of ships 28 ships
Contact options Phone, Facebook Messenger
Payment options Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Diners, Paypal, Carnival EasyPay, Gift Card, Discover Card, Debit, Western Union, Cheque
Deposit required Deposit at checkout
Deposit required No price matching
Food Food included
Drink No free alcohol
Room service No free room service

Expert review

Amy Stoltenberg

Review by


Amy Stoltenberg writes about lifestyle and money for finder.com, researching the best options for shopping, banking, insurance and authentic travel experiences. After studying writing and fashion at Savannah College of Art and Design, she worked designing apparel at a corporate behemoth before opting for a career with unlimited travel time. When her laptop’s closed, she can be found wandering the streets looking for happy hour and hole-in-the-wall eateries.

Expert review

Carnival cruises can whisk families and the budget-savvy on waterborne adventures around the globe. But if you’re looking for a luxury liner, or just want to see what else is out there, compare other options.

Read our Carnival cruise reviews

Case study: Roslyn's experience

Roslyn McKenna profile photo
Roslyn McKenna
Insurance Publisher, Finder US

Carnival’s target audience is families, so be prepared to be around loud groups of people and children all day, especially near the pool and in the casino. On the plus side, the Serenity Deck is a no-kids zone with a hot tub and plenty of peace and quiet, so we spent most of our time on the ship there (pro tip: there’s also a hidden hot tub in the gym on some Carnival ships.)
Carnival does have a lot of good things going for it. Though the buffet-style food is average at best, the sit-down dinner meals are better than some 4-star restaurants I’ve been to, and you’ll look forward to lobster night all week. For shore excursions in tropical destinations, I recommend the snorkeling or kayaking or anything with a boat involved, plus ancient ruins, like in Belize.

About Roslyn’s cruise

  • Carnival ship sailed: Legend
  • Date of cruise: October 2012
  • Length of cruise: 5 nights
  • Departure port: Florida
  • Destinations visited: Port of Belize, Belize. Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands. Cozumel, Mexico.

Where do Carnival cruises depart from?

One of the best ways to save money on a cruise vacation is to depart from a port near your home — or a city that’s accessible with a budget flight. Carnival’s massive presence means it’s got departure docks all over the US and beyond.

  • Carnival currently sails from: Baltimore, Barbados, Barcelona, Bermuda, Charleston, Copenhagen, Dover, Fort Lauderdale, Galveston, Honolulu, Jacksonville, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Mobile, New Orleans, New York City, Norfolk, Port Canaveral, San Diego, San Francisco, San Juan, Tampa, Tampa/St.Petersburg, Vancouver, Venice

Carnival cruises destinations

Carnival specializes in tropical getaways and transatlantic trips. You won’t usually see trips to Asia, though it can take you to Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Here’s where it sails to: Alaska, Bahamas, Baja Mexico, Canada and New England, Eastern Caribbean, Europe, Hawaii, Mexican Riviera, Panama Canal, Southern Caribbean, Transatlantic, Western Caribbean

Troubled water: Carnival Cruises in the headlines

In 2016, Carnival was found guilty of dumping contaminated waste into the ocean and falsifying records to cover it up. The Department of Justice ordered the company to pay a $40 million penalty and issued five years of probation and compliance audits.

In June 2019, the DOJ charged Carnival for violating its probation by releasing waste in prohibited areas and discharging plastic trash along with food waste near the Bahamas. Carnival admitted to six violations, resulting in a $20 million fine and more frequent audits for compliance. It’s also required to update its system for reporting violations to government institutions.

Carnival has since appointed a chief ethics and compliance officer, whose job is to investigate incidents and budget for the company’s ongoing environmental efforts, with plans to create an internal compliance committee.

Why you should (or shouldn’t) cruise with Carnival cruises

Carnival is an excellent choice for families that like the idea of easy dining and round the clock room service (cookies and milk before bed, anyone?). Still, weigh the good and the bad before booking to see if it matches your vacation style:

Pros

  • Free dining options — including 24/7 room service
  • Free entertainment available every night
  • You can bring one bottle of wine and one bottle of champagne on board
  • 24/hour pizzeria and frozen yogurt dispenser (both are free)

Cons

  • Track record of unlawful environmental contamination
  • Wi-Fi costs extra, and is charged daily
  • Specialty dining options are limited
  • Doesn’t sail to Asia

Frequently asked questions

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