Carnival Cruise Line, with its rich history spanning over decades, has firmly established itself as a go-to choice for travelers seeking memorable sea adventures. With a fleet of 25 distinct ships, Carnival offers a range of experiences, from the classic Carnival Sunshine to the modern vibes Carnival Celebration.
However, with so many ships in their fleet, making a choice can be a challenge. But don’t worry — we’re here to help. Ahead, we break down the best Carnival cruises, giving you a clear picture of what each ship brings to the table. Whether you’re planning your first cruise or your tenth, this post will guide you to the best Carnival cruise line choice for an unforgettable experience.
Best Carnival Cruise Ships Ranked
1. Carnival Mardi Gras — Overall Score: 9.9/10
Launched in July 2021, Carnival Mardi Gras is a nod to Carnival’s rich legacy, blending both entertainment and innovation. This floating marvel is divided into six immersive zones, each offering a distinct flavor of fun. Young explorers can head to the Ultimate Playground, home to a roller coaster that offers breathtaking views as it races across the ship. Meanwhile, those looking to relax can find their spot at Lido, where the RedFrog Tiki Bar serves up tropical concoctions beside a serene pool.
For the culinary enthusiasts, Mardi Gras presents a world of flavors. Whether it’s sushi that you’re craving or a classic burger, the ship has a dining venue to match. However, while the options are plenty, there’s room for improvement in the main dining room, as per some travelers.
A quick tip: popular dining areas might get busy, so a bit of planning can enhance your mealtime experience. All in all, Carnival Mardi Gras promises a journey filled with diverse experiences and cherished memories.
2. Carnival Panorama — Overall Score: 9.8/10
Launched in December 2019, Carnival Panorama has quickly become a favorite for many cruise enthusiasts. The ship offers a unique SkyZone trampoline park, providing not just a bouncing experience but also games like dodgeball. If relaxation is on your agenda, the Havana area is your go-to spot. Exclusive during the day, it transforms into a tropical haven with its private pool and loungers.
The culinary scene on Carnival Panorama is equally impressive. From the fresh seafood delights at the Seafood Shack to the mouth-watering BBQ dishes at Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse, there’s a dish to tantalize every taste bud. The accommodation classes include Interior, Ocean View, Balcony, and Suites. With Havana Cabana Suites, you get rainshowers and patios that come with hammock chairs.
However, if there’s one thing to keep in mind, it’s the popularity of specialty dining venues. They tend to fill up quickly, so early reservations are recommended. Plus, we don’t like its high passenger to crew ratio.
3. Carnival Vista — Overall Score: 9.8/10
Introduced in 2016, Carnival Vista brings a fresh perspective to the Carnival fleet. We think it’s one of the best Carnival Cruises for families — it’s designed to ensure every member of the family, from toddlers to grandparents, has an unforgettable experience. The ship’s Clubhouse features indoor activities like mini-bowling and arcade games, while the SkyRide lets you pedal your way around an elevated track, offering panoramic sea views.
When it comes to dining, Carnival Vista doesn’t hold back. From the mouth-watering Italian dishes at Cucina del Capitano to the fresh sushi at Bonsai Sushi, there’s a culinary journey waiting for every palate. The ship’s accommodation options are varied and thoughtfully designed. The Family Harbor staterooms and suites, for instance, come with exclusive access to the Family Harbor Lounge, a haven for families to relax and regroup.
The Serenity Adult-Only Retreat ensures that adults also have their exclusive space for relaxation and rejuvenation. However, a few guests have mentioned that the ship can feel crowded at times, especially during sea days.
4. Carnival Horizon — Overall Score: 9.7/10
Launched in 2018, Carnival Horizon offers a mix of fun activities and relaxation spots. You’ll love the Family Harbor with its cozy staterooms and exclusive lounge. If you’re looking for some pampering, the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms come with special spa privileges.
Foodies have a treat waiting for them. Guy Fieri’s BBQ dishes at Guy’s Pig & Anchor Brewhouse are a must-try, and his Burger Joint is perfect for a quick meal. When the sun sets, the Havana Bar and Lounge is the place to be, switching from chill daytime vibes to lively evening dances.
Both kids and adults can enjoy the WaterWorks water park and the unique SkyRide bikes. But, finding a poolside lounge chair might require some patience during peak times. Also, some guests have mentioned that the main theater shows can sometimes feel repetitive if you’re on a longer cruise.
5. Carnival Sunrise — Overall Score: 9.6/10
Refurbished in 2019 with a $200 million investment, Carnival Sunrise transitioned from its former life as Carnival Triumph. The ship now boasts updated amenities and a refreshed appearance. For entertainment, you can go to the Punchliner Comedy Club or lose yourself in the melodies at Piano Bar 88. If you’re in the mood for some outdoor fun, the SportSquare is where you can engage in mini-golf, basketball, and more.
Dining on the Carnival Sunrise offers a variety of options. The Seafood Shack is a favorite for those craving ocean-fresh dishes, while the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse provides a more upscale dining experience. Despite the variety, some guests experienced long wait times at the buffet during peak meal hours.
Accommodations also received an upgrade during the refurbishment. The Cloud 9 Spa rooms, for instance, offer guests exclusive spa access and special amenities. Overall, you can expect a better experience overall than what you would’ve gotten on Triumph.
6. Carnival Breeze — Overall Score: 9.5/10
Launched in 2012, Carnival Breeze stands out with its Caribbean-inspired design, reflecting a laid-back vacation vibe. We really liked the Breeze’s Thrill Theater, which will be right up your alley if you’re a movie buff. It is where short animated films come alive with seat movements, temperature changes, and even water sprays, making you feel part of the action. For those looking to indulge in some retail therapy, the Cherry on Top candy store and the expansive Fun Shops provide a delightful shopping spree.
Accommodation-wise, Carnival Breeze offers a range of options. The Havana Cabana suites, with their private patios and hammock, are a nod to tropical relaxation. On the culinary front, the ship introduces the first-ever Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, where mouth-watering smoked meats are the stars.
However, while Carnival Breeze offers a multitude of entertainment and dining venues, some guests have pointed out that the ship’s layout can be a bit confusing, especially for first-time cruisers. A bit of exploration on the first day can help in getting your bearings right.
7. Carnival Dream — Overall Score: 9.4/10
Launched in 2009, Carnival Dream has a lot of things that you’ll love. The Ocean Plaza caught our eye; it’s this cozy spot where you can grab a coffee or cocktail and enjoy live music. If you’re like us and sometimes need a break from all the excitement, the two-level Serenity Adult-Only Retreat is perfect. It’s quiet, has these super comfy loungers, and the whirlpools? So relaxing.
Hungry? You can head to the Taste Bar, which is a neat little place where you can try appetizers from the ship’s specialty dining spots for free. And if you’re up late and craving pizza (who isn’t?), Pizzeria del Capitano has got you covered with 24-hour hand-tossed pizzas.
When it comes to sleeping, you might want to check out the Cove Balcony staterooms. They’re closer to the water, so you can wake up and watch the waves right from your balcony. That said, some folks mentioned the main pool area can get a bit packed on sea days.
Best Carnival Cruises Ranking Methodology
While we’ve had the pleasure of sailing on several Carnival ships, we understand the importance of impartiality. Our personal experiences don’t solely dictate these rankings. Instead, we consider multiple factors when ranking these ships. Here’s a breakdown of our ranking methodology:
- Guest Reviews and Feedback: We prioritize the voices of those who’ve actually been on these cruises. Their experiences, both positive and negative, play a crucial role in our evaluations.
- Amenities and Features: A ship’s offerings, from its spa facilities to its fitness centers, are thoroughly assessed. We look for ships that provide a diverse range of amenities to cater to various preferences.
- Entertainment Options: From Broadway-style shows to live music performances, the quality and variety of onboard entertainment are pivotal in our rankings.
- Activities: We value ships that offer a broad spectrum of activities. Whether it’s a thrilling water slide, a serene art class, or interactive games, we believe a great ship should have something for everyone.
- Accommodation and Cabin Comfort: The comfort of the cabins and the range of accommodation options available are essential. We consider the layout, space, and additional perks provided in various cabin categories.
- Dining Variety and Quality: A memorable cruise experience is often accompanied by delightful culinary experiences. We evaluate the diversity of dining options, the quality of the food, and the overall dining ambiance.
- Value for Money: We assess whether the cruise offers a good balance between cost and the experiences provided, ensuring guests get the best bang for their buck.
- Ship’s Condition and Maintenance: A well-maintained ship not only ensures safety but also enhances the overall guest experience. We look at the ship’s age, its last refurbishment, and regular maintenance practices.
Choosing the Best Carnival Cruise For You
Picking the right Carnival cruise can feel like a big task with so many options out there. Plus, you can’t single out one ship and say it’s the best because it’s not one-size-fits-all. But, by thinking about what you really want and looking at what each ship offers, you can find the best fit. Here’s a simple guide to help you:
- Set Your Budget and Time: First, decide how much you want to spend and how long you want to be on the cruise. This will quickly help you see which options work for you.
- Think About Your Trip Type: Do you want to relax, have an adventure, or a bit of both? Are you traveling with family or just adults? Knowing this will point you to the right ships.
- Look at Activities and Shows: Every Carnival ship has fun stuff to do, but some might have special things you’ll love. Check out the entertainment and activities on offer.
- Food and Room Choices: Think about the kind of food you want to eat. Do you want special dining options or unique food events? Also, consider where you want to sleep – maybe you want a room with a view or connecting rooms if you’re with family.
- Ship Size and Where It Goes: Some people like big ships with lots of people, and others prefer smaller ones. Also, think about the places you want to visit. Where the ship goes can be a big part of your decision.
- Read Reviews and Check for Special Needs: What other travelers say can give you a good idea of what to expect. And if you have specific needs, like wheelchair access or special diets, make sure the ship you pick can handle them.