Showcasing a relaxed and informal atmosphere, Carnival puts “fun” in front of all else and delivers excellent value. Loyal crowds of regulars line up for water slides, karaoke, and edgy comedians. Buffet offerings tend to disappoint, but steakhouses—for a price—are surprisingly good. Rooms don’t wow anybody, but they are larger than industry standard. Ship décor is usually very loud—think vivid neon—though the new Carnival Breeze is much more muted and contemporary.
No two Carnival carriers are alike, and the amenities vary from ship to ship. After the debut of Carnival Breeze in 2012, there won’t be a new vessel for four years, so Carnival is instituting a $500 million upgrade program called Fun Ship 2.0. The overhaul will update more than a dozen older ships by incorporating some of the features that the new carriers enjoy, such as RedFrog Pub and Guy’s Burger Joint. Carnival Destiny will receive the biggest makeover—a $155 million, two-month long renovation that will transform the ship into the Carnival Sunshine.
A majority of the ships sail short cruises (less than a week) and stick to one home port year-round, making Carnival a decent starting point for those seeking quick Caribbean sojourns; affordable itineraries are easily attainable. Cruises to more exotic ports are available, though less common, while Carnival Spirit is now stationed Down Under year-round.
The Carnival Freedom is a fun, lively ship available at a modest price point. Just don't expect gourmet food, although the extra-charge Steakhouse was an excellent reprieve from the basic fare in the ship's main dining room. Read full 10-part review
Handling shorter trips to the Caribbean out of its Miami homeport, Carnival Victory's vivid interior design pays homage to the world's oceans and seas, in bold strokes. Although we enjoyed our modestly priced cruise, the overall experience was off in a few key areas. Read full 10-part review