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Hey there! Norbert here. 

Welcome to my guide on the best Carnival Cruise ship for each personality type and travel style.

I think Carnival Cruises are an amazing vacation idea for any type of traveler…but there’s one very important thing you need to know before booking one. I don’t want you to end up like some of the angry travelers I’ve seen leaving bad reviews online.

Here’s the truth: Carnival Cruises are awesome. They’re affordable, fun, and great for your mental health too. 

But you have to book the right cruise for YOUR style, or you’re not going to enjoy it.

Trust me.

Some are great for families: kids clubs, mini golf, a trampoline park – you know, that stuff.

Some are for couples: dive in movies, romantic destinations, and an iMax movie theater.

And others are for singles and young cruisers: basically, Sodom and Gomorrah on the high seas.

Carnival Rollercoaster, Carnival Cruise Line
Image from Facebook

As a guy who grew up in Puerto Rico, I’ve had the luck and pleasure to cruise several times since I was basically a baby. This is thanks to San Juan being one of the busiest cruise ports in the Caribbean. So, I’ve had my share of cruise experiences – from rowdy party cruises with friends, to more chill family vacations.

But, to provide a more comprehensive review, I’ve spent some time researching the latest updates and ranked the 9 best Carnival Cruise ships according to specific needs, personalities, budget, and destinations.

In this article, you’ll find:

  • Which cruise is best for each type of traveler
  • The pros and cons of each cruise ship
  • Reviews from real travelers 
  • Key details about the amenities on each Carnival Cruise 

Ready to find the perfect cruise for you? Let’s dive in.

Carnival in San Juan, Puerto Rico
Image from Facebook

The Best Carnival Cruise Ships For Each Travel Style

1. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Families With Kids – Mardi Gras

Highlights:

  • Camp Ocean: Summer camp on board the cruise ship. 
  • Space Cruisers: Explore space at sea with NASA-themed activities for 2-11 year olds.
  • Club 02: A teens club where your older kids can hang out without their boring parents around (while you enjoy the pool in silence).
  • Casino: What’s better than a casino? A floating casino. That’s what.
  • iMax Theater: The perfect family night activity.

Pros:

  • More activities than any other ship
  • Interesting, interactive activities for kids
  • Amazing day care
  • Family activities like a roller coaster, mini golf, rope course, and zip line
  • Amazing wi-fi connectivity (most cruises don’t have good connection)

Cons:

  • The most popular Carnival Cruise (it can be crowded)
  • Reservations required for breakfast (10-15 minute wait time)

Price: ~$200/day

Quick Ship Data:

  • Year built: 2021
  • Size (Gross Tonnage): 181,800
  • Guest Capacity: 5,282
Carnival Mardi Gras, Carnival Cruise Line
Image from Facebook

Carnival Mardi Gras Overview 

Mardi Gras is the best Carnival Cruise ship hands down. Not just the best Carnival Cruise for families – the best Carnival Cruise. Period.

Everything is a level above other cruise ships: the restaurant choices, family activities, nightlife, on-board suites, the crew, and even the ship’s layout and design.

The Mardi Gras is also by far the most popular Carnival ship in the entire fleet. When someone tells you they took a Carnival Cruise, they almost certainly were on the Mardi Gras.

Here are some of the ways it sets itself apart from the rest:

  • Fun Zones: Six separate zones on the ship each dedicated to a different type of fun in a certain part of the world. There’s Grand Central with high ceilings, the French Quarter for bars and restaurants, Summer Landing for BBQ from Guy Fieri, and La Piazza for slices of pizza.
  • The Ultimate Playground: Imagine a full-on roller coaster on a cruise ship. It’s amazing what they can build these days.
  • Upgraded Amenities: Mardi Gras staterooms have a few upgrades you don’t find elsewhere like ottomans that turn into tray tables, USB ports for charging (lifesavers), a shaving bar in the shower, and a sofa that turns into a bed.

That plus it’s got some amazing dining and nightlife options, so there’s something to do for everyone.

Why is the Carnival Mardi Gras Great For Families?

Mardi Gras was built specifically to cater to family fun. It’s got the most day care, rides, attractions, and educational activities of all the Carnival Cruise ships.

Here’s just a taste of what you and the kids can do on the ship:

  • Bolt: The first roller coaster at sea. The cool thing about Bolt is that you can actually control how fast you go, so even if your kids are a bit scared, you can just go slow until they get comfortable.
  • Family Feud Live: You and your family can actually play Family Feud live on the ship on a lifelike set with real buzzers. And it’s in front of a crowd.
  • Waterworks: A full on waterpark right on board…not there isn’t enough water surrounding you already.
  • Club 02: The perfect spot for your teens to have some space for themselves and play games, watch movies, or even sing karaoke.
  • Night Owls: A place to leave the kids until 1am with caregivers so you can enjoy the nightlife on the ship!

Long story short, it’s got everything you could possibly want in a cruise ship for families: fun activities, great restaurants, and professional care for kids and teens so you can enjoy the cruise too.

2. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Adults And Singles – Carnival Sunrise

Highlights:

  • Piano Bar: Great music and cocktails.
  • Punchliner Comedy Club: This is the most fun activity on the ship in my opinion.
  • SkyBox Sports Bar: Big screen TVs to watch the game and hang with friends.
  • Short Excursions: 3 and 4-night cruises from Miami and New York.
  • Ports of Call: Fun party spots in the Caribbean.

Pros:

  • Short trips mean lower prices
  • Good mix of bars
  • Not many families on board
  • A bit older, so it’s cheaper

Cons:

  • Not as many amenities 
  • Can feel cramped at times

Price: Starting from $199 per person

Quick Ship Data:

  • Year built: 1999
  • Size (Gross Tonnage): 101,509
  • Guest Capacity: 2,984
Carnival Sunrise
Image from Facebook

Carnival Sunrise Overview

The Carnival Sunrise is one of the best Carnival ships for singles, young adults, and older solo travelers looking for a good mix of budget, fun times, and “good enough” amenities.

It’s a bit older – it was built in 1999. 

But it’s been refitted and totally updated with all of Carnival’s modern amenities like sports bars, lounges, spas, and nightlife activities. So, you won’t notice the age at all.

This ship is a bit older and tends to only sail short cruises, so it attracts a younger, livelier crowd.

The thing online reviewers loved most about this ship was the crew. In fact, everyone says the crew makes the cruise – not the ship.

They’re attentive, helpful, and always smiling. Some said they even joined in on the fun after their shifts were over. 

Why is The Carnival Sunrise Great For Singles?

This is the best Carnival ship for singles for two reasons:

  1. It’s affordable (more on that in a second)
  2. It’s got a great mix of bars and amenities, without the older, family-oriented crowd

Let me break these both down quickly for you.

Carnival Cruises Line is one of the few fleets that DOES NOT offer solo cabins.

This absolutely SUCKS for single travelers. Basically, it means you have to book two tickets just for one person (because rooms are double occupancy).

Since you’re flying solo, you’ll have to find another way to keep the price down. The best way, in my opinion, is to choose a slightly older ship and book a shorter vacation. That way, you don’t pay luxury prices for a week-long excursion.

By the way, a 3-day excursion into the Caribbean as a single person is an absolute BUCKET LIST experience. 

The Carnival Sunrise also has a ton of great bars and activities plus a generally younger crowd. For example, the Mardi Gras has a ton of family activities, hence the parents and their children crowding the place.

The Sunrise is more about booze, laughs, and good eats. That’s right up your alley.

Some of the best places are:

  • The RedFrog Pub
  • Guy’s Burger Joint (amazing fries!)
  • The Serenity Adult Only Retreat
  • Alchemy Bar (great non-alcohol spirits for the sober crowd – a good alternative paired with Carnival’s Bottomless Bubbles)

3. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Budget Travelers – Carnival Conquest

Highlights:

  • Short and cheap excursions
  • Playlist Productions (classic song and dance)
  • Plenty of bars and clubs
  • Good eats included in the price (and cheap options outside of it)
  • Prices started from $39/night when I researched things

Pros:

  • A younger, livelier crowd
  • Budget interior rooms
  • New bars and restaurants added recently

Cons:

  • Older design (hence the low prices)
  • A bit smaller than most ships

Price: Starting from ~$39/night per person

Quick Ship Data:

  • Year built: 2002
  • Size (Gross Tonnage): 110,000
  • Guest Capacity: 2,980
Carnival Conquest
Image from Facebook

Carnival Conquest Overview

There’s nothing on Earth better than cheap cruise deals. MAYBE a good slice of New York cheesecake. MAYBE.

That’s why the Carnival Conquest is on this list. It’s the cheap European hostel of the high seas.

You can get a 4-night excursion for roughly $160 per person (~$39/night) at the time I’m writing this.

That’s NUTS.

The Conquest is one of the older ships in the fleet, but it’s still got all of the new bars, restaurants, and amenities. Aside from the older-looking rooms, you won’t even notice the difference.

The newer ships tend to have all of the amenities that budget travelers DON’T care about. What’s the point of paying a fortune for something you’re never going to use?

Just get on the ship and start having fun.

Why is the Carnival Conquest Great For Budget Travelers?

I said it already: CHEAP cruise deals.

This is a bare bones, no frills cruise ship. And since it’s older, the prices are way lower.

If you’re anything like me, you just need a pillow to rest your head at night – if you even remember getting back to your room. It’s a bit like backpacking at a cheap hostel, except you’re sailing the ocean.

You can find cruises departing from Miami for roughly $40/night. If you want to upgrade a bit and get nicer ports of call, it’s only around $50/night for a 3-night cruise.

It’s pretty amazing to think you could be in Nassau, Bahamas partying it up with other budget travelers for the same price as a nice dinner in Miami Beach.

4. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Couples – Carnival Horizon

Highlights:

  • Two-Screen Theater: Watch movies together in iMax or with 3D visuals.
  • Serenity Spa: Relax together in thermal baths.
  • Intimate Dining Experiences: Bonsai Teppanyaki and Jiji Asian Kitchen are two perfect restaurants for couples.
  • Romantic Destinations: Montego, Celebration Key, Ocho Rios – it doesn’t get more romantic than this in the Caribbean.
  • Relaxing Nightlife: Havana Bar & Pool is the perfect place to chill and have a few drinks.

Pros:

  • A new, top-of-the-line ship
  • Modern design
  • Large, spacious suites and rooms with balconies
  • The Carnival horizon has the best romantic dining and amenities

Cons:

  • Not the cheapest ship in the Carnival Cruise Line
  • Very popular so it can get crowded

Price: Starting from ~$200/night per person

Quick Ship Data:

  • Year built: 2018
  • Size (Gross Tonnage): 133,596
  • Guest Capacity: 3,960
Carnival Horizon
Image from Facebook

Carnival Horizon Overview

The Carnival Horizon is my top pick for couples looking for a romantic cruise on the Caribbean that doesn’t break the bank.

This Carnival Cruise ship has the ideal blend of beautiful rooms, romantic dining, fun couples activities, and luxury amenities. So it’s great for couples.

It offers mainly 5 and 6-day cruises of the Western Caribbean (that’s important – I’ll touch on it later).

In just one night, you could:

  • Have an intimate dining experience in a Japanese restaurant
  • Get a couple’s massage and have a thermal bath
  • Watch a movie in the iMax theater
  • Chill in the pool and have a Caribbean cocktail
  • Retire to your couple’s suite with a stunning view of the ocean

And all of that comes without the luxury price tag of other ships like the Mardi Gras.

The Carnival Horizon is a brand new member of the Carnival fleet, so it’s more decked out than most other Carnival ships. If you’re going as a couple, you’ll want to travel in style rather than with the old-school party vibe of other ships.

Why is the Carnival Horizon Great For Couples?

In short, it’s romantic!

First off, the ports of call are in the Western Caribbean, which I think is way more romantic than Eastern Caribbean destinations (that are known for partying).

That, and most of the onboard activities are geared towards couples.

Smaller ships tend to just have bars and restaurants, but the Horizon takes it to another level with:

  • The Punchliner Comedy Club
  • A two-screen theater that has one iMax screen and another with 3D visuals
  • Cloud 9 Spa
  • The Havana Bar and Pool with great lounge chairs
  • Dr. Seuss Bookville (OK, maybe not for couples – but great for the whole family)
  • This ship offers some great romantic dining options, too, like a sushi place, steakhouse, and burger joint – and, of course, seafood

If you’re looking for an affordable, romantic cruise of the Caribbean, this is one of the best Carnival Cruises you can buy. 

5. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Luxury – Carnival Venezia

Highlights:

  • An Italian Twist: Everything is inspired by Italian architecture.
  • Amazing Dining Experiences: Unique restaurants straight from the old country.
  • Stunning Visuals: Imagine seeing a three-deck high atrium and a sky-painted ceiling on a Carnival cruise!
  • Relaxing Gondola Lounge: Inspired by Venice itself.
  • Luxury Rooms: The Terrazza Staterooms are next-level.

Pros:

  • One of the most unique experiences in the entire Carnival Cruise Line
  • Italian inspired luxury
  • More lounges and cafes than other Carnival Cruise ships
  • Beautiful luxury rooms and suites
  • Sails from New York or Florida

Cons:

  • This is NOT a budget cruise
  • Limited destinations

Price: Starting from $65/night

Quick Ship Data:

  • Year built: 2019
  • Size (Gross Tonnage): 135,225
  • Guest Capacity: 4,208
Carnival Venezia
Image from Facebook

Carnival Venezia Overview

The Carnival Venezia is a top-of-line luxury liner inspired by Italian architecture, design, and cuisine. It’s one of the most unique experiences you can find sailing the ocean.

Imagine waking up and seeing:

  • Painted ceilings
  • Cozy roadside cafes
  • Five-star Italian dining
  • Exclusive lounges
  • A pool with fountains
  • Roman style columns

You don’t get that on other ships like the Mardi Gras or Carnival Pride. If you’re into luxury, Italian style, and one of the most relaxing and soul soothing experiences you can have traveling, this is for you.

That, plus the rooms are a step above other cruise ships with their Italian-inspired design, bedding, and layout.

Why is the Carnival Venezia Great for Luxury Travelers?

The Carnival Venezia is the Cadillac of Carnival Cruises.

Most people think “luxury” means more spas and more pools.

It doesn’t.

What luxury really comes down to on a cruise is:

  • What type of experience are you having?
  • How does the cruise make you feel?
  • What type of comfort are you experiencing?
  • How unique is the experience?

And that’s why I think this ship is more luxurious than the rest.

Yes, the cabins are extremely comfortable. Yes, the amenities are ultra plush. And yes, the food is incredible.

But what really matters is that this is the most unique cruise experience you can find, at least for tropical cruises.

The Italian style cafes, cuisine, and architecture is unlike any other experience in the world. Half of the fun of this cruise is just wandering everywhere from the main dining room to the lounges and pools.

Where else can you see a painted ceiling, gondolas, and Venetian canals next to dining options for cocktails, gelato, and Italian street food?

Nowhere else. That’s where.

Bonus

6. The Best Carnival Cruise Ship For Retirees – The Carnival Pride

Carnival Pride
Image from Facebook

The Carnival Pride is a charming, fun ship specializing in “long haul” cruises to destinations in North America and Central America.

It’s perfect for retirees for a few reasons.

For one, retirees have a lot more time on their hands. So, the longer, slower travel lets you spend more of that time relaxing instead of rushing to “get your money’s worth”.

It’s also one of the best Carnival Cruises for retirees because of the crowd. 

The longer, more expensive trips don’t appeal to younger travelers or families. Anyone on this ship is a serious traveler – not here for a short vacation or partying hard.

The restaurants onboard also appeal to a more refined crowd. There are plenty of steakhouses, fine dining, and upscale nightlife options rather than the typical rum bars and party spots.

Some of the top destinations are:

  • Greenland
  • Canada
  • The Panama Canal
  • The Bahamas

The Bottom Line

Carnival cruises are the perfect vacation experience in my opinion.

There’s tons of great nightlife, dining, and relaxation on every ship. But you need to make sure you get the right one or you’re not going to have the best time.

If you’re looking for a singles cruise full of partying and debauchery, you don’t want a Carnival Cruise packed with families and retirees (or vice versa).

So, which Carnival Cruise ship fits you?

Let us know!

Carnival Ship by the Sea
Image from Facebook

F.A.Q

Q: Which Carnival Cruise is best for partying?

A: The best Carnival Cruise for partying is either the Mardi Gras or the Sunrise. Both of these ships have great nightlife, fun ports of call, and a lively crowd to bring the energy. Other honorable mentions include the Carnival Celebration, the Carnival Miracle, and the Carnival Panorama.

Q: What is the best-rated Carnival Cruise ship?

A: The best-rated Carnival Cruise ship is the Mardi Gras. It’s one of the oldest ships in the fleet, but it’s been refurbished and has a ton of amazing amenities.

These amenities include a ropes course, a great pool deck, a mini golf course, child enrichment programs, dance parties, great bars like the Redfrog Rum Bar, and fine dining options for all different tastes. Many of the restaurants offer free meals, which are included in your ticket price.

Q: Which Carnival Cruise ship has the most activities?

A: The Carnival Sunshine has the most activities in my opinion. It’s got great entertainment options, a kids club, fine dining, and multiple pools for relaxing. Other honorable mentions include the Carnival Jubilee, the Carnival Triumph, Carnival Paradise, and the Carnival Legend. 

Cruise Ships in Port from Above

Q: Which of the Carnival Cruise ships is most fun for adults?

A: The Carnival Sunrise is the most fun for adults. Of all the Carnival Cruises in the Carnival Cruise Line, this one has the most entertainment options for adults. It’s one of the best Carnival Cruise ships because the crowd is mostly younger and the prices are fairly low.

Plus, there are a ton of nightlife options. Most Carnival ships can be expensive and attract an older crowd, but the Sunrise is one of the ships that keeps it young and fun. Other honorable mentions include the Carnival Liberty, the Carnival Breeze, and the Carnival Elation. There are also great reviews about the Carnival Vista as well.

Q. Where’s the best place to book these Carnival Cruises?

A: Of course, Carnival’s website is a great starting point. Still, I also recommend checking sites like Expedia, Orbitz, or Cruise Direct, as they often offer exclusive deals and discounts on cruises.

They will help you choose the best cruise ship for your preferred departure port, destinations, cruise duration, and departure date.

Q. How do I know the specific route of a cruise ship?

A: Each ship has a set route per season. Some focus on the Caribbean, visiting places like Cozumel, Jamaica, and the Gulf Coast. Others focus more on the southern Caribbean, departing from Puerto Rico and heading to smaller islands like Aruba, St. Martin, St. Croix, and others.

Other Carnival cruises also do the Alaska route. I recommend checking the best time to cruise Alaska to get the most out of the 49th state’s cruise experience!

There are also short cruises to the Bahamas and other islands close to the mainland US! With so many things to do in Freeport, Bahamas, your cruise stop will give you a quick taste of how amazing the Bahamas is.

You can check one of the websites mentioned in the previous answer to see each cruise’s route for your preferred date.

9 Best Carnival Ships | A Guide to Cruising the Seas in Style
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