Carnival Cruise Costs: What Do You Really Get for Your Money?

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If you’re thinking about booking your first Carnival Cruise, it’s natural to question what’s included in your ticket price and what will come at an additional cost.

Carnival Cruises, renowned for its expansive and lively fleet, often offers more wallet-friendly options than other major cruise lines. However, the key lies in knowing exactly what your fare covers and assessing whether the final tally aligns with your holiday budget.

In this article, I’ll go into the details of what a Carnival cruise fare entails and explore whether it can truly be deemed all-inclusive.

Carnival Vista sails near lush green islands under a sky dotted with clouds. The surrounding water is calm, reflecting the tropical scenery and the leisurely voyage of the cruise liner.

So, what does your Carnival cruise fare cover? First and foremost, your stateroom is covered. This includes a nightly turndown service, a private safe, and your own TV. The package also includes live entertainment, including theatre shows, comedians, and musicians. The kids’ clubs cater to children from 2 to 17 years old, providing fun and engaging activities.

Related reading: How much does carnival charge for children?

Access to the fitness centre with contemporary gym equipment is part of the Carnival package, as is the use of all pools, hot tubs, and waterslides. For food, your cruise fare covers the Main Dining Room and the Lido buffet restaurant.

The Crimson Dining Room on the Carnival Dream, set for dinner with a luxurious red and gold color scheme. The room features elegantly set round tables with sparkling glassware and a vibrant red glass chandelier as a centerpiece, reflecting an upscale and welcoming atmosphere for dining.
Main Dining Room on Carnival Dream

Also, don’t forget about the 24-hour pizzeria and 24-hour soft-serve ice cream and frozen yoghurt. Drinks in the Main Dining Room with meals and in the Lido are included in your fare. These drinks include tap water, iced tea, lemonade, hot chocolate, and non-speciality teas and coffees.

Related reading: What drinks are free on Carnival?

In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into each aspect, from accommodations to onboard activities, giving you a guide to what your Carnival cruise fare covers and what may come at an extra cost.

Accommodation

When it comes to accommodations on a Carnival Cruise, your fees include the cost of your stateroom for the entire trip. Your accommodations include a friendly room attendant. They will make up your room twice daily and ensure you have enough towels for the pool or shore excursions.

Carnival ships offer different room categories, from interior cabins to suites. Your cabin type will determine your overall cruise costs.

You can access exclusive parts of the ship with some cabin types. For example, the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms have a thermal suite and free fitness classes. On the other hand, Havana staterooms give you access to an exclusive pool area.

Family Harbor staterooms include special amenities for families. That’s why you need to review the benefits of each cabin category before choosing your cabin. It will help you find the perfect fit for your next Carnival cruise.

Recommended reading: Upgrade your room on a Carnival Cruise.

Cozy Family Harbor Suite on Carnival Vista, featuring a queen-size bed with a colorful geometric-patterned bedspread, a porthole with ocean view, and warm interior tones that create a welcoming atmosphere for families at sea.
Family Harbor Suite on Carnival Vista

Onboard Activities

Every moment on Carnival Cruise Line ships is designed to be enjoyable. Guests of all ages can partake in various exciting activities. One of the best parts is that the FUN Squad ensures there’s always something engaging to do without any additional costs.

The pool deck has at least one main pool, loungers, and hot tubs. It’s the perfect spot to relax during sea days. Newer ships even offer the Waterworks aquapark, complete with exhilarating waterslides.

The image depicts a serene pool deck on the Carnival Horizon cruise ship, with a clear blue swimming pool in the foreground, flanked by inviting sun loungers under straw-roofed cabanas. The background showcases the ship's distinctive red and blue water slides towering above the deck, set against a clear sky in what appears to be a tranquil early morning or late afternoon setting.
Pool Deck on Carnival Horizon

The basketball court and mini-golf are excellent choices for those who enjoy a bit of sport. And if you fancy an early morning jog, the jogging track is always available. There’s also a video arcade for those who prefer indoor entertainment. And don’t forget the popular Lip Sync Battle – a cruise highlight you won’t want to miss!

However, many entertainment options are not free. For example, the IMAX screenings on Carnival Vista and Horizon, the BOLT Ultimate Sea Coaster on Carnival Celebration and Mardi Gras, the Sky Zone Trampoline Park on Carnival Panorama, video arcade games, Carnival Shore Excursions and many more. While you can do a lot without spending extra, more money may enhance your cruise.

Food and Beverages

One of the perks of cruising with Carnival is the varied food options included in your fare. The main dining rooms offer a rotating menu of international and local dishes. So, you will find something to suit your taste. The Lido buffet is a fantastic option for a more casual dining experience. It offers a wide selection of dishes. You can get anything from salads and soups to pasta and desserts.

But remember, specialty restaurants and specific selections in the main dining room come at an additional cost.

For fans of Italian food, the 24-hour pizzeria is a must-visit, serving hot and delicious pizzas around the clock. If you want Mexican food, don’t miss the tacos and burritos. Lastly, enjoy the free soft-serve ice cream and frozen yoghurt on deck. It’s the perfect sweet treat to enjoy while soaking up the sun.

Inside the Pizzeria del Capitano on Carnival Radiance, featuring an array of freshly baked pizzas on display behind a glass counter, with a neon sign stating 'Open 24/7' for round-the-clock dining.
Pizzeria del Capitano on Carnival Radiance

A Dive Into the Drink Packages: What’s Free and What’s Extra?

When it comes to enjoying a refreshing beverage on Carnival Cruises, it’s essential to understand the options available. Basic drink packages are included in the cruise fare, offering a wide range of non-alcoholic drinks.

The basic drink package does not include energy drinks, alcohol-free cocktails, and other specialty beverages. For those who prefer these, an upgrade to the Bottomless Bubbles package may be worth considering. It’s only $6.95 per child and $9.50 per adult daily.

However, if you’re seeking variety, consider the Cheers package. This beverage package includes a broader selection and features alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. It’s perfect for those who want to relax with a cocktail or two. If you buy it before your cruise, it will cost $59.95 per person per day; otherwise, it will cost $64.95 on board.

Recommended reading: Is the Drink Package Worth it on Carnival?

The image showcases an elegant Amari bar onboard the Carnival Venezia, featuring three prominent bottles of Italian liqueurs — Campari, Amaro Nonino, and Amaro Montenegro — in sharp focus on a marble countertop. In the foreground, three glasses of the amari are neatly lined up, suggesting a tasting is about to take place. The warm ambiance of the bar provides a sophisticated backdrop for these classic Italian spirits.

Specialty Dining: An Option Worth Considering?

While the Carnival cruise fare includes access to certain dining options, you may consider exploring specialty dining for a unique culinary experience. For instance, Cucina del Capitano offers an authentic Italian dining experience, while Bonsai Sushi brings the flavours of Japan on board.

Seafood lovers would revel in the offerings at Seafood Shack, and for a touch of whimsy, the Seuss Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast is an absolute delight. Lastly, for those who enjoy Asian cuisine, Jiji Asian Kitchen offers a tempting array of dishes. These specialty dining options come at an additional cost of around $18 to $45 but provide a diverse gastronomical journey that might be worth the extra expense.

If you really want the premium experience, you can opt for a meal at The Chef’s Table. It’s an exclusive experience offered to 12-16 guests nightly. You get to enjoy a private, multi-course dinner with the ship’s chef de cuisine, a private champagne reception, and a galley tour. On older ships, this offer costs around $80 per person; for newer vessels, you’ll have to pay $99.

This image captures an exquisite culinary presentation from the Chef's Table on a Carnival Cruise, featuring a beautifully caramelized piece of meat paired with delicate cheese slices and a savory spread. The composition is sophisticated yet inviting, with a glass of white wine in the background that complements the dish, all set against the soft focus of an elegantly laid dining table.

What Carnival Cruise Fare Does NOT Include

While Carnival Cruise offers many experiences and amenities, it’s crucial to understand what your cruise fare does not include. Certain services and experiences like specialty dining at places like Guy’s Burger Joint or the Mongolian Wok, Cloud 9 Spa treatments, non-alcoholic beverages beyond the basic complementary ones, and even internet access come at an extra cost. Other amenities like the fitness centre, Bolt Ultimate Sea Coaster, and the Loft 19 rental also require additional fees.

Moreover, activities like the BlueIguana Cantina, Lido Marketplace, the Pasta Bar, Sea Day Brunch, and Family Feud games are not part of the basic fare. In addition, booking a cruise does not include all costs at Half Moon Cay.

The BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Celebration offers a tantalizing display of fresh ingredients at the salsa bar, with a clean, inviting design featuring warm wood tones and vibrant blue accents, ready to serve up delicious Mexican fare to cruise guests.
BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Celebration

In-room facilities like the in-stateroom safe and individual climate control might require additional charges. Purchasing items from the gift shop or opting for certain onboard activities also adds to the cost. It’s essential to keep this in mind while planning your cruise journey with Carnival.

I recommend budgeting an additional $200 per person when coming aboard a Carnival cruise to stay ahead of miscellaneous expenses.

Shore Excursions

A cruise vacation is packed with various activities and experiences, both on and off the ship. However, not all of these are included in the initial fare. One of the key experiences that often come with an additional cost is the shore excursions. These guided tours or adventures are organized at each port of call during the cruise.

Shore excursions allow one to explore the local culture, history, and natural beauty of the destinations visited. They can range from sightseeing city tours and snorkelling adventures to guided hikes. However, these experiences are not included in the cruise fare and usually entail an additional charge.

The image captures a scenic Alaskan adventure, a part of Carnival Cruise's shore excursions in Skagway, Alaska. It features a tranquil river with groups of adventurers paddling in inflatable rafts, surrounded by the majestic beauty of towering mountains and a stunning glacier in the distance. The lush greenery of the riverside foliage adds a pop of color to the serene landscape, illustrating a perfect blend of exhilarating activity and breathtaking nature.
Shore excursions in Skagway Alaska

For instance, a historic city tour could cost around $50 per person. The exact cost of these excursions can vary based on the nature and duration of the activity. While these extra charges may seem like an added burden, they offer a unique chance to delve deeper into the destinations visited beyond the confines of the cruise ship.

So, while the onboard entertainment and dining options are included in your Carnival cruise fare, remember that off-ship adventures are typically not. However, these shore excursions provide unforgettable memories, making them worth the additional cost for many cruise-goers.

Paying for Room Service: Understanding the Charges

On a Carnival Cruise, room service brings the taste of luxury right to your cabin door. However, please note that room service comes with a fee unless you are in one of the top-notch suites on the ship. The menu is versatile, offering a variety of light bites, snacks, and drink options that you can enjoy round the clock with 24-hour room service.

The photograph captures a heartwarming family moment on a Carnival Cruise, where a father and his two children are enjoying breakfast in their stateroom. The room is filled with natural light, and the table is set with room service offerings including croissants and coffee, illustrating the convenience and joy of dining together in the comfort of their private space.

While the charges for room service on Carnival Cruises aren’t exorbitantly high, it’s worth mentioning that plenty of free food options are available onboard. If you’re up for a short walk, you can head to the pizzeria, the Lido buffet, or the soft-serve ice cream station for a quick, no-cost snack.

Internet Connectivity: WiFi Services on Board

Staying connected is essential, even when you’re sailing across the ocean. Carnival offers onboard WiFi services for passengers, but they come with additional charges.

You can sign up for Social, Value, and Premium internet plans. These plans are priced at $12.75, $17, and $18.70 per person per day. Choose from the offered packages according to your internet usage. Remember that while at sea, connectivity might not be as fast as on land, but it’s enough to keep you connected with the world.

Special Spa Services: Luxury at a Price

Carnival Cruises offers splendid spa services for those of us craving a touch of luxury and relaxation. However, these services are separate from the basic fare and are available at an extra cost. The Cloud 9 spa on Carnival ships features numerous treatments. These include massages, hair services, nail services, teeth whitening, and facials designed to pamper and rejuvenate you.

The image showcases the modern and stylish interior of the Beauty Salon at Carnival Sunrise's Cloud 9 Spa. It features a row of salon chairs facing a mirror-lined wall, hair care stations equipped with professional styling tools, and a vast array of beauty products neatly displayed on glass shelving. The elegant design and warm lighting create a relaxing atmosphere for guests seeking pampering services.

Additionally, the spa houses have a thermal suite with steam and sauna grottos, heated chaise lounges, and a Thalassotherapy Pool. However, you need to buy passes to use these areas. These passes typically cost around $30 per day and over $100 for a five to seven-day pass. This might seem expensive, but the relaxation and rejuvenation these premium services offer can make it worth the expense.

Gratuities

Service charges, commonly known as gratuities, are a compulsory fee for all passengers aged over two. For those staying in standard staterooms, the charge is $16 per person each day, while suite guests are charged $18 per person daily.

These charges can accumulate significantly, particularly for larger groups. Take a family of four staying in a standard stateroom on a seven-day cruise; they would need to budget an additional $448 for gratuities alone. This amount is typically charged to your onboard account on the penultimate night of the cruise, and it must be settled prior to disembarkation.

For those who prefer to manage their budget in advance, gratuities can be prepaid at any point up until the date of sailing. This can be arranged by accessing your booking online or by contacting your travel agent, allowing you to enjoy your cruise with one less expense to think about.

All-Inclusive Packages: Does Carnival Cruise Offer Them?

Carnival cruises do not offer a fully all-inclusive experience. Your standard fare covers your accommodation, use of many on-board recreational facilities, and meals in the main dining areas and buffets. However, most beverages, particularly alcoholic ones, and dining in certain specialty restaurants will incur additional charges.

That said, Carnival offers packages that can make your cruise more inclusive if you so desire. These packages add convenience and help you manage your budget, especially if you want a more all-inclusive vacation experience.

Final Thoughts

From the moment you step onto a Carnival ship’s deck, you’re welcomed with a dizzying array of activities and entertainment options.

For the younger cruisers, kids clubs like Circle C and Club O2 offer a range of exciting activities. Meanwhile, adults can enjoy deck parties under the open sky or dinner with drinks in the main dining room. Carnival ensures that no matter your age, there’s always something fun to do.

From dancing and singing at the Playlist Productions shows to challenging yourself with video games in the arcade to even enjoying a roller coaster at sea on Mardi Gras, the cruise travel experience is packed with fun and adventure.

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I'm Hannah and I've been cruising for as long as I can remember.

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