Best & Worst Carnival Cruise Ships (Ranked By Reviews)

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Carnival boasts one of the largest fleets among ocean cruise lines, with 27 active ships ranging from the veteran Carnival Sunshine to the newest additions, Carnival Jubilee and Carnival Firenze. But don’t be fooled; newer doesn’t always mean better. While there are some new gems in the fleet, many cruisers still hold a soft spot for the classic favourites.

An awe-inspiring gathering of Carnival cruise ships is showcased in the tranquil blue waters of the Bahamas, set against a vast sky with scattered clouds. The ships are arrayed in a semi-circle, presenting a stunning maritime formation in the gentle embrace of the open sea.

With this in mind, I’ve taken on the task of ranking all the Carnival ships from best to worst. This list perfectly showcases what keeps Carnival so beloved in the cruising world. Plus, it might just help you pick the right ship for your next cruise.

Read on to find out more.

How I Gathered the Data

Before we dive into the rankings, here’s how I put them together. I haven’t sailed on every Carnival ship myself, so instead of just using my personal opinion, I gathered average reviews from Cruiseline.com, Cruise Critic, and TripAdvisor. These sites are reliable, and their numerous reviews prevent a few outliers from distorting the overall scores.

I averaged these ratings to rank the ships, using additional criteria to break any ties based on unique or appealing features. Keep in mind that the rankings range from ‘best’ to ‘worst’, but even the lowest-ranked ship scored a respectable 3.2 out of 5. So, while these rankings are based on passenger experiences and are indicative, they still carry a degree of subjectivity.

Note: I have not included the Carnival Jubilee and the Carnival Firenze, as these are very new ships and have not received the same number of reviews as the others, so I thought it wasn’t fair to add them to the list. However, reviews look positive so far.

1. Carnival Breeze

The Carnival Breeze cruise ship sails through the waters near St. Thomas at twilight, its wake frothing in the sea. The ship's classic red and blue funnel stands out against the evening sky, which is a gradient of deep blues to soft purples, highlighting the vessel's grandeur and the tranquility of the Caribbean setting.

Carnival Breeze perfectly captures what makes Carnival cruises enjoyable while also showcasing some of the line’s typical challenges. 

The ship offers an extensive selection of dining and drinking options, exhilarating water slides, and a crew renowned for their exceptional service. However, be prepared for bustling crowds and a lively atmosphere, with some guests perhaps enjoying the drink package a bit too liberally. 

While it’s not the quietest or most relaxing option, it’s undeniably fun. Is it for everyone? Maybe not. But it has become the most popular ship in the Carnival fleet!

2. Carnival Valor

Carnival Valor cruise ship sailing on the ocean, showcasing its distinctive blue and white exterior with a red funnel, against a bright blue sky with fluffy clouds.

So, Carnival Valor heads out to the Caribbean from New Orleans, and she’s all about giving you more time to explore ashore. Unlike other cruises, a typical 5-day trip on the Valor packs an extra port stop instead of a day at sea. Perfect if you love getting off the boat and checking out new places.

Once you’re on board, you’ll get that classic Carnival vibe with all the Fun Ship perks, thanks to recent upgrades. There’s a bit of an odd setup with the kids club right next to the spa and Serenity decks, but honestly, it still manages to be a chill cruise for everyone. And it looks like I’m not the only one who thinks so because Valor is seriously climbing the ranks, nearly nipping at the heels of the top spot!

3. Carnival Panorama

Aerial view of the Carnival Panorama cruise ship at dusk, its decks glowing with lights as it navigates the ocean, reflecting the last rays of the sunset on its journey.

Carnival Panorama was the top pick in 2022, and it’s easy to see why. This ship is a crowd-pleaser, whether it’s the onboard activities, the food choices, the live shows, or her cool trips around the Mexican Riviera.

Everyone also seems to love the crew; Carnival’s service is usually on point, but the Panorama’s team gets extra praise. The only little snag is that it can get pretty noisy on deck with all the fun stuff happening. Maybe that’s why she’s slipped a bit in the rankings this year.

4. Carnival Pride

The Carnival Pride cruise ship journeys near Grand Cayman, its distinctive red and blue funnel a vibrant contrast against the bright blue sky. The ocean's deep blues surround the vessel, emphasizing its elegant white structure as it cruises the serene Caribbean Sea.

Carnival Pride might be one of the older gals in the Carnival fleet, but she’s been kept in great shape. Sure, the decor is a bit of a throwback with all those bold Renaissance artworks, it adds a vintage feel to the vibe.

What’s cool though, is that because she’s a bit smaller, you can enjoy all the typical Carnival fun without the overwhelming crowds and noise you might find on some of the bigger ships. Granted, she’s got a few quirky design choices, like some spots being a bit of a hike, but honestly, she’s packed with a ton of unique charm.

5. Carnival Miracle

The Carnival Miracle cruise ship sails in the open ocean, its blue and white exterior gleaming under the clear blue sky, with the ship's red funnel adding a pop of color to the serene marine scene.

Like her sisters, Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride, and Carnival Spirit, Carnival Miracle boasts one of the best passenger-to-space ratios. Even though she got her Fun Ship upgrades a bit late, you won’t find her feeling too cramped or crowded. She’s one of the top picks if you want to kick back and relax on board.

That’s pretty handy, considering her West Coast US itineraries might not be as thrilling as other spots Carnival hits. So, Carnival Miracle could be your go-to if you’re after a cruise with a nice mix of chill vibes, fun times, and good eats.

6. Carnival Glory

The Carnival Glory cruise ship majestically sails across the blue ocean, its multiple decks adorned with colorful flags fluttering in the wind.

Carnival Glory is another ship that has been a stalwart for Carnival for a long time, and as a result, it’s showing its age, reviews comment on some parts of the ship looking a little worn.

But it’s a testament to how good the experience is that it still ranks so highly despite the wear and tear. She’s a smaller ship again, but she’s certainly not dull, with the WaterWorks water park being a particular highlight.

Expect a lot of large groups and families on this ship, but you won’t feel crowded either.

7. Carnival Dream

The Carnival Dream cruise ship glides across the ocean at sunset, its blue hull and red-and-white funnel illuminated by the golden light, showcasing the grandeur of cruise vacations.

Carnival Dream might follow the same layout as many other Carnival ships and pack in all those thrilling features, but she’s got a surprisingly chill vibe. 

The Lanai Promenade, which wraps around the lower deck, is a big part of that relaxed feel. It is the perfect spot to take a breather from all the onboard excitement. 

The well maintained ship, sailing out of Texas, offers a nice variety of itineraries across the Caribbean and Central America. Carnival Dream is a great choice if you’re looking for fun mixed with some laid back moments.

8. Carnival Vista

The Carnival Vista cruise ship sails on a serene blue ocean, its multiple decks and distinctive red funnel standing out against a backdrop of scattered clouds in a bright sky.

Carnival Vista kicked off with a bang, bringing some super cool innovations to the Carnival fleet. Imagine biking above the ship on the SkyRide or catching a movie in an IMAX cinema at sea, not to mention the whimsical Dr. Seuss themed activities for the kids. Despite these awesome features, the reviews are a bit of a mixed bag.

Technically, the ship is top-notch, but some basics seem to have taken a backseat, like the food variety and quality and a dip in service standards. But one thing’s certain: there’s zero chance of getting bored with Vista.

9. Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration cruise ship docked in the Port of Miami with the city's skyline in the background during a sunset.

Carnival Celebration might have launched a tad late in 2022 to make last year’s rankings, but she’s quickly made her way into the top 10 for 2023. As the sister ship to Mardi Gras, she’s one of the crown jewels of the fleet, stuffed with awesome features that havSome gripehere are some gripes about service standards (understandable since she’s a massive ship) and some long-time Carnival fans aren’t quite used to the bigger crowds or waiting a bit longer for dinner. Despite these teething issues, Celebration has had a stellar debut year, offering something for everyone to enjoy on board.

10. Carnival Horizon

The Carnival Horizon cruise ship glides through turquoise waters, its blue hull complementing the sunny sky dotted with fluffy white clouds above.

I was a bit taken aback to see Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista ranking lower than expected, but it just goes to show that newer isn’t always synonymous with better. Despite its cutting-edge technology and impressive features, Carnival Horizon lacks some of the wow factors introduced in the later Excel Class ships.

Being another big ship with a capacity for 4,000 passengers, it can sometimes feel crowded. Plus, some reviews suggest that the service doesn’t always meet Carnival’s usual standards. Sure, it’s bold, colourful, and modern, but maybe it lacks a bit of the soul that makes a cruise special.

11. Carnival Liberty

Carnival Liberty cruise ship sails near a mountainous coastline, its signature red, white, and blue funnel marking its presence against the natural landscape. The ocean is calm, reflecting the overcast sky, as the ship adds a touch of human innovation to the serene, natural setting.

Carnival Liberty sets sail from Orlando and is a favorite for families looking for solid value. Sure, she might be showing her age a bit and doesn’t boast the flashy features of newer ships, but she’s still a hit with American families seeking a straightforward cruise experience.

You won’t find a roller coaster or a fancy sky ride here. Instead, it’s all about classic cruise activities, think poolside movies, karaoke nights, comedy clubs, and buzzing nightclubs every evening. Carnival Liberty isn’t about the frills; it’s more laid-back and low-key, making it the epitome of a value-packed cruise ship.

12. Carnival Spirit

Carnival Spirit, belonging to Carnival Cruise Line, is surrounded by the stunning blue waters of a tropical destination, with lush green islands dotting the seascape. The vibrant ship, with its distinctive red and blue funnel, stands out as a colorful focal point in this aerial shot capturing the beauty of ocean travel.

What sets Carnival Spirit apart is its exceptional service and diverse destinations. Unlike some ships that cruise the same Caribbean spots all year round, Spirit takes you on adventures to Australia, Alaska, and Central America, depending on the season. 

The vibe on board is super laid-back, which suits the Australian passengers it often carries. Sure, some parts of the ship are a bit dated, and the design choices might raise an eyebrow, but if you’re okay with that, you’ll be in for a fantastic time.

13. Carnival Legend

The Carnival Legend cruise ship sails under a vast sky, fluffy clouds overhead, reflecting the golden sunlight on its journey across the endless blue ocean.

Carnival Legend delivers a vibe similar to that of her sister, Carnival Spirit. There’s plenty to keep you entertained, from laid-back lounging to active fun, and while some of the decor might be moving past retro chic to tacky, it’s all part of the charm. 

It’s not too crowded, and with some of the best Fun Ship upgrades like Hasbro Game Show and Seuss at Sea, Legend is a hit with families. She’s perfect if you’re looking for a ship that’s not top-of-the-line but still packs in plenty of fun.

14. Carnival Conquest

Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Conquest is pictured docked in a bustling port with the clear turquoise sea stretching before it. The ship's distinctive red and blue funnel stands out against the coastal town backdrop, showcasing the vibrant colors and leisurely atmosphere of a tropical destination.

Carnival Conquest is the perfect ship if you’re looking to unwind and have some fun. It’s a hit with families, though it might not have a massive range of activities for the younger crowd, and teens might find it a bit tame. 

This ship is more about chilling out, ideal for adults who want to enjoy a few drinks and have a good time without too much fuss. It’s not overly rowdy (yes, the theatre can pump up the volume at night), but there are plenty of spots to relax if that’s more your style. If you’re looking for a low-key but still fun cruise, Conquest could be just right.

15. Mardi Gras

The Carnival Mardi Gras cruise ship cuts through the deep blue sea, its towering red and white funnel standing out against a backdrop of scattered clouds in a vibrant blue sky.

Until Mardi Gras hit the scene, the idea of a roller coaster on a ship seemed like an industry joke – what would they think of next? But Carnival went and did it, and it’s pretty awesome. 

Mardi Gras isn’t just about the roller coaster, though. It’s the largest ship in the fleet, packed with stunning entertainment venues and top-notch performances. However, despite its size, some find the cabins a bit cramped, and the specialty dining options haven’t impressed as much as on other ships. Still, with an average rating of 3.78 out of 5, Mardi Gras holds its own, even if it has slipped a bit in the rankings.

16. Carnival Freedom

The Carnival Freedom cruise ship illuminated at night, showcasing the vessel's multiple decks and rows of balconies. The ship's name is prominently displayed on the side, and the iconic red and blue funnel stands tall against the dark sky, symbolizing the ship's readiness for adventure on the open sea.

Carnival Freedom, the last to be launched in the Conquest-Class line-up, was also among the final ships to get the Fun Ship 2.0 revamp. The upgrades brought a fantastic new water park that kids adore and revamped favourites like the RedFrog Pub and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar. 

However, the mix of old and new gives Freedom a slightly uneven feel. While the updated sections are great, especially for families, some parts of the ship still feel a bit stuck in the past, highlighting the contrast between the pre-upgrade and post-upgrade areas.

17. Carnival Magic

The Carnival Magic cruise ship is captured in a serene maritime setting as the golden sunlight bathes its white superstructure and red funnel, cruising on the glistening blue ocean.

Carnival Magic might feel like it’s a victim of its own success. Launching after its sister, Carnival Dream, Magic was the first to introduce now-beloved features like the Hasbro Game Show, the RedFrog Pub, and the thrilling elevated ropes course. 

These attractions are still hits today, but their popularity can make the ship feel overcrowded. This can be a bit much if bustling crowds aren’t your thing. This popularity has led to the ship’s lower ranking, as the ship can sometimes just feel too busy.

18. Carnival Sunshine

Carnival Sunshine of Carnival Cruise Line sails in the early evening, its path illuminated by the golden glow of the setting sun reflecting off the ocean. The ship's profile is highlighted against a sky brushed with soft oranges and blues, creating a picturesque scene of maritime leisure.

Carnival Sunshine, originally launched as Carnival Destiny back in 1996, is the oldest ship still cruising in the Carnival fleet. She underwent a significant transformation with the Fun Ship 2.0 upgrades and was rechristened with a more modern, subdued look. 

If you’re after a lively yet not overcrowded cruise experience, she’s a good bet. However, signs that she’s ageing are beginning to show again, with many reviews suggesting she could use a little more TLC to continue her service in the fleet.

19. Carnival Elation

The image displays the 'Carnival Elation' cruise ship, easily recognizable by its distinctive red funnel and white-and-blue hull, sailing on a serene blue ocean under a clear sky. Perfect for a vacation getaway theme.

Carnival Elation might not be the oldest ship in the fleet. Still, she certainly feels like it, especially since she missed out on the extensive $150 million makeover that Carnival Sunshine enjoyed. 

On the downside, the decor feels outdated, entertainment options are somewhat limited, and the ship feels smaller than others. However, this smaller size translates to a quieter, less hectic atmosphere, which might be perfect for those looking for a more laid-back version of Carnival’s fun and service.

20. Carnival Splendor

In the warm glow of sunset, the Carnival Splendor cruise ship journeys across the calm sea, its distinctive red funnel marking a striking contrast against the serene twilight sky.

Carnival Splendor stands out in the fleet, it was initially intended for Costa Cruises but ended up with Carnival during its construction. The decor is definitely bold; you’ll either fall for its dramatic flair or find it a bit over the top, but it won’t affect the quality of your cruise. 

The ship boasts a massive spa and plenty of fun activities, particularly for kids, though the cabins could use a refresh. Primarily sailing the South Pacific from Australia, Splendor is a fantastic choice if you’re looking to explore that part of the world on a cruise.

21. Carnival Paradise

The Carnival Paradise cruise ship, bathed in the golden light of the setting sun, cruises the open sea, its blue hull and red funnel vibrant against the expansive sky and sea.

Carnival Paradise might be just the ticket if the vast array of options on the newer Carnival ships seems overwhelming. She offers a simpler cruising experience without skimping on the fun. While she doesn’t pack in the latest features, this means she’s usually less crowded. 

Opt for Paradise if you’re after straightforward Carnival fun without breaking the bank. The service is solid, the food is tasty, and even though it’s all a bit basic, and starting to show its age. There’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained, from mini-golf and water parks to kids’ clubs.

22. Carnival Radiance

Carnival Radiance cruise ship with its distinctive red funnel cruising through the deep blue ocean under a clear sky, with a puff of white clouds in the distance

Carnival Radiance is a ship with big ambitions, packed into a relatively small frame compared to other ships in the fleet. This setup means some venues feel cramped and can have long queues, and you might find a spa room oddly placed right beneath the bustling kids’ club. 

It’s not the most popular ship, but it still scores mostly positive reviews. Radiance is never boring, but it’s possibly too packed with features to relax.

23. Carnival Sunrise

The Carnival Sunrise cruise ship sails on a calm ocean, its red funnel iconic against the vast blue sky scattered with white clouds, embodying a sense of adventure on the high seas.

If the classic Carnival vibe of bustling crowds and high energy is a bit much for you, then Carnival Sunrise might push your limits, it’s pretty much the poster child for the lively Carnival atmosphere.

Never dull and perfect for those who thrive in a vibrant setting, the sports deck, ropes course, and exciting slides offer plenty of action. There is a Serenity Deck for when you need to catch your breath, but even this quieter spot can’t completely escape the ship’s lively spirit.

24. Carnival Luminosa

The image showcases the Carnival Luminosa cruise ship elegantly docked in a tranquil waterway, with lush coastal greenery in the background and a serene sky above as daylight fades.

Carnival Luminosa, blending elements of Spirit and Vista classes, started sailing for Costa Cruises in 2009 before joining the Carnival fleet in 2022 with a fresh makeover and new name. 

Despite the updates, it’s been a bit of a rocky transition. While some passengers appreciate her European flair, others have voiced concerns about the food and service quality, leading to her lower ranking, just above another ship facing similar challenges.

25. Carnival Venezia

The Carnival Venezia cruise ship is captured in the golden light of dusk, cruising near hilly coastlines with scattered residential areas.

Carnival Venezia is another transplant from Costa Cruises, but she’s a bit fresher, having launched in 2020 and joining Carnival in 2023. The ship has garnered many positive reviews, but some long-time Carnival cruisers feel she doesn’t quite gel with the typical Carnival vibe. 

The mix of Carnival fun and Italian-style cruising has had a lukewarm reception, though there’s still time for her to win over the hearts of more Carnival fans.

Choosing The Best Carnival Ship For You

Picking the ‘best’ Carnival ship isn’t a one-size-fits-all affair because each offers something unique. While some ships buzz with activity, others offer a more laid-back vibe. It boils down to what you’re looking for, whether it’s a ship that’s destination-focused or all about the onboard experience.

Carnival is famous for its lively party atmosphere, and that reputation is well-deserved. However, the notion that some ships can feel overcrowded or noisy isn’t without merit, though most guests report having a fantastic time.

Choosing the right ship requires some thought since they vary so much. You’ll need to consider whether you’re after the latest and greatest features, a more relaxing journey, or a great deal on a fun getaway.

And hey, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list. It’s based on reviews, but everyone’s experience is different. If you think there’s a better order or have your favourites, drop a comment below and let us know!

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

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