Cruise Your Way: Which Carnival Cruise Ship Suits Your Style Best?

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Ever wonder which Carnival cruise ship offers the best bang for your buck? With a fleet of 25 ships, ranging from the seasoned Carnival Sunshine to the gleaming new Carnival Celebration and Carnival Venezia, the choice is anything but straightforward.

The majestic Carnival Venezia cruise ship sails the ocean at dusk, its multiple decks glowing warmly against the fading light, with the vast sea stretching into the horizon.
Carnival Venezia

While the latest ships boast cutting-edge features, it’s not just about the shiny new toys. Some of the older members of the fleet have stood the test of time, winning over passengers with their tried-and-tested charm and a certain “je ne sais quoi” that newer models can sometimes lack.

So, how do you decide which one is the best? In this article, I’ll list the best Carnival Cruise Ships and explain why.

With so many options, choosing the perfect Carnival ship for your next cruise can be overwhelming. But whether you’re a regular cruiser or a first-timer, there’s a Carnival ship that will suit your needs. Below I have listed the 13 best Carnival ships, these are based on my research from reviews across the top travel websites.

Related reading: The best carnival ship for kids.

1. Carnival Horizon – Top Overall Choice

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

The Carnival Horizon, a relatively new addition to the Carnival fleet, has emerged as a popular choice among cruise enthusiasts departing from Miami. The ship boasts a range of onboard activities that cater to various passenger preferences.

Among its notable features is the Family Harbor, which offers dedicated family staterooms equipped with a private lounge and concierge service. Additionally, the Cloud 9 Spa staterooms provide unlimited access to the spa’s thermal suites, delivering a premium relaxation experience.

Related reading: The Best Cabins on Carnival Horizon.

For those looking to relax, the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat is an exclusive enclave offering signature cocktails and hot tubs. Since most activities on the Carnival Horizon are family-friendly, that makes it suitable for multi-generational vacations.

Inside the tranquil Cloud 9 Spa Thermal Suite on Carnival Horizon, featuring a large blue hydrotherapy pool, heated loungers with ocean views, and a serene ambiance highlighted by soft blue lighting.
Cloud 9 Spa

However, it is essential to note a couple of potential drawbacks. The Carnival Horizon tends to have higher noise levels, which may not be ideal for travellers seeking a tranquil atmosphere. Some passengers have also reported occasional delays in bar service, resulting in longer wait times for beverages. These considerations should be taken into account when evaluating the overall cruise experience.

2. 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.

Cruising on the Carnival Vista is a dream for most passengers, but especially for families. It’s the perfect blend of sophistication for parents and an array of exhilarating activities for kids. Carnival Vista’s meticulous focus on being family-friendly elevates the cruise experience to another level. From the sleek, comfortable staterooms to the extensive range of entertainment options that cater to all ages, it truly ensures an unforgettable family vacation.

The crew on the Carnival Vista is incredibly welcoming and treats you like family, making you feel right at home. The ship offers many activities, from the heart-pounding excitement of the Twister Waterslide to the challenging ropes course and a heated mini-golf course. Kids are in for a treat, and so are parents, with top-notch entertainment options that guarantee a fantastic time for everyone.

Vibrant WaterWorks waterpark on Carnival Vista, featuring bright, spiraling waterslides and a playful splash zone with a sunny sky overhead, inviting fun and adventure.

However, while Carnival Vista excels in many areas, you might encounter some lines, especially at popular attractions. Additionally, though there’s a variety of food options available, some cruisers have found the choices limited compared to other cruise experiences.

These minor considerations aside, the Carnival Vista remains an excellent choice for families seeking a memorable and enjoyable cruise adventure. Its thoughtful design and commitment to family-friendly fun make it a standout option on family vacations at sea.

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.

The Carnival Panorama is one of Carnival’s newest cruise ships, and it has a sleek and modern design that’s impressive to cruisers of all ages. What’s cool about this ship is that it offers a variety of things to do, making it stand out as one of the best choices in the Carnival fleet.

There’s a lot of fun stuff for kids and families, including thrilling options like the Twister Waterslide, mini-golf for some friendly competition, and a challenging ropes course for the adventurous. Even the little ones aren’t left out with the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea. And don’t miss the Seuss-a-Palooza Parade—it’s a colourful spectacle!

The expansive Ropes Course on Carnival Panorama, featuring an adventurous high-elements course with views of the sea, alongside a colorful mini-golf course and relaxation area under the ship's iconic red funnel.
Ropes Course

When it’s mealtime, the Carnival Panorama spoils you with plenty of dining choices, so there’s something for everyone. With its modern style and plenty of family-friendly activities, the Carnival Panorama is a cruise ship making a name for itself.

Now, let’s get real and talk about the good and not-so-good stuff. On the plus side, you’ve got thrilling waterslides and rides, a great program called Camp Ocean for kids, a wide variety of tasty food options, and you can even take cooking classes at Carnival Kitchen.

Camp Ocean kids' area on Carnival Panorama themed with 'Sting Rays,' featuring vibrant underwater décor, interactive gaming screens, and whimsical seating for a fun and engaging atmosphere.
Camp Ocean

However, it’s important to know that some activities and things on the ship cost extra money. Also, getting a quiet spot on the ship can sometimes be tricky. So, keep these things in mind, and you’re set for a fantastic cruise!

4. 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.

For those looking for luxury, the Carnival Miracle is sure to impress. Though it may not have as many state-of-the-art attractions as some of the newer ships, the Carnival Miracle holds its own with its unique features and refined elegance. Built in 2003, this mid-sized ship was given a fresh makeover in 2020, enhancing its charm and appeal.

One of the standout features of the Carnival Miracle is its double promenade. It offers window-lined seating and a whimsical garden theme. You can explore the exterior open-air promenade to see those stunning ocean views. Add to this the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, a haven of tranquillity complete with signature cocktails and hot tubs, and you have a ship that exudes luxury at every turn.

The Serenity Adult-Only Retreat on Carnival Miracle offers a peaceful escape with a soothing hot tub, plush teal loungers, and a panoramic ocean view in a calm and relaxing setting.
Serenity Adult-Only Retreat

When it comes to dining, the Carnival Miracle is a cut above the rest. The dining rooms serve a variety of culinary delights, and the Alchemy Bar and SkyBox Sports Bar offer an array of drink options. Though it may not be the newest in the fleet, the Carnival Miracle echoes the luxury and comfort of its sister ships, making it an excellent option for any cruiser.

5. Carnival Celebration

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

The Carnival Celebration is a big, new ship from Carnival Cruise Line. It started sailing in November 2022, so not many people have reviewed it yet. But guess what? It’s got a bunch of cool stuff that everyone’s sure to love.

One super cool thing is the Bolt rollercoaster. Yes, a rollercoaster on a cruise ship! Imagine yourself racing around the ship’s top deck, feeling the ocean breeze, and seeing the sea all around you. It’s a thrill like no other. And there’s more fun stuff, like water slides for all ages and a live version of the game show Family Feud.

Contestants eagerly participate in Family Feud Live on a Carnival Cruise, showcasing the iconic game show set with bright, colorful lights and an excited audience watching the friendly competition.
Family Feud Live with contestants

The ship is named ‘Celebration’ because it’s Carnival Cruise Line’s 50th anniversary! It has lots of places to eat, from casual spots to fancy restaurants. You can find something yummy to eat, no matter what you like. Even though it’s new, this ship has a lot to offer.

But here’s the deal: it’s a huge ship with over 6,000 guests, so it can get crowded sometimes. And the more affordable cabins are a bit small. So, keep that in mind, and you’ll have a blast here!

Recommended reading: How to Choose the Best Deck on Carnival Celebration.

6. 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.

The Mardi Gras ship from Carnival Cruise Line is something special. It’s divided into different “zones” or “neighbourhoods” with cool stuff to do and delicious food. Celebrity chefs like Guy Fieri and Emeril Lagasse have restaurants here. The only thing to remember is that places like the piano bar and restaurants can get a bit too crowded.

For those who want some peace and quiet, there’s the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat. It’s a chill spot with special drinks and hot tubs, away from the hustle and bustle. Some cabins and bathrooms are small, but the Mardi Gras is a huge ship with over 6,000 passengers, making it perfect for an unforgettable cruise.

Related reading: Does Carnival have adults-only cruises?

Serenity Adult-Only Retreat on Carnival's Mardi Gras ship featuring a tranquil hot tub, comfortable loungers, and a shaded seating area with ocean views in the background.
Serenity Adult-Only Retreat

Now, let’s talk about the good and not-so-good stuff. Good stuff: lots of activities, tons of food choices, well-designed suites, a cool atrium for sea views, and different themed neighbourhoods to explore. So, if you’re ready for excitement and adventure, the Mardi Gras is the ship for you.

7. 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

The Carnival Radiance is like a little dynamo—not the biggest ship, but it’s bursting with fun stuff to do. Let’s start with the good stuff.

This ship is anything but boring. They’ve crammed fun into every corner, from busy activity spots to cosy spots to chill. It’s all happening on the Radiance, and that’s pretty cool.

Sure, it’s not the quietest ship, and it might not give you that total relaxation vibe like some bigger ones do. But here’s the deal: most people who’ve been on it give it a thumbs up. Who needs calm when you’re having a blast?

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 the plus side, the food is great, the guests are diverse and interesting, and there are plenty of activities that people love. Plus, the staff is super helpful. On the flip side, sometimes you’ll have to wait in line or deal with lots of people for the popular stuff. And because it’s not massive, finding a quiet spot can be tough.

Related reading: Carnival Radiance Best Rooms.

8. Carnival Glory

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

The Carnival Glory, a Conquest-class cruise ship, an enduring ship in the Carnival fleet, promises a voyage filled with glory. Despite showing signs of age, it ranks high among cruisers, underscoring its outstanding experience. This ship may be mid-size, but it’s not short on entertainment, especially for families and large groups.

The star attraction is the Waterworks Waterpark, a delightful spot for kids and adults. The park, packed with thrilling slides and water games, offers a refreshing break from the sun. So, despite the presence of large groups, you won’t feel crowded, thanks to the ample space and engaging activities like the Carnival Waterworks.

WaterWorks on Carnival Glory under a clear blue sky, featuring vibrant yellow and purple water slides and splash areas for a fun-filled aquatic adventure at sea.

Adding to the fun is the Punchliner Comedy Club, a crowd favourite. Here, you can enjoy hilarious performances that will have you laughing throughout your journey. So, even with some wear and tear, the Carnival Glory continues to capture the hearts of many cruisers, making it a top choice for a memorable voyage.

9. 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.

Embarking on a journey with the Carnival Legend is like stepping into a world of folklore. The ship, a sister to the Carnival Spirit, offers various entertainment options that add fun to the relaxed onboard atmosphere. Some may find the decor a bit dated, but that’s part of the charm and allure of the Carnival Legend.

The ship is not overly crowded, enhancing the overall cruising experience. It boasts some of the finest Fun Ship upgrades, including the Hasbro Game Show and Seuss at Sea. These features make it an excellent choice for families seeking a blend of fun and relaxation on their voyage.

Suess-a-Palooza Storytime and Parade on a Carnival Cruise, with characters from Dr. Seuss's books like the Cat in the Hat and Things 1 and 2 engaging with an audience against a whimsical stage backdrop.
Suess-a-Palooza Storytime and Parade

While the Carnival Legend may not have the top-tier features on newer ships, it offers a unique cruising experience. So, if you’re looking for a cruise that combines fun, relaxation, and a hint of nostalgia, the Carnival Legend is the ship for you.

10. 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.

The Carnival Sunrise stands out when it comes to a truly spectacular cruising experience. This ship, formerly known as the Carnival Triumph, has been revamped to offer an array of features that enhance your time at sea. One of its hallmarks is the Alchemy Bar, a spot where you can enjoy expertly crafted cocktails and mingle with fellow cruisers.

The ship is Carnival at its finest, offering various activities to keep you entertained. For the younger guests, Camp Ocean is a haven of fun and learning, while the sports court and Dive-In movies make for memorable family time. However, it is one of Carnival’s smaller vessels, so it can feel a bit cramped sometimes.

Carnival Sunrise's pool deck set up for Dive-In Movies, featuring rows of blue loungers facing a large outdoor screen, with a tranquil pool reflecting the early evening sky.
Pool deck set up for Dive-In movies

The Bonsai Express is a delightful spot for sushi lovers, serving up delectable bites that will have you coming back for more. For those who enjoy a vibrant nightlife, the BlueIguana Tequila Bar and a slew of lounges and nightclubs guarantee a good time.

11. 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.

The Carnival Elation may not have received the extensive revamp like some of its counterparts, but it holds its charm in the quieter, more relaxed cruising experience it offers. While a bit dated, the ship’s decor adds to its nostalgic charm, giving you a feel of classic cruising.

While the entertainment options on the Carnival Elation might be limited compared to larger ships, it offers a more laid-back atmosphere and isn’t so crowded. This makes it ideal for those seeking a peaceful voyage where they can relax and unwind without the constant hustle and bustle.

The photo captures the Lido deck of the Carnival Elation at dusk, showcasing the pool area lit by ambient lights with a series of deck chairs lined up for relaxation and the ship's iconic red funnel glowing in the background. It conveys a tranquil evening atmosphere on the cruise.
Lido Pool

The Carnival Elation strikes the perfect balance of fun and tranquillity. It provides excellent service and the iconic Carnival fun without overpowering noise. This makes it a great choice for those seeking a more serene yet enjoyable cruise experience.

12. 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.

While exploring the Carnival fleet, one ship stands out for its unique backstory. Initially intended for Costa, the Carnival Splendor was transferred to Carnival during construction. This distinctive origin has resulted in a bold and emphatic ship, bringing a touch of drama to every voyage.

Some may consider the Carnival Splendor decor overwhelming, but it’s certainly interesting and doesn’t detract from the quality of the cruise experience. This ship offers many activities, especially for children, making it an exciting choice for families. Despite the cabins showing some wear, the overall experience on the ship remains undeniably high-quality.

Colorful Splash Park with slides and water features on the deck of Carnival Splendor cruise ship, under a blue sky with scattered clouds.
Splash Park

The Carnival Splendor has also gained a reputation for its impressive travel routes. Primarily sailing the South Pacific from Australia, it’s an excellent choice for those living in the region or those interested in exploring it. The Carnival Splendor delivers a memorable cruise experience with its huge spa and various activities.

13. 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.

Next on the list is the Carnival Valor, a ship that offers a unique cruising experience. The Valor operates itineraries to the Caribbean from New Orleans, focusing on spending more time in port. This feature makes it a fantastic option for those who love to maximize their time exploring the shoreline.

A typical 5-day itinerary on the Carnival Valor includes an extra port visit instead of a day at sea. This differs from other ships, making Valor a standout choice for those who prefer more shore-based exploration. You can expect top-notch service and fun ship features consistent with other Carnival ships.

Despite having a few quirks, like the kids’ club being too close to the spa and Serenity decks, the Carnival Valor assures a relaxing cruise for all ages. With its unique blend of onboard features and focused shore excursions, a trip on the Carnival Valor is worth considering.

Wrapping Up

When cruising with Carnival, deciding which ship to choose can be a challenge, as all ships are best in their unique ways. However, your choice should be based on what you value most in your cruise experience.

If you prioritize top-notch food options, consider ships like the Carnival Horizon or the Carnival Vista, known for their exquisite cuisine. For those travelling with kids of all ages, ships like the Carnival Panorama and Carnival Miracle offer fun onboard programs and dedicated spaces like the Circle C and Club O2, loaded with televisions, video games, board games, and dance floors.

Ultimately, every Carnival ship offers a unique cruising experience, and we’re confident you’ll enjoy any of them. So, prepare for an unforgettable adventure as you sail on your chosen Carnival Cruise ship.

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

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