Sailing with Kids? Here’s the Top Carnival Ships for Family Fun

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Are you going on a family cruise but unsure which Carnival ship will turn your holiday into an unforgettable experience for your little ones? From the endless fun tailored for the under-18 crowd to the mouth-watering dining options that cater to young palates and insatiable teen appetites, choosing the right ship is a big factor in having a great holiday.

However, some ships among Carnival’s vast fleet stand out for their kid-friendly features. For example, the Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon, and Carnival Panorama are packed with onboard activities to entertain your kids throughout the journey. From the first roller coaster at sea to fun-filled water parks, these ships offer a world of adventure for your kids.

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

In this article, I’ll take you through seven of the best Carnival Cruise ships for children and what they can offer your kids to make their vacation unforgettable.

Related reading: The Best Carnival Cruise Ship (For Every Kind of Cruiser!)

Amenities for Kids on Carnival Cruises

Before we get into the details of each ship, here is a snapshot of the different amenities available on the ships listed below:

AmenitiesCarnival VistaCarnival HorizonCarnival CelebrationCarnival SunriseCarnival DreamCarnival PanoramaCarnival Mardi Gras
PickleballYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
Mini GolfYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
GamesYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
BasketballYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Camp OceanYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Seuss at SeaYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Space CruisersYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Club O2YesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Circle “C”YesYesYesYesYesYesYes
ZumbiniYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Big Fun for Infants & ToddlersYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Green Eggs and Ham BreakfastYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Night OwlsYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Build-A-Bear Workshop at SeaYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Seuss-a-palooza Story TimeYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Dr. Seuss BookvilleYesYesYesNoNoYesYes
Video ArcadeYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Arts and CraftsYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
BOLT: Ultimate Sea CoasterNoNoYesNoNoNoYes
WaterWorksYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
SkyRideYesYesNoNoNoYesYes
SportSquareYesYesYesYesNoYesYes
Ropes CourseYesYesYesYesNoYesYes
PoolsYesYesYesYesYesYesYes
Twister WaterslideYesYesYesYesYesYesYes

1. Carnival Vista

The majestic Carnival Vista cruise ship embarks on a voyage, captured with its signature red funnel against a backdrop of dramatic clouds and a glistening ocean, with distant islands on the horizon.

The Carnival Vista is a standout amongst the Carnival fleet, especially regarding kid-friendly offerings. The ship has taken family-friendly to a whole new level with its vast array of activities for kids. From biking through the sky on SkyRide (must be at least 52 inches tall) to bowling and ping pong at SportSquare, the Carnival Vista ensures that there’s never a dull moment for your kids on board.

Passengers enjoy the SkyRide attraction aboard the Carnival Vista, pedaling in suspended colorful bike cars against the endless blue of the ocean and sky.
SkyRide

One of the key attractions on this ship is the onboard WaterWorks, a water park, featuring some of the fastest water slides at sea, your kids will surely have a blast. Additionally, the Cherry On Top candy store and ice cream counter will satisfy their sweet tooth.

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

But the fun doesn’t stop there. If you book a Family Harbor stateroom, they are located near the Family Harbor Lounge, which is a place featuring breakfast in the morning, snacks throughout the day, plus activities like board games, family movies, video games and more. These amenities keep kids entertained in their downtime and provide an opportunity for some quality family time.

2. Carnival Horizon

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

If you’re searching for a ship that’s the perfect blend of sophistication and kid-friendly fun, look no further than the Carnival Horizon. One of Carnival’s newest additions, the Horizon sports a modern look and feel that parents will appreciate. It also offers a plethora of activities designed specifically for young cruisers.

From the Twister Waterslide and basketball courts to a challenging ropes course, children will have a blast exploring all the Horizon offers. For those who prefer indoor activities, there’s also a heated game of mini-golf to keep them entertained. The ship also features a Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea, allowing kids to create their own cuddly companions to commemorate their cruise adventure.

A bright and spacious basketball court on Carnival Horizon, surrounded by a protective net, featuring playful silhouettes of athletes on the walls and the ship's funnel towering above.
Sports Square

But the fun doesn’t stop there. The Carnival Horizon is also home to the Thrill Theater and the Seuss-a-palooza Parade, guaranteed to fill your child’s day with laughter and excitement. Not to mention, the Seuss-a-palooza Parade offers an unforgettable experience where kids can interact with their favourite Dr Seuss characters.

Related reading: The Best Cabins on Carnival Horizon.

3. Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration cruise ship captured in an aerial shot as it navigates the waters near Miami, displaying the ship's extensive decks and leisure amenities.

Let me introduce you to the exciting Carnival Celebration, one of the newest additions to the Carnival fleet. With a modern and sophisticated feel, this ship is designed with parents and young cruisers in mind. Its sleek look is accompanied by upgraded amenities and activities that kids will love.

Among the highlights of the Carnival Celebration is the “Ultimate Playground” which features a plethora of activities. Kids can get their adrenaline pumping with the Twister Waterslide, challenge their skills on a ropes course, or engage in a heated game of mini-golf. The Celebration’s focus on youth-friendly entertainment onboard ensures that younger guests are never short of things to do.

The Ultimate Playground mini-golf course on Carnival Celebration, with a whimsical design, artificial green turf, and an overhead roller coaster track, set against a calm sea backdrop at sunset.
Ultimate Playground

The ship also hosts a range of unique experiences, such as the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea and the Thrill Theater, a 3D Movie theatre. And for those who love all things Dr. Seuss, the Seuss-a-palooza Parade is a can’t-miss event.

The Carnival Celebration also offers a range of Caribbean itineraries, allowing young cruisers to explore beautiful Caribbean cruises while enjoying the myriad of activities and entertainment onboard. With the Carnival Celebration, your family is in for a memorable cruising experience.

4. 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.

Setting sail on the Carnival Sunrise is like embarking on a floating adventure park. This ship is jam-packed with family-friendly activities that promise to keep children and parents alike entertained throughout the journey. The Sunrise is all about creating an environment where families can make lasting memories together.

One of the standout features of the Carnival Sunrise is the Alchemy Bar. While it’s an adults-only area, it offers a unique experience for parents to unwind and enjoy expertly crafted cocktails while the kids enjoy the numerous activities at the ship’s kids’ clubs.

The sophisticated Alchemy Bar on Carnival Sunrise, showcasing a relaxed lounge atmosphere with plush seating, an elegant bar setup, and modern art, perfect for sipping crafted cocktails.
Alchemy Bar

Carnival Sunrise’s Kids Club is a haven for young cruisers. Children can engage in various fun and educational experiences with activities designed specifically for different age groups. Additionally, these clubs offer a safe and supervised environment, giving parents peace of mind while they enjoy some grown-up time.

Carnival Sunrise is not just about fun and games. It also offers short, affordable voyages from Miami, making it an ideal option for families looking for a quick getaway. Sail to the Bahamas or the Caribbean and experience a gregarious, upbeat atmosphere that will create unforgettable memories. Overall, the Carnival Sunrise embodies the essence of a family-friendly cruise experience.

5. 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.

Moving on to another fantastic choice for families, let’s explore the engaging Carnival Dream. Just like the Carnival Celebration, the Carnival Dream boasts a modern feel that parents will appreciate. But don’t let its sophisticated appearance fool you – this ship is packed with kid-friendly activities and entertainment.

The Carnival Dream is designed to keep young cruisers entertained throughout their journey. It offers a variety of activities, ranging from the exhilarating Twister Waterslide to a challenging ropes course. A game of mini-golf adds a fun, competitive element to the mix, keeping the kids engaged and entertained.

Passengers on the Carnival Dream enjoy a round of mini-golf on a creatively designed course with lush green turf, nautical-themed obstacles, and the ship's iconic red funnel in the background.
Mini Golf

Unique experiences such as the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea and the Thrill Theater are also part of the Carnival Dream experience. And let’s not forget the Seuss-a-palooza Parade, a delightful event that brings the magical world of Dr. Seuss to life. This fantastic parade is a must-see for all young cruisers aboard the Carnival Dream.

With its Caribbean itineraries, the Carnival Dream offers young cruisers the opportunity to embark on awe-inspiring Caribbean cruises. So, not only do they get to experience the fun and entertainment onboard, but they also get to explore the stunning beauty of Caribbean destinations. The Carnival Dream truly offers an engaging and exciting cruise experience for kids.

6. 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.

There’s something exceptional about the Carnival Panorama, especially when it comes to catering to the young ones. This ship, one of Carnival’s newest, features a contemporary design that parents will appreciate while packing in plenty of fun for young children.

One of the most exciting features onboard is the Twister Waterslide. It’s a hit with kids who can’t resist the temptation of a thrilling, water-filled adventure. The ship also hosts a challenging ropes course and a heated mini-golf game, both perfect for some family competition.

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

And the fun doesn’t stop there! Carnival Panorama also offers unique activities like the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea and the Seuss-a-palooza Parade. These engaging experiences allow children to explore their creativity and imagination in a lively seafaring setting.

With a combination of modern aesthetics and a wide array of fun-filled activities, it’s no wonder that the Carnival Panorama is considered one of the best Carnival ships for young children.

7. Carnival 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.

Stepping onboard the Carnival Mardi Gras is like entering a world of endless fun and exploration for kids. This ship is equipped with pools and a waterpark and features the Bolt Rollercoaster, the first and fastest roller coaster at sea. The thrill of riding this roller coaster, with the ocean as a backdrop, is an experience your kids will never forget.

The BOLT Rollercoaster on Carnival Mardi Gras, a thrilling ride that twists above the deck, next to a colorful water park with slides and pools, offering fun and excitement against the backdrop of the open ocean.
BOLT Rollercoaster

But the excitement doesn’t stop there. The ship also hosts a unique SkyRide elevated cycling attraction with spectacular sea views. The ropes course is another exciting feature that adds to the adventure, making the Carnival Mardi Gras a floating playground for kids and teens.

However, it’s not just about the thrill-seeking activities. The Carnival Mardi Gras also hosts entertaining onboard activities designed to engage and inspire. Kids can immerse themselves in these interactive experiences and make lasting memories.

From the Bolt Rollercoaster to the SkyRide and the ropes course, the Carnival Mardi Gras sets a high bar for family-friendly fun. It’s clear why it’s considered one of the best ships in the Carnival fleet for young children.

When it comes to fun onboard a cruise ship, Carnival exceeds expectations, especially for older children. Not only do they offer an array of activities for all ages, but they also have dedicated lounges for preteens and teenagers. Circle C and Club O2 are just some fantastic spaces available.

These areas have televisions, video games, and board games for endless entertainment. In addition, Carnival organizes activities such as sports competitions and dance parties to keep the fun rolling. Family cruising has never been this exciting!

  • Camp Ocean

Camp Ocean on Carnival Horizon, a children's play area with an under-the-sea theme, adorned with colorful fish and shark silhouettes on the walls and ceiling, complete with toys and a whimsical slide.

One of the top kids programs offered by Carnival is Camp Ocean. This program is renowned for its high-quality childcare, allowing parents to indulge in Carnival’s activities for adults without stressing about their little ones. The program is available fleetwide, meaning no matter what ship you’re on, your kids can enjoy the fun-filled activities at Camp Ocean.

  • Night Owls Program

A joyful young boy at Camp Carnival's Night Owls, proudly holding up a white T-shirt with colorful hand-drawn designs, with other children engaged in activities in the background.

When the sun sets, the fun doesn’t stop on a Carnival cruise, especially for the kids. The Night Owls program is a lifesaver if your kid is a late-night adventurer. This unique program allows parents to drop kids off, ensuring they’re entertained and cared for while the adults enjoy some quality time. From thrilling games to engaging activities, these programs provide an inclusive and fun-filled family cruising experience.

The Night Owls program is specifically designed for children ages six months to 11. This program lets kids stay entertained until 1 a.m., allowing parents to enjoy their evening worry-free.

The Night Owls program is a testament to Carnival’s commitment to providing high-quality kids programs. It ensures that all family members, regardless of age, can thoroughly enjoy their experience onboard. With activities that keep kids engaged and entertained well into the night, Carnival ensures a stress-free and fun-filled vacation for the entire family.

  • Parks and Games

The Sky Zone indoor trampoline park and challenge zone on Carnival Panorama, featuring a vibrant climbing wall, basketball hoops, and activity courts, all under dynamic lighting for an energetic atmosphere.

From splash park and Sky Zone trampoline park for the younger ones to movie nights for older kids, there’s something for everyone. Kids can test their skills on the Twister Waterslide, engage in a friendly game of basketball, navigate a challenging ropes course, or compete in a heated game of mini-golf. If you choose a newer ship, like Mardi Gras or Celebration, your older kids can also ride the BOLT rollercoaster.

  • Other Events and Programs

Dr. Seuss Bookville on Carnival Horizon, a colorful and whimsical reading space inspired by the beloved children's author, with polka-dotted walls, bright furniture, and shelves full of books inviting young readers to explore.

Another excellent option is Disney Magic, with its Seuss Bookville and Camp at Sea programs, ensuring age-appropriate activities for kids of all ages. This ship also offers the unique feature of Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island. Celebrity Cruises’ Camp at Sea program also gives children various activities, from rock climbing walls to splash zones.

There are also unique experiences like the Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea, the Thrill Theater, and the Seuss-a-palooza Parade. These activities entertain and promote creativity and camaraderie among the young cruisers. When choosing a Carnival ship for your kids, rest assured that every voyage has unforgettable adventures and experiences.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the best Carnival ship for kids isn’t just about picking one with the most exciting activities. It’s also about considering the needs and preferences of the entire family.

With an impressive fleet that includes some of the largest ships in the industry, such as the Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon, and Carnival Panorama, there’s a Carnival ship out there to suit every family’s needs.

These ships offer a fantastic range of fun activities, from SkyRide elevated cycling and ropes courses to dive-in movies and activities like scavenger hunts. For the foodies, Guy’s Burger Joint and Bonsai Sushi offer mouthwatering dining options.

While all Carnival ships offer thrilling shore excursions, the best cruise ships for kids offer a balance of onboard activities and off-ship adventures. So, whether you’re setting sail from Port Canaveral, Los Angeles, or Miami, embarking on an Eastern and Western Caribbean voyage, or traversing the Panama Canal, a Carnival cruise promises a world of fun for kids and parents alike.

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

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