Carnival vs. Princess Cruise Line Showdown

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When considering a cruise vacation, two renowned names often emerge: Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line. Both lines are celebrated for their distinctive approaches to cruising, catering to different types of travellers. 

The image is a comparison visual between two cruise ships, highlighting the differences between Carnival Cruise and Princess Cruises. On the left, the 'Carnival Venezia' is displayed, showcasing the signature blue and white livery with the yellow funnel, indicative of the Carnival brand's lively and family-oriented appeal. On the right, the 'Royal Princess' of Princess Cruises is depicted with its more subdued color palette and sophisticated design, reflecting a premium cruising experience often associated with this brand. The split image serves as an illustrative contrast between the two companies' offerings in the cruise industry.

This article delves into the unique characteristics of each, helping you work out which might be the ideal choice for your next cruise adventure. Join me as we explore the nuances that set these two popular cruise lines apart, from their onboard amenities and dining experiences to their entertainment options and overall cruising ethos.

Before going into each section, here are the key features to know about each cruise line.

Princess Cruise Line

  • Sophisticated Experience: Known for its refined, somewhat British ambience.
  • Diverse Passenger Base: Attracts both British and American passengers.
  • Elegant and Tranquil: Focuses on providing a relaxed, upscale cruise experience.
  • Educational Partnerships: Collaborates with Discovery and Animal Planet for enriching experiences.
  • Varied Entertainment: Offers activities like art auctions, wine tastings, and unique shows.
The image features a couple enjoying a wine tasting experience on a Princess Cruise. They are both holding glasses of red wine, engaging in cheerful conversation with a sense of intimacy and enjoyment. The setting is luxurious, likely a dining or lounge area on the ship, with an elegant decor and a window that suggests an ocean view, contributing to a romantic and sophisticated ambiance.

Carnival Cruise Line

  • Vibrant and Fun-Focused: Designed for a lively, fun-filled atmosphere.
  • Young and Family-Oriented: Appeals mainly to young American couples, families, and friend groups.
  • Energetic Entertainment: Features non-stop activities, including water parks and live shows.
  • Casual Dining Style: Offers a range of American-style dining venues.
  • Adventurous Activities: Includes unique attractions like SkyRide and Bolt rollercoaster.
Passengers enjoy the SkyRide attraction aboard the Carnival Vista, pedaling in suspended colorful bike cars against the endless blue of the ocean and sky.

…and here are the quick takeaways in the table below if you don’t have time to read the whole thing.

CategoryPrincess Cruise LineCarnival Cruise Line
Dining StyleSophisticated dining with an emphasis on authenticity and local influences; speciality restaurants and educational food encounters.Casual American-style dining with burger joints, chicken shacks, and steakhouses; celebrity-endorsed venues.
EntertainmentA wide range of fun activities, including mini-golf, water parks, poolside competitions, and late-night entertainment.Non-stop fun with game shows, casinos, karaoke, live music, and adrenaline-pumping activities like SkyRide and Bolt rollercoaster.
ActivitiesA mix of relaxing and engaging activities like Movies under the Stars, pools, hot tubs, and state-of-the-art theatres.Educational offerings with Discovery and Animal Planet partnerships, age-grouped kids’ clubs, and special dining events for children.
Cabin TypesRange of options including interior cabins, balcony staterooms, mini-suites, and exclusive Sky Suites; eco-friendly amenities.Variety of staterooms including interior, ocean view, balcony, suite, Family Harbor, Cloud 9 Spa, Havana, and Terrazza.
Family and KidsEducational offerings with Discovery and Animal Planet partnerships; age-grouped kids’ clubs and special dining events for children.All-day youth activities, age-specific kids’ clubs, WaterWorks water park, video arcades, and Dr Seuss at Sea program.
ItinerariesGlobal departures with a focus on Australian, European, and North American destinations.Primarily U.S.-based departures with popular routes to the Caribbean, Bahamas, South Pacific, and Europe.
PricingOffers inclusive package options like Princess Plus; generally more upscale pricing.Generally more budget-friendly with a variety of included amenities and additional comforts.
Overall RecommendationIdeal for those seeking a sophisticated, tranquil cruise experience focusing on fine dining and varied entertainment.Perfect for guests looking for non-stop fun and casual, family-friendly cruising with diverse activities and entertainment.

Princess Cruise Line

Princess Cruise Line has a total of 15 ships, with two more on the horizon, either currently being built or in the planning phase. Their ships are spread across four distinct classes: the Sphere Class as the latest, accommodating around 4,300 guests; the Royal Class featuring six large ships with a capacity of 3,560 to 3,660 passengers; the Grand Class, with eight mid-sized ships for 2,600 to 3,140 guests; and the Coral Class, the oldest in the fleet, each hosting 2,000 to 2,220 guests. 

The range of ships in Princess Cruises extends from the Grand Princess, their oldest, launched in 1998, to the newest, the Discovery Princess, which joined the fleet in January 2022.

The image is of the Discovery Princess cruise ship, elegantly gliding through calm waters. The ship's sleek white and blue hull, adorned with the distinctive Princess Cruises' wave design, reflects a clear sky. The multiple decks and rows of balconies on the ship indicate a large, modern vessel, offering a variety of amenities and accommodations, ready to provide its guests with an exceptional cruising experience.
Discovery Princess

Carnival Cruise Line

Carnival Cruise Line Fleet is larger, with 26 ships and one more in the pipeline. The Carnival fleet is categorised into eight classes, from the oldest, the Fantasy Class, to the newest and largest, the Excel Class. 

Their ships range in size and capacity, accommodating guests from 2,606 up to an impressive 6,500. The age of their ships spans from the Carnival Ecstasy, launched in 1991, to their latest addition, the Carnival Jubilee, introduced in 2023.

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

The image presents the Carnival Jubilee cruise ship, a part of Carnival Cruise Line's fleet, as it sails through blue waters under a bright sky dotted with clouds. The ship's large structure, with multiple decks and a characteristic red and white funnel, stands out against the vast ocean. The vessel's name is prominently displayed on the hull, and it appears ready to offer a festive and fun-filled experience to its passengers.
Carnival Jubilee

Key Takeaway:

  • While Princess Cruises offers a smaller, more class-diversified fleet focusing on a range of guest capacities and experiences, Carnival Cruise Line boasts a larger fleet with a wider range of ship sizes, accommodating a more extensive range of passengers, from the smaller, older ships to the newer, larger ones.

Princess’s Destinations

Princess Cruises sets sail from 30 different ports globally, with Fort Lauderdale, Southampton, Sydney, and Yokohama being among the most frequented. The cruise line is particularly noted for its array of Australian itineraries, boasting seven embarkation ports in the country, surpassed only by their 12 in North America and closely followed by six in Europe.

The image features the Majestic Princess cruise ship in the beautiful harbor of Sydney, Australia. The iconic Sydney Opera House with its unique sail-like design and the Sydney Harbour Bridge, known for its arch-based structure, are both prominently visible, framing the vessel. The image captures the essence of Sydney's maritime allure, with the elegant cruise ship contributing to the dynamic and picturesque waterfront of this world-renowned city.
Majestic Princess in Sydney, Australia

Carnival’s Destinations

Carnival Cruise Line, on the other hand, operates out of 21 ports, primarily in the United States, including Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Port Canaveral, and Galveston. Carnival is renowned for its Caribbean cruises, which form the bulk of its itineraries, alongside routes to the Bahamas, the South Pacific, and Europe.

The image presents an aerial view of the Carnival Sunrise docked at Princess Cays, a resort owned by Princess Cruises. The vibrant tropical setting features colorful buildings, a sprawling pool area with sun loungers, and a beautiful beachfront, all under the watchful presence of the cruise ship. Its signature red funnel and the name "Carnival Sunrise" are visible on the vessel, which towers over the idyllic island getaway, with the turquoise sea extending into the horizon beneath a dramatic sky.
Carnival Sunrise docked at Princess Cays

Key Takeaway:

  • Princess Cruises offers many UK departures from Southampton (March-November), while Carnival has fewer from Dover. Princess is better for Asia or the Pacific Coast, which Carnival doesn’t typically cover. Carnival excels in Florida departures to Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. Both lines visit Princess Cays, and Carnival also accesses Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas.

Princess’s Dining Experience

Princess Cruises offers a refined dining experience, highlighting authentic and locally influenced dishes. While casual dining options like the World Fresh Marketplace, International Café, pizzerias, and grills are available, the culinary highlights are in the main dining rooms and specialty restaurants, including Kai Sushi, Bistro Sur La Mer, and the Crown Grill. 

Unique experiences like the Chef’s Table and Chocolate Journeys program elevate the dining experience further. Princess is also renowned for what many consider ‘the best pizza at sea’.

The image captures the opulent Chef’s Table Lumiere on the Majestic Princess cruise ship, designed for an exclusive dining experience. The elegantly set table with pristine white chairs is enclosed by a curtain of shimmering light strands, creating a sense of privacy and glamour. Above, an intricate chandelier adds a touch of luxury, and the warm lighting complements the sophisticated ambiance of this intimate culinary setting.
Chef’s Table on Majestic Princess

Carnival’s Dining Experience

Carnival Cruise Line caters to American tastes, featuring casual and hearty dining choices. Dining venues range from 24-hour pizza parlours and soft-serve ice cream at Swirls to burger joints, Mexican cantinas, street food, and the Lido Marketplace. 

Celebrity-endorsed options on select ships include Guy Fieri’s Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que and Shaquille O’Neal’s Big Chicken restaurant. For more formal dining, specialty venues like Emeril’s Bistro 1396 and Bonsai Teppanyaki are available at an additional cost.

The image is of Emeril's Bistro 1396 located on Carnival Celebration, featuring a sophisticated and welcoming dining space. The design carries a modern take on classic bistro aesthetics, with tall arched windows, wood paneling, and decorative ceiling elements. The central pathway with its geometrically patterned flooring guides guests through the space, while the counters on either side display a variety of enticing culinary offerings under warm, elegant lighting fixtures. The venue exudes a sense of contemporary elegance combined with casual dining comfort.
Emeril’s Bistro 1396 on Carnival Celebration

Key Takeaway: 

  • For an elegant and fine dining experience, Princess Cruises is the ideal choice, offering sophisticated venues and unique culinary encounters. Conversely, if casual dining focusing on American favourites like burgers, hot dogs, and fried chicken is more your style, Carnival Cruise Line is the perfect match.

Princess Cruise Line Cabins

Princess Cruises offers a range of cabin options across their fleet, including interior cabins, balcony staterooms, and suites. Balcony rooms on the Discovery Princess, while maintaining a design similar to those from the past two decades, feature upscale furnishings, open-concept closets with ample storage, and a large flat-panel television with complimentary on-demand movies and TV shows. 

Mini-suites on the ship include a full sitting area, an expanded bathroom with a tub and shower combo, and a larger balcony. Standard suites are comfortably spacious and well-appointed, while inside cabins provide a more economical option. Discovery Princess also includes unique Sky Suites, offering exceptional space and amenities​​.

All rooms aboard Discovery Princess are equipped with a safe, interactive flat-panel television, private bathroom with shower, a small desk, and a closet. Bathrooms feature eco-friendly Lotus Spa bath products in dispensers. Cabins are also equipped with electrical and USB outlets for charging devices

The image depicts a warm and inviting Mini Suite on the Discovery Princess cruise ship. It features a family enjoying a relaxed moment together in a well-appointed room with a contemporary design. Natural light floods in through the large window offering a view of the sea, enhancing the cozy ambiance. The breakfast spread on the table and the comfortable seating arrangement suggest a leisurely morning, with the room’s elegant decor providing a backdrop for a luxurious cruise experience.
Mini Suite on Discovery Princess

Carnival Cruise Line Cabins

Carnival Cruise Line’s staterooms cater to various tastes and preferences, offering interior, ocean view, balcony, suite, Family Harbor, Cloud 9 Spa, Havana, and Terrazza room types. This diversity ensures that Carnival can accommodate different guests, from those seeking a simple and cosy room to those looking for more luxurious and themed accommodations​​.

Every Carnival stateroom comes standard with a dedicated attendant, soft linens, climate control, ample storage space, a television, and an in-room safe. Additional comforts like bathrobes are available upon request, ensuring guests have everything they need for a comfortable stay.

Related reading: Carnival Suite vs Balcony Staterooms

The Havana Cabana on Carnival Celebration features a spacious room with a refreshing coastal vibe, complete with a comfortable sofa adorned with colorful pillows, a large window offering ocean views, and vibrant artwork adding a touch of Cuban flair.
Havana Cabana on Carnival Celebration

Key Takeaway:

  • Princess Cruises offers a variety of cabin types, with an emphasis on upscale furnishings and spacious designs, including unique Sky Suites, alongside eco-friendly amenities. Carnival Cruise Line provides a wide range of stateroom options, from standard to themed accommodations, all featuring essential comforts and attentive service to accommodate diverse guest preferences.

Princess Cruise Line Kids Clubs

Princess Cruises offers educational and enriching experiences for children through its partnerships with Discovery and Animal Planet, including unique shore excursions and themed activities. Their kids’ clubs cater to various age groups from 6 months to 20 years, all supervised by trained staff, with special dining events like pizza and ice cream parties for children to enjoy with their peers.

The image shows Camp Discovery, a children's play area on a Princess Cruise ship, designed to engage and entertain young cruisers. The vibrant room boasts a whimsical, nature-inspired decor with a large tree structure, playful animal motifs, and a colorful playhouse. Brightly colored seating and an interactive floor pattern create an inviting environment for children to play and learn. The large screen on the wall and the windows offering a view of the sea suggest an integration of technology and scenic enjoyment, enhancing the interactive experience for kids.

Carnival Cruise Line Kids Clubs

Carnival Cruise Line is packed with family fun, featuring waterslides, mini-golf, live entertainment, and all-day youth activities. With kids’ clubs divided into age-specific programs for 2-11, 12-14, and 15-17 years, Carnival also offers the WaterWorks water park, video arcades, a Build-a-Bear workshop, and the Dr Seuss at Sea program, complete with story times, parades, and themed breakfasts.

Related reading: Best carnival ship for kids

Joyful children running towards the camera on the deck of Carnival WaterWorks, with a colorful waterslide in the background, capturing the excitement and family-friendly fun on a sunny day at sea.

Key Takeaway:

  • Carnival cruises are a haven for kids with their array of activities and dedicated entertainment programs, ideal for families seeking constant fun and engagement. Princess Cruises, on the other hand, provide more educational and age-tailored experiences, suitable for families who prefer a mix of fun and learning or more relaxed activities for younger children and teenagers.

Princess Cruise Line Entertainment

Princess provides an array of daily activities such as dance lessons, wine-tasting seminars, art auctions, casino gaming, shopping, and relaxing in pools and hot tubs.

They also feature outdoor cinema screenings with Movies under the Stars, comedians, magic shows, and diverse performances in modern theatres. A unique highlight is the ‘Voice of the Ocean,’ a take on the popular TV show where guests can participate and compete.

The image depicts the Lido pool area on the Sun Princess cruise ship, set up for a 'Movies Under the Stars' experience. As the sun sets, painting the sky in shades of pink and purple, guests can relax on lounge chairs facing a large outdoor screen. Two inviting pools are illuminated, ready for evening swims, while the deck is lit with ambient lighting, creating a perfect setting for an open-air cinema on the sea. The concept offers a unique way to enjoy entertainment surrounded by the ocean's vastness.

Carnival Cruise Line Entertainment

Carnival, renowned for its ‘fun ships,’ offers non-stop entertainment. Expect activities like mini-golf, water parks, poolside competitions, game shows, casinos, karaoke, and live music, extending well into the night. 

For thrill-seekers, there’s the SkyRide, a high-flying bike track above the ocean, the Bolt rollercoaster, and numerous exciting waterslides.

Recommended reading: 25 Unforgettable Things to Do on Carnival Cruise

Passengers enjoy a thrilling ride on the BOLT Sea Coaster aboard Carnival Mardi Gras, with a sweeping ocean view in the background and the ship's colorful deck below.

Key Takeaway:

  • Carnival Cruise Line is ideal for young adults and those seeking constant fun and excitement, like during Spring Break, with its array of non-stop activities. In contrast, Princess Cruises suits those who prefer a more sophisticated, tranquil cruise experience, offering a mix of relaxation and entertainment. For younger couples, the choice depends on their preference for either the lively atmosphere of Carnival or the more subdued ambience of Princess Cruises.

Princess Cruise Line Pricing

A typical 7-night Caribbean cruise with Princess in a Balcony stateroom averages $1,153 per person. Additional costs include $112 for gratuities and about $525 for a drinks package, bringing the total to approximately $1,780 per person. 

However, Princess offers the ‘Princess Plus’ or ‘Princess Premier Fare’ packages, which, for an additional $60 per person per day, provide an all-inclusive experience with a free drinks package, unlimited wifi, and pre-paid gratuities.

Carnival Cruise Line Pricing

Carnival’s average price for a similar 7-night Caribbean cruise in a Balcony room is around $963 per person. Additional expenses, including $112 for gratuities and $420 for a drinks package, bring the total average cost to about $1,485 per person.

Key Takeaway:

  • While the base prices for both Carnival and Princess Cruises are comparable, Carnival generally offers slightly cheaper options, particularly for budget-conscious travellers in the US seeking short cruises departing from Florida. Princess, on the other hand, provides value through its inclusive package options for those looking for a more comprehensive cruise experience.

You May Also Be Interested In…

If you’re comparing Carnival to other cruise lines, you may also be interested in these articles: Carnival vs MSC, Norwegian vs Carnival, Carnival vs Royal Caribbean or Disney Cruise vs Carnival.

Final Thoughts

Deciding between Princess Cruise Line and Carnival Cruise Line hinges on personal preferences and the type of cruise experience you’re seeking. 

Princess offers a more sophisticated, tranquil experience with an emphasis on educational partnerships and elegant entertainment, making it ideal for those seeking a refined holiday. 

On the other hand, Carnival is perfect for those looking for a vibrant, fun-filled vacation, focusing on energetic entertainment and casual, family-friendly activities. 

Whether you’re drawn to the serene charm of Princess or the lively spirit of Carnival, both cruise lines promise memorable experiences tailored to their unique offerings.

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2 thoughts on “Carnival vs. Princess Cruise Line Showdown”

  1. Hi. I left you another note.
    Can you send me an article on which website to book for the best price and onboard credit please.

    Thank you and I like reading your articles

    Reply
    • Hi Alfred, I’m pleased to hear you like the articles. Unfortunately I do not have an article on this. It’s best to look at the different travel agencies and see which one will offer the best deal. Cruise Critic is also a good resouce to see the latest deals.

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