Carnival Cruise Line has built a reputation for fun and lively cruises at a low price point, attracting everyone from young adults looking for a party to families wanting an escape. Its ships depart from major cities around the U.S,, including New York, Miami, and Los Angeles, with a variety of itineraries that range from two-day cruises to 15-day itineraries, with many of the ships hitting popular ports in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, and Mexico.
When it comes to atmosphere, each ship channels a bit of Vegas flair with bright festive décor — for better or for worse. That look is starting to go by the wayside, though. Carnival Vista, which launched in spring 2016, ushered in a whole new, more tasteful look for Carnival ships, and as older vessels are renovated and refit, the — let's be honest — tacky patterned wallpaper and carpets are being replaced with more subdued tones.
The party atmosphere still lives on, though. Especially by the pool, where an MC gets the crowd riled up to participate in the contests and games, all accompanied the the beat from the DJ. You'll also find whirlpools and waterslides, while some of the larger ships have full water parks. Active cruisers can use the jogging tracks, minigolf courses, basketball courts, pingpong tables, and fitness centers that come standard on most ships.
Nighttime revelry is wide-reaching on the ships that have various bars, clubs, restaurants, casinos, lounges, live shows, and theatrical productions. The Punchliner Comedy Club brings in rising stars and established comedians to perform 35-minute sets on multiple nights during each sailing. Two early shows are PG-rated, while the late shows are less so, and strictly only for those 18 or older. In 2014, Carnival raised the bar on entertainment options with the debut of Carnival Live. Certain sailings with port stops in St. Thomas, Cozumel, Nassau, Grand Cayman, and Montego Bay bring in famous musicians and comedians for onboard performances in the ships’ theaters. Past guests have included Journey, Kathy Griffin, and Lionel Richie.
You'll need a lot of fuel to keep you going. Aside from the traditional dining rooms and buffet, Carnival's specialty venues include an impressive steakhouse, as well as Italian, Asian, and seafood restaurants. Carnival also teamed up with Food Network star Guy Fieri back in 2011 to launch Guy's Burger Joint, which serves complimentary burgers and fries from a poolside stand. The partnership proved so popular that the burger spots are being added to many ships during renovations, and Carnival Magic now has a Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse from Fieri as well. Other eateries that have become Carnival staples include the casual Mexican restaurant BlueIguana Cantina and the lively RedFrog Pub, which serves the line's own beer, ThirstyFrog Red. Carnival Vista also has a brewery, where three signature ales are crafted.
Although there is a prevalent party vibe on board, these ships are family-friendly. Kids clubs include Camp Carnival (for ages 2 to 11), Circle C (for ages 12 to 14), and Club O2 (for ages 15 to 17) that have supervised, age-appropriate activities from morning to night. The line also offers Seuss at Sea, which brings Dr. Seuss characters to life with character meet and greets, story time performances, and even an interactive parade. The popular “Green Eggs and Ham” breakfasts transform one of the dining rooms into a whimsical feast with actual green eggs and other brightly colored food and decorations.
While the kids are occupied with arcade games, scavenger hunts, and themed parties, the grown-ups can get some peace and quiet at the Serenity retreat. All of the ships, with the exception of Carnival Conquest and Carnival Triumph, have one of these adults-only areas. Depending on the ship, amenities can include chaise lounges, hammocks, daybeds, pools, whirlpools, and even complimentary salad stations.