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Your guide to Carnival Cruise Line – what you need to know

Author: Susan Johnson

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Carnival Cruise Line is an affordable cruise line that emphasizes quirky fun. If you are sailing on Carnival for the first time, you’re sure to have some questions about what the experience is like.

Carnival Cruise Line is a major cruise line that has been around since 1972.

The brand is popular with families who travel on a budget, alongside being famous for onboard attractions such as water parks, cooking classes, casinos and more.

With the aim to cater to travellers looking for a fun experience than high-end luxury, Carnival cruise ships offer a laid-back, family-friendly vibe.

This is what you need to know about Carnival Cruise Line.

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Meet the Carnival Cruise Line fleet

Carnival’s fleet comprises 24 ships and, based on the ship, your ideal holiday can vary greatly. Carnival Sensation, built-in 1993 and sailing from Alabama, is one of the cruise line’s oldest and smallest ships. Though it was later refurbished, it is still smaller and offers fewer amenities than Carnival’s newer ships.

The newer Vista-class ships including Carnival Horizon are twice the size of the Carnival Fantasy and hold a lot more features – from restaurants and larger venues to IMAX theatres, as well as the Havana Bar, pool area, and more.

- READ MORE: What’s onboard Carnival Celebration cruise ship? -

Carnival cruise ship Mardi Gras is part of Carnival’s Excel Class. It joined the fleet in 2021 and took things to the next level. Nearly $1billion was spent to build it. With the ability to carry around 6,500 passengers, it was the first cruise ship to hold a roller-coaster, alongside other amenities such as new eateries. Carnival cruise ships Celebration and Jubilee are also included in the same class and are sister ships to Mardi Gras.

Nearly two-thirds of Carnival’s fleet were built around the year 2000 and later. And these ships offer more of everything to passengers.

With a fleet made up of a variety of sizes and themes, make sure to decide what Carnival ship is best for your holiday. Credit: Shutterstock

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Carnival cruises ports and itineraries

Apart from their private island destinations, cruise lines mostly sail to the same ports. So, regardless of the cruise line you choose to sail with, you will usually come across similar ports of call.

Carnival cruises sail to the Caribbean, Bahamas, as well as Mexico and Alaska, among many others. Voyages that depart from Florida ports go either of the two ways – east to the Bahamas (with stops in Nassau, Freeport, or nearby ports) or to the Southwest, taking passengers to the Caribbean and Yucatan. The popular ports here include Cozumel, Jamaica and Grand Cayman.

- READ MORE: Jamaica Port Guide: A complete guide of what to see & do in Jamaica -

Carnival cruises that sail from the Gulf Coast (Mobile, Galveston or New Orleans) often head to the Yucatan and Southern Caribbean. Ports of call include Costa Maya, Belize, Cozumel, Progreso and Roatan.

Alaskan Carnival cruises depart from Seattle, stopping in Canada and other ports in Alaska. Sailing from Los Angeles means shorter trips to the western Mexico ports like Ensenada.

Carnival Cruise Line also offers shorter cruises in addition to the classic seven-day journeys. A lot of their voyages are three to five days in length, making them an ideal cruise line for those in search of a quick and inexpensive getaway.

Take a Carnival cruise around the Caribbean and immerse yourself in the bright blue waters. Credit: Shutterstock

Gratuities on Carnival cruises

As with most other cruise lines, you have to pay gratuities when sailing on board Carnival. You will typically be billed automatically before you set foot on the ship.

Currently, the pricing runs around £10 per person, per day. So, you will be paying approximately an extra £53 per person in addition to your five-day cruise fare. The amount for suites is circa £12 per person, and all passengers except children under two years are charged these amounts.

- READ MORE: Which cruises are best for holidays with children? -

Dress code on Carnival cruises

You can wear casual clothes most of the time onboard Carnival Cruises. Think long skirts and trousers, dresses and tops for women, shorts, polo shirts, and t-shirts for men. Flat shoes with rubber soles and low heel are ideal as the decks can be slippery. When heading to grab meals, something more elegant will be ideal.

On most evenings, the dress code is Cruise Casual. Men can wear dress trousers, elegant shorts, jeans, or polo shirts, whereas women can be comfortable in casual dresses, skirts or trousers, and blouses, elegant shorts, summer dresses, or jeans. However, tracksuit trousers, flip-flops, basketball shorts, bathing clothes, or cut-off jeans aren’t allowed.

On one or two evenings, the dress code changes to Cruise Elegant. You can seize this opportunity to dress up on these evenings in suits, tuxedos, evening gowns, or trouser suits.

Consider a specialty suite when traveling with family for the extra room and comfort. Credit: Shutterstock

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Carnival cabins and suites

Carnival cruises offer several accommodation options. So, regardless of your preferences, you will find a suitable cabin type. Some staterooms can be configured to accommodate more people too. Other rooms come with an extra half-bathroom, connecting rooms, or modifications to suit accessibility needs.

- READ MORE: How to choose the best cabins for your needs -

  • Interior Cabins – The most affordable cruising option, these are the smallest rooms without any windows or balconies.
  • Ocean View – Larger than staterooms, Ocean View cabins come with a window and can fit up to five people.
  • Balcony – The nicest staterooms before suites, each room features a private balcony and is much bigger.
  • Suites – The largest cabins have their own balcony and can sleep up to five guests. They also come with a host of exclusive amenities.
  • Speciality Suites – A step up from traditional suites, these are ideal for families with kids or couples looking for more outdoor space. Furthermore, speciality suites come with exclusive amenities.
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