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Best Overall: Carnival Glory "The 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory is one of Carnival’s older but well-loved ships."
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Carnival Vista "Has a large amount of repeat Carnival cruisers and offers nonstop action onboard."
Best Budget: Carnival Conquest "Known for budget-friendly rates and short cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean."
Best Design: Carnival Dream "Offers the best of both worlds: tons of fun activities and plenty of ways to relax."
Best Experience: Carnival Legend "A great ship for branching out and trying a cruise to Alaska or the Mediterranean."
Best New Ship: Carnival Sunrise "Every cabin on Sunrise is remodeled with fresh new furnishings, and dining and beverage additions."
Best Amenities: Carnival Miracle "One space that stands out – well, two spaces – are the two promenades on Miracle."
Best Accommodations: Carnival Horizon "Accommodations include the Family Harbor, dedicated family staterooms with their own lounge and concierge, and the Cloud 9 spa staterooms."
Our Top Picks
Best Overall: Carnival Glory
Built in 2003, the 2,980-passenger Carnival Glory is one of Carnival’s older but well-loved ships, and while parts of Glory show its age, refurbishments have helped maintain its appeal. The majority of dining options on Glory are bundled into the fare including some of the cruise line’s newer venues like Blue Iguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint. All-inclusive dining used to be the norm on other mainstream cruises, but as newer vessels launch so do added a la carte options. As Glory sails from New Orleans to the Western Caribbean there’s plenty to do onboard like comedy shows, dive-in movies (watching movies from the pool), and the Waterworks playground. Glory is also one of the fleet’s more affordable ships, which is why it's our best overall pick.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Carnival Vista
Sailing from Galveston, Vista often has a large amount of repeat Carnival cruisers and is nonstop action onboard. As the first ship in the Vista class, the 3,936-passenger Vista set the bar high for sisters Horizon (in 2018) and Panorama (late 2019). Vista has plenty of unique “at sea” experiences like 4D Thrill Theater, complete with 3D glasses and added effects – air blowing, mist, and other sensory experiences to make the passengers feel like they are part of the film. There’s also Sky Ride (bikes suspended in the air), Kaleid-o-Slide (the light-show waterslide), and an IMAX theater.
Best Budget: Carnival Conquest
Perfect for those interested in trying cruising for the first time, the 2,980-passenger Carnival Conquest is known for budget-friendly rates and short cruises to the Bahamas and Caribbean. While Carnival Conquest has some of the Fun Ship 2.0 features like the Blue Iguana Tequila bar (and Cantina), Guy’s Burger Joint, Red Frog Rum Bar and the Alchemy Bar – you won’t find the buzzworthy amenities like Sky Bikes or 4D theaters that you do on the newer ships. Passengers will have to pay close attention to the daily activity schedule, as most of the fun onboard is all about getting passengers out of the deck chair and actively involved.
Best Design: Carnival Dream
At 3,646 passengers, Carnival Dream is one of the fleet’s larger vessels yet its brilliant design lends itself to a lot of quiet places. Which means you get the best of both worlds here: tons of fun activities and plenty of ways to relax. There’s a wrap-around promenade on deck 5 with whirlpools that extend off the sides and the adults-only lounge, plus plenty of lounge chairs to enjoy the sea breeze. The children’s center is massive – with a dedicated club for tweens and another for teens plus a sprawling waterpark with a 300-foot twisting slide. On Dream, passengers can choose from two Guy Fieri venues– both included in the fare, as well as the Pizzeria del Capitano, and the BlueIguana Cantina.
Best Experience: Carnival Legend
In addition to a fair share of Caribbean cruises, 2,124-passenger Carnival Legend is a great ship for branching out and trying a cruise to Alaska or the Mediterranean. Legend debuted in 2002 (refurbished in 2014) and offers a well-rounded cruise experience. Guests can grab a pint at the RedFrog Pub, sample Japanese cuisine at Bonsai Sushi, or pick up desserts and candy at the Cherry on ice sweet shop. On the top deck is the Waterworks park complete with the Green Thunder water slide, with a 34-foot drop and speeds of 25 miles an hour. Legend hosts a slew of daytime and evening activities including Playlist Productions (popular musical hits on stage), and Hasbro, The Game Show – offers live performances of iconic television game shows.
Best New Ship: Carnival Sunrise
Fresh off a $200 million refurbishment, the changes to the Carnival Triumph were so dramatic that the ship needed a new identity, and so in 2019 Triumph was reborn as Sunrise (and is now part of the Sunshine class of ships). Every cabin on Sunrise was remodeled with fresh new furnishings, and dining and beverage additions such as Cucina del Capitano, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Express, and Red Frog Pub. A new Sports Court was installed with mini golf, a ropes course, and Waterworks. In the evenings, head over to the multi-functional Liquid Lounge or the Limelight Lounge, home to the Punchliner Comedy club. Sunrise sails from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bahamas, Cuba, and other Caribbean itineraries plus Bermuda cruises from New York in the fall.
Best Amenities: Carnival Miracle
Built in 2013, the mid-sized Carnival Miracle doesn’t yet have all the 2.0 features as her fellow fleet members, but delivers a fantastic cruise. One space that stands out – well, two spaces – are the two promenades on Miracle: an interior promenade with window-lined seating and a whimsical garden theme, and the exterior open-air promenade that’s ideal for joggers. There’s also the popular SkyBox Sports Bar for catching the big game or the sophisticated Alchemy Bar for craft cocktails. Passengers can play and Interactive game of CLUE: The Murder Mystery, that’s woven throughout the voyage. Miracle sails from San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco to the Mexican Riviera but also has seven-night Caribbean cruises from Tampa.
Best Accommodations: Carnival Horizon
Carnival’s newest ship sails from Miami with even more accommodation choices, including the Family Harbor, dedicated family staterooms with their own lounge and concierge, and the Cloud 9 spa staterooms with unlimited access to the spa’s thermal suites. The luxurious Havana suites come with swinging hammock chairs on the balconies and exclusive daytime access to the hip Havana Bar and lounge. The lounge has a South Beach vibe on the outside with chaise lounges, a pool and cocktail bar that transforms into a nightclub in the evening, while the inside feels like a nostalgic Cuban cigar bar. Horizon also has a live Lip Sync Battle (a stage version of the hit Spike TV series), and dazzling playlist productions.