The McDonald's of cruising, Carnival's got the most recognized name in the biz and serves up a very casual, down-to-earth, middle-American Caribbean vacation. Food and service are pretty decent considering the huge numbers served, and Carnival gets points for trying to offer a higher-quality vacation than in years past, with upgraded cabin bedding, classier dishware in the buffet restaurants, and Wi-Fi access throughout each ship.
On most ships in the fleet, you'll find a sushi bar, supper club, wine bar, coffee bar, and great amenities for children. Like the frat boy who graduated to a button-down shirt and an office job, Carnival has definitely moved up and on to some extent. But like that reformed frat boy who still likes to meet his old pals for happy hour every week, Carnival hasn't lost touch with its past. Sure, the line's decor, like its clientele, has mellowed to some degree since its riotous, party-hearty beginnings, but each ship is still an exciting, bordering-on-nutty collage of textures, shapes, and images. Where else but on these floating playlands would you find a giant octopus-like chandelier with lights that change color, bar stools designed to look like baseball bats, or real oyster-shell wallpaper? The outrageousness of the decor is part of the fun. Evolved, yes; dull, no.
When you're hankering for an utterly unpretentious and totally laid-back cruise, Carnival's colorful, jumbo-size resort ships deliver plenty of bang for the buck. If you like the flash of Vegas and a serious party vibe, you'll love Carnival's brand of flamboyant fun.
Sails to: Caribbean, Mexican Riviera, Alaska, Canada/New England, Hawaii (plus Europe, transatlantic).
Address: 3655 NW 87th Ave., Miami, FL 33178-2428
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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.