In the old days, Carnival was basically a floating college frat house: our coauthor Heidi sailed in 1996 when more than 500 graduating high-school seniors practically took over (and ruined) a cruise on the old Celebration. She still gets nightmares. However, guidelines implemented in early 1997 put a stop to all of that, mandating that no one age 20 and under can sail unless sharing a cabin with an adult 26 and over, with exceptions made for married couples and young people traveling with their parents in separate cabins. So, while you'll still find teen groups on board (especially Mar-June), things are not what they were.
A Carnival cruise is a huge melting pot -- couples, singles, and families; young, old, and lots in between. We've met doctors on Carnival cruises as well as truck drivers. And no matter what their profession, you'll see people wearing everything from Ralph Lauren shirts and Gucci sunglasses to Harley-Davidson tank tops and eyebrow studs. Carnival estimates about 30% of passengers are under age 35, another 40% are between 35 and 55, and 30% are over age 55. A high percentage of all passengers are first-time cruisers. Although it's one of the best lines to choose if you're single, Carnival's ships certainly aren't overrun by singles -- families and couples are definitely in the majority. The line's 3-, 4-, and 5-night cruises tend to attract the most families with kids and the highest number of 20- and 30-something single friends traveling together in groups.
Regardless of their age, passengers tend to be young at heart, ready to party, and keyed up for nonstop fun and games. Many have visited the casinos of Las Vegas and Atlantic City and the resorts of Cancun and Jamaica, and are no strangers to soaking in sardine-can hot tubs, sunbathing, hitting the piña coladas and beer before lunch, and dancing late into the night.
The typical Carnival passenger likes to dress casual, even at dinner, with sweat suits, jeans, and T-shirts just as prevalent as Dockers, sundresses, and Hush Puppies on all but formal nights -- and even on formal nights, it's not uncommon for some passengers to run back to their cabins to change out of their dressier duds and put on shorts or jeans before heading out to the discos and bars. Tuxedos are in the minority here. A few don't even bother with dressing up at all, even on formal nights. A hotel director on the Carnival Liberty told Heidi about the restaurant dress codes. "We're very flexible on this," he said, adding that they draw the line only at bathing suits, and T-shirts or hats with "bad words." Otherwise, just about anything goes
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