Carnival Cruise Line: The Complete Guide

Best known for its Caribbean cruises, Carnival offers family-friendly voyages to a variety of global destinations.
Alisha McDarris
By Alisha McDarris 
Published
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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If you’re thinking of booking a Carnival cruise, be it on the new Carnival Celebration or any of Carnival's other massive ships, here’s what to expect and how to enjoy your time at sea.

If you’re not yet familiar with the cruise line, there’s lots to learn about the company. It has been around since 1972 and is part of the Carnival family of cruise lines that includes Princess, Holland America and Cunard.

About Carnival cruises

With plenty of routes from the U.S. and international destinations, countless member benefits and a wide selection of cabins to choose from, you’re sure to find the perfect cruise for you.

  • Cabin types: There are a number of different cabin types to choose from depending on which ship you’re on, including interior rooms, ocean view rooms, balconies or suites. There are sometimes even themed or spa rooms.

  • Main U.S. routes: Carnival is best known for its Caribbean cruises, most of which depart from Florida, Texas or Louisiana.

  • Points currency and loyalty program: Carnival’s loyalty program is called VIFP Club (Very Important Fun Person). Members earn benefits like special offers, a free drink on board, priority boarding, cabin upgrades and more. Perks increase the more you sail.

Carnival cruise destinations

Carnival may be best known for its Caribbean cruises, but ships depart from every coast in the U.S., and Carnival ships sail to dozens of destinations all around the world, including transatlantic and transpacific routes. Expect to sail to such destinations as:

  • Alaska.

  • Asia.

  • Australia.

  • Bahamas.

  • Bermuda.

  • Canada.

  • Caribbean.

  • Europe.

  • Greenland.

  • Hawaii.

  • Mexico.

  • New Zealand.

  • Pacific Islands.

  • Panama Canal.

  • Papua New Guinea.

There are cruises as brief as two days and some as long as 31 days, depending on where you’re headed.

Carnival cruise prices

Depending on where you’re headed, prices for cruises vary based on:

  • Carnival cruise rooms.

  • Carnival ship classes.

  • Destination.

  • Length of trip. 

A four-day trip from Miami to the Caribbean might cost under $200 for an interior cabin while a 10-day trip from Sydney, Australia to the Great Barrier Reef might start at $450 and go up from there.

The time of year you sail matters, too. For example, an off-season cruise to the Bahamas in February might cost $189 while the same cruise in June could be $684 for the same cabin on the same ship.

Likewise, the nicer the cabin, the higher the price. An interior room might cost $469 while a suite costs $1,799.

What is the best Carnival ship?

Carnival has an impressive fleet of vessels and adds more every year. There are currently 24 ships with more maiden voyages scheduled later this year. Which one is the best depends on what you’re after.

If it’s family fun you want, the Carnival Breeze or Carnival Freedom may be just the thing. For luxury, it’s the Carnival Liberty. If the ship is more important than the route, take a look at Carnival’s ship lineup and what each has to offer, plus where they sail.

What is the newest Carnival ship?

The Carnival Celebration ship, which sails to the Caribbean from Miami, is the line’s newest ship, and debatably the best carnival cruise ship.

The Excel-class ship features an on-board roller coaster, can transport 5,282 passengers, has 20 dining venues, a dozen bars and lounges and is only the second Carnival ship to use liquid natural gas as fuel — a more eco-friendly fuel source.

What’s included on a Carnival cruise?

On any Carnival cruise you can expect the following to be included with your booking:

  • A stateroom based on your booking selection.

  • Three meals a day. 

  • Free non-bottled water, lemonade, iced tea, hot chocolate and some coffees and teas.

  • Fitness center.

  • Shows and entertainment.

  • Pools and other water-based fun.

  • Youth programs.

Carnival loyalty program: VIFP

Carnival’s loyalty program is called VIFP which means Very Important Fun Person. Members earn benefits like special offers, a free drink on board, priority boarding, cabin upgrades and more. Perks increase with every sailing.

VIFP levels

The VIFP Club has five levels: Blue, Red, Gold, Platinum and Diamond.

Blue

  • How to earn: Sail once.

  • Best benefit: Members-only offers.

Red

  • How to earn: Two sailings for 24 points.

  • Best benefit: Complimentary 1.5 liter bottle of water.

Gold

  • How to earn: Earn 25-74 points.

  • Best benefit: A free drink on 5+ day cruises.

Platinum

  • How to earn: Earn 75-199 points.

  • Best benefit: VIFP Party on 5+ day sailings with complimentary drinks.

Diamond

  • How to earn: Earn 200+ points.

  • Best benefit: One-time free cabin upgrade OR third and fourth guests sail free.

How to earn VIFP points

Earn one point for every day you spend cruising. The more you cruise, the faster you earn.

How to redeem VIFP points

VIFP points are earned and credited to your account automatically. Some benefits are linked to your Sail & Sign account and credits or perks will be applied when the benefits are redeemed.

Carnival Credit Card

While it won’t earn you VIFP points, the Carnival World Mastercard is a way to earn FunPoints, which you can use like cash toward your next cruise booking.

Earn 20,000 FunPoints after your first purchase or balance transfer, which is worth a $200 statement credit towards your next cruise. You’ll then earn 2 points per dollar on Carnival and partner cruise lines and 1 point per dollar on everything else.

How to Redeem FunPoints

You can cash in your FunPoints by applying them as statement credits toward any Carnival purchases you make over $50, including:

  • Additional travel expenses.

  • Bookings.

  • Carnival cruise excursions.

  • Additional travel expenses.

  • Onboard amenities and more.

To use them, you can log into your Barclays account online or call to redeem points after you’ve made a purchase.

Point value varies depending on how much you’re spending. For example:

  • Carnival purchases between $50.00-$1,499.99 have a 1.00% redemption value.

  • Carnival purchases between $1,500-$5,000 have a 1.50% redemption value.

  • Purchases with other World’s Leading Cruise Lines cruises have a 1% redemption value.

  • Airline or hotel statement credits have a .90% redemption value.

Frequently asked questions

Wi-Fi doesn’t come free on Carnival ships. To get connected, you’ll have to purchase a Wi-Fi package, which you can do in advance of your trip or on board, which may cost more. Expect to pay from $12.75-$22 per day per device.

All Carnival ships include food and beverages, though there are speciality dining and beverage options and packages on most ships that cost extra.

There are two drink packages you can purchase on Carnival cruises: Bottomless Bubbles and Cheers!

  • Bottomless Bubbles offers unlimited soda during your voyage for $6.95 per day for children and $9.95 per day for adults.

  • Cheers! offers a flat price for alcoholic (and speciality non-alcoholic) beverages throughout your trip for $59.95 per person per day.

For cruises that last 15 days or less, neither pre-cruise COVID testing nor vaccinations are required for children or adults cruising with Carnival.

For cruises longer than 15 days, depending on the destination, guests may be required to provide proof of vaccination and/or a negative test prior to embarkation.

Make sure to check the details of your booking to ensure you abide by current rules.

What is Carnival Cruise Line known for?

Carnival Cruise Line offers many budget-friendly sailings, many of which are designed with families in mind. Especially if you want to cruise to and around the Caribbean, Carnival is possibly the cruise line for you.

(Top photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)


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