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Cruise vacations are some of my family’s favorite vacations. Granted, we have only been on two cruises as a family of four, but I can already tell we’ll be cruisers for life. A few years ago, we went sailing on a Carnival Cruise ship for the first time, I’ve had a lot of folks ask me about it.

4 Reasons to Sail Carnival Cruise Lines

I’ve narrowed down my reasons for choosing this particular cruise line over others, but I’m also going to give my honest assessment of why not to choose Carnival. These are the most important pros and cons of sailing Carnival Cruise Lines.

Itinerary and Ship Variety

Carnival Cruise Lines is one of the biggest cruise lines in the industry. With over 25 ships in operation and several ports and unique itineraries, Carnival gives cruisers choices.

Carnival Fantasy Cruise ship docked at sea.

One of the biggest reasons we chose to sail with Carnival was the proximity of the port to our home. Mobile, Alabama has recently opened it’s doors again to Carnival, and it only takes my family about four hours or so to get to the port. Combine the choice of departure ports with the variety of itineraries available, and a customized vacation is readily at your fingertips.

Dining Options

Another reason to sail with Carnival is the flexibility and options for dining. My family was used to formal dining times, so it was a pleasant surprise to be assigned “Your Time” dining. “Your Time” dining allows cruisers to dine anytime between 5:45-9pm, which makes getting everyone dressed and ready to go much less stressful than a hard and fast deadline.

Dining is an adventure when sailing with Carnival Cruise Line

We also loved, loved, LOVED Guy’s Burger Joint and the Blue Iguana Cantina. Fresh tacos and juicy burgers were perfect poolside treats.

Budget Friendly

With some rates as low as $50 per night, Carnival cruises are incredibly budget friendly. Working with a travel agent can save you significant time and money when it comes to choosing the right cruise for your family.

Outdoor pool on deck of Carnival Fantasy

It also helps that Carnival has a large fleet that sails out of many different ports, which helps save on travel expenses even before you arrive!

The Fun Ships

Carnival’s tagline is “The Fun Ships” and boy are they ever. There is always something going on for cruisers of all ages, it’s sometimes difficult to pick just what you want to do. The girls loved hanging out in Camp Ocean.

Sign for Camp Ocean, kids camp on Carnival Cruise Lines.

Neil and I were able to relax on the adults only Serenity deck, catch a movie in the lounge, or watch one of the incredible Broadway-style shows in the main theater each night. There’s also the option to lounge on the deck and do nothing at all. The possibilities are endless.

3 Reasons Not to Sail Carnival Cruise Lines

Ok, so here is where I lay it all out there in terms of my expectations for this particular cruise. Just over a year prior, we had the time of our lives celebrating the girls’ 5th birthday while sailing on the Disney Magic. I knew to temper my expectations for Carnival, but it was still difficult not to compare the two cruise lines after all was said and done.

Attention to Detail

Probably the biggest difference I saw between Carnival and Disney was the attention to detail. It was small things that stood out to me. Too often, we passed tables in the buffet area that were unusable because they were still piled high with plates.

Beachside chairs

Finding a deck chair was difficult some days because it seemed like no one was enforcing the “40 minutes away” courtesy time limit. Nothing earth shattering, but still annoying nonetheless.

The Fun Ships

This may seem counterintuitive as I just mentioned how fun it was, but I’m older and less fun now (ha!), so I have to mention it. Carnival is known for being the college/co-ed spring break party ship, and it definitely still lives up to that reputation. The party doesn’t seem to stop. Ever. Which is great when you’re 22 and wild and fancy free. It’s irritating when you’re trying to get your kids to sleep and people are running up and down the hallways in the middle of the night. Again, it didn’t happen every night, but it was still a big difference from our previous cruise.

Affordable, Sort Of

Finally, I need to be honest with you about the cost. We spent just as much on our 5 day Carnival Cruise Line vacation as we did on our 3 day Disney Cruise Line vacation. Why? Because Carnival nickels and dimes you to death. It’s obvious why they’re so inexpensive to book initially.

Carnival Cruise Lines top deck smoke stack.

They’re counting on you to get on board and spend the rest of your money there because you don’t have anywhere else to spend it. Here’s my best tip for your future travels: don’t buy a soda card. When you fancy one, pay out of pocket. We didn’t drink near the amount of sodas we thought we would to make the cards worth it. That would have saved us over $100 right there.

Will We Sail Again?

So this big question is always, will we sail Carnival again? All in all, our experience was a positive one. We made some rookie mistakes, even though we aren’t rookie cruisers, and our expectations and outcomes were not as we hoped, but it was not a bad vacation. For the amount we spent and the fun of being with friends and family, we would definitely do it again.