We pit Princess versus Carnival in a head-to-head showdown.

In a Nutshell

Princess Cruises

Traditional, yet easy-going cruise line with few bells and whistles that aims to put cruisers in a relaxed and rejuvenated state of mind.


Carnival Cruise Line

Family-friendly cruise line for the budget-conscious cruiser who appreciates a "we-don't-take-ourselves-too-seriously" vibe.


Compare by: Fleet | Pricing | Demographics | Itineraries | Cabins | Dining | Pool Deck Fun | Sports Deck Fun | Indoor Fun | Nightlife | Family Focus | Tradition vs Innovation


Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

Pacific Princess (Photo: Princess Cruises)

Princess Cruises

  • 18 ships, three built before 2000.
  • Oldest: Sun Princess (1995).
  • Smallest: Pacific Princess (672 passengers).
  • Largest: Sky Princess (3,660 passengers), Royal Princess, Regal Princess and Majestic Princess (all 3,560 passengers).

Carnival Fascination (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • 25 ships (27 by the end of 2019), nine built before 2000.
  • Oldest: Carnival Fantasy (1990), Carnival Ecstasy (1991).
  • Smallest: Eight Fantasy-class ships (carry 2,052 passengers) -- Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Elation, Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Paradise, Carnival Sensation.
  • Largest: Carnival Panorama (debuting December 2019, 4,008 passengers).

Pricing

Various Credit Cards Displayed (Photo: Oliver Hoffmann/Shutterstock.com)

Princess Cruises: View Princess Cruise Deals

  • Standard fares are in line with industry averages but sales are offered frequently.
  • Pricing includes about one-third to one-half of the restaurants on most ships.
  • Cruise prices include all theater entertainment.

Carnival Cruise Line: View Carnival Cruise Deals

  • Has a reputation for affordable fares, especially on shorter sailings.
  • Pricing includes the main dining room and buffet, as well as most of the alternative restaurants on each ship.
  • Most onboard entertainment included, except the 3D Thrill and IMAX theaters (only available on select ships).

Demographics

Key West (Photo:Stockdonkey/Shutterstock)

Princess Cruises: View Princess Cruises Roll Calls

  • In the Caribbean and Alaska ships draw families, couples and groups of friends in most age brackets.
  • Ships doing exotic itineraries (Diamond Princess, Sun Princess, Pacific Princess) pull in a 55-plus crowd.

Carnival Horizon (Photo: Carnival)

Carnival Cruise Line: View Carnival Roll Calls

  • Mostly families and couples.
  • Average passenger age is 35 to 55 years old.

Itineraries/Destinations/Homeports

Santa Maria beach by Cabo San Lucu (Photo: rhfletcher/Shutterstock)

Princess Cruises: View Princess Itineraries

  • Sails from seven North American mainland ports, varying by season, with no ships stationed at a single port year-round.
  • Sails Mexico, Caribbean, Bahamas and Hawaii itineraries.
  • Offers one of the largest Alaska program in the cruise industry.
  • Europe sailings are available three-fourths of the year including Mediterranean, Baltic and Northern Europe cruises from several European ports.
  • Offers world cruises.
  • Cruises year-round in Australia and Asia.
  • Exotic itineraries include South America, South Pacific, India and Africa.

Whittier (Photo:Andrea Izzotti/Shutterstock)

Carnival Cruise Line: View Carnival Itineraries

  • Sails from 16 ports on the North American mainland regularly, if not always, year-round.
  • Offers Caribbean, Bermuda, Bahamas, Mexico, Alaska and Hawaii cruise itineraries.
  • Will offer Europe cruises starting in 2020.
  • Has two ships sailing out of Australian ports year-round, but they can only be booked through the line's Australia division.
  • No exotic itineraries.

Cabins

Deluxe Balcony Cabin on Regal Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

  • Large selection of room styles to choose from.
  • Unique accommodations include ocean-view suites and minisuites without a balcony (on select ships only).
  • Extensive suite privileges include dinner on-the-house at an alternative restaurant on embarkation night, priority embarkation/debarkation, free laundry, access to the Club Class dining room or a Club Class section in the main dining room (depending on ship) for dinner each night, plus breakfast daily and lunch on sea days, and nightly canapes.
  • Limited family cabin choices include standard rooms with connecting doors, as well as family suites with full baths on select ships.

The Premium Vista Balcony Cabin on Carnival Dream (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • Large standard cabin sizes, slightly larger than the industry average.
  • Room category structure ranges from five categories on the smallest ships to nearly 30 on the largest.
  • Nine ships have Cloud 9 Spa rooms, which come with free fitness classes and access to the spa's thermal suites and thalassotherapy pool, plus discounts on spa treatments on port days.
  • Suite privileges limited to priority embarkation and debarkation.
  • Has limited family accommodations, including some rooms with connecting doors; two ships (Carnival Vista, Horizon and Panorama) offer family-specific cabins that include insides, oceanviews and balconies that can hold up to five people.

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Dining

Sabatini's on Golden Princess (Photo: Caroline Gladstone)

Princess Cruises

  • Every ship has one designated traditional main dining room (early and late seatings), while one or more dining rooms is for the more flexible Anytime Dining (except on Pacific Princess, which only offers Traditional).
  • Growing number of alternative restaurants throughout the fleet with most not included in the cruise fare; others, like Alfredo's Pizzeria and the International Cafe, are complimentary.
  • Partnered with celebrity chef Curtis Stone to add "Crafted by Curtis" menu items to the main dining room, as well as a Share by Curtis Stone restaurant on three ships.
  • Partnered with chocolatier Norman Love to offer special chocolate desserts and drinks.
  • The in-room, fine-dining Ultimate Balcony Dining experience (breakfast and dinner) is available for a fee to anyone in a room with a balcony.
  • At least one formal night per cruise requiring passengers to dress up for dinner (or eat in the buffet where casual attire is acceptable).

The Point Steakhouse on Carnival Conquest (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • Offers fixed and flexible main dining room options.
  • Ships have a handful of alternative restaurants. Some -- like Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina -- are included in the cruise fare; others cost extra including Cucina del Capitano, Seafood Shack, Bonsai Sushi, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen and The Steakhouse. Most ships feature just one or two for-fee restaurants; Carnival Sunshine, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista have more.
  • Partnered with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, whose Guy's Burger Joint can be found on 24 ships in the fleet (25 by end of 2019) and whose Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que is on five ships (seven by the end of 2019).
  • At least one formal night per cruise on which cruisers are asked to dress up for dinner (or eat in the buffet where casual dress is more acceptable).

Pool Deck Fun

Neptune's Reef & Pool on Ruby Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

  • At least three pools on almost all ships, including a less-trafficked aft pool; several ships have a pool with a retractable roof.
  • Most ships have a minimum of five hot tubs.
  • All ships (except Pacific Princess) provide at least one kids' splash pool.
  • Silly poolside games on ships sailing the Caribbean.
  • Adults-only Sanctuary (many with a pool) offers a quiet soaking/sun deck alternative for a fee.
  • Movies shown daily on the top sun deck as part of Movies Under the Stars.

Waves Pool on Carnival Dream (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • All ships have at least one pool; several also have an aft pool.
  • 16 ships have the top-deck WaterWorks water park (17 by end of 2019), featuring a variety of water slides, another six have a single water slide.
  • Poolside fun includes hairy chest, sexy legs and belly flop contests.
  • Most ships have pool decks with several food and drink venues on hand, including RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar.

Sports Deck Fun

Sport Courts on Ruby Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

  • All ships have jogging tracks and shuffleboard; most also have a Center Court with basketball and volleyball.
  • Most ships have some type of golf offering from a practice cage to a nine-hole putting course.

Putt Putt Golf on Carnival Dream (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • All ships have mini-golf courses, and several have basketball or volleyball courts.
  • Four ships feature adrenaline-pumping ropes courses (six by end of 2019).
  • Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Panorama (when it debuts in December 2019) offer the SkyRide, on which riders race each other on aerial recumbent bikes around an 800-foot suspended track, some 150 feet above the sea.

Indoor Fun

Piazza on Emerald Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

  • Daily fun can include trivia, arts and crafts, dance classes, bingo and  Voice of the Ocean rehearsals (where guests compete in a singing competition via a partnership with TV's "The Voice," on select ships only).
  • Destination-specific lectures and programs (like North to Alaska or Local Connections) on destination-rich itineraries.
  • Several ships feature a multi-deck piazza-style atrium, a hub for dining and entertainment.

Hasbro's Game Show in Ovation Theater on Carnival Breeze (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • Daily fun includes trivia, bingo, cooking demos, dance classes, the interactive Hasbro the Game Show, cocktail-mixing lessons and martini tastings.
  • Select ships (Breeze, Vista, Horizon) have a 3D Thrill Theater; Vista and Horizon also have an IMAX (cover charges applies for both).

Nightlife

"Hello, Dolly!" Performance in Princess Theater on Star Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises

  • Partnership with Oscar winner and composer of "Wicked," "Pippin" and "Godspell" Stephen Schwartz, has resulted in three made-for-Princess theater shows, available only on select ships.
  • All ships offer musical revue-style shows, as well as occasional comedy or magic acts.
  • Piano or small act music shows perform nightly in virtually every bar and lounge.
  • Vines wine bar offers a sizeable list of varietals along with wine-and-chocolate pairings.
  • All ships have a nighttime dance club.

Punchliner Comedy Club (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line

  • 23 ships feature Playlist Production theater shows (24 by end of 2019), which are short, 30-minute, highly visual musical performances that run twice on the days they're offered.
  • On ships without Playlist Productions, theater shows are musical revue-style song-and-dance spectacles.
  • All ships have the Punchliner Comedy Club, offering nightly family-friendly and adults-only comedy routines.
  • Dive-In movies offered poolside.
  • All ships have a nightclub featuring DJs trained by DJ Irie, the official DJ of the Miami Heat.
  • The Piano Bar is great for hoot-and-holler sing-alongs, while the Sports Bar is the spot onboard to catch a game or have a brew.

Family Focus

Princess' Camp Discovery on Majestic Princess (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Princess Cruises: Princess Family Cruise Reviews

  • Three kids clubs for smaller kids, tweens and teens.
  • A Discovery Channel partnership provides shipboard and shore excursion programs for kids themed around TV shows on Discovery, Animal Planet, the Learning Channel and the Science Channel.
  • All ships (excepting Pacific Princess) have a kids' splash pool; select vessels have teen-only hot tubs.
  • Self-service laundry rooms for easy cleaning of kids' clothing.
  • Select ships offer two-room family suites.

Suess-a-Palooza Storytime and Parade (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line: Carnival Family Cruise Reviews

  • Genuinely family-friendly.
  • The Seuss at Sea program comprises several activities, including the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast, Seussapalooza costume parade and Dr. Seuss movie screenings; Carnival Freedom, Horizon, Vista and Panorama (when it launches at the end of 2019) also have a Dr. Seuss' Bookville, a reading area and play space for kids and their parents.
  • Kids clubs include programs for smaller kids (2 to 11), tweens (12 to 14) and teens (15 to 17).
  • Teen girls will love getting their hair styled or mani-pedis at the teens-only ZSPA (select ships only).
  • Teens can learn to DJ with Spin U.
  • Nighttime babysitting is available for a fee with the Night Owls program.

Tradition vs Innovation

Princess Cruises

  • Offers a refined, traditional onboard experience that includes main dining rooms, limited specialty restaurants and song-and-dance revue-style theater shows.
  • Two ships (Royal and Regal Princess) have the SeaWalk, a see-through glass walkway suspended off one side of the ship 16 decks above the water.

Carnival Cruise Line

  • Values cruising traditions like set main dining room times, poolside fun and North American-based cruising.
  • Handful of innovations include ropes courses on four ships (the first at sea was on Carnival Breeze) and SkyRide (a mid-air, suspended bike course), which can be found on Carnival Horizon and Vista.