P&O v Carnival

Can't decide between two of Australia's most popular cruise lines?

Cruise Critic takes the guesswork out of choosing the best local cruise for you with our definitive breakdown of P&O Cruises versus Carnival Cruise Line Australia.

In a Nutshell

P&O Australia

Family-friendly, mainstream cruise line with lively, casual atmosphere, excellent kids clubs and vast array of free and for-fee dining and entertainment choices.

Carnival Cruise Line (Australia)

Big on family-friendly fun with plenty of free entertainment and activities, the steepest, fastest water slide at sea, and a wide selection of largely free dining choices.

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

Pacific Jewel

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

P&O Australia View All P&O Australia Ships

  • Five ships, four built before 2000
  • Smallest: Pacific Aria (1500 passengers), Pacific Eden (1500 passengers)
  • Largest: Pacific Dawn (2020 passengers), Pacific Jewel (1950 passengers)  Pacific Pearl (1,800 passengers)
  • Oldest: Pacific Pearl (1988), Pacific Jewel (1989)
  • New ship, Pacific Explorer, slated for 2017

Carnival Cruise Line Australia View All Carnival Ships

  • Two ships, none built before 2000
  • Smallest: N/A
  • Largest: Carnival Legend (2,124 passengers), Carnival Spirit (2,124 passengers)
  • Oldest: Carnival Spirit (2001)


P&O Australia

  • Budget cruise line offering great value for money
  • Cruise fares for older ships are significantly cheaper than other ships in its fleet
  • Cruise fares include a minimum of eight onboard restaurants
  • Soft drink packages available; alcohol beverage packages introduced in 2016
  • Most entertainment and activities included except P&O Edge, video arcade games, some craft activities and specific gym glasses like boot camp and Pilates

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Prices are generally comparable to industry averages
  • Cruise fares include more than half of the onboard restaurants; alcohol drinks packages not available when cruising from Australia
  • All entertainment and activities are included except specific gym classes such as Pilates, spinning and yoga


P&O Australia View P&O Australia Roll Calls

  • Families, singles, couples, seniors and groups of all ages
  • Average age is a young 42
  • Predominantly Australian, New Zealand and some Great Britain ex-pats

Carnival Cruise Line AustraliaView Carnival Roll Calls

  • Families, retirees, couples, singles and groups of all ages
  • Largely middle Australia, 'let's have fun' crowd
  • 70 per cent of passengers are under 55 years of age
  • Summer months and school holidays see a marked spike in families onboard
Champagne Bay


P&O Australia View P&O Australia Itineraries

  • Sails year-round out of Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand. Pacific Eden will split its time between Australia and Singapore
  • Destination cruises focus on Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and South East Asia
  • Popular port calls include Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia, as well as Cairns and Port Douglas, Australia. Some of the longer South Pacific cruises also visit Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga

Carnival Cruise Line AustraliaView Carnival Itineraries

  • Sails out of Sydney, Australia on a regular basis
  • Sails Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and Hawaii itineraries
  • Carnival Spirit is in Australia year-round. Carnival Legend splits its time between Sydney and the U.S.


P&O Australia

  • The fleet has an average 23 cabin categories, except Pacific Pearl with only 19. Sizes are slightly bigger than industry average; bathrooms on older vessels are on the small side
  • Two ships (Pacific Pearl, Pacific Dawn) are low on staterooms with balconies
  • Three ships (Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl) offer luxury mini-suites
  • Two ships (Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden) feature a penthouse with large spa bath and floor to ceiling windows
  • Offers several interconnecting quad room cabin options in outside, inside and balcony combinations
  • Penthouse, suite and mini-suite privileges include priority embarkation and disembarkation, complimentary bathrobe and slippers and pillow concierge. Penthouse and suite passengers also enjoy priority tender tickets, spa and dining reservations and complimentary water and laundry service

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • 28 cabin categories per ship and impressive 80 per cent ratio of outside cabins. Sizes for standard cabins are among the industry's largest. Category 1A cabins can be hit and miss in size, shape, location and fit-out
  • Large variety of family cabins, including suites, balconies, ocean views and inside choices
  • Families and large groups are well-catered for with 53 sets (106 staterooms in total) of interconnecting cabins on Carnival Legend and 42 sets (84 staterooms in total) on Carnival Spirit
  • Suite privileges include VIP check-in, priority embarkation and disembarkation, along with large staterooms that offer mini bar or refrigerator and deluxe bathroom with whirlpool tub


P&O Australia

  • A minimum eight dining experiences onboard each ship and 15 on newest ships, Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden
  • Large choice of specialty restaurants with three included in the cruise fare -- Waterfront (all ships), Plantation Restaurant (Pacific Dawn, Pacific Pearl) and stylish food court, The Pantry (Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden, Pacific Jewel)
  • Specialty restaurants on all ships not included in the cruise fare are seven-course degustation, Chef's Table ($95) and celebrity chef restaurant, Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (lunch $39; dinner $49). Pacific Aria and Pacific Eden also have Angelo's (Italian a la carte), Dragon Lady (Chinese) and Cellar Door (wine bar). Luna, a Thai/Japanese restaurant is found on Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel and Pacific Pearl
  • New Zealand Natural ice cream is available on all ships
  • Salt Grill by Luke Mangan also serves a mid-afternoon high tea ($20)
  • Dress code of an evening is smart casual
  • At least one cocktail drinks evening per cruise with formal/evening dress code

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Good food in a variety of outlets from casual to fine dining
  • A handful of specialty restaurants on each ship included in the cruise fare. On Carnival Spirit, this includes Guy's Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina and Fat Jimmy's C-Side BBQ; on Carnival Legend, Pizza Pirate, RedFrog Pub and the Carnival Deli. On both ships, Lido Restaurant offers 24-hour pizza from Pirate Pizza and ice cream from Swirls
  • Specialty restaurants that cost extra include Dr. Seuss-themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast ($10 adults and kids), Bonsai Sushi (a la carte), Seafood Corner (a la carte), Coffee Bar (coffee and pastries), The Chef's Table ($90) and Nouveau Restaurant ($45).
  • Partnership with celebrity chef, Guy Fieri, for Guy's Burger Joint, found on Carnival Spirit
  • Laid-back dress policy and smart casual dress code most evenings
  • At least one formal night per cruise, requiring passengers to dress up for dinner
Green Thunder

Pool Deck Fun

P&O Australia

  • At least one pool on every ship as well as hot tubs
    Two ships (Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden) have a top deck pool with climate-controlled, glass retractable roof
  • Oasis, an adult-only retreat features a swimming pool or hot tubs and sundeck area on three ships (Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden, Pacific Pearl) and just sunbeds on two (Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel)
  • Three ships (Pacific Dawn, Pacific Jewel, Pacific Pearl) have two small, square-shaped pools and two hot tubs. One of these pools on Pacific Pearl is an adult-only pool near a bar. There are no adult-only pools on Pacific Dawn and Pacific Jewel
  • Day club with DJs
  • The Lido Deck is home to a new outdoor LED big screen, showing full-length movies, concerts and sport popular in Australia

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • All ships have four pools and four whirlpools
  • WaterWorks waterpark contains the thrilling Green Thunder waterslide, Carnival's signature Twister waterslide and little kids' SplashZone, complete with two small waterslides, wading pool and drenching buckets
  • Carnival Spirit has lots of branded food and drink venues around the pool deck including Guy Fieri's Burger Joint, RedFrog Rum Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar
  • Adults-only Serenity Retreat, in the aft pool area, is equipped with a pool and spa, sun lounges, hammocks and bar
Bow Ladder

Sports Deck Fun

P&O Australia

  • On all ships, P&O Edge adventure course features a zip line across the top deck, climbing course on the funnel and adventure activities such as bungee trampolining and laser tag
  • One ship (Pacific Dawn) has an AstroTurf jogging track and sports deck with deck quoits and table tennis
  • One ship (Pacific Jewel) has a twin V8 car simulator where two people can race each other

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • All ships have basketball courts and a nine-hole mini golf course
  • A padded jogging track is found on all ships
  • Two-deck fitness centre with gym and whirlpool
Bingo game

Indoor Fun

P&O Australia

  • Daily indoor fun includes trivia, bingo, dance classes, cooking demonstrations, scrapbooking, wine or whiskey tastings, cocktail mixing contests, quilling and karaoke
  • Two ships (Pacific Aria, Pacific Eden) offer an open kitchen cooking school

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Games are a big part of Carnival cruise life and include physical challenges, scavenger hunts and Battle of the Ages, a trivia game pitting kids against adults, as well as interactive family game, "Hasbro, the Game Show"
  • Trivia and karaoke are available throughout the day and bingo (18+) each evening
  • 'Fun ship' touches including a duty-free shopping mall, video arcade and art auction, as well as dance and art appreciation classes


P&O Australia

  • A mix of lively shows produced locally (such as the 'Twice Upon a Time' contemporary dance show, a Grammys-style pop concert 'Off The Charts', and 'Sideshow Alley', a musical ), guest entertainers from the worlds of song, dance, magic and comedy, and interactive family shows such as "Pirates of the Pacific" and "DisConnected" are on the menu nightly on all ships
  • There are more than 15 bars, restaurants and cafes onboard, including MIX cocktail bar, Salt Grill Bar, Cellar Door and Dome Nightclub
  • Revamped party theme nights, such as the Bianco Party hosted on the open deck on cruises longer than three nights, are a popular pat of the cruise ship itinerary

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Entertainment on all ships comes nightly in the form of Broadway-style musicals and big song-and dance revues from Playlist Productions
  • The Punchliner Comedy Club, held nightly across the fleet, offers family-friendly and adults-only comedy routines from Australian comedians
  • The onboard Piano Bar is a favourite sing-along good time, while the Sports Bar is ideal for catching a game or enjoying a quiet beer
  • Nightly movies offered poolside
  • All ships feature a nightclub and DJs spinning everything from the hottest tunes to classic hits
  • All ships have at least six bars and lounges as well as a casino
Carnival family

Family Focus

P&O Australia P&O Australia Family Cruise Reviews

  • Genuinely family friendly with good kids clubs available on a first-come, first-served basis staffed by qualified teachers and childcare workers
  • Three kids clubs onboard all ships open till 10pm nightly -- Turtle Cove (ages three to six); Shark Shack (ages seven to 10); and HQ for teens (ages 11 to 17)
  • All ships feature P&O Edge, an exciting adventure program with a zip line across the top deck and climbing course on the funnel
  • All-ages swimming pool on the Lido Deck
  • Group babysitting is available nightly from 10.30pm to 1am at a cost of $5 for one child per hour and $2 per hour for the second child. Parents of kids aged three to six are given pagers and encouraged to check on them regularly

Carnival Cruise Line AustraliaCarnival Family Cruise Reviews

  • New family entertainment available on all ships includes Dr. Seuss at Sea, "Hasbro, the Game Show," Seuss-a-Palooza story time and a themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast at a restaurant
  • Two kids clubs onboard all ships run by qualified education and childcare workers. Kids' Active Play (ages two to 11) operates Camp Carnival activities designed for three different age groups with lots of arts and crafts. Teens' Active Play (ages 12 to 17) features non-stop activities and games
  • All ships feature mini-golf, at least two boast all-ages pools, basketball courts and a video arcade. Kids love the Cherry on Top lolly shop and Make Your Own Pizza event
  • WaterWorks waterpark has slides for the whole family, including mega-fast Green Thunder, Carnival's Twister slide and the little kids' SplashZone with drenching buckets
  • Night Owls gives parents a break, with group babysitting for a nominal fee till 1am for kids aged 2 to 11
  • A large selection of interconnecting cabins and family-friendly accommodation available across the fleet
The Pantry

Tradition vs Innovation

P&O Australia

  • Onboard experience is constantly evolving thanks to first-at-sea innovations such as the P&O Edge adventure park, celebrity chef restaurant, Saltwater Grill by Luke Mangan, and eatery concept, The Pantry, which transformed the buffet concept into bespoke eateries
  • New destinations within Australian and more themed cruises, including food and wine and Melbourne Cup cruises

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Most popular innovation is the Green Thunder waterslide, billed as the fastest and steepest slide at sea with speeds of up to 65kph.
  • New alternative nooks include a devise-your-own-cocktail bar, and the adults-only (18+) Serenity retreat