Carnival cruise deals are easy to find and generally straightforward, but you do need to know when to look and how to compare them to make sure you are actually getting a deal. All cruise lines have ways of making you think you're getting the best cruise deal all the time. It takes a little inside knowledge and (ugh!) even a little math to feel confident your Carnival deal is the real thing. Once you've got the basics down, uncovering the deals becomes fun and easy.
To help you learn the ropes, Cruise Critic did some deep digging for you. We've done the math and spent hours sifting through Carnival cruise deals looking for the nuggets -- including calculating what kinds of things can make or break your deal. Shopping for Carnival cruise deals is (as it should be) fun, so let's get started.
Carnival cruise deals on inside cabins start as low as $30 per person per night (before taxes and port fees). Those prices are easiest to find where Carnival sails the most: in The Bahamas, the Caribbean and Mexico. Deals elsewhere edge a little higher. Overall, though, any inside cabin on Carnival under $60 is a deal. Oceanview rooms on Carnival can be had as low as $50 per person per night, but anything below $90 is a deal. Carnival balcony cabin deals are a popular choice, with prices starting well below the mainstream cruise standard of $100 per person per night; but overall, any balcony priced below $150 per night is a deal on Carnival. For suites, expect deals that start around the $200 per person per night mark.
Carnival tops its deals with reduced deposits, onboard credit, and room upgrades. Those can really add up when you factor them into the deal. Carnival also promotes zero-down and zero-percent financing through Uplift, which can save credit card interest if you are paying for your cruise over time. Carnival makes it super easy to search their site for deals, often with a red alert at the top of the page and by clicking on "Cruise Deals" under the main "Plan" tab in the header. The secret sauce with Carnival is always to be logged in with your Very Important Fun Person (VIFP) Club account, which you can sign up for free before you even book your first cruise.
When it comes to the best time to shop for Carnival cruises, the best deals happen just before demand for cruises to warm sunny destinations heats up. In other words, shop for Carnival deals between November and March. If you can stand the wait, Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals often push fares a little lower with added bonuses like higher onboard credit to enhance your cruise.
When is it cheapest to cruise with Carnival? It depends on the destination, but in The Bahamas, Caribbean, and Mexico, the hottest deals are typically for cruises in January, February, September, and October. In Alaska, look for deals on cruises sailing in May and September.
Deciding whether drink packages are a deal for you depends on your consumption habits. If you usually drink a soda or two a day, it's tempting to buy the soda package, to simplify things. But you could save money because under Carnival's policies, you can bring up to twelve cans of soda onboard on embarkation day. If, however, you also plan to drink a few alcoholic beverages per day, the Cheers drink package would include the sodas and cover the cost of beer, glasses of wine, and cocktails (up to $20 menu price). The combo definitely makes it a deal for some people.
The advice we have would be to buy the package pre-cruise at a 10% discount. Carnival also offers a 15% discount for pre-purchasing Wi-Fi, making that a definite deal if you plan to be online during your cruise.
For casino lovers, the deals are abundant, and come from several sources. Some land-based casinos offer comped Carnival cruises. These are typically for interior cabins for two people. Taxes and port fees are not included, and upgrade fees will apply if you want anything other than an interior room. Carnival also directly offers casino players discounted and comped cruise fares, often with bonus free play and free drinks for the player and a guest. These offers are made available to those who have recently played onboard a Carnival ship, as well as through the Players Club Fun Match program, and include a wide range of cabin categories.
Signing up for Carnival's email promotions is the best way to never miss out on a Carnival cruise deal. Here are some other basics to make sure you are always getting the best deal possible.
As with many cruise lines, the highest prices are often attached to the newest ships in the fleet. Search for the best deals on slightly older ships.
It's rare to find deals that include fall and winter holidays, but there are often exceptional deals for the weeks leading up to them.
As we said before, sign up for Carnival's VIFP Club before you book your first cruise and always sign in to see the best prices -- which often get better the more loyal you are to the cruise line.
If anyone in your stateroom is retired or active military or age 55 and up, be sure to let Carnival or your travel agent know, so appropriate discounts can be applied.
Also don’t forget to include your state of residency under the "deals" filter when shopping on the Carnival website. Even if you plan to sail from a distant port, you never know what state's residents might be offered deals on select cruises.
Some of the best Carnival deals we found across the globe were for sailings in Australia. If cruising Down Under is on your bucket list, start your cruise shopping there.
Oddly, cruise lengths of even numbers from four to 10 nights are often the best deals. Two, three, five, and seven-night sailings consistently top out a few dollars higher per person per night, even on similar itineraries.
An example of even-length deals are the rare 8-night Alaska cruises in May. They stack up nicely against the standard 7-nighters.
European cruises are never cheap, but Carnival deals on trans-Atlantic crossings are often too good to pass up.
Unless you really can't pass up a balcony cabin, consider the lower categories of rooms. The best deals may be on inside cabins -- which include the same meals and entertainment that higher-priced staterooms do.
Don’t forget to do the math to break down the price per person per night to accurately compare different length cruises.
Each port in your itinerary charges a different fee. That includes the departure port. Departure ports with higher fees that add to your total bill include Miami and Port Canaveral, while Tampa, New Orleans, and Galveston have lower port fees. Before you complete your booking, compare the fees to see if your deal is as good as you thought when you compared only the fare.