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Our Complete Guide to the Best Carnival Cruise Ships for Kids

Marissa Wright

Last updated
Jan 10, 2024

Read time
4 min read

Carnival Cruise Line has been a leader in family-friendly cruises for decades, and its reputation is certainly well-earned. Carnival offers some of the most fun, easygoing voyages for travelers of every age -- and that certainly includes children and teenagers.

From all-day programs to Carnival's Dive-In Movies or SportSquare, there’s fun for all ages on this cruise line's extensive fleet. Check out our detailed guide on the best Carnival cruise ships for kids below so you can find the right fit for you and your family.

Carnival’s Best Cruise Ships for Fun Experiences: Carnival Vista, Horizon and Panorama

Carnival's newest Vista Class of ships, which includes Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Panorama, ups the ante more than ever before. Some of their impressive amenities include some of the largest at-sea water parks and dedicated kids clubs for every age group from toddlers to teens.

As the cruise line's newest ships, both have a sophisticated and modern feel that parents are sure to appreciate. Alongside the modern look and feel, activities for kids have seen an upgrade. Kids can enjoy activities like Twister Waterslide, basketball, a challenging ropes course and even a heated game of mini-golf.

Vista-class ships allow young cruisers to experience the best Carnival cruises and experiences onboard. The new and improved ships offer activities like Build-A-Bear Workshop at Sea, Thrill Theater and Seuss-a-palooza Parade.

Best Carnival Ships for Thrill-Seeking Kids: Carnival Panorama, Vista, Horizon and Mardi Gras

The most exciting and high-energy activities for kids and teens are available onboard Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama and Mardi Gras. Kids and teens aren't limited to programs like Camp Ocean, Circle C or Club O2 to enjoy their time onboard (more on kids and teens programs later).

The youngest cruisers also have independent access to multiple swimming pools, the WaterWorks waterpark, an IMAX movie theater, the SportSquare outdoor activity area, Carnival's unique SkyRide elevated cycling attraction, a ropes course and other entertaining onboard activities.

Not only does the Excel-class ship Mardi Gras also have pools and a waterpark, it features the thrilling Bolt Roller Coaster, which is the very first -- and fastest -- roller coaster at sea. This exciting roller coaster can be enjoyed by children (and adults) of all ages, but it does cost an additional fee.

Another point worth noting is that Mardi Gras also has 26 dining options, which is exceptionally ideal for those with kids who are picky eaters because there is bound to be something for everyone. This may not be thrilling for your kids persay, but it is certainly thrilling for you.

Best Carnival Cruise Ships for Family Upgrades: Vista Class and Mardi Gras

Several Carnival cruise ships feature Family Harbor, a group of cabins designed with families in mind that can accommodate five passengers. Family Harbor is available onboard Carnival Celebration, Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Vista and Mardi Gras.

Families staying in these cabins will have access to an exclusive family lounge and receive extra perks, including a free group babysitting session and free meals for kids at select specialty restaurants.

The top Carnival cruise ships for family upgrades are the Vista-class series which provides families with a better onboard experience.

Best Kids Programs on Carnival: Fleetwide Camp Ocean and Night Owls Program

Carnival's fleetwide Camp Ocean allows parents time to enjoy their own cruise experience as much as their children do by providing free marine-themed fun with activities and enrichment programs for children ages 2 to 11 (broken down into groups from ages 2 to 5, 6 to 8 and 9 to 11).

The drop-in program is available all day and features activities like scavenger hunts, crafts, cooking classes and more. Counselors even change diapers, so you don't have to worry about interrupting your spa treatment for diaper duty.

Late-night hours for all ages and early-morning care for babies younger than 2 are also available for an extra fee. The Night Owls program allows parents to drop kids off from ages 6 months to 11 years and kids can stay until 1 am. The best cruise ships from Carnival offer unique programs like Night Owls so cruisers of all ages can enjoy their experience onboard.

Top-rated cruise lines like Carnival have high-quality kids programs like Camp Ocean. Camp Ocean allows parents to enjoy Carnival’s activities for adults without having to stress about childcare. It’s a simple solution for families so travelers of all ages can enjoy their Carnival cruise.

Best Carnival Cruise Ships for Teen Programs: All Carnival Ships

Fun onboard programs are also available for older children, with dedicated lounges for preteens ages 12 to 14 and teens ages 15 to 17.

Called Circle C and Club O2, respectively, these spaces feature televisions, video games, board games and dance floors, along with organized activities like sports competitions and dance parties that are led by each ship's youth staff.

There are even special shore excursions available just for teens. Carnival cruise ship programs allow kids of all ages to meet other cruisers and participate in age-appropriate activities.

The Vista-class ships are the best Carnival cruise ships for young adults to experience fun onboard. With a wide range of activities, kids of all ages can experience the magic of a Carnival cruise onboard Carnival Vista, Carnival Horizon or Carnival Panorama.

Publish date March 22, 2023
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