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P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Contributor
Tiana Templeman

Last updated
Oct 10, 2023

Read time
9 min read

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.

P&O Australia vs. 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.

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

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Fleet Size, Ship Sizes and Ages

Pacific Encounter (Photo: P&O Cruises Australia)

P&O Australia View All P&O Australia Ships

Three ships, all launched before 2024: Pacific Explorer, Pacific Adventure, Pacific Encounter

Smallest: Pacific Explorer (1,990 passengers)

Largest: Pacific Encounter (3,000 passengers)

Oldest: Pacific Explorer (2017, refitted 2020)


Carnival Luminosa (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line Australia View All Carnival Ships

Two ships, all launched before 2022

Smallest: Carnival Luminosa (2,260 passengers)

Largest: Carnival Splendor (3,006 passengers)

Oldest: Carnival Splendor (2008, refitted 2019)

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Pricing

P&O Australia

Budget cruise line offering great value for money

Cruise fares include a minimum of four onboard dining options

Multiple non-alcoholic beverage packages. Alcoholic option is also available.

Most entertainment and activities are included except for Black Circus shows, 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 P&O and industry averages

Cruise fares include most onboard restaurants

A soft drink and alcoholic beverage package is available

All entertainment and activities are included except specific gym classes such as Pilates, spinning and yoga

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Who's Onboard

Rock Climbing on P&O Cruises Australia Pacific Encounter

P&O Australia

Families, singles, couples, seniors and groups of all ages

Average age is a young 42

School holidays see a marked spike in families onboard

Predominantly Australian and New Zealand


Basketball Court on Carnival Splendor

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Families, retirees, couples, singles and groups of all ages

Predominantly 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

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Itineraries, Destinations & Homeports

Champagne Bay in Vanuatu (photo: Przemyslaw Skibinski/Shutterstock)

P&O Australia View P&O Australia Itineraries

Sails year-round out of Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne, Cairns, and Auckland

Destination cruises focus on Australia, New Zealand, the South Pacific, Papua New Guinea and Southeast Asia

Popular port calls include Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia in the South Pacific, and cruise ports along Australia’s east coast. Some longer South Pacific and Asia cruises also visit Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.


Carnival Splendor Escorted by Pacific Adventure

Carnival Cruise Line Australia View Carnival Itineraries

  • Sails out of Sydney on a regular basis

  • Sails Australia, New Zealand, Pacific Islands and Hawaii itineraries

  • Carnival Spirit and Carnival Splendor sail in Australia year-round.

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: How do Cabins Compare?

Mini suite aboard Pacific Adventure (Photo: P&O Cruises Australia)

P&O Australia

The fleet has more than 20 cabin categories. Sizes are slightly bigger than the industry average.

Byron Beach Club cabins for suite and mini-suite guests on Pacific Encounter and Pacific Adventure have access to a pool with sun lounges and a bar, plus room service delivery to your deck chair.

Penthouse, suite and mini-suite privileges include priority embarkation and disembarkation, complimentary bathrobe and slippers and pillow concierge. Penthouse and suite passengers enjoy priority tender tickets, spa and dining reservations and complimentary water and laundry service.

All ships offer interconnecting quad-room cabin options in outside, inside, and balcony combinations.


The Cloud 9 Spa Balcony cabin on Carnival Splendor (Photo: Carnival Cruise Line)

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

The fleet has more than 20 cabin categories per ship, with the majority being outside cabins. Sizes for standard cabins are among the industry's largest.

Cloud 9 spa cabins give guests aged 18+ access to the Hydrotherapy Pool and Thermal Suite. Cloud 9 Spa bathrobes and slippers, and ELEMIS toiletries are provided in these rooms.

Large variety of family cabins, including suites, balconies, ocean views, and inside choices

Families and large groups are well-catered for, with interconnecting cabins across all categories

Suite privileges include VIP check-in, priority embarkation and disembarkation, along with large staterooms that offer a minibar or refrigerator and a deluxe bathroom with a whirlpool tub

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Dining

Dragon Lady Restaurant onboard P&O Cruises Australia Pacific Encounter (Picture by: Tiana Templeman)

P&O Australia

A minimum of eight dining experiences onboard each ship

Large choice of restaurants with two specialty options – Angelo’s and Dragon Lady (pictured above) – included in the cruise fare

Specialty restaurants that aren’t included vary from ship to ship. These include a multi-course degustation called A Taste of Salt by Luke Mangan ($129), Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (lunch $60; dinner $80), and casual options like P&O Trattoria, Charlie’s, P&O Pizzeria, Lilly’s, and Luke’s Burger Bar (all a la carte)

New Zealand Natural ice cream is available on all ships for a fee

The evening dress code is smart casual, with dress-up nights for themed parties


Lido Buffet on Carnival Splendor

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Good food in a variety of outlets from casual to fine dining

A handful of specialty restaurants included in the cruise fare such as Guy's Burger Joint, Deli Artisan Eats, Mongolian Wok, Red Frog Pub, Masala Tiger, and Pizzeria del Capitano

Specialty restaurants that cost extra include Dr. Seuss-themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast ($12 adults and kids), Bonsai Sushi (a la carte), Seafood Shack (a la carte), JavaBlue Café (coffee and pastries), Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse ($65) and The Chef's Table ($140)

Smart casual dress code most evenings, plus an Elegant night and themed parties

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Pool Deck Fun

Main pool deck on P&O Cruises Australia Pacific Encounter (Photo credit Tiana Templeman)

P&O Australia

Multiple pools and waterslides on every ship, as well as hot tubs and kids water play areas

Pacific Encounter and Pacific Adventure have the Byron Beach Club for suite and mini-suite guests

All ships feature The Oasis adults-only pool area

The Lido Deck on all ships has an outdoor LED big screen, showing full-length movies, concerts and sports that are popular in Australia


The main pool on Carnival Splendor (Photo: Cruise Critic)

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

All ships have multiple pools with hot tubs

WaterWorks waterpark on Carnival Splendor has a Twister and Green Lightning waterslide and little kids' SplashZone, complete with two small waterslides, a wading pool and drenching buckets

Carnival Luminosa does not have slides or a waterpark

Both ships offer dive-in movies in the pool

Adults-only Serenity Retreat, in the aft pool area on both ships, is equipped with a pool and spa, sun lounges, hammocks and bar

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Sports Deck Fun

New waterslides aboard Pacific Adventure (Photo: P&O Cruises Australia)

Sports Deck Fun

P&O Australia

P&O Edge Adventure Park available on all ships with activities including a zip line across the top deck, climbing courses and other adventurous options

Pacific Explorer offers lawn bowls, including barefoot bowls

All ships have well-equipped gyms and fitness classes


The Pools and Hot Tubs on Carnival Splendor

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

All ships have basketball courts and a nine-hole mini golf course

A padded walking track is found on all ships

All ships have well-equipped gyms and fitness classes

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Indoor Fun

Indoor Fun

P&O Australia

Daily indoor fun includes dance classes, cooking demonstrations, scrapbooking, wine or whiskey tastings, cocktail mixing contests and karaoke

Karaoke and trivia are available and bingo is on offer for the adults

Craft workshops are well-priced and often themed for the next party, such as Gatsby-style headband-making


Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Games are a big part of Carnival cruise life and include physical challenges, scavenger hunts and board game challenges

Punchliner Comedy Club is a fun experience and caters for most age groups

Seuss At Sea character parade, interactive story time, arts & crafts activities

Trivia and karaoke are available throughout the day and bingo (18+) each evening

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: How Does Nightlife Compare?

Dome Nightclub on P&O Australia. (photo: P&O Cruises Australia)

Nightlife

P&O Australia

A mix of lively shows produced locally (such as Rock - Anthem of the Ages, Musicology and Sideshow Alley plus Adults Only shows like Blanc de Blanc Uncorked and The Purple Rabbit

There is also Deal or No Deal that, like the popular TV game show, lets you win prizes

There are more than 15 bars, restaurants and cafes onboard, including contemporary pubs, The Bonded Store, Blue Room Jazz Bar, Altitude Nightclub, and Avalon Cafe

All ships feature multiple musicians and bands, and a nightclub with a DJ

Theme party nights such as Gatsby, Back to School and Bianco offer a fun excuse to dress up


Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Love and Marriage on Carnival Splendor

Entertainment on all ships features Broadway-style musicals and big song-and-dance revues

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

Dress-up nights include 80s Rock'n'Glow and Silent White Hot Night

Nightly movies offered poolside

All ships feature a casino and nightclub with a DJ spinning the hottest tunes and classic hits

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Family Focus

Family onboard Carnival Cruise Line (photo: Carnival Cruise Line Australia)

P&O Australia

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 clubs for teens (ages 11 to 17)

All ships feature P&O Edge, an exciting for-a-fee adventure park with a zip line across the top deck

All-ages swimming pool on the Lido Deck

Group babysitting is available in the kids club nightly after the kids club evening program has ended till 1 a.m. at a cost of $5 per hour for kids aged 3 to 11


Carnival Splendor WaterWorks

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Family entertainment available on all ships includes Dr. Seuss at Sea, Seuss-a-Palooza story time and a themed Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast at a restaurant

Multiple kids clubs onboard all ships run by qualified education and childcare workers. Children are divided into age appropriate groups: Penguins (ages 2 to 5), Stingrays (ages 6 to 8), Sharks (ages 9 to 11). Two teen clubs cater to ages 12 to 14 and 15 to 17 with non-stop activities and games

All ships feature mini-golf, at least one all-ages pool, basketball courts and a video arcade. Kids love the Cherry on Top lolly shop and Make Your Own Pizza event

Carnival Splendor has WaterWorks waterpark with slides for the whole family, including a mega-fast green trapdoor slide, Twister slide and the little kids' SplashZone with drenching buckets.

Night Owls gives parents a break, with group babysitting available for a nominal fee till 1 a.m. for kids aged 2 to 11 after the kids club has closed

A large selection of interconnecting cabins and family-friendly accommodations are available across the fleet

P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia: Innovation

Byron Beach Club pool (Photo credit: Tiana Templeman)

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, Australian celebrity chef restaurant Salt Grill by Luke Mangan, and eatery concept, The Pantry, which transformed the buffet concept into bespoke eateries

Themed cruises including Food and Wine, 80s, Melbourne Cup, 90s, Elvis, Comedy and more.

The Byron Beach Club (pictured above) capitalises on locals’ love of the beach (and a drink) with an exclusive pool, sun loungers and bar area exclusively for suite and mini-suite guests.


Pool Deck on Carnival Luminosa (Photo: Tim Bond)

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Carnival’s The Hub app lets you check-in online, make dinner reservations and purchase gifts, Wi-Fi, spa services, shore excursions and more

Most popular innovation is the Green Thunder waterslide, billed as one of the fastest and steepest slides at sea with speeds of up to 65kph; and the adults-only Serenity Retreat (above)

Table magicians keep kids (and adults) entertained during dinner in the main dining room

Publish date January 08, 2020
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