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P&O Australia vs. Carnival Cruise Line Australia

Belinda Luksic

Jan 8, 2020

Read time
9 min read

P&O Cruises vs Carnival Cruise Line Australia (photos: Tim Faircloth)

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.

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

Pacific Jewel (photo: P&O Australia)

Fleet size, ship sizes and ages

P&O Australia View All P&O Australia Ships

  • Three ships, all built before 2000

  • Smallest: Pacific Aria (1,500 passengers)

  • Largest: Pacific Dawn (2,020 passengers)

  • Oldest: Pacific Dawn (1991), Pacific Explorer (1991)

  • New ships: Pacific Adventure, slated for October 2020, Pacific Encounter, slated for November 2021

Carnival Cruise Line Australia View All Carnival Ships

  • Two ships, none built before 2008

  • Smallest: Carnival Spirit (2,124 passengers)

  • Largest: Carnival Splendor (3,006 passengers)

  • Oldest: Carnival Spirit (2001)

P&O pricing versus Carnival pricing (photo: georgemphoto/Shutterstock)


P&O Australia

  • Budget cruise line offering great value for money

  • Cruise fares include a minimum of eight onboard restaurants

  • Soft drink and alcohol beverage packages available

  • 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

  • Soft drink packages available; alcohol beverage packages are currently being trialled

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

Carnival Cruise Line Australia sailaway (photo: Carnival Cruise Line Austalia)


P&O Australia View P&O Australia Roll Calls

  • 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, 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 in Vanuatu (photo: Przemyslaw Skibinski/Shutterstock)


P&O Australia View P&O Australia Itineraries

  • Sails year-round out of Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Fremantle, and Melbourne, Australia and Auckland, New Zealand.

  • 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 and Carnival Splendor sail in Australia year-round.

Balcony cabin on P&O Cruises' Pacific Jewel (photo: P&O Cruises Australia)


P&O Australia

  • The fleet has more than 20 cabin categories. Sizes are slightly bigger than the industry average; bathrooms on older vessels are on the small side

  • Pacific Dawn is low on staterooms with balconies

  • Two ships (Pacific Dawn and Pacific Explorer) offer luxury mini-suites

  • Pacific Aria features 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

  • The fleet has more than 20 cabin categories per ship and an 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 interconnecting cabins across all categories

  • 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

Food from Carnival's Blue Iguana Cantina (photo: Carnival Cruise Line Australia)


P&O Australia

  • A minimum eight dining experiences onboard each ship

  • Large choice of specialty restaurants with up to four included in the cruise fare -- Waterfront (all ships), The Pantry (all ships), Angelo's (Pacific Aria, Pacific Explorer), Dragon Lady (Pacific Aria, Pacific Explorer)

  • Specialty restaurants not included in the cruise fare vary from ship to ship. There are two multi-course degustation options, Chef's Table or A Taste of Salt by Luke Mangan (both $119). Other choices include Salt Grill by Luke Mangan (lunch $49; dinner $59; high tea $29), 400 Gradi (a la carte), and Shell & Bones (a la carte).

  • New Zealand Natural ice cream is available on all ships

  • Evening dress code 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 included in the cruise fare such as Guy's Burger Joint, Carnival Deli, Mongolian Wok, BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Pub, Ol' Fashioned BBQ, Masala Tiger, and Pizza Pirate

  • 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), Coffee Bar (coffee and pastries), The Chef's Table ($120) and Nouveau Restaurant ($55 adults; $15 kids ).

  • Partnership with celebrity chef, Guy Fieri, for Guy's Burger Joint, is available on all ships

  • 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 waterslide (photo: Carnival Cruise Line Australia)

Pool Deck Fun

P&O Australia

  • At least one pool on every ship as well as hot tubs

  • Pacific Aria has a top deck pool with climate-controlled, glass retractable roof

  • Pacific Dawn has an adults-only sundeck. Oasis, an adults-only retreat features a swimming pool or hot tubs and sundeck area on two ships (Pacific Aria and Pacific Explorer). Pacific Explorer also has an additional adults-only area, The Sanctuary

  • Pacific Explorer has four pools in total

  • The Lido Deck has an outdoor LED big screen, showing full-length movies, concerts and sport popular in Australia

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • All ships have three pools and multiple whirlpools

  • WaterWorks waterpark contains a thrilling green waterslide, Carnival's signature Twister waterslide and little kids' SplashZone, complete with two small waterslides, wading pool and drenching buckets

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

The P&O Bow Ladder Experience (photo: P&O Cruises Australia)

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

  • Pacific Dawn and Pacific Explorer have waterslides

  • Pacific Explorer offers lawn bowls, including barefoot bowls

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

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

  • A padded track is found on all ships

  • All ships have well equipped gyms

Bingo on Carnival (photo: Carnival Cruise Line Australia)

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

  • 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 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

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


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

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

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

Carnival Cruise Line Australia

  • Entertainment on all ships comes nightly in the form of 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

  • Nightly movies offered poolside

  • All ships feature a nightclub with a DJ spinning everything from the hottest tunes to classic hits

  • All ships have at least six bars and lounges as well as a casino

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

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

  • 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. Camp Carnival caters to children aged 3 to 11 with a focus on active play and arts and crafts. 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 two 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 a mega-fast green trapdoor slide, 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 on P&O Cruises Australia. (photo: P&O Australia)

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, Salt 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 Australian Open 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

Updated January 08, 2020
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