Carnival Sensation Review

Editor Rating:  3.5
Call our partner agents at 866-501-2339 to book your cruise.

Carnival Sensation Ratings

  • Category
    Member
    Editor
  • Dining
    3.7
    3.5
  • Public Rooms
    3.9
    4.0
  • Cabins
    3.8
    3.5
  • Entertainment
    3.7
    3.5
  • Spa & Fitness
    3.7
    4.0
  • Family & Children
    3.3
    4.0
  • Shore Excursions
    3.7
    4.0
  • Enrichment
    3.2
    2.0
  • Service
    4.1
    4.0
  • Value-for-Money
    3.8
    4.5
Editor Rating
3.5
Member Rating
Why Choose Carnival Sensation?
  • Pro: Genuinely fun and friendly vibe onboard with a packed lineup of daily activities
  • Con: Old ship with fewer dining and entertainment attractions than newer Carnival ships
  • Bottom Line: Short cruises and low prices make Sensation an excellent drive-to option

Carnival Sensation Overview

By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor

Carnival Sensation's onboard atmosphere is one of endless fun and expectant excitement. Everyone is trying to pack in as much amusement and downtime as they possibly can in four or five days (the ship is dedicated to short cruise itineraries). It's not frantic, just fun. And everyone's got everyone else's back, whether it's enthusiastically dancing in the aisles during nightly karaoke or loudly cheering on cruisers who have volunteered to participate in any number of interactive activities -- it's hard to feel embarrassed onstage when the entire audience is hootin' and hollerin' for you.

And your fellow cruisers aren't the only friendly faces you'll see throughout your sailing. The crew onboard Carnival Sensation are genuinely friendly and enjoy having conversations with passengers. From the guy taking our plates away in the buffet asking us what we did that morning to our Your Time Dining waiter (we asked for him every night) asking us about life back home and telling us about his dental work in Cozumel that day (!), everyone was personable and had a ready smile.

Yes, the bar service wasn't always the quickest and we were, more than once, told an activity printed on the day's schedule was a "mistake" (particularly when related to free spa events), but generally service was spot on throughout the cruise.

With all the good, Carnival Sensation is by no means a perfect cruise and many of its physical limitations can be a bit frustrating. Built in 1993 during the heyday of you-can't-get-there-from-here shipbuilding, you always have to remember to go all the way forward or aft on a cabin deck to get anywhere on decks 7 or 8. It's exasperating to run upstairs from your cabin for dinner on Deck 8 only to realize you're on the wrong end of the ship and you can't just walk across to the other side of Deck 8. And try not to forget which deck number correlates with the names of decks -- like Empress or Upper Deck -- as the elevators list the first letter of the name of the deck and not the number.

We'd also like to forewarn any serious sports lovers that there's no sports bar on Carnival Sensation, just a few public TVs here and there that can be tuned to ESPN (the only sports outlet other than the standard broadcast channels). If missing a game is going to put a dent in your vacation experience, Sensation might not be right for you.

Big theater productions are also lacking on Sensation. On our four-night cruise, we only had two big stage productions. Both were good and we would much rather have seen a third one than have only the audience-participation Love & Marriage show as a choice. And don't get us started on bingo. We like a good bingo game as much as the next person, but it's not a nighttime big theater activity.

But if you don't have a lot of vacation time and need a short, fun getaway that's laid-back, friendly and affordable, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a four- or five-night break on Carnival Sensation.

Carnival Sensation Fellow Passengers

The vast majority of passengers on Carnival Sensation are from the United States, with a smattering of people from Canada and even fewer from farther afield. A good percentage has driven to the port from Florida and surrounding states. You'll see lots of families, as well as groups celebrating (think milestone birthdays, bachelorette parties), and ages run the gamut from babies in strollers to seniors belting out Frank Sinatra songs during karaoke. You'll find a diversity of backgrounds, and everyone from working class folk to professionals. Overall, people are friendly, and on the ship to have a good time. 

Carnival Sensation Dress Code

Carnival keeps its dress code casual day and night, though cutoff jeans and swimwear are never permitted in the main dining rooms for dinner. On the single "cruise elegant" night, men are encouraged to don long pants and collared shirts, and we saw plenty of men in full suits. We saw women dressed up in everything from their Sunday best to more than a few not-appropriate-for-church ensembles. 

Carnival Sensation Gratuity

Carnival charges $12.95 per person, per day ($13.95 per person, per day, for those in suites), for gratuities, which is dispensed to your dining room servers and cabin attendant, as well as other crew members including kitchen, entertainment and guest service staff. You can prepay gratuities before your cruise, or they will be automatically added to your shipboard account on a daily basis. Passengers can adjust the gratuity amount at the Guest Services desk at any point during their sailing. Tipping of room service staff is recommended, but not required. A 15 percent tip (not optional) is automatically added to all beverage and spa purchases (including treatments).

Next:  Carnival Sensation Cabins

By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor

866 Carnival Sensation Reviews from our Cruise Critic Community

Start your review of Carnival Sensation
Click to rate
bant2013
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
Here is a list of (mostly) everything we experienced on this cruise: Water in dining room tasted like chlorine No hair dryer (site said not to bring one and most cruise lines supply one in the room), asked for one. Friendly stateroom ... Read more
Nyle1087
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
Sailed four weeks ago
This was a vacation cruise for my husband and I. This was our 7th with Carnival. My husband booked it. but didn't research. I'm the one who usually did this. So when we boarded the ship we noticed it was much smaller and older than the ... Read more
Dspicer11
Member Since 2017
1 review
0 forum posts
0 helpful votes
It's about time to retire this ship. It's old, dirty and has very little to offer. Pictures are always better then reality 9 times out of 10. So disappointed by the ship. Great family trip, can't even imagine the time we would have had on ... Read more
Cruise Deals

1,573 Professional Carnival Sensation Photos

We spent almost a full week on board the Carnival Sensation with multiple photographers and took 1,573 pictures of the ship.  When you visit our new photo galleries you can be assured that what you see is what you get!

Carnival Cruise Line Fleet

Close ×
See Deals on Carnival Sensation up to 82% off
Close ×
See Deals on Carnival Sensation up to 82% off