Launched in 2022, Carnival Celebration is the second in a line of next-generation, Liquefied Natural Gas-powered cruise ships from Carnival Cruise Line that began with the launch of Mardi Gras in 2021 and continued with Carnival Jubilee in late 2023.
Named after the line’s original Celebration of 1987, Carnival Celebration pays homage to Carnival’s past while also continuing to add new and exciting features that are sure to please guests of all ages.
In a nod to Carnival’s history, cruisers will find plenty of objects onboard that have come from past ships. These include the original 1934 Rolls Royce Saloon car that sailed aboard Carnival Ecstasy until that ship was taken out of service, which now finds a home next to the entrance to the Golden Jubilee Bar.
But Carnival’s new generation of ship, powered by cleaner-burning Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) technology, is also a ship of the future – and designers have thrown everything but the kitchen sink into its creation. This includes the revolutionary new atrium-theater concept known as Center Stage, which hosts game shows and trivia along with high-tech musical production spectaculars by night, complete with banks of LED screens, acrobatics, strobe lights and even smoke effects.
Carnival Celebration also includes the BOLT roller coaster that was first introduced in 2021 aboard sister-ship Mardi Gras. For a nominal charge ($15 per person on our Eastern Caribbean sailing), you can have the thrills of riding the only roller coaster at sea.
With Carnival Celebration, Carnival has started to bring more interesting décor in public spaces back, in a more modern (and perhaps accessible) way. These include the Miami-themed sandwich and pizza joints, Miami Slice and Deco Deli, on Deck 8 aft that channel the vibrant, often neon look found in Miami’s South Beach neighborhood. Nearby, Bar 820 offers up South Florida-themed cocktails and coffees in a clever space that includes indoor and outdoor seating.
One of our favorite spots onboard is The Gateway on Deck 6. With its two-story ceilings and LED panels that can project any image at any time, it’s a fun and whimsical take on the traditional bar and lounge concept. It is anchored at the forward end by the Latitudes Bar, with its train station-style clackerboard and bar seating that is decorated with faux passport stamps. (It also happened to consistently have some of the best drinks, and service, on our sailing). That area gives way to Emeril’s Bistro 1397 (Bam! Get the beignets!), and eventually transitions into the Festivale Restaurant main dining room that spans the height of Decks 6 and 7.
Carnival Celebration’s deck plan includes everything a cruiser could want: comedy clubs, bars and lounges, lavish full-scale theaters, multiple pools, hot tubs, water slides – even a roller coaster at sea.
Sadly, Carnival Celebration stumbles when it comes to handling the 5,374 passengers it can carry – a number that balloons up to 6,631 when all third and fourth berths are filled. The ship feels consistently busy, often overwhelmingly so, with public venues that strain under the pressure of a full ship. Rather than acting as a gathering place, the Center Stage atrium-theatre serves as a massive chokepoint for Decks 6, 7 and 8, particularly during showtimes, when passengers congregate on staircases, walkways, and even take chairs from specialty restaurants like Bonsai Sushi for a better look at the action.
These spaces are certainly unique, but almost all are under-sized for a vessel carrying this many passengers. And while that attempt keeps things small – human, even – it creates problems as the ship’s most popular spaces fill up early and stay that way.
In an attempt to combat this, Carnival requires that certain lounges like the Punchliner Comedy Club and Limelight Lounge be cleared after each performance to allow others a fair shot at seeing the show; a policy that also extends, during certain performances, to the Deck 6 level of the Celebration Central atrium and show lounge.
Following one mid-week performance, crew repeatedly asked passengers to clear the entire Deck 6 area so that shows could re-set. Families that were having coffee near the JavaBlue Café, or reading, or playing games were forced to clear out for the sake of “resetting” the show – dispersing more passengers to Carnival Celebration’s already overburdened public areas.
Other confusing design choices include a promenade deck that’s only accessible via two doors on the starboard side of the ship, or via the aft doors at The Waterfront area on Deck 8, but not at all on the port side; a lack of suitable seating outside the immensely-popular pizza joint Miami Slice, resulting in roving pizza passengers all throughout the ship; and a miniscule selection of seating at the Alchemy Bar. Carnival’s most popular cocktail watering hole, Alchemy Bar has been tucked into a narrow passageway on Deck 7 that’s constantly brimming with patrons coming from dinner or exiting the Limelight Lounge.
In industry-speak, how easily passengers move about a ship is called “flow”. Carnival has always been historically good at handling crowds, but Carnival Celebration and its crew buckle under the pressure of sold-out sailings as passengers struggle to maneuver strollers, scooters, and even just themselves through the weaving, meandering deckplan that sometimes narrows so perceptibly it makes you wonder what the design team was thinking in its quest to move 6,000-plus people around.
That’s not to say that Carnival Celebration doesn’t deliver a good cruise experience. But it certainly requires a lot more patience than similar cruises on Carnival’s older ships that, while undeniably busy too, seem to handle the loads better. Twenty minutes in line at the JavaBlue Café on Deck 6 for a coffee isn’t uncommon during peak times, nor is a ten-to-fifteen minute wait at Guy’s Burger Joint on Deck 17 midship.
The patience passengers will need aboard Carnival Celebration extends to the passenger elevators, which never seem to arrive in a timely manner, and are nearly always packed to the brim with people.
Over the course of our weeklong Eastern Caribbean cruise, waiting – for elevators, for food, for bar service, for deck chairs, and nearly everything in between – became a hallmark of the Carnival Celebration experience.
Staterooms aboard Carnival Celebration are more modern in appearance than the line’s ships of the past, with a palette of light blues and sea foam greens mixed with crisp white linens and furnishings. We particularly liked the circular rim-lit mirrors and the accent lighting behind the beds, while recessed reading lights for all beds in each room are a nice and welcomed touch – as are the abundance of USB, USB-3 and regular North American-style electrical outlets.
That modern styling continues too in stateroom bathrooms, which are crisp and well-designed and finally shed the horrifying pinks and pea-soup-green plastic molding found on past ships. Gone, too, are the cylindrical showers with the clingy curtains, replaced instead by a generously sized shower with an articulated door that slides out of the way when opened. In typical Carnival fashion, its neon-blue and orange Body Wash and Shampoo are located in pump-dispensers mounted to the wall. The colors may be garish, but we actually like the scent of both.
However, we found ourselves missing the generous size of Carnival’s bathrooms of the past. Standard stateroom bathrooms aboard Carnival Celebration are noticeably smaller, and seemed cramped and difficult to even turn around in and could present challenges for larger passengers.
Carnival Celebration also sports some unique theme cabins. There’s a dedicated zone for families aboard Carnival Celebration – the Family Harbor Zone – that boasts its own lounge and larger staterooms on Deck 4 designed just for those travelling with the little ones. The popular Havana Club staterooms return to Carnival Celebration, complete with unique décor and private open deck spaces on Deck 8 that are accessible only for guests staying in the Havana Club-grade staterooms.
And while Carnival hasn’t quite gone into the luxury suite complex like competitors Norwegian Cruise Line and MSC Cruises have, its Excel-class suites aboard Carnival Celebration are among the largest and most lavish the line has ever created, and come with complimentary access to the soothing top-deck oasis known as Loft 19, where deck chairs, pools and loungers beckon – with superb service – far from the din of the crowds below.
Design challenges aside, there’s no denying that Carnival Celebration is a total win for multigenerational families from all walks of life looking to cruise together. Families and diversity have always been part of Carnival’s DNA, and Carnival Celebration takes that to the next level.
To start, the ship’s Kids Clubs are stellar. Divided up into age-specific areas that cater to kids aged six months to 17 years of age, these spaces (Turtles, 6 months to 2 years; Penguins, ages 2 to 5; Stingray, ages 6-8; Sharks, ages 9-11; Circle C, ages 12-14; and Club O2, ages 15-17) are cleverly designed and staffed with enthusiastic professionals who run a program of activities that changes day by day, cruise by cruise.
Carnival has also thought about the placement of its Kids Clubs. Camp Ocean (ages 6 months to 11 years) facilities are located near the midships elevators on Deck 4, adjacent to the Family Harbor Staterooms. Clubs for the older kids – Circle C and Club O2 – are in a completely different area of the ship. The design offers additional protections for the little ones, as it is away from any bars, lounges and nightlife spaces.
The line also has a partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises that has made its way aboard Carnival Celebration, with a fun-and-whimsically-themed Dr. Seuss Bookville room where guests can read, play, or check out the famous children’s author’s works, or partake in readings, parades and even character appearances.
Most of Carnival’s staterooms are designed with families in mind, too. Many offer third and fourth berths in the form of convertible sofas or Pullman-style bunks that drop down from the ceiling, and a vast number of Carnival Celebration’s staterooms and suites offer connecting cabins that are perfect for families or friends travelling together.
Carnival also offers a list of non-stop, dawn-to-dusk activities are designed for cruisers of all ages. Maybe wacky pool games are your thing, or trivia sessions on such wide-ranging topics as Star Wars, Company Slogans, or Weird Laws. Available on the Carnival FunHUB App or via the printed FunTimes Daily Program delivered onboard, there’s something to suit every age, taste and interest.
Don’t expect terribly cerebral diversions; Carnival is all about FUN, and it does a commendable job of shouting it from the rooftops. Expect thudding poolside music, raucous games and a healthy dose of irreverence in everything the line does. And hey – it really is fun, after all.
Carnival also offers one of the best comedy clubs at sea with its Punchliner Comedy Club. The line cycles entertainers out once per weeklong voyage, meaning you’ll get the chance to see between four and six unique comedy acts per week. What’s more, most comedians offer three varieties of show rating: PG shows suitable for the family; R-18 shows suitable for families with grown kids, and 18+ Explicit shows for those with stronger constitutions.
Carnival’s accessible price-point and high-quality entertainment also works in favor of multigenerational travel. It’s a cruise that almost everyone can afford, and cruising aboard Carnival Celebration with family and friends is a treat indeed. For some, it may very well be their first introduction to the world of cruise travel.
Given Carnival’s unabashed mass appeal, you would be forgiven for thinking the line doesn’t need to innovate on the culinary front. The truth, particularly aboard Carnival Celebration, is far from it: from American to Asian, fast to gourmet, nearly every kind of cuisine is presented onboard this mega-ship – and most of it is entirely free of charge.
For free eats, Carnival’s Lido Marketplace buffet on Deck 16 and its two main dining rooms – Festivale on Deck 6 and 7 aft, and Carnivale on Deck 6 midship – offer all the classic foods cruisers have come to expect. While the buffet is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, dining rooms tend to be dinner-only affairs, save for sea days when Carnival’s popular Sea Day Brunch (reservations required) is offered.
One of Carnival’s secret weapons has always been to offer up some unexpected free eats. This includes casual venues like Guy’s Burger Joint and Shaq’s Big Chicken, along with the Mexican-themed BlueIguana Cantina, with its tacos and burritos made-to-order. And, on Carnival Celebration, passengers can enjoy dinner at Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse gratis, save for the drinks and a few select menu items that are provided at an additional cost.
When it comes to for-fee specialty restaurants aboard Carnival Celebration, Carnival pulled out all the stops. Past Carnival passengers will appreciate that favorites like the line’s long-running Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and the casual and cozy Bonsai Sushi have returned aboard Carnival Celebration, but these two classic venues barely scratch the surface of what passengers can expect.
Starting with Mardi Gras, Carnival began partnering with Holland America Line head chef, culinary pop artist and wacky raconteur Rudi Sodamin, to create Rudi’s Seagrill, a fabulous specialty dining venue where seafood dishes center stage.
Carnival Celebration also boasts a much-expanded Bonsai Teppanyaki venue just next to Bonsai Sushi. This interactive hibachi “dinner-and-a-show” concept features talented chefs whipping up Japanese creations in front of patrons, with no small amount of flair or groan-inducing one-liners that are fun for the whole family.
A fun indulgence for the whole family is Carnival’s extra-charge Seuss at Sea breakfast. If you’ve ever wondered if you would eat green eggs and ham on a boat, as Sam-I-Am does, this is your shot at finding out!
New to the added-fee list on Carnival Celebration are Chibang! and Cucina del Capitano. These formerly complimentary venues – a combination of Mexican and Asian and the Italian-themed Cucina – are now free for the first visit, and $8 per person for all repeat reservations.
Room service, as on all Carnival ships, incurs a small additional charge.
Perhaps the most difficult aspect of Carnival Celebration relates to the onboard service from its 1,735 international crewmembers. Service has always been a hallmark of the Carnival Cruise experience; its gracious staff and officers routinely punched above their weight – and Carnival’s entry-level price-point – to provide service that was somehow consistently personable, friendly and welcoming.
That comes to a halt on Carnival Celebration. Most staff we encountered were seemingly overworked, unduly burdened and unhappy, with Carnival Celebration’s food service staff appearing unusually affected.
Throughout the week, wherever we went – from the main dining rooms to the buffet to grab-and-go options like Guy’s Burger Joint and Shaq’s Big Chicken – we were met with service that was, at best indifferent and, at worst, downright cold.
Thankfully, that demeanor changes once you hit Carnival’s for-fee dining options; our meals in Bonsai Sushi and Bonsai Teppanyaki were above reproach in terms of service. Bars, lounges and cabin stewards all seemed personable and friendly, for the most part. But Carnival’s complimentary dining options came with an unwanted side-order of visible hostility.
The staffing shortages also hit bars and lounges. This is a good ship to be sober on, because you’ll rarely – if ever – be asked if you want a drink, and even then, only on the pool deck. There are no servers roaming around the ship’s other bars and lounges soliciting drinks like “the old days”. Instead, if you want a libation, be prepared to fight your way through the crowd to one of the bartenders behind the bar.
Carnival, like the rest of the industry, has struggled with crewing issues since the end of the global pandemic. Qualified staff are in short supply, and it’s no secret that some of the crew on all ships throughout the industry are very green indeed.
The good news is the service issues aboard Carnival Celebration are within Carnival’s power to fix, through better training, better staffing, and better onboard support for those crewmembers who are feeling overwhelmed with their roles – and perhaps even recognition that the line needs to offer different processes and venues for dining aboard their largest ships.
Until then, Carnival Celebration will continue to struggle to provide the kind of personable, upbeat and cheery service present on the rest of the line’s fleet.
Main dining rooms, buffet, and Lido deck restaurants (Guy's Burgers, Big Chicken, Street Eats, BlueIguana).
Sandwiches at Piazza Panini, Pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano.
Sandwiches and select pastries at Java Blue.
A handful of specialty restaurants on a limited basis (Cucina del Capitano, Chibang, Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse).
Waterslides and splash park
Serenity adults-only pool and sundeck
All pools other than Loft 19 and Havana
All evening entertainment and most daily activities
Fitness center (although not classes) and jogging track
Some in-room movies on demand
Specialty restaurants (Rudi's Seagrill; Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse; Emeril's, Seafood Shack, Chibang and Cucina del Capitano on subsequent visits))
Specialty coffee and some pastries and cakes at Java Blue
Bolt roller coaster
Spa treatments and thermal suite access
Casino games and slots
Automatic beverage and spa tips
All drinks beyond water, lemonade, iced tea and coffee
Photos and artwork
Some in-room movies on demand
Carnival is a line that harmoniously brings people from all walks of life together. In elevators, when returning to the ship from port visits, in the eateries and at shows, by the pools — you name it — most guests, despite such varied backgrounds and identities, were happy to converse and share in the fun.
On four occasions (three sea days and at Roatan) during our week on board, there were scheduled afternoon get-togethers for LGBTQ, solo travelers and guests over 40 in the Golden Jubilee.
The ship has 82 accessible staterooms with bathrooms with roll-in showers, wider doors and, where needed, ramps, in numerous categories. Corridors are wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs and scooters and there are 22 lifts providing vertical access between Decks 3 (for the medical center and disembarkation) and 18.
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