Carnival Celebration Exterior 4 1

Carnival Celebration Cruise Ship Review: How Does Newest & Largest Ship Compare

Carnival Celebration is one of Carnival’s newest and largest ships. While we’ve cruised many times on other cruise lines, we hadn’t tried Carnival until this year.

We’re big fans of the Oasis class ships by Royal Caribbean, and we’re interest to see how Carnivals largest class of ships compared. We decided to give the Celebration a try, on a completely full (sold out, we couldn’t even add another guest to our room) cruise, and here’s what we found in this Carnival Celebration cruise ship review.

Note: Theres already other articles that cover every detail of the ship, so we’re focusing on the top things tour family loved (or didn’t), and comparing it to the other options out there,

Key Takeaways

  • We found some things we liked, but also more negatives than we were expecting on a new ship.
  • If you’re set on the Carnival Cruise Line, Celebration is one of the best family options. As Carnival’s largest ship, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy. We found great food, entertainment, and service on board.
  • We found the ship more crowded than the large Royal Caribbean ships like Oasis of the Seas (more below on that).
  • The cost of the cruise includes most things, like entertainment and many of the restaurants. Wifi, alcohol, gratuities, and specialty dining are not included.
Carnival Celebration Exterior 2 Edit

About Carnival Celebration

As the newest addition to Carnival Cruise Line’s fleet, the Carnival Celebration offers an impressive array of deck plans, cabin options, and innovative features not found in their smaller and older ships.

Overview of the ship

The Carnival Celebration is the sister ship to the Mardi Gras. Both ships are part of Carnival’s new Excel-class series. It even has the first roller coaster at sea, Bolt® (for an extra charge). You’ll find six different areas on this ship, each one with unique features.

The Celebration sails from Miami, doing 7 night Caribbean itineraries.

First Impressions: The Biggest Negative

Our first impressions of the Celebration were mixed. While the ship is huge compared to other Carnival options and brand new, it doesn’t feel as spacious as our favorite cruise ships like Royal Carribeans Oasis of the Seas.

Royal Caribbean’s largest ships are almost 30% larger than the Celebration but hold the same number of passengers at max capacity.

How does that work? Walking around the ship, we noticed how they did it.

Instead of tall ceilings and huge indoor areas, more staterooms are taking up space on the Celebration.

On Royal Caribbeans Oasis Class ships, there are open spaces that make you wonder if you’re even on a ship. Areas (called Neighbpurhoods) like Central Park, filled with real plants and trees, or the Promenade, where you can go for a carousel ride in the huge open-air area with a water theater.

The Celebration? There’s not any of that. Most indoor areas have low ceilings and don’t feel very spacious. There is the three story partially open area pictured below when you first board the ship, but it doesn’t have quite the same effect.

Carnival Celebration Atrium

But let’s look at the rest of the ship.

Deck plan and cabin options

Forward Facing Balcony: A Unique View

Carnival Celebration Fwd Balcony

We usually select an ocean-facing (side of the ship) balcony room, but we opted to do a forward-facing balcony on this cruise.

The Celebration offers a higher number of forward-facing balconies, placing cabins at the front of the ship where other ships may place spas, gyms, or specialty restaurants in that area.

While the forward-facing balcony gives you a different view, we wouldn’t necessarily choose one again over a side-facing balcony for a few reasons.

Carnival Celebration Forward View
  • Our cabin on deck 8 sat just above the crew break area in the front of the ship. So when we were outside on the cabin’s balcony we could constantly small cigarettes from the crew smoking and hear the noise from the area, making the outdoor deck not as a normal balcony.
  • The outdoor balcony is pretty far away from the ship’s edge, so the views aren’t as close up as you’ll get from other areas. You also miss out a lot of the ocean noise you get sitting on an ocean facing balcony.
  • The wind: Though the forward balconies have a divider to help with the wind, Cruising at 20mph still pushes a lot of air into the balcony area. We had to be careful opening the door when the kids were going in and out to prevent it slamming shut. This could be a problem if you have younger children!.

So, while it’s still a great upgrade over an interior room, we’d select a normal ocean-view balcony on the next trip.

Other than that, though, the rooms were very nice, as you might expect for a brand new ship. Wwe also had an interior room across the hall.

Carnival Celebration Bathroom

Balcony room bathroom. Average size for a cruise ship.

Carnival Celebration Shower
Carnival Celebration Bed

Here’s a quick breakdown of other cabin options available on the Celebration.

Cabin TypeDescription
Family CabinsThese specially designed cabins give private access to the Cloud 9 Spa. They include special amenities and priority reservations, perfect for parents needing pampering time.
Havana CabinsThese specially designed cabins give private access to the Cloud 9 Spa. They include special amenities and priority reservations, perfect for parents needing pampering time.
Spa CabinsThese specially designed cabins give private access to the Cloud 9 Spa. They include special amenities and priority reservations, perfect for parents needing some pampering time.
Accessible CabinsFor families with specific ship accessibility needs, these cabins are designed to offer comfort and ease of movement. Just make sure to contact Guest Access Services for any specific requirements.

So Carnival Celebration has got you covered whether you’re a family seeking luxurious comfort or needing specific accommodations.

Variety of dining options

You won’t go hungry on the Celebration, even when you’re not paying extra for the specialty restaurants. Over we found the food not quite as good as on other cruises, we still rated it slightly higher than the higher-end all-inclusive resorts we’ve been to recently, such as the Hyatt Ziva Cap Cana in Punta Cana. Here’s some of the best restaurants on board.


How can you go wrong with combining Mexican and Chinese food? This restaurant is open for dinner and provides a nice alternative to the main dining room or the buffet.

We ended up dining here several nights. ChiBang takes reservations, so we could eat here without waiting in line for a your time dining table at the main dining room.

Main Dining Room

This is the largest restaurant, offering several dining times.

  • Early or Late: Early or late dining gives you the same dining time each night, usually with the same wait staff and table. The set dining times (especially the early time of 6 pm) is usually the first to be reserved.
  • Your Time Dining: On our cruise, which was booked at the last minute, the only option left was your time dining. This option lets you arrive between 5:45 PM and 9:30 PM, but there can often be a wait for a table.

We didn’t find the main dining room service or food the best, and we only ate there several nights on our 7 seven-night cruise.

Comparing the main dining room service to Royal Carribean, we noticed a few other negatives on the Celebration that didn’t give it the higher end restaurant feel.

  • Servers passed by the table several times each meal selling shots, not something you’d see in a nicer restaurant and not something we’d experienced on any other cruise line.
  • The Celebration tables instead of a white table cloth, featured a plastic top. Again, just a smaller detail but one that gives the restaurant a different atmosphere.

Guys Pig and Anchor

This counter-service BBQ restaurant is a great option for a quick meal and offers smoked items like pork, brisket, sausage, and chicken. We never found a long line here and ate lunch here a few times. Bonus: it’s right next to the indoor soft serve ice cream machine, which is also in a low-traffic area and never had a long line.

Lido Marketplace (Buffet)

If you’ve been on a cruise before, you know how chaotic the buffet restaurant is. Walking around the huge area several times to find a table, trying to find your family, people walking every direct and cutting in line, is all part of the experience.

Thankfully, we found the Celebration no worse (or better) than any other cruise and limited the buffet to when we were limited on time, such as before or after a shore excursion.


Just down the hall from the Pig and Anchor, another of our favorites is the pizza restaurant. Offering delicious cheese and pepperoni pizza that is made right in front of the waiting line, this was our last stop almost every night heading back to the cabin. Though it would frequently have a long line, it moved quickly and we never saw them run out of pizza!

Specialty Restaurants

Specialty restaurants on cruise ships have been expanding, offering a unique experience for an additional charge. Frankly, on the Celebration we didn’t see any specialty restaurants that made sense for us to spend the extra money.

We’ve tried them on several other cruises where the experience seemed worth it to us, such as 150 Central Park on Royal Caribbean’s Oasis of the Seas, which is a small upscale restaurant located in a park like setting. Or Wonderland, which is a fairy tale type experience.

We’d try specialty restaurants again on a future cruise, but it’s harder to justify spending the extra money on something similar when there’s plenty of good food available that’s included in your cruise.

Other Quick Service and Snacks

There are plenty of other great choices for a quick snack on board, including Guy’s Burger Joint, which was one of our favorites for lunch. Guy’s Burger would have been a dinner favorite too if we weren’t looking to spend a lot of time eating, but unfortunately, they’re closed for dinner.

Amenities and Entertainment

During our time on the Carnival Celebration Cruise, we discovered plenty of amenities and entertainment to stay busy on the at sea days.

Carnival Celebration Outdoor Movie

The pools, and water park on the top deck were a hit with our kids, and were surprisingly spacious enough for this sold out cruise.

There’s live music at Havana Bar and game shows like Family Feud in the theater, along with daily activities like scavenger hunts.

Entertainment options

There’s plenty to keep you entertained onboard, day or night. Here’s some of our favorites.

Pool and Waterpark Area

The top aft deck is one of the best areas for kids, containing a large water wark with slides, mini golf, a ropes course, and a basketball court.

Several pools are available, and we were able to find lounge chairs easier than on other cruise ships.

Carnival Celebration Movie Night

At night, Dive In Movies were a favorite of our kids. We spent about every night on the top deck pool watching movies once they discovered this. Note: Every night the movies were PG-13, and not appropriate for younger kids. It would have been nice for them to alternate movie nights for different age groups.

The BOLT rollercoaster, the first rollercoaster onboard a cruise ship. Our kids loved it, and they’re used to fast, full sized theme park roller coasters. There is a fee for the coaster, but this ensured there wasn’t ever along line, even on at sea days.

Carnival Celebration Water Park

Entertainment Shows

We found the nightly entertainment to be much different than on Royal Carribean, which uses its main large theater for shows or broadway type plays each night.

In contrast, on our cruise the Celebration main theater was mostly used for game shows type shows involving audience participation like Family Feud, which took up several nights of our seven night cruise.

The Celebration main shows and plays were usually located in the semi open entrance area of the ship, which only has a small seating area, along with standing room only balconies overhead to view the show. Because of this it’s hard to even get a seat to watch a show, without arriving very early

Trivia and Daytime Activities

During the day there’s plenty of family friendly activities like trivia, scavenger hunts, and family friendly comedy shows happening at places like Punchliner Comedy Club, and the Havana Bar.

  • Ropes course and basketball court keep us active.

Inclusions and additional expenses

When it comes to the monetary aspect of the trip, the Carnival Celebration cruise is a cost-effective vacation option for families. As part of the package, most of the amenities and services are included in the initial price. However, some additional expenses might come up during the journey. Let’s break down what is included and what might cost extra:

InclusionsAdditional Expenses
Stateroom with the Carnival Home™ Bedding CollectionSpecialty dining options
Main meals in the dining room and at the buffetSpa and beauty treatments
Entertainment options such as live shows, comedy club, and kids’ clubAlcoholic and soft beverages outside of meal times
Transportation from port to portExcursions at each port of call
Access to gym, pools, and hot tubsInternet and WiFi access
Services for guests with disabilitiesCasino games

So whenoe the initial cost covers much of the vacation, there are additional expenses you might consider budgeting for.

Pros and Cons of Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration Exterior 3

Our experience aboard the Carnival Celebration was packed with countless memorable moments for our family, and just like any vacation , it had its highs and lows.

We found this ship is perfect for active families like ours, looking for fun and adventure. So, let’s weigh up the pros and cons.

The wide variety of casual dining options on the ship was a big plus for us. The kids loved being able to choose from different cuisines every night!While there are many dining options, some specialized restaurants aren’t included in the cruise fare and come with an extra cost. This can add up if you want to experience more exclusive dining experiences.
Ranked 4 among Carnival cruise ships according to U.S. ratings, the Carnival Celebration certainly lives up to its reputation. There’s a reason why it scores so highly—it truly brings the unique Carnival spirit!As the ship is so popular, it can sometimes feel crowded. The pool areas, in particular, can get busy during peak times, which can be a bit overwhelming.
The wide array of entertainment options meant we never had a dull moment on board. From the kids’ club to live shows and even a water park, there was always something for us to do.Some of the entertainment activities require advance booking, which we did not realize. So, we missed out on some of the things we wanted to do. Planning ahead is key!
The Carnival Celebration guarantees an unforgettable vacation experience. We created lasting memories exploring the ship and the destinations it took us to—making it a holiday we’ll never forget.While the ship visits some exceptional destinations, the shore excursions can be quite expensive. This can limit the number of excursions you’re able to take part in.

In conclusion, while there were a few minor setbacks, the pros of our trip aboard the Carnival Celebration outweighed the cons.

Compared to Royal Caribbean? We’d return for another cruise on the Celebration in the future, but would chose Royal Caribbean over Carnival if the itinerary and price was similar.

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

Our Celebration cruise trip was a great introduction to Carnival. While we still prefer Royal Caribbean’s largest ships, our family had a great time. We’d definitely chose it or it’s sister ship the Mardi Gras for a future vacation.

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