Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship has arrived in Miami, FL. Last week, Carnival Celebration arrived at the new Terminal F in Miami, FL. Of course, Heidi and I had to get onboard to check out this new flagship for ourselves. How does this vessel compare to other mega-ships? Well, we share our honest take in this Carnival Celebration cruise review.
Carnival Celebration Review
Carnival Celebration is Carnival Cruise Line’s largest ship. At over 182K gross tons, and a double occupancy of just over 5,300 guests, the ship rivals some of the world’s largest ships. Technically, the ship is not as big as the current largest cruise ship in the world, Wonder of the Seas. Yet, it has a similar passenger capacity.
Given this was a Thanksgiving week cruise, the ship was sailing at 5,886 passengers with over 1,500 kids.
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Surprisingly, the ship did handle the crowds fairly well. Thus, we were able to experience all of the shows and activities, as well as sample a variety of the dining options. So, let’s dive into this Carnival Celebration cruise ship review, starting with the outdoor spaces.
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Like other newer mega-ships, Carnival Celebration has several smaller pool areas to disperse crowds. Deck 16 is the Beach Pool. This central Lido pool is the liveliest space with music, afternoon sing-alongs, and other Fun Squad events. Nearby are several outdoor eateries and the two-story RedFrog Tiki Bar.
For something a bit more quiet, there’s the Tides Pool aft on Deck 16. This infinity pool and adjacent whirlpools offer unparalleled ocean views. Not to mention, it is closely located nearby the Lido Marketplace, Shaq’s Big Chicken, and the Tides Pool Bar.
Similarly, the Patio on Deck 8 features a pool and two nearby whirlpools. Again, cruisers are only steps away from the Watering Hole Bar and a short walk inside to the deli, pizza parlor, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse.
For adults, Serenity on Deck 18 encompasses a large area. This forward sundeck features a variety of loungers, chairs, day beds, and other seating options. Thus, we had no issues all week finding a seat. There’s also a small pool, a bar, and a salad bar conveniently located in the center of this 18+ space.
Lastly, cruisers can upgrade to the Loft 19. This private space offers cabanas, whirlpools, and dedicated staff.
Shockingly, even on sea days, none of the pools felt overly crowded during this holiday week sailing.
Carnival is a family-centered cruise line. Thus, its sports deck on Deck 18 offers a variety of activities suitable for cruisers of all ages.
Of course, the main attraction is the upcharge Bolt. This electric rollercoaster at sea is $15 for two continuous laps arounds the track. While a little pricey, we did enjoy this activity.
All the way aft on this deck is a nine-hole mini golf course, Honestly, we expected more theming and creative elements. Yet, the little kids didn’t seem to mind the lack of more advanced features.
Nearby is also the Carnival Waterworks. This waterpark is home to several attractions for little kids, as well as a few slides for us big kids. These slides include the face-forward mat slide, Blue Lightning, and a drop slide, the Orange Crush. Finally, the Twister is a more traditional body slide, but it still packs quite a punch.
For those without a fear of heights, the Ropes Course is suspended over Deck 18. With several options to make the challenge easy or hard, this certainly has replay potential. The course even includes a zip line and a beam that extends over the edge of the ship (like the Plank on NCL).
Other staples on the Sports Deck include a full length basketball court and other games, such as foosball and bag-o.
Additionally, crammed into this deck is the jogging track. It takes 7 laps around to equal one mile. If you plan to use this track for a walk or run, be on the lookout for others strolling along, as well as some daybeds lining this path. It can get quite crowded.
Carnival wowed us with the service onboard Carnival Celebration. Given it was a Thanksgiving week cruise, and one of the first sailings on this new ship, we were concerned that service might suffer.
We are happy to report that this was not the case. The service throughout the ship was friendly and efficient. In fact, the service on Carnival Celebration was better than some of our more recent cruises on premium cruise lines.
It started with our stateroom attendant, Alvi. Even though our embarkation was delayed, he made it a point to introduce himself on day 1. He was always visible in the hallways, and he took good care of our stateroom even though our schedule was anything but predictable on this trip. Though, we do miss not having twice daily service like other cruise lines.
At the bars and lounges, a variety of servers were quick to strike up a conversation. Nickola in the Jubilee Bar liked to joke while showing off his mastery bartending skills. Other bartenders were equally eager to add some additional flare while mixing up cocktails.
Many of the bars and lounges did not have waitstaff, so cruisers did need to order at the bar itself. Still, the wait times were minimal.
Tuty at the Java Blue Cafe made my multiple trips to this coffee shop a pleasure. She always had a big smile on her face and knew my name and order by the third morning!
For dinner, we had Your Time Dining. Each evening, we joined a virtual queue at one of the restaurants, and we never waited more than 10 minutes to get our table assignment. Even though we didn’t have the same waitstaff, service was always on point.
Food was served at the appropriate temperatures, and each course was well paced, with most meals taking about 60-75 minutes. This gave us plenty of time to enjoy the evening entertainment around the ship.
The Cruise Director Lee and the rest of the Fun Squad did a fabulous job keeping the energy up all cruise. Lee was an excellent host for game shows like Family Feud and Love and Marriage. He was very visible throughout the ship and always willing to say hello or take a selfie.
As of late, this seems to be less common in cruise directors. So, bravo to Carnival for keeping this important element of cruising intact!
Our 6-night cruise had three ports of call and two full sea days. Throughout the entire day, the Fun Squad was out and about with a full line-up of classic cruise activities.
There were several dance classes, including the jam-packed Thriller dance class. Not to mention, there were a variety of trivia and games. With trivia sessions focused on music, sports, and general knowledge, each sea day had 6 or more sessions.
Other organized activities included Bingo and game shows like Majority Rules, Walk the Plank, and even Flip Cup. These activities were scattered throughout the ship in venues like the Limelight Lounge, the Havana Club, or the Summer Landing.
Even if you didn’t participate, you couldn’t help but enjoy all of the fun just watching the different activities.
Karaoke sets were featured during the afternoon and evenings on several days of the cruise. At either the Limelight Lounge or Havana Club, cruisers could show off their vocal cords while admiring spectators sang along.
Further, there was live music scattered throughout the ship. During our cruise, there were two featured guitarists. Paul and Reggie seemed to rotate between the Deck 6 Latitudes Bar and Deck 6 Golden Jubilee Bar, as did the Quora String Trio.
In the Piano 88 and Golden Jubilee bars, you could find Oscar or Eden tickling the ivories. The Backyard Band belted out country and rock music at the Deck 8 Summer Landing, and the dancers kept the Mambo Magic at the Havana Club each night with Latin hits.
Along with live music, Carnival Celebration also showcased several comedians. In fact, there were 5 different comedians offering several sets in the Punchliner Comedy Club and the Limelight Lounge. On multiple nights, there were adult-only comedy shows in the main theater as well.
Other nightlife included game shows like Family Feud, Deal or No Deal, and Cash Bash. Here, cruisers could compete for real cash prizes.
Finally, there were deck parties on the lido, movies on the big screen, the new Evolution Dance Party, and plenty of other options to keep cruisers busy day and night. Honestly, we had a hard time trying to fit everything into just 6 days.
For this Carnival Celebration cruise ship scorecard review, we dined at several of the complimentary and upcharge venues.
When it comes to casual dining, Carnival Cruise Line does laps around the competition. The variety of options, food preparation and flavor, and atmosphere of these venues are intertwined into the ship’s “zones”.
Guy’s Burger Joint remains one of the best takeout burger joints at sea. On Carnival Celebration, this venue has been enhanced with more seating and a larger counter for quicker service.
On the Lido deck, cruisers can get customized burritos, bowls, or tacos for breakfast and lunch at the Blue Iguana Cantina. In the morning, the burritos are among my favorite breakfast options on any cruise ship. Lunchtime burrito and taco options include chicken, steak, or shrimp, with a custom salsa bar.
In the afternoons, Street Eats serves up small bites. With loaded French Fries, and options like dumplings, pad thai, or chicken satays, these plates are just the right size for a quick snack.
Aft on Deck 16 is Shaq’s Big Chicken. This venue debuted on Mardi Gras and has been a smash hit. With addictive crispy chicken sandwiches and tenders, now we know why. We made several stops here throughout the week.
Down on Deck 8 in the 820 Biscayne zone is the Miami Slice pizzeria. While not the best pizza at sea, it features five different options and remains open until the wee morning hours for late night snacks. Next door, there’s also the Deco Deli which features 12 different sandwiches.
Finally, much like the International Cafe on Princess Cruises, the Java Blue Cafe serves up some grab and go bites as well. With breakfast sandwiches and continental items in the morning, to sandwiches, chicken pies, and empanadas in the afternoon, you will never go hungry on Carnival Celebration.
Main Dining Room
For this cruise, we opted for Your Time Dining; however, more traditional cruise dining does still exist with an early and a late seating at 5:30 and 7:45 PM respectively.
With Your Time Dining, cruisers use the Carnival HUB app to join the virtual queue at either the Festivale Main Dining Room, Chibang, or Cucina del Capitano.
We entered a virtual queue to reserve a table whenever we were hungry for dinner. The app even gives you estimated wait times. In our experience, the wait times were fairly accurate, and we never waited more than 10 minutes for a table.
We dined in the main dining room twice, and unfortunately, we were not impressed with either visit.
We dined here for the first time during the cruise line’s first Elegant night. While the lobster tail was pretty typical, the prime rib was dry and tough. Our second attempt at the MDR was Thanksgiving. The meal this night was very disappointing.
The apps and desserts were on par with other cruise lines, but nothing really impressed us except the chocolate melting cake.
Currently, Carnival Cruise Line has broadened the options for complimentary dining on its Excel Class ships. On our sailing, both Chibang and Cucina del Capitano were complimentary.
While the meals here were better than the main dining room, neither of them were at the caliber of a specialty restaurant on other cruise lines.
Chibang is a mix of Asian and Mexican cuisine. Heidi and I enjoyed the food here, but given the basic offerings, an up-charge for this venue doesn’t seem appropriate.
Likewise, the Italian cuisine at Cucina del Capitano was freshly prepared and more flavorful than the main dining room. Yet, it doesn’t even compare to specialty venues like Onda on NCL or Giovanni’s Italian Kitchen on Royal Caribbean.
Overall, the trend of subpar main dining room food quality across the board in 2022 continued on Carnival Celebration.
For this cruise, we dined at two specialty restaurants. Pre-cruise, we made reservations at Fahrenheit 555 and Rudi’s Seagrill.
While better than the main dining room, both restaurants had rather simple menus and lackluster food preparation, especially when compared to other cruise lines.
My filet mignon was properly seared to a medium-rare temperature. It was lightly seasoned, and I had no complaints about the portion or the flavor.
Though, the pork belly, tuna tartare, and French onion soup were not all that flavorful. Heidi’s chicken dish and the sides were very basic as well.
My dessert was better than expected. The apple tarte tatin had a slightly sweet filling that complemented the vanilla ice cream and flaky crust.
Likewise, the menu at Rudi’s SeaGrill was not very inventive either, especially when compared to Rudi’s restaurant on Holland America. My fried calamari appetizer was hot and crispy but not as flavorful as I would have expected. The oysters were uninspiring as well.
Although, my crab stuffed lobster tail imperial was far superior to the tail served in the main dining room. This was more akin to a meal you would get at a specialty restaurant on other cruise lines. I also enjoyed the apple cheesecake dessert.
Given the price tag, food quality, and availability of other complimentary options on the ship, we would probably skip specialty dining on future Excel Class ships.
We also tried lunch at Emeril’s Bistro. I had high hopes for this venue, and sadly, it did not live up to my expectations.
The a la carte menu here featured New Orleans specialties, but the two menu items I ordered were nothing like their counterparts on land. The fried oysters had a thick, heavy batter and were no better than the main dining room. The shrimp po’boy was similarly disappointing. Although, the beignets were a light, airy, and sugary exception!
For this Carnival Celebration cruise ship review, we made it a point to see every show.
During the 6 nights, there were four signature shows. Two were featured in the main theater, Grand Spectrum. The other two were presented on Center Stage in the Celebration Central zone on Decks 6, 7, and 8.
In main theater, the Playlist Productions are Amor Cubano and Color My World. Each production occurred on two different evenings, with a total of 3 showtimes.
Amor Cubano was a typical cruise ship revue show. Featuring classic and contemporary Latin music, this production fell short when compared to the great entertainment offerings on other cruise lines.
Color My World was a little better. This show had a bit more narrative, the song selection was more in our jukebox, and it incorporated some modern digital elements to help the story come to life. Still, it didn’t compare to the performances on our recent Celebrity Beyond cruise.
Center Stage is home to the more dynamic productions. These included two performances of Celestial Strings and The Most Magnificent Circus. Heidi and I enjoyed these shows more than the theater productions.
Featuring a different cast, these shows included more props, aerialists, and unique elements for a more immersive experience. Honestly, these two productions are more like the baseline shows you find on cruise lines like Royal Caribbean or Norwegian Cruise Line.
Celestial Strings takes the audience on a journey through the seasons, while the Circus is an intriguing variety show with a magician, dancers, acrobats, and singers. This was my favorite of all four shows.
While we like the idea of Celebration Central, the space is not ideal for shows. There is not much seating near the stage, and several areas have obstructed views. So, make sure to show up extremely early if you even want a chance at securing prime seats.
Bars and Lounges
There are over a dozen bars on Carnival Celebration, and many of them include signature drink menus. Although, you might notice some of the menus have different names but are essentially the same drinks.
Further, the drinks tend to be more Caribbean-inspired than they are craft cocktails. Thus, you won’t find many bourbon or whiskey based beverages.
One of our favorite Carnival bars is the Alchemy Bar. Located on Deck 7 overlooking the Gateway, the mixologists here craft up signature cocktails. The side car and 40 is the new 20 cocktails were a perfect fit for us.
Below this venue on Deck 6 is the new Latitudes Bar serving up an international menu. Here, you can listen to a guitarist or string trio while you sip one of the 20 globally-inspired offerings. Some of our go-to drinks were the old fashioned, the sazerac, and the cosmopolitan.
Bar 820 captures the vibrancy and diversity of Miami. With tropical ingredients and neon lights, the venue features Cuban coladas, cafecitos, and classic specialty coffees. It is a great spot for a pre-dinner drink before heading to one of the nearby restaurants.
Craft beer and fresh drafts are on tap at Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse aft on Deck 8. Not to mention, the venue has regular live rock and country music.
New to Carnival Celebration is the Golden Jubilee Bar. This retro cocktail menu is reminiscent of the classic style of cruising that was popular during the early twentieth century. Scattered throughout this portside deck 6 venue are some historic artifacts from Carnival Cruise Line’s 50 years of sailing.
Many of the other bars found on Carnival Celebration are familiar favorites. There is the Latin-inspired Havana Club shaking things up with a themed menu and live music most nights of the cruise. There is the Heroes Tribute Bar paying homage to those who have served in the armed forces.
Piano 88 blends live piano music with a variety of drinks each evening. Cruisers can also order up cocktails at the Punchliner Comedy Club and Limelight Lounge.
Further, the Tropicale and Aquaria bars are located nearby Center Stage so you can sip cocktails during the nightly entertainment.
Additionally, cruisers will love the two-story RedFrog Tiki Bar, Tides Bar, and the Watering Hole located right next to the pools and whirlpools, as well as the Serenity Bar featuring sangrias.
Needless to say, we didn’t have any issues using our 15 drinks on the Carnival Cheers Drink Package.
We stayed in stateroom 10426 during this Carnival Celebration cruise ship review. This portside cabin was only a few steps from the midship elevators and a short walk (or elevator ride) to most of the public venues.
According to the Carnival Cruise Line website, this stateroom is 205 square feet, with a 44 square foot balcony.
Immediately upon entering the room, the bathroom was to the right, and the closets were to the left. The closets offered plenty of storage, and the bathroom was typical for a cruise ship cabin.
There were his and her closets, each with shelves and a clothes bar. Further, the desk had three additional drawers for extra storage space.
Continuing past the bathroom and closet, the desk was to the left and the loveseat was to the right. Both the desk and loveseat were good-sized. The desk had enough counter space to double as my office and the wife’s makeup area. Above the desk were two shelves as well for additional gear.
The bed in our balcony cabin on Carnival Celebration was on the forward wall facing aft. The bed was located next to the balcony door, which is our preferred layout.
While there were USBs next to the bed, we were surprised in the lack of power outlets. There was only one area on the desk with two 110 volt outlets and two USB outlets.
Overall, the cabin felt on par with the competition in terms of size. Though, the décor and furnishings were rather plain and basic.
Surprisingly, our balcony felt much larger than the advertised size. It might have been due to our location, as Deck 10 includes additional rail space when compared to the decks above it. The balcony was deep, with plenty of room for two chairs and a small table.
Recap of Our Carnival Celebration Review
Carnival Celebration is the newest “fun ship” in the 24 vessel Carnival fleet. This new cruise ship showcases the vibe and lifestyle that Carnival has become known for in its 50 year history.
The Cruise Director Lee and his Fun Squad did an amazing job bringing this fun ship to life.
With nearly 5,900 other cruisers onboard, Carnival Celebration did a much better job handling the crowds than some other mega-ships from competitor brands. The fun squad utilized the various onboard spaces for activities and offered several showtimes for entertainment to accommodate this sold-out cruise.
Thus, all it took was some planning and cruisers could do and see it all. Those suffering from FOMO should arrive at least 30 minutes before a signature show for optimal seats.
With so many options and different venues, this was not necessary for other activities though. On several occasions, we easily found seats in the comedy club about 15 minutes prior to a set. The same was true for other activities and events, like Bingo, the Evolution party, and live music.
While we enjoyed the casual dining on Carnival Celebration, the main dining room and specialty dining fell short for us. For this Carnival Celebration review, the food quality did not live up to our expectations.
The signature entertainment was fair when compared to other contemporary cruise lines. The productions were certainly not Broadway-caliber shows like NCL or Royal Caribbean. We did like the shows that occurred in Celebration Central more than those in the main theater; though, it’s difficult to find a good viewing spot.
We loved that there was so much to do around the ship. From the sports deck activities, to Family Feud and Deal or No Deal, to the comedy shows, there was never a dull moment during our sailing. In fact, we had to pencil in some time to just relax.
Another bright spot of this Carnival Celebration cruise ship review was the crew and the fantastic service we received throughout the entire week.
Did you enjoy our Carnival Celebration cruise ship scorecard review? Do you have plans to sail on this new Carnival Cruise Line ship? Drop us an anchor below with your latest Carnival cruise reviews.