Princess Cruises Vs Carnival: Which is Better?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click one, I may earn a commission at no cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise Line are both very popular, although they’re quite different from each other. If you’re wondering which to choose for your next sailing, or simply interested to know how they compare, read on to find out what similarities and differences they have.

Princess Cruises Vs Carnival

Both Princess Cruises and Carnival are owned by the Carnival Corporation. However, there are some stark contrasts between the two cruise lines and they tend to target different crowds.

Cruises with Princess have a sophisticated, British feel and are popular with Brits and Americans alike, while Carnival cruises are aimed mainly at young American couples, families and groups of friends.

Ships

In 2022, Princess Cruises has 14 ships in the fleet, with a further three waiting to join which are under construction or in planning. Carnival has 24 cruise ships in the fleet, with an additional three planned for the future.

Princess Cruises’ ships

Princess Cruises has three classes of ship:

  • Royal Class – The newest ships, accommodating 3,560 to 3,660 guests
  • Grand Class – Eight mid-sized ships accommodating 2,600 to 3,140 guests
  • Coral Class – The oldest two ships, each catering for 2,000 to 2,220 guests

The oldest Princess Cruises ship is Grand Princess which was launched in 1998. The newest is Discovery Princess which joined the fleet in January 2022.

Suggested read: Princess Cruises Ships by Age

Sky Princess
Sky Princess

Carnival’s ships

Carnival has eight classes of cruise ships. The oldest, Carnival Ecstasy, was launched in 1991 while the newest is Mardi Gras, launched in 2021.

The classes include the Fantasy Class which is the oldest through to the Excel Class which is the newest and largest. Guest capacity ranges from 2,606 to 6,465 passengers.

Suggested read: Carnival Cruise Ships by Size

Mardi Gras
Carnival’s Mardi Gras

Which to choose?

Both Princess and Carnival offer a large choice of ships ranging from mid-size ships from the 1990s to large, modern vessels. However, if you love really big ships, then Carnival’s largest cruise ships are almost twice as big as those of sister-brand Princess Cruises.

Destinations

Both Carnival and Princess Cruises visit destinations across the globe year-round. The most popular places to visit include the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Australiasia and Europe

The following table shows how many cruise itineraries are available in each destination:

CarnivalPrincess
Alaska1019
Asia024
Australia & New Zealand2285
Bahamas47107
Bermuda120
Canada & New England99
Caribbean17346
Europe2369
Galapagos00
Hawaii55
Mexico215
Pacific Coast021
Panama Canal1312
South Pacific2846
Transatlantic335
Transpacific00

Princess Cruises’ destinations

Princess cruises depart from 29 ports of call around the world, with the most popular being Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Southampton in the UK, Sydney in Australia and Yokohama in Tokyo.

The cruise line has a popular roster of itineraries in Australia with six ports of call just for this destination, third only to Europe with seven and North America with nine.

Carnival cruise destinations

Carnival cruises depart from 22 ports, the most popular of which are those based in the United States. These include Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Port Canaveral, plus Galveston in Texas.

Popular destinations to travel to on a Carnival cruise include the Caribbean where the highest concentration of sailings are, as well as the Bahamas, the South Pacific and Europe.

Which to choose?

If you’re looking to cruise from the UK, you’ll find plenty of options with Princess Cruises departing from Southampton between March and November, whereas Carnival only has a handful of cruises departing from Dover, England.

Likewise, if you wish to cruise to exotic destinations such as Asia or the Pacific Coast, then Princess Cruises would be the cruise line to choose as these itineraries aren’t offered by Carnival.

But, if cruises from Florida to Mexico, Bermuda or the Caribbean are your bag, then Carnival has the best choice of itineraries.

Both Princess Cruises and Carnival Cruise line offer cruises to their shared private island – Princess Cays. But cruisers should know that while the Princess Cruises drink package works on the island, the Carnival drink package doesn’t!

Carnival Cruise Line also has visits to a second private island in the Bahamas called Half Moon Cay. This is shared with Holland America Line.

Food

The food experience on both cruise lines is very different. For a more classic fine dining experience, you might find you prefer Princess, while Carnival is more casual with home-style favourites such as ribs and burgers.

Princess Cruises’ food

Princess offers a sophisticated dining experience with an emphasis on authenticity and dishes made with local influences.

There are some casual dining venues including the World Fresh Marketplace and International Café, as well as pizzerias, hot dog grills and coffee shops. However, the best cuisine will be enjoyed in the main dining venues and speciality restaurants such as Kai Sushi, Bistro Sur La Mer and the Crown Grill.

There are also experiential food encounters such as the Chef’s Table which offers the opportunity to dine with the Executive Chefs and the Chocolate Journeys program whereby you can sample the most exquisite chocolate works of art.

It’s widely believed that Princess Cruises offers ‘the best pizza at sea’.

Me with pizza on a Princess cruise

Carnival food

Carnival Cruise Line’s food is catered very much to an American market with dining venues including burger joints, chicken shacks and steakhouses.

Venues include pizza parlours open 24 hours, soft-serve ice cream at Swirls, grab-and-go burger places, Mexican cantinas, street food and the Lido Marketplace. You’ll also find celebrity-endorsed foodie venues on board selected ships. Guy Fieri has several restaurants including Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que, while Shaquille O’Neal is the face of the Big Chicken restaurant.

For something more formal, there are several speciality venues which are an additional cost. These include Emeril’s Bistro 1396 and Bonsai Teppanyaki.

Carnival cruise food
Food on a Carnival cruise

Which to choose?

If you love fine dining in glamorous restaurants then it’s clear that you’ll be much more suited to Princess Cruises than Carnival. However, if you prefer to dress casually and devour endless burgers, hot dogs and fried chicken, then a Carnival cruise will be perfect for you.

Activities and Entertainment

Princess Cruises promises a wealth of activities to suit all interests aboard its fleet of ships, while Carnival caters more to family-fun and American-style experiences.

Carnival calls its ships ‘fun ships’ as there’s something going on at all times to keep guests entertained. Princess Cruises instead is more relaxed, though still offers plenty to do.

Things to do on a Princess cruise

Princess offers a wide range of daily activities including dance lessons, wine tasting seminars, art auctions, world-class gaming in the casinos, shopping in the boutiques and taking a dip in the pools and hot tubs. There’s also Movies under the Stars for outdoor cinema screenings, comedians and magic shows.

Entertainment is just as varied with performances from around the globe in state-of-the-art theatres. The cruise line also has its own version of The Voice, dubbed the ‘Voice of the Ocean’ where onboard guests can compete just like on the show!

Crown Princess
Crown Princess

Things to do on a Carnival cruise

A Carnival cruise brings plenty of fun from the start. Mini-golf, water parks and regular poolside competitions aren’t out of the ordinary daily. This continues well into the night as game shows, casinos, karaoke and live music brings exciting late-night activities.

There are a few adrenaline-rushing activities too including the SkyRide, which is like riding a bike but on a track high above the ocean, the Bolt rollercoaster, and lots of incredible waterslides.

SkyRide

Which to choose?

Young adults or those celebrating holidays like Spring Break will certainly prefer a Carnival cruise as there is literally non-stop fun. Older adults will definitely enjoy the sophisticated tranquillity of a Princess cruise.

For younger couples, it really depends on whether you like the loud, non-stop action of a Carnival cruise or prefer something a little more relaxing.

Kids Facilities

There’s something for children on both Carnival and Princess Cruises, depending on what experiences your kids are into.

Princess Cruises for kids

Princess Cruises has some great educational offerings with their partnership with Discovery and Animal Planet. Families can enjoy shore excursions that cater to enriching experiences as well as the chance to meet local animals and take part in themed activities with experts.

In the kids’ clubs, children are grouped by age with rooms for 6 months to 2 years, 3 to 7 years, 8 to 12 years, 13 to17 years and 18 to 20 years. These are all hosted by specially trained staff and bring opportunities for kids to meet new friends and enjoy memorable experiences while sailing. 

There are dining events exclusively for children. Here, they can sit with their new-found friends, supervised by Princess’ youth staff. There are also pizza parties and ice cream parties on numerous occasions during each cruise.

Princess’ Camp Discovery

Carnival cruises for kids

There’s plenty for the kids to enjoy on a Carnival cruise from waterslides, mini-golf and live entertainment as well as all-day youth activities.

Carnival’s kids’ clubs have three programmes available: Camp Ocean for those aged 2-11, Circle ‘C’ for those 12-14 years and then Club O2 for 15-17 years.

The cruise line’s WaterWorks on-board water park is great for all ages and includes racing slides and interactive splash zones. There are also video arcades for a bit of competitive fun and a Build-a-Bear workshop!

Carnival has a partnership with Dr Seuss, with the Dr Seuss at Sea programme. This includes the Seuss-a-palooza Story Time for the youngsters, the Seuss-a-palooza Parade where beloved characters march through the ship, as well as gatherings for arts and crafts and a special breakfast of Green Eggs and Ham.

Carnival’s waterslides

Which to choose?

There’s no denying that Carnival cruises are fantastic for kids. They’re sure to never be bored with non-stop fun and action. But obviously, that’s not for everyone.

If you have younger kids who can’t yet join in with all of the activities, or quiet teenagers who prefer chill-out time to non-stop partying, then a Princess cruise would also be a good option to consider.

Price

The price points for both Carnival and Princess Cruises are very similar, though this depends on where you want to travel and when.

The price of Princess Cruises

The average 7-night Caribbean cruise with Princess in a Balcony stateroom costs $1,153 per person. On top of that, you’ll need to budget $102 per person for gratuities and an extra $420 per person if you want a drink package for a total cost of around $1,675 each.

However, you should definitely consider Princess Cruises’ special Princess Plus Fare’. For an extra $40 per person, per day, you’ll get a free drinks package, unlimited wifi and pre-paid gratuities all rolled into one to make your cruise all-inclusive.

You can read more about the Princess Plus Fare in my Princess Cruises Drink Packages guide.

NEW DEALS JUST RELEASED!

See the latest Princess Cruises offers…

The price of Carnival cruises

The average 7-night Caribbean cruise with Carnival in a Balcony room costs $963 per person. This doesn’t include any additional extras which would need to be added in separately including $101.50 for gratuities and $364 for the drinks package. So the average total cost would be around $1,429 per person.

To work out whether the Carnival drink package is worth it, take a look at my Carnival drink package guide.

Which to choose?

Carnival cruises usually come in slightly cheaper than Princess cruises. If you’re on a budget and live in the US, you’ll find some really cheap deals on short cruises departing from Florida.

Carnival Cruise Line was voted ‘Best Value-for-the-Money Line’ in the 2020 Porthole Cruise Reader’s Choice Awards.

Don’t Overpay For Your Cruise!

Here’s how I get the lowest price when I book a cruise…

1. Compare prices from every travel agent in one place.

2. Choose a trusted travel agent with a best price guarantee.

Please don’t book with any old company just because they have a cheap deal. I recommend that you find the best price and then take it to a trusted travel agent who will beat it, as well as giving you the best service.

The Verdict

It’s clear there are some major differences between Carnival Cruise Line and Princess Cruises. Which is better depends very much on what experiences you’re looking for on your next cruise.

Princess Cruises is a sophisticated cruise line with exquisite food, high levels of service and plenty for all the family to enjoy. Meanwhile, Carnival is catered to family fun with an American feel and itineraries highly concentrated in the Caribbean.

If you’re looking for something for the kids, Carnival is a great option to keep everyone happy. If you’re seeking something a little more grown-up in elegant surroundings, Princess is ideal.

Have you cruised with both cruise lines? Please join the chat in the comments to let us know which you preferred and why.

Don’t Overpay For Your Cruise!

Here’s how I get the lowest price when I book a cruise…

1. Compare prices from every travel agent in one place.

2. Choose a trusted travel agent with a best price guarantee.

Please don’t book with any old company just because they have a cheap deal. I recommend that you find the best price and then take it to a trusted travel agent who will beat it, as well as giving you the best service.

Before you go!

I'd love to help you to...

1. Find a great cruise - See today's top 15 cruise deals

2. Book with a trusted travel agent - Here's who I recommend

3. Cruise smarter - Join 20,000 cruisers who get my best tips by email


Found this to be useful?

You're welcome to share this guide with your friends if you think it may help them too.

Leave a comment