The Best Carnival Ships For 2020

best carnival cruise ships 2020 caribbean
Which Carnival ships are worth your attention in 2020? - Photo by Carnival Cruise Line

Have your mind set on a Carnival cruise in 2020, but can’t decide which of their 25 ships to take? We crunched the numbers from over 7,000 verified member reviews of Carnival ships submitted in 2019 to determine the best choices for cabins, dining, entertainment, and more!

 

Cabins

best carnival ships 2020 cabins horizon
Balcony cabin on Carnival Horizon - Rendering by Carnival


1. Carnival Horizon - 4.56
2. Carnival Vista - 4.48
3. Carnival Splendor - 4.47
4. Carnival Valor - 4.47
5. Carnival Breeze - 4.45
6. Carnival Legend - 4.44
7. Carnival Conquest - 4.44
8. Carnival Dream - 4.44
9. Carnival Pride - 4.42
10. Carnival Glory - 4.42
11. Carnival Sunshine - 4.41
12. Carnival Paradise - 4.40
13. Carnival Miracle - 4.39
14. Carnival Victory - 4.39
15. Carnival Triumph - 4.38
16. Carnival Sunrise - 4.38
17. Carnival Magic - 4.37
18. Carnival Inspiration - 4.36
19. Carnival Elation - 4.36
20. Carnival Fantasy - 4.33
21. Carnival Liberty - 4.32
22. Carnival Imagination - 4.32
23. Carnival Fascination - 4.32
24. Carnival Freedom - 4.32
25. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.21
26. Carnival Sensation - 4.07

What We Expected: The newer the ship, the fresher the cabins. Carnival Horizon, Carnival’s newest ship, has arguably the best in the fleet, so we weren’t surprised when the score went up .08 points from last year and moved it into first place. Vista also saw an overdue jump, improving by .07 points and rising from 7th to 2nd. 

What Surprised Us: While nearly the entire fleet saw improved cabin scores, Freedom went from second place (4.44) to 24th (4.31) and Sensation's score dropped from 4.22 to 4.07.

What Changed From Last Year: With the exception of those two ships, Carnival’s cabin scores improved across the entire fleet from an average of 4.32 to 4.38. Considering cabin scores rarely fall outside 4.0 to 4.6 range, that’s a bigger deal than it sounds.

 

Food & Dining

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BlueIguana Cantina on Carnival Pride - Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Pride - 4.31
2. Carnival Valor - 4.30
3. Carnival Splendor - 4.25
4. Carnival Conquest - 4.24
5. Carnival Horizon - 4.23
6. Carnival Dream - 4.22
7. Carnival Vista - 4.22
8. Carnival Glory - 4.20
9. Carnival Breeze - 4.20
10. Carnival Triumph - 4.19
11. Carnival Sunshine - 4.19
12. Carnival Legend - 4.19
13. Carnival Freedom - 4.18
14. Carnival Magic - 4.17
15. Carnival Fantasy - 4.17
16. Carnival Inspiration - 4.16
17. Carnival Liberty - 4.13
18. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.13
19. Carnival Sunrise - 4.13
20. Carnival Imagination - 4.12
21. Carnival Paradise - 4.11
22. Carnival Miracle - 4.11
23. Carnival Fascination - 4.08
24. Carnival Elation - 4.08
25. Carnival Victory - 4.06
26. Carnival Sensation - 4.03

What We Expected: Newer ships have the advantage with cabins, but the same isn’t always true when it comes to dining. While newer ships have a wider selection of restaurants, the chefs and servers on the older ships have more experience, resulting in superior offerings and service. This is likely why some of Carnival's older ships (Pride, Valor, Splendor and Conquest) beat out some of their newest offerings (Dream, Breeze, Vista, and Horizon) when it came to dining.

We also saw this exact scenario Carnival Triumph's case, which underwent major refurbishments in 2019 and was rebranded as Carnival Sunrise. Despite receiving new onboard venues, its dining score actually fell from 4.19 to 4.13.

What Surprised Us: Carnival Miracle had a very good 2019 for dining, jumping from an abysmal 3.93 rating last year to 4.10. And while Carnival Pride doesn’t get much press, it stood head and shoulders above nearly all of its counterparts and pulled off an unexpected win.

What Changed From Last Year: Carnival Freedom fell hard in another category, from 4.29 to 4.17, which knocked it down from first place in 2019 to 13th. Freedom underwent a dry dock in early 2019 which rebranded the deli and added Bonsai Sushi Express, so it’s likely another case of an experienced staff trumping new amenities.

 

Service & Staff

Bartender at the Alchemy Bar - Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Pride - 4.67
2. Carnival Horizon - 4.62
3. Carnival Valor - 4.61
4. Carnival Dream - 4.61
5. Carnival Conquest - 4.61
6. Carnival Splendor - 4.61
7. Carnival Miracle - 4.60
8. Carnival Legend - 4.60
9. Carnival Inspiration - 4.60
10. Carnival Sunshine - 4.59
11. Carnival Glory - 4.59
12. Carnival Breeze - 4.58
13. Carnival Magic - 4.58
14. Carnival Fascination - 4.58
15. Carnival Vista - 4.57
16. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.56
17. Carnival Triumph - 4.56
18. Carnival Paradise - 4.55
19. Carnival Sensation - 4.55
20. Carnival Fantasy - 4.54
21. Carnival Freedom - 4.54
22. Carnival Sunrise - 4.53
23. Carnival Elation - 4.53
24. Carnival Imagination - 4.51
25. Carnival Victory - 4.50
26. Carnival Liberty - 4.43

What We Expected: Service on cruise ships ages like wine. For the first few years a ship operates, ships often struggle as issues are ironed out and the staff gets into its rhythm. Horizon seems to be following this familiar pattern as it posted a huge improvement in its second year of operations, jumping .12 points and moving up from 20th place to 2nd.

What Surprised Us: Carnival Pride may be older (2001), but it just won two out of the three most important categories (cabins, dining, and service). That crew is clearly doing something right as it won the service category by a large margin.

What Changed From Last Year: Carnival’s average service score improved from 4.52 to 4.57 fleetwide.

 

READ MORE: The Best Norwegian Cruise Line Ships for 2020

 

Onboard Activities

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The SportSquare on Carnival Horizon - Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Horizon - 4.25
2. Carnival Dream - 4.24
3. Carnival Valor - 4.21
4. Carnival Breeze - 4.18
5. Carnival Sunshine - 4.15
6. Carnival Vista - 4.14
7. Carnival Pride - 4.14
8. Carnival Glory - 4.13
9. Carnival Conquest - 4.13
10. Carnival Magic - 4.12
11. Carnival Inspiration - 4.11
12. Carnival Splendor - 4.10
13. Carnival Freedom - 4.09
14. Carnival Imagination - 4.07
15. Carnival Fantasy - 4.06
16. Carnival Legend - 4.06
17. Carnival Liberty - 4.05
18. Carnival Victory - 4.01
19. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.00
20. Carnival Sunrise - 4.00
21. Carnival Elation - 3.99
22. Carnival Triumph - 3.98
23. Carnival Paradise - 3.97
24. Carnival Sensation - 3.95
25. Carnival Fascination - 3.94
26. Carnival Miracle - 3.93

What We Expected: Carnival’s newest ships (Horizon, Vista, Breeze and Dream) had a very strong showing, which makes sense since newer ships have far more activities to offer than ships built 15+ years ago.

What Surprised Us: Freedom fell again from 3rd to 13th, despite (or perhaps because of?) an early-2019 dry dock.

What Changed From Last Year: Carnival didn’t add much in the way of onboard activities this year, but we’re interested to see how the roller coaster on Mardi Gras affects scores in 2020.

 

Entertainment

best carnival ships 2020 entertainment celestial strings
Playlist Productions - Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Valor - 4.39
2. Carnival Dream - 4.37
3. Carnival Glory - 4.34
4. Carnival Sunshine - 4.34
5. Carnival Horizon - 4.33
6. Carnival Imagination - 4.32
7. Carnival Splendor - 4.30
8. Carnival Vista - 4.29
9. Carnival Liberty - 4.29
10. Carnival Pride - 4.29
11. Carnival Conquest - 4.29
12. Carnival Breeze - 4.29
13. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.27
14. Carnival Inspiration - 4.27
15. Carnival Legend - 4.26
16. Carnival Fantasy - 4.25
17. Carnival Paradise - 4.24
18. Carnival Sunrise - 4.22
19. Carnival Freedom - 4.19
20. Carnival Sensation - 4.19
21. Carnival Magic - 4.19
22. Carnival Victory - 4.18
23. Carnival Elation - 4.18
24. Carnival Miracle - 4.17
25. Carnival Fascination - 4.15
26. Carnival Triumph - 4.13

What We Expected: Nicer venues can boost an entertainment score, but this category ultimately comes down to the quality of the performances themselves. Carnival Valor finished in the top 4 in every category this year, and edged out a win in entertainment by narrowly beating out last year’s winner, Carnival Breeze.

What Surprised Us: Triumph fell from 4th to dead last, dropping from 4.26 to 4.12. Its major refurbishment and rebranding as Carnival Sunrise seems to have come just in time, as this wasn’t the only category where its score fell dramatically from 2018. 

What Changed From Last Year: Horizon showed solid improvements in yet another category, rising from 4.21 to 4.33.

 

Children's Programs

best carnival ships 2020 childrens programs
A Camp Ocean playspace on Carnival Horizon - Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Breeze - 4.32
2. Carnival Glory - 4.21
3. Carnival Horizon - 4.21
4. Carnival Valor - 4.19
5. Carnival Dream - 4.15
6. Carnival Magic - 4.14
7. Carnival Splendor - 4.12
8. Carnival Freedom - 4.12
9. Carnival Vista - 4.11
10. Carnival Imagination - 4.11
11. Carnival Sunshine - 4.10
12. Carnival Paradise - 4.09
13. Carnival Inspiration - 4.08
14. Carnival Victory - 4.06
15. Carnival Pride - 4.04
16. Carnival Legend - 4.02
17. Carnival Conquest - 4.01
18. Carnival Elation - 3.97
19. Carnival Fascination - 3.95
20. Carnival Fantasy - 3.93
21. Carnival Miracle - 3.90
22. Carnival Ecstasy - 3.84
23. Carnival Triumph - 3.83
24. Carnival Liberty - 3.82
25. Carnival Sensation - 3.75
26. Carnival Sunrise - 3.72

What We Expected: While newer ships come with fully equipped and high-tech play areas, an enthusiastic and experienced staff can easily make up for older amenities. This year, newer ships Carnival Vista, Dream, and Breeze achieved solid finishes, but so did the older Glory and Valor (built in 2003 and 2004).

What Surprised Us: Horizon’s score went up from 3.99 to 4.20, bringing it from 19th to 3rd. Again, we attribute this big increase to the ship’s crew finding their rhythm.

What Changed From Last Year: Triumph and Liberty both performed poorly, falling from 12th to 2nd-to-last (4.04 to 3.83), and 8th to last (4.06 to 3.82) respectively.

Ship Quality

carnival ship quality best ships 2020
Photo by Carnival


1. Carnival Horizon - 4.47
2. Carnival Dream - 4.44
3. Carnival Breeze - 4.43
4. Carnival Valor - 4.42
5. Carnival Pride - 4.42
6. Carnival Legend - 4.41
7. Carnival Paradise - 4.37
8. Carnival Glory - 4.34
9. Carnival Splendor - 4.33
10. Carnival Freedom - 4.31
11. Carnival Magic - 4.31
12. Carnival Inspiration - 4.31
13. Carnival Conquest - 4.31
14. Carnival Imagination - 4.30
15. Carnival Sunshine - 4.28
16. Carnival Victory - 4.27
17. Carnival Fantasy - 4.27
18. Carnival Triumph - 4.27
19. Carnival Elation - 4.26
20. Carnival Liberty - 4.26
21. Carnival Vista - 4.26
22. Carnival Fascination - 4.24
23. Carnival Miracle - 4.22
24. Carnival Sunrise - 4.14
25. Carnival Ecstasy - 4.13
26. Carnival Sensation - 4.08

What We Expected: Ship Quality measures ship design, decor, and cleanliness, meaning newer ships often have the edge. This held true as Horizon, Dream, and Breeze won the top three spots, but Carnival Vista’s poor performance reminded us that this isn’t always the case.

What Surprised Us: We had expected Sunrise (the new name for Triumph) to score better in categories like ship quality.

What Changed From Last Year: Scores in the ship quality category were actually very consistent across the board. 

 

What We Learned

- Carnival Breeze and Dream are still the stars of the fleet, but they’ve also been joined by Valor and Horizon. Valor performed exceptionally well for being an older ship, while Horizon (Carnival’s newest ship) showed enormous improvements across the board in its second year of operation.

- Despite a dry dock which replaced some venues and refreshed furnishings and fixtures, Freedom had a very rough year, which was all the more surprising after such a strong 2018.

- In 2018, Miracle and Inspiration were the lowest performers. Miracle continues to struggle, but Carnival Inspiration went from last in almost every category to middle-of-the-road. 

- Carnival Splendor didn’t steal any headlines, but it consistently scored in the top 50th percentile, even coming in 3rd for cabins and food (arguably the two most important categories).

 

Notes: Because it launched so late in the year, Carnival Panorama wasn’t included in this list. Carnival Triumph was left in for the sake of comparison, even though the ship is now Carnival Sunrise.

 

The Best Carnival Ships In 2019 Winners

Cabins: Carnival Horizon
Food & Dining: Carnival Freedom
Service & Staff: Carnival Splendor
Onboard Activities: Carnival Breeze
Entertainment: Carnival Dream
Children’s Programs: Carnival Splendor
Ship Quality: Carnival Dream

Join the discussion

What's your favorite Carnival ship?

5 Comments

Posted by Gwbigdog

We have traveled on the Splendor several time once to Alaska, the staff makes the difference. Pending is the Vista in late August to W. Caribbean.

Posted by travisd441

My wife and I just went on the Carnival Miracle and the food selection wasn't the best. The salad bar had everything we would want for salads but it was only on there for the morning time and not lunch. The theatre shows were the same we had seen before and kind of boring. On the plus side. The crew was all amazing except the bartender at the serenity deck after day 2 was very rude to his coworkers and guest. When I ordered a soft drink he gave me a warm drink and glass of ice 1/4 full. When I asked for more ice he puffed and did it very reluctantly. It's why I wish we could put our own tip on the ticket. Why tip for rudeness. The ports of call were great. With Belize being my least favorite due to the long rides to get to any excursion you'd want to do. The band that played in the Red Frog pub was great. We danced every night with them. Excellent group of singers and players. They were called the Daft Sailors. A++++ Our stateroom was great, even if it was interior. We usually stay in a balcony room, but the cruise before this one we had a couple next to us that fought the entire cruise. Over all the cruise was good, just wish the food choices were better.

Posted by LonePalmcruiser

We cruised on the Miracle in Jan 2019 before it left California. It was our seventh, and least favourite, cruise on Carnival. We weren't big fans of the ship in general, and the staff for whatever reason just wasn't as friendly as usual. I think that the combination of ship age (or age since dry dock) and the crew make all the difference. We were on the Magic last month and I'm surprised to see the ranking it received. Thought it might have been higher...

Posted by Jetett

I'm sorry, you talk about fleet wide but don't appear to include Spirit? Interesting that Legend consistently rates mid range considering she (currently) spends half of each year in Australia.

Posted by LuvCruises2020

Great article!

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