Which cruise line has the best towel animals? - Cruiseline.com

towel animal smackdown carnival royal norwegian disney
Which cruise line makes the best towel animals? - Photo by Cruiseline.com

We’ve spent years comparing cruise lines across every category imaginable, but only recently did we realize that while we were busy comparing cabins, dining, and service, we had completely neglected a far more important aspect of cruising: the towel animal.

In a super serious process that we approached with the utmost humility, we settled on four categories, nominating one towel animal from Carnival, Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney for each. It wasn’t an easy task. After countless hours spent combing through more than two thousand towel animal pictures submitted by Cruiseline.com members and debating the very fundamentals of towel animal perfection, we finally agreed on the following nominations.


Most Innovative Cabin Critter

Elephants, bats, stingrays…. We’ve seen them all before. In this category, we’re looking for the unexpected. We want something shocking and bold, something daring that redefines the very nature and essence of a towel animal.


Norwegian’s entry was a true standout in this category. The “family of birds in a nest” aesthetic was something we had never seen before. This heartwarming scene reminded us of the joy of taking a child on their first cruise, with the tiny nest simultaneously hinting at agony of having to share a small cabin with a hyperactive four year-old who has taken full advantage of his parent’s soda package. Innovation often resides in the details, and the small but brilliant touches added by the twig and the “googly eyes” bring this masterpiece of family love and bonding to life.

Disney's nomination also deserves praise. A distinctly more abstract piece, it exudes mystery and wonder, feeling almost like a riddle that needs to be solved. It is a ghost? A genie? The coins scattered about seem to offer clues to the origin of this piece that captures the dream-like magic of a Disney cruise. Royal Caribbean and Carnival, unfortunately, seemed to stick to more standard designs.


Most Startling

Often times, the best art shocks us out of the repetitive realities of life and bring us back into the present in a moment of fleeting terror and adrenaline. A well-placed and unexpected towel animal in the cabin can have precisely this effect.


Carnival’s nomination was simple, yet effective. While not particularly intricate, it’s subtle enough to not be spotted until you’ve fully entered your cabin. You might not even see it until you trip over it, giving you a fleeting moment of panic until you look down and realize you’ve been bamboozled.

As much as we enjoyed Carnival’s minimalism, Royal Caribbean really stole the show here. Picture the scene: you’ve just come back to your cabin after a long day of sunbathing by the pool, and more than a couple margaritas. You spend a few minutes changing out of your old clothes and figuring out what you plan to do for dinner. Just as you start to feel comfortable and settled, you open the door to your bathroom only to see something casually sitting on your toilet. The shock would be gone quickly, but if you didn’t need to use the bathroom before, you definitely do now.


Best Use of Accessories Found in the Cabin

A personal touch - and the use of props found right in the cabin -  can take a standard towel animal design and turn it into something truly special.


Carnival’s entry could have fit into Most Innovative or Most Startling, but the personal touches made it feel like it truly belonged here. Adding sunglasses and hat to a towel animal is a time honored tradition, but this brilliant artist masquerading as a room steward went above and beyond by spending the time to create a full-fledged party scene full of life, movement, and drama. Norwegian, Royal Caribbean, and Disney had some clever inclusions, but nothing that could compare to Carnival's masterpiece.


Best Public Display

When crews make towel animals for the lido deck or other public areas, they often have more time, resources, and artistic freedom to explore and experiment. 


Sadly, only two lines seem to think these large-scale displays of cotton craftsmanship are worth the resources. Carnival's exhibits were epic in scale, regularly taking up large areas with a combination of standard animals, artfully arrayed around magificent and colorful centerpieces. Royal Caribbean's public towel animals were smaller in scale, but what they lacked in scope they made up for with sheer creativity. 




From our research, it’s clear that Carnival is the undisputed leader in towel animals. From Ellie, the line’s walk-around towel animal mascot to elaborate, pool deck displays, Carnival brings their A-Game to the art of towel animals. Disney delivers consistent and fun in-room towel animal experiences, but we’re disappointed they don’t take the initiative to surprise and delight guests in the public areas. Royal Caribbean is clearly capable of making highly intricate designs in the public areas, but with the exception of their fantastic nomination for Most Startling, many of their designs felt repitive. Finally, despite their innovative cabin critter, Norwegian’s heart was never in the towel animal game, so we weren’t surprised by the recent announcement that they’re phasing out towel animals entirely. 

Join the discussion

In your opinion, which line makes the best towel animals?


Posted by Btcruising

Carnival is the best all around. From the time that we married in Cozumel and returned to the stateroom and had a beautiful heart made of towels on the bed to the time that I did not feel well and was confined to the stateroom and the steward made me so many towel animals they lined the room, I cannot say enough good things about them. Carnival stewards are the best! They do amazing work!

Posted by Barbschroeder

One morning on Carnival all the deck chairs were taken up by a towel animal! It was adorable!

Posted by cruisellama

We sail Celebrity and give them a "0" on towel animals. We simply don't see any. I do remember Disney and Norwegian towel animals.

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