Carnival ships present an affordable party at sea complete with waterslides, poolside games and contests, live music and discos that hop into night. The food is decent, the company fun loving. Still, not every experience is for everyone. Here are some things you may want to skip.
1. Steakhouse Selections in the Main Dining Room
It's not that the filet mignon, New York Strip, lobster or surf & turf you can add for $20 at dinner in the main dining room isn't good, it's just that the experience in the fancier and more intimate Carnival steakhouse restaurants is that much better.
Instead: Make a reservation at the Steakhouse and for $35 per person ($10 for kids) dine on gourmet appetizers such as crab cake or escargot, a great steak or Maine lobster ravioli, classic sides such as creamed spinach and wasabi mashed potatoes and a luscious dessert.
2. Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast
We love that Carnival has brought our favorite Dr. Seuss characters, including Cat in the Hat and Thing 1 and Thing 2, to sea. It's just that this $5 per person breakfast is kind of gross. The pancakes and waffles are overly sweet, the eggs, well, green. The appearance of costumed characters may enthrall the kids, but there will be food left on their plates (and yours).
Instead: Participate in the Seuss-A-Palooza parade through the promenade (costumes provided) and Story Time event in the theater. Both are complimentary, and sugar free.
3. Food at RedFrog Pub
This pub is on many of the line's ships, serving Carnival's own ThirstyFrog Red Ale. And on Carnival Vista, three different craft beers are made right on the ship. It's worth the $6 or so for a pint, but if you are cruising on Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, or Carnival Vista, don't bother with the $3.33-per-item bar snacks.
Instead: Head to the Taste Bar, Every evening there are complimentary tapas at the nearby Taste Bar with samples from a free or specialty restaurant featured each day – so you might get sushi from Bonsai, dumplings from JiJi or even a gourmet bite from the Steakhouse.
4. Thrill Theater
Unless you're a teenager looking to socialize via technology instead of talking, the 4D experience on Breeze and Vista is not all that thrilling. Yes, the floor may move and there are wind and water effects, but you've probably experienced better at theme parks. Plus the 10- to 20-minute movie experience comes with a price tag of $7.95 (or $14.95 for an unlimited pass).
Instead: On Carnival Vista, head to the ship's real IMAX Theatre and see a current blockbuster movie in 3D for $12.95. Or on any of 14 ships in the fleet catch a free flick poolside, at night, on the giant Carnival Seaside Theater screen.
5. Library Bar
The idea of this bar on Breeze, Sunshine and Vista is a quiet, cushy getaway spot for conversation and self-service wine. Not a bad idea, but it hasn't caught on with the Carnival crowd and the space is often empty. If you really wanted people to hang out wouldn't you add a friendly bartender, plus for laptops and, uh, a few more books on the shelves?
Instead: Head to the Piano Bar for a nostalgia fest of music, opportunity to sing along and a jovial crowd.
6. Casino Bar
The only reasons to go to this bar are to observe those at the numerous slot machines and gaming tables or if you're a smoker. Unfortunately smokers dominate the spot; non-smokers will not be pleased.
Instead: Hang out at the Alchemy Bar where you can order cool concoctions from friendly mixologists and do some great people watching.
7. Stage Shows
Yes, the 45-minute nighttime Playlist production shows are better than the older shows and some of the dancers and singers, performing to pre-recorded soundtracks, have some talent. But we're not talking Broadway!
Instead: Head to the Punchliner Comedy Club and see how naughty the comediens get (the later the show, the more R-rated the routine).