Carnival Ship Classes: Breaking Down Each Tier of Carnival Cruise Ships

Carnival ships in the water 6 chips sailing in ocean

With eight different tiers of Carnival ship classes, it can be tough to figure out which ship type is right for you. All Carnival ships embody that same essence of fun and relaxation that they are famous for, but many focus on different aspects of the cruising experience. Perhaps you want the luxury and opulence of the Splendor Class. Or maybe you need the extra family-focused features of the Excel Class. Whether you are looking for the modern amenities on newer ships, or the coziness of classic ships, knowing what sets each class apart is important when you are booking. In this article, we will be breaking down each of the Carnival ship classes and what sets them apart.

Excel Class

Carnival Celebration sailing in ocean sunlight with lights on the ship
Carnival Celebration

We start our list of Carnival ship classes with the largest and newest ships in the fleet, the Excel Class. These state-of-the-art ships feature a number of new features that raise the bar for cruise ships everywhere, including the BOLT rollercoaster, the first ever roller coaster at sea. All of these ships are a great choice for families, as they have expansive family-friendly zones like the WaterWorks waterpark, themed family areas, and the spacious Family Harbor staterooms. The ships included in this class include Carnival Celebration, Mardi Gras, and the brand-spanking new Carnival Jubilee.

Vista Class

Carnival Horizon ship sailing with view from the back on the water
Carnival Horizon

Next up, the Vista Class of Carnival Cruise ships include Carnival Horizon, Carnival Panorama, Carnival Venezia and Carnival Vista, which were released from 2016 to 2019. These ships are defined by a modern aesthetic that represents the latest in cruise ship design, creating a stylish and exquisite look. Prominent attractions include the SkyRide, which lets passengers cycle along suspended tracks, and Havana Cabana suites, which have an outdoor patio and allow access to an exclusive Havana Bar and pool. On Horizon and Vista, they also feature an IMAX theater that plays the latest movie releases and documentaries.

Sunshine Class

Carnival Radiance ship sailing with view from the front on the water with clouds
Carnival Radiance

Launched from 2013 to 2019, the Sunshine class represented a new direction for Carnival cruise ships, with a complete redesign that built upon previous Carnival ship classes and enhanced passenger experiences. These ships each feature the WaterWorks water park that has become a staple of the Carnival experience, especially for families. They also feature the Cloud 9 Spa, which provides a variety of wellness treatments, thermal suites, and relaxation areas, as well as the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, for when you need a break from the kids. Ships in this class include Carnival Radiance, Carnival Sunrise, and Carnival Sunshine.

Dream Class

Carnival Magic ship sailing with view from the side on the water showing the funnel, water works and pools
Carnival Magic

The Dream Class is next on our list of Carnival ship classes, and it consists of Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, and Carnival Magic, all of which were launched from 2009 to 2012. These ships are known primarily for their expansive deck space and large public areas, which allow for more room for cruisers to spread out and relax unencumbered. They also feature both the Cloud 9 Spa and Serenity Adults-Only Retreat for even more relaxation. A variety of dining options are available, such as Guy’s Burger Joint by Guy Fieri, BlueIguana Cantina for Mexican food and drinks, The Chef’s Art Steakhouse, and The RedFrog Pub which serves Caribbean-inspired drinks and live music.

Splendor Class

Carnival Splendor ship sailing with view from the side on the water
Carnival Splendor

The Carnival Splendor, released in 2008, is in a league of its own; quite literally, as it is the only ship in the Splendor Class of Carnival cruise ships. It is marked by an elegant design that is both luxurious and sophisticated. The ship features a spectacular atrium that acts as a central gathering place where live entertainment is put on, as well as the Ocean Plaza, an indoor-outdoor venue for live music, dancing, and socializing. It also has a unique outdoor promenade that encircles the ship called The Lanai, which is good for a leisurely stroll, al fresco dining, and great views of the ocean.

Conquest Class

Carnival Conquest ship sailing with view from the top on the water
Carnival Conquest

We have reached a more classic era of Carnival ship classes with the first of the Conquest class being launched over 20 years ago. While these ships are older, they still embody that mix of fun and relaxation that is the essence of Carnival. On these ships, you will find the classic WaterWorks water park, a lively pool deck with live music, and a main show lounge for performances ranging from Broadway-style productions to stand-up comedy acts. The ships in this class include Carnival Conquest, Freedom, Glory, Liberty, and Valor.

Spirit Class

Carnival Luminosa ship sailing to land on water
Carnival Luminosa

The Spirit class of Carnival cruise ships is focused on smaller ship design making for a more intimate experience that fosters a greater sense of community among its passengers. The smaller size does not keep these ships from offering a wide variety of dining options and an array of bars and lounges, with many acting as a performance venue for live music and other entertainment. Featured on each ship is a Renaissance-style atrium that acts as a central hub. Most ships in this class were released in the early 2000s, including Carnival Legend, Miracle, Pride, and Spirit, with the newest ship, Luminosa, being added nearly two decades later in 2022.

Fantasy Class

Carnival Paradise ship sailing with view from the front on the water with small clouds
Carnival Paradise

Finally, we come to the first of all of the Carnival ship classes, the Fantasy Class. The two ships in this class, Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise, were both launched in 1998. These smaller ships offer a cozy and intimate experience for passengers, including a diverse menu served in the main dining rooms, a variety of onboard activities, and all the lively entertainment you would expect on a Carnival ship. They also have the Serenity Adults-Only Retreat, for that extra bit of relaxation and rejuvenation. They may be smaller and older, but this is still classic Carnival at its best!

To book a sailing on one of these Carnival cruises, visit — we can help you book the smart way! We give you our exclusive bonus offers and all qualifying cruise line offers, plus all of the cruise line loyalty program benefits. Book online at or call 800-288-6006 today.

Related: Carnival Cruise Line: 5 Reasons to Cruise With Carnival

%d bloggers like this: