7 Changes at Carnival Cruise Line

Change is inevitable, but you can believe one thing: when it happens, you’ll hear about it. Carnival Cruise Lines has made a few changes over the past few months – not all bad – but some that got a lot of people up in arms.

Here are seven of the changes. 

1. Staggered Check-In Time

One of the changes Carnival made last fall was the introduction of staggered check-in times at Galveston, Miami, and New Orleans. While checking into your cruise online prior to embarkation, you are asked to select a 30-minute window to check-in, e.g., 10:30-11:00, 11:00-11:30, etc. If you try to check in earlier than your designated time, you will be turned away and asked to wait for your time window. While this certainly helps the flow of traffic at the port on embarkation day, it can be problematic if you are sailing in a group and cannot board together. Because you can choose the time slot yourself while checking in online, this can usually be avoided if planned ahead of time, but it still happens. It also creates a problem for people who may be flying in to the port the day-of or checking out of a nearby hotel early and have to wait around with luggage until their designated time. On the other hand, it also hurts Carnival’s Faster To The Fun! (FTTF) program, in which cruisers pay $50 per cabin to board early. If you can get the earliest check-in time available, you can board the ship just 10-15 minutes behind the early boarding groups, essentially negating the purpose of buying FTTF.

2. Bottled Water Goes Up

Just this past week, Carnival increased the price of a 12-pack of bottled water from $2.99 to $3.99. Some people were up in arms over just $1, but if you’ve ever been to something like a professional sporting event and paid $6 for one bottle of water, you’ll realize this is still a small price to pay for an entire pack. Many cruisers still bring their own reusable water bottles and are unaffected by the change, but the anger over this charge seems to stem from cruisers still being bitter over Carnival’s announcement last year that cruisers could no longer bring their own bottled water onboard, since too many people were using the opportunity to sneak alcohol on.

3. CHEERS! Package

Carnival also changed its CHEERS! beverage package – but for the better. The program now includes drinks up to a $50 value (used to be $10) as well as specialty coffees, cappuccinos, lattes, juices, coconut water, gatorade, etc. This change is a bonus for cruisers who usually purchase the CHEERS! package and a big incentive for anyone who’s been on the fence about it. The other change is that the pre-purchase price is $49.95 per person per day but increases to $54.95 once you’re on the ship, so it’s better to book early. Keep in mind that sailings out of Galveston, Mobile, and New York do not offer the program until the second day due to state laws.

Lastly, Carnival did not change the part of the policy in which if you buy the CHEERS! program every adult in your cabin must also purchase it. That is not the case on other lines like Royal Caribbean, who sell their packages individually.

4. Stateroom Turndown

Options On four of its ships, Carnival began testing a new cabin services program in which cruisers indicate on cards placed in their staterooms how and when they want their room made up. Guests can opt for only a refresher in the morning, only turndown at night, if they want extra robes or towels, etc. Like many of the other changes, Carnival cruisers were outraged at the new policy, insisting they wanted to continue having their cabin serviced twice a day. The solution? If you don’t fill out the card, you still get the same, traditional, twice-a-day service. So really, there was no change other than cruisers now being able to further customize their cabin services – if they wish.

5. Fleetwide Room Service Fee

This is a bit of a misnomer, as Carnival’s traditional room service menu is still available at no charge. Carnival simply expanded its menu to include new items like chicken wings, fried shrimp, cobb salad, and chicken quesadillas. However, the prices are reasonable, with the most expensive item being the shrimp at $6, and – again – the traditional menu is still available free of charge. Carnival has yet to join Royal Caribbean or Norwegian in adding a late-night service charge for room service.

6. No More Lobster

Last September, Carnival announced that it would no longer be serving lobster in the main dining room on sailings of five nights or shorter. Many cruisers were deeply divided over this change, with some shrugging it off and others ready to start a riot. The former group seemed to not mind the change and welcomed the new dishes Carnival introduced in place of the lobster, including broiled sea scallops with risotto, blue crab ravioli in a lobster cream sauce, Japanese sea bass, jumbo shrimp with marinara, and roasted duck. Those upset about the change railed on Carnival, with some vowing to boycott sailing with them. However, the lobster is still served on 6+ night sailings, and on shorter cruises it’s still available on elegant nights for a surcharge of $20.

7. New Internet Plan Options

Another change made last summer was to the Internet packages offered. In a program that has since been rolled out fleetwide, Carnival offers a social media package for $5 per day for access to apps like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc. For $16 per day you can have [mostly] full access to the Internet to surf the web. Finally, for full access plus streaming services like Skype and Netflix, the charge is $25 per day. The social media package has been a hit for people cruising in groups, as the reasonable $5 per day price means families can keep in contact throughout their cruise through messaging via social media apps. Walkie-talkies will soon be a thing of the past!

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What changes are you most excited about or hate to see?

33 Responses

  1. I just hope lobster is available on the Steakhouse menu. The rest is “fluff”. $1, really? That is .0834 cents a bottle.

  2. Carnival has also gone to the American Menu on many ships. No tablecloths except on formal nights and food you can get at any diner in the US. Not impressed.

  3. Traditional “existing in or as part of a tradition; long-established.”
    Since Carnival eliminated many items from the “traditional” room service menu it’s incorrect to say the traditional room service menu is still available at no charge. Free chicken fajitas have been eliminated and replaced with almost the same ingredients for $5 as chicken quesadilla.

  4. I love the idea of selecting your check in time. With new cruisers joining us, we’ve always had to leave them on their own in the waiting area. This way, we can all get on together and maybe even get a group picture!

    I hate the American Menu, but don’t have a problem with no tablecloths. With the American menu, there have been nights where there really was nothing on the dinner menu that I wanted. Ended up ordering multiple appetizers and then dessert. And many of our favorites are no longer offered.

  5. I think that stating FTTF is negated is not truly accurate. FTTF allows you to have room access immediately upon boarding, while simply checking in early your room will still not be accessible until 1:00 PM. FTTF also gets priority boarding in tender ports, a special line at guest services, and ease getting off the ship.
    Additionally, if you need to pick a later slot due to flights or hotels, FTTF would allow you to bypass lines at that time.

  6. Yes…lobster is still available on the 5 day or less cruises on the Steakhouse menu for a $20 upcharge. The Steakhouse menu lobster is much bigger than the ones you get for free.

  7. We had the American Table menu for the first time in January aboard the Triumph. We were pleasantly surprised at the selections…and, over the course of 21 days, found some new favorites and found all our “old favorites” as well.

  8. Just returned Sat 3/5/16 from a Carnival Freedom cruise out of Galveston. Staggered check in was a mess with so many people not paying any attention to their assigned time that outside the terminal those cruisers who’s time was in their window could not get near the entrance. Bottled water was $2.99 a very fair price it has now gone up 50% to $3.99 still ok but typical of Carnival of late , charge extra for everything eliminate those things they can not charge for. The room service fee is for only some new items added to the menu but I will put money on Carnival in the near future eliminating the free portion of the room service menu. No more Lobster just a real disappointment to many cruisers. Internet is an improvement but still expensive. We had turndown service without having to ask, this was a good thing for us. The Cheers package does not work for us because I drink but my wife does not, not even a drop. If we both drank it may well be a good deal with the new added beverages.

  9. How so, if you have staggered boarding, and FFTF boards after the early boarding time? based on the policy you are better off get the early boarding time. I can use the $60 dollars elsewhere. The reason they had FFTF was to give people who were willing to pay more to board early after the VIPs and before standard boarding times.

  10. FTTF has been devalued now. Especially by increasing the price. Very rarely used the guest desk and very rarely used tender service since out of 8 cruises I only had one port that had tender service. and debarkation is early if you self assist. To many changes in my opinion and most to to the benefit to the cruiser. Time to start looking around for I enjoyed Carnival for what is was, not for what is turning into. they are blurring their identity into being just like the others. NCL is starting to like look like a a better value for the customer. I think I will try Costa or HAL next if my next cruise on the Magic this September supports my assertions.

  11. What you are missing is that they have implemented staggered CHECK IN, not staggered BOARDING. No one boards before they have cleared the ship, and boarding usually starts around 11:30 or 12:00. Priority boards first, then FTTF, then all of the others who checked in at their assigned check in time board when their zone number is called. FTTF still gets on the ship before all of the people who showed up at their assigned check in time and bypasses whatever line there is to check in. Spend your money how you wish. FTTF has other benefits besides early boarding and is still worth it to many people.

  12. That is good information. they I read the article that they had merged CHECK-in with BOARDING, I am an early Riser and arriver at the terminal, I do not like being late, (if I am on time I am late). That is why FFTF is a good value for me it allows me to beat the crowds and fits my early arrival schedule.

  13. As a retired military Logistician, I’m still not sold on the 30 minute staggered check in times but time will tell. I do not think it will work because you will have late arrivals due delayed plane arrivals or traffic prevented them to meet their established check-in time Etc, etc.and It will turn into a big gaggle in my professional opinion. It will take more resources for staggard boarding to work and Carnvial has demonstrated lately that they are cutting resources not adding resources. I predict it will be a very uncomfortable ordeal for all concerned, We will see.

  14. Many have confused check in with boarding and I try to correct the misunderstanding whenever I can. Without FTTF or priority, if you arrive at the terminal before your assigned check in time, you will not be allowed to enter and will have to leave or stand outside clogging up the whole process. I’m with you on getting there early. Sure you wait in the terminal longer after you check in, but I’d rather BE there!

  15. As far as I am concerned, eliminate it. We had to earn our way by cruising 200 days. Why should an entire cabin get most of the perks for $50 or $60? IMHO! I have resented it from day one. We paid our way.

  16. I have arthritic knees and cannot stand in long lines. Being able to buy FTTF has allowed me to cruise when I otherwise would not have been able to, especially when I traveled solo. I have finally earned Platinum status on my next cruise and I don’t resent those willing to buy FTTF as long as they don’t over sell it. Last year, I did a B2B and there were around 1200 priority guests onboard, so my FTTF was somewhat wasted. And since I often traveled solo and paid for two, why shouldn’t I have earned for what I paid for? It’s all relative. No one is taking anything from you that you’ve ‘earned’ unless you don’t get it anymore.

  17. I posted a comment with a link to Carnival’s website description of staggered check-in but it was deleted. The info in the article is inaccurate in a few ways. First, if you are flying in day of, and take a Carnival transfer to the pier, staggered check in does not apply to you; you may check in when you arrive. Second, the cost of FTTF is $59.95 and has been for quite some time. Third, people are free to drop their luggage off at the pier before their check in time and then leave the pier to do whatever they wish until their check in time; they do not have to carry their luggage (other than carry on) around with them. Makes you want to reconsider what you carry on if you have a later check in time. Fourth, FTTF has been and continues to be of value to people. True, people who get the early slots get to board soon after priority and FTTF guests, but that has always been the case. The early arrivals have always gotten the low zone numbers and FTTF has been able to board before the zones. The value of FTTF has not changed. You still can arrive whenever you want, skip the security and check in lines, get on the ship before anyone other that priority, have priority tendering, get to use the Platinum/Diamond Guest Services line, and get to get off the ship right after priority guests, which means that there is a much shorter wait in the Customs line. If you arrive after the ship has started boarding, you can board immediately with FTTF. Groups have always had the issue of getting together and this really hasn’t changed that. People who have early check in times are free to wait for others in the terminal after check in if they want to board together if boarding has started or can arrange to meet onboard ship. The goal of staggered check in was to prevent too many from showing up between 9:30 and 11:00 am and creating long lines for security and long lines for check in. If you want to find the facts on staggered check in, go to Carnival’s website and search the FAQ’s for it. Looking at the link I provided would have been easier, but that was deleted by the moderators of this page.

  18. So its $35 plus an extra $20 for a lobster? I would think the $35 would cover lobster too!?

  19. No, there are selections from the Steakhouse in the MDR that are a $20 up charge. The Steakhouse lobster is a Maine lobster, not the smaller rock lobster tails that are served in the MDR on 6 + day sailings. If you eat in the Steakhouse, it’s $35.

  20. No…the question was with respect to the Steakhouse menu options on the regular dining room menus. The Steakhouse options are $20 extra. If you go to the actual Steakhouse, it is an upcharge of $35 and that covers appetizers, salad, entre, and dessert.

  21. When and where do you purchase the new internet options? I do not see this option for purchase on my check in. Is this something you have to purchase once you are onboard?

  22. Its offered once your on board. You simply get onto the internet on your device and it takes you to the social hub for carnival through their connection. You choose your package there. I used it on my 11 day cruise and loved it!

  23. The staggered check in seems like a good idea however I am a casual cruiser and tend to show up just whenever i feel like going to the port and depending on traffic (live near three ports). I would rather be able to just board when I arrive instead of a specific time considering traffic sometimes gets delayed and sometimes doesn’t. But either way, I will adjust and look forward to my next cruise on Carnival.

  24. I will be on the magic this september as well for my honeymoon. It is my 1st time crusining.

  25. Welcome to the cruisin’ family! I did a 4 day Christmas cruise and loved it, I learned a lot each time a go on a cruise. I would recommend the serenity deck, they are a perfect location for a break from the fast pace it is pretty quite and mellow.

  26. The steakhouse is $35. Lobster is on the menu. Lobster or surf and turf. If you cruise on the new Carnival Vista. They have a new restaurant called the seafood shack. It is New England style seafood. Shrimp, real clams, lobster, crab prices are from $4 to 16.00. Will be on the 3rd sailing next month. I will eat at the seafood shack several times on that trip.

  27. I miss the lobster on the 5 day cruises.
    I love the staggered check-in times.
    The other changes are a nonevent for me.

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