Carnival Celebration Review: What You Need to Know [PHOTOS]

Aerial view of Carnival Celebration in St. Thomas, US Virgin Islands

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Our Carnival Celebration review and an overview of Carnival Cruise Line’s second Excel class ship. If you’re looking for an unforgettable cruise experience, Carnival Celebration may be what you’re looking for.

But before you put down a big cruise deposit, make sure you read this review and watch the tour in its entirety to make sure the vessel isn’t too large for you.

carnival celebration review st. thomas USVI
Carnival Celebration in St. Thomas (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

This ship offers a wide range of amenities and activities, making it perfect for families, couples, and solo travelers alike. In this review, we’ll take a closer look at everything Carnival Celebration has to offer.

Carnival Celebration Quick Facts

carnival celebration miami florida
Carnival Celebration leaving its homeport of Miami, Florida. (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)
Just The Facts
Total guest capacity:5,374
Length:1,130 feet
Gross Tonnage:183,521
Decks:19
Best for:Families, multigenerational groups, couples, and singles
Not for:Those looking for an intimate cruising experience
carnival celebration in st. thomas us virgin islands
Carnival Celebration in St. Thomas (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Highlights:

  • Loft 19
  • BOLT Roller Coaster
  • Ropes course with a zip line
  • Gateway Zone with Carnival artifacts
  • Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse

Carnival Celebration Review

Carnival Celebration pool deck
Carnival Celebration’s Pool Deck (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Carnival Celebration is Carnival’s second Excel-class ship, and she’s almost a twin of her older sister, Mardi Gras.

As with Mardi Gras, Carnival Celebration feels light years removed from some of the line’s earlier ships, with a mega ship vibe and interior design that gives it the feel of a beachside resort as opposed to the New York New York hotel on the Vegas strip.

carnival celebration review
Carnival Celebration Wall Art (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

This class ushered in a lot of firsts for Carnival Cruise Line, including designing a mega-ship to keep 6,400 people occupied while avoiding crowds at the same time.

The vessel relies heavily on technology, and the HUB app is almost always required for dining, spa, and shore excursion reservations, along with checking in for any dining time.

Design

When designing the Excel class (the third of which, Carnival Jubilee, will be introduced in December 2023), Carnival set out to reinforce the connection between passengers and the ocean.

Using the zone concept that was first introduced on Mardi Gras and akin to Royal Caribbean’s neighborhood concept on its Oasis-class vessels, the ship doesn’t have deck names but rather zones and deck numbers. Once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy.

Celebration Central at Carnival Celebration
Celebration Central (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

The six zones of Carnival Celebration include Celebration Central, Gateway, Summer Landing, Lido, The Ultimate Playground, and 820 Biscayne.

Wherever possible, Celebration offers spectacular views and plenty of outdoor seating. Whether zipping around on the BOLT roller coaster or kicking back in Summer Landing, this is a ship that practically demands that you take in the view wherever you go.

BOLT roller coaster carnival celebration
BOLT Roller Coaster (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Celebration makes an amazing first impression thanks to the fact that upon embarking, passengers are greeted by the three-deck Celebration Central side-facing atrium.

This space is the beating heart of the ship, as it houses not only the Tropicale on deck six but also the Aquaria Bar on deck seven. Anchored around the atrium across decks six, seven, and eight are dining options, shopping, and bars.

If you’ve sailed on other Carnival ships, walking onboard, you may recognize something you’ve seen from a past Carnival ship: the Rolls Royce taken off of Carnival Ecstasy before it was decommissioned in October 2022.

It now sits prominently on deck six, right outside Cherry on Top, the line’s specialty candy shop.

rolls royce saloon antique car carnival celebration
Rolls Royce Saloon Antique Car (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Activities Found on Carnival Celebration

While you could easily spend your vacation doing nothing but relaxing, you might actually have to work hard at it because there’s a lot going on at all hours of the day and night.

Up on deck 18, The Ultimate Playground will keep you busy with thrills. The BOLT roller coaster is a major draw at $15 for two laps around the track.

BOLT roller coaster at Carnival Celebration
BOLT Roller Coaster (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

It has certain regulations like a 300-pound weight limit per rider, no cameras or phones (even a GoPro), close-toed shoes only, and a reservation requirement. There’s also the ropes course that’s perfect for your inner adventurer.

Feeling only semi-daring? The course offers a separate path for those who aren’t keen to hang 180 feet above sea level.

Carnival Celebration review ropes course
Ropes Course (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

The ship also features the obligatory jogging track, basketball court, and mini-golf course. But you’ll also find unusual offerings like Twister, foosball, and even a selection of outdoor workout equipment.

Want to take in an evening film? The Seaside Theater screens movies beneath the stars and offers different themes each evening. It may have one of the best sound systems of any cruise line I’ve been on — the bass really hits, and you can easily get lost in the movie.

80s rock and glow party carnival celebration
80s Rock and Glow Party (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Decks 8 and 16 are where you’ll find a few different pools. Deck 8 has the aft pool and a couple of rectangular pools on the starboard side of the ship.

The Lido Zone has the Beach Pool, located midship, which is the one that tends to get the most crowded, although the Tides Pool — perched as it is on the back of the ship — is the place to be. It’s quieter and features two hot tubs.

What’s extra nice about this pool is that there’s plenty of teak seating around it just to stick your feet in the water, as well as a pool shelf if you’d like to sit in the water without actually getting all the way into the pool.

dessert tides pool carnival celebration
Tides pool (and some buffet dessert!) (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Adults looking for a little peace and quiet should head forward to Serenity on deck 18, which is reserved for the 21+ crowd.

Some of the most comfortable loungers, daybeds, and clamshells will be found here, as will hammocks, hot tubs, a full-service bar, and the Fresh Creations salad bar on sea days.

empty comfortable loungers on Deck 18
Empty Loungers on Serenity Deck (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Unlike on some ships, the staff does a good job of ensuring kids are kept out of this adults-only haven. A quick tip: keep in mind that because of Serenity’s spot on the ship, it can get very windy — especially at nighttime.

carnival celebration serenity adults only deck night
Serenity (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

If you’re looking to splash around, the WaterWorks aqua park is wildly popular with the younger set thanks to features like a drop slide where the bottom falls out, a 500-gallon dumping bucket, and a kids splash park.

There’s an almost never-ending series of events — from Bingo and trivia to karaoke and dance classes — on decks six, seven, and eight.

And finally, if all this activity has left you worn out and in need of a little pampering, the Cloud 9 Spa offers a variety of massages, treatments, and more.

RELATED: 9 Things To Know About Carnival Celebration Before Boarding

Carnival Celebration Entertainment

Carnival Celebration not only has the four Playlist Production shows, three of which are brand new, but it also has new shows added to the Celebration Central atrium, including The Most Magnificent Circus, which takes guests on a journey using trapeze acts, singing, dancing, and other stunts.

If you’re looking to attend this show (or any evening production show in Celebration Central), get there at least 30+ minutes prior to showtime, as seating fills up very quickly.

most magnificent circus carnival celebration
The Most Magnificent Circus (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

The Punchliner Comedy Club runs family-friendly and adults-only shows throughout the cruise, and like on Mardi Gras; it finally has its own venue located on deck six forward.

The previous Punchliner home, the Limelight Lounge, is used for karaoke and presentations, and the space has also transformed into a nightclub with a DJ and a lot of dancing.

Deck eight’s Havana Bar really comes alive at night thanks to live Latin music that keeps people moving until the early morning hours.

gateway zone carnival celebration
Gateway zone (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

The travel-themed Gateway zone on deck six features virtual “windows,” which periodically spring to life during a 15-minute time travel-themed show that involves lighting, sound effects, and even the departure board above the Latitudes bar.

And speaking of the Latitudes Bar, this is the place to be if you want to try interesting cocktails inspired by destinations around the world.

refreshing cocktails with one of the bartenders
One of the bartenders in The Jubilee Bar that’s located in the Gateway Zone. (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

There’s also the Golden Jubilee Bar. You’ll find history and relics of Carnival’s past with sketches of previous Carnival ships on the wall and even artifacts dating back to Carnival’s very first ship, Mardi Gras, in 1972.

Live music is also a big after-dinner draw at the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse|Brewhouse, which replaces the popular RedFrog Pub on the Carnival Celebration. The house band has a range from classic rock to chart-topping songs across all genres.

alchemy bar carnival celebration
Alchemy Bar (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Carnival favorites Serenity Bar, Alchemy Bar, Piano Bar, and atrium bars are also found onboard.

Carnival Celebration Dining

In addition to the two main dining rooms, Festivale and Carnivale, which are located mid-ship and aft, respectively, there’s a plethora of places to eat to suit every palate.

Festivale Restaurant at Carnival Celebration
Festivale Restaurant (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)
Carnivale Restaurant at Carnival Celebration
Carnivale Restaurant (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Poolside, you’ll still find Carnival’s Lido Marketplace, which has typical buffet fare, a hot dog stand, shwarma, and homemade gelato. I was pleased with the quality of the food in the buffet as well as its design and layout — the crowds move smoothly throughout this space.

Food and drink venues are where Carnival Celebration really comes to life, especially with its string of celebrity partnerships. You can still grab a quick bite from Guy’s Burger Joint, which has been moved to deck 17 (one above the lido pool), or a burrito from the BlueIguana Cantina.

However, some new concepts that were previously introduced on Mardi Gras have also carried over, like the Street Eats food stalls that are poolside with different daily offerings of fries, steamed Asian dumplings, and Greek food.

I highly recommend checking these out — they’re great little snacks and can also serve as side dishes to other foods on and around Lido.

Seafood Shack is also located in the Street Eats section, but you have to pay for this one.

pad thai street eats carnival celebration
Pad Thai at Street Eats (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Big Chicken is on the very back of 16, a complimentary fried chicken counter-service venue with different types of fried chicken sandwiches and chicken strips. In the morning, they serve to-order omelets and a killer honey chicken biscuit sandwich.

big chicken restaurant
Big Chicken (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Down on deck 8, Guy Fieri’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que offers a mouthwatering BBQ during lunchtime.

At dinner, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse|Brewhouse offers different menu items like brisket, smoked barbecue salmon, the Pig & Anchor melt sandwich, and banana pudding.

Unlike the Vista-class ships, which run an a la carte menu at dinner, it is complimentary on both Mardi Gras and Celebration.

Bonsai Sushi and Bonsai Teppanyaki are both onboard Celebration. Taken from the Japanese hibachi steakhouse experience, this is lunch/dinner and a show combined thanks to the chefs whose flying cutlery and witty banter keep passengers entertained while their meal is being prepared.

Bonsai Teppanyaki on Carnival Celebration
Bonsai Teppanyaki (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Be warned: The for-fee venue does two seatings a night, with 10 guests at each of the three tables, so if this hot spot is a must-do for your squad, make a reservation. If you can’t find a dinner reservation, they sometimes open up lunch seatings on select days at two different times, noon and 1:45 p.m.

First introduced on Carnival Magic in 2011, Cucina del Capitano is the Italian restaurant that continues to be a staple on Carnival’s newbuilds with delicious foods and huge portions. Some staples are the chicken and eggplant Parmesan, mozzarella and tomato salad, and tiramisu.

Cucina is also complimentary for lunch and dinner. On previous classes of ships, there is still an $18 fee to dine here (and it’s well worth it — just bring your appetite).

Enjoy pizza at Miami Slice
Head to Miami Slice for pizza on deck eight. (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Within an eyeshot of Cucina are Miami Slice and Deco Deli, the pizza joint, and the panini shop.

Chibang was also introduced in the Excel class and offers both Mexican and Chinese food. You can dine here for both lunch and dinner, with two different menus served at each seat.

carnival celebration review
Chibang! on Carnival Celebration (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

You may be asking yourself why they’re free on the larger ships but not on the Vista or Dream-class vessels. With the ship carrying just over 6,000 guests at full capacity, there must be plenty of places to dine without causing a complete log jam at the main dining room.

To alleviate the crowds, Carnival made three venues complimentary instead of charging.

Last but not least is Emeril’s Bistro 1397, located on deck 6, which features everything in New Orleans. The a la carte counter service venue has everything you’d find if you were spending some pre-cruise time in The Big Easy.

Barbecue shrimp, oysters, crawfish, jambalaya, crab, Cajun steamed shrimp, and beignets are all on the menu. You can get breakfast, lunch, and dinner here.

emeril's bistro 1397 on carnival celebration
Emeril’s Bistro 1397 (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

RELATED: Carnival Celebration Dining Guide: Which Restaurants Are Complimentary?

Carnival Celebration Cabins and Suites

Carnival knows that it caters to more families than any other cruise line, and it’s one of the reasons the line offers such staterooms ranging from a simple interior to Excel Suites, with a pricing range to match.

The Excel Suites are the top-tier one-bedroom suites on the ship, some of which have a hot tub on the balcony.

Guests staying in an Excel suite also have access to the Loft 19 area, a dedicated and restricted area on deck 19 only available to those staying in the cabins or paying for a cabana for the day or week.

Family Harbor at Carnival Celebration
Family Harbor (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Having proven popular on the Carnival Mardi Gras, the Family Harbor staterooms — complete with a shared lounge offering a breakfast buffet, ice cream, video games, and more — have been replicated on deck 4 midship.

Carnival Celebration cabin
Comfy Cabins (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Although in a different location than the Vista class, the Havana staterooms are located on the port side on deck eight. These cabins include your own lanai (if in a lanai category stateroom) and access to the exclusive Havana Retreat area that includes its own pool and bar.

Carnival Celebration Havana Retreat
The Havana Retreat is located on deck 8 aboard Carnival Celebration. (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

Be advised that Family Harbor and Havana staterooms, which come in a variety of categories, book quickly. If you’re looking to book one, don’t drag your feet.

Kids & Teens

Carnival Celebration Camp Ocean
Camp Ocean (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

With all those kids on board, Carnival works hard to keep them entertained. Camp Ocean offers a variety of supervised, age-based group activities for kids 2-11, all of which have a nautical theme. For the 12-14 year-old set, there’s Circle C, while Club 02 is where the 15-17 year olds can be found.

The teens have a trendy patio on deck 17 that’s located behind Guy’s Burger Joint and is a quick walk from the ice cream machines.

And proving that fun truly knows no age limit, the whole family will enjoy hanging out at Dr. Seuss Bookville, which is almost as colorful and unique as the creations found in the author’s books, around which the space is designed.

Carnival Celebration Review: Final Thoughts

the view of the sea from Carnival Celebration
The view of the sea and sunset from the ship. (DOUG PARKER/CRUISE RADIO)

After spending over 20 days onboard Carnival Celebration, I can say the large and small changes are very welcome. The number of food options included in your cruise fare seems endless, and the food is of high quality.

I would suggest doing your research before sailing because the average Carnival cruiser who hasn’t sailed an Excel class ship could get lost.

With great food, entertainment, and plenty of adult spaces (both included and paid), I wouldn’t hesitate to sail Carnival Celebration again once the prices drop.

Carnival Celebration Review and Cruise Ship Tour

READ NEXT: 11 Top Deck Cruise Ship Attractions

Sarah Bretz and Doug Parker both contributed to this article.

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