Carnival Celebration: New and Improved Fun

Written by Joel
Posted in: Cruise

To say I was excited about going on a cruise is an understatement; to say I was excited about the cruise being on Carnival would be an overstatement. Once on board, however, it was apparent that Carnival Celebration was going to change my perception of Carnival. Carnival Celebration, only a year old as of November 2023, is an example of how a brand can elevate every experience without losing what makes them unique.

As someone accustomed to older Carnival ships with less-than-stellar culinary experiences and an overpowering party atmosphere, I approached this 7-night itinerary with a mix of excitement and skepticism, but Carnival Celebration is a beautiful example of modern design and functionality. Despite being a large ship with a capacity of over 6,000 passengers and 1,700 crew members, Carnival loyalists and skeptics alike will have a new perspective of what a Carnival cruise can be.

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Plenty of chairs around the pool on Lido deck
Lido Deck on Carnival Celebration Photo Joel

Set Sail On Carnival Celebration with an Open Mind and High Hopes

Keeping an open mind is the key to embracing new adventures, and as I geared up for my Carnival Celebration cruise, this mindset was more important than usual. Carnival, often hailed as a budget-friendly cruise line, has consistently delivered for its target market, but I’m not their target market. Keeping an open mind was made easier by adjusting my expectations to be in line with what Carnival is great at and the prospect of sailing on a brand-new ship.

I was particularly eager to explore Carnival Celebration, and find out how much the concerns that arise on older vessels—stained carpets, cramped and out dated staterooms, and older technologies would change the overall perception of the brand and cruise experience. Then there are the things that go beyond the ship itself; the “brand reputation” that Carnival has earned.

Would the food live up to my expectations? Could Carnival Celebration maintain its famed party atmosphere without feeling overwhelming? And in a ship accommodating thousands, would the crowds dampen the overall experience?

Carnival Celebration: Comfort Meets Convenience, Zones Spark Joy, and the Sea Views Reign Supreme!

I noticed the difference between Carnival Celebration and some of the older ships from the moment I walked on. Everything was bright, spaced out beautifully, and of course being so new, immaculately clean. On a ship so large I expected to feel like I’d gotten my steps in walking from the front to the back, but the ship is beautifully laid out and although it seems odd (even as I think about it now), having three sets of elevators strategically positioned (front, mid-ship, and aft) not only offers convenience, but somehow makes walking from front to back feel like a shorter distance.

If you’ve read some of my other ship reviews, you know one of my frustrations is uncomfortable furniture (I’m looking at you, Virgin Voyages). On Carnival Celebration, the furniture throughout the ship has me singing songs that include the words, “comfort reigns supreme”. And unlike some ships, despite having thousands of people onboard, finding a seat was rarely an issue, except in smaller venues such as the piano bar and Punchliners Comedy Club.

One thing I was particularly curious about was how Carnival Celebrity made use of what they call zones. These six zones, Celebration Central, the Gateway, Summer Landing, 820 Biscayne, Lido, and Ultimate Playground are unique spaces to play, eat, relax, laugh, and have a great time! When you find your perfect zone (or two zones), you’ll find yourself spending most of your free time in them. I spent a lot of time in Celebration Central where the views are spectacular, there’s always something going on, and there are multiple bars with fun, delicious cocktails.

Serenity area on Carnival Celebration
Peace and quiet on Carnival Celebration Photo Joel

I’ve mentioned the party atmosphere which to me means lots of people having a good time, being loud, and doing ridiculous things… belly flop contest, anyone? If that’s the kind of thing you like and you’re looking forward to it on your vacation, you’ll find it! But if, like me, you think of relaxation and a more quiet version of fun, Carnival Celebration delivers! You’ll find lots of places onboard, both inside and out, like the Serenity Adult Only Retreat which is a great space at the very back of the ship on deck 18 is a perfect place to find some peace and quiet.

My stay in a balcony cabin on the Carnival Celebration was much better than I expected. The spacious and well-appointed cabin featured a large TV and enough outlets to charge all my devices. While the bathroom boasted a commendable size, the water pressure in the shower left room for improvement, serving as a minor drawback.

The balcony, a cherished spot for relaxation, accommodated two people comfortably. However, the door’s weight posed a challenge, making the act of opening and closing it a bit cumbersome. Despite this minor inconvenience, the balcony provided a serene escape, the perfect place to sip a cup of coffee or glass of champagne, read a book or just sit and enjoy a panoramic view of the sea.

Main Dining, Specialty Delights, and Vibrant Bar Adventures

Most evenings in the main dining room aboard Carnival Celebration were marked by exceptional service and a delightful culinary experience. However, it’s only fair to mention one night where service inexplicably faltered, leading to prolonged waits and inaccuracies with our order. Such instances were the exception rather than the rule, but the level of service is a little uneven.

The culinary journey in the main dining room was a mix of highs and lows. Some nights delivered really good dishes, while others fell into the realm of mediocrity, and one or two that were, to put it nicely, not good. Notably, the introduction of more vegetarian and healthy options added a welcome diversity to the menu, catering to varying dietary preferences.

There are two highlights in the main dining room: the crew, and their shows. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the wait staff on a cruise, but Carnival takes it up a notch in the main dining room with a nightly song and dance. The crew members are good sports and the guests really get a laugh out of the varying levels of singing and dancing talent.

Carnival Celebration boasts an array of specialty dining options, each offering a unique culinary experience. I had the pleasure of eating at Bonsai Teppanyaki, a fun (although very loud!) hibachi restaurant where the food is prepared by cooks who sing, dance, tell plenty of jokes, and even “play the drums” with their spatula. The experience was fun, the food plentiful and delicious. It was everything you hope for in a hibachi restaurant.

While I didn’t explore all the specialty restaurants, the variety was impressive. From Emeril’s Bistro 1397, serving internationally inspired dishes, to Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, rivaling some of the best steakhouses on land, and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse, blending traditional BBQ flavors with Parched Pig beer which is exclusive to Carnival, the options were diverse.

820 Biscayne is a Miami inspired zone on Carnival Celebration
Miami inspired 820 Biscayne zone on Carnival Celebration Photo Joel

For those seeking included options, Carnival Celebration didn’t disappoint. From Shaq’s restaurant, Big Chicken, to Guy’s Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Street Eats, the Lido Marketplace buffet, and of course, pizza – the ship offered a satisfying array of complimentary culinary delights. You don’t have to worry about finding something to satisfy your hunger (or your taste buds) without spending an additional dime.

My review of Carnival Celebration wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the bars onboard. My go-to places onboard were Alchemy Bar, where the bartenders wear lab coats, and the drinks are good for what ails you… Alchemy has been “my bar” on every Carnival cruise I’ve taken. The other bar I visited regularly was Tropicale in the Celebration Central zone. Right in the middle of the ship, near a lot of activities and shows, Tropicale Bar is the perfect place to grab a drink. The only drawback for me was the noise level which made it difficult to talk to friends.

Other bars onboard include the Red Frog Tiki Bar, Heroes Lounge, 820 Bar, Havana Bar, Latitudes Bar, Golden Jubilee, Piano Bar, and the Casino Bar. Take some time to visit these bars, and figure out which will be the best match for your personality and preferences.

Things to Do on Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration lives up to its name by offering a spectrum of entertainment options that cater to diverse tastes. Various venues, including Punchliners Comedy Club, the main stage at the Grand Spectrum Theater, and Celebration Central, serve as the backdrop for a myriad of shows and performances. The pool area and lounges also play host to talented musicians, adding a lively soundtrack to the cruise experience.

The Grand Spectrum Theater emerges as a versatile space, housing both comedic performances and theatrical productions. My experience at Punchliners Comedy Club and the Grand Spectrum Theater showcased the ship’s commitment to delivering quality entertainment. Although I didn’t catch a theatrical production, the reputation of the venue suggests a continuation of Carnival’s tradition of fun and entertaining performances.

Celebration Central, another hotspot for entertainment, features multi-talented performers who grace the stage with song, dance, and occasionally, aerial feats. While the venue is captivating, there were some visibility issues noted, particularly for those seated in the back.

Navigating the array of onboard activities proved to be a delightful challenge, as Carnival Celebration offers a lot of options to suit every taste and interest. From comedy shows to game shows, the ship brims with entertainment possibilities. The challenge lies not in finding something to do, but in deciding which shows, comedians, or clubs to prioritize, given the abundance of choices.

Fun for all ages at WaterWorks on Carnival Celebration
On Carnival Celebration WaterWorks is fun for all ages Photo Joel

Carnival Celebration’s Cloud 9 Spa emerges as a haven for relaxation, inviting passengers to indulge in a range of rejuvenating experiences. From traditional spa services like massages, facials, and body wraps to the meticulously designed climates of Cloud 9’s thermal suites, the spa offers a holistic approach to well-being. The thermal suites, with rooms swirling with precisely heated moist or dry air, provide an atmosphere of tranquility for those seeking an extra layer of serenity. It’s a perfect retreat to unwind and pamper oneself, though it’s important to note that spa services come with an additional charge.

Carnival Celebration brings forth a world of excitement for guests of all ages through its impressive onboard facilities. For those seeking an adrenaline rush, Bolt stands out as the first and fastest roller coaster at sea. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, the motorcycle-style speed machine provides an exhilarating experience as it zooms around an open-air course high above sea level.

WaterWorks, Carnival Celebration’s aquatic playground, promises endless fun with three large-scale spiraling slides, a giant dumping bucket, twin racing slides, and more. The slides, including the headfirst, high-speed twists and turns of Blue Lightning, the unique standing start of Orange Thunder, and the signature Twister slide, ensure a wet and wild adventure for water park enthusiasts.

Up on deck 18 you’ll also find the SportSquare featuring an entire mini-golf course, full-court basketball and a ropes course. There’s also a a gym. In other words, there’s no excuse for leaving your fitness routine back on land. I have a long standing tradition of walking past these areas but if you find the motivation to get your steps and reps in, send me a picture so I know what they look like inside.

Final Impressions: Carnival Celebration

Carnival Celebration surpassed my expectations, providing a stark contrast to my previous experiences on older Carnival ships. The ship’s modern amenities, diverse dining options, numerous bars, and a wealth of entertainment and activities created a vibrant and engaging atmosphere. What stood out the most was the seamless coexistence of a large passenger capacity (over 7,000 people) with a sense of spaciousness. Carnival Celebration managed to balance the brand’s signature fun while offering ample spaces for adults to enjoy peace and quiet and elevating every experience from dining to entertainment.

Carnival Celebration caters to a specific audience, primarily families with young children and teens, maintaining its status as a value brand. For those seeking exceptional cuisine as a focal point of their cruise experience, Carnival might not be the ideal choice. However, if you appreciate a cruise that prioritizes fun, modern amenities, and a diverse range of activities, Carnival Celebration might be a great option.

In closing, my Carnival Celebration cruise was a testament to Carnival’s commitment to evolving with the times, offering a contemporary and enjoyable experience for cruisers of all ages. Whether you’re a first-time cruiser or a seasoned Carnival enthusiast, this ship has something for everyone.

If you’re ready to begin planning your next cruise, call me at 844-483-6669 or click here to schedule your free vacation planning call.

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