Carnival offers the usual assortment of onboard activities on its cruises, from traditional napkin-folding classes, Vegas-style revues and kitchen tours to belly-flop pool contests and water slide races. All of its cruise ships offer size-appropriate spa and fitness facilities and have multiple pool areas. On Destiny-class ships and all subsequent new-builds save for Carnival Dream, one pool always lies under a retractable roof so it can be used year-round. Casinos on Carnival ships are elaborate, Vegas-style rooms with all the neon and flash one would expect.
Carnival offers traditional two-seating dining arrangements -- passengers can choose 6 or 8:15 p.m. -- in the ships' main restaurants, as well as Your Time Dining, which allows passengers to eat in the main dining room anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m.
Beyond traditional dining, Carnival has focused on expanding its casual dining options. An Asian-themed buffet station, a New York-style deli, a 24-hour pizzeria, a pre-dinner sushi bar and Indian food are all now staples onboard. Most ships also have an upscale, for-fee alternative restaurant serving steakhouse fare.
Also available on all of Carnival's cruise ships is The Chef's Table dining experience, which affords a dozen passengers a multi-course dinner with a master chef, a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley and its operations. This dining option usually takes place in a nontraditional venue, such as the galley or library, and it can be booked onboard at the information desk for a per-person cost of $75.
In the spa arena, Carnival cruises have remodeled its SpaCarnival spa and fitness facilities. Other highlights include Internet cafes and the introduction of in-cabin amenity baskets. Carnival Splendor, Carnival Dream and Carnival Magic offers the line's first thalassotherapy pools, thermal suite and spa cabins in its Cloud 9 Spa.
Most ships feature the Seaside Theatre, an outdoor big-screen movie setup located poolside. Similar to sister line Princess' Movies Under the Stars (M.U.T.S.) concept, passengers can enjoy concerts, news and sporting events during the day, and movies at night on all Carnival cruises.
For the most part, passengers are a broad crisscross of Americans; according to Carnival, 30 percent of its passengers are under 35, 40 percent are between 35 and 55, and 30 percent are over 55.
For nine years, starting in 1990, Carnival designed, produced and launched its immensely successful Fantasy-class ships, 2,052-passenger vessels measuring 70,367 tons; these include Carnival Fantasy, Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival Sensation,
Carnival Fascination, Carnival Imagination, Carnival Inspiration, Carnival Elation and Carnival Paradise. Market changes, however, dictated new designs with more balconies and cushier staterooms. Carnival Destiny (now Carnival Sunshine), a 101,353-ton ship carrying 2,642 passengers, debuted in 1996; two sister ships followed -- Carnival Triumph in 1999 and Carnival Victory in 2000 -- both of which added 700 tons and 58 staterooms, bringing their capacities to 2,758 passengers each.
Carnival continued to add to its fleet through an aggressive new-build program, with Carnival Spirit launching in 2001 and three new additions in 2002: Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend and Carnival Conquest. In 2003, Carnival Glory, the second in the Conquest class, debuted. Two more vessels emerge from Italy's Fincantieri shipyard in 2004: Carnival Miracle in March 2004, part of the Spirit class, and Carnival Valor, another Conquest-class vessel. A fourth Conquest-class ship, Carnival Liberty, launched in 2005. Carnival Freedom, the fifth and final in the Conquest class launched in 2007. Carnival Splendor, slightly larger than Conquest-class vessels, debuted in July 2008.
In 2009, Carnival introduced its largest ship yet -- Carnival Dream -- measuring 128,251 tons and carrying 3,646 passengers double occupancy. The ship is mainly an evolution of its predecessors, but does feature a few innovations, such as deluxe oceanview cabins for five with two bathrooms, a two-level adults-only Serenity area, and the longest water slide at sea. Sister ship Carnival Magic, which carries 3,690 passengers, entered service in June 2011, and Carnival Breeze debuted in June 2012.
The line's newest and largest ship, Carnival Vista -- the flagship for the line's new Vista Class -- sailed its maiden voyage in May 2016, kicking off a season of Europe itineraries. A second Vista-class ship is on order and slated for delivery in March 2018.
Since 2007, Carnival has been pumping big bucks into fleet upgrades. Over the past few years, it's committed $350 million to its eight Fantasy-class vessels, adding new deck spaces, water slides and kids' facilities as part of the "Evolutions of Fun" initiative. "Fun Ship 2.0," a $500 million program launched in 2011, covered much of the rest of the fleet. Numerous ships gained new themed bars, dining venues -- including Guy Fieri's Guy's Burger Joint -- and comedy clubs, among other additions. The program also included one of the most dramatic single-ship refurbishments in contemporary cruising: In 2013, Carnival Destiny underwent a $155 million transformation culminating in a name change. After its release from a 49-day dry-dock, Carnival Destiny became Carnival Sunshine.