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Carnival Sensation Review

2016 Best for Embarkation
2015 Best for Embarkation
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Carnival Sensation
3.5 / 5.0
1024 reviews

Pros
Genuinely fun and friendly vibe onboard with a packed lineup of daily activities
Cons
Old ship with fewer dining and entertainment attractions than newer Carnival ships
Bottom Line
Short cruises and low prices make Sensation an excellent drive-to option

About

Passengers
2,052

Crew
920

Passenger to Crew
2.23:1

Launched
1993

Shore Excursions
107
Sails To
Western Caribbean
Sails From
Carnival Cruise Deals
Dori Saltzman
Cruise Critic Contributor

Carnival Sensation Overview

Carnival Sensation's onboard atmosphere is one of endless fun and expectant excitement. Everyone is trying to pack in as much amusement and downtime as they possibly can in four or five days (the ship is dedicated to short cruise itineraries). It's not frantic, just fun. And everyone's got everyone else's back, whether it's enthusiastically dancing in the aisles during nightly karaoke or loudly cheering on cruisers who have volunteered to participate in any number of interactive activities -- it's hard to feel embarrassed onstage when the entire audience is hootin' and hollerin' for you.

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And your fellow cruisers aren't the only friendly faces you'll see throughout your sailing. The crew onboard Carnival Sensation are genuinely friendly and enjoy having conversations with passengers. From the guy taking our plates away in the buffet asking us what we did that morning to our Your Time Dining waiter (we asked for him every night) asking us about life back home and telling us about his dental work in Cozumel that day (!), everyone was personable and had a ready smile.

Yes, the bar service wasn't always the quickest and we were, more than once, told an activity printed on the day's schedule was a "mistake" (particularly when related to free spa events), but generally service was spot on throughout the cruise.

With all the good, Carnival Sensation is by no means a perfect cruise and many of its physical limitations can be a bit frustrating. Built in 1993 during the heyday of you-can't-get-there-from-here shipbuilding, you always have to remember to go all the way forward or aft on a cabin deck to get anywhere on decks 7 or 8. It's exasperating to run upstairs from your cabin for dinner on Deck 8 only to realize you're on the wrong end of the ship and you can't just walk across to the other side of Deck 8. And try not to forget which deck number correlates with the names of decks -- like Empress or Upper Deck -- as the elevators list the first letter of the name of the deck and not the number.

We'd also like to forewarn any serious sports lovers that there's no sports bar on Carnival Sensation, just a few public TVs here and there that can be tuned to ESPN (the only sports outlet other than the standard broadcast channels). If missing a game is going to put a dent in your vacation experience, Sensation might not be right for you.

Big theater productions are also lacking on Sensation. On our four-night cruise, we only had two big stage productions. Both were good and we would much rather have seen a third one than have only the audience-participation Love & Marriage show as a choice. And don't get us started on bingo. We like a good bingo game as much as the next person, but it's not a nighttime big theater activity.

But if you don't have a lot of vacation time and need a short, fun getaway that's laid-back, friendly and affordable, it's pretty hard to go wrong with a four- or five-night break on Carnival Sensation.


Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • Two main dining rooms, the buffet and select other eateries
  • All theater and comedy shows
  • Use of the pool, water park, mini-golf and other outdoor activities
  • Most daily activities unless noted below
  • Use of the gym, but not most classes

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Automatic gratuities of $13.99 per person, per day or $15.99 per person, per day for those staying in suites
  • Automatic beverage (18 percent) and spa tips (15 percent)
  • Most room service deliveries, plus tip
  • The Chef's Table experience
  • All drinks beyond water, tea (including ice tea), coffee and select juices in the buffet
  • Spa treatments
  • Shore excursions
  • Wi-Fi
  • Activities including, but not limited to arcade games, bingo and Build-A-Bear
  • Photos

Top Carnival Sensation Itineraries

View All Carnival Sensation Itineraries (4)

Fellow Passengers

The vast majority of passengers on Carnival Sensation are from the United States, with a smattering of people from Canada and even fewer from farther afield. A good percentage has driven to the port from Florida and surrounding states. You'll see lots of families, as well as groups celebrating (think milestone birthdays, bachelorette parties), and ages run the gamut from babies in strollers to seniors belting out Frank Sinatra songs during karaoke. You'll find a diversity of backgrounds, and everyone from working class folk to professionals. Overall, people are friendly, and on the ship to have a good time. 


Carnival Sensation Dress Code

Daytime: Carnival keeps its dress code casual by day, with shorts, T-shirts and bathing suits the norm.

Evening: Fairly casual (though shorts and tees are typically replaced by long pants and nicer tops) except on the single "cruise elegant" night, when men are encouraged to don long pants and collared shirts -- we saw plenty of men in full suits. We saw women dressed up in everything from their Sunday best to more than a few not-appropriate-for-church ensembles.

Not permitted: Cutoff jeans and swimwear are never permitted in the main dining rooms for dinner.

For more information, visit Cruise Line Dress Codes: Carnival.


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Carnival Sensation Ratings

CategoryEditorMember
Cabins3.53.7
Dining3.53.6
Entertainment3.53.6
Public Rooms4.03.8
Fitness Recreation4.03.6
Family4.03.6
Enrichment2.03.2
Service4.04
Value For Money4.53.7

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More about Carnival Sensation

Where does Carnival Sensation sail from?

Carnival Sensation departs from Miami and Mobile

How much does it cost to go on Carnival Sensation?

Cruises on Carnival Sensation start from null per person.

Is Carnival Sensation a good ship to cruise on?

Carnival Sensation won 2 awards over the years.

Awards and Recognition

Cruise Critic Cruisers’ Choice

  • 2016 Best for Embarkation
  • 2015 Best for Embarkation

Carnival Sensation Member Reviews

Carnival Sensation
jgeorges
Sail Date: Nov 2019
Overall I pleasantly surprised by our trip on Carnival Sensation, so much so that we got home and booked another cruise on this ship with the family.... Read More
Carnival Sensation
Lssherrill
Sail Date: Oct 2019
Carnival needs to spend money fixing up the Sensation as I doubt I’ll go on it again. There was mold throughout bathroom. Plan on three hours of embarkation which is a waste of time.... Read More
Carnival Sensation
my kids mama
Sail Date: Oct 2019
Would I sail the sensation again? Yes, absolutely! In fact, I wish I was there right now!... Read More
Carnival Sensation
JoCam
Sail Date: Nov 2019
We chose this cruise because Carnival gave us casino rates and Drinks on us it also fell on the dates for our anniversary .We have been on 7 cruises now and this was by far the worst but its still a cruise... Read More

Carnival Cruise Line Fleet

Carnival Ecstasy
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

1118 reviews

Fun and friendly with a laid-back vibe; highlights include waterslides, a singalong piano bar, nightly Punchliner Comedy Club and mini-golf; carries some 2,500.

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Carnival Elation
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Elation is the seventh of Carnival's eight Fantasy-class vessels (debuting in 1998), and went through a significant upgrade in 2009.

Carnival Fantasy
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Carnival Fantasy may be the oldest vessel in the Carnival fleet, but it certainly has style, and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Carnival Fascination
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

The 2,052-passenger Carnival Fascination debuted in 1994 and went through a significant upgrade to public areas, top-deck spaces and cabins in 2010.

Carnival Imagination
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Fun and friendly with plenty to do from sunup to sundown including high-energy pool deck fun and stage shows, plus waterslides, mini-golf and more.

Carnival Inspiration
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

A smaller ship packed with energetic fun all day long; highlights include nightly comedy, enthusiastic karaoke, waterslides, mini-golf and 10 bars and lounges.

Carnival Paradise
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Smaller ship with a fun and family-friendly atmosphere: highlights include short warm-weather itineraries, a waterslide and mini-golf; carries about 2,500 people.

Carnival Sensation
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Fun, friendly vibe with a packed lineup of daily activities, nightly comedy, energetic stage shows, silly pool deck fun, and a multi-slide waterpark.

Carnival Victory
3.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Fewer attractions than other Carnival ships but only offers short sailings; highlights are the comedy club, four pools and water slide; about 3,000 passengers.

Carnival Spirit
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Family-friendly, 2,100-passenger ship, based full-time in Sydney, has the Green Thunder water slide, great dining, free poolside food, lively entertainment and fun crew.

Carnival Pride

Lively and fun with a dizzying art-through-the-centuries decor, nightly standup comedy, two waterslides, four pools, and lots of bars and lounges; can carry about 2,500.

Carnival Legend
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


More than 2,600 passengers can enjoy the Green Thunder slide, Serenity Retreat for adults, Playlist Production music shows and excellent kids activities.

Carnival Conquest
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Unpretentious vibe with pool-centric fun and water slide, plus Hairy Chest and Mr. and Mrs. Conquest contests; also 11 bars and 9 eateries; carries about 3,500.

Carnival Glory

Lively entertainment and activities include nightly stand-up comedy, high-energy Playlist Production stage shows, twister water slide, and a nonstop schedule of daily activities.

Carnival Miracle
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Fun, family-friendly ship focused on Carnival signatures like the high-energy Playlist Production shows, nightly comedy, RedFrog Pub and line dancing deck parties.

Carnival Valor
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Silly poolside games, piano bar sing-alongs and PG- and R-rated stand-up comedy give this smallish mega-ship its fun vibe; also features the RedFrog Pub.

Carnival Liberty
4.5 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Fun, friendly vibe focusing on Carnival signatures like the Punchliner Comedy Club, gut-busting Guy's Burger Joint and cocktail-focused Alchemy Bar; holds about 3,500.

Carnival Freedom

Fun, laid-back and friendly; highlights include nightly comedy, high-energy stage shows, twister water slide and the popular RedFrog Pub; holds about 3,500.

Carnival Splendor
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Can hold upward of 4,000 passengers; features indoor/outdoor pool with retractable dome, Twister water slide, mini-golf and just one extra-fee restaurant.

Carnival Dream

Fun, friendly vibe; features Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse, family-friendly and adult stand-up comedy, nightly karaoke, water park and mini-golf.

Carnival Magic
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating

Holds about 4,000; highlights include water slides, the RedFrog Pub, two-bathroom family cabins that hold up to five, a ropes course and Carnival's signature fun.

Carnival Breeze

Nonstop activities and attractions include top deck water park and ropes course, 4D Thrill Theater and nightly standup comedy; can hold up to 4,700 cruisers.

Carnival Sunshine

Fun and friendly with nightly stand-up comedy and short, energetic stage shows, plus a calorie-packed burger joint from celeb chef Guy Fieri; holds about 3,500.

Carnival Vista

Holds a bit more than 4,000 passengers; offers a waterpark, suspended-in-midair recumbent bike thrill ride, ropes course and the first IMAX cinema at sea.

Carnival Horizon
4.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating


Carnival's newest megaship, holding some 4,000 passengers, launches April 2018; highlights include new barbeque/brewery and Teppanyaki restaurants, an IMAX movie theater, waterpark, beer brewery and ropes course.

Carnival Sunrise

A completely reimagined ship, Carnival Sunrise is Carnival Triumph transformed with new venues, entertainment options, and a whole new Fun Ship look.

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