Carnival Cruise Lines
These three behemoths capture the classic Carnival whimsy, though with a somewhat mellower color scheme than the line's older ships -- but let's not split hairs, they're still bright.
Typical Per Diems: $55-$95
Destiny sails the Caribbean from Miami (year-round).
Triumph sails the Caribbean from New Orleans (year-round).
Victory sails the Caribbean from San Juan (year-round).
Taller than the Statue of Liberty, these 13-deck ships cost $400 million to $440 million apiece and carry 2,642 passengers based on double occupancy and 3,400-plus with every additional berth filled (and some cruises do indeed carry a full load). All three are nearly identical, though Triumph and Victory are a tad larger than Destiny (having an additional deck at top) and are reconfigured in a few minor ways. Destiny was the first cruise ship ever built to exceed 100,000 tons, and her sheer size and spaciousness inspired the cruise industry to build more in this league. In late 2005, the Destiny received a healthy multimillion-dollar face-lift that took 3 weeks and included the addition of a new teen club, renovated Lido buffet restaurant, vamped-up children's pool, redesigned casino, and spruced-up suites. All three ships now sport a giant video screen up on the pool deck.
The Destiny-class sisters, along with the new Conquest-class ships, have the line's biggest standard outside cabins, with the category-6A and -6B cabins (which take up most of the Riviera and Main decks) measuring 220 square feet (and that's not including the balcony); the rest of the fleet's standard outside cabins measure 185 square feet -- still very roomy. If that's not enough, more than 60% of the Destiny sisters' outside cabins (480-508 of them) have sitting areas and private balconies. That's compared to a paltry 54 private verandas out of 618 outside cabins on Carnival's Fantasy-class ships. In 2008, outside cabins on the Destiny and Triumph were retrofitted with private balconies, creating a total of 48 additional 230-square-foot veranda staterooms on both these ships.
There are two categories of suites: Veranda Suites measuring 275 square feet, plus a 65-square-foot balcony; and Penthouse Suites, where you can live like a king with 345 square feet, plus an 85-square-foot balcony. Both are located on Deck 7, smack-dab in the middle of the ship; both kinds of suites were upgraded in late 2005 with updated bathrooms, carpeting, and wall coverings. All cabins have new bed sarongs (replacing quilts), curtains, and fabrics. Specially designed family staterooms, at a comfortable but not roomy 230 square feet, are located convenient to children's facilities, and many of them can be connected to the stateroom next door. All standard cabins have a TV, safe, hair dryer, desk, dresser, chair and stool, bathroom with shower, and Carnival's great bedding system, featuring extra thick mattresses, duvets, linens, and pillows, along with fluffy towels and bathrobes. Only the suites have minifridges.
A total of 25 cabins on Destiny, 27 on Triumph, and 30 on Victory are wheelchair accessible.
Each ship has a pair of two-level dining rooms with ocean views from both the main floor and the mezzanine level, as well as a two-story indoor/outdoor casual buffet restaurant that includes two specialty food stations that make Asian stir-fry and deli-style sandwiches to order; sushi is also served in the buffet restaurant at lunch. There's also a grill section for burgers, fries, and kielbasa-size hot dogs, a salad bar, and a dessert island. Specialty coffee bars and patisseries sell gourmet goodies for a few bucks a pop.
At the time these ships were designed, Carnival interior designer Joe Farcus never had so much public space to play with, and he took full advantage. The ships are dominated by staggering nine-deck atria with casual bars on the ground level, and the three-deck-high showrooms are a sight -- Destiny's was the first of this magnitude on any cruise ship, and subsequent models tread a fine line between outrageous and relatively tasteful: for example, Triumph's wacko chandelier, which looks like DNA strands made from crystal golf balls, topped with little Alice-in-Wonderland candleholders. The ships' mondo casinos span some 9,000 square feet and feature more than 300 slot machines and about two dozen gaming tables.
Many of the ships' 18-plus bars and entertainment venues are located along the bustling main drag of the Promenade Deck. The Sports Bar on each ship boasts multiple TV monitors projecting different sporting events. Each ship has a wine bar, a cappuccino cafe, and a piano bar, which aboard Triumph is a bizarre New Orleans-themed place called the Big Easy, sporting thousands of real oyster shells covering its walls (collected from New Orleans' famous Acme Oyster House -- only on Carnival!). Each also has a sprawling disco with a wild decor: On Victory, an Arctic motif features black faux-fur bar stools, while Triumph's decor is a little more reserved, with goofy little Barney-purple chairs, and glass panels and tubes filled with bubbling water throughout. One deck below is an elegant lounge for a drink or a cigar: On Triumph, it's a clubby place called the Oxford Bar, with dark-wood paneling, leather furniture, and gilded picture frames (too bad you can hear the disco music pounding above late at night). The ships' Internet centers are adjacent to this lounge.
Each ship has several shopping boutiques, a spacious beauty salon, a library, a card room, and a fairly large children's playroom and video arcade. The Destiny has a teen club and it comes decked out with a dance floor, a high-tech sound/light system, three large-screen plasma TVs, music listening stations, video game pods, and a soft-drink bar.
Pool, Fitness & Spa Facilities
Along with the Conquest-class ships, the Destiny-class facilities are the most generous among the Carnival vessels, with four pools (including a kids' wading pool); seven hot tubs; and a 214-foot, two-deck-high, corkscrew-shaped water slide.
The tiered, arena-style decks of the sprawling midships Lido Deck pool area provide optimal viewing of the band and stage, pool games, and all the hubbub that happens in this frenetically busy part of the ship. All three ships now also have a giant video screen up on deck. All thee ships have twisty slides and the aft pool area features two hot tubs and a retractable roof that covers all, enabling deck activities and entertainment to continue even in rainy weather. On Triumph and Victory, the big stage adjacent to the Main Continent pool is even bigger than the one on Destiny, and it has been reconfigured to provide more space for guests at deck parties, and to make the Pool Deck more open and visually appealing. Another modification is the placement of a small performance stage aft on the Lido Deck near the New World pool.
Even though the ships' huge gyms aren't as large as those on Royal Caribbean's Voyager class, Carnival's are much roomier and actually feel bigger. The two-deck-high spa and fitness centers have more than 30 state-of-the-art exercise machines, including virtual-reality stationary bikes. There are men's and women's saunas and steam rooms, and a pair of hot tubs. Spas have all the latest treatments (at the latest high prices), but as on all Carnival ships (except for the newer Spirit class), they're surprisingly drab, and the only place to wait for your masseuse is on a cold, high-school-locker-room bench, wrapped in a towel -- no robes are provided (unless, supposedly, you ask for one). So much for ambience. There are separate aerobics rooms (though they're smaller than they used to be, as half the space was snapped up to create a teen room a few years back).
The well-stocked 1,300-square-foot indoor/outdoor children's play center has its own pool and is nicely sequestered on a top deck, out of the fray of the main Pool Deck areas. The ships also have video arcades that promise hours of fun.