Cruise Tips13 Biggest Mistakes Made by Carnival Cruise Passengers

13 Biggest Mistakes Made by Carnival Cruise Passengers [Carnival Tips]

Our goal at Cruise Fever is simple, to help you have the best cruise vacation possible. With that being said, here are the biggest mistakes people make when taking a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line. 

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Use these Carnival cruise tips wisely and feel free to add your own advice in the comment section below.

Carnival Cruise Line Breeze

Not Purchasing FTTF – What’s FTTF? Faster to the Fun lets you skip lines during your cruise for a small fee.  You receive priority boarding, priority tender tickets, priority disembarkation, a priority line at guest services, and your cabin is ready as soon as you board the ship. 

After all, life is too short to wait in lines while on vacation.

Thinking All Ships Are the Same – Carnival Cruise Line has 27 cruise ships in service and each class varies in amenities offered on board.  Just because your last ship had an incredible new restaurant, doesn’t mean that the next ship that you book will have it.  The same is true for water parks and other features found on Carnival’s Fun Ships.

Each class of Carnival cruise ship is unique and only the Excel class have a roller coaster on the top deck.

Bolt on Carnival Celebration
Photo Credit: Cruise Fever

Not Purchasing Drink Packages –  Drink packages offered on Carnival cruise ships can add to up real savings throughout your cruise.   An extra benefit is not having to worry about how much you are spending since every drink you order is already paid for.

Carnival offers CHEERS! and a package that includes unlimited soda.

Hitting the 15 Drink Limit –  Just because you are allowed up to 15 alcoholic drinks a day with CHEERS!, doesn’t mean you have drink that many.  As many cruisers point out, the break even point is around 5-6 drinks a day.

Not Checking For Price Drops – If you book an Early Saver Rate, you are eligible for price drops up to two days before your cruise.  This can add to up significant savings and onboard credit that you could be leaving on the table.  How to Check For Price Drops on Cruises

Thinking All Inside Cabins Are the Same – Carnival’s cheapest inside staterooms are Category 1A.  While the beds in most cruise ship cabins can be made into a queen size bed, the 1A staterooms have upper and lower bunk beds.  This is great for friends who are cruising, not so much for couples.

Think Port Stops Are Guaranteed –  Carnival does everything in their power to stick to the scheduled itinerary.  However, the cruise line does not control the weather and ports that require tendering (Grand Cayman, Belize, Half Moon Cay etc) can be bypassed due to rough seas and high wind.

Failing to Choose a Check-in Time – A few years ago, Carnival began testing staggered boarding and it has now been rolled out across the country. By not choosing a boarding time or waiting until the last minute to check in, you will likely be one of the last to board the ship and start your vacation.

Waiting to Purchase Shore Excursions – The most popular shore excursions can sell out quickly. If there is one that your heart is set on doing, don’t wait to purchase it.

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Waiting to Purchase the ‘Behind the Fun’ Tour – Interested in going behind the scenes and seeing parts of the cruise ship that are off limits to passengers? The Behind the Fun tour is extremely limited it sells out quickly so book as soon as you can.

Bypassing Specialty Restaurants – Yes, the main dining room and buffet are included in your cruise fare. However, dining in specialty restaurants like the steakhouse or Bonsai Sushi can greatly enhance your cruise experience.  Especially when you are cruising for a special occasion.

Also, waiting to book specialty restaurants until later in the cruise could cause you to miss out.  Specialty restaurants tend to fill up near the end of the cruise so book early.

Bonsai Carnival
Bonsai on Carnival Celebration

Not Dining in the Steakhouse On the First Night – When you dine in the steakhouse on the first night, you get a free bottle of wine.  And for those who do not drink (like myself), they brought us over a bottle of non-alcoholic.  Kudos to the Carnival staff for that.

Also, if you dine in the steakhouse on the second night of the cruise, you will receive a 50% discount on a premium bottle that is under $100 in value.

Not Booking Your Next Cruise On Board – By not booking your next Carnival cruise while onboard, you’ll lose out on extra perks that can include 50% deposits, $50 in onboard credit, and a two category upgrade.

Note: This article was updated in April 2024.

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Ben Souza
Ben Souza
Ben is a world traveler who has visited 40+ countries, taken over 70 cruises. He is one of USA TODAY's experts for their 10Best Readers' Choice Awards. His writings have appeared and been cited in various media outlets such as Yahoo News, MSN, NPR, CNN, Fox, and ABC News. Ben currently resides in Cincinnati, Ohio. Follow Ben on Instagram. Visit Ben Souza on Linkedin. You may email Ben at [email protected].
Cruise Tips13 Biggest Mistakes Made by Carnival Cruise Passengers


  1. I’m sailing on the Carnival Horizon in September and FTTF is sold out. It is $119 and I had already decided that it wasn’t worth it to me. I have purchased it before when I was sailing an itinerary that had a port where you had to tender. That and the dedicated guest service line made it worth it. But otherwise I haven’t really needed it. Our last cruise we didn’t purchase it and we were able to board fairly early and our cabin was available pretty quick.

  2. I was told Carnival had tried a couple non-smoking cruises at one time. They didn’t run at passenger capacity. Don’t know if I believe that or not. Although, most of the time in the casino I see more smokers than non-smokers. Everywhere else the smokers seems to be a small minority. I don’t guess I care one way or the other. I have smoked a lot but currently don’t. Next cruise when I figure it out will be my 14th.

  3. LOL at “Carnival is notoriously a family line”!! Probably the type of person who brings their kids to Hooters, and to adult parties with drinking.

    • I’ve cruised Carnival 8 times and I’ve seen a lot of familes. Most all of them seemed like the average family, just enjoying vacation.

  4. The best cruise tip I know of now after having done a few is to not be afraid to order multiples in the main dining room. If you evening meal appeals to you go ahead and order multiples,same for deserts if you are so inclined. Its a cruise and well known for having plenty of food .Go ahead and indulge.

    • I enjoy getting two shrimp cocktail! They are awesome!! My hubby likes to get two desserts. Yes we do indulge on the ship.

  5. My views. I’ve done 55 cruises in the last 10 years with some on Carnival. I consider them to be the bargain basement of cruises, but thats just me. FTTF– These are things that used to be included with good service. Keep you money in your pocket. too may things on this line have been cut, services to entertainment. Before you book, research you ship, so you know what you are getting. If you dont, you are buying something that you have not seen. Foolish! Drink packages– terrible waste of money. Soda comes to about $12 a day, a cocktail bargain is about $8+. Enjoy a cocktail occasionally and enjoy your cruise sober, But it never fails that you see more than a few falling down drunk on this line. Its the Party Ship, mind you. I’ve also gotten to hear children “howling”, yes howling in the halls at 1 am. Check in Time– Never needed it before. Shore Excursions are generally available till at least the day before. Specialty Dining– nice for a change. Better than the Dining Room and certainly better than the school lunches they serve at the Buffet. Booking on Board– You can do just as well on line. Smoking– I dont. But they pay the same price that you do. Suck it up Buttercup. They have to put up with you fake coughing and dirty looks. Now my post may not be favorable to some, but lets be adults and not call names or any other bad mouthing. This is how I see it for me…not you. Enjoy your cruise!

  6. The drink package is not worth the price if you drink beer!! I have yet to have someone be able to prove that to me, and I am open minded. The math is easy to figure. Carnival says it’s a good deal for obvious reasons. Too much beer in 7days with 3 or 4 shore days where you drink off the ship. Even at that it is 20 beers a days for myself and the Mrs. how often do you sit and drink 10 beers each, for Seven days. I drink to the max, sign for it and never worry about the bill in the end and it never comes close to the package price!!!!!

  7. How do you get the coast guard safety rating for each ship? I believe that even though the cruise ships are not registered in the USA, SS long as they dock in one of our ports,they become subject to coast guard inspection?

  8. Where do you want us Carnival smokers to go? There are now limited numbers of smoking areas on ships, one outside and one inside (you can’t smoke outside while they’re fueling) and you can’t smoke on your balcony. At the casino, there are 6 out of 24 seats at the bar that are smoking and there is a limited area in the casino that you can smoke. Some people smoke, face the facts. If you don’t want smoking on your cruise, try Disney – 100% smoke free all the time!

    • Where do we want smokers to go? On another ship. Carnival is notoriously a family line. Maybe somebody will make a 100% smoking cruise with no restrictions. I’m sure than will sell well.

  9. As an experienced cruiser on Carnival agree with most comments. The air and smoke is thick when you walk by the casino. Definitely not fun for non smokers. Free bottle of wine if you pay the $50 per person for the Steakhouse. You can bring a bottle each person onboard. Drinking packages – best to see how many ports you visit and figure on your drinking. If you choose your earlier boarding time, things go fairly quickly and you can be on board having a late lunch…your room might not be ready but you can walk around and enjoy the boat and what it has to offer.

  10. I do not smoke and can become ill but I love the casino, what can be done? Will be sailing from Hawaii for 10 days next year, my 10 cruise.

  11. FTTF is around 60 per stateroom. To get the same benefits, you would have to be Platinum or above. If you do purchase the FTTF for every time you cruise until you get to the higher level, you will be out of enough money to have purchase an additional cruise. FTTF is great for Carnival but after 35 cruises without FTTF, I think is a waste of your money.

    • Price is now $89.95. It’s great if you have kids, had an early morning flight, you can take a nap or even put the kids down for a nap.

  12. The drink package is a personal choice. One has to analyze what they drink and how many they think they will have and multiply by the average price (also taking into consideration amount of time spent ashore). For some it makes sense for others who,don’t drink as much or stick to beer it doesn’t.


  14. We also have a problem with the smoke filled casino. We do not get to enjoy gaming because the smoke it too thick. We have learned from experience not to book a cabin near the casino on any of the levels. The doors that close off that stench are not to be closed due to safety reasons. The casino is the area you have to travel to bypass the closed off 4th level. We have resorted to going up to the 6th or 7th floor and walking down the cabin hallways.
    I agree that there needs to be a better air system.

  15. Agree, they cater for the Smoker to the detriment of the majority of Non-smokers. I have good news though, come to Australia and sail on the Spirit, Legend and soon to be Splendor. In Australia, all ships and cruise lines (RCL, Princess, Carnival etc.) are Non -smoking by law in covered areas including the casino.
    Happy smoke free sailing!

  16. FTTF is never available because if extreme limitations on the numbers. The drinks package breakeven is MORE than what you say. It can cost you boatloads more tgan not taking it. If tou spend over a $100 a day – as an individual – it may be worth it.

    • FTTF is based on the number of upper level cruisers. It becomes more available once they see that there isn’t a lot of Platinum type cruisers. I find it hit or miss, lucky this time, we got one.

  17. We, a group a 10 Veterans and their wives, sailed on the Magic between Feb 10 and Feb 17. We had a good time together for the most part. We had good shore excursions unfortunately we were not able to dock in Amber Cove due to high seas and we thank the Captain for that decision.
    Four members however became sick on the sixth day and unfortunately missed meals and enjoying the cruise. ONE MAJOR COMPLAINT FROM NUMEROUS MEMBERS WAS THE FACT THAT THE CASINO WAS A SMOKE FACTORY. You had to bypass the casino by going up and over or you had to walk through breathing second hand smoke. As a former smoker it bother me also. After returning home I became ill and another member become ill on Tues. the 20th. This is very POOR EXHAUST system to rid the air of the smoke. We have sailed other Carnival ships and other cruise lines and many of us say NO MORE CARNIVAL CRUISES.

    • Try and be in a mobility chair on new carnival ship like the vista they say it is ada certified but it is not every one talks about the smoking try and get 5 maybe 7 drinks spilled on you the new vista and all the ones being built today hallways are 2feet narrower so with room people in hallways and there carts you can’t get by the nite before our ship got in port with all luggage in hallways could not get to my room got lock out of elevators and lot more stuff I’m a platinum member on carnival but because carnival did nothing about my problems even there ada certified Pearson on the vista told me I was stupid in his office on the ship I decided not to cruise on carnival or any of there outher companies Princess Connor lines when jammer I now go on Royal Caribbean oasis of the sea’s

  18. Carnival is moving away from booking onboard at the Loyalty sales desk for your next cruise. Bookings made online within 2 weeks after the cruise is eligible for the discounted rate, OBC, and upgrades. It is tied the the cruiser’s VIFP number.

  19. A free bottle of wine at the steakhouse is worthless. It’s not a good quality wine and everyone already has the all you can drink alcohol package.

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