Fodor’s Expert Review

Ship Overview

Carnival Cruise Lines
Cruise StyleMainstream
Ship SizeLarge
Prince Range$
Sails To Caribbean
Sails From Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Duration7-9 days

Fifty years ago, the TSS Mardi Gras took to the water, marking the beginning of Carnival Cruise Line. In 2021, a new Mardi Gras arrived. This much bigger (the fleet’s largest by far) and bolder ship proved every bit as revolutionary as the original. This ship introduces Zones (similar to the neighborhoods on Royal Caribbean Oasis-class ships) and these six themed areas offer Carnival loyalists brand-new experiences for eating, drinking, and exploring the newest fun ship. Read More

There’s BOLT, the first-ever rollercoaster at sea, Emeril’s Bistro, on-stage games like Family Feud Live, the stunning Grand Central atrium with three decks’ worth of floor-to-ceiling windows, new bars like The Brass Magnolia and Fortune Teller, serving existing favorites like Guy’s Burgers, Shaq’s Big Chicken, Pizzeria del Capitano (the best pizza at sea, and available 24/7), the famed Lido Deck buffet, 24-hour self-service, soft-serve ice cream, and world-class music and original entertainment from Carnival’s in-house Playlist Productions.


Dining destinations are diverse and included in the cost of the cruise    
Affordable and fun, this ship appeals to a wide audience
This may just be the best international crew at sea
BOLT, the first roller coaster at sea, carries a too-hefty price tag for the short ride  
Original theatrical performances are subpar compared to other Carnival ships  
Port Canaveral is not the easiest port to access, and getting there from the airport in Orlando can be expensive 

What to expect on board

Staterooms & Cabins

Editor Rating

A mix of interior, ocean view, balcony, and suites make up the 2,641 handsomely designed guest staterooms on board. Within these categories are a wider array of options, ranging from Cloud 9 Spa rooms, draped in a soothing color palette; Havana staterooms and cabanas near the members-only Havana Bar & Pool; and nautically-themed Family Harbor rooms, which are located on a special deck with access to an exclusive lounge where passengers can enjoy breakfast or stock up on snacks. Plus, Family Harbor guests can bring their kids to eat free at most specialty restaurants and are able to enjoy one free night of Night Owls babysitting service. All cabins have a telephone, 110 AC power outlet, USB outlets near each side of the bed, reading lights, individual climate control, Carnival Comfort Bed Collection, hair dryer, safe, mini bar fridge, and interactive flat-screen TV mounted flush to the wall. 

Whether a guest has a service dog, dietary needs, mobility limitations, or are hard of hearing, travel with an oxygen tank, or have children with disabilities, the Carnival Mardi Gras is ready to accommodate and deliver a fun and fantastic cruise. The 82 accessible staterooms on board feature a similar standard cabin layout, only with considerably more space, plus a bathroom that is much larger, with roll-in toilet and shower areas. In fact, a mobility scooter can easily fit inside the room (although many guests still opt to park outside in the hall). 

Accessible balcony staterooms have no lip between the interior of the room and the balcony, with will allow guests to transition easily from inside and out. Furthermore, accessible tables are available in all the dining venues, from the main dining room to Lido Deck buffet.

Food & Drink

Editor Rating

In Chibang!, Carnival has created a brand new dining destination for its fleet. Billed as a Chinese and Mexican Mashup, the restaurant’s sweet & sour shrimp with hakka noodles and green beans is not to be missed. Guy’s Burgers and Pig & Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse, Shaq’s Big Chicken, and Pizzeria del Capitano are other offerings on what surely has to be one of the most robust inclusive food programs on board a large, mainstream cruise ship. 

Outside on the sunny deck 16, beside the underrated, affordable a la carte Seafood Shack is a brand new destination for quick and complimentary bites, called Street Eats. A rotating menu at three separate food cart-style spots give guests new foods to try for free every day. Steam Dream serves up bao buns and pot stickers, and kebab and satay are found at Mad Sizzle, while Time Fries loads up everyone’s favorite side with a slew of toppings. One of the greatest aspects of a Carnival Mardi Gras cruise is the ability to eat in some of the specialty restaurants for lunch free of charge—with that in mind, don’t sleep on the create-your-own pasta bowls in Cucina Del Capitano.

Guests will enjoy spending their nights with the jazz band in The Brass Magnolia, sunken down into plush red velvet seats, sipping glamorous cocktails like Hurricanes or Sazeracs, wines, beers, or even an Abita, a craft root beer from Louisiana, available in bottles on board. For more musical entertainment with an adult beverage in hand, guests can grab a seat at the Piano Bar to hear talented musicians tickle the ivories in a fun sing-along show, try an elixir in the mystical Fortune Teller bar, or chill out poolside at the Redfrog Tiki Bar.


Editor Rating

There is no shortage of fun on the original FUN ship’s newest and largest vessel. The Punchliner Comedy Club will have the whole family laughing with both all-ages and adult-only stand-up comedy shows on offer. There’s also a casino, a huge water park (the largest in the extensive Carnival fleet), and of course the first roller coaster at sea. For those athletically inclined, the SportSquare multi-purpose court hosts soccer games, basketball, and more. And the stellar Playlist Productions, which put on theatrical shows and make up the Center Stage Band, provides an opportunity to be dazzled or get your dance shoes on, depending on the performance.

Spa & Fitness

Editor Rating

The adults-only Serenity Retreat, featuring a 24/7 fitness center, outdoor track, and full-service spa is complimentary and just for the grown-ups. Cloud 9 Spa offers manicures, pedicures, and massages for passengers seeking ultimate pampering and relaxation.

Key cruising tips

Health & Safety

Fully vaccinated guests no longer need to test prior to the cruise, for itineraries of five days or less. There are some exceptions to this rule based on the requirements of specific destinations, including Grand Cayman, Bermuda, and the Bahamas. Cruises that are six days or longer still require pre-travel testing for passengers over two years of age.

Check the website for the latest information on coronavirus policies.

Dress Code

Casual dress is standard during the day on the Carnival Mardi Gras. Most restaurants, save for the buffet and casual quick bite destinations, expect guests to swap out their flip flops, tank tops, and hats at dinnertime. On formal nights (usually twice on a weeklong cruise), black tie is no longer the standard, but most passengers still enjoy get a little more dressed up in the evening when going to dinner in the Main Dining Room or to a specialty restaurant.

Junior Cruisers

The Mardi Gras Water Works water park is massive and fun, plus the kid’s camps are organized by age and are complimentary, with Night Owl after-hours parties (and babysitting) available for a nominal fee. Families may wish to book a Family Harbor room; playful decor plus access to a special deck that serves breakfast all day long and features board games and video games, help with the kid-friendly ethos.


The Carnival crew has a stellar reputation as being some of the best at sea. You can expect towel animals nightly in the staterooms, twice-daily housekeeping, and smiles from everyone you interact with. The international crew, focused on helping passengers have the greatest cruise vacation possible, are also always eager to talk to guests young and old about their countries and life at sea.


Prepaid gratuities are standard across all non-luxury cruises (where tips are usually included in the rate), including Mardi Gras. Upon embarkation, all of the tips will have been paid in full, but many cruisers will carry extra cash to provide additional tips to their stateroom attendant and other crew members who provided exceptional service during their cruise.


Entered Service
Number of Cabins
Passenger Capacity
Crew Members
Passengers to Crew Ratio
Gross Tons
137 feet
1130 feet

Explore More Ships in this Line

Explore More Mainstream Cruise Lines

COVID-19 Travel Updates