We Stayed In The Cheapest Rooms On Carnival’s Mainstream And Luxury Cruises, And The Latter Was Worth The Extra $20 A Night

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  • The Carnival Corporation owns Carnival Cruises and Cunard, its mainstream and luxury line, respectively.
  • Our NYC and London reporters stayed in interior staterooms, each ships’ smallest and most affordable rooms.
  • For $20 more a night, Cunard’s standard room offered more amenities than Carnival’s, and we thought it was worth the extra cost.

Although the Carnival Corporation owns both Cunard in the UK and Carnival Cruise Lines in the US, our reporters found that they couldn’t be more different.

Side-by-side images of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth cruise ship and the Carnival Vista cruise ship. James D. Morgan/Getty Images/RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images

Carnival Cruise Lines was founded in 1972 by business mogul Ted Arison, according to Cruise Critic. The cruise line is known for its “fun ships,” which operate budget-friendly cruises with various entertainment, the website adds.

Cunard, meanwhile, was founded in 1840 and was taken over by the Carnival Corporation in 1998. Cunard is one of Britain’s most formal and luxurious cruise lines and received the Best Luxury Cruise Line Award at the 2019 British Travel Awards.

This year, Insider’s Monica Humphries went on a Carnival cruise, and Mikhaila Friel went on a Cunard cruise. They respectively stayed in standard interior staterooms on each ship and saw how they compared.

Mikhaila Friel in front of Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth ship. Monica Humphries in front of the Carnival Vista. Mikhaila Friel/Insider/Monica Humphries/Insider

In July, Insider’s US-based lifestyle reporter Monica Humphries embarked on a seven-night cruise on the Carnival Vista. The ship stopped in Mahogany Bay, Honduras; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.

It marked the cruise line’s first voyage to leave the US since the pandemic.

Then, in October, Insider’s UK-based senior lifestyle reporter Mikhaila Friel embarked on Cunard’s five-night Western Europe voyage on the Queen Elizabeth. The ship stopped in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for two nights, and the voyage marked Cunard’s return to international sailing.

The first difference our reporters noticed came with booking the rooms. Cunard’s interior stateroom on the Queen Elizabeth cost $20 more than the Carnival Vista stateroom per night, and it was 33 square feet smaller.

Mikhaila’s interior stateroom on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth ship was smaller than Monica’s Carnival Vista interior stateroom. Mikhaila Friel/Insider/Monica Humphries/Insider

Both rooms fit a king-size bed, bathroom, and closet.

The interior stateroom on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth, which cost slightly more, was advertised online as 152 square feet, while the room on the Carnival Vista was a bit larger at 185 square feet.

The Queen Elizabeth’s stateroom cost £628 without gratuities for five nights, which worked out at £125 a night, or around $174 per night.

Meanwhile, Carnival Vista’s stateroom was $1,081 without gratuities for seven nights, about $154 a night, or around £111 per night.

(For full disclosure, Insider paid for both cruise accommodations, according to our reporting standards.)

They noticed the decor was different. Mikhaila’s room had art on the walls; Monica’s had just the essentials.

Arrows point to the decor on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth and the Carnival Vista ships. Mikhaila Friel/Insider/Monica Humphries/Insider

Mikhaila’s room on the Queen Elizabeth was decked out with art and throw pillows.

A blue blanket and two matching pillows — both of which featured Cunard’s logo — were on the bed when Mikhaila arrived at her stateroom. Mikhaila’s steward removed them from the bed every evening and replaced them in the morning.

There was less decor inside Monica’s room. Housekeeping had laid out a mat so Monica could unpack a suitcase on her bed on the first day. Besides that, Monica thought the walls and beds looked largely unadorned.

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