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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
But the most significant difference was in the amenities. Coffee was just a few steps away in Mikhaila’s room on the Queen Elizabeth. To get coffee on the Carnival Vista, Monica had to leave her room or call room service.
When Mikhaila arrived in her stateroom, she found a coffee station complete with coffee, tea, sugar, and creamer.
Monica’s room lacked a coffee machine, but you could order breakfast via room service each morning for your cup of joe or walk to the nearest eatery.
While both Mikhaila and Monica had robes waiting for them in their rooms, Mikhaila also had slippers.
Mikhaila found a robe hanging on the bathroom hook and a pair of slippers inside the closet when she arrived.
Monica found a robe but no slippers in her room.
Cunard provided royalty-approved shampoos and soaps, while Carnival’s toiletries were brandless.
Throughout Mikhaila’s room, there were plenty of references to royalty — even inside the shower. The shampoo, body soap, and hand soap in Mikhaila’s bathroom were by royal-warrant holder Penhaligon’s.
A royal warrant is a distinction provided to companies that offer goods or services to the Queen, the late Duke of Edinburgh, or Prince Charles, according to the official Royal Warrant website.
Carnival did not prominently label the brand of products offered in Monica’s bathroom.
Each guest on Cunard’s ship received a bottle of wine. On the Carnival Vista, Monica’s minifridge was empty.
Mikhaila was pleased to find a bottle of wine waiting for her in the minifridge, a complimentary gift given to all guests at the start of the voyage. It was accompanied by a note from the captain, welcoming all guests on board.
Her steward also left a chocolate on her pillow each night.
Meanwhile, Monica didn’t receive any chocolate or wine gifts during her stay.
There were other differences, too, like the process of ordering room service. On the Queen Elizabeth, a room-service order was placed over the ship’s phone. On the Carnival Vista, you ordered through a QR code on your personal phone.
As Insider previously reported, one of the most significant changes on Carnival Vista’s ship since the start of the pandemic has been the use of QR codes practically everywhere.
To order room service, Monica could access a digital menu and place orders through her cell phone.
On the Queen Elizabeth, Mikhaila had to order room service through the room’s phone.
While Mikhaila’s room was decked out in the Cunard logo, Monica could find only a few instances of Carnival’s logo in her room.
The Cunard logo, which features a lion rampant, a crown, and laurel leaves, was prominent in Mikhaila’s stateroom. It was on the throw pillows, the blanket, and the complimentary pair of slippers and robe. The logo was a constant reminder that Mikhaila was on a luxury cruise linked to royalty.
Meanwhile, Monica thought that the Carnival logo wasn’t as prominent throughout her room.
While there were plenty of differences between the two rooms, our reporters also noticed some similarities.
Each room had two single mattresses pushed together to create a king-size bed, two lamps, a TV, and a bathroom with a shower.
Mikhaila and Monica had their keys waiting for them outside their stateroom doors.
Both reporters were left to find their staterooms by themselves when they embarked on their respective journeys. They found their room keys outside their stateroom doors.
Mikhaila and Monica could also use their room keys as credit cards to purchase items on board their ships.
When our reporters walked into their rooms, the TVs were playing safety videos.
Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal led the safety video in Monica’s room detailing where to find her life jacket (the closet) and where to go on the ship if there was an emergency alarm.
While the video in Mikhaila’s room shared similar safety information, it didn’t seem to feature celebrity talent.
Mikhaila and Monica were both happy with the storage options in their rooms.
Mikhaila’s room had a closet with hangers and two chests of drawers on each side of the bed left open for her when she arrived. She also had a safe for storing personal items, which she thought came in handy during port days.
Monica’s room also had a closet with hangers and a safe. Her room had one dresser in the closet and two nightstands that were similar in size to those in Mikhaila’s room, though they lacked drawers.
Overall, while the rooms had a similar layout and size, Mikhaila’s room oozed luxury that the reporters agreed was worth the extra cost.
Mikhaila and Monica agreed that the complimentary wine, decor, and an in-room coffee station created an atmosphere of luxury and were worth the extra $20 each night.
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