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There are countries with smaller navies than the US based Carnival Corporation's total fleet of 60 plus ships. Carnival cruises take up the lion's share of the world cruise market. As well as Carnival Cruise Lines, the group is behind a dozen more brands, all well known. They include Cunard, Holland America, Princess, Ocean Village, PO, Seabourn, Swan Hellenic and Windstar. In short, although there are other options, large and small, there's a good chance you'll be cruising with Carnival.

But the fact that they are all part of the same group should not mask the variety of these maritime experiences. From the luxury of Seabourn to the intellectual challenges offered by Swan Hellenic and the cheery action of Ocean Village, there are trips to suit many tastes (and wallets that's one of the upsides of traveling on medium to large ships). A third of that big fleet is operated by the Carnival line itself, and Carnival cruises have a distinct character too. The ships are well appointed (at the top end are a group with names prefixed by 'Carnival' followed by assertive sounding monikers such as Conquest, Destiny, Glory, Legend, Miracle and Pride) with a style that is particularly designed to appeal to the young US market. That's to say, they're very well organized with lots of energy and glitziness. If you like to relax with frenetic fun, this is the holiday for you.

If you've had too much fun you might want to detox in the Carnival spas. The concession is owned by Steiner, who offer Asian inspired massages and the like in accordance with the current vogue among upper end cruise liners. With all the things going on aboard these ships, the route might seem extraneous. It's not, of course one of the advantages of having so many vessels is that Carnival cruises can take on a variety of itineraries. That means you can combine the kind of boat you want (as long as it's a large, loud boat) with visits to places you really want to go, whether that be Alaska, the Bahamas, Mexico, Europe or any of their other destinations.