Photo by Jason Leppert

Admittedly, I used to consider Carnival Cruise Line at the bottom of the barrel, and I actively avoided the brand for years until I finally gave it a chance and was swiftly surprised.

I had not actually sailed on the line, but I had almost always considered it “seedy Las Vegas at sea” previously. My perception was based mostly on my family’s opinion, which was informed by stereotypes of it being a booze cruise.

My very first two cruises were on Princess Cruises’ original 1984 Royal Princess with my parents, followed by many on Crystal Cruises before frequenting Celebrity Cruises.

My folks had always subscribed to cruise periodicals over the years, and we couldn’t help but cringe over the abundance of neon employed in service of Carnival’s interior designs seen in photographs. After sailing on elegantly appointed fleets, we found it hard to ever consider sailing on one of the so-called Fun Ships.

We ventured out to other lines like Royal Caribbean International and Holland America Line over the years while returning to Princess off and on. All of this was, of course, prior to my career as a cruise travel journalist and my first professional opportunity to sail on Carnival.

So, when I did eventually board the Carnival Miracle in 2013, I was very skeptical about what was in store. And, boy was I wrong—mostly that is.

My only remaining hangup: I don’t suspect I will ever acquire a taste for the interior design work of Joe Farcus. I do appreciate his approach to exterior architecture, but his internal aesthetic is beyond garish, in my opinion. I applaud, with a standing ovation, Carnival for heading in a new direction with its latest ships.

READ MORE: Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista Review

In regards to everything else Carnival, my perceptions were definitely misinformed.

To be sure, stereotypes exist for a reason, and perhaps Carnival was rowdier once upon a time. However, drunken debauchery was not present on our weeklong cruise (although it can rear its head a bit more on shorter getaways).

The reality was that the Fun Ship was indeed just that—a very fun ship indeed.

My cousin was along with me, and we had a blast. The Punchliner Comedy Club quickly became a favorite of ours and remains so to this day. Truly, the crowd was full of unpretentious middle America looking for a good old-fashioned escape, and that’s exactly what we all found.

Since the Miracle, I have expanded my horizons to also include cruises on the Carnival Breeze, Carnival Dream, Carnival Freedom, Carnival Imagination and Carnival Vista, and I have thoroughly enjoyed every single sailing.

I’ve become familiar with more and more of the brand and its newest Fun Ship 2.0 features, and I’m constantly impressed by the line’s fantastic value proposition.

You simply get a lot for your money.

While Carnival is no luxury cruise line, it is far more refined than I once gave it credit for. The accommodations are comfortable, activities are high-energy, entertainment is impressive and dining reaches gourmet levels.

READ MORE: TravelPulse Onboard: Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Breeze Review

If anyone else is is in the same boat, so to speak, I encourage you to look past what are likely misconceptions and give the line a try as I did. Carnival pleasantly surprises time and again.

I mean, the Vista alone had me with IMAX on a cruise ship, folks, but pair that with everything from the SkyRide to Guy’s Burger Joint and JiJi Asian Kitchen, and the line is a surefire winner.

I never expected to be a Carnival proponent, but sometimes it’s good to be wrong!

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.

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