FYI... Probably a lot of people know this already, but just for the record..
The Carnival Corporation owns:
Carnival Cruise Lines... of course.
Costa Cruise Lines
Holland America Lines
Princess Cruise lines
P&O... I think
Airtours (Which has a cruise line division)
Seabourn Cruise Lines (Or if you want to be snobby "The Yachts of Seabourn")
That sounds like a monopoly to me. What's left are a number of smaller, minor lines and the other bigger ones:
Crystal Cruise Lines
Royal Caribbean/Celebrity Cruise Lines
Star Cruises/Norwegian Cruise Line
And maybe one or two others that I'm forgetting.
Carnival's sales pitch changed around 1996 or 1997 or so to say they were "The biggest Cruise Line in the World!" Which was true at the time, but the truth is - and Carnival demonstrates that constantly - is bigger is NOT necessarily better. I understand there are thousands, possibly millions that have cruise with Carnival and liked it. I don't blame them Carnival is great for first-time cruisers who "want to try cruising out" to see if they like it. And it is a very good value for what you get...
Carnival consistently has had problems with customer service, covering up incidents or trying to make them not look so bad. Tropicale's 1999 tropical storm engine fire is a perfect example. When the Coast Guard was called and the helicopters showed up Carnival brought all the guests up on deck and the crew had the mariachi band playing and they were passing out drinks and trying to get the guests to play along. They didn't. They tried to make it seem like there was no problem. I've read of a gastro-intestinal bacteria cases where people got sick and they were told in the public lounge that Carnival was not responsible and they could not sue them. If I remember correctly - and this is sketchy in my head - they were asked to sign a document saying they wouldn't sue the company.
Maybe it's the curse of being a big company. "Too big for the britches" is a common saying and perhaps it applies. I'm not even mentioning the influence they have on their 'conquest companies'. Look at what happened to Costa Cruise Line. It was the mid 90's and Costa's decorative scheme was one of the most elegantly conceived in the industry. The beautiful Costa Victoria in her original state was a triumph of Italian modernist design. She was to be joined by two sister ships when Carnival bought them out - cancelled the orders on those two ships and built two Spirit class monstrosities - complete with Joe Farcus designed faux-Italian mockery. You have a complete 180 degree change in interior schemes: going from sleek Italian modernism to bad 80's pizza parlor, pseudo-renaissance, Italian sterio-typed decor. Now Carnival is trying to make it look like Costa was the Italian line naming the public rooms in Costa Fortuna things like "Conte di Savoia Grand Bar 1932."
I mean... can you imagine cruising on that ship? "Mom, I wish we didn't have dinner in Raffaello Restaurant 1965 and had dinner in Cristoforo Columbo Buffet 1954 instead."
And take a look at Cunard. Their most recent brochure pets this "White Star Academy Service" or whatever. How tacky and tasteless! They wrote it as if they OWNED the White Star Line its whole existence - which of course we all know better. They bought it out in the 20's and promptly sent Olympic and basically the rest of the fleet to the scrapyard. They wax so poetically and majestically about 160 years of catering to their passengers' every wanton, discriminating, culinary and tasteful desires. I wouldn't brag if I were them. If you go from a fully fledged shipping line... one of the largest on the planet and then shrink into a piddly cruise line with four or three ships I wouldn't brag about it.
As you can see... I have very strong feelings about the Carnival monopoly. What is in store for the other lines they own? Holland America seems to have Farcus's tacky and gaudy touch rubbing off on their interiors... Cunard's standard of service has declined to three star hotel service, when it should be five like they advertise. Costa is a mess. Etc...