Our party of six - three couples - boarded the Horizon on January 21, 2014. We have all cruised many times to various destinations including Alaska, the Mediterranean, Panama Canal, Baltic, etc and on the major large cruise lines. In addition we have travelled extensively over land .I cruised last month on Carnival Valor so that was still fresh in my mind and I thought it would be good to use as a comparison. This was my thirtieth cruise. We booked as usual through a major online agency.
I am dealing mainly with my impressions of the Horizon since information on ports of call is readily available. Let me say now that I will never again cruise on this ship and I am unable in good conscience to recommend it to anyone because of the behaviour of the staff which negated everything else that was positive.
We got to the port at 1.30 p.m. and took our luggage to the designated area. Then Horizon staff gave us forms to complete - immigration, health and expense account. These had to be done right there standing in the open hall. There were no chairs and certainly not the type of welcome you get on the Carnival Valor where you are allowed on the ship and offered a seat and refreshment. After completing and returning the forms we went to the ship to the reception area to be checked in. We were amazed to learn that our passports would be confiscated and only returned at the end of the cruise just before we were escorted off the ship. The two British couples in the group even had their ID cards taken. What is that about? Is this still done? I would suggest that you travel with a copy of your passport information if you intend to be on this ship. We were not at all comfortable with this situation.
We finally got to our rooms, ocean view on deck 4, and were pleasantly surprised, because although it is an old ship the inside is quite attractive. However, do not expect complementary toiletries as on other lines. There are shampoo and body wash dispensers in the shower stall and only one cake of soap at the face basin. Facial tissues are not provided. If you need these things bring your own. Our cabin steward was a pleasant young man but he was unable to complete the work. Do not expect turn down service at night. This was hit or miss. Of the seven nights we were on the ship we got this only three times.
Breakfast and lunch were very good, and better in my opinion than other lines. There were the traditional breakfast items and lots of French pastries, the omelettes were prepared before hand. Lunch also was good - salads, vegetables, meats and fish and lots of fruit. Of course wine and drinks were free. On other ships we often have breakfast in the dining room to get away from the crowds, but there was always somewhere to sit in the upstairs buffet on this ship. Dinner was nothing to write home about. There is one formal night, and that was the worst meal of the entire cruise. There was no lobster, shrimp cocktail, cherries jubilee or baked Alaska. We ordered duck, and it was so undercooked we thought it would have jumped off the plate quacking and fly away. The waiter encouraged us to try other things on the menu. He was really very nice and helpful and did everything in his power to make our dining experience pleasant. The same cannot be said for some of the other staff in the upstairs buffet. They were downright rude. A passenger asked one politely to clear a table, his response was 'you don't have to tell me I can see for myself'. If he can see it why doesn't he clear it? They stand around talking with trays of wine and drinks but refuse to serve. Of course not all of them do this but you can't help noticing the ones who do. One cleared the table directly in front the passenger's face like he was going to break the man's nose off.
The lounges are quite nice but small and seating is limited, so while the music especially in the Rendez-Vous lounge was good it was not possible for us to spend time there as we had hoped.
The announcements were made first in French, then in Spanish and finally in English so we were always aware of what was going on. However in the theatre the jokes were in French or Spanish only so obviously English speaking passengers were at a loss. The shows were quite entertaining, with songs in all three languages. One night there was a tribute to Michael Jackson and another to Abba.
Just before the end of the cruise the staff informed us that we would have to pay an additional 72Euros each for gratuities. We took all our documentation that we had received from them showing that these were included in the fare. The staff said they did not care they were taking an additional 72Euros each. Well at that point I was totally disgusted and disappointed and only wanted to get off the ship. I have seen passengers in droves demand their gratuities back, especially in the Mediterranean so why are they grabbing our money especially for poor service? We were not even refusing to pay just advising that we had already done so. I am happy to say that the agency is refunding the money.
At the disembarkation talk the international hostess said that we would all assemble in one of the lounges at 9.00 a.m. where we would receive our confiscated passports and be escorted off the ship to the Customs area since we would already be cleared by Immigration. A passenger asked if she could stay on for an additional two hours since she had a late flight. She was told that she could not do so. Take note that anyone who is accustomed on other cruise lines to checking out of the room but staying on board must be aware that this is not permitted on the Horizon unless according to the hostess you have a Pullmantur package.
I am accustomed to better service so I found it difficult to accept the type that was offered. If you are cruising on this ship be aware of the above. We will not be back. Once was enough for us.