10/06/18 Carnival Horizon: Inaugural Flagship sailing out of home port Miami
Hey there cruisers,
Early October I received some really good VIFP Casino offers. Since I had some vacation time I browsed and found an opportunity to ... Read More
10/06/18 Carnival Horizon: Inaugural Flagship sailing out of home port Miami
Hey there cruisers,
Early October I received some really good VIFP Casino offers. Since I had some vacation time I browsed and found an opportunity to sail aboard the new flagship CARNIVAL HORIZON as it made its inaugural sailing from its new home port of Miami and jumped on it. This was the first opportunity I had to travel aboard a “vista class” ship and could not wait to see what was in store. Prior to this sailing my favorite Carnival ship was the Breeze. I really liked the layout and different décor. This sailing I traveled solo. I ultimately wanted to book a spa cabin or one of the new Havana cabins, but booking only 2 weeks out prices and availability changed my decisions. I weighed all my options and determined it was more affordable to book a regular deck nine interior and later add some Spa amenities. .
This was my 20th Carnival cruise since 2006 and my 28th cruise over all. I have sailed with Fathom, Princess, NCL, RCI and Carnival cruise lines. I am Platinum aboard Carnival, but I do critique what I see and my overall experience in hopes the cruise line and future passengers may benefit. I tend to cover multiple captions in detail and I hope that my experience is helpful to you and possibly the cruise lines. I decided to focus this review primarily on the actual Carnival Horizon ship and its amenities and upgrades. Although this was a full 8 night sailing, I am certain that I did not get to see much of the ship, but I tried to hit most of the main areas. So let’s begin a walkthrough of the newest flagship CARNIVAL HORIZON. I hope I can pass along some incite to travelers and the cruise line to help make everyone’s voyage an exciting one. .
EMBARKATION / DEBARKATION– Miami
I have sailed from Miami several times. I arrived early and knew about the airport check in. I have used it before and it was always convenient. This trip I purposely wanted to test the timing at the port since this was a slightly larger ship with more passengers. Since I am Platinum this process is normally a simply process so I was not expecting much of a difference. I finally arrived around 12:00 with according to my expected check in time I selected during my online check in. To my surprise this embarkation was the quickest and easiest I have ever had. At the terminal door, my boarding pass was matched to my passport and security documents. My photo was taken for my boarding record and I was told “Proceed through the security metal detector and my stateroom was ready with my sail and sign card waiting for me in my mailbox” WOW! No additional desk check in, CC verification on my SS account etc. I was told all of that was completed online and unless I had a change to make everything was completed. I walked immediately onto the ship, WELCOME ABOARD! From exiting my UBER, handing the porter my luggage to entering my stateroom to drop my backpack was a total of 15-20 minutes if that. It could not be any easier. I proceeded to the Lido deck to grab a GUYS BURGER for lunch then took a tour of all of the rooms to grab some photos before they were flowing with guests. DEBARKATION: I opted for self-assist so was up and out of my stateroom by 6am. Once the ship was cleared everyone was escorted off and we were on our way. .
SHIP: CARNIVAL HORIZON 10/06/18
I have sailed all three “Dream class” ships Dream, Magic and the Breeze and they have been my favorites recently in the fleet. I have heard much about upgrades to the “vista class” and could not wait to compare. This was my 4th cruise in 2018 preceded by the Magic and two Princess ships so the Horizon had some impressing to do for me as a comparison. As I mention in my past reviews, most cruise ships are simply floating amusement parks, so the neon and obscure décor I could overlook. The Breeze in 2014 I thought was a little more “sophisticated” with additional trees and foliage, but in the end it is simply style and comfort. Lately, I have been focusing on attributes such as side entertainment, cozy areas and new additions that manage to grab my attention and explore that I would not normally. It is one of the comforts of traveling solo without all the routine scheduling a group sticks to..
As you enter the atrium you are greeted by the tall centerpiece which sort of resembles a large tornado or funnel like shape. It has a digital skin and the graphics continuously change attracting your eyes upward. I honestly was expecting the Horizon atrium space to be grander and taller, but as the cruise progressed I found it to be just right as it was utilized for its acoustics and stage like presence for several side entertainments and games. The multi levels and landings created several great viewing areas while still keeping open the flow for traffic passing through. .
INTERIOR STATEROOM 9211 4G Vista Deck FWD
As mentioned, I chose to book an INTERIOR cabin. It has been a while since I have had a windowless interior and quickly was reminded how dark they can be at night. Traveling alone the space is adequate and works just fine. If I had a cabin mate I would prefer at least a window or porthole just to have that feeling of outward expansion. I am a FWD leaning cruiser since I do enjoy the spa and thermal suite. I often find it is the quieter portion of the ship with less flowing traffic. Although I was on deck 9 I did not notice much movement to the ship. I do not tend to get seasick and being a seasoned cruiser perhaps I simply pay it no mind. .
The stateroom location was the furthest forward and I had no above or below concerns about noise. I definitely would choose 9211 again if I had to. The hall and stateroom reminded me a lot like the Spa rooms aboard the Breeze and Magic. Slatted wood paneling, upgraded linens on the Horizon gave it a warmer more comfortable feel. Some noticeable upgrades I discovered immediately were: Keyless electronic locks on the door that only needed to tap your sail and sign card to the door to open and USB additions at the desk for charging devices. The same energy saving device that you put your room key into is still there. One note, when you leave the stateroom all power shuts off once you remove your keycard. To bypass this, simple insert a random store card or even your room steward business card which will keep the toggle switch triggered. I tend to bring a clock so it helped not to have to reset it upon returning to my cabin each time. You can still manually shut off the lighting when needed. I was disappointed that there was only now one small desk drawer for storage which included the hair dryer that took up most of the space. I mostly used the large desk drawer to store my random paperwork, past daily schedules and misc. often used items keeping the desk clutter free. There was only one closet with hangers and a second with drawers and shelves. If I had a cabin mate only one hanging closet and no additional desk drawers would have been an issue. There is no sofa. I did appreciate the new contoured hangers which grasped the oval bars so they did not swing and make clicking noises in the night. Little things like this to me are noticeable. .
Moving on to ROOMS, LOUNGES, BARS & SPECIATLY RESTAURANTS and DINING
I chose YOUR TIME DINING which worked well for me as a solo traveler. There was a separate check-in desk you needed to go to away from the dining room at your convenience. You were given a ticket and which deck 3 or 4 to report to. Your reservation was help for 30 min and you simply handed it to the dining room attendant which escorted you to your table. It eliminated the long back-up at the dining room door as they tried to locate a table for you. You had the option of sitting alone or with others. The food was wonderful and I also managed to order off the Steakhouse menu in the main dining room without needing an appetite for a multi course meal or more formal setting..
The new PIG & ANCHOR with brewery is presented with the street-front entrance of an actual bar with simulated outside seating. The porch-like façade is inviting and leads you into an actual bar setting equipped with hi-top tables and bar seats. At the front you can see the brewery distillery of copper pipes and vats really giving atmosphere of a local Beer & Brew. It’s a great alternative gathering location for small parties or cocktails over the old conference room setting. The back of the bar utilizes the ship side windows allowing light to open up the space from a dark inside feel to a spacious pub-like social atmosphere. STOP IN and have a drink and you may forget you are onboard a cruise ship finding your nightly hangout for pre and post dinner cocktails. Also ask the bar staff about the “Behind the scenes tour of the Brewery”. It’s a fun look into the workings of the behind the scenes especially for the home brewing connoisseur.
I was very pleased to see there was an ALCHEMY BAR on this ship and in yet another NEW location from the dream class. It seems like Carnival is finally realizing that this particular bar is very much a favorite for many and each time it has been relocated closer to the center of the ship, the busier it gets. I can remember when it first appeared at the far aft end of the ship just outside the piano lounge. It was a dead space during the day and only began to pick up around pre-dining cocktails and late PM. It is now located MID-SHIP adjacent to the Fahrenheit 911 Steakhouse, Piano Lounge and larger Bonsai specialty restaurant. This became my hang late night spot for late night drinks, laughs and friends. In the middle of this intersection is a 2nd Atrium like centerpiece which drops directly into the Casino bar below. Also with a digital skin that is pleasing to the eye with its multiple cyclone-like images. I did find one design flaw about this location. The BONSAI specialty restaurant has an open atmosphere with a simple fence like gate around its perimeter. Directly across was the lively ALCHEMY BAR. As you can expect, the noise level of the Alchemy bar could get elevated when it was full of rambunctious cruisers laughing and enjoying their own fun adventure. I couldn’t help but notice couples and tables of diners only 10-15 feet away wondering if they were a bit annoyed with the noise as they tried to enjoy their “specialty “extra charged” dining experience” If Carnival begins to receive feedback about this from the Bonsai attendees they may want to install either a simple Vined trellis or fabric noise reducer along the fenced perimeter. That said I was an Alchemy attendee and the staff was great. I have always managed to make friends at this bar and look forward to stopping in for my nightcap each night. Having the Bonsai so close also offered an appetizer option direct from the Alchemy bar. It's a nice option to grab a bite to eat. .
If the Bonsai and Steakhouse specialty restaurants are not in your price range or sound too formal for your dining taste don’t worry your options are far from limited. The GUY’s BURGER JOINT at Pool-side Lido deck have pushed aside those frozen hamburger patties for a burger that simply crumbles into your mouth. Claim your burger and slip over to the complete TOPPINGS bar and customize the perfect sandwich. If burgers are not your “safe food” then on SEA DAYS there was a Pork-Roast BBQ is the hopping area. Visit the SEAFOOD SHACK located adjacent to the 24 hr. PIZZA PIRATE at the aft area of the ship. The newly designed LIDO MARKETPLACE has a more Caribbean-style feel transforming the vast “buffet” to food stations with comfort. The PIZZA PIRATE offered what I felt was a better made pizza then I have had aboard other ships. There is no longer an option for Caesar salad or Calzones which I was disappointed about. Since this is your only LATE PM option for food, not everyone wants to eat pizza just before bed..
Tucked away upstairs from the Lido Marketplace is CUCINA DEL CAPITANO, another family style Italian-like setting. They have a great free lunch on sea days set up sort of ALA-CART. In the evening for a small fee this is a reservation restaurant dinner option offering fantastic pasta dishes. It is less formal than the steakhouse and possible the more popular for the everyday cruiser. Also, don’t forget to start the day with sit down breakfast in the Southern dining room on the back of the ship. A NEW addition within the Lido Marketplace was the self-serve BEER STATION. Yes, you can now swipe your card and pour your own beer direct from the specialty taps. If beer is not your discretion, perhaps a pass through the newly remodeled library where several self-serve wine selections are offered by the glass. .
HAVANA DECK and LOUNGE
One new grand addition are the HAVANA STATEROOMS and HAVANA LOUNGE & DECK on the AFT. If lucky enough to secure one, you will have private access to the AFT Havana deck which includes a private pool, Havana bar, Jacuzzis and loungers. Think of it as a different type of serenity deck similar to the Aft Tides pool but with a Caribbean-Latin flare. This is a nice perk to get away from the noisy atmosphere around the main pool area. The lounge just inside has a nice seating area, Havana bar and small stage where Latin music is heard. The entire Havana section is comfortable, welcoming and has an exquisite feel of some of the finest Latin clubs. The big secret that many are not aware of is that after 7:00 pm the whole area is open to everyone on the ship right. Inside the lounge late after dinner the band strikes up and Latin inspired dancing takes over even the shyest cruiser to get up and have a great time. Once I experienced the Havana lounge, deck and cheerful cabin occupants I really look forward to booking a stateroom in the future. .
GYM and CLOUD9 SPA
The ADULTS only SPA SERENITY deck is just that. Peace, quiet, serenity. Cushioned Hammocks built for two, Cabana covered beds, and Full size opened SUN beds and adult only Jacuzzi. If you are finished with the outdoors and had enough sun, head inside and pamper yourself at the fully upgraded CLOUD9 SPA and GYM. The Horizon gym is surprisingly smaller then I was expecting it to be, however is still packed with all the needed treadmills, stair climbers and benches needed for a good workout. Upgraded exercise equipment and several classes to choose are available or experience pampering at its finest at CLOUD9 SPA. The spa also offers several fitness seminars for a healthier lifestyle. They are informative to attend and gives you a new perspective on how to shed off some of those extra calories you may be accumulating while enjoying your cruise and vacation. .
I originally wanted to book a spa room, but it was more affordable for me to book a regular INT stateroom on deck nine then add the Thermal suite and Ala-cart Spa treatments. The Thermal suite on the Horizon does not have a Thalassotherapy pool unfortunately. Instead it has a large jetted pool which is located within the Thermal suite not in a separate room. There are still heated contoured loungers and four separate hot/steam rooms instead of the usual three. If you pre-book prior to sailing you can catch a discount, ($159 8nts) or take the SPA tour once you board and add it to your relaxation package right from the start. I took the tour and added the Thermal suite for $179 (8 nights). I also opted for the men’s triple package which included a Royal shave/arm-shoulder massage, a Bamboo massage and a Deep Tissue massage. At the end of the cruise I stopped back for a simple $25 haircut cleanup to go. One of my self-pampering gifts to myself whenever I travel solo is to add a spa treatment. They are relaxing and you always feel rejuvenated for the next day of your cruise. .
ONBOARD ENTERTAINMENT, FUN SQUAD, SHOWS, CASINO & CRUISE DIRECTOR
I will combine all of the above into this caption I am calling my “entertainment section” This contains all the areas and options that keep the time moving and passengers occupied. Over the past several sailings I have been paying more attention to what cruise lines are offering me as a passenger to feel like I am really receiving a full package of enjoyment and entertainment. Carnival Horizon does not disappoint. First off the Carnival Hub App is your central go to option at your fingertips to see what, when and where everything is happening. Download the APP before leaving home port and get started. If you cannot go without your connection to social media and on ground civilization more affordable internet packages are available for you. I grabbed the middle package which allowed me to stay connected to family and friends via social media. If you add an additional $5 you can pick up the onboard text messenger and stay in touch with fellow cruisers. This is a nice option for families and large groups to remain in touch around the ship. You are able to favorite certain activities into your personal to-do list and always see what your next activity time is. I wish they HUB APP had an option to ADD a personal activity and time on your personal side. (i.e. 7:00 meet friends at Lido pool etc).
I really like the fact that Carnival continues to bring back and introduce live music entertainment again. When they began to replace some things like the Steel drum with a DJ at poolside and Playlist productions over a live show band and less electronic oriented performances I was beginning to worry. One act aboard the Horizon was the NEW AGE TRIO. An electric violin trio first introduced aboard the VISTA. The New Age Trio is now a feature performance in the main atrium twice daily and attracts large crowds. They caught my attention on their first appearance while passing through the area and coaxed me to pause and listen to the entire half hour performance. I was hooked and returned for every performance there on along with many others. One evening they were integrated into a Playlist Production in the main showroom which began in the atrium, progressed to the show theatre and dissolved back out into the atrium. CELESTIAL STRINGS may have been one of my favorite Playlist productions I have seen over the years. The NEW AGE TRIO is an asset to the entertainment aboard and a not to miss opportunity. Swing by and say hello to the trio from Spain: Dani, Marta and Eli are more than willing to take a photo with everyone and are the nicest people to chat with..
FUN SQUAD & CRUISE DIRECTOR
The Cruise director aboard the Horizon is MIKE PACK. I have to admit Matt Mitchum is my all-time favorite CD, but Mike Pack certainly gives him a run for his money. Mike and his Fun Squad did a wonderful job keeping the passengers involved and engaged. This is what makes a good cruise director to me over one that stick mostly to the show theater and makes announcements. I will admit that the sail away party was an absolute blast and may have been one of the largest aboard a carnival ship I have seen. EVERYONE was celebrating and having fun. The fun squad and Mike were out and about all over the ship keeping smiles and laughter going the whole trip. They made the trip memorable for sure..
I am not going to dance around this topic. (No pun) I have not actually been a fan of the change-over of the production shows to the more 2.0 Playlist Performances in the past. Perhaps the induction of the “entertainment director” over the more recent years has had Carnival paying attention to some of the feedback regarding some of the talent being offered. I found the Horizon cast to be an absolute great variety of talented dancers, singers and performers then I have on other ships. The lead male vocalist has a fantastic range and clear sound to his vocals. Bravo. I am frankly embarrassed that I did not catch his name to give him a shout out in my review. He deserves the recognition. I also thought the onboard shows were executed nicely. I understand the attempt to bring the performers into the theatre space and changing up the floor seating, but I do not believe this was though out too well. Eliminating the fixed seating for moveable chairs also eliminated table tops for drinks. It also only took one passenger here and there to move their seats and the already tight spaces became difficult to navigate if you needed to depart mid show. .
Horizon casino was packed every night. This could also be due to the fact that it was also the first ULTRA CRUISE of 2018. Casino prizes, machines flashing and money was flowing. (For me flowing in the wrong direction into the machines I know the MAGIC is the CASINO of the seas for Carnival, but the Horizon could give it a challenge. If you are a slot tournament favorite, the GAME HAS CHANGED. No more White Siberian Tiger. It is now a coordinated game to press the button while you also pop balloons falling down from the upper screen machine. It was much more fun to play then the old Siberian tiger. I also like the fact that you are more in control to determine your outcome instead of a mindless pushing of a button and hope. The ventilation on the casino definitely was noticeably better then on other ships regarding smoking. I wish Carnival hosted a SMOKE FREE day like they do aboard Princess ships..
FUN, SPORTS, EXERCISE, WATERSLIDES OH MY!
It does not matter if you were 10 years old or 50 years old, the active cruiser seeking Fun & water games did not need to look far. All around the Main pool area you could see the DR SEUS water adventure park packed with colorful waterslides and play areas any kid inside everyone at all ages. The SPORTS SQUARE offered a collection of mini golf, basketball courts, foosball or ping pong tables and variety of games. For the outdoor exercise conscious cruiser there is a variety of work out apparatus or a circular track to get in some fresh air jogging or a simple stroll in the sun. If you crave adventure let a crew member strap you in for a walk around the elevated obstacle course. You can also take a seat and try out the newest foot pedaled SKYRIDE suspended high above the deck for a birds eye peek of the water and horizon..
SMART ELEVATORS (work when smart people use them)
The Horizon has also implemented the concept of SMART ELEVATORS. Personally, I try to use the stairs the entire trip, but I did a few test rides over the course of the cruise. During embarkation, crowded port day returns and late PM when fewer travelers would be around. The purpose is to move passengers quicker and more efficiently, especially on debarkation day. I took sample feedback from other passengers on how they liked them. I heard good and bad. Some thought they were great while others hated them. My experience was it is just something different to get used to. You choose the deck you want on a touch screen and tap it for the quantity of passengers you have. The board will tell you which elevator to go to that will be the most efficient. The problem is when other passengers do not follow procedure and pile into whichever doors open first. Now the elevator thinks there are 2 passengers when there are 8. So it will stop along the way to pick up others thinking there is sufficient space. The second dilemma is there are NO BUTTONS inside the elevator. So those extra passengers that just jumped in have no idea if the elevator is going up, down and/or what floor it will be stopping on. If you take the time to follow the directions I can see them working efficiently otherwise be prepared for complaints and sighs around you. I will let you decide. .
LIKES: I loved the HORIZON and would definitely sail her again! I found the “vista class” my new favorite class over the Dream class. USB’s in the stateroom, Havana deck, relocation of the Alchemy bar, NEW AGE TRIO, SKY RIDE..
DISLIKES: The floor seating in the main show theater to chairs and no tables for drinks was a BAD update..
Ok, so I will cut off my review here. It has already become a novel and I may have lost many that started it long ago. Thank you if you made it to the end without falling off your chair. If you happen across a deal for a trip aboard the newest flagship CARNIVAL HORIZON I would recommend it. Get on the ship and work out your upgrades later. Happy sailing and might your upgrades and offers flow frequently! .
I wanted to add photos but for ome reason CC is giving me a hard time adding any. grr Read Less