Transatlantic cruise from Barcelona to New York City --The main reason for taking this cruise was the itinerary and the cost was relatively reasonable.
Embarkation/Disembarkation: In Barcelona we had an embarkation window of time assigned of 1:00 to 1:30, arrived, and flew through onto the ship. Fasted embarkation I have ever experienced on any cruise line. Once on the ship, we were hit with a wall of people! Many enjoying the first bar they saw in the atrium, most others standing in a mob waiting for elevators. We used the stairs. Carnival did a great job of getting people off ship in NYC, though mighty early because they had a christening party planned for that afternoon. Organization fell apart in the terminal but that was not Carnival’s area of responsibility. Once aboard our airport transfer bus I looked across the street at a line of passengers and their baggage that went down the street and around the corner! Very happy we had purchased Carnival transfers.
Elevators: A new system that generally worked very efficiently, unless there were many people at one time, on multiple floors, trying to access them. Use a keypad and enter your floor and you are assigned a car that is programed to go to your floor (among others). But, when that car arrives and is full, you have to start over. TV screens on some floors, that displayed car letters, and what floors they were going to, helped a lot.
Stateroom: 8302 balcony room, midship. Great location. Super room attendants (thank you Pedro!). Size was generally fine but storage was I thought a bit skimpy. And did those twin beds seem narrower than a standard twin? And with one bed shoved up against the curtained window, the only sunlight we easily got was through the balcony door. Probably not a problem for one bed, but maybe the room could have been a couple inches bigger?
Food: Main Dining Room: Hit or miss to be kind. Biggest problem was often not having hot food served to you. Not just tepid but cold food. Breakfast in the MDR was ice cold and so was its replacement meal – didn’t eat there again. Wait staff in the MDR for dinner seemed overwhelmed at times, and they were certainly gracious enough if you had to send back any cold food, which probably compounded their stress levels. Selection of entrée choices seemed less than on other lines. Only linens on the tables for formal night and the first night without them, I felt like I was eating at Perkins. I was ok with the anytime dining getting a seat assignment or beeper from deck 5. We were perhaps later diners than most and we really never experienced any lines. I had a thought after we returned home about the MDR – is the bar being lowered there to steer guests to the specialty (additional cost) restaurants? Conceivable.
Specialty restaurants: Of the 14 days we were on this cruise, we ate 7 evenings in the MDR and 7 evenings at the various specialty restaurants. We did not take advantage of the no-cost lunch buffets offered at some of the specialty restaurants on at-sea days. Though we were told before we sailed that both the Chef’s Table and the Bonsai Teppanyaki restaurants were fully booked, we were waitlisted and did get into both. The Chef’s Table was an extraordinary experience and worth every penny. We ate multiple times at the teppanyaki restaurant and it was a little different each time, which was ok. I enjoyed the food and the experiences very much. Kudos on the dessert box! The steakhouse was excellent. The Italian restaurant was very good – I did notice that their menu has “evolved” from the menu posted on Carnival’s website. JiJi Asian restaurant was a fiasco – too rushed and the entrees were ice cold. When had to sit way too long looking at the cold meal congealing in front of us, we decided to just leave. We did not eat at the Pig and Anchor. Suggestion though – if on a transatlantic cruise, with many days at sea, maybe giving away food at free lunch buffets is the reason Carnival doesn’t have many people in these dining rooms in the evening.
Lido Buffet: In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not a buffet fan but did eat there a few times for both breakfast and lunch. Breakfast had the same fare, in steam trays, each morning. I did think it was odd that toast and bagels were laid out on a side buffet and not kept hot. The omelet station was the busiest place of all and even with the lines, it was worth the wait. For lunch they served mostly heavier fare in the steam tray buffet. The salad area was small (as were the bowls) but if you wanted a more substantial salad you could go the Serenity area on deck 15. The best, by far, was the deli and the length of the lines there were long. Biggest complaint was the people who parked themselves in the seating area all day to read, play cards, do crafts, etc. so that finding a spot to eat was difficult.
Other dining options: Room service breakfast started out delivering not hot coffee but that did improve as the cruise progressed. We did not order room service for other than breakfast. The wood fire pizza station on the stern served great pizza. We did not order from the Seafood Shack but clearly it was popular with seafood loving guests. The Mexican station was good and the Guy burgers were just outstanding.
Cleanliness: Often the had santizers either didn't work or where pushed aside. The people cleaning the common areas seemed to do a cursory job and looked universally bored to tears. No norovirus outbreak but every other person seemed to have a cold.
Entertainment: We were late diners so we never really could sync up to the shows in the Liquid Lounge. The lines for the comedy club queued early and were long. Karaoke was ok. The piano bar, with Eden, was great. The casino was not lucky for us and they need to improve that room ventilation system. We did not participate in bingo, trivia or other games. Nor did we go on the Skyride though people looked like they were having a great time. The IMAX movies did not interest me. No kids with us.
Beverage Package/Bars: We did the math and the Cheers package was a pretty good deal given our beverage preferences. And obviously many others on the ship thought so too -- they actually ran out of some wines, liquor brands and canned mixers. I thought the on-deck and casino servers were often slow to return with beverages. But for the most part, the service at the various bars aboard was very good. Jorge in the Havana Bar was exceptional. Who knew a daiquiri could taste that good?
WiFi: We bought a shared plan that cost way too much money. Shame on all cruise lines for gouging guests for this service! But it is clearly a profit center for them so I don’t see it going away soon.
Excursions: I thought Carnival pricing was reasonable so we did not book any independent tours. As with all excursions/tours from cruise lines, or independent, some were better than others. My one wish, for all excursion/tours on all cruise lines – quit walking so glacially slow! There is a comfortable walking gait, and there is not. I realize there are passengers with some diminished capabilities but I don’t even think they want to walk at a funeral pace.
Laundry: With nearly 2000 top tier frequent floaters aboard this ship entitled to the free laundry perk, getting a laundry bag special, ever, during a 14-day cruise was just a dream. (Though from what I heard we were probably better off without it.)
Summation: Carnival Horizon is a new ship with some kinks in it. But once they are fixed, it is going to make for one heck of a party ship in the Caribbean. Clearly it was made for people enjoying the outdoors. The food in some venues, especially the serving temperatures, need to improve for sure.
Great location! Shower only - no tub. Balcony adequate.