Carnival Horizon has a good mix of restaurants, with both free and for-fee options. At lunch, passengers have lots of choices, with standards like the main dining room and buffet, but also a great Mongolian wok, fresh-made pasta, burger joint and burrito venue. At night, quality is noticeably better in the specialty restaurants than the included options, but dining service is great no matter where you choose to eat. Prices at most of the specialty restaurants are fair considering the quality of the dishes, and there's no such thing as a small meal onboard. While passengers with allergies or specific dining restrictions can be accommodated, they should notify the cruise line ahead of sailing and then repeat requests to the maitre d' onboard as well as to waiters and waitresses in each venue.
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Meridian (Decks 3 and 4, aft) and Reflections (Deck 3, midship) Restaurants: Meridian and Reflections serve as Carnival Horizon's main dining rooms. Meridian is open for breakfast, brunch on sea days and dinner, while Reflections is only open for dinner. While dinner is the same at both restaurants, Meridian is the ship's option for flexible "Your Time" dining, at which passengers can eat anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. During peak times, starting around 6:30 p.m., you might have to wait for a seat. We like that there's a sit-down bar near the entrance to make the wait more bearable.
Reflections is the ship's venue for assigned dining at night; passengers will sit at the same table each evening and have the same waiters at either 6 or 8:15 p.m. (Fixed dining requires signing up before you sail.) It relies heavily on red and black for its color pattern, with modern geometric shapes and glossy dark tables with seating for two, four, six and more.
Like Reflections, Meridian is decorated in reds and blacks, with dark brown woods and a sweeping staircase, along with hip white box lights. It's a quiet respite from the madness of the Marketplace buffet for breakfast, and offers options such as eggs your way, yogurt, cereal, pancakes, waffles, avocado toast, French toast and pastries galore. On sea days, it offers a brunch option, which includes tomato soup, bagels and lox, mac 'n' cheese, steak and eggs, omelets, salmon or pancakes. Plus, a bloody mary bar!
Dinner comes in multiple courses, with options such as roasted tomato soup or fried calamari for appetizers, sweet and sour shrimp or honey-glazed pork loin for mains, and tiramisu or cheese plates for dessert. Give the warm chocolate melting cake a try; it's a Carnival staple and is decadently delicious. Certain items are available every day, including grilled chicken breast and steak, though that might change. Each dinner menu features a vegetarian option (which changes each night) as well as a "Rare Finds" option that might include braised ox tongue or cured salmon with candied tomato. Nightly menus also include a port of call section that identifies a cocktail, appetizer and main course inspired by the port or destination the ship is visiting. On "American Feast" nights, the dining tables get tablecloths and menus will include some fancier options, like lobster tails or filet mignon. (These nights coincide with formal dress nights.)
Ocean Plaza Buffet (Deck 5, midship): A small buffet just off Ocean Plaza, this spot (which officially has no name) serves up a variety of hot and cold dishes at breakfast and lunch on sea days. (Think eggs and croissants for breakfast, sandwiches and salads for lunch.) It's one of the best-kept secrets onboard for a quick, quiet meal.
Lido Marketplace (Deck 10, midship): The ship's buffet, Lido Marketplace, is an expansive space that feels intimate thanks to a clever design that creates the appearance of smaller rooms. Decor is festive, with canopies, umbrellas and faux trees strung with brightly colored light fixtures. The Lido Marketplace is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, though hours vary.
Breakfast offerings include items such as eggs, bacon, sausage, hash browns, pastries, bread, toast, bagels, yogurt, fresh fruit, and hot and cold cereal. An omelet station provides made-to-order eggs, and juice, water, hot and cold tea and coffee are available, gratis. The Lido Marketplace is always crowded at breakfast, but there is a solid amount of seating, both indoors and out.
At lunch and dinner, distinct stations are set up, with options such as the Comfort Kitchen (American favorites such as mac 'n' cheese and fried chicken) and Good Eats (pastas, steaks and grilled chicken, for example). Chef's Choice features a different international cuisine every day. You'll also find an elaborate salad bar, with numerous lettuces, toppings and dressings. Make sure to sample the burrata and fresh mozzarella cheese; both are made onboard and are delicious. A dessert bar offers an excellent range of sweets, including sugar-free options. Waiters and waitresses occasionally circulate to offer drinks; you'll also find some self-service beer stations.
Carnival Deli, positioned at the back of the Marketplace, serves sandwiches and wraps from late morning to late at night, with no pause, so if you need a between-meal meal, it's a good option. And then there's Swirls, for self-service ice cream and frozen yogurt, open 24 hours a day. Late-night snacks are served from 11:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Pizzeria del Capitano (Deck 10, aft): Open 24 hours, this self-service restaurant offers up five pizza options: margarita, mushroom, pepperoni, four cheese and prosciutto. Pizzas are available by the slice or by the pie, and gluten-free is available on request. All pizzas at Pizzeria del Capitano are thin-crust style, made in a traditional pizza oven. Table seating is indoors or out.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 10, midship): A restaurant created in partnership with celebrity chef Guy Fieri, Guy's Burger Joint is a staple on Carnival ships. At this casual grab-and-go eatery, you can get thick burgers along with crisp fries. Slather on sauce and load up on onions, tomatoes and mushrooms at the killer toppings bar. This open-air restaurant is always busy at lunchtime but especially so on sea days. Vegetarian burgers are available, but plan to give it a little extra time; they're made a la minute. Guy's is open for lunch only.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10, midship): Located on the pool deck, BlueIguana Cantina serves up custom-made burritos for breakfast and lunch. The breakfast burritos are a great alternative to the busier Lido Marketplace. Fill your morning burrito with scrambled eggs, hash browns and cheese, and then top with options like crema fresca or tomatillo salsa. At lunch, choose from ingredients like chicken, pork, fish, rice, beans and peppers and have chefs stuff your wrap full -- lightning fast. The salsa bar has mild to hot options, with fun choices like watermelon and jicama, black bean and corn, or tomatillo salsa.
Mongolian Wok (Deck 12, aft): Open only for lunch, Mongolian Wok offers stir-fry options including rice noodles, veggies such as bok choy and Chinese cabbage, and meats like chicken, beef, calamari, pork, and mussels and clams. Fill out a form, and chefs will fry up your dish in woks. Pair you lunch with fried wontons or an Asian spring salad. You'll find Mongolian Wok inside JiJi.
The Pasta Bar (Deck 12, aft): Located in Cucina del Capitano, The Pasta Bar is open for lunch only. It's a nice relief from the crowds, as we found it less busy than other lunch options. It's a combo self-serve/full-service restaurant in that patrons fill out slips of paper with their picks. Pasta choices include linguine, farfalle, penne and gluten-free, and dishes are built from there, with options like mushrooms, onions, eggplant, shrimp and chicken. (There's also a meat lasagna that's worth sampling.) Add-ons include Caesar salad and garlic bread. Those who don't want to overdo it on carby deliciousness can opt for half-portions.
Fresh Creations (Deck 15, forward): Located in the Serenity deck area, Fresh Creations serves salads, but only on sea days. We're fans of this made-to-order salad bar that lets diners pick ingredients that are tossed into a fresh salad. Open only for lunch, you can choose from a huge variety of greens and then add in proteins like chicken or shrimp, along with toppings such as cucumbers, cheese, chia seeds, croutons and beans. If you can't decide, Fresh Creations offers a few suggestions, such as the Romaine Calm or Just Arugula Guy.
Room Service: Carnival Horizon has a fairly extensive room service menu, which has a small selection of included items as well as a larger section of for-fee options. Free choices include garden or Caesar salads, along with a number of sandwiches, including PB&J, grilled cheese and tuna salad. Desserts like cheesecake, cookies and chocolate cake also are included. For-fee options include chicken quesadillas, cheesesteaks and pizza. There's always a fee for orders made between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. A continental breakfast is available -- for free -- each morning except the last. Items include fruit, cereal, yogurt, coffee and juice, and bread and pastries. While not required, slipping your room service delivery person a dollar or two is appreciated.
The Chef's Table (Deck 3, midship); $95: A real treat for foodies, The Chef's Table starts with Champagne and hors d'oeuvres in the galley (cruise-speak for "kitchen"). There, a chef greets your party, walks you through the food you're enjoying and kicks off a galley tour. This is a fascinating journey that gives you some insight on how cruise ships are able to keep up with the nonstop demand for hot, fresh food on a grand scale. The tour is followed by a dinner in the dedicated Chef's Table venue, which has floor-to-ceiling soundproof windows that overlook the galley, so you can watch the action while you dine (without being distracted by the noise of the kitchen). The meal is a multicourse extravaganza, with each course paired with house wine. The chef provides an explanation of each course. Plates are beautifully created, with presentation nearly as important as taste. Dishes might include dry-aged duck or a twisty take on surf and turf, where dinner guests are served a lobster bisque sphere with a side of beef tea. Menus rely on local and seasonal ingredients.
The Chef's Table is an experience designed for foodies. If you're a picky eater, you'll probably want to pass. The experience can accommodate 16 diners, and children 12 and older are permitted, though they'll drink soft drinks rather than wine. (There's no discount for kids.) Sign-up is required, and the earlier the better, as the exclusive experience tends to sell out.
Bonsai Sushi (Deck 5, midship); a la carte prices: Carnival Horizon's Japanese restaurant, Bonsai Sushi, is a light and bright space with high tables, a modern sushi bar and bonsai trees aplenty. The space is open, so you can see passersby while you dine (and viceversa). You also can dine outdoors.
The restaurant is open for dinner every night and lunch each sea day. Menus are the same at lunch and dinner, and include sushi rolls and sashimi, yakitori and noodle bowls. Prices start at around $2 for appetizers and sushi, with rolls at around $5. Bowls and meals start from $7. If you're adventurous, go for the omakase, which puts your meal in the chef's hands; he or she will make a series of dishes, just for you. Bento boxes and small plates are available.
Bonsai Teppanyaki (Deck 5, midship); $25 or $30: Exclusive to Carnival Horizon, Bonsai Teppanyaki is open for dinner each night. Tucked away inside Bonsai Sushi, the venue has two large hibachi grills around which eight people each can sit on tall chairs. Meals here are lively, with skilled chefs tossing around ingredients in front of hungry diners. Watching the chefs show off their knife skills is a ton of fun, especially in a group where you know your fellow diners. Quiet, it's not.
Your meal includes every appetizer on the menu, including teppanyaki shrimp with soy butter and pork belly yakitori. Entrees include lobster tail with yuzu cream or filet mignon. You'll pay $25 for some items (shrimp or black cod, for example), $30 for others (filet mignon or lobster). Save room for the bento box, which offers six mini desserts, including green tea ice cream and a chocolate-covered strawberry.
Because Bonsai Teppanyaki has room for only 16 diners at a time, reservations are encouraged. (On our cruise, passengers reported that the restaurant accommodated their party of nine, so there is some flexibility here.) Dinner offers three seatings each night: 5:30, 7:15 and 9.
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse (Deck 5, midship); $38 for adults, $12 for kids: The ship's steakhouse, Fahrenheit 555 is a hip space decorated in shades of silver and burgundy. Live music filters in from the nearby piano bar until late in the evening, when doors are shut and the piano bar gets a bit busier. The restaurant has its own bar as well as an open kitchen, so you can watch as chefs prepare your slab-o-meat. At $35, it remains one of the best bargains at sea. The menu caters to steak lovers, but there are a few seafood and poultry options sprinkled in as well. Appetizer options include an excellent ahi tuna tartare, smoked raw oysters and a steakhouse staple, French onion soup. For mains, try the New York strip or ribeye, served with your choice of sauces. Sides include baked potatoes or sauteed mushrooms. For dessert, try "art at the table," where chefs create a sweet tableside masterpiece, topped off with giant globes of ice cream. Fahrenheit 555 also has an extensive wine menu.
There's outdoor seating as well. Fahrenheit 555 is open for dinner only.
Java Blue Cafe/Shake Spot (Deck 5, mid); a la carte prices: For your quick sugar or caffeine fix, head to Java Blue or the Shake Spot, both serving out of the same counter area on Deck 5. Java Blue offers a variety of specialty coffees and teas, as well as cakes, cupcakes, pastries and cookies, all priced a la carte. The selection of sweets rotates each day. This is also your spot for ordering cakes for occasions like birthdays or anniversaries. The shake spot offers milkshakes and floats, including boozy adult versions of the icy treats. The area has a few high-top tables for seating, but during the day -- and especially during the busiest period in the morning -- most people just grab their orders and leave.
Cherry on Top (Deck 5, forward); a la carte prices: Part store, part sweet shop, Cherry on Top is a colorful venue that offers bulk and packaged candy along with ice cream creations with tons of toppings. It's pretty much a sugar-addict's dream, with items that will take you back to your childhood (think jawbreakers and candy buttons). There's seating indoors and outside for you to enjoy your sweets, and while the space is modern, it's reminiscent of an old-fashioned malt shop, with bright reds and chrome.
Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse | Brewhouse (Deck 5, midship); a la carte prices: A welcome addition to the Carnival Cruise Line fleet, Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse | Brewhouse is a dedicated space on Carnival Horizon that offers up a variety of dishes by barbecue master chef (and hall of famer) Guy Fieri. Decorated with a giant pig sculpture, corrugated metal and barstools covered in faux cowhide, the space feels like a honky-tonk joint. On embarkation day and on sea days, the smokehouse is open for lunch, and it's complimentary. The barbecue buffet (actually located outside on the outdoor promenade) serves items like dry-rubbed pulled pork butt, slow-cooked beef and smoked andouille sausage. Sides included a wonderfully gooey mac 'n' cheese, collard greens and molasse baked beans (with killer burnt ends). Visit on embarkation day, before anyone else discovers it's open.
Dinner is a sit-down affair. Start with appetizers like trash can nachos, sriracha spicy chicken wings (a must!) or dragon chili cheese fries. Entree items include cedar plank smoked salmon, full or half racks of baby back ribs and 18-hour beef brisket. Sides are pretty much the same as you'd get for lunch. Finish with banana cream pie, apple pie or a decadent pecan pie. Pair your barbecue with any of the craft beers, brewed right onboard. This was a favorite spot for dinner on our cruise, with some passengers visiting multiple times. It's a solid deal, with reasonably priced options. And while lunch is a great option, you do get an upgraded menu at dinner. Appetizers are $4, entrees are $8, side dishes are $2 and other options, including flatbreads, have a range from $6 to $16.
Seafood Shack (Deck 10, aft); a la carte prices: Tucked away in the back of the ship, near the Tides Pool, the Seafood Shack is open for lunch and dinner. Offering a variety of fried and steamed seafood options, this grab-and-go option has seating outside and in. Choose from items like lobster roll, New England clam chowder served in a bread bowl, fish and chips, and crabcake sliders. There's also steamed lobster, shrimp and crab, priced by the pound, as well as buckets of fried shrimp and clam strips. Prices start at $6. Steamed lobster, crab and shrimp are priced by the pound. While this is a well-visited spot onboard, the quality is just OK. Still, prices aren't prohibitively expensive, and it just might satisfy your craving for seafood.
Cucina del Capitano (Deck 11, aft); $15 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under: Cucina del Capitano is the ship's Italian restaurant. Open for dinner only, the restaurant is decorated with brick, dark wood and a faux tin ceiling. Photos of captains from past and present adorn the walls. Menu options stick mostly to the traditional Italian restaurant standards with appetizers such as antipasti and fried calamari and entrees like spaghetti and chicken Parmesan. Desserts stray from the norm a bit, with a coffee gelato and chocolate cookie option as well as an Italian take on apple pie, served with an incredible almond gelato. Cucina del Capitano offers a variety of wines as well, and coffees and liqueurs complete the meal.
JiJi Asian Kitchen (Deck 11, aft); $15 for adults, $5 for kids 12 and under: JiJi Asian Kitchen has a subtle Asian vibe, with wooden screens and stylistic lighting. The menu, however, is Asian through and through. It draws on the tastes of China, the Philippines, Mongolia, Singapore and Indonesia. Appetizer options include slow-braised pork belly and chicken spring rolls, while entrees include peppered beef and kung pao chicken. There aren't many vegetarian options here, but the sweet and sour vegetables are a good bet. There's also sides of rice and noodle dishes, including a tasty Hakka-style noodle. For dessert, try the rose creme brulee.