On Carnival's Mardi Gras, you have a wide range of cabins to choose from -- and many cabins come with special perks such as access into reserved areas. More about those in a minute.
What's nice to know is that the ship's designers put a lot of thought into cabins at all levels; there is a noticeable improvement from other Carnival ships, in terms of design and storage.
All cabins come with two twin beds that can be made up into a queen, a vanity desk with a big mirror and instead of a coffee table, a new leather ottoman, which not only opens up for more storage, the top turns into a tray for room service breakfast. (Tip: We used the inside of this ottoman to store dirty laundry).
Some interiors, and every category of cabin from oceanview on up has a sofa bed in the room as well, which can pull out for another passenger. On the balcony cabins, the placement of the sofa can either be by the window or in the middle of the room, allowing the beds to have the best view.
A few other strategic improvements: There are USB ports next to the bed -- a necessity these days -- but no plugs by the side of the bed. You'll find those on the vanity. Storage in the wardrobes is also modern, with shelves that can flip up and move out of the way, if you need more room for long sundresses or hanging clothes. No more dumping your shoes in a corner; there's a shelf just for them.
Amenities include hairdryers, an in-room safe, flat-screen TVs and a mini fridge. There's no self-serve laundry onboard, but you can send out.
One of the more noticeable improvements on Mardi Gras is the shower door. It's glass, instead of a curtain, and is an upgrade from the previous clingy curtains. There's also a shaving bar for your legs, and dispensers for shampoo and body lotion (bring your own conditioner). It genuinely feels more spacious.
On the other hand, the larger shower real estate makes the rest of the bathroom feel small. It's really only designed to be used for one person at a time.
One thing to note before you choose a balcony cabin is the ship's tiered design. Instead of the cabins being evenly place on top of each other, there is a portion of the ship where the cabins are stacked, almost pyramid style.
What this means for you is that if your cabin is below deck 11 toward the mid-front of the ship, the people above you will be able to look down at you and see you on your balcony.
*Tip: If you like to go out on your balcony in just a robe (or less), make sure you look up -- you might not have as much privacy as you think!*
Budget. You can always go with a standard interior, if you're trying to save money. But a great aspect of Mardi Gras is that there are a wide variety of interior options to choose from. If you can afford just a bit more, we'd suggest going with one of the themed inside cabins that gives you to amenities outside your room.
A Havana interior allows you to take advantage of the Havana outdoor bar and sundeck, as well as a (very small) pool. A Cloud 9 Spa interior gives you a pass to the thermal lounge. The Family Harbor interior gives you access to a private lounge that's stocked with games and snacks specifically for kids. Or if you just want more room, a Premium interior is 205 square feet, as opposed to 158, and has a sofabed.
Ocean Lovers. If you love the sea, pick a Cove balcony on Deck 5. When you look outside on these cabins, the ocean is right there in front of you -- and we've heard people often see dolphins and other marine life.
Splash. The Havana Cabanas are set aside in their own area of the ship. Unlike a typical balcony room, these rooms do not directly overlook the sea -- there's a walkway in front. But your patio area is gated off and besides having loungers, there's a hammock. Passengers booked in the Havana area also have access to their own outdoor bar and sundeck, as well as a (very small) pool. Havana guests must be 12 or older.
Family. The Family Harbor area has all kinds of cabins, ranging from interior to oceanview to suite. What ties them together is their location on Deck 4 and exclusive keycard access to the Family Harbor Lounge, which is open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.. This refuge for families offers breakfast and snacks during the day for people who don't want to brave the crowds above, as well as board games, family movies and video games. Other perks that come with Family Harbor rooms include free dinner at some specialty restaurants and a free night of Night Owls babysitting from Camp Ocean.
Splurge. Carnival has invested in suites on Mardi Gras, with 180 onboard. The new Excel suites have separate bedrooms and living rooms with dining rooms. But what really sets these Excel suites apart, particularly the Excel Aft and Presidential suites, are the large wraparound balconies. These have space for a large family to all hang out, plus a private hot tub.
Suites also have access to Loft 19, a special sundeck at the top front of the ship. There's an infinity hot tub up here, and cushy loungers. We spent an afternoon up here with a pass, however, and we have to say -- unless you've decided to shell out for a cabana that gives you personal service -- Loft 19 is not all that special. You have to go downstairs to the Serenity sundeck for your drinks, and the loungers are not protected from the wind in the same way that the chairs are down there. Buy a suite for the extra space it gives you, not for Loft 19.