As guests embark the new 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon, eyes fixate on the funnel-shaped “Dreamscape” atrium sculpture descending 24 feet from the ceiling. Comprised of 2,000-plus flexible LED tiles, it displays colorful artwork created by patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital plus other rotating imagery. It’s a stunning “Fun Ship” welcome by this 133,500-grt ship, the second in Carnival Cruise Line’s Vista-class.
Travel Agent sailed during a recent four-night New York-to-Bermuda cruise. During “Sail Away,” guests gravitated to the main pool deck and higher decks too, for a celebratory party of dancing, rocking, jamming and moving to the music. Orchestrating the energetic fun was Christopher Williams, a cruise director of Scottish heritage in kilt attire, joined by red-shirted crew members and the Dr. Seuss characters “The Cat in the Hat,” “Thing 1” and “Thing 2.” Above the action, a 270-square-foot outdoor movie screen provided “live” video coverage.
Activities Galore: Carnival Horizon introduced the first Dr. Seuss-themed WaterWorks aqua park. A bucket shaped like The Cat in the Hat’s tall hat fills up and dumps water on kids, toddlers play in a splash area and three-deck-high water slides draw older kids and adults; riders must be 42” tall for “Fun Things,” 48” for “Cat’s Hat.” SkyRide, a bike-ride-in-the-sky attraction, which debuted on Carnival Vista, was closed for maintenance during our cruise, but is now back in service.
In addition to a robust range of spa treatments, the Cloud 9 Spa and fitness center also offers wellness and fitness seminars. I attended “Detox for Health and Weight Loss,” an excellent presentation by the gym manager, who offered helpful biological, exercise and wellness information. Guests also packed multiple showings at the IMAX Theatre and Thrill Theater. One man who attended the IMAX 3D version of “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” told us that he was “duly frightened” but loved it. Thrill Theater had horror flicks and family showings.
Guests can also head for trivia contests, Carnival Quest (adult scavenger hunt), a blackjack tournament, military appreciation gathering, bingo, pool activities and “Groove for St. Jude,” a charitable dance event. Dr. Seuss fans will discover a “Seuss-A-Palooza Parade and Story Time,” plus “Photo Time with Dr. Seuss.”
Carnival Horizon also has a robust supervised kids/teens club program, including Camp Ocean (2-11), Circle “C” (12-14) and Club O2 (15-17). One nice perk for teens 12-17 is a “Teen Pamper Party” in Cloud 9 Spa. Parents we talked with appreciated Night Owls (10 p.m. to 1 a.m.), allowing them to leave their kids (6 months to 11 years) in Camp Ocean so they could head out to the Limelight Lounge, an adult comedy show or the ’80s “Rock ‘n Glow” Party.
Above and below: The “Dreamscape” atrium sculpture on the new Carnival Horizon features custom-designed, continuously changing artwork created by patients of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other imagery. //Photos: Susan J. Young
Spacious Accommodations: Carnival Horizon has 1,980 guest staterooms and suites, including 25 accessible staterooms. Cloud 9 Spa Suites offer spa bathrobes and slippers, Elemis toiletries and such perks as priority spa reservations, unlimited thermal suites access and free fitness classes. Also popular are 16 Family Harbor Suites with a large cove balcony and four Havana Cabana Suites with a patio cabana and lanai.
I stayed in #6327, a standard balcony stateroom, starting at $799 per person double for my cruise. I’m always impressed walking into Carnival’s accommodations because of the space they provide. Our pleasantly decorated stateroom had a king bed (convertible to two twins), pull-out couch, desk / credenza with a hair dryer, non-stocked mini-fridge and large, interactive, flat-screen TV. One closet accommodates long clothes, another two rows of shorter clothing and a third has drawers, shelves and a safe. Our bathroom was small but perfectly adequate with a small shower, toilet, sink and vanity with small glass shelves extending upward. The balcony had two blue chairs and a small table.
A nice touch? Abraham, my friendly cabin steward, introduced himself and provided his personal business card, displaying his photo, name and phone for stateroom service. We observed that all stewards in all corridors proactively greeted guests who passed by.
Dining Delights: As part of a group, I dined in three specialty restaurants. Cucina del Capitano served family-style Italian favorites ($15 per person, $10 for kids under 12). I liked the Arancini Fried Risotto Balls with baby arugula, shaved Parmesan cheese and tomato sauce and the calamari. Popular entrees are Spaghetti Carbonara and Bistecca alla Griglia, an Italian version of a New York sirloin steak.
For upscale specialty dining, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse ($35 per person) serves succulent USDA prime steaks and cooked-to-perfection lobster and seafood. A server displays a sea salt box tableside, and guests choose one for the chef in preparing their meal. For dessert, if the entire table agrees, order “Art at Your Table.” In wizard-like fashion, the chef will brush, concoct and flick ingredients to create a colorful, yummy masterpiece surrounded by a white chocolate shell.
I also dined solo at the specialty JiJi Asian Kitchen ($15 per person, $10 for children under 12) and savored the Singapore Chili Shrimp. I instantly bonded with several servers from northern Thailand. All JiJi crew members were friendly, almost as though they were family. One night as I was entering Cucina del Capitano (next door), several JiJi waiters saw me through the glass, waved and called out, “Susan, what are you doing? Why are you deserting us? Come back tomorrow!”
At 1 p.m. on a sea day, I was immediately seated in Bonsai Sushi’s main dining room without a reservation. Melt-in-your-mouth good is Wagyu Kukuni ($4), three beef bites enhanced by caramelized onion and teriyaki sauce. I also enjoyed the light shrimp tempura ($7). Sushi and sashimi fans can choose from Ebi (shrimp); Sake (salmon); Maguro (yellow fin tuna); and Hamachi (amberjack), all at $1.50 per piece. “Rolls” are $5 -$7 each.
Bonsai Sushi also has a separate teppanyaki room (the line’s first) with two eight-seat tables. Due to very limited capacity, pre-sailing reservations are imperative and, even then, may be unavailable. Still, we’re happy to see Carnival wade into the teppanyaki arena and hoping for more tables on future ships.
Carnival Horizon also has a new Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse/Brewhouse with barbecue favorites created by celebrity chef Guy Fieri; it’s in the space formerly occupied by Red Frog Pub. Yes, the Red Frog Rum Bar is still on the pool deck, along with BlueIguana Tequila Bar, BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint. I met a teen ashore who pronounced: “I’m going to try every single one of Guy’s burgers before I get off the ship.”
Given our schedule, we didn’t dine in the Reflections dining room, but guests told us it was a good experience. The Lido marketplace served up the usual cornucopia of tasty buffet / station offerings. Complimentary breakfast room service was a no-show one day, okay on two others. Daytime / evening room service offers both complimentary and a la carte dishes.
Pros and Cons: Carnival Horizon offers the lovely, adults-only Serenity, a great spot for relaxing on cushioned loungers with a cool drink and a good book. Also a “pro” are the Playlist Productions shows, including Celestial Strings, Vintage Pop and Soulbound (singers and dancers interact with LED video screens). I personally liked Carnival’s two-level, mall-style shopping approach, showcasing such brands as LeVian, Victoria’s Secret and, for the first time, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Breitling and Hublot.
Sometimes this ship did feel crowded, other times not. My biggest personal “con” and that of many other guests on this cruise was the high-tech elevator system, which didn’t work that well on a ship of thousands. It created “impatient” people weary of waiting in elevator lobbies. Yes, it was faster once guests boarded a car, but they couldn’t change their mind and pick a different deck en route.
Overall, Carnival Horizon provides very good value for money, given the high quality and diversity of dining experiences, onboard entertainment, activities. Plus, the crew is friendly. The ship sails to Bermuda and the Caribbean from New York this summer, and will reposition to Miami in September.