Carnival Horizon Cruise Review by dcdiva
- Sail Date: June 2018
- Destination: Eastern Caribbean
- Cabin Type: Havana Cabana (Balcony)
The many specialty dining options were mostly clustered around a central area that made them feel a bit more like a food court than an intimate restaurant. However, the meal we had at there was great. The Marketplace restaurant was divided into many separate areas with most tables offering a lovely view. This really helped make it less like a vast cafeteria. We never found it difficult to find a place to sit, which was surprising given how crowded it felt in other parts of the ship.
The show and performance venues were poorly designed (which is a shame because the shows were great!) Lighting and sound systems were clearly state-of-the-art, but the effort to create multi-use spaces of both the main show room (the Liquid Lounge) and the secondary space (Limelight/Punchliner) backfired. The sad result are spaces with poor sight lines and inadequate seating for the crowds on board. People routinely lined up well before the doors opened and waited 45 minutes or more just for a seat (often with a lousy view). We had heard comments about this before we boarded, but were still surprised at how bad it was.
Pools and pool deck were mobbed each time we checked them out. We were in a Havana cabin and loved having access to the Havana deck was heaven, with the added bonus of avoiding the crowds on the Lido. Perhaps it’s because we tended to head that way mid-day and meal times, but the main pool seemed chaotic, and the Tides pool was also jam packed. The sports deck was a highlight with lots of options for the kiddos and sportos. While the line for the SkyRide could be long, it was unavoidable.
Embarkation/Debarkation - Boarding was smooth and easy. We arrived much too early (having left time for traffic delays that didn’t happen) and were quickly moved through the “standby line”. After about 15 minutes, they called out group and we headed aboard. No fuss at all. Debarkation was not so smooth. After calling the first few decks for self-assist debarkation, the progress halted for about 45 minutes – with no additional groups being called. Then, slowly, a few additional decks were called. After nearly two hours the self-assist folks had cleared the ship and the rest of the groups were called. In all, we waited about three hours to debark. On the upside, customs was breeze.
Dining - We had traditional dining in the main dining room, which was modern and elegant. We had heard comments about a more informal style with no tablecloths, but we found the space to be lovely. The menu might not have been the most creative, but we never left hungry or disappointed. Our wait staff on this cruise was exceptional, and made us really glad to have scored traditional, late seating. That being said, we didn’t notice much of a line up or wait for Your Time Dining with one notable exception. On the first ‘elegant night’, the line to check in for My Time stretched half the length of the ship.
We lunched in the Lido and found each of the specialty offering to be great – pizza, burgers, tacos, deli. But the line for pizza was outrageous, as promised. Deli line only slightly better. Carnival really needs to address this.
Shows & Entertainment - First of all, we had a great cruise director. We were a bit disappointed that Mike Peck left just before we sailed. But then we met the Flying Scotsman, Chris Williams and his 9 kilts. He and his staff were energetic, engaging and always “on”. You really felt like they were going the extra mile – whether at trivia, in the main show room, or at an Atrium party. High marks all around for Chris and his team.
Comedy shows were consistently good. We had kiddos with us, so only did the PG shows, but all the comics did a nice job of making it fun for grown ups as well as kids. Crowds were tough, especially at the early 5:30 show. We learned to arrive 30-40 minutes in advance if we wanted decent seats. And were turned away when we arrived just under 20 minutes before show time.
Production shows were also in high demand and with good reason. The overall production quality was very high, and live music had a big impact. We enjoyed every show, although some were a bit more to our taste than others. But the theater wasn’t large enough for a ship of this size, and the design made it even more difficult to find a decent seat – or a seat at all. Folks lined up 45 minutes to an hour ahead of show time and when the doors opened, there was a mad dash to find a seat that wasn’t behind a pole or a speaker or lighting equipment. It’s a shame the space is so bad, because the performers and the productions were very, very strong.
Piano bar was our one big disappointment. Musician was great, but we were unaware that the Piano Bar is adult only during the sing-along times. Normally, our teenagers really enjoy this and they were very disappointed when we were booted out. Music around the ship was, in general, quite good. The strings and guitarist in the Atrium were excellent and the Latin band in the Havana bar was outstanding. So, overall, high marks for the quality of the entertainment.
Ports -We knew this sailing wasn’t about the ports, especially with relatively short stays on most of our port days. In Grand Turk, we headed way down the beach to Jack’s Shack where the crowds were thinner and the beer cheaper. It was a short, but enjoyable day. In San Juan, we met some family and spent the day at a great beach just outside San Juan. And then had an absolutely fabulous meal at a local beach side dive.
And then, Amber Cove, which gets a failing grade. First, our day was short since we sailed at 2:30. Excursions were overpriced and a long bus ride each way for an hour for only a few hours of beach or snorkeling time. If you didn’t book a pricey excursion, there was no beach, with swimming only in the pool that was much to small to accommodate the crowds. Beach chairs were free, but you had to pay for everything else, including shade. Water slide wasn’t operating and our kids weren’t old enough to zip line. We felt trapped in a place too small for the number of passengers. We usually love the “private island” day, but this was a waste of time and money. Next time, we’ll stay on the ship or avoid Amber Cove altogether. Big, big thumbs down.
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Port & Shore Excursion Reviews
Amber Cove (Puerto Plata)This is not the port for me. No beach, no shade, few services. Book an excursion or just stay on the ship.View All 709 Amber Cove (Puerto Plata) Cruise Port Reviews
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Grand TurkHeaded all the way down the beach to Jack's Shack where the crowds were thinner and the beer was cheaper.View All 2,098 Grand Turk Cruise Port Reviews
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San JuanHad a great day touring on our own. Headed to a great beach just outside of San Juan to hang with locals, and found a great beach front dive for a fabulous lunch.View All 3,767 San Juan Cruise Port Reviews
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