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For some background, I'm a male in his early 30s who, with this cruise, has now sailed 3 Carnival, 2 Royal Caribbean, and 1 Princess ship, and I consider the Horizon the best ship of the 6 I've experienced. However, some minor issues, which Carnival had varying levels of control over, kept the actual onboard experience from matching the "wow" factor of the ship itself. Will break down positives/negatives below (it is comprehensive, so I hope you find it informative): Embarkation in Manhattan: This went way smoother than the previous cruise I was on (with Royal Caribbean out of Boston, where security was so short-staffed that a ship with merely 2,100 passengers had lines stretching and wrapping the length of the building just to simply get inside). Not only was there no issue this time immediately entering the building and getting through security, there was ample seating, an area to buy snacks/drinks, and a streamlined process that allowed your photo to be lifted from your passport and immediately programmed to your sail and sign card (which eliminated the need to even go to the counter at all if you checked in online beforehand). Even with a ship of well over 4,000 passengers, we were onboard in no time. Ship Layout: While some might bristle at the notion of being on board with so many fellow passengers, I was very confident in Carnival (and the cruise industry in general) being wise enough to have the crowd management logistics down for these megaships they're building, and sure enough, no particular areas felt overly-crowded compared to cruises on smaller ships, as people instinctively gravitated towards different places for their own brand of fun (I think the most cramped I saw a venue was the Havana Lounge when it hosted what proved to be a wildly-popular afternoon of karaoke). Though the ship is large, it's just as easy to navigate as Carnival's smaller ships and has the same familiar feel - expect to find decks 3, 4, and 5 as having the main indoor public areas you'll have reason to go to, and all decks Lido deck and above as the main outdoor places to be (though deck 6 is where you'll find the entrance to the IMAX and 4-D theaters, which to me is a better use of space than having the 3-deck atrium stretch higher up like more-traditional atriums). What also helps spread out the passengers, besides the ship being a bit longer and a couple decks taller than most, is the widening of the exterior promenade to allow for outdoor eating/relaxing on deck 5. What might please those about the casino is that it's relatively less smoky being a newer ship, and it's also not located in a spot where you'll feel like you always have to walk through it to get to everything. One thing I did sense was that the public restrooms had no real symmetry from one deck to another, so those didn't seem as easy to identify, and it was odd for them to convert the comedy show lounge for late-night dance music rather than have a real nightclub scene. As far as the new elevator system that a lot of people have written about, it's real simple - you simply just choose what floor you want from the hallway and enter the car that the screen designates for you (does this system work faster or slower? Probably about the same). Entertainment/Activities: This was a key reason why I was excited to choose this ship - the sheer variety of choices of how and where on the ship to spend your days/nights. Yes, you'll have your normal trivia games, music competitions, poolside fun, sports activities, gambling, comedy/Broadway-style shows, etc., but having new offerings on this front allows for greater possibilities. I seized the opportunity to do the Sky Ride (a bike track suspended from a metal rail high up on the ship) and it was quite a thrill to pedal yourself around the sports deck, and even a little bit over the ocean below; expect the line to ride it though to be 30-40 minutes long, less if you go while others are in port (I didn't do the adjacent Sky Course, which resembled a family-friendly Ninja Warrior-type ropes course that seemed to be more kid-centric). Speaking of the sports deck, it also had other diverting options like foosball, 4-way ping pong, and a life-sized billiard setup where you kick soccer balls into the pockets (I had seen a pic leading up to the vacation showing a small bowling lane, but that appeared not to exist anymore). I did watch a 3-D space documentary in the aforementioned IMAX theater (there were another 4 or 5 documentary subjects offered, each costing $5.50 to see; the full-length feature films were the normal price of a movie ticket and included current releases), but I never got around to trying the 4-D theater, which was also the same additional cost (there were 3 experiences - kid-friendly, PG13-type action, and R-rated horror - at between 12 and 17 minutes each). A cool feature of the ship was an in-house brewery which produced 4 regular and 1 seasonal craft brews for select bars (they also hosted tours of the facility with plenty of tastings for $25, which is a pretty good deal if you're into that kind of thing). Between the normal cruise activity options and the innovative features this ship has, there's plenty to do if you want to keep busy. The main flaws I saw in this category was some "sloppiness" in how they executed some of the game-related items (some of the trivia "answers" were wrong, pieces were missing from board games in the library bar, etc.), and there was no real "middle ground" in terms of music volume in venues - everything was amped up or no music at all, rather than places where you could hold a conversation while light background music was present (this imbalance in sound level was particularly off-putting for my father, who I was traveling with). Dining/Bars: Another high point of this particular ship, as there were so many dining options in particular to choose from, beyond the normal buffet, main dining rooms, and specialty restaurants. Besides the very good burrito bar and Guy's Burgers that Carnival is known for having on many ships now, the real good finds for included lunch fare are the asian and italian restaurants above the Lido deck (they make made-to-order noodle and pasta dishes, respectively, for you for lunch, only converting to paid specialty restaurants with larger menus for dinner) and the other Guy's eatery, which is a BBQ joint on deck 5 (same deal, it has a limited complimentary lunch menu that gets expanded during the for-fee dinner). Within the buffet was a deli that did fresh sandwiches and drew a sizable line later in the evening, along with the pizza stand, as other lunch options closed (one improvement that could have been made here was allowing people to help themselves to the hot dogs specifically, since what wait time existed at this station was for those who were getting other sandwiches that take longer to prepare). The main dining room food was solid every night and consistent with the quality of other past cruises I've done (I also did a seaday brunch in the dining room one morning, which I've liked in the past, though we almost walked out due to how long it took them to bring the order out). Bars were plentiful throughout the ship and it was great to see each have its own different personality with their featured drinks and atmosphere (Havana - Cuban decor/music/mojitos, Guy's Pig & Anchor - Country-Western with the craft beers and whiskey/bourbon-centric cocktails, Alchemy - martinis with no music to allow for good conversation, Blue Iguana - tequila bar, Red Frog - rum bar, and non-themed standard bars elsewhere). Staff/Service: This was a little hit-or-miss. On the smaller, more-intimate Serenade of the Seas I did with Royal Caribbean last year, I actually developed a connection with several of the entertainment staff, often learning their names and seeing them in between activities chatting up passengers and hanging out in public areas during some of their down time. Here however, the entertainment staff seemed to do a professional and serviceable job whenever they hosted something, but would leave promptly to get to their next assignment and simply did nothing to stand out to make their presence really known (only the entertainment staff member who emcee'd the comedy club seemed to really show some higher-than-average enthusiasm when she interacted with guests). In fact, besides the hilarious, adult-oriented Quest event (which I highly recommend on any ship that hosts this), the entertainment staff really didn't seem to let loose at all (side note: the two main DJs, DJ Xtreme in particular, were very uninspired with their playlists, pumping out some very stale tracks throughout the trip; unless you really want to hear East Coast rap from 15 years ago, don't expect their nightly sets to evoke a great party atmosphere). The waitstaff in the main dining room were fantastic as always, with one particular guy having some fun with us with card tricks, although I did feel a little rushed through each meal, relative to past cruises. The biggest issue was with the cabin cleaning team, as even though our main steward was friendly and attentive, someone in that department inexplicably knocked on our door way too early on 3 different mornings to ask if we were ready for our room to be serviced (as in, between 7:00-8:30 AM, no reason to be woken up like that 3 times). Probably the group that most stood out were bar staff around the ship, as the ladies working the bar at Pig & Anchor, 2 of the lobby bartenders, and 1 of the Havana bartenders in particular really seemed to be personable and take pride in their work (I didn't get a drink at the Alchemy Bar, but each night that place seemed pretty fun and lively, too). ***The worst problem with this cruise, and it's hard to really fault anyone specifically for this, was unfortunately several fellow passengers that negatively affected the atmosphere. While we met a lot of great people on the ship, most notably our dinner mates that we became friends with, there were far too many who simply made the voyage a bit "trashy." One night, a Jerry Springer-level yelling match broke out in front of me at the deli station, simply because one hot-headed woman took offense to another hot-headed woman telling her she didn't order loud enough to be heard and keep the line moving. With live music available all over the ship, several passengers were blasting their own personal speakers at places that didn't need more noise (while waiting for elevators, sitting in the Serenity deck hot tubs, and even on the pool deck WHILE movies were being watched by dozens of people). Another guest casually walked down a hallway smoking a joint. Ports: The ship, time of the year, and convenience of leaving from NY were the main factors for choosing this itinerary, not so much the ports of call. I don't have much to contribute in terms of my experiences with the 3 islands, as we didn't do any excursions that took us beyond the immediate port areas at Grand Turk or Dominican Republic (we were content just hanging out poolside and having lunch at Margaritaville in a cabana, and walking around the port/shopping area at Amber Cove, both of which were nice enough, but uneventful), and our time in Puerto Rico was spent simply walking around a handful of blocks around San Juan with our dinner mates. One thing I noticed was Carnival had staff members positioned right along the outside of the ship to offer ice water as guests walked back to the gangway, a nice touch. Disembarkation: Not quite as seamless, with a bit of an unexplained delay for a period of time, but eventually got off the ship, through security (a security member was slightly agitated in tone when she saw me with my cell phone out and told me I couldn't use it in the building; not sure why, since that wasn't a problem at embarkation), and hailed an Uber to leave from the cruise terminal. Overall, another fantastic cruise on a ship I wouldn't hesitate going on again, with a company who does a lot of things right to make your vacation a blast. Already looking at options for my next voyage.

Amazing Ship, But Some Flaws Occasionally Undermined Experience

Carnival Horizon Cruise Review by mrhotwings

2 people found this helpful
Trip Details
For some background, I'm a male in his early 30s who, with this cruise, has now sailed 3 Carnival, 2 Royal Caribbean, and 1 Princess ship, and I consider the Horizon the best ship of the 6 I've experienced. However, some minor issues, which Carnival had varying levels of control over, kept the actual onboard experience from matching the "wow" factor of the ship itself. Will break down positives/negatives below (it is comprehensive, so I hope you find it informative):

Embarkation in Manhattan: This went way smoother than the previous cruise I was on (with Royal Caribbean out of Boston, where security was so short-staffed that a ship with merely 2,100 passengers had lines stretching and wrapping the length of the building just to simply get inside). Not only was there no issue this time immediately entering the building and getting through security, there was ample seating, an area to buy snacks/drinks, and a streamlined process that allowed your photo to be lifted from your passport and immediately programmed to your sail and sign card (which eliminated the need to even go to the counter at all if you checked in online beforehand). Even with a ship of well over 4,000 passengers, we were onboard in no time.

Ship Layout: While some might bristle at the notion of being on board with so many fellow passengers, I was very confident in Carnival (and the cruise industry in general) being wise enough to have the crowd management logistics down for these megaships they're building, and sure enough, no particular areas felt overly-crowded compared to cruises on smaller ships, as people instinctively gravitated towards different places for their own brand of fun (I think the most cramped I saw a venue was the Havana Lounge when it hosted what proved to be a wildly-popular afternoon of karaoke). Though the ship is large, it's just as easy to navigate as Carnival's smaller ships and has the same familiar feel - expect to find decks 3, 4, and 5 as having the main indoor public areas you'll have reason to go to, and all decks Lido deck and above as the main outdoor places to be (though deck 6 is where you'll find the entrance to the IMAX and 4-D theaters, which to me is a better use of space than having the 3-deck atrium stretch higher up like more-traditional atriums). What also helps spread out the passengers, besides the ship being a bit longer and a couple decks taller than most, is the widening of the exterior promenade to allow for outdoor eating/relaxing on deck 5. What might please those about the casino is that it's relatively less smoky being a newer ship, and it's also not located in a spot where you'll feel like you always have to walk through it to get to everything. One thing I did sense was that the public restrooms had no real symmetry from one deck to another, so those didn't seem as easy to identify, and it was odd for them to convert the comedy show lounge for late-night dance music rather than have a real nightclub scene. As far as the new elevator system that a lot of people have written about, it's real simple - you simply just choose what floor you want from the hallway and enter the car that the screen designates for you (does this system work faster or slower? Probably about the same).

Entertainment/Activities: This was a key reason why I was excited to choose this ship - the sheer variety of choices of how and where on the ship to spend your days/nights. Yes, you'll have your normal trivia games, music competitions, poolside fun, sports activities, gambling, comedy/Broadway-style shows, etc., but having new offerings on this front allows for greater possibilities. I seized the opportunity to do the Sky Ride (a bike track suspended from a metal rail high up on the ship) and it was quite a thrill to pedal yourself around the sports deck, and even a little bit over the ocean below; expect the line to ride it though to be 30-40 minutes long, less if you go while others are in port (I didn't do the adjacent Sky Course, which resembled a family-friendly Ninja Warrior-type ropes course that seemed to be more kid-centric). Speaking of the sports deck, it also had other diverting options like foosball, 4-way ping pong, and a life-sized billiard setup where you kick soccer balls into the pockets (I had seen a pic leading up to the vacation showing a small bowling lane, but that appeared not to exist anymore). I did watch a 3-D space documentary in the aforementioned IMAX theater (there were another 4 or 5 documentary subjects offered, each costing $5.50 to see; the full-length feature films were the normal price of a movie ticket and included current releases), but I never got around to trying the 4-D theater, which was also the same additional cost (there were 3 experiences - kid-friendly, PG13-type action, and R-rated horror - at between 12 and 17 minutes each). A cool feature of the ship was an in-house brewery which produced 4 regular and 1 seasonal craft brews for select bars (they also hosted tours of the facility with plenty of tastings for $25, which is a pretty good deal if you're into that kind of thing). Between the normal cruise activity options and the innovative features this ship has, there's plenty to do if you want to keep busy. The main flaws I saw in this category was some "sloppiness" in how they executed some of the game-related items (some of the trivia "answers" were wrong, pieces were missing from board games in the library bar, etc.), and there was no real "middle ground" in terms of music volume in venues - everything was amped up or no music at all, rather than places where you could hold a conversation while light background music was present (this imbalance in sound level was particularly off-putting for my father, who I was traveling with).

Dining/Bars: Another high point of this particular ship, as there were so many dining options in particular to choose from, beyond the normal buffet, main dining rooms, and specialty restaurants. Besides the very good burrito bar and Guy's Burgers that Carnival is known for having on many ships now, the real good finds for included lunch fare are the asian and italian restaurants above the Lido deck (they make made-to-order noodle and pasta dishes, respectively, for you for lunch, only converting to paid specialty restaurants with larger menus for dinner) and the other Guy's eatery, which is a BBQ joint on deck 5 (same deal, it has a limited complimentary lunch menu that gets expanded during the for-fee dinner). Within the buffet was a deli that did fresh sandwiches and drew a sizable line later in the evening, along with the pizza stand, as other lunch options closed (one improvement that could have been made here was allowing people to help themselves to the hot dogs specifically, since what wait time existed at this station was for those who were getting other sandwiches that take longer to prepare). The main dining room food was solid every night and consistent with the quality of other past cruises I've done (I also did a seaday brunch in the dining room one morning, which I've liked in the past, though we almost walked out due to how long it took them to bring the order out). Bars were plentiful throughout the ship and it was great to see each have its own different personality with their featured drinks and atmosphere (Havana - Cuban decor/music/mojitos, Guy's Pig & Anchor - Country-Western with the craft beers and whiskey/bourbon-centric cocktails, Alchemy - martinis with no music to allow for good conversation, Blue Iguana - tequila bar, Red Frog - rum bar, and non-themed standard bars elsewhere).

Staff/Service: This was a little hit-or-miss. On the smaller, more-intimate Serenade of the Seas I did with Royal Caribbean last year, I actually developed a connection with several of the entertainment staff, often learning their names and seeing them in between activities chatting up passengers and hanging out in public areas during some of their down time. Here however, the entertainment staff seemed to do a professional and serviceable job whenever they hosted something, but would leave promptly to get to their next assignment and simply did nothing to stand out to make their presence really known (only the entertainment staff member who emcee'd the comedy club seemed to really show some higher-than-average enthusiasm when she interacted with guests). In fact, besides the hilarious, adult-oriented Quest event (which I highly recommend on any ship that hosts this), the entertainment staff really didn't seem to let loose at all (side note: the two main DJs, DJ Xtreme in particular, were very uninspired with their playlists, pumping out some very stale tracks throughout the trip; unless you really want to hear East Coast rap from 15 years ago, don't expect their nightly sets to evoke a great party atmosphere). The waitstaff in the main dining room were fantastic as always, with one particular guy having some fun with us with card tricks, although I did feel a little rushed through each meal, relative to past cruises. The biggest issue was with the cabin cleaning team, as even though our main steward was friendly and attentive, someone in that department inexplicably knocked on our door way too early on 3 different mornings to ask if we were ready for our room to be serviced (as in, between 7:00-8:30 AM, no reason to be woken up like that 3 times). Probably the group that most stood out were bar staff around the ship, as the ladies working the bar at Pig & Anchor, 2 of the lobby bartenders, and 1 of the Havana bartenders in particular really seemed to be personable and take pride in their work (I didn't get a drink at the Alchemy Bar, but each night that place seemed pretty fun and lively, too).

***The worst problem with this cruise, and it's hard to really fault anyone specifically for this, was unfortunately several fellow passengers that negatively affected the atmosphere. While we met a lot of great people on the ship, most notably our dinner mates that we became friends with, there were far too many who simply made the voyage a bit "trashy." One night, a Jerry Springer-level yelling match broke out in front of me at the deli station, simply because one hot-headed woman took offense to another hot-headed woman telling her she didn't order loud enough to be heard and keep the line moving. With live music available all over the ship, several passengers were blasting their own personal speakers at places that didn't need more noise (while waiting for elevators, sitting in the Serenity deck hot tubs, and even on the pool deck WHILE movies were being watched by dozens of people). Another guest casually walked down a hallway smoking a joint.

Ports: The ship, time of the year, and convenience of leaving from NY were the main factors for choosing this itinerary, not so much the ports of call. I don't have much to contribute in terms of my experiences with the 3 islands, as we didn't do any excursions that took us beyond the immediate port areas at Grand Turk or Dominican Republic (we were content just hanging out poolside and having lunch at Margaritaville in a cabana, and walking around the port/shopping area at Amber Cove, both of which were nice enough, but uneventful), and our time in Puerto Rico was spent simply walking around a handful of blocks around San Juan with our dinner mates. One thing I noticed was Carnival had staff members positioned right along the outside of the ship to offer ice water as guests walked back to the gangway, a nice touch.

Disembarkation: Not quite as seamless, with a bit of an unexplained delay for a period of time, but eventually got off the ship, through security (a security member was slightly agitated in tone when she saw me with my cell phone out and told me I couldn't use it in the building; not sure why, since that wasn't a problem at embarkation), and hailed an Uber to leave from the cruise terminal.

Overall, another fantastic cruise on a ship I wouldn't hesitate going on again, with a company who does a lot of things right to make your vacation a blast. Already looking at options for my next voyage.
mrhotwings’s Full Rating Summary
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Embarkation
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Cabin Review

Interior
Cabin 4A 1333
The cabin was par for the course for cruise ships: small, but serves its purpose as a quiet "base of operations" between eating and playing. One noticeable difference this ship has with their cabins is that to keep your lights on, you need to keep your Sail and Sign card in a slot just inside the door. This apparently is designed to conserve energy/costs by not wasting electricity while you're out of the room. A smart idea, though that also means if you forget to take it out of the slot when you leave your room, you'll lock yourself out (fortunately, I never left the key behind).
Deck 1 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins