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Let me start with some basic info about my wife Amy and I. We cruise yearly, for the most part, with very few exceptions. I have been on 17 cruises to date. This was my 6th with Carnival. More than any other line we have cruised with. We are in our young 60's. I will be posting my personal opinion on most anything I can think of related to this particular cruise. Many of you may disagree with me and that is fine. As I said, these are MY opinions....for what that is worth. A big part of this review will deal with the general decline of Carnival cruise offerings, as compared to my first ever cruise on the Carnival Destiny in 1998, as well as subsequent cruises on that same ship, and other cruises taken on the Fantasy, Pride and Glory. I always felt that Carnival offered a great value for the money. I've also felt that the overall experience was top notch, as long as you stayed on the larger, newer ships. The short Bahamas bound ships were never more than booze cruises in my opinion....not heavy on service. For that reason we choose the Horizon....their flagship offering right now. Embarkation: Port of Miami: Miami is the worst Port in Florida in my opinion. Very busy. Poorly organized. Horrible signage. Rude porters. All that aside, we got through the luggage drop-off process and parked the car in descent time. A short walk across the street and then things got so much better. I must say that Carnival gets an A+++ rating from me for their embarkation and debarkation processes. We walked right into the terminal, right upstairs and were on the ship in no time. With online check in, there is no longer any sitting around and waiting, while you are funneled to a desk where you have to produce your credit card, get your picture taken and wait for your sail and sign card. Now you just walk through security and keep moving forward until you are on the ship. Your sail and sign card will be waiting for you outside your cabin door in a sealed envelope. Debarkation with carrying your own luggage was even easier! Kudos to Carnival! The ship: The ship is quite beautiful, by Carnival standards. Gone are all the cheesy, tacky, loud and garish color combinations and glitz. This ship is quite attractive, particularly the two main atriums and the large funnels of color and light. We spent many hours below these structures with drink in hand, listening to some great entertainment and staring at these wonderful visual centerpieces. Again...kudos to Carnival! Much has been posted regarding the new SMART elevators. After 8 days on this ship, I am not convinced that they are that smart or if the even save you any time at all. In my opinion, the jury is still out on these things. The two main pools on this ship are more than adequate. Deck space seemed to be sufficient. We did not have access to the Havana pool, but it looked lovely. One thing that saddened me was that Carnival did such a good job in carving out the Serenity area on this ship.....except that this area does not have it's own pool. I found that awkward and for that reason, did not use the Serenity area. There are some nice lounges located throughout the ship. The Comedy Club was spacious as well....we had no problems finding seats for the 3 shows we attended. One thing I noticed was the lack of a discotheque, like we have seen in the past. Thought that was strange....not that we would be in there anyway. There are numerous specialty restaurants. The Main Dining Room was very much like the one on the Pride...2 story....open in the middle....not visually stunning...kind of basic. I did not care for the overall layout of the ship. For a big ship, it has many small spaces. Sometimes difficult to navigate. One of the biggest disappointments for us was the Main Theatre. They have switched to a flat main floor configuration which results in horrible sight lines. If you don't get there early, good luck in getting a good seat. The Lido restaurant was also a disappointment. A strange layout that has two separate buffet areas that are not visible from one another....each showing different items. Their pizza station stayed busy 24 hrs a day and pumped out what may be the best pizza on the high seas. Loved it...really loved that it was not overly spicy.....which meant that my old self could indulge at 1 am and not be woken up at 2:30 dealing with the aftermath. They also have a Mexican Cantina, which was nice as well as Guys Burger Joint, which was fantastic. The Seafood Shack looked interesting but we did not indulge.The java bar served up some wonderful coffee creations. Shopping, like on most Carnival ships was lacking. Not much to offer....just standard fair. You will not see the great bargains like I have seen on competitive lines. Cabin: Very well laid out and spacious. Probably the most efficient use of space we have experienced on any ship. The balcony was adequate. Attractive décor throughout. Entertainment: Carnival gets high marks here as well. All of the entertainers throughout the ship were very talented. Particularly the house band for this cruise, Pier Pressure and the Brass St Boys. They were absolutely wonderful....we spent most every night in the Atrium Lounge, drinking and dancing to this group. LOVED them! The piano bar was great, as always. Hard not to have fun there. We did not see the 2 main theatre shows but did enjoy the Hasbro Game show. The pool side events were fun. Trivia was a good time. The deck parties were plentiful and exciting. Ports: Not to go into much detail but The Turks was fun. La Romana is a wasted stop. Carocao is beautiful and fun....Aruba as well. This brings me to my opinion and general observations of the Carnival experience in general: Where do I start? In a nutshell....the Carnival experience is now just a shell of what it once was. This was evident by the amount of continual cutbacks this cruse line has made over the years. This is not a knock on the servers at all, but rather the policies put forth by the company itself. I found the MDR staff and Lido staff to be split between some old pros that excelled in customer service, combined with many that appeared to be totally new to this service thing. That being said, service was inconsistent. I can see that they have cut back on staff, particularly bar runners. We had to go to the bar ourselves for most drinks as servers were just not there for the most part. Our cabin steward had a shaky start, as we arrived to an um-vacuumed carpet and a filthy bathroom sink. After speaking with him, he was very apologetic and corrected the situation quickly. We had no more problems with him. On the Lido deck, it appeared that the primary focus of the buffet staff was that of mopping up the spills of careless and sloppy cruise passengers....and not so much of clearing tables. Many staff members routinely walked right by empty tables filled with left over plates, dirty napkins and silverware. Conclusion: In sampling Carnival's product for over 20 years now, I can say that this line is not what it used to be. Gone are the Bridge tours and Galley tours. Gone are the elaborate buffets with carved fruits and ice sculptures. Gone are the steaks that used to be available at no extra cost on a daily basis (you now pay $20.00 extra). Specialty restaurants that used to cost $20.00 are now $45.00. Gone are the Cherries Jubilee and fancy Baked Alaska parades. (Replaced with dancing and singing waiters). Gone are the table cloths (Except for Elegant Night). Gone is the full setting of silverware....you get one fork now. Gone is the waiter that actually places your napkin on your lap while seating you. Gone is FORMAL NIGHT....no more tuxes....no more sparkling gowns....regular dress shirts and dresses rule the day now. Gone are the large Lido deck selections....at least the quality ones. Gone are the Champagne toasts. Gone is twice a day room cleaning...you get to choose morning or night now....and no more chocolates on your pillow. Gone are the big name music acts that often flew in to perform. Gone....in a word....is class. Sad to say, but the once elegant and very special dining experience has evolved into more of a Golden Corral on water for me. For this reason, My days of cruising Carnival are over. All these things aside, we still had a wonderful cruise. It still remains the best vacation value out there. It's just different. To the first time cruiser these differences would never be noticed because they never experienced the old way of doing things. And I don't want to give the impression that the other cruise lines are doing things as well as they did 20 years ago either. It is just that Carnival has sank lower than its competition. It's sad really....

Carnival Horizon - General Observations

Carnival Horizon Cruise Review by bobandamy57

8 people found this helpful
Trip Details
Let me start with some basic info about my wife Amy and I. We cruise yearly, for the most part, with very few exceptions. I have been on 17 cruises to date. This was my 6th with Carnival. More than any other line we have cruised with. We are in our young 60's.

I will be posting my personal opinion on most anything I can think of related to this particular cruise. Many of you may disagree with me and that is fine. As I said, these are MY opinions....for what that is worth. A big part of this review will deal with the general decline of Carnival cruise offerings, as compared to my first ever cruise on the Carnival Destiny in 1998, as well as subsequent cruises on that same ship, and other cruises taken on the Fantasy, Pride and Glory.

I always felt that Carnival offered a great value for the money. I've also felt that the overall experience was top notch, as long as you stayed on the larger, newer ships. The short Bahamas bound ships were never more than booze cruises in my opinion....not heavy on service. For that reason we choose the Horizon....their flagship offering right now.

Embarkation: Port of Miami:

Miami is the worst Port in Florida in my opinion. Very busy. Poorly organized. Horrible signage. Rude porters. All that aside, we got through the luggage drop-off process and parked the car in descent time. A short walk across the street and then things got so much better. I must say that Carnival gets an A+++ rating from me for their embarkation and debarkation processes. We walked right into the terminal, right upstairs and were on the ship in no time. With online check in, there is no longer any sitting around and waiting, while you are funneled to a desk where you have to produce your credit card, get your picture taken and wait for your sail and sign card. Now you just walk through security and keep moving forward until you are on the ship. Your sail and sign card will be waiting for you outside your cabin door in a sealed envelope. Debarkation with carrying your own luggage was even easier! Kudos to Carnival!

The ship:

The ship is quite beautiful, by Carnival standards. Gone are all the cheesy, tacky, loud and garish color combinations and glitz. This ship is quite attractive, particularly the two main atriums and the large funnels of color and light. We spent many hours below these structures with drink in hand, listening to some great entertainment and staring at these wonderful visual centerpieces. Again...kudos to Carnival!

Much has been posted regarding the new SMART elevators. After 8 days on this ship, I am not convinced that they are that smart or if the even save you any time at all. In my opinion, the jury is still out on these things.

The two main pools on this ship are more than adequate. Deck space seemed to be sufficient. We did not have access to the Havana pool, but it looked lovely. One thing that saddened me was that Carnival did such a good job in carving out the Serenity area on this ship.....except that this area does not have it's own pool. I found that awkward and for that reason, did not use the Serenity area.

There are some nice lounges located throughout the ship. The Comedy Club was spacious as well....we had no problems finding seats for the 3 shows we attended.

One thing I noticed was the lack of a discotheque, like we have seen in the past. Thought that was strange....not that we would be in there anyway.

There are numerous specialty restaurants. The Main Dining Room was very much like the one on the Pride...2 story....open in the middle....not visually stunning...kind of basic.

I did not care for the overall layout of the ship. For a big ship, it has many small spaces. Sometimes difficult to navigate. One of the biggest disappointments for us was the Main Theatre. They have switched to a flat main floor configuration which results in horrible sight lines. If you don't get there early, good luck in getting a good seat.

The Lido restaurant was also a disappointment. A strange layout that has two separate buffet areas that are not visible from one another....each showing different items.

Their pizza station stayed busy 24 hrs a day and pumped out what may be the best pizza on the high seas. Loved it...really loved that it was not overly spicy.....which meant that my old self could indulge at 1 am and not be woken up at 2:30 dealing with the aftermath. They also have a Mexican Cantina, which was nice as well as Guys Burger Joint, which was fantastic. The Seafood Shack looked interesting but we did not indulge.The java bar served up some wonderful coffee creations.

Shopping, like on most Carnival ships was lacking. Not much to offer....just standard fair. You will not see the great bargains like I have seen on competitive lines.

Cabin:

Very well laid out and spacious. Probably the most efficient use of space we have experienced on any ship. The balcony was adequate. Attractive décor throughout.

Entertainment:

Carnival gets high marks here as well. All of the entertainers throughout the ship were very talented. Particularly the house band for this cruise, Pier Pressure and the Brass St Boys. They were absolutely wonderful....we spent most every night in the Atrium Lounge, drinking and dancing to this group. LOVED them! The piano bar was great, as always. Hard not to have fun there. We did not see the 2 main theatre shows but did enjoy the Hasbro Game show. The pool side events were fun. Trivia was a good time. The deck parties were plentiful and exciting.

Ports:

Not to go into much detail but The Turks was fun. La Romana is a wasted stop. Carocao is beautiful and fun....Aruba as well.

This brings me to my opinion and general observations of the Carnival experience in general:

Where do I start? In a nutshell....the Carnival experience is now just a shell of what it once was. This was evident by the amount of continual cutbacks this cruse line has made over the years. This is not a knock on the servers at all, but rather the policies put forth by the company itself.

I found the MDR staff and Lido staff to be split between some old pros that excelled in customer service, combined with many that appeared to be totally new to this service thing. That being said, service was inconsistent. I can see that they have cut back on staff, particularly bar runners. We had to go to the bar ourselves for most drinks as servers were just not there for the most part.

Our cabin steward had a shaky start, as we arrived to an um-vacuumed carpet and a filthy bathroom sink. After speaking with him, he was very apologetic and corrected the situation quickly. We had no more problems with him.

On the Lido deck, it appeared that the primary focus of the buffet staff was that of mopping up the spills of careless and sloppy cruise passengers....and not so much of clearing tables. Many staff members routinely walked right by empty tables filled with left over plates, dirty napkins and silverware.

Conclusion:

In sampling Carnival's product for over 20 years now, I can say that this line is not what it used to be. Gone are the Bridge tours and Galley tours. Gone are the elaborate buffets with carved fruits and ice sculptures. Gone are the steaks that used to be available at no extra cost on a daily basis (you now pay $20.00 extra). Specialty restaurants that used to cost $20.00 are now $45.00. Gone are the Cherries Jubilee and fancy Baked Alaska parades. (Replaced with dancing and singing waiters). Gone are the table cloths (Except for Elegant Night). Gone is the full setting of silverware....you get one fork now. Gone is the waiter that actually places your napkin on your lap while seating you. Gone is FORMAL NIGHT....no more tuxes....no more sparkling gowns....regular dress shirts and dresses rule the day now. Gone are the large Lido deck selections....at least the quality ones. Gone are the Champagne toasts. Gone is twice a day room cleaning...you get to choose morning or night now....and no more chocolates on your pillow. Gone are the big name music acts that often flew in to perform. Gone....in a word....is class. Sad to say, but the once elegant and very special dining experience has evolved into more of a Golden Corral on water for me. For this reason, My days of cruising Carnival are over.

All these things aside, we still had a wonderful cruise. It still remains the best vacation value out there. It's just different. To the first time cruiser these differences would never be noticed because they never experienced the old way of doing things. And I don't want to give the impression that the other cruise lines are doing things as well as they did 20 years ago either. It is just that Carnival has sank lower than its competition. It's sad really....
bobandamy57’s Full Rating Summary
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