I recently, after many invites, had the opportunity to cruise on a normal cruise on the Carnival Horizon, their latest great ship. I have to admit it’s been a long time since I have been on any Carnival ship. Years ago Carnival was the darling of the Incentive Cruise business. Times changed, people change and frankly Carnival had an identity crises and they lost their market share.
So many of us stuck our nose up to using Carnival and their “Fun Ships”. Well the time has come to rethink what you may think about Carnival. After spending 5 really fun days on the Horizon I can honestly tell you todays’ Carnival is great fun that your clients will love. It is FUN and without any pretenses.
Some things you need to know. The average age of a Carnival passenger today is 49, and my recent cruise was no exception. So forget about your imagine of a bunch of drunk college students or whatever you might have thought of years ago. Also forget about the old Carnival ships that were bad copies of someone’s idea of an off the strip Las Vegas resort. Forget the idea about bad food from some sort of second rate cafeteria. Those days are gone!
Let me start with the ship itself. The décor is easy on the eyes and senses and will please most anyone. Yes a lot of bells and whistles like everyone’s new ships but still a more traditional ship in design not relying on the glitz to get your attention. A very good variety of public spaces and room sizes, something for everyone.
What about the fun? On arriving to my room I found one sheet printed on front and back entitled Entertainment Schedule which outline the entertainment nightly in several of the lounges plus nightly deck parties. In walking around the ship I noticed that the lounges not listed on the schedule had their own signs listing the entertainment and times for the week. There is NON STOP live
entertainment on this ship: rock, karaoke, a great piano bar, country and western music, and nonstop live comedy shows. Things get started around 5:30 pm and are nonstop all over the ship, you have got to catch the ever so hot Havana Club. I honestly have to say it’s been a long time since I really enjoyed cruise ship entertainment this much and had so much fun every night.
So what’s the food like? Well I have to admit I really didn’t have that open of a mind when our rep Frank was showing me around the ship before I left Miami. Kelly from our office did a short industry thing on the ship and told me I had to try Fahrenheit 555, the ship’s Steakhouse. So that’s what I did my first night. I got there a bit early and enjoyed a drink at the very nice bar and lounge area. After ordering a steak my server came by with a wooden chest containing a choice of 6 rubs for my steak. Ever had that on any other ship? The service was perfect, the
meat was really first class and the deserts are fun. This might be the best Steakhouse at sea, honestly!
So the next day at sea I had a leisurely breakfast in the main dining room. A very nice 2 level all glass room where I enjoyed a nice breakfast and good service. I went exploring the ship and had a late lunch in Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse. A BBQ joint with Micro Brewery at sea. Surprise, surprise it was good! With a limited lunch menu I decided I would have to come back for a dinner with the full blown meal and it was great as well. That night it was Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. If you like Asian Fusion this is a must go to place. It too was great.
After 48 hours my entire thoughts about Carnival, and their food, had changed. It was darn good and better than some other contemporary brand competitors. Other places of note are the Seafood Shack for lunch or dinner serving ala carte seafood such as oysters, crab legs, lobster and more. Bonsai Sushi and Teppanyaki (reserve before you go) and Cuccina del Capitano Italian Restaurant. Of course there is main dining with fixed or open seating as well a buffet. Plus a burger joint, a Mexican taco and burrito bar and of course a 24 hour Pizza outlet.
In 5 days I couldn’t do all of the dining options, but the ones I did get to try were well above average. The food and service where surprisingly good!
Bars, do you have any doubt that a Carnival ship would have plenty of bars? There are 14 on this ship ranging from Rum Bars, Tequila Bar, Sports Bar, a fancy Alchemy bar, a Brew house brewery and a piano bar and others in between.
What about the cabins? Very nice and most balconies are a v ery generous 230 sq. ft. with eithers 2 twins or a KING SIZE bed versus the normal queen. TV with movies on demand (extra charge). Nice size balconies and average bathrooms.
A Few Surprises you need to know:
There is an IMAX theater with 3D capabilities and really comfy seats. A Thrill Theater with motion and effects. Carnival guaranties their shore tours are cheaper than you can find ashore and if you find it cheaper they will give you 110% of the difference. This cruise was during spring break and there were hardly any kids or college students on the ship. Most people I spoke to were repeaters and have tried the other brands but keep coming back to Carnival because it fun, unpretentious (I stole this term from 3 couples) and the food is very good and the wait staff is so nice.
Here’s one quote from a late 20/early 30 year couple from Oslo Norway I am paraphrasing “Wow this is great fun, we don’t have anything like this on the European cruises we have been on. Do they cruise in the MED?” One final little gem; on deck there are the Havana Club Suites and staterooms with a semi private entrance. Private pool and Jacuzzis, bar and private day time
access to the Havana Club for groups. The bells went off as soon as I saw this complex for groups and take overs.
Overall you need to put Carnival back in the mix when you are considering a mass market brand. I had a lot of fun and the food and service were certainly of incentive quality. Call me for more details.