Carnival Horizon Expert Review
Line: Carnival Cruise Line
Routes: Four-night Bermuda and eight-night Caribbean voyages from New York City; six- and eight-night Caribbean itineraries from Miami
Families, multigenerational groups, couples, and singles.
Those looking for a small-ship experience.
- Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse
- Dr. Seuss WaterWorks
- Havana Retreat
- IMAX Theatre
Carnival Horizon is Carnival’s second Vista-class ship, and it’s almost a blueprint of her older sister, the Carnival Vista. As with Vista, Horizon feels light years removed from some of the line’s earlier ships, with a Caribbean vibe giving it the feel of a beachside resort as opposed to a hotel on the Vegas strip.
Technology is used wherever possible to enhance the experience aboard Horizon, from the way facial recognition software is incorporated at the Pixels Photo Gallery to the Wearable Tech outlet in the shopping area. But the technical aspect passengers will most appreciate is the vastly improved internet, which makes it easier to stay connected while at sea for as little as $5 per day.
The ship also features "smart elevators" which aim to improve traffic flow. Guests select their desired floor at the elevator bank (as opposed to after boarding) and are told which specific car to take when it arrives, avoiding the painstaking process of every elevator essentially stopping at every floor.
When creating the Vista class ships (the third of which, Panorama, will be introduced in 2019) Carnival set out to reinforce the connection between passengers and the waters on which they love to sail. Thus, wherever possible, Horizon offers spectacular views and plenty of outdoor seating. Whether flying high on the SkyRide or kicking back in the aft-facing Havana area, this is a ship which practically demands that you take in the view.
That said, the ship’s interiors are every bit as breathtaking as the views of the horizon from which she took her name. Horizon makes an amazing first impression thanks to the fact that upon embarking, passengers are greeted by the three-story Dreamscape LED sculpture which anchors the colorful atrium. This space is the heartbeat of the ship, as it not only houses the Atrium Bar but provides access to everything from the Reflections dining room to two stories of shops, food outlets, and watering holes.
While you could easily spend your vacation doing nothing but relaxing, you might actually have to work hard at it, because there’s a whole lot going on at all hours of the day and night. There’s the SkyRide that allows you to pedal through the sky, and the ropes course that’s perfect for your inner adventurer. (Feeling only semi-daring? The course offers a separate path for those who aren’t convinced the whole dangling-above-the-deck-in-a-harness thing is for them.)
SportSquare features the requisite jogging track and mini-golf course, but you’ll also find unusual offerings like Twister, foosball, and even a selection of outdoor workout equipment.
Want to take in an evening film? The Seaside Theater screens movies beneath the stars and offers different themes each evening. For guests that would rather spend time relaxing inside, you can take in a first-run movie on an IMAX screen or experience a heart-racing adventure in the Thrill Theater. (Note that these each come with an additional fee.)
Deck 10 is where you’ll find two different pools. The Beach Pool, located midship, is the one that tends to get the most crowded… although, the Tides Pool — perched as it is on the back of the ship — is the place to be. It’s quieter, and features two hot tubs.
Adults looking for a little peace and quiet should head to the Serenity deck, which is reserved for the 21+ crowd. Some of the most comfortable loungers, daybeds, and clam shells will be found here, as will hammocks, hot tubs, a full-service bar, and even a salad bar. Unlike on some ships, the staff does a pretty good job of making sure kids are kept out of this Adults Only haven.
Not that the kids are left out completely: The Dr. Seuss WaterWorks aqua park is wildly popular with the younger set thanks to features like the 450-foot Cat’s Hat slide, a 300-gallon dumping bucket and more ways to get wet than even Thing 1 and Thing 2 could have dreamt of.
There’s an almost never-ending series of events — from Bingo and trivia to karaoke and dance classes — at deck 5’s Ocean Plaza, which has been expanded to feature a nice outdoor seating area.
And finally, if all this activity has left you worn out and in need of a little pampering, the Cloud 9 Spa offers a variety of massages, treatments, and more.
Carnival Horizon has four Playlist Production shows, three of which are brand-new. Soulbound is a musical journey through several notable New Orleans landmarks, while Vintage Pop takes guests back to the Great Gatsby era. But the standout here is Celestial Strings, which features a trio of live string players as well as inventive staging designed to play to all the audience’s senses. Amor Cubano: A Caribbean Dance Romance is the fourth show, which was first introduced on Carnival Vista.
The Punchliner Comedy Club runs family-friendly and adults-only shows throughout the evening in the Limelight Theater. After the late show, the space transforms into a nightclub with a live DJ and a whole lot of dancing. Deck 5’s Havana Club really comes alive at night thanks to live Latin music that keeps people moving until the early morning hours.
Live music is also a big after-dinner draw at the Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse, which replaces the popular RedFrog Pub on the Carnival Vista.
Food and drink venues are where Carnival Horizon really shines. You can grab a quick bite from Guy’s Burger Joint, or a burrito from the BlueIguana Cantina, both conveniently located poolside. The new-to-Carnival Pig & Anchor Smokehouse offers a mouthwatering array of free eats at lunchtime (although when the dinner bell rings, it becomes a for-fee venue). One item lacking on the Pig & Anchor menu is classic southern-style sweet tea, a staple at most barbecue venues.
One interesting difference between Horizon and other Carnival ships is that the line’s signature steakhouse — Fahrenheit 555 — now features live music thanks to the piano bar being located right next door. When it’s time for the piano bar to get a bit rowdier, a soundproof door separates the two venues, allowing diners to enjoy their meal even as the piano bar begins to rock out.
Another new-to-Carnival venue is Bonsai Teppanyaki. Taken from the Japanese steakhouse experience, this is dinner and a show combined thanks to the chefs whose amazing knife skills and witty banter keep passengers entertained while their meal is being prepared. Be warned: The for-fee venue does three seatings a night, with 16 guests at each, so if this hot spot is a must-do for your crew, make a reservation. (Don’t get in? Well, you can always enjoy some hand-rolled sushi — while sitting inside or out — at Bonsai Sushi.)
Two longtime Carnival favorites, Cucina del Capitano and JiJi Asian Kitchen, can be found on deck 11. Each offers a limited complimentary lunch menu, while dinner comes at a flat fee of $15 per person for adults and $5 for kids under 12.
The a la carte New England inspired Seafood Shack and the around the clock complimentary Pizzeria del Capitano are both located on the back of the ship. And this plethora of food options doesn’t even include the Lido Deck Marketplace buffet or the two main dining rooms.
Carnival knows that it caters to more families than any other cruise line, and it’s one of the reasons they offer such staterooms ranging from a simple interior to the Grand Suite (featuring an 85-square foot balcony), with pricing options to match.
Having proven popular on the Carnival Vista, the Family Harbor staterooms — complete with a shared lounge offering a breakfast buffet, 24-hour ice cream, video games and more — have been replicated here.
Likewise, the Havana staterooms — guests of whom have exclusive daytime access to the Havana Retreat area, including its pool and hot tubs — proved so popular on Vista that additional units have been added on this ship. Be advised, the Havana staterooms, which come in a variety of categories, book quickly, so if you’re looking to snag one, don’t hesitate.
Kids & Teens:
With all those kids on board, Carnival works hard to keep them entertained. Camp Ocean offers a variety of supervised, age-based group activities for kids 2-11, all of which have a nautical theme. For the 12-14 year-old set, there’s Circle C, while Club O2 is where the 15-17 year-olds can be found. And proving that fun truly knows no age limit, the whole family will enjoy hanging out at Dr. Seuss Bookville, which is almost as colorful and unique as the creations found in the author’s books, around which the space is designed. And don’t miss the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast with The Cat in the Hat and Friends, where they prepare breakfast item made famous in the legendary Dr. Seuss book.
Finally, parents looking for a little alone time can take advantage of the Night Owls program, where for a nominal fee, kids 11 and under will be well cared for until 1 a.m.!