A New Horizon for Carnival

Carnival Horizon, alongside at Cagliari, Sardinia. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Last month, I flew to Barcelona, Spain to spend a week in the Mediterranean aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s brand-new Carnival Horizon.

A sister to 2016’s Carnival Vista, the 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon had only been in service for just 13 days when I stepped aboard, after transiting Carnival’s swanky new Terminal E at the Port of Barcelona. I arrived early and enjoyed one of the best embarkation experiences I’ve ever had. Case in point: why not grab a coffee at the coffee shop located inside the terminal and then head out onto the second-floor terrace overlooking the harbour while you wait to embark?

Click here to read our Voyage Report aboard Carnival Vista!

I came to Barcelona with certain preconceived notions about Carnival Horizon. I expected a ship that was more or less identical to her predecessor, with a few added features here and there.

Welcome aboard the swanky new Carnival Horizon. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

What I didn’t expect, however, was what greeted me when I stepped aboard: a ship that feels classier and more upmarket in so many ways, from the textured surfaces in the ship’s high-tech multi-storey atrium to the throwback callouts to the glory days of Joe Farcus and his eye-popping designs that characterized Carnival’s earlier ships.

The atrium, with its soaring LED sculpture, makes for a striking entrance. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

A quick walk-though the ship before the muster drill confirmed my suspicions: Carnival Horizon has personality. It’s fun, sassy, upscale, and down-home all at the same time. And it should do a great job of speaking to the line’s diverse clientele, many of whom – on my rare Mediterranean sailing – hailed from North America, the UK and Europe, with the latter two groups being excited by the brief chance to sail with Carnival right in their own backyard.

Throughout Carnival Horizon, a decidedly upgraded interior decor scheme sets the tone for fun. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Click here to read our Voyage Report to the Bahamas aboard Carnival Elation!

Throughout the ship, Carnival has made adjustments big and small. My personal favorite innovations are the ones that aren’t getting any press, compared with the new Dr. Seuss Splash Park and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse

Hidden Gem No.1: the cool new Library Bar.

The Library Bar has a cool new look…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…complete with self-serve wine…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

….and a decent book selection, repeated on both sides of the room. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Past iterations of this space on other ships have been so quiet you could hear crickets, but this redesigned, relocated space performed much better on my Carnival Horizon cruise. A new lush décor scheme complements the self-serve wine station and the shelves of books and board games. The room is never going to compete with the likes of libraries found on Cunard or Viking but give Carnival credit where credit is due: most mainstream lines got rid of their libraries long ago.

Hidden Gem No.2: the redesigned Piano Bar 88.

Piano Bar 88 aboard Carnival Horizon, rocking a new crimson decor scheme. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Now sporting crimson décor and a new location adjacent to the oh-so-savory Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse. This relocation allowed Carnival to design a wall partition that slides open in the evening to allow diners to hear live evening piano music while they dine. Presumably, it also allows revelers in the Piano Bar to smell the delicious food that Fahrenheit is preparing for its patrons too.

The Piano Bar now opens right onto the fabulous Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

But come 10pm, the wall partition is electronically shut, turning the Piano Bar back into the raucous, alcohol-fueled singalong that Carnival guests, including yours truly, have loved for years.

On any Carnival cruise, I always gravitate towards the Alchemy Bar, where mixologists whip up beverages on a made-to-order basis depending on your boozy likes and dislikes. On Carnival Horizon, however, I’ve found a new favorite hangout: Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse. Which is a bit of a mouthful to say, so I’m going to shorten it down to “The Smokehouse.”

Instead of gravitating to the Alchemy Bar…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…my new favorite FunShip hangout was Guy’s Pig & Anchor. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Click here to read our Voyage Report aboard Carnival Pride to the Bahamas!

The Smokehouse offers up four separate craft beers brewed right onboard that run the gamut from Pale Ale to the delicious Smokehouse Porter. Carnival employs a full-time brewmaster (on our cruise, Brewmaster and Carnival head brewer Colin Presby) who oversees the malty concoctions, branded under Carnival’s own ParchedPig label.

Brewmaster Colin Presby in his domain aboard Carnival Horizon. Tours of the onboard brewery and tastings are available. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

It took me a while to realize that The Smokehouse aboard Carnival Horizon actually replaces the RedFrog Pub that has been a staple on Carnival ships for the past few years. I didn’t miss it, however: despite it’s décor (which I would not have considered to be my favorite), The Smokehouse became the place to be at night onboard Carnival Horizon, maintaining a busy (and sometimes jam-packed) presence for most of the evening.

After a full week onboard – including many days where I never left the ship due to deadline obligations – I came to the conclusion that Carnival Horizon ranks among my most favorite Carnival ships. She’s got a touch of the Fantasy Class whimsy about her, coupled with what feels like the spaciousness of the line’s smaller Spirit Class vessels.

Throughout, Carnival’s interior decor has matured…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…with spaces that would’t be out of place on other lines. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Carnival Horizon does a great job of catering to guests of all tastes, from the soothing Cloud 9 Spa…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…to the world’s first shipboard Victoria’s Secret location at sea. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Kids and adults alike will love the onboard IMAX and Thrill Theatre…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…and it’s hard to not like the whimsical characters outside…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…the first Dr. Seuss-themed waterpark at sea. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Goodbye, annoying photo wall! Want to see your onboard photos? Walk over to these kiosks and you’re set up in minutes! Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Even the elevators aboard Carnival Horizon are swanky…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…with a new “destination-based” system that lets guests select their elevator from a touch-screen in the lobby. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

The Pool Deck aboard Carnival Horizon is one of the best spaces onboard, with plenty of seating. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Kids can enjoy more active diversions up on deck…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…while adults can always find a quiet spot to watch departure, like this area above the ship’s Navigation Bridge. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

Nightly comedy performances are held in the Limelight Lounge on Deck 4…Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

…while the cool coffee bar on Deck 5 aft keeps folks like yours truly caffeinated. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

One popular return from Carnival Vista: the great Havana Bar. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

With its Cuban flair, this is the place to be for late-night music and dancing. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

With Carnival Horizon, Carnival has managed to create a ship that is bound to please. It has enough glitz-and-glam to stay relevant (and Instagrammable) for the action-seeker, while still offering plenty of window-lined public rooms and open deck space to please the traditionalist. Carnival loyalists will love her. To those who haven’t had the pleasure of a FunShip experience yet: this is the ship you should try first.

Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

As I write this, Carnival Horizon has just arrived in New York City at the conclusion of her maiden transatlantic crossing. She’ll begin a series of voyages to the Caribbean and Bermuda from the Big Apple until late September, when she repositions down to Miami for the winter. But I’d love to see Carnival do an expanded season in Europe. While I was there primarily for the ship, Carnival offers a great product in Europe at a super-affordable price, and our inaugural itinerary included a great mix of port stops in the Mediterranean, including Cagliari, Sardinia; Naples; Civitavecchia (for Rome); Livorno; and Marseilles, France.

Next year, Carnival Horizon and Carnival Vista will get another sister. Carnival Panorama debuts in December of 2019, and she’ll make her new home sailing year-round out of Long Beach, California, bound for the iconic Mexican Riviera.

Carnival Horizon bids Naples farewell under dramatic skies. Photo © 2018 Aaron Saunders

See Carnival Horizon’s full sailing schedule by visiting Carnival’s own website, or your favorite travel agent.

 

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