Carnival Cruise Line's newest flagship Carnival Horizon does the best job that I have seen so far in offering something for everyone on a cruise. I typically don't subscribe to the idea that a cruise ship has to be everything. Trying to please all types of cruisers generally leads to a chaotic and disorganized feel to these megaships. I think it's better to know what you are, have a laser-focus on the type of cruise experience you want to offer and then do it really well. That might be luxury, adventure, family-style, food-focused or a party ship.
However, Carnival Horizon carries about 4,000 passengers, and the line has designed a cruise experience that offers a pleasant time no matter what type of cruise you are looking for. The reason it works is because the ship has fantastic flow that uses a series of small- to medium-sized venues that stand alone as cool destinations within the entirety of the ship. You can escape to these spots and mix and mingle with others without being overwhelmed by crowds of cruisers.
I sailed on Carnival Horizon in the Mediterranean and was surprised by the awesome experience I had on such a big ship. Here are 25 things I loved about Carnival Horizon (plus, one thing that really annoyed me).
1. Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse | Brewhouse
This is our favorite new place. We love craft beers, and Carnival Horizon is the second ship with an onboard microbrewery (following Carnival Vista). This ship adds a barbecue joint, too, in collaboration with celebrity chef Guy Fieri. Four craft brews are available (Toasted Amber, Farmhouse Ale, West Coast IPA and Smoked Porter) and pair well with barbecue lunches (free on embarkation day and sea days) and dinners (priced a la carte).
This Carnival Cruise Line classic is also available poolside on Carnival Horizon, serving juicy burgers and fries included in your cruise fare. Don't forget the hearty toppings bar to add bacon, mushrooms and other items to make your own signature burger.
This place has all the fantastically delicious cuts of meat and hearty sides that you expect from a steakhouse. The decadent desserts and delightful music accompaniment from the adjacent Piano Bar make it a perfect romantic dining experience.
This comfy space features a pianist playing soothing tunes during the dinner hours. Then, the joint heats up later in the evening with sing-a-longs and a variety of other tunes as passengers gather for cocktails. Grab a seat right around the piano to be closer to the action.
Part meal. Part theater. The combo makes for a deliciously fun night with fellow cruisers in this small dining venue. (They can squeeze up to 18 people at the two cooking/dining stations.)
This innovative ride first appeared on sister ship Carnival Vista in 2016. Passengers climb into sky bikes that dangle from side-by-side rails that encircle the back half of the top of the ship. You get amazing views as you gently pedal or race around the tracks.
This is a challenging ropes course also located at the top of the ship. An easy track and a difficult route are available, and you can easily slide your harness attachment along the rails to decide which spans you want to attempt. You cross rope lines and slim balance beam-style "bridges" in between a series of platforms. This really gets your heart racing.
This is the ship's Italian restaurant, and it's worth having just a light lunch before coming for the big dinners offered here. Breads, pastas, salads, main courses and desserts come at you wave after wave. You can also come in for pasta lunches (no charge) at Cucina del Capitano.
A waterpark area themed with your favorite Dr. Seuss characters. It has a giant dump bucket, spray tunnel, splash area and two awesome waterslides. Kids and adults have a lot of fun cooling off here.
This lounge space is home to the ship's comedy acts and other fun shows. Limelight Lounge is an intimate venue with a variety of comfortable seats that all have a good view of the small stage area.
This Cuban-themed bar is the most lively dance area each night, with a band at the centerpiece of the bar on a stylish open stage belting out fantastic salsa and rhumba tunes. The bar features a big variety Cuban cocktail favorites including mojitos and Cuba libres. This bar also has outdoor seating and a pool and hot tubs open to all passengers in the evening.
This new cabin category debuted on Carnival Vista in 2016. These staterooms offer an array of special amenities and features. The cabins and suites are located close to Havana Bar and Havana Pool. The tropics-inspired cabins feature private outdoor patio cabanas that face the expanded Lanai outdoor promenade for inspiring sea views. Until 7 p.m. each day, the promenade alongside the Havana Cabana staterooms and the Havana Pool area is for the exclusive use of passengers staying in Havana accommodations.
Carnival Horizon's sports bar is the best place to watch a game. The layout offers big booths, tables and bar seats, all with views of the full wall of digital TV screens. Decor includes posters, helmets, pictures and jerseys of sports stars, and a LED ticker screen crawls around the top of the bar displaying scores, news and trivia.
This martini and craft cocktail bar is another hot spot before and after dinner. Alchemy Bar is a natural gathering place because it is located in the main corridor in an atrium-style area on Deck 5 amid several alternative restaurant locations. Passengers rarely pass by without seeing one of their friends there and then settling in for a Moscow Mule or one of the creative concoctions on the diverse and innovative drinks menu.
All the fun and active games are located at the top of Carnival Horizon in the SportSquare area. Aside from the waterslides, SkyRide and SkyCourse, you'll see The Clubhouse at SportsSquare, SkyTrack, SkyFitness, SkyCourt and SkyGreens. This is where you can play billiards, ping-pong, mini-golf, cornhole, basketball and even Twister. The jogging track and two sets of outdoor fitness equipment are up here, too.
This is a tasty and super-convenient burrito and taco eatery located by the pool. This is our favorite spot for breakfast burritos, as well as lunch and anytime snacks. You'll find plenty of spice options at the salsa bar, which also feature slices of watermelon and fresh limes.
The secret gem of this area that serves as a large open lounge for dancing, live music, and trivia is the small buffet located near the rear of the room. This makes for a hassle-free quiet breakfast and lunch spot if you don't want to go all the way up to the buffet or wait for service at the main dining room for lunch. They serve salads and dishes like soups, macaroni and cheese, ribs and deli meats.
This place offers great views off the aft of Deck 10 and is an ideal spot to hang out for a sea day. The Resort Pool area features a medium-sized pool and two hot tubs and is close to the Tides Bar. You also can enjoy seating in sun or shade -- or wander up the steps to Deck 11 for more-secluded loungers and seats with even better views.
This theater on Deck 6 operates just as a movie theater on land, showing first-run movies (and charging for them, of course). This is a good option if you are on a long cruise and have multiple sea days and are looking for something different to do other than bake in the sun again.
Sharing the same complex as the IMAX theater is the Thrill Theater, which promises screams and chills as passengers feel winds, mists and vibrations in their chairs while viewing short features on subjects like nature or a scary or adventurous tale requiring a journey in a rollercoaster or similar herky-jerky thrill ride. (Fee)
The Resort Pool is the main swimming and lounging area on the lido deck. This is a smallish pool that offers shaded gazebo-style seating spots right at the pool, so you can cool your feet in comfort. A large screen shows movies just above the pool, and Guy's Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar are set strategically in each of the four corners around the Resort Pool.
This pizza spot is open 24 hours out by the Tides Pool. You can come by to grab a slice anytime hunger strikes. It's a great option for a quick fix right after you come back from a busy day ashore, too.
The centerpiece of the first area you enter as you board your cruise is Dreamscape, a massive swooping floor-to-ceiling sculpture that features LED lights showing colorful graphic art that changes minutes by minute throughout the day. The sculpture funnels up from a circular bar and large public space that draws people for live music and the themed parties throughout the cruise.
The variety of food here is incredible. This is a family-style dining at its best, where you get to enjoy traditional foods from all over Asia, highlighting dishes from China, Vietnam, Singapore, Mongolia, Philippines and Indonesia. The restaurant also offers a lunch (no charge) where you pick your own items to be stir fried.
This is the place for you people (not me) who love lobster, lobster rolls, crab cakes, fried buffalo shrimp, peel-and-eat shrimp, clam chowder, clam strips and snow crab. Pricing is a la carte at this casual restaurant located out by the Tides Pool.
I Hated the Fitness Center on Carnival Horizon
Hate is a strong word, I know. I should say I was extremely disappointed with the small space. I had the same complaint about Carnival Vista, the sister ship to Horizon, and I am certain many other cruisers felt the same way. I would have thought it wise to adjust the plans for Carnival Horizon to make the space more appropriate for a ship that regularly carries almost 4,000 passengers.
The gym offers a small free-weight area with dumbbells that go up to 100 pounds. Also, nearby and crammed in too tightly are the center's resistance training machines. Watch where you step as you take your turn on a machine as another passenger could be moving the handles of another piece of equipment uncomfortably close to you.
The fitness center does well by having plenty of treadmills and exercise bikes, but the safely usable floor space is limited for stretching (rowing machines are placed under slanted glass windows, and I saw more than one passenger crack their heads when maneuvering in the area).
The cardio studio is used for the challenging and fun Ryde spin class but is also an extremely small space for other fitness classes.
Being a person who rates a good gym as very important on my cruise, I probably get a little more worked up than most about this shortcoming on Carnival Horizon.
I probably should have just spent more time at the microbrewery.
Thanks for reading and happy sailing!