REVIEW: Set your sights on the new Carnival Cruises Horizon cruise ship. Christened by Queen Latifah in New York, the new 4,000-passenger ship has earned the nickname “Vista’s Sista” due
to the many similarities to her sister ship. However there are plenty of new features to ensure Carnival Cruises Horizon is not an identical twin.
The sister act offers cruise ship hits such as the SkyRide open-air cycling experience. Developed by the founders of Rollerblade, these single-rider bicycles are suspended from a dual track that’s 145 feet above the top deck. Enjoy magnificent ocean views while you race against a friend or stop pedalling whenever you want to take a picture. Either way, you’ll feel a bit like E.T.
Dr. Seuss Waterworks is ideal for when you want to cool off on a hot day — or just watch the fun of those who do. The Cat in the Hat is the centrepiece since it’s a raft waterslide that’s 455 feet long and pours you out at about 12 mph (19 km/h). Or try the Fun Things waterslide for a 213-foot winding ride that has special lighting effects inside.
If slides aren’t your Thing 1 or Thing 2, for the ultimate shower, stand under the giant Cat Hat Power Drencher barrel that pours out 300 gallons of water. Or wander through gentle sprinklers. To swim or soak, visit the Beach Pool or Tides Pool for other cool-off options.
The Ropes Course is a fun challenge that has you navigating narrow planks, ropes and platforms about 140 feet above the deck to hone your balancing skills while being safely harnessed. Located in the Sports Square, there’s also mini-golf, mini-bowling, ping-pong, a jogging track and basketball/soccer area. Or just relax or read a book in the shade as there’s more outdoor seating on the Carnival Cruises Horizon cruise ship than the Vista.
For virtual thrills, there’s the 160-seat, multi-sensory IMAX Theatre. Plenty of movies will have you virtually flying through the air or swimming under the sea from the comfort of you cushy seat. For more movies, relax in a lounge chair at the Seaside Theatre on the top deck. This 292-square-foot jumbo screen offers “dive-in” rather than “drive-in” movies, popcorn included.
To quench your thirst there are a dozen lounges that literally ‘raise the bar’ on bars. The Alchemy Bar concocts customized cocktails just for you. Tell the bartender – who is dressed in a white lab coat – the flavours you like and he’ll prescribe a drink sure to cure. There’s also the Sports Bar, Library Bar and Blue Iguana Tequila Bar to try. The Lobby Bar in the atrium is also popular for its three-storey, circular LED screen that resembles the shape of a martini glass. It features constantly changing images and videos so there’s never a dull moment.
There are a dozen restaurants so you’ll never go hungry on this cruise and for Carnival Cruises Horizon launches Bonsai Teppanyaki, the line’s first teppanyaki restaurant. It’s one of several specialty restaurants that charge a small fee for more sophisticated dining. The chefs’ juggling with utensils is as fascinating to watch as the Japanese cuisine they cook right in front of you.
Some venues have been moved around on the Horizon. The ever-popular Piano Bar is situated closer to the restaurants so diners can also enjoy the music.
Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse is now combined with the Brewhouse which were separate on the Vista. Craft beers and barbecue meals designed by celebrity chef Guy Fieri of the Food Network is a perfect marriage. Carnival also is the only line with breweries on board its cruise ships.
Another difference is Carnival Cruises Horizon’s decor. Many areas feature beige, black, white and muted reds — much different than Carnival’s usual bold, bright palette. The toned-down hues are most noticeable in the 1,474-seat Meridian dining room carpet and upholstery. It also features glossy wood-like dining room tables but no tablecloths. The lack of tablecloths is not only eco-friendly since it saves on laundry, it adds to the casual atmosphere for diners.
Entertainment on the Horizon is spectacular and instead of fixed row seating in front of the stage, chairs and tables are loose and can be positioned differently each night depending on the show. This allows the performers to more easily walk around the passengers bringing the show up close and personal. There are three new shows: Soulbound, Celestial Strings and Vintage Pop that receive rave reviews. Plus the Punchliner Comedy Club offers 20 shows a week that will have you howling.
Other cruise ship differences include smart elevators that allow you to select your deck before getting on and the fastest elevator for that choice arrives. There are also more Havana suites on the Horizon, popular due to their fenced, backyard-style patio as opposed to a traditional balcony.
You can be as busy as you like on the Horizon since activities and entertainment are always on tap. But if you prefer some quiet relaxation, head to the Cloud 9 Spa for pampering. Try the Aromatic Grotto, an herbal steam room that features sweet smells of cinnamon, orange or apple.
Or retreat to Serenity, an adults-only top deck of the ship that has cushioned loungers, shady pods, hot tubs and bar. Situated front and centre at the ship’s bow, you can say you thoroughly enjoyed doing absolutely nothing on the Horizon — except staring at the horizon.
The Carnival Horizon offers cruises from New York and Miami to the Caribbean. Visit Carnival.com. Some photos courtesy Carnival/Andy Newman