It’s a new year, and that means a new cruise. And there’s no better way to start my cruise than at the beginning: the day we reported to the cruise terminal. After a late flight, I arrived at the terminal about 9:30, only to be greeted by a massive line that was easily over a hundred people deep. While I’m always excited to be on a ship, I’m not exactly thrilled when it’s late and that means I have to wait in line. Luckily, my flight was delayed, so I was only a few people behind the rest of the people who were already in line.
After a one-year hiatus, Carnival Cruise Lines has brought back its signature cruise line, Carnival Horizon, on a three week voyage from Miami, Florida, to New York City. This is the first of three ships in a new “cruise revolution” for the company, and it’s a fantastic start. After a brief delay due to a fuel leak, the ship sailed out of Miami on time, and the first three days of sailing delivered on the Carnival experience.
The whole world knows what it’s like to cruise on a Carnival ship. The promise of cheap booze, all-you-can-eat buffets, and a little bit of romance at sea is an all-too-familiar cruise-goer’s dream. But there’s more to the Carnival experience than food, booze, and show. Carnival Horizon is the newest ship in the fleet—a sleek, glass-hulled motor cruiser that’s part of the world’s largest cruise line. But it’s not just the newest ship in the fleet; it’s also the first Carnival ship to offer true all-inclusive cruising: no charge for alcohol, snacks, or use of the spa or fitness center.. Read more about carnival cruise line news and let us know what you think.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear the Carnival Horizon’s return voyage from Miami was the cruise line’s first.
There were all of Carnival’s VIFPs (very important fun people) there (John Heald, Christine Duffy, Arnold Donald), a special guest star (which we’ll get to in a minute), and a palpable sense of anticipation in the air.
It was almost as if Carnival Vista hadn’t sailed out of Galveston the day before, beating Horizon to the punch.
But, hey, I’m all for cruise companies making a big deal out of every ship’s first post-pandemic voyage. Anyway, let’s take a step back and review the happenings of the day.
I was as weary as I was thrilled when I got at the dock. After all, I’d just stepped off the Celebrity Edge’s return voyage less than 24 hours before. I went home, spent some time with my family, and then boarded another aircraft to Miami.
While we wouldn’t have to wear masks on board, we wouldn’t be able to do so at the terminal. Even though you could only see the top half of people’s faces, you could tell there were huge grins hidden behind those masks, including mine.
Except for a technological issue that prevented individuals from submitting their pictures in advance through the HUB app, boarding proceeded well. As a consequence, after arriving at the dock, everyone had to get their photos taken. But, in the grand scheme of things, it was a small hiccup.
Our attention was drawn upward at one point when Brand Ambassador John Heald — who had been denied entry to our sailing — introduced Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald and Carnival Cruise Line President Christine Duffy, both of whom were clearly as excited about Horzon‘s return as the about-to-embark passengers.
One of the things I enjoy about ships like the Horizon is that as soon as you get on board, you’re right in the center of the action because the gangway drops you into the atrium. There was music playing, laughing was heard, and beverages were consumed, indicating that Carnival cruising had returned.
I wanted to get the muster exercise out of the way as soon as I boarded the ship. So, first, I viewed the safety film on my phone (and listened to the unique horn blast that signaled danger). After that, I used the Carnival HUB app to figure out where my station was…
… and made my way there. As you’ve probably read, Carnival has come up with a pretty ingenious way of making sure people don’t put off getting the muster drill out of the way ASAP. Once you’re on board and have ordered two drinks, your Sail & Sign card becomes virtually useless until you complete the drill.
READ MORE: Carnival Enforces Muster Drill With Drinks and Shopping
I was led to a crew member after checking in at the station, who gave me a short tutorial on how to put on a life jacket, and that was all, as promised. Over with the drill.
I began walking about the ship, trying to figure out what had changed since my previous visit. The other change I saw right away was one we’d been informed about a week or so before: in the casino, they’d removed the bar (which had functioned as a kind of center for a second, smaller DreamScape funnel) and replaced it with a circular bank of slot machines.
If they hadn’t been on board previously, I doubt they would notice the difference. However, I do miss the bar, and it will be fascinating to watch how its removal affects drink service, which will continue to be offered but from locations outside the casino. It seems a little pointless to have the DreamScape emerge from the slot machines.
I was starving by this point, and there was only one place I wanted to go on embarkation day: Guy’s Burger Joint. You’ll probably understand my obsession if you’ve tried them.
Continuing my wanderings, I made my way to the buffet, where everything was self-serve, just as we’d been promised. Staffers were on the lookout for individuals, I’m guessing to take away platters of food that had been contaminated by visitors touching them. During my short walk-through, I was relieved to see no evidence of this occurring.
I should have simply continued going and been content with my Guy’s Burger lunch, but I’m a sucker for pizza, and it was right there, waiting for me.
READ MORE: Carnival Horizon’s Miami Sail Away: 10 Photos
The sunbathers were out on the lido deck long before the ship set off. The pools, loungers, and hot tubs were all full with people. It was just another embarkation day, or so it seemed.
Before we set sail, I went to see my accommodation, which was a balcony stateroom.
A sheet featuring a variety of scannable QR codes is now one among the items you’ll discover in your cabin. Do you want to know what your VIFP advantages are at this time? Scanning the QR code with your smartphone will bring up the information.
Another sheet with a QR code is placed just above the phone. You may view the room service menu and make an order using the HUB app by scanning it.
This kind of QR code may be seen all around the ship. Want to view the Havana Bar’s drink specials? Scrutinize the code.
Remember how I said that our sailaway was accompanied by a special guest? It all began when the Carnival Mardi Gras, the company’s newest ship, startled us by floating by.
With the new livery that will ultimately become the standard throughout the whole Carnival fleet, the ship is really stunning. Passengers, including me, were straining forward as she flew by, attempting to pick up whatever information they could.
We got a good view at the BOLT roller coaster and the Summer Landing zone on the aft of the ship as she passed by. But the greatest part was seeing the whole Mardi Gras crew, who are still on board awaiting the ship’s launch on July 31st, line the decks to wave, shout, and dance.
Mardi Gras did precisely that when she arrived in the turnaround basin, and then acted as our escort out of PortMiami and into open seas.
I was beginning to feel a little sluggish at this time. It had been a long, long 36 hours since we had last seen one other. Before going into the main dining room, I strolled down to the atrium to listen to the violinist perform.
In the dining area, you’ll notice a few minor changes. For starters, there isn’t a community bread basket anymore. Instead, you can either order your bread from the menu (on your mobile device) or just indicate to what you want when the waiter comes around with a big basket. On a bread plate, they’ll offer you as much bread as you like in any case. A sugar dish is also missing from the table. Salt and pepper shakers, on the other hand, are present.
Dinner began with shrimp cocktail and a second appetizer, which was followed by a delicious piece of salmon. Of course, the only way to conclude my first dinner aboard a Carnival cruise in almost a year was with warm chocolate melting cake. I mean, is there really any other option?
I wish I could claim that after dinner, I went to a comedy performance or did something really fun, but I was hardly able to keep my eyes open at this time. As I returned to my bedroom, I stood on the balcony for a few minutes, listening to the unmistakable sound of a ship cutting through calm ocean waves. Soon after, I was fast asleep, anticipating our first full day at sea tomorrow…
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