Carnival’s newest ship, Carnival Horizon, sails year-round from Miami to a host of exotic Caribbean destinations. The second in the line’s successful Vista-class, Carnival Horizon is a 3,954-passenger ship that offers six- to eight-day budget friendly cruises. Our contributor Heidi Gollub recently took her family of seven on Carnival Horizon, sailing to Turks & Caicos, the Dominican Republic, Curaçao, and Aruba. Read Heidi’s Carnival Horizon review to see why she thinks cruising Carnival is a fantastic choice for your next vacation.
Choose Fun with Carnival Horizon
*Heidi and her family partnered with Carnival Horizon for the purposes of this review. As always, opinions are 100% her own.
“Choose Fun!” is Carnival Cruise Line’s rallying cry, encouraging folks who have never cruised before to opt in for the experience of a lifetime. For me and my children, this was a no brainer. We love cruising and we love Carnival. We couldn’t wait to get onboard the Horizon, the newest Carnival ship. My husband, however, was one of the first-timers. He had never been on a cruise and was a bit of a skeptic. It sure was fun to watch him discover that Carnival is like family camp—all fun, all day, every day, for every age. We were excited to try the latest southern Caribbean cruise offering from Carnival.
Awesome cruise for kids, but adults will love it too
You might expect that I’d start a review of Carnival Horizon by telling you why the ship is amazing for kids. And it is, of course, with a multi-level water park, Build a Bear at Sea, and a bike-ride-in-the-sky aerial attraction. But adults having a blast on a kid-centric vacation? That’s rare. And my husband loved our eight days on the cruise. He wanted to eat all the things, sing karaoke, cheer on contestants in the Lip Sync Battle, try trivia games, and learn how to salsa. His love of cruise life was contagious. Each morning, he would pour over the Fun Times brochure with the entertainment listings and set our schedule for the day. We watched newly released movies in the IMAX theatre, went to comedy shows, ate out, and spent time in the gym. It was like an eight-day-long date, where the kids were happy doing their own thing, so we got to hang out and relax. Here are a few of the things we loved doing together.
Friendly on board activities
Carnival likes to get guests involved in the fun and games, to make them a part of the entertainment. So, there are plenty of opportunities while on Carnival Horizon to compete in contests. From poolside games of musical chairs (where participants have to find crazy items—like a french fry—before sitting back down) to the Love and Marriage Show, contestants are the main attraction. My favorite event was the Hairy Chest Contest, in which my husband competed. This contest had him and his fellow competitors parading around the Lido deck, dancing through a carwash of ladies, and having his muscles inspected by grandma volunteers. I laughed so hard, I cried. It was all so outrageous. But my husband won, after being judged by the volume of cheers from three decks of enthusiastic cruisers, and it made his week. Everywhere we went from that point on, he was recognized and celebrated by our fellow passengers.
From R&B to vintage pop to Cuban music, Playlist Productions puts on high-energy evening shows in the Carnival Horizon’s Liquid Lounge. Some shows we attended as a couple, and some as a family. My husband and I took our youngest daughter to one show, Amor Cubano, which was her first-ever concert. She loved the song and dance numbers so much, she asked if we could go again the next night. But these shows only come around once during the course of a cruise, so make sure not to miss them!
Dance classes and parties
The performers from Playlist Productions also teach dance classes to cruisers throughout the week. So, my husband and I went to several Bust a Move dance classes, to learn from the best. Then, we had opportunities show off our new skills at the ship’s evening dance parties. The ’80s Rock-n-Glow Party was a hit, with a dance contest and, of course, the Thriller dance.
Punchliner Comedy Club on Carnival Horizon
Our teenagers loved the Punchliner Comedy Club, which had two different shows each evening. They kept telling us we had to go, so we gave it a try. And then, we kept going back. There were two comedians with regular acts for the first half of our cruise, and a different two comics for the second half. In our eight days onboard, we laughed our way through a lot of shows.
For Carnival kids it’s all fun all the time
In addition to the Fun Times, which lists activities for all, Carnival Horizon prints activity guides for kids up to age 17. From paper airplane contests to digital scavenger hunts, there is always something happening onboard.
Camp Ocean for Little Cruisers
Camp Ocean offers daily drop-in childcare for Penguins (2-5), Stingrays (6-8), and Sharks (9-11). Scheduled activities in Camp Ocean range from dance parties to themed nights with pirate games, lip sync battles, and pajama parties. There is even a magician. My little Stingray couldn’t get enough of the events and begged to stay in Camp Ocean until closing. It’s a pretty great feeling when your child desperately wants to go to camp with her new friends, which frees you up to take another dance lesson. Camp Ocean is free until 10 p.m., after which you can pay a fee for your child to stay longer.
Clubs for Tweens and Teens
For older kids, there are Activity Schedules for Circle C (12-14) and Club 02 (15-17). My teens found new friends quickly, and then took to roaming in packs around the ship. At these clubs, kids can check themselves in and out, which gives them a lot of freedom. It’s a great spot for them to meet and hang out for awhile, before heading off the Arcade or to the Thrill Theater to see a scary movie.
Outdoor Fun on Carnival Horizon
Carnival Horizon has decks and decks of outdoor attractions. Our first evening on the cruise, we explored the outdoor active spaces as a family. There are two open-air gyms with family-friendly exercise equipment, a sky track, basketball court, foosball and ping-pong tables, mini golf, pools, and hot tubs. But that’s not all! There’s also SkyRide, where you pedal around a track in the air, and SkyCourse, a suspended ropes course.
Evenings under the stars in the Carnival Seaside Theatre were my kids’ favorite way to get away with staying up late. Each night there were two poolside movies, including classics like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and recent films like Bumblebee. Popcorn was free and the deck chairs were cozy. The kids had a blast.
Dr. Seuss WaterWorks
Waterslides and cruise ships go hand-in-hand. After trying out two of the pools and two of the hot tubs, my six-year-old wanted to try every slide in Dr. Seuss WaterWorks. This involved a lot of stair climbing, but she was game and loved that the lines were short. This mini water park was a hit. When not playing with her pals in Camp Ocean, she wanted to be here, splashing in Dr. Seuss WaterWorks.
Carnival food doesn’t disappoint
The dining experiences on Carnival Horizon take the cake. Every bite, from the fries at Guy’s Burger Joint to the 24-hour pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano, was a pleasure. I tried all of the tortes, cheesecakes, chocolate mousse, and gelato in the Lido Buffet. And, of course I indulged in the never-ending flow of soft-serve ice cream. But where the cruise line really shines is in its signature restaurants. I made reservations at all of them my first day on the cruise, so we wouldn’t miss a one.
Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse
I was happy to get a table at the steakhouse on Father’s Day, which was also fine dining night. So, we dressed up and had an extra special meal to celebrate my husband. Here we dined on shrimp, lobster, oysters, and steak, and topped it off with a one-of-a-kind family style dessert. The chef came to our table and created an edible masterpiece right before our eyes, which was equal parts dazzling and delicious. It was a memorable meal, accompanied by live piano music and a roomful of fancy outfits. My 19-year-old proclaimed it to be the most elegant dining experience she’d ever had.
My teens love sushi, so we made a lunchtime reservation for Japanese fare. This small bistro was charming and ramen was the perfect comfort food. Prices ranged from $2 for soup and edamame to $8 for Teriyaki Steak. It was a bargain, so we ate too much. But I never turn down California Rolls.
Cucina del Capitano
We had two incredible meals at Cucina del Capitano: a fine dining experience and a casual made-to-order lunch. I highly recommend both. At dinner, we took our time, savoring sips of minestrone and tastes of Nonna’s Meatball. The kids made designs out of their complimentary Wikki Stix and the adults lingered over dessert. It was a relaxing evening of culinary delights. Later in the week, we returned for a complimentary lunch pasta bar, where we were given an order form to create our own pasta dish. It was a quick meal, with bread and salad, but it was a wonderful free lunch in a cozy Italian restaurant.
JiJi Asian Kitchen
Ji means lucky in Chinese, so this “Lucky Lucky” restaurant is not to be missed. We ate here twice, too. At dinnertime, ordering is family style and we ended up with way too much food. But everything we ate was delicious. I wanted to try it all. This was my favorite meal on the cruise, so I was sad to not be able to fit it all in. For a smaller meal, go on a day JiJi’s is open for lunch. Lunch is complimentary and, similar to Cucina de Capitano, meals are made-to-order. You’re given a pad to order your choice of rice or noodles, protein, sauce, and vegetables.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast
If you’re cruising with kids, don’t miss this fun Cat in the Hat themed breakfast. It’s only $5 per person, so spaces fill quickly. It’s best to make a reservation the day you get on the boat. We enjoyed this experience on our last day of the cruise, and it was the perfect way to wrap up our week of fun. Visits from the Cat himself, Thing One and Thing Two, plus Sam I Am were a great addition to an unusual menu of colorful food items. The whole family was smiling at this wacky morning of frosted waffles and happy tunes.
Room service on Carnival Horizon
Is there anything better than free room service? Every night I ordered coffee, cereal, orange juice, muffins, melon, and bananas to be delivered to our room first thing the next morning. At no charge! This was our first breakfast, because on the cruise we became Hobbits. After getting dressed, we walked down to the dining room for a formal breakfast as well.
The only problem with a Carnival Cruise is that you quickly adapt to being completely spoiled. Room service. A clean room with fresh towels each day. Waiters calling you by name. My husband summed it up well by saying, “I feel like I just found out I’m royalty and this is my first tour of the palace.” But, you’ll be back to doing dishes and laundry again soon enough, so you might as well enjoy the luxury while you can!
Cloud 9 Spa
My daughter and I took a tour of Cloud 9 Spa and I was amazed at all of the services they offer. Want your teeth whitened? No problem. Acupuncture, hair cuts, blow out? Also available. From a pass to the dreamy Thermal VIP area to a couple’s massage in a private room overlooking the ocean, the options are endless. We decided to splurge on hot stone massages. It was a good call.
Serenity, Adult Only Retreat
On the 14th deck of the ship, there is an outdoor extension of the spa that is free for everyone age 21 and up. This is the perfect escape for adults wanting their very own salad bar, whirlpools, and shaded lounge chairs. So, if you don’t go for the massage, at least you can pretend you’re having a spa day out in the sunshine. Put your feet up and order a piña colada.
I have barely scratched the surface with all there is to do onboard the Carnival Horizon. There’s also yoga! And towel folding classes! And excursions! It really is a vacation that every member of the family will enjoy and talk about for years to come. Even the skeptical husband.