Last week, my Google, Amazon, and Facebook Photos all reminded me of the Caribbean cruise I took on the Carnival Horizon just a year prior. It feels more like a lifetime ago. It was one of the last cruises before the complete shutdown of the cruise industry. It’s hard to believe a whole year has gone by since any of the cruise lines in North America have sailed a ship full of passengers.
In the spirit of remembering the better days of fun on the high seas, I thought we’d take a look back on the highlights of this cruise in hopes of one day being able to cruise again.
This is one of the most relaxing spots on the ship on a sea day, and I spent quite a bit of time out here. While people are on the Lido Deck fighting for loungers around the pools or in the adults-only Serenity area, the padded loungers on The Lanai on Deck 5 were almost always empty. It was perfect. It was quiet with a beautiful ocean breeze. Even better, the overhang made it so easy to get shade here if you wanted it. The Ocean Plaza Bar and Restrooms were only steps away, making it a great place to camp out with a book.
The Sports Square
Most of Carnival’s newest ships have the Sports Square, but the area on the Vista, Horizon, and Panorama take that to the next level. It’s a huge area full of games to keep anyone busy. They have mini-golf, pool, twister, corn hole, foosball, and more. Unfortunately, these pool tables are not the gyroscope-stabilized ones that you’ll find on Royal Caribbean’s ships, so the balls will roll all over the place if the ship is really moving. This area got a little crowded on the first sea day, but it wasn’t too bad at all after that. It’s open at night, so you can enjoy a post-dinner game of shuffleboard or mini-golf. The Sports Square also has an indoor area with ping pong and some other games if it’s raining outside.
The area is also home to two thrill attractions, the SkyCourse and the SkyRide. The SkyCourse is a staple on many of Carnival’s newest ships. Navigate different obstacles as you’re suspended 20 ft above the deck and hundreds of feet over the ocean. I loved that it doesn’t really push you physically, but mentally it sends you for a loop. I could literally feel my heart pounding almost out of my chest at some points. You can learn more about the SkyCourse here.
The SkyRide is an exclusive feature to the Carnival Vista, Horizon, and Panorama. It’s basically a bike suspended from a track that goes around the whole sports deck and, at some places, hangs 50 feet above the Lanai. What you don’t see from the ground is that the track has different elevations, so at some point, you pick up speed as you go down a hill. It’s a neat experience but nothing I had to do again. To avoid lines, go right after the muster drill on Day 1; we were on the SkyRide in less than 5 minutes.
The restaurants on the Horizon were all pretty impressive in terms of décor and food. The Lido Buffet was enormous, with tons of different seating options and locations. Unlike other cruises, I never struggled to find a place to sit on the Horizon. You could choose from many kinds of food, or just walk outside for pizza, burgers, or burritos. I loved the feel of the main dining room as well. They ditched the more stuffy feel of the older Carnival ships and went with a modern look: lots of rich colors, wood tones, and no more white table clothes. It works well.
The specialty restaurants on this ship also looked terrific. You wouldn’t even realize you were on a cruise ship in many of them. I loved the feel of Guy’s Pig and Anchor Smokehouse and Brewhouse; industrial and gritty with a warm feeling to it. We got quite a few drinks there throughout the cruise, and we did the brewery tour as well. We had dinner there one night, and while the food was good, I missed the dining room that night. This restaurant usually has an extra charge where you pay a’la cart, but it was free as part of an experiment on this sailing. In preparation for the Mardi Gras sailing, Carnival was trying to see if people were offered more free specialty restaurant dinner options, would they take them up on it and skip the main dining room. Honestly, the food here was no better than the free BBQ they have outside on sea days, but I don’t think it’s a fair representation of how the food usually is. For example, they got rid of many of the staples since they would be serving so many more people. I am still disappointed that they got rid of Guy Fierri’s Trash Can Nachos as I had been waiting a long time to try them; everyone says they’re amazing.
Carnival is known for their high-energy entertainment and parties, and this cruise was no different. Even though we were on the verge of COVID taking over the world and our itinerary changed due to ports no longer accepting cruise ships, spirits were still high. It’s odd seeing these pictures now; crowds of thousands of people with no masks, no social distancing, and no worries. You could feel the energy in the air, people dancing and singing at the top of their lungs. While the cruise director, Donkey, wasn’t one of my favorites, everyone still had an amazing time.
Since this was the second to last before the cruise industry’s COVID shut down, people were more aware than usual of cleanliness. At that point, we didn’t really know how COVID spread, and there was only 1 case in the US, so the threat seemed a bit distant. The staff was doing an amazing job at cleaning, though, constantly wiping down surfaces. Carnival is usually good at this process, as an illness can quickly spread throughout a ship. I loved their automatic hand washers in the Lido Buffet. They’re like a car wash for your hands; the warm, soapy water swirls around your hands and then blasts of air dry them, leaving them feeling super soft.
Recap – A Memorable Cruise on the Horizon
Overall, it was a memorable cruise and a great time. It’s bittersweet remembering the good times, but hopefully, it’s just a matter of time because we’re all cruising again safely.
If you want to learn more about this cruise, follow along and see a schedule of all the activities on the cruise blog below: