Okay deep breath, this is likely going to be a very long blog post. I am going to try my best to give you the good and bad of this most recent cruise vacation. Given that we took a different cruise and cruise line just a few months ago, it has been pretty easy to make comparisons. The other one is still quite fresh in our memories!
The Ship- The Carnival Horizon is Carnival’s newest ship. I believe it’s less than a year old so we had pretty high expectations. The pool area for the kids is nice and Elliott loved the super-fun Dr. Seuss theme. Something to note- it seems as though you had to be potty trained to go in any of the pool areas- kids or adults. On the Royal Caribbean cruise we recently took, although it was pretty small, there was a kids splash area where swim diapers were allowed. That didn’t seem to be the case here. So if you had two consecutive days at sea, like we did, in beautiful weather – not being able to put your non-potty trained kids in the water would be a big downer. This applied to the pools as well as the Dr Seuss water park.
In terms of design, the ship is more your standard cruise boat where there isn’t a ton of open areas and everything is pretty closed off and partitioned. I think we were really spoiled on the RC Symphony of the Seas with the whole “Central Park” area and basically EVERYTHING else on that ship. It just seems much more open and airy. It was gorgeous.
The Room- Our room was decent. We loved getting a balcony because one of my favorite things is just to sit out and read/eat/chill, etc. The room seemed smaller than the RC ship and another pet peeve is that there were only TWO outlet plugs and they are not near the bed so plugging in your phone and scrolling through IG in the morning/night is not going to happen on this boat. If you need to work from the ship and your devices need power, this could be an inconvenience.
The sleeping situation was also a challenge. On the RC ship, there was a couch that was made up into a bed every night and then a trundle that pulled out as well. So Emmy would sleep on the couch part and Elliott on the trundle. This time around we had bunk beds which in theory we thought would be awesome, but in reality, not so much. For one, it took up much more space which adds to the lack of space to begin with so it’s pretty tight. At least with the trundle it was a couch during the day and the room seemed much more open and spacious because of it. For two, Emmy refuses to sleep on the top bunk SOOOOOO my husband and I took turns every night sleeping on the top bunk. Not ideal.
The Food- Ugh. Where do I even begin? The food on RC was so much better- let’s just start there. They had much more variety and you had to wait in less lines (even though there were about 2,000 more people on that ship than this one). We found the vegetarian options on the Horizon to be few, far between and unimpressive. Also the buffets are pretty lackluster and again, not a ton of options. It was basically the same 5 dishes repeated throughout the different buffet areas – whereas on the RC boat, there were rooms and rooms of different food options, different ethnicities, everything, It was amazing. I will say though, the standard coffee on the Horizon ship was MUCH better than on RC. There is a separate coffee shop where you can get specialty coffees. We didn’t need it as their standard coffee was fine. Every morning on RC we had to hit up the onboard Starbucks to satisfy our caffeine cravings.
An amazing perk on the Horizon: you can order room service breakfast! It’s basically a continental-type menu but filling out a menu and leaving it on your door and choosing your delivery time was amazing. We could all eat breakfast, sleepy-eyed on the balcony while still in our PJ’s without having to head out to a buffet. This wasn’t an option on our RC ship. Also the dinner-dining is very different on the two boats. Carnival is known as the ‘fun ship’ and at the sit-down dinners there was always a little dance party. I found it super annoying but Emmy loved it, therefore I am now okay with it. But I would prefer to just hang out and eat and not dance and sing.
Oh yeah also- there were many times throughout the day when one of us had been hungry and there was nothing open except pizza and ice cream- literally nothing else. I never felt that way on the RC ship- there was an abundance of places to grab a quick healthy bite to eat or a snack or whatever.
The Service- The staff on the RC ship was nothing short of amazing. Everyone was smiling. Everyone greeted you kindly. The atmosphere was fantastic. On this ship, the employees just didn’t give off the same vibe. We loved our wait staff – we felt badly, they were working so so hard! Some employees really seemed to hate their job.
The Kids Club- The Kids’ Club on this boat was amazing. Emmy absolutely LOVED going- more so than on the RC ship. I am not totally sure why but whatever. You couldn’t see what the kids were doing at the kids club. They were in a back room so I really have no idea what goes on and you can’t secretly snoop and see their smiles like you could on RC. I do know that Emmy won an award for her dance moves and she always came back with her face painted and an arts and crafts that she made- so I know it’s not just a free-for-all. The other reason why we booked this ship is because their kids’ club is divided up such that Emmy and Elliott could be together (ages 2-5 are in the penguin club). However, Elliott didn’t want to go at all so in the end it didn’t really make a meaningful difference for us.
The Announcements- Oh my god the announcements on the Horizon were out of control. It was definitely one of my least favorite things (besides the food). I remember when we were on the RC ship, I said to my husband something about how they haven’t really made any announcements over the speakers and it’s AMAZING. Well that was completely the opposite here. SO MANY ANNOUNCEMENTS. Really it was almost comical. It seemed like an hour can’t go by without someone coming over the cruise loudspeakers announcing something or other. Not a big deal but oh so annoying…
The Stops- So one of the other reasons why we booked the Horizon cruise is that we hadn’t been to any of the 4 stops. I am realizing now though that I would prefer a better cruise line and ship over the stops. You spend so much more time on the ship than you do at the ports so I will not be making that mistake again. The stops on this ship were Grand Turk, La Romana in the Dominican Republic, Curacao and Aruba.
The Internet- Getting wifi in the middle of the ocean isn’t like sitting in your living room, that’s just the way life works. Not a big deal if you’re happy to put your devices down and disconnect for a while. But if you’re like me and love to connect with people even when you’re away, it can be frustrating at times. The internet plans on this ship also seemed pricier than on the RC ship.
One thing that was nice was that for a grand total of $5 per person for the whole trip, Carnival does have an app in which you can message other people onboard who also have the app. In this way we could all message each other without having to pay for a much bigger internet plan. It wasn’t supremely reliable but it worked often enough that it was helpful to us. It’s a great idea but not well-executed. They also block sites like Netflix, Hulu and YouTube so you can’t actually watch anything- another major bummer especially if you love your Netflix like I do!
Another nice thing about the Horizon was that they had self-service laundry available on board. A mom with a hubby and two kids without a laundry machine is like a fish without water. On RC the only option was to pay an exorbitant amount to have them do a small load of laundry for you.
I don’t mean to sound like such a Debbie Downer but I feel like my honesty about things is generally much appreciated by all of you. I am not one to sugarcoat things or say how fabulous something is if it really isn’t. Cruising can be an amazing way to spend quality time with your family and have an easy relaxing vacation. Once you figure out the logistics of getting the family to the ship, there’s really not much else to worry about. Just make sure you do your research if there are certain things that are particularly important to you. Also, like anything else, choose wisely. Prices fluctuate widely based on season and you can literally save thousands of dollars by choosing to go a week earlier or later than you had originally planned. Planning early will give you the best choice of getting what you want!