ONBOARD THE CARNIVAL HORIZON -- Before this ship got its
official name, Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy liked to joke
that it would be called the Vista Sista.
The two ships are truly as similar as siblings, with just a
few wrinkles separating the 2016-delivered Carnival Vista from 2018's Horizon.
One of the most noticeable differences can be discerned as
soon as guests board the 133,500-gross-ton Horizon, however. The Horizon is the
first Carnival ship to be equipped with "destination-based"
The Funship Towel Animal mascot strolling the decks. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
The system, which was initially intended for the Vista, puts
all the elevator floor commands on a touch screen in the waiting area, rather
than having them clustered on a panel inside the elevator itself.
Passengers punch in their destination, and a software
program assigns them the next elevator that is headed to their destination floor.
The idea is to cut down on wait times.
For anyone who hasn't encountered the system on land
previously, it takes a day or two to get comfortable with not having the
traditional buttons to push inside the car. The walls next to the elevator
doors look oddly empty, and one is left to trust that the system really will
deliver you to the desired destination.
Many of the features introduced on the Vista have been
faithfully reproduced on the Horizon without any variation, including the Imax
theater, the Family Harbor Lounge and the amazing Dreamscape columns that
anchor the main atrium and the casino bar.
First Call: Carnival Horizon
Up top, the nifty SkyRide recumbent bikes suspended from
their dual tracks circle the funnel just like on the Vista.
At first glance, the Havana Cabana section seems like
another duplicate, but the warren of tropically themed suites has been
enlarged, giving it 79 cabins, 18 more than on the Vista.
On the top deck, the WaterWorks children's water park has
been festively rebranded with Dr. Seuss themes, with Seuss characters prowling
the premises. Kids can choose between the red-and-white Cat in the Hat slide or
the blue Fun Things slide. There's also a 300-gallon Cat in the Hat tipping
Stairs to the water slides at the Dr. Seuss WaterWorks. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
In the atrium, Carnival has added new retail names such as
Michael Kors, Hublot and Kate Spade. But the biggest addition for the Horizon
is the Victoria's Secret store, the lingerie chain's first full store at sea.
Perhaps the greatest area of innovation on the Horizon has
been in the food offerings, starting with Guy's Pig & Anchor
Smokehouse/Brewhouse, a name that requires some unpacking to understand.
The Guy is Guy Fieri, the TV chef who has created a burger
concept for Carnival and also some complimentary BBQ pit stops on a few
Carnival vessels. The Horizon is the first ship to have a proper barbecue
restaurant, which accounts for the Smokehouse part of the name. It is open for
free lunch on embarkation and sea days and at dinner with a la carte pricing
each evening of the cruise.
The Brewhouse is a relocation of the brewery on the Vista
from the RedFrog Pub into the BBQ restaurant. Carnival's brewmaster has created
four craft beers intended to complement the smoky food.
Another area where Carnival has combined venues is
Fahrenheit 555, the steakhouse specialty restaurant that now has piano music at
dinner. That was accomplished by relocating Piano Bar 88 from an area down the
hall on the Vista to a space immediately adjacent to the steakhouse, where a
private dining room sits on the Vista.
Bonsai Teppanyaki is Carnival's foray into a Japanese griddle restaurant. Photo Credit: Tom Stieghorst
A wall divider between the piano bar and the restaurant is
opened during early evening, when dinner begins.
"You have live piano music while you're in the
steakhouse," Duffy said. "And then we close that off and go back to
the piano bar after dinner."
Another change in the steakhouse is dessert presentation,
which is done with flair and brio at the table.
The Bonsai Sushi area has been expanded to incorporate
Carnival's first attempt at teppanyaki, the Japanese griddle restaurant with
performing chefs who plate food with a circus-like theatricality.