Carnival Horizon Review - 8 Nights Aboard Carnival's Newest Cruise Ship sailing the southern Caribbean (Grand Turk, La Romana, Curaçao & Aruba)
This is a 100% honest, 100% authentic Carnival Horizon cruise ship review. Dadtography was not compensated in any way for this post. Our last sailing aboard the Carnival Horizon was in January, 2019.
All images are originals taken by Dadtographer Daniel. Most photos and video you see were taken using a GoPro Hero 7 Black (af) and Hohem iSteady Pro gimbal (af). Photos are unedited unless otherwise noted. Please don't use our photos without permission.
An overview and introduction to our sailing aboard Carnival's newest ship - Carnival Horizon.
We put Carnival's newest Vista class ship to the test on our 1st cruise of 2019.
As is the case with most of our travels, we booked our 8-night southern Caribbean sailing aboard in the Carnival Horizon on a whim one night over wine.
Before our cruise, we had very high hopes for the cabin we booked (more on that below), the ship and the itinerary.
This trip would represent a lot of milestones for us - our first of 2019, our first on board the Horizon, our first cruise to the islands of the southern Caribbean sea as well as our longest family cruise to-date!
When talking about any cruise ship, you have to talk about the specs. How BIG is it? How many passengers and crew can it hold? Bigger isn't always better for all, but it's definitely clear most of the new ships are growing in size.
Below are Carnival Horizon's specs, as found on Cruise Mapper:
- Year Built: 2018
- Flag State: Panama
- Builder: Fincantieri (Marghera, Italy)
- Class: Vista
- Building cost: USD 800 million
- Owner: Carnival Corporation & PLC
- Operator: Carnival Cruise Line
- Speed: 23 kn / 43 kph / 26 mph
- Length (LOA): 322 m / 1056 ft
- Beam (width): 37 m / 121 ft
- Gross Tonnage: 133500 gt
- Passengers: 3930 - 4716
- Crew: 1450
- Passengers-to-space ratio: 28
- Decks: 14
- Cabins: 1965
- Decks with cabins: 12
- Sister-ships: Carnival Vista, Carnival Panorama
- Christened by: Queen Latifah
What itinerary did we sail aboard the Carnival Horizon?
The Carnival Horizon itinerary has since changed from the one we sailed in January of 2019. The current itinerary has it sailing the eastern Caribbean to Grand Turk, San Juan, St. Kitts and St. Maarten, leaving out of Miami.
Our sailing took us the farthest south we've ever gone on a cruise ship, to the southern Caribbean. This itinerary meant we would be visiting one of our favorite islands - Grand Turk, but we would also be experiencing three islands for the first time as well - Dominican Republic (Hispaniola), Curaçao and Aruba.
We've been on over a dozen cruises and have seen some wonderful destinations, but the southern Caribbean itinerary is now definitely my favorite.
What makes the southern Caribbean my favorite? Maybe it's that most of these destinations aren't frequented by cruise ships, so you just don't get to see them all the time. We've been to the Bahamas more times than we can count!
Or maybe that it is a longer sailing than pretty much every other cruise out of North America to the Caribbean?
Or maybe it's just because of the beauty and variety of the islands you visit? Actually, it's all of the above!
How are the pools and pool decks on Carnival Horzon?
If you're traveling as a family, like we do, then one of the most important aspects of a cruise ship are the pools. How good the pools (and hot tubs) are on a ship can make or break a trip when you have two boys like we do!
For kids, it comes down to how fun are the pools and other water features? For the adults, fun can be a factor, but more-so it's about how crowded the pool decks are when the ship is at sea. If you can't find a chair on your days at sea, that can be a real bummer!
There are three pools and one water park on the Carnival Horizon:
- The Beach Pool (main pool)
- The Tides Pool (pool in the rear of the ship)
- The Havana Pool - more on this down below!
- The Dr. Seuss WaterWorks water park
Overall, we found the pool decks on the Horizon to be busy, but not the most crowded we've seen. That award usually goes to the smaller ships like the Carnival Liberty or Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas.
We love Serenity Deck!
Our favorite deck is the Serenity Deck. We can relax there for hours while the boys go play. Serenity Deck was busy on the Horizon, but we still eventually found a spot. Some spots can really go fast, like the covered & padded lounger chairs. If you want one of those, you better go early!
The main pool (Beach Pool) is kinda "meh".
As on most ships, Horizon's main pools are found on Lido deck, which is deck 10. The main pool aboard Carnival Horizon is pretty typical - it's not really any larger nor smaller than pools we've seen on most other ships.
It's average. An average pool on a brand new ship? Yeah, a bit disappointing!
Another big disappointment - but one that's not specific to Horizon or Carnival ships is that the pools on board Horizon aren't heated.
If you're coming from a colder climate, this may not make much of a difference to you, but if you're from a warmer place like we are (Florida), cold pools mean no swimming for the adults, and sometimes even the kids.
We were hoping the far-south itinerary would mean the pools would still be usable, despite our January sailing, but the water remained cold the entire time. Yes, the destinations further south were warmer (in the 80's), but the days at sea sure were pretty chilly in the water!
Dr. Seuss WaterWorks is fun but the water is cold.
Aside from the main pool on deck 10, Carnival Horizon also has a wonderful waterpark it calls the Dr. Seuss WaterWorks.
The Dr. Seuss WaterWorks is super fun for the kids, and you know what that means, parents! That means they'll stay out of your hair while you can relax up on Serenity Deck!
Dr. Seuss WaterWorks has two large water slides and one smaller slide for the little kids. It's also got a number of other water features, including a jungle gym with flowing water, a fountain run, where the kids run through a wall of spray jets and a shallow pool area perfect for toddlers.
As was the case with the other pools, the water in the WaterWorks was COLD and that really discouraged our 9 year old from enjoying it on any days other than the warmest. We hope to make it back on board during warmer months to give it a try again.
How are the rooms on the Carnival Horizon?
(and what's the difference between a balcony and a cove balcony?)
Whether you camp out in your room or barely spend any time there at all, the stateroom still serves as your home base while sailing on the Carnival Horizon.
My family and I have really grown to prefer balcony staterooms, but they can come at a premium over inside staterooms.
Each type of room has its plusses and minuses and inside vs outside staterooms has been debated for years. We won't rehash those points here.
For our January, 2019 sailing, my family and I decided to try something new - we booked a Cove Balcony room for our trip.
As mentioned, we've really grown fond of staying in balcony staterooms on our cruises - usually in deck 6 or above.
But with this sailing aboard the Carnival Horizon, we decided to try something a little different and unique to the Vista class ships. We booked a Cove Balcony stateroom.
Cove Balconies are found on deck 2 of the Carnival Horizon and offer many of the benefits of a balcony, usually at a somewhat lower price.
Naturally, with the Cove Balcony being lower on the ship the view may not be quite a good. In addition, the balcony essentially is a large portal, rather than a fully open view as you would find on higher decks' balconies.
That said, one big benefit we noticed related to the sun and room temperature. The lower deck Cove Balcony was much more shaded than on higher decks. We often had a shaded balcony even when the sun was on our side of the ship or midday.
Being able to use our balcony, even when it was sunny out, was a very nice surprise.
You also get the benefit of a slightly larger room than an interior room, and we paid about 20% less than a higher deck balcony when we booked.
How are the buffets and restaurants on the Carnival Horizon?
When it comes to cruising, food is one of the most frequent aspects I am asked about. We reviewed a comparison of food between Carnival and Royal Caribbean after sailing aboard each a number of times.
The conclusion I came to was that, for the most part the food is better on Royal Caribbean than on Carnival.
That said, with Horizon as Carnival's newest ship, we really hoped (expected?) everything dining related would be better.
Let me say the food was good on Carnival Horizon, however, there was definitely a lack of variety in the buffets especially. The Lido deck buffet seemed a bit smaller to me than it should have been. I'm not sure if the size contributes to the lack of variety in the food they're able to serve, but that aspect of dining aboard Horizon was definitely a disappointment.
Carnival Horizon Dining Breakdown
Guy's Pig & Anchor
An indoor (bar) and outdoor, counter service establishment on deck 5 where they serve bar-b-que smokehouse classics like pulled pork, beef brisket and chicken, as well as all the sides you'd expect like mac-n-cheese, baked beans, potato salad and collard greens.
Pro tip: there are two serving lines.
Another staple on Carnival cruise ships, the BlueIguana Cantina is on the opposite side of deck 10 from Guy's Burger Joint. My favorite time to visit the BlueIguana is actually in the morning for breakfast. They have wonderful breakfast burritos that are the perfect wake-up food (in my opinion).
Pro tip: go up a deck for seating with a view.
Buffet (Lido Marketplace)
When you're feeling more casual, you can hit up the buffet on deck 10 - the Lido Marketplace. There really isn't anything "special" about Lido Marketplace on Horizon. It gets the job done, but it won't wow you with its quality nor selection during lunch or dinner.
Pro tip: get there early if you want a custom-made omelette. The line gets long, fast!
Guy's Burger Joint
Guy's Burger Joint is now a staple across the Carnival Cruise Line fleet. We frequent Guy's when we sail Carnival because they have good burgers, made the way you like them and tasty French fries.
Pro tip: Don't forget about the condiments bar just behind the serving line!
Deck 10 Aft
Pizzaria del Capitano
The men and women that staff Pizzaria del Capitano really need to be commended. This place cranks out pizzas all day and all night long. They serve THOUSANDS on an average sailing. We love Pizzaria del Capitano - it's almost an every day thing for us when we sail.
Pro trip: We tip the workers at Pizzaria del Capitano. They work hard!
Decks 3, 4, 5
Main Dining Room
The main dining room is called Meridian on Carnival Horizon for "My Time Dining" and Reflections (deck 3, mid) for those with scheduled dining times.
The atmosphere of Meridian is good - you can definitely tell the Horizon is more modern than other ships in the Carnival fleet. It really shows in the main dining room.
Pro tip: what distinguishes a good vs. great main dining experience is usually the staff, so tip them well!
What's included and what costs extra on the Carnival Horizon?
Once upon a time, cruising was considered an "all-inclusive" experience. That's just not the case any more. I guess like airlines, they need add-ons to help their bottom line. As a cruise passenger, it's important to know what comes included with your cruise and what will cost you extra. Below are some highlights of what costs extra on the Carnival Horizon. I also recommend Carnival's Explore website feature as well.
Here's what's included:
This stuff costs extra:
What's the vibe and atmosphere on the Carnival Horizon?
If you're like us, you cruise for fairly specific reasons. You enjoy certain things about cruising more than others. For example, when just my wife and I cruise (without our boys), we are in it for the relaxation 100%. However, when we have our boys with us, ship features like pools, water slides and Sports Square really matter. Carnival Horizon definitely has a "Fun" vibe. There's a lot of stuff to do. Yes, Serenity Deck is there for those that want to relax, but it's difficult to escape the "Fun" entirely on a Carnival ship.
How are the shows and live entertainment?
A couple things should be noted about the live entertainment on board the Carnival Horizon - I wasn't super impressed with the venues on the ship, BUT I really don't sail for the live entertainment options like some may. I do have to say the live music in the Dreamscape Atriums was rather impressive (it was a violin trio). It was great entertainment while my wife and I enjoyed a beverage at the bar. I'd love to hear your feedback if you are into the live shows - which is your favorite?
What didn't I like about the Carnival Horizon?
Overall, my family and I LOVED our experience aboard the Carnival Horizon for our 2019 sailing. I think you really know what you're going to get on a Carnival ship - and that's a ton of fun. Carnival is great for families sailing with kids; there's just so much for them to do. And you know what that means, parents? Free time for you! I have to be honest, though, there were two things I didn't care for on the Horizon: the ship was confusing to navigate to me and the elevator system seems like a gimmick, but not really a time-saving feature.