A New Horizon for Carnival
Last month, I flew to Barcelona, Spain to spend a week in the Mediterranean aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s brand-new Carnival Horizon.
A sister to 2016’s Carnival Vista, the 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon had only been in service for just 13 days when I stepped aboard, after transiting Carnival’s swanky new Terminal E at the Port of Barcelona. I arrived early and enjoyed one of the best embarkation experiences I’ve ever had. Case in point: why not grab a coffee at the coffee shop located inside the terminal and then head out onto the second-floor terrace overlooking the harbour while you wait to embark?
I came to Barcelona with certain preconceived notions about Carnival Horizon. I expected a ship that was more or less identical to her predecessor, with a few added features here and there.
What I didn’t expect, however, was what greeted me when I stepped aboard: a ship that feels classier and more upmarket in so many ways, from the textured surfaces in the ship’s high-tech multi-storey atrium to the throwback callouts to the glory days of Joe Farcus and his eye-popping designs that characterized Carnival’s earlier ships.
A quick walk-though the ship before the muster drill confirmed my suspicions: Carnival Horizon has personality. It’s fun, sassy, upscale, and down-home all at the same time. And it should do a great job of speaking to the line’s diverse clientele, many of whom – on my rare Mediterranean sailing – hailed from North America, the UK and Europe, with the latter two groups being excited by the brief chance to sail with Carnival right in their own backyard.
Throughout the ship, Carnival has made adjustments big and small. My personal favorite innovations are the ones that aren’t getting any press, compared with the new Dr. Seuss Splash Park and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse
Hidden Gem No.1: the cool new Library Bar.
Past iterations of this space on other ships have been so quiet you could hear crickets, but this redesigned, relocated space performed much better on my Carnival Horizon cruise. A new lush décor scheme complements the self-serve wine station and the shelves of books and board games. The room is never going to compete with the likes of libraries found on Cunard or Viking but give Carnival credit where credit is due: most mainstream lines got rid of their libraries long ago.
Hidden Gem No.2: the redesigned Piano Bar 88.
Now sporting crimson décor and a new location adjacent to the oh-so-savory Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse. This relocation allowed Carnival to design a wall partition that slides open in the evening to allow diners to hear live evening piano music while they dine. Presumably, it also allows revelers in the Piano Bar to smell the delicious food that Fahrenheit is preparing for its patrons too.
But come 10pm, the wall partition is electronically shut, turning the Piano Bar back into the raucous, alcohol-fueled singalong that Carnival guests, including yours truly, have loved for years.
On any Carnival cruise, I always gravitate towards the Alchemy Bar, where mixologists whip up beverages on a made-to-order basis depending on your boozy likes and dislikes. On Carnival Horizon, however, I’ve found a new favorite hangout: Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse|Brewhouse. Which is a bit of a mouthful to say, so I’m going to shorten it down to “The Smokehouse.”
The Smokehouse offers up four separate craft beers brewed right onboard that run the gamut from Pale Ale to the delicious Smokehouse Porter. Carnival employs a full-time brewmaster (on our cruise, Brewmaster and Carnival head brewer Colin Presby) who oversees the malty concoctions, branded under Carnival’s own ParchedPig label.
It took me a while to realize that The Smokehouse aboard Ca