We just got back from our Spring Break cruise on the Horizon. Our family included me (49), my husband (50), two daughters (15, 17) and my parents (78, 80). We have done 7 cruises together and they have mainly been Royal Caribbean. We chose this ship because we were excited about a new ship, new ports that we had never been to and the Havana area. We booked it over a year ago so we had a long time to wait! We are from the Seattle area and we were so ready to get out of the cruddy weather and enjoy some sunshine. I'll just break down this review into the different categories of what we experienced.
TRAVEL TO MIAMI: We took a red eye flight on Alaska Airlines departing on Thursday night and arrived at FLL early Friday morning. We pre arranged shuttle service from Larry's Limo's (booked online) and a brand new black stretch limo was waiting for us when we arrived. It was so fun! Our ride was from FLL to the Hyatt Centric in Miami which was about a 40 minute drive at 6:00 AM. We had used Larry's Limos in the past and were pleased with the service so we booked them again and were happy again on this segment (more to come on our ride back after the cruise which was not a positive experience).
HYATT CENTRIC MIAMI: Gorgeous hotel! We were there so early in the morning and it was way too early to check in. The front desk was very nice and accommodating as they took our bags and gave us a key card for access to their rooftop pool to hang out at for the day. This hotel is new and everything was in pristine condition. They mainly cater to the business travelers so we had the whole pool area to ourselves. There were dozens of deck chairs set out around the pool and a handful of clam shells. We had our pick of whatever we wanted! After flying all night long, we were dead tired and ended up falling asleep in the comfy clam shells. As the day went on a few other people showed up on the pool deck but there were never more than 10 other people there at the same time as us. It was like a private pool for us! My teenage daughters were loving the opportunity to sunbathe all day! Our room was ready around 3 PM and we got out of the sun and headed out to dinner. The hotel is located next to an upscale mall which was fun to walk around and have dinner. Would highly recommend this hotel!
EMBARKATION: We took 2 Lyfts to the port which were each around $12.00 including tip. The drive to the port was around 10 minutes. The drop off was so much easier than Port Everglades and everything was just so simple. We had a 12:30 embarkation time and we arrived around 12:05. No problem. We got right into line, through security and onto the ship within 10 minutes which included to boarding picture. Impressive!
FIRST LUNCH: OMG - chaos!!! Once we set foot on the ship, it was just loads of people standing around everywhere. Impossible to get around people and the lines for the elevators spilled out across the rest of the common areas. I'm a stair gal anyway and made my trek up to deck 10 on the stairs. My parents waited for the elevators and we eventually met up with them on deck 10. All I saw was lines, lines, lines and more lines. Ugh! We couldn't find a table that would accommodate the 6 of us. We ended up squeezing into a 4 person table and kind of ate in shifts. We all wanted something different and took turns on who went where. Yuck. This was thankfully the worst part of the cruise for us. Everything went uphill from this. I had Guys Burgers and it was awesome. I wasn't expecting it to be that great and I was crabby from the crowds and chaos but ended up really enjoying it. My husband had something tasty from the deli and my kids both had Guys with me. My dad ended up eating alone somewhere because he never could find us! I felt bad but wasn't surprised with all the people around. He's easy going though and had no problem with that. My mom ended up getting a few things at the salad bar because it was too hard to find anything else. After that first day, we avoided the crowds and never had any similar issues.
MUSTER: Boring and long waiting for people but I know it's necessary and it wasn't bad. The hardest part is waiting for all the no shows to finally show up.
SAIL AWAY: We went to deck 5 and hung out in the Havana area for sail away. We stood at the edge of the pool looking out at the aft of the ship and had a perfect view. I had a beer in my hand and life could not have been better!
OUR ROOM: We had a deck 6 aft balcony in the center. My kids had the room next to us and my parents had one two down from them. The balcony divider did not open and we did not have a connecting room so we constantly had to knock on doors back and forth to talk to each other. In the past we've always been able to take down the balcony divider and/or had a connecting room so this was different for us. It turned out to be fine but just not as accessible as we are used to. It was nice that we could look down at the Havana area and could talk to each other from our decks if someone was down below. I always knew where my daughters were and it made it so easy to find people.
The room itself was nice and was just as I expected it to be. I never really ever met our room steward. He was never present and available. Ever. My husband met him on the first day and that was it. He was also the steward for my daughters' room and they never met him either. On the first day, they found shampoo bottles and soap left in the shower from the previous guests and the shower was not clean. They never said anything (they never saw him) so they just threw away the bottles and soap themselves and took a shower the next day instead. Not a big deal but not what I expected. I really wanted ice each day but never had a chance to ask for it so I just would get it down at the Havana bar when I needed it.
HAVANA AREA: This is what made our cruise so awesome! I loved, loved, loved this area! I think we were down there everyday all day long! The people working there are so nice, the pool and the hot tubs were so nice and never over crowded. We met some of the nicest people down there and enjoyed seeing them everyday. I would never sail on a Carnival cruise again without having this area. It was worth every extra penny to be in this area.
DINING ROOM: We ate all 8 dinners in the dining room. Our waitstaff was friendly and seemed to have a lot of time to spend with us. So many people don't show up to dinner so it seemed like they had a lot of excess time to just chit chat with us. That part was nice and I enjoyed their entertainment they did most nights with some singing and dancing. It was always just a quick song but it was fun and had everyone in a good mood. They knew our names right away and called us by name every night.
The rest of the experience was not that great. My daughter is gluten free so she would order her dinner each night the night before. We had to eat in the dining room each night since they made accommodations for her that worked out so well for us. Otherwise we would have spent our nights elsewhere.
The food in the dining room was not good. Ever. I'm not a picky person but the food was always bad. The meat was always fatty, the pastas and desserts were dry, the flavors of everything we ate was just off. Then when we wouldn't eat everything or just a few bites, we were always questioned why we didn't eat it and why we didn't like it. It was awkward. I didn't want to say the food sucked every time they took it away. I would hear them asking the tables around us the same questions and see those people squirm too at their questions. Ugh. I am so used to the waitstaff knowing what our likes are from the beginning and making sure we have what we need each night. This was not the case for us this time. We had to ask for extra bread (we always went through the sourdough bread immediately) and when we asked for more, we would get more of the types we didn't touch and only one or two of the kinds we did like. We also had to ask for more butter every night. After 8 nights, you would think they would have our rhythm down. It never changed! On our previous cruises, the wait staff had our likes down on day one and when we showed up each night, we had everything we needed. This felt like a fight every night to get what we wanted and again it was just an awkward experience. Then at the end of the cruise, we were flat out asked to fill out the survey and give them a 10. I hate that.
FOOD ELSEWHERE: Really good! I loved Guys Burgers, the pizza place, Pig and Anchor, Blue Iguana and the Deli. All of these places had great food and I was pleased with my lunch every day! I also loved the cakes on the lido deck during lunch. I'm not a big dessert person but I had a few slices over the week but it was so good. I would have been content to just eat at some of these places for dinner instead of the dining room but we with my gluten free daughter, it was a better option for us to eat in the dining room.
PORTS: We had fun in all 4 ports. In Grand Turk we just hung out at the beach near the ship. We didn't use the free lounges (most were taken) but we only paid $15 for 2 chairs and an umbrella just a little bit down from the ship right in the front row. It was nice and worth the money. We also paid to go tubing which was so much fun! In La Romano, we just walked around the terminal and my kids had pictures taken with monkeys that turned out really cute. They wanted to do Monkeyland but it was sold out by the time we knew about it. In Curacao we just walked around and had drinks in a bar and stole a few minutes in the casino. Fun port! In Aruba we did the Kukoo Kunuku tour which was fun. They drove us around the island and then took us to a beach. Had a great time there too!
CASINO: This cruise was an "ultra" cruise which we were not members of. I have only been on 2 other Carnival cruises and the last one was 8 years ago so it was like we were new again. The vibe of the casino was not what I expected. All of the tables were filled with ultra members who were playing with different chips and they were all part of a drawing going on over the loud speakers the entire night. It was just loud and obnoxious. If I was an ultra member, I'm sure I would have felt differently especially if my name was drawn to win cash and prizes! But I wasn't so it was not a great experience. I felt like I was at a party that I wasn't invited to and could not participate in any of the fun. One of my favorite parts of cruising is going to the casino each night and this time it sucked. On every other cruise I've been on, I always meet people at the tables and see them around the ship during the day and we chit chat and meet up again at night. Not this time. It was kind of a buzz kill.
SHOWS and ENTERTAINMENT: Schwartz was our cruise director and he did a great job of engaging the passengers. In all my other cruises, I've never even known who the cruise director was or paid any attention and it was impossible not to notice Schwartz. He was fun and always visible. We had fun at the White Out party and the 80s deck party. He was teaching dance moves and everyone got involved. We also participated in the Friends trivia and had a blast. I thought for sure our group knew everything and it was a no brainer that we would take home that ship on a stick. Not the case! We missed 3 questions and there were a ton of other people in there that knew more than us! I saw one of the movies at night on the lido deck and my kids hit a few others. Great concept!
TEEN CLUB: Kind of a bust this week. My kids used to love the kids clubs when they were younger and now they aren't really that interested in them. I "forced" them to go on the third night just to see if there was anyone they could meet or just get some ideas of activities to do. I said they only had to stay 5 minutes but to just get a feel of it. It turns out there were only 70 kids on board in their age group and only handful of those showed up to the teen club during the week. The week before that had been over 400 registered in their age group so we just had a bad week i think. My oldest daughter turns 18 this summer so this was her last shot at a kids club so I was disappointed that they really didn't have any interest in it.
DEBARKATION: Slow. Really slow. We were supposed to be off by 8:30 and we finally got off around 10:15. Not sure what the hold up was. Usually we are forced off the ship by 8:30 regardless of what your number is. I have no idea if it's usually like this but it seemed unusual to wait that long to get off.
SHUTTLE TO FORT LAUDERDALE: We used Larry's Limos again for our ride back to Fort Lauderdale from the port. Our driver called and said she was waiting outside but since we took so long getting off, they dispatched her elsewhere and we got another guy who did show up on time. He kept calling asking why we weren't off the ship. Annoying. It's not like we had any control over it. This driver was terrible. Frightening might be a better word to describe our ride home. I honestly don't know if this guy was drunk, high, sleep deprived or just a bad driver. He went between 10-20 mph BELOW the speed limit on the freeway, kept drifting out of his lane the entire time and had absolutely no idea how to get to our hotel. We were staying at a hotel at the FLL airport so pretty simple place to take us. He started getting agitated and asking us to look it up on our phones and give him directions (as he was swerving all over the road). Then his eyes kept shutting and we would feel the braille of the lanes as he drifted again. I kept talking to him to keep him awake but I have never been so scared in my life. There wasn't a place for us to just get out of the car since we were stuck in the middle of the freeway. I lost count at how many people honked at us on the road (over 20). I didn't know whether to kiss the ground or not when we actually did arrive at our hotel safely. OMG - do not use Larrys Limos!!!!
CROWNE PLAZA FLL: I wasn't impressed with this hotel. Very small lobby and filled with people coming and going from cruises. It wasn't very well organized and the staff was rude. They were over stressed with all the commotion in the lobby and took it out on the guests. The rooms were actually nicer than I thought they would be and the location was nice to the airport which included a free shuttle for us in the morning. I wouldn't stay here again though.
OVERALL: Fun family cruise!