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BENHANDEL

Newbies on the Horizon, dec 23-29 2018 (Family Harbor)

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I know there are a number of fantastic reviews coming from this voyage, so I will highlight some of the things not covered elsewhere. 

 

This was our first time on a Carnival ship and our only other cruise was a 4-day with Disney. 

Like many newbies, I anxiously researched as much as I could, but still felt like I did not have all of the info. This review will focus most on those things that caused me the most stress before the trip and how they turned out for us. 

 

"Us" is me (43 yo teacher mom), DH (45), DS (16), DD (14) and DD (11).

 

COMPARISON TO DISNEY
Another poster wrote that "it's not Disney but it was fun." That was a helpful line to me and I will add a few more details on the differences I noticed. 

 

We chose carnival based on the price (approx $6000 for a Christmas cruise on CCL vs. $14,000 for a similar schedule/space on Disney...) and-spoiler alert- I would make the same choice next time. 

 

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COMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

1. Cleanlinesss, or rather, attention to detail, was not on the same level as Disney. When we arrived, our room had a dirty diaper on the balcony (yuck!), along with an almost-brand-new pair of expensive sandals that happened to fit my son very well (thank you!).

 

On day 2 we discovered a make-up bag with a set of expensive brushes that my girls appreciated. While the kids saw these as bonuses, I wondered what was overlooked if these items were left behind.

 

That said, our steward tidied our room twice a day, leaving more towel animals than we got on Disney. The twice a day service was what we would have requested had we been asked as others had reported, but he never spoke to us until about day 3, and never with a formal introduction.

 

Marvin seemed very nice and called us by name. I assume twice a day service was standard with the "family suite."

 

Edited by BENHANDEL
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COMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

2. Room layout and amenities:

 

Horizon's "Family Harbor Suite" had a similar layout to the "deluxe family balcony" room on Disney, with space for all to sleep and sufficient storage.

 

The kids felt Horizon's beds were bigger (and they were 2 years smaller on disney). I found the Carnival mattress to be very hard and uncomfortable compared to the clouds that Disney provided as beds. However, both had very comfortable bedding.

 

The biggest complaint about the room layout was that the "two bathrooms" on Hoizon included 2 showers, but one toilet, whereas Disney had 2 toilets. We made due with the CCL layout, but often wished for 2 toilets.

 

This is not something that would stop me from booking this room again. Of course Disney provides luxury bath products while CCL provides only the basics, but we knew that going in and realize we can buy the products for less than the price difference between the two lines. 
 

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OMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

3. Eateries and cleanliness: on Disney, it seemed you could not place a dish down anywhere on the ship without an employee whisking it away. On Horizon, there were plates and dishes strewn about. We often sat at a seemingly abandoned table and had to push dishes aside or move them to another empty table with used dishes (in lido, by the pool or in a lounge). 

 

 On Disney, there was an employee stationed outside every single entrance to an eatery handing out hand wipes. I think they even made sure folks used them. They also had employees whose sole job seemed to be swapping serving utensils every minute or two. I liked that. It felt clean. I touched more than one serving utensil on Horizon's buffet that had the grime of the prior user. That grossed me out. But I could wash my hands before eating. And there were not as many small snotty-nosed kids running around spreading their germs in the first place.

 

In all fairness, we are not generally fans of buffets anyway. And the best thing about Horizon is that there are so many great lunch options that we could completely avoid the buffet (except for the cakes-which are almost as good as they look and are served by a human on a single plate!). Horizon's lunch food options were way better than Disney's. We ate lunch at Cucina (pasta), Jiji (noodles), guys burgers and Blue Iguana. All were fantastic (and clean!)

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COMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

4. "Guest Behavior." This was an area of concern to me before our CCL cruise as it has been reported across many groups. UNRULY KIDS: We saw fewer unruly/unsupervised kids on CCL vs. Disney. This is probably because there were fewer kids and the average kid age on CCL seemed a bit older. We were in the family harbor area and only twice did I encounter a running kid.

 

UNRULY ADULTS: Turns out we are very boring. We were exhausted by evening and only once even made it to a late show. So if there were drunk unruly adults, we were sleeping while they were having their fun. We did not like the crowds and the general "vibe" at the main pool, so we also avoided that area. Again, if bad behavior was there, it was easy to avoid.

 

But there were so many wonderful quiet spaces on this ship that it was perfect for the "boring" types. In fact, there were more such places on Horizon than the Disney Dream. We loved walking around the perimeter of the ship or stopping at one of the cozy lounge chairs. Sometimes we felt like we had the ship to ourselves.

 

The Serenity Area was often full on sunny sea day afternoons, but the spaces were so private that it felt less crowded than the adult spots on Disney.

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COMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

MDR FOOD & SERVICE

 

We ate in the MDR every night except the 2nd night, when we went to Jiji (more on that later). We had requested the early/6pm set dining time (and due to family suite, our request was guaranteed). However, it was changed to a 5:30 spot in the ATD venue, in order to accommodate our daughter's (11) dairy allergy.  I was disappointed about the earlier time, but understood the reason. 

 

The service was AMAZING! Our servers (who I will not name here)  were even better servers than the team we had on Disney-and I would not have thought that possible! The first night, when our main server saw we had the Cheers! program, he said he would help us make it worthwhile.  He brought pina coladas for all 3 kids plus drinks for DH and I, or bottled and bubbly water, 2 at a time, "every 5 minutes" (unless we clearly could not drink more).

 

We did not ask or hint at this in anyway and it was that way every night. He brought the kids different varieties, so by the last 2 nights, I allowed them to request their favorite flavors (although I felt asking was cheating, while accepting was not...).

 

 Cheers! was another thing we kept going back and forth on  leading up to the cruise. We are light-moderate drinkers at home, but wanted to try new things and just not worry about the price. We justified the purchase when we saved 15% on our shore excursions on the black Friday sale. But if it were not for this amazing server, we probably would not have broken even over the course of the cruise as we simply cannot drink all day. PLUS it was hard for us to fight the crowds at the pool bars to get drinks. We will not order Cheers! next time but definitely had fun with it this time. (We also loved the servers at Pig & Anchor brewery and Christian, the afternoon barista at the Java Spot.)

 

But back to the MDR...aside from the amazing servers, the food was also quite good. Most nights we each ordered multiple items, so if we did not like something, we still never went hungry. Each night there was something that we liked very much.

 

They did an awesome job with accommodating my daughter's dairy allergy. Each night we pre-ordered the meal for the night before. On Disney, they offered her the kids menu and she ate chicken nuggets and plain pasta for every meal. Our CCL server never even mentioned a "kids" menu and DD tried more new foods in this 6 days than she has in her life. They tried to adapt almost everything to be dairy free, and only a couple of them didn't work. The one night we went to Jiji and missed ordering in the MDR, the server "guessed" and submitted an order for 2 apps, 2 entrees, and 2 sides. He nailed it. Wow!

 

Allergy-friendly desserts were a challenge, especially for a kid who hates chocolate, but she was happy with sorbet and fresh fruit nightly. 

 

And about Jiji...wow. Just wow. One of the best meals I have had in my life. The allergy girl kept begging to go back a second night (asian is her favorite food-genre because it tends to be safe for her) and the 2 teens who are indifferent or avoidant of asian food agreed it was the best meal of the trip. When choosing a ship in the future, a Jiji onboard would be a tie-breaker, lol. 

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COMPARISON TO DISNEY

 

Youth clubs

 

From a parent's eye, Disney seemed to have the edge, in size, schedule and amenities. But all three kids preferred the kids venues on CCL. So my takeaway is that Disney was more "bells and whistles" than substance.

 

My younger girls barely spent any time in the Disney clubs. They were split into different age groups and preferred to hang out together or with us.

 

On CCL, the younger one was 6 weeks away from the 12-14 age group and they allowed her to "age up" to be with her sister. They both reported that the CCL staff were more "personal." They said on Disney, an isolated kid would be pushed to interact with another kid, which made my introverts uncomfortable. They reported that on CCL, the staff would go play WITH an isolated kid, which would sometimes result in other kids joining the fun, and sometimes not, but that either way seemed OK.

 

Based on what they shared, I had no safety or supervision concerns. But...my older girl could pass for 17 and is as responsible as any adult, and the two stick together. The few times they joined with the older group, my almost 17-year-old man-brother would have protected them from any exposure to negative experiences. 

 

DS loved the CCL teen club better than the one on Disney. It seems this had more to do with the larger numbers of older kids than any scheduled activities. He met friends from around the world that he plans to keep in touch with "forever." He stayed out with them a bit too late the night before debarkation, but he was genuinely having rough feelings about leaving his friends and wanted to maximize his time with them. 

 

My more introverted girls, however, appreciated being together and did not see the point of making new friends for 5 days, lol. But they enjoyed the activities in the club, especially the "prom," the dances, the Wii tournaments and karoake.

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Other things that I worried about before the trip:

 

SMOKING. I have asthma and reactive airways so exposure to smoke is more than an annoyance-it is respiratory distress. I am hypersensitive to smoke and can smell it even when others can't. The smoke was well-contained to the casino, and could be smelled only a bit in the areas just outside the door. So as we were taking the stairs up and down to our room, I could barely get a hint of the smell  as we were rounding the first steps. Truly easy for me to avoid and did not waft anywhere else. 

When I figured out where the smoking sections were, they were also easy to avoid. They were up high (and smoke rises) and it was always quite windy. Although I could see the smoking area while waiting for the slides with my DD, I could not smell it. I was very pleased. 

 

I was also prepared for the "nightmare" (added for drama) of a neighbor smoking on their balcony thus rendering that space unusable for me. Not once did that happen-and we spent lots of time on our beautiful balcony. This may be because of the typical patron of the "family harbor." But that experience makes it more likely for us to book that space again in the future!

 

NOISY FAMILY HARBOR ROOM


Our room was below the galley and I am a very light sleeper, even with earplugs. I was worried about banging all night. There was no reason to worry. I heard a thud or drop every once in a while, but no worse than if we had a jumpy kid in the room above. The rest of my family (not light sleepers) never heard a thing. I may have been lucky, but I would not hesitate to book in the family harbor.

 

ROOM AIR CONDITIONING

 

We like to sleep very cool. Temp control was perfect. Temp all the way down at night got a bit chilly by morning and we kept it at a higher temp during the day. Humidity from showers was well-managed and we could keep it cool when using a blow dryer. Swim suits also dried pretty well in our room/bathroom. 

 

COVE BALCONY


LOVED IT! Our disney balcony was on the 4th or 5th floor. We preferred the privacy and closeness to the water of the cove balcony. Horizon's balcony was also larger than Disney's, making it easier for all of us to enjoy. It was wet a couple of times, so I did not go out with bare feet, but the seats were always dry.

 

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Other things that I worried about before the trip:

 

SMOKING. I have asthma and reactive airways so exposure to smoke is more than an annoyance-it is respiratory distress. I am hypersensitive to smoke and can smell it even when others can't. The smoke was well-contained to the casino, and could be smelled only a bit in the areas just outside the door. So as we were taking the stairs up and down to our room, I could barely get a hint of the smell  as we were rounding the first steps. Truly easy for me to avoid and did not waft anywhere else. 

When I figured out where the smoking sections were, they were also easy to avoid. They were up high (and smoke rises) and it was always quite windy. Although I could see the smoking area while waiting for the slides with my DD, I could not smell it. I was very pleased. 

 

I was also prepared for the "nightmare" (added for drama) of a neighbor smoking on their balcony thus rendering that space unusable for me. Not once did that happen-and we spent lots of time on our beautiful balcony. This may be because of the typical patron of the "family harbor." But that experience makes it more likely for us to book that space again in the future!

 

NOISY FAMILY HARBOR ROOM


Our room was below the galley and I am a very light sleeper, even with earplugs. I was worried about banging all night. There was no reason to worry. I heard a thud or drop every once in a while, but no worse than if we had a jumpy kid in the room above. The rest of my family (not light sleepers) never heard a thing. I may have been lucky, but I would not hesitate to book in the family harbor.

 

ROOM AIR CONDITIONING

 

We like to sleep very cool. Temp control was perfect. Temp all the way down at night got a bit chilly by morning and we kept it at a higher temp during the day. Humidity from showers was well-managed and we could keep it cool when using a blow dryer. Swim suits also dried pretty well in our room/bathroom. 

 

COVE BALCONY


LOVED IT! Our disney balcony was on the 4th or 5th floor. We preferred the privacy and closeness to the water of the cove balcony. Horizon's balcony was also larger than Disney's, making it easier for all of us to enjoy. It was wet a couple of times, so I did not go out with bare feet, but the seats were always dry.

 

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Overall, we loved the Horizon and Carnival's service staff. And factoring in the price differences for a family of 5 traveling at peak season, CCL is a great value and I will not hesitate to book them again. DS declared that CCL has his "brand-loyalty."

 

We have a short 4-day on the Imagination booked just for me and the kids with the sister-i-never-had-friend over spring break. And we are looking at other options for next Christmas break.

 

I ended up writing much more than anticipated, but this review would have been helpful to me as a nervous newbie. I have appreciated reading others' experiences as I have been planning. thanks for any of you who read this far!

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I'm so glad to hear your family enjoyed the cruise! And I was appreciative of your feedback since some of it reflects concerns I've had too, even though I'm a fairly experienced cruiser!

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I appreciated your fair comparisons to Disney Cruise Lines. Disney ships are smaller than Horizon, but they get their food and beverages from the same suppliers as Carnival. Cleanliness is stressed more on Disney as the tradition is if an employee sees trash, they "own" it. I think Carnival has a habit of not working harder than the people around you, and Carnival has cut staffing to the bone, so sometimes things are not "ship shape."  Cleanliness on Carnival ships never rises to the level that a complaint be made because there is some mustard on the side of the container. 

 

I have cruised Inspiration several times, and enjoyed it fully. The service is as good as anywhere, the dining is as good as any tablecloth eatery in Beverly Hills, and sure there are a lot of people, but it is not crowded. 

 

I've going to Catalina for 60 years, back when they had a pier and a big white steamship to take you there. The pier burned down and the steamship was scrapped. The trip on the Inspiration is so much better, and the tenders are nice in that they don't dump the whole crowd on the little village at once. You will have a great time in Catalina and Ensenada.  

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9 hours ago, Moviela said:

I appreciated your fair comparisons to Disney Cruise Lines. Disney ships are smaller than Horizon, but they get their food and beverages from the same suppliers as Carnival. Cleanliness is stressed more on Disney as the tradition is if an employee sees trash, they "own" it. I think Carnival has a habit of not working harder than the people around you, and Carnival has cut staffing to the bone, so sometimes things are not "ship shape."  Cleanliness on Carnival ships never rises to the level that a complaint be made because there is some mustard on the side of the container. 

 

I have cruised Inspiration several times, and enjoyed it fully. The service is as good as anywhere, the dining is as good as any tablecloth eatery in Beverly Hills, and sure there are a lot of people, but it is not crowded. 

 

I've going to Catalina for 60 years, back when they had a pier and a big white steamship to take you there. The pier burned down and the steamship was scrapped. The trip on the Inspiration is so much better, and the tenders are nice in that they don't dump the whole crowd on the little village at once. You will have a great time in Catalina and Ensenada.  

 

Thanks for sharing the feedback about our cruise to catalina and ensenada. We are way more excited for it after the Horizon! We have compared the ships and know it will be smaller, but we are excited to check out the differences. 

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13 hours ago, BENHANDEL said:

 

We chose carnival based on the price (approx $6000 for a Christmas cruise on CCL vs. $14,000 for a similar schedule/space on Disney...) and-spoiler alert- I would make the same choice next time. 

 

 

 To me, the $8000 difference is no choice at all. It is true for Carnival and Disney that you get what you pay for. But the money would pay for another cruise (or two) after all.

 

Enjoyed your review and glad to know that your kids enjoyed it also. I have sailed at all times of the year and have never had issues with unruly children or adults. Maybe I am like you and just avoided the places where they might be. 

 

I know Horizon is a new ship and I am glad the smoke didn't bother you. Maybe they have gotten better about the ventilation?  Most of the ships I've sailed it seems it was always most convenient to walk through the casino to get somewhere else and even when closed you had to hold your breath when you walked through. 

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5 hours ago, GMRPHRN said:

 

 To me, the $8000 difference is no choice at all. It is true for Carnival and Disney that you get what you pay for. But the money would pay for another cruise (or two) after all.

 

Enjoyed your review and glad to know that your kids enjoyed it also. I have sailed at all times of the year and have never had issues with unruly children or adults. Maybe I am like you and just avoided the places where they might be. 

 

I know Horizon is a new ship and I am glad the smoke didn't bother you. Maybe they have gotten better about the ventilation?  Most of the ships I've sailed it seems it was always most convenient to walk through the casino to get somewhere else and even when closed you had to hold your breath when you walked through. 

 

No need to walk through the casino on Horizon. I will be prepared for the possibility of needing to when we sail the Imagination in March.

 

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Thank You for your review. While its been years since we have sailed Disney  but it is the Gold standard in customer care for sure. I also have asthma and a reactive airway. That's one of the reasons why I cruise since I know there is medical attention on ship. Good to know its easy to avoid I have found that to be true on most ships.

 

After about 12 cruises we are doing Horizon for our first Carnival. The Havana area won us over. Might be a option for your family. Less main pool chaos, I mean party fun times. 

 

Glad to hear your teens enjoyed the teen activities.

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