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Nicole721

13 Days, 8 Ports and One New Ship: Nicole721's FULL PICTORIAL Horizon Review

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I've never been to Italy and really love your pictorial reviews.  Thanks for taking me along!

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21 hours ago, ktmush2 said:

Awesome report so far Nicole! Thank you for taking the time to do this!

 

Thanks for reading! So glad you like it! 🙂

 

16 hours ago, E@syPe@zy said:

Nicole, you are quite the talented writer.  Of course your subject matter is pretty spectacular too!

I think I actually got a sweet whiff of the orange and lemon trees!

I too love going in local grocery stores wherever I travel.  I always find the most unique items.

Bravo on a fabulous trip report!  Can't wait for more.

 

Another grocery store lover! We just got back from Paris and brought home (literally) an extra suitcase full of French groceries Monoprix 😍

 

3 hours ago, georgiacat said:

I love your shopping ideas.  How do you manage to pack it home?  Carry an empty suitcase or ship it?

 

Empty suitcase, usually. We have backpacks from eBags that expand to the size of a carry-on piece of luggage, so we usually stuff our clothes in there on the way home and pack our goodies in our checked bags. If we buy a lot, we'll check an extra suitcase (we've amassed quite the collection of random luggage pieces we've purchased abroad to carry home our shopping hauls), but usually, we can balance enough between the checked bags and the backpacks to get everything home.

 

44 minutes ago, fyree39 said:

I've never been to Italy and really love your pictorial reviews.  Thanks for taking me along!

 

Thanks for coming along on the ride! 🙂

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On 1/20/2019 at 4:03 AM, Nicole721 said:

 

Ahh! Yay! I love connecting with other cruise lovers on Insta 😍 And my first trip to Europe (and subsequent first Med cruise) is such a special memory to me. I hope yours is equally as wonderful and memorable! Where will you be visiting?

 

We are flying from Melbourne Australia (30 hrs 😱) to London then Paris, Zurich, Munich, Prague, Venice, Rome - where we start our 10 night cruise to Florence/Pisa, Monaco, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Normandy, Southhampton.

 

It’s our first time in Europe so trying to cover as many countries as we can.

 

Kerry :)  

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On 1/21/2019 at 5:07 AM, fayfam said:

 

We are flying from Melbourne Australia (30 hrs 😱) to London then Paris, Zurich, Munich, Prague, Venice, Rome - where we start our 10 night cruise to Florence/Pisa, Monaco, Barcelona, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Normandy, Southhampton.

 

It’s our first time in Europe so trying to cover as many countries as we can.

 

Kerry 🙂  

 

Wow! That's quite the itinerary! Zurich is one of my absolute favorite places in the world ❤️

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Day 10: Sea Day

 

After three days of touring Italy, of gelato, espresso, long bus rides, beautiful boat rides and so much shopping, a sea day was everything we couldn’t admit we needed.

 

I like to think that I can power through anything – that I recognize my own limits and if push came to shove, I’d know when to shut it down. But the truth of it was that I had honestly never felt so exhausted and run down on a cruise before (including last year’s Baltics cruise, which was one of the most exhausting “vacations” I’ve ever been on), and as much ship as there was left for me to explore, as much as I wanted to do and get done, this first week of the cruise was the easy part – the part to ports we’d already been to, the part where we generally tour on our own.

 

So on our second sea day, my resolve to have a productive day was broken before I even woke up. Instead, I was going to relax, rest, as much as possible ahead of an exciting-yet-grueling schedule of four port days in a row to places we’d never been before.

 

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I didn’t get out of bed until 9:30 AM and when I looked out the window next to my bed, it was nothing but clear blue skies and smooth seas. The air was warmer, too, with our itinerary bringing us into warmer weather. Stephanie had noticed when she woke up that we were already sailing through the Strait of Messina, a scenic cruising passage. When we did our first Mediterranean cruise on Royal Caribbean, it was a big deal – the captain made a big announcement, people gathered up on deck and watched as the ship navigated the channel. The spectacle Royal Caribbean made of it made Carnival’s decision not to mention it on our Vista cruise puzzling, but I didn’t question it too much because we navigated it in the evening hours. But this time, we were sailing though the Strait of Messina in the morning hours, the perfect time to enjoy scenic cruising with a cup of coffee, and still no mention in the Fun Times or any of the Cruise Director talks. So, I’m telling you – give your Google Maps a quick search if you’re sailing into or out of Naples to see when you’ll travel through the Straits. It really is a fun, unique experience!

 

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We could have reverted to our general sea day routine of coffee and pool time, but swimming in temps that barely scratched the low 70s seemed like the recipe for extending the cold I was desperately trying to bring myself over, so instead, we hopped down to the Meridian Dining Room for Sea Day Brunch. It was no where near as crowded as we found it on the Splendor over the holidays, and we were seated immediately at a table right next to the water. We feasted on our brunch faves, we clinked glasses and toasted to the adventure to come in all these new ports and we drank a *lot* of coffee.

 

Flamin’ Tomatoes Soup

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Bagel Breakfast

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Eggs Benedict

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Mac n’ Cheese

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Steak-n-Eggs

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Caramelized Cheesecake

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Afterwards, we went up to the Serenity deck to see if we could find some loungers so we could get some fresh air while we got some reading done, only to find that every single lounger, day bed and hammock was taken or saved. That was okay though – decks 10 and 11 had plenty of loungers and we found three that overlooked the main pool, which gave us a great view of the Master Mixologist contest later on.

 

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And, side note, just because the weather may be a little cooler doesn’t mean you should forget your sunscreen. Like I did. Because I’m short-sighted sometimes and I don’t live in a warm weather state, so I don’t immediately equate sunny weather with sunscreen unless it’s hot, even though Mom’s bout with skin cancer from a few years back is still topical. That’s a lot of words to say that I forgot to put sunscreen on and I got an awful sunburn, the likes of which was worse than anything I’ve gotten in the Caribbean in years. Wear sunscreen!

 

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We laid out on deck for a few hours with our books and our iPads. Eventually, we headed inside for a late lunch – salads from the Blue Iguana Cantina (which was now stocking crispy salad shells onboard the Horizon!) for Mom and Stephanie and the Fresh Creations stand up on Serenity for me. I wasn’t not sure if it’s new or because they weren’t ready, but the Fresh Creations was build-your-own instead of ordering off a set menu, and it was SO GOOD. Like, the options they had up there – we’re talking pickled red onions and radishes, quinoa, at least half a dozen protein options and more than a dozen veggie options. If the Lido Marketplace was your local grocery store, the Fresh Creations stand was the Whole Foods version.

 

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I have to give props to Carnival, again, too, for the expansive selection they put out for lunch every day. Having sailed routes on Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian over the past few years, Carnival is the clear winner when it comers to casual lunch options. On the Lido deck alone, we’re looking at Guy’s Burger Joint, the Blue Iguana Cantina, Pizzeria del Captiano, the Seafood Shack, an antipasti station, a salad bar, a comfort food station, the Carnival Deli, a BYO ice cream sundae station with freshly made, hand scooped ice cream, another dessert station featuring no less than five gorgeous looking (and equally delicious tasting) cakes and I’m fairly certain I’m even missing a few. But beyond the options, only one of those required an extra fee (Seafood Shack) and more than half were made to order options. That’s insanity.

 

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After lunch, we wandered around the ship a little bit, walking around, taking pictures, stopping in the shops. We ended up in the room for a quick siesta to rest up for the main event: Name That Musical.

 

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Musical theater trivia is my jam. I will judge the entirety of a weeklong cruise’s entertainment options solely by if Broadway trivia is on the Fun Times. And it hasn’t been for awhile on many of our cruises, so you can only imagine my excitement to see it scheduled for our second sea day. We even got to Ocean Plaza early to scope out seats close to the stage so we could best hear the tracks, only to find Ocean Plaza crammed with people from the last trivia session. We found seats with two ladies we made quick friends with, but people were getting really testy because others were saving chairs for people who never came, using chairs as foot stools or bag stands and refusing to give them up for people looking for a place to sit. It got so bad that Cruise Director Mike stepped in, and I thought he handled it really well. Instead of scolding anyone or patronizing the crowd, he brought it up in a super organic “Hey, these folks want to join a trivia team! Do you have room on your team for them?” kind of way. And it worked!

 

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But you know what didn’t work? Name That Musical. One, there were only 15 questions. The trivia session before us had 20, so I felt a little gypped. Two, we were asked not to sing along until we went through the answers, but trying to tell a group of people who are playing Name That Musical not to sing? That’s never going to work. Three, the questions were far too easy. The Lion King? Grease? Come on now. But four: I told Mom she didn’t need to come and that she could stay in the room to rest and shower. We lost by one – the only one we got wrong – Jersey Boys. Which happens to be one of Mom’s favorite musicals. To the point where Stephanie can’t hear the name Sherry without a little vein popping out in her forehead because Mom would walk around the house singing Sherry if the movie was on TV. And the only one I got wrong was the only one where it was a dialogue intro instead of a music clip. A dialogue intro to Sherry. I’m still so salty over it, but Mom got a kick out of the story when we got back to the room.

 

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Anyways.

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Dinner hours were approaching and we tried making a reservation for Ji Ji only to be told they were booked solid, which makes me happy in that I think Ji Ji is one of the best dining experiences across all the ships we’ve ever sailed on and I really wish Carnival would put it on more ships! So we decided to keep our low key day rolling on and skip any formal dining that evening. I took a shower and another nap and woke up in time to grab a quick bite up at the Lido Marketplace. The food was okay, not as great as lunch, where there are far more options available, and definitely not as good as Ji Ji, but good enough.

 

A new Playlist Production show, Soulbound, was premiering this evening, so Mom and Stephanie went to go grab seats and I headed up to the Serenity deck to get a few quick pictures of the sunset. We generally do Europe cruises in May, where sunset comes late in the evening (if it even comes at all – the sun never fully set when we were in Russia last year!), but the sunsets were at a normal time traveling in April – around 7:30 PM – but they were just as spectacular.

 

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Mom and Stephanie ended up grabbing us some primo seats for the show. And in the interest of keeping this completely honest, I’m torn on the show. The cast is spectacular, probably one of the best casts we’ve seen at sea. The sets are great. The choreography and special effects are amazing. But the set list is kind of lackluster. This isn’t a WOW show like Flick was. It lacked the emotional oomph in the set list, and I left feeling like a piece was missing. That big song. A big moment. Something.

 

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We popped into the big 90s Music Trivia party in the atrium for awhile. It was high energy, which made it SUPER fun, but I felt something calling my name: Pig & Anchor. We split a couple of apps and a dessert and enjoyed them with some live country tunes.

 

Smoked Sausage & Cheese

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Dragon Chili Cheese Fries

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BBQ Chicken Ranch Flatbread

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I had every intention of going up to the Dive In for the late showing of Coco, but when we got back to the room, Mom and Stephanie went to do a quick round of laundry and the minute I climbed into bed to rest for just a second, I was done for. My night was over. On the plus, though, after such a low key day, I was feeling much more rested and so, so ready for a day of exploring Dubrovnik and all the beauty Croatia could offer!

 

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So excited to come across this review! I follow you on Instagram and just love all of your photos as it is, but I really love your reviews. We are going on the Horizon in February and I just happened to pop back onto the boards to find this... Perfect! 

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On 1/23/2019 at 1:36 PM, BALCONETTE said:

Loving your review!  I almost feel like I'm there. 

 

Then I'm doing something right! 🙂

 

On 1/24/2019 at 5:59 PM, ohitssunshine said:

So excited to come across this review! I follow you on Instagram and just love all of your photos as it is, but I really love your reviews. We are going on the Horizon in February and I just happened to pop back onto the boards to find this... Perfect! 

 

That's some crazy timing! I hope you love the Horizon as much as I did!

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Day 11: Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

We’ve been on four Europe cruises and more than 20 cruises to the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. Been a lot of places, seen a lot of things. I’ve never been to a port like Dubrovnik before.

 

When I woke up in the morning to Stephanie shaking me awake to look out the window, taking in a first sleepy glance of the white buildings capped with orange rooftops that the city is known for, clashing in the best possible way across the bright blue sky, I knew I was about to experience something special.

 

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The meeting time for our tour was a little later, so we took some extra time in getting ready and had breakfast up at the Lido Marketplace instead of a quickie at Ocean Plaza. I swear on everything that is holy, no breakfast food served on a cruise ship is tastier than those Blue Iguana arepas. Have I mentioned it before? 100%. Will I continue to mention it? Absolutely.

 

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We didn’t linger over our coffee, opting instead to head up to deck 15 to take in as many views of Dubrovnik as we could get. On the starboard side of the ship, we were treated to views of those beautiful white and orange buildings and some of the archipelago (there are more than 1000 islands off the coast of Croatia, including 13 that make up the Elaphiti Islands, a string of small archipelago islands off the coast of Dubrovnik). On the port side of the ship was the Franjo Tudman Bridge, a 1700-foot long cable bridge.

 

Directly ahead was the unmistakable sight of the Old City, a medieval city fenced in by sky high stone walls dating back to the 11th century. The Old City is so beautiful, so significant to Croatia’s history, that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not a specific site within the Old City – the entire thing as a single entity is a UNESCO site. If you’re an avid TV watcher, you’ll know the Old City as the setting for many Game of Thrones episodes. I don’t do the whole Game of Thrones thing, but Stephanie does, and she was vibrating with excitement the entire time we were docked. Like, to the point where she walked around with a Funko Jon Snow figurine in her purse all day to take pictures with. My sister, y’all.

 

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Each part of Dubrovnik was magnificent on it’s own – the bridge, the archipelago, the Old City, the mountains, the orange roofs, all of it. But the experience of taking all of it in, at once, from as high up on the ship as we could get, was other worldly. Srd mountain and Srdj Hill loom around the edges, creating almost like a dome-effect as they stretch above everything else, sloping gently up and down like the waves of the sea below. It’s larger than life, an all-consuming visual.

 

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We couldn’t wait to get out and explore all of the country we could in our short day in port. We headed down to the Liquid Lounge to pick up our stickers and wait for our number to be called to disembark. There were a ton of options for touring in Dubrovnik. The ship offered a variety of tours that ranged from photography to sightseeing to tours focused squarely on touring the Game of Thrones filming sites. There were land tours, sea tours, tours that took you up to the highest vistas. And if tours weren’t your thing, you could purchase a ticket for the shuttle to the Old City ($13 round-trip) or you could walk – it was a gorgeous day for a nice walk. Stephanie booked us on the Above & Across Dubrovnik tour, a half day tour that included a ride up on the cable cars to the top of Srdj Hill, a walking tour of the Old City, a snack at a monastery and some free time.

 

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When our tour number was called, we made our way down to deck zero to meet with our guide for the day, Divo, who walked us through our itinerary for the day as we began the short drive to the cable cars. Our group was one of three for this tour, and all of the three groups were going up on the cable cars to the top of the hill. The cable cars could only take ~30 people at a time and there were only two – one going up and one going down, so it took a bit of time to coordinate getting everyone into a car. Once we were loaded, the ride was quick – a minute or two, as we ascended to 415 meters above sea levels.

 

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Once we were all at the top, Divo gave us the cliffs notes version of the cable car and the hill we were standing on. The cable cars were built in the late 1960s and on a day with perfect weather (like ours!), you could see out up to 37 miles. Because of the depth of vision up on the hill, Napoleon Bonaparte commissioned a fort in the early 1800s, which would become Fort Imperial, which went unused from the time Austria took possession of Dubrovnik in the mid-1810’s until 1991, during the Croatian War of Independence. The war left much of Dubrovnik in a state of disarray causing millions of dollars of damage. If you look closely enough, you can still find remnants of the destruction left by the war, but much of it has been rebuilt (like the White Cross).

 

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After a 15-minute intro, Divo set us free for 50 minutes of free time. There’s a few different paths and views you can take in, as well as a restaurant and a gift shop. We spent most of our free time taking pictures and marveling at the view below us. I couldn’t believe how beautiful and peaceful it all was. It just seems impossible that something so perfect and so beautiful can just…exist…you know?

 

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Our tour group met back up near the cable car and things started going off the rails a little bit. The cable cars are a public attraction, so anyone can buy tickets. Between the three tour groups from the ship, the private tour groups and the tourists visiting Dubrovnik who just happened to be going up to the top of the hill, we were herded around waiting for cable cars our group could board for nearly 45 minutes. And the experience of being in them was kind of terrible anyways because they crammed so many people in, and the only thing making that better was the fact that any pictures we could take out from the cable car, we already took from the top.

 

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Once everyone on our tour had made it down from the top of the hill, Divo led us on a walk to the Old City, even though the tour description said we’d be picked up and driven to the Eastern Wall for the start of our tour. But it was a beautiful day and the walk took us downhill, so we weren’t complaining.

 

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Once we made it in through the eastern gate, Divo directed us to a restaurant, not a monastery, where we were served a slice of a dessert that looked and tasted like flan and a glass of orange juice that I can only surmise slash hope was freshly squeezed from the oranges growing on the trees throughout the Old City.

 

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After our snack, Divo led us on a walking tour through some of the Old City. Our tour took us through the bottom of the city (walking along the city walls required a separate fee), through the main street and down to the Clock Tower. I wish I could tell you more about what we saw and the significance it carries, but they didn’t include whispers on the tour and the Old City was packed and loud, which meant the soft-spoken Divo was washed out in the voices of louder guides, excited Game of Thrones fans discovering filming sites and the general hustle and bustle of a Sunday afternoon.

 

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Making this worse was that Divo, bless him, was incredibly long-winded and by the time he finished his part of the tour, there was no time for free time, and we had three options: return to the ship on the tour bus with Divo, spend as much time as we wanted in the Old City and take a taxi back (at a cost of 20-ish, per Divo’s estimation) or take the shuttle to the cruise terminal back. That shuttle the ship was offering for $13/person was included for free for anyone on a tour that ended in the Old City, and given how little we felt we saw and our excitement to be in a new city that we’d never toured before, staying in the Old City for an extra hour or two was a no-brainer.

 

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We wandered through the side streets, discovering markets, shops and so many charming café’s. We had gelato and did a little shopping. If I had to do it over again, I’d have skipped the tour and done the cable cars on our own, and then followed that up with a self-guided tour along the walls and some lunch at one of the sidewalk café’s. Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m so sure we’ll be back, now with a greater sense of what to do. As big as it seems, the Old City is actually relatively small – Divo told us that the ship was longer than the main street and while the ship is big, it’s not that big.

 

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