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Nicole721

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

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Without consistent audio telling us what we were looking at, I spent most of our ride around the city just taking it all in. It took me a few days to wrap my head around Malta, to be honest. I couldn’t figure out how I felt about it because there was just so much to take in and it was all so different from any place I’d ever been before. At one point in time or another, Malta was under the rule of many different empires (including the Phoenecians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantine and even at one point, Arab rule). As a result of this unique history, the island is this crazy wonderful melting pot of so many different influences and everything comes together in this patchwork of culture that was inherently unique and unlike anything I’d ever walked through. Every time I travel somewhere, my mind connects it to another place I’ve visited. When I was in Malta, though, my mind was racing trying to connect what I was seeing and experiencing to anything I’ve ever come across and I just kept coming up with blanks. I’ve never been anywhere like Malta.

 

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Like, get this: there’s so much beige. Literally neutral shades of taupe just about everywhere you look. I’ve honestly never seen so many varying shades of brown in one place in my life. And you’d think that would be boring, right? Except on every slab of something neutral was a bright primary color. Emerald green shutters. A red awning. A blue door. There’d be stretches and stretches of fields brimming with wildflowers. And off in the distance? A sprawling urban landscape, with sky stretching buildings built so close to the next that they all blended together. I could not wrap my head around it.

 

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By the time the bus arrived back at the terminal, we had some decisions to make: riding around on another line to see more of the sites would make hitting that back onboard time razor close with all of the traffic we were experiencing (and the ship had already left people in at least two ports). We could walk over to the nearby fort and walk the walls. We couldn’t find a coffeehouse, but we could go looking for a café to grab some lunch and see what Maltese cuisine had to offer. Or we could go back to the ship. So we strolled along the dock, where there were a bunch of cafes lined up along the water. It turns out that Maltese cuisine is heavy on the seafood and you know my mantra (if it comes from the sea, it’s not for me). So we headed back to the ship for some lunch of the non-underwater variety.

 

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We dropped off our souvenir bags at the room and headed up to the Lido Marketplace for a lunch of sandwiches from the deli and cake from the Sweet Spot. Carnival had me completely spoiled with the amazing food they served up every day and, hello, seven layer funfetti cake?! Yes, please and thank you!

 

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The ship was quiet in the mid-afternoon hour, which meant it was the perfect time to head up to Sports Square for a lap on the SkyRide. The SkyRide debuted on the Carnival Vista, a pedal bike suspended on a track decently high above the activities deck. The views are spectacular from up there, but if you’re afraid of heights, it probably isn’t for you. While spectacular views are totally my jam, waiting in long lines (especially on vacation) is not, and there’s often a long line to get onto the SkyRide because only two people can ride at a time. Thankfully, with everyone out in port, the line was non-existent and I was treated to some primo views of Valletta while I worked for that slice of cake I had for lunch. The course isn’t super strenuous, but there are a couple stretches where I was feeling it. Next time, SkyRide and then cake.

 

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We headed back to the room after my victory lap on the SkyRide to outfit change. If you’ve followed me long enough, you’ve heard way too many stories about my struggles with chronic over-packing. It’s an actual problem.

 

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So here’s the thing: I hate the idea of being stuck in the middle of the ocean without proper attire for just about any situation, so I veer on the side of caution and just pack everything. And then I wear the same things over and over again because they’re in the front of the closet and everything else is shoved in the back. No matter how much I travel and how many times we cruise, it doesn’t get better. I mean, it gets slightly better. There was a phase between 2008 and 2011 when we were driving instead of flying and since luggage wasn’t an issue, I took a small suitcase that was literally just all shoes. That phase has thankfully passed. But I still pack more outfits than any single person can have any use for on a week and a half long cruise. So towards the end of any cruise, I’m changing my outfits at least three or four times a day, just so I can justify the crazy volume of stuff I’ve brought with me. Sailaway in the second to last port? That calls for an outfit change.

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And, to be fair, if any port was deserving of a fresh new look, it was Malta. Our hotel director, Mr. Pierre Camilleri (who, fun fact, was also the hotel director on our very first cruise way back in 2004), is from Malta. And with his homecoming and this being the Carnival Horizon’s maiden voyage and first time in Malta, the local government had planned a cannon salute as the ship departed for our final stop in Cagliari. We went outside to our quasi-secret hiding spot at the front of Ocean Plaza to watch the salute from the port side of the ship.

 

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If you follow me on Facebook, I live streamed it…at least for a minute or two before I got booted off the internet. It was a fitting farewell for an interesting day that I still couldn’t wrap my head around.

 

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When Valletta was no more than a blurry haze behind us, we headed to dinner. We thought the menu offerings were alright – we’d reached the point in the cruise where there had been so much food that all I wanted was, like, a really big salad or something equally boring – but the service from our wait staff was truly fantastic.

 

Vegetable Spring Rolls

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Greek Salad

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Flat Iron Steak

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Crisp Portobello Mushrooms

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Veal Parmesan

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Chocolate Tres Leche

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Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake

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After dinner, we walked around the ship and listened to some of the live music on Ocean Plaza. We did this more nights than not and it was one of my fave ways to wind down the evening. Carnival gets mega props for all of the live music they have onboard every night.

 

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This was an intentionally mellow start to pregame the bigger event for the evening, which was the Electric White Party. After one more outfit change into our best whites, we headed down to the atrium lobby, where we grabbed some primo seats at the bar, ordered too many rounds of Aperol Spritz’s (which we NEVER drink at home, but somehow became our drink of choice on this trip) and watched Cruise Director Mike lead a crowd spanning all three stories of the atrium in a high energy dance party that was quite literally electric.

 

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And if the party wasn’t fun enough, they did a big balloon drop, too! I love balloon drops. Without fail, makes any party better, am I right? Balloons were flying, everyone was dancing, I managed to go an entire night without spilling Aperol on my white dress.

 

It doesn’t get much better.

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I can't wait to finish reading about your trip and I'm so glad you posted it.  We are booking the Legend in 2020 for a European cruise.  Many of the ports are the same.  I feel so out of my  element because we usually cruise in the Caribbean and there seem to be so many reviews for the Caribbean that you can always find an abundance of info.  Not the same with European cruises.

 

Thanks for taking the time to write such a great review!

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5 hours ago, Jenny in TX said:

I can't wait to finish reading about your trip and I'm so glad you posted it.  We are booking the Legend in 2020 for a European cruise.  Many of the ports are the same.  I feel so out of my  element because we usually cruise in the Caribbean and there seem to be so many reviews for the Caribbean that you can always find an abundance of info.  Not the same with European cruises.

 

Thanks for taking the time to write such a great review!

 

I'm so glad you find it helpful! 🙂

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What a great review, make me want to head back to Europe soon.  Legend 2020 your calling my name.

 

Again, thanks for taking the time and sharing your adventure with us.

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On 2/6/2019 at 7:03 AM, tmackel said:

What a great review, make me want to head back to Europe soon.  Legend 2020 your calling my name.

 

Again, thanks for taking the time and sharing your adventure with us.

 

Answer that call and get back to Europe! 🙂

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Day 15: Sea Day

 

After two weeks in Europe and more than a week and a half onboard the Carnival Horizon, a span that took us to eight countries, even more cities, no destination sounded better than the ship, itself.

 

Sea days on such a port-intensive voyage were like gold coins – valued, rare and treasured.

 

A quick peek outside showed us calm seas and my Apple Watch told me the temps were in the upper 50’s – pleasant enough to spend some time outside, but not warm enough for sunbathing or swimming. And since we had no where to be and nothing to do, we got dressed and headed to Sea Day Brunch, where we feasted on filet mignon (for brekkie!) and pancakes.

 

Fresh Fruit Platter with Cottage Cheese

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Steak-n-Eggs

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Eggs Benedict

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Fat Stack Pancakes

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After our leisurely brunch, we took to the outdoors, grabbing some loungers in the shade on the lanai. The Horizon doesn’t have a promenade on deck 3 like many of the other Carnival ships do, but instead has a full walk-around patio on deck 5 with tons of loungers, sea beds and comfy chairs, perfect for relaxing with some primo sea views. Mom and Stephanie probably read their Outlander books or something. I was engrossed with…pulling menus off of the Hub app to take home to post for you guys. But I did it while staring at the open seas on a super cushy lounge chair, so I like to think of it as a leisure time activity.

 

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We took our first siesta of the day after our time on Ocean Plaza, tailing it back to the room to shower and take a nap because, you know, doing nothing can be highly exhausting. Particularly when you’re already exhausted.

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Later on, we headed upstairs to the Serenity deck for a late lunch. Serenity may be an odd choice for a lunch venue, except that’s where they had the Fresh Creations salad bar. On the Vista (and maybe other Carnival ships, but definitely the Vista), this is a stand where a staff member will create a salad for you. On the Horizon, it’s a run of the mill salad bar, except the only run of the mill thing about it is the fact that it’s a salad bar. The options on the line are numerous and the possibilities endless. My favorite combo was field greens with a ton of pickled onions and radishes, brioche croutons, feta cheese and chia seeds.

 

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We took our salad bowls down to the Lido Marketplace to pair our salads with…cake. I’m all about that sea day balance, and those cakes were just as good as they looked. And kudos to Carnival there – I’ve never had cake on a cruise ship from a complimentary eatery that looked as good as it tasted, and these cakes were not only beautiful, but they were delicious. It didn’t go unnoticed – the lines to get a slice were almost comical. Like, I’d have laughed at myself for waiting in line for a slice of cake if I hadn’t already tasted the cake and knew just how good it was.

 

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Full and fueled, we set out to walk around the ship. First stop? The Fun Shops. The merch in the stores, particularly the beauty store, was stuff we actually wanted to buy. A feat because when you’ve seen the merch on one cruise, you’ve generally seen the merch on them all, but between the high end cosmetics and skincare in one of the shops and the pop up inaugural shop with gear to commemorate the Horizon’s inaugural season, we loved browsing the shops and contemplating what we had to have versus what was just really nice to look at.

 

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After the shops, we made our way over to Ocean Plaza to see if we could snag a seat for trivia. The trivia sessions were packed each sea day, and I couldn’t tell if it was the trivia, itself, or just the venue that led to the crowds, but thankfully, we were able to snag a table for Mean Girls trivia. Less fortunately, we lost Mean Girls trivia. I don’t know how – one of my former direct reports and I still toss Mean Girls quotes to each other every day. Literally. I’m a veritable vending machine of quotes. It’s October third. I’m a mouse…duh. But you love Ladysmith Black Mambazo! I even answered the questions in quote form. Alas, that 24k gold plastic ship on a stick wasn’t meant for my luggage.

 

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Emotionally exhausted from the loss of another round of trivia that we should have won, we headed back to the room for siesta numero dos. Stephanie took a nap. I straightened my hair for formal night. I couldn’t stay in the room for long, though. It looked so beautiful out and even though it wasn’t super hot, it was pleasant. So I headed to the upper decks for some sun and sea time, walking around to see what I could find and enjoying the day. The weather was so turbulent back home – snowing one day and in the mid-60s the next – that I didn’t know what I was going home to, but I knew it couldn’t hold a candle to this.

 

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By the time I got back to the room, Mom and Stephanie were nearly done getting their elegant evening glam on, leaving me to cram through my routine (skipping the lashes in the interest of expediency, because putting on lashes on a moving ship is never an easy or quick process!). We snapped a few obligatory look-we-fancy shots in the atrium before heading to the check in desk for dinner.

 

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We didn’t dine a ton in the main dining room on this cruise. At least, it didn’t feel like we did. We spent more time in the specialty restaurants than we normally do. One, because the menus were great, but two, because we found the main dining room to be inconsistent. Some nights, we’d have really great staff and others, we’d have staff that was just okay. This evening’s staff fell under the latter, with an aggressive head waiter who kept pushing drink menus on us and food that was good, not great. Carnival seems to be playing around with some new menu items and I think that’s awesome. I think the menus for the American Feast nights probably need a little revamp, too. Except for the Stuffed Mushrooms. Never change the Stuffed Mushrooms. Unless they’re bringing back the breadstick to sop up all that saucy goodness. Bring that back. But don’t change it otherwise J

 

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Chesapeake Crab Cake

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Stuffed Mushrooms

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Wild Rice, Gruyere and Country Chicken Soup

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Four Seasons Salad

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Duo of Filet Mignon and Short Rib

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Carnival Melting Chocolate Cake

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Stephanie ducked out of dinner early to get in line at the Liquid Lounge to get seats for the early performance of Vintage Pop, a new Playlist Production show they were debuting this evening. I miss the days when the lounge was just open and you could enter and sit as early (or as late) as you wanted to because what this has created is an environment where people are lining up an hour before a show just to get seats inside.

 

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But I don’t want to focus on the lines or the Liquid Lounge. I want to focus on Vintage Pop, a show that takes both old school songs from the Harlem Renaissance and current pop faves and mashes them up with a 1920’s flapper beat. It’s unique and different from any other show they currently have in rotation, and the Horizon’s cast is one of the most talented we’ve ever seen. We were tapping our toes, twisting in our seats and singing along, and if that’s not the mark of a good show, I don’t know what is!

 

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After the show, we headed up to the Lido Marketplace for some tea – Stephanie was coming down with her obligatory end of cruise cold – before we headed back to the room to find our Platinum gifts waiting on our beds: some over the ear headphones. They didn’t come with a carrying case, which meant using them or transporting them would be a little…clunky…but we appreciated the gesture from Carnival nonetheless.

 

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Mom crashed because, well, Mom crashed every night before my makeup could even come off. Stephanie and I intended on doing a little bar hop. We had done so much and still felt left with a ton to see before we left the ship. We were in some rocky seas, though. Not the worst we’ve ever sailed through, but heavy enough that Mom and Stephanie were drowsy and disoriented. So we stayed in the room, watching the shipboard programming on repeat, until the rocking of the boat lulled us all to sleep.

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On 2/10/2019 at 3:09 PM, pooksma said:

Enjoying your review. Great shots!

 

 

Thank you!!

 

3 hours ago, georgiacat said:

I am loving your pictures and stories.  You aren't finished yet, are you?  I need more cruising.

 

Nahhhhhhh. Just busy with work (and packing for a quick getaway to Mexico) 🙂 More coming your way!

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Day 16: Cagliari, Sardinia

 

Our final port of call on the inaugural Carnival Horizon voyage brought us into Cagliari, the capital of Sardinia. After sixteen days out of the country, twelve days of cruising, eight countries and seven ports of call, our trip was winding to a close and we had reached our final port day.

 

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I wasn’t ready. I thought I would be – I thought I was. This entire cruise, all I could think of was how much time we had left. This cruise didn’t fly by – it felt like we’d been gone for ages – but is there really too much of a good thing? Despite a few things I could have done without (my sinuses acting up, that really terrible sunburn and losing that photo album in Amalfi top that list), this trip had been so incredibly wonderful and had brought us to so many beautiful, culturally rich cities. I was exhausted. I was beyond exhausted. But I wasn’t ready for it to end.

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