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Nicole721

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

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Time keeps moving on, whether we want it to or not, and this day was always going to come. And I was going to make the most of it…if I could get out of bed. Every time we travel overseas, I can’t quite get on a regular sleep schedule and this morning was pretty gruesome. Because I was napping so much, I couldn’t sleep at night, which meant I was up crazy late and even waking up not-so-early took a serious effort. When Mom was trying to lure me out of bed with a jug of chocolate milk, I knew I had to get up – I just couldn’t get my eyes to open.

 

((And two things on the chocolate milk: I swear I’m a functioning adult – just one who happens to enjoy a little cocoa in her leche on cruise ships and two, it was an actual jug. I think they ran out of the cartons at some point and just started putting out bottles))

                                                                                                         

We wanted to do the port day breakfast in the dining room and this was our best (and last) chance to do it, but I just couldn’t get out of bed. That was okay though – we did plenty of port day breakfasts onboard the Splendor a few months earlier, and the breakfast up at the Lido Marketplace offered plenty of tasty, made to order options. And also arepas. Breakfast arepas are the best option of all options on any cruise ship. Actually, if I could get arepas with the sea day steak and eggs, that might be the breakfast to end all breakfasts, but Carnival hasn’t put that together yet (you reading this, powers that be? I’m telling you, it’d be a s-l-a-m dunk).

 

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The ship offered plenty of tours for our day in Cagliari, but since we were docking right in town, we declined to book one. That was kind of our MO for this cruise – if we docked in town, we did a DIY touring day. If we docked outside of the main destination, we did an excursion. The thing was, much like Malta, we had no idea what we should do in Cagliari. Google was our friend slash travel advisor here, so we knew that while there wasn’t a Hop On Hop Off bus, there were a few sightseeing tours that would pick up at the cruise terminal and there was plenty of shopping and cafés within walking distance.

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We got off the ship right after breakfast. Once you disembark the ship, you pass through a terminal with a bunch of shopping, with locally produced food stuffs and typical souvenirs. Don’t buy your items there unless you’re in a time crunch coming back from a tour – the prices are lower in town. Inside the terminal, you’ll also find booths where you can buy private transfers to just about anywhere on the island, tuk tuk rides and tickets for the sightseeing bus. Don’t buy your tickets in the terminal – when we passed through, they were listed at 22 with the next available bus time over an hour later. When we got outside, we found both the Red and the Green busses at less than 12 and immediate availability (our ticket had 10 printed on it even though we paid 12, so they’re definitely marking them up).

 

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The cruise terminal is a ways away from the main street leading into town, and the port offers a shuttle that runs constantly and will take you door to door from the terminal building to the street across from Via Roma (the main street). This is where you can pick up the sightseeing tours, grab a taxi or walk into town. We found a half-empty Red bus and paid the 12 admission for a one-hour sightseeing tour.

 

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It was a gorgeous day in Cagliari, perfect for an open air bus ride through town. The sightseeing bus tours don’t allow you to hop on and off – it runs a loop around Cagliari hitting the top attractions. At some of them, the bus would stop so everyone could stand up and take pictures. At others, it would drive by slowly enough for everyone to get a snapshot (and on most of those, it would loop back to pass by on both sides of the bus so everyone could see or get a picture). Headphones were given out and the narration was given in both English and Italian and it was a really nice way to acquaint ourselves with a new city and see all of the touristy stuff.

 

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The tour started and ended at the port, with eight highlights in between. We stopped at the Municipio and the Basilica di Bonaria. We drove through the scenic Marina Piccola. We saw the beautiful beachfront at the Lungomare Poetto and the protected marshlands at Molentargius-Saline Regional Park, where dozens of flamingos flock to the shallow waters. We saw the basilica of San Santurnino and the Bastione Saint Remy. The highlight for me, though, was the drive up to Monte Urpinu, a public park up on a hilltop, with a scenic overlook of the city where the views stretch out for miles.

 

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We continued on our drive back to the port, and I kept snapping pictures of the buildings. Cagliari, bizarrely enough, reminded me a lot of Miami, with many art deco-style buildings. And I love love love art deco, so I was fascinated by just about everything we passed. When we were on the bus, I almost didn’t feel like we were in Italy. Cagliari felt like some unique crossbreed of Miami and Helsinki, with the architecture and colors of Miami and the hilly, open terrain of Helsinki. And since it’s not the biggest vacation destination in Italy, it feels relatively untouched by tourism – a far cry from most of our other ports of call.

 

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The bus left us where it picked us up, and we headed to the Via Roma in search of Dulci’s Pasticceria, a bakery Stephanie had found on Instagram. When we travel, Instagram has become our top go-to to discover new eateries and coffee shops, and it definitely didn’t let us down here. Dulci’s had strong espresso and some pretty tasty Italian cookies, and between the caffeine jolt and the morning on the open air bus in the most beautiful weather, I was awake as I was going to get.

 

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We browsed some shops after our coffee stop. For general souvenirs, you’ll find better shopping in other ports of call, but there are many Sardinian food shops selling local delicacies like flavored salts, baked goods and liquors. We didn’t buy much because we were rapidly running out of space in our luggage, but browsing was fun!

 

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Being not only our last port of call, but our last stop in Italy, we decided we needed to have one final lunch. There are a ton of cafés off of the Via Roma. Many of them offer prix fixe specials and you’ll find just about every Italian cuisine represented, but we wanted Sardinian food because how often do you find yourself in Sardinia? So we ended up at Sa Schironada with a big cheese plate, bigger plates of pasta and that Sardinian flat bread that’s so thin it’s almost translucent. How do they even pack so much flavor into a cracker so thin? It’s some kind of voodoo magic, I’m convinced. And since Stephanie just discovered Aperol on this cruise and was newly obsessed, we had some Spritz’s, too. Hashtag vacation diet. The food at Sa Schironada was amazing, and we had some primo seats where we watched other table’s orders coming out and even though I was full to the top of my eyes with gnocchetti, when they started bringing plates of melon draped in fresh prosciutto, my mouth watered. Every time.

 

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We were so full when we left Sa Schironada. We wandered around the streets behind the Via Roma, narrow, tall and colorful, just the way I like ‘em. We started walking back to the ship, but we had to stop for one last gelato, the best amarena gelati I’d had all trip.

 

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After the morning rush, the shuttle service to the terminal slowed down, so we took a short walk around the harbor, admiring the white boats and the colorful buildings that rose up from the Cagliari streets. I didn’t know what to expect before we arrived, but there wasn’t much I didn’t love about our time here.

 

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Stephanie wanted to do some shopping at the terminal before we headed back onboard the boat. The prices were a few Euros higher than they were in town, but the convenience of not having to carry bags around with you may make up for the mark up.

 

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We got back on board, got back to the room and we all promptly passed out. Like, one minute I was talking about going up to Deck 14 to take some pictures of the buildings and palm trees and the next, it was three hours later and we were about to set sail. I blame the Aperol.

 

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Seagulls were swooping around deck 5, where we would usually watch sailaway from, so we headed up to deck 15, which gave us a much better view (with much less bird interference – and pro tip: if you have a balcony cabin, don’t throw food onto the Lanai for the birds to eat. It causes a mess and it’s super gross).

 

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Once the horn sounded and we started to pull away, we went back down to the bow on Deck 5 and watched as the Captain and the harbor master navigated an incredibly narrow turn from the port into the open waters.

 

As the sky got darker and the colorful buildings of Cagliari faded into the graying sky behind us, we headed inside to browse some of the shops. There was a Souvenir & Gift Bazaar in the Fun Times and I was hoping we’d find some fun trinkets from the ports we’d visited, but all we found were watches and fine jewelry. Oh well. We bought more than plenty of souvenirs and trinkets over the past twelve days!

 

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We were lukewarm on the main dining room on this cruise, but we really loved the specialty restaurants, so we initially booked dinner at the steakhouse again. After such a heavy lunch, though, none of us could fathom an early multi-course steak dinner. So before we all passed out, we swapped our early ressie at the steakhouse for a late ressie at Cucina del Capitano, where we feasted on Italian fare almost as good as the food we’d eaten in the Italian ports (including the surprise hit of the night, the Risotto Milanese, which was so good that I didn’t miss the Bistec a la Griglia that had been taken off the menu!).

 

Bread and Garlic Butter

 

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House-Made Burrata

 

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Insalata Caesar

 

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Il Capitano’s Favorite Insalata Di Rucola

 

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Nonna’s Meatballs

 

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Minestrone

 

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Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Risotto Milanese

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Pollo Parmigiana Della Casa

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Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

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Fingerling Potatoes

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Crostada di Mele con Crema al Caramello

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Biscotti al Cioccolato con Sale Marino

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Agrumi

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Coffee

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Mom wanted to pack after dinner, but I took one look at the bags of souvenirs I’d scattered across our cabin and got completely overwhelmed by the thought of how Stephanie and I were going to figure out how to get all of these bags home. So Mom gave up on packing and went to bed, and Stephanie and I hit deck five.

 

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I don’t know why we always wait until the end of a cruise to really go out go out, but we’re just as consistent with that as we are eating arepas for breakfast or riding the Hop On Hop Off bus in just about any port that offers it. Tonight, though, we wanted to check out some of the other live music that everyone we met onboard had been raving about. We started at the Havana Bar, where Mambo Magic was playing Despacito to a packed dance floor. Like, seriously packed with people dancing their hearts out. I loved it – almost as much as I love Despacito (it’s totally my jam -- don’t judge me).

 

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Ocean Plaza was next. Crushed Velvet was jamming out to some Edge of Seventeen and I dig on some 80s rock, so we hopped into the first (and only) available table we could as they played a really great set of some of our favorite 80s bops.

 

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Our last stop was the Piano Bar, where Eden crushed some heavy hitting piano bar faves (Celine Dion? Billy Joel? Hello!) and we had so much fun singing along. I love the piano bar. It’s one of my favorite part of Carnival’s nightlife. For the life of me, I don’t know why I always wait until the end of the cruise to go. I think, in part, it’s because early on, I just like to rest and sleep because I sleep so little at home that I’m practically nocturnal, and part of being on vacation, for me, is sleep. But then there’s the other part of me that thinks sleep is wasteful when there are so many amazingly fun activities waiting for me outside of my stateroom. It’s a tug of war I can never seem to pull myself out of.

 

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We dragged ourselves back to the room in the early morning hours. We had one last sea day ahead of us, and plenty of the Horizon left to explore before we had to leave the ship to a new round of cruisers who were starting to flock to Barcelona with the same excitement we arrived with two weeks earlier.

 

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On 2/17/2019 at 11:01 AM, Shaded Lady said:

I guess this is the interlude while we wait for Nicole to get back from Mexico!!!

 

Nailed it :classic_laugh:

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Day 17: Sea Day

 

The tone of our sea days are set before we even step foot out of bed.

 

We have this unspoken thing – the first person up always looks out the window. If it’s sunny, they wake up the next person. We stagger our wake ups so that we don’t argue over who gets to use the vanity to do their makeup. Mom almost always wakes up first. Then Stephanie. Then me. But if it’s not sunny – if it’s overcast or storming, they go back to sleep and we all sleep a little while longer.

 

Before I went to bed the night before, part of me was hoping I’d wake up to stormy skies. I needed the rest and I needed a day where I didn’t waste more than half of it drinking Skinny Fizz’s by the pitcher up on the Serenity deck. The other part of me, most of me, wanted that strong Mediterranean sun to bronze my skin and leave me glowing for my return home. But that small part of me wanted an excuse to laze around for the day.

 

The small part of me got what it wanted.

 

When I woke up, after Mom reset our alarms for another hour of sleep, the skies were gray and the seas were churning. It was a meteorological manifestation of how I felt about our cruise drawing to a close (and the fact that I had to pack). But if you know me, if you’ve read these before, you know that I don’t pack until I have to pack. So we got out of bed, we contemplated the merits of Sea Day Brunch (Mom still had a free drink voucher) versus the Lido Marketplace (…arepas). The Lido Marketplace won, and we had a nice, quiet breakfast upstairs.

 

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And, side note, wanna hear something crazy? Even though the sun was hidden away under multiple layers of dark clouds, there were still a number of loungers saved at the Resort Pool. Those chair hogs are some optimists, y’all. I certainly didn’t share their optimism, but I was also already decently bronzed from my accidental sunburn earlier in the cruise.

 

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Our Fun Times were filled to the brim with sea day fun, and we kicked our day off with one of our favorite activities, the Q&Awesome. I want to say that Jaime Dee started this one, a Q&A with the cruise director where you can ask just about any questions as long as they don’t involve matters of security or salary. Instead of just Cruise Director Mike, though, we had a Q&Awesome panel, with Hugo (Entertainment Director), Ronan (Music Manager) and Boris (Entertainment Technical Manager). Most of the questions yielded answers we already knew, but one thing I found particularly interesting was how they selected the staff for the first Horizon contracts. Throughout the cruise, Stephanie and I would mention how some staff member looked familiar, or how we were convinced every staff member onboard was Dream Team worthy (except for, apparently, the cook who made Stephanie’s eggs that morning, but that’s another story for another day). And that wasn’t a coincidence – the crew for the Horizon was selected based on a number of factors, amongst them feedback from the guest post-cruise surveys (another reminder of how important they are to fill out after your cruise!), as well as how well the crew represents Carnival values, meaning that they aren’t just good at what they do, but that they’re good people, too. And that went for everyone, not just people in guest-facing roles. The Playlist dancers, for instance, weren’t just selected for their talent – they also had to have high ratings and scores.

 

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After a funny anecdote from Mike’s dad about just how clean (or…not) he keeps his living quarters, we snuck out of the Liquid Lounge as people were starting to fill in for the debarkation talk. Should we have stayed? Maybe. We’ve done debarkation in Barcelona twice before, though I’m sure something could have changed. But I also wasn’t in the mood to hear about leaving the ship when I could be exploring more of it, so that’s exactly what we did.

 

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Later on, when we’d seen everything the shops had to offer and as much of the ship we could, Mom and Stephanie went to the room to shower and start to pack, and I went to the Lanai to sit with the water. Watching the water move, the infinite gyrations of the waves as they lap endlessly towards the horizon, is by far and away my favorite part of cruising. I’m a water sign. For as long as I’ve lived on my own, I’ve never lived more than two blocks from the Chicago lakefront. Water calms me, mesmerizes me and brings me so much peace. The Mediterranean itineraries aren’t the most conducive to water watching, but the sea days are prime for it (when it’s not raining or windy!). One of the things I enjoy most about Carnival is the sheer number of public areas available with water views. Tables that face the windows on the Lido deck. The Lanai that wraps around the ship on deck 5. The secret decks at the bow of decks 5-9. There are so many places to just sit and admire the water. And on the Horizon, the Lanai was my favorite.

 

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Stephanie ultimately pulled me away when it was time for lunch. I could have stayed up there all day, if I’m being honest. We debated whether to have lunch in the dining room or up on the Lido deck, where the big feature of the day was the Chocolate Extravaganza, but another big tick in Carnival’s pro column is that they have so many made-to-order options up on the Lido deck and they’re good. After three sea day brunches onboard, we decided we didn’t need a fourth, and that our final sea day wouldn’t be complete without one last visit to the Blue Iguana Cantina for some taco salads (and, of course, some of those cakes from the Sweet Spot!).

 

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The Chocolate Extravaganza isn’t as grand as it used to be. There weren’t any ice cream swans or any grand displays of chocolate confections, but there was a towering chocolate fountain, featuring both milk and white chocolate. The line was almost as long for the chocolate fountain as it was for the freshly churned ice cream, which drew some crazy long lines every day.

 

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But we only had one dessert in mind: the ice cream sundaes at Cherry On Top, the onboard candy and ice cream shop. Could we have had free ice cream up on Lido deck? Sure. But I think (and this is just my opinion) the ice cream is a little better up at Cherry On Top, and at $2.50 for a sundae that I don’t have to wait in line for, I didn’t need much convincing. Stephanie and I contemplated the merits of a made-to-order ice cream creation versus one of their set creations and we both opted for the latter because they came with more toppings. We took ours outside to get in more water watching time because even Cherry On Top has dedicated outdoor seating on the Lanai.

 

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Storms were starting to settle in, darkening the sky and churning the water into white-capped waves. Mom and Stephanie continued to pack and I continued to…not pack. If my luggage isn’t due out into the hallway, I’m not packing. So they finished their packing and I got ready for the Platinum and Diamond Reunion.

 

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There were so many returning Platinum and Diamond guests on this inaugural voyage that they had to break the party into two, and we were invited to the second one: 4:00 PM on the final sea day. I believe the first one was held the afternoon prior when we were leaving Cagliari, and to be honest, I would have preferred that one so I could feel a little less rushed. Because even though I refused to pack, I wanted the free time to procrastinate packing. But you know, beggars can’t be choosers and if you’re going to give me free drinks, I can’t complain.

 

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Even though the party was split into two, it was packed. Mom and Stephanie went early and if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had seats. Many didn’t and had to stand for the entire party. There weren’t enough servers, so even though they were super amenable and basically opened up the bar to everyone, it was difficult to get drinks. We made it two rounds, waited for the video and then bounced.

 

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Oh, and speaking of that video? It’s my favorite part. And I have a bone to pick with Cruise Director Mike, who didn’t announce the ships as they showed up on the screen. Clapping and wildly gesticulating for the ships I’ve been on is, legitimately, my second favorite part of that party. Thankfully, I was too happy on the Aperol to be legitimately disappointed.

 

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After the video, we took our Spritz’s al fresco to the Lanai for one last walk around. It was too windy and cold to spend too much time outside, but we didn’t know when our next cruise would be, so we wanted to take in as much of it as possible, even if the conditions were a little less than ideal.

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For our final dinner, we made one last reservation at Ji Ji, which is still my favorite onboard restaurant. The steakhouse is amazing, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something about Ji Ji that I just can’t get enough of. And we weren’t the only ones who seemingly thought so – it was booked solid the last night and we only got in because the hostess, Rinyami, remembered us from our Vista cruise and made a special ressie for us when Mom went into to visit the evening before.

 

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I can’t say enough wonderful things about Rinyami (who personally attended to us and made sure we had everything we could ever want throughout our meal), the servers and chefs at Ji Ji. Everything from the amuse bouche to our desserts and every bite in between were so flavorful and masterfully executed. I’m still drooling thinking about that pork belly!

 

Amuse Bouche -- Fried Cheese

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Chicken & Cilantro Root Soup

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Chicken Spring Rolls

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Slow-Braised Pork Belly

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