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Carnival Horizon - Review of Western Caribbean cruise, Part 2

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This is part 2 (and the last) of a review of a 6-night Western Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Horizon (January 20 – 26, 2019, Miami – Ocho Rios Jamaica – Grand Cayman – Cozumel Mexico – Miami with 2 days at sea).  Part 1 of the review was posted on February 1.

Dining: We were a group of four, my wife and me, and another couple traveling with us for the first time although they have done two other cruises before. This other couple is vegetarian, so my review of the dining will cover that aspect of the Horizon dining scene as well. I will only talk about the free venues that we used, as we did not go to any specialty restaurants.

·         Breakfast/Brunch: The Horizon offers breakfast in the dining room only on port days, whereas they have brunch on sea days. The brunch and breakfast menus have substantial overlap, including various styles of eggs, omelettes, pancakes, waffles, etc., and a few fancier items such as eggs Benedict. The brunch menu also has a few types of burgers. One item on the breakfast menu which was not on the brunch menu was the Indian “Masala Dosa” which is a specialty from South India. It was well made, but not spicy at all, and did not come with any of the standard Indian accompaniments. Still, this is a novelty which I have not seen on any other ship and it quickly became the favorite breakfast dish for our vegetarian friends.

·         Lunch: Lunch on port days is not offered in the dining room, so you have to go to the buffet at the Lido Marketplace. This was the most disappointing buffet I have ever seen on any of our cruises. There were only a limited number of items (perhaps no more than about 10, not including salad, breads, etc.) and not a lot of variety of foods. Even worse, our vegetarian friends found hardly anything worth eating here (think potatoes and salad). Dessert was a cake station with a variety of cakes that changed somewhat from day to day and were quite good. But there were no other types of desserts, again different from our experience on other cruises. One good lunch option was the Blue Iguana which had outstanding burritos and taco bowls, but we didn’t like to eat there every day (and the lines were long).

·         Dinner: After our lunch experience at the Lido buffet, we did not even try going there for dinner, so I have no idea if it was any better. We were assigned YourTime Dining, which worked well for us. After getting our first reservation from the reservation booth on Deck 5, we were able to get the Hub app to work for us and that was a great convenience. We never had to wait more than 10 minutes for a table, but then we usually dined a bit late (around 7-7:30 pm). The dinner menus were quite traditional compared to the menus on other ships. Some of the entrees were good, others not quite so. For instance, the Teriyaki Salmon was barely edible and the shrimp jambalaya was a small mound of rice with a few vegetables and a separate pile of shrimp that had no taste of any Cajun spice.

There was one vegetarian entrée every night (that was not too attractive such as a simple pasta dish), but in addition there was also one Indian vegetarian entrée on the menu each night. Our vegetarian friends chose this and were very happy with it. There was a different vegetable and lentil each night, and they were authentically prepared. We soon learned that, for best results, you should order this meal the previous night. The spice level seemed to vary and after a few days, our friends learned to request a less spicy version and that mostly worked. We have seen Indian vegetarian dishes on dinner menus on other ships, but usually they tend to be the same vegetable (mostly a potato curry) and lentil every night. The Horizon’s dishes were just great with a lot of variety! If you are a fan of Indian cuisine, they also have an Indian non-vegetarian entrée available every night (e.g. chicken or lamb), but it has to be ordered in advance. I tried that a couple of nights and it was outstanding. You can ask the dining room waiter to show you the vegetarian and non-vegetarian menus for the entire cruise, but we found that the items we received were not always the same as those on the menus. Still, these dishes were the highlight of our dinner experience.

I cannot say the same for desserts. There were only a few options for dessert and they were humdrum. The crème brulee and baked Alaska were too sugary. Even the ice creams somehow did not taste great.

·         Service: We were disappointed with the level of service in both the dining room and the Lido Marketplace. On other ships, we have seen the wait-staff hover over your tables constantly taking care of all your needs. On the Horizon, that was not the case. We had to spend long amounts of time trying to catch someone’s attention to fill the water glasses or to get a refill on the coffee. At dinner in the dining room, no one ever offered us coffee with the dessert. In fact, we had the impression that they did not serve free coffee at dinner time. Until the last night, when we happened to ask whether coffee was available and they said yes. We have never experienced this on other ships, where they would always proactively ask you if you wanted coffee. At 8:30 every evening, the maître d’ would lead all the wait-staff in the dining room on a song and dance routine that was a novelty on the first night but rapidly wore off as the same routine was repeated every night.  They would be better off keeping it for just the last night of the cruise.

Shows: There were only three production shows in the Liquid Lounge. The Vintage POP and Amor Cubano shows were very good. I forget the name of the third one, but it was too dark for our taste. All three shows had excellent production values and special effects. We were disappointed that we did not get to see the Celestial Strings that we had heard so much about. Instead, the remaining nights were various game shows that we didn’t really care about.

We did see a couple of movies on the big screen on the Lido deck. This area is not covered, so rain is a problem. The movies continued even when it rained and we had to seek cover along the sidelines.

Our sailing day, January 20th, was the day of the NFC and AFC championship games and I was looking forward to seeing them on the ship. I was disappointed as they were being shown on small screens in just a few bars. These locations were crowded and it was impossible to get a good view of the game. By contrast, we were on Holland America’s Koningsdam this past summer during the World Cup and they showed most of the important games on the big screen on the Lido deck, which was great. Why doesn’t the Horizon do the same?

Excursions: In Ocho Rios, we took the Magic Mountain chair lift and Dunn’s River Falls combo. For those who are more adventurous, the zip line or bobsled would be better than the chair lift as there was not much to do on the mountain top. But DRF was excellent and we enjoyed every bit of it; the guides were great and took care to make sure that all of us made it up safely. The tour company runs shuttle buses every half hour between the port, the mountain, and DRF, so you are not constrained to be with any particular group. As a result, you can take as much time as you like at the mountain or at DRF. The arrangement with the lockers at DRF was a bit confusing and we had trouble finding our way to the lockers to retrieve our clothes at the end.

In Grand Cayman, we took the combined land/sea tour of the Turtle Farm, Hell, Rum Cake shop, and Sting Ray City. The boat ride to Sting Ray City was enjoyable. However, neither my wife nor I are good swimmers and we had trouble in the water even though we wore life jackets. When you step down from the ladder on the boat, the water is quite deep and I was barely able to touch my toes on the ocean floor. The guides were great and helped us get to the sandbar which was about 6 feet away. But there too, the water was not as shallow as we had been led to believe. There were waves that came periodically which were quite challenging for us and I think I swallowed a good deal of ocean water. Still, this was a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience for us and I am glad we were able to do it.

In Cozumel, we took the catamaran to Passion Island. This was a good way to spend a few hours, although it was nothing too special. The weather was not sunny and there was periodic light rain, but not enough to spoil the trip. The food was OK, not great but not bad also. The only thing that put me off was when I noticed at the bar there was no arrangement to wash the used glasses. They were simply being dipped in a bucket of water and then re-used, totally unsanitary. I wonder if the same was being done with the plates and utensils?

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I was on this same cruise and had a totally different experience. We also had anytime dining and our wait staff

was great. We requested the same wait staff each night. The AFC game was on the big screen on the lido deck on Sunday

night. We watched the Patriots beat KC!!!! Our cruise was one of he best we have been on. Sorry you did not have the same experience.

Edited by reno3

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Can be hard to do sports on the Lido if the game occurs during the day. Night games are different and Movie times can be adjusted.  I stood at the entrance to the Pig and Anchor and watched a couple of games from that TV.  You can see very well.

 

As far as your traveling companions not having the best veggie feed, they could have contacted Special needs in advance and gotten a menu.  They could also approach the  hostesses and make a request.

 

We had lunch on the Lido once when coming back from an excursion.  We found a lot of stuff.  The taco line at Blue Iguana is way shorter than the burrito.  You could also have gone to the Cucina or JiJis for lunch as they are no charge. 

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