June 07, 2018

That Time I Sailed Across The Ocean...

For our honeymoon, Husband and I decided that we needed to go all out. We thought about flying to Italy for a Mediterranean cruise... until I found the Carnival Horizon's first-and-probably-only transatlantic voyage.
Other cruise lines will switch their ships back and forth between US and Europe seasonally, but Carnival's SOP is having its ships built in Italy, they do a few Mediterranean itineraries, make one trip to the US and then stay there...

Our itinerary embarked in Barcelona, made a few stops, and disembarked in NYC. Bonus: we only had to fly one way. Double bonus: we were able to get business class airfare using flyer miles!

The best part of flying business class was the lounge at the (yes I'm calling it) Constantinople airport.
Husbands favorite part: the ability to shower after our 12 hour flight; mine was all-you-can-drink diet coke and all-you-can-eat tzatziki.  

We did a small European tour...
Disneyland Paris
...before heading for our cruise and then we were off!

Day 1: Embarkation Day

We arrived at the cruise terminal in Barcelona pretty early, so security and check-in were a breeze. We arrived before boarding had begun so we were given a "group number" and took a seat. The waiting area filled up more and more until they finally began boarding. There are several priority groups that got to go before us so waiting was a bit painful.

Carnival has a loyalty program called the "Very Important Fun Person" club. Husband and I are in the Red level of the VIFP club which means almost nothing. It gets us a 1-liter bottle of water in our cabin which I refuse to consume because disposable plastic. Once we get to Gold, we get a couple (literally 2) freebies that aren't useless, but we have to get 25 points to be Gold (1 point = one day of sailing).

The actually-good stuff doesn't come until Platinum level, which is 75 points. That's going to take a few years...  

Also with free stuff, the higher your VIFP level, the earlier you board, along with if you bought "Faster to the Fun" (FTTF), or if you are handicapable.  Finally they got to our group and we got to board!

We entered through the atrium which was already buzzing. We headed straight to our room to drop off our bags before finding some lunch. I had read that cabins aren't available until 1:30pm, but we figured it was worth trying, and our section actually was open once we got there.

We hadn't gotten to try the Pig & Anchor BBQ lunch when we were on the Vista last year, so we eagerly headed there to finally try it.

Guy [Fieri]'s Pig & Anchor BBQ is on a handful of ships, except on the Horizon and soon-to-be Panorama, they made it a full fledged restaurant and bar called the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse, which includes the on board craft brewery. This version of Pig & Anchor replaced Red Frog Pub. It is free at lunch and has a different for-fee dinner menu. 

Of the dinner items, we only tried the "trash can" nachos, which is pretty small for $4, but Husband said he would get it again (I didn't really try any because I don't like black beans).

After the painful-as-usual muster drill, we took a nap until dinner because we were still jet lagged. 

For those who don't know, the muster drill is like a fire drill but for any kind of emergency, where you meet at your assigned muster station and they show you how to put on a life jacket.

It takes place right before sail-away, and they scan your card to take attendance. To determine where you need to go for this, refer to the evacuation plan on the back of your cabin door. 

After our nap, we got dressed for dinner at the Farenheit 555 steakhouse. We always go the first night because they give you a free bottle of their house white or red, or you can get something else 50% off. Personally, I like their house merlot.

The dinner was delicious as usual but the highlight was the dessert. The "chocolate sphere" which is a solid chocolate sphere that they melt with hot chocolate, and then there's more chocolate inside. 

Then we were so tired (still) that we basically just went straight to bed. We might have watched half of an in-room movie first. But I don't really remember.

Day 2: Sea Day

I signed up to attend a Meet & Mingle hosted by cruisecritic.com months ago. Then I got a notice that it was going to be held at 9am. Sorry. Just not possible. I was still going to go if I happened to wake up at 8:55, but instead, we didn't set an alarm and woke up at 12:30pm, just in time for Sea Day Brunch.

Sea Day Brunch is held in the aft Main Dining Room and is mostly the same as the breakfast held in the MDRs except you can get some additional items such as steak & eggs, which Husband got alongside his lox & bagel.

I got the Frosted Flake covered French Toast. I do not recommend it. If you want french toast, get it w/o a cereal topping. It sounded good, but was weird and soggy. The toast was good after I scraped away the Frosted Flakes.

The first sea day of all Carnival sailings is formal night which means you get to (or "have to") dress up for dinner and there are bonus complementary items on the menu like lobster tail and steak. I'm told that the lobster is not a thing on sailings that are 4-days or less. But it's still worth dressing up and going to.
I didn't take photos of our food. Here's us dressed up.
I pretty much recommend the Main Dining Room for dinner every night. We check the menu either outside the dining room on in the Carnival Hub app and only don't go if we don't have time (expect 1.5-2 hours) or if there's nothing that sounds worth said time commitment.

We brought glasses of the champagne we'd brought on board with us to dinner. Officially you can bring a glass of wine and not be charged a corkage fee, but if you bring the bottle, you are charged. I was told before the cruise by a stranger on Facebook that as long as you open it in your room, you won't be charged.

Well, one time we tried this, and my waiter said otherwise and I had to talk to a manager, and say I would take the bottle back to our room to keep him from charging us (he didn't make me do it, I instead promised not to do it again). Definitely put a damper on that dinner. And deduced that whether they charge you for the bottle or not depends on if the server wants to charge you.

PSA: So even if a stranger on Facebook (or on board or something) rudely tells you you are wrong and that you can bring the whole bottle as long as it's open, that guy has just been lucky on his many cruises and dinners on cruises and play it safe and instead bring a large glass of wine with you.

We just used the water glasses that were in our rooms and poured it into our wine glasses at the table the rest of the cruise, or you can ask your steward to put wine glasses in your room everyday.

This post would be a million years long if I were to include our visits to the ports, so I will link to individual posts of each port sometime in the future, but the short version is:

We stood on the top of a castle in Malaga.
 We took a cable car up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.
We went to a Starbucks in Lisbon and definitely didn't almost miss getting back to the ship on time because of it...
 And hung out with Jules Verne in Vigo.

We went to the 90's Music Trivia Party and I won a medal at a Hammer Dance-off/No Scrubs Lip-Sync-Battle...
I seemed to be the only one who knew what the Hammertime dance is.
And the only one to know the lyrics to No Scrubs
And Husband won a bottle of bubbly and another SOAS by taking his shirt off to I'm Too Sexy. Another guy did it too.  Also, if they were actually keeping score, I'm pretty sure I would have won. #justsayin

Oh and Cruise Director, Mike, wore this:
Fun Squad uniform from the 90s.

The 80s Rock & Glow and Electric White parties were fun also but we liked the trivia parties better. 

We also went to the Piano Bar one time and had zero interest in going back. Skip the next 8 paragraphs of rant if you absolutely love Eden and are going to judge me for not liking him. Let me first say, that we were really looking forward to going. We loved the piano bar on the NCL Breakaway, so we thought we would have a great time.

As soon as we got there, we requested a song (our wedding song- Fly Me to the Moon- felt reasonable) with a $2 tip (using a $2 bill). Husband said there were a few other requests already in with $5 tips, but I figured he would do those then get to ours. We were effectively paying him to play our song, even if we were paying less, so I expected to be able to hear it.

As the night went on, two rounds of drinks and about 20 songs later, our song had not been played, and the guy (Eden) was wasted. What had happened is that he started encouraging people to tip him with whiskey, or other drinks. On another night, walking by I saw a pitcher of something alcoholic on his piano as his bribe.

At one point after we first got there, he basically stopped playing songs (I guess what he was playing would be called "riffing"?) and said he wouldn't play a song until "some of you freeloaders" (people who had been coming night after night to this FREE event and not requesting songs, therefore not tipping) "pony up...." he went on to cite, "I know you have money, you've been on this ship for 30 days" (referring to those who were on one or two of the preceding cruises).

Later on, the guy that performs at the piano bar earlier in the evening, Jeffery, comes in. It's his day off, so "how nice is it for him to visit us?" And Jeffery starts playing along with Eden, and it becomes apparent that this guy was ALREADY wasted. Look. I understand that people drink. Sometimes a lot. And that the ship staff members want to and deserve to unwind. But that was no way for either of them to behave in front of guests. I was troubled and embarrassed for them, but their fans kept fueling it. Jeffery left because he was too drunk to play the piano correctly, and Eden continued performing, but was now spending more time taunting the guests in attendance than performing.

The last straw for me was when Eden stopped playing altogether, and went on a 3 minute monologue about how he was so glad that he was there to help him learn cause he was new and other piano bar performers aren't nice and wouldn't be as good a mentor as he is.
Basically this.
It was clear that our song would not be getting played anytime soon, if at all. It was many 30 minutes before I finally gave up, that he looked at all the remaining requests on his piano, and balled up a few and threw them on the floor behind him. I assumed at the time that they were requests he'd already played.

After the drunken monologue about his wonderful protege, I hypothesized that he may have just been rejecting songs he decided he wasn't going to play, and that ours was probably one of them due to our inferior tip. I don't know for sure that that was the case but decided that he had taken our money, and was not going to play our song. The so-called performance we were getting, wasn't even good anymore because we weren't also wasted, so we left and never went back.

I hope that other Carnival Piano Bar performers are more professional, and I will steer clear if I see Eden on the schedule.


Day 7-12:  6 (count them, SIX) Sea Days

With the majority of our port stops behind us and 6 sea days ahead, we were finally able r-e-l-a-a-a-a-x. We did spend a lot of time in our cabin watching the free movies and TV but that was because it sounded nice. We did make it out of our cabin for a few choice activities. 

We went to Nerd Trivia and won our first Ship on a Stick. 
Basically, Husband knew all the answers, but I knew the tie-breaker question because of how often ThinkGeek used to show off the "bazinga" shirt in their emails. 
The answer was "the Flash"

I was excited to learn at some point before leaving for our trip that Carnival was going to stop giving out straws (unless requested) for environmental reasons. And for about half the cruise, straws were not put in my drinks. It was glorious. Then about half-way through the cruise, bartenders started putting them in. Even when I asked for no straw.
:(   :(   :'(
My theory is that all of the really important platinum and diamond cruisers complained about the lack of straws so they reverted back. Hopefully they went back to no straws on the cruises since. Also on the other ships. I guess I'll see on the next one.

We went to Bonzai Sushi twice because it's that good. Particularly good is the shrimp tempura. Unlike anywhere else I've ever ordered it, there were no tempura veggies included on the plate. I don't like vegetables. I don't want them.

 Regardless of that, the tempura is also just the best we've every had. Definitely worth the money.
We splurged one time and got the sushi boat. It was very good, but ultimately too much food and we just ordered a regular amount of sushi the next time.

We did not really notice or bother to try Tea Time when we were on the Vista last year. With so many sea days on this cruise, we figured "why the hell not?"

All of the tables were neatly set for tea and then servers came around with green, black, and decaf black tea bags, and hot water.
 Other servers brought around cucumber sandwiches and smoked salmon on crostini.
Yet even more servers came around with carts containing sweet treats. I had a few favorites, but basically recommend everything. Husband recommends the scones with clotted cream.

We visited Pizzeria del Capitano almost everyday. And for the days we didn't go, Husband made up for it by going more than once other days.
Yes, Husband's shirt says "pizza" on it.
The pizza is generally quite good. It is the only food (except for ice cream) that you can get 24 hours a day, and you can choose from Margherita, Pepperoni, Mushroom, Four Cheese, and Prosciutto.

Speaking of ice cream:

We went to 80's Movie Music trivia and I was the only one willing to sing what Mike kept calling "the Bodyguard."
For this, 3 chocolate covered strawberries and a lovely note were sent to our cabin from Mike.

Something I was really looking forward to was dinner at the Horizon's Teppanyaki (aka hibachi) restaurant. There was a hiccup with my reservation which I will never know the full story of... but it all worked out and was so delicious.

It was a $25-30 up-charge depending on what you get as your entree (I chose the lobster and filet minion) and includes 3 small appetizers (all delicious), fried rice, veggies, and a bento-box-dessert that has 6 small desserts which, again, were all delicious.

Definitely worth the money, but they only do 3 dinner seating of 16 people total, so make sure to get a reservation and go HUNGRY! We unfortunately had a late lunch and that was regrettable, but didn't stop me from eating everything.

Horizon is Carnival's only ship (so far) with Teppanyaki. 

It might sound lame, but we really like the IMAX theater on board.

Deadpool 2 came out during our trip and we were able to see it there (it was hilarious).

There is a charge ($12.95) for IMAX, but it's comparable to any land-based IMAX theater, so I'm okay with it. There are also nature documentaries and "4D Thrill Theater" that are $5.50, which are fun if you have some time to kill. 

What was surprising was that they installed Deadpool seats, just for the occasion. They definitely spared no expense.
(Okay, I'm pretty sure that was a coincidence.)

We made it out to the Havana deck a few times. It is only available to those in Havana cabins until 7pm, but if you have time at night, it's still pretty empty after 7 as well. We just wanted to use the hot tubs.

We went to two Dive-In Movies. It was not particularly warm so we checked out FOUR blankets to stay warm.
But we got to see the Greatest Showman and the Commuter, which we hadn't seen before. Dive In Movies are held on the lido deck and you can watch from the pool, but you might be cold. You can check out blankets from the towel stand and get popcorn from the Red Frog Rum Bar, and all of it is free!
We also went to one Dive-In Movie Matinee, which they held on port days. I don't think this is always done, but we had a really long time to spend in Malaga, so we watched a movie at lunch time and then headed off the ship.
We finally remembered to go to Fresh Creations a couple of times, a nice change of pace from the buffet, burgers, and pizza for lunch. It is a legit salad bar located in the Serenity area (an 18+ only section of the boat featuring lounge chairs a bar and two hot tubs). 
 We made HUGE salads, but enjoyed them indoors because it was windy and cold.
The downside to the Serenity area is that on most Carnival ships (including Vista and Horizon), it is located at the top-front of the ship making it very windy and not very warm. I make a point to get there when the ship isn't moving.

Husband wanted to attend the brewery tour even though we went on the same one on the Vista last year. The Pig & Anchor Brewhouse does have different beers so the information was a little different. I don't actually drink beer, so Husband got to drink double everyone else.

Breakfast in bed. This might be the best thing about cruising, hands down.
If you have an Ocean-View-or-higher category cabin you will have a couch with a coffee table to eat at, but you probably should still put your tray on the bed and eat there, cause why the heck not?

You can get free room service breakfast everyday at the time of your choosing by hanging a tag with your order on your door the night before. We made sure to also have a wake-up call a little bit before our requested time so that we were prepared for the delivery. 

Carnival also offers select items via room service from 6am-10pm, and additional for-fee items 24 hours. 

Another favorite is that Carnival has stand-up comedians almost every night. On a normal itinerary, there will be two different comedians with 2-3 different shows, which will repeat throughout the cruise. For this one, there were 6 comedians (two at a time), each with 2-3 shows, so we got to go to a LOT of stand-up. Our favorite was Kane Brown, who is no longer on the Horizon, but maybe he is on another Carnival ship.

I am also going to write a separate post for Halifax, but mostly we rode on more boats and heard about the Halifax explosion and their involvement with the Titanic.
We spent pretty much the entire available time off the boat, as did everyone else so there was a line to get back on.

We had sushi again (as previously mentioned) because it's just so good, especially the tempura, yes I know I already heavily endorsed it.

We went to the 80s Music Trivia and took a "groupie" with Mike.

And finished the night with some stand-up comedy.

Day 14: Last Sea Day :(

We skipped breakfast and went to Cucina del Capitao for lunch.
CDC is $15 at dinner (with a different menu) but has a free pasta bar at lunch. It's not really set up as a pasta bar; they give you a sheet with which to order whatever you want...
...and they bring it to you.
Husband recommends the lasagna. 
JiJi's Asian Kitchen located across the hall from CDC is also $15 for dinner and free lunch, ordered the same way. We have yet to go there somehow, but people looked like they were enjoying it. 

With lunch done, we took care of some activities we had not gotten to yet.

First was the Sky Ride:
The SkyRide is a bike that goes around the top of half of the ship. It gives you the best views of the ship and equally good views of the ocean. It's worth doing if you don't have to stand in line. There are small lockers to put your phone/room card in, free to use while on the ride.

Then we hit up the SkyCourse:
The SkyCourse is a ropes course that is... okay. I would not stand in line for this. It's just not that exciting. If you have nothing else to do, there is no line, and it is warm out, then do it. There are small lockers for your stuff for this too.

For both you need to wear shorts or pants (shorts long enough for the harness to go over for the SkyCourse), and shoes that won't fall off (and maybe closed toed, I forget).

We went to dinner at the MDR for the last time and had one of the best dinners of the whole cruise.

There weren't any entrees I was interested in but there were 4 appetizers I wanted. And that's what I ate.
Shrimp Cocktail
Ceasar Salad
 Not pictured was the Flatbread (they have a different one each night).
Mussels in garlic wine sauce
I had 3 appetizers while Husband had two and I picked mussels as my entree and they made me a entree-sized portion (this is common practice; they will also make appetizer portions of entrees if you ask). We also had our last Chocolate Melting Cake - the main reason we needed to have dinner in the MDR.

The last thing we did was stalk Arjana and Ivan, a musical duo, at their 11pm set at Pig & Anchor.

Earlier in the evening, they were playing in the Ocean Plaza and when we walked through on the way to dinner we heard them playing the last two lines of Fly Me to the Moon. We immediately checked the Funtimes to see if they were playing again. We got to Pig & Anchor before they were scheduled to play so that we could request our song right away.

They were so nice, and enthusiastically played our song (sans bribe), as their first song, and we got to dance to it like we originally wanted. We tipped them $5 (we ran out of 2s) afterwards as a thank you. They were so much better than Piano-Bar-Eden, but unfortunately are no longer on the Horizon.

Day 15 (sort of): Disembarkation

We were forced to leave our home on the boat and return to our real lives. We grabbed some breakfast, and headed off the ship.
But don't worry. We will be back on her Sept 13th for a 4-day cruise from NY to Bermuda!


  1. What time of year did you sale? We are sailing in September from Port Canaveral to Barcelona.

    1. Hi Amy! Our cruise was early May. It was warm in Europe but then is was chilly crossing the ocean to Canada. I would expect that it will be warmer overall in September than May and that it will also be warmer because (I assume) you won't be going as far north. Have a great cruise!