Sara Macefield looks at the expanded line-up of attractions on Carnival’s new floating fun palace – and hears how the line is further boosting agent rewards.
Carnival Cruise Line intends to spread its distinctive fun factor to more agents and consumers than ever before, helped by the launch of its latest ship Carnival Horizon.
More floating fun palace than cruise ship, this new 3,934-passenger vessel boasts an expanded line-up of attractions which are underpinned by Carnival’s unmistakable lively vibe that runs from bow to stern.
Carnival Horizon shares many of the same attractions that debuted on its sister ship Carnival Vista, which launched in 2016, such as the novel aerial cycling SkyRide, which loops around the top deck, and the Imax Theatre where 3D films are screened.
But new frills inject more action and energy with the first Dr Seuss WaterWorks park at sea where twisting waterslides speed riders into a splash zone of colourful fountains, water sprays and a drench-inducing 300-gallon tipping bucket.
Dining fans can take their seats at the line’s first Japanese teppanyaki restaurant called Bonsai Teppanyaki, or tuck into delicious barbecue fare at the new pub-style Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse which features hallmark dishes of US celebrity chef Guy Fieri.
Thanks to Carnival Horizon’s own brewery, beer fans can quench their thirst with the ship’s four new speciality Parched Pig ales produced onboard, while shoppers can browse in the expanded retail area, which includes brands including Breitling, Victoria’s Secret and Michael Kors.
Carnival Horizon’s 13 bars and entertainment venues add to the irrepressible onboard buzz, with the Latin-themed Havana bar and its sultry rhythms, colourful song and dance shows in the main theatre and rousing singalongs in Piano Bar 88.
Comedians raise laughs in the Punchliner Comedy Club, while the Limelight Lounge is the late-night draw for night owls.
Carnival fans won’t be disappointed with the mix of attractions that this new ship offers, while newcomers will be pleasantly surprised at the variety and good value, particularly where cuisine is concerned.
Aside from the main restaurants, diners can also opt for the Lido Marketplace buffet, along with Mexican and Italian lunch outlets. The poolside “hand-crafted” burgers of Guy’s Burger Joint are rather impressive to behold, while another hit is the excellent Mongolian Wok where chefs beautifully stir fry combinations to order.
Top of the speciality options is the Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, which offers succulent treats including slow-braised pork belly and sweet and sour fragrant shrimp, for just $15pp. Alternatives include the Italian Cucina del Capitano, also costing $15pp, and the swish sophistication of the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse for a slightly more pricey $35pp.
Carnival Horizon’s bright and breezy decor coupled with its carefree ambiance make this ship an obvious match for couples and families.
Parents can take advantage of Family Harbor cabins which have their own lounge, while children are entertained by the programme in the Camp Ocean kids’ clubs.
Adults looking for me-time can revel in the extensive Cloud 9 spa and fitness centre or lounge on tempting Balinese sun beds at the complimentary Serenity Deck.
Alternatively, there’s an increased choice of exclusive Havana Club staterooms, which have their own private deck area and pool.
It’s a mix that has found favour with the UK agents who were onboard for Carnival Horizon’s first few Mediterranean sailings before it departed for its home in New York.
Advantage Travel Centres senior commercial manager Claire Brighton loved the ship’s fun flair.
“I think it really stands out for this,” she said. “The hardware is great, but what makes it is the atmosphere, which is friendly and fun.”
Cruise Nation managing director Phil Evans agreed. “All the cruise lines say they are family lines, but Carnival is so unpretentious. You don’t need to be smartly dressed and there’s a real resort feel. It smashes cruise preconceptions out of the water.”
Carnival’s UK and international sales vice-president, Iain Baillie, hopes to further boost the agent rewards Loyalty Rocks Club which now has more than 4,000 retail members.
“In the next 12 months we will surpass 10,000 individual sign-ups,” he predicted.
With Carnival directing sales totally through the trade, it is channelling promotional efforts through this and boosting the accompanying app with new features including a chat room and feedback service.
Even though the line has no plans to base ships in Europe, Baillie didn’t see this as a problem as UK sales were so strong for Caribbean sailings.
“We have intensified our offering to the agent community and our business is growing year by year,”