10 Things To Know About The New Carnival Horizon

Affordability and fun are a great combo and Carnival Cruise Line’s newest ship delivers both. But is a cruise with almost 5,000 other people intent on living life out loud the right one for you?

New ships — especially new ships that encourage you to "Choose Fun!" — grab your attention. So when Carnival Horizon debuted in spring 2018 and was christened by its godmother, the one and only Queen Latifah, this 3,960-passenger ship (5,101 at maximum capacity) generated lots of buzz. Add in Carnival Cruise Line's appeal to budget-conscious cruisers (fares start at $429 per person for six nights in the Western Caribbean from Miami) and affordable fun is very much on the horizon. Want to know if the newest ship in Carnival's fleet is a good match for you? Read on.

There's plenty of free stuff to keep you entertained: three pools, an adults-only Serenity Retreat, a Dr. Seuss WaterWorks aqua park for kids with two slides, a suspended self-pedal SkyRide, a ropes course, nine holes of mini-golf, Dive-in Movies at the Beach Pool, the Punchliner Comedy Club, the Piano Bar, the SkyBox Sports Bar and lots of free games, contests, karaoke and deck parties. There's also some great free food (see below), although you often have to wait in line for it. Theoretically, if you're not a drinker (all alcohol and soft drinks besides lemonade, iced tea and water cost extra) and you like to do your own thing in port, you could cruise for a week and not run up much of a tab, with the exception of tips for the crew. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
Playlist Productions Shows
Cruisers who enjoy watching a stage show before or after dinner are in for a treat. The top-notch cast of Playlist Productions performs two or three different musical shows per cruise (depending on the sailing's length) and the ones we saw, Soulbound (a moody Gothic tale set in New Orleans to R&B music) and Celestial Strings (a dreamlike classical-meets-modern-pop confection) were both superb with great staging and special effects. The third show is called Vintage Pop. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
seafood shack
If you're determined to stick to your budget — but not your diet — you can try a different food every day (more than once, if you wish). And most of it is quite good. Our favorite lunchtime freebies: Sea Day Brunch (served a la carte in the dining room with very generous portions), the burgers and fries at Guy's Hamburger Joint (Guy is Food Network star Guy Fieri and his poolside menu is available from noon to 6pm), Guy's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse Brewhouse (free serve-yourself pulled pork, chicken, mac 'n cheese and more at lunch, but there's a charge at dinner), the made-to-order personal pizzas at Pizzeria del Capitano (available 24/7 and worth waiting in line for) and tacos and burritos at BlueIguana Cantina. You can also dine for free on well-prepared a la carte menu selections at the Reflections Dining Room. Of the specialty restaurants, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen is a great value (the cover charge is just $15 per person), but tell the chef to lay off the spice if you don't like your food too hot. Also worth the $35 cover fee: Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, where you can really get your red-meat fix. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
craft beer and ribs
Carnival Horizon has a brewmaster aboard who oversees the production of four craft beers served year-round at Guy's Pig & Anchor and the Atrium Bar: Toasted Amber, Farmhouse Ale, West Coast IPA and Smoked Porter, plus one seasonal beer. You can actually watch the brewing process (in glassed-off areas at Pig & Anchor), but the most fun thing to do is to order a tasting, sit back, sip and pick your favorite. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
pool on Carnival Horizon cruise
If you like fun, but not "hairy chest contest" fun, you'll want to hang out the very cool Havana Club Pool. But unless you book a Havana Club Stateroom (at a small premium over a regular balcony stateroom), you'll only be able to enjoy this pool and two Jacuzzis from 7 p.m. until midnight (along with lively Latin music from 8 p.m. to 10:15 p.m.). | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
serenity adult only retreat
Sometimes adults are louder than kids — especially adults on bachelor or bachelorette parties ordering buckets of beer and rum cocktails. Carnival has set aside the entire forward section of Deck 15 for guests 21 and older, but the name Serenity Retreat can be misleading depending on who's on the chaise next to you. Pack noise-cancelling earphones if you want to read in peace. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
pool on Carnival Horizon cruise
Every cabin comes with two pool towels, but don't overlook the note that says you'll be charged $22 for each towel if they're not in your cabin at cruise's end. A safer bet is to head to the towel hut at the Beach Pool or Serenity Retreat to check out (and return) fresh towels daily. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
crowded cruise
It's one thing to imagine cruising with 5,000 other people, and another to actually cruise with 5,000 people, each of whom is trying to live their loudest, most hysterical, often mildly intoxicated idea of "fun." When Carnival Horizon is at capacity, just go with the flow and expect challenges like trying to find two sun loungers next to each other or grabbing a croissant off the breakfast buffet without being jostled. It's a big ship, but that's a lot of people. If you love Las Vegas and loud concerts you'll adapt to the merry onboard mayhem. If not, this might not be the cruise for you. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line

Related: Best Caribbean Cruises for 2018-2019

Cloud 9 Spa's Thermal Suite
The Thermal Suite sounds heavenly, but it's on the small side for a ship this size with "heat therapy" rooms, nine heated tile recliners and a "thalassotherapy" pool that is more like a slightly overgrown Jacuzzi. When crowded, it's not very relaxing, so unless you plan to visit at non-peak hours (very early in the morning or when everyone is at dinner) you might want to spend your money elsewhere. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line
Alchemy Bar
You can bet that most of your fellow passengers will "Choose Fun!" — meaning this will not be a quiet cruise. So if you want to join the fun-a-palooza, pre-book a beverage package (about $50 per person per day) and you can drink all you want and only worry about your hangover — not your mounting bar bill. | Courtesy Carnival Cruise Line