Written by Steven Christian
Belden Communications News
Recently, Belden Communications, LLC had News Intern Steven Christian onboard the Carnival Horizon out of Port Miami for a 6-night Caribbean Cruise. While onboard the second ship in the Vista-class of Carnival ships, Steven reviewed the newest cruising procedures and protocols following the restart of the cruising industry after a year and a half hiatus due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Carnival port staff was at the main entrance of the cruise terminal, checking passengers for vaccination status or negative antigen or PCR test results. The embarkation process was smooth, even with the added precautions. Masks were required when debarking and embarking at the different ports.
At the time, each Carnival cruise was running with a ninety-five percent vaccinated to a five percent unvaccinated passenger ratio on board. Because of the operations protocols, masks were required inside the cruise terminal but not enforced aboard the ship for fully vaccinated guests. Crew members, despite vaccination status, had to wear a mask while in guest areas.
Steven spoke with a handful of crew members throughout the cruise, and it was clear that they were all excited to be back after a long hiatus since being at sea and serving guests is what they love. “I am just so excited to be back. Carnival has been using the hashtag, ‘We will be back,’ but now we can finally say, ‘We are Back’," said Chris “Donkey” Salazar, Cruise Director for the Carnival Horizon. Cruise Directors traditionally are nicknamed, and Mr. Salazar has been affectionally referred to as “Donkey” by his shipmates.
The destinations on the cruise itinerary were astonishing!
The first port of call for the cruise was Amber Cove (Puerto Plata), Dominican Republic. The Mountain Views and City Sights excursion gave breathtaking views of the island with a scenic drive through the city of Puerto Plata, supplying guests a stop at some tourist sights and shops. It was a beautiful destination with a city full of festive Caribbean colors with plenty to see and do.
The second stop was in Half Moon Cay, the Bahamas, a Carnival Cruise Lines private island, and the sister island to Princess Cay, the Bahamas. Guests can enjoy a relaxing day at the beach once tendered from the ship to Half Moon Cay, or they can indulge in a few different excursion options bought through Carnival. Steven chose a Kayaking excursion and a Nature Walk tour for his private island experience. The Nature Walk tour guide was not enthusiastic about the nature tour as the guests were. The weather that day was humid, but the kayaking excursion made up for it as it provided gorgeous views of the crystal blue waters of the Bahamas.
The last port of call on the itinerary included Bimini, the Bahamas. The July 18 sailing aboard the Horizon was the first Carnival cruise ship to dock with passengers into Bimini as the small island had just come out of lockdown. Bimini is a smaller island, which allowed Steven to get a full island tour from a local cab driver while en route to ResortsWorld Bimini Beach Club. The beach resort was full of fun amenities like beach access, a pool, a swim-up bar, and breathtaking views. ResortsWorld Bimini Beach Club will be changing its name to the Beach Club at Bimini when Virgin Voyages docks this fall after setting sail from Miami. Bimini and all the other ports offered great amenities and added to the experiences throughout the cruise.
The protocols for the various places visited were put in place by the local government of the individual countries. Amber Cove needed facial coverings for tourists visiting the country. Vaccinated guests did not need a mask on Half Moon Cay, except while on the tender boat to and from the ship. As far as Bimini, Masks mandates were in full effect due to the island coming out of lockdown.
Having only two years under her belt, the Carnival Horizon - launched in 2019 - is the sister ship to the Carnival Vista and Panorama. She has a capacity of 3,400-3,900 passengers and crew members and weighs 133,500 tons. Due to the Health and Safety Protocols in place, the earlier restart sailings operated at a limited capacity for passengers.
The onboard ship experience for this cruise was great during the three planned Sea Days. From comedy shows to the casino, the Skyride to the ropes course, Build-A-Bear at Sea, and other fun activities, the Horizon offers something to do for the whole family and even single cruisers.
The food and beverage selections aboard the Horizon were plentiful and delicious. With options ranging from the Red Frog Bar and Blue Iguana Cantina offering tacos and burritos, Guys Burger Joint serving up Guy Fieri’s amazing burgers, and The Lido Marketplace providing the traditional buffet foods like pasta, subs, and more. Pizzeria del Capitano, found in the aft (back) of the ship, sits behind the Lido Marketplace and provides guests with different pizza options 24-hours a day; it is one of many favorites amongst cruisers. Next door to the pizzeria is the Seafood Shack which makes all your favorite seafood eats, from clam chowder, fish and chips, lobster rolls, and more, but does come at an added charge.
JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, Guys Burger Joint, Blue Iguana Cantina, Lido Marketplace, and Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse offer further dining options aside from the traditional dining experiences in the Main Dining Rooms. The Kung Pao Chicken at JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, the Cuban Sandwich at Lido Marketplace, Tacos and Burritos at Blue Iguana, and Guys Burger were filling and highly recommended.
"I missed being here, and I am so excited to be back,” said John, a waiter in the Main Dining Room.
The overall cruise experience felt like cruising in a pre-pandemic world. All Health and Safety protocols were met, with added stringent cleaning protocols in place. At the time, fully vaccinated guests did not need proof of a negative COVID-19 test to board the ship. But with the Delta variant wreaking havoc around the world now, all protocols have been updated to follow the current CDC guidelines.