A Caribbean cruise is the ultimate winter getaway, where swapping cold temperatures back home can soon be replaced by warm days spent in the sunniest of destinations. Cruise & Stay Expert Shauna recently enjoyed a Caribbean getaway on board Carnival Horizon, and here she shares just some of her highlights.

From checking in online to boarding, embarking Carnival Horizon in Miami was an easy and smooth process – we were on board ready to begin our fun holiday in less than 15 minutes.

Although a large ship from the outside, once on board Carnival Horizon I was pleasantly surprised at how intimate the public areas were. The atrium spans three decks and centres around an area for relaxing with a drink whilst watching a range of musicians and entertainment, ranging from a string trio playing a host of traditional to modern music, and evenings such as the Captain’s Toast. The interactive screen and everchanging centrepiece at the heart of the atrium also give you a sense of change each time you enter. The atrium is also where you’ll find a range of shops which include the ‘Carnival Fun shop’, ‘The Cherry on Top’ sweet shop and outlets selling a range of jewellery, alcohol and beauty products.

Carnival Cruise Line is known for fun, and it all starts at their sail away party on the Lido Deck. It is a great chance to get to know the production cast, youth team (including the Dr Seuss characters.), entertainment staff and Cruise Director. What I love about Carnival is the Cruise Director is at the heart of all entertainment on board and is the voice of the cruise. They’re always energetic, approachable, and keen to ensure everyone on board has the best time. This year, Jacky Tang was our Cruise Director on the Carnival Horizon and he did a fantastic job at hosting our cruise for the six days we were on board. Each evening, there were so many choices of activities including three large production shows. We watched each show in the theatre, which again, for a large ship, had a more personable and intimate feel than usual theatres on large ships. My personal favourite was ‘Amor Cubano’ with its high energy, fun and vivacious performance spotlighting Latin American and Cuban music and dancing. Another must-see show on board is ‘Celestial Strings’ – we loved it.

There are a range of speciality dining options on board the Carnival Horizon, and it was so difficult to choose where we wanted to try on our six-night cruise. We chose to dine on the second formal night in the speciality restaurant Cucina Del Capitano for an additional $18 per person. Cucina Del Capitano is famous for its Captain’s favourite chosen by each Captain on each individual ship along with the appetizer of ‘Nonna’s Meatballs’ – delicious. Other culinary delights for a small additional cost on board include Jiji Asian kitchen, Bonsai Sushi and Bonsai Teppanyaki and The Steakhouse Fahrenheit 555. Alongside these, there are also plenty of amazing complimentary eateries including the Lido marketplace, 24-hour fresh pizza, The Deli, Blue Iguana Cantina, Guy’s Burger Joint, The Pig and Anchor BBQ and of course, the main dining rooms. The food in the main dining rooms is also outstanding and we dined there four out of the six nights on board, where we got to know some of the servers who were always amazingly attentive and friendly. There was a large variety of choices each night of meat, fish and vegetarian meals and of course, among the desserts, the famous and out-of-this-world Carnival Chocolate Melting Cake (a MUST for chocolate lovers).

We were lucky enough to experience the exclusive area belonging to the Havana Cabana stateroom guests. This is a private section at the aft of the ship where guests can sunbathe on their private cabana-style balconies, swim in the private pool with amazing views out of the aft of the ship and consume their favourite cocktails at the exclusive bar. The area was stunning in a calm and relaxing environment away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the ship. When I cruise on a Vista Class ship again, I will certainly be booking into a Havana Cabana for the exclusive use of this area. All guests are able to enter the Havana Bar which is the inside area of this part of the ship which comes alive at night with its Latin vibes of live music, dancing and entertainment. We really enjoyed after-dinner drinks here on the first formal night before docking in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.

We spent our sea days and evenings back on board in the Serenity adults-only area with its bar, hot tubs, relaxing cabana-style sun beds and complimentary salad bar on the two days at sea. The area is peaceful and comfortable with drinks being served all day at your sunbathing spot. With the Serenity located at the front of Carnival Horizon, you enjoy amazing sea views all day long – my favourite view when on board on ship. There are also two other public areas with outdoor pools to enjoy – the mid-ship pool and waterpark on the Lido deck and above perfect for families or couples looking for a lively atmosphere throughout the day as there’s music and entertainment including pool games all-day long. There is also the aft pool deck with a more relaxed feel where all ages are invited to spend their day with easy access to a range of eateries also hosting fantastic sea views out of the aft of the ship.

The ports of call all boast their own individual features with so much to do and see. On this cruise, with six of us travelling, we decided to do something different each day to make the most of the beautiful islands and take in as much of the culture and beauty as the different ports had to offer. In Ocho Rios, we went bamboo river rafting followed by an afternoon at Bamboo Blu beach resort at Mammee Bay where we enjoyed the local Jamaican jerk chicken, whole red snapper washed down with a Red Stripe Jamaican lager. In Grand Cayman, which is one of my favourite Caribbean islands, we decided to rent a private boat with a skipper who took us to the famous Stingray City – a wildlife haven for stingrays in their natural environment where you can interact with these amazing creatures. Our skipper then recommended we stop at Starfish Point which was breathtaking. The glassy calm water and the white sandy beach felt as though we were inside a postcard. Here, we were also able to gently interact with the wild starfish and grabbed ourselves some local freshly cooked conch from a travelling BBQ boat. It was such an amazing experience!

On our final port day, we hired a private minibus with a driver for the six of us to travel around the island of Cozumel. We stopped at a local rum cake factory for a tasting session, a tequila factory where we had a guided and informative tour followed by tasting local tequilas including flavoured tequila such as mango, chocolate and peanut butter. We then went to the East coast to some of the island’s best beach bars with stunning sea views for delicious Mexican cuisine including coconut shrimp, tacos and nachos. These ports of call all offer something different and really enable you to get a feel of the different islands of the Caribbean.

Carnival Horizon docked in the Caribbean

Carnival Cruise Line really offers something for everyone with its range of amazing entertainment, delicious food options, activities and relaxation areas. Travelling as a group of six, we found there was something for all of our personalities and tastes with plenty of activities for the more active people in our group, and the perfect relaxation areas for those who prefer to sunbathe. With Miami being the Carnival Horizon’s home port, it is very convenient for people travelling from afar as it is an easily accessible hub for people from all over the world. They offer varied ports of call with a massive selection of islands in the Caribbean and this itinerary is just perfect with the correct ratio of sea days and port days with three different islands each with its own specialities.

Interesting in exploring the Caribbean for yourself with Carnival Cruise Line? Take a look at the cruises on board Carnival Horizon here.