As Mardi Gras approaches, I am excited to see what the Carnival festivities in New Orleans will be like. This year’s theme is “Carnival of Life” and it seems that this Carnival will be one for the books.
Carnival Cruise Lines is known for their Mardi Gras celebration. This year, a new cruise ship was added to the fleet and had a final voyage before being decommissioned.
In my last post, I provide my final views on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest mega-ship, the Mardi Gras.
If there’s one question I’m asked the most, it’s definitely, “How did you like [insert ship name here]?”
So, after spending a week aboard Carnival’s newest, largest, and most talked-about ship — and having had a month or so to reflect on it — I thought I’d offer my views on Mardi Gras, including what succeeded and what may still need some adjusting.
Before we get started, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, I was on the first sailing, which meant there were still a few bugs to iron out.
Furthermore, we were sailing at a lower capacity, making it difficult to predict how Mardi Gras would feel at full capacity. And, although my schedule differed somewhat from what we had planned, it doesn’t really matter since we’re talking about the ship here, not the ports.
Zones are hit.
As someone who has done a number of sailings on Carnival ships, I boarded Mardi Gras expecting to have a good idea of where everything was and how to go from one location to another very quickly. I was mistaken.
Not only did it take me two days to figure out how to go about the ship, but I was still finding small things I hadn’t seen until the last day.
This is the first Carnival ship to include “zones,” as you may remember. To be honest, that seemed like a ruse to me. I thought you wouldn’t be able to distinguish one “zone” from another, and that everything would basically mix together like it does on any other ship.
Sure, the Grand Central Zone’s borders are a little hazy, and it’s arguably the ship’s least “themed” section.
What is the link between the (amazing) atrium and Bonsai Sushi? I couldn’t tell you anything. However, every other zone, particularly the French Quarter, has its own unique vibe. This was as well-themed as one of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom’s “lands.”
The New Muster Drill is a big hit.
It’s difficult to claim that the industry-wide closure resulted in anything positive, so let’s create lemonade out of lemons. Carnival, like other cruise companies, was obliged to invent a new method to conduct muster exercises.
How can you prevent cramming everyone into a few cramped places to do essential business? By re-inventing the process from the ground up.
(Image courtesy of the Carnival HUB app)
I have to give Royal Caribbean credit for this, since they were working on it even before the closure started. There isn’t a single line out there that is still doing things the old way, as far as I know.
And congratulations to Carnival for finding out how to encourage people to participate in the muster exercise as soon as possible: Your Sail & Sign card is effectively blocked for transactions after ordering two drinks, so no shopping or alcohol until you finish the exercise.
Miss: Dining Perplexity
It may take a long time to iron out the problems in a new system. Carnival smartly devised a system that allows guests to purchase things from the Main Dining Room menu at a variety of free speciality restaurants.
What was the inspiration behind this? Reducing the number of people in the two main dining rooms. Regrettably, they haven’t yet found out how to inform travelers about this choice.
READ MORE: Exploring Summer Landing at Carnival’s Mardi Gras
Additionally, if you didn’t book before sailing, reservations for specialized eateries like Rudi’s Seagrill and Bonsai Teppanyaki were almost difficult to come by.
The fact that this was an issue while the ship was operating at a reduced capacity suggests that things are only going to get worse before they get better.
Take this as a warning: if you have your heart set on a certain speciality eating establishment, make your reservations as soon as possible!
New Dining Options are a Hit
Carnival deserves a lot of credit for increasing not just their for-fee eating choices during Mardi Gras, but also their free ones.
At $38 per person, Rudi’s Seagrill is a steal, but others may argue that if this were the only new venue available, Carnival was attempting to extort more money from them with the specialized restaurant.
But it’s difficult to make that case when Big Chicken, Street Eats, and Chibang! have all been added to the list of free eating choices.
While Emeril’s Bistro 1396 costs between $3 and $10 for its menu items, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse, which charges on other ships, is free for both lunch and dinner during Mardi Gras, at least as of this writing.
The HUB App is a conditional hit.
Without a doubt, Carnival’s HUB app is fantastic and will make your trip a thousand times more enjoyable. The reason I call this a “conditioned” hit is because cruisers who wish to unplug from their gadgets while on vacation will find it difficult to do so today.
READ: Which Restaurants Are Complimentary During Mardi Gras?
Sure, the majority of what can be done on the app can be done in other ways, but it’s more difficult. The HUB app makes everything simpler, from browsing at meals to making bookings and even visiting guest relations. However, this implies that you’ll be tied to your phone for the whole week.
Cabin Variety is a hit.
There has never been a Carnival ship with such a diverse range of cabin choices. The new Excel Class Suites are not just expensive, but they’re also stunning.
For others, the sheer number of stateroom choices may be confusing, particularly when they attempt to figure out which categories have access to certain facilities.
As an additional benefit, the cabins aboard Mardi Gras have been renovated to include better bathrooms, greater storage space, and a lovely color palette, starting with the inner staterooms.
(It’s worth noting that this is precisely why you should employ a travel agency or personal cruise consultant.) They may assist you in ensuring that you and your group book precisely what you want.)
The Drinks Selection is a Hit
If you love drinking while on vacation, believe me when I say you’ll want to get the Cheers! package. On Mardi Gras, not only are there a flood of new establishments, but there are also more new drinks than you could ever sample during your visit.
You may sample them all without purchasing the Cheers! bundle, but the cost will soon mount up. There are fresh cocktails to sample at almost every turn, from the powerful concoctions churned up by the bartenders at the Fortune Teller’s Bar to the tropical concoctions at the RedFrog Tiki Bar.
Hit or Miss: The Massive Casino
Whether or not you’re a gambler will have a big impact on how you feel about this place. The casino aboard the Mardi Gras is 33% bigger than on any previous Carnival cruise, according to one of the ship’s designers, and it shows. The area is vast and almost inescapable.
On the positive side, the casino is physically separated from the Grand Central atrium, so smoke does not drift throughout the ship as it does on certain Norwegian Cruise Line ships. (If you’ve ever been on Norwegian Breakaway, you’ll understand what I’m talking about.)
BOLT, the Ultimate Sea Coaster is a smash hit.
Maybe you’ve heard that this ship has a roller coaster on board? In the advertising literature, it’s referred to as a sea coaster.
BOLT Roller Coaster Review during Carnival’s Mardi Gras
While everyone must determine for themselves if the price — presently $15 per person for a single lap — is worth it, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and would gladly pay to do it again.
Do I believe they should provide you with two laps for the price? Definitely! The first lap is spent learning the controls. The trip will be finished by the time you figure them out.
Serenity Retreat, Loft 19, and the Havana Retreat are all conditional hits.
Each of these regions has advantages and disadvantages. Loft 19 is lovely, but it’s reserved for visitors in the most costly cabins (or willing to pay pretty big bucks for access).
The Havana Retreat is a nice benefit for guests who book a Havana-class cabin, but the one on the Mardi Gras doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors.
And, in the case of Serenity, I retract my statement that each place has advantages and disadvantages, since I can’t think of anything negative to say about it.
It offers the ideal balance of shade and sun, as well as a nice-sized covered pool in the center. Serenity, unlike Loft 19, includes a pool, and unlike the other two rooms, it is open to all visitors over the age of 21.
Mardi Gras Overall Impression
What is my overall opinion of this ship? It more than lives up to the anticipation and takes Carnival’s game to new heights.
The French Quarter and the Grand Central atrium are the sorts of places that, in my opinion, will have the same effect on Carnival’s future as the then-visionary elements featured on the Fantasy-class ships by designer Joe Farcus.
It’s also a ship that you’ll spend a week touring and discover you haven’t seen/done/heard/tasted all there is to see/do/hear/taste.
Other Mardi Gras travel reports may be found here:
Frequently Asked Questions
What happened to the original Carnival Mardi Gras?
The original Carnival Mardi Gras was a private event that was held in the park on February 16, 2019.
How much is the presidential suite on the Carnival Mardi Gras?
The Presidential Suite on Carnival Mardi Gras is $2,000 per person.
Is the Carnival Mardi Gras still being built?
The Carnival Mardi Gras is still being built.
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