Note: Carnival welcomed its newest ship to the fleet earlier this month with Carnival Celebration now sailing from Miami. Cruzely was invited to sail on one of the first voyages. The seven-day cruise departs Miami headed to Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Mahogany Bay (Roatan). I’ll be live-blogging the experience each day to share what sailing the new ship is like.
You can view other days here:
- Live Blog (Day 2): In All My Cruises, I’ve NEVER Seen This Before
- Live Blog (Day 3): Jeeps, Beach, and Grown Men on Waterslides
- Live Blog (Day 4): Cruising Costa Maya
- Live Blog (Day 5): If You Can’t Have Fun Doing This… That’s On You
- Live Blog (Days 6 & 7): What’s the Verdict on Carnival’s New Ship?
Following the pandemic, Carnival welcomed the first Excel-class ship to its fleet with Mardi Gras. That ship definitely made headlines and marked a big change in what the Carnival fleet would be like going forward.
Now, a second ship in this class — Carnival Celebration — has joined the fleet. This ship is a sister to Mardi Gras, building upon what’s been a popular and furthering Carnival’s move toward ships that are bigger and better than anything else in the fleet.
Personally, I had yet to check out this new class of ships. However, with this trip that’s all changing as I and a “plus one” head to Florida to see what exactly all the buzz is about.
But before I got the chance to experience Celebration, I had to get to the port. That meant an early morning flight (did I mention early?!) from Texas to Fort Lauderdale during one of the busiest travel days of the year. And while there were definitely plenty of people traveling, the combination of not checking bags and TSA PreCheck are lifesavers on busy days like these.
You never want an interesting flight, and thankfully the trip across the Gulf of Mexico was uneventful. From Fort Lauderdale, it was a short Lyft ride down to the Port of Miami where Celebration is docked. And yes, with it being the Sunday after Thanksgiving, it was unbelievably busy. Just getting a ride took about 20 minutes, but once the car arrived, it was an easy $50 trip down to the port.
Of course, the Fort Lauderdale airport was busy following the holiday, but then Miami proved why it is the cruise capital of the world. We arrived for boarding with a total of six ships in port, from Virgin Voyages at one end of the port all the way down to Royal Caribbean at the other end.
Even arriving before noon, people were everywhere. Thankfully, check-in at the redone Terminal F was a relative breeze for us (although admittedly it does help to be an invited guest in cases like this in navigating some of the crowds).
A quick walk through the departure hall, and then it was time to step aboard the new Carnival Celebration for the first time.
First Impressions of Celebration
Now as mentioned, this is my first time on this class of ships. And in an odd twist, the last Carnival ship I sailed was Carnival Ecstasy just weeks before it left the fleet. In other words, I’m getting an opportunity to sail the oldest ship in the fleet, followed by the newest.
I can tell you that, yes, there is a big difference! In fact, so far I’m noticing a lot of differences even between Celebration and the newer ships in the Carnival fleet.
In the days ahead I’ll definitely explain more about the differences for those that haven’t had the chance to sail on Carnival’s newest ships just yet. For the time being, however, let’s talk about first impressions.
The first thing I’m noticing is that there is just so much that’s new compared to other ships in the fleet. Yes, many of the favorite spots (Alchemy Bar, Guy’s Burger Joint, RedFrog) are here. But there are also so many spots that you only get on this class of ship.
Entering through Celebration Central (a large center atrium with stage), I passed through the Golden Jubilee, a bar and lounge area that’s essentially a museum dedicated to the cruise line. The details here are extremely neat, including the coins for each ship laid into the floor. (The first thing I did was find Ecstasy’s coin since it’s the last ship I sailed.)
Then there is the Latitudes Bar, complete with the rotating flipboard sign like you might see in an old train station. There’s ChiBang! (Asian and Tex-Mex), Big Chicken, and Emeril’s Bistro 1397.
And the spots come right after another. It seems like everywhere you turn there is something new that you don’t see across the rest of the fleet, while also having those familiar spots. So even if you’ve sailed Carnival but not this type of ship, there’s a lot to take in.
In fact, my first few hours were spent just trying to get a handle on what all is available. And while I know that on a 7-day cruise there won’t be anything that I don’t have time to do or see, it can feel overwhelming on the first day to feel like you have to do it all immediately.
A Busy First Day… Only Scratching the Surface
So in general I’ve really tried to get a lay of the land aboard the ship, but there’s also been some highlights of new things already. First was trying Big Chicken for a quick lunch, located aft on the ship. It’s included in the fare, and for a grab-and-go spot, it’s fantastic. Step up, order, and it’s impossible to leave hungry. If you know how popular Guy’s Burger Joint is across the fleet, I could see this spot having the same sort of popularity.
Sail away came a little later, and due to the number of people on the ship and the configuration of the pool deck, I’ve never seen this area be so crowded. It was simply shoulder-to-shoulder across all the decks and EVERYONE seemed to be having a great time. I will say that if there is some sort of major draw at the pool, it’s obvious that getting there early for a spot is ideal.
As for us, instead of fighting the crowd, we watched only for a bit but instead headed to the Serenity deck. Carnival has made this the largest Serenity deck I’ve seen on one of their ships. Even with a packed ship and tons of people out and about for leaving Miami, we were still able to find a spot to lounge (and it’s MUCH quieter than being poolside).
Following the departure from Miami (including a helicopter that buzzed the ship for seemingly half an hour filming the scene as Celebration headed to sea), it was time for a drink in the Latitudes Bar. The menu here is a bit eclectic as there are drinks from all over the world. I had a paloma, but if you want a show, order The Sakura.
It’s a drink made with sake and pomegranate liqueur, but the real draw is when the bartender creates a massive bubble that sits on top of the glass. You’re given some rose petals to sprinkle over the bubble, make a wish, and poof… the bubble pops and a mist floats over the drink. It’s something I’ve never seen before and well worth it.
From there it seemed like a mad dash to do and see everything we wanted to experience to close out the first day. We watched a show at Celebration Central (the digital background really makes the show “pop” with the bright lights), followed by a comedian in the Punchliner Comedy Club.
But the highlight might have been a late dinner in ChiBang! On other cruise lines this spot would definitely be an extra charge, but it’s included aboard Celebration, and I was impressed.
Some people may call it Tex-Mex and Asian fusion, but it’s not. It’s simply a restaurant that serves both cuisines (a little weird, honestly). One side of the menu is Mexican food, the other is Asian. Still, I had the kung pao chicken that was great. I would suggest ordering a side of rice to go with it, but I shared it with a side of stir-fried broccoli that was extremely tasty.
I’ll admit that at a late dinner following a 4:30 a.m. wakeup and an entire day of travel and exploring the ship, I hit the wall. Luckily, there are six more days to experience everything on the ship.
Day 2 is a day at sea.
- I mentioned the helicopter that filmed the ship departing Miami. I’ve seen these before and they are usually filming for marketing (commercials, etc.), so I might ‘technically’ be in a future Carnival ad! It was actually pretty neat to see as this helicopter would buzz the ship, hover in place, go back and forth, and do it all just seemingly a few hundred feet from the deck.
- One thing I’ve noticed is that the cabin bathroom might be the smallest of any ship I’ve been on. After a shower, I realized that I could barely get dressed without bumping into the counter, shower door, or toilet. Cabin bathrooms are always small, but these seem even smaller than normal.