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 departed 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 1): Scratching the Surface of Carnival’s Newest Ship
- 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
So far the cruise aboard Carnival’s newest ship has been packed with so much happening. There was embarkation day and an initial day at sea to explore Carnival Celebration for the first time. That was followed by three days with three different ports. But as the ship makes the turn back to Miami after calling on Roatan, we’ve had two days at sea before returning home.
That means two days to get in anything that you’ve wanted to do on the cruise but haven’t had the chance to just get to just yet.
To be sure, having been on the ship for days and done a lot of things already, it’s been a more relaxed vibe as we head back to home instead of feeling like we’ve got to do it all. So there’s been more time to just relax, find those spots on the ship that turn into your second home (Loft 19 for us), and slow down a bit.
Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t exactly cooperated.
Weather Pushes Things Inside (But Also Means a ‘Ship on a String’)
Day 6 saw some of the strongest winds I’ve seen at sea. And while the weather was relatively clear, the wind made enjoying the outdoors tough to do. On the final day of the cruise the winds died down some, but still were strong, combined with occasional showers passing through. Of course, I’d happily take a couple not-so-perfect weather days at sea if it means perfect weather in port like we saw on this trip.
But it has meant doing a bit more inside the ship than originally planned. Fortunately, there’s been a lot going on.
In fact, with plenty of time on our hands, we made it a mission that we win one of the coveted “ships on a string.” If you aren’t familiar, that’s the medal that Carnival gives to winners of contests on the ship.
In all my years of sailing, I’ve never won a contest on a cruise ship. During these days at sea, however, there have been lots of trivia and games. So if not now, then when?
We tried our hand at every type of trivia (general knowledge, cartoons, sports) and while we consistently placed around third or fourth, there was always someone who managed to top us in every category.
That is until the last day of the cruise, when there was a scavenger hunt about the historical mementos around the ship. Celebration was built with all sort of historical artifacts and touches that pay homage to Carnival’s 50 years of sailing. And they are all around the ship if you’re looking carefully (especially in The Golden Jubilee bar).
Paper in hand, we took off around the ship, snapping photos of the items on the list. And we made it back to the starting point in record time… only to find another team was already there with the answers and the host giving them the medal.
Beaten again. But then…
The host of the game seemed to take a little pity on us and when we showed her our answers, and decided it was good enough to also award us a medal. I’m sure they give out hundreds of these each cruise, but for the first time ever, I can say that I won.
I’ll just leave out that it was second place.
Surf and Turf… and a Colorful Show
Of course, the evenings have a lot going on around Celebration. The casino is packed, music is playing around the ship, and there’s always a buzz in the air.
We had dinner on Day 6 in the steakhouse onboard — Fahrenheit 555 ($48 per person). If you’re looking for a spot to splurge, this is it. Located just off the main walkway on Deck 7, it’s actually easy to miss. Outside it just looks like a fancy bar, but move past that and the room opens to the restaurant.
The menu features a full list of staples that you’d expect. Start off with oysters, stuffed mushrooms, pork belly, lobster bisque, or about a dozen other choices. For your entrée, there are ribeye steaks, lamb chops, Chilean sea bass, and plenty more. I opted for the surf and turf, featuring a lobster tail mixed along with filet mignon.
On land, I never go to steakhouses, so to be able to do so on the ship was special. I also thought the meal was perfect. I couldn’t eat there every night (for my wallet or my waistline), but for a special event it was a wonderful time. The cheesecake for dessert certainly didn’t hurt, either!
After dinner, we headed over to check out one of Carnival’s new shows on Celebration — Color My World. Held in the Grand Spectrum Theater (the classic theater at the front of the ship), there was no issue with finding a seat like the other headline show (The Most Magnificent Circus) held at the stage in the center of the ship earlier in the cruise.
As you might guess from the name, this show is all about color. It is performances of songs focused on colors (Paint It Black, Purple Rain, Yellow, etc.), but all given a twist compared to the originals. Then there is a new element with large video screens at the back of the stage that serves as the set background. Compared to traditional stage sets, the technology really adds another level to the performance, especially given the focus on colors.
In all, the performance was very good though the circus show earlier in the week is the one that I’d say you absolutely can’t miss. Also if you make this show… be ready for the surprise at the end!
The Final Verdict on Sailing Carnival Celebration
So after a full week on Carnival Celebration exploring everything onboard, eating at nearly every restaurant, and going to almost every show, what’s the final verdict on the ship?
First, I can say that it’s unlike any other Carnival ship I’ve sailed. From the size to the amenities, restaurants, and things to do, this class of ship (along with Mardi Gras) is a major change from the rest of the fleet. Even compared to the newer ships in the Vista class, it’s a big difference.
For instance, when it comes to dining, you have options that just aren’t found on other ships (Street Eats, ChiBang!, Big Chicken, Rudi’s, and more). And most of these are included in your cruise fare. During this trip, I ate at the same spot only once or twice the entire 7-day cruise. That’s almost unheard of on a cruise.
Then there are four different pools open to everyone, plus a private pool in Loft 19 and another in the Havana area. The waterpark at the back of the ship is larger with more slides than I’ve seen on other Carnival ships. Lounges, hangouts, bars, and other venues are everywhere, so that no matter what atmosphere you’re looking for, there’s something for you.
I don’t see how you can be bored on this ship with so much going on. It also does a good job of mixing classic Carnival venues that people love while also offering a lot that’s new compared to other classes. So you get that mix of favorites compared with some things that I think will become new favorites.
Is everything perfect? No, there are definitely some things that caught my eye. For one, while the ship is larger, I do find it to be much more crowded. The flow of people around the ship has some chokepoints, and it can sometimes feel hard to navigate (especially in the first days where you’re learning the layout).
As well, other logistics like the theater in Celebration Central not having enough seating for the popular shows and slow elevators added to the “crowded” feel.
But if you’re a Carnival fan and wondering if Celebration is right for you, I think it stays true to the Carnival roots while also offering so much more than other ships in the fleet. This class of ship is a major step forward… and one that I don’t think you want to miss. Having sailed for a week, it was an amazing time. I think you’d have one too.
- If you’ve followed along with this trip, then you might be wondering about one big feature that hasn’t been mentioned… BOLT — the roller coaster on Carnival Celebration. Our plan was to ride it when at sea on the way back to Miami. Unfortunately, with the wind both days at sea, the ride didn’t operate. Moral of the story: If you know that you want to do the roller coaster, then sign up and do it as soon as you can (it’s $15 per person for a ride). You never know what the weather may bring.
- I had a chance to tour the Havana rooms, and if you want a more secluded spot, then one of these cabins with access to the private pool seems ideal. There is Loft 19 at the top of the ship that has its own pool, but that can be pricey to access and means having to head all the way up to the top of the ship. These rooms offer an outdoor lounge space and pool that’s much closer than going upstairs (and much closer to the ocean).