In a stream of passengers boarding the new Carnival Horizon, I entered an elevator for a ride to my assigned cabin, only to become a prisoner to a lift with a brain but no buttons.
The door closed quickly. Nearly a dozen of us, seemingly trapped in an elevator without controls, began rising to who knew where.
Carnival cruisers: Get ready for brainy lifts at sea that may know more about where you are going than you do. Carnival Horizon, which begins cruising out of PortMiami to the Caribbean on Sept. 22, is the first ship built for the North America market that is full of so-called smart elevators, 33 of them promising faster times, fewer stops, and a new dimension in vertical transportation.
In Barcelona, for a one-week cruise into the Mediterranean Sea, the elevators had been programmed not to stop on any decks with cabins that were still being cleaned in preparation for the cruise. Instead, my elevator rose from the embarkation point directly to Deck 10, taking me and my fellow prisoners swiftly to a lunch buffet — a brilliant plan though a bit disconcerting for the unaware.
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Within a few days of cruising, however, the bewildered were few. Most passengers seemed comfortable with using touch pads in the elevator lobbies to indicate their intended deck destination, then follow instructions to locate the correct blinking light to enter the proper elevator.
The 3,960-passenger Carnival Horizon arrived in New York from Europe May 23. for its naming ceremony. The event featured the ship's godmother, actress and Grammy-winning singer/rapper Queen Latifah. The ship is doing cruises out of New York for the summer on four-night Bermuda and eight-night Caribbean voyages. Starting in September, Carnival Horizon will do Caribbean cruises year-round out of Miami, alternating between six and eight nights.
Once you get the hang of the elevators, moving around this ship is relatively easy, as most restaurants, lounges, and the casino are grouped on two decks. Navigating the vessel will be a familiar exercise for anyone who has sailed on sister ship, Carnival Vista, which launched in 2016.
My favorites among the new toys and attractions on Carnival Horizon center around barbecue, new craft beers, and more Dr. Seuss than you might imagine.
On Horizon, Carnival introduces Guy’s Pig & Anchor smokehouse and brewhouse. This restaurant, larger and better provisioned than the brewpub on Carnival Vista, may well be cruising’s best seaside roadhouse — with a masterful mixing of new craft beers, live country music, and a terrific menu of smoky barbecue from the artistry of Guy Fieri.
The energetic chef Fieri, a Food Network TV star, is the man who boosted passenger consumption of hamburgers on Carnival Cruise Line ships to 5 million complimentary burgers a year, says Carnival — cooked on many a pool deck, served loaded and juicy.
Fieri was the right Guy to develop Carnival Horizon’s barbecue, prepared in a pair of custom-made smokers. Guy’s Pig & Anchor is well worth an evening, with gentle fees for food — $4 for starters such as chicken wings and trash can nachos, $6 for pig and brisket melt, $8 for the half slab of ribs, and $2 for such sides as sweet potato bourbon mash.
This joint is a hit. The winning barbecue formula includes pairings with four new ParchedPig craft beers, concocted on the ship by Carnival’s brewmaster, Colin Presby. Best to taste test the four brews first, ordering a ParchedPig flight starting with a toasted amber ale and finishing with a robust smoked porter.
Tip: Get a free tasting of Guy’s Pig & Anchor barbecue at lunch on embarkation day and on sea days, served on the promenade deck outside the smokehouse/brewhouse. Smart elevators are programmed to go there, too.
The other character who plays an increasing role on Carnival Horizon is Dr. Seuss. The delightful imaginary characters of the fictional Dr. Seuss have become major elements on Carnival Cruise Line ships and are included in family programs for children, starting with interactive story times and character breakfasts that are available on various Carnival cruises.
On Horizon, Dr. Seuss has his own WaterWorks waterpark, which consumes a major portion of the top decks. It’s a fun play area with brightly painted blue, red, yellow and green Dr. Seuss images. Great gobs of water — 300 gallons in fact — tumble from a giant tipping bucket, and water scoots down dueling slides of differing difficulty and height restrictions — Fun Things, 42 inches; Cat’s Hat, 48 inches.
The Dr. Seuss WaterWorks sits high and splendidly, mid-ship starting on Deck 12, which is what you would choose on a lobby key pad to activate the new-fangled elevators. You might be tempted to test the level of elevator intelligence, as I was, saying, “Hey, Elly, lift me up to the doctor of fun.” But don’t get your One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish hopes up.
These elevators are not that smart.