The new Carnival Horizon, which left Europe in May for New York and will move to Miami in September, may be the last Carnival Cruise Line ship to offer European voyages, at least for quite some time. President Christine Duffy says Carnival has no plans to cruise in Europe again.
Carnival Horizon was built in Italy and sailed only a few European voyages before coming to the United States. The line’s next new ship, Carnival Panorama, will sail directly from the shipyard in Italy to Long Beach, California, via the Pacific Ocean, apparently without paying passengers. Preliminary plans for a Carnival ship expected to debut in 2020 do not include voyages in Europe (though, of course, other Carnival Corp. brands, such as Holland America and Princess, have multiple ships in Europe each summer).
Europe will miss Carnival, which is the most American of all the North American cruise lines — in design, food, atmosphere, and style. While other cruise lines have become more international by design, the 26 ships of Carnival Cruise Line never have attempted to be anything else. Burgers sloppy with American condiments are consumed on its pool decks by the thousands, in the general vicinity of the hairy chest contest. American songs dominate the piano bar. American jokes fill the comedy club.
Carnival has introduced Americans on a budget to the great European cities of Barcelona, Marseille, Florence, Rome, Naples, Dubrovnik, and Venice. While a vast majority of Carnival passengers sailing on Europe cruises have been North Americans, these voyages also have drawn Europeans and Asians, who no doubt were curious about the American experience.
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The result was a fun mixture of cultures, with occasional clashes, mostly embarrassments or misunderstandings of eccentricities that seemed innocuous and humorous. I remember a European who was incredulous, and perhaps embarrassed, when the piano bar man didn’t know how to play his favorite Engelbert Humperdinck song. Dumbfounded, the burly passenger picked up the huge tip he had placed on the bar and left in a rush with his pretty girlfriend. The piano player, who lost a big tip, was the only person not amused.
On Carnival Horizon, a non-American asked me about a sign that hangs at the concession stand for the Carnival Multiplex of two theaters.
A bucket of 4 will save you $2 and three more trips to the concession!
Asked the non-American: “Who leaves a movie three times for a beer run to the concession stand? Does that happen in America?” I said that I didn’t know.
My favorite Carnival culture clash in Europe occurred on Carnival Vista two years ago, when several couples from Russia were aboard, on their first cruise and probably their first occasion to vacation with a large group of Americans.
Nobody seemed to have a lot to say until a flash of misunderstanding on the Serenity deck, which is one of Carnival’s best design changes of the past decade. The Serenity section is an oasis of calm on ships that generally cater to noisy children, frenetic pool games, and loud music. Serenity furniture and clamshell loungers are cushioned. Some ships have hot tubs and a wading pool. As a sign makes clear, Serenity is for Adults Only.
Passengers on Vista’s Serenity deck were surprised when several Russian couples arrived, chose empty loungers, and removed all of their clothes to lie down to sunbathe.
After some buzzing and scurrying by fellow passengers, the naked couples were asked by Serenity deck attendants to put their clothes back on. They complied, explaining that they had read the Adults Only sign and thought it meant clothing optional. Sometimes when you do your best to fit in, you stand out.
My wife and I stood out unintentionally when we boarded the new Carnival Horizon in Barcelona, Spain.
An expensive kitchen knife, packed in my wife’s checked suitcase, was discovered by security during a luggage scan. Her bag did not arrive at our cabin. When we called guest services to ask, we were informed that security had confiscated an item and that we needed to claim our bag, which included a letter saying that our knife would be held until we departed.
Our excuse was simple. We had booked two cruises in Europe, one ending six days before the second began. We rented an apartment for six nights in Italy’s Cinque Terre region. Because most rental apartment kitchens are ill-equipped, my wife wanted a small, 4-inch paring knife, which we wrapped, taped, and placed deep in her checked luggage.
Among the items that you may not bring aboard cruise ships are toy or real guns and knives, irons, candles, and various forms of alcohol, as well as some other liquids. How serious are cruise lines about confiscating such items from your packed luggage? Very serious, as I found out.
A week later, security, taking no chances, handed over the paring knife as we walked off the ship. Not so lucky, said a security guard, were passengers who tried to sneak alcohol aboard in their checked luggage. These items were discarded. (Some liquids are allowed by ships in carry-on luggage; ask your cruise line).
Having learned little from the first security scan, we got caught again when boarding our second cruise, on Seabourn Ovation in Genoa, Italy. Security would not even allow my wife’s bag to be loaded onto the ship until we claimed it ashore, where the well-traveled knife was confiscated again. Security returned it when we left the ship in Venice.
The lesson is to pay attention to cruise line rules about what you may bring aboard ship. Keep in mind that items might be allowed in checked luggage aboard an airplane (where you will not have access to it) but will not pass cruise ship security scans of luggage to be delivered to your cabin.