Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer
Sophisticated "seen but not heard" service people; cabins with private verandas; mega-ship action; understated elegance in a low-key environment; no children; dozens of varieties of food.
Let's be honest here, Carnival's Holiday (oldest in Carnival) and her sister ship Celebration (second-oldest) are some of the oldest vessels still in service in the U.S. cruise market. They are fine ships and were considered state-of-the-art in their day, but so were VCRs, vinyl record turntables and TV shows like "Growing Pains." Today, though Celebration is expertly maintained (getting a multi-million dollar update back in 2003), it inevitably still shows its age when it comes to things like food services technology and high-tech stage shows. So, while there's always fun to be had aboard these Carnival sister ships, keep your expectations in check and try to look on the bright side of life. Roll with waves, go with the flow.
Mostly reserved for budget cruises, Celebration sails out of Jacksonville, Florida, on 4 and 5-night cruises to the Bahamas. And yes, At 46,000 tons, Celebration was considered a mega-liner when she was launched as the second of Carnival's "Fun Cruising" ships, but now her proportions are regarded as "intimate" -- substantially easier to navigate than a megaship. During the summer months there can be literally hundreds of kids on board, and at mid-day the Pool Deck can remind you of a public beach on the hottest day of July.
Nearly all the public rooms on Celebration are tightly clustered on the Admiral and Promenade decks. The Astoria Lounge is the main showroom. The bars on board are some of the cutest and quaintest little cruise ship bars anywhere. The endless Summer bar has a surfing theme with real outrigger canoes and surfboards everywhere. The Trolley bar, next to the Rainbow Club Casino, contains an actual San Francisco-style trolley car next to a "sidewalk" cafe. The Galax Z Dance Club is where you'll find young adults grinding their way into the nights. The aft-most lounge on Promenade Deck is Islands in the Sky, a live music and comedy venue.
The most you can say for the decor in the dining rooms is that it probably won't spoil your appetite. Glass partitions serve to make them less clamorous than they might be otherwise - clamor being no stranger to Carnival!
In all there are seven bars, six entertainment lounges, a casino, a disco, a library, a video arcade, a children's playroom, a beauty salon, and shops.
Confounding the scoffers, Carnival actually serves tastier vittles than several of its higher-priced competitors. Holiday's in particular reflects Carnival's renewed commitment to quality ingredients and imaginative and proficient preparation. Such Asian fusion elements as bok choy and lemongrass have crept stealthily into some dishes, to the dishes' considerable benefit, and your steak is likely to be noticeably more tender than Carnival has dished up in the past. Of course, the age of the dining room and especially the kitchen works against the staff (today's newer ships have made serving hot food to 1000s of people simultaneously an art), so give your waiter a break if something comes out a little hot than you prefer it, he is doing the best he can.
There is nothing wrong with the menu selections, however, or the freshness of the food. It compares to what you will receive on any other Carnival ship. Lunches offer a wide selection of low cal and low carb options. You can choose among a vast array of salads - all, lamentably, with the dressing already applied.
Carnival pizza, available 24-hours on the aft Lido deck, remains the best at sea.
Total Choice Dining means passengers are assigned a table for dinner at one of four seatings; 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. The time you select determines which of the four seatings and which of the the two main dining rooms you are assigned. The Vista Dining Room mid-ship, and the Horizon Dining Room located aft, are both on deck five. Carnival does its best to seat couples with couples, singles with singles.
The Wheelhouse Bar & Grill on Lido Deck offers buffets for breakfast and lunch and then, in the evening, becomes an alternative dining venue for those wishing to dine al fresco or just casually — so casually, in fact, that you'll not only get no cloth napkin, but not even an adult-sized paper one!
Every evening between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., the Wheelhouse Bar & Grill becomes the Seaview Bistro, offering a dinner buffet with no reservations or advance notice required.
Celebration's complimentary sushi bar opens in late afternoons. You'll have to pay for your sake. A 24-hour pizzeria and 24-hour room service menu are also available.
Oddly, touchingly, Celebration's having unmistakably entered the autumn of her years seems to have inspired the crew and staff with a remarkable team spirit, intent on making your experience aboard this old gal, soon no longer to be with us, as pleasurable as possible. The crew is efficient, friendly, and, in many cases, implacably zany. (note: they take a strange delight in folding towels to resemble animals.)
$10.00 per person (over two years of age) per day is automatically added to your Sail & Sign card. (You may also prepay gratuities for all service personnel at a rate of $10.00 per person per day.) Of this, $3.60 is for the stateroom steward; $5.50 for the Dining Room team, and $.90 for service in the alternative dining rooms. Visit the purser's desk during the cruise to raise or lower these amounts.
On Cruises-to-Nowhere, gratuities of $10 per person per day must be prepaid.
A 15% gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Tip the maitre d', room service, spa, casino and other staff as you deem proper.
A toiletries basket is provided, but no hair dryer. Oceanview staterooms and suites have a minibar and bathrobes. Many staterooms are popular with families because they accommodate up to four people with surprisingly little friction.
The standard cabins are pretty nearly identical, differing only in their distance above the waterline. While the 10 balconied veranda suites have whirlpool bathtubs, everyone else has to make do with a stall shower.
Do note that Celebration's cabin walls are very thin. If you don't want your neighbors to hear you, whisper, or pass notes back and forth.
There's abundant open deck space for sunning, and a large pool with a 14-foot spiral water slide. The Nautica fitness center has state-of-the-art equipment, but these ships were obviously built at a time when the idea of working out on a cruise was fairly risible; the facilities are scandalously small by modern standards, and drab to boot. A golf learning center on Lido Deck aft, complete with an onboard PGA pro who conducts clinics and gives lessons, may help to console any golfers aboard. There are a separate jogging track and a spa offering massage and beautifying treatments.
The spa, of course, is run by Steiner's of London, known to impose onerous sales quotas on its staves; don't be surprised if, while massaging you, your masseuse pretty nearly insists on your buying a bottle of whatever oil she's using.
There's a playroom for children under three. In-cabin babysitting is available at a rate of $6 for the first child, $4 for each additional child. Group babysitting is free in the children's playroom during selected hours.
Most men opt for dark suits rather than tuxedos on formal nights. By day, dress as though you're on vacation in the Caribbean, which of course you are, in beachwear or even cutoffs. On non-formal nights, tank-tops and shorts are forbidden in the dining rooms.
No longer in service for Carnival. Reviews presented for historic reference only.
Best For People Who Want
Non-stop hi-jinks like silly adult games, lively casinos, children's activities, spacious cabins; casual cruising style, lots of good old boys and gals from the Deep South among fellow passengers.
Scandalously garish at a time when cruise ships were expected to be elegantly somber, they're now seen as representing chief Carnival interior designer and whimsy-monger Joe Farcus at his most restrained! Farcus liberally indulges one of his favorite color combinations; red, blue and purple throughout the ship, dominating the Wheelhouse Bar and the Horizon dining room, but elsewhere the ship encompasses every color of the rainbow, and a few additional ones. Expect lots of chrome, brass, and mirrors, as in a late-'70s disco; keep your sunglasses close at hand even when inside! There is no atrium, only a lobby.
Celebration had a multi-million dollar refit a few years back adding new carpeting, furniture, and wall coverings for a more modern look. The dining rooms were redesigned to optimize food handling and traffic patterns. Staterooms received new curtains, wallpaper, carpet, pillows and bedspreads. Still, a lot of the ships' glitz is wearing off quite literally, as well as metaphorically. You'll notice lots of dulled or scratched reflective metal surfaces, lots of threadbare or stained floor coverings, and peeling window coatings.
is Carnival's bread and butter. Las Vegas-style floor shows are presented twice on every cruise in the Astoria Theater. Or you can choose cabaret-style live music, the Red Hot piano bar, the Galax Z Disco or Islands in the Sky for combo music and dancing. The Rainbow Club Casino offers wall to wall gaming with slots and plenty of table games. Late night, you can count on the casino and disco remaining open until the wee hours.
By day, there's a never-ending succession of pool games, hairy chest and knobby knees contests, bingo, horse races, art auctions, and trivia games.
Celebration offers some notable shore excursions. The shore excursion department personnel know their stuff, and enjoy helping, though with an unfortunate tendency to oversell.