Carnival's Mardi Gras Review

A comprehensive review of the Carnival Mardi Gras.


Yvonne C Miklos-Vandesteene

2021-09-09 12 min read

Comprehensive Mardi Gras review.

Food- food was overall very good, there is so much to choose from and so much variety that you do not have to eat the same meal twice on a 7 day cruise. My favorite spots were Big Shaq Chicken and the Street Eats. We had breakfast at Big Chicken more than any other place. We even skipped a MDR brunch for Big Shaq's breakfast chicken sandwiches. Street eats was also a nice place to stop by every day to try something new, each day there are three stations, a fried, steamed and sizzle station, and I loved trying something new each day. I made it a point to drop by each time during the hours of operations to see what the choices would be that day and even when the choices didn’t seem that appetizing, IE Beef and Tofu, I still gave it a shot and was pleasantly surprised by the street foods offered. This is a must stop every day if you are a foodie. We also ate at Rudis Seagrill, and unfortunately, both of us were disappointed in our meals there. I had the Crab infused Lobster, and found the lobster to be overcooked and the crab to not taste that great, I left most of the meal on the plate. The Lobster Mac’ and Cheese was novel but not something I would order again and the Seafood Bisque was great and the presentation was awesome but the dish was very rich and lacking the meats I was looking for. Overall I would pass on Rudis. We also got the opportunity to eat at Chibang, which is the Mexican and Chinese restaurant, its not a fusion but rather a mix and match type place where you can order the Loaded Nachos for an appetizer and get the Sweet and Sour Shrimp for a main dish. While I overall I liked the restaurant, its probably not something I would pay to eat at as it was included on our cruise but that will change in the future. The Loaded nachos looked great but the chips were soggy by the time I received them and I ended up using a fork and knife to eat it in order to get some crunch in every bite. My wife did not care much for her Sweet and Sour shrimp, but I enjoyed finishing it after she had her fill. The noodles that came with it were not traditional noodles, they had a smokey flavor to them that was a little off putting so we mostly left the noodles on the plate. The main dining rooms elegant nights are a must on any cruise, we had the Lobster during the first elegant night and both of us really enjoyed the lobster, in fact, the free lobster in the MDR was better than the crab infused lobster I had at Rudi’s Seagrill and I didn’t have to pay extra for it. Our neighbors in the MDR enjoyed their lobster so much that they ordered a second one. On the second elegant night we ate again in the MDR and our servers were amazing, Orlin, Rowel and Vandel were such a pleasure to be served by that I made sure to not only express our gratitude to them, we left a tip and spoke with the Maitre d’ about how great they were and noted their names for our survey we normally get post cruise. We even got the chance to see one of the Magicians, Manoj who came to our table and did some magic which awed both of us when he changed the color of the cards in my wife’s hands, I’m still wondering how he did that, good job Manoj. Overall the MDR was a highlight of our dining experience which is great for anyone who is looking to enjoy their cruise without spending extra on food.

Shows- There are so many shows and so much entertainment on this ship one struggles to fit it all in to one cruise, which is in my opinion not possible to do. You would probably need a good 14 days to see all that the ship has to offer and you would still miss stuff because almost every night featured new performances and new shows, I can’t say a single show ran for more than 2 nights, so if you see something you want to see, you better see it at your first opportunity because it most likely will not be there when you look again. I advise you to use the Carnival Hub app to look at all the shows the first night and carefully plan what you do want to see. We like to stay breezy and free and not let the feelings of missing out effect us on a cruise as we don’t want to be rushed but of the shows we did get to see I can say every one was worth seeing. From Chuck Wagner's serenading to the Cruise Director, Chris Williams, AKA the flying Scotsman one man singing show it was all so fun, and this coming from a guy who doesn’t even like musicals to begin with but I love story telling and that’s what they gave me, a beautiful story about their lives through song. The Celestial Strings show was a MUST SEE and another musical rendition that you do not want to miss. There’s also the M-show, which is a magic and mystery show guided by none other than Johnny Richie the magician whom I got to meet afterwards and was probably the highlight of my cruise, he was a blast to meet and I will recommend that show to everyone, GO SEE IT! There’s also the Family Feud and Deal or No Deal shows, both blending these hit televisions shows into a live action show in which the audience gets to participate in the Deal or No Deal and of course Family Feud features the families of your cruise mates. There’s never a dull moment on this ship.

Entertainment- above and beyond the shows there is still much else to do, with live bands playing all over the place, and the packed Piano Bar featuring Patrick Duffy, which had a line out the door every single night he was featured. The comedians are great as well, with each one having multiple shows that all change each night, usually a PG show in the early evening with an 18+ show later on as the night goes. They also rotated comedians, so again, go see them early and often if there’s someone you want to see. We would randomly run into a singer or musicians at the bars and every time it was a delight to sit down and listen or sing along to your favorite hits. There’s so many different bars but a lot of them will feature a different type of musician, with the rock and roll of the Pig and Anchor bar, to the elegant stringed instruments of the Brass Magnolia bar, go tell Nikola I said hi.

Layout - The ship is huge but mostly everything is located in 2 central areas, either Decks 6-8 or Decks 16 and above. It’s important to note that where your location of your room is greatly determines how much walking one might do. It being a large ship, being located near one of those areas will cut down on walking and also being near an elevator bank helps tremendously. We were on the 15th deck, and it was nice to just walk up one flight of stairs and be right in the middle of the eating areas, we were also not far from the central elevators making it easy to get to deck 6-8 for shows and the occasional coffee from the Java Cafe. One layout complaint I do have is that you HAVE to walk through the casino to get to the Mardi Gras Theater, which hosts a number of the shows on the ship, or you can take the furthest forward elevator/stairs from deck 6 or 8. There were a number of times I was live streaming and unable to go see the Mardi Gras theater because they do not allow video cameras in the casino, although I did get some video going through the casino the first day before they let me know about the no video camera policy. Grand Central, where most of the other shows take place, is a huge layout that encompasses the 6, 7 and 8th decks, and I cannot express enough how video and photos do not do this area justice. However, we did find it hard to get seats for some shows in this area despite its size so arrive early to get the seats you want or risk standing or having to go to the cheap seats in the back.

Service- the service was amazing, the crew assembled is the cream of the crop that Carnival has to offer, pulling the very best crew members from across their fleet you will never not have a smiling face to greet you or a crew member whom you met days before and somehow they remember your name and you struggle to remember how they even knew it.

Room- While our extended balcony room was bigger than most, I didn’t care for the bed being on the bathroom side of the room as I’m a big guy and there’s no way to squeeze by my wife when we are both standing up in the room, even if I was a petite person, one would struggle with the size of the walking area in the room but really you shouldn’t be spending much time in there anyways. The balcony was large, as it was an extended balcony, and my wife thoroughly enjoyed putting a hammock up and lounging away the day while at sea, whereas I loved the room to have plenty of live recordings while leaving port and getting some pier runners running back to the ship late for boarding. I heard we even left 2 people in the Dominican Republic but never confirmed that as fact. If you happen to have a joined room, you also lose a set of drawers which can be a big loss of someone who packs like my wife does. The room does feature 4 USB outlets and 3 US power outlets on the desk and extra USB outlets on each side of the bed so you can charge your phone without having to power your spouses extra battery every 3 minutes from all the pictures you take with your phone.

Bathroom- the bathroom is smaller than any other carnival ship I have been on. It was even smaller than the bathroom on board my submarine, but the shower was larger and did feature a glass door which was a welcome change from the other ships that only offer a thin shower curtain which always seems to stick to me when I shower. Yes there is still a cloths line in the shower as well for those wet bathing suits to dry. There’s also a foot step in the shower for those that need to shave their legs, I had shaved mine beforehand so it didn’t come up but the wife made sure I added that in. There’s also some weird choices made in the way the bathroom is setup, one has to reach back and around for the toilet paper, which is a grade above sand paper, and the toilet seat was very tall and had a slight lean forward to it, as if the bowl wants to propel you off as you make your morning constitutional, is that an European thing? I’m a tall man, 6’5”, and I found the toilet to be a tad bit high. There was also a lack of towels, our bathroom only had 2 full size towels, and both my wife and I have long hair and so we both end up using more than one towel each time we shower and wash our hair, but the room steward easily remedied that with extra towels. One of the unique features of the bathroom is a dim light when the lights off, so you can use the toilet late night and not have a bright light in the bathroom waking you up, or having to stumble around in the dark when all that alcohol drinking wakes you up in the middle of the night. The showers do lack in pressure, which is something I normally don’t complain about on a Cruise, but they seem to have moved to a low flow shower head.

Embarking and Disembarking- The ship does feature a brand new terminal in Port Canaveral just a few miles from the original cruise terminals, so if you are doing a side by side cruise, IE you go from one ship to another, be aware that they are not nearby and you would need to get to the other terminal to catch your next ship. We were flying in so we utilized Carnivals service from the Orlando Airport, which the directions online did lead us astray, as the instructions said it was on either A or B side of the airport terminal, it ended up being on the B side only across from the Hertz counter, look for a large Carnival Sign. It didn’t take long to board the bus and it was a comfortable ride from the Airport to the Cruise terminal. Once we arrived at the terminal it did take a little bit of time for the bus to park and get us unloaded and once we were unloaded the terminal porters take your checked luggage from there and deliver the luggage to outside your stateroom. 3 of our 4 bags arrived by the time we got to check into our Room at 1:30, with the last bag showing up a few hours later. Once off the bus you walk to the terminal, either up the stairs or take the elevators or they have a ramp you can walk around and up to, which depending on what time you arrive the ramp may be the best way to go so you can get in line to check in. We took the elevators but ended up walking half way down the ramp to get in line anyways. Checking in took some time, there was a long line when we showed up for our check in time exactly during our check in window. We noticed they did defer people who were early to a different line and they would have to wait to board until their boarding group was called. The area to wait though is beautiful with a special area specifically for Platinum/diamond and suites, complete with a bar that did not appear to be serving when we came through around noonish. It took about 30 minutes to get through the check in line, and about 45 minutes total to go from drop off to on board the ship. Once you get to the front of the line they will check all your paperwork, including your vaccination card or exemption, your negative covid screening, ID and naturalization paperwork, such as birth certificate or passport. From there you go through the security screening where they check your bags for contraband and then its just a short wait through another line where they take your picture and you can walk aboard after that. Overall its a simple process but the later you go the quicker it may be.

For debarking at the ports, it was quick and simple, you go to the 3rd deck and the security personnel will check you out using your sign and sail card and the facial recognition technology. Make sure you have a photo ID as most of the ports will require it along with your sail and sign card in order to get back into the secure terminal areas. Getting back on the ship is just as easy, there’s a line to get checked on again using the sign and sail card and they also make sure you match the picture in the database and then you go through another security screening where they are looking once again for contraband and if you have any alcohol you purchased ashore they check it in directly afterwards for you to receive at the end of the cruise. We didn’t purchase any alcohol so I’m not sure how that process works on this ship but on previous ships they have delivered the alcohol to our stateroom the last night of the cruise, or another cruise we had to go pickup our alcohol the morning of debarking. 

Debarking at home port: When we arrived early back to Port Canaveral they started the debarking process about 30 minutes earlier than anticipated, which was nice, because we had to all be out of our rooms by 8:30am and everyone had to be off the ship no later than 10 AM. They start by calling the muster stations for express debarking, which is when you leave the ship with all of your luggage instead of utilizing checking your bags with the ships porters to take your luggage off. We chose express debarkation although they had started calling the people who checked their luggage before they called our muster station at which point we ended up heading down to get off the ship and they had still not called our muster station but had called half the checked baggage cruisers before they got to our muster station. It was weird because they called A, B, F, then went back to C, it really made no sense to me. It appeared that all of the luggage was already off by the time we went through customs so really it doesn’t seem to me that express debarkation is worth the hassle if you have a lot of bags, you will pretty much get off at the same time, especially if you get a low number like 1-8. 1-7 is reserved for Platinum, Diamond, Suites and Faster to the Fun cruisers. We did not utilize Carnivals service back to the Airport because we were picked up by some family members right after getting off the ship, which took about 30 minutes or so to debark once the process was started, including going through customs and border patrol but we were not picked to be screened further, your mileage will vary but expect the process to take no less than 30 minutes.

Overall this was a wonderful 7 day cruise, it is my 6th cruise that I have taken, 3 of which were done this year post pandemic, and I can say that I was very happy with our overall experience. There was very little negative to note, but if we are being nit picky there’s a few things I would improve on but at this point it’s hard to change stuff when a ship has already been built, tested and at sea. The pesky toilet paper roll locations being one of them but if that’s all I can complain about then it’s a mighty fine experience indeed.

Have a question?