I recently had the opportunity to take a cruise on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest and largest cruise ship, Mardi Gras. My seven day cruise out of Port Canaveral took me to the Western Caribbean and gave me the chance to check out everything that this new ship has to offer.
From BOLT the roller coaster to over 20 different places to eat on the ship, here are my thoughts after spending a week on Mardi Gras. Note: I was a guest of Carnival Cruise Line on my sailing but the thoughts and opinions in this article are 100% my own.
At 180,000 gross tons, Mardi Gras is Carnival Cruise Line’s first true “mega ship”. I’m a fan of large cruise ships as they offer many more amenities and dining options than smaller vessels. Mardi Gras did not disappoint in this area and it quickly became my favorite Carnival cruise ship that I have ever cruised on.
The thing I loved most about Mardi Gras the most was all of the open spaces inside the ship that you don’t find on other Carnival ships. It made the ship feel more roomy and less crowded. There were 4,000 passengers on my cruise and we sailed right around 75% capacity. It was the sixth cruise on Mardi Gras since the ship began to offer cruises on July 31.
My favorite part of Mardi Gras is Center Stage, a three story atrium that is the heartbeat of cruise ship.
This unique area has 16 large LED screens that move and create a perfect backdrop for whatever is going on in this area. Mornings when we were at sea the screens would go into the floor creating a massive window overlooking the sea. I loved enjoying a cup of coffee in this area every morning.
This area also acts as a second theater with shows, bingo, and other entertainment being played throughout the day and evenings. This area also allowed Carnival Cruise Line to do something that they haven’t done on other ships, a parade of flags (World Works Here) showcasing where all the crew members are from.
It will be interesting to see what Carnival does with this area in the future. It really opens up almost unlimited options for entertainment.
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) September 7, 2021
Overall, I loved the layout of the ship and thought it was easy to quickly learn my way around the ship.
Although Carnival Cruise Line assigned us specific check-in times, it seems like most arrived at the same time and the arrival times weren’t enforced. This caused there to be long lines to check-in for the cruise. It took around 45 minutes just to get to the check-in desk. Once I was checked in, I breezed through security and was quickly on board the ship.
Carnival’s new Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral is really nice and modern.
Disembarkation was a breeze as I always carry off my own luggage. The first ones allowed off the ship were Platinum and Diamond VIFP Club members. Although if you had an early flight to catch, they were allowing you to get off the ship with them.
I went from ship to curb in around 10 minutes and the line for customs was quick.
There are 22 places to eat on Mardi Gras and you can see all of them here. There were so many options to eat at, you could eat at a different place for every meal and never even visit the main dining room. If you go hungry on this ship, it’s your own fault.
I ate at Shaq’s new restaurant Big Chicken, Guy’s Burger Joint, Guy’s Pig and Anchor, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, Street Eats, Lido Marketplace, Chibang, Cucina del Capitano, Pizzeria del Capitano, Piazza Panini, and Emeril’s Bistro.
I made a mistake in waiting to book at Rudi’s Seagrill and it was completely booked the last three nights of our cruise. If I could go back, I would book it right away so I could dine there.
One benefit of cruising early on Mardi Gras is that Carnival has temporarily eliminated the extra charges for Chibang and Cucina del Capitano on the ship.
Since food is so subjective, I usually don’t go into a lot of detail on it since we all have different tastes. However, I loved pretty much everything I ate on board the ship. Bonsai is by far my favorite on Carnival and I ate there three times during the cruise.
I had a standard balcony stateroom on deck 10. The stateroom was roomy and modern. There were plenty of USB and electrical outlets, a large TV, comfy bed, and overall it was a great room. It also had a modern cruise ship shower with glass doors.
The balcony doors slide so you don’t have to worry about them slamming shut while you’re sitting on your balcony. It creates a more tranquil atmosphere as you relax outside and take in the views of the Caribbean.
You can see a few photos of my cabin here:
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) September 5, 2021
BOLT is the first roller coaster on a cruise ship and it’s a lot of fun to ride. I ended up riding it on three days of the cruise I loved it so much. The current cost is $15 and according to the HUB App, that is an special price for the cruise ship’s maiden season. It has the normal price listed at $19.
For the price, you get to make two laps around the track and you can control the speed. There’s even a boost button for those who want to go extra fast. There is a screen on the “car” that shows how fast you are going and also shows you the time it took you to travel around the track two times. On one of my rides, I had it on full speed the entire time and kept using the boost button. The ride from start to finish was a little over 46 seconds at full speed.
You can’t bring any cameras on BOLT, not even a wearable camera like a GoPro. Anything that is loose on your body or in your pockets must be taken off before going on the ride for safety reasons.
Booking a ride is all done through the HUB App. Simply choose a time you’d like to ride, book it, and then show up at that time. This helps control the line from getting out of control although I did have to wait awhile one of the times I rode it. Two of the times I rode it I ended up waiting less than 10 minutes, the 3rd time was around a 45-50 minute wait.
— Cruise Fever (@CruiseFever) September 9, 2021
They had a photographer taking photos of you riding it that you can buy (since no cameras are allowed for safety reasons). Here is one that I bought while riding BOLT, the first roller coaster on a cruise ship.
There were activities and entertainment all over the ship. It seemed like there was always something going on and a little bit of something for everyone. Carnival calls their ships the “Fun Ships” and that is just as true on Mardi Gras.
The main theater had traditional cruise shows while Center Stage had everything from live music to the morning show. There was also live music in many of the lounges and bars, as well as in Guy’s Pig and Anchor.
They had comedy shows in the Punchliner Comedy Club as well as family friendly comedy in the Limelight Lounge. One day I counted 8 different times there were comedy shows. Some shows were a repeat but I’ve never been on a ship with this much variety when it comes to comedy.
I thought there was a decent amount of deck space for a ship that can carry over 6,000 passengers at maximum capacity. While the main pool area isn’t that large for a ship this size, the ship does have two separate aft infinity pools to help spread guests out. There is also a pool in the adults only serenity deck and another pool in an area just for suite guests.
The Ultimate Playground has fun for the entire family with a mini-golf course, a waterpark, and BOLT.
There were always tons of empty loungers on sea days. We were at 75% capacity and the loungers were never more than half full. We sailed to the Western Caribbean and it was hot and sunny every day, so it wasn’t because of the weather.
My cruise to the Western Caribbean had port stops in Cozumel, Costa Maya, and Mahogany Bay to go along with three sea days. It’s so good to see the ports more and more open on each visit this summer. I was on the first ship back to Cozumel in 15 months back in June and the port was still mostly closed.
Now, most stores have reopened as more cruise ships are now visiting. I didn’t do any shore excursions on my cruise since I have visited more of these ports many times before and I was mostly cruising for the ship on this trip.
In Costa Maya, I took a cab over to Mahahual beach for lunch and spent a few hours there. When I came back, I walked the hanging bridges around the port area visiting the Aviarius feeding the colorful birds.
At Mahogany Bay, I did a beach day right at the port since the facilities there are great and I was cruising solo.
Odds and Ends
The casino is massive and broken up into two sections. Although I didn’t see any signs, all of the smoking was done in one and the other had no one smoking. They also have glass doors to the casino to help keep the smoke in and not spread throughout other areas of the ship.
One thing that confused me on the ship is that on the first day, my room steward asked me if I wanted morning or evening service. I asked for evening since I like coming back to dinner to a cleaned up room. However, some days I got morning service, others evening, and many days I got both.
Carnival no longer delivers a daily program to your room, everything is done through the HUB App. However, you could go down and get a paper copy at the JavaBlue Cafe. The paper doesn’t have all activities going on around the ship but they are all listed in the app.
I love how Carnival pays homage to the original Mardi Gras, their first ever cruise ship with a giant plaque showing both ships.
There are a lot of outdoor spaces on the ship, including outdoor dining at many of the specialty restaurants.
I love how Carnival moved guest services away from the main atrium to another part of the ship. I really think it creates a better atmosphere in this area.
Speaking of the main atrium, there are drip coffee stations here where you can get a free cup of coffee anytime you’d like. There are also drink stations all around the ship, this comes in really handy when cruising to warm weather destinations.
There are many great photo spots on the ship due to all of the open areas. There are several great stairways that were really popular for photos.
The crew members on board were awesome. They remembered my name after day one at the JavaBlue Cafe as I do tend to order quite a few coffees during a cruise. If you don’t have the drink package, get a coffee card. After six coffees, the seventh one is free. They punch the card every time you order one and you might as well get it if you order a specialty coffee or two each day.
Overall, I loved my cruise on Mardi Gras and think Carnival Cruise Line did a fantastic job on the overall layout and design of the ship. The ship is so much different than other Carnival’s ships and it has me excited for her two sister ships that will be coming out over the next few years.