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Carnival Cruise Line has a lot of heart. The sports bar onboard Carnival Panorama was just about finished when Christine Duffy, the brand’s president, decided to make a switch. Her idea: Transform the space into the Heroes Tribute Bar to honor military members.
Since sports will still be broadcast there, one wall that wasn’t swapped in time artfully reads “Overtime,” while the rest of the walls are decorated with service branch memorabilia. Mindful of the high volume of armed forces personnel that sail on the line, Duffy wanted there to be a permanent celebration of their service. She intends to eventually make the bar fleetwide, or at least on as many ships that can physically accommodate it.
But, for right now, Heroes Tribute Bar is exclusive to Panorama — Carnival’s first new cruise ship in two decades to be based in Southern California year-round. This is significant for West Coast travel advisors and their clients (as well as greatly appreciated by this native resident of San Diego).
Following Carnival Vista and Carnival Horizon, the vessel is mostly identical to its sisterships, while also showcasing some new and updated venues.
Fresh to the specialty dining lineup is Carnival Kitchen, a new interactive galley and restaurant where patrons can learn how to cook some of the brand’s recipes at individual stations before sitting down to enjoy them. During Panorama’s maiden voyage, Carnival’s latest celebrity chef partners — Emeril Lagasse and Rudi Sodamin, who will soon bring their dishes to the upcoming Carnival Mardi Gras — were on hand to highlight the official opening of the experience. My Emeril fanboy mode kicked into high gear (or, should I say, “kicked up a notch.”)
Onboard Panorama, Carnival Kitchen is positioned where Club O2 is on Vista and Horizon. The teen lounge is now situated next to the Circle C tweens club, displacing the Warehouse Video Arcade, which is now located where the Thrill Theater was. The result is the abandonment of the upcharge Carnival Multiplex concept (and thus the premium IMAX Theatre). This is certainly disappointing for cinephiles — myself included — and also curious for a ship embarking from the film capital of the world. The Carnival Seaside Theater does still screen free content around the pool, but in a comparatively subpar format. One obvious side benefit to travel professionals, however, is that there are now more cabins to sell.
Available for an added fee instead is the first Sky Zone trampoline park at sea, complete with basketball hoop dunking, dodgeball, rock climbing and tug-of-war elements. Clients can book an “open jump” or “glow party" (under black lights) trampoline park session for $12 or $18, respectively. There is also a $5 toddler time available. Gentler, complimentary activities include a Carnival WaterWorks (without a Dr. Seuss theme onboard Panorama), a SkyRide suspended cycling track and a SportSquare with a ropes course.
Great Panorama staterooms are facsimiles of their Vista-class counterparts and maintain spacious bedrooms and bathrooms. The well-configured Family Harbor category, which my group of three adults tried comfortably for the first time, comes with exclusive access to the Family Harbor Lounge, where parents and children can enjoy watching movies, playing video games and noshing on snacks that include soft-serve ice cream and a breakfast buffet. And via an updated Carnival policy, only Havana-category clients can access the Havana Pool.
Complimentary dining options include celebrity chef Guy Fieri’s gourmet grill Guy’s Burger Joint and the Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse lunch barbecue (dinner at Pig & Anchor requires a surcharge), as well as BlueIguana Cantina and Pizzeria Del Capitano. There is now no premium ice cream for sale at Cherry On Top, but, after all, the free gelato at the Lido Marketplace buffet is already a hit.
There are, of course, specialty dining options, including Cucina Del Capitano, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, Bonsai Sushi, Bonsai Teppanyaki and Seafood Shack. Ji Ji is the standout of the bunch, and the ever-consistent Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse only gets better with age and enhanced menu items.
Of the ship’s two main production shows, “Broadway Beats” is energetic but it’s not my favorite compared to the line’s other excellent revues. “Rock Revolution” creatively covers classic tunes and modernizes the setting with cool dancing drone lights overhead. For a ship based in health-conscious California, it would be nice to see a departure from cigarette smoking, but, alas, Panorama Casino is still polluted by the past.
Still, as more post-Joe Farcus-era (a dated vessel designer) Carnival ships debut, the line remains on track for a “Fun Ship" future uninhibited by garish aesthetics. Panorama is the next step toward an increasingly West Coast cruise presence, and advisors should be on the lookout for how Carnival continues to break out of the mold.
The DetailsCarnival Cruise Linewww.carnival.com