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Yes I have returned safe and sound and bummed that I have to once more make my own bed , cook my own food, and wash my own dishes ūüėÖ¬†

As most of the long timers here on the board know my deal... for the new comers  I like to post a comprehensive review of the size , layout, primary decks, food service & quality, yes the good and not so good about the ships I sail on....so here we go.

I will begin with, this is the largest ship to date that I have sailed on. It carries 5300 guests and 1900 crew. Yes it is a monster. It has 22 different food locations including  free & fee, which I will say of the 22 food locations majority are free. Tons of bars and places to get a drink. This ship has 18 decks. deck 18 can only be reached by stairs.  Which accesses the water slides, roller coaster, 18 hole mini golf, and serenity adults only area.

Initially i was concerned about the ship being so large that it would be difficult to navigate but much to my surprise i found it rather easy as the primary decks are 6,7,8 and 16,17,18.  In my case decks 6-8 and 16 were the main decks I typically visited. Various food choices were on those 4 decks as well. Deck 16 is the lido and in typical fashion it had few bars, pool, several food choices and sun deck. 

I was surprised by the number of swimming pools and hot tub. This ship so many hot tubs in different locations and decks it was hard to keep track of them all.

The ship being a newer ship was clean bright and a nice change from the typical CCL color patterns. It seemed to be a bit more upscale and less "fun ship" which was ok with me. I never saw anything looking worn out and things seemed in good working order for the most part. Lots of elevators and not the "smart" ones. They all seemed to work just fine and typically not a long wait either.

One thing that set this ship apart from most other is its center stage with huge windows looking out to the ocean which converts to a stage at night. It's a bit strange as it's suppose to be the focal point in the ship, which it kinda is but isn't.  Typically you have a main atrium with a bar which become a nice gathering spot, but on this ship you really don't have that. Most of the time you simply pass it by going to another location. The only time it really gets any real attention is during stage shows, which @RoadTravelled pointed out to me previously was kind of difficult to gain a good viewing location as people camped out to get the prized spots. The ship does have a main theater like most ships but sadly nothing really took place in it and never saw it, seems to be a huge waste of ships space and I think the main shows would have been more enjoyable to be seen in it.

Despite having around 7k people on the ship it really never felt really over crowded except during the going away party on the lido as it seemed to be a bit small for the amount of people and was very.crowded. 

I finally had the chance to experience the new dinner menu in the MDR. I ate in the MDR 6 of the 7 dinners. The food choices certainly changed and I would say for the most part for the better. The roasted duck was yummy and would eat that everytime. Thwy brought back the beef wellington and that was good as well. With the exception of one dinner I was satisfied and had no major complaints...yes i know surprise surprise... its a Christmas Mirical. Lolol CCL is certainly trying to improve the meals and it showed. One thing I was really surprised by was how many empty or 1/2 empty tables there where every night. I think this had to do with all the other food choices for other to go to on the ship and MDR was not the choice. I love formal/elegant nights and was kind of a buzz kill to walk into a half empty dining room. I was at a 6 person table and 1 solo person showed every night one couple showed for 1st 2 nights and never seen again and the other couple only showed up on last 2 nights. As for MDR staff thwy we're nice but not that friendly and frequently mixed up orders and never once asked if I would like something to drink and even after ordering a couple times never remembered for the next time. 

Staff in general were nice but not that welcoming. I only saw my room steward the 1st day and never again, which was weird and very unusual. 

Cabin- as typical I had a balcony cabin, and was pleasantly surprised by the newer color plate vs the orange. The bathroom had a actual shower door v. A curtain but it actually felt smaller than other ships that ive been on. I found that I wanted to leave the bathroom door open when I was in it as it felt very crampt/tight. I am NOT a fan of the new room layout were the bed is in the front and couch by balconyas its really tight to walk by the bed to get to the couch and overall made it felt odd and bit difficult to maneuver around the room. The balcony was great, it was super sized and had a full size lounger 3 chairs and table with plenty of space to walk. It also has a new door design, it's like a sliding class door vs a man door and if I want to keep it open it would stay open. Room has great lighting, plenty of cabinet space and they have changed the bed frame which now luggage slides under very easily.

Restaurants, the casino comped me for any place of my choice with bottle of wine, I selected Rudy's and yes @RoadTravelled you won the bet. It is well worth going even if you have to pay $50 per head, lucky for me I didn't have to pay.  I had oysters on half shell, cioppino, crab cake, and lobster and chocolate truffle cake. All Delicious!!! I had two table staff and thwy we're on point the whole time. The lead asked me what wine I would like and was not sure about one I was looking at she brought me a small sample... yuk so ordered one I knew. Soon after was told thwy we're out of it and asked if I would likento select another and I said I would just take a screw driver instead. Few minutes later she came back and said she was able to find my wine selection at one of the other restaurants and would have them bring it up.  Impressive! 

Chibang restaurant, this is the place you can order Chinese or Mexican I selected the Mexican carnitas bowl and flan. This is money of my go to dishes for Mexican. I was grossly disappointed as on my 1st bit it was obvious that flavor cross contamination was happening as it has a hint of Chinese flavoring...sigh then came the carnites which where simple chunks of poorly flavored pork. Carnitis is suppose to be slow cooked then pulled apart then lightly grilled to give a slight crispness. The flan was on point and very good. I would not go back to chibang 

Guys pig and actor, blue iguana, guys burgers all good as normally are. 

Japanese cook at your table - had before and seemed to be a little less than prior..but I was feeling a bit burned out by then so could have just been me. Food was good though.

Buffet not on top of my list for food and this trip didn't change my mind food was blah at best. Will go sometimes for breakfast  but this time wasn't able to as it seemed to be the go to place and was way over crowded.

Casino largest casino I've seen on a cruise ship it consumed a good portion of the deck 7 and was full every night. Yeah I was part of that crowed ūüėÜ ūü§£¬†¬†

Wifi not sure why but the ships wifi kept going out which made things difficult for the CCL Hub app which allows you to see and plan things.

Bars and entertainment was good some of the batmrs actually were really decked out and had cool vibs 

Shows only saw a couple mostly because I didn't want to camp out for a seat. What I did see was decent and step up from other recent ships I've been on. 

Spa had to massages both good similar to being on shore, I did this tile along the top of check in form you have to fill out "not interested in any products just massage" and not one thing was tried to be sold to me which was nice as didn't feel all stressed out from the hard sells pitch.

Conclusion- yes the Mardi Gras is a huge ship, really never felt over crowded despite all the people on it. Room design/setup is horrible, reverse couch and bed and would be great. Food as a whole was much improved and plenty to be had even at 12 a.m. and who doesn't like free soft serve ice cream and cookies for late night snack. Lots of activities to keep one busy during the day including free ones. Wish thwy used the main theater vs. Center stage 

final word - Would I sail on Mardi Gras again...yes without a doubt as it has so much to offer and never felt overly crowded. Wish I had tried a few more restaurants....next time

Next ship will be the Firenze and looking forward to being on it and trying out a "Fun Italian Ship"




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@euroguy  Thanks for the in-depth review.  We loved our cruise on Mardi Gras' sister ship Celebration as well for many of the reasons you cited.  I'm also glad (and relieved) that you enjoyed Rudi's Seafood restaurant.  We thought it outstanding in all respects.  So, now that I've won the bet, when should I expect my prize to arrive in the mail?  LOL

Not to get to into the weeds too much here, but going to your comments about the design of the cabins, I would offer the following.¬† Most of the state rooms on these Excel ships are designed as interlocking pairs.¬† I've attached a diagram of how that works from an excellent video I found some time ago.¬† As you can see, one of the pairs has the setup you had ‚ÄĒ bed next to the bathroom.¬† And the other is the opposite with the bed next to the balcony.¬† That's what we had and we really enjoyed it for exactly why you didn't like your version.¬† It's too cramped if you have the bed by the bathroom.¬† This design allows them to squeeze more cabins on the ship by doing this.¬† I think other cruise lines from what I've been told have similar designs.

So, the key is if you want a room with the bed by the balcony, you need to choose the cabin that has the bathroom on the right-hand side as you enter the cabin (as seen in the diagram).  It's a bit hard to tell, but if you look carefully at the deck plan, you can kind of see that the door entries to these pairs are off-center (one to the one side and the other to the other side). 

We also agree with you that the bathrooms are smaller as a result of this design as well, giving a definite cramped feeling.  But, we really did like the "real" shower door instead of the curtain.

But, again, bottom-line, these ships are really wonderful with thoughtful design elements.

You will love the Venezia.  It's a real step up in design feel (being a former Costa ship) and since it is basically a Vista class ship, very familiar in setup with very manageable size..  Have a great trip!


cabin design.png

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Wow after re reading my post I had so many typos. It was getting late and big fi gers on small phone keyboard don't always mix well sorry about that.

@RoadTravelled I had no idea that the cabins flipped flopped like that...this is interesting and will certainly try and figure this out for up coming cruises. Ive never had a room set up like this previously. Is it o ly the excel class ships that have this switch up designs???

As for your prize i have attached it below¬†To save on postage and your ability to get it right away.¬†ūü§£


The next ship isn't the Venezia but rather the Firenze but I'm sure thwy are very similar to each other in many ways, with one big exception of the David statue returning.

Did the Celebration also have the center stage like the Mardi Gras??? 

I really did enjoy this ship and liked how each of the main decks 6-8 you could walk from bow to stern which made it easy to get around verses some other ships (panorama) that you can not and makes a nightmare to get around.

What ship are you going on next?


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@euroguy  Thanks so much for the ship-on-a-stick!  I've always wanted one of those but never won one.

Yes, I believe only the Excel classes at this point have this interlocking cabin design.  But, don't hold me to that.

Whoops, sorry I got the Venezia and Firenze confused for your next trip.  But, they both should have similar feels I'm thinking and you will really enjoy them.

And yes, the Celebration center stage is setup the same way with all of the same pros and cons that go with it.¬† ūüėČ

Our next cruise is on the CCL Legend from Tampa to San Francisco via the Panama Canal.  This has been on our bucket list for awhile and so really excited to do it finally.  It also includes a stop in Cartagena, Colombia which will be my first time ever in South America!

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@euroguy Thanks for this awesome review! The food menu seems to be much improved and the specialty restaurants onboard sound very worthwhile. I'm sad to to hear the MDR service was so so. I felt the same about the MDR service on my last cruise and I think it may be a big ship thing. I'm used to a more personal experience where you make a connection with your waitstaff. I think that approach is more of a small ship feel, but I much prefer it over the robotic, desensitized approach. I'm so pleased that the ship didn't feel overly crowded. It sounds like the ship is properly designed to allow guests to naturally space themselves out, like the multiple pool options. Which pool did you spend the most time in onboard Mardi Gras? How was the crowd onboard the ship? Were you able to meet any nice folks during your itinerary? It's a bummer about the elegant night. That's my favorite night in the MDR and the food is usually the best that evening. Maybe this itinerary had a more casual, buffet-drawn crowd. 

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@Cruising Caribbean nice to hear you chime in. Yes the ship was certainly designed for the large number of guests so not to feel over crowded with the one exception is the lido deck is simply way to small. Below are a few pics of the sail away party. I disnt actually use any of the pools, not a real big pool person, but did try out a couple Jacuzzis. I think that the reason for so few people in the MDR was not because of the buffett but rather due to so many other food options/restaurants. I did meet some really.nice people like I do every cruise.

The one dish from MDR that was a stand out for me was the roasted duck which I will post a pic below, yes I took a pic of my dinner ūüėܬ†







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@euroguy I have been awaiting this review! Thanks for sharing all of these details with me. Your cruise sounds like it was amazing and you surprisingly enjoyed this mega-ship! The staterooms sound lovely other than the new layout, which may just take some getting used to. I'm glad you connected with other lovely guests like yourself, and were able to have such good weather. The poolside crowds looked wild. Did you stay up late for any of the late night parties? Did you participate in any of the themed nights onboard? What was your favorite stop? I never understand why the MDR has become so unpopular, just like dressing up in the evening. The food and service is much better in the MDR. I prefer that over the buffet any day! I guess people like you and me are hard to come by. Your roasted duck dinner looked amazing! I didn't see any duck options in the MDR on my last cruise. I haven't had duck in a very long time actually. 

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Great review....just so, so many people on board. Tried to get a pizza and there were  at least 25 people in line....Lido was also impossible to even walk thru.....like the layout, just way too many people.

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@Kendall James-Vargas I did enjoy the ship very much and would cruise on it again. I didnt participate in any of the themed parties and honestly i really didnt see any posting  for them, but im sure they exhisted. Now that I sit back and think on this I can't recall seeing any listing for them and I would look at the hub app every night. I did save all the daily paper schedules so I will see if any had been listed on them.

I really think that the ship has so many food choices that the MDR is hardly on the radar compared to smaller ships that have fewer dining  options which makes people focus more on the MDR.

I agree with you that you and I are a fading breed... wanting to dress for the elegant nights, and wearing nice clothes on the other nights, but I still do it.  I did thi k it was fu NY that on the 1st elegant night I was in my Tux and the cruise director also was wearing a Tux. When he saw me he stopped in his tracks smiled gave me the thumbs up and smiled and went on his way....lol 

I don't eat duck very often but when I can I will. I hope you get to have some soon. 

As for my favorite port...I will be writing g a review for the 3 ports¬† soon...yep you have to wait ūüėܬ†

@Krusty yes late at night I too saw long line for pizza maybe 10 people but one thing that was really Strang was they would rope off the line and a staff member would hand out pizzas to people rather than letting people just walk through and pick one up. Once I was waiting with an employee and I told him ive never seen this before on any of the cruises ive been on and seems very inefficient... his response was yeah ive never seen them do this before as well. Not sure what thwy where trying to do but it didn't work that well.

What time did you try getting  pizza?

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@euroguy I'm surprised about the lack of themed parties onboard Mardi Gras. I'm not going to lie, based on the the name of the ship, I assumed it would be filled with fun themes and parties every evening! It's awesome you were able to save all of the paper itineraries. I was not as organized and a few of mine got destroyed next to wet pool items. That's a good observation about the dining options and the MDR. CCL does a really great job of having plenty of dining options onboard. I also love that CCL has many included dining options that don't charge an additional fee. It sounds like you and the cruise director were the best dressed onboard your cruise! The cruise director even recognized your attire! That's so fun. I saw your port review! I love how thorough all of your reviews are. 

Also, the pizza thing sounds super odd. I wonder why the crew members were handing out the pizza. I haven't experienced this before. On my last cruise, the pizza buffet was open nice and late. It was pretty busy with guests chowing down on the delicious fresh pizza MSC Cruises offers. I would be a little annoyed if I couldn't just grab and go myself. It sounds like a new thing. 

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