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Carnival Mardi Gras Review

5.0 / 5.0
Editor Rating
20 reviews
Exterior Carnival Mardi Gras (Photo by Chris Gray Faust)
Chicken burger on Carnival Mardi Gras (Photo by Chris Gray Faust)
Havana Cabana on Mardi Gras (Image: Carnival Cruise Line)
BOLT on Carnival Mardi Gras (Photo: Chris Gray Faust)
See all photos
Editor Rating
5.0
Excellent
Chris Gray Faust
Cruise Critic Managing Editor

Best For: Fun-seekers who embrace the new, from theaters and dining, to cocktails and roller coasters

Not For: People who hate crowds

Bottom Line: Carnival's biggest ship yet, Mardi Gras has supersized many popular experiences, while adding new ones that should appeal to everyone.


If you give a cruise ship the name Mardi Gras, you're setting expectations that everyone onboard is going to have a good time -- and Carnival's newest ship delivers just that, with lots of dining and entertainment options built into the fare.

With significantly more real estate than the other Fun Ships -- Mardi Gras is 35 percent larger than the class of ships before it -- the line has made sure that all the old favorites are onboard and bigger than ever, and also made room for features that are bound to impress.

The first one on everyone's list is Bolt, the first roller coaster at sea -- a genuine thrill ride you need to try at least once. Behind the scenes, Mardi Gras is the first cruise ship in North America powered by liquified natural gas (LNG), making it a cleaner burn (and indeed, you do not see smoke billowing behind the ship when you sail). And then there's the Atrium, located on the side of the ship instead of the center, a placement that allows the space to have three-story sea views during the day and become a top-notch entertainment space at night.

Mardi Gras is also the first Carnival ship to be divided into "neighborhoods," six to be exact. While it's by no means the first cruise ship to have themed sections -- Royal Caribbean pioneered this with Oasis of the Seas way back in 2008 -- the neighborhoods break the megaship up into segments that are easy to navigate and enjoy.

Cocktail lovers will flock to the New Orleans-themed French Quarter, which has two of the best new bars we've seen on a ship in years: The Brass Magnolia, which has two parts -- one a dark lounge where you can hear live music, the other a lofty botanical bar complete with mixologists; and the Fortune Teller Bar has a kooky, spooky velvet lounge feel.

By contrast, the Patio at Summer Landing area on Deck 8, goes for an outdoor BBQ vibe. There's a lovely outdoor pool here, along with games like cornhole, Guy's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse & Brewhouse and another new bar called The Watering Hole. Classic rock and country bands play here late into the evening.

One downside to the ship is that while there are lots of venues, some are too small to handle a rush. The traditional theater, for example, does not have a balcony level and can only seat 900 at a time. The popular Piano Bar is laughably small, as is the Punchliner Comedy Club, where people start lining up 30 minutes in advance for a seat. The fitness center is overly packed on sea days. And on Elegant Nights, the main dining rooms have long lines, as people eschew the many alternative venues for the temptation of free lobster.

Still, the sheer number of different free places to eat is astounding; there are so many breakfast and lunch venues, you might never eat in the buffet. Old favorites that used to be overly packed -- such as Guy's Burgers, the RedFrog bar on the Lido Deck and Alchemy Bar -- now have plenty of real estate to handle happy crowds. The casino is by far the largest on Carnival, taking up a significant portion of Deck 7. The adults-only Serenity Deck now has a full pool, as well as two hot tubs, a bar and a salad bar. Kids will love the waterslides, splash park and mini golf, not to mention the free pizza and -- new on Mardi Gras -- paninis.  

What it all adds up to is a Carnival cruise experience that delivers the affordable Fun Ship experience that people love, with a dash of sophistication that never crosses the line into snooty.


Health and Safety

Before Boarding

  • Carnival Mardi Gras sails under a requirement to have 95 percent of its passengers vaccinated against COVID-19. All passengers 12 years of age or older are required to be fully vaccinated, with either Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson. Mixed doses are not currently accepted, unless the mixed doses are both mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/Moderna). Doses mixed with AstraZeneca are considered unvaccinated.
  • Capacity on the ship is being capped at 70 percent, as of summer 2021
  • An email asking you to volunteer your vaccination status will be sent out several weeks before sailing. Failure to answer the email could result in your booking being canceled.
  • Unvaccinated passengers, including kids under 12, must ask for an exemption in order to sail. These must be sent in after final payment and you'll generally hear back about two weeks before sailing.
  • Before boarding, all passengers are asked to fill out a health screening form. You are also asked to pick a check in time, and not arrive at the port earlier than your designated time; you will not be able to board early.
  • You must present your actual vaccination card when boarding for scanning. 
  • All passengers, vaccinated or unvaccinated, must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, either PCR or antigen, taken within three days of sailing.
  • Unvaccinated passengers must also take an antigen test in the terminal; the test is at their own expense if they are 12 or over. They must also buy travel insurance.

Onboard

  • Masks are required for all passengers over the age of two in certain areas of the ship, including elevators, indoor entertainment areas, retail shops, and the casino, except when eating and drinking. Masks are also required before being seated in main dining rooms and the buffet. Masks are also required at any indoor activity with children under 12 years.  
  • Masking and physical distancing are also required during the entire embarkation and disembarkation process.

 Off the Ship

  • Unvaccinated passengers must take part in a ship-sponsored "bubble" excursion.
  • Mask requirements for all passengers depend on the port and country.
  • In certain countries, you will need to bring your vaccination card with you onshore to go into restaurants or take part in certain activities.

Pros

Cons

Bottom Line


About

Passengers : 5,282 (double occupancy)
Crew : 1,750
Passenger to Crew : 3.02:1
Launched : 2021
Shore Excursions : 278

Inclusions

Included with your cruise fare:

  • Main dining rooms, buffet, and Lido deck restaurants (Guy's Burgers, Big Chicken, Street Eats, BlueIguana).
  • Sandwiches at Piazza Panini, Pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano.
  • Sandwiches and select pastries at Java Blue.
  • A handful of specialty restaurants on a limited basis (Cucina del Capitano, Chibang, Guy Fieri's Pig & Anchor Smokehouse).
  • Ropes Course
  • Waterslides and splash park
  • Serenity adults-only pool and sundeck
  • All pools other than Loft 19 and Havana
  • All evening entertainment and most daily activities
  • Fitness center (although not classes) and jogging track

Not included with your cruise fare:

  • Specialty restaurants (Rudi's Seagrill; Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse; Emeril's, Seafood Shack)
  • Specialty coffee and some pastries and cakes at Java Blue
  • Bolt roller coaster
  • Spa treatments and thermal suite access
  • Casino games and slots
  • Gratuities
  • Automatic beverage and spa tips
  • All drinks beyond water, lemonade, iced tea and coffee
  • Wi-Fi
  • Shore Excursions
  • Photos and artwork

Carnival Mardi Gras Dress Code

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Carnival Mardi Gras departs from Port Canaveral

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Carnival Mardi Gras Cruiser Reviews

Great food and service.. room not so good,

The Mardi Gras is totally different from any other Carnival ship. Instead of one deck with shops, casinos, etc the Mardi Gras has 3, decks 6,7,8.... Read More
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PnkFldFan

10+ Cruises

Age 50s

Cruise with 11 year old grandson

Rebooked on Mardi Gras, 8/14/2021 out of Port Canaveral (Orlando). We have been on 17 previous Carnival Cruises......this was our Grandson's first cruise. The Mardi Gras was a great ship!... Read More
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DB Dakota

10+ Cruises

Age 70s

Great New Ship

A group of five of us went on the new Carnival Mardi Gras. It is a beautiful ship with a very pleasant and soothing tropical decor.... Read More
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kar4056

10+ Cruises

Age 60s

Amazing cruise!

We can't WAIT to sail on Mardi Gras again next year.... Read More
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lecach

10+ Cruises

Age 50s

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