For anyone with a historical knowledge of cruise ships, it is obvious from first glance that Pullmantur’s ‘Horizon’ (principally her dark blue hull), has an association with Celebrity Cruise Line. Indeed she was built in 1990 as Celebrity’s first new build ship – also named ‘Horizon’. However, apart from a few old fashioned design features and several refits along the way (the latest in 2012), she is currently well maintained, with not a scrap of rust in sight.
She is part of the Pullmantur fleet which operates five older ships:
The ones sailing out of France (Marseille and Calais in 2016) are ‘Horizon’ and her nautical sister, ‘Zenith’. Both are ex Celebrity ships and offer a bi lingual service in French and English. They can carry 1800 passengers each.
‘Sovereign’, ‘Monarch’ and ‘Empress’ are ex Royal Caribbean ships – add ‘Of the Seas’ to their name to take them back to their Royal roots!! ‘Sovereign’ and ‘Monarch’ are sister ships, carrying 2700 passengers, whilst ‘Empress’ is smaller, with 1880 passengers and has been likened to Fred Olsen’s ‘Balmoral’ in feel and layout. The three Spanish ships (in 2016: sailing out of Barcelona, Tallinn, Malmo and Aruba or Curacao) have Spanish as a first language on board and English as the second language. Signage on all five ships is in two languages.
‘Horizon’s’ interior has an uncomplicated layout and the wood work and colour scheme is light and welcoming. There are a good number of bars and seating areas for her size, set on decks 7 and 8, as well as open deck areas on decks 11 and 12. One feature that I did miss however, was a forward observation lounge.
In traditional ship design style, the 2 storey Grand Theatre (or Broadway Showroom), which is a stunningly red entertainment space (a hybrid between a true theatre and an entertainment lounge), is forward on decks 7 & 8. The main restaurant (Restaurant Le Splendide) is mid ships on deck 7 and the buffet restaurant (Le Marche Gourmand and Terrasse Grille) is aft on deck 11. Apart from the restaurants, snacks and coffees are available in Le Café Moka, on deck 8.
In between the main restaurant and the Theatre is Le Salon Rendezvous – very much what it says – a gathering place with seating areas, bar and small entertainment stage.
One of the other Celebrity inspired areas on board is James Le Piano Bar – an indoor smoking lounge (reminiscent of the signature lounge - Michael’s Club, found on all newer Celebrity ships). It sits on one of three sides of public spaces, the other sides being a Library (Bibliotheque) and a Games Room (Salle de Jeux), aft on deck 8. They are just forward of the Saphir Danse Club (another lounge bar with a dance floor).
There is a refreshingly large amount of teak decking and 2 adequately sized pools (one for children), along with 2 jacuzzis. The spa is functional if somewhat bland in appearance, as is the gym.
It was not possible to see all grades of cabin on ‘Horizon’, but the ones I did see were of a reasonable size. Inside cabins are 164 sq ft (cf 159 sq ft for an inside cabin on P&O’s ‘Ventura’), outside cabins are similarly sized and balcony cabins measure from 172 sq ft (cruise lines fail to differentiate between the actual cabin living space and the balcony area in many cases, making it harder to draw direct comparisons). Cabins were adequately kitted out, albeit a trifle old fashioned in both layout and décor.
There was a casino, unusually with a ‘Penny Fall’s machine, a video arcade and the Guppy Club for children. Shops are on deck 8 and the Reception and Shore Excursion desks are on deck 5.
Meals in Restaurant Le Splendide are buffet style at breakfast and lunch with a waiter served evening meal. At lunchtime there was a choice of hot and cold buffet selections. These included French style charcuterie cold meats and cheese with salad and 3 or 4 choices of hot dishes ranging from curry and rice to pasta, with fish and vegetarian options as well. The desserts were what you might expect of a French influenced ship with a reasonable selection of gateaux, cold souffles, fresh fruit and tasty pastries.
Evening meals, in the main restaurant, are served in two sittings: typically 7.30pm and 9.45pm, although the second sitting can be later on sea days (in keeping with more traditional Mediterranean meal times).Temptingly, evening entertainment may go on for longer as a result of this later dining. Le Marche Gourmand serves evening meals and snacks between 7.30 and 10pm.
Pullmantur offer an ‘all inclusive’ experience with regard to drinks and gratuities The standard drinks package includes soda, fruit juice, water and wine, all served by the glass, alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails, speciality teas and coffees, local brand beers and standard grade spirits (eg. Gordons or Beefeater gin, Johnny Walker whisky, Absolut Blue vodka) and a range of liqueurs. The premium drinks package is available for an additional charge.
Itineraries range from port intensive 3 – 5 night sailings (a very pleasant long weekend), 7 night Baltic cruises (this itinerary is usually of at least 10 nights duration, due to more static departure points), 9 night Caribbean itineraries with cruise and stay options and the ability to embark and disembark at a selection of ports of call and 7 – 14 night Mediterranean itineraries.
The current Pullmantur brochure quotes prices including London flights (although regional flights are also available), overseas transfers, standard drinks packages & gratuities. It also clearly summarises any extra charges you could option, if you chose to do so.
All in all, ‘Horizon’ (as a representative of the other ships in the Pullmantur fleet) offers a no frills, relaxed cruise experience on a well maintained, but older, friendly, ship at a very budget able cost. It is well placed as a first cruise for families (and others), used to European holidays in Spain or France, wanting to dip their toes into the cruising market.