20+ Best Things to Do on Carnival Mardi Gras [2024 Guide]

With 20 decks and enough space for 6500 guests, Carnival’s Mardi Gras offers many fun attractions and innovative features. This includes Carnival Cruise Line’s first-ever roller coaster at sea!

Carnival Mardi Gras at San Juan

Mardi Gras is divided into six different zones that incorporate themed elements and spaces for hosting activities and events, over 20 dining options, and nearly the same number of bars and lounges.

While sailing on Mardi Gras in late October, I asked executives, journalists, crew members, and dozens of guests to name one or two “don’t miss” experiences on board.

Just The Facts
Total guest capacity:5,280 double occ., 6,500 full
Length:1,130 feet
Gross Tonnage:181,808
Cost:$1.14 billion
Homeport:Port Canaveral

So, without further ado, here are 20+ things to do on Carnival Mardi Gras:

1. Experience the BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster

bolt roller coaster mardi gras
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

BOLT is the first roller coaster at sea – and it’s quite a ride. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced on a cruise ship, so don’t miss it. I rode BOLT three times on my cruise, and it’s addictive.

BOLT is a top-deck electric-powered roller coaster in Mardi Gras’ Ultimate Playground zone. This innovative roller coaster recently won a “Best of What’s New” engineering award granted by Popular Science magazine.

The ride’s elevated track spans the cruise ship’s upper decks and features 800 feet of thrilling twists, dips, and turns, including a zooming hairpin loop around Mardi Gras’ tri-colored funnel. 

Riders on BOLT’s motorcycle-inspired vehicles can go as fast as 40 miles per hour while taking 360-degree views of the sea 187 feet below.

Bolt in Mardi Gras
Bolt (Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line)

Frequent BOLT riders recommend going full throttle throughout the entire session and using your vehicle’s boost on the track’s straight sections and right before a dip. It’s good to leave a few seconds between each boost for maximum effect.

As of March 2024, BOLT is priced at $15 per person for a two-lap ride. Try to make reservations for a time during the first part of your cruise in case you need to reschedule due to weather.

2. Have fun at Carnival SkyCourse

Sky Course at Carnival Mardi Gras

Located in the Ultimate Playground zone, Carnival Mardi Gras’ 600-foot ropes course is the longest in Carnival’s fleet.

This thrilling ropes Sky Course features two levels: one for beginners and the other for guests seeking a major adrenaline rush.

Unlike some other cruise ship ropes courses you may have been on, the Mardi Gras ropes course has a zip line that takes riders out over the ocean with nothing but the water below. It’s a thrill!

Once you’ve done this free ropes course, you’ll likely want to do it again and again.

3. Take a Carnival Kitchen Cooking Class

Carnival Kitchen on Mardi Gras
Carnival Kitchen on Mardi Gras

Want to improve your pizza-making skills or upgrade your BBQ game? Take a Carnival Kitchen Cooking Class on Mardi Gras and learn from Carnival’s culinary pros.

A wide range of classes are available, from sushi-making to cake workshops. Classes are held each day (depending on demand) – sometimes two or three per day – for groups of 18 or less.

There’s also an evening workshop cooking class that includes making a delicious dinner that includes baking Carnival’s famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.

Classes are available for guests ages 12 and older, and prices vary depending on the class. Sign up online through your cruise manager as early as possible — they sell out fast!

4. Enjoy a Seaday Brunch

A pancake with marshmallows and syrup on a plate.

One of my favorite things about sea days on a Carnival cruise ship is enjoying a relaxing Seaday Brunch. The free Seaday Brunch is held in Mardi Gras’ main dining room, and it was as great as ever.

Carnival’s Seaday Brunch is popular among guests, so we avoided standing in line using the HUB app. Our table was ready in about ten minutes, and while we were waiting, we used the HUB app to check out the menu.

You’ll be glad you have the extra time — there’s so much to choose from on Carnival’s Seaday Brunch menu. From burgers and fried chicken to huevos rancheros and 12-hour French toast, there are plenty of options to delight every palate.

RELATED: 5 Reasons to Try Carnival’s Seaday Brunch

5. Explore the WaterWorks on Carnival Mardi Gras

mardi gras waterworks
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

Mardi Gras’ massive onboard waterpark is one of the largest in Carnival’s entire fleet (All the Excel-class ships have the same features). Located in the ship’s Ultimate Playground zone, the waterpark is a go-to spot for fun-loving kids and families, thrill-seekers, and the young at heart.

WaterWorks features three water slides – the 312-foot Blue Lightning, the 229-foot Orange Thunder, and the 265-foot spiraling Carnival Twister waterslide.

Zipping down these splash-tastic water slides hits the spot on a hot day. There’s also a 150-gallon power-drencher tipping bucket and a splash zone for kids with many fantastic water elements.

6. Dine at Rudi’s Seagrill

Rudi's Seagrill Carnival Mardi Gras
Rudi’s Seagrill

Rudi Sodamin, Holland America Line’s amazing Master Chef, has been wowing guests of Carnival’s sister line for years. Now, Chef Rudi has brought his extraordinary skills to Carnival Mardi Gras by launching his specialty seafood restaurant, Rudi’s Seagrill.

Rudi Sodamin’s multi-course dining experience is phenomenal and well worth the $49 per-person charge. Seafood entrées include crab stuffed lobster tail, roasted halibut, crab cake, dover sole, and grilled colossal shrimp.

Mardi Gras Maiden Voyage trip report rudi's stuffed lobster
Rudi’s Stuffed Lobster

The 14 oz. New York Strip Steak, Berkshire Pork Chop, and Free Range Chicken at Rudi’s Seagrill will surely please those who aren’t seafood lovers.

Rudi’s Seagrill is another one that is super popular, so make your reservations well in advance.

MORE: A Picky Eater’s Guide to Dining on Carnival’s Mardi Gras

7. Taste Emeril’s Bistro 1396’s Fried Oysters

Emeril's Bistro 1396 fried oysters.

The crown jewel of Mardi Gras’ French Quarter zone is Emeril’s Bistro 1396, legendary chef Emeril Lagasse’s first restaurant at sea.

Located in the heart of the French Quarter on Deck 6, Emeril’s Bistro 1396 features the authentic New Orleans flavors of Emeril’s hometown.

The celebrity chef specially created the restaurant’s menu, which features individually-priced small plates, “A Little More” entrees, “A Little Sweet” desserts, kids’ meals, a raw and chilled seafood bar, and even a breakfast menu.

Menu items have Emeril’s signature Creole twist and include Sizzling Cast Iron Shrimp Scampi, Fried Oysters, Emeril’s New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp, Roasted Duck and andouille Sausage Gumbo, Lemon Ice Box Pie, and Bananas Foster.

Emeril's Bistro 1396 shrimp

The food at Emeril’s Bistro is delicious, and the prices are very reasonable. We ended up dining here multiple times during our cruise.

Don’t miss coming to Emeril’s for breakfast. The Pain Perdu, Sweet Potato Waffles, and freshly made New Orleans-style coffee are outstanding.

8. Experience the Bar Crawl on Carnival Mardi Gras

crystal ball cocktail fortune teller bar
Crystal Ball cocktail (Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

Mardi Gras offers guests close to 20 excellent bars and lounges onboard.

There are tons of new specialty drinks and bars to try on this ship. Head to a fun Mardi Gras Bar Crawl and discover fabulous new bars, cocktails, and old favorites. You’ll find two can’t-miss spots in Mardi Gras’ French Quarter.

The Brass Magnolia has a New Orleans-inspired atmosphere, serving strong Hurricanes and live jazz music.

The Fortune Teller Bar, another brand new bar in Carnival Cruise Line, is also located on the ship. Make sure to order a Crystal Ball cocktail.

Bar Della Rosa, a new Carnival bar in the Italian-themed La Piazza zone, serves espresso drinks during the day, Italian cocktails, and wine at night.

The Grand Central atrium is home to two bars, making it easy for those watching a show to get a drink.

The Carnival Mardi Gras bar line-up also features popular favorites, including the Alchemy Bar, Havana Bar, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse, and Piano Bar 88.

Carnival cruise lovers will be happy to know that the RedFrog Rum Bar has been expanded into the two-story RedFrog Tiki Bar on Mardi Gras.

The tiki bar on Carnival Mardi Gras.
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

Don’t miss the incredible views at The Watering Hole in the Summer Landing Zone, and stop by the Heroes Tribute Bar & Lounge while you’re in that area, too. Carnival will donate a portion of the sale to benefit Operation Homefront when you purchase a specialty cocktail or beer in a souvenir glass.

9. Eat some burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint

A restaurant on the Carnival Mardi Gras cruise ship with a red and yellow theme.
Guy’s Burger Joint on Mardi Gras

Guy’s Burger Joint on Deck 17 is Fieri’s first Carnival Cruise Line dining venue, and it’s as popular as ever on Mardi Gras. It serves the same handcrafted burgers and fries we all love.

Not only is the Guy’s Burger Joint on this ship the largest at sea, but its also free.

Barbecue lovers should head down to Deck 8 for excellent smoked meats, comfort food sides, and a home-brewed beer at Guy Fieri’s other restaurant, Guy’s Pig & Anchor Smokehouse | Brewhouse. All meals at Guy’s Pig & Anchor are currently free of charge on Mardi Gras.

10. Enjoy a meal at Big Chicken

big chicken mardi gras
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

The much-awaited Big Chicken restaurant launched on Mardi Gras, and it’s already a huge hit.

Created by Carnival’s Chief Fun Officer Shaquille O’Neal, Big Chicken offers a wide array of tasty chicken sandwiches, chicken strips, and even a fried chicken basket. It’s also the first Big Chicken on a cruise ship.

Guests can choose from white or dark meat (grilled chicken available on request), and items can be ordered with fries and sides like jalapeño slaw, potato salad, and sweet and spicy pickles.

Big Chicken sandwhich on Carnival Mardi Gras.

Big Chicken also offers a large toppings bar and, as the restaurant’s sign says, “We Encourage Sauciness.” Sauces include Shaq sauce, barbecue, buttermilk ranch, and buffalo hot sauce.

Big Chicken is open for lunch and dinner; breakfast is served until 3 p.m. daily. Make sure to try the breakfast biscuits – they’re delicious.

REVIEW: Shaq’s Big Chicken on Carnival’s Mardi Gras

11. Explore the Grand Central Atrium Shows & Entertainment

voodoo moon show mardi gras
Voodoo Moon show (Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

The innovative three-deck-high Grand Central Atrium space is one of Carnival Mardi Gras’ six themed zones – and it’s a winner.

The atrium’s huge 3,000 square-foot glass panels built into the ship’s side provide guests with beautiful sea views. It’s a wonderful place to relax, listen to live music, or participate in games and contests.

The Grand Central Atrium on Mardi Gras.
Grand Central

At night, the Grand Central Atrium transforms into a multi-story venue for spectacular shows with talented performances, aerial acrobatics, and special effects. The Grand Central Atrium’s 16 massive LED screens can display videos, lasers, and other unique effects – providing an ever-changing backdrop.

Don’t miss the ship’s New Orleans Celebration with its Mardi Gras-style parade and incredible “Voodoo Moon” performance. It’s one of the most fantastic entertainment experiences I’ve seen at sea.

12. Dine at Chef’s Table

Chef's Table Carnival Mardi Gras
Chef’s Table

Foodies rave about the Chef’s Table on Mardi Gras. At $119 per person (as of March 2024), this small group multi-course dining experience is a splurge – but it’s a VIP experience for just 14 guests hosted by the Master Executive Chef.

The Chef’s Table features cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a unique menu of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. It has its own space on Deck 5 Aft.

Guests must be at least 12 years of age or older to participate. Since limited seating is available, make your reservations as early as possible.

13. Eat a freshly-made pizza at Pizzeria del Capitano

Pizzeria del Capitano Carnival Mardi Gras
Pizzeria del Capitano

Located in the La Piazza zone on Carnival Mardi Gras, Pizzeria del Capitano serves fantastic freshly-made pizza 20 hours a day. 

(Note: The pizza place was open 24 hours per day until the decision was made to reduce the hours in 2022.)

Different hand-tossed thin-crust pies are available, including:

  • Margherita,
  • Funghi (mushroom)
  • Pepperoni
  • Quattro Formaggi (four cheese)
  • Prosciutto.
  • Guests can also request a gluten-free pie or a Caesar salad.

Piazza Panini is located within the La Piazza area, and a counter-service sandwich shop is open until 10 p.m., nightly.

Guests can order classic deli sandwiches, including Reubens and meatball subs, delicious paninis such as a Caprese panini (served hot or cold), or meat-lovers varieties like Carne or Salumeria. Yummy desserts are available after 8 p.m. daily.

Best of all, both Pizzeria del Capitano and Piazza Panini are free.

14. Eat cheesesteak fries at Street Eats on Carnival Mardi Gras

Street Eat Fries Carnival Mardi Gras
Street Eat Fries

Street Eats is a new dining concept in Carnival Cruise Line, located on Lido Deck 16 around Mardi Gras’ Beach Pool area. Inspired by food trucks and street eateries, Street Eats consists of three open-air counter-service stalls — Steam Dream, Mad Sizzle, and Time Fries.

Steam Dream serves delicious bao buns and potstickers, while Mad Sizzle features kebabs and satays. Time Fries features chef-created french fries loaded with toppings, such as Cheesesteak Fries.

Street Eats is free of charge and open for lunch. The menus change constantly throughout the week so drop by there every day.

If you like these kinds of food stalls, don’t miss having lobster rolls at the Seafood Shack (available for an extra charge) and the free shawarma station and hot dog stations in the Lido Marketplace. The Lido’s free gelato is also a big hit among kids and adults.

15. See a Family Feud Live

Carnival Mardi Gras Family Feud
Carnival Mardi Gras Family Feud

It’s fitting that Carnival’s Fun Ship should also feature an exciting new game show. Family Feud™ Live launched on Mardi Gras, and it had a packed house on our cruise.

The set is exactly like the one you’ve seen on the iconic TV game show. Our cruise director and teams participating in Family Feud™ Live on our sailing made the entertainment experience fast-paced and fun.

16. Enjoy Chinese cuisine at Chibang!

chibang chef mardi gras
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

This unique restaurant that combines Chinese and Mexican cuisines is another first for Carnival Cruise Line. Located on Deck 8, Chibang! is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

I didn’t expect to be wowed by this restaurant, but we ended up eating here twice on our cruise.

The lunch menu consists of build-your-own bowls, while dinner is a multi-course affair offering Chinese and Mexican selections.

Guests can mix and match from both sides of the menu, with choices like Sweet and sour Shrimp, Kung Pao Chicken, Steak Ranchero, and Pescado Frito.

Chibang Mexican and Chinese restaurant on Carnival Mardi Gras.
(Photo via Nancy Schretter/Family Travel Network)

Although this Carnival Mardi Gras specialty restaurant was originally meant to have an added fee, dining here is currently free for most items.

REVIEW: Chibang! Chinese & Mexican Restaurant On Carnival’s Mardi Gras

17. Try Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse’s Baked Onion Soup

A freshly baked french onion soup with melted cheese on top in a white bowl on Carnival Mardi Gras.

Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse is a superb dining experience on this cruise ship, and making reservations early is important. This upscale specialty restaurant is located on Deck 7 and carries a surcharge of $49 per person for a superb four-course meal, which is well worth the cost.

Starters include Baked Onion Soup, Lobster Bisque, Smoked Fresh Oysters, and Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail, followed by a good choice of salads.

Entrees include a 14-oz. New York Strip Loin Steak, an 18-oz Cowboy Steak, Filet Mignon, Surf & Turf, Broiled Lobster Tail, and Grilled Lamb Chops accompanied by a selection of delicious side dishes, sauces, and artisan salts.

Elegant interior of the Carnival Mardi Gras Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse with reception desk and dining area.

Desserts here are delectable, and the specially-created Chocolate Sphere experience is unique, delicious, and fun.

18. Have breakfast at BlueIguana Cantina

BlueIguana Cantina on Mardi Gras
BlueIguana Cantina on Mardi Gras

This poolside Mexican cantina restaurant on Carnival Mardi Gras’ Deck 16 serves free burritos, tacos, and other tasty lunch items made with fish, chicken, or pork. There’s a great toppings bar here, too.

Don’t miss their breakfast burritos loaded with scrambled eggs. They’re so good!

19. Laugh out loud at Punchliner Comedy Club

Carnival Mardi Gras Comedy Club

Carnival Cruise Line is known for its outstanding Punchliner Comedy Club and is incredibly popular on Mardi Gras. The ship features both family-friendly and adult-only shows.

Waiting lines formed well before showtimes, with multiple shows offered daily. Many guests in our group planned their evenings around The Punchliner Comedy Club shows throughout the cruise.

20. Relax in Serenity or Loft 19

Mardi Gras Loft 19
Loft 19

The adults-only Serenity Retreat on Mardi Gras is a lovely oasis with a pool, whirlpool, padded loungers, clamshell chairs, the Serenity Bar, and a Fresh Creations salad station. It’s a peaceful spot to chill out with friends.

Located one deck above, Loft 19 is yet another first for a Carnival cruise ship, and it’s a quiet space designed for privacy and relaxing.

Guests staying in Excel Suites on Carnival Mardi Gras have complimentary access to the exclusive Loft 19 area for their entire cruise and priority for cabana rentals.

Loft 19 features plush lounge chairs and a large infinity whirlpool, but the area’s 12 five-person cabanas must be rented for an additional fee from $500 per day to $3,000 per week.

Other Mardi Gras guests can purchase loft 19 access if a cabana is available.

While the Serenity and Serenity Bar area is for guests ages 21 and older, kids are welcome in Loft 19 with proper access.

21. Pay a visit to Cloud 9 Spa Thermal Suite

Mardi Gras Thermal Suite
Cloud 9 Spa Thermal Suite

Getting a Cloud 9 thermal suite pass for the day or week is the ultimate way to spend the day if you don’t want to get off the ship. There is a mineral pool, heated tile loungers, steam and dry heat chambers, and rainfall showers to wash your stress away. 

This area is capacity controlled, meaning they only sell a certain amount of passes per week until it is declared sold out. The Cloud 9 Thermal Suite prices could vary by sailing, so expect to pay anywhere from $30 for a day pass, up to $149 for the entire week.

22. Experience Mardi Gras Theater’s Playlist Productions

Mardi Gras Playlist production
Playlist Productions

Though small considering the size of the shop, with a maximum capacity of 900 people, Mardi Gras Theater offers more than just the Family Feud game show. 

The theater offers full-scale musical shows (Playlist Productions) that bring your favorite tunes to life with talented singers and dancers. 

With themes from 80s pop, jazz, Latin rhythms, and piano-pounding arena rock, you’ll find a production that suits your taste. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does Carnival Mardi Gras sail from?

Carnival Mardi Gras sets sail from Terminal 3 at Port Canaveral in Central Florida. The port has a brand-new cruise terminal built specifically for Mardi Gras. 

Port Canaveral is a world-class cruise and cargo port voted as the best North American Homeport. It’s the fastest-growing cruise port in Florida. 

Is Mardi Gras the biggest Carnival cruise ship?

No. The biggest Carnival cruise ship is Carnival Jubilee, followed by Carnival Celebration and then Mardi Gras.

What are the cons of Carnival Mardi Gras?

The main con is that some areas are too small for the number of guests on the ship, especially the Mardi Gras theater, Punchliner comedy club, and the limelight lounge. The entertainment department tries to alleviate this by presenting multiple shows around the ship simultaneously.

Carnival Mardi Gras Ship Tour

21 must do's on carnival cruise line's ship mardi gras

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