Carnival Mardi Gras debuted in summer 2021 as the flagship of Carnival Cruise Line and is spending her inaugural season sailing from Port Canaveral.
Carnival’s biggest cruise ship is divided into six themed “zones” and offers a number of fun attractions and innovative features, including the first-ever roller coaster at sea.
With more than 20 dining options and nearly the same number of bars and lounges, it’s easy to let the good times roll on this new Carnival Fun Ship.
There’s so much to experience on Carnival Mardi Gras, so we’ve rounded up a series of “must do’s” for those planning their cruise.
While sailing on Mardi Gras in late October, I asked Carnival executives, journalists, crew members, and dozens of guests to name one or two “don’t miss” experiences on board.
Here are 21 things to do on Carnival Mardi Gras that were named most often, along with some insider tips:
1. BOLT: Ultimate Sea Coaster
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 located 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 across 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 in 360-degree views of the sea 187 feet below.
Frequent BOLT riders with the need for speed recommend going full throttle throughout the entire session and using your vehicle’s boost on the track’s straight sections as well as right before a dip. It’s good to leave a few seconds between each boost for maximum effect.
As of December 2021, 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. Carnival SkyCourse
Located in the Ultimate Playground zone, Carnival Mardi Gras’ 600-foot ropes course is the longest in Carnival’s fleet.
This thrilling ropes course features two levels, one for beginners and a more challenging one 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. Carnival Kitchen Cooking Class
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. A limited number of classes are held each week – sometimes two or three per day – for groups of 18 or less.
There’s also an evening workshop class that includes making (and eating) a delicious dinner that could include Carnival’s famous Warm Chocolate Melting Cake.
Classes are available for guests ages 12 and older and prices vary depending on the class. Make sure to sign up online as early as possible — they sell out fast!
4. Seaday Brunch
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 very popular with guests, so we decided to avoid standing in line by 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.
5. WaterWorks on Carnival Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras’ massive onboard waterpark is currently the largest in Carnival’s entire fleet. 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 definitely hits the spot on a hot day. There’s also a 150-gallon PowerDrencher tipping bucket and a splash zone for kids with lots of cool water elements.
6. 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 with the launch of his specialty seafood restaurant, Rudi’s Seagrill.
Rudi Sodamin’s multi-course dining experience is phenomenal and well worth the $38 per-person charge. Seafood entrée choices include Crab Stuffed Lobster Tail, Roasted Halibut, Crab Cake, Dover Sole, and Grilled Colossal Shrimp.
The 14 oz. New York Strip Steak, Berkshire Pork Chop, and Free Range Chicken at Rudi’s Seagrill are sure to please those who aren’t seafood lovers as well.
Rudi’s Seagrill is very popular, so make your reservations well in advance.
7. Emeril’s Bistro 1396
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 restaurant’s menu was specially created by the celebrity chef and 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 & Andouille Sausage Gumbo, Lemon Ice Box Pie, and Bananas Foster.
The food at Emeril’s is absolutely 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. Bar Crawl on Carnival Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras offers guests close to 20 awesome bars and lounges onboard, which is perfect for a Fun Ship named after New Orleans’ most epic party of the year.
There are ton of new specialty drinks and bars to try on this ship. Head out on a fun Mardi Gras Bar Crawl and discover some fabulous new bars and cocktails as well as 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 up strong Hurricanes and live jazz music.
The Fortune Teller Bar, another brand new bar for Carnival Cruise Line, is located here as well. Make sure to order a Crystal Ball cocktail here – it’s as potent as it is Insta-worthy.
Bar Della Rosa, another new Carnival bar located in the Italian-themed La Piazza zone, serves espresso drinks during the day and 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.
Don’t miss the great 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. When you purchase a specialty cocktail or beer in a souvenir glass, Carnival will donate a portion of the sale to benefit Operation Homefront.
9. Guy’s Burger Joint
Guy’s Burger Joint is celebrity chef and TV personality Guy Fieri’s first Carnival Cruise Line dining venue, and it’s as popular as ever on Mardi Gras. Located on Deck 17, Guy’s Burger Joint 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 the restaurant also offers a menu of breakfast sandwiches each morning.
Barbecue lovers should make sure to head down to Deck 8 for amazing 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. Big Chicken
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 also offers a large toppings bar and, as the restaurant’s sign says, “We Encourage Sauciness.” Sauces include an amazing Shaq sauce, barbecue, buttermilk ranch, and buffalo hot sauce.
Big Chicken is open for lunch and dinner, plus breakfast is served until 3 p.m. daily. Make sure to try the breakfast biscuits – they’re delicious.
11. Grand Central Atrium Shows & Entertainment
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 side of the ship provide guests with beautiful sea views. It’s a wonderful place to relax and listen to live music or take part in games and contests.
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 amazing entertainment experiences I’ve seen at sea.
12. Chef’s Table
Foodies rave about the Chef’s Table on Mardi Gras. At $95 per person, 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 experience features cocktails and hors d’oeuvres followed by 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. Pizzeria del Capitano
Located in the La Piazza zone on Carnival Mardi Gras, Pizzeria del Capitano serves fantastic freshly-made pizza 24 hours a day.
Several different varieties of hand-tossed thin-crust pies are available including Margherita, Funghi (mushroom) Pepperoni, Quattro Formaggi (four cheese), and Prosciutto. Guests can also request a gluten-free pie or a Caesar salad.
Right next door in the La Piazza area is Piazza Panini, a counter-service sandwich shop that’s also open 24/7.
Guests can order classic deli sandwiches including Reubens and meatball subs or 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 pm daily.
Best of all, both Pizzeria del Capitano and Piazza Panini are both free of charge.
14. Street Eats on Carnival Mardi Gras
Located on Lido Deck 16 around Mardi Gras’ Beach Pool area, Street Eats is another new dining concept for Carnival Cruise Line. 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 up 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. Menus change constantly. 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 with kids and adults.
15. Family Feud Live
It’s fitting that Carnival’s brand-new Fun Ship should feature an exciting brand-new game show as well. Family Feud™ Live launched on Mardi Gras and it had a packed house on our cruise.
The set that has been created for this high-energy show is exactly like the one you’ve seen on the iconic TV game show. Our cruise director and the teams that participated in Family Feud™ Live on our sailing made the entertainment experience fast-paced and fun.
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 & Sour Shrimp, Kung Pao Chicken, Steak Ranchero, and Pescado Frito.
Although this Carnival Mardi Gras specialty restaurant was originally meant to have an added fee, dining here is currently free of charge for most items.
The Golden Roasted Duck for two is carved tableside and the multi-dish entrée is well worth the $15 per person up-charge.
17. Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse
There are more than 20 dining venues on Mardi Gras, so it’s tough to fit all of them into a seven-night cruise. Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse is a superb dining experience on this cruise ship and it’s important to make reservations early.
This upscale specialty restaurant is located on Deck 7 and carries a surcharge of $38 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. Desserts here are delectable and the specially-created “Art at Your Table” experience is unique, delicious, and fun.
18. BlueIguana Cantina
This poolside Mexican cantina restaurant on Carnival Mardi Gras’ Deck 16 serves up free burritos, tacos and other tasty lunch items made with fish, chicken or pork. There’s a great toppings bar here, too. BlueIguana Cantina is a lesser-known gem for breakfast as well. Don’t miss their breakfast burritos loaded with scrambled eggs. They’re so good!
19. Punchliner Comedy Club
Carnival Cruise Line is known for its outstanding Punchliner Comedy Club, and it’s incredibly popular on Mardi Gras as well. The ship features both family-friendly and adults-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 entire cruise.
20. Relaxing in Serenity or Loft 19
The adults-only Serenity Retreat on Mardi Gras is a lovely oasis complete with a pool, whirlpool, padded loungers and 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 luxurious space for relaxing.
Guests staying in Excel Suites on Carnival Mardi Gras have complementary access to the exclusive Loft 19 area for their entire cruise and first 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.
Loft 19 access can be purchased by other Mardi Gras guests if a cabana is available.
While the Serenity area is for guests ages 21 and older, kids are welcome in Loft 19 with proper access.
21. 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 or are not a sun person. There is a mineral pool, heated tile loungers, steam, and dry heat chambers, and rainfall showers to wash your stress away.
This is area is capacity controlled, meaning they only sell a certain amount of passes per week until it is declared sold out.
In addition to these 21 “must do” suggestions, an additional recommendation was made by numerous guests — book Mardi Gras again. It’s impossible to experience everything available on this cruise ship in a single sailing.
With so many great features, Carnival Cruise Line’s new Mardi Gras keeps guests coming back for more.
Carnival Mardi Gras Ship Tour