The 411 on the Panorama
Here’s how the Panorama would describe herself on a dating app:
Plus-sized and proud! Able to accommodate up to 5,146 guests on 15 decks! Loves travel, children, theme parties, cocktails, amusement parks, eating out, movies, and sunsets. Looking for someone who is fun, patient, and who enjoys long stints at sea. Could you be the passenger for me?
My mother/son cruise onboard the Panorama can be summarized as follows: While only 1 of the 1,000+ kids onboard was mine, I lost the right to complain about children the moment my 9-year-old crossed the threshold. So I embraced the chaos, enjoyed experiencing a kid-friendly megaship through my son, went with the flow, but also drank heavily (lol), made numerous new friends from all over the country and world, gained 10 pounds from buffet cake alone, met Guy Fieri and had to explain to him that I don’t have a favorite Guy’s Burger because I’m a vegetarian (true story – how embarrassing!), spent 24 hours getting barfed on in an inside cabin, went down the red waterslide over 100 times in one day (which may have contributed to the barfing – or maybe it was the near total lack of hand washing/sanitizing in the buffet area – gross Carnival, do better!), watched the sun rise and set at sea (nothing I love more!), watched movies under the stars snuggled up with my guy (sadly not Fieri, after offending him), spent my annual income from this blog on the Sky Zone (which was worth every penny for an hour of supervised childcare and the chance for my son to jump off some energy so he’d actually curl up to watch a movie with me), and had an overall magnificent time!
Here are the things I especially loved about the Panorama, followed by a few things I didn’t love and some tips to help you maximize your time onboard if you’re lucky enough to be booked on this most fun of fun ships!
Tour of an Inside Cabin on the Carnival Panorama
But first, a quick stateroom tour. Here’s how our inside cabin looked pre-barf. And you can read my full review HERE.
What I Loved about the Carnival Panorama
Here’s what I loved about the Carnival Panorama…
Complimentary Dining on the Panorama
There are two questions you’ll hear me asking on every Carnival cruise: “Is the captain single?” and “Is this complimentary?” I only ask the first question once, assuming I get an authoritative response, and either vow to keep it tight to increase my chances by only ordering two slices of buffet cake for lunch or I wallow in disappointment by ordering ALL the buffet cake. As for the second question, I ask it multiple times a day. And when it came to the food on the Panorama, more often than not the answer was in the affirmative, which was a good thing because the captain was happily married.
But seriously, there were so many great complimentary dining venues on the Panorama, above and beyond the main dining room, buffet, deli, Blue Iguana Cantina, and Guy’s Burger Joint standard on most Carnival ships. I especially loved the Mongolian Wok, Captain’s Pasta Bar, Fresh Creations, Pig and Anchor, and the gelato bar. See my complete guide to complimentary dining venues on Carnival (including menus and food pics) for details about every offering on the Panorama:
Seaday Brunch on the Panorama
The Seaday Brunch is one of my favorite features on Carnival and almost made up for the lackluster buffet on the Panorama that I can only compare to the offerings at my son’s public elementary school cafeteria during the height of the supply chain crisis during a week when the lunch lady was out with Covid and the janitor filled in right after scrubbing the toilets. Okay, it wasn’t that bad, but I’d skip it at breakfast and lunch on sea days in favor of brunch in the dining room. My favorite items were the skillet cake and the yogurt parfait (with homemade granola). Here’s the menu:
Gelato Station on the Panorama
Hard ice cream is one thing I miss on Carnival compared to other lines (most of which have hard ice cream in the buffet). However, the gelato bar on the Panorama, available at lunch, was better than any hard ice cream I’ve had on any other line. There are two rotating flavors each day along with an extensive toppings bar. And yes, it’s complimentary (you know I asked!)!
Buffet Cakes on the Panorama
I love the buffet cakes on Carnival so much I’d still eat them if they were served by the captain’s wife herself. I mean I’d still say something rude under my breath about her lack of proper appreciation for her station in life as she handed over my five slices, but I’d still eat every bite even with the high probability that she spit on them.
Indian Food on the Panorama
If you’re one of the people complaining about “the same old menus” in the main dining room on Carnival, I’ll be more sympathetic if you’ve included the vegetarian Indian selections in your rotation (there are different items available every night). If you haven’t tried it yet, branch out and try it on the Panorama. It’s excellent (but be sure to ask for extra rice – I never find the provided amount of rice to be enough).
Fruit Soups on the Panorama
While I’m certain the fruit soups on Carnival are just pre-frozen ice cream mix plated and garnished to look like soup and that the same mix is also used for frozen, cream-based cocktails, the fact that I can pass off ice cream as an appetizer course just makes me love the fruit soups on Carnival even more. And I enjoyed every one I tried in the main dining room at dinner on the Panorama!
Deck 5 Seating on the Panorama
While the Panorama was totally sold out and one of only a few post-Covid cruises I’ve sailed on at 100% capacity, there were still some areas of the ship where one could escape the masses to curl up with a book or for a quiet moment of reflection. Or to hide from one’s kid (yeah, I said it and yeah, I did it). The outdoor seating on deck 5 turned out to be one of those areas for me.
The Panorama was the most kid-friendly Carnival ship I’ve ever sailed on and the exact opposite of the ship I’m currently writing this review from, the Norwegian Spirit (NCL’s first “adult oriented” ship, totally stripped of all kid-friendly spaces, including the Kid’s Club – pray for me, I’m on here for 16 days with a 9-year-old). As Mr. Cruise and I enjoy long, interesting itineraries on smaller ships, we’ve taken our son on a lot of cruises not geared toward children and sometimes he’s among only a handful of kids onboard. But the Panorama felt like it was designed just for him! And I loved watching him have so much fun! You can read all about the Panorama’s activities for kids and kids at heart here:
Sky Zone on the Panorama
My son’s absolute favorite activity on the Panorama was the Sky Zone, Carnival’s only trampoline park and challenge zone at sea. He loved it so much we booked it four times. You can read my complete review with everything you need to know about it here:
Serenity Deck on the Panorama
The best part about the Sky Zone is that parents are permitted to leave their kids in the capable hands of trained crew, meaning I had a full hour to myself every time we booked it! Serenity now! And there’s even a deck for that! The serenity deck is the Panorama’s adults only deck and I made good use of it to recharge so I could be relaxed and fully present for my son.
Alchemy and Piano Bar on the Panorama
But if that doesn’t work, I also recommend drinking and drowning out the yells of your kid in some great music. My two favorite spots to do that on the Panorama were the Alchemy Bar and the Piano Bar. You can find current menus for both bars HERE.
Dive-in Movies on the Panorama
I almost froze to death by the end of the first outdoor movie on the huge lido deck screen because I took the dive-in part literally. But it turns out you can also watch movies from the comfort of a lounger and blankets are even provided (you can check them out from the towel stand) for those old and sensitive to the cold (I mean, I can’t be the only one who finds the theaters on cruise ships colder than the arctic suffering from a post-milkshake brain freeze).
There was a good variety of movies on the Panorama, something to appeal to all audiences, and my son and I enjoyed curling up together under a blanket with a hot beverage and some buffet snacks. There is also popcorn available for $3 per box (one of the few “no’s” I received when I asked, “is this complimentary?”).
Good Signage and Deck Numbers on Carpet
While it generally takes me until day 7 on a 7-day Carnival cruise to successfully make my way from my stateroom to the buffet cakes without taking 3-12 wrong turns despite being HIGHLY motivated to reach my destination, the signage and deck numbers on the carpet on the Panorama made navigating the ship easy and probably contributed to the 10 extra pounds I gained on this sailing due to more cake and less steps.
Towel Animals on the Panorama
I’m far from loyal to Carnival, or any cruise line. I’m an annoying combination of fickle and cheap and mainly book cruises based on value, timing, and itinerary, not ship or line. But there are a few things that always feel like coming home on Carnival. First, daily towel animals. And second…
Friendliest Passengers at Sea!
The absolute friendliest crowd at sea! Within minutes of boarding the Panorama, my son and I had both made friends and we debarked 7 days later crying because our cruise was over, but with a full rolodex of interesting characters from around the world.
What I Didn’t Love about the Carnival Panorama
Here are a few things I didn’t love about the Panorama…
Lack of Hand Washing/Sanitizing in the Buffet on the Panorama
Every other ship I’ve sailed on post-Covid has had a crew member stationed at the buffet directing guests to wash/sanitize their hands upon entry (washy, washy, happy, happy). But on the Panorama, hand washing stations were hidden and guests weren’t encouraged to use them. In fact, it was more common, by an order of magnitude, to see kids grabbing food from the buffet with their hands than anyone, adult or child, washing or sanitizing their hands prior to serving themselves at the buffet. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there was a LOT of stomach illness reported from this sailing in my Facebook roll call group. This was the most disappointing aspect of the Panorama for me and really something the crew should immediately address.
Liquid Lounge Main Theater on the Panorama
The Liquid Lounge main theater was both too small for the size of the ship and designed by an architect who skipped too many grad school courses to hit the strip club (in other words, they have a disturbing affinity for poles). Get there early or be among the 30% of guests who will leave the show with a stiff neck and a sour attitude: “Maybe I would have enjoyed the show had I SEEN any of it!”
Tiny Plastic Cups on the Panorama
One morning I hurled one of these tiny plastic cups at my son like an angry toddler and when he was like, “what the heck mom?!?!” I explained that I was just living up to the expectations Carnival must have of me. Why else would they force full grown adults to drink out of tiny plastic cups? It’s not a huge deal, but it does take 3 refills to wash down a single slice of buffet cake. Why, Carnival, why?
Lido Marketplace Buffet Selection on the Panorama
While these buffet photos wouldn’t look too bad if they were two of, like, ten photos featuring a plethora of items available at the buffet. But no, this is pretty much it. At first glance the buffet seems much more extensive than it actually is. Then Groundhog Day sets in and you realize you’re looking at the exact same 5-6 hot food options featured in four different areas.
With a salad bar and a handful of hot selections, the quality and quantity of items on the Lido Marketplace buffet on the Panorama was poor. This is one area where it really does pay to branch out and try a different line.
No Wraparound Promenade Deck on the Panorama
I have the same complaint of every new megaship across all the major lines, one that makes me sound both much more physically fit and old than I actually am – that they don’t have wide wraparound promenade decks for walking close to the water. While I loved the deck 5 outdoor seating on the Panorama, it didn’t compensate for the lack of a traditional Promenade deck.
Crowds and Lines on the Panorama
This cruise on the Panorama was significant as it was my most crowded sailing post-Covid (I’ve cruised numerous times post-Covid on every non-luxury line). While I’d been on one prior sailing that was also sold out, it was before kids were eligible to be vaccinated, so most cabins were limited to 2 passengers. But on the Panorama there were over 1,000 kids onboard, meaning many cabins were occupied by 3 or 4 passengers, increasing occupancy significantly. And it felt very, very crowded. There were long lines for dining venues (especially Guy’s Burgers and the seaday brunch) and attractions at peak hours and prime loungers went fast (your choices were to get up early and embrace your identity as a chair hog, oink oink, or complain about the chair hogs from a crappy spot in a dark, smelly corner.
Activities and Entertainment on the Panorama
I’m not interested in any cruise activity that ends with a sale’s pitch, which is why I avoid 90% of activities on Carnival. I’m more interested in the enrichment lectures/activities and higher-quality production shows offered on lines such as Princess, Celebrity, and Holland America (and the Broadway style shows on the larger NCL ships). I knew what I was getting into when I booked this cruise on the Panorama though, so I can’t really complain (so please either disregard this entire section or rightly accuse me of being passive aggressive).
Gym Hours on the Panorama
If you search this post for mentions of “buffet cake,” you’ll understand why a visit to the gym each day is not an exercise in vanity for me, but a necessity in preventing cruise-induced morbid obesity: “Coming to TBS this Fall, a new reality show about Prof. Cruise, a 900-pound cruise blogger trapped in an inside cabin onboard the Panorama.”
So seeing as it’s something I hate, I prefer to get the gym over with. And when I’m sailing alone with my son, I hit the gym before he wakes up in the morning, so it doesn’t interfere with our time together. But the gym on the Panorama had the worst hours I’ve experienced on any cruise across all lines: 7:30am-8:30pm. 7:30am is incredibly late for a gym to open (even though many of you reading this probably didn’t even know that time existed on a cruise). Honestly, I probably won’t book the Panorama again for this reason alone.
10 Tips and Hacks for the Carnival Panorama
Here are my top 10 tips and hacks to help you avoid some of the negative aspects of the Panorama and maximize the positive features of this gorgeous, fun ship…
Tip 1: Be careful when you book the Panorama if you don’t like children. If you wouldn’t book a romantic dinner out at Chucky Cheese on a Saturday afternoon, don’t book a couple’s cruise on the Panorama over spring or summer school breaks. Or if you wouldn’t book a relaxing solo trip to ground yourself at an amusement park, don’t book the Panorama when lots of children are onboard.
Tip 2: Learn how to use the elevators in advance. The elevators on the Panorama will likely be different than what you’re used to and it pays to learn to use them in advance. Here’s a quick tutorial:
Tip 3: Pick a port stop to stay on the ship to enjoy amenities without crowds.
The photo on the left is of the lido deck of the Panorama on a sea day and the photo on the right is the lido deck on a port day. I’d recommend picking one port day to stay on the ship and enjoy all the amazing features without the crowds. Because we’ve cruised to Mexico numerous times before, my son and I never left the ship! And instead went on the waterslides again, and again, and again, and again…
And then my son finally dragged me off for dinner.
Tip 4: Make a plate of snacks from gelato station to take back to your cabin for a late night snack. While the gelato is great, the toppings are also great on their own. The candy, cookie and brownie pieces, and marshmallows make perfect cabin snacks! Load up a plate (or plastic sandwich bag) at lunch for a little snacky snack later!
Tip 5: Along those same lines, grab a cheese plate at dinner in the main dining room to snack on in your cabin. It’s available on the dessert menu. My son and I ordered one every night.
Tip 6: Take a large plate to the cake station or they’ll stack slices on top of each other.
Unless you’re one of those restrained people who only orders one slice of buffet cake (sorry, but I’m not sure we can be friends – we’re just too different), you’ll want to take a large plate from the buffet area for your cake slices, otherwise servers will pile them on top of each other on a tiny plate. While a pile of cake sounds amazing in theory, German chocolate on confetti cheesecake on green tea cake on carrot cake is still better than no cake, but the flavor combination isn’t ideal. #lessonlearned
Tip 7: Get to restaurants right when they open, especially the seaday brunch. To avoid a long wait to be seated in the main dining room, plan to eat right when it opens or right before it closes. For the seaday brunch, log onto the app 10 minutes before the dining room opens to request a table. Otherwise you’ll have a long wait.
Tip 8: Pack a swimsuit in your carry-on luggage or wear one under your clothes on embarkation day, so you can take advantage of the pools and waterslides before they get crowded. You won’t have access to your checked luggage right away, so be sure to pack anything you want to use right away, like a swimsuit, in your carry-on bag.
Tip 9: Check in at midnight EST on your check-in day. In order to receive the earliest possible arrival time at your embarkation terminal (so as to minimize lines and get on the ship sooner), be sure to check in at midnight EST (regardless of where you live, so it would be 9pm PST) on your check-in date. Go here for additional tips for a fast and smooth embarkation day:
Tip 10: Go for a walk on deck 5 at sunset. While there isn’t a wraparound promenade deck for walking on the Panorama, you can still go for a stroll outside on either side of deck 5. And a walk at sunset, when you’ll likely have the whole deck to yourself, will be one of the most beautiful and peaceful experiences you’ll have on the Panorama. On the final evening of my cruise, I took a moment to breathe in gratitude at this most privileged of lives I live – one that allows me to sail the world one cruise ship at a time. To meet lovely, brilliant, hilarious characters – many of whom have become lifelong friends. To spend quality time with my dear ones, this time with my son, experiencing his first ever waterslide (which he loved!). To be reminded of my tiny presence in the vastness of the universe (being out on the ocean will do that) and vowing to do right by this miracle we’ve been entrusted with. That’s cruising. And while this cruise on the Panorama wasn’t prefect (nothing in cruising or life ever is), it will be filed away under “pretty darn great when I wasn’t getting barfed on” in my memory bank.
And with that…
Homework (10 points): See my other Panorama posts HERE. And be sure to follow Prof. Cruise on your favorite social media sites: