Celebrating Mardi Gras – First Sea Day Recap

Premier Custom Travel was one of a handful of travel agencies nationwide to be invited to sail on Carnival Cruise Line’s brand new ship Mardi Gras. Now through August 21st, PCT’s Chris Grum is onboard this amazing new ship, sharing photos, videos, and daily updates through our new blog series “Celebrating Mardi Gras.” Today’s post is a look at the first full day at sea.

I began yesterday’s blog by stating, “There’s nothing like waking up on embarkation morning, pulling back the curtains at your hotel, and seeing your ship in the distance.” While it’s certainly up there, I’d say this morning’s window view was much better, as evidenced by the photo above. My deck 4 oceanview stateroom had a lovely view of the sea this morning to welcome me to our first full day at sea. This is the first of two back-to-back sea days with lots going on around the ship.


The Center Stage area of the Grand Central neighborhood is quickly becoming one of my favorite spots on the ship. During the day, this area has a stunning three-deck high view of the ocean through a gigantic wall of glass windows. At various times throughout the day, it converts into an entertainment venue. This morning, our cruise director Chris the Flying Scotsman hosted his morning show in this space. Later, all the giant video screens were lowered into place to create the backdrop for tonight’s variety act. This stage essentially gives Mardi Gras two places where headline acts can perform. It spans from deck 6 to deck 8, with theatre style seating on the lowest level and a semi-circle of other seats on the two higher decks. Behind those seating areas are some of the specialty dining restaurants and the Fun Shops, to name a few of the venues nearby. There are, naturally, also bars on each level so you can enjoy a drink during the show.


I have a lofty goal during these seven days onboard of trying every restaurant at least once. To that end, I had lunch today at Emeril’s Bistro 1396, named for the Mardi Gras’ hull number when she was being built. The restaurant did not disappoint.

Emeril’s is one of the a-la-carte dining options onboard. For those who have never cruised, don’t worry – there is plenty of great food included in your fare. However, I’d certainly recommend dropping a few dollars at this eatery. You won’t be disappointed. The bistro is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, with lots of great creole classics available including red beans and rice, muffulettas, po-boys, and even a seafood bar with lots of great selections. For dessert, you may enjoy the lemon ice box cake or perhaps some classic New Orleans inspired Bananas Foster.

After my lunch, I got to chat with one of the onboard chefs. We discussed the various new restaurants onboard and I asked him specifically about something Carnival had been testing – breakfast at Guy’s Burger Joint. Typically that restaurant is only open for lunch, but for the first Mardi Gras cruise (and on a few other select ship sailings across the fleet) Carnival had been quietly testing a breakfast menu there. My new chef friend told me that he didn’t think it would go fleet wide, as it wasn’t very well attended when they tested it. Not to worry, as there are plenty of places to get breakfast onboard.

Side note – I have now gone two full days without a Guy’s burger, which might be a record for my long cruising career. Perhaps tomorrow.


While we’re on the subject of food, I must mention my dinner tonight at Bonsai Teppanyaki. Frequent Carnival Cruise Line guests will recognize the name Bonsai but perhaps not the second part of that name. On most Carnival ships, there is the Bonsai Sushi restaurant, available for a-la-carte dining throughout the day. On two of the Vista-class ships and Mardi Gras, they have added Bonsai Teppanyaki next door. This restaurant offers the chefs cooking your dinner right in front of you with a fun, creative show.

I’ve dined at a lot of teppanyaki restaurants, including the one that started it all – Benihana of Tokyo. I must say that this “show” was one of the best I’ve seen. Many of the chefs tend to use the same gimmicks at each of these restaurants, and some of those were present here as well. But our chef, who was actually from the Philippines, added some of his own humor and also sang us a bunch of fun songs with his own lyric changes to match the dishes. We heard songs from Bon Jovi, “Gangnam Style,” “Baby Shark,” and even “Who Let The Dogs Out.” He was quite entertaining.


I don’t want to get into the mask/no mask debate, but I do need to mention something that is troubling to me.

The rules onboard are pretty simple – masks are SUGGESTED in most places and REQUIRED where there are signs indicating it. Elevators are one place where they must be worn, plus entering bars and restaurants. Some venues are MASKS REQUIRED, like the main theatre. However, tonight I saw many people not wearing masks in required venues, many without drinks. Normally I wouldn’t say anything, as what you do is your business. But this is my industry and my livelihood, and we just spent the better part of a year and a half shut down because of this virus. We are only back because of some strict protocols and I do not want to see us shut down again.

PLEASE follow the rules regarding masks on airplanes and cruise ships. I get it – I would love to burn mine and never wear it again. But you knew the rules when you purchased the ticket and agreed to abide by them.

PLEASE respect my industry and its (temporary) rules. The sooner we all do that, the sooner we can get back to normal.


Tonight was the second night of the first of two Playlist Production shows on Mardi Gras. “Rock Revolution – Summer of ’69” is billed as a tribute to the songs of a generation and while the music was familiar, I felt like the show hasn’t quite gelled yet. The cast is clearly talented but the sixteen months of layoffs is showing just a bit. I think the show has lots of potential, and perhaps when I’m back onboard for our Thanksgiving 2022 sailing, the show will be even better.

Later in the week, we get two nights of some of my favorite music – songs from musical theatre. I’m very curious about that show and will share my review in a later blog.


I spent most of my evening at the two French Quarter bars – The Brass Magnolia and the Fortune Teller bar. I absolutely love Brass Magnolia. The drinks are amazing, and the decor is super cool. Check out our Facebook page for lots of photos and the menus from each venue.

Tonight’s entertainment in The Brass Magnolia was a trio of electric violin players called “New Age.” These three musicians (one man and two ladies) are absolutely brilliant, playing a mix of hits from various decades. We heard songs from P!nk (hear a clip in the video above), Aerosmith, Sam Smith, and many more. Many of the Carnival ships feature trios like this and they are always very entertaining. I look forward to seeing them again later in the week.


As I write this blog, we’re half-way to our first port, San Juan. The map above shows our current course, speed, and more. We are encountering some pretty strong headwinds tonight (enough to keep the roller coaster closed most of the afternoon) but this ship is so large that she handles the adversity well. There is a slight shimmy tonight, but overall very smooth sailing.


Is there a feature of the ship you’d like me to spotlight? Have a question about this ship or cruises in general? Drop me a line and I’ll be happy to feature your question or request in a future blog post.

My next update will be at the end of our second sea day tomorrow. My plans include a cake decorating class in the Carnival Kitchen and lots of other fun stuff. I’ll also be exploring more of the ship and posting more photos and videos.

Until the, I leave you with the photo above – this evening’s “formal night” towel animal, courtesy of my stateroom stewardess Kanokkorn.