Carnival Panorama, July 1-July 9, 2023

Rocky’s Birthday Sailabration is officially in the books. We started planning Rocky’s 40th birthday over a year ago and invited friends and family near and far. In fact, we even got to meet some followers on board this week which was extra special.

Carnival Panorama is my 3rd most sailed Carnival ship. In fact, this past week, she took over that spot from the Carnival Miracle, the Spirit-Class ship with the grapes on the ceiling. In additional to Rocky’s big day, this sailing was special as I just got to spend 15 days on Carnival Panorama’s sister Carnival Venezia during her inaugural trip from Barcelona. Jumping on board the Carnival Panorama gave me the chance to compare the ships real-time to see the true differences between the Costa version of a Vista-class ship and the Carnival version.

What I can tell you? They’re the same ship – but very, very different. I absolutely love what Costa did with the Venezia. You see, the Carnival Panorama is simply a carbon copy (with some minor variations like Heroes add and IMAX removal), whereas, Carnival Venezia is a new ship entirely! I’ll share all the differences in another post; let’s get back to the birthday and what made this week so special!

The Crew

I know you’ve heard me say this before, but the crew on board Carnival Panorama is truly something special. I’m going to call out some folks who made our vacation truly memorable; if you get a chance to meet or sail with any of these spectacular humans, please tell them we say hello!

Room Stewards

First and foremost, I have to shout out Rafael and Tina for taking such good care of us the entire week. They took the time to help celebrate Rocky’s birthday and this display was extra special. Thank you for always calling us by name, always making sure we had fresh ice, and somehow, always knowing just when we stepped out of the room so that we’d come back to a refreshed space.

Dining Staff

Our Main Dining Room staff took such amazing care of us all week long. We had a group of 13 and Anita and her team never missed a beat. From calling each person by name (despite folks switching seats every night!), to Jeff’s semi-addiction to Carnival soups, Anita, Madorbex, and Bisu were attentive, kind, and made sure that we never left the dining room hungry.

Jay and Indah from Blue Iguana Cantina. Thank you for always having a smile on your faces and asking about our day. Despite long lines, Jay never made it feel like he was rushing to get me through. This is the type of hospitality that had me coming back to get huevos rancheros every morning!

Finally, Tamara did an amazing job taking care of us at the Diamond Party, and then recognized us around the ship when she saw us. We appreciate her attentiveness. Like Anita and crew did in the Main Dining Room making sure we were never hungry, Tamara made sure we were never thirsty!!


Anyone that follows us knows that we love Carnival for the non-stop fun and entertainment. The Carnival Panorama is no exception to that rule! On the first night, I ran into Shane from the Playlist Productions cast. Sure enough, he remembered me from a previous sailing (I don’t know how crew do this, but it’s impressive!) We got to see Shane perform in each of these shows. Carnival, if you’re following, you’ve got a male lead on your hands with this one!! He’s so strong and captivating – and has some serious chops!

We got to meet Matt on the Fun Squad who is just 3 months into his first contract. He hosted the LGBTQ+ meetup the first night and ensured everyone in attendance felt welcomed. The rest of the cruise, whenever he saw us, he made it a point to stop by for a minute to say hello and chat. Manu was so kind as well throughout the sailing. We even ran into both of them on debark morning and took some final selfies. I sometimes wonder if the Fun Squad ever sleeps?? 😉

Lenny Schmidt was one of our comedians this cruise and we enjoyed his shows in both the Lime Light Lounge and the main theater. Thanks for keeping it real and for always making us smile.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Carnival Cruise without some EPIC deck parties! 80s Rock N Glow had us dancing and sweating. We paused for what might be my favorite photo from the entire cruise with the Fun Squad and our Cruise Director.

Cruise Tip: Do not miss the main theater shows. This ship features The Welcome Aboard Show, Soulbound, Rock Revolution, Celestial Strings, and The World Works Here. The cast will all have you tapping your feet, singing along, and maybe, if you’re lucky, dancing like no one is watching!

Cruise Director

While it takes an entire crew of entertainment staff to ensure passengers have an amazing time, the Cruise Director is the most visible persona on a cruise ship – from early morning debark announcements, to getting crowds excited at deck parties later that same night (and everything in between!), the Cruise Director is “on” the entire cruise.

If you are ever lucky enough to get to sail with Chris Williams, aka, “The Flying Scotsman,” I promise that you are in for an absolute treat. I’ve had the pleasure of sailing with Chris before and I was excited for my crew to get to see him in action. You see, Chris has performed as a singer/dancer for a very long time; he even held a role as a member of the Playlist Productions cast early in his Carnival career. This background in entertainment pays dividends for passengers that get the opportunity to sail with him.

It’s not often that a Cruise Director hosts their own full-length featured entertainment show (in fact, I think the only other time I’ve experienced this was Andy’s comedy hour on our Alaska sailing). If you ever get a chance to attend a Cruise Director show, DO IT! Chris Williams performed to a packed house – literally, there was standing room only in the theater. In addition to his own stage show, he performed at every deck party, sang and danced in – well, technically, on – the Atrium Bar, sang to us as we came back from ports of call, and even donned a wig or two bringing out new personas.

49 cruises in, and I honestly don’t know that I’ve ever heard a Carnival atrium get as loud as it did this past week with Chris at the helm. Truly a legend!

Crew Members Around the Ship

While the folks I mentioned are out front and make a huge impact on the passenger experience, there are so many other crew members that make your cruise special. Thank you to Gordon (Entertainment) and Marija (Guest Services) for spending time with us at the Diamond Party and saying hello around the ship.

Dali (Project Manager, The World Works Here), is a tremendous human! He was so kind to us the entire sailing, sharing his experience with ship life, how he’s grown with Carnival Cruise Lines, and why he loves the work he does – whenever we saw him around the ship, he’d get the biggest smile and say hello!

Shoutout to Dragana at Alchemy and Melissa at Plaza Bar for instantly recognizing/remembering me and our sailings. I’m still smiling as I think about Melissa rising up from behind the bar saying, “I know you…” 🙂

An Absolute Unexpected Surprise

When people hear that we’ve been on over 60 Carnival Cruises, they often ask, “What keeps you coming back?” Our answer is always the same: the feeling of family. I know it might sound silly to some, but we’ve become friends with multiple crew members from around the world – and stay in touch long after the cruise wraps up. We celebrate their accomplishments, we raise a toast when they get married or welcome a new child to the family, and we get extra excited when promotions are announced (here’s looking at you Evangely).

But what happened on this cruise takes the birthday cake! A couple weeks before we got on, the Playlist Productions cast wrapped up their contracts and a new cast took over. Sadly, we missed our friend Ryan by just a couple weeks. But that didn’t stop him from making Rocky’s birthday extra special: he coordinated with Guest Services a surprise we never saw coming. When we got back to our room from exploring the ship, there was a note wishing Rocky a Happy Birthday with a bottle of wine for him to enjoy in the dining room that evening – from Ryan.

You never forget a moment like that. Truly, Ryan, thank you for making Rocky’s birthday special and truly surprising the both of us with your kindness!

Final Thoughts

The Carnival Panorama is a beautiful ship. Along with her Vista-class sisters (Vista, Horizon, and mostly Venezia), she’s jam-packed with things to do, places to eat and drink, and places to get away from the crowds to relax for those looking to do that.

I can’t imagine a better way to spend Rocky’s 40th birthday; I’m so thankful for all of the memories our group made on board Carnival Panorama!

If you’d like to learn more about the ship, hear about our experience, and see a lot more photos and videos, join us over on our YouTube channel where we’ll be posting a long-form video that details the full week on board Carnival Panorama. You can also check out a bunch of YouTube Shorts from our various ports and stops along the way.

As always, thanks for joining us on this cruise life of ours! -Mark

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