Checking in at Barcelona for my eight-night cruise on Carnival Cruise Line’s brand new Carnival Vista was one of the most chaotic and unorganised experiences I’ve ever seen on all 40+ cruises I have been on. There was a chaotic queue of around 20 people waiting to place their luggage on the luggage belt outside the terminal, followed by a large winding queue outside the terminal entrance, which took me over 20 minutes just to get inside the building. The majority of people in line were Americans, and a handful of Europeans. Once inside, the only thing the staff did was swipe my passport. I then had to go through security, where I was then handed a lettered ticket for check in upstairs. After the manic procedure downstairs, I was expecting similar long queues, but to my surprise there were only six people in line. I handed over my lettered ticket, which I had only just received, to the woman standing at the check in entrance and seriously questioned the need for the lettering system. After check in, it was a swift procedure to the ship.
There was a smell of new carpets and furnishings as I walked to my stateroom, as this cruise was only the fourth sailing since launch. I was eager to see what my stateroom looked like, as #2217 is classed as an inside, but features a porthole window. The stateroom was spacious, and had a fairly standard layout. It certainly wasn’t luxurious – more like a budget hotel room. The tacky blue plastic flooring and cheap shower curtain in the bathroom were a far cry from similar new ships, like Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas, and NCL’s Norwegian Escape. Having said that though, the stateroom did feel comfortable, with a great interactive TV, powerful air-conditioning and USB sockets.
The only major downside to the stateroom was the location. Just two decks above the powerful bow thrusters, it was impossible not to be woken up by the 6 a.m. wake-up call of the thrusters as we maneuvered into the Mediterranean ports of call. And if that didn’t wake me up, then I could be certain that the overly-enthusiastic Cruise Director singing “Hello…it’s me…” over the public address system at around 8 a.m. each morning would.
The heart of the ship is the visually impressive three-deck-high Vista Atrium. The main centrepiece, an LED funnel-like structure, projects various eye-catching graphics that change throughout the day. There was always a different vibe each time I walked through, or had a pre-dinner drink in the Vista Bar that wraps around the centrepiece. During the day, graphics of tropical beaches and underwater sea life scenes, provided a calming and relaxed atmosphere. During the evening, when this area is at its busiest, striking graphics with bold and colourful scenes were shown, such as purple rain, or a visually impressive giant martini glass. Surrounding the atrium, were plenty of seating for socialising, the guest services and shore excursion desk, as well as the Fun Shops and Cherry On Top, a candy lovers dream!
Moving away from the Atrium, a mini enclosed-atrium on Deck 5 overlooking the Vista Casino – the only bar on the ship where smoking is allowed – is home to Piano Bar 88, the Library Bar, Alchemy Bar serving impressive cocktails, plus the Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse and Bonsai Sushi speciality restaurants.
Further along Deck 5 is the large Pixels Photo Gallery, allowing guests to view photos digitally. The RedFrog Pub & Brewery is a Caribbean-inspired bar, complete with its own in-house brewery and self-service beer on tables. Three beers are brewed on board: ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, FriskyFrog Java Stout and ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA. Hour long tours of the brewery are also available for $12.95, which include tastings of all three ship-brewed beers.
Ocean Plaza is a quiet lounge in the day, hosting dance classes and quizzes. In the evening, the lounge is home to live music from the resident band, Velvet Vibe. Hidden away from the main thoroughfare, the Taste Bar offers samples from some of Carnival Vista‘s specialty restaurnats, and other dining venues around the ship. This is a great way to ‘try before you buy’! The nearby Java Blue Cafe & Shake Spot serves premium coffee, ice-cream and delicious cakes. Revolving doors lead outside onto the Lanai, an outside promenade area with al fresco dining, bars and a BBQ grill.
Overlooking the aft of the ship is the Cuban-inspired Havana Bar leading onto the Havana Pool exclusively for Havana Cabana suites. This is a great place to unwind with a drink and cool off on a warm sea day.
The Liquid Lounge is a multi-purpose entertainment venue. This is where the main Playlist Production shows are performed aboard Carnival Vista. The venue also seamlessly transforms into the main nightclub from 10:30 p.m. after the final show. Movable seats allows for various staging arrangements. To get a good seat it’s best to get there early, however I always got a great view by standing at the bar. The upper-level seats were a little restrictive unless you were on the first row or directly facing the stage.
The three production shows I saw during my time onboard were all spectacular. The 70s disco-inspired Studio VIP got plenty of people up and dancing, especially when the Playlist cast went into the audience to get volunteers to do the Y.M.C.A! America Rocks! is a high-energy concert of popular American rock and roll songs. Flick a production all about songs from the movies was the most incredible show I have ever seen at sea and on land! The creative and artistic elements of this show were simply amazing. Take a look at some highlights from the show…
SkyBox Sports Bar is a trendy bar, showing a variety of sporting events on a giant video wall. It’s the only venue on the ship where sporting events are shown. The Limelight Lounge is home to the Punchliner Comedy Club at night with two different comedians performing nightly.I found this entertainment venue was largely unused during the day apart from an occasional art auction for the Art Gallery next door (do Carnival cruise passengers actually buy art!?).
Surrounded by staterooms is the Carnival Multiplex. One of the most impressive venues on Carnival Vista, this full-size, 187-seat IMAX cinema is home to the latest 3D blockbusters and IMAX documentaries. Thrill Theater is a dedicated 4D multi-dimensional experience, where seats move back and forth and side to side and viewers are sprayed with water and bubbles to make them feel like they’re part of the short film. Tickets to see an IMAX movie are $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children 12 and under and guests aged 55 and over. The cost for IMAX documentaries and Thrill Theater is $5.50 per person. Also located near the Multiplex is The Warehouse arcade.
Carnival Vista has two main restaurants. I dined in the Reflections Restaurant, the smaller of the two. The Horizons Restaurant is a spectacular two-deck-high restaurant overlooking the aft of the ship. Its simplistic elegance is a welcome change from the brass interiors of older Carnival ships. Rich flavours, diverse options, and destination-inspired dishes really blew me away. The food was outstanding, although one thing that didn’t live up to the hype was the iconic Carnival Chocolate Melting Pot. By the third spoonful I was sick to death of it, and it just seemed…well, bland. It didn’t stop me having it four of the eight nights though!
Lido Marketplace is the main buffet on the ship. Although the seating arrangements were spacious, the actual food counters were small and choices were, at times, very limited compared to other cruise lines. Sweet Spot, the freshly-whipped ice cream stand is popular with guests, but its only open during lunch times. Swirls frozen yogurt is available 24 hours from the self-serve machines.
Even writing this now, I’m still missing the delicious burgers and fries served at Guy’s Burger Joint. Photos I’d seen of the burgers posted on social media looked amazing, but taking my first bite was like an explosion of taste going off in my mouth. The juicy patty, combined with the soft bun and crispy fries are a match made in heaven! Because of the limited choice in the buffet, I was taking a trip to Guy’s most days. Nearby is the RedFrog Rum Bar, and always a lively place with plenty of pina coladas, daiquiris and mojitos being ordered.
Imagine a Subway serving burritos and you’ve got BlueIguana Cantina. Situated the other side of the pool deck from Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina serves amazing custom-made burritos. Simply choose your tortilla, your meat, and what toppings you’d like and the guys will take care of the rest! They also do delicious breakfast burritos. Once you’ve finished eating, the BlueIguana Tequila Bar is a popular place to go for a poolside margarita.
Seafood Shack serves a variety of fresh seafood dishes, such as lobster rolls and shrimp at an additional cost. Make sure you try the popular clam chowder served inside a bowl made out of bread!
Pizzeria del Capitano is a free 24-hour pizzeria, where pizzas are made and cooked right before your eyes. Because of this wait times can often be upwards of 15 minutes, and is especially popular with those wanting late-night snacks.
Not to be confused with the pizzeria, Cucina del Capitano is an Italian speciality restaurant. Despite being on the ship for eight-nights, I only discovered this and its next-door neighbour, Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, on the final day after one of our dinner companions recommended the lunchtime pasta bar.
Overlooking the aft of the ship is Tides Pool, which also has two large hot tubs, plus plenty of benches for socialising and dipping your feet in the water.
The Beach Pool is situated midship on Lido Deck 10, but has no hot tubs. The giant Seaside Theatre movie screen shows a variety of popular movies and trivia. This area is also used for deck parties, such as the 80s Rock-n-Glow Party.
Carnival Vista features the largest Carnival WaterWorks water park in the fleet. Two thrilling water slides, the Kaleid-o-Slide, and Twister spiral around the top deck over the children’s splash park. Queues for the water slides, and inflatables for the Kaleid-o-Slide, can get a little long on hot days at sea, but lines are usually short during port days. A design oversight, which could end in a serious accident, were the varnished wooden stairs leading from the splash park to the water slide entrance. These got extremely wet, and they were hard enough walking up barefooted, let alone holding on to a giant inflatable ring as well.
Probably the most innovative feature on Carnival Vista is the SkyRide. Suspended from a track, some 100 feet above the sea, riders sit in a capsule and leisurely pedal around the circuit which features elevated sections and drops. An average ride takes around 2 minutes. Queues for this attraction grow quickly, after the usual opening time of 1 p.m. – even in port – so make sure you get there early to avoid waiting sometimes upwards of 40 minutes.
SkyCourse is the ropes course on Carnival Vista. It’s by no means the biggest, or scariest ropes course on a cruise ship (that title belongs to Norwegian Escape and AIDAprima!) Two separate routes, one easy and one difficult, circumnavigate above the SportsSquare, which is full of games, such as a Twister board, billiard tables and table football, plus a nine-hole mini-golf course, and four-person ping-pong. A small indoor area called SportsSquare Clubhouse is home to a small bar for post-tournament drinks, mini-bowling, ping-pong and a giant billiard table, where the balls are mini footballs! Also on the sports deck is the SkyTrack jogging circuit, an outdoor fitness area called SkyFitness, and a full-sized sports court called SkyCourt offering basketball, volleyball and football.
For those wanting to relax and unwind away from all the fun activities, the adult-only Serenity area overlooks the front of the ship. With two hot tubs, sun loungers, and cabana day beds, its the perfect place to relax on a day at sea. A salad bar is also located in the Serenity.
Overall, just like Carnival’s motto, Carnival Vista is a fun ship, but perhaps too much fun. There’s a point at which fun can become annoying. It seemed the entertainment team expected you to want to have fun 24/7…can I not relax peacefully for a little while!? I don’t see the fun in being woken up by an announcement from the cruise director, expecting everyone to be lively and ready for F-U-N. The ship itself is really nice, with plenty of things to do onboard, maybe too much. Carnival is often compared to Royal Caribbean, but in my eyes they couldn’t be further apart. While both cruise lines cater to families, Carnival didn’t feel very classy (passengers wearing Crocs on formal night is a big no no in my books). Having been on AIDAprima, I would say Carnival is like an American version of AIDA, in fact I noticed a few of the same design elements and furnishing on Carnival Vista that are also on AIDAprima. I now know why Carnival isn’t very popular over here in Europe, the brand just isn’t international enough. Would I cruise with Carnival again? Only if it was a good price and convenient from the UK. There are far better cruise lines out there. And to finish this review I’d like to end like Carnival Vista‘s cruise director would always do after every announcement, by saying “bye….I said bye!”