Cruise Line: Carnival
Sail Date: 21st June-1st July 2016
Ship Capacity: 3934
Route: Athens-Izmir-Rhodes-At Sea-Valetta-Messina-Naples-Rome-Livorno-Marseilles-Barcelona
Why we chose this ship: Only a few weeks after its inaugural voyage, we were lucky enough to book a European trip on the Carnival Vista. We say lucky, as the Vista was only in Europe for a limited amount of time and in fact the only Carnival vessel to travel within this continent for a few years. In general, we had a fantastic time on the Vista, a ship that is hard to beat in terms of activity, modern design and various areas to swim (which can often fall short on other ships and is a big issue for us). We did have a few niggles, which we’ll outline below, but for any couple looking for a fun, relaxed holiday atmosphere, this is the cruise to go on.
Cabin/Public Areas: We booked long before pictures of Vista were released (in fact the ship wasn’t fully built!), relying only on artist impressions to secure our custom. And, bar a few little issues, the CGI tour of the ship matched up amazingly to the real thing. The first aspect that really impressed us were the staterooms; we had chosen an interior stateroom and immeadiatly were struck by the size difference compared to other cruise lines. The living area was noticeably more spacious, aided by use of open shelving rather than bulky cupboards and even the bathroom felt bigger than that of a usual interior. Some splashes of colour gave brightness to the room without being garish, and overall the design was pretty contemporary.
The Vista continues this contemporary feel across its public areas; gone are the traditional cruising features such a chandeliers and pastel tones, instead replaced by vibrant colours and LED lights. The pinnacle of this light and colour combination should have been in the Atrium, which contains an illuminated multi-deck centerpiece; however, this was one feature that didn’t live up to the artist’s impression, appearing somewhat smaller and with low quality images. In fact, the Atrium overall was a slight let down, with a very small bar and little seating, meaning it wasn’t the usual central hub of the ship.
A part of this ship we did adore was the Havana area, containing both an indoor and outdoor bar and a pool with plenty of seating surrounding it. The pool is located at the aft of the ship, so it’s a great place to be when coming into port or setting sail. This pool and outdoor area can only be used by passengers who are staying in a Havana category cabin up until 5pm, but after that any one can enter.
Activities/Entertainment: A huge appeal of the Vista is the range of outdoor activities available, most being found on the upper decks. The most noticeable of these is the two water slides, bright orange and yellow in colour and descending into the children’s water play area below. We tried the Twister first, a single rider tube slide consisting of, you’ve guessed it, plenty of twist and a nice bit of speed. The Kaleid-O-slide was next, again a single rider slide but experienced on a rubber ring with sections of open sliding, as well as enclosed piping. The theme of this slide again is reflected in its title, with an array of brightly coloured rings illuminating the tube as you travel down. Neither slides are particularly scary, but they are a fantastic addition to the Vista, offering a fun way to cool down. Queues were never too bad, though its best to go during a port day, as the slides obviously get busy during sea days.
Those seeking a bit more of a thrill have to try both the SkyRide and high ropes course. Both get very busy, but definitely expect a wait for the SkyRide and aim to visit on a port day for the shortest queue time. It is certainly worth the wait, as SkyRide is a unique attraction only available on the Vista. It’s slightly hard to describe but basically a bike-like machine (controlled by your own peddling) moves along a track that hangs over the edge of the ship. Two of the ‘bikes’ are stationed side by side, creating a perfect couples attraction, which even has a competitive edge if you want to race to the finish line. The view is incredible, and the dips in the track ensure you build up a nice bit of speed at certain sections. For more of a physical challenge, have a go at one of the high ropes courses, either the easy or hard level. We enjoyed both, and while the ropes aren’t very high up from the ground, the top deck location of the course ensures an amazing view whilst clambering round. With a mixture of ropes, ladders and poles, we enjoyed both the easy and hard courses and found it to be a really fun, unusual activity to enjoy at sea.
Those less interested in physical activities can still enjoy a bit of an adrenalin rush on the Vista, most keenly in the 4D Thrill Theatre. A range of short films are available to watch (costing $5.50) but we highly recommend ‘Thrillogy-Dare to be scared’; for ages 17+ only, these three short horror films are sure to make guests jump with effects such as seat movement, water squirting and shoots of cold air, all of which time perfectly to the video you are watching. There are 24 seats in the theatre and as we picked the latest showing, we were lucky enough to get the screen to ourselves, which certainly made the experience that little bit more eerie!
Entertainment wise, we were underwhelmed by what was on offer on the main stage. This wasn’t too much of an issue, as there were so many other places to spend an evening on the ship, but we feel the Vista should up its game in terms of the theatre. The resident singers and dancers didn’t seem to gel as a company, with only a few main singers (therefore solos quickly became repetitive in style) plus some rather poor choreography during shows. We feel that Carnival has tried too hard to avoid classic musical theatre pieces and instead tried to be too innovative, with shows such as ‘Flick’, which for us didn’t really work. A mix up of new shows with traditional pieces would have worked better, as sometimes you can’t beat classic shows numbers. The one night singing acts also weren’t of a fantastic quality, and a certain circus performer relied too much on audience participation, which in this show went decidedly wrong and consequently became painfully drawn out.
However, good quality evening entertainment could be found in the bands and singers performing in the lounges of the ship, all of great quality and a mixed repertoire. The stand up comedy was also fantastic, and we loved that both British and American comedians performed, meaning a variety of nationalities were entertained. The piano bar and karaoke events are great for a laugh and the deck parties were also really entertaining. The latter were definitely helped by the young age of the cruise director, Matt, who managed to engage all generations with a great choice of both contemporary and ‘old school’ music. There were plenty of other things to do during the evening (the outdoor cinema, pub games, dancing in the Havana bar) which certainly made up for the main stage shows and ensured we were never short of something to do until well into the early hours.
Dining: As with any cruise, food is a major part of the holiday. And with its extensive range of restaurants and snack bars, Carnival certainly makes sure there is something edible for everyone at any time. We particularly loved the variety of lunchtime options, offering many alternatives to the usual choice at the Lido Marketplace (Carnivals signature buffet, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner), which in this instance was not fantastic for lunch. While the size of the restaurant was impressive, there was not an extensive selection of food available, certainly less than the Windjammers aboard Royal Caribbean ships. However, this wasn’t an issue as there were plenty of alternative venues to eat at for lunch. Jiji Asian Kitchen and Cucina del Capitano are extra cost restaurants during dinnertime but for lunch they offer a limited, complimentary menu and no reservation is needed. Jiji serves a variety of noodle stir-fry dishes, with you choosing the type of noodle, meat, sauce and any added vegetables. Simple tick menus allow you to make up your creation and it is served to your table. Our dishes here were always piping hot and fresh and the BBQ sauce was our favourite flavouring.
We also loved Cucina del Capitano during lunchtime, again offering table service meals by way of a ‘create your own’ tick sheet menu. Our favourite dish was the simple, yet tasty, farfalle with pomodoro sauce, chicken and onion, served with bread and a Caesar salad. The portions are extremely generous and we found this restaurant to be very quiet on port days, so a great place to go for a peaceful meal. Blue Iguana Cantina is also a great place for a quick lunch, with burritos freshly made to order. But our favourite food venue by far was Guy’s Burger Joint, owned by the host of ‘Diners, Drive Ins and Dives’ Guy Fieri. Five burgers are available, with our number one choice being ‘The Ringer’, a mouthwatering combination of a succulent beef patty, melted cheese, donkey sauce and Guy’s bourbon and brown sugar BBQ sauce, topped with an onion ring. The fries go with the burger perfectly due to their unique spice and a toppings bar is available for any extras, such as fried onions, chipsticks and other sauces. This venue does get quite busy but the fast cooking style means you wont be waiting too long (and even if you do, it is so worth it!).
In terms of food, we’ve left discussing the main dining room until last, as it is difficult to make an overall conclusion. This is due to the staffing levels in the Horizon restaurant and what we believe was an overbooking of Your Time Dining guests. On our previous two cruises with Royal Caribbean we never had to wait for a table with their equivalent My Time Dining system, and didn’t feel the need to use the option of ringing up and reserving a time in advance (during the day). Carnival does not offer this option, which is a shame as almost every night there was at least a 20-minute wait for a table. Not only do we feel too many people had been allowed to book the YTD option but we also believe the dining room was short staffed, leading to more waiting time during dinner itself. We often could see our meals waiting at the station for some time before a waiter was available to serve it, meaning meals were frequently lukewarm. Service felt very rushed at times and there was little encouragement to linger with coffees after meals. There was quite a bit of repetition within the meals, so we often chose the port of call dish to ensure something a bit different and while some were very tasty, others were decidedly bland. These dishes certainly weren’t inedible, but they just weren’t up to the standard of dining we have become used to whilst cruising. Dessert however was a different matter, as this is the course Carnival seems to do best. There was a great combination of Carnival classics such as the chocolate melting cake, alongside some lesser-seen dishes such as the buttered popcorn pot de crème. Overall, the main dining room experience wasn’t terrible but equally it wasn’t great; we feel this had a lot to do with too many guests and too little staff, so we would be interested to see how the Vista would be if Carnival addressed these issues, which were not felt by just us, but also many other passengers during our cruise.
Overall: Our final point above is a good sum up of our cruise, so we would be interested to see what the ship is like a bit further down the line. However, we really enjoyed our time onboard and would highly recommend Carnival for those who want a very relaxed, laid back type of sailing.