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CruiseReportCarnival Cruise Line Carnival Vista3A cruise review of Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Vista in Caribbean
by John & Sandra Nowlan
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  Carnival Vista  
Good Value, Good Fun
December 2016
Reviewer Rates This Cruise
By John and Sandra Nowlan
The more we sail on a Carnival cruise, the more we realize that this line does try to provide something for everyone. The giant ships have lots of entertainment, plenty to eat and the price is very reasonable. Sure, a good portion of our fellow guests were large (some very large), sloppily dressed for dinner and noisy. They were there for a cheap, all inclusive vacation on a “Fun” ship. They soaked up the bingo, the hairy chest contests, the lip sync contest and the loud music around the pool. Many came with kids since Carnival puts a key focus on families. In fact, Carnival is rated as the best value cruise line for families.

But for others who just want a quiet connection to the ocean, a clean comfortable room, excursions in interesting countries, many choices for entertainment & dining and the latest in cruise ship technology, Carnival is hard to beat. On our cruise there was even a little-used library with a good selection of books. We were impressed by the number of older adults aboard, most without kids or grandkids.
The line’s newest, largest and most innovative ship is Carnival Vista, launched in May and now based in Miami for six to eight day cruises in the Caribbean. We chose a southern route on Vista, taking us to the Dominican Republic, Turks & Caicos, Curacao and Aruba. First impressions, including easy and speedy boarding, were very positive. The 15 story ship is huge, 133,000 tons (Titanic was only 46.000 tons) and holds 4,000 passengers. But the interior no longer has the flamboyant neon color schemes of earlier Carnival ships. Instead the colors are subdued and reflect the muted blues, greens and browns of the Caribbean. The atrium on this new class of ship no longer rises ten stories or more with glass elevators. Instead it’s build around a remarkable three story, funnel shaped pillar that constantly changes patterns and colors on its LED surface. The space in upper decks is now used for a cruise ship first – a full size IMAX theatre with amazing sound and a variety of documentaries and first run movies, most in 3-D. In the middle of the Caribbean we were thrilled to be able to watch "Fantastic Beasts" in 3-D, the new pre-Harry Potter movie.

Vista Atrium
Another remarkable innovation is the Sky Ride, a bicycle-like device that hangs beneath rails suspended over the ocean at the top of the ship. Guests pedal their way around the back of the ship in individual pods as they reach speeds up to 15 mph and enjoy the thrill of a unique ride high above the ocean. The view includes WaterWorks, a full theme park of slides and get-wet activities.

Our standard balcony stateroom was spacious with lots of storage space, a comfortable bed, a bathroom with a very efficient shower and a large, high definition TV with several channels (including CNN), outside camera views from several angles and up-to-date information on tours along with a wide selection of movies. The picture quality was the best we’ve seen on a cruise ship.
Families on Carnival Vista can also choose a room in the Family Harbor section of the ship. Rooms can hold 2-5 people (many are adjoining) and there’s a private lounge. For adults (and children 12 and older) there’s the fifth deck Havana rooms with floor to ceiling windows, a large patio/balcony and access to a private lounge and a hot tub/recreation area on the back deck. The adjoining Havana Bar and its tropical setting is one of the prettiest at sea.
The ship’s main theatre, Liquid Lounge, seats just 900 people making it even smaller than theatres on Carnival ships holding far fewer guests. Its small size and cramped space was the major passenger complaint we heard throughout our eight days. But the theatre stage is a technical marvel with moving light curtains (acting as sets) and lasers that enhance the energetic performances from the cast of eight talented dancers and four singers who were featured in several very slick shows.

Liquid Lounge
The food in the two main dining rooms was generally very good but the so-called “fresh” fish turned out to be “fresh frozen”. Ken, the wonderful Irish maitre’d, (who sang ballads at the end of most meals) learned that we loved Indian food and arranged for the chef to send up several exotic, spicy and very tasty Indian specialties. They were superb.
Service in the dining room was, as expected on a Carnival ship, of high quality. But the cruise line has switched to an “American Table” concept in the evenings and, on most nights, has eliminated the white table cloths that added a formal and festive touch to dining. Instead, the bare table tops reminded us of a school cafeteria. On the two “Cruise Elegant” nights (jackets aren’t required for men – just long pants and collared shirts) table linens were in place and added to the pleasure of special meals like Nova Scotia lobster tails and prime rib of beef.

Main Dining - no tablecloths
Main dining room meals are complementary as are the breakfast, lunch and dinner Lido buffets on the 10th deck. The choices were surprisingly good and the Lido was rarely overcrowded. The coffee was much better than on most cruise ships. For lunch, Carnival Vista has several no-extra-charge eateries that provide very tasty food. Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint on the pool deck still offers the best burgers at sea while the Blue Iguana Cantina cooks up tasty Mexican fare and 24 hour pizza is available on the back deck. The Mongolian Wok serves fresh noodle bowls with a choice of tasty ingredients and, on seas days, the Pig & Anchor attracts a big crowd for its excellent barbeque specialties.
Extra-cost restaurants are a growing (and profitable) trend on almost all cruise ships. Carnival Vista has added several that clearly enhance the overall cruise experience. The most luxurious is Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse ($35 for adults) with a great variety of massive and tasty steaks. We also enjoyed the Ji Ji Asian Kitchen ($15) featuring authentic Chinese, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Singapore dishes, Cucina del Capitano ($15) for Italian fare and Bonsai Sushi, an a la carte restaurant with various prices for wonderful sushi, sashimi and tempura dishes (enjoyed on an outdoor deck, if you wish).  Carnival Vista even has a brewery aboard (a first at sea) with very tasty beer available at the Red Frog Pub and elsewhere.

All stops on our eight day cruise were on modern piers (no tendering needed) with lots of shopping opportunities. At Grand Turk, the ship docks right by an outstanding beach with free beach chairs provided by local tourism people. We loved the Dutch influence in both Aruba and Curacao while in La Romana, Dominican Republic, we had a tour of the Five Star Casa del Campo Resort, one of the best properties in the Caribbean. The fish at lunch was exquisite. It’s now on our “must do” list when we return for a longer stay in the DR.

Steak choices at Fahrenheit 555
Carnival Vista is based in Miami with its modern, easy-to-reach cruise port. We always recommend arriving in Miami a day or two early and, for this cruise, we splurged and stayed at the amazing Acqualina Resort in Sunny Isles, just north of Miami (and an efficient Uber ride to the port). The Acqualina has just been rated as the top seaside resort in the mainland United States and we have to agree. The level of luxury and service at this family-friendly beachside property is second to none and its main dining room, Il Mulino New York, is superb. The resort even offers a complimentary shuttle service to the nearby Aventura Mall.  It’s a wonderful way to start a cruise vacation from either Miami or Fort Lauderdale.

John and Sandra Nowlan are travel and food writers based in Halifax 

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