One Heck Of a Cruise !
Back in Sept hubby presented me with a folder titled "One Heck of a Cruise" and headed to work. Hubby is a musician and has spent many weekends/holidays on the road. I used to say to him, one day you are going to owe me one heck of a cruise. When I was handed the folder, it had print outs of 14 different cruises. I thought he wanted me to pick out the cruise I wanted. The first cruise in the folder was Vista, and I knew I didn't need to look at any of the others, because I really wanted to cruise on The Vista. I texted and told him, I choose Vista, and he says, that's good cause that's one of em! We will be cruising for 106 days total ! He told me he had already spoke to my boss about it all, and he was taking time off as well. We had always planned on taking a cruise like this, but we had dubbed it our "Freedom 55 Cruise" which was still 6 1/2 years away.
Hubby and I quit smoking in 2004, and any money we would have spent on that habit went strait into a savings account, and we watched it grow and grow.
Although the folder listed which cruises, I did not know the order of cruises, no did I know the cabins. Those were part of the surprise.
Our flight departed our city at 6:30am. Neither of us had slept much for the few days leading up to our cruises. We had to take 3 separate flights, with only about an hour wait in between each flight. We flew to Fort Lauderdale, simply because our flight there was $85.00 less for each of us, and our hotel stay was far more affordable than any hotel we could book in Miami on a Friday night. We got to our room at 5:00pm, and we ordered pizza (can't recall the name) but it too was recommended to us as having absolutely amazing pizza. We were starving, and it was the best pizza either of us had ever ate.
I think both of us were snoring by 9pm.
The Vista !
Hubby's friend picked us up at hotel at 10:30am, and we headed to Miami ! Keep in mind I still had no idea which cruise was first ! He actually blindfolded me ! Everyone was asking why I had a scarf around my eyes...lol.
It was The Vista ! This is the cruise I had initially picked from the folder he handed me titled "One Hell Of A Cruise" because at the time I thought he had wanted me to choose a cruise from the folder...
Much has changed from our last Carnival Cruise on The Breeze. For starters, the Sail and Sign card is placed in your mail box outside your cabin door, which hubby never took me to until after a pre-embarkation drink Twilight Zone (which is my absolute fav drink of any Carnival cruise ship) (I would have many more as the week went on) and some quick munchies in the very overly packed Buffet. Will write more about food later in review. All the Cruisers seemed happy, but the staff...not so much.
Hubby decided since this was the ship I really wanted to cruise on that he would also make it a memorable cabin. He knew I was intrigued by the Havana Cabana...and he was on wait list for 4 months before one came available due to a cancellation. He did say however, that the price jumped up $170.00 from when he had first looked into Havana Cabanas. The cabin was nice, the ambiance in the cabin really made it feel like you were on a cruise.
The outside part of Havana was separated by a common walk area. Would have been nicer if there was no space between Cabana and view of ocean, like Balcony cabins. Outside the Cabana was a hanging chair, which was surprisingly comfortable. There was also a lounger and two chairs. It would have been awesome to enjoy what we had dubbed our pre-breakfast, breakfast from room service, however, that only happened once. Not many complaints about the room service food, other than the fact that it never arrived twice, the other 2 times we must have got someone else's orders, because they were totally different than what we ordered. On two other occasions, we had coffee but no cups. The next day, no coffee, but cups came...and on all but 1 morning the delivery to room took over 1 1/2 hrs. So we learned by day 3 to order an 1 and a 1/2 hours before we actually wanted breakfast. Was no biggie, since we were heading to buffet/MDR for breakfast anyways.
The Havana Cabana had an airy feel to it. It reminded me somewhat of the spa cabin we had on Sunshine 3 years previous. No complaints about the cabin, there was plenty of storage room. We hung up some shirts, and went to buy our drink packages. Being our first cruise on our 14 cruise ship adventure, we knew we would be enjoying many anticipated Carnival Drinks...particularly The Twilight Zone !
The Atrium : Really didn't have that Carnival Feel, but the Glass Funnels changed colours and designs. There was one before entering the casino as well. Atrium seriously didn't feel or look like Atriums on other Carnival ships.
The Casino :
We don't gamble, but hubby does like playing one game because when we were on Sunshine, he won a handful of cash from it. He did not even come close this time. Of all the casinos, on all the cruises we have sailed on, no casino seemed as packed as Vista...it was so poorly designed, we couldn't believe it got past the drawing table. Chairs were so close together they might as well have been over-lapping. It was difficult to get through the narrow paths. If I were employed in casino...this would cause me to grumble, but the employees seemed very up-beat and making the best of what we have dubbed "Crazy Cramped" and avoided the casino after the first evening of the cruise. In fact, the crew in casino and Steakhouse were the happiest of all the crew. They were understaffed, and looked worn.
The Food :
The Steakhouse :
Since our first Carnival cruise on Sunshine in late 2013, we had vowed to ALWAYS go to The Steakhouse ! Hubby booked it the first evening of our cruise. We dined early, and when you book first night in Steakhouse, you are given a free bottle of wine, from a very short list to choose from, but it went very well with our meals. I always have The French Onion Soup...because it is just that good ! Hubby was disappointed that The Porterhouse Steak is no longer on the menu. So, instead he ordered The Cowboy Steak. Along with my French Onion Soup, I had the lobster, which I always have, because it has always been phenomenal. For Dessert I had the Caramelized Apples and hubby had The Chocolate Sampler and we shared. We both wished The Steakhouse had more Dessert options, and although hubby said his steak was really good, he missed The Porterhouse.
The evening was nice, not busy until we were ready to leave. We were not rushed, we were treated so well.
The Seafood Shack :
There were plenty of places to dine on Vista. My fav was The Seafood Shack. You placed your order and the food was brought to you. We really enjoyed the New England Clam Chowder. It came in a bread bowl that was even better than the Chowder. Hubby ordered a few buckets of peel and eat shrimp, but the shrimp seemed a tad mushy.
We also really enjoyed the Fried Buffalo Shrimp, and recommend the Fish and Chips. One afternoon I ordered The Crab Cake Sliders, and they were amazing. The next time I ordered them, they were not nearly as yummy for some reason.
Guys Burger :
Hubby loves these burgers. He wished they were open 24/7. Of all the burger joints on all the cruises he said that Guys has the best burgers. I would order a bun with cheese and just build a sandwich with all the awesome toppings. I think hubby had a burger every afternoon.
BlueIguana Cantina : (Burrito Bar)
Was always packed long long line....that moved way too slow...and we don't know why. We really didn't enjoy it this time. Burrito Bar on Breeze was so much better. With so many different types of wraps, we think Carnival should offer more than whole wheat and jalapeño. We only ate once and never went back.
Fresh Creations :
Super huge Salad Bar, with so many different ingredients to build an amazing salad. Was freshest food we saw on Carnival Ship. We both enjoyed this, and would have a Salad early afternoon at Serenity area. Was very impressed. I think it was only available a few hours over lunch. We both wished it was open later in the afternoon.
Deli, and Pizza :
All were available 24/7 if I remember correctly. We enjoy the pizza on Carnival probably more than any of the other ships. At Pizza Place they also offered meatball subs or lasagne on certain evenings meatball subs and lasagne was also offered, and hubby loved those meatballs. We are guessing that The Deli has dramatically downsized. Just seemed to be hardly any options compared to what we remembered on Sunshine and Breeze. Think hubby had a sandwich, but we never went back.
Cucina del Capitano :
What a popular place. Seemed everyone was raving about this place. It was very busy when opened. Hubby is still talking about Nonas Meatballs. I recommend the Caprese Salad. We dined on this same salad on pretty much every cruise, but I remember the one here the most. We also both enjoyed the Caesar Salad. Came with a small anchovy Fillet. Presentation was pretty. On advice from everyone we had to try the Spaghetti Carbonara...and everyone should try this. I requested no bacon, and they asked if I would like more of something else instead. Awesome. There was also a side dish with tomato and zucchini..and zucchini being one of my fav veggies I had to try it. Wow. I want the recipe ! We ate lots, on all the cruises, some meals much more memorable than others...that one comes to mind right after The Steakhouses. I recommend everyone try it. The Tiramisu looked much nicer than it tasted. I couldn't put my finger on what was off about it, but Tiramisu on Celebrity was far better. Hubby tried some apple in pastry...(was similar to a dessert offered in Steakhouse) and he really enjoyed it. Hubby thought an Italian Cheese Plate would have been nice way to finish off dinner, but there was non on menu.
The Pasta Bar :
Simple, and quick. Pick your noodle (handful to choose from) pick your sauce (I got brave and ordered Clam sauce....and was pleasantly surprised) hubby had the meat sauce, which he said was pretty tasty.
You then pick from a decent list of add-ins, such as Shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, eggplant, sausage...etc. We were pleased with everything. It too was popular. The bread was good, the salad was decent. We meant to go back again for lunch, but we never made it.
Ji Ji's Cucina :
Just way too small. Did not like the cramped feeling at all. Too many people. We felt so rushed. I had Shrimp Dumplings...(had another name...but not sure what they were called) but they came with some dipping sauces...and the sauces were very good. I chose Sweet and Sour Shrimp...and was impressed. Hubby tried Peppered Beef. Dish was smaller than than we expected, but he said it was decent enough that he would try it again...if we came back on a different Carnival Ship. Seeing so many Cruisers waiting to get into the way too small a space also made us want to rush so others could dine.
Pig and Anchor :
We do not remember seeing this on or previous Carnival Cruises, but hubby though it was pretty darn good ! It was part of the Guy Fieri creations. Hubby had smoked Pork...and he looked like he was heading to heaven while eating it. I thought the coleslaw was one of the tastiest coleslaws I had over all the cruises. There was a handful of sauces to top your meat. There was chicken, sausage and smoked beef as well. Hubby really wanted to come back and try the smoked beef, on other Cruisers recommendations, but we never made it back. It was only operating on sea days, and very select times.
The ShakeSpot :
I was so happy when we walked by this gem. They had one on Sunshine as well. I didn't even know they had one on Vista. Spiked or non spiked milkshakes and floats. I swear 1/4 of my weight gain was due to enjoying these too often and too many. Seriously did not walk past it without getting one...and kinda made sure we walked past it a few times a day. These were not included in the drink package, but the Spiked Chocolate Rum one was my fav...a close second was Spiked Frozen Irish Creme...was definitely something to write home about. There wasn't one that I didn't like, and well, I liked them all ! Cost was reasonable at $7.75 or around there. They were big, they had alcohol in them and they were very refreshing. I think all Cruisers should try at least one, and I think ShakeSpot would be excellent addition to all Carnival Cruises. Hubby liked one that had the name Grandpa in it..so much that he ordered it every time I steered him in that direction to ShakeSpot. Half way through Cruise he would say....ohh I know why you want to walk this way...lol.
Java Blue :
Blue Cake...it was good. Hubby didn't like it, but he isn't really a cake kinda guy anyways. He ate cookies, and lots of them. I think he said he liked the Short Bread ones the most. Hubby is a huge fan of Patron, and the coffee he had with Patron in it was a go-to for him. I thought it was awful. I tried a chocolate coffee...wasn't a fan tho. They also had cappuccino, latte etc.
Room Service :
So frustrating. Vista really really needs to work on this one. We learned by day 3 that if we wanted a pre-breakfast before heading to Lido or MDR that we had better order at least 1 1/2 ahead. Obviously we were getting mixed up orders. One day we had coffee but no cups, next day no coffee, but cups. We are not big complainers...but my coffee, and hubbies teas are a must after a late night. Hubby was really grumbly about most of the menu having extra cost. He really thinks room service should be included in the cost of the cruise fare. So he refused to order anything that had an extra cost. I remember a grill cheese that I liked. We often would order cookies and cake and just save them for when we wanted them. Think I had a late night Caesar Salad as well. Hubby stook to BLT and said they were actually really good. These late day orders took just as long. I believe a few times we just never got anything at all. Didn't order pizza because it is now extra...but we ran into Cruisers that said we were not missing anything and that it was just not good at all, and different than the Pizza Pirates.
The Taste Bar :
Absolutely loved this idea. We knew about it on Breeze, but never went. Smaller bite sized portions of what is offered in MDR. Only open in evenings. A few nights we would find ourselves tasting several things along with again...too many people. Carnival should consider having a few of these spread out over the ship.
Of the 14 cruises we took, Vistas MDR experience was truly the worst. Might be the main reason we dined at so many of the other restaurants. We chose My Time Dining. Horizons. It was huge. For those we had spoke to who had set seating times, we heard over and over again how small their MDR was. Hubby and I dined alone and it was never a problem, and always a seat. Other than the bartenders, the staff in MDR were for the most part...Zombies. Some tried, but they always seemed exhausted. We felt bad for them. Way too many diners, not nearly enough staff to handle the work. We tipped ours nicely, not because we were pleased with the food at MDR, but because it appeared each staff in MDR was working the job of 5. We felt the MDR Dining had declined dramatically from our first Carnival Cruise on Sunshine, to The Breeze, and Vistas decline was noticeable. The food just wasn't that good, aside from a few good meals. Not nearly as many selections as on other cruise lines we had cruised on this one heck of a cruise. Hubby always ordered Shrimp Cocktail, which was good, until we compared it to the other cruises.
I enjoyed the Caesar Salad, but suggest not ordering it nearing the end of cruise. The last pickings of romaine were probably used near the end leg of cruise. I did really enjoy this portobello mushroom dish. Probably remember that meal more than any other in MDR. One thing we found very disappointing was Escargot is now listed as a rare find, along with Alligator Fritters and Frogs Legs. On other cruise lines we could order it every evening. We had enquired about it to our wait staff, were told they could bring us one out anyways...but it never came to the table. Hubby did say the Braised Short Ribs were memorable, and is listed in his top 20 Fav meals of our cruise. I remember one evening ordering Cream Asparagus Soup and Lobster Bisque. Both were good enough. Avoid Seafood Newburg like a virus...wow, that was just terrible. I ended up ordering two more soups, because I just couldn't eat my main. Seafood Newburg is at the very bottom of my..."never order again list" French Onion Soup and Caprese Salad were very good, and hubby and I both enjoyed those...until comparing them to other cruise meals. One evening we had Smoked Salmon. It was only an app. Wish I would have ordered enough to make it a meal...because it stands out as being really good.
We love elegant night (elegant has however lost all meaning on Carnival) and always look forward to Lobster Tail. Wow, they sure are shrinking in size from our Cruise on Sunshine a few years ago, til now. The Lobster came with shrimps that were close to same size as the tail. When they arrived they were pretty much cold. Only thing that warmed them up slightly was the drawn butter...(which was way better, and more plentiful than on the other cruises) My absolute fav meal in MDR was a zucchini - eggplant dish. Can't remember the name...but i wish it were offered every evening. Made it in my top 20 fav meals of the cruise....(sadly there is very few Carnival Meals listed) Crab Cakes deserve an honourable mention as well. Didn't make the top 20, but it was close.
The Desserts totally trumped the meals in MDR, in fact other than NCL, I think we enjoyed the desserts on Carnival more than the other cruise lines. The pies on Vista trumped the pies on any other cruise we did. I tried the chocolate melting cake. I always do, and then ask myself what the big hype is about. Hubby isn't a dessert kind of guy, but he always ordered the international cheese plate at the end of our meals, and enjoyed them. A few meals he even surprised me by ordering Sherbet. I did order a banana split from the kids menu on two occasions, and this should be offered on the regular MDR menu, as we had many Cruisers asking us how we got a banana split when they never saw it on the menu. I like cookies, and I liked to order the cookies to the cabin along with the chocolate cake, and have them as late night snack.
Activities on Vista :
We spent the first evening basically just walking around the ship, getting ourselves orientated with the ship, all the while sipping on some drinks, even tho we were fuller than full.
The Sky Ride : Crazy line-ups. On day two hubby and I stood in line for well over an hour. As we approached the front of the line we were told Ride was closing due to increasing wind. We did not complain about the wait in line simply because we met another couple and went for drinks and RedFrog, and then dined together that evening. We also played mini-putt, and had a blast. They were our age, and it was their first Carnival Cruise. We met with them frequently throughout the cruise, and if not much else, this couple helped make our cruise memorable.
Comedy : We enjoyed Lester Bibbs. (We had already seen his routine on The Breeze) and although I remember it being pretty much the same, he made us laugh so hard our stomachs hurt.
Hypnotist : He was personable, funny and all ages friendly. If you cruise the Vista, make time to see this act.
The Magician :was also very entertaining, more so than on the following cruises, and he is one of the first things we bring up when talking to others about Vista.
Piano Bar : Just wasn't what it was when we were on Sunshine. We were told he was the best Piano Bar entertainer in the whole fleet. We disagree. He was hungry for tips, would stop in the middle of the songs. We think he was the same one we had on The Breeze, but not positive. We think his name was Ben, but because he didn't really impress us, we only went to piano bar one evening.
Karaoke : Was so popular, but unfortunately there just wasn't enough time to fit in all the singers. Carnival really needs to have a Karaoke Bar, that operates all day and into the night. We were told by one of the crew that Carnival does it this way because they find the same Cruisers who enjoy karaoke also enjoy the casino, and Carnival wants them in the casino spending money.
Love and Marriage : We made it a point of getting to this line of entertainment as we enjoyed it on The Breeze on previous cruise. We laughed, and it was done really well. One of the couples made it especially hilarious. We recommend Cruisers try and make it to this show.
Hasbro : We came, we saw, we left. It wasn't quite what I was expecting, but glad we finally got to one after missing it on two previous Carnival Cruises.
IMAX, was awesome. Go.
Where We Spent Our Time :
RedFrog Pub : playing darts and pub style games. We enjoyed it here because of the outside area which we didn't experience on our previous Carnival Cruises. Bartenders were quicker here than any other spots on the ship (and by quicker, I don't necessarily mean quick) Carnival Vista needs more bartenders. Took way too long to get drinks no matter where we were on the ship.
Alchemy Bar : we enjoyed our time there, in fact we probably spent more time there than any other spot on the cruise. Try the Caribbean Manhattan. Yum. Yum. We learned a lot from the bartender. Wasn't as popular as it should have been, but that meant more attention to the ones that were there at any given time.
Serenity : Was large, like really large. That being said, there were never many places to Lounge due to its popularity. The bartenders there looked so over-worked and so tired. They did their best considering, and we tipped extra due to watching how busy they always seemed to be.
Karaoke : Hubby being a musician, he definitely wanted to sing, that only happened once due to the long list of singers.
Dive In Theatre : one night we enjoyed a movie with the couple we met. Why doesn't Carnival offer butter with that popcorn ? Was an nice relaxing evening.
The Cabin :
Our cabin was 185 square feet. Plenty of storage and room to move.
We slept well the first evening. I was pleasantly surprised that Havanas stocked cabins with Elimis Products, but gone are the chocolates on the pillows. Two bottles of water, and that was about it.
There is a Cabana only area (which opened up to everyone in late afternoon I believe). There was a very small pool, and two hot tubs. Seemed quiet most of the time during the day. An access key card is used to enter the area. Once 5pm rolled around, there was no more quiet, as it opens up to all Cruisers. We heard many Cruisers complain about this, but hubby and I thought that it was perfect for Carnival to let everyone enjoy the area as we did.
The Pros :
Carnival Comedians : Laugh so hard. By far the best comedians of all the cruise lines we tried on this One Heck of a Cruise.
Alchemy : Love this concept. Enjoyed our time there.
IMAX : A must see (however not nearly enough showings considering the amount of Cruisers on this ship)
St Jude's : We love how much effort Carnival puts into raising money/awareness for this amazing cause. I bought a shirt on all four cruises.
The Steakhouse : definitely the first thing we bring up when talking about our Carnival Cruises. We highly recommend Cruisers take an evening to spend there. Probably the best $35.00/person that we spent on all the cruises.
The Cons :
Staff : There just didn't seem to be enough staff to handle the amount of Cruisers. They looked tired, they looked stressed. They were not nearly as friendly as the staff we had on our three other Carnival Cruises. Tables were not cleared, railings and walls were dirty in some areas. Sometimes we would not see one tray in the hallways, and other times it seemed like there were no staff to collect them.
Bartenders seemed like they were trying, but if there is one improvement to be made on Vista we (along with many other Cruisers agreed...they need to have more bartenders staffed) in fact hubby and I almost regretted buying the drink packages because the wait for drinks were prolonged far too long. Whether standing in line at the bar, or waiting for a drink to be served. If we ever cruise on Vista again, we probably won't even bother getting the drink packages.
Lack of Art : seriously, the art we did see was nothing to write home about, compared to other ships. Seemed to lack that Cruise Feel, for lack of better words.
Cost of Cruise :
Havana Cabana : Deck 7.
$1669.00 + $122.77 (port fees and taxes) hubby
$1669.00 + $122.77 (port fees and taxes) mine
+ $207.20 (Gratuities)
Breakdown of cost of cruise :
$1,895.37/person grats included.
This was an 8 day cruise : $236.92/person/day.
We did get the drink package at $399.60/person
+. $59.94/person grats
We felt the drink package was worth the money on the other Carnival Cruises because we had no problem getting our drinks. At $57.44/day and a 15 drink limit, if we drank to our limit every day the cost of each drink amounts to $3.83/drink. Many of those drinks were Twilight Zones (love those)
Where we spent our money :
IMAX : $12.95/person x 2 = $25.90
The Steakhouse : $35.00/person + we tipped an extra $20.00 = $90.00
The ShakeSpot : $7.75 x 12 = $93.00 (yikes, but well worth it)
Cucina Del Capitano : $15.00 x 2 = $30.00.
Arcade : $20.00.
Laundry : $6.50 to wash and dry one load.
St Jude T-Shirt = $10.00
Total. = $275.40
Total spent on cruise minus excursions (will review excursions/ports at end of all cruise reviews)
Total spent = $4,985.62 / 2 = $2,492.81 each. / 8 days at sea = $311.60/day per cruiser.
To sum up this part of cruise/s :
It wasn't worth the $311.60 per day per person. The ship was so crowded in so many places. Took way too long to get served drinks, and hubby likes his beer, and can easily drink 15 on sea days. I don't think he got to 15 on any of those days due to the long waits in line.
There was plenty to do on the ship, we met some amazing people who we still keep in touch with. Will we cruise on Vista again...? Probably not. That being said, it wasn't the worst of the cruise/s, but it certainly wasn't close to the top of the list as we thought it would be leading up to the cruise/s. If Carnival were to hire more staff to accommodate the amount of Cruisers on this ship hubby and I agree the experience probably would have been much better.
We are however glad we get to say we added Vista to our growing list of Carnival Cruises, and we do love Carnival Cruise Line.
We hope this review was insightful. Happy Cruising Everyone. Read Less