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Carnival Vista

Itinerary

No city in the United States has evolved into as many disparate identities in so short a time as has Miami. A bit more than a hundred years ago this former Spanish settlement, located along the Miami River where it spills into Biscayne Bay (now the center of the city of Miami), attracted neither interest nor population. That's understandable since up until that point, the only way to reach Miami was by boat.

That changed in 1896, when financier Henry Flagler extended his new Florida East Coast Railroad south from its previous terminus at West Palm Beach. By the turn of the 20th century the first of Miami's real estate booms was underway, a pattern that continued unabated right up to the Great Depression. Miami was one of the few places on earth where someone could offer you a get-rich-quick deal on 10 acres of swampland, and there was a good chance that you could actually get rich on it. Many made their fortunes here and left monuments to their achievements in places such as the grand Mediterranean-style estates like Villa Vizcaya and the slew of privately developed islands along the causeways crossing Biscayne Bay.

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  • Day 2

In many Caribbean ports, active excursions such as zip-lining, kayaking and hiking have replaced lazy days on the beach and the gridlock in shopping and sightseeing areas. But even though it's the capital of the island chain Turks and Caicos, Grand Turk maintains a slower pace of life.

Though Grand Turk is part of Eastern Caribbean itineraries, it is interesting to note that Turks and Caicos is not a part of the Caribbean at all. Each island is surrounded on all sides by the Atlantic Ocean, and though it's only about 30 miles south of the Bahamas, it's not a part of that chain of islands, either.

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As an anchor on Eastern and Southern Caribbean itineraries -- not to mention a turnaround port for many ships -- San Juan is a place where just about all cruisers, at some point or another, are going to wind up. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and San Juan is its urban hub. The city, by and large, is divided into new and old. The new includes a business district and outlying neighborhoods, concentrated with hotel chains like Isla Verde. The old is, of course, the historic city within ancient walls. Both offer many Americanisms. (Senor Frog's has a prime outpost, and you'll never want for a McDonald's Big Mac.)

Get beyond that, though, because of all America's Caribbean islands, Puerto Rico offers the most exotic aura. The melange of indigenous Taino culture, combined with European and African influences in San Juan (and all of Puerto Rico, for that matter), is one major factor. Add to that its own unique influences in areas ranging from cuisine and music to history and art. And there's more: folks who have traveled to Cuba say that Old San Juan reminds them more of Cuba, at times, than Cuba itself! It's also very Spanish (think Seville) and even a bit Italian (reminiscent of Naples). Finally, the city evokes just a wee taste of South America (like Buenos Aires).

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In 1493, Christopher Columbus was allegedly so smitten with this volcanic island that he named it after St. Christopher, the patron saint of travelers. Since its discovery, St. Christopher (later shortened by British sailors to St. Kitts) has been fought over by the British and French who, tragically, made it a center of the West Indian slave trade. Pirates, including the notorious William Kidd who was marooned on Nevis after his crew mutinied, enjoyed lucrative careers in Basseterre Harbor.

St. Kitts and sister isle Nevis were part of the British Empire until 1967, earning semi-independent status when they were named associated states of Great Britain. In 1983, the 68-square-mile St. Kitts and Nevis became an independent, two-island nation with a parliamentary government headed by a prime minister. While British holdovers such as cricket and driving on the left side of the road remain, the Kittitians are extremely proud of their history and how far they've come on their own.

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St. Maarten is busier than ever, as cruise lines call on Philipsburg with their biggest ships. (Sometimes there are a half-dozen in port at one time.) There's also more to do once you disembark, with shopping and beaches serving as the primary attractions.

That can be viewed as either good news (more shopping choices, better deals and more beach activities) or bad news (more people) for this port of call, which, along with neighboring St. Martin, makes up the world's smallest island inhabited by two countries.

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  • Day 7
  • Day 8

No city in the United States has evolved into as many disparate identities in so short a time as has Miami. A bit more than a hundred years ago this former Spanish settlement, located along the Miami River where it spills into Biscayne Bay (now the center of the city of Miami), attracted neither interest nor population. That's understandable since up until that point, the only way to reach Miami was by boat.

That changed in 1896, when financier Henry Flagler extended his new Florida East Coast Railroad south from its previous terminus at West Palm Beach. By the turn of the 20th century the first of Miami's real estate booms was underway, a pattern that continued unabated right up to the Great Depression. Miami was one of the few places on earth where someone could offer you a get-rich-quick deal on 10 acres of swampland, and there was a good chance that you could actually get rich on it. Many made their fortunes here and left monuments to their achievements in places such as the grand Mediterranean-style estates like Villa Vizcaya and the slew of privately developed islands along the causeways crossing Biscayne Bay.

Read More
Cruise Critic Editor Rating:
4.5
626 reviews
Why Choose Carnival Vista?

Pro

Tons of fun with a water park, IMAX, ropes course, sky-high bike ride and brewery onboard

Con

Dining room menus repeat too often and dishes dubbed too fancy by Carnival's passengers

Bottom Line

An action-packed ship with more activities than you can possibly do in seven days

Carnival Vista Overview

Carnival Cruise Line's newest ship, the 3,936-passenger Carnival Vista, might also be its most fun. Keeping up with the cruise industry's latest trends, the line expanded its bar, restaurant and activity offerings on Vista and opened up much of the previously underused outside spaces to cruisers, giving passengers more choices than ever before.

Even on a 10-night cruise, we weren't able to get to everything. We did the SkyRide (an elevated bike ride), but not the ropes course. We tried out the outdoor Twister board, but never got a chance to play mini-golf or outdoor billiards. We never hit the water park either. We went to the 4D Thrill Theater movie theater but never saw an IMAX movie. We saw four Playlist Production shows in the main theater, but skipped the magic show in favor of an evening of comedy. Even then, we saw only two of the four comedians onboard. We made it to only one RedFrog Pub & Brewery trivia session, and never got to try one of the pour-your-own-beer taps or enjoy a drink in the pub's outdoor seating area.

Cruisers we spoke with had the same experiences -- so much to do and not enough time. For the most part, people loved the incredible choice.

Passengers especially loved the quantity and variety of live music. After years of moving away from live music on its ships (much to the chagrin of loyal Carnival cruisers), the line reversed course on Vista. You'll find live music in the atrium, in Ocean Plaza (an open space on Deck 5 with a stage and lots of seating), in the pub, on the Lido Deck, in the Havana Bar and in the Liquid Lounge. There's even a roving accordion player who pops us when you least expect him.

The many outdoor seating areas also get rave reviews. Both Bonsai Sushi and the Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse have outdoor seating, so does Cherry on Top, where you can get yourself a cool ice-cream treat on a hot sea day and then take it outside to sit under an umbrella while you enjoy the sea breeze. Considering that Vista will spend most of its time based in Miami doing Caribbean cruises, the outdoor spaces should be quite popular.

One area that is a bit hit or miss is the ship's atrium. (We actually loved it, but were in the minority.) On Vista, Carnival replaced its traditional decks-high atrium with glass elevator banks in favor of something that looks more like a modern hotel lobby. Dominated by an oval bar and Dreamscape, a three-deck-high LCD funnel that displays slowly moving digital images, the atrium is less of a social hub and more a place to stop for pre-dinner drinks or listen for an hour or two to acoustic pop songs or a classical trio. For a cruise line known for its let-your-hair-down and don't-take-yourself-too-seriously vibe, the atrium offers a sophisticated oasis.

If the ship has any real weakness, it's in the main dining room, where food is OK but not great. We also felt the menu repeated items too many times; some cruisers found select dishes to be "too fancy."

But one of our favorite things about Vista was the always-smiling faces of the crew, many of whom got to know our names within just days of meeting us. From our room steward and main dining room waiters to the guys running SkyRide or the gal washing down the stairway railings, everyone said hello with a smile and did their utmost to make sure all passengers were having a good time.

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Cruise Reviews

Sail Date: January 2018
We chose Carnival because we had heard such good reviews from others who had sailed with them. The troubles started the night before we were to depart. Flight delays due to mechanical reasons delayed our departure flight, and because our ... Read More
We chose Carnival because we had heard such good reviews from others who had sailed with them. The troubles started the night before we were to depart. Flight delays due to mechanical reasons delayed our departure flight, and because our connecting flight was so tight, we would miss that, too. Ultimately missing our boat. EVERYTHING WAS BOOKED THROUGH CARNIVAL and we had the travel protection/insurance. The phone calls started the night we received our first email notification. For a company that has been doing this as long as they have, they made it sound like this was the first time it ever happened. No one knew what to do, and our call was bounced to several different departments. I won't go into all the details, as this would be a book, but we were eventually held in Miami for two nights before being flown to Montego Bay, where we had to make our own transportation arrangements to get to Ocho Rios. Carnival did refund that cost, but we were on our own for the tip to the driver. The flight they put us on arrived at 1 PM, were told we had to be at the ship for three o'clock. It's a two hour cab ride, and we had to get through customs, too. Poor flight planning by Carnival from beginning to end. Once we were on the boat, it took time to get settled in. We spent a good deal of time on multiple days at Guest Relations trying to get everything sorted out. Our 7 day cruise turned into 3.5 days. We missed a lot of what was going on. This was our FIRST cruise, and we were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary. So much for kicking back and relaxing! There was a lot of stress at the beginning of this trip. Then, the last night of our cruise we got notification that we had to go through customs and immigration at 5:45 AM because we had boarded in Jamaica. We were told we could get breakfast brought to our room before that because of the early departure....guess what never showed up? Then we had to wait for nearly an hour after our scheduled time before we were taken off the boat and brought to customs. Uhg!!! I now need a vacation from my vacation!! The ship was nice, but for a new ship, already showing wear and tear in our cabin, but not enough that it bothered us. The bed was actually quite comfortable, too! Next time (yes, we will try again) we will be further away from the doors to the Lido deck, as it was quite loud. I would suggest foam ear plugs if you're on that end of the hall. Dining in the Horizon Restaurant was very nice. Lots of options to choose from. Our team headwaiter was Richard, Team Waiter was Marvic, and Asst Team Waiter was Binukumar. After our first night in their section, we asked for them specifically. They were fantastic! We were able to go to two of our three scheduled excursions, so we didn't have a lot of time to check out the ship in its entirety, but it appeared to have many events to attend. We saw our cabin steward (Oakley) once when we arrived, and one other time when we needed a towel. Other than that, we didn't see him. The towel creations he left us were adorable. Even after all the drama at the beginning of our maiden voyage, we will eventually try again...it HAS to get better, right?? :) Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
I was invited to go on this cruise by some family members and friends. I had never been on Carnival before (only Princess, Paul Gauguin and HAL). I had thought that Carnival wouldn't match those other lines in terms of service, food and ... Read More
I was invited to go on this cruise by some family members and friends. I had never been on Carnival before (only Princess, Paul Gauguin and HAL). I had thought that Carnival wouldn't match those other lines in terms of service, food and overall quality, but I was wrong! It actually seems that there are many more similarities between different cruise lines than there are differences. I am not a big party animal. I prefer somewhat quiet experiences, and I love cruises for sailing and enjoying the sun and sea - not for gambling or loud, crazy games on the Lido deck. So my review is based on that perspective. The ship itself was very nice. Of course, it is a new ship, so that's partly why it was so aesthetically pleasing. There are a lot of design similarities between the Vista and the HAL Koningsdam, actually. Makes me wonder if both ships had the same designer. I chose a balcony cabin on deck 8. (8429) I was very happy with it. High enough that you didn't see people walking below on Deck 5, and low enough to have a fairly close view of the water. I just wish you could sit on the chairs on the balcony and not have the railing of the balcony block your view. But that's been the case on every ship balcony cabin I've been on. Food: Very good. The Dining Room is beautiful, and food was very good. I loved the salad bar on the Serenity Deck. You get a big bowl, which allows you to toss together all the ingredients and dressing. Farenheit 555 (steak house for additional $40) was top notch. JiJi Asian Kitchen was great for dinner. I wouldn't recommend it for lunch, though. They served only Mongolian BBQ for lunch, but not the kind where you can fill up your own bowl; you just select what you want, and they bring it to the table. They give you way too much noodles and not enough meat and veggies. It was also bland tasting. The Lido Marketplace (buffets) was very good. Only drawback there were the long lines for breakfast unless you go early (before 8 am). Drinks: Favorite spots were the Alchemy Bar (martinis) and the Serenity Bar. The Serenity Bar is outdoors, and has a nice selection of wine, sangrias and "skinny" cocktails. Sky Ride: Fun if you like heights, but a little on the boring side. It's nice to be up high, especially when you're over the sea. It's also really fun during the short downhill portion. Be sure to bring closed-toe shoes if you plan to ride it. Also, if you want to avoid long lines (1 hour or more), get there 10 minutes or so before they open in the morning. Sky Course: A ropes course that is kinda fun. More challenging than it looks! Pool: The main pool on Lido Deck is super loud and jam-packed. But for those who like that sort of thing, I'm sure it's very fun. I liked the Tides Pool, which is all the way aft on Deck 10. We got chairs on Deck 11 so we could look out at the ocean and also see the pool and people-watch at the same time. Entertainment: Saw two shows that were pretty good. Also saw a Beautiful Planet at IMAX. That was fascinating. Fitness: The fitness center was very nice and very well equipped. However, the classes were led by a guy who clearly didn't want to be there. He was boring, slightly rude, and basically just called out what to do (push-ups, crunches, etc.) for 20-25 minutes. The also had indoor cycling classes (Schwinn bikes, and shoes available). I didn't take one, but heard that the instructor wasn't any good. Overall: Great ship, great service, very good/great food and drinks. No complaints, and would definitely choose the Carnival Vista again. Read Less
Sail Date: January 2018
This was my 15th Carnival Cruise,my now favorite ship. So many things to do that it is impossible to do them all in a week. Many restaurants from free to pay,Guys burgers was really good,fries are best I have ever had. The BBQ was ... Read More
This was my 15th Carnival Cruise,my now favorite ship. So many things to do that it is impossible to do them all in a week. Many restaurants from free to pay,Guys burgers was really good,fries are best I have ever had. The BBQ was also very good. Mostly ate dinner in MDR but did do the seafood shack one night and the crab legs were so good! Too many food choices not enough time! The shows were also very good,Flick,Rock and roll and Quest saw them all,so much of an improvement from the last few cruises. They are all must see. Shows. Quest is so funny but definitely adult only,keep your clothes on sit above lol! Matt the cruise director is the best! Serenity was really relaxing and salad bar was good. We did do the drink package and enjoyed drinks at almost every bar. I met more friendly people on this ship than any other, seemed everyone was happy! We used the stairs 90% of the time,needed to burn off all that food. Elevators were slow seem to need more. We had a balcony room on 8th deck and it was nice,room attendant was good. Overall this was a great vacay and I would love to do this ship again. Read Less