My second time this year on the Vista, we chose this itinerary as our first Christmas cruise and opportunity to enjoy the Havana area. Our ports included St. Maarten, San Juan, and Grand Turk.
I was so amazed that so many of the crew remembered us from our cruise this summer in the Mediterranean. Service overall was fantastic, from our amazing cabin steward Paul in the Havana area aft balcony on deck 6, Franklin our bartender in the Havana area, Gabriel our bartender at the Alchemy bar, the amazing hostess in the Fahrenheit Steakhouse where we ate twice (again), to Matt and Cookie cruise director and entertainment directors extraordinaires!
I know that common areas on the ship can be crowded at times. I do not like crowds or lines, so I planned my experience accordingly. With Your Time Dining, when I did choose to eat in the MDR, I'd eat early between 5:30 and 6:00 to check in. We never waited in line more than 5 minutes. For the must-try Pig and Anchor Sea Day barbecue, I went right when it opened or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. It's superb, by the way. The brisket, chicken, sausage, mac and cheese, baked beans, and cornbread are best in class. For JiJi's Asian Mongolian wok lunch, I chose embarkation day to avoid any crowds at all. Of course, with the exclusive access to the Havana Area in the day time, our hot tubs, pools, loungers and large day beds were never crowded. This was heaven! It changes the whole cruise. It is completely worth it.
If you know that service in the MDR can take 2-3 hours for dinner and you want to see a show, you should keep that in mind when ordering. Food in the MDR is just okay, especially if you stick to standard entrees. I don't do this. I order more unusual things like mussels, oysters Rockefeller, cheese plates, fish entrees, and port inspired entrée selections. These tended to be absolutely delicious. Also, if nothing sounded interesting to me, I'd make a meal of multiple appetizers and eat tapas style. I wish ordering a drink in the MDR meant that you could order from your wait captain. Once we ordered and never got our drinks. Also, it would be better if they had roving waiters on the decks to take drink orders when you're sunbathing. This kind of service is spotty on the ship.
I'd eat every night in the steakhouse if they offered more entrees. It's excellent service, quiet, romantic, and superior quality dining. The hostess and wait staff went far beyond expectations to delight us with accommodating service. We had the Cheers package and loved a particular champagne only available there, so we stopped into the restaurant before dinner to get a glass and the hostess would just greet us and get our glasses. I felt like a VIP. Late night dining is great at Pizzeria del Capitano with hand tossed pizzas. This was the longest time we ever waited to eat, but we didn't mind because we conversed with others as we waited after midnight and got a beer at the bar right there. We'd have room service for breakfast and tried it once for dinner. My insider tip for this is to order an extra BLT for dinner and put it in your cabin fridge for breakfast the next day. Also tip your room service waiter!
I loved the Studio VIP show and the America Rocks show this time. There was a small line the night we walked up to the Studio VIP show a few minutes early, and the cast pulled us out of line and asked us if we wanted to be in the show. We said yes, and got front row seats! If you're up for no-holds-barred adults entertainment, do not miss the NSFW late night adult scavenger hunt in the Liquid Lounge. I have never had so much fun on a cruise. We played a lot of trivia and won our coveted ship on a stick from the Vista this time as well.
Our aft facing balcony was perfect with a view of the portside hot tub and the wake of the engines. The room is standard like all Carnival balconies with deeper balcony, Havana toiletries (including a body wash, body wash/shampoo dual purpose wash, and but no separate conditioner, so be aware of that), and special robes and towels. After 7PM, they open the Havana area to the entire ship. Because this was holiday season there were a lot of teens on vacation. On two nights, we had loud teens right outside our room in the hot tub not 10 feet from us. This was a bit of a nuisance, so I'd avoid this same type room when school was out if I sailed on the Vista again.
Our itinerary was completely reversed due to storms in the Caribbean, but we had perfect weather, so I wasn't phased. St. Maarten is great for beaches, shopping in Philipsburg, and dining in Marigot. Our snorkeling tour through Carnival was cancelled the day before with no explanation, so we just booked a bus tour of the island with an opportunity to have lunch in Marigot. Good call! The island creole meal at Rosemary's on the beach was superb! Old Town in San Juan is absolutely charming for a food tour and a walking tour right off the ship, and you can walk to the beautiful, photogenic seaside port El Morro right from the ship. Grand Turk has pristine beaches, but Governor's beach right off the ship near Margaritaville is too crowded for me. I took a cab to Cockburn town for the best conch ever and then went on to Pillory beach a bit farther down and not as crowded. Loved it!
This was the first cruise where we met a number of other gay and lesbian couples at the Alchemy Bar on the first night LGBT gathering with whom we hit it off, spent time off and on at shows, at trivia, and even meeting for dinner. We were so pleased! Frankly, even the rest of the people in the Havana area and the crew were incredibly friendly. We had so much fun.
We loved taking spin classes in the mornings (for a $23/class per person fee) in the gym. The classes were always sold out, so sign up in advance! The technology with provided chest strap heart rate monitors and biking shoes is really cool!
I've cruised plenty of times with Carnival now, and I know how to tailor an experience to have a wonderful time, avoid the crowds, mitigate any disappointments. I'm sorry that so many other people don't have the experience I have. I'd only book a spa cabin or a Havana cabin on this ship to insure a fabulous cruise.
Our aft facing balcony was perfect with a view of the portside hot tub and the wake of the engines. Because you're low at the back of the ship, you can feel the engine rumble as well. It's not as smooth a cruise as we're used to high up on the spa decks. It didn't matter, but it was different. The room is standard like all Carnival balconies with deeper balcony, Havana toiletries (including a body wash, body wash/shampoo dual purpose wash, and but no separate conditioner, so be aware of that), and special robes and towels. There's plenty of room for two with three large closets for hanging clothes with drawers and a safe. We had nightly turn down service and towel animals. I always bring an up front cash tip with chocolates to my cabin steward team in addition to the regular tips, so maybe I get special treatment, but on this cruise our steward dropped off a bottle of sparkling wine for us as a special thank you.
After 7PM, they open the Havana area to the entire ship. Because this was holiday season there were a lot of teens on the ship vacationing. On two nights, we had loud teens right outside our room in the hot tub not 10 feet from us. This was a bit of a nuisance, so I'd avoid this same type room when school was out if I sailed on the Vista again. Or I might just put on a speedo and walk down to the hot tub and see how long they whoop it up with another adult in the pool.
We were FTTF with Carnival and had early check in on the Vista. We arrived at 10:45 and were on by 11:30. Our room and bags were ready when we checked in. Because we've cruised before, we didn't even have to wait at the counter to get our Sign and Sail cards. They were at our room in the mailbox when we stepped on the ship.
Go to Konky Joes in Coburn Town for the best ever conch burgers and salad! Pillory Beach is just a cab ride away from the overcrowded Governor's beach right off the ship and quieter.
This food tour is a must do! Wonderful food! With five different stops, we sampled all kinds of delicious native foods over three hours. The tour was intimate with just 10 of us and the tour guide. Old San Juan is walkable and romantic!View All 182 Walking Tour of Old San Juan Reviews
Best of the French Side and Dutch Side amounted to a bus ride around the island with a tour guide telling some history. I wish we had more time in Marigot where there were very interesting restaurants, but I was worried that we wouldn't get back to the ship in time with so much traffic on the island.View All 437 Island Tour Reviews