Carnival Cruise Line's first cruise ship in its much-anticipated Vista-class, and first new ship since Breeze debuted in 2012, Carnival Vista combines the best of Carnival's most popular restaurants, bars and Lido Deck attractions with fun new activities and spaces.
Cruise Critic is onboard the ship's second sailing and even with 10 days onboard, we can already tell we won't be able to pack it all in. Carnival Vista is packed with things to do (how do you decide between WaterWorks, the latest blockbuster on IMAX; pour your own IPA and trivia at the RedFrog Pub & Brewery; or a quick pedal around the ship on SkyRide, Vista's aerial bike ride?) and places to eat and drink (there are 25 bars and 10 restaurants on board!)
Now that we've been onboard Carnival Vista for a few days, here are our first impressions of the ship.
One of Carnival Vista's sparkling new "Fun Ship" attractions is this complimentary foot-powered aerial ride, which features two side-by-side suspended recumbent bikes on an aerial track on the 12th deck. Depending on how fast you pedal, you can take your bike up to 18 miles an hour. (Of course, the faster you pedal the quicker your ride is over!) Race the cruiser in the bike next to you or go at a more leisurely pace for amazing views of the scenery around the ship. Waits on sea days can be as long as 45 minutes, but even though the ride is only about a minute and a half, it's worth it -- and chances are, you'll want to go again.
Al Fresco Dining
Cruise lines' have long avoided using the outdoor space on their ships for anything other than pool and sun decks, but in recent years a spate of new ships have been built with al fresco dining spaces that have proven to be popular with cruisers. Carnival Vista is no exception, and the 100-plus seats on Deck 5 tied to restaurants (Fahrenheit 555 and Bonsai Sushi), bars (RedFrog Pub & Brewery, Library Bar, Ocean Plaza), and even Cherry on Top candy shop give cruisers plenty of spots to hang with friends or dine outdoors in the fresh air with beautiful sea views. More outdoor seating is available on Deck 10 where patrons at the line's New England-inspired Seafood Shack order at the counter, then dine at tables near the back-of-the-ship Tides Pool.
You won't find a traditional three-deck main theater on Carnival Vista. Instead, Carnival opted for the much smaller Liquid Lounge, built as a multi-purpose space with the line's special effects-heavy Playlist Productions in mind. We loved the more intimate feeling, especially when the Playlist singers and dancers used the space between seats to perform, essentially bringing the audience into the show. Because the theater was designed with the technology needs of the Playlist shows in mind, the digital effects feel much more organic, rather than simply imposed on a giant screen behind the singers and dancers as on other Carnival ships. On our sailing, four Playlist shows will be performed; each is offered three times in a single evening (around 7 p.m. , 8:45 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.); two (Studio VIP and Amor Cubano) end in after-parties where the cast joins the crowd for dancing. Chairs in Liquid Lounge can be reconfigured as needed, so seating might be different at each show, as well as during daytime events like port presentations or morning excursion meetings.
WaterWorks Splash Space
Water parks on cruise ships are a blast on a hot day, but with height requirements in place for the big slides, small children are sometimes left out of the fun. Not on Carnival Vista, where kids get an entire section of the park dedicated to them with 30 spray toys and two mini-racing slides.
Raining outside? Who cares! Carnival Vista has plenty of indoor fun spots onboard, including the first-ever IMAX at sea. The screen is a whopping floor-to-ceiling 24 feet and wall-to-wall 43 feet. And in addition to the traditional IMAX documentaries, the theater shows first-run Hollywood blockbusters in 3D. Movies offered on our sailing are The Jungle Book and Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. Prices are reasonable and there's even kids and senior pricing. (Documentary prices are $5.50 for everyone; blockbuster prices are $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for children and seniors.) Like at all movie theaters you can indulge in popcorn, candy, cotton candy and drinks (including beer).
In one of the most unique offerings on a big ship we've come across, cruisers can purchase fresh fish at market price and have it cooked to order and served at any restaurant on board. Two to three times per cruise, a ship chef goes to a local fish market in a port of call to purchase several types of fresh fish; passengers can check out the selection at the Seafood Shack and either order what they want for lunch or pre-order dinner. (Selections must be made by lunch for dinner on the same day.) On our cruise, the chef purchased seabream and cod in Barcelona, seabass in Marseille and might might an additional purchase in Civitavecchia.
Cabin Electrical Outlets
First off, we love that Carnival included USB chargers in all cabins. However, the line missed an opportunity to put outlets near the beds, something passengers appreciate on other cruise lines as these days people like to keep their phones by the bed at night. But more seriously, the placement of the only outlets in the room immediately underneath the lighted mirrors in standard cabins means many plugs might not fit, leaving you with nowhere to charge certain items. For instance, our rectangular camera battery charger needs space either above or below the actual outlet. But the outlets on Carnival Vista's standard cabins are right above the desk and immediately below the mirror leaving no room for plug configurations that need any more space than the actual plug. Carnival needs to either move the mirrors up or over to give more room for oversized chargers.
You could almost make a game out of it: hang out in the atrium on decks 3 through 5 and count how many people trip on the wide metal floor piece you'll find along the seam between the front piece of the ship and the main atrium section. You'll find the same metal floor piece on decks encircling the casino atrium. We're pretty sure the metal pieces, which have a short but steep incline (maybe 1/2 an inch) on each side are there to cover the track on which big fire doors slide to close. But because people aren't expecting the inclines, they're tripping somewhat regularly. We haven't seen anyone fall yet, but we'd say it's a safe bet it'll happen before the end of the cruise.
Bathroom Makeup Mirrors
It's a minor inconvenience, but for short cruisers (like me), the bathroom makeup mirrors are located too high up on the wall to be useful. Clearly whoever designed the bathroom is tall; we can't even angle the mirror down enough to use. The mirror can be pulled away from the wall, but it would have been helpful if it could also have been pulled down.
--By Dori Saltzman, Senior Editor