By Dori Saltzman
Cruise Critic Senior Editor
5.0 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating: Entertainment

Carnival Vista Entertainment & Activities

Theater

On Vista, Carnival passed up its usual three-deck-tall main theater in favor of the Liquid Lounge, a smaller multi-purpose venue, designed specifically with the line's special effects-heavy Playlist Productions song-and-dance shows in mind. Seats, which include standard theater seats and rounded loveseats, are moveable, and each show often has a different configuration. Cruisers ran hot and cold on the design; some liked the more casual feel while others said they preferred a more traditional arrangement. We liked it when we got there early enough to get a good seat, as sight lines aren't great from every seat. The one time we ended up toward the back and side of the theater, it was hard to see most of the show. You'll need to get there early for the best views.

Four Playlist Productions are offered on every Vista sailing. Studio VIP pays homage to the disco-loving '70s; dancers and singers make their way through the audience and volunteer audience members to join the cast for the hustle. America Rocks is a faux-concert featuring some of the USA's greatest rock songs, sung by the Playlist singers, as well as the ship's house band Velvet Vibe, with a real rock band playing the music. Come early and get your face painted. AmoCubana is more about the Miami Cuban scene than what you'll find in Cuba these days, but features a variety of high-energy Cuban songs sung by two of the Playlist singers, both native Spanish speakers on our sailing (including one Cuban-American). The last performance of each of these shows ends in an after-party, during which the singers and dancers join the audience for dancing (disco, rock and Latin, respectively). All three were high-energy fun we could easily have watched a second time.

The fourth show, Flick, was our least favorite, though just about everyone we spoke to loved it. Flick features hit songs from popular movies like "Dirty Dancing," "Footloose," "The Bodyguard," "Top Gun," "James Bond" and even a medley of science-fiction and fantasy movies including "Harry Potter" and "Star Wars," all with odd costume choices and seemingly random digital graphics on the big screen behind the singers and dancers. (Why on earth, for instance, were there palm trees floating behind the guy singing "Footloose"?!) Our favorite moment was when the audience, en masse, tittered when one of the singers started singing "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic. (The singer's rendition was excellent, by the way.)

Each show is offered only one evening per cruise, but three performance times (except for Amor Cubano, which was only offered twice) make it easy for everyone to catch the shows.

On nights without a Playlist Production performance, cruisers will find some combination of magic, variety or vocalist shows performed in Liquid Lounge.

Daily Fun

Vista takes Carnival fun to an entirely new level. We've rarely seen so many games and attractions packed into one ship. Activities ranged from trivia, Scattergories and bingo to dance classes and outdoor sports competitions, mini-bowling and indoor Ping-Pong, the first IMAX at sea and a 4D Thrill Theater. (And that's not including the ropes course, SkyRide and water park we'll detail further down!)

Most of the fun to be had during the day (particularly on sea days) centers either on the outside Lido Deck and main swimming pool or in the Ocean Plaza, an open indoor space on Deck 5, with a stage for music and plenty of tables and chairs for hanging out. Outside, you'll find activities like Carnival's infamous hairy chest contest and line dancing classes, while at the indoor Ocean Plaza, you'll find nearly back-to-back sessions of themed trivia, name that tune, dance classes (who doesn't want to learn the Thriller dance?) and bingo (for a fee).

At the RedFrog Pub & Brewery, you can participate in beer pong, foosball and beanbag toss competitions. Other goings-on during the day include art auctions, cooking demos, and spa and shop seminars. (Just remember any seminar led by the spa or retail staff is more about selling you something than educating you.)

The Clubhouse at SportSquare (Deck 12, mid) is another popular spot for daily fun. (On our sailing, which only had 150 kids onboard, adults had free rein of the place, but we suspect a sailing with 1,000 kids might be different.) Here you'll find mini-bowling, Ping-Pong, sports video gaming, arcade basketball and more. There's even a small bar serving alcoholic drinks for the adults using the space. A video arcade (Deck 6), used mostly by teenagers, is open 24 hours.

The extra-fee Carnival Multiplex is another option for daytime fun, though only on seadays. (It's open nightly the rest of the cruise.) Comprising the multi-sensory Thrill Theater (where your seat will rumble and you'll get sprayed with water) and the first IMAX at sea, the Multiplex is a great option on rainy days or evenings you just don't want to sit through another comedy show.

At Night

Carnival Vista is just as active at night as it is during the day. Carnival Vista cruisers like to party and the Havana Club, Liquid Lounge, RedFrog Pub and other bars are busy until late. The Punchliner Comedy Club is a popular evening venue, with the 18+ shows usually standing room only. On our 10-night sailing, we had a choice of four comedians -- two during the first half of the sailing, and two who came on for the second half.

You'll find live music most nights in Ocean Plaza, the atrium lobby (both the acoustic band and string trio were excellent), Havana Bar, RedFrog Pub & Brewery and the Piano Bar. Dancers will want to head to Havana Club for Latin-style dancing from about 7 p.m. until midnight. After that, the ship's DJ spins a variety of dance hits in Liquid Lounge until late.

The Casino is another popular spot at night, with a large selection of slot machines and table games including blackjack, craps and Texas Hold'em poker.

Other nighttime spots are the Lido Deck, which transforms into Carnival's Seaside Theater, with a movie showing at 7 p.m. every night and 10 p.m. most nights. Movies change nightly and are themed around Action & Adventure, Family, Drama, Blockbuster and Comedy. The IMAX theater also shows a late-night movie most nights (on our sailing it was a PG-13 film) and the Thrill Theater shows "Dare to Be Scared" short films.

Carnival Vista Bars and Lounges

With more than a dozen bars and lounges on Vista, there's a spot for just about everyone to enjoy, whether you prefer wine, cocktails, beer or a frozen drink.

You'll find most of the main bars on decks 4 and 5.

Vista Atrium Bar (Deck 3, midship): Dominated by Dreamscape, a funnel-shaped LCD screen with slowly changing digital images, the oval-shaped Vista bar is the perfect pre- or after-dinner drink spot, as well as a place to gather in the evening to listen to live music. (Keep an ear out for classical versions of current hits.)

Limelight Lounge (Deck 4, aft): Limelight is where you'll find the Punchliner Comedy Club at night. Drinks here have "funny" names like the witty margarita, zany zombie, screw looZe, giddy cosmo and sex on the stage. You'll have a choice of four comedy shows most nights, with two comedians; no more than two will be family-friendly, and usually it's only one. Do not attend the adults-only shows if you are easily offended. During the day, Limelight Lounge is typically used for art auctions, photography seminars and the official Cruise Critic Mix & Mingle.

SkyBox Sports Bar (Deck 4, aft): The only place on the ship to catch sporting events, SkyBox Sports Bar is dominated by rows of oversized TVs showing various sports. While Vista is in Europe, the only sporting channels are English or Italian, so you'll find lots of soccer and tennis. We expect that will change to American-based channels once the ship gets to Miami. U.S.-based Carnival ships typically show games that are on network channels (ABC, NBC, CBS) or ESPN and ESPN 2.

Casino Bar (Deck 4, midship): The only bar on Carnival Vista that permits smoking, the casino bar sits in the middle of the casino. It's frequented both by game players testing their luck and smokers who want to light up without going outside.

Liquid Lounge (Deck 4 & 5, forward): Liquid Lounge is Carnival Vista's version of a main theater, as well as its late-night dance club spot. Here you'll find all the Playlist Production shows, magic and variety shows and lounge acts. On the first day of the cruise, the lounge is used for the shore excursion overview. Liquid Lounge has a bar but it's not the kind of lounge you'd hang out in during off hours (nor is it open for business).

Alchemy Bar (Deck 5, midship): Carnival gave its popular pharmacy-themed cocktail bar prime real estate on Deck 5, right across from Bonsai Sushi on one side and Fahrenheit 555 on the other. Here you'll find lab coat-clad mixologists putting together inventive cocktails with names like the Deal Closer, French Kiss and Perfect Storm. Or, tell the Alchemy bartenders your favorite base drink and what kind of mood you're in and they'll whip up something special just for you.

RedFrog Pub & Brewery (Deck 5, midship): One of the most hopping joints on Carnival Vista, RedFrog Pub & Brewery is the place to be for cold brews, pub trivia and brewery tours at Carnival's only brewery at sea. Three beers are brewed on board: ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, FriskyFrog Java Stout and ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin' IPA. You can also get the line's signature ThirstyFrog Red, which is brewed on land. Six tables at RedFrog have pour-your-own-beer taps, with two beers each on tap; the selection in each tap changes almost daily. Just swipe your card to pay and remember to follow the directions as you could end up with more foam than you want!

Three brewery tours are offered every sea day, but the demand is usually so large, chances are you'll find at least one port day tour as well. Tours, which include tastings of all four craft beers, last about an hour and cost $12.95.

In the evening, Caribbean-inspired pub grub is served after 6 p.m., and you'll find live guitar music from about 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. There's plenty of outdoor seating, as well.

Piano Bar 88 (Deck 5, midship): The centerpiece of this popular evening spot is the grand piano encircled by a black and white striped (think piano keys) counter, with plush blue spinner chairs. On the walls, black and white photographs of famous crooners remind cruisers Piano Bar 88 is the place to be for singing along to your favorite lounge tunes. A small bar in the corner serves standard bar drinks.

Havana Bar (Deck 5, aft): The third largest bar/lounge on Carnival Vista (after the Liquid and Limelight lounges), Havana is Vista's Cuban-themed space complete with domino playing tables (the kind that have the tile holders built into them), maps of Cuba and hurricane shutter decor -- some of which frame stylized paintings of Havana street scenes. The space is slightly schizophrenic, with half decorated in bright colors to give a tropical feel and the other half outfitted with dark woods and leather chairs, more evocative of a cigar lounge. The center of the lounge is dominated by a stage where a live band plays Latin dance songs (salsa, cha-cha and the like) every night. It's always crowded.

Morning, noon or night Havana is the place for super strong Cuban coffee; the drink menu is dominated by Latin American drinks including mojitos, Cuban iced tea, Cuba Libre, Papa Doble, Le Buena Vida (frozen or on the rocks), Jupina Amor and daiquiris (frozen or on the rocks). A small bar foods menu is available from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Havana Bar also has an outdoor bar venue, but until 5 p.m. it's reserved exclusively for passengers staying in Havana cabins.

The Library Bar (Deck 5, midship): A fairly underused spot, the Library Bar is heaven to those seeking a quiet place to read during the day. In the evening, the music gets turned on and a bartender pours standards, but few people linger. It's also the only spot on the ship to find self-serve wine dispensers with eight options. Prices start at $2.90 for a small helping of Riesling and can go as high as $20for the largest serving of cabernet sauvignon. The bar has a small outdoor area, but with only low loungers it's more a spot to read outdoors with your glass of wine than anything.

Plaza Bar (Deck 5, aft): Blink and you'll miss it, this tiny bar in the corner across from Ocean Plaza is used more by bar staff serving people hanging out in Ocean Plaza than by passengers actually stopping by to order a drink.

RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10, midship): During the day, you'll be hard pressed to find a seat at this Lido Deck staple. Rum lovers flock here in droves for their coladas, daiquiris and mojitos. Sun deck loungers can also get buckets of beer or pitchers of hard lemonade.

BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10, midship): Located immediately across from RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana is where tequila lovers go to get their drink on. The bar pours several different types of tequila, along with frozen margaritas and a handful of tequila-based cocktails. Beer buckets and hard lemonade pitchers are also available.

Tides Bar (Deck 10, aft): This small bar is located near the Tides pool, in between Seafood Shack and Pizzeria del Capitano. Cruisers taking it easy in the Tides pool or hot tubs come here when they need a drink.

Serenity Bar (Deck 15, forward): A small bar on the adults-only Serenity deck serves up staple drinks to sun worshippers in the Serenity area.

Carnival Vista Outside Recreation

Pools

In contrast with the breadth and variety of dining venues, bars and high-energy activities, Carnival Vista actually has very little pool space. It has three small-to-medium size pools, one of which is reserved during the day for passengers staying in Havana cabins.

The two public pools, the Beaches (Deck 10, midship) and Tides (Deck 10, aft) pools, get filled up pretty quickly on a hot sea day. Nor are there many hot tubs; when you also exclude the two on the Havana pool deck, you're left with two near the Tides pool and two on the Serenity deck. One positive note: hot tubs on Vista are larger than they are on most other Carnival ships, and each can fit about 10 to 15 people.

The third pool area is the lovely Havana deck (Deck 5, aft), which has an infinity pool, two shallower areas covered with faux thatched roofs with benches for dipping your toes in the water without getting wet and lots of lounge space. The pool is closed to all but Havana cabin passengers until 5 p.m.

Pools are generally open until about 10 p.m. Children must be potty trained to use any of the pools.

Recreation

Unless you're planning on staying on the ship your entire cruise, chances are you won't get to all the outdoor fun Carnival Vista has to offer in a seven-night cruise; there's just too much.

Brand new not just to Carnival but to the cruise industry is SkyRide, an elevated recumbent bike ride. It takes about a minute and a half to pedal your way around the course, which includes dips and zigzags and is suspended 150 feet in the air. It's silly fun, but lines can get up to 40 minutes long. SkyRide does shut down during inclement weather, including rain and high wind. (Kids must be at least 48 inches tall to ride SkyRide.)

Carnival Vista also features Carnival's largest Waterworks water park with the Kaleid-o-Slide, Twister water slide, a splash zone for kids and the PowerDrenchersoaking bucket. On the Kaleid-o-Slide, the faster of the two slides, you'll zip down the tube while the colors around you change in a variety of kaleidoscopic patterns. (Kids need to be 48 inches or taller to ride the Kaleid-o-Slide and 42 inches to ride the Twister.) Waterworks is popular with kids and adults alike, and lines for the two slides can get long on a hot sea day.

Vista also has a small ropes course, with two pathways -- one easier, the other more difficult. (It might be more accurate to say the more difficult one is simply scarier.) We've seen better ropes courses at sea, but what we do like about Vista's is that it's small enough that you can get through it before your knees get too wobbly.

Directly underneath the ropes course and SkyRide is Vista's SportSquare (Deck 12, midship). Here you'll find a nine-hole mini-golf course, outdoor billiard and foosball tables, a Twister board painted onto the deck and comfy seating to watch everyone else playing.

Immediately next door, but inside, is SportSquare Clubhouse. Designed for adults as much as for kids, it's got mini-bowling, Ping-Pong, an oversized billiards layout on the ground (which you play using small soccer balls) and sports video gaming. A small bar inside the Clubhouse serves water, sports drinks, sodas and 13 varieties of beer.

Farther down Deck 12, a small outdoor fitness area offers weird-looking ellipticals, stair climbers and resistance strength machines. Right around the corner is the ship's combination basketball/volleyball/soccer court. Encircling all of this is the ship's jogging track; seven laps is 1 mile.

Sun Decks

You'll find lots of space to sun yourself on Carnival Vista. The four main areas are by the Beach pool, by the Tides pool, on the adults-only Serenity deck and on the half of Deck 12 that overlooks the Beach pool. You'll also find blue loungers on Deck 11, but about half of that space is in the shade. (We actually loved being able to take in the action on Deck 10 while staying in the shade.)

The Serenity deck is an adults-only space that offers a quiet respite from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the ship. You'll find two hot tubs and a small bar, as well as the Fresh Creations salad bar on sea days.

Carnival Vista Services

You'll find Vista's main service areas on Deck 3 in the atrium, including the guest services and shore excursions desks. In what seems quite a strange move, the future cruise sales desk (really just a tiny little kiosk) is located on Deck 10 when you get off the forward elevators and walk toward the Lido Deck.

On Deck 5, you'll find the Library (or Library Bar). It has a nice selection of books, as well as board games and several comfy chairs and couches (as well as a couple of loungers outside), but there's often light music playing, which can make it hard to concentrate. It's also a popular place for groups of friends to play cards. You won't find the daily crossword and Sudoku puzzles here; instead, they're at the Java Blue Cafe.

On Deck 5, spanning the walkway from Alchemy Bar to the Java Blue Cafe is the Pixels photo gallery. On Carnival Vista, the gallery has been entirely modernized and digitized, and the space is dominated by multiple screens (on the walls, in the shapes of columns) displaying an ever-changing mosaic of cruise photos. Tablets are scattered throughout the space so you can look for photos of yourself. The ship uses facial recognition to figure out who is in each photo taken by ship photographers. It mostly worked well, though we ended up with some other lady's photo in our folio. Also for sale are cameras, GoPros, photo albums, scrapbooking supplies and digital camera accessories.

Next door to Pixels is the four-station internet cafe. We rarely saw anyone there as bow-to-stern Wi-Fi is available on the ship, but anyone is welcome to come by at the end of the cruise and print out their boarding pass for free. Cruisers can choose from three internet plans. The social plan ($5 a day or $40 for a 10-night cruise) gives cruisers access to popular social media sites like Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp and Snapchat, as well as the major airlines sites. The Value plan ($16 a day or $90 for a 10-night cruise) gives all the same access as the Social plan but adds in email, sports and weather sites, banking and finance. The most comprehensive internet plan is the Premium ($25 a day or $150 for a 10-night cruise) and gives users the fastest internet (three times faster than the Value plan) and access to most of the internet. However, while Skype is enabled with the Premium plan, Facetime and video streaming services (Hulu, Netflix) are not. Only one device may be used at a time with each plan.

Shoppers will want to check out the Fun Shops on decks 4 and 5. You'll find everything from designer purses, watches and eyeglasses to daywear, fine jewelry and Carnival-branded tees and beach bags. Snacks, toiletries and cold and seasick pills are also available, as is a small selection of duty-free alcohol, cigarettes and perfume. Also look for Cherry on Top, where you can buy old-fashioned candy by the pound. An ATM is located outside the shops; when sailing in Europe, you can opt to take out euros from the machines.

DIY launderettes are available on almost every deck with cabins. You'll need lots of quarters as you have to pay for the washer, dryer and detergent. Each room also has an iron and ironing board for passengers to use free of charge.

There is a medical center on Deck 0.

Carnival Vista Spa & Fitness

Spa

The entrance to the spa is located on Deck 12, aft, but unlike on most other Carnival ships, the spa is actually split between decks 12 and 13. On Deck 12, you'll find body treatment rooms for services like massages and wraps. Deck 13 is where you go for facials, medi-spa treatments and salon services (hair, nails, waxing, men's grooming). Deck 12 is also where you'll find a relaxation room with expansive sea views, where you can wait until your massage therapist comes to fetch you (always a nice touch in a cruise ship spa). If you're just having a facial, you'll have to wait upstairs in a small waiting area.

Treatments run the gamut from massages (aroma stone, Thai poultice, bamboo) and facials (Triple Oxygen, Biotec Line Eraser, Firm-a-Lift) to wraps, scrubs, acupuncture and ionithermie detox sessions. Other services include teeth whitening and medi-spa anti-wrinkle treatments. Several of the massages are available for couples. Teens and kids will also find treatments just for them including an acne attack facial, heavenly massage and something called a Me! Bath Deluxe Ice Cream manicure and pedicure. Teens who want to spend spa time with their parents can also opt for the Father/Son Chill Out massage, Mother/Daughter Paradise massage and Mother/Daughter manicure or pedicure specials.

The salon is located on Deck 13 and unlike on many other ships, there are no sea views to enjoy while having your nails done. The selection of polishes is also pretty paltry with just 28 colors.

Prices are commensurate with what you'd find in a big city ($195 for a 75-minute Aroma Stone Therapy massage, for example), but specials are offered nearly every day, especially on port days. A typical special might offer a tri-enzyme facial for $99 instead of $160 or a single session of ionithermie for $139 instead of $159. Also, keep in mind if you purchase three treatments, you'll receive 10 percent off the first, 20 percent off the second and 30 percent off the third.

Inside the spa, you'll also find the oddly colored (it's all purples and yellows), extra-fee thermal suite, which features eight heated ceramic loungers, a thalassotherapy pool, several steam chambers and a sensory shower that can be programmed with a variety of water, light and scent settings. Cruisers can pay $35 for a day pass or choose to purchase a pass for the entire cruise. Passengers staying in Cloud 9 Spa cabins receive access to the thermal suite for free. A variety of DIY scrubs are also available for use in the thermal suite showers for $9 each.

Fitness

Also located on Deck 12, the gym is accessed through a hallway inside the spa. Inside you'll find a selection of LifeCycle and LifeFitness machines, including ellipticals, recumbent bikes, treadmills, free weights and resistance machines, all with lovely sea views. There's also a high-tech spin studio. Classes include free and for-fee options; it'll cost you nothing for an early morning stretch or fab abs class (both actually offered in Ocean Plaza and not the fitness center), but you'll have to pay extra for yoga, Pilates and cycling classes (all $12), as well as personal training sessions.

Carnival Vista For Kids

Already a family-friendly line, Carnival took its family offerings up a notch with Carnival Vista. Like other ships, it has three separate kids' clubs, a water park (the largest in the fleet) and Dr. Seuss-themed programming. But on Vista, parents will also love the Family Harbor section of cabins (see Cabins section for in-depth details). Families staying in the Family Harbor section get exclusive access to the Family Harbor Lounge, which offers a full breakfast buffet in the mornings, and snacks and soft ice cream all day long. The lounge also has tables, chairs and sofas for hanging out, Hasbro board games to play and TVs for video gaming and watching movies.

Carnival Vista is the second ship in Carnival's fleet to have a Dr. Seuss Bookville, a fanciful space on Deck 11 offering the entire library of Dr. Seuss books in several languages. In addition, the ship offers branded Seuss at Sea activities, such as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and story time, a Dr. Seuss character photo op session and the for-fee, sea day Green Eggs and Ham breakfast.

Also on Deck 11 is an outdoor play area for kids; it's open to everyone who wants to come play with their kids.

Kids and teens (and young-at-heart adults) can enjoy the Deck 6 Warehouse arcade with a wide variety of arcade games. Games can be charged to your room key, so parents should set rules for their kids before letting them loose in the arcade.

Kids

Camp Ocean (Deck 12, mid) is for kids aged 2 to 11 years, but the program further divides itself into three sections: Penguins (2- to 5-year-olds), Stingrays (6- to 8-year-olds) and Sharks (9- to 11-year-olds). Age-appropriate activities include arts and crafts, dancing, treasure hunts, movies, sports contests and video gaming. Youth counselors will change diapers.

Parents (or parent-appointed guardians) must sign kids, ages 2 through 8, in and out of Camp Ocean. Kids 9 and older can be given permission to sign themselves in and out.

Camp Ocean programming runs during the day and evening. From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., youth facilities are used for Night Owls babysitting, the line's late-night, extra-fee group babysitting program. It's available for kids ages 6 months to 11 years. The cost is $6.75 per hour, per child, plus a 15 percent gratuity. (Families in Family Harbor get one free night of Night Owls babysitting.)

Teens

Carnival gives tweens (kids ages 12 to 14) their own space with Circle C (Deck 6, forward), from which they can come and go as they please. Organized activities for this age group include team challenges, scavenger hunts, digital karaoke, SportSquare competitions, video gaming and movies.

For the older teens (ages 15 to 17), Carnival Vista offers Club O2 on Deck 4. Activities are similar to Circle C, with video gaming and foosball competitions, SportSquare challenges, trivia battles, themed dance parties and smoothie socials.

Carnival Vista Ship Stats

  • Crew: 1,450
  • Launched: 2016
  • Decks: 15
  • Passengers: 3,936
  • Registry: Panama
  • CDC Score: 88

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