Saturday, February 11, 2017

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

February 11-18, 2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Vista
Captain: Stefano Battinelli
Cruise Director:  Matt Mitcham
Hotel Director:  Pier-Giorgio Micallef
Ports: Miami - Grand Turk - LaRomana - Bonaire - Aruba - Miami

This cruise is the third of five consecutive cruises for me.  This is my 68th Carnival cruise, my 2nd time on the Carnival Vista and 125th cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo.

Saturday / Embarkation / February 11th / Day 1
Vista Tides Pool Lido aft - Miami - Carnival Glory
I left the Carnival Glory my cruise home for past two weeks about 9:00 am and walked over one berth to the Carnival Vista. I checked both my bags at the VIFP area then had to wait until they opened the doors at just before 10:00 am but I had a place to sit.  Once they opened it was a breeze to get through security then go upstairs to the large VIFP waiting lounge.  Since they do not issue your Sail & Sign cards that was all there was…just wait until boarding…couldn’t be easier.  They called for Diamonds to board first about 11:15 am and a dozen or so people were escorted to the doors and boarding.  I was at my cabin before 11:30 and my S&S card was in my mail box…so easy.  I dropped my bag and headed strait to the Mongolian Grill.  I was first there and they opened just for me…I was craving it for two weeks since I was sailing on Carnival, but the Carnival Glory does not have one.  I had a great bowl: a chicken/beef combo with vegetables and noodles.  I walked out onto deck 11 to take photos and noticed my friend and great Alchemist Gabriel working at the Tides Bar on Lido aft.  Good to see him right away. I debated as to purchase a Cheers package, but decided against it.  Still not that many guests on board and there was ‘no line’ Pizza available at the Pizza Station…so I had to test a slice of Pepperoni and Four-cheese. Good Pizza. I checked on a reservation for the Chef’s table in the steakhouse and think I’ll get in this week.  When I returned to my cabin my two bags had been delivered so I began cabin set up, that seems to take an hour now with magnets, plug convertors, new toilet lights, hanging clothes, and more.  I ordered the internet package and even got a laundry order ready.  BTW—the internet is much faster on the Vista than the Glory.  Soon it was time for Boat drill, my muster station is the Limelight Lounge so all can sit…makes it tolerable. I went on top deck to make some business phone calls as we pushed away and began sailing up the channel…it is impressive.  I have noticed a large number of children already on this cruise…no explanation for that. I went up to the Alchemy Bar about 7:00ish and fairly busy and probably will be this week, I was told they had a record number of pre-sales of the Cheers package. Explains the drunk lady at boat drill and another at Alchemy.  But there were some nice people as well at Alchemy. They have new hours at the Alchemy opening at 5:00 pm each day and all three: Ana, Gabe, and Teodora all have shifts at other Bars during the day. Interesting change. I have assigned 8:15 dinner in the ugly Reflections Dining room, the Maitre’D did well by assigning three Diamond guests and four Platinum guests together, he just didn’t know that one would be a very obnoxious and loud drunk lady. Shame because the waiter Jerome (from Goa) is excellent.  Not sure how I’m going to play this out, I almost left before being served, and of course was going to change to Your Time Dining today anyway as I prefer the other MDR.  But now I’m morbidly curious as to how that lady train wreak at the table works out.  For dinner I ordered: the Creme of Ripened Tomatoes (too many huge croutons), Heart of Lettuce Salad, Sweet & Sour Shrimp, Honey Glazed Pork Loin (very good), and Tiramisu for dessert.  As the lady in question and her husband walked away I overheard her say to him: “at least I didn’t pass out this time”.  Humorous now but a bit stunning at the time.  Matt’s Welcome Show was this evening, but I retired after a walk about the ship.  It was an interesting first day on the Carnival Vista.

Sunday / Fun Day at Sea / February 12th / Day 2
Tommy Drake comedian
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well. I woke after 8:30 and worked on this review then went down to the Horizon’s Restaurant for the Sea Day brunch.  While there I saw the Maitdre’D so I made the change to YTD.  Brunch was excellent, I ordered my ‘big’ breakfast: Tomato juice, a Fruit plate to start and three fried eggs over easy with toast, bacon, ham, & potatoes.  It was very well prepared with great service and fellow guests. I had some internet time the balance of the morning, the speed on Vista is good, there is a bug on Carnival website when making bookings that will not allow one finalize due to speed of satellite on ships…it even happens at times on the ranch (I too have satellite).  Works well on Vista.  I did a walk about on the ship and there are guests everywhere, there must be many more sailing than when I was on Vista last during the transatlantic cruise. Glad I had a big breakfast as there are very long lines for Guy’s, Blue Iguana, and the Marketplace buffet. Amazing basically standing room only on Lido pool area.  I went to the IMAX theater for an afternoon first run movie: La La Land.  A great theater and a great movie, I can see why it’s a favorite for the academy award and how cool to see a movie at sea.  This is elegant night, but I decided to have Fish & Chips from the Seafood Shack and ate on the aft Lido deck.  Very nice.  This evenings primary entertainment was America Rocks in the Liquid Lounge, but I chose to watch the Punchliner PG comedy show of Tommy Drake in the Limelight Lounge.  He was brilliantly funny.  I was well fed and entertained…it was a great sea day on the Carnival Vista.

Monday / Grand Turk / February 13th / Day 3
Beautiful beach looking towards Jack's Shack from Ship
Slight rolling seas over night and another very nice sleep.  We were already docked (7:00 am) when I awoke about 8:00 am.  I thought about several options for the day but I was just here on Thursday and we have to be back on ship by 1:30 pm so I’m going to have a stay on the ship day.  First I went up to the Lido and had a single Huevos Rancheros from the Blue Iguana, yes they are precooking the eggs on the Vista.  They do have a hot plate so I may do a custom order next time. Still good, but could be better.  I met a friend sailing on the Carnival Sunshine, now docked next to us, down on the Pier at the little Rest Tents they set up.  We actually visited for over an hour and really had a fantastic spot for observing people as they came off the ships. Really enjoyed the photographers working…it was quite a show.  When you cruise a lot anything different is Fun and so it was a Fun Visit.  I went to JiJi’s and the Mongolian Grill just after it opened at noon.  It was a great lunch.  Then walked the decks a couple of times and enjoyed the view of the beach and island. Received a notice that my excursion for tomorrow has been cancelled…not enough guests booked.  About 4:30 I had a basic Guy’s Burger, then about 6:00 headed up to Alchemy where Gabe fixed me a Cuban cocktail to set the mood for the show tonight.  I went to the Liquid Lounge at 7:00 to get better seats for the show Amor Cubano and scored a seat on the 2nd row…nice.  The show was very good…this is an excellent Playlist Production cast probably best in the fleet.  It was a Fun day on the Carnival Vista.

Tuesday  /  LaRomana, Dominican Republic  /  February 14th / Day 4
Valentine's Day Dessert
Just slightly rolling seas overnight, but I really feel very little movement from my cabin location low deck and center.  I was awake early and went to the MDR for breakfast at 8:00 a.m.. The pancakes, bacon, & ham were good.  My excursion to Santo Domingo was cancelled yesterday as it did not have enough people booked. I really didn’t see another that was really unique to the area (beaches, snorkeling, zip lines can be done most anywhere in Caribbean) and I prefer cultural sites so I just went down to the cruise pier area.  It’s located at the site of an old fort and they did have a nicely maintained clean area with a lot of craft and souvenir vendors as well as a little coffee shop and bar area.  It was suggested that this is not really a place to explore on your own and although brave and experienced I didn’t explore and returned to the ship.  A very relaxing morning for me and I went up to the Mongolian Grill again for a very nice lunch.  Then I got the homemade style ice creme in the Marketplace, usually a long line but not so with many off the ship.  The flavor today was Caribbean Passion Fruit and it was quite good.  I had a nice table on Lido deck and enjoyed the weather and views during the afternoon then had cabin time.  At 5:00 pm I attended the Diamond Cocktail Party in the Piano Bar.  An entertainer played nice cocktail music for us and I enjoyed several Cosmopolitans.  The two staff members I remembered and who remember me was Marko the Bar Manager, and Sylvia one of the bar servers.  I guess I know my priorities.  Actually I met the Food Manager and Linda the Housekeeping Manager before.  The Captain came and took a photo with everyone individually and we received the photos by the end of the party. Amazing. Three cocktail servers and two bartenders did a great job. It was a fun Diamond party...thanks Carnival Vista.  Some Diamond guests invited me to dine with them at 8:15 so I had some quality Alchemy Bar time until dinner.  Since I had enjoyed several cocktails I limited myself to a very nice Spritzer prepared by Ana.  So I’m back in the Reflections restaurant for dinner, I did visit my original table and the drunk lady was not there so the dynamics had changed since the first night.  My table tonight was nice and I ordered two of my favorite Red Beet Carpaccio, Heart of IceBerg Lettuce, the excellent Southern Fried Chicken entree and we were served a special Valentine dessert.  The primary entertainment was the Valentines edition of the Love and Marriage Show with Matt, but I had a full evening so retired to the cabin.  It was a interesting and Fun day on the Vista.

Wednesday / Bonaire / February 15th / Day 5
Chef's presentation of veal entree
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  We do not arrive in Bonaire until 1:30 pm so I slept in as long as possible.  I finally went up to the Blue Iguana about 10:15 am and they did (somewhat reluctantly) prepare me a fresh over-easy egg Huevos Rancheros.  It was great.  I then sat out on deck 11 enjoying the fresh sea air, and had time to update my review while waiting to arrive in Bonaire.  We approached the island about 1:00 for a 1:30 arrival…guests get anxious on late arrivals but we stay in port until 10:00 pm. I wanted to take a short island tour but need to be back early so I got off about 1:45.  I had a tour operator in mind, but ended up doing a mini tour ($25) through the local taxi operator as I got the front pax seat and it was ready to go.  We did the north island tour, stopping first at 1000 steps a famous dive location, then drove through the Gotomeer Lake and Flamingo Sanctuary, then a stop at Cadushy Distillery where they make liquor from cactus. We then drove through  Rincon the oldest town of the Netherlands Antilles founded in 1527 by the Spainish.  We then drove to Seru Largu the highest point of the tour at 404 feet  with a view over the south and east coasts of Bonaire with also a view of the ship.  In addition to the sites we saw Iguanas, a Sea Eagle, Flamingos, lots of cactus including cactus fences and more. We were dropped in Kralendijk and I had a nice mango gelato to hold my appetite until my special dinner tonight and the reason I wanted a short tour: I have reservations for the Chef’s Table this evening. The meeting place for dinner was in the Vista atrium at 6:25 pm, they checked our paperwork and health statements then about 6:45 we were taken through the Reflections MDR into the galley.  At a stainless steel prep area we had olives and cheese with champagne and the chef made an usual cotton candy type olive on a skewer.  He also prepared from scratch a lollypop with unusual flavors…I suspect this was to cleanse our pallets.  We were then led into a beautiful small dining room purposely built for this experience on the new Carnival Vista.  Our first course was Spring Peas & Matcha Soup, then Berkshire Pork Belly over Shrimps, then Slow Cooked Crispy Lamb.  At this point we had a Galley tour and instruction and preparation of a Chocolate Melting Cake.  We then returned to our personal dining room and served Olive Oil Poached Seabass with a Passion Fruit Caviar, Quail with Wild Mushrooms, and Veal with Crushed Green Apples. Then two desserts: Citrus Cream with Elderflower caviar and Chocolate Hazelnut.  All very interesting and professionally served.  My favorites were the Sea Bass and Citrus Cream. We exited through the galley and MDR and it was almost 10:00 pm by the time I returned to the cabin…time for sail away. It was a great day with a very unique dining experience on the Vista today.

Thursday / Aruba / February 16th / Day 6
Aruba Trolly on the High Street
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept well. I was awake much too early but updated this review and relived last nights fine dining.  I watched us sail into Aruba on the cabin TV…we have a choice of 8 ship cameras to monitor and the high resolution picture is amazing…it reminds me of a virtual balcony.  The Freewinds, the Scientology ship, is docked next to us. I went to the MDR for a proper Eggs Benedict breakfast about 8:30 and I was served straight away as most guests are getting off the ship to explore the lovely beaches of Aruba.  I left the ship about 10:00 am and did the Trolley to end of line and return to the Posh shopping area.  The new landscaping areas along the line have matured and it is much prettier than last visit.  The ‘big name (5th Ave)’ shopping venues are nice, I hope there is enough business on this small island to support them. I found a nice eatery: Gelatissimo Bistro that had a outdoor bar area, wifi, and cool breeze.  I enjoyed the wifi and frozen special mixed berry Festival cocktail then ordered an Aruba Salad with Grilled Shrimp, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm over a bed of green lettuce. I looked around the nicer shopping area and the new Renaissance Mall where I had an ‘Alchemist in the Wild’ sighting before returning to the ship.  I actually had a nice nap, first in a while, before our 4:00 pm sail away.  I went to the Alchemy Bar for a couple of nice specialty cocktails this evening then to the Horizon’s MDR for dinner.  I requested a share table and it worked flawlessly, they started a new table for me and after just a short wait two other nice couples were seated once it hit the reservation system.  A nice dinner - I ordered: Two Shrimp Cocktails, The Bing Cherry Soup (in a glass), the Tomato & Green Bean Salad (pass on that one), the Pan Seared Basa Filet, and from the local port menu the Antillean Style Grilled Chicken. For dessert I ordered the very nice Boston Creme Cake.  FLICK is the feature production show this evening, probably the most UNIQUE show in the fleet and not to be missed.  It was a fun and easy final port day on the Vista.

Friday / Fun Say at Sea / February 17th / Day 7
Rolling seas overnight, but motion really can not be felt in my cabin location and I had a nice sleep. I worked on some Cruise bookings before going to the MDR for the Sea Day brunch about 9:30 am and was seated almost strait away.  A nice Three egg breakfast.  I walked Lido deck then went to Cherry on Top for a variety of candies.  I had a very lazy morning…PJ’s and TV time most of the day…they do have on demand movies, both free and pay and the large flat screen is great.  About 4:00 pm I had two nice Guy’s burgers, one dressed and one plain, the diet cokes I had pre-ordered and delivered on first day will make it to the end, and coke does go well with the burgers.  This afternoon I did some vacation planning for Europe this summer then went to the Alchemy Bar for a nice cocktail with Annamarie.  I went to the early 7:30 production show: Studio VIP in the Liquid Lounge.  It was a great show, too bad the Liquid Lounge is the second worst theater in the fleet (small in size & a level floor obstructing viewing).  My plan was to eat at the Sea Food Shack this evening but it closed early, so it was stand in line for late pizza at 9:30 pm.  The pizza was fresh once I got it so very good.  So late dinner was pepperoni pizza, diet coke, and candy for dessert in the cabin.  It was a very easy lazy day on the Carnival Vista.

Saturday / Fun Say at Sea / February 18th / Day 8
My wonderful Alchemists: Teodora, AnnaMarie, Gabriel
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well until 9:30 am in fact on our final sea day. About 10ish I went up to the Lido Marketplace for some nice fresh fruit.  I had not been to the Havana area all cruise and that was our HQ on the Vista transatlantic cruise.  It is probably the best decorated public area on the ship. The rumors must be true about no more food, the food heaters and displays are gone.  Too bad, but it really wasn’t used that much as it was never a full breakfast nor lunch…more similar to bar snacks to go with your coffee.  I lounged in the Havana until afternoon so I could get some Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ on the Ocean Plaza.  It is only open on sea days and my last chance.  It was much better than when it first opened on the transatlantic, I had Chicken, Pork, Brisket, Slaw, Beans, & Bread.  I then went up to the Lido for the homemade style ice creme for dessert, today they had Tiramisu and Coconut Creme, good but not as good as the Passion Fruit.  At 4:00 pm I went to the Platinum/Diamond VIFP reunion party.  I had only a few cocktails and I was the senior Carnival cruiser on board with 497 days.  I had dinner in the Horizons MDR.  I ordered the Green Salad with Tomatoes, French Onion Soup, Pasta as starter, a very nice encrusted Chicken Entree, and the Prime Rib entree (sorry didn't take photo of menu so not exact names).  I skipped dessert in order to start preparing for arrival in Miami in the morning.

Sunday / Miami / February 19th / Debarkation
Fair seas overnight and I didn't slept well for first time...maybe anxious about new cruise today on unfamiliar ship.  I got up and began packing taking a break for breakfast about 8:15 in the MDR.  My final Carnival Eggs Benedict breakfast for a while.  I finished packing and left the cabin and waited on Promenade Deck until about 9:50 and just walked easily off the ship.  Once through Customs I walked two berths up to the NCL Jewel.

I had cabin 1353 a 1A interior located on deck one behind mid-elevators on starboard side. Although a low deck it was a fine location in the middle of the ship…very smooth sailing.  I appreciated the location on port days.  The cabin is has a lot of floor interior space as only one twin bed. It has a push button safe, two-section closet, no chairs, three electrical outlets on counter/dresser, USB port, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at Dresser, Hair dryer in counter/dresser, and large flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is an empty refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo. My cabin steward was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars
The Horizons Main Dining Room is much nicer than the one level Reflections Dining room.  Set dining was in the Reflections Dining room located mid ship on deck three and Your Time Dining (YTD) was in Horizons on deck 3 aft.  The Blue Iguana for burritos and Guy’s Burgers are excellent.  The Lido Marketplace buffet food is pretty standard fare, but selected entrees are very good. I had good table locations, nice fellow guests, and the waiters were good.  They have returned the butter knife to the American Table. The saucers for coffee cups as well as tablecloths are now gone from breakfast tables. The Mongolian Grill and Cucina del Capitano are excellent for both lunch (free) and dinner. The BBQ on deck 5 and the Seafood Shack on Lido aft are very good.  Very nice Alchemy Bar and location on the Vista. 

Crew / Other
The entire ship crew were very friendly, they themselves can make the cruise more enjoyable for the guest. Waiters and Cabin stewards especially very friendly. They always seemed to have a smile on their face and eager to please the guests. The excellent training by Carnival is quite obvious. The Carnival Hub application is wonderful, especially for checking your account balances.

Alchemy Bar and Alchemists
Chef's Table
Diamond Guest Party with Captain & Senior Officers
VIFP Party

Senior Guest on Carnival Vista

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