Monday, July 1, 2019

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

Carnival Vista Cruise Review

Just the Facts:
Ship:  Carnival Vista
Sailing:  July 1, 2019
Captain: Vittorio Marchu
Cruise Director: Matt Mitcham  -  Brand Ambassador:  John Heald
Ports: Galveston - Costa Maya, Mexico - Cozumel, Mexico - Galveston
Weather:  Very nice typical Caribbean weather

This is my 3rd time to cruise on the Carnival Vista, my 73rd Carnival cruise, and my 144th cruise overall.  I am sailing solo. I booked only a few days before sailing and it was a very good value so I had to do it.  This is my first Carnival cruise in over two years and three months, so I’m sure some thing will be different.

Day One—Monday—Embarkation

Kindall, Matt & John during safety briefing!
I have enjoyed the departing later and arriving later at the pier scenario on previous Galveston cruises so again did so.  I left the ranch about 8:00 am and headed south to Galveston skipping my usual first stop in Hearne and drove through Houston stopping near Friendswood, TX at the local Chick-fil-A.  This served three purposes: added some gap time to port arrival, rest stop, and of course some great Jesus Chicken.  I do like their sandwiches.  I arrived at EZ Cruise parking about 12:30 and I was shuttled over to the Carnival Vista fairly quickly arriving at security about 1:00. No lines using Priority at this time so fairly quick through the boarding process.  You use your boarding pass to get through security and your cabin key is at your stateroom door when you arrive.  It was barely before the 1:30 cabin opening but my cabin was Priority ready.  I had already eaten a nice lunch so need to rush to the Lido buffet and since I rolled-on my duffle I was ready to set up my cabin.  First thing out was my fan and soon I was relaxed and unpacking.  Very nice interior cabin but limited storage unless your traveling solo as I am.  I pre-purchased a Wifi package and sent myself a gift of Bar Credit with some Carnival Gift Cards I had left over from previous cruises.  I made it to the Red Frog in time for a beer before muster drill and ran into some Diamond/Alchemy friends who also booked late.  My muster station D-3 was in the main MDR so it was an easy process. (photo above by Capt. Vittorio)  After drill I met a group of friends at the Alchemy Bar and it was only a short wait until they opened.  Unfortunately we have the Texas liquor laws that effect many cocktails but we made do.  As the moderator for the Carnival Alchemy Bar FB page I become familiar with comments about all the Alchemists and I was able to meet Mr. Aleksandar Petkovski.  He was new to me, but really lived-up to the comments and has a great following so must be a good Alchemist...and he is very good.  After enjoying two custom cocktails, I retired to cabin to rest and prepare for dinner.  I’m doing basically Anytime Dining, but they allow Diamond guests to go strait to the MDR whenever they are ready for dinner.  Jana, who I have known for many years is the Matre’D and really got me a great table when I went down about 8:00 pm.  I was joined by a long time Diamond friend so it was very nice.  The menu is the same as when I last sailed the Vista 2+ years ago.  I ordered:  Shrimp Cocktails (3), Roasted Tomato Soup, and the Grilled Pork Chop entree.  For dessert I ordered the Caramelized Phyllo With Caramel Cream, a Tiramisu, and Buttered Pecan ice creme as a sampler.  The Tiramisu was great.  After dinner I went to the Ocean Plaza and listend to the Jazz group Powerplay that was joined by brass section Triple Play of the orchestra for a few sets.  Very nice music but the highlight was when a young mid-30ish couple got up to disco much to the chagrin of their two pre-teen children.  They were great dancers but the crowd soon noticed the faces of the embarrassed children that stole the show.  The singers portable mic allowed her to join the kids and sing from their table.  It was a ‘had to be there’ moment that I really enjoyed.  I returned to the cabin went straight to sleep after a busy travel and first day on the Carnival Vista.
Day Two—Monday—at Sea
Vista Atrium area
Very smooth seas and I slept vert well.  About 9:30 am I went up to Lido deck passing through the very busy Marketplace breakfast buffets on the way to pool deck and the Blue Iguana for breakfast.  It was not as busy at BI and in fact I got two Huevos Rancheros with fresh fried eggs straight away.  IMHO one of the better breakfasts on Carnival ships.  I went down to the main lobby atrium area to Guest Services and I must say that this is the most disappointing area of Carnival Vista.  The atrium is very plain and has no Wow factor at all.  Most cruise lines feature this area of the ship some even having crystal staircases, not the case here.  I hope this is resolved by the time that the new Carnival Mardi Gras sails.  I spent the rest of the morning updating this review and doing some financial business.  The sodas I sent to myself and Chocolate Covered Strawberries were delivered midday so a snack before lunch.  At 2:00 pm I went up to deck 11 and the Mongolian Grill lunch in JiJi's.  Good and bad about the grill in its own dining area…you can not pick out the exact quantities of each item, more of one than another as you order from checklist.  It was very good, but I prefer more vegetables and meat and less noodles.  I can try to write that on order next time.  I did a walk about on deck just as we were experiencing a brief rain shower that sent guest scurrying about.  It did make for a short line at Guy’s so I had a plain sample burger…doesn’t count as official Gut's Burger yet.  A bit of a power scare this afternoon when the ship lost power for a short while…announcements where made by Matt and hopefully all is well. I relaxed in the afternoon then prepared to meet friends in the MDR for the Captain’s Gala dinner (formal night),  We met at 7:30 and were seated at a nice 6-top table.  I ordered the Sicilian Meatball Soup (excellent), a Spaghetti Carbonara (as starter & also very good), and the Slow Cooked Prime Rib as my entree.  Just after we finished our starters the ship began to lose power, off and on, fortunately our waiter grabbed our entrees and we enjoyed them in the low light.  Soon we had lost all power…oh my.  I was just happy we had been served and we were lucky that we moved up our dining time to 7:30 from 8:00 pm.  No dessert tonight.  Power was out about 40-45 minutes but they were able to restore it so most on late dining were able to eat even though it was later.  I decided to get back to the cabin and turn the air down as low as possible just in case we lost power again.  I had my Swedish Fish and Coca-cola for dessert tonight.  It was an interesting sea day on the Carnival Vista.

Day Three—Wednesday—Fun Day at Sea
Captain & Hotel Director keeping an eye on me at Diamond party.
Smooth seas overnight and no more power problems that I know.  We are still moving very slowly at only ~10 knots on the limited power we have.  This we knew thus the extended 8 day cruise as it takes longer to get to Mexico and back at these slower speeds.  The ship does go into dry dock when we return. I went down to the Horizon MDR for breakfast when it opened at 8:00 am.  I had a nice share table with nice guests and ordered: Hot Milk, Melon, Eggs Benedict, Bacon, Hash Browns, and Tomato Juice.  The Eggs Benedict were hard boiled, probably prepared before opening and overcooked while under lamp.  Service was great though.  Back to cabin as the stock market closes at noon today and I’m trying to add to a position, the internet is faster with yesterdays upgraded plan so that helps. At 11:00 am I went to the scheduled Diamond Guest reception held in the Limelight Lounge.  There are 47 Diamonds on board and about that number at the event.  It was good to meet old and new Diamond friends and Carnival friends including Capt. Vittorio Marchu, John Heald, and Hotel Director Alina, my new favorite.  I had  several Elderflower Spritzers and nice H’orderves.  Thank you Carnival it was a FUN gathering.  I went by the Pig & Anchor Smokehouse about 12:45 on the way back to the cabin and had a nice light lunch before my planned afternoon nap in the cabin. My nap went very well…I slept until 6:00 pm.  I again met friends at 7:30 at the Horizon MDR for dinner. Matre’D Jana got us an aft facing table so we could watch the sun set.  We had a Romanian waiter that recognized me so I showed her photos of food and sites from her hometown Brazov after we ordered.  Tonight I had: Shrimp Cocktail, Beef Lasagna (as starter), Mixed Greens, and the Braised Short Ribs entree.  For dessert I ordered the Cheesecake and Pot De Creme.  We were finished with dinner by 9:30 and I am rested so a full selection of activities on the ship this evening.  The feature show and Playlist production Studio VIP leads into the big White Night Party in the Atrium and later on Lido deck.  A real majority of guest are dressed in all white this evening and having a lot of FUN.  Casino and Comedy Club was also busy in addition to other entertainment in the lounges.  When I returned to the cabin there was a nice gift from the Brand Ambassador, Thank you, and I had a nice Ginger Ale and then retired.  It was a very nice day aboard the Carnival Vista.

Day Four—Thursday July 4th—Fun Day at Sea — Independence Day
Vista atrium today
Calm seas overnight and I slept very well.  I did not wake until 9:00 am when they made an announcement that we would divert to Cozumel to drop off an ill crew member this morning.  I hope they get medical attention as needed.  They are doing the Sea Day Brunch in the MDR but a long line when I got off elevator so I stayed on and went up to the Marketplace Buffett on Lido deck.  They had Eggs Sardou this morning so I had a nice NOLA style breakfast with Bacon and extras.  I then ate a bowl of fresh fruit outside on Lido deck aft as we were were in the Straits of Cozumel and they met the pilot boat to take the crew member ashore.  Beautiful day for deck activity and guests seem very happy.  Since there are very limited network stations on ship TV I’m glad I upgraded to the premium wifi plan, I can watch what I want on demand and get news as needed.  Friends had a table on Lido deck so I did some people watching then had a very nice Blue Iguana Mexi-Taco bowl lunch custom made for me:  lettuce on bottom, extra beef, cheese, onion, and pico de gallo, it was very nice.  We basically spent the day circling the Island of Cozumel but beautiful blue water and blue skies for it.  I made a trip to Cherries on Top to get some yummy candy then stopped by the Red Frog Pub.  I saw more friends and ordered a coca-cola to take to cabin for rest & relaxation time and sample candy.  I did make it to the Alchemy Bar for proper aperitifs this evening.  I had a Ray’s Cosmo and a Quick Fix and enjoyed them very much.  Although I haven’t been a regular, so far, I looked at the bar at one point and realized that I knew everyone there at main bar by name.  Old time Alchemy regulars.  I went to MDR dinner at 7:45 pm and we were seated right away (they were not busy) in a great feature table in center.  Thanks again Jana.  Tonight was the best meal of the cruise in my opinion.  I ordered:  Linguini with Italian Sausage as a starter, an Iceberg Lettuce wedge, Red Beet Carpaccio (2), and the Grilled Beef Tenderloin entree.  All was very good especially the steak and beets.  For dessert the Bitter & Blanc and Double Roasted Pineapple.  I especially wanted to see Caroline Picard in the late comedy show, I met her years ago and we both had our 50th class reunions this year.  I retired to the nice cool cabin to update this blog and browse the internet for a bit.  It was a nice relaxing day with good food on the Carnival Vista today.

Day Five—Friday—Costa Maya, Mexico
Vista in Costa Maya - 5 July 2019
Smooth seas overnight and I again slept well although up very early.  Beautiful weather as we approached the pier at Costa Maya.  We don’t officially arrive until 10:00 am but we were early so that always help with debarking the ship.  I did some early business online then went down for breakfast in the Horizon MDR about 9:20 a.m.  Nice share table with nice couples and Romanian waiter.  I ordered a big breakfast, Three Eggs over easy (came medium+), Bacon, Ham, Potatoes, Toast, Hot Milk, Tomato Juice, & Melon.  I actually ordered the Avocado Toast as an extra just to see what it was like and a guest ordered the Egg bowl, both of these are new items on the menu.  NEW: The Avocado Toast was very good and would make a nice light breakfast, it consisted of two pieces of toast with avocado spread over and a poached egg (correct, not over done), and additional slice of avocado. I would order this again.  I watched the old Royal Caribbean Majesty of the Seas dock along side during breakfast.  We are the only two ships docked here today.  We are here in Costa Maya late so I didn’t leave the ship until after the noon hour. Long walk down the pier and then through the shops of the port village until you reach the shuttles ($4) that take you to the village of Mahahual.  I made it there about 1:00 pm and walked south to Pez Quadro Beach Club now a part of the 40 Cañones Hotel by far the finest facility in the village.  Your not getting the bargain prices on beer, but a nice clean facility and bath rooms with a great bar and food.  I got an excellent table inside the restuarant/bar overlooking the beach and water and made a day of it.  I was later joined by friends old and new. They have my favorite Mexican beer: Bohemia.  I enjoyed several beers as well as a couple of Piña coladas.  The water was warm but the beach is very easy to access to cool off if needed.  I did take advantage of the beach massages too…$20 for a full 45 minutes…it was great.  Most cruise guests left early but I enjoyed the ocean breezes and some Guacamole and Pico de Gallo with the tourists staying locally.  It was very pleasant I really enjoyed the day.  I started back about 6:00 pm and was back onboard by 6:30 as requested.  By 7:00 pm I made the decision to clean up and stay in tonight with perhaps BLT’s from room service.  But I did an easy option of quickly heading up to the deck 10 Deli located on my aft elevator and getting sandwiches.  I was up and back in 8 minutes and enjoyed a BLT and a Reuben in the cabin…perfect.  Rest and sleep was the plan for evening.  It was a very enjoyable day in Costa Maya.

Day Six — Saturday — Cozumel, Mexico
Puerto Maya Pier Cozumel - Beautiful water
Smooth seas over night and I slept very well.  I’m not in a rush to debark as we sail late from Cozumel this evening. Full house of ships at both Puerto Maya and the International pier. A light shower early, but beautiful skies rest of the day.  I had a banana from the fruit bowl for breakfast and left the ship about 9:45 am.  Shared a taxi to San Miguel and went straight to Antonio's Barber Shop for my much needed summer haircut.  Martin was waiting with a cool shop on this hot and humid day.  Following my haircut I went down to Woody’s Bar and Grill and set up at table seven as I have been known to do when in town.  Mexican Coca-cola always tastes so good and I brought my yeti so the ice remained better than if we had glass on this humid day.  It wasn’t busy as yet so they watched my table and I ventured out to get a pedicure at Zensi Spa ($20), very relaxing I almost fell asleep.  Next it was over to Farmacias Similares for some medications.  With my errands complete it was back to Woody’s for another Coca-cola.  The wifi at Woody’s is very good and I appreciate that they allow me to make myself at home.  I ordered Chimichangas for lunch and they were excellent, first time to order them here, but I will again. Being a Saturday I did not have as much business to do from Coz HQ and since the heat and humidity were bad I decided to head back to the ship earlier than I had planned. I easily got a taxi ($8) and was back at Puerta Maya by 4:30 pm.  I did take my time in the port area before boarding, but I really enjoyed the cooling shower and clean clothes once I did get to the cabin.  It was nice to view the island and port on deck in the early evening hours since we didn’t sail until 7:00 pm. I went by the Alchemy Bar for a cocktail and captured a great photo of the team that I will use on the Alchemy Bar Fans FB page.  For dinner I went up to the Seafood Shack on deck 10 and had a Fish & Chips basket ($6) that I enjoyed on the outer deck.  Cabin time the rest of evening.  It was a good productive day in Cozumel.

Day Seven — Sunday — Fun Day at Sea
Vista Alchemy Bar team
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very sound until 9:00 am.  I do have a sore throat this morning that I actually felt coming on for a few days, upset with myself for not getting something at the farmacia yesterday.  It is a beautiful day and I will take it easy next two sea days.  I enjoy taking it easy.  I notice that we are making 14 knots on the return, so they can get more speed than what they were doing on the way south.  I went down to the Horizons MDR for breakfast at 9:45 and had a nice hot breakfast ordering what I thought would be easiest on the throat, the hot milk was very nice.  I am going by the axiom “feed a cold…starve a fever” so I don’t plan on missing any meals.  I was able to stream the FiFA Women’s World Cup finals this morning on my laptop and sat in the Havana Bar and watched the second half match and extra time.  The USA won over Netherlands 2-0. I was thinking warm and spicy Mongolian Grill for lunch, but cabin steward came by about 12:40 to clean so I went up earlier than I wanted and the line was of course tooooo long for me…beyond the elevators. I just stayed on elevator and went down to deck 5 to Guy’s Pig & Anchor BBQ, no line at all and seating.  A very nice lunch and nice ocean view.  Afterward I went to Cherry on Top for candy then the Red Frog Pub for Coca-cola.  I ended up visiting with friends in RFP a while before heading to cabin for nap time.   went to the Alchemy Bar for aperitifs about 6:00 pm, the regulars were there.  If one purchases the Cheers drink package then the Alchemy is the best value for your alcohol consumption since they have the premium alcohol and trained bartenders.  I went to the Horizon MDR about 7:30 for dinner and my party was again seated strait away at a window no less.  This was the second formal evening but very few dressed for it, one formal night is enough on a cruise IMHO.  The MDR was very busy though, good menu tonight.  I ordered:  Stuffed Mushrooms, Wild Rice, Gruyere and Chicken Soup, Fusilli with Mushroom Creme (as starter), and the Filet Mignon entree.  The steak was very good and cooked to order.  For dessert I had the Grand Marnier Souffle and Key Lime Mousse.  After dinner I did go to the Alchemy Bar for an after dinner drink, my choice was the Deal Closer.  Lots of activities on the ship this evening and kind of a bonus party night since we are taking an extra day returning to Galveston.  Guests were busy and happy.  It was another relaxing day for me on the Carnival Vista.

Day Eight — Monday — Fun Day at Sea
Carnival Vista - Sunset and Calm waters
Smooth seas overnight, this entire cruise has had as smooth of seas as I have experienced in a while.  We seemed to have slowed to about 11-12 knots with beautiful weather.  I was up very early…still a sore throat…so rest.  I did go down to the Horizon MDR for the Seaday Brunch about 10:00 a.m. and with just a short wait Jana got me a nice aft facing window table in the center.  This is my first experience with the NEW American Table Sea Day Brunch menu.  The Soups and Chicken are gone but they have added breakfast/brunch burgers and fine-tuned items.  The Steak & Eggs are still still a main choice.  I ordered hot oatmeal and hot milk again that felt wonderful on my throat.  I did go with the Steak & Eggs and both were prepared to order and correctly.  I also got a Huevos Rancheros plate just to sample and enjoy, it was also good.  It was a very nice and hardy breakfast for my final proper breakfast of the cruise.  I’m spending the day streaming some Netflix and relaxing. The Platinum/Diamond Party was held at 5:00 pm in the Liquid Lounge.  It was nice and a full room of people.  Usual Carnival movie and introduction of senior cruise staff. I spoke with the Hotel Director and she approved my plan for debarking in the morning (I’m sleeping in).  I only had Tito’s with ice as I wanted no mixers or fruit on my throat.  After the party I went to the liquor shop and bought some items to use up the cash balance of my OBC (on board credit).  This late on final day your allowed to carry away your liquor purchase.  I met friends at the Alchemy Bar for a final cocktail there then to the MDR for the final dinner of the cruise about 8:00 p.m..  It was a good menu, I ordered:  Escargots Bourguignonne, Caribbean Pepper Pot soup, Penne with Shrimp and Bacon, and the Prime Rib as an entree.  The Prime Rib was excellent, Pasta not to my liking, others good.  Traditional cruise Baked Alaska was the primary dessert tonight.  Final good byes to friends (including John Heald) this evening, it was nice to see so many old friends.  I was approached by a Ray’s Cruise Blog fan in the Alchemy, I really appreciate people telling me that they enjoy my Blog.  It was a FUN final sea day on the Carnival Vista.

Smooth seas overnight and we were docked very early.  As Hotel Director Alina promised they did not do early announcements inside the cabin, but with all the door slamming it was hard to sleep past 8:00 am.  I took my time this morning hoping most guests debark at usual times and I’ll be able to just roll off at my convenience. This is possible as they will not be boarding guests today due to the Vista going into dry dock following this cruise.  They did make the first in-cabin announcements about 8:15 am encouraging self-debark people to leave. I got out my bag and packed and had a banana from the fruit basket although they extended debark morning breakfast on the Lido buffet.  I rolled off about 9:45 a.m. and true I did not stop once I left the cabin as the line moved fairly well, but it was still rather busy, I think I should have just gone off at 7:45 a.m.  Too many had the same thoughts as I did.  U.S. Customs was easy…basically a wave through with my Passport Card. I was shuttled to EZ Cruise Parking by 10:15 and on my way north.  I stopped at Galveston Raceway ($2.33gal) for fuel and was off the island about 10:30 a.m. I took I-45 to the I-610 Beltway, to US-290, to Highway 6 to Bosque County.  I did stop at Chick-fil-A in College Station for a nice and interesting lunch. It was cow Appreciation Day and if dressed as a cow you received a free meal.  It was busy but fun.  Home to Twisted Oak Ranch at 2:50 p.m..

It’s great to sail with Captain Vittorio Marchu because I can use his great photos in my daily review.  I usually have to think about what to use but his are so good that I have to use his.  I suspect that Radu also being on board has inspired Vittorio to do more photos this week.  They have been brilliant.

As an older/experienced cruiser my activities will be much different from a newer cruiser as I will be doing fewer things on board simply because of the 'been there done that' factor. There is a variety of Activities, Shows, and Entertainment on board ship, but frankly I don't have the energy as I once did...Priorities do change over time. I do love to visit with guests and friends and of course I still love to cruise!!

Builder: Fincantieri Monfalcone, Italy
Maiden Voyage: May 1, 2016
Tonnage: 133, 500    Length: 1055 ft
Capacity: 3900 guests (double occupancy)  Crew: 1450

I have cabin 6447 an interior cabin located far aft on deck six on starboard side.  The room is a standard size interior with: key pad safe, hair dryer, refrigerator (empty), bench stool only, large flat screen TV, and good lighting. Small, simple, and well designed, but a lack of storage IMHO.  The air conditioning & water pressure worked very well, but I’m glad I brought my personal cabin fan for circulation.  Ideal as a solo cabin, maybe tight for two  guests.

Overall very good. My cabin steward Sidi and her team from the Philippines were very good I always had ice and clean cabin.  I didn’t have an MDR wait team, as I had a different waiter (usually) each night, all MDR staff were excellent.  Jana the Matre’D was very helpful.  The bartenders in the Alchemy Bar were fantastic. 

Highlights of the Cruise
Fun day in Maulhual Mexico
Cozumel Mexico -very productive day as usual
Alchemy Bar -even though I didn’t spend as much time there
Cabin Time -cool, mostly quiet, dark, & restful

Note:  After posting this review, Carnival changed my number of cruises up two when they redesigned their VIFP web pages.  One was a non revenue cruise so no points (I disagreed at the time since they honor casino cruise for points).  The second was a one day promo event.  So I'm even and updated in Carnval's system.  So the count will increase by two cruises in next review.  IMHO I really don't think they should offer VIFP points to casino or non-revenue cruises.  It got the system too heavy with gamblers over cruisers.  IMHO  This change was effective in September 2019.