Hey everyone, we just returned to the real world this past Monday from a week on the Carnival Vista and I would like to share some thoughts and few photos.
Shortly after getting married my wife and I began a tradition of taking cruises together immediately following the holidays each year in lieu of purchasing each other Christmas presents. This has worked out great for us as it’s a good time to unwind and recharge from a hard year of work and the inevitable stress that comes with balancing work and multiple family commitments around the holidays.
This year we chose to go for the Vista sailing from Galveston, TX for our 8th Carnival cruise. We had originally booked a different cruise, but after returning from Horizon last May we really wanted to get back to a ship with a Havana area. We enjoyed it so much that it’s going to be hard to talk my wife into returning to a ship without this feature.
So anyway, here are a few random thoughts and a few photos, I generally don’t pay much attention to menus or fun times so I’m afraid that I don’t have any of those.
We flew to Houston the day before the cruise left. Traveling with just the two of us and wanting some freedom to explore, the best way for us to get from HOU to Galveston and then to the pier was to rent a car from Avis at the airport and drop it in Texas City and get an Uber to port. On disembark we reversed this scenario. Our transport costs were: $26 for Avis, $25 plus $5 tip for Uber. Avis was $34 for the return, and the Uber from Port was $27.
Our arrival appointment was 11:30am. After a late breakfast and returning the rental car we arrived at almost 11:30 on the nose, completely by accident. I was planning on being later but was pleasantly surprised that we breezed through security and check in and walked right on and made a beeline for Havana. This was the easiest embark we have had on Carnival. After about an hour we dropped our bags and went out to explore.
We found this little guy hiding in the Atrium
The sky ride and ropes were up and going and after a painless muster drill in the dining room we were underway.
We only ate in the main dining room twice. The first night and the next day (first elegant night). We used YTD and the Hub app to request a table each of these nights and within five minutes were headed to our table. Unfortunately, that is where the promptness ends with the dining room experience. The food was good, not great, but as with the last few cruises the service was again very slow. We just don’t enjoy the two-hour dinner service, but I know that some do, so we move on.
The buffet, for both lunch and dinner was pretty good. I found it much improved over last year’s Victory cruise. We found the selection varied and the split stations were easy to navigate.
The star of the show for us was Bonsai Sushi. We ate there about three or four times. If you make it there, I recommend the Wagyu Kakuni appetizer! My wife enjoyed the noodles and rolls too.
We also made several trips to Guy’s for the requisite cheeseburger and fries, along with the Deli for hot dogs and Reuben’s. I don’t know why, but on this cruise the Deli line was nearly empty every time we went to eat so we took advantage.
I ordered a pizza delivery from the app on one sea day and the young man made it to my chair in the Havana area about ten minutes later. While I really like the Carnival pizza late at night and for free, it leaves a lot to be desired early in the day for a fiver!
The Pig and Anchor was good and popular, and the tacos and huevos rancheros at the Blue Iguana were great and worth the wait in line.
Crowds and Atmosphere
The big knock on the Vista class seems to be that its public areas are too crowded, and lines are long. Well that it subjective of course but I can tell you from my point of view it was very crowded on the lido deck and sports bar (college football championship and four NFL Playoff games) but the atmosphere was good, and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. They showed the NFL playoff games and the College Football Championship game on the big screen on lido as well as the sports bar and it was a big hit.
I used the gym on the sea day mornings and while it was crowded, I was able to find a treadmill to use and get to the weights without much hassle. I did notice that it seemed to come in shifts, as we the 7am crowd filtered out it got more crowded as the 8 and 9 o’clockers rolled in!
The cruise director is something I don’t normally pay attention to, but in this case, Matt Mitcham really did add a fun atmosphere to the cruise. He seemed to be everywhere, was really engaging and got the crowd involved better than some I have seen in the past.
We went to one comedy show and enjoyed, and the club was packed each night so I would suggest getting there early. The piano bar had good crowds each night, but both times we went it was standing room only, so we only stayed a few moments. Sorry, I don’t remember the performer’s name.
We spent quite a bit of time in the casino and had quite a bit of fun. The dealers, hosts and passengers all added to a great atmosphere. Of course, it was terribly smoky as ever, I really wish they could figure out a way to alleviate that problem.
This was my second experience with the Havana area, and I have to say that this is the leading attraction on Carnival ships for me. I was concerned that the addition of extra cabins and the admission of suite guests from outside the area would dilute the experience by causing crowding. On this cruise there was no such problem. The area was well attended but there was no problem getting a chair or lounger. The hot tubs were relatively warm, and they saw a lot of use. We did see numerous people attempt to sneak in to the area from the side gates, but the staff was quick to explain that they needed to wait until after 7pm to visit so it never became much of an issue. We really enjoyed the dancing and music in the Havana Bar several nights. The bar staff were great back there as well. Especially Estefany and Jorge!
Sunsets from the Havana hot tubs are pretty good
We stayed in Havana Interior 5230. We absolutely loved the décor and the layout of the room. For two people it has plenty of room and the décor is light and airy enough to not feel cramped. We stay out around the Havana pool area so much that anything other than an interior would be a waste. One word of warning, this room is pretty much directly opposite the band in the Havana bar. And Latin music is best when played loud. And Latin Music played loud can be felt beating in your chest. And in room 5230 it can be felt beating through the wall and into your chest. If you find yourself in this situation, you might as well get up and go out into the bar and grab a Cuban Iced Tea and join in, because you aren’t going to be sleeping! In all seriousness, we will look for a room further down the hall away from the band a bit next time.
In Belize we stuck to the Carnival excursion to Lamanai Mayan Ruins with the River boat trip. We usually don’t take Carnival excursions, preferring smaller groups but with the tendering situation in Belize it seemed easier. When we got to the lounge to get our tender stickers, I became very concerned. It seemed like everybody else on the ship had chosen the same excursion! Once off the ship and onto the bus things were surprisingly well organized and less chaotic. We settled into groups of about 35-40 and went off with each bus being independent from the rest of the crowd. So even though we all went to the same place, we were separate enough to make it manageable. The ruins were cool, the boat ride fun, and lunch was great!
The Restaurant/ Boat dock/Gift shop
In Cozumel we booked independently through Cozumel Bar Hop and did the Bar Hop to the East Side of the Island. We have been to Nachi Cocum and Mr. Sanchos in the past and enjoyed them both, but this tour was our favorite experience on Coz so far. Colleen the guide was quite funny and kept everyone corralled and on schedule.
We were joined by at least 5 other boats in Cozumel, our tour was short by 18 cruisers who were supposed to join but were on the ill fated Oasis of the seas that was stricken by Noro. Very unfortunate for them, but we ended up in a nice small group.
Magic and Dream were there
We headed to the East side where these beach views reside
Coconuts pico is not what we get here in middle America, this stuff is hot!.
They are famous for Coconut Shrimp we were told, so what the heck. This is really good coconut shrimp!
Our day in Roatan was the highlight of our trip. We booked a half day sail with City Dogs Sailing, which is an American couple who run sailing and scuba charters for small groups from First Bight. I did a separate review of this one on the Roatan page so I will link it here so you can check it out if you would like: Roatan Excursion Review
Here is a teaser
Well, it started off well, with a casual breakfast in the Ocean Plaza waiting for them to start calling decks for self-assist. Then the supposedly well-crafted plan was immediately abandoned after deck 1 was called and it became a free for all. We finally realized that we were among the poor tortured souls ignorantly attempting to follow instructions while the smart ones were walking off the ship all around us and the staff smartly stepped aside and let them go. Here is one of the few things I know about crowd control: when the crowd wants to go away, and you want them to go away, the best thing to do is step back and watch them go away! On Horizon last year, the directions for self-assist were this: Come down to the gangplank anytime after we announce that customs has cleared us and walk off the boat, you have 30 minutes to do so, then we start the zones. It was beautiful as we strolled off with tons of others without being herded for pointless hours into nooks and crannies and waiting. I dream of that disembark sometimes, it was that good.
This was a great cruise. The chaotic exit was a very small thing in the big picture, and so many stellar performances by staff members far outweigh this small problem.
I would also like to say that even though they were shorthanded, and not getting paid, Customs did a great job, went as quick as they could and our officer even had a smile for us as we left. Thanks!
We had a wonderful time and made some new memories and new friends. I can't wait to get back out there and make some more!
That’s my review, hope it was helpful to someone, if you disagree with anything that I have said here that’s great, let me know, these are just my opinions and if we all had the same ones it would be a very boring world.