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Nicole721

Hello Vista! A Full PICTORIAL Trip Report of Carnival's Newest Ship

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Dam you, woman! I have too much to do today to sit and read this review! Which is exactly what I'm going to do....

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Nicole, I always love reading your reviews. You are such a prolific storyteller and always has such wonderful adventures. I love the way you and Stephanie share in the planning and ordering of your activities.

 

Even though I have been on the Vista twice, the inaugural and the TA, I know this will be a great read and I will learn from your review.

 

Very curious though. Kinder eggs are banned in the USA? Why? Here in Canada, it is very easy to buy just like any other candies or chocolates.

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Nicole, I always love reading your reviews. You are such a prolific storyteller and always has such wonderful adventures. I love the way you and Stephanie share in the planning and ordering of your activities.

 

Even though I have been on the Vista twice, the inaugural and the TA, I know this will be a great read and I will learn from your review.

 

Very curious though. Kinder eggs are banned in the USA? Why? Here in Canada, it is very easy to buy just like any other candies or chocolates.

 

I was just about to ask the same question ! What's the big deal with Kinder Eggs in the USA ? Is it just so customs doesn't have to open them all up to make sure someone isn't smuggling something in them or can you not even buy them in the USA ??

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Loving the review so far! :)

 

As for the Kinder Eggs... if my memory serves me correctly, they're banned here in the US because the outside shell is chocolate, and smaller children tend to bite into them. The little toy inside the shell can pose a choking hazard because of this. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, though.

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HI all!

 

Nicole721 ~ so glad I found your review early. Loving it so far as I relive Barcelona & Montserrat through your eyes. I was on the Vista TA so look forward to your impression of the ship. I also flew through Charlotte once & loved it. Did you see the rocking chairs?

Carry on with your lovely pictures & interesting dialogue.:D

 

~ Jo ~ :)

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Dam you, woman! I have too much to do today to sit and read this review! Which is exactly what I'm going to do....

 

:D

 

Thank you for this nice review. You really put a lot of time into it. Can't wait to see more.

 

Hope you enjoy!

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This is interesting. Will be following along.

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Thank you!

 

Nicole, I always love reading your reviews. You are such a prolific storyteller and always has such wonderful adventures. I love the way you and Stephanie share in the planning and ordering of your activities.

 

Even though I have been on the Vista twice, the inaugural and the TA, I know this will be a great read and I will learn from your review.

 

Very curious though. Kinder eggs are banned in the USA? Why? Here in Canada, it is very easy to buy just like any other candies or chocolates.

 

Thanks, Mary! Eager to see how our experience on the Vista compares to yours :)

 

Re: the Kinder eggs, I believe they're banned by the FDA because of the choking hazard they pose.

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I was just about to ask the same question ! What's the big deal with Kinder Eggs in the USA ? Is it just so customs doesn't have to open them all up to make sure someone isn't smuggling something in them or can you not even buy them in the USA ??

 

You'd think so, but it's really just about the choking hazard. Seemed to me it would take some intent to actually choke on one, but the FDA seems to think otherwise ;)

 

Loving the review so far! :)

 

As for the Kinder Eggs... if my memory serves me correctly, they're banned here in the US because the outside shell is chocolate, and smaller children tend to bite into them. The little toy inside the shell can pose a choking hazard because of this. Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, though.

 

Thanks! :)

 

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HI all!

 

Nicole721 ~ so glad I found your review early. Loving it so far as I relive Barcelona & Montserrat through your eyes. I was on the Vista TA so look forward to your impression of the ship. I also flew through Charlotte once & loved it. Did you see the rocking chairs?

Carry on with your lovely pictures & interesting dialogue.:D

 

~ Jo ~ :)

 

I loved the rocking chairs! Reminded me of SeaTac a bit -- I fly to Seattle quite a bit for work, and they have some rocking chairs in front of this grand display of floor to ceiling windows that look out onto the tarmac. One of my favorite parts of the airport!

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Day 4: Embarkation!

 

Waking up in our hotel room in Barcelona brought mixed emotions: I was so sad to leave Barcelona, a city I can never get enough of, but if I’m going to leave this magnificent city for anything, the Carnival Vista is certainly a worthy reason.

 

We’d planned on waking up at 7:30 am, finishing our packing and grabbing breakfast at one of the many café’s near our hotel, but like most of our best laid plans, this was meant to be broken: Stephanie slept until 8:30 and didn’t wake me up until 9:00.

 

I reshuffled my bags to minimize the number of items I had to carry with me through embarkation while I snacked on some pain au chocolat that we had left from our trip to Carrefour. We checked out of the Olivia Balmes around 10:00 and I can’t say enough about how wonderful the staff was. They handled our bags, hailed us a cab and loaded the trunk before we were even done checking out and throughout our short stay, they were nothing short of accommodating and friendly.

 

The cab ride from our hotel in Eixample to the Port of Barcelona took around 15 minutes (a €26 cab fare, including all baggage fees). A baggage handler was quick to approach our taxi to take our bags and we were quickly ushered into the priority line, a blessing as even early in the morning, the regular line was snaking around the building.

 

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Unfortunately, that was the only quick part.

 

They checked our passports downstairs, sent us through a priority security lane (where they didn’t even detect the bottle of cava Stephanie had in her bag) and then directed us up to the second floor for Priority check-in. There weren’t too many people upstairs when we got up there, but it filled in very quickly and overwhelmed the team of inexperienced agents (this was the first time the Vista was holding embarkation in Barcelona and unfortunately, we just had to suffer through the growing pains of that). Our room number was taken when we arrived and would be called when an agent was ready for us, but it was over a half hour before Mom approached the agent managing the list, who quickly ushered us to a flustered young agent who was on her first day of the job and who had just checked in her first passengers (who quickly got frustrated with her as she tried to work her way through her checklist). We tried to be patient and encouraging, but it took her nearly 20 minutes to check us in and we had to correct her when she put the wrong stateroom number on our passport collection slip.

 

Once we had our S&S cards (and – side note – they didn’t even take our pictures this time. They scanned them in from our passports instead), we headed to a waiting area but since it was clear we wouldn’t be embarking from this floor, we went downstairs. That’s when things got a little crazy. First, they called boarding for special events and as they boarded, a hoard of guests just started crowding the area. VIFP Platinum’s and Diamond’s were kind of standing in a group off to the side and when they were ready to board us, instead of just taking us from there, they went through the crowd of non-Priority guests, parted them down the middle and led us around the side and through the tunnel of other waiting guests. To say it was awkward would be putting it mildly.

 

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We skipped the embarkation photo shoot (multiple stations were set up, if that’s your kind of thing) and speed walked to the gangway. Our anticipation was bubbling over and we just couldn’t wait to get onboard and see the Vista for ourselves.

 

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It didn’t disappoint.

 

We entered the ship from deck 3, and as we were greeted by the Hotel Director, we got our first glimpse of the atrium funnel, which is just spectacular in person. The Vista doesn’t have the big, vaulted atriums that span from the lobby all the way up to the top deck. Instead, it just spans decks three through five, with a large LED funnel in the middle going from the bar up to the ceiling. We stood and observed it for a few moments before breaking free from the crowd of people doing the same to head down to deck 5 – we had a cabana to check out!

 

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When we were booking this trip, we were looking at balcony rooms until one day, a Havana Cabana on deck 5 popped up as available. We jumped on it, even though it was a new room type that we knew next to nothing about. And even with the questions and concerns about the privacy and safety of these rooms, we didn’t have any worries or regrets, but we did have a lot of curiosity.

 

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We walked through the Havana Bar to check out the Havana Pool deck before seeking out our room and it was this fun, colorful oasis that lived up to every hope I had for it.

 

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The cabanas can be accessed through the Havana Pool deck, but we went back the traditional way to access our room through the hotel corridor. The Havana hallway is a little darker than the other traditional room corridors, with dark wood paneling and Cuban designs on the walls.

 

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As we entered our room, aside from the festive, themed décor, it felt like the other outside cabins we’ve stayed in. The desk area is a little smaller, the closets are more functional, but it generally felt the same. On the desk waiting for us was our pre-ordered water bottles, our VIFP water bottles, our welcome letters and pins, the usual stuff, but also our Havana wristbands and access cards. The wristbands were the silicone type ones that you can take off and put on easily, which I was grateful for because I’m not an 18 year old on spring break and I didn’t dig on the idea of wearing a permanent tag for the entire cruise. The access cards were not only there to give us access to the Havana area from Ocean Plaza, but also to access our cabin if we were coming in from the Cabana. The sliding patio door locks when you close it, so in order to re-enter your cabin, you need to tag in. It might be a slight pain (and there are ways to hack the door to not lock when you close it), but it provides the security many people seemed to be concerned for given that these Cabana patios face a walkway that’s open to everyone on the ship in the evenings.

 

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Our Cabana was outfitted with a full lounger, a sitting chair, an ottoman, a table and a hammock swing – plenty of room for our family of three. There’s no privacy here if that’s something that’s important to you. Cruisers in balconies on Deck 6 can see down onto your patio, your neighbors can see onto your patio and anyone can walk past your patio at any given time, but they’re far more spacious than a standard balcony and it was such a unique experience for us that we were really excited for.

 

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Once we had settled into our room, we headed up to the Lido Marketplace for lunch. First lunch calls for tacos from the Blue Iguana, which was every bit as good as I remembered them to be.

 

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For dessert, we skipped the standard offerings of cakes and cookies and fruit and went straight for the freshly made ice cream and toppings bar. The options of the day were hazelnut and marshmallow (I opted for hazelnut) and the toppings bar was primo, with various nuts and cookie crumbles, raspberry and chocolate drizzles and my favorite, the rainbow sprinkles. A solid A+ on this new option.

 

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I couldn’t help but notice how well the Lido Marketplace was handling embarkation lunch. With so many cruises under our belts, we always kind of brace ourselves for embarkation day lunch. With limited open public areas and staterooms closed until 1:30 pm (for non-Platinum/Diamond/FTTF guests), everyone usually funnels up to the Lido Marketplace. The lines for food are bad. Wandering around looking for an empty table or having a table and getting stared down by guests trying to hawk your table as they try to figure out if you’re leaving soon or not is worse. I wasn’t sure how the Vista, the largest ship Carnival has built thus far with the largest passenger load to match, would handle it, but to my absolute delight, not only were there no lines at any of the food stations, there were plenty of open tables throughout the restaurant.

 

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Ready to walk off some of those tacos, we set out to explore this magnificent new ship. From the Water Works (with that fun new kaleidoscope slide!) to Serenity to the lobby and the lanai, what I loved about the Vista was there was something new to discover in every area of the ship, but every new feature felt distinctive to Carnival. Enough new to be exciting, but familiar enough to feel like the Carnival ships we’ve become so fond of. The Vista is truly the best of Carnival.

 

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With that gorgeous cabana outside our room, we took a break to sit out and enjoy the warm Barcelona sun and the quiet cabana area. I loved how all three of us could sit out there at once and still have plenty of room.

 

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After our short siesta, we headed back out to check out more of the ship. All of the open deck space provided for some great views of Barcelona.

 

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Our path around the outer decks led us to the Serenity deck. Usually packed from the very first day, we were surprised to find the Serenity deck relatively empty. I’m not sure where everyone was, but I wasn’t going to start complaining – the passenger to space ratio felt solid and I couldn’t ask for much more than that to start off a ten day voyage.

 

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I was hoping our luggage would be delivered early so we could get a jumpstart on unpacking, but our hallway was still empty when we checked in on it. Matt, our Cruise Director, came over the PA to announce the Fun Aboard, Fun Ashore talk was starting soon. We don’t usually attend these because we’re pretty well-acquainted with Carnival ships and the ports of call, but with only one European cruise under our belts prior to this voyage, a few extra tips and pointers couldn’t hurt. We found Matt to be funny and engaging, and we all really enjoyed his sense of humor. We were just hours into this cruise and we already knew we’d be in good hands with Matt in charge of our entertainment for the week.

 

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Our bags were waiting for us outside of our room when we returned back from the show. I unpacked my suitcase in record speed, stowed it under my bed and went to go lay out at the Havana Pool while Mom and Stephanie did the same.

 

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Muster drill was just about to start when Stephanie and Mom finished their unpacking. Most of Carnival’s ships do a traditional muster drill, where passengers line up on open deck, pack into each other’s personal space and listen to the safety announcement. It’s pretty painful (especially in the southern embarkation ports in Florida and in San Juan, where the heat and humidity don’t help the lack of personal space). On the Vista, muster drill is held in various indoor venues (our station was inside one of the dining rooms), which made for a quiet and comfortable safety briefing.

 

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The drill was over before we knew it, but our sailaway time was delayed while they finished loading some cargo onto the ship. Since we already unpacked, we took the time to explore some of the areas we hadn’t gotten to yet around the promenade and Ocean Plaza. One of the improvements I noticed right away was the expansion of open deck space, especially for the bars and restaurants. The Red Frog Pub, Fahrenheit 451, Cherry on Top and Bonzai Sushi all had outdoor seating areas that all felt unique to the venues they belonged to and offered gorgeous views of the open water. One of my favorite parts of cruising is being on the water and looking out at it, and the amount of functional outdoor spaces with ocean views was unlike any ship we’ve ever been on.

 

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The Havana Pool and deck area opens to the public at 5:30 pm every day, but didn’t seem to be too busy when we stopped by. Most of our fellow passengers seemed to be at the sailaway party up on the Lido deck. We appreciated having another (quieter) option.

 

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A brief rain shower sent us indoors for a few minutes, and we ultimately decided to head back to our cabin and take in sailaway from our cabana, where we had a nice view of the water (even if it was slightly obstructed by the glass panels).

 

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Apparently, loading cargo can be super time consuming and we were still docked in Barcelona as dinner time approached. We still hadn’t sailed on a Carnival ship with the new American Table menus and we were pretty excited for the change of pace. Unfortunately for us, nothing on the new menu appealed to us but the good news was that because it was the first night of the voyage, every specialty restaurant had a first night promo: a free bottle of wine at Fahrenheit 451, a free carafe of wine at Cucina del Capitano or free sangria sake at JiJi’s While Cucina is our usual go-to for first night dining, Stephanie and I were chomping at the bit to get back to JiJi after the incredible meal we shared there on the Sunshine over the winter. Our reservation was a little later, which gave us time to stop by the Taste Bar for a bite from Cucina del Capitano while we enjoyed the live music in Ocean Plaza.

 

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Carnival has some pretty great specialty restaurants. The steakhouse seems to be the crowd favorite and it certainly ranks at the top of steakhouses we’ve tried on the seas, but we’re partial to Cucina del Capitano and JiJi Asian Kitchen. The experience is more casual (something we lean towards since we tend to dine specialty on the first and last nights of a cruise) and the food has been consistently impressive. Cucina del Capitano offers a solid Italian menu that isn’t fancy, but is well-composed and presented. At JiJi, though, every dish is art. And at $15 per person, it’s a downright steal.

 

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JiJi is one of the newest dining concepts onboard Carnival ships (I think the only newer ones would be the Seafood Shack, which is only on the Vista, and Guy’s BBQ, which is only onboard the Magic). On the Sunshine, JiJi is in an odd position where it shares a space (that was formerly the aft pool when Sunshine was the Destiny) with both Cucina del Capitano and the Havana Bar. Each venue is separated by curtains or some shutters, but you quite literally have an Italian restaurant and an Asian eatery separated by a Cuban nightclub. It’s an odd experience. Onboard the Vista, however, JiJi has it’s own unique space, filled with bright table cloths and paintings of Buddha on the walls.

 

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As we were seated and handed our menus, the hostess asked us if we had sailed on the Sunshine recently – she remembered us from our December cruise! Apparently, many of the servers and chefs from the Sunshine’s JiJi made the transition over to launch the Vista’s JiJi. Our servers were quick to come over and introduce themselves, offer us a complimentary glass of (ridiculously delicious) sake sangria and run down the menu with us to offer their suggestions. A meal at JiJi is ordered in four family-style courses, where they generally recommend ordering as many plates as you have people in your party.

 

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While we mulled over our options, a tray of crisps and accouterments was placed on our table alongside our sake sangrias.

 

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Our appetizers came out not long after we finished off the crisps. The chicken spring rolls were good, but unremarkable in the company of the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and the delicate pot of chicken soup that was so hearty and flavorful it could heal anything that ails you.

 

Slow-Braised Pork Belly

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Chicken Spring Rolls

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Chicken & Cilantro Root Soup

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The first course set a high bar, and the second course did not disappoint. The Peppered Beef was so beautifully prepared, crowned with a crispy birds nest to add some texture to the softly shredded beef and vegetables, and the Kung Pao Chicken was prepared to order at just the right level of heat, but the true standout was the stock pig dish, which featured tender pieces of pork that were stewed before getting a quick fry in the wok.

 

Peppered Beef

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Kung Pao Chicken

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Chairman Mao’s Master Stock Pig

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The sides that flanked our entrée course would certainly be standouts of their own if they weren’t presented alongside such well-composed dishes. Our favorite was the noodles.

 

Wide Noodles

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Hot & Spicy Crisp Potato Fries

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Chinese Broccoli

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With only three options on the dessert menu, we ordered one of each. Floral flavors tend to be polarizing, so while my favorite was the Rose Crème Brulee, Mom and Stephanie were partial to crepes with bananas and citrus ice cream.

 

Fried Wonton

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Rose Crème Brulee

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Caramelized Crepes

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