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Nicole721

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

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Our walking tour ended where it began, at the Place de la République, and we were set free for two hours of independent touring. Many people in our tour headed off to spend more time with the Roman ruins, but we headed off to wander around, take some pictures and see what other corners of the town we could discover.

 

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We stopped in a bakery we found not far from the Place de Forum to pick up some croissants and pastries for the bus ride later. Stopping for a croissant in France is a necessity, a right of passage, after all, right?

 

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Since there are so many cafes in the Place de Forum, we decided we’d grab an early lunch since we didn’t know how much free time we’d have later in Aix en Provence. I’m not one to choose restaurants that are super touristy (you won’t find me dining at the top of the Eiffel Tower anytime soon), but dining at the café that inspired one of Van Gogh’s works just felt really cool, so we headed towards Le Café de la Nuit, opting for seating on the open patio instead of indoors, even in the cool spring air.

 

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We ordered a round of cappuccinos and some salads. The cappuccinos were great, the salads were so so, the service left something to be desired. But sitting outside in Arles on a beautiful day, listening to the wind rustle through the trees, it was bliss. Sheer bliss. And so cliché. Painfully cliché. But I just sat there, cappuccino in hand, at a café one of my favorite artists once painted listening to the wind dance through the trees, and that was it. I took it all in and wondered (for the millionth time) how it gets any better, how lucky was I to get to take this all in, how we were just one port in and it was already so, so good.

 

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Once we finished our lunch and settled our bill, we set out to do some souvenir shopping. We walked back up the streets towards the ruins and the amphitheater, where a series of shops and stalls had everything from French soaps to linens and every souvenir you could think of. I purchased a few ceramic pieces on the way, but my target was anything lavender I could get my hands on. Nearly every store had lavender drawer satchels, which were just a few Euro and made great souvenirs for friends (and make all of my clothes smell like the south of France!).

 

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Two hours went by faster than I would have liked, and our group met up at an old carousel and waited for our bus to pick us up and whisk us off to our next location.

 

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After we left Arles, we began the hour drive to Aix-en-Provence. While Arles was antiquated, Aix was almost a full opposite: cosmopolitan and modern (for a French village), with hundreds of shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars. They even have a Monoprix (which, if you didn’t follow along on our last Paris trip, I’m completely obsessed with)! And a Lush! And an Apple Store (hello, free wifi)! And best of them all, La Cure Gourmande, my favorite French sweet shop. The manicured streets reminded me of Beverly Hills, and there were people everywhere. It provided an interesting juxtaposition to our quiet morning in Arles.

 

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On Sunday’s, vendors set up tables on the street and sell handmade jewelry, baked goods, scarves…everything. We didn’t have time to browse, though, because Alex was starting our walking tour of Aix.

 

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Our walking tour led us through the town, past all of these fun shops and bakeries with gorgeous macaroons on display. The more we walked and the more she talked, the more I wanted that free time. At some point, she mentioned she was hoping to get us 40 minutes of free time. Our walking tour was nearly an hour and a half, so while it was nice to explore the town with Alex’s colorful commentary, I wish our time was better balanced to allow for more free time to explore Aix at our own pace.

 

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Our time in Aix was brief, but enough to get a taste of the history and vibe, and enough to know that the next time we’re in Marseille, a return visit will be towards the top of our list. The ride back to the port took about 40 minutes and we arrived not long before back onboard. We skipped the hut at the port selling last minute souvenirs and some sketchy looking luggage pieces and headed towards what seemed like the shortest line.

 

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Our first port day brought our first elegant evening, so we headed straight to our cabin to start getting ready for our first big night out. Our Platinum sweet plate was delivered during the day and was waiting for us when we got in, a nice treat to nibble on while we got ready.

 

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We usually do a round of glamour shots on our balcony before dinner, but our patio served as the perfect space to snap a few pictures and enjoy the brisk air as the Vista began to pull away from Marseille.

 

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We’re fans of My Fan Dining over the traditional static dining time because it allows us the flexibility to dine whenever we want. Since we tend to dine early, we almost never have issues with waits. The Vista handles My Time Dining a little differently than other Carnival ships. Instead of going straight to the dining room, check in is at the Java Blue Café in Ocean Plaza…unless you’re Platinum or Diamond. If you’re in the upper tiers of the VIFP program, you can go straight to the dining room for priority seating. We appreciated the perk, but it was unnecessary -- at just past 6:00 pm, the dining room was nearly empty. The dining staff was efficient, but weren’t incredibly outgoing, and though we were excited for our first dining experience with the American Table menus, we weren’t particularly wow’ed by anything we tried this night.

 

Bread Basket

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Shrimp Cocktail

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Italian Wedding Soup

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Tart with Braised Kale, Blackened Pork Tenderloin

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Baby Spinach Salad

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Broiled Maine Lobster Tail

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Chicken Breast

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Flat Iron Steak

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Malted Chocolate Cake

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Cheese Plate

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Edited by Nicole721

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We walked off our dinner on deck 5, stopping into the Havana Bar for a bit and strolling the lanai outside of Ocean Plaza before heading up to the Lido deck for some tea.

 

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Our Platinum logo gifts, a stationary set for each of us, were waiting on the bed with a towel animal and the next day’s Fun Times when we returned to the room.

 

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Once I changed from heels to flats, we headed back out to the Liquid Lounge for the first Playlist Production show, Studio VIP. Carnival ships used to have these large, grandiose theaters but they’ve been transitioning away from the traditional theater and more towards multi-functional spaces. The Liquid Lounge serves as a theater during the day and early evening and then transforms into a dance club in the late night hours. This evening, it served as the home to Studio VIP, a show that pays homage to the disco era. We’ve seen Studio VIP before, onboard the Sunshine a few months prior, but it’s always interesting to see the energy a new cast brings to these shows, especially in the case of the Vista, which has a full production troupe. A few years back, Carnival cut back on its production troupe, going from two main singers and a full dance troupe to a cast of eight or so singers who could also dance. In a move that I hope is a sign of things to come on other ships, the production cast onboard the Vista has a full troupe of four singer/dancers, four dancer/singers and four dancers that don’t sing at all – a cast of 12. It brought more depth to the show and we really enjoyed it.

 

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Pitch Perfect 2 was playing up at the Seaside Theatre, so we grabbed some blankets and some popcorn and settled in under the stars, looking up things we wanted to see and do in Florence the next day and keeping up with the score of the Cubs game back home.

 

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After the movie, we headed out to grab a late night snack. Carnival’s late night offerings change year to year (and sometimes, ship to ship). There’s been the late night grill, the late night tapas, late night night bites featuring sandwiches and hot dogs…it’s always something different. There’s always pizza, ice cream and room service – those are available 24/7. On the Vista, they don’t really have a late night menu, opting instead to offer “Pizza Plus” after 11:00 pm. The pizza part was self explanatory – the five pizzas on the Pizzeria del Capitano menu are available – but the plus part expanded the menu to include Caesar salad, lasagna and a chicken parmesan sandwich. For most of the cruise, some (and on some nights, all) of the plus items weren’t available, but this felt like a new program and I’m sure, like anything else on a new ship, it was a kink they just needed to work out.

 

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We plotted out our plans for the next day over our snacks, not quite ready to go to bed. But we had an early morning wakeup and we’d need any and all the rest we could get – we were hitting Pisa and Florence the next day.

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I have been reading your reviews for a few years now and am so happy to find this one. I'm really enjoying what you have, and your beautiful pictures of course. I really love your writing style and how you tell the story from beginning to end. I am really looking forward to following along on this one. Thank you for taking the time to share another review.

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I just want to say that i regularly read reviews, but I'll admit about somewhere near the halfway point it just turns to picture turning, but I have read every single one of your words, as I see so much of myself in you as a traveler! I can survive on adrenaline for days, love the view of a transatlantic flights, and live for the feeling of exploration. Even though I have no plans to cruise on Vista, and my trip to Europe in July is all on land and (mostly) planned (actually, Barcelona is one of the last places on my "Okay-You-ABSOLUTELY-MUST-see-No-Ifs-Ands-or-Buts" list, and I have been trying to incorporate adding it, but that's all semantics.

 

I can't thank you enough for your amazing writing style, I love your photos and commentary very much! I look forward to the rest of your review, I may even go scout some of your previous ones

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

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that looks soooo good!

 

It was!!!

 

Yay! So excited for another one of your reviews! I really enjoy your reviews & you always have great pictures!

 

Thank you! :D

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I have been reading your reviews for a few years now and am so happy to find this one. I'm really enjoying what you have, and your beautiful pictures of course. I really love your writing style and how you tell the story from beginning to end. I am really looking forward to following along on this one. Thank you for taking the time to share another review.

 

I really hope you enjoy this one as much as I've enjoyed writing it! :)

 

Amazing review!

 

Thank you!

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Still loving it :-)

Sea ya

Eric

 

 

Sent from my iPad using Forums

 

Woo! I'm glad! :D

 

I just want to say that i regularly read reviews, but I'll admit about somewhere near the halfway point it just turns to picture turning, but I have read every single one of your words, as I see so much of myself in you as a traveler! I can survive on adrenaline for days, love the view of a transatlantic flights, and live for the feeling of exploration. Even though I have no plans to cruise on Vista, and my trip to Europe in July is all on land and (mostly) planned (actually, Barcelona is one of the last places on my "Okay-You-ABSOLUTELY-MUST-see-No-Ifs-Ands-or-Buts" list, and I have been trying to incorporate adding it, but that's all semantics.

 

I can't thank you enough for your amazing writing style, I love your photos and commentary very much! I look forward to the rest of your review, I may even go scout some of your previous ones

 

 

Sent from my iPhone using Forums

 

Oh my goodness, that is quite the compliment! Thank you! :)

 

Which countries are you hitting on your Europe trip? Inquiring minds must know :)

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Day 6: Livorno, Italy

 

I remember our last (and first) visit to Florence vividly.

 

Granted, it was only a year ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday.

 

I remember entering through the Palazzo Panciatichi and wondering to myself what was so special about Florence that everyone I know who has visited waxed poetic about it. I remember the first time I saw the Duomo di Fiorenze and the way it made my breath hitch as I took in its red tiled roof and imposing stature. I remember the shopping. I remember the gelato. I remember everything.

 

((Everything except, apparently, the names of the places we dined and shopped at. But more on that later))

 

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So when we docked in Livorno, I knew exactly what I was in for and I couldn’t even try to temper my anticipation. I made sure the batteries (and extra batteries) were charged, I had extra Euros for the shopping I’d surely be doing and a list of places to see and things to do. I was ready.

 

The only thing I couldn’t anticipate was the weather. The Weather Channel and Accuweather were both changing their forecasts for this day almost hourly since it was forecastable ten days earlier. Rain, sun, heat, cold. How do you dress for that?

 

((Rhetorical question, but the answer is layers and lots of ‘em))

 

When we figured out the outfit situation, we grabbed our tour tickets and our bags and headed out for breakfast. One of the new options on the Vista is a full hot breakfast served at the Taste Bar in Ocean Plaza. This helps aid the crowding issues that usually plague the Lido Marketplace on port days and we found it quiet with ample offerings (eggs, sausage, bacon, grits and oatmeal bar, cereals and milks, fruits and cheeses and meats and yogurts, breads – all of the typical breakfast fare). It was also super convenient for us, since the Taste Bar was steps from our cabin.

 

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Once we were fed and caffeinated, we headed to the Horizons Dining Room on Deck 3 to meet our tour. Having done a full and comprehensive tour of Florence last year, we opted for a tour that would optimize our free time and also allow us a visit to Pisa (which we’d never visited before): Florence & Pisa On Your Own. This tour would give us about an hour in Pisa and four hours in Florence to do whatever we wanted. We could sightsee, we could dine, we could shop, we could stand in Miracle Square and pose with the Leaning Tower or sit in front of the Duomo di Fiorenze and gape at its enormity. Whatever we wanted. Free time is a premium on many of the tours offered through the ship and one we’ve come to really appreciate.

 

Our tour number was called just as we got our stickers and we headed down to the gangway to meet our tour guide. One thing that’s been done differently on this cruise is instead of all tours meeting in one place and multiple tours leaving at once, on the Vista, multiple venues are used as meeting spots, which cleans up the process a bit and makes it much less frenetic.

 

We were escorted down to deck zero to disembark, where we met up with our tour guide, Sibilla, at the end of the cruise terminal and boarded our motorcoach for the day. As we pulled away from Livorno, Sibilla handed out maps and gave an overview of the day: we’d begin at Pisa (a 30-40 minute drive from the pier), where we’d have an hour at Miracle Square. From there, we’d have an hour and 40 minute drive to Florence, where we’d have until 3:30 pm to explore whatever we wanted before the hour and a half drive back to the ship in Livorno.

 

As we pulled out of the port, the skies darkened and it began to drizzle heavily. The storm seemed isolated and as we approached Pisa, a beautiful rainbow appeared over the Tuscan countryside, an omen for the day to come.

 

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The bus pulled into a lot about a ten minute walk from the Piazza dei Miracoli, or

Miracle Square. Sibilla explained that the busses can’t pull up to the sites for a few reasons, namely because they are protected places and busses (and in some cases, cars in general) can’t enter because of the pollution and vibration they cause. The walk wasn’t bad, but some members of the group had trouble keeping up. Even though this was an “on your own” tour, it was a moderate activity level and there was some level of activity that was required of the tour.

 

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The walk took us across a few streets and some railroad tracks where we were immediately approached by vendors hocking umbrellas, and as we approached the square, there were more and more vendors with carts and shops full of trinkets and souvenirs. Prices were pretty cheap at Pisa, so if you’re looking for the typical keychains and t-shirts, Pisa may be a good place to start if you’re stopping that way.

 

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Sibilla had mentioned that Miracle Square was given that name by an artist who saw it and said “What a miracle of a field!” and, walking in, it’s clear why: there’s so much beauty in such a small space. The square was actually bigger than I had expected it to be, but it’s still small in comparison to the field of exploration in, say, Florence. The whole field and everything in it is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

 

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We arrived at 9:00 am and didn’t face too heavy of crowds, but by the time we left, it was difficult to navigate the walkways. People were everywhere, trying to replicate the typical pushing-up-the-Leaning-Tower or squishing-the-Leaning-Tower-between-their-fingers poses (we opted for the Tower-in-the-palm-of-our-hands shot, ourselves).

 

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There are four main sites in the square: the Pisa Cathedral (a medieval cathedral dedicated to Santa Maria Assunta), the Pisa Baptistery (a circular Romanesque structure built in the 12th century and dedicated to St. John the Baptist), the Leaning Tower (also known as the campanile, or bell tower, which took over 177 years to build – the fabled lean in the tower began five years into construction when the tower began to sink due to a poor foundation and weak soil) and the Camposanto Monumentale (a cemetery built on sacred soil brought over from Calvary in the 12th century). You can see aspects of all four structures from most vantage points throughout the square.

 

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While the Leaning Tower is the marquee attraction, the most striking thing to me was actually the way all of the monuments were lined up. The square may be small, but there’s a lot of beauty packed into that small space. And while we only had an hour to explore, it was plenty to not only see and explore all of the monuments, but we also had time to peruse the shopping and, if we wanted to, grab food (there are a few cafeterias, as well as a McDonald’s and a Burger King).

 

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As an aggregate, these sites all go together really well. Next to each other, they all make sense. But separately, they’re even more stunning. The detail on each, from the etchings to the arches, are so meticulously designed. They’re marvels.

 

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Our group reconvened at the front entrance at 10:00 am and Sibilla led us to the tour bus, where she let us know that our tour bus was equipped with free wifi. Wifi on busses?! What a time to be alive! I did try to minimize my usage, though, because while my cellular dependency can reach levels that heavily embarrass my mother and sister, I was in Tuscany, and nothing on my phone was going to be more important or better than what was outside of my window.

 

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The drive to Florence passed quickly and we arrived around noon. On the drive over, Sibilla went over the maps with us, noting a shortcut she’d highlighted on our maps, where our meeting point was and her recommendations.

 

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Though the tour description offered four hours of free time in Florence, by the time we had walked from the bus to our meeting point in Piazza Santa Croce, it was just over three hours. While the rest of the group followed Sibilla into a shop for a leather demo, we ducked away to begin going through the list of things we wanted to see and do.

 

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Stop one? Lunch. I wanted to grab sandwiches from a little hole in the wall (literally) that I’ve seen recommended everywhere. Stephanie wanted to sit somewhere and have a formal meal. She won, and we ended up at a restaurant called Francesco Vini, which was just up the street from Piazza Santa Croce. We dined on bruschetta, pastas and pizza and washed it down with some Chianti. The food was great, but European style dining is much more relaxed than in the US and a sit down meal can take hours. This one was much quicker than our meal in Arles the day before, but still took up well over an hour our free time.

 

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After lunch, we made our way through as much of Florence as we could, starting at the Palazzo Vecchio, where a replica statue of Michelangelo’s David stands in the same place the original once stood, to the so-beautiful-it-could-be-a-Hollywood-studio Piazza della Repubblica and the Ponte Vecchio, considered to be the most beautiful bridge in the world (so beautiful, Sibilla told us, that Adolf Hitler spared it from destruction in World War 2). We stopped into some shops along the way to browse for leather goods and scarves. We tried to find the leather shop and coffeehouse we visited the year before, but Florence is a massive maze of streets and side streets and we just didn’t have the time to wander around to find them. But you know, being forced into making new favorites is never a bad thing.

 

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