Setting Sail aboard Carnival Vista for the Western Caribbean

Welcome aboard Carnival Vista! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sandwiched between Carnival Splendor and Norwegian Getaway at the Port of Miami, there she was: Carnival Cruise Line’s flagship, Carnival Vista. Over the next six days, she’ll take me to Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. While we’re docked in Cozumel, another treat: a CarnivalLIVE performance featuring comedian Jay Leno. And it all starts right here, in Miami.

Our full itinerary:

Carnival Vista - 6 Night Western Caribbean

Sunday, April 30, 2017MiamiEmbarkation4:30 PM
Monday, May 1At Sea
Tuesday, May 2Ocho Rios, Jamaica8:00 AM4:00 PM
Wednesday, May 3Georgetown, Grand Cayman8:00 AM4:00 PM
Thursday, May 4Cozumel, Mexico / Carnival LIVE performance with Jay Leno10:00 AM11:00 PM
Friday, May 5At Sea
Saturday, May 7, 2017Miami7:00 AMDisembark

Launched just last year, Carnival Vista is the largest and most innovative ship in Carnival’s 25-vessel fleet and, as I discovered after spending just a few hours onboard, she’s poised to be one of the most influential Fun Ships since Carnival Fantasy debuted back in 1990.

At 133,500 gross tons, the 3,934-guest Carnival Vista is slightly larger than Carnival’s Dream Class ships, which include Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic and Carnival Breeze. Although similar in exterior appearance, the 1,055-foot long Carnival Vista includes a substantial number of distinctions; so many so that she is the lead vessel in Carnival’s newest class of ship: the Vista Class.

Carnival Vista at anchor later in my cruise, off Georgetown, Grand Cayman on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

While Carnival Breeze ushered in a new décor scheme for Carnival and did away with the zany creations of longtime interior designer Joe Farcus, Carnival Vista permanently erases the wacky interior design of old. She also features a completely rethought General Arrangement plan, which has changed the size, style and location of the ship’s public rooms substantially over the Dream Class. However, because of that, even experienced Carnival cruisers are going to have to spend a day or so familiarizing themselves with the new locations of all their favourite venues.

A Whole New Carnival

When I stepped aboard just after 1:00pm, I stepped from the tide-sensing gangway directly into Carnival Vista’s technologically-impressive atrium. Spanning three decks in height, this more intimate space is dominated by the Dreamscape: a digital LED sculpture rising from the Atrium Bar to the ceiling that replicates an aquarium (without all that troublesome real water). Ambient lighting helps add to the “undersea” vibe.

The first thing most guests will see as they step aboard Carnival Vista…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…is the ship’s futuristic, three-story atrium. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But look closely: this is the first Carnival ship in 27 years to lack a soaring atrium topped with a skylight and flanked by banks of glass elevators. And that’s totally okay. It feels more modern and classy, with its sweeping glass staircases and white-panelled walls, than past ships have. Soaring atriums, once all the rage in the 1990’s and the early part of the 2000’s, are slowly being replaced with more intimate areas on many ships. From a design perspective, this makes perfect sense: a 10-story atrium eats up a lot of real estate space that could be used better for cabins, public areas, or in the case of Carnival Vista: the first-ever IMAX theatre at sea, situated two decks above the Atrium on Deck 7.

Cool new stairwell artwork adorns the forward, midship and aft staircases. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Staircases and elevator banks are spacious, well-lit, and feature signage that makes it easy to find your way around this massive, 1,055-foot long ship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A walk up the forward stair tower reveals more welcome changes: new stairwell art featuring extruded, backlit photographs of famous locations around the world; better signage; and well-designed cabin corridors that play on the tropical, Island-theme developed for the Carnival Breeze, complete with island photographs and faux slatted wood panelling on stateroom doors.

Carnival Vista carries over the more mature, colourful decor developed on Carnival Breeze. Passenger cabin corridors are particularly attractive. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

That’s not to say other Carnival ships aren’t worthwhile: they are. But Carnival Vista offers so many subtle tweaks and enhancements that you’re bound to find something new to love on this ship. And if you’ve never done a Carnival cruise before, this is the perfect ship to try first.

At Home on the High Seas

My home for the next six days: Category 8E Balcony Stateroom, 9335. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

My home for the next six days a Category 8E Balcony stateroom on Deck 9. Carnival has always had generously-sized staterooms, and this one is no exception. The room itself measures 185-square feet, with a 35-square foot exterior balcony, for a total size of 220 square feet.

The stateroom is nearly identical in décor to those found aboard Carnival Breeze, with blue-and-yellow patterned carpeting and a desk and vanity area situated next to three closets. But there are some important new enhancements for Carnival Vista.

Staterooms aboard Carnival Vista are filled with dozens of little refinements over past ships, like more open, generous desk space…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and life vests that are located underneath the bed. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

To start with, gone is the desk-mounted flat-panel TV; the new flat-panel interactive TV is substantially larger and is mounted to the cabin wall. The desk-mounted safe is also gone, and now sits more conveniently in the first closet nearest the desk. This gives the desk a much more open, airy feel than previous ships.

New digital thermostats replace the old, often cumbersome analog ones of days gone by. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

You’ll need to put your keycard in this slot in order to turn your lights on. Note that this also controls power to the outlets on the desk; if you’re charging devices, they won’t do so once you leave the room. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There’s also more power outlets available: two 120V (North American) outlets, one 230V (two-prong European), and two USB plugs, all of which are situated near the desk. Bonus points too for the three storage shelves near the desk, which feature small but effective lips on them to ensure nothing slides off in inclement weather.

The view from my balcony provides a great look at the Port of Miami…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and the work going on below to prepare Carnival Vista for sailing! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is Classic Carnival, save for a better sink fixture and walls that, I swear, are less yellow in tone than they used to be. These modular bathrooms have a toilet, sink, six shelves, and a shower with pump-style dispensers for shampoo and body wash affixed to the wall. The classic shower curtain is there, though this one is heavier and doesn’t seem to want to cling like the old curtains of days gone by. The shower is also spacious enough that you don’t feel crushed into it. Comedians are going to have to get some new ship jokes.

Stateroom bathrooms are standard Carnival, and are well-designed. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There’s no shortage of towels, mirrors, or counter and storage space here. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A total of six shelves are available to store toiletries; substantially more than some ships. 2017 Aaron Saunders

More cool new features: redesigned cabin ceiling lighting that’s now power-saving LED (say goodbye to that old fluorescent flicker as the lights blinked on when the switch was pushed), better temperature controls, and lifejackets that are now stored underneath the bed and no longer take up valuable closet space. Don’t worry: you can still slide your suitcase under the bed without any difficulty.

Setting Sail and Exploring the Vista

Carnival Vista has a number of open, passenger-accessible decks all the way forward…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…that provide for some pretty great views of departure…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…from Miami! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After the customary lifeboat drill (where attendance was taken by scanning guests’ keycards as they filed into their muster station), Carnival Vista rumbled to life as I was unpacking my suitcase. I didn’t even realize we were moving until I looked out my stateroom window and noticed the terminal building slipping away from us.

Carnival Vista carries on one of the great innovations that many Carnival ships have always had: forward-facing observation areas. In fact, guests can step out onto the forward observation deck areas on six different decks: Decks 5, 6, 7; and Decks 9, 10 and 11. Decks 5, 6 and 7 are connected via exterior staircases, as are Decks 9, 10 and 11. The Navigation Bridge on Deck 8 disrupts that flow, so you have to go inside the ship, up one deck, and all the way forward on the port (left) side of the ship if you want to reach Deck 9.

I feel bad even telling you about this, because I selfishly want these decks to myself. Only a handful of people even know they can do this, so they’re wonderfully uncrowded for sailaways – so keep it to yourself, okay?

From Deck 9 forward: the best view in the house. Looking astern as we leave Miami. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

I think the observation area on Deck 9 is the best, and here’s why: you can step out onto the roof of the bridge wings that extend out over the side of the ship, for a spectacular view along the length of the Carnival Vista.

Watching from Carnival Vista’s forward observation decks…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

….as we sail out of the cut…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…past the beachgoers…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and into the open Atlantic. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

After sailaway, it was time for dinner at Cucina del Capitano. Located on Deck 11 Aft (you can reach it through the aft staircase and elevator tower), this tucked-away gem serves up authentic Italian creations in a room with plenty of Carnival heritage, from photos of past ships to pictures of some of the company’s long history of Italian-born Officers.

Tonight, I dined in…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…Cucina del Capitano. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Appetizers are trotted out family-style, which means they’re meant to be enjoyed by the entire table. You then choose an entrée (that you can selfishly keep to yourself), followed by dessert.

I like my pasta al dente, and I despise when it comes out all soggy and lifeless – which, for whatever reason, seems to happen a lot on ships. Not here: my pasta actually came out cooked to perfection. Coupled with a nice glass of Italian wine, dinner was a relaxed affair that is well worth the nominal cover charge to dine here. Who wants to stand in line at the buffet when you can do this?

A Carnival Classic: Spaghetti Carbonara, served on every ship since the line’s inception. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

To close out my night, there’s only one place to go: Carnival’s spectacular Alchemy Bar. This is seriously my favorite craft cocktail bar on the High Seas; no other line even comes close to touching what Carnival is doing here.

And there, behind the bar, is Gabriel. I met Gabriel onboard Carnival Pride last summer, and this guy can seriously whip up a good drink. He and his team at Alchemy here onboard the Carnival Vista are second-to-none, and they’re friendly as all heck, too.

The Alchemy Bar, before the rush. This is one of Carnival’s best innovations. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There is a menu for Alchemy, but there’s no point in ordering off it: just tell Gabriel what you like. Something sweet. Something smoky. Something scotch-based, or gin based, or vodka, or bourbon. Whatever your poison is. Tell him what you don’t like; he’ll avoid it. And then, he and his team will whip you up a craft concoction.

A couple sitting next to me asked what I was drinking. I said I had absolutely no idea, other than it was made with scotch and Gabriel lit an orange peel on fire (briefly, and purposely) while making it. That’s what makes this bar so cool: it’s never the same experience twice.

Gabriel and his bar team at Alchemy on Carnival Vista will whip up a drink custom-made to suit your tastes…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and they’ll do it with flair, too. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

What is this, you ask? Something smokey and scotch-based. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

In a way, that’s also like Carnival. You might have heard things about Carnival – about its past, party-hard ways. That still exists, to a degree. But today’s Carnival is all grown up. It’s fun, and yes, people still hammer back the Bud Light like it’s going out of style. But even an old man at heart like myself can find my happy place aboard one of the line’s Fun Ships – and Carnival Vista makes it easier than ever to do so.

Our Voyage Report onboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Vista continues tomorrow with a Fun Day at Sea. Follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog.

Carnival Vista - 6 Night Western Caribbean

Sunday, April 30, 2017MiamiEmbarkation4:30 PM
Monday, May 1At Sea
Tuesday, May 2Ocho Rios, Jamaica8:00 AM4:00 PM
Wednesday, May 3Georgetown, Grand Cayman8:00 AM4:00 PM
Thursday, May 4Cozumel, Mexico / Carnival LIVE performance with Jay Leno10:00 AM11:00 PM
Friday, May 5At Sea
Saturday, May 7, 2017Miami7:00 AMDisembark

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