Last updated: 07:40 PM ET, Wed October 19 2016

10 Food and Drink Additions You Must Try Aboard the Carnival Vista

Cruise Line & Cruise Ship | Carnival Cruise Line | Tim Wood | May 25, 2016

10 Food and Drink Additions You Must Try Aboard the Carnival Vista

PHOTO: The new dishes on display at the Seafood Shack. (All photos by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line)

ABOARD THE CARNIVAL VISTA – Carnival Cruise Line president Christine Duffy began her address to the sizeable press corps aboard the newest beauty of the fleet by calling the Carnival Vista “a new chapter” in the cruise line’s ever-evolving story.

“We’re leaning into our legacy with fresh eyes and new perspectives while always trying to innovate for the consumer,” Duffy said. And while technology steals the innovation spotlight on the Vista, the ship’s newest food and drink offerings have been a huge hit for the foodies and drink aficionados looking for a new experience onboard.

Here are our thoughts on the 10 new and/or improved culinary adventures on the Vista.

Seafood Shack: Fresh catches have always been a daily specialty in Carnival’s dining rooms, but seafood has a permanent home on Vista in the form of a New England seaside shanty. New England clam chowder, Lobster BLTs and lobster rolls are the featured dishes at this, additional-charge eatery. The fish and chips are the value play and each lightly fried filet I ate, during the cruise, tasted fresher than the last.  It was very reminiscent of the Nova Scotia chefs who catch haddock on their docks and instantly prepare it.

Duffy and other Carnival execs were a big fan of the lobster roll and lobster BLT, and for good reason. While a bit pricey, the portions and preparation make the price tag worth it. You’ll get more lobster per dollar spent here than you do in Maine.

Pro tip: Vista hotel director Pierre Camilleri suggests ordering the fresh catches that chefs pick up at ports throughout the cruise. You pay market price for the local delicacies but can order the dish at the Seafood Shack earlier in the day to enjoy in the Reflections or Horizons dining room for dinner.

Shake Spot: Soft-serve ice cream is available 24 hours a day on the lido deck, but this Deck 5 marvel features milkshakes and floats for an additional fee. This dairy delight was retrofitted into the Carnival Sunshine, but the Vista is the first to feature a built-in space for brain freeze heaven.

Improved Room Service for a Price: I know, paid add-ons is a theme in the first three items. But each of the experiences proves to be worth the splurge. There is still a basic menu of delicious free items available for cabin delivery 24 hours, but aboard the Vista, there is an additional page of nine new offerings, priced between $1.50 and $6. Chicken wings tossed in five flavor options, chicken tenders, spicy fried shrimp, chicken quesadillas, Philly cheesesteak, pan pizza, regular and sweet potato fries and a banana split are now available for delivery for a fee. My son and I sampled many of the offerings and found each dish to be worth the additional charge. While I don’t welcome the end of all-inclusive dining, making its way to the room service menu, it’s at least an affordable upcharge that feels premium.

Havana Bar: While not a new concept, the Cuban-themed bar got a stylish upgrade fitting of the modern color schemes evident shipwide on the Vista. What at times felt like a hidden-away afterthought on the Breeze feels like a point of pride here – fitting given sister line Fathom becoming the first U.S. commercial cruise ship in nearly four decades to sail to Cuba. A steady menu of music, daily snack treat surprises and outdoor seating have made this a nighttime hotspot for young and old. And each of the booths has a domino rack smartly worked into the design, adding to the authentic feel by providing ample space to partake in the country’s unofficial national pastime.

Al Fresco Dining: The Havana Bar isn’t the only one to have open-air seating. Vista was designed to give diners and revelers both indoor and outdoor seating options. Al fresco seating is available at Bonsai Sushi, Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, The Library Bar, RedFrog Pub and Ocean Plaza.

The Clubhouse: While a bar in the Sportsquare area is not a new concept for Carnival, Vista has reimagined the space. The bar is now inside this newly conceived space, with an outdoor ordering window still available. The bar is flanked by new gaming experiences and old favorites, with sky billiards (a combination of pool and soccer pictured above) on the right side of the space and ping pong and a two-lane mini bowling alley (a first for the fleet and similar to what families have seen at Great Wolf Lodge) on the left side. This space is not being promoted heavily in the Vista launch but is one of the many Easter egg finds cruisegoers will notice around the ship.

The Library Bar: The library space has been the ugly duckling for most cruise lines over the past decade. Here, Carnival has created the typical reading space with a bar area to freshen up the concept.

This was the biggest missed opportunity for me, though I am glad Carnival hasn't abandoned the library when other cruise lines have punted. 

While it creates more of a hipster hangout feel, I would suggest going all in on the space and also sell pastries and cookies in the bar to give it the full-on Starbucks vibe. Still, good to still have the quiet space for reading or playing games.

The biggest miss: no extra outlets to plug in laptops anywhere in the bar area. Again, if you want to create a true quiet hangout space, do it up right. Each table should have a slew of plugs going up the base.

Dreamscape: Those who have been to the Cowfish Café in Universal’s Citywalk will recognize this new feature. In the atrium bar area and the mezzanine area, you’ll find this electronic installation, full of digital jellyfish swimming up the brightly lit centerpiece.

Old Faves: Guy’s Burger Joint is once again center stage on the lido deck and more popular and delicious than ever. Carnival is expanding its relationship with Fieri by creating a branded barbecue space on the ship in the near future (Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que, a feature already available on the Magic).

While the EA branding is gone, The Skybox offers a similar sports bar experience with a bank of connected TVs that eat up the backdrop wall and XBox gaming stations available when live sporting events aren’t featured in the bar.

The atrium bar and the casino bar are still on the Vista, but have more clearly defined circularly cordoned main seating areas. And the popular Cucina del Capitano is now offering a free lunch bar while the popular Mongolian Wok serving station has been repositioned as the lunch offering at the Pacific Rim-themed JiJi Asian Kitchen.

Beer Bonanza: While the first-ever brewery aboard a cruise ship in North America is impressive to witness, the beer coming from the brewery is quite impressive. Miami's Concrete Beach Brewery was chosen as the onboard partner for the Vista and the result is three unique brews — ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin' IPA, a hop-heavy taste with hints of passion fruit and citrus; ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat, an unfiltered lager; and FriskyFrog Java Stout, a creamy dark beer with an infusion of coffee flavor — that join the ThirstyFrog Red, a winner already used on many of the fleet that is on par with a Blue Moon or comparable offering. Always cold and goes down smooth with plenty of flavor and minimal kick. 

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