Photos by Jason Leppert
Carnival Cruise Line
At a Glance
By the Numbers
• Lifestyle: Standard
• Tonnage: 133,500
• Launched: 2016
• Passengers: 3,936
• Crew: 1,450
• Passenger Space Ratio: 33.92
Take a Bow (What to Like)
Pain in the Aft (What to Dislike)
• Great Unique IMAX Theater and SkyRide
• Excellent Comfort Food and Specialty Dining
• Always Fulfilled Promise of Fun
• Poorly Configured Liquid Lounge Theater
• Tiny Cloud 9 Spa Thermal Suite
• Passe Bathroom Shower Curtains
Who Should Book
• Activity-loving foodies who appreciate the latest entertainment and deck attractions at an exceptional value.
Who Should Skip
• Cruisers looking for the highest passenger space ratio and most attentive service.
The Carnival Vista is the largest ship yet from Carnival Cruise Line, growing a bit since the Carnival Breeze before her and continuing the much-improved decor from its predecessor now that Joe Farcus is no longer applying his garish designs to the newest ships. That means the aesthetic is much more subtle with a beach resort vibe that remains fun without being outrageous as in the past.
There have also been a number of changes on the bigger ship since the Breeze—most are improvements.
The promenade deck levels flow better, and while the casino still smells of cigarette smoke, at least it does not drift beyond thanks to a secondary glass-enclosed atrium above.
The primary atrium (pictured above) no longer soars from the lower decks all the way to the pool deck with glass elevators but does feature an awesome LED-clad funnel for displaying kinetic imagery throughout the day.
Infilling the atrium now are more staterooms, and more passengers onboard results in less volume of the ship to go around per individual.
There is a tiny thermal suite in the Cloud 9 Spa for fewer to partake, and there is no dedicated nightclub. Instead, the Liquid Lounge unfortunately serves double duty as a theater and disco that is no longer three decks in height but only two. Worse yet, this causes very shallow to-no-seating inclination, making for terrible sight lines behind the most forward rows.
As for accommodations, cabin layouts will be very familiar to anyone who has ever sailed on Carnival before. The lighter new beachy blues and peaches are pleasant, and storage is sufficient for two but challenging for more. Beds are actually quite comfy for a standard line, with only the sofa being rather stiff. The fixed window and swinging door to the balcony is a better configuration over sliders as well.
The bathrooms are getting a little tired. While the shower is easy enough to turn around in thanks to a squared-off footprint, the curtain just comes across as cheesy. The competition features fixed enclosures now, and Carnival should too.
Otherwise, the bathroom functions well, and the soap and shampoo maintain their fresh aromas. What is a mystery, however, is the inexplicable absence of conditioner, which would be a welcome replacement of the shower gel that is redundant to the bar soap.
Carnival is forever the "Fun Ship" brand, and the Vista delivers on that promise every time. Activities are ample onboard, and new attractions like the SkyRide (pictured below) literally raise the bar even higher than before.
The suspended bicycle-pedaling track is more thrilling than expected, crafting the closest experience to a roller coaster at sea. Even better is that the pair of rails allow for racing and crisscross each other for varied outside paths high above the ocean.
Other classics like Carnival WaterWorks (pictured below) are still along for the ride but are enhanced with a new Kaleid-O-Slide for fast inner-tube rides surrounded by psychedelic colors. Even more basic activities like trivia are more enjoyable on Carnival thanks to a wonderful entertainment staff and fun "ship-on-a-stick" trophies.
With great kids facilities to adults-only areas, the Vista truly is a ship for everyone.
One needs only look to its dining to get a sense for how great a value Carnival is: It's amazing that so many wonderful venues are free, especially the comfort food oases of Pizzeria del Capitano, Guy's Burger Joint, Guy's Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse and BlueIguana Cantina (its exceptional fresh tacos pictured below).
The signature warm chocolate melting cake remains a staple in the main dining room, and surf-and-turf is nice as well. However, other dishes are somewhat average and leave something to be desired. The buffet is often a better choice for improved flavor profiles.
The Vista's specialty restaurants are remarkably tasty. They newly include the excellent Seafood Shack and an air-conditioned Chef's Table experience right in the galley (delicious olive oil poached sea bass pictured below).
Favorites like Fahrenheit 555, Bonsai Sushi and Cucina del Capitano remain great choices with only the latter proving forgettable. Hands down, the star winner is JiJi Asian Kitchen, where I enjoyed the best Asian food I have ever eaten. This restaurant serves luxury level cuisine and is a must-try.
Entertainment is another highlight of Carnival, and it has improved yet again on the Vista. The IMAX Theater alone is enough to amaze as part of the ship's Multiplex, adding to the Thrill Theater sensory simulator next door.
This is the full-blown IMAX experience in a triple-decker space that outshines the Liquid Lounge in grandeur. Compared to on land, reduced rate tickets are far worth the chance to see first-run films as the ultimate presentation at sea.
Production shows on the Vista are also great, although they are still essentially revues and not original narratives. The new ship still shines thanks to fantastic singers and dancers, plus especially captivating laser effects.
"Flick: The Power of Motion Pictures," for example, is a fantastic ode to the movies featuring great scores and a man creatively projecting himself into the cinema experience.
Other stage events like the classic "Hasbro, The Game Show" and new "Lip Sync Battle" are lots of fun, and The Punchliner Comedy Club continues to be a must-see laugh-fest.
The Carnival Vista fun comes through in large part thanks to playful entertainment staff that are engaging—starting with ace cruise director Matt Mitcham and going down the line. Elsewhere, service can be hit or miss but averages out to be satisfactorily above average with the best examples being the great bartenders at the fascinating Alchemy Bar (crafting concoctions pictured below).