PHOTO: Authors Jason and Heidi Leppert in St. Kitts with the Carnival Vista in the distance. (Photo by Jason Leppert)
My wife Heidi and I decided to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary on Carnival Cruise Line’s newest Carnival Vista.
Upon our return, we have another ship review from a millennial couples’ perspective. In this first part, we check out its accommodations and dining.
Probably the nicest thing to encounter on the latest Carnival ships these days is the absence of anything touched by designer Joe Farcus. Admittedly, I am by no means a fan of his garish aesthetic and tacky colors, so the beach pastels on the Vista overall as well as its cabins specifically are far more soothing. For a standard line, Carnival’s beds are surprisingly plush, and only the couch is very stiff.
I was very happy with the storage in our balcony stateroom. There are two closets with hanging space, and one more closet with three drawers and three open shelves. Our room was one with a bed that could come down from the ceiling, which we obviously didn’t use, so there was a ladder stored in one of the closets, which did take up some space. I got creative and used the rungs of the ladder to hang my pants and shorts. I’m still patting myself on the back over that one!
Quite ingenious, honey! Everything inside, of course, leads to a balcony on the outside, and Carnival’s fixed window and swinging patio door arrangement is a nice alternative to the sliders found on most other lines. The veranda itself is a little on the small size but sufficient enough for a couple to enjoy a beautiful sunset with a cocktail in hand, (Heidi and I are adorable and romantic like that), and I’m never awake in time for a sunrise.
It’s true. He’d sleep every day until noon if it was socially acceptable. Although there’s a glaring lack of USB outlets by the bed, the desk boasts plenty of outlets. My special hack? During the day, charge a mobile power source bricky thingy—honey, help! (He said: also known as a portable battery charger)—and then if you’re like me and need your phone at your bedside, use that device to charge your phone overnight.
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I was pleasantly surprised to be able to plug in my hair straightener at the desk! The last several cruises I’ve been on didn’t have outlets that would take devices where one prongy plugger thingy—oh no, here we go again. (He said: asymmetrical polarized prong)—is slightly bigger than the other. This resulted in a lot of up-dos. Thank you Carnival for this little thing that makes a huge difference, but don’t get me started on the fact that the line doesn’t provide any conditioner in your stateroom. Also, don’t pretend like you didn’t have to Google “asymmetrical polarized prong,” Jason!
Okay, Googled it I did. The conditioner is indeed a glaring omission though, especially because we don't need both soap bars and shower gel. One is plenty fine so long as conditioner accompanies the shampoo. After all, even Motel 6 provides complimentary conditioner.
Meanwhile, the shower itself thankfully features a more square-shaped pan to help make navigating the smaller space easier, but the shower curtain is not nearly as nice as the fixed enclosures more prevalent on other lines now. That is, I’m not fond of having a close encounter of the third kind with an occasionally blown-in piece of waterproof cloth. (She said: Well, she didn’t actually say anything, but she made that face that wives make when their husbands reference science fiction movies in everyday life.)
Main Dining Room and Buffet
Before I met Jason, I was a main-dining-room-every-night type of gal. He’s really opened my eyes to what else is out there. Of course, he kind of has to try it all in order to review it, but I’ve grown to love the variety. And boy, does the Carnival Vista have variety!
In the main restaurant, some dishes were rather good like lobster once per cruise, but some classics like caesar salad were less wonderful—a little heavy on the anchovy paste to be exact. Otherwise, the buffet sometimes is a better choice for food selection as are the other excellent free eateries like Guy's Burger Joint (Pig Patty all the way) and Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que Smokehouse.
Jason and I got into a big debate over two traditions in the main dining room: the dancing waiters and the lack of tablecloths except on formal nights. I know people have strong opinions on both topics, and apparently, we do too.
I like the dancing waiters! Carnival boasts that they are the “fun ships,” and it just goes with the fun vibe they create onboard. Would I miss it if they stopped doing it? Probably not, but it does make me smile. I very much dislike the lack of tablecloths in the main dining room. The white tablecloths only come out for formal nights, and without them, I get kind of a cafeteria vibe. Bring back the tablecloths (#TeamTablecloth)!
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And I on the other hand actually don’t mind the lack of tablecloths since the dark natural wood tables are handsome design elements in the newly refined restaurant (#TeamNaturalWood). In fact, it’s that refinement away from the once-kitschy aesthetic of Carnival that makes me frown upon the dancing waiters.
There are plenty of other areas that warrant dancing entertainment. To maintain a fine decorum, restaurants should not be included. (She said: Fair enough. I would give up the dancing waiters in exchange for tablecloths every night. I’m so glad we could resolve this important marital conflict with a nice compromise, my dear.)
Elsewhere, there is plenty in the way of impressively gourmet dining on the Vista, not the least of which is Ji Ji Asian Kitchen. I personally think this specialty restaurant serves the best Asian cuisine ever: The kung pao chicken is exceptional. This is one venue I could eat at more than once per cruise. For other minimal surcharges, Fahrenheit 555 continued its consistent steakhouse quality from the rest of the fleet, and only Cucina del Capitano could maybe use a menu enhancement.
I don’t know if I’d give Ji Ji top billing over all Asian cuisine ever, but it is truly excellent. I too wish we would have eaten there twice. If you happen to be reading this while on a Carnival ship, stop what you’re doing and go get some tacos at the complimentary BlueIguana Cantina.
Listen, Jason and I live in San Diego, so we know Mexican food. (We had a taco truck cater our wedding, after all.) The BlueIguana Cantina is delicious, and I want the world to know. I prefer the tacos because they make the tortillas on the spot. They’re like a warm pillow for your chicken (or pork or shrimp).
The always available free pizza is also fantastic. The last night of our cruise, we opted to go to the main dining room for warm chocolate melting cake—because I once heard that life is short, so eat dessert first—and then up we went to the pool deck for pizza. The crust is fantastic, and here’s a little secret for you: It’s not on the menu, but they have prosciutto and arugula in the fridge and will gladly top any pie with it before serving.
If you’re still hungry, I’ll finish off by discussing some great seafood options because Heidi is not a fish fan. (She said: Where is my Sharpie so I can make my “Eat a pizza, save a fish!” picket sign?) The recurring Bonsai Sushi and fresh Seafood Shack are awesome alternatives. Both are priced a la carte but are well worth the charge. The sushi rolls and sashimi are refreshing, but the Seafood Shack just might be one of my favorite diners on the Vista thanks to its delicious clam chowder and hearty lobster rolls.
I’ll save a whole other article to discuss our excellent time at The Chef’s Table.