Our Jackie’s Family Cruise on board Carnival Vista
Carnival Vista – 8 night Mediterranean cruise – 26th August 2016
This year we decided to try a Carnival cruise as their newest ship, Carnival Vista, spent her inaugural summer season cruising the Mediterranean. Carnival have not regularly deployed a ship to Europe so I seized the opportunity to experience a cruise “Carnival style”.
As I guess most people do, I have pre-conceived ideas of what to expect: casual, loud and perhaps a little lacking in quality. In fact, like many ships these days, there were two elegant nights in the eight nights we were on board and, as ever, people’s interpretations of dress code varied greatly but certainly, excluded attire standards were upheld. The use of hand gel was not strictly enforced.
The Cruise Director was a charming Brit who has the charisma required to undertake this role successfully without being brashly irritating. There was the odd game and music around the main Beach Pool but there were plenty of quieter sun bathing areas and two smaller pools away from the entertainment if preferred. Carnival Vista has Serenity (+21yrs only) a dedicated deck space with cabana-style sun loungers for more secluded sunbathing. You do not pay extra, unlike some other Cruise Lines. On the one sea day, towels left on sun loungers for an excessive period of time were removed by staff, I saw this implemented.
The facilities on board were excellent and kept our 7 year old thoroughly entertained. She had three go’s on the Sky ride – we timed this to avoid excessive queuing, maximum 20-30 mins, miniature golf, high ropes, water park and the kids club – Camp Ocean, not to mention the 3D Imax cinema (approx. $12pp extra) on the one afternoon it had the audacity to rain!
We ate in three speciality restaurants, the Italian was acceptable but I personally preferred the Oriental (both $15 per adult plus 15% gratuity) and found Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse exceptional and worth the $35pp (plus 15% gratuity) surcharge for the outstanding service, ambiance and quality of food offered. We opted for Open dining for the remaining nights, and on each occasion we arrived during peak times (between 19.00 – 20.00 hrs) without pre-booking a time and were seated immediately. I found the quality of most meals I chose to be of a high standard, with the exception of a couple of poorly chosen starters. I believe some passengers had cause to complain but I did not. The buffet area offered the usual fayre of burgers, pizza, carvery, deli, burritos, tacos, and selection of themed meals – Caribbean or Mongolian Wok – plus complimentary ice creams, cakes, cookies, sweets and refreshments.
As we travelled in peak summer, the heat was at times slightly uncomfortable when wishing to undertake some sightseeing. One of the many aspects that worked well for us on Carnival, was the chance to have our daughter kept entertained out of the intense heat in the kid’s club, whilst we explored some of the ports of call. We would not have left her for the full day trips to Rome and Florence, but we had visited these places of interest before so took the opportunity to enjoy the ship’s facilities on those days, whilst many were ashore.
In the evenings our daughter ate with us in the restaurant, or had kid’s tea if we had opted for a speciality restaurant. She then either went to Ocean Camp whilst we enjoyed one of the four comedians who featured on our sailing, joined us for the show in the theatre or demolished some popcorn (free) whilst watching a film on deck. Carnival’s evening venues all had a fantastic atmosphere and each venue was popular. We enjoyed the pub singer Ed Carr in the Redfrog Pub, playing table shuffleboard with fellow cruisers, adults and children both. We also enjoyed Essencia – an electric string player and acoustic sound with the talents “Me and My Cousin” in the Atrium Bar. The Havana Bar was vibrant with Cuban music and mambo dancing. The Piano Bar sing-along with Ben, although not for us, always appeared busy and the Ocean Plaza also offered singing, games and quizzes. There was also a sports bar and the Liquid Lounge for late night dancing – we never made it there! The choice was amazing. If I had to be critical, having seen the full production of Mamma Mia on Anthem of the Seas last year, the shows weren’t up to the same standard but then I’m not a huge show fan and we had so many other choices of evening entertainment. The comedians were all American and tailored to the American humour but then 45%-50% of the passengers on board were American. Having four different comedians on an eight night sailing, I thought, demonstrated excellent variety.
There were the usual shops on board, bingo to play, murder mystery events, a Spanish Flamenco Fiesta, deck parties, spa experiences, art events and a casino: a whole host of events we did not participate in but were available if you found the time.
Gratuities were $12pppn and ours were added to the on board account. These can be adjusted if required towards the end of the cruise. We purchased the “Cheers Drinks” package for two and the “Bottomless bubbles” drinks package for our daughter in advance. The total cost for 8 nights for the three of us on the exchange rate post Brexit equated to £700 in total. We never reached the 15 drink limited so I can’t confirm if this is strictly adhered to. The gratuity for bar service was included in this. The only mild irritation was only being able to purchase one drink on each cruise card at a time when occasionally we wanted bottled water in addition to our alcoholic beverage of choice.
Ocean Camp is complimentary during the day and from 7pm-10pm in the evening. You can pay $6.75 per hour plus 15% gratuity between 10pm -1am if you wanted an occasional late night.
We did pay $17 per person roundtrip in Marseilles and Palma for Carnival’s shuttle buses from the port into central locations, which was a little excessive but in no way would this spoil what was a truly wonderful holiday.
Wi-fi was offered on board, different packages ranging from $5 per 24 hours for the social plan (included access to Facebook Messenger, Twitter, LinkedIn, WhatsApp etc), Value Plan $16 per 24 hours (which offered e-mail, news, sports, weather and social media) or premium plan $25 per 24 hours.
Whilst I fully appreciate these large ships are not to everyone’s taste, they do offer us the facilities that we want to enjoy a family holiday whilst also representing excellent value. I would still choose Royal Caribbean’s Quantum & Oasis class ships as my first preference to cruise, perhaps just a little more elegant than Carnival, but I would certainly consider a Carnival cruise again, Carnival Vista’s sister ship comes out in 2018 together with two new Royal Caribbean vessels, decisions, decisions………!
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