Carnival Cruise Lines invited me and a guest for a 6 night sailing aboard the Carnival Vista. All opinions are my own.
There’s an elephant in the room (or on the seas) and it’s name is Carnival. You know which one I mean.
Carnival – The Fun Ship!
Carnival – with Kathy Lee Gifford singing!
Carnival – the ship that had that problem and all that bad publicity
Does one of these ring true for you?
If you haven’t been on a Carnival Cruise, you probably have a preconceived notion about them. And if you have been on a Carnival Cruise, you probably have some well-conceived notions. With this being my first real experience on Carnival (not counting my preview of their totally adorable Dr. Seuss-themed breakfast), I thought I’d give it to you straight. That’s what you come here for, after all.
My preconceived notion was about the crowds of people on Carnival. I once had someone describe it to me as going on vacation with all of your neighbors, including the ones you can’t stand.
Truthfully, I boarded the Carnival Vista on a late Sunday morning and immediately felt overwhelmed with that feeling of “uh-oh, these are NOT my people.”
After the fact, I realized it was because almost 4000 people were crammed into a relatively small area of the ship while the crew transitioned the cabins and decks from one sailing to another. Basically, I was stuck with people who were hungry, tired from traveling, overloaded with luggage, and just ready to start their vacation. And we were all confined to a few spaces on the ship.
But by the evening, I had my cabin, had completely unpacked my suitcase, showered and changed for dinner, and met up with the press group I would be traveling with for the next 6 days. And if that evening was any indication of what was to come, it was looking like it was going to be a pretty good week.
Finding Your People on the Carnival Vista
I dragged my girlfriend Stella along as my guest (aka my +1) because I knew she’d keep me out of my shell and out of my cabin to ensure I made the most of the trip. I’m quite sure I had a completely different experience as an adult traveling without children but at the same time I kept an eye out for things my family would like.
It turned out there were quite a few other child-free people in our press group and we made fast friends. Some days, we spent the day together having booked the same shore excursions or we passed each other somewhere on the ship (contrary to what you might think, you still see some of the same people over and over again). But we usually met up at dinner and pursued after dinner activities together.
While Stella and I spent some girl time together and I even grabbed some solo time, I loved finding people to connect with if I was looking for company. And that’s not just a press group phenomenon. Friends are easily made and kept on the ship.
Keeping Busy on the Carnival Vista
Most of the people I met on the Carnival Vista that were outside of the press group, I met while keeping busy. It’s easy to start up a conversation while standing in line for one of the two ridiculously fun waterslides (yes, adults do that too).
You can easily bond with someone in line on the SkyRide because neither of you has a partner.
You can find who shares your sense of humor by spending time together during activities like karaoke (I swear on my life, one of the singers did a dead-on impersonation of Ricky Ricardo singing REO Speedwagon’s “I Can’t Fight This Feeling”).
And . you’ll always find friends when you use any excuse to celebrate! (We were actually lucky enough to be sailing during Cinco de Mayo).
Doing Nothing on the Carnival Vista
What if loud music and parties aren’t your thing? Is this totally not the ship for you?
What I loved the most about the Carnival Vista is that you make it the ship you want it to be.
If you don’t want a non-stop party, you can find things like a morning yoga class. Or you can head to the movies for one of two first-run selections.
And contrary to popular belief, you can ALWAYS find a place where there’s no one. Like, NO ONE. I love my solitude and I found it.
Try spending an evening in a bar. No, not a loud bar but something more low-key like the Red Frog Pub & Brewery or the Library Bar, where you can literally find books, board games, and a wines-by-the-glass dispenser.
And when all else fails, book a treatment at the spa. There’s always a deal to be had and after I finished my La THÉRAPIE facial, I felt relaxed and 5 years younger!
Stayed Well-Entertained on the Carnival Vista
Regardless of how you spend your days or your evenings, there’s no shortage of entertainment. Whether it’s questionable singers performing karaoke, stand-up comedy shows (PG for early, family audiences, R for 18+ later audiences), or big productions in the Liquid Lounge, it’s worth breaking out of your shell and taking advantage of the on board entertainment. But if you’re looking for good entertainment, stick to the professionals.
Carnival Vista presented an at-sea version of Spike TV’s popular Lip Sync Battle but it got the guests involved. On the first day at sea, several daring souls volunteered for a very public audition of not only lip-syncing (which is kind of secondary) but overall dancing ability and stage presence. We actually had two members of the press group audition and Melissa of ConsumerQueen.com came SO close to being selected!
On the last night of the cruise, the two finalists (male and female) performed in the main theater to an expertly choreographed lip-syncing duel. If you’re thinking it’s amateur hour, it didn’t feel like it. It was one of the most entertaining nights on the ship!
But the big name in entertainment on our ship came compliments of the Carnival LIVE series, where Carnival brings in big name singers, bands, and comedians to perform on the ship. As part of our press tour, we had VIP tickets to see Jay Leno on board. He was funny but I’m not gonna lie. I would have died to see Jim Gaffigan (he’s previously performed).
It was a great chance to round out a trip with a live experience you can’t normally get on board a ship.
What About Everything Else?
What else could you be looking for?
Oh, you mean, like the food, the cabins, the food, the excursions, the food…
Yes. There’s a LOT to a cruise. So much so, that I can’t possibly cover it all in one post. Be sure to read all about my recommendations for Western Shore Excursions
In the meantime, this little video will hopefully give you a taste of everything I’ve talked about.
Video Tour of the Carnival Vista
Final Thoughts on the Carnival Vista
Let’s bring it full circle and just put it on the table.
I had a good time. An unexpectedly good time. An AMAZINGLY good time. A time that I’d love to repeat with both girlfriends and my family.
After chatting with enough first-time and repeat cruisers, I feel confident saying the Carnival Vista is a stand-out ship setting the gold standard for the future of the cruise line. If you’re considering Carnival, definitely look at the length of the cruise, the age of the ship, and the ratings of the ship when planning your vacation.
The Carnival Vista is a large, new, modern, gorgeous ship with outstanding service and I’d recommend it without hesitation.
And one final, shocking note: If you’re looking for a fun, family cruise line, consider saving a little money and booking the Carnival Vista. I’ve been on a few mouse-themed cruises and I’d put my money on this ship any day.
In case you were wondering, I’ve also sailed on Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, and Disney Cruise Lines. Now tell me – what questions about the Carnival Vista would you like to see answered in future posts?
HI there. We are going on this ship in March. I am wondering about a few things I hope you can comment on. 1. Did you do the chef’s table meal? At $95 a person I want to be sure it is worth it, we are travelling with an 11 year old who is quite the foodie but it’s still over $300 (USD, and we are Canadian so more like almost $400). We have also booked the Steak house and the Italian restaurant for supper. 2. Did you do your onshore excursions only through Carnival? I have been to Cozumel and Ocho Rios before so am thinking of booking through someone local instead of Carnival. 3. How were the line ups for the water slides and skyride? When do they close? One of the bonuses for us on the Disney Cruise was you could ride the AquaDuck after supper while everyone was eating or at a show so we didnt have to spend hours during the day waiting in line to enjoy the rides. Thanks for your feeback appreciate any advice you can give.
1. I did not do the Chef’s table meal but I did get a tour of the galley, saw some of the prep for the meal and saw where the meal takes place. They actually say it’s tough to get a reservation so if you can get one, I’d go for it. I don’t think you will be disappointed. And you can not go wrong with any of the restaurants on board the ship. The steakhouse was AMAZING!!
2. Because Carnival hosted this trip for me, I only did excursions through them which offers a few advantages… you get priority when getting off the ship and you’re guaranteed to make it back on the ship in time! We didn’t do an excursion in Cozumel but did do ship excursions in the other two ports (details here: http://www.shesonthego.com/cruises/western-caribbean-shore-excursions-carnival-vista/). With that said, when cruising in the past, I have booked private excursions and had an amazing time. Just make sure you read plenty of reviews!
3. I don’t remember the lines for the slides being long at all. I’m not sure of the hours but the only thing I remember being closed at all was the SkyRide which is only in operation when it’s not too windy. The line for that was usually fairly long but I happened to catch it just when they opened after the wind calmed down.
Overall, the ship never felt crowded anywhere which sounds crazy but it’s true. The people were friendly, the crew was amazing, and this ship definitely exceeded my expectations. I hope you have an amazing time!