Photos by Mark Leppert
Our Carnival Cruise Line adventure actually began in Paris! I mean if you are going to go to Europe for a cruise and are landing in Paris, enjoy a few days there as we did! We have stayed and did again, at the Hotel de Lourdes Eiffel, a recommendation we took from travel expert, Rick Steves. This is a gem of a boutique hotel within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower. The staff here is always so pleasant and very helpful when it comes to navigating the city of Paris. We were blessed to have a room on the top (sixth) floor with a view of the top two-thirds of the Eiffel Tower from our window AND even from our shower!! Laying in bed and watching the Tower sparkle for 5 minutes an hour until 1 am was the highlight of our time in Paris! (For those interested in this room with its great view, the room number is 62!) Shopping was also quite fun too!
Flying on to Barcelona for a two night stay, we checked into the Hotel Europark. This was a very pleasant surprise! The rooms were large and had nice bathrooms with comfortable beds. They offered a wonderful breakfast buffet with many choices that easily filled you up for a nice start to your day! The staff was also very helpful and friendly. The bonus with this hotel was its proximity to Gaudi’s La Familia Sagrada Basilica. We had seen it from outside on a previous visit but had booked a tour through Viator for an early admission inside the basilica. While the outside is sculpted to depict Biblical events, the inside is all about nature with its soaring pillars fashioned to look like trees. The many stained glass windows were colored in cool colors to represent the morning on the Eastern side and in warm, evening colors on the Western side of the basilica. It was truly a stunning visual experience!! This basilica is still under construction and has been for 134 years. It is the hope that it will be finished in time for the 100th anniversary of Gaudi’s death, in 10 more years. We are anxious to return to see this marvel after its completion!
Now on to our 13-night Trans-Atlantic Carnival Vista cruise from Barcelona to New York…
Embarkation was a trying experience and very unorganized. But handling almost 4,000 passengers on just one ship is not a daily occurrence in Barcelona. Plus, about 80% of the passengers were frequent cruisers, all of whom had priority embarkation. Once onboard, we made our way to our stateroom which we found to be nicely decorated in shades of blues and golds. There was plenty of storage and closet space even for a 14-day cruise. We brought enough clothes for about one week and had the ship’s laundry service clean our clothes for a very reasonable price, helping to make our voyage more relaxing and less laborious!
For this being a new ship, the staterooms creaked a great deal even in calm seas. Rougher seas caused a major increase in the level of noise! As an avid football fan, I would have liked to see some of the games broadcast on the stateroom TVs on game days. This feature is available on other cruise lines and I was hoping this would be the case on the Vista. Sadly, it was not!
A repositioning cruise such as this one is usually a bit cheaper and longer than most of the Carnival cruises thus attracting its many repeat cruisers. The Carnival brand has thousands and thousands of passengers in each of its top two tiers of repeat cruisers. This speaks well of the product offered by Carnival. While we have only been sailing on Carnival for just over two years, we have found out why so many return! It is a great cruise line offering something for everyone at a very reasonable price. The staff is friendly and quick to help out when needed.
The pluses onboard are many. The Vista has the first IMAX theater at sea and as you sit and watch a first-run movie, it is hard to believe you are on a cruise ship! While IMAX movies on land can cost anywhere up to $20.00, the Vista charges only $12.95 for adults and $9.95 for seniors and children per person, per show. This is a great deal!
The production shows are another huge plus with very talented singers and dancers! The background digital screens add much to the changing stage scenery. Unfortunately, the show lounge, the Liquid Lounge as it is called, is of a very poor design. It is not large enough to hold half of the passengers, so doing only two shows a night does not allow everyone to see these productions! Worse yet, the seating on the main floor is all flat with no slopping of the rows for better viewing. The upper level does have several tiered rows of seats but once again has many seats with blocked views of the stage. We hope this room will be redesigned on the newer ships!
There were several music venues featuring ensembles of different kinds. Our favorite was the violin player, Essencia. He was extremely talented and we really enjoyed listening to him play. Other groups of interest, were the duo Me and My Cousin and the Latin band Imperio. Those guys could all play! The cruise director, Matt Mitchum, is a true find!! He is naturally very personable and quick on his feet when dealing with whatever comes his way! He has a way of making every activity he hosts a lot of fun!
The list of activities is long and varied and easily keeps everyone entertained. These activities include trivia, bingo, guest speakers, basketball, and on and on it goes. In addition, this ship alone has the new Skyride which hangs off the top ship. Each cart is propelled by the the rider as he or she pedals their way along the course. This is truly a fun ride!
The food is always a major factor on any cruise. On the Vista there is no shortage of venues or variety. Guy Fieri has his burgers and BBQ offerings as well. His burgers are a huge hit but we found the sides of beans and mac and cheese not as inviting, as they were both served cold. A little bit of heat, and they would be just as delicious as the rest.
The assigned seating, Horizons Restaurant was very noisy. It truly was hard to carry on a conversation. The pace of the meal was not good. We had received our appetizers and waited a long while before our main entree was served. This was also the case at the sea day brunch, one of our favorite things on Carnival’s ships. My lunch favorite still remains the Blue Iguana Cantina with lots of filling choices for the best burritos at sea!! As for the specialty restaurants, we really enjoyed the Asian restaurant, Ji Ji! In fact, the food was so wonderful we went there twice! The Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse was very good as well, matching any other steakhouse on any cruise line!
Our overall opinion of the Vista is very positive!! Carnival has a hit on its hands and this ship and its sister-ship yet to be built will continue to carry large numbers of happy cruisers for many years to come! We will return to Carnival again and again to enjoy all its ships have to offer! Thanks Carnival for a fun and relaxing vacation on the seas!!