Taking the Fun to a Whole New Level
By GERRY and PAMELA BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
Photos/Video: North Palm Beach Life
PORT OF MIAMI _ Carnival Vista, the newest and biggest ship in Carnival's fleet, is finally home. Launched May 1, she came across the Atlantic and cruised out of New York before arriving here, where she'll journey to the Eastern and Western Caribbean.
Before her initial departure on Nov. 27, media were invited aboard to take a tour. As Carnival PR Manager Vance Gulliksen explained,
"We took everything we learned from our previous ships and incorporated it in Vista from the ground up."
It shows, from the moment you step onboard and walk past the soaring, two-story, LED "lava lamp" called Dreamscape, where sea creatures and other images roam at will as bartenders serve drinks.
Over 4,000 guests are in the process of boarding -- 2,229 of which are first-time cruisers, according to John Heald, Carnival's senior cruise director and brand ambassador. Heald handled the traditional new ship plaque exchange with the ship's captain, the port authority, customs and the harbor pilot.
Known for their mantra, "The Fun Ships," Vista is built to deliver on that in large amounts. While you can only get a quick overview on a three-hour tour, here are some first impressions:
⦁ We started at the Red Frog Pub and Brewery. Carnival is the first cruise line to feature a brewery at sea, and brewmaster Colin Presby served up a sampling of his craft beers, including a very tasty IPA (India Pale Ale). Gabriel, the master mixologist at the Alchemy Bar, was also on hand with his own creation, the Spicy Pineapple Chipolte martini. This tour is off to a good start.
⦁ A standout among the new features is SkyRide, the "first pedal-powered open-air aerial attraction" at sea, where you can cycle around an 800-foot suspended track 150 feet over the water. On a previous voyage, Heald talked about the 93-year-old World War II vet who gave it a try. If you like heights, there's also a ropes course you might like.
⦁ One of the most impressive things about Vista is their use of open spaces. Many of the dining options feature outdoor seating, and there are numerous places guests can grab a lounger, sip a drink, enjoy a good read or just watch the waves go by. An example is the aptly-named Serenity, the adults-only retreat on Deck 15, with its hammocks and hot tubs.
⦁ As you would expect, there is a wide range of dining options to satisfy every taste throughout the ship, from the poolside Guy's Burger Joint (the popular Guy Fieri eatery that will serve 1,500 hamburgers before this cruise starts) to Fahrenheit 555, the upscale steakhouse with a $35 upcharge. The main dining rooms are Reflections and Horizons. For Italian, there's Cucina del Capitano. Other choices include JiJi Asian Kitchen and Bonsai Sushi, the Seafood Shack and for dessert, Cherry on Top, to name a few.
⦁ Another Vista first is the IMAX Theatre, offering a 3-deck cinema experience as part of the ship's Multiplex attraction, which also includes the Thrill Theater and popcorn at a concessions stand.
⦁ The main showroom is the Liquid Lounge, smaller than many main entertainment venues (it seats just over 900) but flexible. Removeable seats mean it can be reconfigured as a disco/dance floor. As with other areas, the color scheme works well.
⦁ Carnival is known for its attention to kids, and Vista delivers here too with its Dr. Suess-affiliated programs and Camp Ocean, not to mention the sprawling WaterWorks, featuring the Kaleid-O-Slide, a water tube ride with kaleidoscopic visual effects.
⦁ One of the most impressive areas for us was the Havana Experience, re-creating the vivid colors, sounds and ambience of Cuba. There's a bar and a Latin dance club, as well as an outdoor pool and cabana area. Adjoining are the Havana suites -- staterooms with oversize patio areas that have exclusive use of the pool area during the day. If interested, book these rooms well in advance. They are currently sold out on Vista through April.
⦁ Also: We weren't able to view any staterooms, so our thoughts on those will have to wait until we take a cruise. No time for a massage, but the Cloud 9 Spa is one of the largest we've seen. The photo area offers facial recognition, so finding your picture is easy (plus they offer orders on demand for just a few dollars so no wasting paper).
Bottom line: There is so much to see and do, it would take at least a week to get around to it all. But it's obvious from a quick tour Carnival is perfecting the blueprint for fun it can use on future ships.
We took everything we learned from our previous ships and incorporated it in Vista from the ground up."