BlueIguana Cantina onboard Carnival Vista // © 2016 Carnival Cruise Line
Feature image (above): Carnival Vista provides several dining options for passengers at no extra charge. // © 2016 Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Lines’ new 3,936-passenger Carnival Vista is filled with choices, but what really stands out is the amazing range of dining options that don’t cost extra. No one, however determined, could come close to feasting on all of the cuisine served at the dozens of onboard venues — which number far more than what most cruise ships offered just a short time ago. Guests can enjoy everything from burgers and flatiron steak to burritos and hand-tossed pizza to dishes from the cruising region, all without additional cost.
To avoid mid-cruise forehead slapping, passengers need an overview of what’s available for free; even highlights present an overwhelming set of choices. For instance, most guests spot BlueIguana Cantina by the pool for lunch, which features fish, chicken or beef tacos and shrimp, chicken or beef burritos with all the trimmings, as well as a salsa bar. But few notice that the venue also offers delicious breakfast burritos, huevos rancheros and “arepas” (corn pockets with filling).
By scattering the venues across the ship, Carnival is taking pressure off Lido Marketplace for breakfast, offerings options such as cereal, toast, fruit, pastries and cold cuts at Taste Bar. Special accommodation areas have their own breakfasts: A full breakfast buffet is available in Havana Bar for Cabana passengers and in Family Harbor Lounge for those staying in the new Family Harbor area. Horizons Dining Room offers a sit-down breakfast on port days, with dishes such as lox and cream cheese on bagels, pancakes, French toast, cereal, eggs cooked to order, fruit and more. On days at sea, the venue serves brunch with a two-sided menu of breakfast and lunch selections.
At lunch, passengers can pick their ingredients and sauces for the Mongolian wok in Ji Ji, head for the pasta bar in Cucina del Capitano — pastas range from bowtie to gluten-free, and ingredients from shrimp to eggplant — or fill up at the authentic Guy’s Burger Joint. A 24-hour pizza station hands out custom-made pizzas baked in a Neapolitan oven, and Fresh Creations Salad Bar serves the adults’ area. Carnival Deli, straight out of New York’s Lower East Side, is a real find, offering huge corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, wraps, smoked salmon on bagels and tuna salad — all complimentary and served with great pickles.
Lido Marketplace goes beyond the norm, with different sections catering to various tastes. Those in the mood for comfort food can choose items such as stews, fried fish and macaroni and cheese from Comfort Kitchen; others can pick from Caribbean Favorites, Italian Favorites and Good Eats.
Guests looking for a sweet treat can pile a cone high with complimentary ice cream choices that include flavors such as chocolate, vanilla and strawberry, as well as more exotic flavors from Sweet Spot.
Dinner in the main dining rooms — the two-story Horizons for Your Time Dining (with a small bar for a drink before dinner) and smaller Reflections with assigned seating at 6 p.m. or 8:15 p.m. — features the same dishes. Diners on the Your Time Dining must sign in at a station near Java Blue Cafe to reserve their tables.
Menus at dinner provide choice after choice. Chicken breast, pork chops, salmon fillet and flatiron steak are always available, with a choice of six sauces. The revolving menu (included at no fee) reads like “War and Peace,” with starters such as shrimp cocktail, smoked salmon, soups and chowders; main dishes like beef brisket and vegetable lasagna; and sides such as a baked potato, creamed spinach and macaroni and cheese. Then there are regional dishes reflecting the cruise destination, as well as Rare Finds, which offer guests dishes such as alligator fritters and tuna tartare. For dinner, both restaurants serve Carnival's new casual American Table most of the time. On elegant nights, the venues roll out American Feast, with no fee for dishes such as prime rib and broiled Maine lobster tail.
Carnival is great at accommodating guests’ special dietary needs, with vegetarian and vegan dishes, gluten-free baked goods and low-fat and sugar-free dishes all readily available.
Even room service offers an array of choices, including comfort foods such as peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and grilled Reuben sandwiches. Guests can pay a small fee for items like Philly cheesesteaks and quesadillas, but there are more than enough free options — both through room service and throughout the ship — available for those looking to maximize their budgets.