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The 3,934-passenger Carnival Vista, the biggest ship from Carnival Cruise Line yet, is filled with innovation, from the first IMAX theater at sea to the first craft-beer brewery on the waves.
The quality that makes it all work is seamlessness: All the new bells and whistles just feel like facets of the Funship experience.
Carnival is known for catering to families, so it’s no surprise that some of its big launches are for this market, including the Family Harbor area with kid-size bathrobes and slippers; and key-card access to a dedicated lounge with large-screen televisions, board games and complimentary breakfast, cookies and snacks. Also included onboard Vista are free meals for children under 12 in the specialty restaurants, and a free evening in the Night Owls late-night program in Camp Ocean. Additionally, the extra-large family suites can hold up to five guests and each features two bathrooms and a walk-in closet.
Outdoors onboard Vista holds even more family appeal, including the suspended SkyRide aerial bike experience, the dizzying 300-foot-long enclosed Twister Waterslide, the 455-foot-long Kaleid-O-Slide and sports such as mini-bowling and basketball.
A second onboard complex, the Havana Cabana area, is for older cruisers. Only those ages 12 and older can stay in the intimate and private cabin category, which has its own pool, two large whirlpools and comfortable lounges. (A light poolside breakfast is available, too.) This attractive expansion of the adults-only retreat concept — complete with colorful umbrellas, thatched huts and patios — creates a separate world within Vista. Havana Bar, which serves coffee, soda and Cuban cocktails, becomes a Latin dance club at night, with live music that ignites the guests.
Outstanding eateries include JiJi Asian Kitchen, with family-style service for $15 per person (and $5 for kids under 11), and Fahrenheit 555 Steakhouse, which is defined by its amazing staff and $35 price tag for steak, surf-and-turf and broiled chicken with all the trimmings. Also at the top of the list: custom milkshakes from Shake Spot and the reasonably priced a la carte menu at Seafood Shack. Tell clients not to be daunted by the long lines for Guy’s Burger Joint; Carnival has the time from order to burger down to just under half a minute.
The cruise industry’s first craft-beer brewery at sea debuted on Vista, a collaboration between Carnival and Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery to create three selections. ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat is an unfiltered lager with hints of banana and spices; ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA has a citrus, floral and hoppy aroma; and the creamy FriskyFrog Java Stout features notes of coffee.
Vista brewmaster Colin Presby says the company has walked a careful line between pleasing craft-beer aficionados and making the brews accessible to novices. He educates passengers with tours of the brewing process and, judging by the number of growlers (containers that keep a pitcher of beer fresh and cold for up to 12 hours) I saw in guests’ hands, it’s working quite well.
One key to making a client’s cruise happier: Tell them that there aren’t just left and right hallways on Vista as they get off the elevators; there’s also a middle section. I found that guests were searching for the double theater (the IMAX Theatre and 5-D Thrill Theater) but didn’t realize it was only a few feet away, in a recessed area — easily discovered once you realize there is a third hallway.
Though Carnival has been fairly conservative about its shipbuilding speed, Vista has been so successful that the line has scheduled two new vessels. In fact, Carnival president Christine Duffy describes Vista as “the most innovative and popular ship we have ever introduced.”
Carnival Horizon is scheduled for delivery in March 2018, and another ship, originally designated for P&O Cruises Australia, will debut in 2019. Carnival Splendor will be transferred to P&O in late 2019.
Meanwhile, Vista sails six-night Western Caribbean and eight-night Exotic Southern Caribbean cruises out of Miami.