Setting Sail aboard Carnival Vista for the Western Caribbean

Welcome aboard Carnival Vista! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Sunday, April 30, 2017
Sandwiched between Carnival Splendor and Norwegian Getaway at the Port of Miami, there she was: Carnival Cruise Line’s flagship, Carnival Vista. Over the next six days, she’ll take me to Ocho Rios, Jamaica; Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Cozumel, Mexico. While we’re docked in Cozumel, another treat: a CarnivalLIVE performance featuring comedian Jay Leno. And it all starts right here, in Miami.
Our full itinerary:

Carnival Vista – 6 Night Western Caribbean

Sunday, April 30, 2017 Miami Embarkation 4:30 PM
Monday, May 1 At Sea
Tuesday, May 2 Ocho Rios, Jamaica 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Wednesday, May 3 Georgetown, Grand Cayman 8:00 AM 4:00 PM
Thursday, May 4 Cozumel, Mexico 10:00 AM 11:00 PM
Friday, May 5 At Sea
Saturday, May 7, 2017 Miami 7:00 AM Disembark

Launched just last year, Carnival Vista is the largest and most innovative ship in Carnival’s 25-vessel fleet and, as I discovered after spending just a few hours onboard, she’s poised to be one of the most influential Fun Ships since Carnival Fantasy debuted back in 1990.
At 133,500 gross tons, the 3,934-guest Carnival Vista is slightly larger than Carnival’s Dream Class ships, which include Carnival Dream, Carnival Magic and Carnival Breeze. Although similar in exterior appearance, the 1,055-foot long Carnival Vista includes a substantial number of distinctions; so many so that she is the lead vessel in Carnival’s newest class of ship: the Vista Class.

Carnival Vista at anchor later in my cruise, off Georgetown, Grand Cayman on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

While Carnival Breeze ushered in a new décor scheme for Carnival and did away with the zany creations of longtime interior designer Joe Farcus, Carnival Vista permanently erases the wacky interior design of old. She also features a completely rethought General Arrangement plan, which has changed the size, style and location of the ship’s public rooms substantially over the Dream Class. However, because of that, even experienced Carnival cruisers are going to have to spend a day or so familiarizing themselves with the new locations of all their favourite venues.

A Whole New Carnival

When I stepped aboard just after 1:00pm, I stepped from the tide-sensing gangway directly into Carnival Vista’s technologically-impressive atrium. Spanning three decks in height, this more intimate space is dominated by the Dreamscape: a digital LED sculpture rising from the Atrium Bar to the ceiling that replicates an aquarium (without all that troublesome real water). Ambient lighting helps add to the “undersea” vibe.

The first thing most guests will see as they step aboard Carnival Vista…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…is the ship’s futuristic, three-story atrium. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

But look closely: this is the first Carnival ship in 27 years to lack a soaring atrium topped with a skylight and flanked by banks of glass elevators. And that’s totally okay. It feels more modern and classy, with its sweeping glass staircases and white-panelled walls, than past ships have. Soaring atriums, once all the rage in the 1990’s and the early part of the 2000’s, are slowly being replaced with more intimate areas on many ships. From a design perspective, this makes perfect sense: a 10-story atrium eats up a lot of real estate space that could be used better for cabins, public areas, or in the case of Carnival Vista: the first-ever IMAX theatre at sea, situated two decks above the Atrium on Deck 7.

Cool new stairwell artwork adorns the forward, midship and aft staircases. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

Staircases and elevator banks are spacious, well-lit, and feature signage that makes it easy to find your way around this massive, 1,055-foot long ship. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

A walk up the forward stair tower reveals more welcome changes: new stairwell art featuring extruded, backlit photographs of famous locations around the world; better signage; and well-designed cabin corridors that play on the tropical, Island-theme developed for the Carnival Breeze, complete with island photographs and faux slatted wood panelling on stateroom doors.

Carnival Vista carries over the more mature, colourful decor developed on Carnival Breeze. Passenger cabin corridors are particularly attractive. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

That’s not to say other Carnival ships aren’t worthwhile: they are. But Carnival Vista offers so many subtle tweaks and enhancements that you’re bound to find something new to love on this ship. And if you’ve never done a Carnival cruise before, this is the perfect ship to try first.

At Home on the High Seas

My home for the next six days: Category 8E Balcony Stateroom, 9335. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

My home for the next six days a Category 8E Balcony stateroom on Deck 9. Carnival has always had generously-sized staterooms, and this one is no exception. The room itself measures 185-square feet, with a 35-square foot exterior balcony, for a total size of 220 square feet.
The stateroom is nearly identical in décor to those found aboard Carnival Breeze, with blue-and-yellow patterned carpeting and a desk and vanity area situated next to three closets. But there are some important new enhancements for Carnival Vista.

Staterooms aboard Carnival Vista are filled with dozens of little refinements over past ships, like more open, generous desk space…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and life vests that are located underneath the bed. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

To start with, gone is the desk-mounted flat-panel TV; the new flat-panel interactive TV is substantially larger and is mounted to the cabin wall. The desk-mounted safe is also gone, and now sits more conveniently in the first closet nearest the desk. This gives the desk a much more open, airy feel than previous ships.

New digital thermostats replace the old, often cumbersome analog ones of days gone by. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

You’ll need to put your keycard in this slot in order to turn your lights on. Note that this also controls power to the outlets on the desk; if you’re charging devices, they won’t do so once you leave the room. Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

There’s also more power outlets available: two 120V (North American) outlets, one 230V (two-prong European), and two USB plugs, all of which are situated near the desk. Bonus points too for the three storage shelves near the desk, which feature small but effective lips on them to ensure nothing slides off in inclement weather.

The view from my balcony provides a great look at the Port of Miami…Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

…and the work going on below to prepare Carnival Vista for sailing! Photo © 2017 Aaron Saunders

The bathroom is Classic Carnival, save for a better sink fixture and walls that, I swear, are less yellow in tone than they used to be. These modular bathrooms have a toilet, sink, six shelves, and a shower with pump-style dispensers for shampoo and body wash affixed to the wall. The classic shower curtain is there, though this one is heavier and doesn’t seem to want to cling like the old curtains of days gone by. The shower is also spacious enough that you don’t feel crushed into it. Comedians are going to have to get some new ship joke

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