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39 Carnival Cruise Tips



There are people out there who will tell you that all cruise lines are the same. But we’re here to tell you that they’re wrong. And while some pieces of advice are true no matter what line you cruise on – such as “don’t overpack” – others are going to be unique to the line you’re sailing. So what tips would we give to those who are sailing on Carnival Cruise Line for the first time?

Here are 39 Carnival cruise tips.

1. Pricing depends on the time of year.

Carnival carries over 700,000 kids per year, so it should be known that you can expect premium pricing when school is out. As is with most cruise lines, pricing is set based on supply and demand.

2. Set price drop alerts.

A feature that launched a couple years ago is that you can now monitor your cruise rate by putting in your price and sail date. You’ll automatically get an email if the price rises or falls more than one percent.

3. Buy travel insurance.

Travel insurance is something you don’t think you need until you really need it. It costs a fraction of your cruise price and delivers an unbelievable amount of protection against delays, cancellations, lost baggage, and injury. Every policy should be read thoroughly. The cruise line insurance policies are blanket policies covering a group of people. You’re better off exploring options from a third party travel insurance company like

4. Get Faster to the Fun.

For a set fee per cabin, you can board the cruise ship first and go straight to your room. The rooms aren’t typically ready until 1:30 pm. You also get priority tendering, disembarkation, and dining reservations. Faster to the Fun rates start at $49.95 for three and four-day cruises. One price includes everyone in your cabin.

5. Bring plenty of $1 bills.

Take extra singles to allow yourself to tip baggage porters, taxi drivers, buy a bottled water in port, or extend a gratuity to your guide.

6. Midship cabins have less motion.

There’s less motion in the ocean if you book a cabin closer to the center of gravity. On a cruise ship that would be midship and lower level. Picture it like a seesaw, the more outward you are, the more you move. Find Carnival Cruise Line deck plans here.

7. Take a picture of where you park.

It doesn’t matter if you park at the pier or at an offsite parking lot; make sure you take a photo of where you’re parked. Keep in mind that while you’re gone, ships can be coming and going, so the same cars might not be around when you get back. It’s better to photograph something more permanent like signage.

8. Watch the sunrise and sunset.

The best sunrises and sunsets can be seen at sea. There is nothing around you but water; no city lights, no buildings. Just you and the sea.

9. Purchase luggage tag protectors.

It wouldn’t hurt to pick up some luggage tag protectors from Amazon. These plastic sleeves protect your bag from having the luggage tag torn off in the process of getting from the pier to the ship.

10. You can take cans of soda onboard.

You can’t take bottled water or sodas onboard anymore, but no one says you can’t take cans of soda. Load up with your favorite 12 pack of soda before you get on the ship. You’ll pay about $2.50 per can once onboard.

11. Take half the clothes you think you need.

Yes, we mentioned it earlier, but it’s true. No one changes that much on a cruise. You are going from one place to another so much that you don’t have time to get all dolled up… except for on elegant night, of course.

12. Writing your own breakfast order doesn’t work.

Don’t try to write a specialty order down for the room service breakfast menu. You’ll get a kind note saying that it is not offered. Don’t go off the menu when room service is concerned!

13. The chef can make any appetizer an entrée.

I recently learned that if I REALLY like an appetizer, I can request it as an entree. So if you really like the escargot or one of the pasta starters, ask for it as your main course.

14. Sleep with bridge cam on.

This is mostly for cruising in an interior room. You can set your channel to the bridge cam so when the sun rises, you’ll be awake with the sunlight.

15. The cruise line hold funds on your debit card.

Depending on how long your cruise is, determines how much money the cruise line will hold on your debit card. For instance, on a recent three-night cruise, they held $100. By the end of the cruise it was balanced out and the debit hold was lifted.

16. Buy souvenirs early and wait for sidewalk sales.

Before you buy the t-shirt, watch, or whatever must-have you find on your cruise, ask the port shopping guide or the store clerk if there’s going to be a sidewalk sale. Oftentimes you’ll see the watches marked down 75% or the shirts two for one. These sidewalk sales typically happen on sea days, but double check to make sure!

17. Some specialty venues offer free lunch.

Most of the specialty venues onboard charge a nominal fee to have dinner. For example, the steakhouse will run you $35. For a complimentary meal outside of the main dining room at lunchtime though, check Guy’s Burger Joint, BlueIguana Cantina, Ol’ Fashioned Barbeque, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, or Cucina del Capitano for a large selection of pastas.

18. Porters have an express disembarkation line.

If you set your luggage outside your door on the night before debarkation, find a porter to help you get your bags and take them to your car. Baggage porters work on tips and normally have an express disembarkation line that could be ten times shorter than the general line everyone else is waiting in.

19. Don’t miss the sea day brunch.

Every sea day Carnival has a sea day brunch that has everything from soup, steak, eggs, and french toast to signature dishes and even bar service! The hours are normally from 8:30 am to 1 pm. You can see the Sea Day Brunch menu here.

20. Try the banana split.

A secret menu item that is only available on the kid’s menu is a banana split. Depending on the mood and how nice you are to your servers, they may just get adults one too if you ask.

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21. Late dining is more fun.

The servers seem to be a little more relaxed during late dining because they aren’t under pressure to get you fed and out the door before the next seating comes in. The late dining servers also seem to let loose and be a little more talkative.

22. Watch out for the free seminars.

Be wary of anything that is offered for free on the ship. There is barely such a thing as free. There is also a catch at the end or a high-pressure sale. If you think you’ll cave under those kind of sales tactics, consider sitting the seminar out.

23. Swap your used beach towels.

If you take the towel off the ship or use it by the pool and want to swap it for a new one, there are stations to do so. There’s a towel swap station when you first get back on the ship after security and also by the lido deck pool.

24. They have a lot of gluten-free options.

Carnival has more gluten-free options than you might think. Pizza crust, hamburger buns, cake, even beer! Ask your head waiter or buffet attendant for the options.

25. Get an early Dive-In Movie seat.

If you’re planning to watch a movie outside on the big screen, grab an early seat. Some of the best seats are around the pool and on the riser part of the lido deck. If you sit on the sides you’ll have people walking in front of you throughout the whole movie.

26. Eat breakfast and lunch in the main dining room.

For the full dining experience, head to the main dining room for breakfast or lunch. You’ll have a nice selection and portion control.

27. Plan your specialty venues in advance.

Know what specialty dining venues you want to go to before you board the cruise. On embarkation day they have representatives from all of the venues set up around the ship and let you book on the spot. If you want to book the Chef’s Table, this can be done by visiting guest services on embarkation day.

28. Take photos right when the photographer opens.

Try to get your photos taken when the photographer first opens or before he closes. The mad rush is in between; my last cruise had a 30 minute wait to get elegant night photos.

29. Locate the quiet spot on deck 6 forward.

Most of the Carnival ships have a couple decks on the forward part of the ship that are accessible by walking all the way forward and going through the side doors. No one knows about these spots and they’re almost always empty. If you prefer a quiet sailaway, check out these spots.

30. Pay attention to the lunchtime hours.

The lunch hours can surprise you. Don’t assume that a venue is always open. Some venues are only open for 2.5 hours for lunch, others are open six hours. Check your Fun Times before grabbing food so that you aren’t disappointed.

31. Allow extra time to get to the dining room.

Dinner hours can be a mad rush on the promenade. Give yourself a few extra minutes to get to the main dining room, especially if you’re all the way forward or on a higher deck.

32. Pre-book a shore excursion.

Research your shore excursions, because a lot of time they can be found for up to sixty percent cheaper from a third party company like When you find a good price, go with it. Excursions do sell out.

33. Monitor your onboard spending.

The drinks, putting the casino on your sail card, and excursions can add up quickly. Make sure to check your folio daily. A good tip is to make small cash deposits on your sail and sign card throughout the trip. It’ll be less of a sting when you get your bill at the end of the cruise.

34. Go to the comedy show early.

A lot of the comedians on the ships have been on HBO, The Tonight Show, David Letterman, and have many accolades. They are funny, but also popular. Sometimes it’s standing room only, so get there early to ensure a seat.

35. Try samples from the Taste Bar.

Before or after dinner you can swing by the Taste Bar to get tastings of different venues around the ship. Located on the promenade deck, you can expect offerings from the steakhouse, Italian restaurant, and sushi venue. The hours are generally around 5:30 to 8:30 pm.

36. Have breakfast in bed.

You’re on vacation, why not have coffee or a bagel in bed or on your balcony? You deserve it, and you won’t have to be around people first thing in the morning!

37. Self-assist gets you off the ship faster.

If you want to be one of the first ones off the ship, carry your bags off. If you don’t want to deal with the madness of carrying your bags off the ship, through the gangway, and down the escalator, then go to guest relations and ask for zone 1 debarkation.

38. Room temperature is set by a master control.

You might as well crank the AC unit all the way down because it will eventually bottom out around 68 or 70 degrees. The air conditioning is set by a master control in the engine room and will only drop to a certain temperature.

39. The in-room bottled water is pricey.

The bottled water in the staterooms cost around $5 per bottle. If you think you’re going to drink a lot of water, consider pre-ordering the water from Carnival at $4.50 for a 12-pack. You can also buy a case of water onboard but it’s a little pricier.  Another great option is to bring your own reusable water bottle and just continue refilling it throughout your voyage.

Do you have any Carnival cruise tips?

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Review: Little French Key Review in Roatan



On a recent cruise through the Western Caribbean, I had the opportunity to go to Roatan. Located off the mainland of Honduras, Roatan is home to great diving and snorkeling as well as a wide variety of other water sports. There are two cruise ports in Roatan: Mohagany Bay (which Carnival Corporation developed for their ships) and Coxen Hole, where ships from the other lines visiting the area dock. As I was on a Carnival ship, we’d be arriving at Mohagany Bay.

Little French Key Review

During the early stages of my planning for the trip, I’d decided that whatever I did in Mahogany Bay, I was going to make it a chill day. With that being pretty much my only pre-requisite, I asked my travel agent for a little advice. Her recommendation? That I visit Little French Key. I’d heard of the place in the past, but had never actually visited. Having never been steered wrong by my agent in the past, I decided to give the resort a try.

Getting There

Little French Key

Included in the price of your package is round-trip transfers from the pier to the resort. This is true whether your ship is docked at Mahogany Bay or Coxen Hole. Because this isn’t a cruise line sponsored shore excursion, you’ll have to walk beyond the gates of the city to get to the driver who will take you to the resort. Don’t worry, you’ll easily recognize the drivers: They wear very bright shirts that are emblazoned with the resort’s initials, LFK. If for some reason you can’t find them, just ask… they’re locals, so pretty much everyone knows them and can point you in the right direction!

The drive took about 15-minutes, after which we checked in at a little dock. Why a dock? Well, Little French Key is actually an island off the coast of Roatan, so it’s either take a boat or swim! (And no, you can’t actually swim.)

The Full Island Package

How you spend your time once you’ve arrived on the island is up to you, as there are a number of different packages to choose from. I wound up going with the Full Island Package for $88 dollars. This package included:

  • Transportation to and from port
  • Entrance to the private island
  • 2 well drinks
  • Access to the Animal Rescue Center
  • Unlimited use of snorkel gear, kayaks and paddle boards
  • Combination Island Plate – coconut shrimp, a quarter of a rotisserie chicken, and skewered Persian beef kabobs…  plus sides of coconut rice/beans, salad, fresh Yuca chips and salsa. All of the food is prepared there on the island, fresh daily.

Little French Key

They have other packages available — some include more, others less — so it all comes down to personal preferences and how much you’re looking to spend. Over the course of the day, I asked some of the other guests which package they went it, and it seemed the vast majority had gone with the same one I picked.

Two tips: If you know a group of people from your ship are interested and can organize them, parties of 10 or more receive a discount of 10% per person. Also, you don’t actually have to prepay for the excursion and can, instead, pay upon arrival. They take credit cards, but as is often the case on shore excursions, cash is king… you’ll wind up paying a 15% island tax if you use plastic to pay your bill.

Also, you’ll want to make a reservation before you go, and place a $20 deposit during the initial reservation. They take credit cards at the resort but cash is king on the island, you’re subject to a 15% island take if you use credit.

The Animal Rescue Center

Little French Key

Little French Key has a rescue center on the island and is actively involved with numerous animal rehabilitation programs which help various indigenous and exotic species. There is an area of the island specifically dedicated to the animals, where you’ll be able to see everything from monkeys and birds to tigers and jaguars. Spend enough time with the animals, and you’ll find out just how like us they can truly be.

For example, on the day of my visit, a very possessive male duck made it clear that he didn’t want anyone getting too close to the female duck who was clearly his mate.

Little French Key

There is a time-window in which people who want to interact with the monkeys (and, of course, get a picture taken with them) are able to do so. I intended to do this, but wound up busy doing other things and never got around to it. Many of my fellow guests did and loved it.

Swimming With A Jaguar

If there was one thing I heard a lot of people talking about, it was swimming with Esther the jaguar. I’m not gonna lie, I sort of rolled my eyes and thought, “Wow, what a total gimmick.” But because you never know when you’re going to get another chance to experience something, I ponied up the $50 to take a dip with Esther and get my picture taken… and it was worth every cent.

Little French Key

Going into it, I couldn’t help thinking, “A jaguar is basically a cat, and cats don’t much like water, so I have to think Esther is sort of annoyed to be swimming with tourists all day!” Turns out, jaguars actually really love the water. And while I don’t know what they’re like in the wild, Esther was a total sweetheart, going in for her version of a few kisses by licking my face while I was holding her.

Confession: When she went to lick my face, I thought she wanted to bite it off and jumped, probably scaring her way more than she scared me!

My original skepticism aside, this was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget, and I’m glad I didn’t let my cynicism prevent me from taking part in this once-in-a-lifetime moment.

Hitting The Water

Little French Key

You can hop on a stand-up paddleboard (included in the price of my package) and do a little exploring. There’s also a platform, about 20 feet high, from which you can jump into the beautiful waters below. I did this a few times before running back to grab my GoPro out of my backpack so I could take pictures of everyone in my group as they took the leap of faith.

Little French Key

The price of admission also includes the use of snorkel gear you can use to check out the beautiful reef that is just offshore. There’s also volleyball courts and a variety of other activities, all included in the price of admission. Not included, but available for rental, are jet skis, a snorkeling tour ($25), and the chance to go horseback riding.

Little French Key

Lunch Is Served

As I mentioned before, lunch was included in the price of my package, and it was pretty good. Mine was a platter with shrimp, chicken and beef with rice. They also had another option of skewers if you didn’t want the meat combo platter. The kitchen opened at 11:00 a.m. and we were served shortly after.

Little French Key

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The service was awesome the entire day thanks to the incredibly attentive staff. There was never a single service-related issue, and they easily found a way to accommodate any special requests.

The drink of the island was the Monkey La-La, which tasted a lot like a mudslide. The main ingredients are Kahlua, Bailey’s, splash of vodka, chocolate syrup, and pina colada mix.

Heading Back To Ship 

Little French Key

As always, it’s incredibly important that you leave yourself plenty of time to get back to the ship. Remember, when you’re not on an excursion you purchased through the cruise line, they don’t know where you are… and that means if you’re late getting back, they’ll leave without you! (And even if they don’t actually depart, do you really wanna be one of the “runners” folks always gather on the upper decks to cheer and jeer?)

Little French Key

In our case, the same driver who’d brought us to Little French Key brought us back to the ship. Our all aboard time was at 4:30 p.m., so we left Little French Key around 3 p.m. just to be safe. We were back to the ship right around 3:30 p.m. When it looked as if afternoon traffic might delay us, the driver took a couple back roads in order to make sure that we got where we needed to go in plenty of time.

Although when getting off the ship we had to walk beyond the gates in order to find the driver, returning, he was able to drive us right at the cruise terminal itself. Given how tired everyone was from having fun in the sun all day, that was much appreciated.

Final Thoughts 

Little French Key

Overall, I thought this was a great excursion and I would go back in a heartbeat… and I’ll be sure that when I do, I make time to play with the monkeys! I’m bummed that I didn’t do that this time around.

In talking to friends, they asked if the water was as blue as it looks in the photos. I tried to explain, but there really aren’t words with which to describe how beautiful the waters are. It’s that Caribbean blue that we see in postcards and travel ads and think, “It can’t really look like that.” But as anyone who’s been to the right beach under the right circumstances knows, it really can… and often is.

A Few Quick Tips

Little French Key

  • Bring cash to the island. They do accept major credit cards, but you will be charged a 15% tax if you pay with plastic. There are some places one is naturally wary of using their credit cards, but I wasn’t at all nervous about doing so here.
  • Get there as early as you can. The early bird gets the worm, and you don’t want to be stuck without prime seating. They have chairs spread out across the whole area, but if you’re like me, you’ll probably want to be by the bar. Then again, if you want something a little quieter (and don’t mind sacrificing some of the service you’ll get by the bar), you can easily wander off and find a more remote location.
  • There is wifi on the island, and the guests I spoke with said it’s stronger by the bar. The further away from the bar you get, the weaker the signal. My T-Mobile plan gives me free international data, so I didn’t need to use the island’s wifi.
  • Bring your beach towel from the ship. They can always exchange it out for you when you return. (Just make sure to actually return with your towel so you don’t get charged for it.)
  • Take a camera with the capability of shooting pics underwater. There’s a ton of snorkeling off the coast of the island and between the two keys. I wound up taking my GoPro with me and got some really cool pictures of me (and others) jumping off the high dive and rope swing

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Ultimate Guide to Carnival Vista



If you’ve found your way here, odds are that you’ve either booked a cruise on board the Carnival Vista (in which case, congratulations!) or are considering doing so. We’re big believers that two important elements to enjoying a cruise vacation are making sure you’re on the right ship for you, and — once you’ve found that ship — knowing as much about it as possible before boarding. The last thing you want to do is find out after you’ve already disembarked about a restaurant you wish you’d tried or a quiet spot that would have been the perfect place to curl up with a book. (Then again, finding out after the fact just gives you a great reason to take the ship for another spin.)

So whether you’ve already booked a cruise on the Carnival Vista or are simply considering doing so, we’re going to offer you up basic facts, fun tidbits and even a few secrets that will help make you an expert on this amazing ship!

Just The Facts

Carnival Vista

Photo by Andy Newman/Carnival Cruise Line

Her First Voyage: The Vista‘s maiden voyage was on May 1, 2016.
Number Of Passengers: Vista can carry just under 5,000 guests.
Her Stats: While it’s never polite to ask a lady such things, Vista weighs in at 133,500 Gross Tons. She’s 1,055 feet long and 15 decks high.
Vista‘s Godmother: Deshauna Barger, the first woman to serve in the U.S. military and be crowned Miss USA.

What Makes This Ship Special

Carnival Vista

We know that there are people out there who think all cruise ships are the same. Those people are called idiots (at least in polite society), as even sister ships have their own quirks, features and identities in much the same way that even identical twins aren’t really exactly the same. So what sets the Carnival Vista apart?

  • The SkyRide. As you approach the ship, you can’t help but notice those high-in-the-air tracks. This was the first ship to offer passengers a chance to pedal their way through the air on dueling suspended bikes.
  • Havana Cabana Suites. This unique category of staterooms features a large patio on which guests can not only soak up the sun on comfy loungers, but also enjoy their own private swing!
  • The Havana Pool. During the day, this plush area is exclusively available to guests staying in the designated Havana cabins. At night, all are welcome as it morphs into one of the best party spots on a ship with more than a few of them.
  • The Dreamscape Funnels. These massive LED screens resemble nothing so much as a tornado, and the constantly changing images displayed upon them prove a mesmerizing distraction. While the one which anchors the atrium area is the most photographed, there’s a second in the casino which is almost more impressive as the darker atmosphere allows it to “pop” all the more.

Let’s Talk Food

Carnival Vista

If you’re like us, one of the things that immediately comes to mind when you think about cruising is food. What restaurants are on board and, just as important to some, which are free? Carnival Vista offers a wide variety of food options ranging from the typical buffet fare to specialty restaurants which generally charge a flat per-person fee. For additional information on any of the restaurants listed below, simply click on the provided links.

Complimentary Dining Options 

Specialty Restaurants 

Nightlife On The Carnival Vista

Carnival VistaCarnival Vista offers a wide variety of after-dark options, ranging from full-fledged production shows to live performances in numerous bars and, of course, dancing the night away. You’d expect nothing less from a line which proudly proclaims its fleet to be Fun Ships, and the nightlife definitely does not disappoint on Carnival Vista.

The big productions shows, put on by Playlist Productions, are held in the main theater, also known as the Liquid Lounge. While there’s plenty of seating in the theater, you’ll want to arrive early, because the design of the space isn’t ideal, and there are many seats with obstructed views. Ever since Vista first launched, this has been one of the most-voiced complaints among passengers, and it’s not exactly the kind of thing that can easily be remedied… so consider yourself warned.

Another popular venue is the Limelight Lounge on deck four, which is home to the Punchliner Comedy Club. As on most ships, the comedy here tends to come in two flavors: Family-friendly and, later in the evening, adult’s only. While not all of the late-night comedians work blue, be warned that some take the adult’s only thing pretty seriously. Those who are easily offended should definitely stick to the earlier shows. We also offer up the same warning/advice with this venue that we did the Liquid Lounge: Arrive early to get good seats and avoid craning your neck to see around a pole.

After the final shows of the night, the Limelight Lounge transforms into the ship’s nightclub… although it’s far from the only spot you’ll find people partying! As DJ’s spin hits in this lounge, live music can be found at various venues, including Ocean Plaza, the RedFrog Pub and the Havana Bar, all of which are located on deck five. You can also head to the atrium, where you’ll often find performers putting on a show from a staging area just above the central bar.

Popular Places To Grab A drink

Carnival Vista

While we focused above on the hottest nighttime spots, there are plenty of places around the Carnival Vista to grab a drink, day or night. Keep an eye on the daily Fun Times newsletter, because it’ll keep you informed as to what’s going on where… and that includes when live musicians will be playing in one of the bars or by the pool. So let’s wander around and take in some of our favorite places to chillax, shall we?

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The Atrium Bar is located on deck three, and it’s the first bar you’ll see when you board the ship. (As a result, it’ll also be ridiculously crowded when you board, as a lot of folks tend to gravitate toward the first source of alcohol they see in order to get their vacation off on the right foot!) There’s limited seating at the actual bar itself, but plenty couches and chairs on which to lounge in the immediate area. Get comfy, because you’ll probably find yourself hypnotized by the three-story LED Dreamscape.

The Casino Bar is located on deck four in the casino and features a miniature version of the LED Dreamscape. This is definitely not the place to go if you’re a non-smoker, as it’s one of the spaces on board the ship where those who puff are permitted to do so.

The wildly popular RedFrog Pub and Brewery is located on deck five midship and has both inside and outside seating available. You’ll find pub-style food here for $3.33 per order, along with Caribbean Rums and beers brewed onboard.

Carnival Vista

RedFrog Pub on Carnival Vista. photo/Carnival

Hanging by the pool and feeling the need for a refreshing cocktail? The RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar are both conveniently nearby. While there is seating at both, there’s not a lot and they are popular spots. Best to grab a drink and wander… or take it back to your lounger by the pool.

Serenity Bar is located inside the adults-only Serenity area on the upper deck in front of the ship. The bar also sets out a cooler of water so you don’t dehydrate while sitting in the sun all day.

Our favorite spot to grab a pre-dinner drink? Without doubt, that would be the Alchemy Bar. Here, lab-coat-wearing mixologists whip up the cure for what ails you. Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Tell them what you like, and they’ll create a cocktail specifically tailored to your preferences! Careful, though: These tasty tonics pack a punch!

Outdoor Fun 

Carnival Vista

Photo: Nancy Schretter

If you’re a guest booked in the Havana Suites, you’ll have exclusive daytime access to the Havana Retreat, which features two hot tubs, a pool and tons of comfy lounging options, both in and out of the sun. If you’re not staying in a Havana cabin, it opens to the general public at 7 p.m.

Carnival Vista

The SkyRide mixes a cycling workout with a thrill ride as you pedal your way around the cruise ship high above the water.

See Carnival Vista Deck Plans

The SkyCourse is Carnival Vista‘s ropes course, which forms a rectangle around the sports deck area. There are both easy and difficult options, and they are side-by-side which makes it great for pairs in which one person is a tad more daring than the other! You each get to stick with your comfort level while being able to do the course together. Below, the sports deck offers miniature golf, shuffleboard, a unique set of work-out equipment known as the SkyFitness center and tables of the ping-pong, foosball and pool varieties.

Carnival Vista

Pool wise, there are two located on the lido deck. One is located midship, and the other is on the back of the ship. While the midship pool does not have hot tubs, there are two located near the rear pool, with one on either side. The adult’s only Serenity area also has two hot tubs. You can get towels from one of two huts, but make sure to return them, because not doing so will cost you $25. On the other hand, if you wanted to buy a new towel, well, there ya go.

Kids Programs

Carnival Vista

Photo: Carnival

Carnival Vista‘s Camp Ocean program is for kids ages 2-11 and has a wide variety of fun, marine-themed activities to keep the little ones busy. Teens ages 12-14 will enjoy hanging out with their peers at Circle C, while Club O2 is a space specifically reserved for the 15-17 year old crowds. Each of these groups not only gives kids a chance to learn new things, but they serve as great opportunities for them to increase socialization skills. While it’s not for every child, many parents swear that their kids beg to spend as much time in the kid’s clubs as possible!

Parent who want to have a romantic evening without their beloved offspring are able to take advantage of the Night Owls babysitting program offered by Carnival. Available from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., the service does come at a fee (as of this writing, $6.75 per hour, per child), which is charged to your sail-and-sign card.

Quiet Areas

Carnival Vista

As previously mentioned, the hot spot for adults looking to get away from it all is the Serenity area on deck 15. Not only will you find a variety of loungers and hammocks and a full-service bar, but there’s even a fantastic, complimentary venue called Fresh Creations, a make-it-yourself salad bar available on sea days.

Some of the best quiet areas can be found simply by wandering the ship. Many of the venues which come to life at night prove to be almost abandoned during the daytime, making them the perfect place to curl up with a book… even if your real intention is to nap!

Deck five wraps around the entire ship and seemed, at least in our experience, quiet for the most part. Areas to avoid are the starboard side between 12-3, because Guy’s Pig and Anchor BBQ is open so it gets a little cramped. Opposite of Guy’s on the port side is the RedFrog Pub; depending on when you go out there, it can get pretty loud… especially if there’s a rousing game of corn hole going on.


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Review: Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize



When a cruise ship stops at Belize, many guests opt to stay on the ship rather than deal with the 25-minute tender ride to the mainland. While planning a recent cruise aboard the Carnival Magic, I turned to my travel agent for advice on what to do during my stop in Belize. She immediately suggested the Snorkeling Wonders of the Barrier Reef tour. All my life, I’d heard that Belize has most of the reefs in the Western Hemisphere off their coast, and I’ve long wanted to dive the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, so this sounded like a perfect excursion for me.

The tour boasted snorkeling on the barrier reef with a professional guide, followed by some time for fun in the sun. I booked it through Carnival Cruise Line, which was charging $74.99 per adult and $64.99 per child.

If you’re doing the tour through Carnival and have a Fun Points MasterCard, check to see if there are any kinds of promotions running. During certain times of the year, the Fun Points card offers excursion discounts which can often get you 10 percent off the price.

Starting the Tour

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

We met in the main show lounge on board the Carnival Magic. The ticket time said we should arrive by 8:30 a.m. and that the tour would depart at 9 a.m.  As it turned out we were one of the last groups called to disembark and I couldn’t figure out why… at least not until we were off the ship. As it turns out the boat we’d be taking to our snorkeling sight picked us up at the ship whereas folks on most of the other excursions had to make their way to the pier (Cave tubing and ruins are always popular excursions.).

READ MORE: Carnival Magic in Belize City

We boarded the double-decker boat and were given a quick safety briefing as we headed to Rendezvous Island, the tiny piece of land at the center of the reef we were excited to explore. The ride to the island was scenic, and the tour guide gave us a little history of the area we were visiting. If you’ve ever done the ferry boat ride to Paradise Island is Nassau, this has a very similar feeling. It was also during the boat ride that we were assigned our snorkel equipment.

40 minutes later, we arrived at Rendezvous Island and, upon disembarking, were given a beach mat and picked our spots to set up camp for the day. I couldn’t help thinking that the place reminded me of the setting of Gilligan’s Island… the only thing missing were Ginger, Mary Anne and the Howells.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef

Tip: If you want to get a tiki hut for your group or family, be one of the first people off the boat, there are only 12 or so huts available, and it’s the only shade on the island.

Ready To Snorkel!

A few minutes later,  we were ready to head out on our snorkel tour. We divided ourselves into three groups: Beginner, intermediate and advanced. Those in the beginner group stayed very close to land as opposed to heading into the deeper waters which the intermediate and advanced group explored. Having been snorkeling for years I put myself into the advanced group.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

On the way to the water, we were issued a lifejacket, mask, and snorkel. Once we had geared up we made our way into the water. Even in Belize, the water is a bit chilly in the winter. But once you got in, you quickly got used to it.

Our guide, Clive, was very knowledgeable as he guided us around the reefs and explained the different types of coral we would be seeing. He also pointed out different types of fish, sea cucumbers and live conchs. The water varied from three feet deep in the shallow areas to more than forty feet deep by the drop-offs.


There is a second guide who accompanies you in a kayak and is equipped with extra equipment should anyone need it for some reason.

If you have an underwater camera, make sure to bring it, because you’ll have a lot of opportunities to get some gorgeous shots.  I brought my GoPro and took some amazing photos of the reefs, fish and different types of coral that can be found along the reef.

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

Note: The snorkel guide will not ask you for a tip but if you enjoyed your tour, it’s nice to extend a few dollars to them.

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Hanging on the Island

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

After about forty-five minutes in the water, we went back to shore where we were able to grab some food and chill out for a little while before going back to the ship. There was food and drinks available for purchase on the island, and it’s important to know that they only accept cash. I would highly recommend bringing your own bottled water to the island, because it gets hot as heck out there in the sun.

Heading Back to the Ship

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

After an hour and a half, we gathered our belongings and made our way back to the boat. There are changing areas and restrooms not far from where the boat was waiting, allowing anyone who wanted to skip into dry clothes if they want to.

On the boat ride back to the ship, we were served free fruit punch and water. We could also purchase rum punch and beer at $5 a pop. The cups were on the small size, but if you want an authentic experience, go for it… right?

At the end of the tour, there are guides holding a tip jug as you make your way off the boat and onto the ship. These are not the same people who served as your guides while snorkeling, and the tips offered here are for the crew of the ship which ferried you back and forth.

Tips For First-Timers

Snorkeling Wonders of Barrier Reef in Belize

Here are a few tips that I learned my first time doing the Wonders of the Barrier Reed Tour.

  • Bring your own bottled water. You’ll save money by not having to purchase it. Also, don’t fill your bottle from the barrels on the island. The water is unfiltered, and you never know what might have fallen into those barrels along with rain.
  • Be one of the first people off the tour boat so you can grab a tiki hut under which to put your belongings. If there is one ship in port it usually isn’t too bad, but if there are a few, you’ll wind up jockeying for space and it’s a first-come, first-served situation.
  • Sunscreen is a must. As with any Caribbean excursion, the water only serves to amplify the sun and you can burn awfully quick. Trust me: Even if you think you won’t burn, you will without protection. The Caribbean heat can be brutal, even in the winter.
  • Bring cash. If you want to purchase food, drinks or trinkets on the island, you’ll need it. Credit cards are not accepted on the island. Although I refer to it as an island, it’s really just a half-acre or so of sand sticking out of the barrier reef. So you won’t find an ATM machine here.

Final Thoughts

If your ship stops in Belize, do yourself a favor and do some exploring. Even if you’re not interested in this particular excursion, there are plenty of other opportunities to explore, and you’ll really be missing out if you decide not to. But this excursion in particular is, in my mind, a can’t-miss opportunity. Belize holds over half of the barrier reefs on this side of the planet, and it’s truly breathtaking.

The Snorkeling Wonders of the Barrier Reef excursion is easily one of my top three excursions in the Caribbean, and a truly unforgettable experience.

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