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Trip Report Day 4: Carnival Vista in Grand Cayman



If there’s a word to describe how this morning started, it would be “discombobulated.” Knowing we were supposed to meet in the Reflections dining room, we decided to first head to the Lido Marketplace to grab some breakfast. We weren’t in any particular hurry… until I remembered that Grand Cayman is a port at which you have to catch a tender to go ashore, and ours was scheduled for 8:30. And this, folks, is why you always want to make sure to read the information that comes with your shore excursion ticket carefully. Fortunately, the Carnival Vista was a little bit late arriving, so we made our scheduled shore excursion despite the mix-up.

Stingray City

Carnival Vista

Once the tender arrived on shore, we waited about 15 minutes before our group boarded the bus that would take us to the marina. There, our group — about 50 people — boarded a catamaran headed for Stingray City. The boat is mostly open-air except a small area where the restroom and bar are located, and it’s about a 45 minute ride out to Stingray City. Fun fact: Despite what anyone might say, you can get a pretty nasty sunburn even if you never take off your T-shirt. Need proof? Look at my back right now, which hurts like heck.

Carnival Vista stingray excursion

Anyway, once we arrived at Stingray City, we got off the boat and into the water to interact with these very cool, very big creatures. I mentioned yesterday that I’m kinda freaked out by stingrays, while while I did get my picture taken with them, I passed on the opportunity to feed them. With my luck, I’d probably have wound up losing a finger. And while there are a lot of things I’m willing to do in order to entertain you guys with my trip report, finding out first hand (or should I say first finger?) whether that kind of accident is covered by insurance is not one of them.

Carnival Vista stingray

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We had about an hour to swim with the stingrays before climbing back onto the boat for the return trip to the marina. The trip back was a little more leisurely, as we used the sail instead of the motor. At the marina, we grabbed a shuttle for the 10-minute ride back into the city. Instead of heading straight back to the ship, we opted to grab a local beer and some chicken wings at one of the bars on the waterfront. Beers were $3 yesterday in Jamaica, and $6 here in Grand Cayman. And I have to say, the Jamaican beer was better. We then headed back to Carnival Vista.

Post-Sailaway Sale

Once back on the ship, I showered and spent a little time chilling on the balcony. We may have been a little late to arrive, but we left Grand Cayman at exactly 4 p.m. Eventually, I decided to walk down to the shops around the atrium to see if there were any good bargains to be had at the sidewalk sale. Apparently, there was either a very, very good sale going on or they were giving away money, because the area was packed. Rather than throw myself into the crowd, I wandered around the casino until it was time for dinner.

JiJi’s Asian Kitchen

Carnival Vista JiJi's

We had a 6 p.m. dinner reservation at JiJi’s Asian Kitchen, and I’ll admit that I’d been looking forward to this all day. It was, as I knew it would be, awesome. For those who’ve never tried it, JiJi’s is one of those restaurants that I never tire of. It’s a specialty restaurant, so there’s a fee attached, but if you can find a better meal — on land or at sea — for $15, grab it. They specialize in Asian-Fusion, which is one of those terms that really only means anything if you’re a foodie. All I know is that, despite having what some might call a limited menu, it’s an incredible meal. JiJi’s is served family style, so the more people you have in your party, the more options you have and the more dishes you’ll get to try. (If you really want your mouth to water, read the review I wrote after dining in this venue aboard the Carnival Sunshine, which you can find here.)

Carnival Vista Jiji's

Between being in the sun all day and eating a fantastic meal, I was pretty beat and ready to head back to the cabin. Next up? Cozumel, so come back tomorrow and we’ll hit up the Mexican island.

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Carnival Vista Trip Report: Disembarkation



This morning I set the alarm for 5:30 because I love to be either out on deck or on my balcony as a ship sails back into port. But it turned out that Carnival Vista came into port a little earlier than I thought she would, because when I walked onto the balcony we were already docked. We were the second ship to come in, with the first being the Carnival Splendor, which was docked right behind us. Before long, a parade of ships came into port, starting with one of Celebrity’s ship, the Norwegian Getaway, and the Disney Magic. It was a busy day for Port Miami.

As much as I hate getting off the ship, I usually try to be among the first to disembark. Who wants to end an amazing trip by dealing with long lines to disembark, longer ones at customs, waiting to get a taxi… talk about a buzzkill. So I wanted to grab something to eat and get off as quickly as possible.

The main dining room opened at 6:30 a.m., about 30 minutes before disembarkation was slated to start. The offered menu was the one they use on port days — which makes sense, as it’s designed to get you in-and-out, pronto. I went with the broken egg sandwich again, one last time. Because let’s face it: At home, I’m not putting this much effort into breakfast, so I might as well enjoy it while I can! Once we’re off the ship, it’s back to spinach smoothies or a banana for breakfast!

People — especially those who hit the buffet for breakfast — always ask me why I love the main dining rooms so much. There are a couple of reasons, the primary one being that my portions are controlled and I won’t load my plate up with bacon. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but if this week’s posts have proven nothing else, it’s that I don’t have a whole lotta self-control when it comes to food when I’m on vacation!) I also like that there’s no rush, and there are no lines. Also, people bring me food. That’s not something that happens on a regular basis at home!

The service in the dining room this morning was about on par with the previous days on the cruise, they may have even had an extra pep in their step so they could get us out of the dining room faster. They have a big ship to turn around in just a few hours.

READ MORE: 35 Carnival Vista Tips

Finishing breakfast by around 7 a.m., we went to collect our bags before heading down to the main atrium to get off the ship. We were in line around 7:25 and the process was flawless. There were two lines, and in eight minutes flat, we were off the ship, buzzing through customs and waiting for our Lyft (an Uber competitor) to take us to our hotel in Fort Lauderdale (where you’ll recall we’d parked the car before setting sail).

Here’s a tip worth remembering: Carnival has an arrangement with Lyft whereby first time users of the service can use the promo code CARNIVAL and get $10 off your ride. With the discount, our trip from the Carnival Vista to the Hilton Garden Inn in Fort Lauderdale came to $26. We left Port Miami at 7:35 a.m., arrived at the hotel 25 minutes later, and by  8:10 a.m. the car was loaded and we were on our way home.

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Before I share my final thoughts on our Carnival Vista sailing, I want to sincerely thank you for following these trip reports. I know I can sometimes ramble on a little, but I try to paint the best picture of the ship experience for you. If you have any questions about Carnival Vista or the eight-night itinerary to the Southern Caribbean, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask. After all, that’s why I’m here!

Final Thoughts

This was my third time sailing the Carnival Vista, and I really do like what it has to offer. As with every cruise line, at the end of the day it’s a business and about profitability. I have noticed that the dining room service seems a little bit slower than what I’ve experienced in the past, and I heard other people commenting on that as well. This seems to be something we’re hearing more across several lines, and I hope it’s not a trend that continues.

The Alchemy Bar has the cure for what ails you.

The Alchemy Bar is my favorite bar on the ship, but even there we had to wait to get a drink. It makes me wonder if so many people get the drink package that it bogs the servers down, or is Alchemy Bar just that popular? Maybe both. It could also be that the drinks at that particular bar are so specific and often involve many ingredients, meaning it’s going to take longer for cocktails to be made.

Again, I say, if you’re going to watch a show in the Liquid Lounge or catch an adults-only comedy show in the Limelight Lounge, make sure you get there early or you could find yourself dealing with an obstructed-view situation. I get that the polls hold the roof up and all, but it seems like the seating could be modified or designed differently. Guess we’ll leave that up to the structural engineers.

There were a lot of kids on this sailing (I’m told over 1,200), but the ship handles them well. In fact, I feel like we rarely saw any of the kids for much of the week! Perhaps that’s a testament to how much they love the Camp Ocean kids program?

Would I sail Carnival Vista again? In a heartbeat, although it might be a while before I board her again. I’ve done both the eight-night and the six-night itineraries she runs, and will probably look for another route on my next sailing.

Thank you again for following along and being here. I really appreciate you.

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Carnival Vista Trip Report Day 8: Heading to Miami



Waking up today I was a little bit upset, and it didn’t have to do with the cruise itself, but because this is the last day at sea and this time tomorrow I’ll be back on land. However, that didn’t stop me from making the most out of my last Fun Day at Sea. I ordered room service this morning and got a pot of coffee to enjoy on the balcony. We really haven’t had a meal out there all cruise so at least I could enjoy some coffee. The balcony has plenty of space to eat and today we actually ate twice on there. More on that later.

Before my last sea day brunch I went around the ship and took some pictures with my real camera and not my iPhone. It gave a good perspective on how the ship handles itself on sea days.

The last Sea Day Brunch included Fruit Loops crusted French toast and a sea salted chocolate cookie. Both were equally awesome. I’m not a big chocolate fan but anything that has sea salt in it grabs my attention. The service was decent in the main dining room for brunch. Again, we went around 10 a.m., so it was peak time when people were just starting to wake up and get in there.

Since we’re going to be returning to the cold weather tomorrow, we need to take advantage one last day of warm Caribbean sunshine and hop on the slides. They have two waterslides on Carnival Vista, the Kaleidoscope and Twister waterslide. The Kaleidoscope slide you grab a raft and take it to the top of sit down in. It’s really psychedelic with all the colors zipping by you. Twister slide is the long yellow slide that you zip down. I always gave myself a head start on that slide and wound up using most of the runway when it came to shooting out the end of the slide. With 1200 kids on the sailing, the lines for the slides weren’t that bad. There was maybe a 15 minute wait for both slides.

We got on the slides just in the knick of time because shortly after we went back to the cabin the sun went behind the clouds and the wind started.

Like Cucina del Capitano, JiJi’s Asian Kitchen also offers a complimentary Mongolian Wok lunch with table service. Although, not nearly as organized as the Italian place. Today they were opened from noon to 2:30, and we must’ve just beat the crowds because we were sat as soon as we approached the hostess stand, but when we were leaving there was a 30-minute wait to be seated. The venue felt a little too crowded to me. I’d compare it to Cheesecake Factory or a restaruant in NYC where you’re sitting on top of someone. It was a little too close to me so when we got the food we took it to the stateroom and had it on the balcony. They offered chicken, beef, pork, calamari, or mussels and clams for the meat and about a dozen different vegetables to mix it.

There was a Q&A session with Matt the cruise director this afternoon so we went to that. Since Matt was hosting it, it was surely to be entertaining. People were asking a lot of questions about his background, what life is like below deck, and a lot of the things people thought could be changed on Carnival Vista. Most of the comments about changes came to the layout of the Liquid Lounge.

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READ MORE: Deck Plans for Carnival Vista

The past couple days they’ve been building a gingerbread house on deck five outside of the Library Bar and it’s been really awesome watching it come to life. It started with a big white cutting board and by tonight it was a full blown gingerbread village. One of the Steakhouse Chefs were there taking photos of it with a professional camera and I started talking to him about how much chocolate they used to build the village, he said 300 pounds were used in this one display and that it takes teamwork to build them. For what I understood, different ships build different parts of the display for each other. So a chef will put in extra hours designing a certain section of the building, when they are in port with another ship, they will bring a section of the display to the other ship. So the Carnival Vista display pieces have been built across multiple ships. Pretty cool concept.

Today at Cherry on Top the store had their ice cream cookie sandwiches on sale for $2 (normally $3). So I went to get one last one. This time I went with a sugar cookie, vanilla bean ice-cream, and heath bar topping. I almost went back to get a second one but the reality of dinner being two hours away set in. You have an option to tip the cafe worker making your ice cream cookie, I usually tipped a $1 just because everything is made to order and nothing is prepared in advance.

Before dinner they did Lip Sync Battle with two guests that competed earlier in the cruise. If you’ve ever seen the show on Spike TV, you know it’s people lipping the words to songs that are chosen for them. Matt hosted it with a sidekick and it was entertaining. We sat in the balcony off to the very side and it wasn’t

Turns out the couple sitting next to us at dinner had opposite specialty dining nights as us. So when we were in the main dining room they were doing specialty and vice versa. We also realized that we were on the same excursion in Aruba a couple days ago and they were equally as fascinated about the ship wreck as I was.

Tonight’s dinner was shrimp cocktail, pork chop with baked potato, and Baked Alaska. This is one of the first sailings that Carnival has rolled out Baked Alaska on wowzers, it was awesome! They did the whole song and dance where they were parade around the main dining room with the dessert on fire and then served it to each table. They get an A+ for presentation and taste. It was so good the guy sitting next to me ordered a second and then proceeded to tell me that he needed to work out when he got back home. I love how people use that excuse when they eat a lot. Own the fact that you love to eat, I do!

We popped down to the Havana Retreat before returning to the stateroom for the night. The retreat is exclusively for Havana Suite guests during the day time and then after 7 p.m. it opens to the general public. For some reason people think it’s still private at night because no one goes back there to use the pools or loungers. Obviously it’s way more popular during daylight hours but the rest and relaxation back there is also nice.

Walking back to the cabin it was the sad sight of seeing all the luggage in the hallways waiting to be collected for disembarkation. We are doing self-assist debarkation so we’re going to carry all our bags off the ship with us.

Alright, the bags are packed and it’s midnight. The next time I look outside this window it’ll be Port Miami.

Until then, goodnight.

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Carnival Vista Trip Report: Day 7 at Sea



Today is the first of two sea days as the Carnival Vista makes her way back to Port Miami. I went to upload a picture to Instagram this morning and noticed that most of the southeast was covered in snow. Even the Panhandle of Florida got a little bit of snow. Pretty wild… and something I’m not going to think about until I absolutely have to.

While we did go to the Sea Day Brunch this morning I was careful not to go overboard. Not because I was thinking about my diet (which has pretty much derailed on this cruise!), but in anticipation of this being a big eating day. With that in mind, I stuck with salmon on a bagel and a cup of coffee.

So far the Sea Day Brunch has been really solid. The service was a little slow in the main dining room, but I’m going to give them a pass on that because despite my best intentions, we keep arriving right at the busiest time. The brunch is open from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., and it seems like the vast majority of passengers go right around 11:30 a.m., which makes sense. You can sleep in after the night before’s festivities, but still get a great meal. And while I’m no expert, isn’t brunch supposed to be eaten later than you would normally have breakfast?

At 11:30 a.m., the ropes course and SkyRide open. We did the SkyRide a couple days ago, but really wanted to do it again because the weather was amazing and the idea of pedaling through the cloudless sky on such a perfect day was too good to pass up. The SkyRide had a posted wait time of 30 minutes, but we were to the front of the line and getting harnessed up within 20.  They make you wear closed-toed shoes and a shirt while on the SkyRide, so don’t show up in sandals and thinking you’re going to work on your tan. Despite these rules being very clearly posted, people still get to the front of the line and are surprised when they are turned away. Not sure if they have vacation brain or think the rules won’t apply to them, but in either case… avoid being them.

The ropes course was fun, and it’s always a blast watching first timers making their way through it. I can zip across the course like a spider monkey, but some folks get up there and completely freeze up. They don’t exactly have a truck with a cherry picker bucket that can come rescue you, so make sure you’re ready to commit before you head up there!

Once you slip on the harness, you pick a course and begin making your way around the various obstacles. It’s definitely not for everyone… especially those with a fear of heights. On the one hand, you’re not really that far above the lido deck. But you also happen to be atop a 15-story ship! Depending on your comfort level, it can take anywhere from 5 to 25 minutes to complete the whole course. I don’t wanna brag or anything, but… I’m totally in the five-minute club.

Next up? The Very Hairy Chest Contest, which is always a blast, if only because it proves — every single time, without fail — that middle-aged white men really have no moves. But all six guys were great sports, and the crowd was loving it. We’re talking hundreds of people, lined up on the pool deck and watching from the railings above, cheering the guys on.

I stayed for about half of the show, but all I could think about was food. (I told you this was going to be an eating day!) So while seemingly half the ship was judging the shirtless, hairy guys, we slipped up to Cucina del Capitano. Although it’s a for-fee specialty restaurant at night, they offer a complimentary pasta lunch.

Interestingly, the way they do lunch on board the Vista is different than the way it’s handled on Carnival Sunshine. On that ship,  you filled out an order slip, handed it to a hostess and grabbed a pager. When your order was ready, they paged you to come get it. On Vista, you take a seat, they have drink service, you fill out the order form and give it to a server. About 10 minutes later, the food is brought to you. The servings are huge, and it’s not just pasta. You can also order Caesar salad or lasagna. If you’re not all that hungry, consider asking for a half-serving. That’s what I did, and I still walked away stuffed.

READ MORE: Review of Lunch Experience at Cucina

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After lunch we had to drop by the chocolate buffet for a photo opportunity. I’d love to say that I didn’t actually indulge but, well, that would be a lie.

I’ve made mention of Carnival’s Military Appreciation event in past trip reports, but it’s worth shining a spotlight on again. The military event — which always packs whatever venue it’s held in — is designed to allow everyone to show their gratitude for the men and women who served in not only the United States armed forces, but for any military operation worldwide. It’s an incredibly emotional experience, and it is held on every Carnival sailing. Hearing vets telling stories dating all the way back to the Korean War gave me goosebumps. One high ranking officer in the Air Force told us about special combat missions they conducted and the living hell they went through over there. We all know the big battles that they make movies about, but there are so many smaller battles fought by everyday heroes who we will never know. And here, during this special event, we get to hear their stories and show our appreciation. Hats off to Carnival Cruise Line for doing this. I make it a point to go every single time I’m on a Carnival ship, knowing I’m going to be both humbled by and an emotional wreck after the event.

Which brings us up to my next regularly scheduled feeding. Tonight was formal night in the main dining room. Since lobster was served during the first formal night on Carnival Vista, this time was jumbo shrimp, crab cakes and prime rib. Despite those being things I absolutely love, I decided to go with clam chowder and salmon. So that’s at least a little less work I’ll have to do to get my diet back on track when we get back home.

I love people watching on formal nights because you can tell a lot of the husbands don’t want to dress up. And sure enough, the guys (present company included) who are looking spiffy at 8 p.m. have run back to the cabin and are wearing shorts and flip-flops by the time they hit the theater two hours later for the evening’s entertainment. Meantime, I met some lovely ladies from West Virginia enjoying a pre-dinner cocktail at the Alchemy Bar. They said they were hunters who, back home, never have the opportunity to dress up, so they were loving formal night! They looked stunning and were having a blast, and isn’t that what vacation is all about?

The Playlist Production show tonight was called America Rocks and, while it was entertaining, the poles in the main theater got in my way… proving that I really I should practice what I preach about getting their early to avoid exactly this problem! The performers took us through several decades worth of music with the help of a live rock band and some pretty cool special effects. Being a huge fan of live music, I have a great appreciation for special effects 0n stage, but also appreciate solid vocals, which were lacking. Then again, who am I to judge? It’s not like I could get up there and do that. Heck, I won’t even do karaoke.

The end of the day left me with a pretty big decision to make about tomorrow’s final sea day: Should I order room service in the morning, or hit the main dining room? Then I remembered that I’m on vacation and decided… I’ll do both.

Until breakfast… good night.

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