My husband, our 4 year old, our 6 year old, and I took an 8 night cruise on the Carnival Vista at the beginning of August 2018 to celebrate my cousin’s wedding. We were a party of 50 people in total coming from Canada and South Africa; four generations including nine kids ranging from aged 1 to 17.
About the ship
A quick tour:
- Cruise to: Caribbean
- Guest capacity: 3934
- Crew: 1450
- Number of decks: 14
- Pools: 2 pools open to everyone; 2 pools with restricted access; water slides and splash pad area
- Dining options: over 10 dining options available, many are included (i.e. no additional costs). A few of the restaurants are included if you are having lunch but dinner is at an additional cost. The pizzeria and room service offer 24 hour service.
For more detailed information regarding accommodation, amenities, dining, features of the ship which are available at an additional cost, and the layout of the ship, visit carnival.com.
We opted for an interior room. If we were to go a cruise again while my kids are under age 10, I would opt for this room option again from a cost perspective but once they are older than that, we will probably find these quarters a little too close and would choose a larger room option. The interior room was small, approximately 185 square feet, but quite well planned out and included the following:
- Two twin beds and two pull down bunks. They were comfortable and the kids loved this sleeping arrangement. The top bunks don’t get put away each day so adults or older children may not be able to sit up comfortably on any of the beds. There was about 3 feet of space between the beds. Our 2 large suitcases were easily stored underneath one of the twin beds.
- Two narrow bedside tables.
- A small desk with a small stool which tucks underneath the desk. The desk had 1 outlet, 2 USB ports, and a drawer which housed a small hairdryer. The mirror above the desks had lights around it and provided decent light for makeup application.
- A flat screen TV with a unit underneath it had a bar fridge and some shelves.
- The closet comprised 3 drawers, 3 shelves, a short rod with 6 hangers, and a small safe. It is not a lot of space for 4 people. There was just enough room in the closet for my husband and I to unpack our clothes. I had packed each of our daughter’s clothes in a separate packing cube and did not unpack for them. They had a dedicated shelf for the 2 cubes.
- The bathroom had a small shower with a body wash and shampoo dispenser, a short retractable laundry line, a toilet, a tiny sink, a large wall mounted mirror, a magnifying mirror, and 6 shelves. There were a few hooks on the bathroom door for extra hanging space. Finding space to hang wet bathing suits and cover ups was a bit of a challenge.
The food was plentiful, varied, and good on the whole in terms of taste and quality. While much of it was indulgent, lighter and healthier options were available too. We alternated between the buffet and the dining room for breakfast. Both were good. If not eating early, the buffet does get very crowded. The dining room offered a more relaxed breakfast experience. If you need to have a quick breakfast, order room service for a specific time the night before.
For lunches, we mainly did the counter service dining as the buffet lines tended to be long. We enjoyed the burgers, pizza, BBQ (good brisket), and tacos.
All of our dinners were taken in the Horizons dining room. They were able to accommodate the 50 of us at 5 tables close together. A kids’ menu was available with the usual kids’ fare. Our kids ate from the main menu most nights and enjoyed the dinners on the whole. Dinner were generally good and made more enjoyable by attentive and friendly service. The kids loved the nightly “showtime” which involved dancing with the wait staff and made for a fun atmosphere. The downside to the early sitting is not being able to linger and chat long after dinner as they need to prepare for the next guests.
- Saturday: Miami, FL (Embarkation)
- Sunday: Sea Day
- Monday: Grand Turk (07h00 – 14h00)
- Tuesday: La Romana, Dominican Republic (09h30 – 16h30)
- Wednesday: Curacao (13h30 – 22h30)
- Thursday: Aruba (08h00 – 16h00)
- Friday: Sea Day
- Saturday: Sea Day
- Sunday: Miami, FL (Debarkation)
We arrived at the port around noon and our first impression was this is chaos with hundreds of people hopping out of cabs, handing luggage over to porters, and lining up to check in. However, things were well organised and moved pretty quickly and smoothly. We handed our suitcases to a porter before joining the line. You can choose to take your suitcases aboard yourself but as your room may not be accessible, they will really limit your mobility on the ship – the elevators were very busy – so I would recommend you let the porters take care of them for you. Once we passed through security, we received a zone pass and were told to wait to board the ship only when our zone number was announced. There was a large waiting room with plenty of seating. When we entered the waiting area, they were calling zone 5 and 6. We were zone 18 and did not wait longer than 20 minutes before being called. Have your boarding pass and passport easily accessible to make the process quicker as you will be required to show present them multiple times before boarding the ship. Our rooms were not ready until 13h30 so we had lunch while we waited and explored some of the ship. We had packed our bathing suits, sunscreen, and other swim accessories in a bag which we carried onto the ship with us so were able to hit the water slides right after lunch. Our suitcases were delivered to our room around 17h00.
Ports of call
Excursions can be booked through the cruise line but we organised our port days independently as this was more economical.
The wedding ceremony took place on Grand Turk and the reception on the ship so we did not do any excursions at this stop.
La Romana, Dominican Republic
We opted to do a day pass at the Dreams La Romana Resort & Spa. For $65 per adult and half that for kids, we had access to the pools and beaches. All food, drinks, towels, and deck chairs were also included. It was not required but I e-mailed the resort before the cruise to put our names down on the day pass list and ask a few questions. There was no deposit required. The beach was very nice with soft sand, calm water, and no seaweed. The resort had a floating trampoline which was fun. There are a few coral reefs just off the beach and there were quite a few people snorkelling (although there did not seem to be an abundance of fish). We lunched at the Beachside Grill. The food was average and the service a bit slow but the gorgeous setting made up for it. Post lunch, we enjoyed swimming in the main pool. It was a great, relaxing day and a welcome opportunity to have a proper swim.
To get to and from the resort, we took a taxi which cost $15 per adult round trip. The kids road for free. The driver dropped us off a little before 10h00 and picked us up 14h30. If you have any questions regarding the resort, you can contact them at econcierge.drelr
A short walk from the port brings you to the old fort, which has been converted into a collection of shops and restaurants. The fort walls offer some lovely views of the town across the water. We enjoyed a leisurely walk on the Queen Emma bridge and around the charming and pretty town with its colourful buildings. The bridge swings open to let boats through. While the bridge is open, a ferry offers an alternate way of crossing over.
Eagle Beach is really beautiful. It’s long and wide with soft, fine sand and waters that are the stuff of Caribbean dreams. It was a short taxi ride from the port and cost $15 one way per taxi (5 people maximum by law). $40 will rent you an umbrella and 2 lounge chairs.
While there’s a lot to do (refer to carnival.com), a large part of our days at sea were spent at the ship’s splash pad and slides. The big slides were fun and fast enough to keep adults interested too. The tube slide had a height requirement of 48 inches and the other slide 42 inches. There was a small slide for the little kids too. The splash pad was great fun for the little kids – it isn’t large but kept them entertained for hours. To get a break from the sun, we spent some time at the Dr. Seuss library, Camp Ocean (they have a few family time slots), and the thrill theatre. We really enjoyed the movies under the stars too.
We did not spend much time in the pools. Like most cruise ships, they were quite small for the capacity of people so felt crowded. The kids did not like that the pools were filled with sea water.
We needed to be at the airport by 10 am so opted for self checkout and took our suitcases off the ship ourselves. Debarkation and customs went very smoothly and quickly. There were plenty of taxis waiting and we got to the airport with time to spare.
Tips + Things to Consider
We had a really good time on the cruise. The ship was clean, well-maintained, and there was plenty to do. The service was great, attentive and friendly. While fun, if you are looking for a very relaxing holiday, an all-inclusive may be more conducive to this. There are a lot of people, quite a bit of animation, and you need to pay attention to the time, e.g. making sure you are back on the ship on time, getting to dinner sittings on time etc.
A few tips and recommendations…
- I would recommend waiting to cruise until your youngest child is at least 4 for the easiest and most enjoyable trip. I would not cruise if holidaying with babies or very young kids. There are A LOT of stairs and the elevators are busy, especially around meal times, making strollers inconvenient. There are very few places for little ones to crawl or toddle freely. There is a kid’s club but it is more geared towards babysitting. The open times (when you can use it with your kids) are limited. Children must be toilet trained (no diapers or swim diapers) in order to use the pools. Cribs take up a lot of room in already tight quarters. There are usually no bath tubs, only showers. The announcements, though not constant, are loud enough and often enough that they would have interfered with my kids’ nap time.
- Check height and age restrictions before booking – there are some height restrictions for on-board activities and even more age restrictions for excursions.
- Plan for additional costs. Drinks, excursions, and certain ship activities are not included. A gratuity will also be added to your bill at the end of the cruise (it was $103 per person for us). This is done so that more of the crew, especially those who you may not interact with directly can also benefit. We had been tipping throughout the week and wanted to tip our waiters and cabin steward personally at the end of the trip so we asked for our gratuity amount to be adjusted so that we could do this. We were able to specify the amount and how it was to be distributed. We were only able to do this at the end of the cruise – the lines are looooong so be prepared should you choose to do this.
- Download the Carnival App before you board – it is very handy to look up activities, locations, menus and other information. The chat is a useful (though sometimes unreliable) feature.
- Fly in the day before to avoid missing sail-away – this was the number one tip that we got from experienced cruisers.
- You may not receive your bags until late in the day so pack a bag with your swimwear and a change of clothes for dinner to carry aboard with you.
- Go to the safety briefing. It is not optional and you will be called by name (repeatedly if needed) and made to attend a “make up” session if you do not present yourself at the first session.
- It is pitch black in the interior room with the lights off. We always travel with a night light and it really came in handy on this trip. I would definitely recommend having one.
- If your flight home is early (before noon), keep your suitcases and do self-checkout to avoid unnecessary delays.
Packing Lists + Checklists
I’ll share our packing lists and checklist in the next post, please subscribe to get notified.
I hope you found this review helpful. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll provide any additional info that I can. If you have any tips or want to share your cruising experience, please do so in the comments below!