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We have never cruised before, envisioning cruises as a boring places. where you just ate and read books all day. We opted to cruise the Mediterranean because we are a family of four (two children ages 8 and 11) and it seemed like a great way to get an overview of the area without having to change hotels everyday and waste time on trains getting from place to place. I am pleased to say that our trip on the Carnival Vista changed our perspective about cruises - it is a very fun high energy ship with lots to do for the whole family. It was far from boring. On the positive side: - room was clean, new, well laid out and fit all of our belongings easily. Bed was comfortable. Cove balcony was lovely - we stayed in a family harbour room which meant we had access to the family harbour lounge. This is a wonderful feature. We ate there for breakfast every day. There was a coffee machine, juices, milks and hot and cold items of decent quality. Since the only "free" water stations on board are the four stations on top pool deck (deck 10), having our own beverage station was priceless. Breakfast in the lounge also allowed us to avoid having to deal with lining up to eat in the main dining room. Afternoon snacks were also welcome after a long day on shore. Staff in the family lounge were also friendly, helpful and diligent. - There were a lot of fun activities planned on board and there was never a dull moment. Most were family-friendly. That was really great. - Camp Ocean (the kids club) was excellent and my daughter would have spent every day there if we let her! - The "Carnival hub" for your smart phone is an excellent feature, allowing us to keep instantly informed of what is happening and what charges are being put on our account (necessary since our kids had signing authority). The "chat" feature allows you to stay in touch with your family while on board when there is no cell service. - The food and service in paid restaurants was of excellent quality. JiJis and the steakhouse can easily compete with high quality city restaurants. The upcharges for food in the restaurants were fairly priced. - There was lots of variety on the ship for eating options in addition to the restaurants -there is an ice cream shop, Cuban food in the Havana bar, Caribbean food in the red frog pub, a nice sushi bar and a seafood shack. Again these were all paid options which cost extra but food prices were reasonable. - the free casual food options - tacos and burger joint -were of great quality and easy to access - The comedy club was fun and having a "PG" performance from each comedian was a great experience for the kids who never get to go to comedy clubs. - I loved karaoke in the comedy club in the evenings - the shows in the liquid lounge were very well done. The troupe did a wide variety of shows with high production values and were very talented. These shows far exceeded our expectations. -there is a wide variety of evening entertainment to choose from - a piano bar for the sing-along types, a comedy club, a nightclub, an outdoor movie by the pool, casino, various types of live music, a house band which plays dance-able hits from 60's-80's, and impromptu contests. - the cruise director (Jaime) is high energy and helps maintain a festive atmosphere on the boat - there is very good, well appointed and generously sized gym beautifully situated at the front of the boat with nice views. Always more machines than people - there is a great sports area with basketball / volleyball court, ropes course, mini-golf, foosball, pool etc. - a nice option for us active types -lots of fun and imaginative ad hoc activities throughout the day like theme based trivia, bingo, dance contests etc. - getting on and off the ship for shore excursions was really easy and smooth - we never waited to get on or off - the spa has a "thermal suite" which costs $40 for a whole day and it is a real indulgence with a hamam, heated chiropractic chairs, infrared sauna, mineral pool, etc. - housekeeping was excellent - they cleaned the room twice a day - staff were excessively friendly - boat was clean, new and spacious with lots of "zones" - you never felt crowded. - Marseilles was a dirty ugly city. All the other ports were nice, easily accessible, lots of service people at the port to help you or take you on a tour. Negatives: - Perhaps due to our naivete as first time cruisers, we certainly paid a lot more for the experience than we expected. At the end of the cruise our sail & sign account ($3,000 USD) was almost equal to what we paid for our room ($3200 net of port fees), despite our family having spent 7 days of the 10 day cruise on shore eating our main meals in the local restaurants! While on board we primarily ate in the extra-cost restaurants and pubs and I have no complaint about those additional costs which I think were fairly priced for the quality of food we received. However, I do not think beverages were fairly priced. Other than a handful of lemonade / juice machines on board, you have to buy all your beverages (alcoholic and otherwise). You cannot even purchase bottled water in a shop -you have to get it from the bar. Drink prices were exorbitant and very unfairly priced. These are nightclub prices, not reasonable "upcharges". We spent $1400 in beverages alone for two parents drinking a few drinks a night and two children with no expensive wine. - We were charged a mandatory $500 fee for "gratuities" at the end of the cruise, despite having already paid a 15% mandatory gratuity which was added to all of our food and beverage purchases on board, plus the "extra" tips we felt obligated to pay when presented with our bills each night which had a nice blank "gratuity" line inviting you to tip more above and beyond the 15% already added to the bill. End result? We paid around $900 in gratuities at the end of the day! - there was some really strange dining management system where people had to lineup at a kiosk to get permission to go to the dining room to eat. We just avoided it by going to paid restaurants (no line-ups). - there were long lines at guest services and not enough staff to service people. Only "platinum" and "Diamond" members got service staff. I tried to complain about this but was met with indifference. - the thermal suite was reasonably priced, but other spa services were far above market price. - there are neat theaters on board, but you have to pay, and they repeat the movies too often. There is also an arcade, but it is mostly full of gambling (crane) type of games and expensive. One expects an arcade to be able to entertain a kid for an hour for around $15-20. However, Our kids spent USD $96 in 15 minutes on the first day (I am not exaggerating) and we had to run downstairs to shut them off! They could not really use the arcade - Carnival often made itself look cheap and money-grabby with its constant marketing and solicitations intended to compel you to spend more money. There were photographers strategically placed all around the ship and elevators constantly harassing you for photos. They used fear tactics to try and scare you into buying their shore excursions (which were WAY overpriced for what you were getting). There was a always some jewelry sale, spa sale, etc. The limited access to "free" water/juice coupled with outrageous beverage prices and surprise mandatory "gratuities" also demeaned the quality of the ship and made it look money-hungry. Arcade was highway robbery. At times Carnival felt a little time-share-esque, like they got you on the boat with a good room rate with a view to getting a bunch of money out of you once you were on the ship. This was particularity problematic in Europe because once you hit Greek waters you have to pay a whopping 24% "Value Added Tax" to every purchase you make on board (including food, beverage and services). All in all we had a really good time on the boat and would recommend it to families in a heartbeat, with the caveat that you should be prepared to spend a lot of money once you are on board if you want a comfortable experience. I would budget to spend at least an additional 50-100% of your room cost once on board.

Fun, clean and pretty with lots to do, but expensive.

Carnival Vista Cruise Review by Beautifulnorth

14 people found this helpful
Trip Details
We have never cruised before, envisioning cruises as a boring places. where you just ate and read books all day. We opted to cruise the Mediterranean because we are a family of four (two children ages 8 and 11) and it seemed like a great way to get an overview of the area without having to change hotels everyday and waste time on trains getting from place to place. I am pleased to say that our trip on the Carnival Vista changed our perspective about cruises - it is a very fun high energy ship with lots to do for the whole family. It was far from boring.

On the positive side:

- room was clean, new, well laid out and fit all of our belongings easily. Bed was comfortable. Cove balcony was lovely

- we stayed in a family harbour room which meant we had access to the family harbour lounge. This is a wonderful feature. We ate there for breakfast every day. There was a coffee machine, juices, milks and hot and cold items of decent quality. Since the only "free" water stations on board are the four stations on top pool deck (deck 10), having our own beverage station was priceless. Breakfast in the lounge also allowed us to avoid having to deal with lining up to eat in the main dining room. Afternoon snacks were also welcome after a long day on shore. Staff in the family lounge were also friendly, helpful and diligent.

- There were a lot of fun activities planned on board and there was never a dull moment. Most were family-friendly. That was really great.

- Camp Ocean (the kids club) was excellent and my daughter would have spent every day there if we let her!

- The "Carnival hub" for your smart phone is an excellent feature, allowing us to keep instantly informed of what is happening and what charges are being put on our account (necessary since our kids had signing authority). The "chat" feature allows you to stay in touch with your family while on board when there is no cell service.

- The food and service in paid restaurants was of excellent quality. JiJis and the steakhouse can easily compete with high quality city restaurants. The upcharges for food in the restaurants were fairly priced.

- There was lots of variety on the ship for eating options in addition to the restaurants -there is an ice cream shop, Cuban food in the Havana bar, Caribbean food in the red frog pub, a nice sushi bar and a seafood shack. Again these were all paid options which cost extra but food prices were reasonable.

- the free casual food options - tacos and burger joint -were of great quality and easy to access

- The comedy club was fun and having a "PG" performance from each comedian was a great experience for the kids who never get to go to comedy clubs.

- I loved karaoke in the comedy club in the evenings

- the shows in the liquid lounge were very well done. The troupe did a wide variety of shows with high production values and were very talented. These shows far exceeded our expectations.

-there is a wide variety of evening entertainment to choose from - a piano bar for the sing-along types, a comedy club, a nightclub, an outdoor movie by the pool, casino, various types of live music, a house band which plays dance-able hits from 60's-80's, and impromptu contests.

- the cruise director (Jaime) is high energy and helps maintain a festive atmosphere on the boat

- there is very good, well appointed and generously sized gym beautifully situated at the front of the boat with nice views. Always more machines than people

- there is a great sports area with basketball / volleyball court, ropes course, mini-golf, foosball, pool etc. - a nice option for us active types

-lots of fun and imaginative ad hoc activities throughout the day like theme based trivia, bingo, dance contests etc.

- getting on and off the ship for shore excursions was really easy and smooth - we never waited to get on or off

- the spa has a "thermal suite" which costs $40 for a whole day and it is a real indulgence with a hamam, heated chiropractic chairs, infrared sauna, mineral pool, etc.

- housekeeping was excellent - they cleaned the room twice a day

- staff were excessively friendly

- boat was clean, new and spacious with lots of "zones" - you never felt crowded.

- Marseilles was a dirty ugly city. All the other ports were nice, easily accessible, lots of service people at the port to help you or take you on a tour.

Negatives:

- Perhaps due to our naivete as first time cruisers, we certainly paid a lot more for the experience than we expected. At the end of the cruise our sail & sign account ($3,000 USD) was almost equal to what we paid for our room ($3200 net of port fees), despite our family having spent 7 days of the 10 day cruise on shore eating our main meals in the local restaurants!

While on board we primarily ate in the extra-cost restaurants and pubs and I have no complaint about those additional costs which I think were fairly priced for the quality of food we received. However, I do not think beverages were fairly priced. Other than a handful of lemonade / juice machines on board, you have to buy all your beverages (alcoholic and otherwise). You cannot even purchase bottled water in a shop -you have to get it from the bar. Drink prices were exorbitant and very unfairly priced. These are nightclub prices, not reasonable "upcharges". We spent $1400 in beverages alone for two parents drinking a few drinks a night and two children with no expensive wine.

- We were charged a mandatory $500 fee for "gratuities" at the end of the cruise, despite having already paid a 15% mandatory gratuity which was added to all of our food and beverage purchases on board, plus the "extra" tips we felt obligated to pay when presented with our bills each night which had a nice blank "gratuity" line inviting you to tip more above and beyond the 15% already added to the bill. End result? We paid around $900 in gratuities at the end of the day!

- there was some really strange dining management system where people had to lineup at a kiosk to get permission to go to the dining room to eat. We just avoided it by going to paid restaurants (no line-ups).

- there were long lines at guest services and not enough staff to service people. Only "platinum" and "Diamond" members got service staff. I tried to complain about this but was met with indifference.

- the thermal suite was reasonably priced, but other spa services were far above market price.

- there are neat theaters on board, but you have to pay, and they repeat the movies too often. There is also an arcade, but it is mostly full of gambling (crane) type of games and expensive. One expects an arcade to be able to entertain a kid for an hour for around $15-20. However, Our kids spent USD $96 in 15 minutes on the first day (I am not exaggerating) and we had to run downstairs to shut them off! They could not really use the arcade

- Carnival often made itself look cheap and money-grabby with its constant marketing and solicitations intended to compel you to spend more money. There were photographers strategically placed all around the ship and elevators constantly harassing you for photos. They used fear tactics to try and scare you into buying their shore excursions (which were WAY overpriced for what you were getting). There was a always some jewelry sale, spa sale, etc. The limited access to "free" water/juice coupled with outrageous beverage prices and surprise mandatory "gratuities" also demeaned the quality of the ship and made it look money-hungry. Arcade was highway robbery. At times Carnival felt a little time-share-esque, like they got you on the boat with a good room rate with a view to getting a bunch of money out of you once you were on the ship. This was particularity problematic in Europe because once you hit Greek waters you have to pay a whopping 24% "Value Added Tax" to every purchase you make on board (including food, beverage and services).

All in all we had a really good time on the boat and would recommend it to families in a heartbeat, with the caveat that you should be prepared to spend a lot of money once you are on board if you want a comfortable experience. I would budget to spend at least an additional 50-100% of your room cost once on board.
Beautifulnorth’s Full Rating Summary
Enrichment Activities
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
Shore Excursions
Ages 7 to 9
Ages 10 to 12
Service
Onboard Experience
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Cabin Review

Family Harbor Cove Balcony
Cabin FM 2406
Great cabin. Well designed. Only complaint is that the patio doors "slam" loudly so we were woken up in the mornings by neighbor kids going in and out of their balconies. Family harbour lounge is a tremendous feature.
Deck 2 Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Balcony Cabins, Suite Cabins

Port & Shore Excursion Reviews

  • Knossos Palace
    Hired a an English speaking driver off the boat. We said we wanted to go to Knossos then Elounda for Lunch and Agios Nikolas, which he did before dropping us at the Heraklion Museum. Great trip. Again, half the cost of what Carnival wanted for a big bus tour (we saw those poor sods at Knossos all bunched up, listening to walkie talkies, unable to see or hear anything).
    View All 47 Knossos Palace Reviews
  • Leaning Tower of Pisa
    I liked Pisa, but Carnival's excursion was awful and we never booked any more. $200 for a bus ride with 80 people, a monotone guide who spoke through walk-talkie earpieces which were inaudible, standing around talking on the sidewalk instead of going in to see the sights. My daughter and I ditched the group and explored on our own which was way more fun.
    View All 128 Leaning Tower of Pisa Reviews
  • Marseille
    Notre Dame de La Garda was nice, but the city itself is ugly and covered in Graffiti.Cab drivers at the port were rude and scammy
    View All 794 Marseille Cruise Port Reviews
    View Cruise Critic's Marseille Cruise Port Review
  • Private Tour
    We hired a private guide to take our family to Pompeii, Herculaneum and Mount Vesuvius in a Mercedes van. Our driver, Gino, was a fun colourful character who liked to sing Italian music and doted on our kids. The company provided an English speaking private tour guide solely for our family to help us interpret the Pompeii and Herculaneum sites. Benedicto is an actual archaeologist who studies and works on the excavations at both sites when not giving tours for extra cash. Even our young children were transfixed for the 4 hours of archaeological guiding. Gino then took us for lunch and up to hike Mount Vesuvius before taking us back to port. Again, this private tour cost the same as a Carnival bus tour with 80 people and walkie-talkies. This was the highlight of our trip.
    View All 82 Private Tour Reviews
  • City Tour
    Our family hired an English speaking driver off the boat. SAid we wanted to see Lindos, some Villages, and hit the beach. The driver had a Phd and was highly informative throughout the trip. He took us to Lindos, an ancient monastery, a nice beach (where we had a languid lunch at his friend's beachside Taverna), a centuries old family-held ceramics shop off the beaten path (we dropped too much money there - the family spoiled us and doted on us exclusively), and ultimately his own residence where he had large orchards -giving us bags of fresh grapes and oranges. He dropped us in Rhodos which is a beautiful old walled city founded by the crusaders. He charged me 270 Euro for 7 hours of driving my family all over the Island and taking us anywhere we wanted, adn to neat places we never thought of. I highly recommend hiring Greek drivers to guide you over a large group bus excursion.
    View All 27 City Tour Reviews
  • Private Tour
    English speaking driver picked up our family and drove us around in a nice Mercedes van. He pre-purchased skip the line tickets for us at the Colosseum and Vatican, and even made lunch reservations for us to meet my mother while in Rome for lunch by the Trevi fountain. He took us all around Rome's most popular historic sites, was informative, interactive and personable. This personal private tour cost the same as Carnival wanted for a large-group bus tour. Be warned: Colosseum and Vatican are outrageously crowded. We literally mosh-pitted out way through the Vatican and had little opportunity to actually view or absorb anything.
    View All 134 Private Tour Reviews