As you may have seen on my Instagram over the past 8 days, we have been sunning ourselves across the Mediterranean sea onboard the Carnival Vista ship. It was our first cruise and we have been completely blown away – I am not sure a “normal” hotel will cut it anymore. This post is all about the cruise as a whole from the family perspective, so if you are thinking about booking one it might be a good read.
Where do I start? I suppose a good place is what my expectations were before the cruise: short and sweet. I thought it would be an “OK” holiday, I didn’t think there would be much to do and I was worried that we would get bored of eating in the same place all week. This post will expand on my expectations and how Carnival Vista met them, and of course, totally blew them out of the water!
What do you do on a cruise ship all week?
There is so much to do, we never once spent time in our cabin to pass the time. We were up at 8ish each day and we were busy from the get go. We would get up, check the views for that morning and then go and get breakfast. Every morning after breakfast we would spend a few hours in the pools and splash park area. It’s amazing how quickly the time passed – it flies when you are having fun. We would go from the two main pools, to the splash park and back to the rear pool (as it had the jacuzzi’s either side).
Some days it was really hot, but the option of Camp Ocean meant that we could make sure the kids were safe and out of the sunshine whilst we either sunbathed or explored the ports. Just that break for a few hours after lunch was perfect for both the grownups and children to recharge their batteries. Camp Ocean was open from 7am to 10pm everyday and you can literally just turn up with your children and leave them for how ever long is necessary. Next to Camp Ocean there was also a Dr Seuss library where you could sit and read the Dr Seuss books and sit on the cool, oversized chairs.
Some afternoons we all went off the ship and had a little adventure, one afternoon Daddy and I went on an excursion and had a horse ride on the beach and a couple of afternoons the children went to Camp Ocean. Late afternoons it was back in the pool again, the children loved being in the pools and splash park. Or zooming down the slides. It was great seeing how excitable they were, all of the time. Also, the grown ups too, there was SkyRide (the bike ride in the sky that tours the upper decks) and the SkyCourse where you can walk through obstacles on suspended ropes. There is also the Clubhouse that has arcade games for the younger ones, including ping pong and games. Then there is the Casino for the grownups.
There are some adult areas on the ship too, that we managed to enjoy (thanks for Camp Ocean) the Spa and the Serenity area. No children. Comfortable seats. A Jacuzzi or two and a bar. What more can you ask for when you want to unwind?
In the evenings, whilst getting ready for dinner, is the only time we actually spent in the cabin and the children made the most out of the On Demand movies on the TV. We would shower, watch a movie, get dressed and go for dinner.
After dinner, there was so much to do too. We saw a magic show, we went to a karaoke show, we went to see Finding Dory at the iMax cinema one evening too. One night we went to the sweet shop, Cherry on Top, which was an eventful evening and then we went to meet some other families in the Red Frog pub. The open air cinema was fun too, it was right by our room and every night we got little snippets of the movies as we walked through. It was always popular with everyone sprawled on the comfy sofas. We went to the Comedy club one night and that was rather funny, we laughed a lot at Steve Martin who had flown in from the USA. There was no expense spared at making the holiday a nice one for everyone.
A couple of evenings Isla fell asleep at the dining table, which is understandable after a long day of exploring and the heat. Mummy enjoyed those evenings as I got to sit and watch the Map Channel on the TV in the cabin. The Map Channel was my favourite, it showed you everything from where you were on the map, how far you had gone and what the sea depth was. I became slightly obsessed with how deep the sea was. The deepest the sea showed (that I saw) was 2560 metres and the shallowest was just 20 metres. I am not sure how deep the hull of the ship is but I am guessing it is not far off 20 metres – so a close shave. The total distance of the cruise was 1937 nautical miles, which are just a little longer than an on land mile. So we did well over 2000 miles. Amazing.
The days are broken up and this makes the time go so quickly. There is always something to do and the Fun Times leaflet that you get in the cabin each night (for the next day) it breaks down everything you could possibly need to know about what is going on in the ship: entertainment, restaurant opening times, shopping times and even the weather for the port you are going to be at. Another useful section was about what time the ship will be leaving that port. We never needed to ask any questions as the Fun Times was just so useful.
The sheer size of the ship is indescribable, until you have seen a cruise ship up close and been on one you will never understand. Even the photo below of Vista does not do it justice. The building on the right hand side of it is a large terminal at the port, so imagine a big train station or the front a football stadium, and the ship is still higher. The ship is 14 floors high. Some people may argue that it is 15, but if you look closely at the lifts there is no floor 13. I can only imagine that is because no one wants to stay on floor 13. Well, thats the only reason I can think of.
Is there many places to eat on a cruise ship?
In a word, yes. There is also food available 24 hours a day. So you will never miss out on a meal. Breakfast was served in various places and some restaurants served breakfast until midday. Again, all times laid out in the Fun Times leaflet. Lunch was available in various restaurants and there are little areas on the ship where you can get some amazing food too: Guy’s Burger bar, Seafood Shack, Pizza Pirate pizzeria just to name a few.
Meal times were amazing. We have never eaten so well as we did on that ship. I miss the food already and it’s been only 24 hours. You could eat in Reflections, the restaurant where your table is booked at a specific time. This means you always have a table at the time that you want it. Great if you can guarantee that you will be ready and hungry for a certain time. Or you can eat in Horizons, which is anytime dining. This is for people like us, that are all over the place and never ready at a specific time. We ate at times from 7pm through to 9:30pm. I think Horizons is the best restaurant on the ship too, it was at the back of the boat with views out on to the ocean. It looked really grand too. We had dinner in there every night but two. Those two nights we ate at the Steakhouse restaurant and the Italian restaurant. I cannot explain enough how well the food was presented, how amazing it tasted and how friendly the staff were in the restaurants. Everyone went out of their way to make sure you had a good meal and that the children were happy too. Which is an important element of eating out with the children, if they are not satisfied then neither are the grown ups.
How would you rate the cruise overall?
If there was something that I could say, that could capture how I felt about the cruise then I would say it. I just cannot find the words to do it justice. I feel so relaxed. I feel like I have explored different Countries in such a short space of time. I feel like the children have had fun. I feel like I have eaten like a Queen and I am sure I have grown a rather large food baby. I have laughed, cried and had so much fun. It’s been incredible. We have some memories that will remain with us as a family forever and that is what a holiday is all about.
There was no feeling of having to rush, or loosing out. Excursions always got you back to the ship on time and departure was only delayed one evening. There was always something to do. There was never, at any point, a cramped part of the ship or did we feel that there was too many people. Despite their being 3900 guests on board, over half of that children too, you would not have known. The swimming pools were never full, there was always a bed, there was never a large queue for food and the only time you did have to queue was for the slide – but that’s because it was super fun!
There was always someone to talk to. We made friends with another couple on the ship and it was so nice to have grown up conversations with different people. I enjoyed talking about how both couples met and what has happened along the journeys of our lives. I found it to be a lot more social than staying in a holiday resort on land, but not in your face. You could make of it what you wanted. It’s like everyone was in the same mindset as you.
It’s great to have such happy feelings about a holiday. I really want to go back on the ship and I miss the guys that looked after our cabin – we want another towel monkey pretty please.
There will be a number of posts coming up over the next week with different elements of our family cruise so watch out for those. I will go into more detail about the restaurants, the entertainment and the excursions.
If you have any questions or anything you would like to know please put a comment below. If I can answer them, I will.