Saturday, January 6, 2018

Day 1: Embarkation on the Carnival Vista

As I mentioned in my previous blog, we got into FLL late, so we pretty much went straight to bed after we got checked into our hotel. It seems like I had just turned off the light when the alarm went off. At least it wasn't the nerve-jangling, beeping noise that tends to startle more than wake. Nope, I don't enjoy waking up like that, never have, never will. I found a custom alarm "ringtone" for my phone, much more pleasant to wake up to. Appropriately, it's the "good morning" song by Eversen Bevelle, a Cruise Director ("CD") for Carnival Cruise Line. He was our CD on the Breeze one time, and he did this song during his morning show. Clicking that link above will take you to his YouTube channel and the song. It's pretty catchy, I think and makes the perfect sound to wake up to. 

We set our alarm early enough to take advantage of the hotel's continental breakfast and not be rushed to get ready for our pickup by SAS Transportation to the Port of Miami. While sitting in the small breakfast area, we met up with the rest of our traveling party. Most importantly, though, we enjoyed several cups of that critical elixir known as coffee as I cut the airline tags off our suitcases and attached the Carnival tags and got everything else ready to go. I've written before of my fondness for that wonderful beverage. You can find my musings here.

SAS was right on time, if not a few minutes early. We had all of our luggage ready and the driver loaded the trailer as we climbed into their van. Apparently we were their last stop, as the van was already pretty full. If the flight in didn't put us into cruise mode, the ride to the port surely did. It's about a 45-minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale to the cruise terminal, so we took the time to enjoy the sights of Miami as we motored south down I-95. I even recognized a few colorful buildings from the last time we were here in 2013.

As we approached the cruise terminal, I could see several ships tied up at the pier. If anyone in the van wasn't excited by now, seeing five cruise ships in a line changed that. Everyone started talking at once, pointing and generally letting their enthusiasm boost an already jubilant mood.

The Vista is the 2nd from the left

With their distinctive "whale tail" funnel, Carnival ships definitely stand out from the rest. I identified the Vista immediately and pointed her out to our group. Most of the van riders had their cameras or smartphones out, taking pictures as fast as they could. Yes, that included me. How could it not? 

Another few minutes of driving brought us the dropoff point. Our driver was efficient unloading our bags and was careful to ensure we had everything before he left to drop off the rest of the riders at another ship. For those that have never cruised before, going through security at a cruise terminal is similar to security at the airport. I say similar because there are no restrictions on the amount of liquids (except alcohol), gels, etc. that can be in your bag. Your bag still goes through an x-ray machine and you will walk through a metal detector prior to boarding. That being said, with our priority boarding status, it took us six minutes to go from dropoff at the curb through security to our waiting area. Yes, six minutes! 

We were directed to the "priority lounge," and given a letter that stated "due to operational reasons," our departure would be delayed until 8 pm. The good news was that our itinerary wouldn't be affected. We heard that Carnival was filming a commercial on the ship, so I wonder if that was the cause of the delay. Cindy and I sat down and waited for the boarding announcement. 

Who's excited about the cruise?

Although the wait seemed longer, we only had to wait about 45 minutes until boarding began. The lines moved along smartly and we stepped onto the ship at 11:40 am. Typically on Carnival ships, you board on the Lobby Deck, usually Deck 3. This allows people to see the impressive atrium and makes a great first impression. I still remember how awe-struck I was on my first cruise back in 2007 when we boarded the Carnival Conquest. Vista's atrium was quite impressive, and the central column had a constantly changing color pattern.

photo courtesy of Brian M. Weinert

With our status, our cabin was ready for us upon boarding, so we headed up to Deck 7 to drop off our carryon bags. Since we started cruising, we've always booked an interior cabin. We got upgraded once, on the HAL Oosterdam, to an ocean view cabin. This cruise, though, we decided to book a balcony cabin. Every cruising friend I know that's gone from an interior to a balcony has said they'll never go back to an interior. Now I can see why. I doubt we'll ever go back to an interior cabin, either.

Our home for the next week

Two things about our cabin number, right off the bat. Notice the color of the numbers? At least on many Carnival ships, this indicates cabins on the port or left side of the ship. Cabins on the other side of the ship, or starboard side, are blue. I figured they would've been green, but blue is a nice color, too, especially blue and silver together. I'm sure some of y'all know why I like that particular combination as well. 

And the other thing? Well, I think I'll just let y'all ponder this until my next blog. I'll reveal what I consider to be the most significant thing about our cabin number then. If you have an idea, please put it in the comments section at the end of this blog. It'll be interesting to see what some of your guesses are. 

Just walking through the door, and seeing the larger space, confirmed our decision to upgrade to a balcony. Both of us were looking forward to having breakfast on the balcony each morning, and just hanging out, listening to the waves, at night.

Spacious cabin

And a couch, too

Breakfast was just a pastry and some coffee, so we were ready for some lunch. We headed up to the Lido Deck to see what we could find before exploring the ship. Even though we were some of the first to board, the Lido buffet area was already getting a bit crowded, so we made our way to the Blue Iguana Cantina. I was surprised to see only a few in line, compared to Guy's Burgers, so a Blue Iguana burrito it was! Yep, yummy as usual!

Blue Iguana Cantina

The Blue Iguana offers both a taco bar and a burrito bar. Just pick which side you wish to enter and start thinking what you want on your taco or burrito. I selected several items to go with my pork, such as grilled corn, peppers and onions and a spicy red sauce.

I'm such a tease!

Let's dig in!

As much as I could've gone for another burrito, or some ice cream or cookies, dinner was just a few hours away. We learned early in our cruising to pace ourselves, so a single burrito would suffice for now. Besides, we had a new ship to explore, right? While the Vista is similar to a Dream-class ship, it's not identical. I quickly realized I couldn't assume the layout would completely match the Breeze or the Magic. "Hey, wait a minute, where's the Piano Bar? It's supposed to be right here." It didn't take long, though, to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I'm glad to see that the Vista has its own brewery. It's true! There's actually a small brewery on the Vista! It's right next to the Red Frog Pub.

Vista brewery

We met up with Keith and Barbara, who boarded a little after us. They had already eaten and told us they were just waiting for their room to be ready. I glanced at my watch and seeing that it was after 1 pm, let them know their room should be available. They still had their carryon bags with them, so they were happy to be able to drop them off. See y'all in a bit, Keith!

Cindy, Keith and Barbara

By now, it was getting close to 3 pm, the stated time for the mandatory muster drill. Our muster station on the Vista happened to be the dining room we would have dinner in. To avoid the last minute rush, we got there a little early and found a table near one of the exits. I'm glad to see that Carnival has modified their muster drill procedure, and now scans one "sail and sign" card (described here) from each cabin to verify attendance. All food and beverage services are closed during the safety briefing, so naturally, we had to swing by one of the bars to have something to drink while being shown how to properly don our life jackets. Now please don't get me wrong. I realize how important these safety briefings are. I'm also being honest when I say we grabbed a couple of drinks on the way to the briefing.

Thankfully everyone showed up pretty much on time and we were able to complete this necessary event in short order. Generally, the ships set sail between 4 and 5 pm. Carnival has a huge sailaway party on Lido at that time to get everyone in the spirit. Even though we were actually departing at 8 pm on this cruise, the sailaway party was still held right after the safety briefing. What the heck, let's go up and check it out!

Let's get the party started...

CD Matt Mitcham leading the way

With the recent time change, sunset wasn't too far away. I figured I could get some good photos of the Miami skyline at sunset, so I hung out on Lido while Cindy went back to the cabin to see if our suitcases had been delivered yet (they had). She also wanted to freshen up before dinner. 

A full moon

I guess I better head down to the cabin to get ready for dinner as well. On this cruise, all seven of us were assigned to table 171 in the Reflections Restaurant, Deck 3 midship. The table location was OK, but there was no real view like you'd get in the aft restaurant. That's fine, we have a balcony for our view. It's going to be dark at dinnertime anyway. Let's not sweat the small stuff.

So, what's for dinner tonight? Some of the selections look familiar, and some are new to me. No matter what I order, though, I know it'll be good. Titles and descriptions of each course come directly from the Carnival menu.

Appetizer: "Cream of ripened tomato soup"

Main: "Fried chicken & tomato"
Smoky bacon, tomato fondue, Gruyere cheese, preserved lemon

Dessert: "Caramelized Phyllo with Caramel Cream"
Caramel sponge, almond crumble

All of these courses were spot on, and I especially enjoyed the chicken. The breading was crunchy, yet the chicken remained tender and juicy on the inside. See what I meant earlier about having to pace ourselves? This is pretty typical of what our dinners will be like, and eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day will keep you constantly stuffed. At least it does for me. That's not to mention the ice cream, cookies, drinks and everything else between meals. 

We finished dinner in time to watch sailaway from Miami on Lido. Even though it was already dark, the city skyline was lit nicely and the view was still most enjoyable. Cindy and I watched Miami recede into the distance then checked out the Piano Bar for about an hour. We started to feel the effects of a long day and the multiple drinks we had so we went back to our cabin. I hung out on our balcony, letting the sound of the passing waves work their hypnotic magic before retiring for the evening. I actually nodded off in the chair while listening to the waves. What an eventful day! 

Coming up next, our first "fun day at sea." 

Make sure to leave your guess on the significance of our cabin number in the comments section below. Come on, let's see where this will go. I bet it will be interesting. I changed some settings to make it easier to leave a comment. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of the comments from this and many other of my blogs when I did that. 

For your convenience, here are links to each blog in the series so far:

My Grand View of the Carnival Vista (first in a series)

The next blog in the series can be found here.

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi


  1. I use to think once we had a balcony we had to have one ever time. I enjoy the balcony but. Now as a retiree, I realize that we can cruise about two times in an interior cabin for ever one cruise with a balcony. So now a balcony is for "special" times or if theyhappen to be on sale.
    As far as the cabin number - maybe a birthday or wedding day

    1. Good point about the price of a balcony compared to an interior. That's one reason we always booked an interior cabin. Good guess on the cabin number, but nope.

  2. My guess is the year you met and the year you,got married.

    1. Swing and a miss! Good try, though. I'll post the answer on the next blog.

  3. Maybe you have already sailed 72 days and since you became Platinum on this cruise, you now have 75+ days.

    1. Sorry, not correct. Interesting guess, though. We already hit that level on our last cruise, by the way. I'll post the next blog tomorrow morning and reveal the answer.

  4. Another guess since you mentioned blue and silver (Dallas Cowboys colors) are #72 & #82 are jersey #s for Travis Frederick & Jason Witten. If that isn't it, I have no idea.

    1. Hhhhhmmmm, I replied via my phone and it didn't seem to post. While that's a clever guess, it's not it. I'll give you partial credit for the Cowboys colors, but the cabin number doesn't have anything to do with them. I'll post the next blog tomorrow which will have the answer.