Friday, January 5, 2018

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

As promised in my last blog, I'm finally writing about our cruise on the Carnival Vista. I had so much positive feedback when I posted my series of blogs on the Carnival Breeze that I thought I'd do it again with our most recent cruise. I'm amazed (and happy) that I still get views on these blogs that I posted back in May of 2016. I'll stay with the same general format, making each cruise day its own blog. It'll make for much easier reading, and allow readers to pick and choose what interests them the most. Sea days? Port days? I'll write about it all.

Oh, I really need to mention one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to cruising. The vessels we cruise on are ships, not boats. Boats are the smaller watercraft (those orange thingies, lifeboats, you see hanging off the side of the ship in the photo below) that you would use if the ship is sinking. Please, please do not refer to those magnificent, ocean-going vessels as boats. Trust me on this. 

Carnival Vista
image from Google search

Cindy and I booked this cruise about a year and a half before sailing. We used William Luke, a Personal Vacation Planner ("PVP") with Carnival Cruise Line to book and manage our cruise details. Clicking on his name will link to his e-mail, by the way. A PVP is sort of like a travel agent, in that this person will help you find the best cruise for the best price. He or she will then manage your booking and help you book specialty restaurants, link other reservations to yours and generally help make your vacation easy to plan. Using a PVP will not restrict your own control over your arrangements, either. You retain full control of your booking.

Shortly after we booked this cruise, Cindy's brother, sister-in-law and nephew booked the same cruise. Cool! We'll have family to hang out with! A few months later our scuba club friends Keith and Barbara booked as well. Here's where having a PVP comes in really handy. William was able to link our booking numbers together so we could all sit at the same table for dinner. All it took was a message to him asking him to do this and within minutes he sent confirmation of it being done. If you decide to book a cruise with Carnival, let William help you out. I'm sure he'll do as good a job for you as he's done for us on several prior cruises.

So here our merry band of seven is, ready to take an "Exotic Southern Caribbean" cruise. This was an eight-day cruise, leaving from Miami, on Saturday, December 2nd. 

Saturday: Embarkation in Miami
Sunday: Fun day at sea
Monday: Grand Turk
Tuesday: La Romana
Wednesday: Curacao
Thursday: Aruba
Friday: Fun day at sea
Saturday: Fun day at sea
Sunday: Disembarkation in Miami

Normally Cindy and I prefer to cruise out of Galveston, as that is just a short drive from our house. The downside to cruising from Galveston, though, is the limited itineraries due to where Galveston is in relation to the Caribbean ports. Since Miami is so much farther east, there are more Caribbean ports available to cruise to. We cruised out of Miami before, in 2013. As we did then, and as we've done when cruising from Seattle, we flew in the day before. Now I know some people are comfortable flying into a port on the day of the cruise, but we choose not to take that chance.

We booked some dives in Grand Turk, Curacao and Aruba, so naturally, we took our own dive gear. Southwest Airlines offers two free checked bags per person, so one bag is for dive gear and the other is for clothes. We booked our flight from Houston Hobby (HOU) to Ft. Lauderdale (FLL) for the day before the cruise, and the return flight for the Sunday we got back. Having to accommodate work schedules, we booked the last flight out of HOU to FLL, leaving at 8 pm. 

OK, for those who have read my previous blogs involving airline travel, I always add detail that non-aviation enthusiasts will find boring. For those of us who are aviation nerds, you might just appreciate the extra detail. This is just one of my quirks, and even my wife has started getting into this extra detail.

Our flight from HOU to FLL was on WN 4532, aircraft tail # N290WN (737-7H4). We departed on runway 13R, which is pretty typical for most departures. Obviously, it was already dark at 8 pm, but comparing my GPS display to what I saw outside we flew right over our house. I just wish it would've been daytime so I could've gotten a good photo.

En route to FLL...

and making good time

We had a nice, smooth flight, minimal turbulence and even a couple of complimentary cocktails, courtesy of Southwest Airlines and their rapid rewards drink coupons. Hey, neither of us would be driving until after we got back from the cruise. Let's get this party started!

I'll have a margarita, please

Cindy's vodka & cranberry juice

Along with the honey roasted peanuts, our drinks helped us get into vacation mode perfectly. It would be late by the time we got to our hotel in Ft. Lauderdale, so we took advantage of the time to just relax, enjoy the flight and think about how much fun we'd have over the next week. 

We made a straight-in approach to FLL and landed on RWY 10L. Our bags showed up on the belt about 15 minutes after we arrived and soon I was ordering a ride via the Uber app on my phone. Our driver was kind enough to call us and let us know where to meet outside the terminal. He patiently waited for us to drag our bags over to where the pickup location was and took us to our hotel. The rest of our group had already checked in hours before. Since it was almost midnight, we just checked into our room and hit the bed. Tomorrow would be a long, full day.

Now that I've provided the background for our cruise, the next blog will cover embarkation day in Miami, from the hotel to arrival at the port to our first night. Subsequent blogs will detail each day of our cruise. I hope to give you enough detail that you feel you were on the cruise with us. 

The next blog in this series can be found here.

Until next time.....

carpe cerevisi


  1. This makes me want to book a cruise right now!

    1. Right? They usually have to drag me, kicking and screaming, off the ship at the end of the cruise. I'm already looking forward to booking our next one.