First Look: Carnival Vista's Dining and Technology

Seafood Shack chefs serve up fresh seafood, everything from lobster rolls to oysters. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon
Seafood Shack chefs serve up fresh seafood, with everything from lobster rolls to oysters. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon

This is part two of our two-part series on Carnival Cruise Lines’ new Carnival Vista, from our cruise onboard in the Mediterranean last week. Travel agents can check out part one on Carnival Vista's public spaces and accommodations here

More than 30 dining and beverage venues around Carnival Vista await guests -- everything from Guy's Burger Joint for cooked-to-order burgers with all the trimmings to family Italian-style dining at Cucina del Capitano, from Mexican burritos and tacos at BlueIguana Cantina to savory American steakhouse fare at Fahrenheit 555, and much more.

What's truly new, though? Guests can savor fresh seafood -- some purchased in local ports along the route -- at the ship's new Seafood Shack. This casual eatery is definitely one of the new ship’s tastiest additions with fresh traditional fare like New England clam chowder, a classic lobster roll, a lobster BLT, crab cake sliders, steamed lobster, peel-and-eat shrimp, oysters and more.    

Insider Secret: It may not be a secret for long as word spreads, but the new Seafood Shack concept features what we haven't seen on other ships in the industry --  a shop-like display with several types of seafood, including lobster and oysters priced by the pound.

Along with the Seafood Shack’s extensive offerings outlined above, its fresh and local fish possibilities can be prepared to order immediately. Or, they can be pre-ordered, then delivered, served and enjoyed wherever passengers are dining that evening. 

In addition, the line's first exclusive Chef's Table VIP dining experience has been introduced on the new ship. Limited to 16 guests, it's already sold out for several upcoming cruises. Advance reservations are a must. 

The Chef’s Table in-galley dining experience starts with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and a galley tour before guests proceed to an eight-course dinner of impressive appetizers, entreés, and desserts, all paired with special wines.

One of Carnival Vista’s two main dining rooms // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon
One of Carnival Vista’s two main dining rooms // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon

Expertly crafted by Soumen Banerjee, executive chef, exclusively for Carnival Vista, the nightly Chef's Table VIP menu might showcase such dishes as Berkshire pork belly and shrimp in a veil of yuzu mustard and crustacean essence, olive oil poached seabass with asparagus and white miso and quail with wild mushrooms and carnaroli garnished with parmesan, pepper threads and roasted onion jus.

Clients won't find these dishes on Carnival’s regular menus. From personal experience, we think this exclusive dining option is well worth the $75 surcharge.

One note about Horizons and Reflections, the main dining rooms. We definitely liked the attractive, modern yet comfortable look. The striking modern interiors created by award-winning designer BigTime Design Studios offer decidedly different dining room decor than clients will find on previous Carnival ships. 

One notable change is that Carnival has removed the venues' traditional tablecloths -- except for the cruise's elegant nights. During other nights, the line is opting for higher quality tables and a more contemporary style in the main dining areas. 

The reality is that some of the world's top restaurants have chosen to remove their traditional tablecloths as they cater more to Millennials and Generation Xers and desire to showcase a more cutting-edge dining experience. John Heald, the line's senior cruise director and brand ambassador, discussed the issue on his popular blog last week -- offering comments from past guests and potential guests who were both "for" and "against" tablecloths in the dining rooms. 

At week's end, Heald reported that in discussions with executives, the tablecloths will not return on a daily basis (except, as previously noted, on specified elegant nights).

Personal viewpoint? We thought the lack of tablecloths was a refreshing change in the dining rooms and completely in line with Carnival's style. 

Bonsai Sushi is so popular that is has added dining space on the new ship. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon
Bonsai Sushi is so popular that is has added dining space on the new ship. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon

Expanded Onboard Concepts

The size of Carnival Vista also allowed the line to offer greatly expanded versions of popular Carnival concepts.

Among them are the now-sprawling Bonsai Sushi, which we observed was the busiest fee-based dining choice during the new ship’s first sailings. 

Bonsai Sushi has been expanded on Carnival Vista to offer cooked-to-order items like shrimp tempura, chicken katsu, omakase (chef’s choice) and various noodle bowls, complementing a variety of sushi, sashimi and bento boxes.

More outdoor dining has also been added at that eatery, as well as at Fahrenheit 555. 

In the Serenity Adults-Only Retreat, clients will discover the addition of a large bar and Fresh Creations, offering custom salads. Guests start with greens and then customize the salad with their favorite elements; we liked this option for a light lunch.  

The new indoor/outdoor Library Bar has more books on its shelves than we’ve ever seen on a Carnival ship. It’s a great place to read a book with a glass of wine, which is available at the full-service bar most evenings and 24/7 in the Library Bar’s self-serve wine-dispensing machine. 

The machine features a choice of eight wines, with the options when we sailed including a 2013 Caymus Conundrum white blend and a 2012 Duckhorn merlot from the Napa Valley.

On Deck 5 aft, the Havana  Bar's entrance beckons with an Cuban flair. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon.
On Deck 5 aft, the Havana  Bar's entrance beckons with an Cuban flair. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon.

The expanded Havana Bar is better than ever, with evenings typically filled with Cuban-inspired libations and live music. This is a hotspot that’s sure to be even more popular when Carnival Vista is based in Miami for year-round Caribbean sailings starting this winter.

The Carnival Vista has its own micro-brewery. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon
The Carnival Vista has its own micro-brewery. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon

As with many other ships in Carnival's fleet, RedFrog Pub & Brewery headlines the places to say “cheers,” in that it was developed in collaboration with Miami-based Concrete Beach Brewery. It, too, has additional outdoor seating, as well as new onboard-brewed Caribbean-inspired choices.

New brews come from large copper-topped glass kettles -- include the aromatic and citrusy Hoppin’ IPA, spicy ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat unfiltered lager, and creamy FriskyFrog Java Stout.

The pub remains highly popular for its signature ThirstyFrog Red Ale. We liked the live music, additional outdoor seating, brewing tours, tastings and self-serve tabletop taps. 

The bustling Alchemy Bar remains a great gathering spot, thanks to creative cocktails and its central courtyard-like location near Bonsai Sushi and Fahrenheit 555. Smokers who wish to have a cocktail can head to the Casino Bar.

Up on the top decks, there are many bars, including a large one with limited hours at Serenity and the poolside BlueIguana Tequila Bar, and RedFrog Rum Bar. Carnival Vista passengers will certainly never go thirsty.

Technology Innovations

Four areas of technological leaps forward are immediately evident. In the staterooms, large flat-screen Carnival Hub TVs feature more free and pay-per-view movies than ever, lots of ship programming and information, and easy access to passenger accounts, photography and more.

Finding photos taken onboard by the ship's photographers is a breeze, thanks to the high-tech Pixels. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon
Finding photos taken onboard by the ship's photographers is a breeze, thanks to the high-tech Pixels. // Photo courtesy of Lynn and Cele Seldon

We felt the new digital “photography” offerings onboard are a giant leap forward. The busy, colorful, and open-space Pixels area was proof, thanks to easy and quick access to pictures and printing. 

Guests can avoid the previous waste of vacation time and cruise lines can avoid the waste of photo paper, as there is no more picking through walls filled with prints available for sale and tossing ones not wanted by guests. 

Instead, clients can select what they wish to order after looking at photos on Pixels' tabletop tablets. Or, alternatively, they can order their photos through the in-cabin Carnival Hub TV or Carnival Hub smartphone app. 

That expanded and free app will also keep smart phone users abreast of daily offerings, as well as offering a social network to connect with family and old and new friends onboard.

Plus, the Internet speed and package prices were definitely better than we’ve ever experienced onboard previous Carnival ships.

Inaugural Year Itineraries

Carnival Vista will operate a summer schedule of Mediterranean cruises between Barcelona and Athens through October. The ship will call at ports throughout Italy, France, Spain and Croatia, as well as several new destinations for Carnival, including Crete (Heraklion) and Corfu, Greece; Valletta, Malta; Palermo, Sicily; Cagliari, Sardinia; and Gibraltar

Following an October 21 transatlantic crossing, the ship will offer a pair of 11-night voyages from New York in November. Later that month, it's on to PortMiami, where the ship will home port year-round home port for eastern, western, and southern Caribbean sailings.

With the many new and expanded options onboard Carnival Vista and its close-to-home cruises later in the year, Carnival Cruise Line has launched an enticing new hook for luring loyal past guests and new cruisers alike.  

Visit www.carnival.com

To learn more about Carnival Vista's public spaces and accommodations, click here

Read more on