Carnival’s First Cruise Live Blog: Day 2, At Sea

Note: We are live-blogging each day aboard Carnival Vista on the first Carnival cruise to return to sailing since March 2020. You can read other days here:

Happy Independence Day from the middle of the Gulf of Mexico!

It’s the Fourth of July, and even at sea, it’s a big deal. Today we’re on the first of two sea days as the ship sails from Galveston to the first port of call in Roatan, Honduras.

American flag
Signs of the red, white, and blue are around the ship, including many people’s door decorations.

The ship is decked out in some red, white, and blue decorations, but it’s the passengers who are really bringing the spirit of the Fourth. All around the ship people are wearing everything American flag, from USA-themed shoes to novelty Uncle Sam hats. Despite being in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, there’s no doubting what day it is.

Noticing Some Differences

Since yesterday’s energetic sail away, there have been a few things we’ve seen that make it clear that while cruising is back, it’s not quite exactly how it was… yet.

First, yesterday evening there was a definite feel that the ship is less than full. We have not heard any official word on how many passengers are on the ship, but asked several people working in the terminal. They estimated it was somewhere between 2,500-3,000 on the ship, which holds 4,000.

In the evening the vibe on the ship was definitely more subdued than what we normally see. It’s still energetic, but with seemingly fewer people on the ship. Today, while out on the lido deck on a sunny afternoon, it was crowded but not as crowded as you might be used to seeing.

Second, if you are someone sailing with kids, then be prepared for some bigger differences. As mentioned in Day 1, we are sailing with a child that’s unvaccinated who was granted an exemption. 

Carnival made it clear that there would be more restrictions and protocols, including testing, masks highly recommended, and no kid’s area service for children. That’s fine, and what we expected. The bigger difference is getting off the ship in port.

We knew that only “bubble” excursions would be available for ports of call. Independent exploration and some excursions wouldn’t be available. This makes sense given the situation.

What we didn’t know that in some ports, that means there is only a single option available for bubble tours. In total, across three ports of call there are only four different options to get off the ship. (Many more excursions are available for vaccinated passengers.)

There are only four total excursions (across three ports) for passengers who are unvaccinated.

For instance, Roatan only has a single excursion, which heads to a beach resort. It would cost a family of three more than $230 for a few hours ashore. Belize has two excursions available, neither of which are ideal for smaller kids. Cozumel has only a single excursion available as well.

It’s understandable why unvaccinated passengers can’t simply go ashore. Still, we did think there would be more than one or two excursion options per port.

Spending the Day at Sea

ice sculpting on a Carnival cruise ship
The ice sculptor in the afternoon drew everyone’s attention.

So how have we spent the day? Given everything that’s gone on the past 15 months, the first day at sea feels surprisingly familiar across the ship.

This morning meant breakfast in the buffet, where everybody could get what they wanted. If you missed it, the buffet is still self-serve, just as it was before the pause. With 95%+ vaccination on the first cruises, Carnival opted to keep things the same.

From there we went to the excursion desk to find out best options for getting off the ship in port.

We decided on the excursion in Cozumel — Passion Island by Power Catamaran. It’s an all-day trip to a private island by catamaran where we can relax on the beach, with lunch and open bar. With this excursion our son is able to go for free, and it actually rang up cheaper than the list price. For three of us, it will run $140. All of us are already looking forward to it despite it not being until Day 6 of the cruise.

As mentioned above, the one tour option in Roatan was simply too expensive (about $230 for a three-hour excursion). The two options in Belize weren’t ideal for a small child. Unfortunately, on the 7-day cruise this means we plan to leave the ship together in just one port of call.

Rain on a window with Carnival funnel
The morning was overcast with passing showers before clearing out.

While we had planned to head to the pool area mid-morning, the weather didn’t cooperate. The morning was overcast with a few passing showers. Instead, we hit the arcade (The Warehouse) for our son, who loved spending a few bucks shooting dinosaurs. The arcade feels very new and offers a lot of variety of options. Just know that the costs can add up quickly. Each game is $1-2 and typically don’t last that long.

From there our family headed up to the Sports Deck just as a shower passed, drenching the ship. Heading inside, we played some table tennis until the weather cleared somewhat. In one story I wouldn’t believe unless I saw it happen, he missed a ball that then landed right in his shirt pocket. It was a million-to-one shot.

Somehow a ball ended up landing right in our son’s pocket.

Our son also loves playing the game that’s a hybrid of soccer and pool, which is available on the Vista. You kick the soccer balls into pockets on a massive pool table.

For lunch, we opted for the Seaday Brunch served in the dining room (open 8:30-1 p.m.). There were a number of people thinking the same thing, but it was far from full and we were able to be seated immediately. (You can also now check-in ahead of time through the HUB app, but that option seemed buggy when we tried it.) If you are looking for something a little different than the buffet for lunch, it’s a great option.

Breakfast options are served, ranging from muffins and cereal to huevos rancheros or steak and eggs. There are also some lunch options. In this case, I opted for the “Aft Deck” burger. It features smoked brisket, cheese, house-made pickles and fried onions.

It’s definitely not what your cardiologist wants you to eat, but your tastebuds will like it. The burger was messy to eat (the brisket could be a little more tender and easier to bite), but the taste was solid.

7-layer chocolate cake
The 7-layer chocolate cake at the Seaday Brunch was amazing.

By far, however, the highlight was dessert. We ordered a slice of 7-layer chocolate cake, complete with coffee-flavored ice cream. The piece was big, almost too much for the three of us to all eat. Still, it was so good that there was no way any of it was going to waste.

As the day wore on, the clouds began to break some. While the middle of the day never had clear blue skies, there was enough sunshine in the afternoon to want to lay out and play in the water.

Our son loved the water park, riding one of the mini-slides over and over dozens of times. This is a fantastic spot for families to have some fun. With water spraying and dumping everywhere, kids can get soaked, and it’s much more active than simply hanging out in a pool.

Vista waterpark on the ship
The waterpark on the ship is a must if sailing with kids.

The afternoon also brought an ice-sculpting demonstration, which seemingly everyone on the ship stopped to watch. In honor of the holiday the ice sculptor created an eagle from a huge block of ice. Watching him work was highly entertaining. It was amazing at how quickly he was able to finish his creation.

From there we moved a deck chair under a shady spot for our son as he read his books and drew in his paper tablet, as the adults got some sun. With no kid’s areas open on this cruise, much of our time revolves around keeping our son entertained (as you might tell from our daily activities so far). Mom and Dad being able to get some time just to lay out in the afternoon uninterrupted is a nice break.

This evening we plan to try Ji Ji Asian Kitchen, check out one of the comedians, and watch the evening show in the Liquid Lounge theater.

Continue Reading: Day 3, Gorgeous Weather For a Second Day at Sea

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