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:
- Day 1, Boarding and Sail Away
- Day 2, At Sea for the First Time in 15 Months
- Day 4, Roatan: First Port of Call Post Pandemic
- Day 5, Belize and the Biggest Drink on the Ship
- Day 6, Cozumel and Our First Excursion
- Day 7, Heading Home (and a COVID Test)
It’s lobster day aboard Carnival Vista. No, not lobster night when they serve the classic dish in the main dining room. Lobster day is what I call that first sunny day at sea during a cruise. It’s the day that everyone heads out to the pool deck and inevitably too many people get turned to lobsters by dinner time.
We are currently sailing south to Roatan, Honduras after rounding the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula. After an overcast day at sea yesterday, the weather has been clear and bright all day with calm winds. You couldn’t ask for anything better.
I’ll get into more details of what life is like on the first Carnival cruise to return to sailing with today’s live blog. To start, let’s go back to dinner last night.
Dinner at Ji Ji Asian Kitchen
As mentioned yesterday, we planned to try Ji Ji Asian Kitchen for dinner. While we didn’t have a reservation, the restaurant was fairly empty. It was no problem being seated immediately.
Compared to the bustle of the main dining room or the crowds in the buffet, eating here is a much calmer experience. If you’re looking for a quiet spot for a “date night” on the ship or simply want to eat in a more peaceful setting, it’s a great option.
Ji Ji is a specialty restaurant and carries a $15 charge per adult. Kids cost only $5. For that, you each get your choice of an appetizer, an entrée, a side, and a dessert.
Eating as a family of three, we were able to try a number of different dishes by each getting something different. Among the things we ordered were chicken spring rolls, slow-braised pork belly, kung pao chicken, Singapore chili shrimp, and Chinese broccoli. It seemed to be a never-ending round of courses, and everything was phenomenal — as was the service. We regularly order Asian food at home. This was significantly better.
During dinner my wife and I estimated that this meal on land would run at least $70. So while we did have to pay extra to eat here, the $35 charge still felt like a good deal. It was an added bonus to be able to sit in a quiet restaurant and enjoy each other’s company without a lot of other people around. All told, the meal took about an hour and a half.
When we left Ji Ji, we were about five minutes past the start of the evening show in the theater — America Rocks. While the theater wasn’t full, there was a good crowd. We were able to grab a seat near the back, and were not the last people to arrive by any means.
The show itself consists of a number of dance and singing numbers covering tons of classic rock from The Eagles to Bruce Springsteen to Lynyrd Skynyrd. You’ll certainly hear plenty of songs that you know by heart, and find yourself tapping your toes. It’s obvious the crew putting on the show is talented. That said, we wouldn’t call it a must-see. It’s a fun way to spend 45 minutes in the evening, but nothing groundbreaking.
Day 3: Sun, Water, Guy’s, and Gambling
Waking up this morning, it was clear that today was going to be a gorgeous day at sea, which meant plenty of outside time. Even in the morning there were only a few spotty clouds. By about 9:30 the sun this far south already made it feel like it was early afternoon.
The ship passed around the tip of the Yucatan this morning, giving a chance to catch a glimpse of Cancun and Isla Mujeres off the coast of Mexico. But the highlight was seeing a pod of dozens of dolphins make their way to meet the ship.
Coming toward the starboard bow, we could see several dolphins jumping. As the ship passed, a few turned and swam alongside where we could see them beneath the waves — even from 10 decks up. The entire thing lasted only a minute, but it was one of those moments you won’t forget.
Since we knew that we’d spend plenty of time outdoors, we decided to take it easy for the first part of the day. That meant heading to the ship’s library to play a board game to limit the time in the sun somewhat.
On most cruises we’ve noticed that the ship supplies a few cheap decks of cards and some sets of checkers. Vista’s games, however, are stocked with a ton of different options that are all new sets. Most people don’t come on cruises to play board games, but it’s a great thing to do for a little bit when you want to beat the heat.
From there, it was time to do what we all come on cruises to do — get some sun and enjoy the water. With our son in tow, we made a repeat of yesterday. That meant heading to the waterpark. Pools have been packed with folks this trip, but the waterpark has been easily accessible given there are only a few dozen kids on the trip.
One tip — the waterslide platform at the top of the park gives you the absolute best view of the ship and the ocean. Here you are on the same level as the ship’s funnel and above even the highest decks on the ship. It’s worth a slide down just for the view. (Be sure to bring some sort of waterproof camera if you want a picture.)
Meanwhile, the rest of the pool deck was buzzing, just as you’d imagine. Music blaring, tons of sun, blue water, and drinks flowing. The vibe and atmosphere of the pool deck on a sea day is still there for everyone that’s missed it all these months.
Of course, all that time in the water makes you hungry. On a day at sea aboard Carnival, that means one thing: Guy’s Burger Joint. The great news is that the burgers taste just as good now as they did before cruises stopped. Whatever the secret formula is to make these burgers so damn good hasn’t changed.
After lunch, we could tell that the sun and the heat was taking its toll on our son. We headed back to the cabin to relax. While the kid napped with mom, I headed down to the casino for “research.”
In the middle of the afternoon, the casino was hopping. Seemingly everyone not on the pool deck was playing here. Table games were largely full — including the craps table. There were a number of slot machines available, but plenty were taken up. Of course we tried our luck, coming out $15 ahead in about 30 minutes of playing. That’s a win in any casino.
One thing that hasn’t changed is the cash-out process, which we aren’t fans of. Instead of getting a paper slip that you cash out at a redemption machine like in a normal casino, you have to transfer your machine balance to your room keycard and then go to the cashier to get your money. It makes it more difficult to get your cash.
After heading back to the room, we then headed down to the RedFrog Pub for a drink and to watch afternoon karaoke. Obviously lots of other people had the same idea as the place was packed.
Instead of fighting the crowd for a place to sit and catch a bartender’s attention, we just headed down to Ocean Plaza where trivia (famous movie quotes) was happening. There was a crowd here too, but we were able to get some bar service easily and grabbed a seat.
The gorgeous day continues without a cloud in the sky, but it’s also hard to spend too much time in the sun. We’re now relaxing until dinner. Tomorrow the ship arrives in Mahogany Bay, Roatan.
- Phones are now a must-have on your cruise. One change following COVID is that menus are gone. If you go to a bar or restaurant, there is a QR code that you point your phone’s camera to open up a menu. It’s not a big hassle, but it is frustrating to always have to have your phone with you on a vacation. No idea what happens if you forget your phone in the cabin.
- The casino seems extremely smoky. I always expect to smell smoke in a casino, but it seemed heavier than ever. Maybe it’s just been a while since visiting a casino, and that’s why it seems stronger.
- Masks are part of the uniform across the crew. In previous daily blogs, I’ve mentioned that all the crew wears masks, even though they aren’t required of vaccinated passengers. Every single crew member we’ve seen — apart from the singers in the evening show — has been masked, without exception.
- Remember all those sales flyers you used to get delivered to your cabin? Like menus, those are gone too. While we wish there was a printed daily schedule, it is nice not having the junk mail in the room!
Continue Reading: Day 4, Roatan: First Port of Call Post Pandemic