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 previous days here:
- Day 1, Boarding, Sail Away, and New Procedures
- Day 2, At Sea for the First Time in 15 Months
- Day 3, Gorgeous Weather For a Second Day at Sea
- 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 of our cruise is reaching its end, as is the trip itself. Today is another spectacular day of weather. Throughout this trip we’ve been blessed with day after day of blue skies.
Skies are partly cloudy today, the seas are calm, and we are making our way back to Galveston. The one drawback is with a southern wind as we cruise north, there’s not as much breeze on the deck, so it has been plenty hot. Of course, that makes it perfect pool weather for our last day at sea.
Before hitting the pool, let’s start with last night where after grabbing a quick dinner in the deli, we headed to see the evening performance in the Liquid Lounge theater. This show was “Flick,” a musical and dance number where the crew performs hit songs from movies, including Skyfall (James Bond), I Will Always Love You, and medleys including songs from Jurassic Park and Star Wars.
If you remember, we went to a show a few nights ago that was good, but didn’t blow us away. Flick simply went above and beyond. The show is a can’t-miss in our book. Throughout, there are a number of neat special effects along with the great performance from the crew.
The singing of Skyfall featured a whirlwind of fans that kept massive loose cloth suspended magically in the air. Later a dancer seemed to bend and break lasers as they flashed around the room. Truth is, it’s hard to explain the special effects or give them due credit, as we’ve never really seen anything like them. Bottom line: It was a great performance. If you get the chance, see it. It was a fantastic end to the day in Cozumel.
As the last day on the ship, this is one of those days filled with different emotions. First, you’re always a little bummed the trip is ending. Second, you are excited to be heading back home. Finally, it’s still a day at sea so you have the ship to enjoy for just a little longer.
This morning I was up early, so I hit the gym for a quick workout. Apart from a couple of other early birds, it was empty.
Then it was off to breakfast. Even around 8:30 a.m. it was already toasty by the time we were done eating. We played a quick round of mini-golf with our son, working up a sweat without doing much. From there we made a quick trip back to the room to change, but noticed something from the balcony.
As the ship was sailing, we passed through several schools of flying fish. Sometimes it was one or two, other times it was dozens of flying fish skirting over the top of the water. We watched until the sun beating down on us got to be too much. Then it was out again for more time in the waterpark to cool off with the kid and work on our tans. Due to the great weather and so much pool time, my wife and I have been able to get some nice color, which was definitely not the case before this trip.
One thing that I did notice today is that the outdoor crew — such as lifeguards and cleaning staff — are no longer wearing masks. Previously, everyone on the staff was masked both indoors and outdoors.
I asked one of the lifeguards, who said that due to being in the sun and that masks were getting wet, they were allowed to go maskless. I did see one poor crew member that had a very distinct mask tan line across the bottom half of his face from previous days. I’m sure he’s happy about the change.
Finishing up at the pool, we dried off, headed back to the room, and planned to go eat some lunch. Then the phone rang. It was the ship’s staff saying that we needed to come down immediately to deck four for COVID testing for our son.
As part of the CDC protocols, unvaccinated passengers must be tested before they get off the ship at its conclusion. We were anticipating this test, but never heard a single word about when it would happen until the phone call.
Heading down, I noticed that the list of unvaccinated passengers to be tested was almost entirely finished, except for few stragglers. I asked how everyone knew to come get tested and was told we should have had a flyer on our door. We never received any notice until the phone call. Dropping everything to go get our son tested was a bit of a surprise.
No matter, the lounge where we arrived was largely empty and we went straight back to test. The crew was in full PPE gear, took a quick swab inside my son’s nose, and then we had to wait about 20 minutes for the test results. With a negative test, we were then given a letter showing the result and were able to go about the rest of our day.
We elected for a lunch at BlueIguana, sitting outside near the pool where the Groove for St. Jude event was going on. The last day at sea, the music was pumping, the weather was beautiful, and it seemed like the entire ship was out here enjoying the last few hours before going back to the real world.
This afternoon we are spending our time packing things up while our son naps, and also figuring out what we want for our last meal on the ship. Cruising is hard work.
Our Final Thoughts on the First Cruise
So what’s the bottom line on the first Carnival cruise to return to sailing? In my eyes, that depends on if you have the shot or not.
If you are vaccinated (which most people who sail will be), then as I’ve mentioned the cruise experience is largely back to normal. You can set sail, head to the pool, eat all your favorite restaurants, play in the casino, watch a show, and go ashore.
The differences you notice are small. The staff wears masks, you have to wear a mask in ports of call and terminals, and lots of the printed materials like menus and the daily planner aren’t around.
In other words, it was a Carnival cruise before the pause and it’s still a Carnival cruise despite small changes.
But if you don’t have the vaccine or are sailing with someone that doesn’t have the shot, then things are different.
On the ship many things are largely the same as before without the shot due to the high vaccination rate across all passengers. Masks are recommended, but not required (seems like fewer kids are wearing them as the trip goes on). You are free to go to all parts of the ship, and there are no distancing rules in place. The staff is also ready to make sure you have a great time. Hit the dining room, the pool, the theater… it’s all there to enjoy.
Regarding life onboard, this cruise had the kid’s area closed for smaller children, marking the biggest difference. There are also testing requirements before boarding and before leaving. Still, the tests are quick and easy, so they weren’t a big deal.
Where there is a bigger change for the unvaccinated is going ashore. Right now only a handful of “bubble tours” are available unless headed to one of Carnival’s private islands. If you don’t book one of those trips, then it means you have to stay on the ship. And even if you do one of the excursions, expect the rules to be stringent on shore.
So you’ll need to either be prepared to spend a lot of time on the ship or spend a lot of money paying for one of the very few excursions offered.
One final note: My experience describes just this single cruise. It’s almost certain that things will change one way or another in the future. If there are higher cases on land, then I’d expect more restrictions on the ship.
For instance, I’ve seen Royal Caribbean’s sailings from the U.K. (where cases are spiking sharply despite vaccines) require tests, even from vaccinated passengers. They are also implementing other rules on the ship. Personally, I am worried that another wave of cases here in the United States could happen given what’s seen elsewhere.
But if cases stay low and cruises can sail with limited positive tests, then easing of restrictions — such as offering more excursion options — could be in order.
For now, however, my take is the cruise experience is back if you have the shot. If not, you can still have loads of fun like we did, just know that most of it will be on the ship.
- Is anyone else hypnotized by the ship tracker on the cabin TV? I check it several times a day and even my son is asking for it now.
- One thing I forgot to mention is that in the ports I visited, you feel a bit like a celebrity. There were people taking lots of videos of the ship and passengers debarking. Roatan had what looked to be a news crew there filming the story. Galveston had hundreds lined up near the dock to wave goodbye. Ships coming back is a big deal to these ports.
- I’m surprised by the number of blue “Sail & Sign” cards I see. A blue card indicates a passenger on their first sailing. It seems that many people opted to make their first cruise the initial one back after more than 15 months. I expected that veteran passengers would come back in force when cruises returned, but new cruisers are making a strong showing.