July 2016 - Carnival Vista to Europe - Mediterranean
Our 10 night itinerary took us from Barcelona to Marseilles, Livorno/Pisa, Civitavecchia/Rome, Naples, Heraklion Crete, Rhodes, and Athens. Our planned stop in Ephesus, Turkey was canceled due to government instability (bummer). The food was excellent, as was the service. We utilized most services (except room service and spa) while aboard the ship. The ship is new, clean, and well managed. Staff was attentive and professional, and responded in a timely manner to nearly all of our concerns and needs.
Family Harbor accommodations and services were fantastic for our family of 6. This was our first cruise, and I suspect we will be less happy with any other cruise that does not offer this option. The family lounge offered a place to escape the tight quarters of a stateroom with beds out for 4 people. The kids enjoyed the games and easy access to food in the lounge, making breakfast available for early and late risers right down the hall from our stateroom. The lounge staff was very attentive and friendly. It was a very useful option for us!
One area that deserves attention on the ship is their wireless internet access system, using the Carnival Hub app. The system would consistently kick my smartphone off the network, requiring revalidation and re-logon several (like more than 50) times EACH DAY. The customer service desk offered helpful advice that worked... for about 2 hours. It was incredibly frustrating, and being kicked off the network repeatedly made the shipboard chat feature useless to my family. The Carnival Hub app provides access to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp applications for communications outside the ship, even at sea. This painful experience in service is the reason I deducted a star.
We experienced a 60 minute wait time before being seated on the first night for our "anytime dining" option, and service was pretty slow. However, every other time was much better in that regard. Shows, movies, kids activities were all very nice, and the food selection was varied and fun. I particularly enjoyed the "port of call" food offerings, which matched up a menu from one of the ship's destinations.
This was my Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary, and I admit that the reaction to this news by the crew was less than excited. My parents were not recognized or offered anything special to honor this rare milestone, and that was disappointing.
A true negative was the incredibly expensive cost of ship-arranged tours and photography services. As a person who has previously lived in Europe, we opted out of most offerings from the cruise line for shore excursions due to their steep prices and our large group of 6 travelers, utilizing local operators and self-guided tours instead. We did take advantage of a few of the ship's "last minute" tour offerings, which provided bus transportation to/from a major point of interest or central location in the city with a few hours built in for self guided shopping and sightseeing opportunities. The cost was much lower for these "last minute" offerings than the published tours. Photographs were encouraged day and night by ship's photography staff. The images were good, high quality work, but the prices were prohibitive. Charging in the area of $20 per digital image was excessive and not affordable to my large family, so we didn't purchase any. If they had been more reasonable and offered better package prices, perhaps we would have bought some.
Our port call in Ephesus, Turkey was cancelled due to government instability. I understand the reason for canceling the port call, but instead of spending a day at another nearby port we spent an additional day at sea. This was a very disappointing replacement option for my family of 6.