Carnival Vista vs. Harmony of the Seas: Smackdown!
A contest between Royal Caribbean's Harmony of the Seas and Carnival Cruise Line's Carnival Vista is truly a battle of the behemoths. Harmony currently holds the title of world’s second largest cruise ship, beating out sister ship Allure of the Seas by 2,400 tons and six feet, while Vista is also one of Carnival's largest ships ever. But every cruiser knows that size isn’t everything, so let’s go round-by-round see which ship comes out on top in this heavyweight scrap:
Harmony of the Seas:
Like the other Oasis-class ships, Harmony of the Seas is massive, holding over 5,000 passengers at double occupancy.
- The ship is divided into seven “neighborhoods” — Central Park, Boardwalk, Entertainment Place, Youth Zone, Royal Promenade, Pool and Sports Zone, and Vitality at Sea Spa & Fitness Center. Grouping venues like this makes it easy for passengers to find what they’re looking for.
- Each neighborhood has a unique color scheme and decor, giving each part of the ship a different feel. This adds to the feeling that Harmony of the Seas is truly a mini city at sea.
- Like the Freedom, Quantum, and other Oasis class ships, the indoor Royal Promenade runs right down the middle of the vessel, featuring a wide walkway with stores, bars, and restaurants on either side.
Anyone who is a longtime Carnival cruiser will be struck by the contemporary and subdued design of Carnival Vista.
- Carnival Vista has a more traditional ship design than Harmony of the Seas, with shops on multiple decks in a circular layout and a three-deck high atrium. However, the atrium is quite unique with a funnel-shaped LED screen that displays different moving “images” throughout the day and night.
- An outdoor Promenade Deck wraps around the entire ship, featuring a variety of seating for gazing out at the ocean. Several restaurants also have outdoor seating here, including Bonsai Sushi and Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse. Even the library has outdoor seating on this deck.
- The top aft decks are reserved for the sports courts, WaterWorks aqua park, mini-golf, and the SkyRide cycling attraction.
Vista's Serenity Deck and Harmony's Central Park neighborhood.
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas. Carnival Vista is a massive upgrade from the decor of earlier Carnival ships, but no one knows how to design a mega-ship like Royal Caribbean.
Harmony of the Seas:
Harmony of the Seas has a staggering 2,700 cabins made up of 50 different cabin types. The sheer variety of options means passengers can find the perfect balance of space, amenities, and affordability, though weighing the differences and choosing one can take some time.
- Staterooms generally have ample storage and bathroom space and are decorated with muted colors and a clean style.
- Both traditional ocean-facing and interior-facing balconies (overlooking Central Park and the Boardwalk) are available. Interior cabins with virtual balconies can also be found on the ship.
- Like many other large Royal Caribbean ships, Harmony of the Seas includes a long indoor promenade area. Cabins actually line this area above the shops and restaurants, and include windows that overlook the promenade. It’s another stateroom option for those who want some sort of view, but don’t need to be facing outside at the ocean.
- Harmony of the Seas has a huge variety of suites, from junior suites all the way to two-story loft suites with separate bedrooms, living areas, and balconies (some even include a baby grand piano). Those sailing in the Royal Suite Class get different perks depending on the level in which their suite falls; some perks include access to an exclusive lounge, one dinner at Coastal Kitchen, priority boarding, and upgraded cabin amenities.
Like Harmony, Carnival Vista has a great variety of cabins, with 53 types to choose from.
- Traditional cabins on Carnival Vista are a departure from the line’s old stateroom aesthetic of orange and brown tones. Instead, Vista features calming tans, whites, and blues.
- Carnival Vista features a number of Cloud 9 Spa staterooms, ranging from interiors up to suites. These rooms include spa-inspired decor and upgraded amenities, priority spa reservations, and access to the thermal suite.
- With the debut of Carnival Vista came the introduction of two new types of cabins for Carnival:
- The Family Harbor staterooms essentially have two rooms and are available in all four main categories: interior, oceanview, balcony, and suites. Passengers staying in Family Harbor also have access to an exclusive lounge with games and snacks.
- The Havana cabins are the second new type of cabin introduced on this ship. These rooms are equipped with rainfall showers, a fenced-in lanai, hammocks, and private access to the Havana pool at the ship’s aft.
Vista's Family Harbor Stateroom and an interior oceanview cabin on Harmony.
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas. As nice as the Family Harbor Staterooms and Havana Suites are, they just can’t compete with the vast cabin variety on Harmony of the Seas, particularly when it comes to suites.
Harmony of the Seas:
Harmony of the Seas features 19 different dining venues. There’s the main dining room, the casual buffet and complimentary casual restaurants as well as a slew of specialty restaurants.
- Complimentary restaurants on Harmony include the Solarium Bistro, Vitality Cafe, and Park Cafe serving up lighter bites, as well as Sorrento’s pizza and the Dog House which offers a variety of hot dogs on the Boardwalk.
- One standout specialty venue is the whimsical, Alice-inspired Wonderland, where food is presented as beautifully and uniquely as it tastes. Another is Sabor, a contemporary and colorful Mexican restaurant serving up classic dishes made with fresh ingredients.
- For a special occasion or intimate date night, consider dining at the gourmet venue 150 Central Park, located in the ship’s Central Park neighborhood. For a hearty family-style feast, families should head over to Jamie’s Italian, a Tuscan-inspired restaurant created in partnership with celebrity chef Jamie Oliver.
- As is standard on cruise ships, Harmony of the Seas also offers main dining (both set-time or anytime), a massive buffet, and room service for a minimal flat charge.
Like Harmony, Carnival Vista has a large variety of dining options, both included and specialty.
- Carnival Vista has a great variety of complimentary dining venues, including Guy’s Pig & Anchor Bar-B-Que and Guy’s Burger Joint — both casual walk-up counters created in partnership with Food Network star Guy Fieri. There’s also fresh Mexican at BlueIguana Cantina, pizza at Pizzeria Del Capitano, and 24/7 soft-serve ice cream.
- Specialty restaurants include Fahrenheit 555 steakhouse, JiJi Asian Kitchen, and Cucina Del Capitano, the line’s Italian restaurant. Those craving sushi and sashimi will find it at Bonsai Sushi, and plenty of fresh seafood (including a killer lobster roll) can be found at the casual, open-air Seafood Shack.
- Carnival Vista was the first North America-based cruise ship to have a fully-operational brewery onboard, which can be found in RedFrog Pub & Brewery. Served there alongside a list of beers are cocktails and light bites for a small fee.
- The ship has two main dining rooms, one of which is used for Your Time Dining and the other which is used for traditional set-time dinner seatings. Vista also features the large Lido Marketplace Marketplace, a standard upper-deck cruise ship buffet.
Chef's Table and Jamie's Italian
Our Pick: Tie. This was a close one as Harmony excels in a variety of top-end gourmet choices, while Vista offers a great, consistent selection of both complimentary and specialty options.
Harmony of the Seas:
When Harmony of the Seas launched, she was the largest cruise ship in the world. With that being said, it comes as no surprise that the vessel is chock-full of activities for all ages.
- There’s plenty of water fun to be had on Harmony. A large water park called Splashaway Bay is perfect for kids, and a trio of large water slides ensure refreshing fun for the whole family. Those who want to try surfing will enjoy one of the two surfing simulators onboard, called FlowRiders. Also around the ship are five swimming pools and nine hot tubs.
- Other fun features on Harmony of the Seas include two rock climbing walls, a zip line, an escape room, ice skating rink, casino, sports courts, and a ten-deck-high looping waterless slide at the ship’s aft called Ultimate Abyss. Harmony is also home to a full spa with a menu of services and a relaxing thermal suite. The ship includes a fully-equipped fitness center, too.
- There’s no shortage of options when it comes to nightlife on the ship. Come sunset, you’ll find many passengers dancing, listening to live music, or just relaxing at one of the many bars and lounges throughout the ship. Some favorites include the Bionic Bar with robot bartenders, the open-air Rising Tide bar that moves between decks 5 and 8 in the Central Park neighborhood, the Latin-inspired Boleros club, and Vintages wine bar.
- For those who’d like to learn or try something new, staff on Harmony of the Seas offer special workshops and classes including cooking and cupcake-making classes, wine tastings, and jewelry-making and scrapbooking workshops. Active passengers will enjoy the fitness classes such as yoga, spinning, sculpting, and pilates.
Carnival Vista is also one of the largest ships within its fleet and packs a punch when it comes to activities onboard.
- Like Harmony, Vista has a waterpark for kids, complete with tipping buckets, slides, sprayers, and more. The ship also has three water slides for the whole family, including a large enclosed one with rainbow stripes that let the sunshine peek through. In addition, three swimming pools and six hot tubs can be found across the vessel.
- One unique activity that was a first on Vista is a cycling attraction suspended above the top deck called the SkyRide. Passengers use pedals to propel themselves along a track as though they were riding a bike or paddle boat, and are able to take in stunning views of the ship and ocean along the way.
- Other fun features on the ship include a ropes course, casino, mini-golf course, sports courts, deck parties, the multi-dimensional Thrill Theater, and movies on the lido deck. The ship also boasts a full spa with treatments and a thermal suite, as well as a fitness center to stay in tip-top shape.
- There’s a great variety of bars and lounges on the ship, including the Alchemy Bar where bartenders are dressed like pharmacists and cocktail “prescriptions” are made with fresh ingredients, the Piano Bar where travelers can sing along and request their favorite songs, the SkyBox Sports Bar for catching the big game while onboard, and, as mentioned previously, the large RedFrog Pub & Brewery complete with shuffleboard, foosball, and sometimes even live music.
- Carnival Vista offers a variety of classes and demonstrations for things like mixology, arts and crafts, and cooking. There are also art auctions, martini tastings, and fitness classes such as yoga, pilates, indoor cycling, and boot camp.
Vista' Skyride and Harmony's Ulitmate Abyss
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas. Royal Caribbean is the king of onboard activities, and it would take something truly revolutionary to unseat them.
Harmony of the Seas:
Harmony of the Seas has a very wide range of entertainment in venues all across the ship.
- The ship’s aft is home to the AquaTheater, a high-dive venue where highly skilled divers, acrobats, and slackliners perform shows in and around the swimming pool “stage.” Each Oasis-class ship offers different productions in this unique space. Harmony’s shows include ‘The Fine Line,’ a 360 degree show with an emphasis on slackliners, street dancing, and high-flyers; and ‘Hideaway Heist,’ which follows a loose storyline set at a 1950’s resort.
- Harmony of the Seas has its very own ice skating rink, called Studio B, where passengers can not only skate during open skate hours, but also watch dazzling ice shows from the sidelines. Two shows are featured on Harmony: ‘iSkate’ where performers do freestyle skating stunts with no choreography, and ‘1887: A Journey in Time’ — a production set in historic Paris on Valentine’s Day.
- The ship’s main theater features the Broadway show Grease, as well as other productions including the comedy Columbus, The Musical; and Harmony High. To make these shows even more special, they’re accompanied by a live orchestra. Guest performers such as jugglers, musicians, and magicians perform in different venues throughout each cruise.
- In addition to the more formal entertainment options mentioned above, there’s a variety of live music to be found around the ship in various public spaces, bars, and lounges, including the fan-favorite piano (and singing) in the Schooner Bar, a Latin Band at Boleros, and classic English pub music at the Boot & Bonnet Pub.
Carnival Vista has a wide variety of entertainment options fit for the whole family.
- Carnival Vista made waves when it debuted the first IMAX movie theater at sea, where passengers can catch first-run movies, other recent films, and IMAX documentaries in a huge format that puts regular theater screens to shame. As mentioned, the ship features the Thrill Theater, which uses special effects and 3D technology to put viewers directly into the action.
- The multipurpose Liquid Lounge space serves as the ship’s main theater, hosting Playlist Productions shows including Amor Cubano featuring classic Cuban songs and contemporary Latin hits, the high-tech show ‘Flick’ which is an homage to famous movie soundtracks, and ‘America Rocks,’ an explosive song and dance spectacle featuring hits from Bruce Springsteen, Journey, Aerosmith, The Cars, Blondie, and more — enhanced by a six-piece rock band.
- Fun passenger-participation shows on Vista include Lip Sync Battle: Carnival; Hasbro, The Game Show where board games become life-sized; and the ever-popular Love & Marriage Show which will have the audience rolling on the floor in laughter.
- Carnival Vista has a comedy space, called Punchliner Comedy Club. Most sailings have two different comedians who each perform both family-friendly and adults-only sets throughout the cruise. There’s also lots of live music around the ship, including in the RedFrog Pub & Brewery, Piano Bar, and on the lido deck.
IMAX theater and Grease
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas. Vista has a great variety of audience-participation shows and gets a nod for the IMAX theater, but Harmony of the Seas’ variety of unique entertainment offerings just can’t be beaten.
Harmony of the Seas:
Harmony of the Seas is absolutely filled to the brim with things for kids and teens.
- The nautical-themed youth club on Harmony, Adventure Ocean, is broken down into three age groups for kids ages 2 to 11. In each group are age-appropriate activities, games, and more. All groups within Adventure Ocean can enjoy the Adventure Science area to perform science experiments and expand their knowledge, and spend time in the Imagination Studio to express their creative side with things like painting, sculpture-making, and crafts.
- Harmony of the Seas also has a small theater space called Adventure Ocean Theater. This space features shows for kids including the blacklight puppet show “Away We Go” and performances where kids can participate — including a circus show, pirate show, and talent show.
- As previously mentioned, there’s a special waterpark for kids on the ship called Splashaway Bay. This area is perfect for little ones who are too young to ride the big water slides or do many of the other big-thrill activities on the ship, but even kids as old as tweens are able to enjoy it.
- Tweens and teens are divided into two groups onboard, 12-14 and 15-17, though both groups do many of the same activities. One teen space is called The Living Room where young cruisers can play video games and hang out, and the other is the teen dance club called Fuel, which stays open until 2 am. Organized activities for teens in various spots around the ship include sports tournaments, climbing wall sessions, and scavenger hunts.
- If parents want a late-night to themselves on the ship, kids can head to their Adventure Ocean club for Late Night Party Zone hours. For a small fee, they can play games, watch movies, and do other activities from 10 pm to 2 am supervised by the Adventure Ocean Youth staff.
- Of course, kids and teens can also enjoy many of the activities and entertainment on Harmony of the Seas that were mentioned previously.
Carnival Vista has kids’ clubs similar to Harmony of the Seas, but also includes special Dr. Seuss themed activities and amenities that provide a unique onboard experience to young cruisers.
- Carnival Vista’s youth club is called Camp Ocean, where kids from 2 to 11 years old are divided up into three groups based on their age. Activities at Camp Ocean include arts and crafts, games, dance parties, sing-alongs, movies, and more. If kids are there during lunch or dinner, they can eat meals in the club with a menu of kid-favorites such as mac and cheese and chicken nuggets.
- Tweens and teens also have their own dedicated clubs on Carnival Vista. Circle “C” is for those ages 12-14, and cruisers ages 15-17 have a space all to themselves called Club O2. Club O2 has activities both in the club space and around the ship, including watching movies, playing video games, singing karaoke, participating in sports tournaments, and even attending Carnival’s version of prom. Circle “C” does similar activities like dance parties, games, outdoor movies, and sports.
- Through Carnival Cruise Line’s partnership with Dr. Seuss Enterprises comes a variety of themed activities, meals, and more. Carnival Vista offers Dr. Seuss themed features like an interactive storytime, character meet and greets, themed crafts, a special character parade, and a Green Eggs & Ham Breakfast. The ship also has a brightly-colored, cozy kids’ library called Dr. Seuss Bookville.
- Alongside Vista’s big water slides in the WaterWorks aqua park, there is also a splash area for kids complete with a tipping bucket, smaller slides, sprayers, and more.
- Carnival Vista has a late-night program for kids called Night Owls. For a small fee, kids 11 and under can stay in the kid’s club until as late as 1 am while parents enjoy a night out on the ship. During Night Owls, kids can enjoy many of the same activities they’d enjoy during the day such as movies, games, music, and more.
- Many of the activities on Carnival Vista mentioned in the activities section above are also perfect for kids to enjoy.
Dr. Seuss' Bookville and Splashaway Bay
Our Pick: Tie. Both ships have great onboard offerings for kids of all ages.
Harmony of the Seas:
Harmony’s current schedule through mid-2022 is alternating 7 night eastern and western Caribbean cruises from Port Canaveral, Florida. In summer 2021, she is scheduled to operate 7 night cruises in the Mediterranean from Barcelona and Rome.
Carnival Vista is scheduled to continue operating 7-night western Caribbean voyages from Galveston, Texas.
Vista in St. Thomas and Harmony sailing out of Port Everglades
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas. Since moving from Miami to Galveston, Carnival Vista has pretty consistently operated western Caribbean sailings, while Harmony alternates between the eastern and western regions and will be spending summer 2021 in the Mediterranean.
Our Pick: Harmony of the Seas is the undisputed winner thanks to the sheer number of choices in virtually every category. Still, Vista is an excellent ship that represents a huge leap forward for Carnival in ship design and remains a great choice if you’re looking for a “smaller” ship that still has a large variety of dining and activities to choose from.
Join the discussion
Which ship are you more excited about?