Once we received our booking number for our Carnival Vista cruise, we went to Carnival.com to access the My Cruise Manager section. Once you create an account on the Carnival.com website, you can manage multiple bookings. The first task was to complete the Online Check-In process. A series of personal information pages collects information such as passport numbers, email addresses, emergency contact information, etc.
One thing that the website does not allow is any changes to the spelling of guest names. On our reservation, my last name was misspelled ("DIKMAN" instead of "DIKMEN"). These fields are not accessible, so I suppose you would have to go back to your travel agent, or through Carnival Reservations to get these changed. More unsettling was that I learned my gender had been altered by Carnival without my consent, so I now begin my new life as a female. This too, was unable to be changed online.
Completing the Guest Information forms was pretty straightforward otherwise. The website now lets you select an "Arrival Appointment", or embarkation time. I think we will select the latest time available to avoid the large crowds. Our experience has shown that it is better to be one of the last to board.
You are also prompted to select Stateroom Preferences such as how you would like your beds configured. You are also required to set up how you plan to handle Onboard Expenses by entering a valid credit card. The final step is to accept the Terms and Conditions of the Cruise Contract (which only a lawyer could begin to understand). Once this is complete, you can then print your cruise documents (Boarding Pass, Luggage Tags, etc.). One nice feature is that Carnival includes the Public Health Screening form in the documents so that you can bring it filled out to the port. No more having to stand in line filling out the form!
Once the online check-in is complete and all documents are printed, you are pretty much done. However, there are other cool things you can do from the My Cruise Manager website. You can do all of the following before your cruise:
Make spa appointments
Book shore excursions
Make restaurant reservations
Pre-purchase Internet/WiFi packages
Purchase drink packages
I decided to pre-book reservations for three of the alternate dining restaurants (Steakhouse, JiJI Asian, and Cucina del Capitano). The restaurant reservation form is not a "live" reservations system like some cruise lines offer. It is basically a form that, when submitted, forwards your request to the restaurant manager on board. You can select a date and a dining time, but the date/time you select may not be available. You must wait for an email confirmation from the restaurant.
I submitted three different dining requests, but only received an email from two of the restaurants within a few hours. The Steakhouse was unavailable on the date/time I selected. I received the following email:
Our reservation at Cucina del Capitano was accepted, and I received the following email:
I have not heard from JiJi Asian Restaurant yet, but in fairness, it has not been 24 hours. This method of making reservations is a bit clumsy and requires a lot of manpower on the part of the restaurant managers on board. Knowing how reliable (or unreliable) cruise ship Internet connections can be, I am surprised that Carnival would employ such an Internet-dependent method. However, it is better than no reservation system at all!
I also noticed that only the reservation page for the Steakhouse gave the dining charge ($35/pp). This is something that Carnival should add to the other restaurant reservations pages. The other thing that would be nice to know is the dress code for each evening. I looked everywhere and could not find that information. The reason? We wanted restaurant reservations on "casual" nights so that we did not have to meet any "elegant" dress code. On "elegant/formal" nights, we would just dine in the buffet or skip dinner altogether so we don't have to pack any dressy clothes.
I have not tried booking shore excursions or spa appointments, so I am not sure if the same system is employed.
All-in-all, the My Cruise Manager website is a good resource and well organized. It is not the best cruise website we have used, but it is far from the worst.
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JULY 4 UPDATE - I did finally get replies from all three restaurants and have secured reservations at each. However, the mechanism was a little clumsy. When I did not hear back from JiJi Asian on my initial request for July 19, after two days, I submitted another request for July 15. A couple of days ago I received two replies, one for each date confirming our reservations. So, now I have to cancel one of the reservations, and the only way to do that is through email. I also somehow ended up with two reservations for Vista Steakhouse. I guess I will have to straighten all of this out once we get on board which sort of the defeats the purpose of having an online reservation system.
JULY 7 UPDATE - I went back into the website today to place an order through the Carnival Fun Shops section. Rather than hassling with trying to carry on bottled water when embarking the ship, I ordered a case of 12 bottles of water to be delivered to our stateroom for a very reasonable $4.50.
Soft drink prices are also reasonable compared to what you will pay in a ship's lounge, but the alcoholic beverages can get pricey. A bottle of Crown Royal is $95, which I can buy at home for $21. Nevertheless, you have to compare with what you pay for a drink at one of the ship's lounges. It is probably a good value from that standpoint, but you have to consume it in the stateroom. If I am going to sit in a small room and drink Crown, I will do it at home! However, if you are a big drinker (by my standards), you are better off with Carnival's Cheers and Bottomless Bubbles package for $49.95 per day/per person ($54.95 on board). Even at $10 per drink, I could never make that pay off. If I tried to have five drinks a day, I would pass out after number three! But, for some, $50 per day for drinks is not unheard of and you have the added convenience of not having to keep track of how much you’ve spent on drinks during the cruise.