We checked out of our South Beach hotel this morning and scheduled an Uber ride to Port of Miami. Our Uber driver showed up in less than two minutes and soon we were on our way! It only takes about 15 minutes to get to the port from South Beach resulting in a meager $13.25 Uber charge. When we arrive (around 12:10pm), a very long line of Vista guests is already forming outside the terminal building. We have been given a unique opportunity to test Carnival's Priority Check-In (reserved for Diamond and Platinum VIFP members and those who purchased the Faster to the Fun option). After we hand our two large duffel bags to the porter, we locate a Priority Check-In sign.
After we showed our Priority Check-In certificate to one of the employees, we were basically allowed to "cut in line", shaving at least 30 minutes off of the wait just to get inside the terminal. Once inside, we had a brief security check of our passports, sent our carry-on bags through x-ray machines and headed upstairs to the main check-in counter. When we approached one of the employees upstairs and showed her the Priority Check-in certificate, she acted like she had no idea what it was, and directed us into the main line for check-in. Fortunately, I noticed a sign for Priority Check-in (with nobody standing in it), so we just got over there on our own and walked right up to the counter. That saved us another 30 minutes of standing in line.
After we were completely checked in, we were told the next security person would walk us past the line and directly to the escalators leading up to the boarding level. That never happened and for the first time, we were standing in a long line to get to board the ship. I am sure if we were more persistent, they would have walked us directly to the escalators, but we weren't. One thing Carnival has changed in its check-in procedures is the use of a new Boarding Pass document to board the vessel. You are no longer issued stateroom keys at check-in. Stateroom keys are waiting for you in your stateroom after you board the ship. I am not sure why they made this change, perhaps to streamline boarding?
Our boarding pass indicated that, with Priority Check-in, we could occupy our stateroom at 11:30am, but when we went to our deck, all of the fire doors into the stateroom area were closed and a sign indicated that staterooms would not be accessible until 1:30pm.
We decided to have lunch while our stateroom was being readied. On our last Carnival cruise, we never had the opportunity to try Guy's Pig and Anchor BBQ, and since it was one of the venues serving lunch today, we decided to give it a try. Guy's Pig and Anchor is located port side on Deck 5 midship. A fairly long line had already formed by the time we arrived. A selection of beef brisket, chicken, pulled pork and smoked sausage is offered along with a variety of side dishes.
Once you reach the serving line, simply tell one of the servers what you want and they will begin piling your choices onto a pizza pan. You can order as much or as little as you like. I decided to try the pork, the beef and the sausage. Rickee had the chicken. Instead of sitting outside in the heat, we took our plates back inside and sat at a table in the Ocean Lounge.
Everything we tried was good, just not hot. Even the side dishes (mac and cheese, baked beans, etc.) should have been hot but were cold. There is a choice of BBQ sauces and we both tried the sweet molasses sauce which was very good.
After lunch, we decided to check and see if our stateroom was ready, which it was. The mat was laid out on the bed waiting for our luggage to arrive.
We were also pleased to find the bottled water we had pre-ordered through the Carnival Fun Shops website was waiting for us on the desk.
A 12-pack of purified water is only $4.50 and is delivered right to the room -- a bargain and a good service. You can also pre-order soft drinks and other beverages online prior to your cruise.
When we arrived at our stateroom, we found the cleanliness to be below Carnival's typical standards. There were fingerprints and noseprints all over the balcony door and the closet mirror. The drawers underneath the sofa were not completely closed. The connecting stateroom door was open as was the door that separates the balconies. It appears as though whomever prepped the stateroom was in a hurry, or got interrupted and did not complete all the tasks. We will do a more thorough review of the stateroom later in the blog.
After a cursory look around the stateroom and dropping off our hand luggage, we decided it was time for a welcome aboard cocktail! We stopped by the Plaza Bar (Deck 5 aft) for two Pirate Punch rum punch drinks (Drink of the Day). Tropical drinks are $8.95ea + gratuity + Miami sales tax since we had not yet sailed.
At 3:45, the ship's crew conducted the mandatory safety briefing. Our muster station is the restaurant on Deck 3 aft. Fortunately, guests are no longer required to bring life vests to the briefing. Instead, crew members demonstrate the proper way to put on the vest and give other important safety information. After the briefing, everyone is invited up to Deck 10 (Lido) for the Sail Away party.
The Sail Away party is in full swing as Vista pushes away from the dock in Miami and heads out on her way to the Caribbean. After sail away, we went back to our stateroom to find our luggage has been delivered. We have just enough time to unpack and get cleaned up for our 7pm dinner reservation at JiJi Asian Restaurant.
When we arrive at JiJi (Deck 11 aft), we're surprised to find only a couple of tables of guests. The cost to dine at JiJi is $15 per person. The four-course menu offers a selection of appetizers, entrees, side dishes and dessert. We will post a thorough review of JiJi to our Cruise Ship Dining Reviews blog soon. Suffice it to say that the food and service were way above our expectations.
After dinner, we spent time exploring more of the ship. Our plan was to make it to the 10pm Punchliner Comedy show, but by the time we arrived there was a huge line of about two hundred people already formed. We decided to skip it and show up earlier to get a better place in line for the next show.
Tomorrow is a "Fun Day At Sea" aboard Carnival Vista.