- I was a passenger on Carnival Cruise Line’s first ship to sail from the US in 16 months.
- Many parts of the seven-night cruise surprised me, like how comfortable other passengers seemed in crowds.
- Even with some crowded areas, I was shocked at how many empty spaces I found for alone time on the ship.
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The seven-night cruise made stops in Mahogany Bay, Honduras; Belize; and Cozumel, Mexico.
There were about 2,700 passengers — about 70% capacity — onboard the ship, including me.
Days before the cruise departed, I checked in for the cruise and picked an arrival time. Surprisingly, all my options were hours before the ship’s sailing time.
The Carnival Vista was scheduled to depart at 4 p.m., and I opted for a 1 p.m. check-in appointment.
When I stepped onto the ship three hours before it would depart from Galveston, it was already packed. People were stationed at the bars, the pool decks were crowded, and the buffet was already serving food — hours before I initially thought my cruise experience would begin.
When the bus arrived at the port, I didn’t touch the luggage that I had stored underneath the bus. Crew members quickly gathered everyone’s luggage, and I later reunited with my carry-on in my cruise cabin.
I easily navigated through the boarding process without my heavy carry-on bag, and it was one less thing to worry about.
I aimlessly walked around for a few minutes until I found a crew member and asked for advice. Since I was early for my check-in appointment, she suggested I go to the muster station first and then head to my room.
I followed her advice and quickly learned that a muster station is where passengers are required to meet during an emergency. Here, I learned how to adorn a life vest, and then headed to my room.
He wanted to know if I preferred mornings or nights, but I wasn’t sure what was taking place during these times.
Finally, it clicked. Komang would be entering my room every day to tidy up. He would make my bed, replace the towels, take out the trash, and, of course, leave behind a towel animal.
The turndown service felt like a luxury.
Since so many places on the cruise were designed for natural conversation, I assumed the same would be true in the dining room.
But I was wrong. It was the hardest place to meet people. Each night, I asked the hostess if there were any communal tables available — which were common before the pandemic — but I was told there weren’t any.
It seemed like the majority of people were eating with their friends and family, so I quickly learned to enjoy the solitude that came with dining by myself each evening.
With more than a dozen elevators on the ship, I assumed I would never have to wait. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, there was almost always a line for an elevator.
About a day or two into the cruise, I realized that waiting wasn’t worth it and opted for the stairs.
I constantly found myself hopping between pools, running downstairs to grab something from my room, and grabbing a bit to eat at a restaurant across the ship.
All that added up in steps. Aside from disembarkation day, I easily averaged more than 10,000 steps every single day of the cruise.
The app was home to the daily events list and guests used it to book excursions, check-in for dinner, and watch safety videos. I also used my phone at almost every eatery on the ship because I needed to snap a picture of QR codes to access menus. I even found the spa’s offerings with the help of a QR code.
Luckily, you didn’t need WiFi, but I was disappointed with how often I needed my phone. Other passengers I spoke with on the Vista agreed.
They said cruises are all about disconnecting, so needing your phone made that a lot more challenging.
While some passengers said that’s their favorite part of cruising, others told me they never even left the ship.
In fact, some of the cruise-goers I spoke to said that port days are their favorite because that’s when the ship is at its emptiest. The bars are deserted and there are no crowds in the pool.
I also took two yoga classes during the week. For the first class, I arrived early to find my ideal spot in the studio, but to my surprise, it was just me. The $US17 ($AU23) class felt like an even better price knowing that I was getting one-on-one help with my warrior-two pose.
Throughout the seven-day cruise, I found myself alone in hot tubs, on entire decks without people, and exploring the arcade all without another passenger in sight.
This was in part because the cruise was at 70% capacity, but even at maximum capacity, I think I would still be able to find isolated spots.
There were a few moments throughout the cruise — when shows would end and everyone would file into the hallway or when everyone tried to exit the ship at the same time — that overwhelmed me.
The plastic card controlled everything. This made life on the ship easier, but also more stressful. I managed to misplace my card multiple times, which left me frantically rummaging through my bag in hopes it wasn’t permanently lost.
I was also surprised by how much I could learn about other passengers from just the color of their card. Carnival Cruise Lines has a guest recognition program, and the color of your card indicates how many days each passenger has spent at sea.
That, paired with the rocking of the ship, had me asleep in minutes. Honestly, the deep sleep is one of the things I miss most about the entire cruise.