Tuesday 28 June 2016

Vista Vacation: The One Sea Day

Our one and only sea day was on Friday, day four of our cruise. We had a couples' massage booked first thing in the morning, and if y'all hadn't noticed, the boyfriend and I are not early risers. But it was the only time available, so that's how we ended up with the early appointment. As to how we came to the decision on a couples' massage (usually, I get one myself, and the boyfriend sits out)... Well, the couples' massage ended up being the same price as two single's Swedish massage so we thought, why not?

The spa was clean, and well air conditioned with a gorgeous vista of the ocean (see what I did there?). The staff were friendly, and prompt. We were greeted by our masseuses upon entering the waiting area right after I filled out our health questionnaire. We were booked in a serene couples' room with a jacuzzi, which I wish we could have used. Our massage was short, only fifty minutes, but very relaxing. The total cost? $286 USD with gratuities. It was expected, but if you are willing to wait for a better price (better price may mean less time or less services), the price does go down on port days. Just watch out for the spa staff handing out flyers when you board the ship at the end of your port day!

After the massage, it is customary for the masseuse to encourage you to purchase the products they used during the treatment. It's easy to get caught up in the moment and buy the products. I'm always tempted to, because they do seem to work quite well, but the products are quite expensive. Our masseuses were quite aggressive this time around, but I stood my ground, and we were able to leave without making a purchase. Thanks but no thanks!

We grabbed breakfast at the Lido Deck. This was the only time we had a real breakfast on the ship. There was a good variety of breakfast foods - french toast, pastries, eggs, sausages, bacon, toast, cereal and yogurt. We took our breakfast back to our room to eat. The massage had tired us out, so we decided to take a quick nap at 1 pm. Terrible idea! When we woke up, it was almost 3 pm. We'd slept for two hours! Lunch service was over already.

There was only one restaurant opened at 3 pm - Guy's Burgers Joint, so we headed up to grab a burger. No lines! It was not bad... but I wish we had other options. We walked outside to the deck, but all the chairs were taken at that hour. Up higher on Deck 11, it was very windy and chilly, so we headed back indoors to walk around the ship.

It was formal night, also known as lobster night! The tablecloths were back in the dining room. I love soup, so I order soup every night. I had the mushroom soup, and the chicken noodle soup, while the boyfriend had some kind of duck confit pastry, and oyster fritters (not pictured, he ate too fast) to start. We both had lobsters for our main entree. For dessert, I had a chocolate mousse dessert, and he had the creme brûlée. 

During our dinner throughout the week, we were serenaded by one of the staff members. We never got his name (he wasn't the maitre d', but he was a member of senior staff because he was in a suit). He had a great voice, and he often sang old love songs. Many couples slow-danced as he sang during dinner. Afterwards, the waiting staff sang and danced for us as well. Every night was a show in the dining room. We had a great time!

We caught part of the performance by Playlist Productions after our late dinner. (Apologies for the poor quality of these photos, they were taken from my iPhone.) On formal night, the show was inspired by Studio 54, the NYC nightlife in the 70's and the funky fashion of "Soul Train."

The cast was very energetic and interactive with the audience. Their costumes were eye-catching, and the choreography was well-arranged. If you get a chance, be sure to catch at least one performance. Personally, it was difficult for us because of our late seating dinner time at 8:15 pm. The early show at 7:30 pm would cause us to be late for dinner, so we always left early; and because we finished dinner between 9:45 - 10 pm, we would miss the beginning of the 9:30 pm showing. We never did watch a show from beginning to end.

We weren't quite ready to turn in yet, so we caught the last two comedy shows of the night. It was the last night for the two comedians (Tom Foss and J.R. McCollum) from the night before. During the break between shows, we watched Essencia (the violinist trio) play in the Atrium. I decided to crash after the last comedy show, and the boyfriend headed to the casino. We'd be in Valletta, Malta the next day (for my birthday!) and we had a 10 hour excursion, so I was ready to get some rest.

That concludes our one sea day on the Carnival Vista. Next up: Malta!

Do you have any questions for me? Feel free to ask in the Comments section below!

Want to start from the beginning? Navigate through our trip here: 

Friday 24 June 2016

Vista Vacation: Rendezvous in Rhodes

With its breathtaking coastlines and scenic villages, Rhodes is distinctively Greece. The quiet harbour, surrounded by stunning beaches, is right outside Old Town.

We set off in the early afternoon to explore Old Town. It was yet, another windy day, but hot when we were behind the walls of Old Town. There are many gates to enter Old Town through, and inside the walls is a maze of shops and restaurants. It was definitely easy to get lost. In the distance of the second image, you can see the Mosque of Suleiman, the first mosque of Rhodes. We continued to walk along the path until we reached the town walls. Along the walls were lookouts into the ocean.

I wish we had done more research before this port. We missed the Palace of the Grand Master, which is a medieval castle with Gothic architecture. We had also walked past the Streets of the Knights, but did not walk down the road either.

Here are the ruins of the Church of Sainte Marie du Bourg. The Romanic Basilica was hit during World War II, and the only thing left standing were the three apses of the the sanctuary.

Did I mention how difficult it was to walk on the roads in Old Town? Many streets were covered in pebbles! It was very slippery. Cobblestone in Rome is a piece of cake compared to the pebbled paths in Rhodes. Definitely something to remember if you are planning on visiting Old Town. As we made our way back to the ship, we walked along a long breakwater, lined by three old windmills, and Fort St. Nicholas.

The path gave us a beautiful view of the Vista. It was a lovely waterfront stroll, but we never made it to the end of the breakwater. It seemed the Fort was closed, as many passengers walk to the end, and turned right around, so we decided not to head down there.

If you're planning for a relaxing day, Rhodes is perfect for exploring on your own. We knew we had a heavy itinerary after our sea day, so we decided to take it slow at the start of the cruise. Alternatively, Rhodes is also a gateway to Lindos, a picturesque, modern village with one of the best-preserved Acropolis in Europe. Lindos is about an hour drive away from the harbour, and our Cruise Director, Matt, had raved about it. If we ever have the opportunity to revisit Rhodes, we'll visit Lindos. But I'm very glad we had the chance to explore on our own this time around as not many ports in Europe offers the opportunity to do so.

Dinnertime! I had the soup of the day, the seafood penne pasta and the passion fruit cheesecake. The boyfriend had escargots, steak with mac 'n' cheese (which is delicious, by the way) and popcorn creme dessert. No complaints here! I very much enjoyed my meal, especially the soup, and the sweet chilli compote with my dessert.

After dinner, we headed to the casino to try our luck. I'm not a big gambler (the boyfriend is though!), but I'm a sucker for the quarter machine. Well, Lady Luck was on my side! After roughly $50 on the machine (which really translates in about 25 minutes), we ended up with three chips! The casino ran out of t-shirts (disappointing since it was only day 3), so I got a drink instead, a Miami Vice.

With the complimentary drink in my hand, I headed towards the Atrium. A small crowd had already formed to listen to the trio of extremely talented violinists from Spain. Known as Essencia, they play a range of music from classical to top 40s. The trio usually played for about an hour. I really enjoyed listening to them (and watching them!) play during the cruise. It was also the first time I'd seen an electronic violin.

Our next day will be a sea day. It was a short day for us, so I should have the post up during the weekend! Hope you enjoyed this post about Rhodes. Stay tuned!

Want to start from the beginning? Navigate through our trip here: 

Monday 20 June 2016

Vista Vacation: A Taste of Turkey

Once upon a time in Kusadasi, Turkey, we found a convenience store by the port and decided to check it out. As we walked in, several crew members were heading out to pay for their snacks. Two of them were carrying a stack of dark pink packages. I wanted to know what they were. In the snack aisle, we found dark pink packages of raspberry tartinis. I’m a sucker for sweet snacks, so we decided to buy two packages to see what the fuss was all about. Best decision ever. They’re the best snacks I’ve ever had. Since then, I’ve been waiting to return to Turkey to buy more tartinis.

Our first port of call was the sunny and hot, but windy resort port of Kusadasi. We were in no hurry to get on land, so we grabbed lunch on the Lido Deck first. Our first stop was the convenience store. Unfortunately, the tartinis were not at the store. I swallowed my disappointment, it was okay. We headed down the street to do a little shopping for some souvenirs and Turkish delight. 

Outside the fish market, an older gentleman was sitting at his produce stand, with a small, adorable puppy sleeping in a gourd labelled "VOTKA" - we later found out that it did indeed translate to vodka. Stray cats roamed the area freely. As we explored the area, we found a small grocery store. The boyfriend likes checking out the deli, so while he did that, I hurried to the snack aisle. There they were. My tartinis! They even had new packaging! Unable to hide my excitement, we grabbed ten packages (yes, ten!) for the road.  

Probably not the best idea for that to be our first purchase, as we spent the rest of the day holding the tartinis. We walked around more shops, but nothing else interested us. Most of the merchants in Kusadasi either sold fake brand name bags, clothes and shoes, or leather jackets. We headed towards the ship, and found a nice path along the sea. It was very windy, but it gave us a beautiful view of the ship, and the other side of the shoreline of Kusadasi, where the resorts were.  

There were tourist binoculars along the path, and we had some liras to get rid of, so what the heck! We decided to take a closer look. Across the bay was resort town indeed, with beaches along the coast. Liras well spent. It was about time to make our way back to the ship. On our way, we stopped for a cappuccino. There was also a Starbucks at the port, but when in Europe... We love their cappuccinos, and we very much prefer it over Starbucks. Most, if not all, cafes in Europe offer complimentary wifi when you make a purchase. We did purchase an internet package on the Vista, but we found that it had been quite spotty, so whenever we had the chance, we would purchase a cappuccino and enjoy some wifi off the ship. Nothing like sitting by the sea in Turkey, enjoying a cappuccino without a care in the world! 

It was good timing. All aboard time was at 6 PM - so once we were on board, we grabbed a pizza to share at Pizzeria del Capitano (which is opened 24 hours, and yes, we needed an appetizer before our appetizer!) and we got ready for dinner, which was the late seating at 8:15 PM. Dinner was a doozy (I honestly cannot remember what we ate but it was much better than the first night). We only got a few pictures, as seen here:  

We returned to our cabin to change, and found a towel animal, the good dinosaur, made by our stateroom attendant. We found that our turn-down service was often done before dinner, which we didn't mind. Less work for the guy, I guess! He would clean it after we left in the morning, and come back to turn down a completely clean room. On the program for us that night was the comedy club. J.R Mccollom, and Tom Foss were the comedians of the night. We enjoyed both their shows. We were lucky enough to have six different comedians throughout the cruise. And yes, we did have a favourite - but more on that later!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our relaxed "on-your-own" day at the port day in Kusadasi. If you're ever in Turkey, I highly recommend visiting Ephesus. It's a beautiful piece of history, and it is one of the most well preserved archaeological sites. It can definitely get crowded and hot as most sites do, but it is not to be missed. Another amazing adventure is the House of the Virgin Mary, which is believed to have been the last home of Mary. We were lucky enough to have visited both during a previous cruise, and though it was tempting, once was enough. If you're interested, you can read about our visit to Ephesus here. Unfortunately, for brevity, I left out our stop at the House of the Virgin Mary.

Our next port of call is Rhodes, Greece. It was another "on-your-own" day for us, but after that, it's all Carnival excursions! I am going to try to update every three days, so stay tuned!

Want to start from the beginning? Navigate through our trip here: 

Friday 17 June 2016

Vista Vacation: Embarkation Day

Embarkation Day!

Alex, our driver from George's Taxi, arrived promptly at 11:30 like he said, and we were soon on our way to the port. Alex told us the cruise port was a short twenty minute drive from our hotel in the Acropolis area - but it seemed much quicker for us to get there. I'm sure it was because we had such a great time chatting with him! Upon our arrival at the port, we unloaded and waited for a Carnival representative to grab a porter to take our luggage. In the Caribbean, the porters are everywhere, and you basically left your luggage at the curb. This time, it was much more organized - and safer. A Carnival representative was present to greet you, and appoint a porter to your luggage. It always gives me a peace of mind to see someone take my luggage.

It was starting to get crowded so we said goodbye to Alex and headed into the tent for check-in. We made it in line just before the rush. The passengers after us were seated, and given a number to be called for check in. Unfortunately, the tent was a furnace. It was a white tent - a green house essentially with four air conditioning unit, one in each corner - not enough! Thankfully, our check-in was quick, and our Carnival customer rep was also very friendly. Immediately after we were given our Sail & Sign cards, we were headed straight to the ship for boarding. I practically ran through the terminal. I was sad to say goodbye to Athens, but I was stoked for the ship!

The Vista is a gorgeous ship. She was shiny, new, and ours for the 10 days! I'll have more pictures of her as we visit each port. As we boarded the Vista, we heard an announcement letting us know that our cabins were ready. Perfect timing! We were booked on a category 6M Oceanview at the end of the hall on Deck 3 (more on this later). These cabins had two bathrooms - one with a shower, and one with a bath. Only one toilet though, so we had to play nice.

Our Large Porthole!

I had just stuffed myself with a gyro during boarding so I was in no rush to visit the Lido Deck. We decided to take a quick walk first to check out the ship. I'm sad to say that we never got a chance to go on the waterslides. It looked like a lot of fun, but the weather never really warmed up enough for us Caribbean cruisers.

Here, we have the Red Frog Pub & Brewery, and some seating on Deck 5 - there is a Taste Bar to the right, and the Cafe on the left, both of which are not photographed (I know, I suck, sorry). They played Bingo here as well.

Here, we have the Skybar (sports bar) and the casino, where my boyfriend liked to spend his nights.

And here, we have the Reflections dining room, with the new American Table menu, which was still being prepped when we decided to peek in to find our table. Funnily enough, we were actually seated just around the corner by the second pillar in the photograph. We also popped by the Havana Bar, which we never used. It looked amazing though.

The Atrium Bar
We headed up to the deck to watch the sail away. It was a very windy day, once again, in Athens, so I headed back inside as the boyfriend took some pictures.

We had a late seating for dinner at 8:15 pm, so we took a quick visit for a snack on the Lido Deck before heading back to our cabin to unpack. We also decided to take a quick nap before dinner. This is our first cruise with a late dinner seating. The reason we chose it was because we were at port every day until at least 6 PM. We specifically chose this cruise, this itinerary because we were interested in each, and every port. We really didn't want to rush back for the early seating.

Because it was the first night of our cruise, we didn't expect much from the dining room. We had an unusual arrangement - two different headwaiters ended up serving us throughout the week. Imade from Bali made an impression on us. He was very friendly, and loved to joke with us. Our other headwaiter was Milo. His name tag said he was from Serbia, but he told us he was from Croatia. He was a quiet fellow, and didn't chat with us much during our time in the dining room.

Nothing jumped out at me on the menu, so I ended up ordering the chicken. The boyfriend ordered the steak. I had Vietnamese salad rolls to start (very hard, and dry - my family is from Vietnam, so my mom makes pretty awesome salad rolls. I could tell these had been made hours earlier. I understand appetizers are pre-prepped, so salad rolls were probably not a good idea, as the rice paper wrap hardens when its refrigerated), and he had the calamari (unfortunately, no batter as pictured). For dessert, he had the Carnival chocolate cake, which came in a cute arrangement of Mickey (How did they know! We absolutely love Disney!), and I had the tiramisu (very sweet!). It was really nothing to rave about, but it filled our tummies and we were content.

Embarkation day is always a little tiring for us. It takes us the day to settle into the ship. So like good boys and girls, we headed back to our cabin to unpack a bit more, and turned in early for the night. Our first port was Kusadasi, Turkey. As I had mentioned in an earlier entry, we were originally supposed to dock in Izmir, but unfortunately, because it was on the U.S. travel advisory alert list, Carnival cancelled the port. Kusadasi is great replacement. For those who still wanted to visit Ephesus, it was still an option. Since we had already been there before (see here!), we had planned to walk around the port, and do a little shopping... and of course, as some of you may know, search for my tartinis!

I hope you're enjoying my trip report. Stay tuned for my entry on Kusadasi this weekend.

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