Carnival is back in Europe with the stunning new ship Vista. Richard Hercock set sail, brewing up a fantastic cruise in the Med.
I might not have been Sir Bradley Wiggins or Chris Froome at the Rio Olympics, but sat cycling 150ft above the waves of the Mediterranean Sea I felt like I had won the golden ticket.
I was pedalling along on Skyride, just one of the thrilling new additions to be experienced on this summer’s maiden voyage of the Carnival Vista cruise ship.
Suspended above the ship’s top deck, on an open-air bike, you get an amazing view of the 133,500-tonne Vista, which can carry nearly 4,000 passengers.
I was told you can reach speeds up to 18mph, over its elevated 800ft track, but I never got out of first gear. Why would you, when you have some glorious views?
Carnival’s motto is ‘Switch on Fun’ and the Vista really is a fun ship.
If the Skyride doesn’t get your heart racing, how about the suspended 270-foot-long ropes course? Or be blown away by the cruise industry’s first IMAX Theatre.
And there’s the amazing water park. Try standing under the 300-gallon tipping bucket, jump into the water tube slide, Kaleid-O-Slide, or fizz down the high-speed Twister slide.
My eight-year-old son Thomas – and his 84-year-old grandfather – found plenty to keep them mesmerised on our 10-day Med cruise.
A superb range of children’s entertainment at kids club Camp Ocean meant it was a battle to get Thomas off the ship, to sample some of the Med’s finest ports. Starting the day with a kids’ Green Eggs and Ham breakfast might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but the children seemed to love it.
The Red Frog Pub & Brewery is the place to go for superb rum cocktails, but also quench your thirst with a choice of three hand-crafted beers: ThirstyFrog Port Hoppin’ IPA, ThirstyFrog Caribbean Wheat and FriskyFrog Java Stout.
“Guests wants to try new and exciting things,” said Eddie Allen, Carnival’s vice president of beverage operations. “We’re excited to offer them this unique experience, where they can watch the beer being made, sample the beer, tour the brewery and talk to the brewmaster.”
If draft beers aren’t your poison, then there are a numerous other drinking holes like the Havana Bar, Blueiguana Tequilla Bar or the Piano Bar.
And you won’t go hungry on the Carnival Vista. Yes, there is the 24-hour pizzeria, Guy’s Burger Joint, a lido deck buffet serving lunch and dinner, plus two huge dining rooms where you can expect the waiters to burst into song.
There are several speciality restaurants to cater for every stomach. From sushi to steak, noodles in the JiJi Asian Kitchen to a swanky Italian diner Cucina del Capitano with some delicious pasta dishes.
Then there’s the new Seafood Shack, where my favourite was the clam chowder, served in a huge bread bowl.
On your walks around the ship, you quickly notice Carnival has tried to take more areas outside, giving passengers the chance to sit and watch the world float by.
You can pack as little or as much into the evenings as you wish. From a great comedy club, to big-stage productions, live television-style game shows, to a 3-D Thrill Theatre where you could get a little wet.
Carnival has brought out its very own mobile phone app, called Carnival Hub.
It’s free, and allows you to check out the itinerary, view deck layouts, and is packed with information on what’s going on.
For a small fee, you can also use a ‘chat’ feature for the entire cruise, meaning you don’t get hit with a hefty phone bill on your return home.
And gone are the old-fashioned photo galleries, where you had to sift through thousands of 10x8 prints to find that photo of you with a pirate on the pier in Naples.
Now, using cool facial recognition software, all images are tagged so you can view them digitally on your phone or in-room television.
I also liked using the Hub app to keep on top of my spending, with real-time shipboard account balances available at the touch of a button.
Continuing the new-look are some of the rooms available. The Vista also offers Family Harbour and Havana rooms and suites which have access to a lounge, serving food, which is perfect for those travelling with young children. The Havana Cabanas have their own patio and swing-chair, with exclusive access to the Havana swimming pool and bar.
We picked up the Vista in Barcelona, before sailing the Med taking in Marseille, Livorno, Rome, Naples, Crete, Rhodes, and Athens.
But if you want to sail Vista in Europe, you need to act fast. The ship will continue to operate in the Med until October, before it crosses the Atlantic.
Carnival Vista – October 1. 2016 – 10 Nights Mediterranean Cruise Only from £649 per person and takes in Barcelona, Marseilles, Livorno; Rome, Naples, Crete, Rhodes, Kusadasi, Athens.
Cruise only pricing is per person based on two people sharing an Inside Stateroom and subject to availability