My wife and I (56 & 55) recently returned from the 15-day, roundtrip cruise to Hawaii aboard the Carnival Spirit. It was the BEST cruise we've ever taken! Despite the cold and windy weather going to and from the islands, I can't think of anything at all to complain about.
We flew from Cincinnati to San Diego two days prior to the cruise, mainly to allow for jet lag to settle in and to explore a city in which we've never been to. I booked a room at the Best Western Yacht Harbor via an online travel site (begins with a "P"). The hotel is located about 3 miles west of the cruise port in Point Loma. The room was great, complete with a marina-facing balcony that allowed us to watch the Navy and cruise ships pass by. The hotel offers a free shuttle to and from both the airport and the cruise terminal.
We took the cruise to the terminal at 8:45am on Friday, April 13th. Upon arrival, we found the lines of those waiting to board quite short. After checking in, we waited in the VIP area until around 10:45am to board. We immediately headed to the Lido deck for lunch. Our cabins were ready before 1:00pm. And all of our luggage was there as well! We had a 4K cabin with an obstructed view ( a lifeboat). The room was perfect for us despite the view out of the french doors.
After standing in the rain for our Muster Drill, we finally set sail around 6:15pm. Not sure why the departure was delayed, but we were eating dinner in the diningroom when we finally began our fantastic voyage.
The ship was a little difficult to get around, layout-wise. But we finally got the hang of it and loved it. The Promenade deck, shops and Atrium are located on decks 2 & 3, along with the diningroom.
The first 2-3 days at sea enroute to Hawaii were rough, windy and cold. It was so windy that the upper decks were blocked off to passengers. The temperature hovered in the upper 50s to low 60s. On the third day at sea, a passenger jumped overboard from the Lido deck. The ship turned around and after about an hour or so rescued the gentleman. It was a marvelous thing to witness. He was sent back home after we reached Hilo.
The 4 days at sea were very relaxing for us. We absolutely love the sea days! There were enough activities to keep us entertained throughout. If you love trivia, then this cruise was for you! I ended up bringing 5 "ships-on-a-stick" home. Keeping in mind that the average age for the passengers on this cruise was near 65 years old and older, many passengers complained of not having enough to do while at sea. And with the choppy seas resulting in the cancellation of most of the dance shows in the main auditorium, frustration began to settle in with a few. Carnival didn't have any backup plans to remedy the situation, which I think they should work on.
Arriving in Hawaii was spectacular! We made stops in Hilo, Kahalui, Maui, Honolulu, Kona and the island of Kauai. In Hilo, we took the shuttle downtown to explore the town and the market place. We also visited Hilo Hatties. Note: every port of call during this cruise had a free, full-size bus shuttle people to and from (of all places) WalMart! All day long!
In Maui, we rented a Mustang convertible and drove to Lahaina to do a whale watching tour that I had booked online, at a cost of $22.40 per person. While waiting to board the boat, I talked with a gentleman from the Princess ship that was there and he told me that Princess charged them $89.99 pp for the exact same tour! It pays to shop around! We spent the rest of the day just driving around exploring this island. Absolutely beautiful!
Our next stop was Honolulu and we, again, rented a Mustand convertible. Got excellent deals with Thrifty. We drove out to Pearl Harbor and toured the USS Missouri, visitor's center and the USS Bowfin. We had been aboard the Arizona Memorial during two previous visits. For someone so interested in WWII history, this was unbelieveable for me! We then drove to the Internation Marketplace to get souveniers for the kids and grandkids. Even enjoyed a Puka Dog for lunch. After shopping here for a couple of hours, it was time to surprise my wife with something that I had planned for months and she had no idea about. We drove to a very nice beach and met with a minister who renewed our wedding vows with a traditional Hawaiian ceremony. My wife was shocked! It was fantastic! And, yes, she said "yes" for the 2nd time (after 37 years)!
We then sailed back to the Big Island for a day in Kona. It was here that I spent the most money. The first shop my wife noticed was an ABC Store and she went bezerk in there! We ended up buying another piece of luggage just to bring home what she bought here! We walked the streets and took many pictures of this beautifl place.
Our final stop was in Kauai. Here, we took the Wainmea Canyon Tour. Our bus drove on a road that wasn't hardly wide enough for two cars all the way to the canyon, passing other buses along the way. What a frightening experience. But we made it and the view of the canyon was well worth the ride up! It was like looking at the Grand Canyon...only greener!
After leaving Kauai and returning to San Diego, the ship had to turn around and head back to Honolulu because a passenger had a medical emergency and had to be taken to a hospital. This put our schedule back about 12-14 hours, resulting in us missing our port of call in Ensanada, Mexico (which was OK with most of the passengers). We arrived back in San Diego and debarkation was a breeze! Locating our luggage once we left the ship was another story! After spending over 45-minutes looking for our last suitcase, we found it near the exit door. Apparently, someone picked it up, realized it wasn't their's and just left it there.
Overall, the cruise was the BEST one yet for us! The ship was in great condition, and the crew was fantastic, especially the captain. He and his crew did a great job saving that man.
The Entertainment staff was great, except for the Cruise Director. Stu could do alot better when it came to mingling with the passengers. The Social Host, Misty, was wonderful! She will make a great Cruise Director some day! Hats off to Lanne, Menna, Christy (it's M-A-L-I-H-I-N-I")and Gayve! Great job!
The food was the best we've ever had aboard a Carnival ship! Our waiter, Allan, did a superb job each and every night. The only complaint we had was that the shrimp cocktails have disappeared from the menu, having it only one night! We are in the steakhouse one evening and had the best meal we've ever eaten anywhere!
The only complaints that we had was the cruise terminal in San Diego. It was nothing more than a warehouse with little facilities. However, we have learned that Carnival will no longer be sailing out of here, so any ideas for improvement would be needless.
We loved this cruise so much that we are considering doing it again in 2014 aboard the Miracle out of LA.