This is a review of the April 17 to 29th, 2005 sailing of the Carnival Spirit cruising to Hawaii.
My husband and I flew from Detroit to San Diego a day before the cruise in order to make sure we were at least on the right side of the continent before this trip started. We had been dreading one feature of this trip, the journey from San Diego to Ensenada, Mexico which is where we would be allowed to board the ship. There was a fair amount of confusion before we ever left home as to where we would actually be checking in for the ship, either at the San Diego pier or apparently sometimes they do it down in Mexico. However for this trip we arrived at the San Diego cruise terminal around noon and checked in within the hour. We were told that the buses taking us down to Ensenada would start leaving around 3 pm, but in actuality I think it was closer to 4 pm. This left us with several hours to kill and we didn't want to leave the terminal. We managed to wrangle some empty bar stools at the teeny little bar and that's is where we sat for the next 4 hours. The annoying thing about this is that the Spirit is docked right outside....we can see her, but we can't get on her. Instead she has to sail to Ensenada and we had to be bused there...in order to board her. No one I ran into could adequately explain this mystery. I get the whole Jones Act thing....but I don't understand why the passengers could not board her in San Diego...sail down to Mexico...do the darn paperwork...and then proceed. Anyhoo...after a 2 to 3 hours drive thru some not very pretty Mexican towns and after standing for and hour or more on the dock outside the ship...we were finally allowed to board. It is a very tiring way to start your trip and one of the very few things I would have changed about this journey.
Advice I got from this board that I actually used;
Definitely bring a power bar and/or an extension cord. We used ours a lot.
Definitely buy one of those dollar shoe-holder thingys and attach it to your bathroom door. We used cable ties to do this. (Bring those too. We used them instead of locks) This was a great help in keeping us organized and also great for our hard-working cabin stewards Katarina and Alexander. (Who were sweet, friendly and helpful at all times.) It much easier for them to clean if you don't have four thousand things on the counter. Even my husband was happily shoving things in the pockets by the second day.
I did use highlighters, and lanyards to hang my room key around my neck. Found no use for duct tape or bungee cords, or about a hundred other things I brought "just in case".
We had booked a 5A obstructed view and ended up with a 6A ocean unobstructed view on Riviera Deck, Cabin 1145. My husband was concerned about being in the belly of the ship but we should not have worried. It was just peachy and very quiet. I did notice that as I walked down our hall towards the back of the ship that there was a humming vibration thing going on...which I assume was from the engines. It wasn't that bad, but more noisy than our end. I asked permission from our stewards to go and get our own ice whenever I wanted and they said I could. I felt a little strange ducking into a crew area to grab some ice but no one ever caught me...so it wasn't a problem. I also asked nicely if they could unlock the mini bar and I could temporarily empty it and put my own drinks in the fridge. That was no problem either.
I brought in my carry on luggage two boxes of wine. I really had no idea just how MUCH wine was in these things. Even though it was a 12 day cruise and I drink some every night...I still ended up leaving a little wine there when we left. My husband packed a large bottle of whisky in his checked luggage which arrived just fine. About every other day he would buy a bottle of coke for his mix. This was how we dealt with alcohol on our trip.
I thought Spirit was a gorgeous ship and very well maintained. The only thing that looked dowdy to me was the carpet in the hallways and I said to my husband " This really needs shampooing". Sure enough, the next day they did shampoo it…but there are some stains that just won't come out. The carpet should really be replaced. Other than that everything was wonderful.
We never ordered room service so I can't comment on that. We ate every morning outside by the pool. We discovered that the best fruit was out there. Inside the buffet they had a few fruit stations that included your basic fruits …but outside they had watermelon and fresh pineapple and sometimes even mango and papaya! I never ate so much fruit in my life!! It was lovely.
For lunch we often enjoyed the burgers that they would cook to order at the grill by the pool . Excellent. And the pizza was 24 hr and to die for. My husband seriously could have lived on that pizza alone. He got up close and personal with that pizza guy by the time the 12 days were over. Of course inside the buffet there are all these different stations. I would always do a tour of the whole place before settling on what I thought looked most appealing that day. Most nights we ate in the fancy eating' room (aka Empire room). Husband HATES to dress up, but I hate missing fancy food even more. We enjoyed all the dinners we had…but we were both of the opinion that the cooking was a notch under that of Celebrity Century…which is the only other ship we have sailed on. However…I would eat dog food…as long as someone else is cooking it…so perhaps I am not the best judge. There were 2 midnight buffets but there was no way we could cram in any more food at that time of night, so we never attended.
Our cruise director was Michael Mullane and his wife and they were wonderful. Very upbeat…at every show and activity…very entertaining. We also enjoyed Calvin…the fellow who ran the bingos and other games. He was a hoot! He knew half of the passengers names by the time we left. I spent a fair amount of time in the casino and I was grateful to the casino hosts who gave me a free pina colada every time I came in. My husband even one a thousand dollars early on in the trip. That sure helped our budget a lot!
We went to almost every show for the whole 12 days. And on the days when they had a late night show we attended 2 a day. We enjoyed the comedians and the hypnotist most of all. But all the shows were fun. I did quite a few bingos and won zip. They really do give away a 7 day cruise one night! I like the way the bingos were right before the shows so that you were already in your favorite seat when the show started.
We started our voyage with 5 sea days, my husband said he thought that was too long, but it wasn't in my opinion. I loved them! (May I add that he sure didn't seem to be suffering to me. He was exhausted and spent a good deal of time just sleeping, so by the time we got to the islands he was all rested up and able to enjoy them).
Saturday Hilo - Did the ship’s Volcanoes National Park tour. Very enjoyable but got sick on the bus. Sunday Kauai - Did the ship’s Waimea Canyon Tour. Breathtaking!! Got sick on the bus. (notice a familiar theme here???) Monday Maui - Rented a car and hung out in Lahaina and did the Old Lahaina Luau (booked on our own) Wanted to try a whale watching boat trip…but one look at those boats slapping against the waves and I knew I would be puking in no time…so opted to try and keep my stomach under control so I could enjoy the luau. (For the entire cruise I wore half a patch…which was just fine for the ship…but sure didn’t help me on those tour buses! I wonder why?) Tues Maui - did the ship’s tour to Ka’anapali Beach….swam in the ocean…what a gorgeous place…could have stayed there All Day! Weds Kona - had booked the ship’s tour of a coffee plantation but they messed that up. On the screen in your room it listed two times for the tour and we chose the later time…as did several other people…turns out there was only one tour going, the earlier one. So we tendered over to Kona and stumbled across another coffee plantation tour and went on our own. It was about half the price of the ships tour. The excursion desk gave us a refund and a discount on one of our other tours for our trouble…so we were happy. Thursday Oahu - Took a cab on our own to see Pearl Harbor…very interesting...I am glad I went...even though it was a long wait. I was surprised at the oil still coming up out of the Arizona after 63 years. They call it the “tears of the Soldiers” which is all very sentimental…but kind of really environmentally unfriendly???? In this day and age it is unusual that no one has objected to oil pouring into the Honolulu harbor for all this time. ( But I wasn’t about to say that out loud. People take this memorial very seriously.)
Friday Oahu - Disembarking was no problem. Got off around 11 AM….things went decidedly downhill from there. I left my purse in the cab on the way to Honolulu airport. All my ID, passport, driver’s license, credit cards, travel documents, $107.00 U.S. dollars…..gone. Do have any idea what a sick feeling that is? I had so many things in my hands that when I got out of the cab I just didn’t notice that my purse wasn’t one of them. We called the cab company right away but they had no info yet. Our flight left at 2:30 pm. Luckily for me my husband had made photocopies of everything. And the wonderful people at Honolulu airport let me fly home based on those copies! GOD BLESS THEM! I also managed to make it back into my own country with no ID. There was never a woman so glad to see her own home…let me tell you. We left on a Friday…we arrived home on Saturday and on Monday they called from Honolulu Airport saying someone had turned in my purse. I paid $90 to have it Fed Exed back to me. It arrived home on Wednesday and inside was EVERYTHING!!! Even the cash! I was stunned and thrilled! It was also stuffed with almonds and dried fruit for snacks on the plane. I realized after the fact that I should have told someone to dump out the food because probably half of the price to fly it home was the darn nuts! Those were some expensive almonds!!! Anyhow…God Bless honest people!!! There are still a few of them left in this world…either that or I have some kind of purse fairy watching over me. ( I did this about 30 years ago in L.A. and got everything back that time too! I know…I know…I should use some of those cable ties to hang my purse around my neck...so this wouldn't‘ keep happening to me, right?)
To sum up…..our cruise was fantastic and we loved Carnival Spirit and everything about her. Can’t wait to do it again!