We have been on many cruises on various cruise lines including Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, NCL, Star Cruises, P&O and Princess. We have found that on every cruise there are things that are done really well and there are areas for improvement. We also find that the more cruises that we have done the more we tend to compare every aspect of the cruise with previous cruises which is not something that we like to do but find it hard not to do. I guess it is just human nature to compare and critique.
We cruised to the South Pacific for 8 nights from 8 November 2012 to 16 November 2012. We were in a balcony cabin on deck 5 (5220). The cabin itself was very comfortable for the 3 of us (myself, my wife and our 2 year old daughter). The annoying thing was the air conditioning. It was very noisy. We new it was not normal because we had relatives staying in a balcony cabin on the same level and their air conditioning was whisper quiet.
We mentioned it to our room attendant Dennis (who was excellent) and a mechanic came up to have a look. We were told that the noise was coming from the unit above the roof and there was nothing that could be done. Walking along the corridor we noticed that about every 10th cabin had the same noise above the cabin door. Just a word of warning when you book your cabin to ask about the location of the air conditioning unit.
Carnival have undertaken an extensive advertising campaign over the past 12 months to inform the Australian public that the Spirit was homeporting in Sydney for the next few years and they have really promoted the ship to be something very special. Having cruised with Carnival in the US we were really looking forward to having a Carnival ship based in our home town of Sydney. Well let me just say that Carnival US and Carnival Australia are like chalk and cheese, particularly when it comes to the quality of the food.
The buffet food on the Carnival Spirit was very average both in quality and presentation. I think that Carnival have cut costs and have foolishly assumed that the Aussies just want their own Aussie beers on board and as long as they have their beer they don't care about the food. Afterall we have been used to P&O quality food for the past 30 years (which is very hit and miss) so Carnival's assumption seems to be that anything better than that is going to satisfy us Aussies. We ate breakfast and lunch in the buffet and most dinners in the Empire Dining Room apart from one night when we went to the Nouveau Steakhouse which we also thought was way overated. We have been to Chops Grille on Royal Caribbean ships and regard Chops as an exceptional dining experience. On all levels the Nouveau Steakhouse is no where near the dining experience of Chops Grille and certainly not worth the $35 cover charge.
Anyway I won't bore you all and go into depth about every aspect of the cruise. In summary, we found the good aspects of the cruise to be:
The entertainment staff were excellent and there was always some activity happening that was fun.
The Empire Dining Room staff were very very good and nothing was too much trouble. They fussed over our 2 year old daughter and cleaned up her mess night after night.
The entertainment was excellent. We loved the Punchliners Comedy Club, particularly the Adults Only Comedians.
The Green Thunder Waterslide is great fun and the Water Works area is great for the kids. We also liked the 2 swimming pools although they were cold early in the day and did not warm up until the afternoon.
The gymnasium was very good and had all the weights and machines you find in a gym on land.
The Kids Club was excellent. We have a 2 year old and she loved it. The staff are very caring and lots of fun. You can see they really love their jobs
Our room attendant Dennis. He was was great and made a towel animal every night for our daughter. Nothing was too much trouble for him.
The things we didn't like:
As previously mentioned, the Nouveau Steakhouse was disappointing and not worth the $35 cover charge. Poor service and the steaks were nothing special. Desserts were ordinary.
The drinks were expensive at minimum $6.95 for a beer and $11 for a glass of reisling. It was cheaper to buy a cocktail than a glass of wine.
The buffet food as mentioned previously. The design of the buffet was also very cumbersome and confusing. Food stations were spread out about 30 metres apart at either end of the buffet. By the time you queued for different types of food and finally got back to your table your food was cold.
To get a slice of pizza was almost impossible. You had to order a whole pizza and wait up to 15 minutes for it to cook. That system may work at 3am when there are not many people around but at 1pm when the buffet is crowded with people and you just want one slice to have with the rest of your lunch it really did not work.
There were too many dark and dingy areas of the ship and the fact that there was dark timber and decor everywhere did not help. The atrium was also very dark and not attractive at all.
The in-cabin television was pathetic. Very little to watch (I know they want you out of your cabin spending money not watching TV). Old movies and terrible news service.
Nowhere on board could you find a weather report for the current day or the next day. You had no idea what the weather was going to be. Would be an idea to include it on the Daily Canival "Fun Times" like other cruise lines do.
Stu the Cruise Director was boring. Every morning he would say the same thing "welcome to another beautiful day in paradise" even when it was cloudy, cold and blowing a gale outside. He really had very little personality at all.
I have a 2 year old child and love kids but there were too many kids on board. We were told there were 1500. Apparently a bunch of teenagers were out jumping on the twister waterslide in the middle of the night and cracked the plastic so it was not working from day 3 for the remainder of the cruise. The kids took over the Jacuzzis. I counted 26 of them in one Jacuzzi one afternoon.
There was no feedback survey form for us to complete at the end of the cruise. Maybe they really don't care what the guests think? I'm hoping they email us a survey form so I can provide both positive feedback and some constructive criticism.
Despite all the above issues we still enjoyed the cruise but very much doubt that we will cruise on the Carnival Spirit again. There are too many better options to choose from such as Royal Caribbean, Princess or Celebrity that now cruise out of Sydney.