In starting this review it must be pointed out that not all things on the Carnival Spirit were bad or poorly managed, however the negatives on this ship far outweigh the positives. I will attempt to lay out the pros and cons using a timeline starting with the boarding process and ending with disembarkation.
The boarding process was quite smooth and event free although the Sydney Overseas Passenger Terminal is not really suited to this purpose
- There was barely enough room between check-in counters to enable the process to be complete. People were pushed into and against each other to get to the counter to have their photos taken and cards issued.
- There were no crew members on hand to guide people to their respective areas of the ship (at 1pm) and therefore it was a bit hit and miss
- whilst you can board from 1pm you are not able to access your cabin to leave your bags until 1:30pm or later
Pros - muster went well with little inconvenience
- the drill was poorly managed with very few crew demonstrating how to put on a life vest.
- the bar staff and lido deck was not prepared or welcoming of passengers, there were no drink stations set up, no lanyard selling locations for your sail and sign card ( in fact you could not buy one until the shops opened some 2 hours after sailing)
- there was no sail-away party or celebration and the cruise director was not on the lido deck to kick of the 'fun' as described by Carnival.
- Some great shows with fantastic special effects, props, dances and singers.
- The hypnotist was simply brilliant and he performed to a packed show lounge
- Some of the shows were very ordinary e.g magicians and comedians
- A complete lack of entertainment for passengers on the Lido deck, on NYE the band stopped playing for the hour before midnight, so from around 10:30pm to 11:30pm there was NO music at all
- Children activities were so limited that kids were bored our of their heads and this led to some kids resorting to other ways to amuse themselves.
- NYE was generally hailed as a failure for Carnival on this cruise. Stu the cruise director completely stuffed up the whole countdown and overall most saw the event as an anti climax.
- Stu announced mid way through the cruise that "due to passenger requests, the band would play on the lido deck during the day" This reviewer believes the number of complaints made it impossible to ignore their general lack of any day time entertainment
In general, Carnival pretty much allowed all children to do whatever they wanted for the first few days, this involved running amok on all decks, lifts and stateroom areas. Security failed to stop children from being in and interacting with the Casino gaming machines and in some cases children were roaming decks in packs. Carnivals initial response was to put the responsibility back on the parents but this soon changed with the huge number of complaints they were receiving from passengers. Security was beefed up but still failed to control unruly behavior. It is clear that Carnival will need to follow P&O Australia's lead and limit the number of children on each cruise
- most of the passengers did manage to get ashore within 2 hours and back to the ship by sailing
- the tenders for Spirit appear to have been built for colder climates and have no sliding windows to allow cool air to circulate. This resulted in some near medical emergencies due to the high heat and humidity many passengers endured on the longer tender trips in Fiji.
- Not all of the ships tenders were launched and used in tender operations and this led to huge backlogs of people waiting to get back to the ship. Mystery Island queues often lasting for up to an hour. Stu at one stage announced that all tenders would be used to assist at Port Denarau in Fiji as well as a large hired catamaran. In fact only two of the four tenders were launched and the wait times to get both ashore and back were extensive. Over 200 passengers were still ashore at sail time due to the lack of tenders.
- each tender was packed tight and with temperatures at times nearing 40c in the tender, I believe carnival were lucky to avoid a medical situation. As a health and safety person I was concerned at the risk taken by Carnival on this occasion
Food and Beverages
- The food overall was very good and to a high standard.
- There was sufficient variety and at times exceeded the variety seen on other cruise ships.
- The operation of the restaurant and bistro areas worked quite well with little to no waiting to be seated.
- a good variety of cocktails, beers and spirits that really suits the Aussie market
- the bottomless bubbles package is very good value for those who drink a lot of soft drink
- Food was often cold when served
- Service was a bit hit and miss. Most of the time service was fast and friendly but at other times it could take 2 hours to eat a standard meal
- the specialty restaurant (Noveau)was nice for one visit but not really worth the additional money paid.
- there was a lack of bar staff in the restaurant and NO bar service to tables in the bistro. This was a surprise as other ships have waiters to pour coffee or serve drinks to tables. This was not the case in the bistro and severely limited in the restaurant
- Cocktails were very strong on day one of the cruise and became weaker as the cruise progressed. The ship also served all soft drinks out of cans and filled 80% of each cup with ice. On the second last day the ship ran out of coke and lemonade as well as Bourbon.
- the suites were a reasonable size with some good amenities
- a nice touch with the towel folding animals each day
- the room is cleaned in the morning and then receive a turn down service with chocolates in the evening
- some cabin stewards did only the basics and nothing more whilst others went out of their way to assist their guests. All service from the cabin stewards ceased at 12:30pm and recommenced at 5:30pm.
- bar fridges were locked on the evening before departure with no warnings provided
- the system was a good in theory and the collection of luggage from staterooms was excellent.
- Allowing so many passengers to take off their own luggage proved to be a real issue and resulted in long lines and confusion
- to many passengers were allowed to leave at one time and no one appeared to be monitoring who left when?
The ship is of a nice design but the decor is dated with dark colors. The atrium is small by most standards and most describe it an unappealing. Little to no preparation appears to be done for each new cruise as is often done with other cruise lines e.g cocktails in various mobile locations, sale of lanyards for sail and sign cards, music and fun for sail-away. Departure time is very late compared to other cruise ship departures and this can conflict with dinner arrangements and show times.
The ship has way to many children on-board with very lax security. Parents should face heavy fines for their child's actions due to being unsupervised, drinking underage, gambling (bingo etc). There were several fights on the Lido deck and it has been alleged that 4 people were removed from the ship in Suva.
Whilst this review has focused on the issues and concerns, it must be pointed out that it was in no way the cruise from hell. But when compared to P&O, Princess and RCCL, Carnival have a lot of work to do. Basic things like calling Jelly, Jello simply demonstrate a lack of attention to details. Showing American sports and TV in staterooms and sports bars also demonstrates a lack of initiative to suit the market. This reviewer was informed that Stu was sent to P&O to "see how they do it". It would appear that Stu may not have been paying too much attention and the ship is still not changed over from the American state it arrived in back in October 2012.
I would not recommend this ship to other cruisers