First allow me to say that reading the reviews on this site helped prepare us for our cruise on Carnival Spirit a few weeks ago. We were married in February of 2006 and we spent our honeymoon on a cruise to Mexico with Carnival. We had such a great time, we immediately began looking for another deal and found the cruise to Hawaii.
We were well-prepared for the shuttle experience from San Diego to Ensenada, therefore we were on the first bus. Therefore the shuttle trip was not a big deal for us, in fact it was quite enjoyable. However, it would have been nice if Carnival had informed us as to where to meet at the airport and at what time the buses would begin departing for Mexico. But considering that most travel is trial and error, we simply began asking and found our way in a short time.
At first the ship's decor seemed a little over the top, but after a few days it seemed very appropriate. Also the first few days at sea were "rocky" and very chilly, but coming from NC, we were somewhat prepared for cooler weather. The swaying of the ship over the rough Pacific waters never made me nauseous, but I did indeed spend the first 2 days under the covers, trying to get my bearings. Truthfully, I needed the rest from the jet lag and time difference.
The food was good and always seemed to be a great variety. I loved the chocolate soft-serve ice cream which was available 24 hours a day. The beverages offered at meals had a little to be desired. I didn't purchase the soft drink card because I thought it was a bit too expensive. At the first port, I went to Wal-Mart and bought a couple of 12 packs of diet Pepsi and kept it in our cabin.
We only purchased one shore excursion, which was a bit over priced but the trip to the top of the mountain was extremely informative and interesting. I wouldn't do it again but I'm glad we went. After that, we rented a convertible at each port and had a great time. This gave us much more freedom and was much less expensive. It also contributed to our enormous sunburn. Again, we went to a Wal-Mart and bought suntan burn spray. Wal-Marts in Hawaii are great to purchase souvenirs. The selections are good and the prices are extremely reasonable.
The food in the Empire Dining Room was good...not extraordinary, but good. Our waiters were extremely professional and friendly. The first night I asked for extra butter for the rolls, and then every night afterwards, the extra butter was already there when we arrived. The waiters took time to chat about small things and we enjoyed their company very much.
The past guest reception as well as the Captain's reception gave us the opportunity to try a few of the ship's drinks free. I realized that I love a "whiskey sour!" They are good, but nothing can top Carnival's pina coladas. They are the BEST!!
Our cabin steward was....well, I wanted to take her home with me. I asked if I could keep one of the door hangers. Her look questioned "why," so I quickly replied that I just wanted to see if I could post it on my bedroom door at home and find my room "magically" cleaned when I returned from work. Seriously, their service was impeccably. Even when we forgot to put our the door hanger, our room was cleaned every time we left. How do they know we are not in there????
I even won at the casino...not much, only about $85 at the slot machines, and truly that just about broke us even because of the money my husband lost at the mechanical "quarter" machine. But I feel that if you walk away, not a loser, then you're a winner. Right?
The food on the Lido deck was always plentiful and great. We usually ordered danishes, fruit and coffee early, and later went up on the Lido deck for a full buffet breakfast later. I thoroughly enjoyed the desserts and tried just about everything. The sushi bar was a delight.
I was pleasantly surprised to realize that most of the passengers were our age or older. There were very few children and/or teenagers on this particular cruise. Kids are fine (I raised 3 of my own) but on a 12 day cruise, it was nice to mingle with folks our age. One day at sea, they had a special meeting for veterans. My husband especially enjoyed the meeting. We made several new friends.
The entertainment was nice. No complaints. One comedian especially was really funny and at the end of his performance, he sang a patriotic song which was very moving.
One of the highlights of our cruise was one evening we were invited to join the Captain for dinner. Surprised, we accepted and found that the Captain and other officers of the ship were very warm and friendly. We still do not know why we were chosen, but never look a gift horse in the mouth. The next morning our cabin stewart delivered a photo of the group, with us, to our cabin with a note from the Captain stating that he enjoyed our dinner together.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. I can't imagine a better way to visit Hawaii for the first time, as we visited 4 different islands (6 ports). We're booking our next cruise with Carnival this week.