We are a couple in our early 60's who had first cruised on our honeymoon in the mid 70's. Having taken a two night sampler on Dawn Princess, we followed up by another cruise on Dawn Princess to view the total eclipse of the sun in November 2012.
This cruise we traveled from Newcastle to Melbourne by train, with overnight stops at Campbelltown and Albury where we were able to visit my wife's sister. On arriving at the Southern Cross train station, it was necessary to purchase the new Myki card to enable us to travel by tram to the pier. There is an office near platform 1 and as senior card holder we were entitled to the concession card costing $7. After a coffee, in was onto the 109 tram for a quick trip to Station Pier. There were few people on the tram at this time of day; therefore our baggage was not a problem. As we dropped of our luggage, we noticed people sitting around outside the pier waiting for boarding to commence. When boarding commenced, an electric cart was available for my wife who has walking issues. The check-in was quick and we were soon in our cabin before proceeding to the buffet on Lido.
Our cabin was in a very handy position on the starboard side between the main lifts near the Atrium and another 4 lifts towards the stern. We rarely had to wait for a lift at any time. The stateroom was a lot bigger that what we had experienced on Dawn Princess. The bed was very comfortable, no noise problems and effective curtains made for a good night's sleep. The nightly towel animal always caught our attention. The bathroom was again bigger than the Dawn's as was the storage space and the TV. A lot of information is available from the TV including my 3 favourites a Folio update, menu details and ships position.
A lot has been said about the decor of the ship; suffice to say it is not bland. The Pharaoh's lounge was very spacious. We never saw it completely full, which was often the case on Dawn. We attended most evening shows and enjoyed the singers and dancers most. We left early when the hypnotist's performance dragged on and became a bit repetitive. Whilst not a gambler, I could not but notice that it was a popular place as we passed through it nightly on the way to the lounge. The serenity adults' area was full on the few sunny days. I got to try out a hammock on a cool, windy and cloudy day when nobody else ventured outdoors.
Our evening meals were in the Empire restaurant for the second seating at a table for 6. We enjoyed meeting with the same couples and comparing our day's activities. The menu offered each night provided us with a good variety from which to choose and we always found suitable courses. The waiters were very friendly and always greeted us by our first name, a nice touch. We dined once in the Nouveau Steakhouse and whilst the service and meal were memorable, I would probably only visit once each cruise. Our breakfast was mainly in the Lido buffet and was cereal, fruit and toast. Three excellent espresso machines are located here for a coffee fix all day. Orange and apple juice are available for breakfast with a lemon drink at other times. On our last day we had breakfast in the Empire room, but we were disappointed with the delay in receiving our meals given that the evening meals were served promptly. Maybe even the crew was on wind down at the end of the cruise.
Port & Shore Excursions: As I had previous only had an overnight visit to Hobart and my wife had never visited Tasmania, we were excited to see a bit of the island. In Burnie and Hobart I had arranged to hire a car to independently see at our leisure the towns and sights. In Port Arthur we walked around and were moved by the suffering the convicts endured whilst imprisoned. This gave us a taste to return and explore the island more thoroughly.
Disembarkation: We were self-help and had been assigned letter "L". The calling of the letters was proceeding to plan and everything appeared to be going smoothly. However when our letter was called and we proceeded to the appropriate area, there was mass confusion. The lines were everywhere with no staff directing people. Slowly we moved forward to be confronted by another line coming from the opposite direction. Once off the ship at 0845, there were two lines, one to the left for the lifts to the concourse and access to Circular Quay and a second on the right to the taxi rank. The taxi line was snaking back inside the building and was over 100 metres long. To make matters worse, a taxi was arriving every 3 minutes. Remember, this is peak hour on a Monday morning. I can only imagine what it would be like when the White Bay Cruise Terminal commences in April.
In summary we both enjoyed our time on the Spirit and would defiantly cruise on this ship again. We believe we got good value for our money. This cruise was during the first school term and there we a few children on-board. It was enjoyable having a mix of ages on the cruise and the family atmosphere this generated. On the whole they behaved appropriately and did not cause any problem with our enjoyment of the cruise.