Like most on this site we have very little negative comments to make about the Carnival Spirit. We've travelled to the US for vacations and actually liked the American influence this ship has. Since this ship arrived in Australia, we understand that it has always left full. If it was no good, you would see empty cabins. Even with a full ship approx 2200 guests and 920 staff, you did have a sense of space. One thing Americans are good at, is moving lines. We arrived back today and was keen to share our thoughts.
I will try and comment on some of the negative comments I read, prior to going on our cruise, based on our own experience.
Staff - OK, only a handful of Aussies work on this ship. You got a problem with a ship run by over 50 nationalities, then don't go. Once you start talking to them, they are all quite nice and respected us, the customer. The bottom line here is that the pay isn't all that great and the average Aussie wouldn't work on the ship. They all spend months at a time away from their families. Our room service was spectacular (thanks Hendri) and dining service in the Empire restaurant was supreme (Go Garry!!).
Food - on occasions the buffet can get a bit full. There are 2 other outside grills available. Eg: Fat Jimmy's serves great BBQ food on deck 10. OK, it is not five star food, but a lot of thought goes into the nightly menu at the Empire and we found the food here above average. Certainly not a coles cafeteria (ignore these ridiculous reviews). You get allocated seating at the empire on deck 2 with the same team of 3 wait staff every night. Hard to fault. The wait staff even performed each night....their 'showtime'.
Entertainment - there were stage shows nearly every night. We thought the entertainment was good. Ok maybe not Vegas, but at times very close. There were Aussie comedians, bingo, disco, 10 piece band, great singers, bars everywhere, really hard to get bored. Just follow the printed daily guide in you room and you will know what's on and where.
Drinks - you pay about $6.95 for imported beer. OK not cheap, but really how much more expensive is it compared to say hotel prices? For those who whinge, don't drink it. Cocktail prices ranged from $8 - $12, normal I would of thought.
Check-in - you do need to check-in online before departure. If you do it right (and clearly some reviewers don't), the boarding times are well highlighted. If you struggled with this, go through a travel agent. We paid the same price compared to the going carnival direct.
Children - the ship has 3 water slides, you have to expect kids. We just returned during school holidays. We were told there was 780 passengers under 18. That said, it didn't feel like there were kids at your feet the whole time. There is an adults only area at the ships rear, very peaceful. There is also kids clubs if you want time alone. For those without kids, here's a tip, go outside of school holidays.
Orientation - they had sessions on how to disembark on shore days and on the final day. It can get confusing if you don't go to these sessions. They tell you exactly how the tender is operated and where to go. Leaving the ship on the final day can also be confusing. It is important to go to these short 15 minute sessions, as clearly some reviewers did not.
Smoking - there is an open air section on deck 9 for smokers, next to one of the pools. You can't smoke anywhere else on the ship. The smoking section is only a small section and there is plenty of other space for non-smokers.
Cabins - We found the cabins clean and a good size with lovely balcony. Take an adaptor as there is only one outlet. Enough cupboard space and comfortable beds. We were on deck 5 forward. We could hear the band at night, but this stopped at about 11pm.
I do believe Australia is lucky to have the Spirit and would highly recommend this ship for anyone, especially families.