Background Information: For the first time we decided to co-ordinate a whole family vacation with grand parents and 3 families. 14 in total comprised of 8 adults and 6 kids. Dates, pricing and what was on offer led us to choose the Carnival Spirit but we could easily have chosen the RCL ship Rhapsody of the seas but as none of our party had been on either ship or cruise line the start date fit our party better to go with the Carnival ship.
Hotel Info (if any) - As Aussies we all stayed with friends and family rather than at a Hotel prior to our trip.
Carnival Spirit - Pretty large ship with a very Las Vegas feel all over the ship which took a bit of getting used to. Not exactly your classical decor design and if you look closely some interesting paintings that you don't necessarily want the kids asking you questions about but it was all in a bit of fun.
Were pretty good. Mini Golf and the waterslides and parks were big hits with the kids.
Not as good as I had previously experienced on Holland America on the past two cruises but not bad by any means. Staff make the effort to use your name and get to know you a bit, Cabin staff were excellent but the drinks waiter staff across the ship left a bit to be desired IMO and lacked a bit of the politeness of HAL.
Port & Shore Excursions
We did our own excursions but one of the really low points (and there were not many low points) was the process and time taken for tenders. Tenders were used in 3 out of the 4 ports and the process was pretty slow. After getting our ticket number we had to wait 1.5 and 2 hours to get our tender to get off the boat. Carnival can improve efficiency here and should look at using more of their tender boats to speed it up.
In the ports there was not a huge amount to do and from what I heard from other customers who paid the full amount for excursions they were not worth the money and others did them at a much lower cost with locals on shore. There was one exception which was the river kayaking tour available on Noumea. We figured we would do it on shore at a much more reasonable cost however it was the one tour that was not available on shore so if you want to do this book through the cruise. On the big island of Noumea we landed on a Sunday which meant a lot of the island was not open. Carnival should look at their itineraries and make Sunday a day for one of the smaller Islands where it being a Sunday will not have any impact.
Overall a very enjoyable family holiday and a lot of fun had by all. Not our best ever cruise but certainly up there for value and enjoyment. I felt the food on board was better than average but just a little bit below the Holland America standard.
Travel To Port of Embarkation - We drove from Melbourne to Sydney.
Stateroom - Quite good without being outstanding. Comfort of beds is better on Holland America though.
Food was generally very good however note that we had one vegetarian in our party and whilst there was always a vegetarian option at dinner it was always Indian food and there was always only one option so after a few days they were a bit disappointing there was no variety for them. The warm chocolate melting cake available every day was by far the best dessert I have had on cruise ships. They use dark chocolate and it was awesome. I must have had this every second night for dessert.
The three families all made use of the kids club Camp Carnival. There were a huge amount of kids on board this cruise as it was the Easter school holidays for Victorian students. Sign up process was easy as I got in early however putting the kids in at each session was slow and caused queuing which was frustrating as we had 2 kids in 2 different age groups so had to queue twice. The process was manual from Carnivals end and myself and other passengers could not understand why Carnival have a bar code card system to get on and off the ship but not for the kids club. They could easily implement the same and speed this up at drop in and collect times.
The kids generally liked the kids club and had fun however my daughter who had experienced club HAL on Holland America said that she liked that better. To be fair to Carnival I think this was mostly to do with the sheer numbers of kids on board compared to the times we were on Holland America where each kids club had no more than 20 kids.
Very surprised at how good the entertainment was on this cruise. The shows and production values of the shows were far better than we got on 2 recent Holland America cruises. The Pharoes showroom is very large and an excellent venue. The comedic Juggler was fantastic and we were overall very happy with the entertainment in the show rooms.
If you like trivia Carnival has multiple quiz's every day. For our family this was a great time to get together during the day and put our heads together to try and win. We actually won quite a lot of times and this was a lot of fun for us.
Swimming areas and water slides are fantastic.
Gym is adequate but not well set out.
Piano man on board was not very good IMO.
A couple of acoustic guitar players doing covers were very good.
Casino was OK but not very friendly - Only received 1 comp drink for the whole cruise even though I played in the Casino most nights and was a regular this was a very different experience to Holland America where I averaged at least 1 free drink a night.
Disembarkation. - Quick and easy and well organised.