Highly enjoyable cruise with something for everybody. Check in and boarding, effortless and hassle free. First impressions were good, the boys, twins 17 and youngest 12 were very impressed. We had three balcony cabins on Deck 7. The cabins are clean and adequate with plenty of storage space. One comment was that the couch was covered in a peach vynal, which just looked cheap and tacky. Hinged door onto the balcony. We cruised previously on the Superstar Virgo which has sliding doors. The hinged door takes up space as you have to move the chair on the balcony to get in and out, which was a pain.
The space for the three boys was adequate and they were quite comfortable in their cabin. We had adjoining cabins and the door was quite sound proof which was good but there is no latch to lock it from either side just in case you need some privacy.
Around the ship we found the decor to our liking, plenty of bars and activity about the ship. Saling out of Sydney Harbour, what can I say just fantastic. We had the early seating which from memory was 6:30 when we booked but was changed to 5:30. A bit early for us but we really didn't mind as it allowed us to enjoy the early shows and have time for other activities before bed. We met a lot of people who had selected the My Time Dining and had to que for seats most nights which they were not happy with. Again to compare with the Star cruise, they have no set seating times at all and we never had to que.
Food at all times was fantastic, no complaints, we usually all met at 5 for sundowners in The bar outside the main restaurant, this was one of the favorite parts of the cruise for my parents who are in their late 70s. The staff in the restaurant were exceptional, always made us feel special, nothing was too much trouble, I cannot speak highly enough. One comment was that the drinks waiter took a long time to deliver our drinks, he was quick to take our order but sometimes the cold predinner beer did not arrive until half way through the meal. I don't believe this was his fault but more of an issue with the bar staff or maybe he just had too many table to cover.
We generally met for breakfast in the main restaurant as the couple of times we tried the buffet it was crowded and hard to find a table. But if you want a quick eat and the get on with your day the buffet is probably what you need. The sit down brekky in the restaurant was just laid back, unrushed and relaxed and a great selection of food. This was the only time we experienced cold food, once, and it was quickly fixed by the waiter without any fuss.
On the days that we did eat up at the Buffett on Deck 9 we found the food range and quality met our expectations. There was a great variety and the layout of servaries enabled a flow so that where you had to que you did not que for very long. The 24 hour pizzas were perfect for when you returned to the ship after a big day in a port and just wanted something to chew on.
Drink prices were fair, the daily cocktail was hit and miss, made in bulk batches we either had a drink that ranged from all alcohol to almost none. Beer wine and spirits were reasonably priced. Pool areas were crowded but we never had trouble finding a spot, lounges for us and the kids and my mum and dad preferred the table and chairs in the shade. The one time we went to use The Serenty pool there was a dj playing music so loud we could not hear each other and I was not able to order from the bar no matter how hard I yelled, we gave up. Really Carnival? Serenity? This was just dumb, the music, don't know what it was but did not suit the crowd most of which looked to be in their 40 s or older. Most people did not look happy with the situation at all. I would have said something to the dj but he probably would not have heard me. This was not serenity!
This cruise was calling on three ports that were tender access ports. Carnival need to work on this, we waited over an our for our tender to the Is. Of Pines, Stu kept telling us they were having some technical problems and asked for our patience, no problem, happy to wait. Next stop, Lifu, same issue. When we looked over the side there was only two tender boats operating. The Spirit has 6 tender boats. Enough was enough so I went to the Customer Service desk and all I got was a sit down and shut up attitude from the extremely rude and arrogant staff member, she told me I should have got up earlier, who's holiday is his lady!. This was my second dealing with this particular staff member, both of which were unpleasant, and I must say that the other staff at this desk proved pleasant and helpful and genuinely wanted to please. This one person was letting the whole crew down. I ended up talking to the Customer Service Manager who took my complaint about the tender process seriously and apologized for the rudeness of his staff. Next tender stop was Mare, 4 tenders operating and only waited about 10 minutes for a boat.
The other port we went to was Noumea, it was Sunday, don't do Noumea on Sunday, Carnival, don't schedule a port like this on a Sunday.
Our pick of the Ports was Mare, unspoiled, crystal clear water, fantastic snorkeling and people that aren't out to rip off the tourists. A great day, not that the other ports weren't special but this one is extra special.
Entertainment, great, always found something to do. Seating in The Paharohs Lounge left a bit to be desired. Downstairs it is a bench style seat. It was ok for about half an hour but after hat we found ourselves squirming to try to get comfortable, by the end of one long show I had a sore back. If you sit towards the back the ceiling is quite low due to the upstairs seating, this was a bit off putting as you felt like you had to look under something. Upstairs the seats are more comfortable but in the first couple of rows your view is obstructed buy the railings and poles so get in early and get the first three or four rows down stairs or the back rows upstairs.
The Green Thunder, thumbs up, if only it was longer as the thrill is over in seconds but a lot off fun. The twister, good fun too, mini golf a great laugh for the whole family. All in all this was a great family holiday and I would recommend the Carnival Spirit to any family, not sure if it woul suit those without kids I their party. Oh and formthe reccord, most of the kids on board were no hassle and well behaved, in fact we did not see any behavior that was out of line or not what you would expect from the spread of age groups.