My husband and myself together with two friends arrived at Circular Quay, self drive and embarkation was a breeze with priority boarding.
Our cabins, 6283 and 6281 (disability) were clean and comfortable and our room steward, Noli was a bright and pleasant fellow from the Phillipines with assistance Parwati a young sweet lady from Indonesia. Our cabins were kept clean and tidy with a different towel sculpture left on our beds each evening. Between leaving our cabins to go to breakfast and returning each morning our beds were made, fresh towels left in bathroom and everything spick and span.
On the first morning we discovered that our friends and ourselves had been seated at different tables in the dining room, even though on booking by phone we made it clear that we were travelling together and required seating at the same table.
We calmly reported this to the assistant Maitre D who made a note for the Maitre D to try and reseat us. Maitre D, Dessie is a bright and happy lady from Bulgaria who re-organised our seating to a table for four. She was extremely friendly and humorous not only to ourselves but to many others in the dining room. On the final evening when I didn't go to dinner because I was feeling unwell, she sent her assistant with the dining room menu for me to choose from and had my meal delivered to our cabin. There were a number of people who were unhappy with their dining room seating and were demanding of change and treated the Maitre D and her assistants quite rudely, one man even threatened her with violence but she maintained her cool.
The four of us mostly ate our meals in the dining room where the quality of food was very good. On port days we had no option but to eat our lunches at the buffet on deck 9 and the food there wasn't of the quality of the dining room. Nor were some of the passengers who filled large oval plates to excess as though they had never had a square meal before and yet there was so much food left on plates to be cleaned up by the service staff.
On the whole our fellow passengers were a happy lot. There were 400 children (even though school returned for second term in NSW the day before departure). We were told that during school holidays there can be as many as 1200 children onboard.
We weren't that bothered by children on this cruise though some could show some more manners and restraint. (Barging into lifts before people could exit and running wild down corridors, shouting).
I have read some complaints about the dEcor on Carnival Spirit but although it is not how most people would decorate their homes it is a cruise vessel and as such was bright and interesting.
We did the "Chef's table" (starting with a tour of the galley and first entrees.)
The whole 8 or 9 courses were very attractively presented but we four were disappointed that the fish course was cold, and some of the food quite tasteless. The Chef was friendly and described each course in detail, unfortunately because of his Indian accent and speed with which he spoke we only really caught each fourth word so didn't get the full gist of the food.
We didn't go ashore at the Isle of Pines as the weather was overcast and light rain fell. Instead we took the opportunity to go to the (adults only) Serenity area which was virtually empty.
Mystery Island access was also by tender and I chose to once again go to the Serenity area whilst there were less people on board.
At Port Vila we left the ship and found a mini van driver who was prepared to take just the four of us on a 3 hour tour, including duty free shopping. He wanted $50 for the three hours for the four of us which was very cheap and as he gave us such a good tour with commentary we doubled the amount which at $25 a head was much cheaper than booking through the ship.
Went ashore at Santo but didn't leave the dock area where Market stalls lined both sides of the area with the same old goods, sarongs, dresses, beads etc.
We were going to take a mini bus again but could find no-one prepared to take just the four of us for anything less than $150. The drivers were much more aggressive there than at Vila,
At Wala we took a tender ashore and were impressed by the inhabitants and the cleanliness of the island. We were approached by a very polite islander woman who asked if we would like a tour of her village. It was only a short walk and short tour but worth the $5 or so to see it all.
On the beach, many stalls were set up, with cold drinks and local beer and children singing (busking). Some passengers went off paddling canoes with locals and others took boat rides.
On the first sea day back, bracelets (Pandora style) were reduced by 70% so that they cost from $25 to $40)The store was packed from 9.30am for the 10am start and it was a rush and push to get the bracelets that you wanted.
Next day was a watch sale at $20 each (not brand names.)
Disembarkation in Sydney was easy enough. We were allocated numbers according to your request for early or late disembarkation and it all went smoothly enough.
Deck three, especially around the atrium and the dining room were quite cold. Carnival need to change the airconditioning setting.
Drinks. Alcoholic drinks were quite dear in comparison to other cruise lines.
I am not a big drinker but my friends and husband enjoyed the cocktails and mixed drinks and I am aware that one shout of three cocktails and one dry ginger ale cost $49.
Overall we enjoyed the cruise. It was great to relax with no beds to make or food to cook and there was enough happening on board to keep us amused and entertained.