This was our first cruise as a family of 4. We have a 2.5 year old girl and a boy that's nearly 6. I was a little unsure how this would work with their age groups, but thought I'd still go ahead with booking the cruise. I did my research and it did seem that Carnival Spirit was more suited for children - and I was right it seems. I'll do my review in sections as below:
Embarkment - was very quick and really well run and organised and your on the ship in no time. Our check in was 1pm, but they start letting people on from 12pm and the ship stays docked till 6pm when it leaves, but everything on the ship is happening. My son and husband played mini golf straight away, we settled in our room, had lunch at the buffet, had ice cream, took photo's with Sydney as the backdrop and of course you can drink straight away! ***there is the offer to book the carnival transfer bus from airport to the boat, but it's normally $20pp so with a family of 4 that would have been $80. I never booked but whilst waiting at the airport we approached one of the girls holding the carnival cruise sign and she said we could do family rate of $50. We caught taxi back from the boat to the airport though and being a quieter sunday morning it was only $45 so that may be the way to do****
Kids Club - was fantastic. All the workers are American girls and they really are fantastic - so good with the kids. They are open from 9am-11:45 every morning and then they shut for lunch. They reopen from 2pm till 4pm and sometimes 5pm on port days and then shut again until dinner. They offer a service where you can drop your kids off at 5:30 in the buffet dinning room which is cornered off just for the kids and all the kids club kids eat together and then the workers walk them back to the kids club. The kids club is all free up until 10pm and then after that they charge $8 per child per hour and you can leave them in there until 3am. We picked our 2 children up at 10pm, 11pm, 12pm and 1am on separate nights - it depending on what late shows were on. They get the kids to make things, they do face painting, they can play computer games, play with toys and they watch movies. At nite when it's getting a little later they put pillows our and blankets and the kids fall asleep.
I had planned to put my children in there for at least half a day everyday to give ourselves some time to chill out alone, but we didn't feel we had to. I just put ours in there when we went to the gym. Ours actually wanted to go in there at night and quite happily stayed. The kids club gave us a mobile phone which was fantastic as they could call us if our children were upset at all our were sea sick (which did happen on the very last night).....also they do have prams for hire for $10 a day or $40 for the entire cruise which came in very handy for us on a couple of days when we went onto the islands.
Cabin - we had an inner statesman room - so no view at all and no balcony which was absolutely fine - we weren't spending much time in there anyhow. We were on the 6th level towards the back of boat which was good, actually very good on the last night when it was quite rocky on the boat and it tended to be a lot better at the back of the boat so I was grateful for that. We had a double bed which was actually 2 single beds pushed together, but you wouldn't have known it and then 2 upper bunks for the kids with ladders. There was a TV in the room which had stuff on it in relation to the boat, info on what was happening, footage of what had happened the day before etc so not really any great TV shows or movies, but you could pay for some. Bathroom was fine, toilet and shower were good actually, enough space. There was 2 hanging wardrobes and lots of coathangers so no need to bring any and plenty of shelving to put your clothes on in the cupboard and then put the suitcases away. Rooms aren't massive and got a little cramped when we were all in there and trying to get ready but honestly it was only for a short amount of time in the morning and the evening.
Dining experiences - there is the buffet section which was nothing like I thought it was going to be. There are several different buffets all serving a different type of food - 1 buffet had chinese, 2nd had burgers and chips, 3rd had toasted sandwichs and rolls made to order, 4th had all sweets, 5th had pizza which is 24/7, 6th had roast or if it was lunch it would be gormet pies, sausages. Breakfast they had every kind of egg you wanted, omelettes made to order, plenty of cereals, fruit - anything you want really. Breakie starts at 6am with danishes and then the hot food starts at 7am till a 10 or 11 and then the late breakie starts at 11am. Lunch starts at 12pm till 3:30pm and then dinner starts again at 5:30pm. Pizza is 24/7 and same with the soft serve icecream and frozen yoghurt.
The empire dinning room was lovely and we ate there 6 out of the 8 nights. You are waited on like you wouldn't believe. It is a three course meal everynite but we were being brought extra dishes to try - cheeses to have with our wine, extra entree's to try and extra desserts if I hesitate on anything, they would bring extra's out!! I personally enjoyed this experience more as I was seated at my own table, waited on and food was lovely really.
Entertainment - this was mainly at night. We had a Hypontist who hypontised people which was extremely funny, comedy shows both family friendly and adult only, the Carnival Spirit dancers and singers and an extra singer they brought in. There is also karaoke nights and in about 3 or 4 other bars around the ship are other singers so you could always find one that suited your own personal taste. The pair that sang by the glass lifts at that bar were really good and I enjoyed them. They have the nightclub at night but I never went there, the casino is always the happening place more at night, but is open during the day when sailing but not when in port. They do play a movie once a day during the day. They had bingo almost everyday but I personally found it a bit expensive. It's $30 for 5 games but the prizes are very good if you can win it!!
Gym - was very modern and fitted with the best equipment. I did the gym 4 days out of my 8 day cruise. It is right at the front of the boat so when running on the treadmill I was looking out into the ocean - what a view. The stationary bikes were really nice to use as well. They have all kinds of free weights and weight machines to use as well as a spa to use afterwards.
Massages - I had one but on the very last day where the price had dropped by $100 for a 60min massage. I had a back, neck, shoulder, arm, hand and facial that went for 60mins for $131 which was advertised earlier in the cruise for about $250. I had heard that the massages are cheaper on port days and they get cheaper towards the end of the cruises and it was right - it was definitely worth doing, really lovely experience.
Staff - they can't do enough for you. Our room was kept tidy all the time, as soon as we left in the morning, the staff made our beds, changed sheets and towels and then again at nite before we came back to our room at the end of day where a towel animal would be waiting for us. Our kids loved wondering what animal it would be every night. The waiting staff in the restaurants are awesome so are the people who clear the tables in the buffet sections, out by the pools and the bar staff making the drinks are amazing. The ship was so clean, and everywhere you turn there are people dusting, cleaning and keeping it looking amazing. My husband said at 4am one morning when he was up he saw staff cleaning ceilings.
Overall one of the best experience I have had. I enjoyed not having to think about shopping for food and then cooking it, I didn't do any laundry although they offer that service for a fee or you could do it yourself in the laundry's available. I enjoyed being waited on for dinner most nights and having my pre dinner cocktail by one of the bar's whilst listening to music and then always going to a show in the evening or having a punt at the casino. There was great entertainment for the families during the day near the pools and the DJ playing music by the pool was always good with the music and we'd get up with our kids and have a dance. My kids thoroughly enjoyed it, although I don't think they got much our of the island stops as due to their age they weren't really interested in much so we didn't get to do much exploring.
Definitely doing it again and yes I would do again with my kids - it was just as much fun having them there experiencing it all.