I find it difficult to conceive that for me a day of cruising can be anything except enjoyable and this cruise didn't change that view. This was our fourth cruise for my wife and I, and it was the first one where we were disappointed with our cruise selection.
We flew from Brisbane to Sydney on the morning of the cruise Before catching the airport train to Circular Quay. Everything went perfectly and it was exciting to spy the Carnival Spirit before the train even stopped. However, embarkation was a shocker. It took us over 3 hours to board and I think we did OK compared to many others. Apparently, the boarding team lost access to Carnival's boarding systems about 30 minutes after boarding commenced and their backup manual procedures were a nightmare. The staff tried their best to be accommodating and there were lots of apologies on board and a free drink at dinner the second day, but it was a massive fail compared to our previous embarkation a with Norwegian, a Royal Caribbean and Disney.
We were cruising with our 4yo son. It was his second cruise after kicking off with a trip on the Disney Wonder last year. The differences between the kids clubs of Disney and Carnival Australia are immense. The kids club aboard Carnival Spirit was uninviting and their staff appeared poorly organised. Lots of little things were poorly executed due to poor organisation. Kudos to Jeffrey however who was a ray of sunshine. Carnival Australia need to employ someone with enthusiasm to take a Disney cruise as recon then detonate Spirit's current kids club policies, and reorganise the way they are looking after the younger kids.
The waterslides and kids water park are awesome! Our little guy did the yellow twister slide and the pink mini-slides dozens of times. I summoned the required courage to do Green Thunder three times. It is incredible! Rarely were the lines very long for any of the slides.
The food and service in the Empire Dining Room was good. Anthony, Adramalec and Widi were an excellent service team. We all LOVED the Showtime performances at dinner. The Maitre'D Ian was. OK, but we were disappointed to miss out on seeing the enthusiastic Desi.
The buffets at La Playa Grille were OK. We enthusiastically recommend the Deli and the Pizza Pirate. Fat Jimmy's also served up surprisingly tasty options.
Our room Steward, Ketut from Bali, was a star. He is a gentleman of the highest quality and we were thrilled to be greeted by one of his towel animal creations every night.
We enjoyed the production shows and the Venezuelan Illusionist on the final night was exceptional. The Carnival Dancers and the live band were terrific all week. The Cruise Director, Stu Dunn, was capable and provided me with a few belly laughs. Thanks Stu.
We are not casino people and we ignore the inevitable sales pitches for art, DVDs, bingo and whatever else. We didn't find any of that any more offensive than other cruises. We avoided the starboard side of the ship where smoking is allowed near one of the pools. We don't like breathing second hand smoke so we were very pleased to avoid any interaction with smokers by simply avoiding that small part of the ship - Too easy!
We were told there were 900 under 18s on our cruises. Yes, some of them ran around a bit and they were very prominent in the Lido Deck pools and spas. However, they were missing in action from the whirlpool at the Roman Spa whirlpool and the Serenity pool and spa, so I felt there were some good options for everyone. Carnival Spirit will attract a heap of kids, especially during school holidays. If this is a major concern for you select another ship.
The machines in the gym were terrific. That helped us partially offset the endless free ice-creams that were also greatly appreciated.
I have read other reviews about the Spirit being full of tattooed bogans. I have no tattoos and I don't think I'm a bogan, and I wasn't concerned. The Spirit does not attract your typical Holland America clientele, but I found others on-board to be polite and accommodating.
In Noumea there were several tour operators politely waiting in the cruise terminal with boards advertising their services. As we had planned, we booked a Tchou Tchou train tour with the provider in the terminal at a substantial saving compared to the ship prices. Our guide Amber was terrific. We jumped off the "train" at Anse Vata Beach and caught the water taxi to Duck Island to do some quick snorkelling before returning to the ship via a hop on hop off bus. We paid for all of this with the operator of the Tchou a Tchou train in the terminal.
We loved Mystery Island. We swam for ages. There were lots of very reasonably priced tours available from the locals. We did an outrigger canoe paddle, which was a fun 20 minutes.
At Isle of Pines we did the ship tour to the Natural Aquarium. It was a magnificent place. We swam near the Sacred Rock afterwards, but I have concluded that the best snorkelling is early in the day before everything gets stirred up so you might want to consider getting off the ship early if you want the best snorkelling conditions.
One area that we feel needs to be more carefully considered by Carnival Australia is their Work Health and Safety commitment. We felt that there was insufficient effort to minimise potential slip hazards in some areas of the ship. As an example, our little guy dropped some ice cream near one of the machines on the Lido Deck. There was nothing convenient for me to pick it up with so I alerted a nearby staff member who was finishing up re-loading a nearby machine. He dutifully found one of the yellow hazard signs and put it next to the spilled ice-cream. I passed by again more than 30 minutes later and the spilled ice-cream and sign were still there.
One final story which best summarises the problems we experienced on the cruise. During the muster drill our 4yo was given a wrist band that had his assigned Muster Station "D" written on it. It broke after a few days so when we dropped him off at kids club we asked if they could give him another one and we told him this would happen. It didn't happen.
Disembarkation was smooth and painless.
I don't expect us to cruise with Carnival again. However, the terrific water slides and the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake will be sorely missed.