We were looking at going on a Holiday and decided that Cruising would be the most cost effective way as there are 6 of us in my family (me, my Husband and our Children aged 14, 12 and 5 year old twins).
We chose to go on a 9 night Carnival Spirit voyage and departed on the 12.3.2014. We occupied rooms 4208 and 4210 (these are not interconnecting rooms). I had 2 kids in my room and my Husband had 2 kids in his.
We were booked in to be one of the first groups to board. Because it's us and we are late for everything, we got there an hour later than planned. Embarkation was smooth and efficient. My Husband had his power board taken off him by Customs as it was in his carry on luggage (this was returned to him a day or so later as it's a Port of Sydney rule that you can't have them on board, it's not a Boat rule). We also had the 1 that was in the checked luggage taken but this was also returned.
We had balcony Cabins. They were quite spacious taking into consideration you are on a boat. They were very clean. They were filled with light and the furnishings were pleasant. The bathroom was clean and had plenty of places to put things. The beds and pillows were comfortable and there was plenty of storage. I did not unpack my Children's suitcases though. I found it easier to live out of them.
We did request that the door on the balcony between our rooms be opened so that we had a longer balcony and that we could access each other's room from the outside rather than having to go through the Corridor. Once this door is opened, it must stay open for the duration of the cruise. This suited us as we had some stuff in one room and the rest in another. If we weren't in the rooms and the Kids needed something, it was good to know they could access both rooms even though they didn't have a swipe card as we left the balcony doors unlocked.
My Husband has said that if you're worried about being in a tiny room because that's where you're going to spend your time, don't go on a cruise! We were really only in our room when we were sleeping, having some down time or showering!
The Cabins were very quiet. I wasn't able to hear what the people in the next room or corridors were doing.
My room Steward was Novi and my Husbands was Jefferson. Both came to greet us and introduce themselves when we went to see if our luggage had arrived.
They were always very friendly and took time to interact with our Children. Nothing was too much to ask. They always remembered our names. They did an amazing job throughout the cruise.
Our Children left some 'interesting' messes for them (for example, one of them spilt hot chocolate on their doona) and this was fixed up right away. They attended the cabins twice a day - once in the morning and once of an evening. The kids LOVED the towel animals!
One thing that we noticed from the moment we got on the Ship to the moment we left was that the Staff were always pleasant and FANTASTIC with the Children. Our Daughter made friends with one of the Staff in the Buffet and this lady would often help our Daughter carry her plate to the table or help get her a drink. Our twins are chatterboxes and it was good to see the Staff were not once deterred by this but responded to their conversations. They were always ready to dibs out the hi fives!
We didn't eat in the main dining room or the specialty restaurant. We found the Buffet to be easier to manage with the kids. It was never hard to find a table for all of us to sit at as Staff are very quick to clear the tables as soon as someone has finished eating.
There were always clean plates, knives, forks and cups available.
There were no main dishes in the Buffet that were repeated. There was always plenty of variety and the food was always fresh and hot. There was always plenty of fresh fruit and salad.
We did eat at Fat Jimmy's and this was nice. We also ate at the grill on the Lido deck near the pool and the cheeseburgers were fantastic. The kids loved the ice cream and frozen yogurt.
There were several drink dispensing machines around the place so you could always get a coffee (including decaf), lemon squash, ice, water, ice tea or a hot chocolate without waiting for too long. At breakfast time they had apple juice, orange juice and a guava tropical juice available.
We did eat the deli sandwiches that were recommended. They were delicious! And late night pizza became a ritual!
At the time of the cruise, our Twins were 5 and were due to turn 6 a few days after the cruise had ended. We asked if they could be moved up into the older group of 'Camp Carnival' as the activities seemed a lot more suitable for their age and given the fact they have older brothers, they are used to the likes of Xbox and Wii.
The Twins had an amazing time. We didn't put them into 'Camp Carnival' a lot but when they were there, they had an absolute ball. On the theme nights when we would pick them up, they had their face painted and freebies in hand. The kids club is free unless you want them to stay after 10pm (10pm - 3am is their 'Night owls' service and from memory was $8 each per hour). The Twins only stayed for the 'Night Owls' program once (until Midnight one evening) and came out carrying a bag full of things such as torches, a soft 'night owl' toy and a laser light pen.
The staff at 'Camp Carnival' were fantastic! They have a genuine concern for the Children and you could tell they really enjoyed their jobs.
Our older Children also enjoyed their program (Circle C and O2). As they are old enough to sign themselves in and out, they didn't spend a lot of time with the group as they'd prefer to wander with their friends but there was always something for them to do.
Be aware that if your Child is 12 or over, there is no sign out for the club. They are free to come and go as they please.
We attended several different shows - a magic show, a comedy show, an illusionist show, a hypnotist and a few broadway type shows.
The shows are quite popular and can get rather crowded quite quickly so get there early so you get good seats! The band for the broadway shows were fantastic and the performers (including the dancers) are very talented. We saw one comedian and he was very funny.
The Piano man was brilliant. He is in a marvelous setting. It's very intimate.
There's a duo who play at night in the Atrium (we can't remember their name but it was soul something). They were wonderful.
There is so much to do on board! Each night, you get given a list of the activities that are going to happen the next day.
We enjoyed the likes of Karaoke, 'build a bear' (for the younger ones and the young at heart), mini golf, basketball, table tennis and water slides.
There are several deck parties that take place on board. We didn't attend these but our eldest Son did and he had a fantastic time.
They had ice sculpting displays, bean bag toss, trivia, bingo, towel animal folding classes, limbo, hairy chest competitions and a cocktail making completion. With each competitive activity, there was a prize to be won and my Husband became quite obsessed with winning one (which he didn't!).
They had movies playing on the big screen at the front of the boat. We didn't go and watch any but they seemed quite popular.
There are 3 swimming pools on board. 2 on the Lido deck and 1 in Serenity (the Adults only part of the ship). There are also Whirlpools (Spas). The Whirlpools on Lido deck was ALWAYS PACKED with Children. I don't think many adults were brave enough to enter them to compete with the tiny people that seemed to overtake them. This may be due to the fact that the pools were quite deep. The pools were also quite crowded. They weren't too busy though. They aren't very big (you can't do laps in it or anything like that) but my Children enjoyed them either way.
We did visit Serenity once for about 20 minutes. I sat in one of the pods (which was rather comfortable). As we chose to have the Twins with us most of the time, we didn't spend much time there but it was very popular.
There are other things that we didn't participate in like the Casino, the games room, an LGBT gathering that met up quite frequently, an AA group and art auctions.
We didn't watch a lot of TV but I noticed they had a different movie on each day for the kids and for the Adults.
They also had 2 elegant nights. We didn't have the proper attire for these but everyone looked lovely! People really got dressed up! Get into the spirit of it and join in.
The shops on the ship had a lot of stuff available at reasonable prices. They had a fantastic watch sale and some jewelry specials that we took advantage of. I actually got 90% of the gifts for our family and friends from the shops on the boat. They had a lot of Alcohol available at duty free prices. Given the fact neither of us are big drinkers, we didn't know if the prices were good or not but I imagine they were considering the amount of people who bought alcohol.
We were pleased to see that they have birthday cakes on board as it was my Husband's Birthday on the second last day. The cake was about $14 and there was heaps left over after the 6 of us had eaten it.
PORTS OF CALL
Isle of pines was beautiful. The sand was white and the water was so clear. This was my favorite stop. The snorkeling was fantastic. The kids were excited to see coconut trees and coconuts over the ground. There were a few stalls set up for shopping. Make sure you cross check your prices as some people were unhappy that they paid $10 more for a necklace at one at one stall than what it was priced for at another. I got my Daughter's hair braided here. I'm glad I did as it stopped me having to worry about washing it! It was $15 but worth every cent. Make sure you bring some hair ties or some loom bands with you as the little rubber bands they use broke very quickly. I was able to replace hers as soon as we got back on board. She had her braids in for about 2 weeks.
Lifou was our next stop. It was a bit choppy on this day but the weather was pleasant. My Husband and eldest Son were in charge of the shopping on this Island. There were several food stalls and a tribal dance music display. It was wonderful being able to look at the ship from the beach. It's so big!
Mare was the next stop. There were about 2 or 3 little gazebo stalls when you got off the a Tender but when you get to the beach, there are several little stalls. You could also buy Noumea Beer! The snorkeling was amazing at Mare and the beach was superb.
Noumea was our last stop. It was very humid. It was a City (not an Island as such). It looked 'Ghettoesq'. It was quite slummish. If you go there, make sure you get a shore excursion to Duck Island or something like that so that you can see the prettier parts.
Drinks weren't badly priced. It's more economical to buy cocktails. Get the bubbles package ($7 a day unlimited soft drink). My Husband was surprised that they used actual cans of drinks rather than the post mix stuff. The frozen alcoholic drinks ware very yummy!
If you have Children and you don't want them spending money on their card, you can put a limit on it. Do this the moment you board! We ended up with a $120 charge to our account from one of our Children which was racked up from milkshakes and arcade games within the first few hours we were there. You can put a total cruise limit or a no charge request on it. This can be done at one of the kiosks so you don't have to line up.
Internet wasn't too badly priced. I purchased the 120 minute package to send Emails and check our bank balance! I did go through all of my minutes but you can purchase the internet at a minute by minute arrangement if you choose or there are several packages to pick from as well.
Photos! Get as many as you can done! They don't cost anything unless you wish to purchase them but they do put them on display so you can look at them. If you don't like them you simply throw them in one of the bins provided (at no cost to you). They have so many different backgrounds that the set up on the ship and that also take photos when you are at each port. Our favorite photographer was the man who says 'yoo hoo' (this will make sense when you are on board!). We purchased some lovely photos. The big photos (A4 size) were $29 each and the smaller ones were $14 each. We dressed our kids up one night and got a great picture of them together.
Get them to do your washing! We were going to do our own but as a treat, I got them to do it. I think it was $12 a bag or 5 bags for $50. The bags are quite big and you can fit a LOT of stuff in there. It was wonderful to have clean, folded washing returned to our room. Sigh. Luxury!
Get your Passport stamped! Make sure you bring them off the boat with you so you can get them stamped. Considering they don't stamp them in Australia now, it's fantastic to have as a memory. It does cost $2 or so to get them stamped but is a good Souvenir to have.
As mentioned above, you can get your door opened on your balcony. Mention this to your Stateroom Steward as soon as you get on the boat if your family are next door to you! I didn't read about this being available until around day 3 or 4 but would have loved to have had it opened the day after we boarded (they do it the following day after you request it be opened).
MAKE SURE YOU BRING...
- roll of garbage bags. These came in handy when storing dirty washing, snorkels and goggles and rubbish that was too big for the bin located in the bedroom.
- ocky straps (the stretchy straps that you use to hold tarps down with). These will be fantastic for keeping your balcony door open. We forgot ours and had to use a chair!
- a highlighter so you can highlight the activities you wish to do. And pens!
- snorkeling equipment as this is rather expensive on board (to hire or buy).
- powerboards! As mentioned above, it does get taken off you but you will get it back. There is only one power point in the bedroom.
- air freshener.
- zip lock bags. These come in handy to put your phone, Wallet, passport etc... in when you get off the Boat to go on the shore.
- reef shoes for everyone! These are available for purchase on the
boat but you're better to get them before you board. I thought I'd get away with wearing thongs but I would've ended up with cuts all over my feet due to the coral.
- a beach bag or back pack to take with you on shore.
- a waterproof camera. These aren't all that expensive and you'll be glad that you did bring one when you see the photos you come home with.
- someone said business cards with your name on it to give to any new friends you make aboard but a own and paper will suffice!
- medicines! And a first aid kit. They didn't have a huge range of medicines on board so bring your Panadol, gastro stop, gastro lite etc... even if you don't use them (like we didn't), you'll have them with you just in case.
- Suncream and zinc cream (this goes without saying!)
- prepaid SIM with roaming access. We did this because it ended up being cheaper than having roaming on our post paid phone. We gave people the number so that they could text us in the event of an emergency. Not something we really used but is a good idea just in case it's needed.
- Stuff to keep the kids entertained if you have a rest time like we did each day We spent about an hour in our cabin doing some coloring in or playing iPad so that they could chill for a while.
- Walkie Talkies - we did buy some of these with the intention of using them but we didn't use them once. We didn't use them because we stuck together most of the time. If we were split up or we were part of a big group, would have been used.
- not a huge one but a postage tube or a document wallet to keep all of your programs and brochures in so they don't get damaged.
If you're a worried Mummy like me, the railings are very difficult for the little kiddies to climb over! I was so concerned about this prior to getting on board but once I was there and my Twins heads didn't even reach the top of the railings, I was relived. Just make sure that they don't stand on the chair or the foot stool out on the balcony and you won't have a worry!
The only other thing that I was a bit worried about was does the boat cater for bigger builds as my Husband and I aren't the smallest people in the world! Yes! They do! The deck chairs, the dining chairs and the chair on the balcony were all very comfortable.
Above all, don't have any expectations. If you go with an open mind and a positive attitude, you'll have a great time. If you go with a negative attitude, you'll have a bad time! These reviews are great to read to see what people have experienced and what they suggest but reading some of them before I boarded made me a bit worried! We had a magnificent time and can't wait to go again next year.