Last year my wife went on her first ever cruise with a friend on P&O Pacific Jewel and had such a great experience that for the past twelve months have been trying to convince me (who was anti cruising as we usually go camping in the outback for our holidays) to come on a cruise with her.
I surprised her by booking a cruise on the Carnival Spirit and further surprised her by seeming to be quite excited about going.
As is typical she couldn't help but to compare the two cruise ships, and her comparisons are mentioned below where applicable.
Embarkation was a breeze. I do a lot of air travel for work and was very pleased with the no fuss, quick lines, ease of getting on board the ship. All in all took probably less than half an hour and we were on board booking our shore tours.
(I must say, do this pretty soon after getting on otherwise they can fill up pretty quick.)
Her initial impression of the buffet, which we headed to for lunch was that it was not as nice/easy to navigate as on the Pacific Jewel.
You had to walk around in circles - two islands of buffet which seemed to be displaying the same things.
On the Jewel it was much more open and easy to see everything.
She was confused by the "plates" which she initially thought were plastic TRAYS.
Unlike me, she not a big eater so her sparing dollops of food looked a bit ridiculous on this massive "plate".
Overall the experience of eating in the buffet was a bit disappointing. The food was not very hot and there seemed to be less choice than on the Jewel. Lunches were better than dinners, I found.
Not that there was a lack of choice. You'd never go hungry :) Maybe it was just that this particular weeks menu range didn't appeal as much to her as what was offered on the Jewel.
We dined in the Empire dining room for dinner quite a few times and although the food was quite nice, again it didn't seem quite hot enough. It's a huge restaurant though and gets busy so I can understand and I'm not complaining too much.
The staff there were very friendly and accommodating and it was nice to be able to just get a table for two if we wanted.
(The creme brulee was delicious! )
One night we went to the paying restaurant. The Nouveau...
Food there was AMAZING and delicious! Can't complain at all. Very worth the price you pay for top notch service, presentation (excellent) and taste.
The free pizza was good too. She is not a pizza lover (unlike me) but even she enjoyed this and I was amazed that the guy making them didn't write anyone's orders down - he just had an amazing memory.
We're not into participating in all the activities, so we spent much of our time just relaxing in the adults only Serenity area.
Pods were easy to get as the weather wasn't great. We didn't mind the overcast days though and dressed a bit warmer so we could sit out there and have breakfast and read for a few hours each day.
Actually the cruise seemed rather devoid of people. At times we wondered if everyone had jumped overboard because it was SO quiet.
This pleased me though as it possibly could have felt claustrophobic on the ship with so many people (2600 - where were you all?)
We did go to all the bingo games though. (I husband insisted) It was fun, but we didn't win anything- darn it!
We went to all the shows bar one and they were excellent!
The New Zealand Cruise director- Eli, did a great job and was very funny and entertaining.
I can't say enough about the professionalism of the performers and the actual shows. Seamless set changes, very talented singers and dancers, amazing costumes!
Only one show disappointed us a bit and that was the finale where they had passengers (who had obviously frequented the Karaoke bars) get up on stage to perform with the ships entertainers.
Meh...It was ok, but because a few of the passengers had pulled out at the last minute the crew, including the Cruise director Eli, had to throw in a few extra "performances" which you could tell were last minute rush jobs.
So for us the entertainment didn't end with the bang we hoped for.
The magic show was more for kids....I'll just say that, although the acrobatics, silk ribbon act etc, was great to watch.
The hypnotist on the first have of the cruise was absolutely amazing!!!
Overall the staff were all friendly and pleasant.
My wife did comment that on the Pacific jewel the staff seemed friendlier and chattier and much more attentive.
Not that w expect "servants" but it did seem like there was less attention paid to the collection of passengers cups and plates etc out on the decks. We are more than happy to pick up after ourselves but it was unclear where you should actually take your used utensils.
She preferred the decor and layout of the Pacific Jewel to Carnival spirit. Seemed more open and airy somehow.
We had read several reviews of the dark and dour decor on the Spirits interior. Yes it was rather dark but very ornate and we did like many aspects of it. The glass stairs freaked her out!
The glass panels on the upper deck railings were much better than the closed in ones on the Jewel but she preferred the pool areas of the Jewel which seemed more spacious?
We had an interior cabin. No problem with that at all for us. It was perfectly functional, had way more drawer space than on the Jewel. No funky smells in the bathroom...
The room steward left us lovely towel animals each day and always had a smile to greet us with.
Next time as a treat we might try a balcony room because walking past them they looked quite a bit more spacious and it would be nice to have the doors open and look outside.
We had disappointing weather with lots of wind, overcast days and even a few rainy days but still we made the most of it.
The highlight of our trip was the Amedee island shore tour. Yes it's pricey but I reckon if you're going to pick ONE thing to do, this is it!
Just the staff alone that take you out on the boat to the island are amazing enough. They take you there, entertain you, feed you....and if you're lucky enough to get the lady with the American accent as the guide...well, she was good value.
My one piece of advice though - climb the lighthouse BEFORE you have the rum punch, which they offer FREE with lunch. Oh my, were they potent!
All in all we had a very enjoyable, relaxing cruise.
You can do as much or as little as you choose and you can make it as cheap, or as expensive as you like.
It really is overall such excellent value for money, and......I LOVED it, so I guess we'll be doing more cruises in the future.