We were a party of 7 spread through 3 cabins. 2 with balconies, 1 inside cabin (it was the tiniest of any of the 5 cruiselines we have been on -- though it was well-organized and kept neat by our stewards).
We flew straight to HNL and arranged for our own transfer to the embarkation area. Which entrance to use? No signs or markings on various entranceways -- tried asking a surly Carnival-attired employee who was too busy making a cellphone call. A more friendly one saw our predicament and pointed us to the correct one. Approaching the counter, I present our Funpasses (which I had painstakingly completed on-line. The 1st time I attempted to do the Funpass on-line, Carnival had a problem with their website -- not that the website noted anything, I had to phone Carnival to be told "There's a problem right now, try later". I did not find the Carnival website to be very user-friendly and I am very computer-literate! Because I was also entering info for 3 different cabins and 2 different return itineraries, all on one credit card for onboard charges, it was a fairly lengthy process. Especially irritating was that the website kept adding on it's own an extra totally fictional flight onto our return itinerary. I found it impossible to change/correct after many numerous tries. Another Carnival Website glitch no doubt!
Back to embarkation, proudly handing over our Funpasses -- the Carnival employee asks for hard copies of our documents to handwrite the same details again onto some paper forms. I am incredulous and ask why she is duplicating all this info. She replies that the computer people want to confirm that the electronic Funpass details are correct. On the other hand, debarkation in Vancouver was very smooth and well-organized.
Dining: Breakfast buffets had the most limited choices of all cruiselines we have traveled on. Why the sausages are always immersed in some mysterious soupy concoction is a mystery to me. Lunch buffets were Ok, but the Asian line-up was abysmal -- like the worst takeout food you could find in the mall food court. Dinners in the dining room were generally fair, though as others have noted, 2 portions of the same dish at the same table could vary enormously from wonderful to horrid. Fish dishes we had tended to be dry and overcooked. Often there were slight-to-major substitutions from the menu which the waiters never noted. Since we have had almost back-to-back sailings on Princess, Holland America and Celebrity, we may be more jaded about dining aboard, but Carnival definitely had the least impressive food. I did not gain any weight on this cruise -- a 1st for me!
Gym facilities: Different stepped arrangement. Much of the aerobic equipment: bikes, elliptical, treadmills needed maintenance -- displays wouldn't come on, heartbeat monitors didn't work, bikes and elliptical would grind loudly. The gym instructors, Monique and Alex were the most unfriendly gym staff I've encountered onboard. Both have sour dispositions, especially Alex. Rumor had it that either he or both of them were at the end of their contracts -- hopefully NOT to be renewed. Public Spa facilities: steamroom, sauna, hottub, changeroom and showers were very nicely done and roomy.
Entertainment: Ok, not really to my taste. All the Carnival singers and dancers were left to the last 4 days. Chris the cruise director was a standout as far as being a entertainment ham.
The Ship: Lots of public space, open decks for sunning or walking, outdoor casual dining areas, great atrium. Lots of shipboard activities (I appreciated the handicrafts for my 80-yr old mother).
Elevators are very quick and announce the next floor -- well organized so there was little waiting time for them. Some stairwells were strangely narrow and did not have the best signage (I like to clearly see the floor and Aft/Forward directions).
Service: Our waiters were OK. I thought it was tacky to have tipping the Maitre'd made a public plea. As stated earlier, our cabin was kept neat and clean. We had a team of 3 stewards (we really prefer just having a single steward who we get to know better and takes responsibility for everything.) Phonemail never worked (something that would have been helpful when you're trying to coordinate activities for 3 cabins. A single phone request to Steward was never picked up and did not go to his phonemail.
Summation: We chose this Carnival cruise because it fit in with the kid's school schedules and we wanted to see Hawaii. We had crossed off Norwegian C.L. sailings after reading about staffing problems on the Hawaiian circuit and also didn't consider any of the cruises that required busing through Ensenada Mexico. Would we consider Carnival again? Possibly, if the itinerary/price was right. Carnival Spirit? Probably not -- there are too many better choices out there.