Carnival Spirit Review September 24 - October 18, 2008 Vancouver - Honolulu - Ensenada
We have cruised before on Princess 4 times, NCL 5 times and Carnival 4 times. (now 6 times) I am in my 40's and I took my 71 year old mom. We have loved each and every one of our cruises and this cruise was no exception.
We take one cruise a year. We had not done Carnival for quite a while because we had cruised most recently with Princess and NCL. It was so nice to be back on Carnival again. Carnival has such a relaxed and fun atmosphere which I had missed.
We began our trip in Vancouver. We stayed two nights at the Hyatt Regency, thanks to Priceline. It is a very nice hotel and we were treated like royalty. The location of the hotel was good but it would have be nice to be closer to gas town as that is where we liked it best. The hotel was only 4 blocks from Canada Place.
Embarkation day was quick and easy. We arrived at around noon. The agent we got at check in was very slow but we didn't care. We were on the ship within 30 minutes. We went to the buffet to eat lunch. There was also Pizza, a deli, a grill and of course lots of self serve ice cream machines. The dining room was not open for lunch on embarkation day.
The ship was beautiful and everything looked so nice, shiny and clean. I thought it was decorated very nicely. There were plenty of lounges and quiet places to sit with lots of windows. We liked the atrium lobby, it also had lots of places to sit and it was nice and central to everything. The main show lounge was gorgeous, It was decorated in an Egyptian theme.
Our cabin was on the Main deck 4. It was an obstructed view cabin. If you looked out the window and to your left we had a small slice of a view through two life boats. It really wasn't much of a view at all but we really appreciated having some natural light. The cabin had lots of closet space. The beds were so hard and I found them very uncomfortable. Finally my mom asked the room steward for some padding for her bed. This helped her a lot. I just suffered thought it. What was really nice was the small table and two chairs in the cabin. We used this every morning for room service breakfast.
The first 5 days at sea were so long but Carnival had lots of things to do. There was adult arts and crafts, trivia games, name that tune, dance classes and the list goes on and on. I have never seen a cruise go through so many ships on a stick in my life. The weather wasn't too good on our trip to Hawaii. It was cool with some rain. Lots of people were sea sick as they thought the seas were rough. The seas weren't rough to us as we had been in much rougher. After 10 cruises we have yet to get sea sick. We consider ourselves lucky that we don't have to suffer though seasickness.
I went for a massage twice. I thought the first one was nice. I was wrong. The next 3 days I had a very sore neck and it made me a little miserable. So that part I didn't like. I went again later in the cruise and this time is was excellent. I told her about the other girl hurting my neck so she was more careful.. The hot stones are wonderful. I heard at a spa talk that all the massages were guaranteed. I should have said something about my botched massage but I never did. I would have gone more if they didn't try so hard to sell you all these different creams, etc. One "no" didn't work with these ladies. It took at least 3 or 4 no's. They were very hard sell. By the way, the prices of the massages, facials etc went way down toward the end of the cruise. I got a 30 minute massage w/hot stones and a facial for only $69. I didn't think that was too bad.
The entertainment staff was wonderful. They were all always so cheerful and fun loving. I cant imagine how boring giving the same trivia game for the 50th time in a row could be but they did it with a great mood and a big smile. They could make a simple trivia game such fun. The Cruise Director was good and did some funny things. He was all over the ship. I wonder if the poor guy ever slept. In the mornings the cruise director and asst cruise director had a morning show on TV. They are such a pair of goofs. They just told us what was going on during that day but did it in such a funny way.
We were very disappointed in the shows and entertainment on this ship. Perhaps we have been spoiled by the entertainment on NCL last year, which was excellent. The array of comedians, singers, jugglers, and magicians were poor. I liked the production shows but they still weren't as good as on other ships. I love to watch the dancers, however, the dancers on this ship were mediocre at best. Even the hypnosis show lacked something. I cant say all the comedians were poor some were pretty good but their names escape me. I found the comedians to do better at their late night shows than their family shows. Perhaps they had more freedom at the late shows. I was impressed that the late night shows weren't dirty or vulgar.
One group of entertainers that were excellent were the classical trio. It consisted of a piano, violin and a cello. They were so talented. There were always a small group of us that would sit and listen to the most beautiful music they made. It was magical. We looked forward to listening to them every night. We visited with them often. One night the piano player was on break and came and sat with us and told us about himself and his life on the ship. They were all from Poland. Unfortunately, on this cruise they heard that they would be losing their jobs in December. Carnival was trying to cut back. The only real talent on the ship and they were being let go. It was sad.
We also enjoyed the ship band. They played such a wide variety of music. Carnival also provided a couple as dance hosts. They would dance with single men and women that didn't have partners. They also taught ballroom dance lessons. The fox trot, the cha cha etc. They were always up dancing trying to get other couples to dance. We loved to watch couples dance.
The Hawaiian islands were fantastic and beautiful as always. We had been to the islands many times before but we still just love Hawaii. We rented cars on all the islands and didn't do any excursions through Carnival. We find renting cars to be the cheapest way to go. It is easy to drive on the islands. We liked to drive where we like and stop when and where we like. We would always find a beach and snorkel and then go on to another beach then to Hilo Hatties or Walmart for some cheap island shopping. We enjoyed the freedom so much.
Every port had free shuttles to Hilo Hatties, Walmart and K-Mart. However, they were small vans and only took a small amount of people at a time. So a lot of waiting was involved both at the pier and at the store to get back to the ship. Most all rental car companies had shuttles as well. We were sure glad we made reservations in advance. Lots of rental shuttles turned people away because they had no cars available. In Kona we rented a car from Dollar at the King Kamehameha hotel. It is a short walk right across the street from the pier. The cars are located behind the hotel. This was so convenient and so much better than renting from the Kona airport.
We were only going to do the first leg of this cruise to Hawaii but found the one way air fare back home from Hawaii was going to be over $900 per person. The next cruise from Hawaii to Ensenada was only $1200 per person so it was a no brainier for us to just take the next cruise as well. This way we also had 3 days in Honolulu and used the ship as a hotel.. We didn't rent a car in Honolulu as the bus system is excellent and will go everywhere you want to go. $2 for adults and $1 for seniors.
Every morning we ate breakfast in our cabin. It was so nice to get up, eat in our pajamas and relax. We were given a continental breakfast card every evening which we would fill out and they would deliver it the next morning at whatever time you specified. The menu consisted of fruit, cereal, muffins, toast, bagels, juice, coffee, tea and milk. It was enough for us. We would always tip the room service people who brought our food. They were always very appreciative.
We would usually skip lunch before going back to the ship for our huge dinners. We loved going to dinner. Each cruise we had wonderful people at our table and we looked forward to visiting with them and seeing what they did on the islands. Our waiter was Eddie from the Philippines and Matsu from Africa. Eddie was quite formal but Matsu was a wonderful, warm, friendly lady that we just fell in love with. She always remembered what bread we liked and what we liked to drink before and after dinner. After the first night we never had to ask again, she remembered. The food was wonderful and there was so much of it. After an appetizer, a starter then the main course and desert we were stuffed. If you didn't like something, Eddie would encourage us to order something else. If you were full and didn't finish your dinner he was very worried and asked if you didn't like it and wanted something else. It was hard to convince him that I was just full. Everything was delicious and served at the appropriate temperature. I am from Kansas and I never get much seafood here so every night I would order something with shrimp or scallops. I was not disappointed. I enjoyed the singing and dancing waiters. I thought it was fun and I thought they had fun doing it. We never did make it to lunch in the dining room but heard it was very good. We loved the grill for lunch or a quick snack.. A quick hot dog or hamburger with the most delicious fries was always good. I tried a Reuben at the deli for the first time and hated it. I always wondered what a Reuben was and now I know. I just loved the 24 hour ice cream and yogurt. It came in Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry and twist.
One thing I love about Carnival is that most everything is included. You are not nickel and dimed to death like you are on Princess. 24 hour ice cream was free. Lemonade, fruit punch and hot chocolate were free. In the dining room Espresso, Cappuccino and Latte's were all free. My mom just loved the free alcoholic drink nights. This was, the Captains party, the Hawaiian party and repeaters party. They certainly weren't stingy with the drinks.
There were very few children on our first cruise, around 12 I think, and we just loved it. That is one thing about Carnival that we don't enjoy, too many kids. It was so nice to enjoy the hot tub without 6 kids in it splashing around and no kids making a mess at the ice cream machines. This was a longer cruise at 12 days and most kids were in school. There were more children on the second leg of the trip but it still wasn't too bad, around 30 I would say.
Our transition day was great. It was no problem getting off and back on the ship. They just gave us new S&S cards the night before for the new cruise and we were ready to go. We chose this day to do our laundry. There were no lines for the machines. While our clothes were washing and drying we looked at all the different cabins. Some room stewards didn't mind us looking around but some hated us being there and told us to leave. We looked at insides, obstructed balconies, balcony cabins and suites. The category 11 and 12's were nice and big but not worth the extra money in my opinion.
Our room steward was very good and friendly. Our wish was his command. He was Carlos from Honduras. I visited with him quite often. One night we visited for around 15 minutes. We talked about our homes, our spouses and families. He then proceeded to tell me how beautiful I was and asked me on a date. I couldn't believe this after we had just talked about our spouses. I politely told him no thank you. After that I was kind of wary of him and tried to avoid him which was very hard as he always seemed to be around our cabin. He was always telling me how beautiful I looked. It was flattering but started to get a little creepy. Besides this he was a great room steward. My mom bought a formal picture of myself that she propped up on our vanity. Carlos told me how much he loved that picture. He even bought me a Carnival frame for it as a gift. He was going home to Honduras at the end of the cruise as his contract was over. We had trouble with a terrible sewer smell in our bathroom. We would keep our bathroom door closed to keep the smell inside the bathroom but it didn't always work. Our room steward was aware of this problem and even called the plumber to come check it out. He did this before we even told him of the problem. The plumber said there was nothing he could do. So, we went to Walmart one day and bought a whole bunch of room fresheners. This didn't fix the problem but made it much better. We never complained about this and only mentioned it to our room steward in passing one evening but he was already aware of it. Twice our toilet got stuck up and over flowed. This always happened at night. It was always quickly fixed the next morning. On transition day we received a bottle of wine and a fruit basket from the hotel manager. We don't know if we got this for being on a back to back cruise or for the bathroom problem. It was nice that our cabin was vacuumed every day. I usually have to ask the room stewards to vacuum my cabin but not on this cruise. Our cabin was cleaned and tided every day and we got towel animals every night. Some nights we really didn't know what the animal was but it was fun guessing. On the last night of the cruise we asked our room steward to guess the weight of our luggage. We were afraid we were going to go over the 50 lbs limit. He said they weren't over 50 lbs and he was right.
On our second cruise we switched from early dinner seating to late seating. We sailed away from the islands every evening at 6pm and that was the same time as our dinner. We just hated missing sail away from the islands. So we switched . We didn't really like eating so late but it was nice to be able to watch us sail away from the islands every evening and watch the sun set which was always beautiful.
The 5 days at sea back to Ensenada seemed shorter this time and the weather was fine.. Again they had lots of games, dance classes and arts and crafts. Our dinner companions on our second cruise were karaoke fans. So one night I went with them. So every night after that we would all meet at Karaoke. It was fun. Some people were good, some people were awful but everyone cheered for everyone. I sang quite a bit myself. I cant believe I sang in front of all those people. Wow. Everyone drank liquid courage, however, I don't drink. The bartender always brought me my regular, without asking, a large glass of ice water.
The crew was so nice and cheerful on this cruise. I cant say enough about them. Most everyone I talked to was so wonderful. Room stewards would say hello and ask me how my day was as I was walking down the hall and they weren't even my room steward. A photographer took my picture one night and remembered my name for the rest of the cruise. After that when I saw him we would stop and visit. The bartenders all knew I liked ice water and would bring it to me before I asked. Some of the crew decided to make us honorary crew since we were on the ship for so long. Even the man who made sandwiches in the deli was always in such a fantastic mood. He would smile and visit with us. I just cant say enough about the friendliness of this crew.
Ensenada was nice and I wished we could of stayed and visited. I love Mexican people. They are so open and friendly and you try to speak a little Spanish and they are even friendlier. The transfer from Ensenada was a mess. Carnival bussed us from Ensenada to San Diego. It was a very early morning. People started getting off the ship at 5am. We had a late flight from San Diego at 3pm. We thought we would have a long wait but it didn't end up that way. We were on our bus at 9am. Our bus driver spoke no English. We got to the border where there was a very long wait. By the way, the scenery on the way was very nice. There were stores across the street so I asked the bus driver in my limited Spanish if I could go shop across the street . I don't even know if he understood what I asked but he nodded yes so off I went. My wait went by quickly this way. I just kept checking that my bus was still there. I also had to know which bus was mine as there was a mile long line of buses. Some people did the same as I but didn't know which bus was theirs and had to get on each bus and see if it was theirs. The procedure at the border was to get off the bus, get our luggage off the bus , go thru customs with our luggage and then put our luggage back on the bus and drive the rest of the way to San Diego. Apparently, customs was taking too long and the people in the buses before us were missing their flights in San Diego. So customs came on our bus, checked our ID took our customs forms and let us go thru so we would not miss our flights. We didn't even have to get off the bus. We finally made it to the airport. Then you had to hope like heck that your luggage was on that bus. Ours was but others were not so lucky. We hired a man to carry our bags.. He took us right to our airline. The airport was crowded and confusing. I would have never found our airline if he didn't take us. When we checked in for our flight It was already after 1 pm and our plane started boarding at 2:20pm so we had a short hour wait before our flight.
Our wonderful cruise was over . It was a little long as I was missing my husband and all my farm pets after 3 weeks.. Perhaps my mom and I are just easy to please but we are just thrilled to have our meals cooked for us and to have our beds made. My motto is there is no such thing as a bad cruise.