This is my 4th cruise overall and my 2nd with Carnival. So far I have not been disappointed with any cruise vacation I have taken, although there is always room for a little improvement. I am a 42 year old male from the Sacramento area, this time traveling with my younger sister and parents. It was my sister's first cruise and she wanted the full cruise experience so I participated in a lot more activities than I normally would have.
EMBARKATION/DEBARKATION I flew to San Diego and was picked up by a friend in the area to have lunch. After a nice meal in Point Loma (with a view of the ship, of course), he dropped me at the pier. It only took about 20 minutes to check in and be on board. Really a breeze. I suggest dropping the bigger bags with the porters at the dock, as people that chose to take their own bags on really struggled with them in the hallways. Much better to let the ship handle and wait until they arrive at your room.
Debarkation was also very easy. Once they called our number we were off the ship in about 15 minutes. The only bummer is that it was raining in SD, and the pier doesn't have adequate shelter for this. So we got pretty wet while waiting for a shuttle. Probably not much of a problem usually, as it rarely rains in SD (lucky us).
SHIP The Carnival Spirit was built in 2001, and is showing it's age a little, but the crew was always cleaning and repairing throughout the cruise. I understand it is going into drydock in March, so those of you taking the Spirit after March will have a "like new" ship. It is easy to get around, all the public rooms are on decks 2,3,9 and 10. The show lounge Pharaoh's Palace was very nice and usually no problem finding seating for the shows. Lots of deck space on the upper decks. Even with 2000+ passengers, the ship never really felt that crowded. Always quiet places could be found to read or relax. There were also plenty of activities every day if you want to stay busy and involved.
STATEROOM My sister and I shared an inside room on deck 4. It had two twin beds with two night stands in between. It was comfortable and had enough storage for all the stuff we brought and then the stuff she bought. It only had 14 hangers in the closet though. With all the clothing we had to hang, we found this wasn't enough. I would suggest bringing some with you if you have a lot of garments that need to be hung up. Another small problem was the lack of places to hang damp clothing, especially when coming back from the beach trips at the ports. They should look into providing some type of retractable clothing line in the room itself rather than the little tiny one in the shower. The room stewards were great whenever we had a request and kept our room tidy. They also made quite an assortment of towel animals throughout the week. Although we weren't sure what one of them was. Could be a duck, could be a platypus.
My parents had a suite on level 6 and that was very nice. Big balcony with 4 chairs, king bed, full shower/tub, two sinks, and a vanity. I think they spend my inheritance......
FOOD This is always a little subjective, but I thought it was great. The wait staff in the Empire Room was fantastic and I was rarely disappointed in my selections. If I did get something I didn't like, I just ordered a different one. There were several people on board complaining about the food and I was tempted to slap them. Carnival is on the lower end of the price scale, and the efforts they make to serve good food is commendable. I found the food served in the Lido buffet was fine as well. Once you got to know which stations served which food, breakfast and lunch were fine too. The hamburgers by the pool were great. The 24 hour soft serve ice cream machines were nice too. We had a few of those in the wee hours....
ENTERTAINMENT This is the one area that could improve. The dance shows were not too bad. The first comedian and the magician (Woody) made me laugh quite a bit. There was a Blue Brothers show that was pretty bad. The band was tearing it up good, but then they started singing. Chris (the cruise director) was not bad as Jake Blues, but the guy doing the Elwood character could NOT sing. One show that was outstanding was the Mexican Folklore Dance show that was done by a local group when the ship was docked in Acapulco. It started at 10PM so you could still enjoy Acapulco at night and catch this show. Very good!
PORTS Acapulco - the ship docks right next to Oldtown Acapulco, so there is plenty of shopping walking distance from the ship. You do however, have to run the gauntlet of vendors and taxi drivers trying to get your business. One cool thing, right at the ship terminal building there is a little area of shops and services just for the ship passengers before you are out on your own. In this building there are about a dozen shops that have "hassle free" shopping and there is a place upstairs to make phone calls or get internet access. Internet is $2 for 15 minutes. Good deal compared to the ship and you have to get online. Also there is a place to exchange US dollars for Pesos and they were giving 13.85 to 1 at the time of our cruise with no service charge. I highly recommend using pesos instead of dollars with the locals as they will usually give you a better deal and can make change. When you want to use a 20, they mysteriously have no change. In Acapulco we snorkeled on Isla Roquetta and went to see the cliff divers in the evening.
Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa - Much smaller town than Acapulco and cleaner. Lots of great shops right off the pier that you get tendered to. We took a taxi to Ixtapa to snorkel on Isla Ixtapa. Very good snorkeling on Playa Coral.
Manzanillo - If you take a ship sponsored excursion, this is the port to do it. Manzanillo is an industrial port and you need to take a shuttle bus away from pier even if you strike out on your own. We took the Colonial Tour inland to Colima and some ruins called La Campana. Excellent tour that gives you a real taste of Mexico.
OVERALL Great cruise!! I was bummed when I had to leave the ship. I miss the days of only having to do what I wanted and figuring out what to eat. If you have any specific questions, I did a lot of research on all my cruises, and would to happy to chat about anything at firstname.lastname@example.org Cruising is the life......