This was a great cruise! We joined up on the CC Spirit Roll Call and met a lot of wonderful people before we even boarded the ship.
We flew into Vancouver the day before embarkation to avoid any problems. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect temperature. Vancouver is a gorgeous city! I would love to spend more time there sometime!
Sept 16-Embarkation day- Woke up to overcast, cloudy, nippy day. Went to the port around 10am and dropped off our luggage. Spent about an hour walking around Canada Place and taking pictures. It started to rain and drove everybody inside.
Embarkation was a breeze! It was very organized and didn't have to wait in any line until it was time to actually board the ship. They had everyone sit in chairs after you received your sail and sign card. They dismissed by rows to get your embarkation picture taken and then board the ship. We met the first of our CC roll call group while sitting in the chairs and spent the brief wait time telling the people around us about how we met on the CC website.
We waited no more than 15 or 20 min in the chairs and then we were on the ship. The ship was beautiful. It was very classy decor. Not the usual "Vegas style" gaudiness that is usually Carnival's decor theme.
We were on the ship around 11:30am but couldn't get into our room until 1:00pm so we went to the lido deck and had lunch and then walked around the ship and got to know the lay out. It's a very easy ship to maneuver on. The decks are layed out very simply.
Went to our room at 1:00pm and met our room steward Katute (spelling?) He did a wonderful job the entire trip! He was very helpful and always friendly. We never had to go looking for him and our room was always spotless. I wanted to take him home with me.
Our dining time was messed up. We told our Expedia travel agent that we wanted late time dining. When we looked up our cruise reservation on Carnival it said we had early dining. We thought about it and decided that was probably better anyway, so we wouldn't be eating so close to going to bed. When we got our sail and sign card it said anytime dining on it. We missed the Maitre'd at embarkation so we talked to the hostess on the first night and asked if we could get a specified time. We told her we preferred early dining, but would take late dining over any time dining. She told us she would give the Maitre'd our message and there would be a note with our dining assignment left at our cabin the following afternoon. It actually took 2 days to get our dining assignment.
Any time dining was a mess and the service in the dining room was awful! When we had anytime dining we went to the hostess to be seated. It was always a wait. They gave you a pager like you get at the Olive Garden and when a table was available you were paged. We had to go "hang out" until we were paged and were finally seated.
The service was pretty bad. It took at least 15-20min between each course. We constantly had to ask for ice-t and bread. I ordered a ginger-ale the second night from the drink steward. He took the order before we ordered the appetizers and didn't see him again until we were half way through our entree. My husband finally snagged him as he was whizzing by us and asked him about my drink. He said he didn't bring it because we hadn't presented our S&S card to him. My husband told him he hadn't asked for it. He argued with my husband on the point until I told him to not worry about the drink. Water and ice-t would be fine.
We went to breakfast in the dining room twice. The first time was ok, but very slow service. The second time ended our breakfasts in the dining room for the rest of the trip. We arrived around 8am. There was an activity we wanted to attend at 9am. I tell you this because by 8:30am we had yet to see our waiter. We stopped the floor manager about 8:15am and asked her if we had a waiter. She said our waiter had a very big station and they were trying to find him some help. By 8:30am we were still sitting there with no coffee, no body had come by to take our order, NOTHING! We decided to leave and have breakfast on the lido so we could make the activity. It was very frustrating.
The first day we decided to try the dining room for lunch. We told the hostess we wanted to sit by ourselves, she told the assistant to sit us at a certain table number. The assistant walked us to about the middle of the dining room and then either forgot the table number or didn't know which table it was, so she asked us to wait there while she went back to talk to the hostess. My husband and I were standing in the middle of the dining room with waiters and guests having to step around us. We stood there for probably a good two minutes when the assistant finally came back and pointed to a table that had other people seated at it. My husband told her we had asked for a private table. She rolled her eyes and told us to wait there again. I told her never mind we'd just sit at the table she had previously pointed out. We ended up meeting a lovely couple form Australia, but suffice it to say we were done with the dining room except for diner. We either ordered room service or ate on the lido deck for breakfast and lunch from then on.
The food was very good, even on the lido deck. It's hard to keep buffet food fresh and hot, but they did a very good job of it. Diner was always good. Our waitress was Slavtna from Russia and Philip from Africa. They tried very hard and were always friendly and eager to please. Slavtna told us the problem with getting our food so slow was because it was a new menu and the kitchen was having a hard time getting the food prepared. I didn't really buy it. Our asst waiter Philip was pretty much non-existant once the orders were placed. Slavtna said she had to send him to the kitchen to get the food. As long as it took to get our food I think he had to prepare it himself too.
We had five days at sea which was a little bit too long. The first day was chilly and overcast and a little rough. I was very sea sick the first day. The second day was a little better, but still felt a little woozy, by day three I was doing pretty good. Day two was beautiful and sunny and everyone hung out around the pool and on deck. Day three was sunny but was pretty chilly. Everyone was a little disappointed.
Day four was very exciting! One of the passengers had a medical condition that required medicine that they didn't have on board. They arranged with the coast guard for a medicine drop and then about four hours later had to arrange for a helicopter pick-up to take them to Honolulu. I think the entire ship turned out for both occasions. The Coast Guard was wonderful and everyone applauded and waved when they accomplished both of their missions. The captain got on the loud speaker and thanked the Coast Guard and anyone who had ever served with them.
The activities on board were pretty sparse. They had trivia, bingo, and the casino all the time with one or two extra activites spread out during the day. The cruise director, Chris, was not very good in my opinion. I never saw him around the ship the entire cruise. He and the asst cruise director had a morning show that was supposed to be funny but was actually pretty lame. We tried to watch it a couple of times, but just couldn't stand it.
Chris's crew was a little disappointing as well. None of the activities or shows ever started on time and when they did show up to start activities they were never prepared. We always had to wait for them to pass out papers, get questions together, get music ready etc.
I complained a lot at the beginning of this review, but we really did enjoy the cruise. The people we met on the CC roll call were wonderful! We saw each other all over the ship and had organized some events prior to boarding. We had two meet and greets and a poker crawl. We had a blast!
The islands are beyond description. If you've never been to Hawaii you must put it on your immediate to do list! Every port was even more beautiful than the last. We didn't do any Carnival shore excursions until the very last port. We got off the ship and either rented a car or took a shuttle to see the sights. We took a Roberts Hawaii tour in Hilo. They were very professional and inexpensive.
The only place I didn't think was absolutely beautiful was Honolulu. It was very commercialized and we saw quite a few places that looked very poor and dirty. It was sad to see people living in dirt in such a beautiful place.
We did the Carnival Pearl Harbor, VIP Military Base tour. We saw the Arizona Memorial and then went to Wheeler army base and had lunch. We then went to see Fort Schafter which is where "Pearl Harbor" was filmed. It's exactly the same as it was in WWII. I can see why they shot the film there. They didn't have to change anything to make it look like the 1940's. Out tour guide Bob was extremely knowledgeable and even though I'm a big WWII history buff learned several new things about the war and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. We drove through PunchBowl. Apparently in the 80's tour groups carved their names in the trees and so now tours are not allowed to stop. They can only drive through. We stopped at a small museum called "The Home of the Brave". It's a great little museum that I would recommend looking up if your going around on your own. It's free of charge and the people that run it are great!
The Arizona Memorial is very moving. It surprised me how emotional I got. When we first entered the memorial there was a lady off in the corner crying pretty heavily. I assumed maybe somebody she knew had been killed on the Arizona. It's very sad. It seems so wasteful when you look at all the names and realize that they are lives that were cut short. The only thing that was worse was a family that happened to be standing next to me that obviously had no clue about the sacrifices people have made for this country.
It was a family of four, mom, dad, son that looked to be maybe 15 or 16, and a daughter that looked about 13. On the back of the ticket for the memorial is a story of someone that was decorated for service during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The mother was reading the story of two different people and asked what the difference between a purple heart and a bronze star was. The son told her the purple heart was for being wounded in combat and the bronze star was for doing something above the call of duty. The mother was still confused and the father tried to help her understand by saying a purple heart "wasn't that big of a deal". That soldiers preferred bronze stars to purple hearts. That the bronze star meant more than the purple heart. They then went on to discuss Dorie Miller's role in the battle of Pearl Harbor and the son stated he didn't understand why they gave him a medal when all he did was shoot a gun. Anyone could have done it. The father told him it was because he was a cook and then the father and son started to joke about Dorie standing on the Arizona using spoons and forks to throw at the Japanese. It was at the end of the tour when we were in line to get back on the boat to return to the museum. I was so mad and offended but decided to keep my mouth shut. The entire family had obviously missed the entire point of the memorial and what it stood for. They were so ignorant about their own country that I knew giving them an earful would only be lost on them. I have never been so angry with perfect strangers. If we hadn't been on the Arizona Memorial I might have at least told them how insensitive they were, but there is a kind of reverence about the memorial that feels almost like a church. I did not want to break the reverence with harsh words.
In Maui we rented a car and did the road to Hana. It was amazing! It was so beautiful and inspiring we had to stop about every five minutes and stop to look and take pictures. We only made it half way before we had to turn around. All the people we ran into in Hawaii were very friendly and extremely helpful. They all had suggestions on what to see and the best way to get around. We didn't run into a single rude person on any of the islands.
The second day in Maui we went to the Maui Ocean Center. It's a very interesting and informative place. They have people throughout the exhibits ready to answer questions or give you added info on the marine life. They were all very knowledgeable and we saw some amazing fish that I never even knew existed. They had baby sea turtles that had been born a couple of weeks before. It was really amazing to see them so close. They are so graceful in the water. I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Kids would love it! They have a hands on exhibit where you can touch sea cucumbers, star fish,and anemones.
In Kona we did an independent tour to a coffee mill and saw the Place of Refuge. Both were very enlightening. If you don't know anything about coffee, besides how to brew it you should visit a coffee mill if you ever get a chance. The process from start to finish is arduous and the coffee berries are actually sweet and have a grape like texture.
The place of refuge is a must see. You can actually see how the true Hawaiians lived. There's a small cove where the royalty used to come ashore that is full of sea turtles. One actually came up on the beach to rest and everyone got to see him close up. We also had a stop at the painted church. They still hold services there in English and Hawaiian. There are paintings from the 1800's on the walls.
All in all this was a wonderful cruise. The ship was beautiful and easy to get around on, the food was delicious, and the other guests made the cruise even more enjoyable. The islands were amazing. The most beautiful place I've ever been. It was not perfect, but nothing happened to ruin the vacation. I would recommend it to anyone.