This was the fifth cruise for my wife and me, all aboard Carnival ships (The Imagination twice, The Conquest, and The Triumph). Because we live in Kentucky, we had always sailed out of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or New Orleans, so this was our first time boarding ship in San Diego. We own a business, and it has been hard the past two years to find time to take a cruise, so we definitely looked forward to getting away and relaxing.
We flew from Louisville, KY to San Diego a day early and stayed at the Comfort Inn Old Town. The hotel offered free shuttle service to and from the airport, to the cruise terminal, and to local attractions such as Old Town and the San Diego Zoo. Our plane landed at 11:05 in the morning, and we were very pleased to learn a room was ready for us when we checked in around noon.
After dropping off our luggage, we decided to enjoy the spectacular day and take the 15-20 minute walk to Old Town where there are a number of interesting shops, historic buildings, and dozens of Mexican restaurants. After a nice lunch at the EL PATIO (where the servings are HUGE) we returned to the hotel and spent some time in the hot tub.
We believe the port at San Diego was the most convenient and efficient as compared to the others where we boarded ships. Baggage handlers took our luggage directly out of the back of the hotel shuttle and we did not touch them again until the bags were delivered to our cabin. We were members of the Carnival Vacation Club, and a representative greeted us at the door and escorted us to the security check-in point. After clearing security, we were aboard the ship in less than 5 minutes.
We had some extra Vacation Club points to burn, so we decided to splurge and get a balcony suite, Cabin 6160. The cabins were not ready when we boarded, so we went to the Lido Deck and checked out the food in the various serving lines before making our choice. Say what you might, there was always a great variety of food offered on the Lido deck, and the quality was consistently good.
After lunch we returned to our cabin to unpack. There were two closets with dozens of hangers, as well as several other cabinets and end tables in which we unpacked our clothes and stowed our suitcases. The bathroom had a full-sized bathtub/shower and a large double sink. Just outside the bathroom was a vanity and a stool. The bed was a bit too firm to suit my wife, but I found it to be just fine.
Our room steward was Wijit, who could not have been nicer or more attentive to our needs. My wife had broken a toe and Wijit made sure that an ice pack was waiting for us in the refrigerator every night when we went to bed.
EMPIRE DINING ROOM
We opted for the early seating at 6 PM and had a table near the middle of the floor on the lower level. Like the dining rooms on all Carnival ships, the Empire Dining Room was a showpiece and was very attractive and inviting. Our head waiter was Adnyana, who was assisted by Muhammad. Both of them were great and worked extremely hard to make certain we were served promptly and efficiently. Adnyana was also a great dancer, and we enjoyed watching him every evening during the dining room entertainment provided by the servers.
Before the cruise, my wife had read several reviews about the Empire Dining Room and noted that most people raved about the food, saying that it was the best they had ever had. Unfortunately, the dining room food was a source of disappointment for us. We are not picky eaters and are really very easy to please, but the quality of the food, particularly the meat entrees, was not up to the level of the service or the dining room ambience. Often it seemed that the side items did not go well with the main dishes, and there seemed to be a concerted effort to provide exotic dishes rather than concentrating on quality and the taste of the food. Our table mates also expressed their disappointment with the food, and we heard people at nearby tables talking about it as well.
KIDS, KIDS, KIDS
For all our cruises, we have sailed during the Spring Break part of March and April, and we have never had negative experiences with hordes of unsupervised young children stampeding through the ship like we did on this cruise. Every night we saw a group of 10-12 kids running up and down the staircases, jumping on and off the elevators and pushing all the buttons, and other things. They never did anything really bad, but they were annoying to say the least.
We tried to enjoy the hot tub midship, but a group of unsupervised youngsters who were 3 or 4 years old were diving into it and "swimming," or bringing floatation rings and toys into the tub. My wife was worried that one of the kids would step on her broken toe. Instead of being able to enjoy the tub, we felt as if we were on duty, watching the kids to make sure no one got hurt or drowned.
The cruise director informed us that there were more than 400 kids on the ship, and we saw many infants in carriers or strollers. The strollers made it hard at times to get around the hallways, particularly in the food lines on Lido Deck.
CLEANEST SHIP SO FAR!
We have to say that the Carnival Spirit was probably the cleanest ship we had sailed on, and it was obvious the members of the crew and the staff took a great deal of pride in the ship, and we appreciated their efforts very much.