This cruise allows you to see all of the major Hawaiian islands, which was the selling point for us for our honeymoon, and did not dissapoint. The islands are amazing.
We left Philadelphia at 7:30 AM on April 17, 2010 and had a 6 hour flight to Seattle...a layover in Seattle...and then another 6 hour flight to Honolulu. Very long day of traveling was worth it. We started our vacation with 5 full days in Oahu before the start of the cruise. We are so happy that we did this, this was our favorite part of our entire trip. Oahu is amazing! It has so much more to offer than just Honolulu and Waikiki. I feel bad for the people who only flew into Oahu on 4/23 and only had the 2 ship days for Oahu. From 4/17 to 4/21 we stayed in a condo on the windward side of Oahu (the "country" side) that I found on vrbo.com. The condo was newly remodeled, with a wraparound balcony, full kitchen, bedroom, and RIGHT on a beach so secluded that we felt like it was our own! View of the ocean, beach and moutains. By far the most amazing view I have ever had on a vacation. SO different from the hussle and bussle of Waikiki. What we did while on this side--Kualoa Ranch Hummer tour to see Lost and movie filming locations. Amazing! So beautiful and scenic. Worth doing even if you are not a Lost fan (we aren't). Surf lesson on North Shore (hubby lost his ring for 3 hours in the Ocean but he didn't give up and we found it! True Story!), a lot of fun. Dinner at Ola at Turtle Bay resort, where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed. Great food. A lot of just hanging out and relaxing at the condo and the beach that was there. We had a rental car and used one of our windward days to do the Pearl Harbor Home of the Brave tour (they weren't open the days we were staying on Honolulu side). Home of the Brave was a long day, but totally worth it. Got to see a lot of WWII sites, not just Pearl Harbor. On the 21st we checked out of our condo and went to stay in Waikiki for 2 nights at Hilton Hawaiian Village. Had an amazing view of the beach and Diamondhead. We wanted to experience both sides of the island. Waikiki is totally different in every way from windward and north shore. But we enjoyed it. Ate at Duke's and Yardhouse (both great) and went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay (awesome!). We loved our 5 days in Oahu before our cruise!
On the 23rd we left the Hilton and went to the Aloha Tower cruise ship pier. About a 10 minute taxi ride (but avoid taxis in Hawaii if you can! very expensive and some of the cabbies will rip you off by keeping you in the car for a long time on purpose). Embarkation was EASY. Very organized and moved quickly. They even let us on early (got there before 1pm). We were on the ship in 30 minutes at most. Aloha Tower is a very nice pier (some of the other Hawaii piers look more industrialized and aren't as nice). Now I knew going in that we would be some of the only younger people on the ship, but I was even surprised that it seemed about 85% of the cruise were over 60 years old. I don't have a problem with older people—I love them! But by the end of the cruise we were wishing for some younger companions, and more activities geared toward our age group. We are in our mid 20s and it was very hard meeting people our own age. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Spirit overall is a nice ship. It always appeared clean and I didn't think it was falling apart (some other reviews have said this). It didn't seem dated to me (just the TVs!). We never had long waits getting on or off the ship, even when tendered.
We had an aft extended balcony stateroom. The balcony was a nice size, and so was our room. I thought the bed was comfy, and the bathroom was a decent size. It looks like some child had scribbled on the couch in our room (or that is what it seemed like), the seat had pen scribble on it. That was kind of annoying. You would think Carnival would clean it up, replace the cushion. Oh well. The TV in the rooms are dated. They really should be upgrading to widescreen flat screens. The picture and sound quality was poor. We had better picture and sound quality on the mini-screens on our flights. Rented a movie off the TV for $8 and it wasn't worth it because of the quality of the TV. Channel selection was OK but not great. Overall, aside from the pen mess and the TV, we were pleased with our room. The cleaning staff was nice, and did a good job of taking care of our room (and of course the towel animals were great!). If anything, they were a little over eager to clean. We had to always have the Privacy sign outside our door whenever we were there, for fear that they would barge in (happened a couple of times early on in the cruise).
DINING- Lido deck food was average. Some of it was pretty good, some of it wasn't very good. The pizza was horrible! We love 24 hour pizza and ice cream, but the pizza was never good..seemed like it was always under cooked. The Empire dining room was our favorite part of the entire cruise. We really looked forward to dinner each night. We did the Your Time dining, which was great...got to go to dinner whenever we wanted, had a different table each night, and didn't have to sit with strangers. Got to sit just the 2 of us, perfect for our honeymoon. Food was generally always very good. Servers and hosts were friendly and good at their jobs. We did the $30 a person Steakhouse one night and didn't think it was that great. We had better steak in the regular dining room. And the Steakhouse tried to be way too fancy in its presentation, kind of pretentious...I mean come on—it's Carnival...the Funships! Be fun! If I wanted a snobby cruise I wouldn't be on a Carnival ship! Steakhouse not worth it in my opinion—go to the regular dining room! We had different servers each night, but Martina was our favorite...she suspected it was our honeymoon (correct!) and brought us cake with candles and sang Happy Honeymoon to us!
Common areas - Lots of lounges and places to relax. All kinds of different dEcor. Some of it was a bit too loud for my taste, but it's a cruise ship, what do you expect. Dancin' club was awesome. I like dance clubs and this one was great. Too bad it was empty most nights. We did have one fun night there. Pharoh's Palace, where the shows were, was nice. Internet in the library was slow most of the time. But the library was cozy. Casino was a fun time.
Entertainment & Activities - this is where the age thing comes into play. We are sure that if we were over 50 we would have had an awesome time on this ship. Most of the activities in the Fun Times seemed to be geared toward the older crowd. We did see a few shows (just OK —the Carnival dancers are good) and played Bingo. One night later on in the cruise, at the first formal night, we finally managed to meet a few couples our own age and hung out with them in the dance club that night. That was a good time. DJ was great. Our 5 days at sea seemed like forever and by the end of the cruise we couldn't wait to go home. It would have been cool if Carnival had a social meet and greet for honeymooners or 20/30 somethings so that we could meet some more people our age. I understand that they are going to gear the cruise activities more for the older crowd since that is the majority, but we were kind of bored. We did a 4 night Bahama Carnival cruise a few years ago and had a blast on that ship. This was a bit dissapointing compared to that. HAWAII PORTS OF CALL We did not do any of the organized Carnival excursions. Most of them were too expensive, if you compare the price you pay for making your own arrangements. I also like the freedom of not being on an organized tour. Arranged our own days for Kauai, Hilo, and the first day in Maui. In hindsight, it would have been worth it to book an excursion in Kona, and maybe the 2nd day in Maui.
HONOLULU - The 2nd day on the cruise, we were still in Honolulu, so we decided to do the historic walking tour on our own time. Saw Iolani Palace, and the other sites in the area. Nice day. When the Spirit left the Aloha Tower pier, got some amazing pictures of Honolulu and Waikiki, and Diamondhead.
KAUAI - 3rd day of cruise. I booked with Wings Over Kauai Airplane tours. It is a small family run business, and my husband and I were able to go up in our own charter, just the 2 of us and the pilot, in a 4 passenger plane. And it was way cheaper than a helicopter tour! They even provided transportation to and from the airport, and took our picture and gave us a DVD of our tour. Kauai is so beautiful. We got to see a lot of parts of the island that are not accessable by car, including the Napali coastline. Truly breathtaking. I have unbelieveable pictures. Worth every penny. Wish we had more time to spend in Kauai. One day not enough!
KONA - 4th day of cruise. We didn't plan anything for Kona, and I wish we had. We left the ship (which was tendered—but this was not a problem and the tendering process was well organized) and decided to just see where the day took us. Kona is like a cute little beach town. Had fun walking around and took a trolley ride down the coast. Pleasant day, but I feel like we should have done more with it.
HILO - 5th day of cruise. Planned a full day in Hilo! We rented a car (which I planned in advance) and drove to Akaka Falls, Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, Rainforest Zoo, and the Black Sand Beach. A full day...we left around 9 and got back on the ship around 5. Everything we saw was beautiful! Decided to skip Volcano since my research said it takes an entire day to get the most out of the park, and I'm not all that interested that I wanted to use our entire day for it. If we are ever back on the Big Island, we'll check it out.
MAUI, day 1. 6th day of cruise. Rented a car and drove to Lahaina Town. We had tickets for Old Lahaina Luau and went early to check out historic Lahaina. Loved it! Wish that the ship had docked on this side. Great day! Luau was great! We loved it! Everyone should do a luau in Hawaii. I almost cried at sunset because it was our last real night in the islands.
MAUI, day 2. 7th day of cruise. We took a taxi to the nearest beach, which ended up costing us as much as a rental would have cost. Wish I had done another rental this day and went back to a beach in Lahaina. Or even maybe done some kind of whale watching excursion. I think we will be back to Maui because I feel like there is a lot that we would like to do there. 2 days not enough!
The last 5 days of the cruise seemed very long. The ship rocked around a lot and sleeping was difficult sometimes. I don't get seasick ever but was sick one entire morning and afternoon. I'm not sure if it was something I ate or the ship rocking. My husband did not get sick, just me. As stated above, we loved the food in the dining room. Enjoyed relaxing, but 5 days at sea when the weather is cold outside and rainy was not fun. We were ready to come home. Loved the islands and the first 7 nights. 12 days just too long for us, with not enough people our age. In the future, we will stick to 7 night cruises. Side note...Vancouver was a sight compared to Hawaii! Beautiful in a whole new way...like Honolulu, only the mountains have snow on them! Kind of interesting to start off a cruise in Honolulu and end up in Vancouver. Disembarking was easy. We booked airport transfers through Carnival and were the 3rd or 4th zone called to get off the ship. Very organized and ran smoothly. Made it to the airport in plenty of time for our noon flight.
Overall....it was a good cruise. We did have a good time. I think cruises are what you make of them, and maybe we could have tried harder to be more involved in the various things going on in the ship, but a lot of it didn't appeal to us. We like to hang by the pool, do activities during the day, and party at night and the weather and age range wasn't the best atmosphere for that. Of course I knew it would get colder on the way to Vancouver, but sea day #2 it was already freezing outside! I still love Carnival and cruising, just will not do such a long one in the future.