Sailed aboard the Carnival Spirit, departed San Diego on Sunday, 28 November, 2010. We had Cabin 5133, standard balcony on the upper deck. This was our second cruise, the first being on the Elation in July of 2008.
Arrived at the terminal at 1300 (1 PM), joined the cattle call into the "loading chutes" and waited. Each "chute" has parallel rows of bench seats facing each other, and there are 6 or 7 chutes in total. They would "unload" one chute at a time, in sequential order, into the queue for customs/security. All things considered, our total wait time until we were walking up the brow (gangway) and boarding the ship was about an hour! Pretty efficient.
Once aboard, headed to the elevators and to our deck and cabin. I had already printed out the plans to the ship and so knew where to go. Our cabin was ready and waiting for us!
Enjoyed the view from the balcony of San Diego and the action on the terminal below. The ship was supposed to get underway at 1700 (5 PM), but it was 90 minutes late. Found out later that this seems to be a frequent issue with the Spirit, for some reason or other. So, I missed getting some sunset pictures of the city as we sailed out of the bay. :-(
About our cabin: I use a CPAP machine, which came with a rather short power cord (36 inches). Fortunately I had the foresight to bring along an extension cord, as the AC power outlet was on the opposite side of the room, away from the head of our bed. This could have made for a bad situation, as I don't know if I would have been unable to obtain a loaner from the room steward.
Second item: I am a former smoker, and am extremely sensitive to the smell of cigarette smoke in my proximity. Unfortunately, the folks in the cabin forward of us were smokers, and every time they lit up on their balcony, I was "smoked" off of mine.
NOTE TO CARNIVAL: As I realize that non-smoking cruise ships are money losers, how about limiting the smokers to specific cabins and/or decks, so that those "downwind" from their cabins can enjoy the fresh sea air on their balcony's, instead of stepping out and smelling "a Camel!" :-)
NOTE TO CARNIVAL: We could not hear the announcements from the cruise director or the Captain, in our cabin, without having to run to the door and hold it partway open, sometimes for some rather lengthy announcements. How about adding a speaker in the cabin, equipped with a volume/mute control?
Another cabin note, had to ask to have the mini-bar unlocked.
Also the beds did not seem as comfortable as those on the Elation.
All other observations about the cabin are positive. Plenty of drawer and hanger space.
The two at-sea days on the way to Acapulco were enjoyable. Had dinner the second night in the Nouveau Steak House. Paid $30 per person extra, but the steak was melt-in-your-mouth delicious! Worth a try. The view would be spectacular - if it weren't dark outside! Couldn't see a blessed thing. Pity they aren't open for lunch! :-)
Maybe we should have booked for a night when we were in port???
The rest of the meals were consumed in the formal dining room (Empire room), or in the La Playa Grill. I grabbed burgers and hot dogs/fries a couple of times from the grill by the pool.
NOTE TO CARNIVAL: Several times the wife and I got our food and went to find a place to sit (La Playa), only to discover that all of the tables were taken; however, many of the 6 and 8 person tables were being used by one or two people, thereby wasting the other seats. On one occasion we finally "invited" ourselves to join a couple sitting at a table for 6. On another occasion, we were so frustrated searching for a table that we ended up setting our trays down, food and all, and just leaving. We ended up going down to the Empire room and ordering lunch there. Perhaps the tables should be reconfigured to allow for more "couples" seating, thereby freeing up more seating room?
At any rate, we figure that next time there is 'no room at the inn' we will just load our trays for traveling, and take our meals back down to our cabin! Yes, there is always room service, too! :-)
On the second night, I found that the forward observation decks and the jogging track were closed due to high winds. Give me a break! Both of these decks are closed-in behind 6 foot high Plexiglas wind screens! At worst someone might loose their hat! I enjoy going to the forward part of the ship at night, away from the ship lights, to watch the stars!
ACAPULCO: Late arriving, rushed to get off the ship and then waited for about an hour on the pier for everyone else on our tour to show up! What a zoo! The traffic in the city is crazy! And I thought traffic in the Philippines was bad! Fortunately, we booked a tour through Carnival to the Tehuacalco Archeological zone, and so our only exposure to Acapulco was driving through it! Rode in a 15 passenger van - a tight fit. The wife and I were unable to sit next to each other due to the layout of the seating, and other passengers boarding first. Also heard from the folks in the very back of the van that they had no air conditioning! It was a long drive there - about 70 minutes. The last section was on a narrow, winding road that buses would be unable to traverse (thus the need for the vans). Very enjoyable tour, our tour guide was very knowledgeable and friendly. Well worth the money. On the trip back, although we were within two blocks of the ship, we "had" to make the obligatory stop at the sponsored jewelry store, even though we were running late. Another couple on the tour had also booked the "Cliff divers at night" tour, and ended up missing their event.
We heard later aboard the Spirit that Carnival has canceled further port visits to Acapulco, due to the increasing violence in the city. Not a city to wander around on your own!
IXTAPA/ZIHUATANEJO: Took the city cultural tour. Air conditioned buses. Very pleasant, worth the money.
MANZANILLO: Arrived about 0600 (6 AM). Kept waiting to hear that the gangway was open, but never did. Our tour was supposed to meet at 0815 on the pier, so finally about 0800, the wife and I made our way down to A deck and discovered that passengers were already leaving! If we had waited in our cabin for an announcement, we would have missed the tour! Took the tour into Colima, about a 90 minute bus ride in air conditioned comfort. Bus had a rest room aboard, which was nice. Excellent lunch at a restaurant in Colima. Visited the archeological ruins on the outskirts of the city. Long day, but again, a very nice tour and well worth the money!
On a side note, on both our tour to Tehuacalco and our tour to Ixtapa, we noticed that there was a small pick-up truck loaded with five Federales, heavily armed with M-16 automatic rifles and side-arms. Rather, each day was a different truck. We were a little nervous at first, as they would appear at every stop we made, sometimes in the company of an ambulance. We asked our tour guide about them and were told that their presence was "just a coincidence" and not to worry. This worked for the first day, but when a new batch showed up on the second day, we knew something more was happening. They were stand-offish and never bothered us, and at one point later in the day, we began waving to them and they waved back. We finally figured out that they were "shadowing" us to keep us safe. This makes sense, as the tourist money coming in is very important to the local economies.
A health note: We purchased metal water bottles aboard the ship, filled them with water (Spirit water :-)) and crushed ice, and took them with us on our tours. Did not want any troubles with Montezuma, and none occurred!
The two at-sea days on our return to San Diego were pleasant. The first time I heard the cruise director on the loud speaker, I thought his voice sounded familiar. Later, we ran into the cruise director as we were re-boarding the ship from a tour. I asked him if he was the cruise director aboard the Elation in July of 2008, and he replied that he was. Stewart Dunn is his name - a very fun individual. I hope to run in to him again!
Our room steward was named Heru, and he did an outstanding job for us. Really attentive. Loved the towel animals. The wife was hoping to keep them until the last night, when we could line them up and take a group photo! Alas, they were recycled each day! :-)
NOTE TO CARNIVAL: You really need to get some pretzels or cocktail peanuts in the bars! They have salt, you know, and salt makes people thirsty. Thirsty people drink more, etc. etc.! Sure would be nice (and, they're cheap!) :-)
Maybe I will just bring some myself next cruise!
IN SUMMARY: We had a very enjoyable cruise. The ship is very clean and well maintained. I had to laugh when I read some reviews of the Spirit that noted that the ship was now 10 years old! They made it sound like the ship was a relic, ready for the breakers! On the contrary, the only damage we saw was done by some morons and cretins, who carved their names into the inside elevator doors in several places - hardly Carnivals fault!
While larger than the Elation we sailed aboard previously, we found the size of the Spirit just right for us. Well planned layout, easy to get around. In fact, we decided to take advantage of the $200 ship-board credit offer and booked a 15 day voyage aboard her to Hawaii in April of 2012. We "upgraded" to an extended balcony on the 7th deck, in the middle of the ship. Really looking forward to the trip!
So, THANK YOU, CARNIVAL for a very enjoyable 30th anniversary! :-)
See you in 16 months!