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Carnival Spirit Cruise Review by Kentskie

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Carnival Spirit
Carnival Spirit
Member Name: Kentskie
Cruise Date: October 2011
Embarkation: Los Angeles
Destination: Mexican Riviera
Cabin Category: VS
Cabin Number: 4237
Booking Method: Cruise Line
See More About: Carnival Spirit Cruise Reviews | Mexican Riviera Cruise Reviews | Carnival Cruise Deals
Member Rating   4.0 out of 5+
Dining 4.0
Public Rooms 2.0
Cabins 4.0
Entertainment 1.0
Spa & Fitness 3.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Shore Excursions Not Rated
Embarkation 4.0
Service 3.0
Value-for-Money 4.0
Rates 4.0
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Ship Facts: Carnival Spirit Review (by Cruise Critic!) | Carnival Spirit Deck Plans
Spirited Away To Mexico
Embarkation: We saw the ship coming in from our hotel and realized it was late so we adjusted our schedule so as to arrive later. We got to the pier a bit before one and thanks to our sweet suite status sailed through. We did talk to people who even with VIP status had boarding issues. The rooms weren't ready yet so we went to the Lido for lunch. It was very crowded which is to be expected on sailing day when the rooms aren't ready. One person with whom I spoke said that he went for a cheeseburger and they couldn't find the cheese which led him speculate that it might be where it was yesterday.

Accommodations: Our suite was a Vista Suite which is in the back of the ship and has a good wrap around balcony. The suite is so tiny it would appear as if our friend had made it for one of her miniature rooms. Neither my wife or I are gymnasts or lithe dancers but we do generally manage to maneuver through the world without bumping into things but we found in this room that it was nearly impossible to keep from hitting your head or bumping a shoulder or elbow however after a few days we managed. The suite is not badly decorated with signed and numbered prints and a special shout out about the drapes which are bordering on decorator elegant. We have a living room, dressing room, walk in closet, bathroom etc. but not large any of them. In fact the drawers by the bed are so small you can't even put a magazine in them. And when you open the drawers the whole night stand tips over. The space between the wall and the bed is very mingy. The bathroom is large with two sinks and plenty of storage. There is a bathtub with a shower. The living room is adequate. There is a desk, a chair, and a table. The balcony is large and is blessedly covered. You can close off the bedroom and dressing room area for privacy. The hallway is grand and has a glass shelf on one side and a "for no apparent reason" marble shelf on the other that is too small to put anything other than a small toothpick collection on it. The closet is large with very adequate storage. The dressing room is a good size as well. There are windows along the back and side which makes it a great room from which to watch the world sail by. One interesting note is that they have to VHS players in the room. Why? I can't imagine many people traveling with some of their old VHS tapes and it would appear there are none to be borrowed. Which brings us to the TV's which didn't work well and the remotes were a joke. The room is a bit 'down at heel' for example one of the covers for the recessed lighting is held on with packing tape. When we arrived we discovered a pile of peanut shells hidden behind a drape. No doubt a gift from the previous occupant and it is understandable that they were missed as they were hidden behind a drape and sheer that were tied back but still. I do not blame our room steward Nengah who is and was a paragon of service going above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. When we found something amiss it was immediately corrected by the room steward and checked upon by his supervisor.

Suite perks:

A word about suite perks on Carnival. There aren't any except for a larger room and priority boarding and disembarkation. Only the Staten Island Ferry and the Cabo Tenders have fewer perks and you could feasibly get priority boarding and disembarkation on the Cabo tender if you played your cards right. Since most other lines pamper their suite guests this is an area in which Carnival is sorely remiss.

Service: The service ranges from excellent to "don't bother me I'm only on this job until the inheritance comes through". Overall there is a certain sense of ennui about the crew. They serve you adequately but lack the warmth that is found on most cruise lines. I enjoy talking to the people who work aboard and expanding my horizons by finding out about them and their countries. The ability to communicate in English seemed very limited amongst a large portion of the crew and made not only conversations but routine requests difficult. I know some cruise lines train their workers in English and promote them as it improves. It might behoove Carnival to do likewise. It's difficult when even a phrase is not comprehended and since I speak only English with a smattering of Spanish and German and just a shake of French I was frustrated trying to communicate with those people who spoke Ukranian, Russian, Tagalog, Hindi, Hungarian, Thai, etc.

On most ships the bar service is excellent but it is a weak point on this ship. If you're a teetotaler no problem but if you enjoy a cocktail and wish to discuss the possibilities it becomes difficult. Best to stick with and water or the drink of the day. Bartenders also range from friendly to "Me? Serve you a drink? Are you kidding? I have far more important things to do."

It was amusing to listen to the captain's noon time report. The captain is Italian and the report was hysterical. It sounded like a comedy routine which was fun to listen to but didn't inspire great confidence in the masterof the ship. Not unlike when Foster Brooks did his drunk routine on an airplane. Funny but a bit off putting as well.

Service in the dining room is also spotty but tending toward the good. One night it would be smooth and flawless the next night it would be like a dress rehearsal for a comedy. Amusing but didn't get the food to us.

I am not alone in saying that the people who work in the shops are insufferable jackals who are rude and don't care.

Décor:

Well what can one say? The multi deck mural in the atrium looks like the prototype for a mural that was never finished. The "stained glass" lights are painted plastic and look like a project from Kiddie Carnival Camp.

The buffet looks like a Las Vegas coffee shop from the 60's that hasn't been updated since. The grillwork has blue glass balls where there are circles or rather had since evidently some passengers decided that pinching a towel wasn't enough and stole the blue glass balls. All around tacky, tacky, tacky

Overall Impressions: Times are tough and Carnival is obviously cutting back. For example they have eliminated bar snacks, free post cards, free cocktails at meet the main dude, shortened buffet hours etc. They were also very low on duty free liquor and didn't have items in the gift shop that were being featured on their in room videos. Tragically including the chocolate in the shape of a ship. If it weren't Carnival one would think they were about to go belly up, sail into the nearest port, and dump us all there as has been done by many cruise lines when they went broke.

Food:

One giant kudo to Carnival is the way that they handle their "Your Time Dining". On many ships and lines it is done very badly and lines can stretch as long as two hours. We rarely waited at all and if so only for a minute or two to get a table. One of the main reasons for the problem is that people on fixed time dining sneak into anytime dining which makes it crowded for those passengers who are really supposed to be there. Carnival does not allow this and thus the flow for people on free choice dining is smooth. The hostess was incredible and very efficient and friendly.

Another kudo to them for their room service which is amazingly fast. Although the menu is limited they get it there with lightning speed. I've been on ships where it took 45 minutes for iced tea.

One of the great things about this ship is the baked goods they are wonderful the breads are excellent and the pastries are great. My wife says that they reminded her of her mother's baked goods. The dough is light and flakey and they always have a few favorites and change others but always something good available. The pizzas were very good. Omelets made at the omelet station which is normally the pizza place were also excellent. I had mine with parmesan cheese instead of cheddar and it ramped it up a bit. Their bacon is delicious and thin and crisp. The scrambled eggs are scrambled eggs are scrambled eggs. They always have a variety of differing items at breakfast including eggs benedict, scotch eggs, various sausages etc.

We ate in the steak house much touted on these boards and found it wanting. The server became surly when we told her we wished to finish our cocktails before ordering. Since the joint was sparsely populated it wasn't a matter of needing the table. The appetizers were both good and bad. The Escargot on the good side, the shrimp were mealy, The Caesar salad was one of the best I'd ever tasted. I ordered the surf and turf (I know. I know. But I did,) The lobster and steak were both tough. My wife had a filet that was very tender. Since we both had filets it seemed odd to me that one would be tough and the other not. My wife had the caramel apple for dessert and thought it ordinary. I had the chocolate dessert which is really four small desserts and found it to be plate licking good. We had planned to eat there thrice but after the first meal we cancelled the rest of our reservations.

Dinner in the MDR was actually very good and had a lot of variety. They always had comfort food and an item called "Something you've always wanted to try." As an example I had excellent Carpaccio, lamb, brisket of beef etc. The desserts were also excellent but had the same items each day with one or two changes. Service in the MDR (we were on "Your Time Dining") ranged from excellent to "Oh god another passenger in my section."

Disembarkation

I must say that disembarkation has become a much smoother process since cruise lines dropped the cattle in the chutes mentality of getting off. This one was smooth and easy. One problem was the fact that there were no bathrooms until one went through customs.

Ports:

Ensenada: As many times as my wife and I have been to Mexico on cruises (many) we have never been to Ensenada. I had always heard about Hussong's and we had to go there. It did not disappoint. One rather expected Pancho Villa and the gang to saunter in at any moment. A great place opened in the 1890's. A lot of fun places to eat and drink around Hussong's. We went to one of them and had tableside made guacamole that was delicious. One of our favorite stores in Mexico is Michael's Gallery in Mazatlan which stocks very unique items. We despaired that we were not going to Mazatlan on this trip not only because we love the town but because we always find amazing things at Michael's. We found this wonderful store along the main street named Bazaar Casa Ramirez which has an incredible selection of unusual items from all over Mexico. We were thrilled and found some great things there. After that we went to a restaurant for drinks and snacks and then taxied back to the ship. Amazingly enough it was the same price as the hot crowded bus that we came took into town.

Cabo San Lucas: (Day 1)

Fortunately Carnival uses the Cabo tenders which are ever so much better than using the lifeboats. Ever so much better. Ever. They are open and thus cooler.

We got to Cabo and took a taxi to the Hotel Mar de Cortez our favorite hotel. Not touristy and more like the Cabo of old before it became LA Sounth. As they say in their brochure "A charming and popular colonial style hotel in the center of what was once a quaint fishing village." We had drinks there.

It was hotter than a fire on a griddle in July. We shopped a bit and bought nothing and went on to El Squid Roe where we had a delicious lunch. They make the salsa at your table and is it good. We had tequila con Sangrita (sort of the Mexican equivalent of a Bloody Mary tequila in one glass the Sangrita in another. The Sangrita is made with citrus and chili. Delicious.) and margaritas then we ordered Victoria chicken and if you do nothing else in Cabo avoid the Victoria Chicken but we also had quesadillas which were wonderful and most of their food is too. The service is as warm as Cabo and friendly.

Then on to the big shopping center which has far fewer shops than before but it is much cooler. Sad the bit about the shops not about cooler cooler is good especially with a hot temperature outside. We went to our favorite liquor store and bought some Herradura Reposado our new favorite tequila. Then we took a picture of the metal pirate. I said to him in Spanish that he must be hot in his outfit. He answered in American English. "It's not so bad." Blazing international connections wherever I go.

Then to the drug store and home in a taxi. Long wait on the water taxi but we finally got back to the ship and cool blessed cool. The water taxi guy sat us on top so we caught the breeze. He stopped when I wanted to take a picture of the ship so I could get a better shot. Very, very nice.

Cabo San Lucas: (Day 2)

We decided to view Cabo from afar and stayed on board.

I find it interesting that we sailed away from Cabo the first day and circled during the night and came back the next day. We are booked on a Princess Cruise that also does two days in Cabo but stays in Cabo overnight. When I asked why I got a myriad of answers including "It's the law." "Too difficult and dangerous to tender at night." etc. When I told them about Princess they finally said that if they stayed in Cabo they couldn't open the casino and shops. More likely the truth.

Puerto Vallarta

Having been there many times we just returned to favorite haunts. Cocktails at the River Cafe along the Rio Cuale.

A visit to the local market.

Lunch at La Destileria overlooking the Malecon. Delicious food and a great view refreshing ocean breezes and at the end a complimentary trio of tequilas to taste. While we were dining Mariachis played and a Native band with dancers came through.

We finished up at our favorite bar with a drink with our favorite bartender.

Manzanillo

We were greeted by locals playing music as we disembarked.

I hadn't been there in years. I stayed twice at Las Hadas and was eager to see it again. We hired a taxi with a wonderful driver who showed us the destruction from the recent hurricane and gave us an excellent tour of the area.

We went to Las Hadas. It is still nice but far from the spectacular hotel it once was.

Our driver took us back into town and we were fascinated by the downtown area. Very authentic. The market was wonderful bustling and filled with wonderful sights, sounds, and smells. Back along the Malecon we found a great place called the Bar Social. They had delicious bar snacks and good drinks and a man in the corner playing the guitar and singing. It was out of a movie. Great place.

Publication Date: 12/04/11
Read the Mexican Riviera ports review by Kentskie
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