This part is going to be mostly about the ship. The review of the ports are below.
Let me start out that over all we enjoyed our trip. We LOVED Hawaii and hope to go back. We felt that for our first visit this was the way to see some of the best of what the islands had. Definitely not enough time on them, but gave us a good taste of what they had to offer.
I'll start with the not so good for the ship. It's quite the story. From the start it had some faults. Check in was horrible. The lines were so long and we got there when our papers said to be there (at 1:00). There were computers not in use, which I think is not right when you know you have about 2,000 people you are trying to get on board. If you are a VIP, frequent cruiser to Carnival, then I'm sure this process is much better, but for those of us that aren't its pure torture!
I was told I did not need a passport and could use my birth certificate, which I did, and I was also told I did not need to bring along my marriage certificate, just my drivers license with picture, which I did. When we finally had the chance to get up the counter to check in, they told me I needed my marriage license! What a mess. They did finally let me go but with a "warning" next time to bring it or get a passport and then a "Welcome to Carnival and good luck at customs getting off without the marriage license. They will probably understand". When we stopped and turned around to ask what she meant by that, she just said all should be ok. Just wonderful do we get on the ship or not? We went ahead and figured we'd worry about that when it came time to get off. People at Carnival need to get on the same page with the papers you need to check in.
After the long wait to check in we were herded over to an area to get a boarding number. Upon receiving it we were told that all the sitting areas were full and to find something out where we were now and they would be calling our number. There was nothing around and we saw some people going through security and figured they were VIP. We opted to go outside and sit on some of the planters they have out there. It was very windy, but not too cool so it wasn't bad except for all the people out there smoking.
We were outside about hour when a man came outside and said that some room had opened up inside if we wanted a seat inside. We got up to go inside and could see not seating at all. I don't know what he was talking about. We walked around to see if there was another lounge area with seating and didn't see a thing, but we did see people getting their boarding numbers and going straight into the security line. Their numbers could not have been called without ours being called because ours was about 9 numbers in front of theirs!
We tried to find someone to help us, but no one that worked at the port or for Carnival could tell us anything. I finally approached a person that just got their number and was heading towards security and asked them if they were told they could go ahead through security or were they just doing it? She told me you can proceed through security at any time and just wait in the lounge areas they have after security until they call your boarding number. Why couldn't someone from Carnival or the port tell us that? So I'm telling you now, once you get your boarding number you can go through security and find a seat on the other side.
If you are sitting on the other side of security, the side before you go through it, you do not hear them calling out the boarding numbers. We did not have too long of a wait once we made it through security and had we stayed on the other side we would not have known they were calling our number.
After your number is called you proceed to an area to file past an area that you put in your sail and sign card and get your picture taken. Once through there you walk out of the building and then get into another line to enter the maze to get onto the ship. It is a glass covered gang plank, for lack of a better word for it. It's a huge line that goes back and forth about 5 times before you step onto the ship deck.
I think there needs to be a different boarding area for those in wheelchairs instead of trying to push them through the lines of people waiting to board. Trying to get people to crunch over to one side so the wheelchairs or motorized chairs can go through is hard to do. I don't mind that they need additional help (I think I'll soon be joining their ranks), I just think it would be easier for all if there was another place they could get on the ship or else you stop the lines occasionally and put them on in groups.
I know many of the people in the chairs were apologizing as they were going by and I felt bad for them that they felt they needed to do that. I didn't feel they needed to. I'm sure they would have rather have been standing in line. It's the workers that were pushing them that were sometimes rude. That is why I say if there could be a different area for those that needed the additional assistance it would be better for all and maybe they wouldn't be so uncomfortable either.
When we finally made it through the ship doors we were greeted with Carnival workers passing out silk leis. It was finally like...we're on vacation! Very nice. Until we made it to the elevators! They asked that you use the central bank; however, they did not mean the whole central bank. Some were blocked from use because they were using them to get the luggage to the people.
I totally understand that they want to get people their things as quickly as possible. What I don't understand is how rude people waiting for a free elevator can be! The pushing and shoving that was going on. Come on now people. We all had to wait to get on and we all were waiting and wanting to get to our rooms.
Once we made it onto the elevator (hint, we took it down and then back up) our room was ready, which was nice. Right away I noticed that the chairs on our balcony were too small for me to sit in with my leg and asked our steward for something different. That issue never got solved so for me the extended balcony was an additional fee I didn't need to pay because I didn't get full use of it. I don't understand why the chairs on the balcony aren't the same size as the chairs on the Lido deck. I was fine in those.
Now onto the food issue. My understanding was that Carnival just changed their menu on all of their ships. I wish I could have tasted what they offered before because as far as I was concerned, the new menu was horrible! I had to really search long and hard to find something good to eat. You can only eat so much salad.
On our first cruise (Celebrity) on their formal night they did lobster and Prime rib, as did this cruise. The difference? On this cruise the lobster tail was about the size of a piece of perch once you took the "meat" off the shell and on our first cruise it was a nice big "regular" sized piece of lobster tail. I would say you'd have to order about 6 maybe 7 of the lobster tails on this cruise to equal one normal sized one. Very disappointing. We didn't bother going to the second formal night.
My final complaint of the ship is the excursions they offer. Maybe I'm picky, but for the most part they didn't offer much that interested me. I'd like a part of one and then a part of another. It made it had to pick out what to do so we rented cars on the first two islands and then used the Trolley by Honolulu.
Carnival did offer a couple of different snorkel adventures; however, the type of boat they use for this is not suitable for everyone, especially me. I can't ride in one of those raft type boats and I certainly can't climb back into the boat with that type of ladder. Many people had this same complaint.
I wrote to Carnival regarding this issue when I found a boat in Kona called the Body Glove that was a boat I could snorkel from and requested they look into making a contract with them so all of us could snorkel. The reply I got was they could not do it (I'm thinking it might be a breach of contract with whoever they contracted with already, but something needs to be done for those that can't use the one they have booked already). I talked with Body Glove because Kona is a tender port and since I'm not a frequent cruiser and not "legally" handicapped I would not get on the tender in enough time to do their trip. Body Glove was so nice since so many of us on this cruise wanted to do their adventure, they changed their start time. Much more accommodating than Carnival was (by the way, it was wonderful, you should check them out!!!).
That all being said, this was Carnival Spirit's first 15 day cruise so they had some things to learn from it. They have room to tweak things if they want to continue to offer this cruise. I hope they'll be reading people's reviews so it will help to make a better time for future people sailing with them.
I know some of this may seem petty, but these are things that can make or break a vacation. Many of these things can be adjusted and improvements made so they don't happen to make for better cruising.
Something that Carnival had no control over was the weather. While on ship it wasn't very good. We had a lot of gloomy days and right off the bat we had very high seas with a lot of rocking and rolling. Our understanding was that about 1/4 of the crew was even seasick! They did have their "little white bags" taped up all over the ship if you needed them. Thank goodness I didn't need any use of them!!! DH wasn't feeling well, but after two days he started to feel better also (a little dry toast, green apples, and ginger ale along with some Dramamine did the trick).
Also some good advice from our server the first night was to stay out of the bathroom (too closed in) and get out of the room and onto a lower deck where it's wide open and try to see as far as you can..but don't look out the windows. We went down into the atrium area and it seemed to work out pretty good.
On the good side of our cruise, I found that for the most part most of the workers were very, very friendly and greeted you with a smile and a hello (except for the guys by the pizza area!). Our room was kept nice and the room steward and helper were very good when we accidentally broke a glass while the seas were not cooperating with their high waves! Our steward and helper remembered our names from the start and that's always nice too. We got many cute towel animals each evening, as well as our beds turned down and the mints on our beds.
I did buy a soda card and one young man from the very first time I asked for a soda remembered me and what I drank and every time he saw me would ask if I'd like another, which was nice. It didn't matter if I was by the pool, in a lounge or in the main show room, he remembered me.
It was nice they had some desserts that were sugar free; however, I wish they offered a little more variety of them (just changing the flavor, but having the same thing starts to get old on this long of a cruise). I was happy for the effort to have them though.
I liked that the captain of the ship came over the speakers every day but I wish he'd say something that we'd understand a little better. I especially liked that he did come on one of the days the weather was extremely bad and many people were worried if the ship could take the beating it was taking with the high seas and winds (it was really creaking and I was just starting to get a little worried...never seasick like so many other, but just wondering since this was its first time). He assured everyone that ship was handling everything fine (there were a few people that were sitting with their life jackets by them and that was when I got a little worried wondering if they knew something I didn't...but I looked at some of the crews faces when they were walking by and didn't see any worry in them so I figured we were ok for now). It would be nice to have a weather update besides saying no changes for the day. Maybe let us know what the next day was going to look like and what the temp of the day was?
There was a nice variety of things to do on the ship also. My only suggestion would be to have back up plans when something happens and you can't carry through with the first plan (like when the decks were closed because of the high seas so those things got canceled and nothing was in its place so it made for some sitting around for some people and they weren't happy). For us, we enjoy lounging by the pool and with the bad weather, that didn't happen. Not Carnival's fault though...so I got a lot more reading done. We also sat down in the Atrium area and enjoyed what was going on there and a lot of the music they offered there.
We didn't participate in the events that were offered; however, we did go and view those that did for many different ones. A lot of fun was had by those that participated and those watching.
Each of the islands had their own unique thing about them. It was very hard to pick a favorite. Best advice I'd give is to make sure to either carry an umbrella or poncho for the islands. It may be sunny when you get off the ship, but things can change quickly. I brought the items from home, but left them on the ship. Live and learn. We didn't mind getting wet though. It was warm and I was in Hawaii!!!
The only excursion we did through the ship was in Kauai and it was the Hollywood Movies and Waterfalls. I really liked it because we got to see so much of the island and learn a lot about quite a few places. I felt it was worth the price and I was glad we ate at a restaurant instead of on the beach someplace. The food was very good (a burger, but good!). You could also see beautiful waterfalls from way up in the mountains coming down and it was kind of gloomy that day so I can imagine how it looked on a clear day!
As much as I got aggravated with all the people wanting to take pictures of you on the ship, I'm glad we finally took advantage of it the night before our last night. They did a wonderful job. Much better than I thought it was going to turn out and now wished I would have taken advantage of them a little more often. Again, live and learn! I'm just glad we got a really nice picture of the two of us. The ones they take while you get off the ship didn't turn out so great so I was glad we did this and we have a good one of us together.
Bingo can get out of hand. It was quite pricey and they kind of have you hooked when they do the progressive. You figure you've donated a couple of times so you need to try to win it back. Also on the pull tabs they offer. They say you have 12 chances to win, but in reality you only have 11 because the very last pull is either a no win one or if you won higher up on the card it verifies what you won on that one, so really you only have 11 chances...just a FYI on that one. These pull tab cards have an additional card at the bottom that you tear off and put in a bin in the casino that they draw at the end of the cruise to pay off your bar tab up to I believe it was $500. My hubby threw ours away on the first day because we don't drink, but they will pay for your sodas too so don't toss them! Make sure to place them into the bin in the casino or else give them to someone else to use.
The placement of our cabin was great. We were in room 7237. This was midship and close to the stairs and the elevators there. We had no excessive noise from any of it. On our balcony we could see to the front of the ship; however, we could not see to the back because the rooms next to us jutted out from the side of the ship there. It was fine with us. If we wanted to see behind us, just go on deck or turn on the tv to that channel. Looking down, there was a life boat below us, but you could still see the water. If we took Spirit again, I'd definitely pick this cabin again (especially if they'd get larger chairs for sitting on the deck!).
We did not hear any noise above or below us either. Sometimes in the bathroom you could hear the "neighbors" if, and that's if, they were yelling (like someone being in the bathroom with the door closed and "yelling" out to someone in the cabin..never heard any-ones "business" going on though! Of course on your balcony you could hear others out on theirs, but you only saw them if they were leaning over the railing below you. FYI..never any cigarette smoke came on our balcony and I know a floor down and a room or two over there was a guy smoking on his, but it never came up to us.
We had plenty of room for all of our things in our room. I did bring an over the door shoe bag for the bathroom and that worked out great too. The shower looked to be so small, but once in it, there was plenty of room to wash up and not be hitting the shower curtain. The power in the shower head was great too.
I did hear this noise in the bathroom sink like there was a ping pong ball in there and as we rocked back and forth you hear it making a noise. It was driving me nuts and I figured out if you close the stopper on the sink it stops. That took care of that!
The steakhouse was delicious! This is what I would expect of the main dining room though. I don't think it's right to have a restaurant on the ship that you have to pay additional money to eat there...even if it's "only" $30 per person. By the time you tip you're well on your way to almost $100 per night for 2 people.
Getting off the ship is a whole can of worms! It was much worse than getting on, I can tell you that!!! They need to change this and fast. When I was booking I specifically asked what time we would be off so I know when I should book our return flight because we could NOT spend another night away from home. They told me any time after 12pm and we would make our flight fine, so I went with that information and I booked a 1:40pm flight from LAX. Carnival told me I would have no problems at all making that flight, so I didn't worry.
That is until I hear other people on the ship saying they were asking to get off ship because they had an early flight and they told them they would have a number 2 and they would be fine. Everyone would be off ship by 11:30am. That made me feel a little better.
We get up on our last morning, get everything else packed that we used that morning and didn't pack the night before and set out and headed to breakfast. They requested you be out of your room by 8am and we were in plenty of time.
We had a nice breakfast (where was this food during the cruise???) and then headed for floor #2 (they asked that you stay off of floor #3). We didn't stay on the Lido because there were a lot of sick people (coughing so much) and we were trying to stay well. We made it down to #2 and there were no seats anyplace to be had. I found the stairs and we sat....and sat...and sat. No announcements were being made and no people or numbers being called. Now I'm beginning to worry.
Its 10am and nothing. The line at guest services is really long so no asking anyone there. No employees to be found either and the crowd is turning mean!
We ended up moving because one guy was really angry and there is no telling when people get like that what they may do. We moved off towards the casino area.
As we were walking we see people going up to #3...Hmm, no one called though. Then one man says they are "self-service" and carrying their own luggage off. Finally Stu, the cruise director, comes on and chastises people for getting in line when not called and it's holding up things so he asks them to leave the lines and allow it to proceed the way it's planned. Didn't happen. Now more people are going up to #3 and getting in this line that is not supposed to be there.
By the looks of the line it's going to take a long time to get off and we will probably miss our flight. DH decides to go and get in line anyway even though we're not called and we're now one of the ones not listening to Stu! I went up to #3 also and sat on the main stairs while DH got in line.
About 10:30am he's finally by where I'm sitting so I join him. As I get in line Stu calls for numbers 1 & 2 to get in line. Now I feel better...but it's still a long, long wait.
Once we get to the area to get off ship I see what is holding everything up. The customs people are on the ship instead of in the warehouse area and there are 4 of them and only 3 are sitting looking at papers! Now get this, 3 workers for 2,000 people! Not only that, but they started with all of the foreign people first. This is the US and we pay the taxes here so I think we should go first...but that's just me. FYI: Customs didn't even ask me for the marriage license!
Once off the ship, it was quite a walk, but we made it and down to our luggage area and it was just as they said it would be. With your debark number for each section. We found our section, found our luggage and found a porter to cart it outside for us. Our limo wasn't there so we just took a taxi ($60) to LAX.
It was now 12:15pm and our plane takes off at 1:40. I thought for sure we might miss it, but the airport security went much quicker than I thought it was going to (first time being full body scanned!). We even had time to grab a bite to eat and make it to the bathroom before boarding our flight, thank goodness! Didn't have any extra time to spare though and didn't linger over lunch either.
As I said when I started out, there were many things that I didn't care for on the ship, but there were other things that were good (forgot to mention the acts they had for entertainment...hit and miss too. Everyone is different in their likes and dislikes though so what I didn't like someone else loved, and vice versa). Would I take this trip again? I sure hope I get the chance to. Would it be with Carnival? I'd have to see if they changed things around some before saying if there were other ships making the same trip. If they were the only ship doing it, I'd probably do it just so I could see Hawaii again (flying is out for me because I have a DVT and it's too long of a flight).
I'm sure you'll find many people agreeing with me on these things and I'm just as sure you'll find those that disagree with me. As I said, we're all different, but I wanted to tell it like it was for us. I hope this helps others and I especially hope Carnival looks at all the reviews and tries to improve the things that they can.