Ok, my only cruising experience before this was 20 years ago on the old norway so i dont have a lot of foundation to compare this trip to. The upsetting things to me, would probably be far more upsetting to those of you that have more experience on cruise lines.
And the truth is I'm coming from this from a different perspective then many readers. So a little background. im a single 42 year old guy whos aging mother is now retired and wants to see the world but has no one to take her. So she drafted me for this cruise when one of her friends became ill and couldn't join her.
For me, the good outwieghed the bad. And we'll get to the good in a bit. But the bad was downright maddening as it seems carnival inflicted most of its problems upon itself.
first, Embarkation in San Diego was rediculous. The Spirit had just come out of drydock (new flat screen tvs, a rebuilt bar on the back end of the lido deck, and some fitness equip upgrades) and arrived in San Diego completly unprepared for a 15 day cruise to Hawaii. So first, i had to stand for 4 hours on the pier waiting for Carnival to let us board as there were nowhere near enough chairs available. Then Stu the Cruise Director kept promising over and over again, we should be leaving shortly. Now for me, i was just waiting for the casino to open and otherwise didnt mind. Heck, San Diego is far better in January then Northwest Indiana so i was content. But my mother, who by the way has some health issues herself including a bad back made worse by all the waiting around, was downright angry about missing the ocean view of the sunset against the mountains.
Eventually, the very shortly in a few minutes arrived about 8 hours later we finally had our supplies on board and set sail around 11 pm, which was 12 hours after we were told to show up on the pier to board.
furthermore, this habit of Stu's promising things will be fixed very shortly or in just a few minutes, and then in acutality the time taking several hours, of even days, occurred over and over again. The bus for our lua excursion to paradise cove was stuck in traffic. Two hours later it showed up and we arrived as the food was already being served. The new water slide was going to be ready by day two of the cruise. Well im here in my Indiana home now, and the slide still aint ready.
My only other real complaint was the quality of food, mainly in the empire dining room (oh that and they failed to give us the dining time that was requested 7 months ago) not that it was all bad, the chefs do shrimp for example as well as anyone. But for God's sake a New York steak? how can anyone screw that up? They found a way. Prime rib was good filet mignon so so, overall the main dining hall was hit or miss depending on the dish. Also id stay away from the scrambled eggs on the lido deck. Both of us had minor nausea issues at different times that we think could be attributed to those eggs.
That said heres the good. The Carnival sponsored excursions to kilaueaua and haleakauma are awesome (if ya dont mind a harrowing mountain ride or two that is) and snorkeling in kona is a must do. even paradise cove was cool once we finally got there. The staff was quite friendly and eager to care for any guest needs. While most of the shows were run of the mill (but funny)comics or dance events, the main one called the big easy was a surprisingly good spectacle with absolutely amazing transitions between scenes and dance numbers.
Now the thing i was most pleased with on this ship wont be of interest to some of you. but with 5 sea days to Hawaii and back, it was perhaps the most important thing for me personally. The on board casino on the spirit was run like casinos in the mainland used to be run. With good live music every night. With waitresses (especially in the evening) that were always friendly and quick to refill your free after 1500 point alcohol beverages. And casino hosts that actually spent time mingling with the players and sent wine or the chocolate strawberries to room complimentary (excluding the losses of course) Dont misunderstand, the slots could be looser. But several did hit some pretty large payouts and overall the slot play was nearly the same as in the states. And most of the dealers were very outgoing and friendly with one or two exceptions.
Being a longer cruise while school is in session on the mainland there seemed to be an inordianate number of retirees on board. I guess adults with school aged kids couldnt get away long enough for the troop. So if carnival continues this cruise in future years, anyone thinking of taking kids along may want to consider they wont have too many of their own age to spend time with. And be prepared to be blindsided by an out of controll scooter a few times
The ship was kept very clean. While there was no organized theme to the appearance the variations of gaudiness lent themselves to an enjoyable atmosphere and loose time. And while stu wasnt very good at telling the truth about problems encountered along the cruise, he and his assistant gayve did have a quirky sense of humor that i appreciated and ingratiated me to them. My older mother however didnt share my appreciation for there brand of humor. Sort of a leno verses lettermen difference i guess. dinner may not have always tasted perfect, but the various dance numbers put on by the waiters made sure it was never boring. Oh, and the best talent on the ship was a waiter and aspiring singer named stuart from the philapines. Someone needs to discover that guy.
Mom is trying to talk me into joining her for a cruise again to alaska in August. Ill probably go if i dont use up the rest of my vacation at work by then. Will it be Carnival? Honestly it probably depends on what the vip casino membership I just gained will get us. But Carnival did just enough to overcome the difficulties to at least make them a consideration for us.
Hope this helps somebody out there. Happy cruising.