We just got home last Sunday from our 40th cruise overall - on the Carnival Spirit. I'm sure glad I didn't take the negative reviews to heart, because we found them to be quite unfair and didn't at all depict life on the Spirit. Overall, I found this cruise pretty darn wonderful, and the ship to be in great shape.
We flew into San Diego from SFO the morning of the cruise. We arrived at SAN at 12:15 and after a 10 minute taxi ride we arrived at the port. The line through secuity was a 15 minute wait - then onto the check-in line. We had been looking forward to the VIP Platinum line (no wait at all) but the regular line was moving quickly too, and their wait wasn't much longer than ours. By 1pm we were on the ship and heading to our cabin 5156. The sign let us know that the staterooms would be available after 1:30...so we headed up to Lido for lunch.
The Ship and Stateroom:
Some say it's older....and they're right. Still, the ship is in GREAT shape - and the decor and layout of the ship is wonderful. It's has a very unique design - check out some of the on-line pics and see what I mean. We booked a obstructed balcony cabin through the VIP Casino Player's Club special. I got an extra 25% off the lowest rate, plus $75 loaded onto my players card for the slots. Our cabin was a nice size...lots of room for the 4 suitcases full of stuff we brought. The rooms have been upgraded to include flat screen TVS, and there is a mini fridge, full-size sofa and hairdryer in each room. The bathroom is small but functional and also has a magnified mirror mounted to the wall, which proved to be pretty handy. Our cabin steward "Jonathan" was one of the best we've EVER had. He had a great attitude and kept everything spotless and perfectly functional while still being very un-intrusive.
The Ports of Call
My DH and I prefer to stay up until about 2:30 am and get up REALLY LATE when we're on a cruise - So, most of the time we didn't get up until nearly lunchtime. Since we had been to all these ports many times - the ship itself was our main focus, not the ports of call.
Manzanillo. We've been there a few times before, and chose to just wander around the shops close to the port for an hour or so.
Puerto Vallarta. My DH booked us on an excursion outside of Carnival before we left home. We were supposed to take a taxi and meet the group downtown in Old Town by 9:30. At 8:30 we left the ship and started looking for a taxi. The vans offered transportation to downtown for $3 pp each way. But, they needed to fill the van first. We were afraid of being late though. A taxi driver overheard and said he'd take us into town right away for $12 total - Uhm...okay. Once were in his cab and on our way, my DH showed him the address. At this point the driver said that it was MUCH further and it would cost $20 total. Are you kidding? But what could be do - right? The excursion was driving in our own dune buggies about 20 miles then going on a zip line, a trip to a tequila factory and lunch. The zip line was really fun but exhausting. I'm about 50+ lbs overweight and 56 years old.....the walking uphill climbing the steps to get to the zip line site was EXHAUSTING. After four of them I thought I was going to have a heart attack. When we got back to the dune buggy drop off location we found a cab to take us back to the ship. Cost? $3pp! Clearly we were robbed by that first cab driver!
Cabo San Lucas. We were here two days in a row. The first day we just stayed on the ship and relaxed. The 2nd day was my birthday so we took the tender and spent an hour or looking at things in the flea market and shops near the pier before heading back to the ship.
Ensenada. My hubby talked me into spending a little time in Ensenada and I'm actually glad I did. We've been there MANY times before, but it was a really nice day -- maybe 70 degrees and the town seemed far cleaner than usual that day. We took a shuttle ($3pp rt) into town and walked along the main street looking through the shops. We ended up getting quite a few little treasures -- all at a great price before heading back.
Breakfast - We only had breakfast once -- on disembarkation day, which we ate at the Lido buffet. I don't know if it really represented what everyone had on other days, but I found the selection to be VERY limited and the food just fair.
Lunch - As I mentioned earlier, for most days lunch was our first meal of the day -- which we ate at the Lido buffet or the poolside grill. Lido has their buffet sectioned into several food stations -- each one with its own line and unique menu. They included: Salad, Dessert, Pizza, Poolside Grill, Sandwiches, Asian, and Daily Selection (Italian, Caribbean, American, etc.) I found the pizza to be just okay -- with very little flavor. It was open 24 hours a day. Self service ice cream and frozen yogurt is also available 24 hours a day. The Grill offered hotdogs, burgers, fries, chicken fingers...etc. We ate there several days when we couldn't find anything we liked at the other stations. Tip....if you get the chicken fingers...they don't offer any dipping sauces at the grill. I was able to get some ranch at the salad station...but it's a bit of a hike. Overall I found the food selection at Lido to be very limited, and just okay.
Sushi -- Every day they offered sushi at no extra cost just outside the casino near the fountain lounge from 4p-7p. I'm not into sushi so I don't know firsthand how good it was, but my cousin and her husband ate there a few times and said it was delicious.
Dinner -- We opted for the Anytime Dining plan. Most nights we ate dinner at the main dining room. We opted for Anytime dining, and there was NEVER a wait at all. We generally headed over there about 6:30 and either joined my cousin and her DH or asked to share a table with a group. I found the food here to be quite good for the most part. I also found the service to be excellent. Tip -- if you order a bottle of wine and don't finish it, they will keep it for you (so you can have it the next night) or allow you to take it with you to your room or a club.
Nouveau Steakhouse - The last night of our cruise was me and my DH's Wedding Anniversary, so we splurged and made a reservation at the Nouveau Steakhouse. It was an extra $30pp but we had heard great things about it and wanted to make our anniversary special. We made the reservation over a week in advance and let them know it would be our anniversary. We arrived 10 minutes early, and noticed right away that the dining room was less than 20% full. They seated us upstairs in next to the door and stairway. As we were sitting there I looked around and realized it was probably the #1 worse table in the entire restaurant. I ordered crab cake appetizer, lobster bisque, wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and surf/turf. My DH ordered shrimp cocktail, French onion soup, wedge salad with blue cheese dressing and surf/turf. My crab cake was okay...but really nothing at all special but DH liked his shrimp cocktail. My lobster bisque was pretty good but barely warm -- but DH's French onion soup was HORRIBLE! It was DARK brown and sort of thick -- he said it tasted over-condensed and burnt. There was a soggy crouton on top with hardly any cheese on top. When the waitress came by to check on us DH mentioned his soup, and she said that "it was supposed to be like that" and some people didn't understand what French onion soup was supposed to be like. He tried to explain that it was his favorite soup....but she just smiled and took the plate away. A few minutes later a chef appeared at the table and said "how is your meal?" We just said "its fine" and he left. Afterward, we realized he might have been there in response to the soup but what could he say? Right about that time the captain came on the loud speaker and started talking about disembarking...at the same time we could clearly hear the horrible singer in the atrium bar singing several floors below. It's unfortunate that the layout of the steakhouse brings in all those unpleasant noises. It REALLY deters from a classy ambiance. Right about this time our main course arrived. Filet Mignon and a lobster tail with potatoes and veggies. It was good but not fabulous.... The dessert menu was VERY limited -- like 3 selections. I chose the apples on puff pastry and DH chose ice cream. Bottom line - If we had it to do over, we would have skipped the Nouveau Steakhouse and stuck with the Main Dining Room. It was absolutely not worth the extra $60 we spent!
Entertainment. - Generally it's the overall entertainment that endears us to a cruise - Namely, the games and activities and the karaoke. We found the entertainment on this cruise to be fabulous! There were LOTS of various games and activities including trivia (sports, movies, TV, music etc) taboo, name that tune, Liar's Club, Game Show Mania, Marriage Game and LOTS more! I had a blast singing at karaoke EVERY single day! The karaoke host (Jay) is so funny and inviting! He is a show all by himself and makes everyone feel welcome and encouraged. The song selection is GREAT -- I never had a problem finding any song I looked for ...which is rare on a cruise. In addition, there were a couple people that brought their own CDGs and Jay had not problem using them instead. They recruited about 10 singers from karaoke to participate in the Superstar show on the last night of the cruise -- lots of fun. Also, there was a separate Guest Talent show. I was going to participate in that but the music director didn't have the music for the song I wanted to sing. Note to self -- next time I'm bringing my own sheet music! There were a number of stage shows including a number of adult-only comedy shows that were FABULOUS!
Disembarkation -- We had to be out of our cabin by 8:30, and we went directly to Lido to have breakfast. Since we were Platinum we had Group 1 luggage tags and they were called by about 9:00. As we normally do, we completely ignored this -- and took our time. By the time we headed off the ship it was about 9:45 and the lines had thinned out -- piece of cake! We collected our luggage quickly -- no one asked to see our passports at all, and we were in a taxi heading to the airport by 10:00. Another great cruise!