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Carnival Spirit Review

75% of cruisers loved it
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Why Choose Carnival Spirit?

  • Pro: Great waterslides and plenty of new eateries and bars make this a great ship for everyone from kids to sophisticates

  • Con: Despite the recent refurb, you can't get around the garish design of many of the public rooms

  • Bottom Line: The new dining and drinking venues and family fun attractions such as outdoor movies deliver a great holiday experience

Carnival Spirit Overview

Updated by Caroline Gladstone, Cruise Critic contributor
Editor Rating

Simply walking around Carnival Spirit is like taking a trip around the world. Legendary Carnival Cruise Lines' designer Joe Farcus seems to have been inspired by every design style he could think of. The Pharaoh's Palace show lounge is decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics and murals; the piano bar is a homage to Shanghai and 'Chinoiserie'; the Artists' Lobby highlights famed European artists; the Chippendale Library is straight out of an English country manor house; and the Empire Dining Room is so French it has a statue of Napoleon. Initially, the hodgepodge of styles can be overwhelming, although the casino feels comparatively sedate because, despite the flashing lights and dinging bells, the room isn't done up as a Swiss alpine lodge or a Mayan temple. Passengers will either love or hate the look, but eventually they get used to it. Once you start focusing on the activities in each room -- the dancers onstage in the show lounge or the food on the table in the Empire Restaurant -- the decor starts to fade into the background. It becomes the exuberant backdrop to a place that is more fun and whimsical than your daily life.

The ship, which introduced a whole new class for Carnival (its sister ships are Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride and Carnival Miracle), shares its basic design with Costa Atlantica, one of the ships of Costa Cruises and offers all the best of earlier Carnival vessels -- a waterslide, numerous bars and extensive children's facilities. It also introduced some firsts for Carnival that have since become standards, including a fabulous steakhouse and a wedding chapel.

In August 2015 the ship underwent an AU$44 million refurbishment in Singapore, the second such facelift since it sailed into its new home of Sydney, Australia in October 2012. Even before it debuted in Australia it was treated to an AU$7 million 'Aussification' upgrade where Australian power points were added to all cabins, local beers were added to the bar menus and the coffee was improved following the introduction of good espresso machines and trained baristas. The big additions in 2012 were the much talked-about Green Thunder water slide, billed as the steepest and fastest at sea, along with the Serenity retreat adults-only area (for over 18 year olds), and a waterpark of mini-slides and drenching buckets for the little ones.

Now just three years down the track, the latest refurbishment has totally transformed the midship pool area on the Lido Deck (Deck 9) with the addition of two casual eateries -- a burger joint and a Mexican-style cantina -- and two bars, both also with a south-of-the-border flavour; one serves tequila-based drinks such as margaritas; the other offers rum cocktails. All in all, three new eateries were added and four new bars. These include a couple that are already onboard sister ship Carnival Legend -- Bonsai Sushi and RedFrog Pub. Also new is the Cherry on Top lolly shop, a big outdoor movie screen also situated on the Lido Deck near the new eateries, and new production shows from Playlist Productions. Also new is the Alchemy Bar, which is set to be a very popular meeting place, where drinkers devise their own cocktails. This major facelift also included new carpets throughout the entire ship and the refurbishment of 300 cabins.

All these enhancements work to ramp up the fun on a ship that has certainly struck a real chord with Aussie cruisers.

Carnival Spirit Fellow Passengers

As the ship cruises year-round in Australia, the majority of passengers are Australian and most from the east coast cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. There are lots of families in the summer (December to late January) and Easter school holidays and then perhaps retirees from February to June and almost everyone in-between during the rest of the year, with an emphasis on the "middle Australia, let's have fun" crowd. Passengers will most likely have cruised before on local P&O, Princess or Royal Caribbean ships.

Carnival Spirit Dress Code

Carnival has a pretty laid-back dress code. Most evenings are "Cruise Casual" when passengers can wear anything from good jeans and dress shorts to trousers and casual skirts or sundresses. As long as you're not wearing swimwear, workout clothes or a man's sleeveless T-shirt, you won't be turned away from venues. One or two nights per cruise will be designated "Cruise Elegant" -- men are requested to wear at least dress trousers and shirts, with the option of a jacket, lounge suit or tuxedo. Suggested attire for women is cocktail dress or gown, or dressy trouser suits or skirts. Many people do dress to the nines on these nights, creating a festive atmosphere as couples and families pose for photos while other passengers people-watch in the Atrium Bar and Artists Lobby.

By day, the dress code is tropical casual as the ship visits the gorgeous isles of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji (with the occasional foray to New Zealand, where it's a little bit cooler).

Carnival Spirit Gratuity

There is no tipping on Carnival Spirit; the decision to scrap tips followed a survey of Australian guests about their views on cruising before the ship arrived Down Under in 2012. While Australians like to pay a fair price, they disapprove of tipping in order to pay employees' salaries believing the cruise line should be responsible for this. Australian dollars (AUD) are used onboard the ship.

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Carnival Spirit Member Reviews

Our party of 8 ranged in age from 55 to 80 and from 1st time cruiser to 10th time cruisers. For DW and I this was our first Carnival cruise after a number on Royal Caribbean & we were not too sure what to expect. We needn't have worried - it was ... Read more
Melbourne Cup Cruise 2015 5 star Cruiser
Our group of 5 couples (over 65 years) chose deck 7 balcony cabins for a trip to the 2015 Melbourne Cup. All are experienced cruisers (ourselves over 12 ocean and river cruises mainly in Europe and the Pacific). Embarkation was excellent. Baggage ... Read more
There was a glitz in the online system when we booked in at the port so we had to fill in the information manually. The process only took us another 10 minutes so it was not too inconvenient. The ship looks good with a few new bars and ... Read more
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Carnival Spirit Ratings

Editor Rating 4.0 Member Rating
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