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.