The three-level Pharaoh's Palace show lounge is decorated with hieroglyphics, 6-metre-tall stone figures and sarcophagi inspired by King Tutankhamun's golden mask, to set the scene for Vegas-style revues and guest comedians. Seating is in comfortable high-back theatre chairs, but bring a wrap or warm jacket -- as it can get quite chilling with the air-conditioning turned way up in there. There will usually be two shows in this theatre every night to coincide with the early and late sittings for dinner.
Carnival Cruises teamed with company Playlist Productions and introduced a swag of new shows on sister ship Carnival Legend in 2014. Now Carnival Spirit will roll out these shows that embrace various eras and musical styles. Expect to hear bands belting old favourites in 'Epic Rock' and 'The Brits' and check out the moves and tunes during 'Latin Nights'. One-person shows also take place on this stage; British-born Australian-based hypnotist-comedian Mark Anthony had the audience enthralled on my cruise. Other solo acts include singers, musicians and magicians.
Carnival's family entertainment including 'Hasbro, The Game Show' and the adorable Towel Animal Theatre production for the youngest of kids also takes place in the theatre.
Carnival Spirit has plenty of day-time fun with rather a big emphasis on trivia. On any given day, there will be three to four trivia games with different themes. There are also staff-led deck activities such as a bean bag toss, golf chipping competitions and family scavenger hunts, along with table tennis competitions, dance classes and towel-folding lessons. A couple of special interest lectures take place each day, some given by the cruise director and others by a visiting expert. Billed as 'infotainment' rather than enrichment, our cruise featured a talk on whales and whale legends and the 'Untold story of the Titanic', a rather bold topic for a cruise ship lecture. Sushi-making demonstrations in the Bonsai Sushi restaurant and ticketed wine-and-cheese tasting in the adults-only Serenity are held at least once on each cruise, if not more. And of course there's bingo.
Pub quizzes continue into the night in the new RedFrog Pub, along with 'name that tune' competitions. Evening karaoke is a regular event in the Shanghai Piano Bar for a good two and half hours from 6 p.m., giving everyone a chance to have a go. Day or night, the Louis XIV Casino is buzzing with hopeful passengers trying to win a few bucks. Compared to the rest of the ship, it's hardly garish at all. It has more than 200 poker machines and new electronic roulette machines that take coins (in Australian currency). There are also tables for roulette/dice, blackjack and poker (including Three Card Poker, Let It Ride, Caribbean Stud Diamond and video poker). Three tables are reserved for blackjack tournaments. All manner of betting games also take place such as Melbourne Mug, the ship's own horse race at sea.
Outdoor movies are shown on the new 'Dive-In Movies' big screen on Deck 9 around 9.45 p.m., when passengers have most likely finished dinner.
Carnival Spirit Bars and Lounges
There are 12 bars and lounges, including three new bars, a new pub and a new-look sports bar. There's something for everyone, from those who like a pre-dinner cocktail with soft music to those who want to dance well into the night in the flashy 1980s-style disco.
Versailles Lounge (Deck 1): This intimate cabaret-style lounge is a little hard to find as it is below the Pharaoh's Palace theatre, accessed via a set of stairs inside that theatre. This is where comedy shows take place and other acts drawing a smaller audience, along with daytime exercise classes. There's a bar at the rear serving all the usual drinks. The so-called Australian comedy offered on my cruise was very short on laughs and long on vulgarity masquerading as humour.
RedFrog Pub (Deck 2): The newly installed RedFrog Pub (which replaces the old Club Cool) is a combination of Caribbean bar and Irish pub, and apart from its beers (including a new Aussie beer called Thirsty Frog Summer Ale), it offers pool tables and foosball (or table football). The bartenders ring a bell when someone orders a huge 'lagoon' cocktail for four (four straws) and also take photos of the patrons that are then uploaded to the LED screens positioned around the bar. There's live music and dancing at night.
Sports Bar (Deck 2): Located next door to the RedFrog Pub, this bar is the place to watch sports while having a beer. There are 16 flat-screen TVs showing sport from all over the world. Two dozen imported and local beers, including the Thirty Frog Summer Ale and several imports, are on tap.
Louis XIV Casino (Deck 2): See information above.
Spirit Lobby Bar (Deck 2): This bar at the bottom of the soaring atrium is a good place to meet for a drink. It's central to many places such as the guest services desk/short excursions desk and a stroll from the Empire Dining room. Small bands and solo artists perform here on a stage above the bar in the evening; it's also a place for dancing. Cocktails, wines and Champagne are the main tipples here.
Artists' Lobby (Deck 2): This area with comfortable seating tends to be more of a walk-through area than a bar. There are replicas of famous artists' work such as Paul Gauguin's French Polynesian renderings.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 2): This new bar is tipped to be the go-to place for a lingering drink. It has taken over a section once part of the Artists' Lobby. Patrons use a prescription pad (an idea that mimics a doctor's prescription) to devise their own cocktails from a list of spirit bases and flavours (the latter including such items as limes/lemon, bitters, ginger and even chocolate). If that idea is a little too daunting, bartenders will make any manner of cocktail and martini. There's limited seating at the actual bar, so get there early as people will tend to linger on a bar stool for quite some time. There is lounge and sofa seating nearby.
Dancin' Nightclub (Decks 1 and 2): Access to the nightclub is via stairs near the Alchemy Bar. It's a serious flashy two-tiered dance club with a two-storey video wall with large 48-inch (1.2-metre wide) monitors and colourful, swirly designed banquettes and drink tables.
Shanghai Piano Bar (Deck 3): The popular Shanghai Piano Bar, decorated in a 'Chinoises' style with walls covered in Chinese fabric and silk screens illuminated from behind, is the place to go for a sing-along. The pianist on our sailing was fantastic and played all the 'hits and memories'. This is the place to be perched on a bar stool, night after night. There's karaoke on offer in the early hours from 6 p.m. until 8:45 p.m. The pianist starts tinkling the ivories at 9:00pm. Get there early and grab a seat around the piano; the place can get packed.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 9): One of the four new bars on the ship, the RedFrog Rum Bar is located around the midship Dome pool. As the name suggests, drinks are rum-based and will include daiquiris, mojitos and coladas. This is a casual place to grab a drink and watch a movie on the Dive-In Movies screen or catch up out of the sun.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 9): Next door to the rum bar, this new watering hole serves tequila-based drinks (margarita anyone?) and Mexican beers. These libations go well with the tacos and burritos on offer at the BlueIguana Cantina across the pool on the other side of the deck.
Serenity Bar (Deck 9): This undercover bar is in the adults-only Serenity area. It has bar stools, tables and chairs and a few sofas. The usual array of beers, wines, spirits and cocktails are on offer. It's a popular place for good reason – away from the kids and with views out over the ship's wake.
Nouveau Restaurant Bar (Deck 10): This small bar is reserved for passengers dining in the specialty steak restaurant, Nouveau. All drinks are available but as it's a small bar there is not a huge choice of any one drink.
Carnival Spirit Outside Recreation
Carnival Spirit has three pools all on Lido Deck 9.
The Dome pool is so named as it has a retractable roof, which can be slid across during inclement weather. This is where the new bars and eateries have been installed along with the big movie screen. There are plenty of sun lounges around the pool, in and out of the shade, and a handful of new blue and red in-pool sun-lounges located within the pool, but not in the deep water! Note: the colours represent the red- and blue-themed bars.
The Sun Pool is located a little further forward towards the bow. It is a mirror image of the Dome pool, but minus the in-pool chairs. Both pools have an elevated hot tub beside them.
The Serenity Pool is at the rear (aft) of the ship on the same deck. It is an adults-only pool located in the Serenity area. It is smaller than the other pools and also has one hot tub. This area is dotted with two-person 'pods', large sun loungers and a few hammocks. It is a lovely area, but often crowded and as a result often hard to find a spot. There's a bar nearby with table and chair seating.
The Splash Zone on Deck 11 is the place for little kids to get wet. There are two purple mini-slides and big tipping buckets and a wading pool.
Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend's big point of difference is the popular and much-talked about Green Thunder waterslide, billed as the fastest and steepest slide at sea. With speeds up to 65 kph, a big initial drop and a section that slightly swings out over the ocean, Green Thunder is not for the fainthearted. The other slide is the signature yellow Carnival Twister Waterslide (much tamer). Other recreational areas are the nine-hole mini-golf course. A golf simulator midship on Deck 10 lets passengers practise their swings and putts. There's a basketball court on the Sports Deck (Deck 11) and the children's wading pool, as mentioned in the SplashZone.
The main sunbathing and lounging deck is Deck 9 around the Dome, Sun and Serenity pools. Another area for lounging (on pods) is both the port and starboard sides of Deck 9. Sun lounges are not padded. Pods can take two people, but the covering is vinyl rather than cloth, so they are not the most comfortable. Lay down a towel to make them more user-friendly. While there is a rule that prohibits 'chair-hogging', it seems to be the norm. There was rarely a spare sun lounge or pod to be found in the Serenity area (which also has two-person lounges and a couple of hammocks). You can, however, sometimes score a pod on the port and starboard deck sides.
Carnival Spirit Services
Carnival Spirit has a card room on Deck 2, tucked away to one side near the cafe. Further towards the aft is the base of the nine-deck atrium where you'll find the guest relations desk, the short excursions deck, a conference room and art gallery. The Chippendale Library and Internet cafe are on Deck 3. There is also Wi-Fi across the ship and in all cabins. Pricing varies, so check when onboard but packages cost around AU$100 for 250 minutes, AU$55 for 100 minutes, or pay as you go at around 75 cents a minute. Carnival does not offer any computer education classes. Internet can be slow and Wi-Fi is provided by a satellite. Deck 3 also has a chapel, shops and the photo gallery. The ship has at least two self-service laundries located on the stateroom decks. There are two or three washers and dryers, and one iron and ironing board in each launderette. The cost is AU$3.25 per washer load and AU$3.25 per dryer load. Vending machines dispense small boxes of detergent and water softener at AU$1.50 per box.