I'll start by saying that I am a frequent cruiser and this was my 50th cruise overall. Mostly with Princess and P&O Cruises (UK and Australia). Carnival have just started cruising out of Sydney to the South Pacific and to New ... Read More
I'll start by saying that I am a frequent cruiser and this was my 50th cruise overall. Mostly with Princess and P&O Cruises (UK and Australia). Carnival have just started cruising out of Sydney to the South Pacific and to New Zealand.
My friend and I stayed a couple of nights before at the Sofitel in Sydney before we embarked on our cruise. Our hotel was close to the terminal, and we could have easily have walked to the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay. We decided to take a cab, as it would be less stressful.
I booked this cruise with an idea that it would be a different style of cruising compared to previous experiences. My last cruise before this one was on P&O Australia's Pacific Jewel. I will not return to P&O (unless the price is right!) because of their poor quality food and the age of their ships. I wanted something newer and larger than P&O can offer, and this is where Carnival fitted in nicely with newer ships and hopefully better food.
Our embarkation was a breeze, we had a 12:30pm-1:00pm check in time, due to the fact that we had a Vista Suite on deck 6 (6260). We arrived by cab and our baggage was taken from us and we were shown into the terminal building. We had forgotten to fill in the departure cards, and therefore this took us an additional 5 minutes that we need not have wasted. We were shown up to the check in counter, where the VIP line was. We only waited 20 seconds before being called. There was an issue with my friends passport, as he is German and their computers didn't want to recognise it. However this was sorted and we were on our way through security and onto the ship in no time.
Our cabin was a Vista Suite, and to be honest, it looked like it had been designed by a 3 year old child. There were doors that were pointless, the entrance hall seemed to be the biggest part of the cabin, as this was long and narrow. The best thing about this cabin was the Balcony and Bathroom. The balcony was huge and had 2 loungers, 2 chairs and a table on it. It was nearly as big as the cabin!! It was long and narrow, not wide and short.
The furnishings in the cabin were fine, and had the correct Australian plugs etc. The beds were comfy and although in a twin formation, they were large enough for someone like myself (201cm tall). The TV's and electricals had been changed for the Australian market.
Our cabin steward was to say the least, VERY average. I tipped him $50 on the first day, and asked him to take care of us, with the promise that if he did, there would be another tip at the end of the cruise. He wasn't bad, just not really efficient. I had to remind him several times to collect my dry cleaning, and also he would sometimes wait till much later to clean the cabin. On one occasion, we slept in and lazed around the balcony till 2pm. I understand that they need a break, and by 8pm the cabin still hadn't been made up. On our return at 9:30pm he was just finishing. Not satisfactory if you're in a suite.
The suite does NOT come with any perks. No priority tender service from the ship, no extra cocktail parties, no offers of a dining reservation with senior members of the ships company, and no priority disembarkation. This to me was the worst part about the cruise. I know I sound like the complaining type, but honestly, if you cruise with other lines this comes as standard (even Princess and P&O, Which are under the companies umbrella).
Dining was a mix of very good and awful, some nights the food was just not up to scratch, and others it was amazing. I think that the food overall was much better than P&O (Australia). the BEST thing was the chocolate melting cake... We had that every night, and shared another dessert between us. Soups were generally good, and on a couple of occasions the beef was excellent.
Our table waters were AMAZING. They did a good job of making sure that each table got to order first at least once or twice during the cruise. Andrej was a mind reader, he made sure that we were always happy with our food, and once or twice went back into the kitchen to get a fresh dish, when the dish was cold. Nothing was too much trouble for him, and he made dining a pleasure. I can't remember his sidekicks name, but he was friendly and always seemed to be doing a good job. I must congratulate Andrej for his efforts. He was one of the senior waiters, and during the day he was in charge of the buffet.
We dined in the steakhouse on one occasion and paid a $35 supplement to do so. The food was good, however the service was not on par with the dining room downstairs. We decided to cancel our second visit, as although the food was good (and large portions!) the poor quality of the wait staff made us change our mind.
The ship can be a little visually challenging from the inside. The overall design of the ship is good, and easy to navigate around. I got very confused by the deck numbers, as normally deck 7 is the promenade, on the spirit, this is deck 3! I think the interior designer must have been on some rather large trip when he planned the interior. It took a couple of days to adjust to the gawdyness, before accepting it and just treating it as normal.
The serenity area (Adults only) is a great place to hang around during sea days. There are plenty of loungers and a spa and pool. The bar was also very well used here during our cruise. Live music happened sometimes, and this was a good change from piped music that you normally get. The best thing was it was kid free.
The buffet was very standard, nothing special and not really of good quality. However a special mention to the 24 hour pizza place and the free flow "Mr whippy" ice-cream machine! I also liked the fact that during the day, you could always get a lemon squash or iced tea. I purchased a soda card and felt this to be very good value at $7 per day.
Our ports of call included Isle of Pines, Noumea, Lefou and Mare. We took the beach tour in Lefou as I had done this previously and found the beach to be amazing. This time however, a storm had come through and it wasn't as good as my two previous visits. We also took a tour in Mare to the beach, and this was great. In Noumea it was a Sunday, and everything was shut. I stayed on the ship and my friend ventured ashore, only to return 40 minutes later as there was nothing open. Isle of pines we just swam from where the tender landed. Nice beaches on this trip!
Entertainment was actually quite good. We went to several shows, including the hypnotist. He was quite funny but was also inappropriate with the ladies during the adult only shows. I think the words.. God's gift comes to mind. Many other passengers thought he was very creepy. Comedy shows were ok,. but the live music and shows were of a better standard that expected.
Overall we had a great time, some good points (waiter, some meals onboard, good ports of call) and some bad points (no suite perks, having to queue for tenders for over 2 hours! and some disappointing food on some occasions.)
I've booked to go back in September with another friend of mine, this time in a Grand Suite which, hopefully is better laid out than the Vista Suite and I get a better cabin steward! Read Less