Miami/St Martin/Barbados/Martinique/Miami - 24 Mar 2003 Transportation to/Arrival at Pier Original Plan: My sister would fly to Tampa on Sunday night, rent a car, drive to my house in Tampa Bay, and we would drive to Miami on Monday ... Read More
Miami/St Martin/Barbados/Martinique/Miami - 24 Mar 2003 Transportation to/Arrival at Pier Original Plan: My sister would fly to Tampa on Sunday night, rent a car, drive to my house in Tampa Bay, and we would drive to Miami on Monday (ship's departure day). Revised Plan: Everything went according to schedule until we actually hit the road Monday morning bound for Miami. We were halfway across Tampa Bay toward St. Pete when I asked my sister what time it was. Well, it came as quite a shock when she replied 10:00. We had planned to leave the house between 07:00-08:00, and now we were almost 3 hours behind schedule. I said there is no way we can make it to the ship on time so my sister asked well, can we fly there. I was immediately on the phone with Continental who I knew had an 11:15 flight from Tampa to Miami. They had two seats available, and would accept my reservation but they didn't see how I could possibly make it to the gate in under an hour. I didn't either but at this point there was no other choice than to try. We still had to cross over the bay so we could turn around and head back to Tampa; we still had to drop off the rental car at an offsite location and be shuttled to the airport; we still had to get inside the airport to purchase the ticket and check bags as they wouldn't allow us to make the purchase over the phone (we were considered a high security risk—last minute one-way booking). My sister said it was just like an adventure on some television show she watches called the Amazing Race. Thanks to a great skycap that managed to bump us ahead in the line at the Continental counter, and a very kind Continental rep who processed us through in record time we had made it!!! Boarding passes in hand we head off to a huge line at the security checkpoint only to be further delayed when both of us were pulled aside for a personal search. Mad dash from there to the gate with a much needed 'rest' stop. As we ran outside to jump in the little prop plane my sister noticed our luggage was not in the cargo hold so she flagged someone down and minutes later our luggage was being wheeled outside to the plane. They closed the door and we flew off to Miami. OMG—I'm exhausted from writing about it. Upon arriving at MIA we took a taxi directly to the ship. As soon as we stepped out of the taxi a CCL rep assisted us due to lack of cruise documents (late booking). We were given our cabin #, and off our luggage went. Embarkation From the time we entered the terminal until we opened our cabin door was about 45-50 minutes. We started off in the 'pier pickup' line since we had no documents. And, then had to fill in all the cards that most others would have done prior to arrival. There were a lot of different lines that made it appear as though the entire process was longer than I think it actually was. We spoke with several CCL reps in the terminal: -pier pickup line -carry-on baggage scan line -check-in line -sail & sign card line -welcome aboard photo line -security photo line Cabin I had booked a category 1A guarantee for myself (same as I always do as a solo traveler-lowest category guarantee-it's about cruising for me not the cabin). My sister was added at the last minute to my booking but I knew from a previous experience of adding her last minute on the Carnival Victory in the 1A category that whatever cabin we were assigned would be fine. When we boarded the ship all we knew was our cabin was on Deck 6. As we headed blindly down our corridor we knew only that our cabin was either a balcony or an inside (that's the only categories on that deck). Well, as much as we crossed our fingers for a balcony our cabin # led to an inside. We were pleasantly surprised at the space, storage, and amenities such as mini-bar (that has to be opened initially by the cabin steward); nice, huge beach towels, and bathrobes. The bathroom had tons of storage space, and the shower size was perfect (and, the shower curtain didn't 'hug' you). We received a complimentary upgrade from category 1A to 4C. Gym/Spa Nice gym—yes, we actually did something more there than just take a 'look see'. All equipment we used was fully functional. Also, nice aerobic room where you could attend classes or do stretches/floor exercises on your own. Neither one of us indulged in the spa/salon services. Food Dining room - delightful. I only had one entrEe (pasta with chicken) I didn't care for and that was the last night. The soups were good but always just lukewarm and I prefer mine hot. It didn't stop me from ordering a soup each evening though. Lido Deck - Fries from the grill-yum; anything from the Deli was delicious; fruit and salads were great. I tried the goat cheese and spinach pizza but stuck with the pepperoni. It wasn't as good as I remembered from the Victory but there were several times I was glad it was there. Supper Club - well worth the extra $$. We went once on the second formal night, had a fabulous meal, conversed with some other diners, and enjoyed the music. I will definitely book again on a future cruise for at least one night. Entertainment Only thing that was memorable was the Hypnotist show with Timm. We were so skeptical as we watched from the audience but when we saw it replay a zillion times on the television we couldn't help but laugh out loud every time. It was very comical. We didn't participate in any onboard games. Seas - Overall Smooth sailing except for the last evening. It was a tad rough but not anything that would keep me down, and I suffer from vertigo and motion sickness. My remedy—just sharing not endorsing—full strength Dramamine the night before a cruise, followed by Less Drowsy Dramamine every day of the cruise (at the same time of day) including the day of return. Ports of Call St. Martin - Docked at the pier. No other cruise ships in port. We took a taxi along with a family of four to Dawn Beach. When we first arrived we thought oh, this is it. But the longer we were there the more it 'grew on us'. Barbados - Docked at the pier. Catamaran shore excursion booked through CCL took us to one snorkel spot then to a beach. Lots of fun in the sun—great time. Martinique - Docked at the pier. Took at taxi to the ferry that took us to a beach. I can't recall any of the details as to which ferry nor which beach. It was the most relaxing day of the cruise, and I wish we could have stayed there longer. Service Purser's Desk - Finally after 11 cruises a Purser who not only knows his job but performs it exceptionally well. CCL should be extremely proud of Purser Jeff from the USA. Shore Excursion Desk - We booked one excursion via the drop off box so didn't have any personal contact. Photography Staff - Most times they respected when I simply said no thanks. I was able to purchase a video tape of the Hypnotist show right on board as opposed to my first Carnival cruise in 2001 when all orders were sent via mail and took forever. Dining Room staff - Our seating was at 20:15. We were seated at a rectangle table for 6 on the upper level. Our table servers, Yoseph and Jose, were a pleasure to be with each evening. Our tablemates were two brothers from Germany, and two girlfriends from Seattle. Cabin Steward: Gabriela was so sweet, and this was her last cruise on her current contract. We saw her at least twice a day to exchange hellos in the corridor. The last night she had removed our Carnival bathrobes from the hooks on the bathroom door. In doing so she had inadvertently taken my nightshirt. My sister asked about it, and she apologized profusely saying she would go to the main laundry room as soon as she could get away from the floor. We both told her it was no big deal that it was only a nightshirt, and that we didn't want her to go 'digging' for it. That night when we returned from dinner there was that nightshirt!!! Overall Service: This was one of the best crews I have encountered. The cruise director was not new to CCL but new to the position. It was his first gig as a CD. He could sing and did so one evening in the big lounge but it will be a while before he finds his way as CD. Debarkation It appeared to go quite smoothly and quickly. My sister had been issued VIP luggage tags and was off the ship I believe before 09:00. I was sailing a back-to-back and was asked to wait until the last group of passengers were called until I debarked. I went through customs, and then turned around to go back inside the Terminal 8 building to the Pier Pickup desk to gather my documents for the next sailing (16-day Panama Canal). Passenger Stats Very mixed group. I thought it was the ideal combination of ages. The only time I really even noticed the 10-year and under kids was late on the last day. It was a sea day and the weather was bleak which left most everyone inside. General Info Tipping on this trip was via the S&S account. We spent the majority of our time just chilling by the aft pool, and it was only on the first day at sea that we had a bit of delay in finding a deck chair. This was my second trip with Carnival, and at the time of booking this cruise I was still apprehensive about cruising with them. This ship and crew turned it all around for me. I wouldn't hesitate to cruise again with CCL. In fact I'm already booked! Please feel free to email me with any Spirit questions. Enjoy the journey! July 2003 Read Less
A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Panama" is the name of the documentary movie on the Canal; this review could be called "A Couple, A Cruise, A Ship - Carnival Spirit"! When you first set foot onboard the Spirit you find yourself ... Read More
A Man, A Plan, A Canal - Panama" is the name of the documentary movie on the Canal; this review could be called "A Couple, A Cruise, A Ship - Carnival Spirit"! When you first set foot onboard the Spirit you find yourself in the center of the ship on the first level of the Atrium, with the top of it towering nine decks above you, and with a distinct impression of being inside an immense bronze chandelier. Art Nouveau is the theme here, but think of Las Vegas doing Art Nouveau and you get the idea! The three glass elevators hang like crystal pendants on the wall of the Atrium, giving you a great birds-eye view as you glide up and down. We traveled up, and then walked aft, and walked and walked. This ship is the length of three football fields and is a great workout, who needs the jogging deck? Our cabin was on the Verandah deck, level 7 close to the rear of the ship on the port side. We had a great balcony stateroom which was fairly roomy and had lots of storage space. Amenities included 3 glass shelves on either side of the sink in the bathroom so there was plenty of room for cosmetics and toiletries. A hairdryer is provided, plus roomy terry cloth robes and beach towels. I loved that robe and was sorry when they took it away the day before we disembarked, presumably to get them laundered for the next group of cruisers. Could have purchased one but knew I could barely cram what I had brought with me back into my luggage. After a hasty unpacking job we flopped down on the balcony chairs and watched the beehive of activity on the pier below. We had an easy time getting on the ship in Miami, none of the chaos we had read about (have a pocketful of dollar bills ready to get your luggage out of hostage). There was a line, but it wasn't that long and it moved at a steady pace. We had already done pre-checkin at the Wyndham where we had spent the previous night so that helped immensely. The Wyndham is a nice hotel with a cool and shady garden lounge near the pool outside, and it backs up to a golf course, so the setting is very agreeable. If it hadn't been for the planes taking off and landing, we wouldn't have known we were such a short distance from the airport. There is no place to walk to from the Wyndham, but they do have a shuttle which will take you somewhere else for the evening. We opted for South Beach and it was about $13 roundtrip. South Beach is everything you've heard it is, as crowded as the French Quarter but with Art Nouveau architecture. The people watching is great, and more fashions than InStyle Magazine. Next morning we hauled our bags downstairs where they joined a giant suitcase mountain out near the driveway. This was the luggage area for everyone boarding the Spirit and it was chaos trying to board busses and it was up to us to make sure our suitcases were stowed in the compartment beneath. Heard a lot of grumbling at this stage as it was pretty much every man for himself. If you've ever thought about putting a bright luggage strap or pompon on your suitcase, do it now! What a sea of dark green and black nylon luggage. Samsonite should go in for rainbow and neon colors. Back up on our ship balcony we heard an announcement from the Captain telling us that a planeload of our fellow cruisers was late and so our departure was delayed a couple of hours. We checked out the rest of the ship then and were very pleased with the different themes in each area of the ship. The most eye-popping by far was the Pharaoh's Palace, the entry halls to this three level Showroom were lined with life size King Tut-style sarcophagi and the walls were painted with hieroglyphics and Egyptian murals. If this wasn't surreal enough, Catholic Mass was held there amidst the splendors of the ancient pagan icons. The Chippendale Library was another favorite spot, even with its computers it resembled a room in a great old English manor house. Internet access was 75 cents a minute but there were a couple of package options, we chose one which was the best value but still pricey - 250 minutes for $100. That's not much time when you are staying in touch with family everyday for 17 days! This area is staffed only intermittently so if you have digital pictures to send you will have to arrange your schedule around the computer "geek" as he is the only one with access to the CPU. Lots of paperback books in here for the trading, and hardback books for checkout. Hope you like romance novels or Tom Clancys. Ports of Call Cartagena We sailed south from Miami for two days, skirting Cuba and the Yucatan till we arrived in Cartagena, Colombia. Some people opted not to get off the ship at this port because of safety concerns but we had checked the State Department warnings and although most of Colombia is on the list, Cartagena is not. (This changed a few days later because of the attempted coup in neighboring Venezuela, but that is somebody else's story.) We took a shore excursion here and were delighted to see this historic city with its many fortresses and monuments. Shady plazas and narrow cobblestone streets make Cartagena one of the most picturesque cities in Latin America, but be warned that the vendors here are totally aggressive. We ran the gauntlet at most of our stops with the aid of the bus tour drivers. Fortunately the vendors aren't allowed inside the sites so you do get to look around in peace. Or relatively so. At an old church on the highest hill in the city we were outside peering over a parapet to see the spot where a gold pig or something of that sort had been thrown over the cliff by a priest who abhorred this form of idol worship. What we saw instead was an enterprising young boy who had scaled the heights and was thrusting a cup attached to a pole through the spikes that ostensibly were to keep him out. A gust of wind blew his lone dollar out of the cup and just out of his reach, and while we watched, a guard climbed through the spikes to retrieve the dollar. But not for the boy, for him! All this despite the howls of protest from the beggar boy. This city has about a million people and there are places of wealth mixed in with abject poverty, but all surrounded by the beauty of the tropical setting with exotic and colorful plants everywhere. Lots of very tidy little casitas also, with families sitting on porches and doorsteps watching the world go by. Was delighted to recognize that San Felipe Castle was the setting for one of the scenes in the movie Romancing the Stone. At the other end of the spectrum of attractions, St. Peter Claver's church was a stop for Pope John Paul II a few years ago (or so our guide said, I can't find any verification of it) and we could view the saint's bones in a glass coffin under the altar. Bet the Pope wasn't accosted by street vendors wanting him to take a picture with their three toed sloths, or maybe he was. The Panama Canal was very exciting to see. How can you describe this marvel of engineering except to experience it by going through it? We were amazed at the simple sophistication of the locks and watching the water rise and fall as we were raised and then lowered to the Pacific side of Panama. The jungle was very lush around us as we entered the canal and we could see the aborted waterway the French had dug in their attempt to build the canal. They lost 25,000 lives in those days before mosquitoes were associated with the tropical diseases that killed so many, not to mention the danger of the work itself. We were totally awed by this experience, which was the main reason we chose this particular cruise. Costa Rica We docked at Puntarenas and took a 3 hour bus ride to Poas Volcano, an amazing sight 8,000 feet up in a cloud forest. The water in the caldera was bright turquoise and steam was billowing from it and from several vents on the sides. Very sulphury smelling. As we descended the road back down to the busses, the clouds moved in and we could see them moving over and around us. A rather surreal feeling and very exotic. Bromeliads with bright red blooms on most of the trees, green moss covering every tree trunk and fallen branch, and brilliant hummingbirds flashing by. We were told later that we were very fortunate to see the volcano, as most of the time the clouds obscure it. This is not called a cloud forest for nothing! We drove on the Pan-American Highway to get back to the ship, this is the highway that runs from Alaska all the way to the tip of South America. Acapulco We woke before dawn and were amazed to see from our balcony the twinkling lights of a huge city. I had no idea Acapulco was so big. As it became lighter I thought I saw dolphins in the water below but turned out to be some young Mexican boys, maybe 12 years old, swimming next to our docked ship and hollering for us to throw money. I assumed we shouldn't (encourages truancy they say) but it was Saturday and I was amazed at their audacity and bravery. Threw them a couple of gold Sacagawea dollars and had no sooner done it than the Captain announced that we should not throw money to them. Oops, sometimes we are Ugly Americans even if we try not to be. We took a shore excursion which took us ultimately to the Mayan Palace, a giant albeit gorgeous time-share and hotel. Wasn't quite sure what the point of that was but it was pretty anyway. Saw the requisite Cliff Divers too. And it was in Acapulco that I found how much I resented the "ship approved" shops that the tours took us to. As overpriced as I've ever seen and with merchandise that no one can be very interested in. I would have loved to be dropped at some shops that sold handicrafts indigenous to the area and not shipped in wholesale from Guadalajara. My impression of Acapulco: the Los Angeles of the Mexican Riviera. The most interesting site was old Fort San Diego right across the street from the pier. Puerto Vallarta Now this is my idea of charming. Much smaller town than Acapulco and still a hint of the fishing village it once was. Not quite a fair comparison to the other Mexican ports since we have spent a week or two here every winter for the past 15 years. We were glad to revisit some of our favorite haunts, Pipi's Restaurant for lunch and Burro's on the beach for beer and people watching. Had never spent any time at the Flea Market at the marina before but in my quest for souvenirs for the folks back home I shopped for a couple of hours there and found the vendors to be ruthless on prices. Not the usual good-natured bargaining I'm used to but I think it's because they know you have to get back on that ship at 5PM and you need those trinkets! Mazatlan Didn't really see much of this town as we took a bus ride up into the Sierra Madres and visited the colonial towns of Concordia and Copala. Interesting old (16th century) homes and churches. Cabo San Lucas Arizona with an ocean. Very southwest style architecture and everything fairly new. Upon our arrival just before dawn the rock sentinels that guard the harbor seemed eerie and ghostlike. Heard the "barking" of seals from one of the rocks. We took a shore excursion through Cabo and up to San Jose which was very charming. Beautiful tree-lined avenues with Poinciana and the ever present bougainvillea blooming gorgeously. We'll be back to this area. We don't cruise often but really enjoyed this. The Spirit's stabilizers are such that you hardly know you are at sea. Rather missed the rocking and rolling of a previous much smaller ship, but I think we are in the minority there! We enjoyed most of the showroom entertainment on the ship and were especially wowed by John Davidson, who is a consummate entertainer. The standup comics were funny for the most part and we were impressed by the professional extravaganza of the ship's dancers doing their Vegas-style show. The props and costumes were excellent. We had given the Casino a cursory look at the beginning of the cruise but by about Day 10 we were pretty hooked on the nickel machines and had a great time winning and losing our nickels over and over again! We ate in the dining room most nights, the food was terrific and beautifully presented. Some of it was so artistically arranged I hated to spoil it by eating it! We did breakfast and lunch mainly on the Lido Deck where the Grill and Bistro provided a huge variety of food, with something to please everyone (anything I don't have to fix myself pleases me). Apparently most of the other passengers thought so too as it was difficult to find a table where we could sit and eat. I can't report much about poolside entertainment as we didn't go in for the crowded Dome pool areas but opted for the quieter Lido pool aft. This is where the teak decking is very obviously buckled but we understood that some people were injured tripping on it anyway. Because of the length of the cruise, most of the passengers were retired older people. I'd guess the average age was 65 or more, though certainly there were younger people and a few children. I have to confess that I did not meet my fellow Cruise Critics at the Lido Bar though I had intended doing so. I was asleep. Sitting on my balcony with a book in hand and watching the ocean roll along was a surefire relaxer and it worked too well! Thought about asking the purser if he could point out TammK and AndyfromOregon and all the others but figured that would be beyond even his expertise! Hope you all had as good a time as we did. Keep an eye out for the video guys on this ship and be sure to get in the film. We purchased a 3 video set of the entire cruise (about $52) so we can relive it anytime we want. In fact, think I'll go watch it now! Happy cruising...... Armchairtravlwmn@aol.comMay 2002 Read Less
My husband and I recently returned from the inaugural *Exotic Western Caribbean* sailing of the Carnival Spirit, 11/11/01-11/19/01. This was my 10th cruise overall, and my 4th on Carnival, having sailed on the Imagination, Ecstasy, and ... Read More
My husband and I recently returned from the inaugural *Exotic Western Caribbean* sailing of the Carnival Spirit, 11/11/01-11/19/01. This was my 10th cruise overall, and my 4th on Carnival, having sailed on the Imagination, Ecstasy, and Triumph. I am 43 and my husband Chuck is 56. The ship sailed to Belize City, Belize, Limon, Costa Rica, and Colon, Panama. The following is our opinion only and may differ from others. We booked the cruise with a group, organized online. Many of us had never met and several pre-cruise parties were arranged in the months prior to sailing. My husband and I attended one of these parties, in Maryland, in August, and met many of the people we would be sailing with. We flew United Airlines from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale, non-stop, and uneventful. Despite warnings of long security lines, we were through the checkpoints and at our gate, nearly 2 hours prior to flight time. We booked the Best Western Marina Park for our one night pre-cruise stay, along with most of our group. Our room was on the 6th floor, overlooking Bayside Marketplace and the port. It was nice to see the ships leave in the evening and others dock the next morning. A hospitality suite was set up for our group to meet in and it was nice to put some more faces to names I had only seen online. Although our room was clean, we found that the walls were paper thin and were subject to a very loud family argument in the adjacent room until nearly 2am that night. Needless to say, we didn't sleep very well. The location of the hotel though, is great. You can walk across the street to Bayside and it's abundance of shops and restaurants. Our group had pre arranged a dinner at Steak Masters at Bayside. Steak Masters is a Brazilian style restaurant where meat is brought to your table on sabers and sliced off for each customer. The variety is great and we were quite full before all was brought around. We had 60 people in our group, and all seemed to be quite satisfied. On Sunday morning, we decided to go to the pier early. We checked out of the hotel, after a breakfast at Bayside, at 10:30am. We hopped in a taxi and were off to the port shortly thereafter. The taxi ride to the pier was less than $10, including tip. When we arrived at the pier, we checked our luggage with a porter and went inside to wait. There were many chairs to be found at that time and juice and coffee was available to those who wanted it. We waited about 40 minutes until the security lines opened up. Our photo was taken for our sail and sign cards and we were ushered upstairs to wait just a bit longer. It wasn't long before we were able to pick up our sail and sign cards and check in. I can't remember exactly what time we boarded the ship, but it didn't seem like too long a wait. We boarded the ship and had somewhat of an idea of where to go. It didn't take long to find our cabin, which had NOT been cleaned yet from the previous cruise. I spotted a room steward, a few rooms away, and asked him if he was assigned to our cabin (Cat 8E, 6228). He introduced himself (Wayne Williams), said that he was, and would be finished cleaning shortly. I asked if we could leave our carryon bag in there, and he said it would be fine. I also asked him, out of curiosity, how many cabins he was responsible for. He told us that he was responsible for 17 cabins... Much more than I had expected. I requested that our beds be put together and made up with a king sized sheet, and he said he would be happy to do so, if the sheets were available. We dropped off our bags and went off to explore and have some lunch. Food was abundant at the La Playa grille, pizzeria, deli, and adjacent areas. We opted for the basic buffet fare and were not disappointed. We checked back on the cabin, and it still wasn't cleaned. Exploring the ship, we ran in to many members of our group. It really was nice to meet these people that I had *talked* to for nearly 2 years, online. We strolled about the ship for a bit, and when we returned to the cabin again, it had been cleaned. Our luggage had also been delivered, and our bed made up as a king. There were a few things that Wayne had overlooked however, and I left him a note, which apparently worked. From the next morning on, he was the king of room stewards, and could do no wrong. I did find out later that first evening, that Wayne was one of the stewards in charge of lost luggage, and was obviously quite overworked on that particular day. We unpacked our luggage, relaxed for a bit, and explored the ship some more. Dinner on the first night was casual, and was good. It seems that Carnival always has rack of lamb on the first night, and we were not disappointed. The entertainment that night, however, left much to be desired. The so-called comedian, was literally a joke. Oh well... 7 nights to go... Rather than do a day-by-day diary, I will just give my general impressions of the ship and it's amenities... Embarkation Not too bad. The staff was pleasant and it didn't take very long. Food The food in the dining room was excellent, in my opinion, for cruise fare. The buffets were very good as well, but the selection limited at breakfast. I had lunch in the dining room only once, and it was very good as well. I like that the pizzeria is open 24 hours a day, and the deli is open from 11 to 11. There is no way you can go hungry on this ship. Coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, and juices are available 24 hours a day, in several areas, as is soft serve ice cream, and room service with wonderful sandwiches. My only complaint about the food is that the *hot* soup in the dining room is not always served *hot*. We had dinner one night in the Nouveau supper club and it was excellent! This is probably the only meal I ate that I actually recall completely. I had beef carpaccio, spinach salad, filet mignon, and trio of crème brulee. It was all wonderful, including the variety of breads and seasoned butters. Service Our room steward was perfect. Our room was cleaned twice daily with chocolates left on our pillows at night. Our ice bucket was filled twice a day and towel animals were left for us 7 out of 8 nights. We had a few concerns on the first day of the cruise, but after leaving a note, there were no more problems. Our dining room waiter, Aron, was cute and personable, but we did have some problems there. I'm still not quite sure if it was him, the kitchen, or his assistants. On the first night, we had an assistant waitress, Santa. She seemed friendly, but inexperienced. She ended up dropping a full tray of entrees. It was ours. The next thing we heard was that she was working up on Lido deck. The second night, we had a young Filipino man who seemed quite competent. I'm not sure what happened to him though, as he was not seen after that night. Our waiter said that he broke a finger. Our third assistant was Mariya. She was very cute and had a wonderful smile. She really tried hard, but was obviously inexperienced. She did manage to stay with us for the rest of the week though. Overall, we were not real happy with our dining room service. It seemed that our table was almost always one of the last to leave the dining room. The staff did a *show* almost every night though, which we were always able to see, since we were still sitting there. The Cabin We had a Cat 8E, with a balcony. This cabin is somewhat recessed in to the ship. The cabin itself is nice sized with plenty of storage space. There are 2 beds, two night tables, a couch, and a dressing area. The 3 closets are nice sized and hold all you can require for a 7-day cruise. There is a refrigerator (locked, unless you ask for it to be opened), a safe, and extra cabinets and drawers for storage. There is a hair dryer in the top drawer as well. The bathroom has many shelves and has a decent sized shower (for a cruise ship). Our balcony was advertised as 50% larger than a standard balcony, and it was. The increase in depth was quite noticeable. We kept the door open at night with bungee cords. The balcony had 2 chairs, one of them a recliner, and a small table. Because of the recess in to the ship, we overlooked the lifeboats, which were 2 decks below us. It really didn't matter. Entertainment In a word.. it sucked. The cruise director, Dave, was pretty much on his last leg. He was leaving the ship as we were, and it's probably a good thing for future passengers. The first comedian was quite lame. Ok, he was just bad. The *Spirit* dancers did their best, but were just not as good as I had seen on previous Carnival ships. They did bring on another comedian later in the week, and although he was *ok* at the midnight show, he just didn't cut it for the *family* act. I think that Carnival was somehow unprepared for this sailing, as far as entertainment goes... It just wasn't up to par. The CasinoI didn't win, but I have to say that I DID enjoy myself. Veronica, the casino hostess, was a doll, and there were several dealers who were quite memorable as well. Many of them were due to finish their contracts when we got off, and were looking forward to their vacations. Rather than being grumpy, they were full of energy and having lots of fun. If you have to lose your money, it helps when the people taking it are pleasant. Ports and Excursions The only excursion that we took was to Goff's Cay, a snorkeling excursion in Belize. While on the tender to the little island, we were told that there was enough equipment for 19 people. There were about 32 people on our boat. My husband and I were not lucky enough to get snorkel equipment for the first hour. After an hour and a half, we acquired equipment and out in the water. The bite on my snorkel was broken, and I had to return to the island. My husband managed to stay in the water for 30 minutes, until he was called in to return to the ship. This was supposed to be a 4-hour excursion. It was only 3 hours from the time we left the ship, until the time we returned. Needless to say, we were quite disappointed. We did complain, along with many others, and received a 50% refund. Although we did not take excursions in the other ports, I understand that many of those were also not as advertised. In Conclusion Overall, I would give this cruise a *B*. Had it not been for the group I was sailing with, I might have another opinion. Some people said that they thought that some of the artwork on the ship was pornographic. I only saw Renaissance reproductions, and was not offended. Some people said that the Supper Club was horrible and overrated. I had a wonderful experience there. Some people say that the entertainment was great. I had another opinion. Everyone looks at a cruise in a different way. I didn't notice any spots, stains, or scratches in the wood (my husband did, but that's what he does for a living). I didn't notice any *serious* lack of service anywhere on the ship. I was greeted cheerfully by all personnel that I passed. I didn't notice the so-called pornographic artwork, until it was pointed out to me, and even then, I was not offended. Would I sail this ship again? Absolutely. Would I do this itinerary again. Most likely not. We all have our differences of opinion. If we didn't, the world would be quite boring...Lunyma@aol.comNovember 2001 Read Less
Aloha! There we went again. Around the middle of August, my Queen started making those "I gotta go on vacation" noises. Being the man of the family I always keep a "Big Picture" focus on all relevant matters ... Read More
Aloha! There we went again. Around the middle of August, my Queen started making those "I gotta go on vacation" noises. Being the man of the family I always keep a "Big Picture" focus on all relevant matters concerning our activities. With a wet finger in the air, testing the vacation wind direction, I said we'd go back to Australia. She said "Hawaii." I then suggested going on another Alaska cruise. She said "Hawaii." Not to be put off by royal dictates I then recommended a Caribbean cruise since her highness had never been there. She said "Hawaii." Suddenly, the sun rose and a light came over my "Big Picture". I said "Hawaii." She said "What a wonderful idea you smart, handsome devil." So, Hawaii it would be. Now the next challenge was to decide how we were going to accomplish this trip. Would it be a couple of weeks on a single island, split the trip between 2 or 3 islands, or find a cruise itinerary that made us both happy. Hell, I used to live there in the early 70's. Simple enough, eh? NOT!!! Using all the analytical skills garnered from 33 years working on Department of Defense weapons systems programs, I got to work. I pulled out pencil and paper, signed on to the web and started writing down hotel, car, tours, and airfare rates. After adding in a little food and a lot of drinks it quickly became apparent that we could either go to Hawaii for two weeks, or buy our dream dump on Maui, and not eat or drink. It gets expensive quick. With the consent of her royal highness, I made the command decision to book a cruise to the islands. Several cruise lines tour the islands. None of them had an itinerary that made either of us jump up and down and shout, "We've got to go on this one!" Port calls were just a few hours and the sea days were trips to Fanning Island or Papeete to satisfy the law prohibiting foreign registered vessels from sailing between US ports without a foreign port visit. They're not "Hawaii". Then (do you hear the dramatic drum roll?) we found the 9/25-10/7 Carnival Spirit, Hawaii cruise. Actually, it found us. I had signed up for [a] newsletter letter after our Sea Princess, Alaska cruise last year. Therein lied (?) the answer. A 12-day cruise to Hawaii going to four islands with overnights on Maui and Oahu. It also had 6 sea days in a row. I love sea days. The cruise departed Vancouver, Canada, sailed 6 days to Kona, Hawaii. Then onward to Hilo, Hawaii, 2 days in Lahaina, Maui, a day in Lihue, Kauai, and 2 days in Honolulu, Oahu. If we were screaming types, we'd have let loose with the previously mentioned shout. I immediately called [my travel agent] and booked our first Carnival cruise through their cruise specialist. The rate for an 8A guarantee was about the same as her, er, our booze requirements on a land only vacation. This was also an opportunity to use some perks from my last professional position. I had a bazillion frequent flier miles on Delta, and a half a bazillion HiltonHonors points. For the $15 security fee we were able to book first class airfare to LAX-Vancouver and then Honolulu - LAX for both of us. We also booked 2 days post cruise at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for $30. (I think the $30 is Hilton's way to punish me for not planning far enough ahead.) Finally, we booked a room at the Best Western Vancouver Airport for the night prior to the ship's departure. After doing the "get there" and "stay there" stuff, we booked rental cars on Maui and Kauai through Budget. Finally, we booked the Safari Helicopter Deluxe Volcano and Waterfall tour out of Hilo. That was enough work for one day. One last task remained before we could leave. I blew the electronic dust from the packing spreadsheet from our Alaska cruise and began replacing long underwear and coats with shorts and Aloha shirts. I was careful not to delete the 3-outlet 6-foot extension cord from the packing list. Cruise ship builders seem to follow some law that only allows one outlet in the main cabin area. This proved to be true on the Spirit. Eventually, the 24th of September arrived. We packed and then drove to the kids place in the afternoon. They drove us to LAX for the relatively short flight to Vancouver. We got in about 9:30 that night. Around 10:45 we got to the front of the airport terminal and called the hotel shuttle. Security and customs took about 10 minutes. Has anyone mentioned to you that it is a looonng walk from the plane to the terminal? We took our passports and driver's license for documents. When you go, check current requirements because they seem to change all the time. We got up the next morning and had a leisurely breakfast. At about 10:00 AM the hotel desk called a cab for us. It took about 45 minutes and $17 CN (without tip) to get to Canada Place. We hadn't been there since they opened the new cruise ship facility. Wow, is it ever nice. A couple of young fellas grabbed our bags from the cab, looked at our cruise tickets, and slapped tags on them. We didn't see our bags again until they showed up in our cabin later that afternoon. We gave those fellas a small tip even though there were really big signs that said no tipping. They didn't give it back. After entering the facility, all cruise ship passengers go through metal detectors just like the airport. Only ticketed passengers where allowed past this point. Once through the scanners, signs pointed the way to various ships. (Guys, you don't have to ask directions, they're also really big signs.) It was a two-room process for boarding Carnival. To get into the first room, you pass under the obligatory Carnival arch to get your welcome aboard pictures taken. Since our experience has shown that these pictures are only slightly more flattering than a driver's license photo, we grabbed a very cute Carnival employee and put her in our picture. This was our small attempt at punishing Carnival for any mishaps that may happen. Damn girl must have been a professional DMV model before her Carnival job. She looked great, while we looked liked two old folks that had been traveling for two days. Drat, another good plan gone bad. After the picture, we picked up a group number card from a table and were then directed to a row of seats. We were part of group number 2. Handouts with boarding instructions were handed out. (I guess that's why they're called handouts.) Several Carnival folks walked through and made sure our groups' paperwork was correctly filled out. After about 20 minutes sitting in the first room, our group number was called. That was our invitation to go to room number two. Here were about 30-40 stations to process your tickets and get boarding passes. A very pleasant lady handled this quickly and gave us a map of the ship, and our sail and sign cards. (These cards are the "money" used on board; you're getting on and off pass, and cabin key.) Here's also where we found out we had been upgraded from an 8A to an 8G cabin. From there we took a seat in the main area and waited to be called by group number to clear U.S. Customs and board the ship. OOPS. Big delay number 1 just happened. The customs folks work at both the airport and Canada Place. You got it, no customs folks. After a while, the chief boarder (a Canadian gentleman) announced that the U.S. Customs folks forgot they were scheduled to be at Canada Place for our departure. 45 minutes or so later they arrived. The customs folks said Carnival didn't schedule them. Uh Oh! A U.S. corporation, foreign registered ship, U.S. Customs, all on Canadian soil! Call the UN!! Yeh, right after we get on board! About 20 minutes after the customs folks showed up, Carnival started priority boarding wheel chaired passengers, families with small kids, the Skippers Club, and cute girls with good stories. (Remember that the chief boarder is a guy!) After that, they started boarding by the same group numbers we've now had for about two hours. The next stop was the aforementioned U.S. Customs. This was great for this cruise since we didn't have to spend time in our first port visit doing the customs clearance. Finally, at a little after 1:00 PM, we walked on board. (Bet ya didn't think we'd ever get here! Just wait.) Crisis number one occurred as soon as we stepped into the atrium. The atrium bar was open. A friend I'll call Mr. Miller Lite was screaming my name. He shouted that he had been onboard too long and needed to be drank before he went bad. Being trained to respond to a plethora of emergencies, I immediately set myself into action. My Queen recognized my desire to fix problems as soon as I find them, and in her most regal tone she said, "Hold on, Bucko. He'll be there when we get back." The first place we went was to the dining room. This was aft (back of the boat) from the atrium. We had requested early seating for this cruise. As usual on this request, we were assigned late seating. The Matre'd made himself available starting at 1:00 PM to change the seating if possible. We made our request for change and were told it would be the next day before we would hear anything, and we should attend our assigned seating that night. The dining room takes up two levels. It has a very pleasant dEcor with a mix of tables and booths. The second level is a balcony surrounding the main dining floor. Our seating for that night was a 4-person booth on the port (left) side of the main dining area. The day's menu is posted outside the dining room each day. The trick is that the dining room has two sets of doors. In order to see the menu when the dining room is not open, you have to open the left hand door and squeeze into the 2-foot opening between the double set of doors. You won't find that hint in the ship's daily paper, the Carnival Capers. Now, it was off to see the cabin and explore the ship while the rest of our 2500 roommates got on board. Our balcony cabin was number 7219 on the Verandah deck. This is on deck 7 about amidships on the starboard (right) side. We really enjoyed this cabin. There was plenty of room for the two of us for the 12 days we were onboard. Storage for everything we brought was not a problem. Our large suitcases fit easily under the bed. We had requested that the beds be made up together. This gave us quite a bit of walk-around room. Don't be confused that it's got enough room for a game of volleyball, but it was as comfortable, albeit smaller, as any standard motel room. We really liked having the sofa to set on as opposed to a single chair and the bed we've had on other cruise lines. When you first enter the cabin, three closets line the small hall. The first two are full hanging closets and the third has shelves. Your life jackets take up one shelf unless you shove them under the bed. There is a placard on the back of the cabin door with emergency directions and a map to your lifeboat station. A roomy bathroom is on the other side of the entry. It had a large shower, for a cruise ship, with a shampoo and body soap dispenser. There was a single "shavers only" outlet in the bathroom. (What the hell does that mean!!) We had a large basket full of product freebees such as razors, shampoos, Dramamine, Skittles, and other stuff. I reckon it's good advertising considering the number of folks onboard. The main part of the cabin consists of a three-person sofa with storage drawers, an adjustable height table (which was fantastic for room service), very firm beds that were exactly how we liked them, and a long built in combination dressing table, chest of drawers, and shelving unit. This unit held the 19" color TV, the safe, the built-in hair dryer, refrigerator, and the infamous 1 AC outlet. Two robes were in the cabin for our use on the cruise. (I personally think they should swap them out after about six days of a twelve-day cruise if you know what I mean.) The safe uses any credit type card with a magnetic strip as the combination. Don't use your cruise card just in case you lose it and give someone else access to your cabin AND your safe. Each cabin has its own thermostat to set it to your personal comfort level. This presumes you're tough enough to whip your partner. Personally, I'm comfortable wherever Judy puts it. The refrigerator is a locked mini-bar. The room steward needs to unlock it. I hear if your really nice, they'll empty it out for you. Each evening in our cabin, we were greeted by a different towel animal creation. We really began to look forward to see what creature was awaiting our return. The balcony door is an out swinging French door. A two-foot bungee cord hooked to the handle and under the balcony divider can keep it open. This does turn off the cabin air conditioner unless you're a magnet wizard and override the door switch. We didn't do this since it was too cold the first three days, and too warm the rest of the cruise. Our balcony was about 12' wide and 5' deep with a Wal-Mart rosin chair and lounger. I mentioned we were upgraded from an 8A to an 8G cabin. That means we were on a higher deck with about a 2' deeper balcony. Otherwise, all Cat 8 cabins are basically the same. Enough about the cabin already. Even though it is virtually soundproof, I could still faintly hear the cries for help from Mr. Lite coming up from the Atrium. It had come the time, regardless of what my beautiful Queen Judy said. I had to do my knightly duty to rid the world of frightened beer. By the way, I did consider this noble task as part of the ship's tour. We hurried in a safe manner to the glass elevators and descended to the atrium. The Spirit Atrium is the center of activity for the ship. The glass elevators face the Atrium bar, which is framed on each side with the grand staircase going up to deck three. Behind the bar is a small stage where different "mood" music was played throughout the cruise. The Purser's desk and tour desk is located in this area. Across the expanse of the atrium from these desks are assorted chairs and sofas to set and watch the world go by through large windows. I digress. With a grim determination, and a growing concern for Judy's safety caused by her swiveling head, gawking at the dEcor in the atrium, I planted my butt and her royal heiny on stools at the bar. With the fear for her highness's safety allayed for the moment, I proceeded to deal with the Mr. Miller Lite dilemma. You'll be glad to know that Mr. Lite was saved from going bad, and we saved many, many of his family from the same fate over the next twelve days. As we sat there doing good deeds, we continued exploring the Spirit. This consisted mostly of discussing the ship's dEcor and watching cruise mates embark. As Judy so eloquently pointed out, "We've got twelve days to check out the boat." Much has been said about the Spirit class ship's decor. Many were not kind. I'll admit that it's a bit overwhelming when you first see it, but it grew on us. The dark colors highlighted with gold, and the repetitive geometric designs became familiar. If folks miss the old Carnival use of bright, colored patterns just go up to the pool deck. WAHOO! Elevators and public restrooms are plentiful on the Spirit. We now know where all the restrooms are, and never had to wait for an elevator. It soon came time to get underway. We went to our cabin and watched the departure from our balcony. It was a sunny, pleasant late afternoon to catch the Vancouver scenery. We also used this time to unpack and get ready for dinner. The ride out and through the long passage of the Straits of Juan DeFuca was smooth and uneventful. We also got to watch the season premiere of the "West Wing" while driving towards the wide, blue Pacific. The ship's cable system had Primetime 24 East for the whole cruise. So, if you could adjust your TV watching clock to east coast time you could keep up with your favorite shows. We also filled out the customs forms that were in the cabin in advance of our arrival in Honolulu a week later. As 8:45 neared, we headed down for dinner. We had no tablemates that evening so we missed one of our favorite parts of cruising. That is meeting different folks who have also left their cares and woes on the beach. Yep, I reckon that was a vote for "Personal Choice" style dining. Because food is subjective (even if my opinion is always right), I'll forego 12 days of dinner descriptions. The dining room food was plentiful and tasty, and repetitive, without being extraordinary throughout the cruise. Most nights, the Matre'd and his staff did some type of skit or dance, and their service was very professional. I know that's not an overwhelming ovation for the dining room, it's just to say everything was just fine. From the dining room, we went back to the atrium for an après dinner cocktail before retiring. Don't yell, when I ski, it's called an après ski beer. Got It! After the après it was time to turn in. Day one was over. We are cruising!!! The next five days were filled with many cruise highlights that I'll synopsize in a rambling fashion so as to not use 5 pages a day. The first couple of days were very cool, weather wise. After that it warmed noticeably the further south we went. Six sea days in a row may seem boring to many cruisers, but somehow we stayed busy even if we were busy doing nothing. (This scared her highness once she figured out how well I could actually do nothing.) Carnival does schedule a boatload (get it?) of activities to keep you busy if'n you so choose. Sometime in the middle of our first night at sea the weather turned. Watching the ship's TV channel, we registered 60-70 mile per hour winds and 20-30 foot swells. While the stabilizers did a great job, needless to say that there were a whole bunch of people who missed that days activities. The lifeboat drill was conducted at 9:30 that morning. It was held indoors in the hallways to be safe. It took about 30 minutes. A lot of the folks looked like they'd rather have been washed overboard. Things started to calm down after the first day and we saw more and more of our shipmates getting out and about. We woke up early each morning of the cruise and called room service. We would order 2 pots of coffee, orange juice, Danish, and bagels. The stuff got to our cabin in less than 10 minutes each time. We had brought a bunch of $2 bills and used them for tipping onboard. What a great crew. The first morning, Judy opted for the dining room for breakfast. Both breakfast and lunch are open seating. The food was O.K. It was not quite up to the standards of a good "Lenney's". It was our last time to have breakfast here. This was not a cruise breaker by any stretch. There are enough places to eat onboard that the pickiest eater can enjoy. The next morning we ventured up to the pool deck to the La Playa Grill. Now they have a breakfast here! All the choices were fresh and very tasty. Lines were non-existent. Floor to ceiling windows provided a fantastic vista while folks ate more in one sitting than they probably would in a day at home. Yep, that's cruising for ya! Just a bit more about food, then I'll get on with it. After breakfast that morning we went back to the cabin to get ready for our day at sea. A card from the Matre'd was in the cabin saying that we had been changed to early seating at 5:45 PM. We were now in a booth on the other side of the dining room with a retired couple from Florida via New York and the Philippines. We spent several nights enjoying their company at dinner. We ate about half our evening meals in the dining room, and the rest at the La Playa Grill. We never had lunch in the dining room, nor dinner at the added fee Nouveau Supper Club, so I can't tell you first hand what that was like. But, I am a second-hand expert on the supper club. Virtually every person we talked to raved about their evening there. I guess we got so busy doing nothing that we didn't have time to go up 2 decks from our cabin to try it. The La Playa Grill and pool deck is also the location of other culinary delights. Each evening they had a "Taste of Nations" buffet set up. This is a little misnomer unless you agree that burritos, pork chops, and such all come from India. There was a definite Indian flavor to all these dishes. They have a poolside grilling area for great hamburgers, hot dogs, and brauts. My personal favorite was the Deli, and Judy's favorite was the Pizza Bar. The Deli sandwiches were fresh and moist and delicious. My German heritage queen, Judy, ate so many Calzones that she was speaking Italian by the end of the cruise. To top all this off, on the aft pool deck there were several self-serve soft ice cream and yogurt machines to help fill whatever small crevices of your insides that you had left. Finally, below on the Promenade deck is the Fountain Cafe. Here is the place that if your sail and sign card is low on charges, you can purchase desserts and coffees for a nominal fee. I don't get it. Food, coffees and desserts up the kazoo and they'll actually sell you more for a "nominal" fee! I don't want to get too far into the cruise without recognizing the absolutely phenomenal cruise staff and crew onboard the Spirit. They were all personable, professional, and friendly. If it was in their power to do something for you, they did it. We did have our three favorites. They were Donna and Jo Anne from the Philippines, and Geniviete from Lithuania. We spent a lot of time with those three in many enjoyable encounters and conversations. Speaking of the pool area, which I spoke of somewhere in this thing, after the first couple of days it really got a workout. The warm days and beautiful skies kept it crowded. We never saw "chair hogging". The aft pool deck always had piles of chairs for passengers to use. We never did see the slide open. Each day there were contests such as "Survivor Carnival Style", ice-carving demonstrations, and our favorite, "Hawaiian Sounds" by a group called "Ikapuahana". Say that once real fast! After dinner each night we would go up to the pool deck for coffee and ice cream, and talk romantic cruise ship type stuff. Before the cruise, I had "volunteered" to be the center post for a cruise forums get-together for the folks at the Cruise Critic, Cruise Mates, and Cruise Addicts web sites. This was scheduled on our second full sea day. Before leaving home, I had made up a beautiful, professional sign with the logos from these forums. At the appointed place (Champions Bar) and appointed time (1:00 PM), the queen and I plopped our keisters down, started saving frightened beers, and awaited the swarming throng. In 3 hours of awaiting, 3 folks swarmed us. The time was well spent with our Lite family duties and meeting SPUDWITCH from the Cruise Critics board. SPUDWITCH turned out to be half of the Sharon and Earl team. These are great folks that we occasionally ran into around the boat, and on the beach. By the way, they are from Idaho (SPUD) and Sharon's birthday is Halloween (WITCH). I got it after she explained it. To further add to the excitement of our days at sea, my sweetie invited me to attend the arts and crafts activity held each day. She has always been into this stuff. If you should run across her someday, be sure to ask her which of the two of us actually finished the official Carnival plastic canvas penholder. Oh Yeah!! Let me ramble a moment (again?), less we forget shopping on sea days. Deck 3 contains the Fashion Blvd. I didn't count, but there were about 8-10 shops here. Momma used it to get her store fix, and to keep me in the practice of tagging along with my mouth shut, until the time we reached port. Actually the shops contained a variety of stuff with pretty good duty-free prices. The law required them to shutdown in port. Late afternoons were taken up with Judy retiring to the cabin, taking a nap when she could, and working on a baby blanket for our soon to arrive granddaughter. (She's here now, and she and our other granddaughter are the best looking women in the family.) I split my time between the Atrium Bar and the Champions Bar talking to the international bartenders, continuing my crusade for the Lite family, and bothering any unsuspecting passenger who happened to get too close. What a life! One of those unsuspecting types was a gent named George from San Diego, via England. I mention George not only because he's a great guy, but also because he related a theory that answers the ever-present question about how old the average passenger was on this cruise. I was a young 51 and George was 62 at the time of cruise. Just aft of the atrium area is the Dancin' Dance Club. This is a disco type dance hall with a sign out front that said unescorted teenagers must vacate at 11:00 PM. George held that age is relative. If that holds to be true, he said we'd have to find someone to escort us into the club after 11. No offence, but he wasn't far off. We did count eleven little pirates marching along with the Club Carnival kids group. The age group on this cruise was probably a factor of both the dates of the cruise, and it's length. The casino was open anytime we were at sea. Don't worry about finding the casino; it'd be tough for Daniel Boone to find a way fore and aft without going through it. I don't remember seeing the casino not crowded, unless we were in port. I was surprised at that. As tight as we found the machines, you'd think with that many folks gambling they could have pooled their money and bought the boat. I guess some folks are luckier than others. The evenings were spent attending the shows in the Pharaohs Palace, the Versailles Room, and other venues around the boat. The shows were all energetic, entertaining, and professionally done. Norm Crosby was the headliner for this trip. Right next to the Champions Bar is Club Cool. This is a smallish lounge with a dance floor and stage. This is where tender tickets were handed out. It's also where karaoke was performed. Those were some brave passengers. Judy and I were in Champions the first time karaoke fired up. The bartender, Jo Anne, ran to us with horror in her eyes looking for help. It was no use. Until that time, Judy and I had assumed we were afraid of absolutely nothin'. Again it goes to show where assuming will get you. Those paxs sure were having a great time though. That about takes care of the trip across the Pacific to the islands. It seemed to take about as long to do it as it does reading to here. Before I blither on about the port calls, I want to mention that we did not book any tours through the cruise line. We've found they cost way more than doing them ourselves. This overrides the small risk of being left behind. Heck, buy third-party vacation insurance with the saved money. It also leads me to the one thing about cruising that puts a giant bite on our backsides. Folks who book tours through the cruise line are the first off in ports where tenders are used. We understand why the lines do this. Don't bother flaming me or arguing cause I don't care. Cruise lines, please hire enough tenders to take care of your tour paying passengers, and enough to get those of us who paid the same price for our trips, on the beach at the same time so we all can enjoy the limited port time. This ain't rocket science, and we're not traveling steerage. Whew! I feel better now. Next is security. Every time you get on or off the ship, your sail and sign card is run through a machine to confirm who you are, and whether your onboard or not. When we first came aboard in Canada, our picture was taken by security, and associated with the card. They looked at the picture every time we boarded to insure you-is-you. When returning to the ship, all hand-carried items are hand searched, ID's checked, and your body is wanded on the pier. Once on the ship, your card is scanned and your carry-on stuff is run through an x-ray machine. Now on with the cruise. We pulled in and anchored in Kona about an hour and a half ahead of schedule. Her majesty had designated this a shopping port with some picture taking and eating as a sideline. After getting our tender numbers from Club Cool we proceeded to the beach. AAARHHG! Free shopping buses from Hilo Hattie's and Wal-mart where waiting, as they were in every port. Kona is a tourist town that circles beautifully around its bay. Judy says it reminds her of Avalon on Catalina Island. It reminded me of Kona since I'd been here a couple of times in my youther years. It was hot and sunny as we began the marathon-shopping run. There were some folks training on the Iron-Man triathlon venues. Those wimps would have died keeping up with my Judy. As usual, we hit every store within the boundaries of this side of the island, ate some food for strength, and then did some real shopping. We did get a chance to slip into the oldest missionary church on the island, which is built out of coral, without being blasted by the oft spoke of bolt of lightning. Kona is truly a beautiful place. After the marathon, we returned to the Spirit and continued our late afternoon and evening routine on board. The ship departed for the other side of the island at around 5:30. Upon awaking the next morning, we went out to the balcony, with our morning victuals, to watch our approach into Hilo. The early morning was bright and clear as we proceeded down the coastline. With no clouds forming yet, we had clear views of the observatory stations at the top of Mauna Kea, down across Mauna Loa, and a stunning view of the volcanic plume of Kilauea. We tied up at a pier a couple of miles from downtown, and right next to the airport. Upon disembarking, we finally got "lei'd" in Hawaii. You could tell the cruisers from the rest of the folks by the purple flower leis we were all wearing. (Not to mention the bright, white legs on oh so many of us.) Hilo can be a pretty wet place. They get between 130 and 200 inches of rain a year. As the morning warmed up, clouds rapidly formed. Starting about noon that day the rainfall average was significantly added to. This microclimate of warm and sunny on the west side of the islands, and warm and wetter on the east side holds true for most of the Hawaiian chain. Also, the year round temps across the islands are almost always in the 80's during the day, and the 70's at night. Look out Al Roker, me sound like I know weather, uh. As I said somewhere towards the top of this thing, we had booked the Safariair helicopter tour of the volcanoes and waterfalls. This was the tour we were most looking forward to on this trip. We were not disappointed. I love any type of flying, and Judy had never been in a rotary wing contraption. The combination of my anticipation and her trepidation got our "couples" karma out of whack. We were already a little uncertain whether the flight would get off with the building weather. When we booked this flight over the Internet, we had requested the 1:30 PM flight just in case there was a major delay in getting off the boat. When you book these rotary wing tours you need to give your height and weight so the pilot can calculate center-of-gravity and weight and balance for the aircraft. We received an e-mail from them prior to leaving home; implying one of us was just a little too "tubby" for the 1:30 lift-off. We were shifted to the 10:00 AM flight. A representative from Safariair picked us up from the pier at about 9:15 and drove us to their facility at the Hilo airport. Once inside, we were weighed on a digital scale to confirm no "slimming" fibs were told over the Internet. After the rest of the tour group arrived, we were given a safety briefing, our seating assignment, and introduced to our pilot, Jim. The aircraft held seven people. Four sat in the back seat, and two paxs and the pilot sat in the front. We got really lucky here. Four nice people loaded into the back, Judy got the middle, front seat, and "tubby" got the left hand, front door seat. What a fantastic view for the hour-long flight. Jim gave us another flight safety briefing, and we went light on the skids. We all wore Bose noise-canceling intercom headsets during the flight. These worked fantastically. You could barely hear the airplane, but the piped over Hawaiian music and Jim's superb and entertaining narration was crystal clear. The aircraft was equipped with a video camera system with forward and side mounted cameras and six videotapes. The tape has the flight video with Jim's narration, and the Hawaiian music for $20. They're worth it for the music! It had started raining fairly hard as we departed the airport. Jim kept up his running narration of points of interest as we flew toward the Kilauea calderas. The rain stopped just as we started flying over older lava flows. Once we got over the southwestern side of the volcano, we could see the venting plumes from the lava tubes running down to the sea. Periodically we could see the molten lava as it broke through the surface. Once over the ocean, we could clearly see the orange-red lava flowing into the ocean from several tubes, sending vast clouds of hydrochloric acid into the air. That would be a baaad place to take a deep breath if you were on the ground. After showing us the volcano area, Jim headed back to the north of Hilo. Along the winding river, flowing out to the sea, several huge and majestic waterfalls came into view. We descended and circled the waterfalls for about 15 minutes. Way, way too soon it was time to head back and land. After landing, we deplaned the rotary thing. A staffer grabbed our cameras and took a shot of each of us in front of the helicopter. Safariair is one class act. We were driven back to the pier upon completion of this fantastic tour. We later heard that the rains and low clouds had cancelled the afternoon flights. Tubby is now glad he didn't listen real close to his cardiologist. Otherwise we'd have missed our flight. The helicopter ride was silky smooth, Judy likes helicopters, and all is right in the world. During our flight, Jim had told us that downtown Hilo is not really a "tourist" type place as far as its layout goes. So... momma made a decision and we went shopping. We jumped on the ever-present gratis Hilo Hattie's bus and headed out. The Hattie's representative handed out free puka shell necklaces. They did this in every port. (OOPS! Kids, the necklaces we gave you were the really, really expensive ones.) After Hattie's, we walked across the street to Wal-Mart for more vacation fun. From there it was back to the ship for our now normal shipboard routine, and our departure for Maui. The next morning the ship anchored in the bay at Lahina, Maui. We'd be here for two days. The ship did lift anchor and head out to sea after midnight, and then returned and anchored early in the morning. Yeah, you could stay on the island all night if you wanted. We went back to the boat since we'd already paid for our room. We heard that shorts were allowed that night in the dining room. That was the only time on this cruise. Once we went through the get off the boat and tender thing (yatayatayata), we walked a block through town to pick up the Budget rental car shuttle. Lahina is an old whaling village that has maintained its charm. The seaside bars from my youth are now a lot of, no, hundreds of, no, thousands of shops. We had both been here during the years before we met. You know, the unhappy years. Anyway, we picked up the car and headed across the island to Hana. If you haven't taken the infamous "Road to Hana", you gotta try it someday. The road is a little over 30 miles long with over 600 curves and 59 one-way bridges. It winds through some of the most beautiful and lush tropical mountain rainforest that we have ever seen. Waterfalls are spread throughout the trip. It's also the only road I've driven that has the sign "Speed Zone Ahead" where the speed limit goes "up" from 15 mph to 30 mph. The round trip from Lahina can take all day, and is well worth the time. After entering Hana, we took the fork to the right and searched out a place for lunch. We found it at the Hotel Hana Maui. This is one high class, high-end inn. Don't confuse it with a high-rise hotel. It's low-slung buildings and oriental gardens spread across the landscape presenting a view just short of heaven. We had lunch in their covered lanai dining room overlooking their unbelievable ocean vista. We did not want to leave, but with anything less than winning the lotto, it would have been a short stay. Kicking and screaming, we got back in the car and retraced our route back to Lahina. We searched out a lot to park the car for the night. There are several on the street about 2 blocks from the pier. Be warned that they vary in price without any seeming reference to the proximity to downtown Lahina. We found one directly up from the wharf for $10 a night. With very little begging on my part, my queen consented to forego shopping until the next day. Instead, we did manly stuff. The Pioneer Inn is a hundred-plus year old wooden hotel sitting at the foot of the wharf where our tenders arrived and departed. Sailors, whalers, and other tough guys have frequented this joint for decades. My new, old buddy George was sitting in the open sided bar imbibing with his three female tablemates from the ship. He graciously asked us to join them. Shortly after we arrived, one of our new, young crewmember friends, Geniviete, and her friend joined in. A Samoan singer large enough to make Shaq look like Minnimee from Austin Powers, sang beautiful Hawaiian songs while our six female tablemates and us two guys did manly bar things. This lasted until the call for the last tender of the night forced us to return to the ship. God I love port calls. The next morning, it was up early and onto the tender back to town. We found our car and went to the Lahina Cannery shopping center for a couple of hours of shopping. After that tour of duty, we loaded up and headed back to Budget to turn in the car. A quick shuttle ride back to Lahina placed us back into the "Judy shopping heaven" portion of the port call. The next several hours (read days) were spent going in and out of the lots of, no, hundreds of, no, thousands of shops. Looking down the sidewalk was hilarious. The lined up, vacant stared shopping "husbands" could get an invite to the International Identical Twins Day festivities. Then it was back to the ship to go to Kauai. Nawiliwili. That's a name that deserves to stand-alone. Lets all say it together. Nuh-willy-illy-willy. P.S. You've got to say it real fast to say it right. Yep, that's where we tied up on Kauai. It's located just outside of Lihue. Kauai is often referred to as the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. I don't know about that, given the awesome beauty found throughout the island chain, but there are astounding visionary spectacles to behold on this, the oldest of the islands. With extraordinary skill, care, and a boatload of thrusters, the Captain maneuvered the ship through a small opening into the harbor, and tied up to the pier in the place I said above. I dare you to say it again. Our visit on Kauai was a relatively short eight hours. Even though we had reserved a car, her royal person and I decided to forgo the pleasure of getting it, and turning it back in. We had planned to drive up the coast and do the Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour. Instead, we asked one of the cab drivers at the pier how much. He said 16 bucks. We said OK. We got in, and away we went. A short ride north of Lihue brought us to the River tour office and restaurant. Anyone who spends time watching movies rather than working will recognize this place. Let's see, Donovan's Reef, Blue Hawaii, and Jurassic Park to name just a few. We bought our tickets and waited for the time to board the really big river barge for the two and a half mile trip up the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto. Once aboard we set sail for the leisurely cruise. The barge had a small band to do band stuff, and hula ladies to do hula stuff on our way up. They were really good considering the number of times they do this trip day in and day out. A half hour trip brought us to the docking area for the grotto. Upon reaching the grotto dock, we walked on a concrete path for about 10 minutes through the jungle. Don't fret; Hawaii has never, ever had snakes. The grotto suddenly opened up through the thick foliage. It's a truly beautiful place with giant ferns overhanging the cliffs and grotto. We were invited to walk into the grotto. Once there, the crew sang the "Hawaiian Wedding Song". Remember Elvis. And yes, they really do perform a ton of weddings here. After that we loaded onboard the barge and headed back to the tour dock. On this trip, the pilot gave a great talk about what we saw on the boat ride. O.K. it may sound a little hokey, but we loved it. Once ashore, we called our cab company and had them take us to downtown Lihue. The town was putting on their part of the annual Aloha Festival. This festival is held all across the islands. The festival was set up in the town square. We spent a few hours here rummaging through the crafts, watching the entertainment, and eating hot dogs. This was a case of a small town, good time. Rather than spend money on another cab, we walked a few blocks to Hilo Hattie's and took the free bus back to the ship. Onboard we went, and it was Honolulu bound. Honolulu. This is it, our last port, the end of the road, the place to get off, the last of this novella! Aloha. Not yet. We didn't disembark until the next day. This gave us a whole day and night in Honolulu, with a room. That is until we shifted over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for two more days. We tied up that morning next to the Aloha Tower and got ready to ransack the island. This was "my island", the place where I had lived and loved for three years. (WHOOPS! yet again. Judy didn't know about that part.) I was going to spend the next few days taking my sweetheart to all my old haunts and hideaways. That took about 5 minutes discounting driving time. What the hell did they do to my island in the last 28 years? I'll tell you! They built a herd of new buildings all over the island; added new roads; grew the population by 100%; and tore down my old haunts and hideaways. Damn, I hate it when that happens. I know, I know, you don't care. That's fine, Judy didn't either. Okay, okay. We had planned this first day as the day we explored Waikiki. We departed the Spirit that first morning, and to my surprise, we went shopping at the Aloha Tower. Once we exited the pier building, several tour buses, cabs, and company shopping vans were waiting to take the milling throngs to their appointed places. This was also the place we found the Waikiki Trolley stop. These are open sided trolleys that run different routes from the Aloha Tower through the downtown and Waikiki area for $2 a day. The first thing we did, after the little shopping spree, was to jump on the trolley and ride it down to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV). I wanted to verify our room reservation and give Judy a preview of the 24-acre "hideaway" where we would be spending the next couple of days. Whew! I'd like to own 24 acres on Waikiki for about the 30 seconds it would take to become a multi-billionaire. Once the reservations were confirmed, we stopped by the hotel's tour desk to book the Arizona Memorial Tour and reserve our rental car for the next couple of days. From the HHV we hoofed it down to the Waikiki beach area. This is where the first dramatic changes to "my island" were noticed. I had regaled Judy with the absolutely true, unvarnished, no bull facts about the functions I had attended at the world famous, pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel and it's equally famous Mai Tai Bar. I couldn't find it. How in the world could I NOT find a giant pink building on Waikiki beach? Simple, high-rise store/office buildings were built in the front of it. We eventually found the "free beach access" alley and went to the Royal Hawaiian for a walk around. She's still a beautiful place. From there, we headed over to the International Market Place for an afternoon of shopping. The mostly open-air market place is located in the middle of the Waikiki beach area, and has been there for decades. We spent a long, long time here. After the Market Place, we crossed the street and "walked the sands of Waikiki". Yep, just like the words from the songs. In the late afternoon we boarded the trolley to head back to the Spirit for one last night of that ole cruise feeling. Disembarking the next morning was a piece of cake. Earlier in the cruise we had filled out a form that had been left in our cabin. This form detailed each passenger's post cruise itineraries. Based on flight times, tour schedules and such, Carnival assigned a number and color for getting off the ship. Luggage tags with this info and directions were delivered to the cabin. On the last night, we packed up and put the tags on our bags, and then set them outside our cabin by midnight. For those folks leaving the island, remember to keep out clothes and stuff for the flight home. We heard that folks forgot to do this more than once. I'm not sure that the new airline security measures allow you to fly home only wearing day old underwear. I can think of cases where that could constitute a terrorist act. When our color and number was called, we departed the ship, went to the luggage holding area, and grabbed our stuff. We were off the ship by 9:30 that morning. We hopped a cab and checked into the HHV. As it was early, no room was available. They checked us in and took our luggage anyway. The HHV has a desk setup to come back later and pick up the room keys later in the day. We then walked around the corner to the small Budget office and picked up our car. Today was our vehicular tour of the island of Oahu across Diamond Head, and up the coast to the North Shore. After working our way through the Waikiki traffic, we wound our way up Diamond Head to the lighthouse and lookout point. From there it was down to Hanauma Bay, Makapu Point, and up the coast to the North Shore and Sunset Beach. The surf was calm at Sunset and Bonsai Beach, so Judy didn't get to see how terrifyingly huge this can be. From there, we cut across the island through what remains of the Dole pineapple plantation, and worked our way back to Honolulu. Driving times on the islands are deceptive because of the winding coast roads, and lower speed limits. This trip took us all day. We got back to the hotel and picked up our room keys. Our bags had already been taken to the room. We walked down to the ever-present ABC convenience store and picked up snacks and liquid sustenance for use in the room. We had dinner at one of the whole bunch of eateries in the village, and returned to our room to partake of the afore mentioned sustenance on our balcony. Sorry that there's no review of the village. We didn't really avail ourselves of all they had at this beautiful resort. The next morning we had scheduled the Arizona Memorial Tour. Our tour left the village at 6:30 in the morning. This atrocious time was selected so as to be in the first group at the memorial. Later in the day, the lines and waits can become brutal. When I was stationed at Pearl Harbor, I was a member of the Fleet Reserve branch that participated in the fund raising and construction of the museum associated with the Arizona Memorial. I had seen conceptual stuff before leaving the island, but had not returned to see the final product. Many of my old shipmates and other organizations toiled unflaggingly for the years it took to get this part of the memorial opened. They exceeded the definition of a superb job. The shuttle took us to Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide quickly got our group lined up and signed in at the museum. The tour is free to all, and it is first come-first served. So get there early. We milled around smartly for a little while until our number was called. Once called, we entered the theater for a 20-minute movie of the history leading up to, and the attack on that infamous day. At the conclusion of the film, we loaded onto a launch piloted by U.S. Navy personnel, as only it should be. After a short ride, we arrived at the Arizona. Each group has 15 minutes to board and view the memorial. The quiet, solemn air and feeling of this final resting place of so many brave men must be felt, while never truly being explainable. At the conclusion of our time onboard, we reloaded the launch and returned to the museum site. Plenty of time was allowed to tour the museum proper, and then it was back to the shuttle and our return to the hotel. We jumped into the car and headed out to the eastern side of the island for our last day of the trip. This was "my side". We drove past the airport, Pearl Harbor and into Aeia. This was the first town in which I resided. I was able to recognize it by viewing the arrangement of the surrounding hills. Darn, they did it again. We pulled into a large coffee shop for breakfast. After eating we got back in the car to continue the "old haunt" search. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I thought I recognized the layout of a small road. We made that turn, and I'll be durned if my old apartment building wasn't still standing. Somebody must have messed up and not knocked it down for a used car dealership. Now I also know why the helicopter place inferred that I was a little "tubby". The place had gotten a lot smaller than when I lived there. After the ten seconds of reminiscing, which was about all Judy could stand, we headed north up Kam highway. Our destination was Naval Air Station Barbers Point on the north end of that side of Oahu. With my previous family, we had moved from Aiea to Barbers Point. The house was so new when we moved in, that the paint was actually still wet. Damn again. NAS Barbers Point had been decommissioned, and my house was now a giant fuel storage tank. What the heck, we're really not nostalgic folks. Besides, we had accepted our new, holy mission to rid the world of bad beer, didn't we? So, it was back to the hotel to pursue our new mission in life, and to pack for our flight home the next morning. Judy did get a driving tour of the entire island of Oahu. If she wants to see anything in detail, we'll have to come back. The next morning we packed up the car and sallied forth to the Honolulu International Airport. We dropped off the car, checked in for the flight, and boarded the plane for our last "waited on hand and foot" first class ride back to LAX. The smoothness of our vacation didn't end here. Oh contraire! As Judy was struggling to get the in-seat video unit out for the in-flight movie, the ever vigil flight attendant jumped in to help her. With a practiced pull and twist of the display by the flight attendant, my honey's index finger was smashed between the display and the seat. She was cut clear to the bone. We now had a horrified flight attendant and a queen in pain for the rest of the flight. We did get good service, though. Alas, not everything can be perfect. The cruise breaker we did experience was the ride of the Carnival Spirit. When at sea, with the right conditions, our cabin shuddered so hard that we had to pack the drinking glasses in towels to keep the clanking noise in check. Judy made up for her lack of sleep with naps when she could, and some sleep in port. To be fair, the shuddering decreased dramatically the lower we ventured on the ship. That was not the way to venture forth into new adventures. I'll stand on my experience of 10 years of sea duty on various classes of Naval vessels, and our previous cruises to say that this violent shuddering was mechanically or ship design induced. For the first time in my life I wrote a letter of complaint. I asked Carnival to give us an explanation just so we had the "real" story to base future adventures with them, on this otherwise unbelievable ship and cruise. Carnival did respond thanking us for our input, and 15% off future cruises with them. It's with a saddened heart that while this otherwise "trip of a lifetime" was truly enjoyable, we just can't recommend the Spirit to our friends and associates until we know that the problem is fixed. And this, my friends, concludes this very condensed version of what we did on our summer (fall) vacation. While we thoroughly enjoyed our adventure to those golden Pacific isles, 15 days away from home with an expectant little girl, and a longing for my recliner, allowed us to return home with light, though shaken, hearts. Aloha, Joe and Judy. jtbaumgartner@mindspring.comDecember 2002 Read Less
Miami/Panama Canal/San Diego - 01 Apr 2003 through 17 Apr 2003 Transportation to/Arrival at Pier No transportation woes for me on this part of the journey. This cruise was part two of a back-to-back for me as I had cruised on the ... Read More
Miami/Panama Canal/San Diego - 01 Apr 2003 through 17 Apr 2003 Transportation to/Arrival at Pier No transportation woes for me on this part of the journey. This cruise was part two of a back-to-back for me as I had cruised on the Spirit for an 8-night eastern Caribbean journey from 24 Mar-01 Apr. I was required to disembark in Miami just like any other passenger. Only exception was my luggage remained on the ship. Embarkation From the time I re-entered the terminal until I opened my new cabin door was about 15 minutes. Most of this time was spent relaying to every security person I passed that I was a back-to-back passenger. They couldn't understand why I was inside the terminal without a CCL badge on (this would be the beginning of a trend). I started off in the 'pier pickup' area since I had no documents. And, then had to fill in all the cards that most others would have done prior to arrival. I then proceeded through the security scan station, and to the main check-in area where I presented my boarding pass. This is the line where you would also set up your Sail & Sign card if securing with a credit card. I advised the CCL rep that I would open my new account with the Purser onboard. (On my first cruise I had opened a cash account, and ended up with a credit at the end. CCL issued a check to me, and on the morning of disembarkation it was in the cabin mailbox. The purser said I could just sign the check back over to CCL and deposit it on my new account). I went on to the Sail & Sign card desk where I received my new card, new cabin, and new table assignment. From there I went on to have my new card activated with the security photo. The only area not involved in my re-entry process was the Welcome Aboard photo—none of that was set up yet, and that was just fine by me. My re-boarding took place around 10:30, and I did see some arriving passengers; however, CCL was not even allowing the formation of lines at this time. All in all it was a smooth process. I did get off the ship one more time in Miami for a run to the Walgreen's, and I was gone for no more than an hour. When I returned new passengers were coming aboard, and I was allowed to side step all the normal lines and proceed directly onboard. This time without any questions although I still didn't have a CCL crew badge but at least this time I already had my Sail & Sign card. Cabin I had booked a category 1A guarantee for myself (same as I always do as a solo traveler-lowest category guarantee-it's about cruising for me not the cabin). I went directly to my cabin 4138 but it wasn't quite ready for me to occupy. I could see though that I had once again been upgraded. This time from a 1A to 5A French Doors obstructed view. I was pleasantly surprised at the space, storage, and amenities such as mini-bar (that has to be opened initially by the cabin steward); nice, huge beach towels, and bathrobes. The bathroom had tons of storage space, and the shower size was perfect (and, the shower curtain didn't 'hug' you). The cabin could have slept three as it had two twin beds and a sofa that converted to a trundle type bed. Lots of different light controls. And, the grate that covers the lighting around the ceiling is perfect for drying damp clothes. I did laundry one day, and the items that I don't like to dry completely in the machine, I hung up on the hangers from the closet and the little knob at the top of the hanger fit perfectly into the grate. I left the clothes hanging up overnight and next morning just moved the hangers with clothes right into the closet. Shampoo & body wash dispensers inside the shower. I only used on the last night after I had packed my own. The AC in this cabin worked like a champ. The beds are rock hard, and the pillows are very thin. I tried both of the beds in my cabin and one was just as hard as the other. Gym/Spa Nice gym and separate aerobics room where you could do stretches/floor exercises on your own. I even used this room when the Spa/Salon reps were in there conducting beauty classes (I was just really quiet). The steam room was nice and sure helped when I came down with a nasty chest cough. The steam room is a bit hidden. You actually have to go into the Beauty Salon to get to it unless I missed a more convenient entry from within the gym area. I did not use the spa/salon services so can't comment on those services other than to say it was the Steiner girls. Food Dining room - The quality and presentation was delightful. I only had one entrEe (salmon that was a little too fishy for my taste—one of my tablemates had it and ate every bite so I know it was just personal preference) I didn't care for and it was promptly replaced with another selection. Someone must have heard me on the first cruise as this time the soups were hot as opposed to lukewarm. I cannot comment on desserts as I only ordered once. I waited 15 nights for a dessert soufflE, and it was finally served on the last night. My waiter didn't even give me a dessert menu that evening. Just brought me two dishes of Grand Marnier soufflE. Actually it was on the menu the 15th night but that was the night I chose to go to the Supper Club. My waiter told me he was so grateful that was my Supper Club night as by the time late dinner seating rolled around all the soufflE was gone, and he wasn't sure how he was going to explain that to me had I been there!! Lido Deck - Although there were so many choices and everything looked so good, after the first cruise on the Spirit I pretty much stuck to my 'tried and true' when it came to the Lido. Loved the fries at the grill, sandwiches (cold & pressed) at the Deli, coleslaw from the salad bar, and pepperoni pizza. Only drawback at the pizza bar was they didn't always have slices ready (no matter what the topping) so I had to either agree to wait 8-10 minutes for them to cook or find something else. Well, I love pizza so even one morning for breakfast I waited for a fresh pepperoni. The couple I shared a table with that morning looked at me like I was nuts when I said I was waiting on pizza. And, it's that couple that I ended up spending the entire day with just out of the blue. Speaking of sharing tables that was the case for me many times in the Lido dining as single seating was hard to come by during peak times. Most people that I asked if I could join them were delightful. Some people that were waiting on several others to join them were a bit curt but okay by me. I wouldn't have wanted to sit with them anyway. Their loss. Oh, and I can't forget to mention the self-serve ice cream and frozen yogurt. I didn't care for the yogurt but gladly helped myself to the ice cream more than once! The ice cream/yogurt and serve yourself beverages (tea, coffee, lemonade, punch, and orange juice) were found at several locations on the Lido. Supper Club - I went once on the next to last night with an officer (nope, no name dropping from me) and had a fabulous meal, excellent conversation, and lots of laughs. Had a table for two on the first floor next to the window. The Lobster Bisque was oh so good; as was everything else I tried. Only thing I recall about the music is it wasn't as smooth in the background as the singer on the first cruise had been. If you want privacy at a table for two, I recommend a table that is not at a semi-booth style seating (I don't know what it's called but where one is in a chair and the other is on the bench/booth style seat). On the first cruise my sister and I dined there and chose a table by the dance floor at the semi-booth style—we loved it but we didn't need any privacy. I will definitely book again on any future cruise that offers an optional dining experience—well worth the extra $$. One of my tablemates booked and went four times—she really enjoyed it and she is someone who likes to cook and enjoys fine dining. Also, if you have an unfinished bottle of wine they will gladly cork it, and send it off to be served to you at your regular dining room table. Room Service - I ordered twice for breakfast. Fast, fast service!! Once I felt I had barely hung up the phone then my order was there. The other time I had ordered via the slip on the door at night and the delivery was prompt. My orders were for cold servings only—juice, cereal, fruit. Tip: If you don't like to drink your coffee from a plastic mug, ask for a teacup when ordering (I even wrote this on the door slip and received as requested). Entertainment More times than not I didn't attend the shows. The first week some of the shows were changed to before dinner for the late seating diners. I prefer the entertainment after dinner but then really by the second week there weren't many shows I actually cared to stay up for. Some of the shows frankly are boring; cruise after cruise, night after night. I did participate in the Hypnosis show and apparently the audience had a lot of fun at 'my expense' or so they tell me. Even up until the last day of the cruise I had people asking me what it was like and was I really 'under'. All I can say is there are some things I remember doing but have no idea why I did them (like dance—I really don't care to dance but I did with the hypnotist on stage and after the show when he said I would still be 'energized' I went to the Disco and danced until they closed, and during my 24 nights at sea that's the only time I danced so go figure). I don't remember being so relaxed and under the 'spell' that I fell out of my chair but I did or so I've been told! Cruise Director was Todd Wittmer. He was a last minute add on to the cruise. I didn't see him that often but then I didn't go to many shows. When I did see him he was always most kind. If you know the TV show American Idol, then I can best describe CD Todd as a look alike for Ryan Seacrest's big brother!! Seas - Overall I thought the entire cruise was pretty smooth sailing. There were many days you just couldn't tell we were moving, and I don't like those days. I prefer a little motion. One day (it might have been our first day in the Pacific after the Canal crossing) the Captain apologized for the rough seas and moved us in closer to shore for the second half of the day. I didn't even have to follow my normal remedy, which is (just sharing not endorsing) full strength Dramamine the night before a cruise, followed by Less Drowsy Dramamine every day of the cruise (at the same time of day) including the day of return. Ports of Call Cartagena, Columbia - Apparently on the day of embarkation in Miami (01 Apr) arriving passengers were given a flyer prior to check in stating the ship would anchor off the coast of Cartagena for a couple of hours but no passengers would be allowed to leave the ship. Seems everyone but me knew about this. I didn't find out until the night before our scheduled stop. I believe it was at dinner that my tablemates brought it up, and said they had received a $25.00 credit to the S&S account. Sure enough that night I checked my account from the TV and there was a credit. That played well with me, as I had no intention of leaving the ship in Columbia anyway. Panama Canal - I was up and on deck around 06:30 as we sat waiting to start our entry into the Canal. I was in the dining room for breakfast when it opened at 07:00 and we were still sitting & waiting. We slowly began to move during breakfast, and by the time I went back out on the decks after eating it was wall-to-wall people. Folks were 3-8 deep on the bow of the ship. If your heart is set on seeing all the action from the bow of the ship, I recommend room service for breakfast early, early. Take your coffee with you on deck and plant yourself. Most of these folks didn't move all day. Some would have one out of the party go off for refreshments throughout the day. Otherwise they all manned their posts!! Once we had passed through the first set of locks I realized I wasn't getting the full effect of the process by being on the higher decks. So the next set I went down to deck three and got the feel of what was happening with the rise and fall. Also, from that deck I could almost reach out and touch land. The lake is beautiful and different from side to side. First part felt similar to cruising the Inside Passage on the Alaskan cruises except the shore side vegetation was obviously different. And, the last part had an Amazon kind of feel with its muddy waters and crocodiles. Puntarenas, Costa Rica - Docked at the pier. I arrived early at the appointed location for my tour, which was the 'Costa Rica Outriggers'. About all I can do is tell you the description from the CCL Shore Tours booklet because I missed the trip. Long story short I was 'yakking' with a newfound friend, and both of us missed the calling of our excursion. Excursion managers offered to send me out on one of the last two trips to leave the pier. I chose the 'Skywalk in the Forest'. Hot, long, boring. Don't believe a word you read in the tour booklet description at least don't if you go at the same time of the year I did because none of what they write was happening. Oh well, met a great couple from Houston, and enjoyed some nice, cold ones at the end of our long journey. I also got the tour guide to ask the hotel manager where we stopped at the end of the Skywalk hike if I could take a dip in their pool. I was so overheated, and when I saw the pool on the drive in I could think of nothing else. I believe I was the only one of the passengers with a swimsuit on since my original excursion had called for swimming. So the manager had no problem in granting me a swim. When we arrived back at the pier the tour van would not leave us down by the beach where the stall shopping and bars were but took us all the way up to the ship's gangway. But there was a free trolley car that took us back down the pier. The Houston couple invited me along with them to the bar, and after several beers, I walked back down the pier to the ship and they strolled off to do a little shopping. Great couple—saw them many more times during the cruise. Acapulco - I was interested in a ship excursion here, and was led to believe by some that I could easily find my way to a nice beach via taxi just like you can in the Caribbean—NOT. I got off the ship, went into the terminal, was given the run around by a lot of locals, and then was told none of the drivers could guarantee that the resorts they would drive me to would allow me to use their facilities. They went on to tell me that I would just have to find out when I got there. Well, no thanks to that. I wasn't going to spend $35-40USD, and 30-40 minutes to be told no. So off I went in search of a Ship Excursion Manager. Long story short. After off/on ship at least three times I finally was put on a last minute van to see the Cliff Divers and then a drive around the outside neighborhoods, and a stop at a riverside location for a snack/drink. I was with two couples that had become friends since they boarded the ship in Miami. They were great companions and I had an incredibly wonderful day. That night around 23:00 I went to the Palladium disco in Acapulco with a group of about 12 from the ship. It was ladies night so for $7 USD I got admission and open bar. It was a beautiful club with huge, huge, huge floor to ceiling windows that overlook the harbor. The view alone was worth the trip. Puerto Vallarta - Alas one of my shore excursions goes off without a hitch. Well, sort of. The name of the CCL excursion is 'Las Caletas', and if you like being on a picture perfect beach setting that still allows for some modern conveniences then this is the place. It was by far the classiest beach excursion I have ever been on. The ride to this beach hideaway was by sea and took about 50-60 minutes (less time on the way back). Open bar on the boat and at the beach, kayaking. Downfall was Mother Nature—she put lots of jellyfish in the ocean that day so our snorkel stop and swimming at the beach were halted. So to counter that I booked a one-hour massage on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean where the room was open air with blowing white curtains for privacy, and the sound of the waves in the background. OMG—that was definitely one of the major highlights of this journey. Mazatlan - I booked through the cruise line the 'Stone Island Tour'. Except for the delightful people (from the cruise ship) I met prior to boarding and during this excursion it was a trip I would not repeat. It did have a lot of comedy involved though considering all the different modes of transportation involved in the journey. A tram, a 'pneumonia' cab, a sailing vessel of sorts, a wagon pulled by a tractor, a wagon pulled by a horse, a wagon pulled by a pickup truck. All that alone was worth a good laugh but not the money to go to a beach that you couldn't even walk on without being swarmed with vendors. I hadn't seen vendors until I hit Stone Island!!! Cabo San Lucas - I once again booked through CCL. This time the Santa Maria Cove Sail & Snorkel. It was worth every cent, and worth having to be at the appointed site at 07:00. I even tried to go with their second sailing but it wouldn't get back until after our ship sailed. This was our half-day at a port, and the one that I wished had been twice as long. Clothes This 16-day cruise had two formal nights, and each of those nights there was a cocktail reception for all guests. All other nights were listed as 'Casually Elegant' for dinnertime attire. I could have used a windbreaker for the last 3 days of the cruise (Cabo to San Diego). I only noticed one person throughout the cruise that showed up to dinner in shorts. And, he was one of my tablemates. I thought it showed disrespect to the table, and that was compounded by the fact that he showed up about 15 minutes late (more than once). He was not asked to leave the dining room. Whatever! Service Purser's Desk - My endless questions were answered politely, thoroughly, and always with a smile. Shore Excursion Desk - Matt, the Manager, and his assistant whose name escapes me deserve kudos as well. Even when the screw up was mine they came through, and looked out for me after that. Photography Staff - I made it through 16 days with only one photo being snapped of me so I say this staff is exceptional!!!! Serious note, the video they filmed of our day through the Panama Canal was beautiful. It was shown repeatedly on the TV, and I enjoyed it every time. Dining Room staff - I had late seating at 20:15, and there were 7 others at my round table who were also traveling solo. This was a first for me, and while I appreciate the efforts CCL made to perhaps find a common bond, I wouldn't care to be seated at such a table in the future. I like a mix (singles, couples, and late teen age & up is good). Also, while I always enjoy a leisurely dinner, five of the seven at the table ordered doubles of almost every course so the timing was always way off at the table. Again, that was a first for me, and something I didn't care for. Don't get me wrong I've ordered two of one course or another during my cruise history but it's probably every 4th cruise or so not every night. My table servers, Dainius from Lithuania and Simona from Slovakia were a delight. Simona, the assistant waiter, has a solid gold memory; and Dainius is just a fun-loving character with lots of patience. Also, the Second Floor Hostess, Florentina from Romania deserves recognition for checking on our table almost nightly. Dainius acted as the sommelier for my table. I kept a bottle of wine going for myself at dinner throughout the cruise, and each night if I still had the same bottle going it was waiting for me uncorked when I sat down. If I had finished it all the previous night, then Dainius was right there as I sat down to accept my next order. I quickly learned that the bar waitress that came by at the onset of dinner was not allowed to accept orders for bottles of wine only glasses of wine. Cabin Steward: Amor was a doll. It was the first cruise of his newest contract. He was a so kind and thoughtful when I came down with a horrible upper respiratory ailment on about day 4 of the cruise. Unfortunately, this is nothing new for me. I get some kind of respiratory, cold, or flu from every cruise. Normally it peaks 1-4 days after I get home from the cruise which is about the timing that this one hit me only I was still on the cruise after 12 days aboard. Amor brought me aspirin, offered food/beverage of all kinds. His towel creations were unique, and how fitting that the towel creature on my last night was a Sea Turtle. And, he didn't know that is my screen name so I shared that bit of info with him after I saw the towel. Overall Service: This was the best crew I have encountered. I was flattered to receive a delivery of treats in my cabin on two separate occasions by two different departments. Both deliveries wished me well on my back-to-back cruises. Debarkation Well, I could lie and tell you it went smoothly for me but why. Again, I'll attempt a short story (good grief, how many times have I said that so far). Awoke bright and early the last morning, dressed (and put my CCL bathrobe around me—it had been a very cold day at sea on the last day, and reports were that San Diego would be cool as well), and went to the bow for our daybreak arrival. It was beautiful. Went to the dining room for my last meal (after ditching the bathrobe in my cabin), and then back to my cabin to pack up my last minute tote bag items. That's when the loud, bang, bang, bang hit the door. I opened it to find three officers asking for my name. I answered, and was told they needed to ask me a few questions. They said they had been calling and calling my name over the address system all morning. All I could tell them was that I had been in the dining room and no announcements were heard, and from there I went straight back to my cabin. I am very security conscious so if I had heard an announcement I would have immediately responded. Anyway, while two of the officers went off and left one with me, I told him he could either prop open the door or come in because I still had some packing to do so my cabin steward could start to prepare my room for the next guests. He propped the door, I packed, and next I know there is a female officer and four male officers in my cabin. Twenty plus questions and 30 minutes later, I am thanked for my time by members of Tom Ridges' Homeland Security Team. All they would tell me was that I was a 'random pick' to be interrogated (that's my word not theirs) All I can say is WOW, and if you've got something to hide, don't be cruising while the HST is in town!! What a way to end a cruise. But if you read my trip report for the first cruise of this back-to-back I guess this ending just fits the beginning of that cruise. I first waited in the Casino for my color tag to be called but it got a little too smoky (only time all cruise I really noticed the smoke onboard) for me so I moved up to the Lido deck and ran into some friends to spend my last minutes aboard with, and was glad I did. Passenger Stats USA (lots of Cali peeps) & Canadian citizens were the top runners. Primarily retirees. A handful of middle-aged couples; some families with teens from 15 to just over 20. The young adults on this cruise were a delight to cruise with, and their parents were the best. From one age to the next I mingled with, laughed with, danced with, and just truly had a good time. These stats are from my eyes only, and nothing 'official'. General Info The layout of the ship was most welcomed—I had it mastered by day two. No dead-ends which was a number one plus!!! I thought the Past Passenger Party was well done. It was held in the early evening, and offered a trip down memory lane with an individual announcement of the entire CCL fleet from day one to present and a cheer for all those that had cruised on any and/or all of the CCL ships. During the week I had learned through the CCL television programming that I had sailed on the first CCL ship—Mardi Gras. Who knew—I was a teen at the time. So I gladly joined in at the PP Party along with perhaps three others when the Mardi Gras ship was recognized. I booked my own air from San Diego back home to Tampa Bay, and I booked my own hotel for the one night in San Diego post cruise. I stayed at the Quality Inn-Airport in San Diego, and would not consider it for any future stays. I was lured in by the courtesy transport between pier and hotel, and between hotel and airport. That alone is no reason to stay there. Tipping on this trip was via the S&S account, and hit the account on day three. Up until the last day I was continually asked if I was a staff member. Even though I was never in a CCL uniform of any kind every day I was asked. On the very last morning a fellow passenger told me the reason she thought that I was a CCL rep was I always had a smile on my face, and conveyed a good time. So that's not only a compliment to me personally but to the entire crew of the 16-day Panama Canal 01 Apr 2003 sailing. This was my third trip with Carnival, and I wouldn't hesitate to cruise again with CCL. In fact I'm already booked! Please feel free to email me with any Spirit questions. I certainly don't know it all but will answer what I can. Enjoy the journey! July 2003 Read Less
Colon, Panama - Limon, Costa Rica - Belize City, Belize PRELUDE This was my 17th cruise and my Dad's 35th or so (we lose count). We have cruised Carnival, Celebrity, RCI, NCL, Princess, and Costa over the years, all of them ... Read More
Colon, Panama - Limon, Costa Rica - Belize City, Belize PRELUDE This was my 17th cruise and my Dad's 35th or so (we lose count). We have cruised Carnival, Celebrity, RCI, NCL, Princess, and Costa over the years, all of them multiple times. We have seen a lot of changes to the industry over the years, most of them bad, some of them good. For the most part, Carnival has definitely improved their product over the years. What I write is objective based on my past experiences, I am both critical and praising where it's deserved. I hope you enjoy the review. EMBARKATION After 30 plus years Carnival has yet to get the embarkation process to run smoothly. Sorry to say it that way, but it's just the facts. I imagine this is partly because the port facilities in Miami are too small to handle the megaships that Carnival has produced over the years, yet there seems to be no look of change for the future. Nothing is more frustrating than having to walk back and forth through lines like being at Disney World, people become impatient waiting for their turn to get to the representative and start their vacation. Other cruise lines I have been on have adjusted their embarkation process over the years to make it a more streamlined process, I just wish Carnival would do the same. So after you get checked in, proceed up the escalator to a table where you pick up your cruise card....then up another escalator to walk for what seems a mile to get to the photo opportunity. Ahhh, but that's not all, then you have to go down a flight of stairs of course showing your cruise card to security at the top, the first landing, and the bottom of the stairs...uggh! Now it's onto more meandering lines as you wait to have your photo taken for the A-Pass (honestly the greatest innovation in cruising) before you can finally walk the gang plank onto the ship. My Dad and I arrived at the port around 11:30 and were on the ship by 1:00pm.... THE SHIP One word describes the Spirit - beautiful!! Thank God they finally got away from the gaudy neon and fitted out the Spirit class in elegance. If the ship didn't have the trademark Carnival funnel, you wouldn't know you were on a Carnival ship. Spirit is in the same dEcor class as the Grand Princess and Century type vessels. The layout of the ship is also very accommodating. Traffic flow is very seldom congested, accept around the photo gallery and the lounges outside the dining room. The theater has been well thought out and designed. There truly isn't a bad seat in the house. The Pharoah theme is well done and not overkill. Also, look for the hidden elevators inside the theater that can take you from the Versaille Lounge below to the top deck of the Pharoah Lounge. I didn't notice it until mid way through the cruise. The casino is probably the best one I've ever seen at sea. There is a nice bar area within the casino that flows with the entire room. It is well lit and you never have that cramped feeling or leave the casino smelling of smoke. The table layout is excellent as they alternate between blackjack, Caribbean poker, 3 card poker, and roulette which makes the casino look more active than it is sometimes. The dining room has also been well thought out. The server lines are behind the line of booth tables, so you don't have to watch the waiters preparing your dishes. I just wish they would stop putting booths in the dining room and go to just tables and chairs to add to the elegance. THE STATEROOM We had a balcony room on deck 6. The room is more than spacious and probably has the nicest bathroom layout I've ever seen. Finally a bathroom that you don't have to sit at an angle to use, and better yet, a shower curtain that doesn't hug you while you wash.... The room is accented by wood veneers and eye pleasing colors. I only wish they would have designed the rooms to have the seating area next to the balcony doors instead of placing the beds there instead. SERVICE Carnival is trying to upgrade their image with the Spirit class ships, and have with the exception of the service on board. They are close, but still have a long way to go. Our room steward was excellent and was always pleasant. We also had excellent dining room service from our assistant waiter, Radka. Our waiter was relatively new so he fumbled a lot, yet he was always accommodating and did his best to please us. The photo staff was excellent and beyond taking a variety of superb photos, they were very talkative and proud of the job they were doing. My Dad and I were talking with the photo manager one night about the Panama Canal and he actually went into the photo studio and brought out photos he had taken during transit that they did not sell on the ship. He also told of his adventures through Panama to catch the ship as she sailed through the canal river. The biggest problem we had was bar service, whether it was poolside, in a lounge, in the disco, or the casino. The barstaff was not friendly at all and I noticed how the waiters and waitresses would take an entire trays worth of orders before going to the bar to fill up the orders. Sometimes this would take 30 minutes or so until you were refreshed. This may not seem to be a big deal to some, but when you are used to being pampered by bar staff on other cruises, you begin to expect the same everywhere. One day I ordered a Pina Colada 15 minutes before the pool games started, and when the drink actually came, the games were just finishing....that's too long. The bartenders were also very standoffish and not overly friendly. For what they charge for drinks and tips, they need to address this. Also, in order to have dark rum poured on top of your Pina Colada, be prepared to pay and extra dollar. Finally - the cruise staff!!!! UGGGHH!!! Our cruise director was Amy from Wisconsin..and I had read reviews about her prior to the cruise. All the reviews were correct, she is terrible!! She also only has a staff of 3 others to accommodate 2,100 passengers that are craving activities. Fun ship? I don't think so. We had 5 days at sea over the cruise because we didn't stop in Costa Rica, and there were literally no activities planned for those sea days outside of bingo and art auctions. When we didn't stop in Costa Rica, it took Amy until NOON to come up with activities for our sea day, which of course was Jackpot Bingo!!! FOOD Better than I could have ever expected from Carnival. Kudos to them for putting together excellent menus and selections. Even the Lido grill area had a variety of selections daily that were very tasty. The only bad thing was breakfast in the Lido was the same thing every variety at all. PORTS Panama - we took the canal tour on a tour boat going from the Mira Flora locks to midway through the canal river. Awesome experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone. A little pricey at $ 155 each, but a once in a lifetime tour. We passed the World when we were in the river, nice to see the all condo ship up close. Costa Rica - well, we almost docked there, but since the swells were so large, the captain decided to pull out and go to sea. We watched the cargo ship next to us rock back and forth even though it was fully tied to the dock... Belize - We took the Alan Ra Mayan Ruins tour. They are restoring the ruins now and it looked like they were using modern techniques. If you go to ruins, check out Chachoben in Mexico our of Costa Maya port...those are much better. It still wasn't a bad tour, it's always interesting to see the past. ENTERTAINMENT The comedians were excellent, Eddie Capone was on board and he was great. There was also two guys, the Village Idiots that did a midnight show which was hilarious, only no one was there to see it but a handful. They did perform the last night in a regular show and were excellent. I only saw one production show, and it was okay, but had no continuity to it....lots of effects, no substance. Of course we missed the Newlywed Game and another one time show because "AMY" planned them during 2nd sitting dinner so the ones fortunate enough to dine late could not attend those shows. Other than that, the ship literally died by midnight. The disco was seldom full and the only other place of activity after midnight was the casino. What happened to the Fun Ship of old? THE CRUISE Okay, straight truth on the ship movement...she rocked and rolled, pitched up and down the entire trip. The only day she didn't move a lot was the last day at sea. Granted we had 30 knot winds all the way from Miami to Panama and up to Belize, the seas never had white caps, just swells. I personally like the movement of a ship at sea and feel it's part of the experience, but a lot of others didn't which was evident by the vomit bags staged throughout every stairwell and elevator. I was under the impression that the azipod system allowed for a vibration free cruise. I guess I was misinformed because the entire back of the ship consistently vibrated back and forth with a lot of noise to accompany the vibration. The vibration was worse on the top deck I imagine the ones staying in the aft cabins had that comforting vibration to help them sleep the entire trip. DISLIKES Spray on decking around the pool areas...ugggh!!! This stuff always gets slippery and there are constantly "caution" signs on the deck. Pool attendants pick up all the deck chairs at 4:00 on the dot every day and rope them down so you can't get them down to sit on. Lack of shipboard activities to keep people busy.michelsd@bellsouth.netDecember 2002 Read Less
Itinerary - Southern Caribbean, Martinique, St Marten, Barbados First of all, it was a great cruise. We ate too much, drank too much and spent too much, so it was a rousing success. Like all vacations it had its moments that were ... Read More
Itinerary - Southern Caribbean, Martinique, St Marten, Barbados First of all, it was a great cruise. We ate too much, drank too much and spent too much, so it was a rousing success. Like all vacations it had its moments that were great and its moments that were not so great. Any negative observations are offered only with the intent to help the next traveler. Overall we were happy with the Carnival experience, our second. We were a party of four (myself, my husband, my daughter and my mom) and we stayed in cabins 8231 and 8233, category 8I. We flew in a day early and stayed at the Days Inn Miami at Miami Beach. We chose this hotel because of its price ($50) and proximity to the beach. We had hoped to save some money over the Wyndam and Sheraton rates on the bay. Unfortunately by the time we paid all of the taxi fares we didn't save anything at all. There are no restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. While rates to and from the airport are set within Miami, all other fares are metered. It cost us approximately $12 cab fare each way to dinner. We ate at the Crabhouse - good but expensive. In addition, our fare to the pier was $45. I believe that our driver took us the long way to make the fare higher but of course I don't know that for sure. We got up early, ate breakfast at the hotel (adequate but expensive) and took a short walk on the beach. We were so excited to be finally starting our vacation and couldn't believe that we'd be sailing those same seas later that day! We arrived at the pier about 11:00 am. From the outside it was a madhouse. There were three ships in port and a huge line of cars was waiting to get to the port. Thank God we arrived early. We were watching the taxi meter creep up with dismay. Not to worry, though, our driver edged his way through, leaning out the window, cursing eloquently and shaking his fist for emphasis. And I do mean cursing, up to and including the mother of all curse words! Sailors could take notes from this man's cursing. The waiting area is staged. You go through the checkin, then proceed to another area to get sail and sign cards. We then were moved from one area to another to wait, about four different areas I guess. Couldn't figure out why we were moved from area to area until we got to the last point, where they were taking pictures to accompany your sail and sign cards. In order to avoid a buildup at this point they staged the waiting. I think we were on the ship about 1:30 pm so it was a bit of a wait. Not much security getting on the ship other than the aforementioned picture taking. The bag screening seems to be mostly to check for liquor. I brought four bottles of wine in my carryon and they wanted to check that it was wine and not booze. I had to unpack it to show them. We did sneak on a fifth of scotch for my husband in the checked baggage. As far as I know the checked baggage was not screened. At the recommendation of someone on the board I had bought wristbands to hold our card keys. In general we loved not having to fumble for our card keys on the ship. This was especially nice since I had several outfits that did not have pockets. I also went prepared with my hole punch and already had our cardkeys on the wristbands by the time we got on the boat. If you are going to do this be sure to punch the hole at the very bottom right hand corner of the card. The card must fit all the way into the security machine, so I had a bit of a hassle changing the card around on the wristband. After that it was great. Your first glimpse of your home for the next 8 days is always thrilling and ours was no exception. I've seen lots of negative comments about the decoration of the Spirit. Our assessment was that it was very richly appointed, but a little too busy. For example, they have decoration on each and every column in the Pharoah's lounge. The decorations were lovely gold depictions of flying Scarab beetles but would have been nicer if there had been one on every other column, for example. The net result of too much decoration is a closed in feeling on many parts of the ship. The atrium for example has a lot of gold filigree trim. Again, a little too much of a good thing, and so much of it keeps the atrium from having a light and airy feeling. It just closes it in too much. Even so, it is impressive, new, sparkling and clean. The neatest public room is the jungle, which is basically a walkthrough area to the funhouse but it doesn't get too much use because it's out of the way. We had ordered cabin decorations for my mom's birthday which were unfortunately not there. I waited in line at the purser's office to ask and was told they'd be there by 2pm. 2pm came and went with no decorations. I never did succeed in getting those decorations and now I get to have the fun of disputing the charge on my credit card. I didn't find the purser's staff especially responsive to getting this corrected. There is a really cool waterslide on this ship at the very top of the ship. Interestingly enough, it does NOT empty into a pool but appears to just recycle its own water. I say appears because it was never open to my knowledge. It was never mentioned in the capers and I never saw or heard any reference to it. It was like it didn't exist. We didn't care enough to be bothered by this but if anyone else knows if it is not usable we'd like to know for curiosity's sake. Perhaps it was too rough on our voyage to be used. There are only three shops on board, two of which sell the normal selection of duty free and souvenir items. The other shop is the formal shop which sold chocolates, tux rentals flowers etc. The prices for duty free items were not as good as those on shore in the ports, but I think that is typical. The gym is very large and airy. It has a Jacuzzi in the middle that must be accessed through the spa. Of course the gym would not compare to one on land but does compare favorably to others I've seen on ships. I have to agree with some of the other comments I've seen about cruising becoming LESS inclusive than more inclusive - in addition to the Nouveau Supper Club, there was a soda fountain selling specialty desserts and coffee and there were charges for some of the aerobics classes. No, I am not kidding. Kickboxing for example was a $10 charge. I don't like this trend in cruising. We did not use any of the spa services, finding them on cruise lines to be far more expensive than the same services on land. We do our manicures, pedicures etc before we get on the ship. The pictures taken on this cruise were excellent. We bought too many. But I have to say that you should buy them, maybe next year you won't look as good, LOL. Also I had bought a really great dress! The backgrounds were varied and interesting and seamless with the floor drapes. The beach shots look just like you are on a beach, and the Titanic staircase background is elegant. Take lots, they don't cost anything to have made! The only problem is that you may buy too many, just like us. We went and looked at our pictures everyday. The only negative comment I have about the pictures is that the shore pictures were all the same, just a life preserver with the port name and date at each port. We didn't buy any of these. At St Maarten, where the Dawn Princess was also docked, they were taking really cool pictures with the ship in the background. Carnival, take note! As a lark we talked about going over and having our pictures made by the Princess photographers but decided we might have a little trouble getting them! The dining room was richly appointed and again well but over-decorated. It has many tables for two and four and very few tables for larger parties. It was a real disappointment to us to not get to sit at a big table and meet other people. David, the Maitre'D, explained that this was what most people wanted. What a pity. I also noticed that many people did not eat in the dining room. I have never been able to understand that. The Nouveau supper club may have contributed to the emptiness of the dining room but I think many people ate at the LaPlaya grill instead. The only nights heavily attended were Thanksgiving, the second formal night and the last night when the LaPlaya was closed. Our category 8I cabins were fine. Despite the much-touted size of Carnival cabins we found them to be about the same size as the balcony cabins on the Rhapsody of the Seas. Storage space was excellent, particularly in the bathroom where little glass shelves at intervals provided a perfect place for his and hers toiletries. There was actually more space than we needed and we really don't travel light. There are safes and hairdryers in the cabins. The selection of in-cabin movies was very poor, three per day and repeated every other day. They are advertised as first run movies, but unless you consider videos from last month first run you would be disappointed. Again, not something we care about (except for my 12 year old daughter) but I mention it just in case you do. The cabinets and closets are real wood, very classy. One word of caution about the closets. They are not very deep and fasten with a snap together mechanism. Be sure to keep your clothes away from the mechanism. My husband's tux suffered an injury when it was too close to the fastening mechanism. The deck is teak, again very classy and lovely for those bare feet! The larger balcony was very nice in size. The bathrooms are decorated in aqua blue, very retro but nice. One place that Carnival skimped in the cabins is the shower - there is just a curtain. With all the rest of the lovely cabin furnishings why they didn't spring for a shower door is beyond me. We were provided bathrobes to use on our trip. There is a clothesline in the shower, one of those affairs that stretches across and anchors on the other side. Ours did not work, but I just hooked up a bungie cord on the balcony and used clothespins to dry those wet bathing suits. Our cabin steward's name was Nelson and he provided excellent service and was cheerful and friendly. We had towel animals every day except the first and last. We had mints every day. He did not make our beds into a king and we were not aware that this could be done. Not too conducive to snuggling! But comfortable. My daughter got cookies on both formal nights. Our balconies were sheltered by a deep overhang and we were directly below the LaPlaya. If you wanted a nice shady spot that was fine. It you wanted a sunbathing spot you were out of luck. We were never bothered by the sounds from the grill above, and the aroma of breakfast each morning was a nice plus. We had a lounge chair, regular chair and small table on the balcony. The doors between balconies DO open, but our steward would not open ours between our adjoining cabins. He stated that it would be a safety risk as they could not be secured once opened. I offered to secure it with a bungie cord but no go. We also provided a $20 tip in the hopes this would help but again no go. They open with a triangle shaped wrench and since we forgot to pack ours, LOL, we were out of luck. A word here about bungie cords to hold your balcony door open. This will work, however, the doors are very heavy and your bungie cord will get stretched out and ruined. Either bring a heavy duty bungie cord or just prop your door open with your lounge chair. The balconies are extremely private. Even if you wanted to see your neighbors it would be difficult. There is a small open space on the bottom (big enough for my 12 year old to wriggle through) but you will certainly feel like you are on your own private ship when you are on your balcony. There was a lot of movement on this ship, particularly on the first day at sea and the first day at sea on the way back. I don't know if it was because we were moving very quickly or if the long narrow configuration of the ship caused the side to side rolling. Everyone commented on it. I did not see anyone sick, nor did we get sick. It was a bit disorienting, though and actually kept me awake one night. Coming back we had our sea legs and coped with it admirably. Once I got off the ship, though, I had trouble getting my land legs! I felt like I was still moving! Our weather was mostly very good with a few brief downpours. We were walking on the deck one day and noticed a small isolated patch of rain out to sea. Very pretty! By the time we had made two turns of the deck, it was no longer a small patch out to sea but a very large downpour right over the ship - everyone really ran for cover that day! It only lasted a few minutes though. Temperatures were VERY hot and humid in the islands we visited, actually miserable, but you are there once in a lifetime and there to have fun, so ignore the weather and enjoy! We left our balcony door open some nights, but when between ports, it was just too hot and humid to do so. The casino is very large and enjoyed a lot of activity. You must walk through the casino on deck 2 to get from the atrium to the public rooms in the front of the ship. This was interesting because on other ships, we had to make an effort to go in and they were always patrolled by a staff member to ensure no one under 21 entered. Not only could you enter this one, I several times saw children standing in the casino watching their parents play slot machines. I did not see any children observing play at the tables. One formal night when all the bars were very full, my husband daughter and I sat at the bar in the casino so we could have an after dinner drink (Shirley Temple for my daughter) and this was permitted also. My husband played roulette several nights and came out slightly ahead, unfortunately not enough to make up for our bingo losses. We played blackjack one night and I made about $25. We liked the dealers. In fact, all the staff on the ship was friendly and outgoing. A couple of notes about drinks here. My daughter purchased a soda card. This is the first cruise where I ever felt she got a real value for it. Not only was she served a large soda (not a small glass) each time she asked, Shirley Temples were also included on the card. It was a great value. We purchased 20 drink coupons to use on the ship thinking it would a savings. It is not a savings and I am sorry I did this. First of all, the coupons are not in your cabin. They are given to you your first night at dinner and you must ask for them. Had I purchased these as a gift I am not sure they would have been received. Secondly, the coupons state, good for one drink not to exceed $4.75, gratuity included. So there is only a savings if you drink something that costs $4.75 exactly, and what you are saving is the 15% gratuity. Now this does not affect Carnival but affects the poor server bringing the drinks! So, we tried to drink things that cost $4.75 exactly, which are mostly frozen drinks, which we don't care for. I had hoped to use them for wine but this was not allowed. And most times we gave a tip to the server anyway so the drinks we really didn't want cost us more than we would have spent anyway. So, my advice is, don't buy the coupons! The drink prices are in general (except for wine by the glass) much more reasonable than what you would pay on land! Yes, tips were on the sale and sign card and included a gratuity for restaurant management and for Nouveau Supper club for a total of $9.75 per day per person. Of course we not only left the tips on the card but gave extra to everyone - waiter, assistant waiter, bar servers, cabin steward etc. I asked the staff if they were receiving better or worse tips since this had been implemented. They told me that it had only been two weeks since it had begun so they had no way to tell yet. I also asked several of the staff if they received all the tips that people had on sail and sign cards or if Carnival deducted anything. One person told me of course they received it all, and another told me that they got no breakdown, just a lump sum with no idea who had tipped what. I have no problem with this process as long as the hardworking gals and guys are getting all the money but I just worry that that is not the case. Call me a pessimist but I feel that cruise lines are not above cheating the help. So, if you want to be absolutely sure, take your tips off the sail and sign and hand them out, in cash, yourself. That's what I'll do next time even though it is a convenience to leave them on the card. The two pool areas also saw a lot of action and the usual silly games etc., which are always great fun to watch. We did not spend much time lying out but noticed the usual lounge chair saving that always seems to happen on Carnival. Even so there were plenty of available spaces. We did not use the pools. It was very windy on deck during our trip. The jogging deck is nice and you can watch the volleyball players as you make your circuit. Immediately below that is an observation area on deck 9 (actually accessed from deck 10) at the very front of the ship which is very nice. Don't miss this spot for coming into port. Also, if you are into stargazing we found the best place on the ship to do so. Between the funnel and the radar on deck 10 there is a small space where deck chairs are stored at night. This is the darkest area on deck and if you are agile you can climb to the top of the stack of deck chairs, lie down with your binoculars and fall into the sky. I am sure we would not have been allowed to climb on the stack had the staff seen us, but no one was around and we took advantage of this spot on two nights. One area of disappointment was the age mix on this cruise, it was definitely older. Age groups in the kids clubs were changed around, I think because there wasn't a big group of kids. Our daughter ended up in 12-15 group, not 9-12 group and this group was a little mature for her. As a result, we did more silly Carnival games and activities as a family, but we had a great time doing them. We did crafts (made a Carnival pen case, and got a free Spirit ink pen, whoo hoo) participated in the Scavenger hunt and came in third and watched most of the game show activities. We were never lucky enough to be chosen but had fun watching. Alas, the coveted "ship on a stick" eluded us, and we had to be content with our bronze medals from the Scavenger hunt. We sat at no less than three different tables in the Empire! We checked our dining table immediately and as we were assigned to a table for four, asked to be moved to a larger table. I love my family but we do have a tendency to run out of things to say to each other after a few days! David promised to try but no guarantee. The first night we were at our originally assigned table and it was fine. Our waiter was John from India and it was love at first sight, what a great guy! Also, our table was positioned so that we could converse with a couple of other tables. So we were content. Alas, we had monkeyed with fate and David succeeded in moving us to a table for 12. We were happily anticipating meeting our tablemates the next night (formal night). The first family sharing our table arrived. The woman icily demanded what we were doing at her table. When she was informed by the waiter that the seating arrangements had been changed, she glared at us and then quite obviously moved her seat so her back was to us! We tried smiling and striking up a conversation but to no avail. The second family also indicated that they would be happier alone. No, we are not offensive people! The first woman sent back no less than three dishes that night so maybe she was just hard to please. We found them all quite good. The waiter for this section, Trevor, was very efficient but about as friendly and as stone-faced as an undertaker. After suffering through one meal, we very humbly went back to David and asked to be moved again. We had hoped to get our original table back with John but unfortunately someone else had it. I am sure they had a great time. Thank God David was able to accommodate us with another move or this would have been a miserable cruise! Really, I would have sat on the floor, or eaten in the La Playa grill every night rather than suffer through another meal like that! Our third table was again at a table for 4, with alas, no conveniently positioned tables for conversation with others. As I mentioned before, on many nights the Empire was pretty empty. Our waiter, Benny from Indonesia, was friendly and upbeat but seemed a little overwhelmed on nights when the tables were full. He didn't really connect with my daughter - he treated her more like a six year old than a twelve year old. On the nights when it was less busy, we spent a lot of time talking to both our wait staff about their homelands and this was very interesting. My husband is a real current events nut and can talk to anyone about the events in their homeland. Our assistant waiter, Tommy from Croatia, was a dream. Extremely hard working, very personable, excellent people skills. We singled him out especially on our comment cards. John (our first waiter) also came up to talk to us several times. We gave him a small tip also on the last night which he did not want to take, but we insisted. I guess the team concept was in effect, the waiters called themselves team waiters but I didn't see any difference, you have the same waiter all of the time, and your busboy is now called your assistant waiter.....? So what is really different?? Do the waiters have more tables? Our drink server in the Empire was not very personable and usually had to be asked to come to our table. We found the food in the Empire excellent, the best food we've had on a cruise yet. I have three extra pounds to prove it, too. The lobster tail was large and succulent. Appetizers especially were good, I had at least two and sometimes three every night. Soups were less good but interesting. The pumpkin soup is outstanding. Beef entrees were tender, the duck was excellent, fish good to excellent. I did not have desserts often but my daughter had two or three every night and pronounced them yummy. We had a cheese platter after dinner every night. We had lunch at the Empire whenever possible and it was also quite good. Lunch is at your regular table, not open seating as it is on RCI. Breakfast is open seating. We had breakfast two times in the Empire and it was OK. Not too much you can do with breakfast. We ate at the Nouveau one night. It was very good but we cancelled our reservation for a second night. They only have one menu and it is heavily geared to main entrees, very large portions. Presentation of food was outstanding. If they had a second menu we would have returned, but we had tried everything between the four of us that we were interested in and liked the variety in the Empire dining room. We just didn't feel it merited another $80 to eat there again. Also the wine selection was more expensive so we spent more on wine than we did in the Empire. The Empire was not open for lunch on port days. Two of the port days we had lunch on land. We only ate at the LaPlaya on embarkation day, one port day and for a couple breakfasts. The food was good for cafeteria style fare and very varied. However, I think I got lost in the LaPlaya about five times every time I ate there. All of the different areas for different cuisine are somewhat confusing. Be careful what you are standing in line for . Didn't eat any of the deli sandwiches but had some of the delicious pizza every night about 11:30. Hamburgers looked good but didn't have any. Wasn't really tempted by the midnight buffets other than the night they served sushi, which I partook of liberally. Visited and photographed the grand buffet, which was beautiful, but didn't go back to eat any. Chose pizza instead! Did get to visit with John at the buffet though. We ate room service for breakfast on several mornings. We put out our hanging orders the night before and our requests were delivered promptly at the time we requested. We tipped $2 each time. The selection was limited but it was nice to have 'breakfast in bed'. My mom ordered tea and coffee from room service at other times of the day and said it was very prompt. We saw most of the shows. We had a great drink waiter, who always remembered our names, our drinks and our sail and sign card number. All the staff on the ship (well most, except for purser's staff) were great! Friendly, outgoing, offering to take your picture. I've seen lots of bad reviews of Shawn Bussy which I feel were not merited. She could be irritating at times but all cruise directors have to be a little over the top. I think she connected with the majority of passengers pretty well. At the end of the cruise there is a segment called "up close and personal" where the passengers could ask questions of the cruise director staff. This is very interesting if you like to hear how the other half lives and we heard some pretty wild stories! She really loosened up as the cruise wore on and seemed very likeable. She is Carnival's only female cruise director and I know how tough it is to be a woman in a man's world! My hat is off to her. We enjoyed singing in the piano bar with Steven one night. Pretty campy. Some folks went every night but once was enough for us. The captain's cocktail party as well as the repeater's party were well done and well attended. At the captain's cocktail party we ordered from the bar rather than the servers and the drinks were free. We didn't sample any of the appetizers that night. The appetizers served during the repeater's party were yummy, we had some of each. At this party, held in the Pharaoh's palace, they were circulating with non-alcoholic punch, two kinds of wine and two kinds of mixed drinks. They were not at all shy about offering seconds and thirds on appetizers and drinks. A funny old gentlemen got up on stage and danced across holding two American flags while the band played classical music. Now those are definitely the moments you remember from your cruise! We spent WAY too much money playing bingo, we played as a lark the first night and won $50. Well, that did it and we were hooked and played every game after that. Never won a penny! Oh well! . Had fun buying scratch and win cards too, lost a little more there! We chose this cruise partly for the ship and partly for the itinerary. Neither disappointed. A quick word on the shore excursions though - I had requested a list from Carnival before we left. Once we got on the ship, a new list was in our cabin which did not include some of the excursions that were on the list Carnival sent me. So, don't get your hopes up too much if you use the pre-list. We booked immediately upon boarding the ship and got everything we wanted. We did hear people complaining that they signed up immediately after the shore talk and didn't get their choices. So, if there is something you are particularly interested in you might want to sign up on the first day aboard. In St Maarten my huband and I did the America's Cup Regatta. Unfortunately there was no wind that day, but it was still informative and interesting if not exactly exciting. My mom and daughter did the butterfly farm tour and said they had a great time. Afterwards we took a cab to Marigot on the French side. I am a student of the French language so take every opportunity to use my French. I found the French on St Martin to be colloquial and difficult to understand. We had some wonderful calamari, onion soup and beaujoulais in La Bar de la Mer (I highly recommend it!) and then did some perfume shopping at Lipsticks. The clerk was from Provençal and was living in St Martin as the economy (and weather) was better than in France. She took her 5 weeks vacation each year to return home. Always interesting to meet people from faraway places. On Barbardos, my daughter, husband and I did a snuba expedition. This is a great introduction to scuba. You are fitted with a regulator but instead of a tank on your back, the tank rests in a little raft. You can either use your regulator as a snorkel and hold on to the raft or dive down to look at the wreck, about 20 feet below. Although scary at first it was fun. Kelsy who is a champion swimmer, was all over the wreck within minutes. I'm a little more timid but found my way down before it was over. My mom did the city tour of Barbardos which she enjoyed. After our snuba, we had a cold drink at a nearby restaurant and then rather than take a taxi back, we walked over to Columbia Emeralds and I was lucky enough to become the proud owner of a small but exquisite emerald pendant and earrings. We were helped by Michelle who was interrupted when her boyfriend drove up outside the store and honked his horn! We told her to go see what he needed, we'd wait! . Beware that if you want to shop at the cruise terminal in Barbados which has lots of interesting shops - the shops close well before the ship leaves. You are in port from noon - 10. We did our tour and some shopping in town and then returned to the ship for dinner, planning to return after dinner for some shopping before 10 pm. Everything was closed except for one ambitous shopkeeper that stayed open. Bet she made a lot of money! Martinique was by far my favorite port. I would like to go back and spend more time someday. Rather than take a tour, we hooked up with a taxi driver who spoke some English to take us into town. Of course I spoke French to him all of the way. He gave us a great mini-tour and then asked if he could meet us when we were ready to leave. We made arrangements to meet him at 1:00 pm and sure enough he was there and waiting for us. We shopped for more perfumes, cadeaux (gifts) and wine at La Cave a Vin. I had hoped that La Cave a Vin would be open for lunch but unfortunately it was not. We had a great time picking out some wines and patEs. The proprietress had a ten-year old daughter who was learning English so we were able to practice our languages on each other much to our mutual delight. The French spoken in Martinique is much closer to that spoken in France although they tend to 'tutouyer' (use the familiar tu form) much more quickly than I am used to. After all of our shopping we had some boisson froids (cold drinks) and I put my mom and daughter in a taxi for the ship. My husband and I explored a bit more and then had Salad Niçoise and kirs at a restaurant on the water during a downpour! Just as we were beginning to worry about carrying our box of wine in the rain, it stopped. We hooked up with our taxi driver again and he took us around the town square. We stopped several times to take pictures. We made a brief stop at the terminal duty free shop, where I saw many ship employees buying liquor and cigarettes, and then it was sadly time to return to the ship. I was very sorry to leave our last port. I found all of the people on all of the islands charming and hospitable. There was none of the buying pressure that I have seen in Mexican ports or especially in Jamaica! Martinique was the cleanest and most sophisticated. I saw lots of people on the ship with braids so there must have been people offering to braid hair at some of the ports but we were never asked. There was more security getting back on the ship after each port. In addition to using your sail and sign card to identify yourself (you insert in a machine and your picture comes up), you were wanded and all of your carry-ons had to go through the x-ray machine. In addition, you were asked to show your ship card in two of the three ports before you were even allowed into the terminal building. Then it was two more fun days at sea prior to returning to Miami. Frankly the last day was one day too many. Our minds were already back at home by this time and it was difficult to relax and have a good time. Also by this time we had sampled most of the ship's activities and were repeating. I always said I could never get enough of days at sea but I guess that is just not true. Disembarkation was painless. Of course, finding your luggage in that sea of black bags in that huge room is quite a challenge. The worst moment of the trip occurred when we arrived home to realize we had left one of our bags at the Cruise Terminal. Frankly, we just lost count, sort of like Home Alone and counting heads. I called Carnival on the way home. They stated that our lost bag would be shipped out the next day via UPS and that we'd get it in 5 to 7 business days. I sure hope so. Our medications and exposed film is on that bag so it would sure be a huge shame to lose it. Also we arrived home to an ice storm in Dallas. It was cold, dark and depressing. It's fortunate that I can relive the cruise by writing this review! Just a few days later and it already seems like it was just a dream. Now we're thinking about the next group who sailed after us and what they are doing today. Wonder who's in our cabin? And we're starting to dream about that next vacation......Happy Sailing Everyone!cwagner@jetpay.comDecember 2001 Read Less
EMBARKATION We live in Florida and drove down to the Miami Pier. If your ship is leaving on Sunday, do not arrive early! We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and waited on the road going into the terminal area for 1 hour since they were still ... Read More
EMBARKATION We live in Florida and drove down to the Miami Pier. If your ship is leaving on Sunday, do not arrive early! We arrived at 10:30 a.m. and waited on the road going into the terminal area for 1 hour since they were still debarking passengers. What mass confusion! My husband dropped me and the luggage off and had to go back on the road and around in the opposite direction to the outside dirt parking lot and had to pay cash upfront to get in, $10 per day. (No credit cards - you must have your itinerary with you.) However once inside the terminal everything ran very smooth and we were on the ship by 12:30, despite the fact we booked within a week and had to pick up our documents and fill them out, etc. FIRST IMPRESSION We have been on 14 cruises on almost every line except Carnival. This was our first cruise with Carnival and were pleasantly surprised how beautiful the ship was. It certainly was not boring, since every room was decorated differently and was kind of a surprise. The atrium was very impressive with bronze ornate decorations throughout. It was very clean and the personnel were very friendly and eager to please. CABIN Since we got such a good deal we really didn't expect much of our cabin. We knew it was an obstructed balcony (not the French doors) on deck 5. You couldn't see down only outwards and you had to stand by the railing. The room was very nice otherwise, roomy with lots of space for clothes, etc. Bathroom also a nice size with a good strong shower that flooded the bathroom (even though we had weights to clip on the bottom of the curtain). Only one complaint - the PILLOWS were horrible! Very flat and hard. Requested additional ones, but they were all the same. These were the worst pillows ever on any of our cruises! Our cabin stewardess was a very pleasant girl from Romania who fulfilled our every request and kept our room in tip top condition along with the amusing towel animals each night. We asked if we could make room in the mini frig for our water bottles and had to put the contents in the cabinet. Cannot understand why they have it locked and only open it per your request. (kids?) The last night it was locked by 6 p.m. Also bring your own shower cap and hand and body lotion. It seems certain companies provide samples which are placed in the bathroom, but neither of these items. FOOD A good variety of food was served up daily for lunch at the buffet with the deli, food of the nations (different each day), Asian, American, salad & fruit bar & desert bar, along with varieties of pizza, calzones, ice cream, coffee, tea, juices (available 24 hrs.) and hot dogs, hamburgers, French fries at the pool. There was such a variety at the buffet each day that we did not eat in the dining room except for dinner. The dining room was also open for breakfast and lunch each day. The dinners were very good with a varied menu each day in the dining room and the service was excellent. We particularly enjoyed the split snow crab legs which were a very generous portion. Lobster, filet mignon, prime rib were also served. Desserts were ok, nothing really exceptional, both at the buffet and in the dining room. They did have a streusel apple cake which was very memorable one day for lunch and a strudel another time. We had room service for breakfast several mornings and the food arrived promptly and very appealing. They also had on deck and midnight buffets. The buffet was very meager during the evening dining hours. You will never go hungry even after shore excursions, since I noticed that Carnival kept the deli open sometimes from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on certain days. Sandwiches here were very popular! We originally had late seating then switched to early, then back to late. Since we stayed up late and slept late, we found it to be to our advantage to have the late seating. This allowed us to make the breakfast buffet at 10 a.m., partake of some fun and games, and still enjoy the luncheon spread until 2:30 or later and have dinner at 8 p.m. The gala buffet was very well put together and nice to look at although we've seen many much more spectacular! ENTERTAINMENT The shows in the Pharaoh lounge put me to sleep, not very exciting, although we did enjoy the ostrich puppet and the last show the spirit dancers put on was really spectacular! Did not get to see the midnight comedians. Fun and Games were held throughout the morning and early afternoon hours, but everything went dead about 3 p.m. Keep in mind that we had at least four full days at sea on this itinerary, so after 3 p.m. you were on your own. The funniest game was Survivor at the pool, a kind of scavenger hunt. They also had another scavenger hunt but it was done very differently and not so humorous as others we've seen. Carnival also gives the Newlywed game a different spin and it did not seem as funny as on other ships. There are many lounges as well as the atrium where music is offered during the evening hours but it seemed to be overwhelmingly country western. Karaoke and the disco were other options, although the disco seemed to be overrun with teenagers even though they were supposed to leave by 11:30 p.m. (Maybe the 20 and 30 yrs. olds are beginning to look like teenagers to us these days!) Bingo, naturally and horse racing. They had just about every type of entertainment you could think of on this ship and most of it was well planned and organized. Amy, our cruise director, was in almost everything and did a wonderful job. How she managed to be in so many different places at once and still have time to practice for the shows at night (she has a beautiful voice) was a mystery! Carnival is really getting their money's worth out of her! And of course the Casino! A hint to those of you who enjoy playing the slots and think they are not going to invest enough to sign up for an Ocean Players Card - You better do it! It seems wherever you are headed on the ship you have to pass through the casino so you drop a few coins here and there and once you start winning you are hooked. We came home with a couple hundred whereas we usually are broke! SPA, POOLS, HOT TUBS Met an airline stewardess who took advantage of the spa, in particular, the massage, however she said it was Asian style, with elbows etc., and after she got back to her cabin and showered and bent down to put her shoes on, her back went out on her and she had to go to the infirmary for pain meds therefore she was incapacitated for the rest of the cruise. She said the dr. said her sciatic nerve was compressed. This discouraged me from using these facilities. There were three pools, filled with seawater and very refreshing. On this particular cruise in Jan. there was no problem in finding lounges in this area or elsewhere on the ship. Did not use the hot tubs, but there were several that were always in use. The huge sliding board was not in use, even though there were lots of children and teenagers on board. PORTS OF CALL After two days at sea, our first port of call was St. Martin, which we had been to several times before and even stayed 1 wk there. We were there from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. but didn't get off the ship until around 8:30 a.m. Decided to go into town and get some shopping done early (keep in mind some stores don't open until 10 a.m.) and go to Orient Beach and Marigot in the afternoon, however we didn't leave town until 11:30 a.m. in a cab and from where the cab leaves you off to our ship (last one at the pier) it was a good 15 min. walk. After arriving in our room and figuring out the time allotment we would be very rushed going to the beach since we had to be back on by 3:30 p.m. so we opted to just stay on the ship and go to the pool. Our second port was Barbados from 12 noon until 10 p.m. (Why 10 p.m. I'll never know) and since we had also been here several times and took the island tour, we were kind of at a loss as to what to do. We hired a private cab and asked him to take us to a nice hotel, with a beach and pool, (Casuarina) which one of the waiters recommended. On the way over he took us across the island through acres and acres of sugar cane. (Kind of wasted time.) Eventually we arrived at Bathsheba and got a chance to see the rock formations in the water and take some pictures (very scenic) then to Crane Beach (very rough water) and finally Casuarina (?) which by that time it started clouding over and sprinkling. Definitely not a beach day. But I wish we had gone straight to Casuarina since it was a lovely hotel with lavish gardens. We just walked around there in the rain and then headed back to the ship. He also stopped at Sandy Lane which was ideal for children, since it was very calm and the breakers were way out. Our last port was Martinique, which we also had been to before and taken a tour of the island, however the town was all closed last time due to Holy Day, so we took a cab into town and really enjoyed walking through the stores and soaking up the French atmosphere. Everyone speaks French here so it was kind of talking slowly with arms flailing and trying to make yourself understood but lots of fun. The women were all dressed so nicely and the clothes were fabulous. Really enjoyed this last port! DISEMBARKATION Carnival disembarkation went very smoothly. You have to be out of your cabin by 8:30 a.m. but you are not awakened at 6 a.m. (or earlier) with in cabin announcements. It is very quiet and you had to go outside of your cabin to hear them, so you get a good nights rest. Breakfast was served in both the restaurant (until 8 or 8:30 a.m.) and the buffet (until 9:30 a.m.). We left our luggage in our room while we went up for breakfast. It was not crowded surprisingly, and we were able to enjoy a relaxing meal. Afterwards we collected our luggage, said good-bye to our cabin and found a place in the casino to sit until our tag color was called out. After waiting about ½ hr we took the elevator to the debarkation deck and off we went. A little mayhem took place in the luggage area, but that is to be expected, and soon we procured a porter to deposit me and our luggage across the street from the terminal after going through customs. My husband went for the car and within 10 min. he picked me up and we were on the road at 10:20 a.m. Carnival had exceeded our expectations and we would not hesitate to cruise again with them, especially on the newer ships, when school is in session, or on extended voyages. April 2003 . Read Less
This was my very first cruise and I enjoyed it immensely. I looked forward to it for months, and now that it's over, I'm hooked on cruising. My only disappointment was that I couldn't be in two places at once so I could do ... Read More
This was my very first cruise and I enjoyed it immensely. I looked forward to it for months, and now that it's over, I'm hooked on cruising. My only disappointment was that I couldn't be in two places at once so I could do more. My friend and I arrived at the cruise ship terminal between 12:30 and 12:45 PM. There were already a ton of people in line even though the official embarkation time was 12:30 PM. With this being my first cruise, I wasn't aware that we could have gotten there a lot earlier. After standing in line, filling out more paperwork, getting our sign and sail accounts set up, and having our pictures taken, we were in our cabin by 2:00 PM. Our cabin was just like the pictures I've seen online...very nice and spacious. We had an inside cabin on Deck 6, Category 4C. After unpacking, we went in search of food. We found our way to the La Playa Grille on Deck 9. We stopped at the first food station we came to and I piled my plate high, and after stuffing myself, I found out that there were 4 or 5 other food stations (each with different food), plus a salad bar and a dessert bar. Oh time I'll know to go on a food reconnaissance before deciding what to eat. After lunch, we explored the ship a little, went through the mandatory lifeboat drill, and then....dinnertime! I wasn't hungry, but I wanted to experience dining at the Empire Restaurant. Unfortunately, our assigned table was way in the back on the side of the top level, so we didn't get to soak in the atmosphere of the dining room while we were eating. We only met two of our tablemates, the other two were missing. The food was pretty good (and very abundant) throughout the entire cruise. I've read some reviews where people really complained about the food. I didn't taste anything that I would complain about...if I didn't like something, I simply didn't eat it and selected something else. Everyone's tastes are different. The next day started out kind of gloomy when we arrived in Ensenada, but it cleared up a little later. The ship was approaching the Ensenada port as I was on my way to an 8:00 AM exercise class. I only took the "free" exercise classes (aerobics and step), there was a $10 fee for the kickboxing, cycling, pilates, yoga, and fitness ball classes. Since I live in San Diego, I've visited Tijuana, Mexico, many times, so our visit to Ensenada was very similar. My friend and I didn't book any shore excursions, so we just walked into town, walked around and shopped, and walked back to the ship. My legs were killing me after all that walking. When we got back to the ship, we ordered room service and ended up taking a nap before dinner...which my friend never made it to, and neither did anyone else from our dinner table, so I ended up dining alone that night. We had the late dinner seating, so our shows in Pharaoh's Palace were scheduled for 10:30 PM, which is kind of late for me, but I wanted to stay awake long enough to enjoy the shows. They had a comedian the first night and Las Vegas style shows (singing and dancing) and following two nights. I never made it to any of the midnight buffets...too tired. It was fun getting dressed up for formal night. First, we attended the Captain's Cocktail Party, then we had dinner at the Empire Restaurant. All of our tablemates finally showed up, so we were able to enjoy good food and good company. The entire ship was beautiful and clean inside and outside, and the cruise staff was very efficient. I was surprised that the embarkation and debarkation processes went as smoothly as they did. I had read horror stories about debarkation being a nightmare, so I was prepared for the worst, but I ended up being pleasantly surprised. We were off the ship in no time once our color was called. Well...that's a description of my first cruise in a nutshell. I'll be sailing to the Bahamas in July this year on another 3-day cruise. I'm really looking forward to that one too. Happy Cruising! July 2003 Read Less
Disclaimer, these are my opinions, I love to cruise, I walk around the ship with a smile on my face always :) No one is going to ruin my cruise LOL Arrival at Port of Miami You must show your cruise docs to enter the port. We sailed on a ... Read More
Disclaimer, these are my opinions, I love to cruise, I walk around the ship with a smile on my face always :) No one is going to ruin my cruise LOL Arrival at Port of Miami You must show your cruise docs to enter the port. We sailed on a Wed. so the lineup of trucks getting into the port was very long. Stay to your left for the car only lane. We arrived at terminal around 11:15. Parking the car took a little longer than usual due to the Wed departure. Breezed through check-in, went upstairs for Sail and Sign card, picture for card and Embarkation Photo. Boarded ship at 12:30. The ship is magnificent!!!!!!!! Take the time to really look at the art work, fabrics, wall decorations, carpets, marble floors and see how they all flow together. First stop reservations for the Nouveau Supper Club. We were the first to make reservations so there was no problem. Made reservations for the 3rd and 6th nights. They offer a free glass of champagne if you book the first night. We were concerned about not getting our luggage on time, they assured us we would have it in time, but we decided to go with our original plan. DO NOT MISS the supper club!!! It was fantastic! Well worth the $20.00 per person charge, plus extra gratuity. The food was exceptional, the service even better, entertainment even better than that. We wound up eating here 3 times I had Joe's Stone Crab, African Lobster tails and Filet mignon. Caesar Salad is made table side. Onion Soup and Lobster Bisque are wonderful. Desserts are not to be missed!!!!! Trio Creme Brulee, Flourless Chocolate Cake, Assortment of Cheese Cakes. The service staff works in the Lido grill during the day. On to see our cabins 8270 & 8272, Aft facing cabins on the Panorama deck. Met our Cabin Stewardess, Andrea, She was a living doll, catered to our every need. A word on balcony dividers, ours couldn't be removed. They are on hinges and if it was opened cabin 8272 would not be able to open their balcony door. It depends on the configuration of the 2 cabins whether they can open the divider. Our balcony was extended plus some with see through glass, so you can sit and still see the ocean . We wound up with two low lounge chairs 2 tables and one upright chair, must have been left over from the previous cruisers because that is not the norm. One thing I will write to Carnival about.....when they are cleaning the Lido deck, they should inform the passengers on Deck 8 with Balconies so they don't get wet, luckily I was still in my swim suit ;) I absolutely loved having coffee on the balcony in the AM and a drink in the late afternoon and gazing at the stars before I went to sleep. Yes I spent a lot of time on my balcony. I was concerned about the ash, that I had read from other reviewers, there was a little ash, depending on how the wind was blowing, but nothing to be concerned about. Cabins had lots of storage. Mini Bar, that you can empty for use of the fridge. Soap and shampoo dispenser in shower, one lever to turn shower on and one to adjust temperature. There was an Adjustable mirror on the wall, 3 shelves on either side of the mirror, 2 hooks on the back of the bathroom door. There was an outlet in the bathroom above the mirror, but it said electric razors only. Another outlet by the desk area. Hair Dryer in the top drawer, much better than dryer on the Triumph. Luggage was delivered around 3:00PM. We did hear them placing deck chairs around 5:30AM each day, but I just rolled over and back to sleep. We went to see the Nautica spa hoping for some discounts if we booked the first day. Minimal discounts to book the first day. I asked if there would be discounts on Port days and they said it depends on the amount of bookings. They did advertise these port day specials in the Capers. Also the last day at sea there were announcements for even more discounts if you were the first 30 to dial the extension. Spa is magnificent! Showers have jets from the sides. Gym was busy in the AM. A couple of days we couldn't get a treadmill, not to worry, go down to deck 3 and walk around the outside deck and through the jungle. There is a track but I found it too windy up there. Up to the Fantail Pool for sail away. Met the best bartender up there SAM, tell him Lorri says Hello!! Left Miami about 4:30PM. We requested late seating and that is what was assigned. Empire Dining room 2nd floor table for 4. I would have preferred the main floor, you miss a lot of the entertainment being upstairs. Service was slow the first night. The second night our waiter apologized for the slow service and promised us it would be better. He also explained that the layout for the staff and food runners was not well set up on the ship. Kitchen was 2 floors down, salad pick up on one side of room, salad dressing on the other. The team tried hard and service got a little better, but we always had to ask for ice tea and then had to ask for the sweet n low and lemons. A word on the tips, they are on your sail and sign card. Even though we ate in the Supper Club one night and only had dessert with my parents on one night. We did not adjust the tips. These people work hard, and it is not their fault if Carnival didn't design the pick up stations correctly. Breakfast was open seating on Deck 2, we had breakfast once in the dining room, I prefer Lido deck for breakfast and lunch. Lunch was assigned seating. La Playa Grill, Deli was open from 11-11. Pizza 24 hours. Grill 12-6. Lots of different stations, Rotisserie, Chinese, Salad Bar, Desserts. Midship Taste of Nations, every day a new cuisine from around the world, Caribbean, Indian, French, Greek, Japanese, Mexican, American, Italian. I found the staff working the stations eager to please!!!. The help outside at the fantail pool area did not clean up tables, usually you would have to ask for them to be cleaned. Oh yes trays are available to carry your food. On sea days from 3-5PM there were ice cream sundaes and cookies. We wound up at the fantail pool everyday. The main pool had lots of shade and we wanted the sun. I personally liked the Triumph tiered set-up at the main pool, let more people see the action. Casino was a lot of fun. Crap table had a $10.00 minimum. After the past guest party, the afternoon that we left Martinique, we asked if they could lower the table to a $5.00 minimum during the day. It was done promptly. We started playing at an empty table, that slowly filled up, a gentleman held the dice for 25 minutes and we came out big winners :):) Visited the Disco nightly, make sure to Say Hi to Carmen. The techno music was not to my liking but dancing helped shed some of those extra calories. There was security in the Disco and one night I did observe them not letting minors in. Piano Bar was fun, even though Stephen never quite finished a song. I never made it to the production shows but my parents raved. Did see the comedians, one was better than the other but I can't remember which. In St Martin we took a cab to Marigot, $5.00 and it rained hard. I was disappointed in Marigot. I remember it being a quaint small town, but alas that was 10 years ago. Took cab back to Phillipsburg and shopped there. Barbados took the Jolly Roger Party Cruise. If you want a good time do not miss this excursion. Walk the plank. Swing from a rope. Take a barge to the beach. Drink Rum punch. Dance your way back to the ship. I wanted to buy the video diary from this day, but somehow when I watched it on TV the second half was all snowy. Varying reports on why this happened, Problem in control room was one thing we heard, the other was that it was "r" rated and couldn't be shown on the ship. So I wouldn't spend the $35.00, if I couldn't see it. Martinique we hired a cab for a tour of the island. We were 4 people. $10.00 pp for one hour, $20.00 pp for 2 hours and $25.00pp for 3 hours in an air conditioned Mercedes. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour and really felt like we saw the island from the housing to the rain forest to the jungle. WE did have slightly rough seas headed Southbound. I didn't have a problem, but I heard from others that it was the first time they experienced sea sickness. So bring your SeaBands along. This was not exclusive to the Spirit I spoke to some passengers in St Martin from the Nordic Empress and also at the airport to a couple on the Explorer of the Seas and they all said seas were rough headed Southbound. The trip North was smoother, although very windy on the last day. Met people from Cruise Critic's message board and another. Take time to meet the people from the board, it is so nice to run into them and chat. Stayed up all night the last day, watched as the ship pulled into Miami and turned around in the basin. It amazes me how Captain Giovanni Cutugno handles that. General Debarkation began at 9:30AM with the first color called. Sadly I left the ship, another cruise over. I guess it is time to start planning the next one.lorich@home.comJanuary 2002 Read Less
First warning, this was my first cruise so I have nothing to compare it to. First of all the most important part, The SHIP. The Ship First of all, the ship is beautiful. The decorations are dark woods. The Pharoah's palace was 3 ... Read More
First warning, this was my first cruise so I have nothing to compare it to. First of all the most important part, The SHIP. The Ship First of all, the ship is beautiful. The decorations are dark woods. The Pharoah's palace was 3 floors for a show arena. It was decorated in light colors with pictures of sarcophages and many types of Egyptian hieroglyphics. The Empire room is beautiful with cherry woods and big glass windows to look at the scenery as you eat. The Casino and all other rooms were decorated like there names (example- The Jungle room was all jungle type decorations, Shanghai Palace that was all Japanese art and so forth). The Staterooms Now I cant speak for the lower categories of stateroom, I had a Cat 11 suite on the very aft with a wraparound balcony. The room was 4 separate rooms all separated by doors. You walk into this room, and to your right is a shelf with glasses, and to your left is a TV and wet bar and in front of you is a couch, chair and little table. As you head toward the balcony there is a door in front that leads to the bedroom that had a king size bed already made, plus a drawer area that housed a TV and safe. Another door in the bedroom had a slightly (maybe if you are a small person) walk-in closet with tons of storage. In the Bedroom to the left was a door that led to a separate dressing area (the dressing area already had another door that led into the living area) and then beyond that is yet another door that led to a bathroom with a tub with whirlpool jets. The Balcony was to die for, it was big enough to fit 4 plastic outside chairs, along with 2 small plastic end tables plus a lay down type lounge chair on each side of the balcony. I could have easily fit 10 people on the balcony for a party and not run into anything. I was so impressed with this room that I would not book another cruise without it. And for all of you looking to book this room, it is available on all decks with a Cat 11 aft but it has to be the VERY aft on the sides and you can tell the wraparounds on the brochure. Food The Lido deck was a buffet and left much to be desired especially at breakfast but it is something you would expect if you were going to a Ponderosa (without the steak). Empire Dining Room The food here was excellent. My waiter gave me anything and everything i wanted on the menu and however much of it I wanted. He never let the water glasses go empty for longer than a minute. Noveau Supper Club This is the reservations only supper club on the Spirit. It is $25 per person. I thoroughly enjoyed dinner there. The wine sommelier was knowledgeable and very friendly. The wait staff never let my glass go less than 3/4 full. One warning though, bring an empty stomach with you, they serve a lot of food. PORTS Ketchikan- I didn't do any excursions here. Did shop. There are a lot of touristy type places here. Juneau- This is my do all see all port. I independently hired Coastal Helicopters to do a Helicopter tour. They were about 10 minutes late picking me up but this is a vacation so I didn't let it get to me. The Helicopter trip was beautiful and is a definitely a once in a lifetime experience. There is just no way to describe what you see its breathtaking. I also hired independently Orca Whale Watch tours. We got to see a mom and baby humpback whale along with (and this is a rare sight) a black bear. The only down side is that we didn't see any Orcas. Skagway- We booked the White Pass Railroad tour with the cruise company. It was a little steep for what you get but it does last 3.5 hrs. You go up one way, then you turn around and go back the way you came, going back was boring so I fell asleep on the way back. Sitka- This is a tendering port and a pain in the rear. We didn't have any excursions booked on this and thank goodness. We went to go get our tendering number at 9:30 and didn't get on the tender until after 11am. Since we had to be back at the ship at 1Pm I didn't get to see much and was a pain because of how short that port stop was. Disembarking- You were given luggage color tags and you got off the ship when you luggage color was called. We got off the ship at 8am, was at Anchorage at noon (with one stop-off by the bus company) . We were told our luggage had to be picked up by 2pm so we expected when we got there that it would be there. Unfortunately our luggage didn't show up til 4pm. A lot of people got upset by this but since I didn't have a flight out til Midnight I wasn't much bothered. Forewarning to all people flying American airlines out of Anchorage, the ONLY flight out is one that leaves at midnight and they don't open the desk to check in luggage til 8PM. But I was told that you could store your luggage in the airport for a fee if you wanted to leave the airport. Overall, I would give the cruise a 4 out of 5 stars (1 star taken out for the food on the Lido deck, the tendering port, and the luggage problems) I would definitely sail again on Carnival. samplecd@insightbb.comJune 2002 Read Less
My husband Richard and I cruised on the Carnival "Spirit" November 24-December 2, 2002. We visited the ports of Colón, Panama and Belize. We were also supposed to see Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, but there was some sort of a ... Read More
My husband Richard and I cruised on the Carnival "Spirit" November 24-December 2, 2002. We visited the ports of Colón, Panama and Belize. We were also supposed to see Puerto Limón, Costa Rica, but there was some sort of a swell that made it impossible to dock safely. The Ship We really liked the layout of the "Spirit". It was very easy to figure out and there were no areas where one has to go down a deck, then up again to get past a dining room. The "Spirit" does not have an overall decor. Some areas, such as the Empire Restaurant and Deco Lounge, are formal and elegant. The pool area uses gaudy primary colors. The Shanghai Bar, no surprise, features Asian decor and the Pharaoh's Palace showroom is flamboyantly ancient Egyptian. Somehow it works. We tried a cabin with a balcony for the first time. Heretofore we've always gone with the cheapest inside cabin. To us the balcony wasn't worth it. We don't use room service and are out and about in other areas of the ship too much to make it worthwhile spending the extra money. The cabin was very nice and had plenty of storage space. Food The food was excellent. We ate all of our evening meals and probably five out of eight lunches in the Empire Dining Room and enjoyed practically everything we ate. Unfortunately, the service we received at dinner was disappointing compared to every other cruise we'd been on. Our waiter and his assistant told us they were new to the ship and it showed. The service was slow, especially the first night. I have to say that they were very nice and eager to please, but apparently had not received enough training. Lunch was open seating and service then was always excellent. We had lunch three times in the casual restaurant on the Lido Deck. It was excellent all three times with a very good salad bar as well as prepared salads. The hot entrees looked good and the slice of pizza I had was very good. There was a good selection of pizzas and if the kind one wanted wasn't available they'd have it ready in about 10 minutes. It was a good idea to check on the pizza first thing, then get the rest of the food. Embarkation and Debarkation We bought the air and sea package, which included a night in a very nice hotel since we live on the West Coast and had to fly in the day before. It was not the most direct route (Seattle to Philadelphia with a 3-hour layover, then Philadelphia to Miami with the return through Pittsburgh). It all went smoothly and a representative met us and saw us onto the buses to the hotel. That part was okay. But embarkation took forever and was needlessly aggravating. First at 9:00 a.m. we stood in a long line at the hotel along with passengers for three other Carnival ships to check in. Then about two hours later we waited in a big crowd at the hotel bar for the buses to the pier. This was very disorderly. When we took a cruise with Celebrity last February we went through the check-in procedure at the hotel, then signed up for one of several bus times. In spite of a phony fire alarm set off by an unidentified prankster that sent everyone out of the hotel and delayed everything by about an hour while the fire department checked things out, we boarded buses and were transported to the pier in a more timely and orderly manner than happened with our Carnival cruise. When we finally made it to the pier we stood in two more long lines and were finally on the ship at 3:00, three hours after we were told we would board the buses for the 15 minute ride to the pier. This was our third cruise with Carnival, our first air/sea package with them, and every time embarkation has been long, disorganized and tedious. We have also cruised with NCL, Celebrity, Holland America and Renaissance and on none of those lines did we have the totally worn out and frazzled feeling we have had every time we've sailed with Carnival. Disembarkation was better, but not by much. People with flights before 12:30 p.m. were told to go to Club Cool, a large lounge amidships one deck below the deck we'd exit from, and wait until their luggage tag color was called. One problem: the PA system was out in that lounge and had been all eight days. No one could hear any announcements. Finally a member of the social staff came down and had all of us exit at once, which of course made a very long line to wait in. After that things went smoothly. Ports The week we were on the Spirit the itinerary was Panama, Costa Rica and Belize. Normally the ship stops first at Belize, then Costa Rica, then Panama, but the itinerary was reversed because of a storm in Costa Rica. Richard and I prefer to do ports on our own most of the time. Because of the information we got in guidebooks and on the internet (and because of lack of information about alternatives) we booked tours for every port. I went to the excursion deck before the time they were open and found that an order form for tours could be filled out and deposited in a box whether the desk was open or not. Since tours are first come, first served and the most popular sell out quickly, it's important to book what you want ASAP. Colón, Panama At first I thought that we'd be able to find a taxi or some other cheaper alternative at the port, but we bought a guidebook to Central America while we were in Philadelphia that said that Colón has the most violent crime of any city in Panama. It said that the Zona Libre at the cruise port area is well policed and that locals are now even allowed in without documented reasons for their being there. We chose to go on the tour to Portobelo and the Gatun Locks. Portobelo has interesting ruins of Spanish fortresses as well as a museum and an old church. The Gatun Locks are very interesting and we saw three large cargo vessels pass through them. Our guide Archibaldo was excellent. As the last week in November is in the transition period between the wet and dry seasons, there were several short showers. Puerto Limón, Costa Rica This was the most disappointing day of the cruise because there was no stop at Puerto Limón. We thought the ship was docked and went to the Pharaoh's Palance showroom to wait for our tour to be called. Most of the tours had already been cancelled because of the storm of one to three days before. Soon after we got there it was announced that due to a swell the ship could not dock safely and we would be leaving Costa Rica. This could have been a by-product of the storm. I had read on the internet while I was reading up on things that this had happened before. Belize We took the Goff's Caye snorkeling tour because we didn't want to take as long a tour as the Shark/Ray Alley tour. We had a very good time. The crew of the boat we were on (Bell Cove) were very good guides and there was enough snorkel equipment for all on board. Richard and I only used their swim fins since we have our own snorkel equipment. There were two small children on board and so they arranged with another boat to trade for small enough fins and masks. There were lifejackets for all passengers and when we got out to where we would snorkel the guide showed those of us who aren't really strong swimmers how to put our lifejackets around our waists to make us more comfortable in the probably 8 foot deep water we snorkeled in. Frequently masks take some adjusting and it's difficult to do this without something to hold on to or keep one afloat. There were many small colorful fish and interesting coral and crystal clear water. There were two guides with us in the water and they did a good job of keeping us somewhat together. After we'd snorkeled for at least 45 minutes we got back on the boat and headed in to the island. We wished we hadn't left our gear on the boat because a lot of people snorkeled off the island, but we had a pleasant time sitting on the beach reading the books we brought along. We headed back to the ship at the time the guides told us we would. After lunch on the "Spirit" we took a tender in to Belize City. Richard and I have traveled to Mexico many times and Richard spent two years in Guatemala so we have seen poverty-stricken areas. Downtown Belize City was by far the saddest looking place we've seen and we headed back to the tourist mall at the port after looking around for maybe five minutes. I'm sure we weren't in one of the best areas in town, but not the worst since it was a business area with some government buildings and we were told the way to go by some local people. That said, the people we encountered were friendly and we didn't feel threatened in any way. The last tender left for the ship at 3:30 and at 3:00 there was a very long line for the tender. May, 2003 Read Less
We left on the Spirit out of Miami on Feb. 4, 2003. It was an eight-day cruise to St. Maarten, Barbados, and Martinique. We flew to Miami the day before in case of bad weather as we were coming from Massachusetts. Tuesday we went back to ... Read More
We left on the Spirit out of Miami on Feb. 4, 2003. It was an eight-day cruise to St. Maarten, Barbados, and Martinique. We flew to Miami the day before in case of bad weather as we were coming from Massachusetts. Tuesday we went back to the airport to catch the Carnival shuttle bus to the port.....Miami is a beautiful port to leave from. Out of 9 cruises this was the first one out of Miami. Embarkation was pretty quick until we got upstairs and into the long corridor which was FULL of people waiting to get on! Finally a Carnival rep came and told those who did not want their picture taken by the ship's photographer to go to the left side of the line. That made things go a little faster. We found our cabin quite was on Deck 7 aft....a balcony. The cabin was very nice with plenty of storage room. The suitcases all fit under the bed which is a good thing....there would be no room for them elsewhere. We had the first seating for dinner so only had a snack for lunch. The ship left port shortly after 4 (closer to 5 PM) and I had all I could do to get my husband off of the balcony to go to dinner for 5:45! Leaving port you see all the lovely hotels, houses, boats along the waterfront. We had the lower level of the Empire room for dinner. Our table was by a window away from the main dining area. We were seated at a table for 12. We had the most wonderful dining companions and soon became friends and shared many fun experiences together. We had a wonderful waiter, Mario, and assistant, Grace who attended to our every need. Some of our friends went up to the Noveau supper club during the week. We didn't. Felt the $25 per person surcharge to be too steep, plus the food in the dining room was fine....we had no complaints. The ship is very ornate....almost too much so. No more neon which is present on a lot of the Carnival fleet. It's a mix of different styles....Italian, Egyptian, Chinese...but nice! The two production numbers the dancers put on were great. They both featured Amy, the cruise director who is also the lead female singer! She was very good. The rest of the entertainment at the main shows was geared more to an older crowd (we are 50). They had a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, another night it was Nat King Cole (although he did throw in some Motown because he saw younger people on board). The last night was a show by the "Village Idiot's"...which pretty much says it all! The late night adult comedy was very good....laughed all through it! There was a very good guitar player/singer in the Atrium area, and an excellent piano player/singer in the Shanghai lounge. The guitar player in the casino and the reggae band on the Lido deck were both pretty bad. One thing we missed which we've had on previous Carnival cruises was a top 40-type show band in a lounge. Disco didn't open until after 11 PM. The 2 days at sea before the first port and the 2 days at sea after the 3rd port we great days for relaxing by the pool. We met the nicest people on this cruise. The pool area is very nice....with 3 pools and hot tubs (too hot for them!) We have been to all of the ports before so really didn't do much but relax and walk around town. We did have some excitement on the next to last day at sea...had a helicopter rescue of a female crewmember with appendicitis. We went fairly close to Puerto Rico and a Coast guard helicopter came and hovered over the ship and picked her up in a basket. This was a first for us! All in all, the Spirit is a very nice ship.....loved the 8 day cruise, and would definitely go again in a minute! May 2003 Read Less
Age: 41 Occupations: Leadership Development Consultant and University Program Director Number of Cruises: 16 Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Ship: Carnival Spirit Sailing Date: February 12, 2003 Itinerary: Western ... Read More
Age: 41 Occupations: Leadership Development Consultant and University Program Director Number of Cruises: 16 Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Ship: Carnival Spirit Sailing Date: February 12, 2003 Itinerary: Western Caribbean (Belize, Costa Rica, Panama) A fabulous cruise! The ship: Carnival's refreshing departure from neon and chrome to inlaid wood makes for a new level of affordable and fun elegance. The ports: amazing Central America, especially Belize, should be on everyone's must-see list. The staff: unusually helpful, due in part to leadership by cruise director Amy Van Wyk and an easygoing affable Captain, Pier Paolo Scala. The first of many changes we noticed (see list below) was the ship's official name on our initial Carnival Caper newsletter. It's now called the DeAz/s Spirit. This stands for Diesel Engine Azipod Ship, a new propulsion technology for greater speed and more efficient fuel use. In addition, there are two stabilizers to make sea trips more steady. Unfortunately during three days of our eight they were broken. We rocked and rolled but not so much that we got sick. Carnival's Spirit was built in 2001 as a new class prototype. The Carnival Legend and the Costa Atlantica are carbon copies. As usual, most of the crew are from countries such as Croatia, Indonesia, the Philippines, various former Soviet republics, and Romania. The ship's navigational and engineering staff, including the Captain, are Italian. Social hosts are from the US, Australia, and the UK. Best Deals Definitely take a taxi to and from the Miami airport -- it is way cheaper per person and much faster than the Carnival bus. Plus you don't have the long waits for other passengers, their bags, and the chaos involved getting on and off the ship. $18 for a cabful to or from the airport. If you get to Miami the day before, South Beach is a wild night among the pierced, tattooed, chic, barely clothed, and international crowd. Be sure to have breakfast at the News Cafe where movie stars frequently start their day. Although Carnival says embarkation starts at 1:30, get there by 11:30 and you'll be on by 12. Head for lunch on the Lido deck as your room will not be ready until 1:30. To save time, be sure to complete all paperwork before getting to port. With an adult soda card, get all the soda you want -- a great savings over buying them one by one for $3. The card costs $39/adult for a 8 day cruise. Buy one the first day. We drank 4-6 sodas a day each saving over $100. There are cards for kids, too, at a lower price. The 24/7 pizza/salads/ice cream/yogurt are universal hits. They also serve calzones and chicken Caesar salads on request, as well as some nonmainstream but delicious pizza (like goat cheese). Mildly amusing: the daytime pizza guy acts like the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld. Stand in the wrong place, ask for the wrong thing - no pizza for you! Dinner in the Empire Dining Room was consistently well-prepared, interesting, well-presented, and delicious. We loved the soups (pumpkin is not to be missed). The very best food and service yet on a Carnival ship. The Nouveau Supper Club ($25 a person) is Carnival's experiment in "premium" dining. Although skeptical at first, we were won over. The service is impeccable as are the seven courses you'll receive. Be warned, though. Hustle up there FIRST THING to get the time and day you want for that special romantic dinner. Good times sell out quickly. And come hungry - this is not a dining experience for the timid of appetite. A very minor thing - sparkling water offered before the meal is not free, we discovered. In Belize, the most popular tour in the country is the Cave Tubing (around $85), an astonishing day trip down an underground river. Panama's tours vary between visiting the Canal ($80) and actually going through the locks ($155). We chose the latter and it was well worth it. Costa Rica's port is as yet unimpressive but any tour to the rain forest will be exciting. Panama's port shopping and Free Zone shopping is second only to the deals in St. Maarten (which you won't be visiting on the Western itinerary). Book all your tours IMMEDIATELY upon getting on board. On the Ship Our cabin (Panorama 8186) was a treat. Lots of room, as in most Carnival ships, and spotless. Spirit's elevators, toilets, lights, and other systems always worked. Breakfast in the cabin is a wonderful way to wake up. Salmon, bagels, fruit, cereal, coffee, tea, and breads brought to your door starts the day off right. Breakfast is also served up on the Lido deck and in the main restaurant, Empire. Lunch is standard fare except for the NY Deli which featured delicious reubens and roast beef. Lunch and dinner are on the Lido deck and in both restaurants. You'll wait 5-10 minutes at most stations. At dinner, all the fun flaming desserts (Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, etc.) are no longer served "hot" due to past accidents (glad we weren't at those tables!). Best value? The wine markup is much less than landside restaurants. You can get many good ones (try the Chateau St. Michelle) for under $20. The most romantic spot is up by the mid-ship white navigational "ball". Hike up there late on a moonlight night and have a nearly 360 view of the ship and ocean. There are hot tubs everywhere. The "adults only" tub aft always had a kid in it during the day. The spa tub had no kids and was almost always empty. Despite Carnival's rules, people still save chairs on deck -- which irritates us no end. Get on deck by 9 am if you want a chair near the pool. The gym/spa features workout machines everywhere, a hot tub, separate wet and dry saunas for men and women, an aerobics studio on the second level (it's that big!), massage rooms, a hair salon, and locker rooms with five-head showers (gotta do these at least once). Want to indulge cheaply? Try the mind-numbing (in a good way) 45-minute Indian Scalp Massage in port or the last day when it's on sale for $44. Carnival "taxes" your shipboard Sign and Sail card $10 per person per day for tips which be changed at the purser's desk. The Maitre'd has to be tipped separately. Ours did nothing special. He primarily made announcements and introduced the wait staff entertainment (which had us on our feet, especially the new "Ketchup Song" and the venerable "Macarena"). Cruise Director Amy Van Wyk should be on Broadway not on a mere cruise ship. She has a stunning stage presence singing and dancing, having started as a Carnival dancer since the early 90's. Amy became a CD in the last year, first on the Imagination. In the role of performer she's a pure knockout. In the role of emcee, however, loosening up would really help her natural charm come to the surface. The over-gestures and big winks that make her performances so compelling look artificial when just chatting from stage. Her recommendations for a happy cruise? Bring a pair of old shoes you can get dirty on excursions, book your special events early, and read the fine print. Carnival will not trick you (we found them to be very forthright) but there are policies and rules for everything, especially refunds. Amy and asst CD Skippy from Australia do an informative "morning show" on TV each day. This innovative program, the only one in the fleet, gives timely data on the day's events, ports, changes, and charges. Watching will save you time calling the Purser's office with questions they've heard a zillion times before. Finally, we loved the big band Spirit Orchestra and encourage Amy to have them play outside a few times for dancing on deck! Not So Great The waterslide is fun for kids but DANGEROUS for adult males. George was one of many guys who hit their heads in the last curve on the way down. Almost knocked him out. Carnival should have this slide open only for those under 130 pounds. Stupid reached new heights during the Farewell Show. Its stars, the aptly-named Village Idiots, should have been thrown off the ship in the first five minutes. At the casino, there is no easy money. You only choose how much to donate. Play Bingo the last day for the free cruise - otherwise unless you're bored Bingo is a waste of money. There are also Scratch-off Lotto cards for a buck. Carnival makes a mint on these. We NEVER heard of anyone winning. At the Captain's Welcome, you don't get your picture taken with him unless you take it yourself. You'll only shake his hand if you happen to be in line when he is, which is only for about half an hour. At the Asian Station (Lido deck), the sushi is either overcooked or vegetarian. Although this "saves" us from the perils of eating raw fish, this sushi was awful, truly awful. We heard from others that the Nouveau Supper Club's sushi was the real thing and quite good. The Photo staff is talented and friendly but overworked due to their crazy scheduling. Let 'em sleep, Carnival! Haven't Been on a Fun Ship in a While? There are many changes: 1. Wired? Fees for using the Internet are cheaper by 25% from a year ago. 2. Big gambler? Join Carnival's Ocean Players club to rack up point for comps for your next cruise. The casino now charges a 3% fee to buy chips on the Sign and Sail card. 3. Group gym classes like aerobics and kickboxing, formerly free, are now $10 each. 4. Like those little contests on board? With a few exceptions, you'll only win the infamously cheesy "ship on a stick" (not even worth bringing home). 5. There are minibars in many rooms but you'll still pay a "restocking fee" of 15% for pouring your own. The good news is that alcohol prices are the same as at the ship bars - no surcharges as in many hotels. 6. At some ports, especially tender ports, Carnival issues disembarking numbers to avoid long lines. 7. No more free pool towels -- you're on the hook for the blue Carnival beach towel in your cabin. Lose it and pay $22. Leave it on the cabin floor, however, and you'll get a fresh one in a few hours! 8. Getting off in Miami was fast given all the new security/immigration/customs procedures. 9. Wanna get hitched? There's a wedding chapel on board. Weddings happen in port before shoving off so Uncle Ed and Aunt Verna can attend without going on a cruise. In recovery? The chapel also aptly doubles as an AA meeting once a day. Spirit alternates W and S Caribbean during the winter then goes to Alaska in the summer. Spring and Fall each feature a 16-day Panama Canal transit between San Diego and Miami. Hellos to Mike and Meg from Washington, first time cruisers who have caught the fever and will be back again! To see all our reviews, visit Happy Cruising! May 2003 Read Less
San Francisco-Vancouver Embarkation We embarked at noon after running the Bay to Breakers, what a true San Francisco treat! Embarkation went very smoothly and we were aboard within 15 minutes. We carried on our luggage since it was ... Read More
San Francisco-Vancouver Embarkation We embarked at noon after running the Bay to Breakers, what a true San Francisco treat! Embarkation went very smoothly and we were aboard within 15 minutes. We carried on our luggage since it was only a 3-day cruise, so no waiting to unpack. We entered on deck 2 in the atrium. The atrium was more subdued than the photographs that have been posted. It is very Carnival but didn't have the intense red hue that the photos were showing. Carnival used a lot of gold and dark wood on this ship. I actually prefer the blue lights and chrome of the Destiny. I think Carnival is trying for a richer look to the atrium. It is very impressive nonetheless. Cabin We had a Cat 8 cabin on the aft of the ship on deck 6. I loooooove having a balcony! Carnival has changed the colors in the cabins. No more Circus Circus orange. They've gone to a peachy and cream tone. It was very nice. They've also added a few shelves and cubby spaces for storage, which was great. Dining After unpacking we headed up to the La Playa Grille. I had read about the layout with different stations situated in the Grille. I was confused by the layout at first, but by the 2nd day had it scoped out. The Grille is divided into 2 separate rooms connected by walkways on either side that have booths, much like the walkways between the pool and Lidos on the Fantasy class ships but instead they connect to another room. In each of these rooms there were a minimum 4 food stations. Like I said it took me a day or two to figure out what would be where. The food was good, with a nice variety. One nice addition would be a bar that's accessible inside. You need to go to the pool bar to get a drink. The Empress Dining Room is really pretty and I can't say enough about the improvement in food since our first Carnival cruise. It was really good and the service in the dining room as well as throughout the ship was fantastic. We didn't try the new supper club but heard nothing but rave reviews. We did check out the menu, which really looked fantastic. One couple we talked to ate there every night. I would have tried it had the cruise been longer. General Info There are a lot of separation of areas. Instead of one promenade with dance clubs, bars, casino and showroom, they have staggered them on many decks, much like Royal Caribbean does. I have mixed feelings about this. I always liked all of the activity, especially on formal nights, along the promenade. However, it really helps the flow of traffic. I never felt the presence of 2,000+ passengers. A big A+ for Pharaoh's Palace showroom. Carnival finally has the sight lines, comfortable seats and top of the line sound system. Keep up the good work Carnival. The Louis XIV Casino is the best cruise ship casino I've ever seen. It's spread out and very airy with all the latest slot machines, more than the normal number of blackjack tables and has a bar with live music at one end. Another good job well done. As stated by another poster, the ship seemed to creak a lot. I thought maybe being brand new and faced with some pretty rough water it may just be settling in. I hope so! It was pretty loud the first night out when trying to sleep. On each cabin deck as the hallway passes the atrium the inside wall has a row of square windows looking out into the atrium. I thought this was a nice touch. The photographer was taking pictures every night if you were so inclined. They also are doing black and whites as well as sepia photos while wearing costumes. I know it's a moneymaker but I thought offering something different was great. After so many cruises formal photos start looking the same. Disembarkation Took us 5 minutes to get off of the ship, no luggage to look for either. It seemed to go very quickly, I think we were some of the last off the ship and it was only 9:30. Please feel free to email if you have any specific questions I can help you with. njoyndride@hotmail.comJune 2001 Read Less
I will attempt to write a review that will be helpful to someone wishing to go on this cruise. Therefore I will only include details that I think would have been helpful to me and nothing about my server, the airport lines, other cruisers, ... Read More
I will attempt to write a review that will be helpful to someone wishing to go on this cruise. Therefore I will only include details that I think would have been helpful to me and nothing about my server, the airport lines, other cruisers, the room steward, or anything else that you most likely won't encounter. The Ship: This was my 5th cruise. (3rd time on Carnival.) Though the layout is very similar to other Carnival ships, I liked this one the least. It was made VERY narrow so it could fit through the Panama Canal. Being very long and narrow makes it rock more than other ships (even smaller ones). A few people said they felt nauseous in the beginning. Public areas were nice. Nothing too exciting if you have been on other cruises. The water slide is all the way to the back of the ship and not open very often. My 13-year-old daughter felt it was too slow and only went down once. The Staff: Very friendly with the exception of wait staff in main dining room for other than evening meals. Your tips go to the staff that serves your dinner. Breakfast and lunch are open seating so you get different servers each time. It is obvious they are not as friendly when their tips do not depend on your happiness. I recommend eating all your meals except dinner up on Lido deck. The food is just as good and often better there anyway. Ports: In general: Spirit in my opinion, has terrible times for the ports. For 2 ports you arrive at 7 am. (We are on vacation and I had to set my alarm for 6 am!) Since you need to be back on the ship at either 3:30 or 1:30 for those ports you really can't sleep in and hope to see anything. At Barbados you get off at 12 and can stay until 9:30 pm, but everything is closed at 5:30. Other ships go to these same ports and I could see that some were getting to St. Martin and Martinique later (and leaving later) and getting to Barbados earlier. That would be the way to go. St. Martin: We got off the ship at 7 am. We found out that you cannot get a water taxi to the shopping area until 8 or 8:30 and the shops don't open until 9 anyway. We asked a cab driver to recommend a good beach for snorkeling. He took us to Orient beach. I had read that it is a nude beach but that nudity was not that prominent as a lot of tourists go to the beach. NOT TRUE at 7:30 am. Apparently at that time in the morning the only people there are the locals (nude). It was hard to locate anyone else wearing clothes. I believe that from where the cab drops you off to the right is nude and to the left is topless, but when we were there people were walking both sides nude. Average age was 50s so don't go thinking you are going to see any playboy centerfolds walking around. Also the waves were very high and we did not feel comfortable going in the water so we took a cab back to town. Fellow cruisers told me that the water calmed down later in the day and there is not so much nudity when all the tourists arrive. We walked up and down the street and shopped. As you have probably read, St. Martin is the place to shop among the 3 stops you make. (Barbados is good for liquor) Had we known we would have just walked from the ship to the town and that way we would have started at the beginning of the street instead of the middle (where water taxi takes you) which I think is better for shopping. If you would like to walk, just walk to end of ship pier and turn left. Then it is about a 10 min walk to get to the main shopping street. The water will always be on your left and you can see it most of the time. We bought some nice jewelry (not at recommended stores and stones haven't fallen out yet) and some other souvenirs. At lunchtime we stopped at Every ting Cool. The food was excellent. We shared chili fries, a bbq chicken sandwich, and 2 colada type drinks for $21. Locker rental was $4, chair and umbrella rental was $10. Rafts are $8. I included prices I remember in case you want to compare to the tour offered by Carnival. There are also water trampolines and blow up water slides anchored in the water that you can pay to use (have them at Orient Beach too). You can also rent various watercraft at both beaches. The beach was nice and VERY shopping. (Orient Beach is a little nicer.) I didn't like the drop off at this beach. You only need to take a few steps in the water and then there is a sharp drop (bottom is very rocky and waves will pull you down past the slope). It goes from very shallow to about 4 ½ feet very quickly. I'm not sure if it gets shallow again if you go out farther. We did not stay in the water too long. There were not many other people in the water there either. Most were just basking on chairs. There are people trying to sell clothing and jewelry on the beach and you will be asked to rent a chair every time you move. I would watch small children and those who are not at least *good* swimmers very carefully at this beach. Barbados: We booked a tour through Glory Tours instead of doing one from the cruise. You can find them online and book online without giving a deposit. This was an excellent value and we customized the tour to fit our needs. Our tour included Harrison's Cave, the wildlife reserve (you walk among free animals including monkeys if it is feeding time) and then we went snorkeling over a shipwreck and with the turtles (these were large turtles not little tiny ones I expected. I'd say they were about 1 ½ feet long). This tour was $107 for me and my 12-year-old daughter. Carnival charges $55 per person for a trip to just the cave! So we got 3 activities for less than the cost of one and our tour guide drove us all over the island and told us much about the people and area. I recommend you check out the website because you must pre-book. There are pre-arranged tours or you can pick and choose the things you want to do like we did and make your own tour. One word of caution: Make sure you are VERY clear on where you will be picked up. The map we were given was unclear and many people there told us the wrong place. You have to walk out of the terminal, past the guards to where there is a circular drive with a tree in the middle. We almost didn't find her and I'm sure that would have spoiled our whole day. This tour took most of the day. We got back to the terminal at 6 pm. (we left at 12:30). Most of the shops downtown close at 5:30 so the only shopping left to do was in the few shops in the terminal. Even those close by 7. Martinique: We decided to do this one on our own. Got off the ship at 7 ish. When you get off the ship you will need to take a taxi to town. I believe it is $8 per taxi not person. In the town we walked through the shops. They were the outdoor stand type. Mostly T-shirts. We did find a place that was selling mother-of-pearl hearts and other shapes for $4-$7 and it included free engraving (which took about 5 minutes). I found that right before I needed to get back on the boat and there were many people buying them. I purchased 3 necklaces. Across from the shops there is a little dock that has ferries running back and forth. We took the ferry, it was $6 round trip. The shops are a little nicer on the other side and we found a beach right across the street. There is also a little bakery that sells fresh bread and a couple yummy desserts. We brought our own snorkel masks and went snorkeling on that beach. We saw some fish. Probably not enough to satisfy seasoned snorkelers but was ok for us. We saw a sign and the owner of a dive shop told us that there was great snorkeling about 10k down the road, but the cab drivers we spoke to didn't understand much English and we didn't feel confident enough to go with them. Knowing French would be very beneficial here. The beach that we did go to was topless but most of the people there were from the cruise ships and not much nudity. There were 3 VERY beautiful women selling bikinis on the beach and they would switch suits every ten min or so. One was wearing only a thong most of the time. They had the attention of most of the males in the area. The Food: I thought the food on this cruise was the best I have had. The Lido deck had a deli, salad bar, fruit stand, rotisserie, pizza, dessert, and Chinese stations. (These are all separate areas. You cannot just take your tray and go past everything, you would have to get in line at each station.) This worked out well for keeping the individual lines down, but we ended up eating about 4 small lunches each day so we could sample everything. Each day also featured a changing station. (French, Caribbean, British, etc.) We really enjoyed the lunches on Lido. Breakfast was the same every day. Standard breakfast fare plus they made omelets to order. You don't get much different selection in the main dining room and because of the staff attitude when it doesn't affect their tips, I recommend you only eat there for dinner. Do not eat dinner on lido unless you have to. Most of the stations are closed at dinner and it is very limited. Other ships we have been on offered more for those who wanted an alternative to the formal dining room. As good as we thought the food was the desserts were totally uninspired and bland. My daughter and I agreed that the best dessert by far was the brownies that you could only get through room service. (These were just plain brownies with nuts.) We had been ogling the desserts at the Fountain Cafe. They have special desserts there for extra fee (about $2 per slice). When we finally found a time when we weren't stuffed we decided to try the fat carrot cake. (One of my favorite desserts.) What a disappointment. Because the cakes are pre-sliced it was stale. And instead of being a nice golden brownish color it looked like they through some shredded carrots in a white cake. We didn't bother trying anything else. Our Room: We were on the Main deck. We thought our room was very nice. It was advertised to have French doors and a railing but no balcony and an obstructed view. That is what we got except we were disappointed to find a sign that said the doors must be closed AT ALL TIMES. If you can't open them I think they should call them windows. Also all we could see was a lifeboat. I think we would have preferred a cabin on a lower deck with a porthole. At least we could see something and it would have cost less. I am not big on the room. Many people rave about balcony rooms but I am in the room so rarely I don't know how it could be worth it. We were in the room only to sleep and change. Other than that, the room was very nice. Plenty of room. We had 2 beds and a couch. Shower had maneuvering room. It was clean and we didn't notice any musty smell that we have encountered on other ships. Overeaters Tips: Have been on 5 cruises and the most I have ever gained was 4 lbs and I basically eat everything I see. Waaaayyyyy more than I eat at home. First I always take the stairs. We were on 4th floor and often needed to go to 9th floor. The only time I did not take the stairs was on formal nights if I had to go up more than 2 floors because that is tough in pumps. 2. I don't drink the mixed drinks. They are overpriced and contain way too many calories. I drank water or watered down lemonade. 3. I avoided the midnight buffet (except gala buffet night). I never felt deprived at all. I ate all I wanted for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and often did the Sunday bar or grabbed a slice a pizza between meals. I also try to get to the gym. I managed to make it 3 times on the 8-day cruise. Activities: Shows were good to excellent. I did miss two shows because I was just too tired to go. I thought the daytime activities were lacking on the first 2 days at sea. On other cruises I have been on it was really tough to decide what to do among all the choices. On this cruise my daughter and I were sometimes wandering around trying to find cards or a game because we were bored. Many of the activities now are at additional cost. Think they were trying to "nominal fee" me to death. Usually there is a jam-packed schedule of activities each day. A sample of the schedule for this ship goes like this: Breakfast; portrait studio opens; casino opens; spa opens; etc. They had the standard carnival newlywed game, hair chest contest, and knobby knees contest, which we found enjoyable but they really need to change the questions. Camp Carnival for 12-15 year olds. Though my daughter loved Camp Carnival when we cruised when she was 9 she didn't think too much of it this time. There was not much to do for her and often times they combined the younger groups with her group because there was such a low turnout. (Teenagers generally don't want to hang out with 9 year olds.) There was a dance each night which generally wasn't too well attended and my daughter hung out with me most of the time. Final Comments: I know a lot of the things I have written about are negative. We really had a great time. I'm sure first time cruisers would be thrilled with everything about this cruise but since I am getting a little spoiled it takes more to wow me now. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you have. May 2003 Read Less
The cruise through the Panama Canal was generally good, and we gave good marks for most of it on our comment card. However, the last day, after comments were submitted, was terrible. During the cruise we had an outstanding team to serve ... Read More
The cruise through the Panama Canal was generally good, and we gave good marks for most of it on our comment card. However, the last day, after comments were submitted, was terrible. During the cruise we had an outstanding team to serve us in the dining room (Puvador and Patcharee). However, open dining for breakfast in the Empire Room was extremely rude. No breads were offered, coffee was given grudgingly (once!). I ordered oatmeal with brown sugar and no-fat milk - slammed down was a bowl with lots of sugar and milk already in it. I asked for banana - no banana, etc. etc. We finally gave up and left. The draw for leaving the ship left us disembarking last. We had signed and paid for the bus service to airport. Although early flights were labeled as 12:30 on board for quickest disembarking, we were told on shore that if we had a 1:30 flight, we had better take a taxi. We were left in the hot sun for over an hour waiting for a bus, and it was a mob scene. I would rather not go on another cruise - and the final thought on this was crystallized on this last day. February 2003 Read Less
OVERALLI recently went on the 8 day Exotic Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival's Spirit. I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I was excited about the Panama, Costa Rica and Belize itinerary because it was so unusual ... Read More
OVERALLI recently went on the 8 day Exotic Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival's Spirit. I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I was excited about the Panama, Costa Rica and Belize itinerary because it was so unusual and afforded my husband and I the opportunity not "just to shop" on our vacation. I was hoping to participate in some excursions that involved exciting activities that Carnival's shore excursion list seemed to promise. PAST CRUISESI have traveled on Carnival before, as well as Princess. Overall, I was very disappointed in this cruise. EMBARKATION/ BOARDINGI arrived at Miami's port right before 1 PM. My husband and I went through a security check and obtained our sign and sail card quickly. We then waited until just after 3:30 to physically get on the ship. Along with hundreds others, my husband and I waited in an unair-conditioned hallway to board the ship. No announcements were made as to why there was such a wait. People were sitting on the floors and getting angry and thirsty. Eventually, we heard from another passenger that only one machine that took pictures for the sign and sail cards was working. It would have been nice to hear an occasional announcement as to what was going on. When we eventually boarded the ship, there was no one to direct us to where the elevators were or where our rooms were. Our luggage arrived by 6 PM. THE SHIPThe ship itself was beautiful. It is mostly dark wood with gold tones. The ship had a lot of columns, marble, ample seating, sculptures and statutes. The lobby was not overwhelming and it was a great place to relax. The ship itself was laid out well with most amenities such as the casino, main restaurant, lounges etc. on the same 3 floors. The pools were also laid out along one of the top decks. The remaining floors were all cabins. I felt that the ship's public areas were in perfect condition, not worn out. The only thing I did notice was that the wood railings on all the cabin's balconies were well worn and this could be seen looking at the ship from the docks. ENTERTAINMENTThere were approximately 2 main "featured shows" during my cruise. The main male singer, Christopher Alan Graves (who was a singer on the Triumph when I went in 1999) was exceptional. He sang in the 2 main shows and also in a Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. one evening. He should not be missed. There were also several midnight shows with comedy acts (better then most and don't miss Eddie Capone), jugglers etc. There was also a talent show which was excellent. As for the music, well, it was a mixed bag. The lido deck had probably the worst calypso band, Rhythm Krazy, I have ever heard in my life! I hated sitting near that band and always look for a deck chair far from them. That bothered me because I liked to sometimes watch the Lido Deck games but decided against it because the band was that band. There was also a singer in the Shanghai Bar, Emily. She was just as bad as Rhythm Krazy. Other then that, the music was excellent. Not to be missed is the band and singers in the Supper Club. I would even go to the bar and have some drinks even if you don't chose to have dinner there. They were that good. Also, the guitar player in the lobby bar area was excellent. The band, Zest in the Club Cool was great as were the jazz bands in the bar and sitting areas before entering the main dining room. It was relaxing to listen to them with a glass of wine right before dinner. The bar areas (approximately 18 of them including a sports bar, specialty bars, pool bars etc.) were plentiful and the staff at the bars catered to your needs and poured stiff drinks (if that's what you like). The casino, which I thought was surprisingly large for this class of ship, had slots ranging from a nickel to about $5. There were also numerous table games. There were several blackjack and slot tournaments. I would just be careful about the casino rules for the table games (basically there are no rules and play at your own risk; my husband learned this first-hand). FOODI was disappointed in the food in the dining room on this cruise. My previous experience with Carnival's dining room food was excellent. This cruise offered many choices but below average quality. I just never thought any dish was excellent. I never finished a meal and had to send back several dishes. The desserts were an embarrassment (especially the cheesecake). I never went to a midnight buffet so I cannot comment on those. I did think the La Playa Grill food and selections were better then average. I was never disappointed in my meals (only lunches and dinners) there. The selection was varied (a grill serving hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries; a Taste of Nations area that had a different country's specialties everyday; a Chinese food area serving soups, noodle dishes and meat dishes which changed daily; a deli; a pizza area; a salad bar area). The Supper Club though, as many posters have indicated, is a MUST! The $25 per person charge is steep, yet I have to say that the atmosphere, entertainment, service, and food, is top notch. I only wish they could jack up the price for the cruise and have the same experience in the dinning room. I had a crab cake appetizer, ceasar salad, porterhouse steak, and multi-desserts (they never stopped with the desserts)! Did I say the service there was impeccable?! It is well worth the experience. CABINI had a category 9A. I was surprised the room was so small. There was ample closet space. The bathroom was tiny but laid out well with enough room to store toiletries. It was adequate for 2 people but on Triumph, I had a lower category cabin but more room. I will say that the balcony was extra-large and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was on deck 8, below the pool near the La Playa Grill and location was actually great. It was convenient and I heard no noise from that area. I do have to say that one night during the cruise, the air conditioner leaked on me at 2 am and after an hour + of attempts to clean up the water on the bed and sheets, and a promise to return in the morning to ensure there was no more leak, no one returned. The leak stopped thank goodness by the AM. Nevertheless, I was exhausted from my early morning ordeal and the pursar never returned my 2 am phonecall the next day about our problem. I had to go to his office myself and tell him how upset I was. When I did, he was extremely patronizing. PANAMAAfter arriving late at the port (with no apologies for not advising us before anyone sat and waited 1 hr plus for the shore excursions to start departing), we went on the kayak and Gatun Lake / Panama Canal tour. It was excellent. I would highly recommend this tour. COSTA RICAAlthough our ship pulled into this port (and I mean literally pulled in-the ship was parallel to the dock), there was a very short announcement made that no one would be allowed to get off the ship because the seas were too rough to enable a safe exit from the ship. Some people were told at the pursar's desk, as I was, that no one left the ship because it was so unsafe however, from my balcony along with the hundreds others who had balcony rooms on port side, I saw several people leaving the ship in Costa Rica. With that ONE announcement, boom, we were gone. No further announcements, apologies, alternative ports offered, offers of reimbursement or explanation about refunding port charges. I asked about port charge refunds and was given 2 separate answers about refunds (a yes and a no). Finally, I found a $20 pp refund on my final bill for port charges. BELIZEI cancelled my tubing excursion through Carnival and chose a city tour with a taxi cab driver. It was excellent. Please email me for his name and cell # if interested. He will take you anywhere. He would be glad to make arrangements with anyone for a personal tour. He even returned my camera when I accidentally left it in his van. DEBARKATIONCouldn't be smoother. Off the ship by 9:15AM. Tip: sit in the lobby area for quick departure. CONCLUSIONAlthough I had a relaxing trip and I thought the ship as a whole was beautiful, I will not sail with Carnival again because of this experience. I feel the quality of Carnival has gone down substantially since my last cruise with them. GoldEsq@aol.comMarch 2002 Read Less
Wow! That's about all that needs to be said about this amazing cruise, our best experience so far amongst our five voyages. What made it so special? Three things. 1. We love the Carnival experience, and made sure that we never ... Read More
Wow! That's about all that needs to be said about this amazing cruise, our best experience so far amongst our five voyages. What made it so special? Three things. 1. We love the Carnival experience, and made sure that we never shied away from getting involved. 2. We were traveling with fun family and friends (except one) who all got along and had a great time together. 3. Alaska is probably the most magnificent state in the union when it comes to natural beauty. Words cannot describe what we saw. I've been to Hawaii twice, and overall, I like the Alaska scenery better. Anyway, let's get started with our group of 15 family members and friends. We range in ages from 25 to 65, and there were NO KIDS OR GRANDKIDS, bless their little hearts. Only [two of our group] booked their air through Carnival ... because it was cheaper, by a lot! That's a first for me. For everyone else we found better fares on the Internet. Josh & his original cabin mate (more on that later) were the luckiest. They were the last to book the cruise and I found a flight for them for $387 round trip, non-stop both ways! We booked this cruise in January 2001 before the ship was completed, booking a category 8B balcony cabin on Upper deck. Little did we know that about half of the cabins in this category have a view partially obstructed by the top of the lifeboats. It was only after I looked at a close up photo of the ship's exterior that I realized this would be a problem. My travel agent contacted Carnival and had the situation resolved in one hour. Carnival, who I have always found to be very accommodating, apologized for the problem and upgraded us all to Category 8G and 8I (Verandah & Panorama decks) with the bigger balconies. How's that for an extra benefit. This was after Carnival had already reduced the cruise price by $300 per person and gave each cabin a $60 onboard credit. All total, we saved between $490-to-$520 per person. But Carnival got most of that back at the casinos. Now, in the 2002-2003 Carnival brochure for all three Spirit-class ships, they have a disclaimer giving you the specific cabins in 8B that have the obstructed view. It pays to read the fine print. Last place you want an obstructed view balcony cabin is in Alaska. GETTING TO VANCOUVER Ethel and I flew into Vancouver a day early. Our original plans called for us to take three connecting flights to Vancouver the day of the cruise. That's a looooooong day. So we changed our flights for $100 total with Northwest Airlines, cutting our flights to just two and knocking 3 hours off the flight time. Approaching Vancouver was the first hint that this was going to be a magnificent adventure. The pilot alerted us to Mt. Rainier on one side, and another scenic mountain on the other. Then as you approach the city you see more awesome mountains and islands surrounded by blue water as the plane descends. Never has a landing been more rewarding. So far so good. And It took us just 5 minutes to clear Canadian customs. We had booked a room at the Hilton Vancouver Airport for $88 U.S. over the Internet, getting an extra 1,000 Hilton HHonors points in the process. The hotel is 5 minutes from the airport, offers a free shuttle and is within walking distance of several restaurants. After dinner, we settled into our room, watched a little TV, and with Ethel sound asleep, the phone rings at 11 p.m. Pacific time (1 a.m. back east). It's Kaye, back in Michigan: "What happens if someone doesn't have a birth certificate?" Seems Barb forgot hers and began the drive back to Lansing (66 miles) to retrieve it. We didn't know she had made it to the airport until 3:45 a.m. Pacific, 15 minutes before the flight was scheduled to leave. The next morning it was back to the airport by 11 a.m., where we turned our luggage over to the Carnival attendants and waited for more of our group to arrive. And we waited. And waited. And waited some more. Although both flights from Detroit had arrived on time within minutes of the other, it took about an hour to clear customs on this busy day because of Spirit and the of pre-cruise groups arriving for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity cruise lines. The airport was packed. Finally, with eight of our group present (the rest of the group would arrive later), the real adventure could begin. EMBARKATION The bus ride to the pier is rather long, perhaps because we were anxious, perhaps because we never saw a freeway. We had to wind our way through city streets, getting a guided tour from the driver as we went along. Finally we snaked our way through Gastown (there is not a single gas station there), getting our first view of sparkling Carnival Spirit. Once off the bus you're always inside at the pier terminal, which I'm sure is great if it's raining. No San Juan situations here. It takes about an hour to totally get through the sign up process and U.S. customs. So in one day you go through both Canadian and U.S. customs. I like that since you get it all done and then can concentrate on your cruise. And the mandatory muster drill doesn't take place until the next day, another plus as far as I'm concerned. Who wants to stand on deck right after getting on the ship, while you're tired and wishing you were on Lido deck instead. THE SHIP I'll try not to hit on too many subjects that other reviewers have already talked about. Spirit is an easy ship to get around. Unlike Destiny-class ships, you can get from one end to the other with no problem. Deck 2 and 3 are the most active areas, of course, and I would suggest using those if you want to get around because you may see something along the way that will interest you. You can just as easily walk the corridors along cabin decks, but you wouldn't see much. If you are easily confused, just remember this simple rule on Spirit: No matter what deck you're on, food is aft, entertainment is forward. Although I love Royal Caribbean's Voyager-class ships, the one flaw is that you have to go out of your way to go to many of their entertainment areas, such as the jazz club or the ice skating show. On Spirit that isn't a problem. On Deck 2, you can walk from the dining room, check out the jazz group at Artist's Lobby, another performer at the atrium bar, a country-western singer in the casino, fellow passengers singing karaoke in Club Cool, and snack on a real dessert or coffee at the Fountain Cafe before catching one of the shows at Pharoah's Palace, all within a 10-minute stroll. However, the entertainment is another matter, but we'll get to that later. We all agreed that the ship is kinda "out there" in terms of decoration. But your eyes adapt after a few days. The brightest area is Lido deck. Classiest area is the Empire dining room. Carnival cabin bathrooms are great, with plenty of room to move around. The shower could easily be used by a "big" person. I weighed about 205 pounds when I cruised on Voyager, and their wrap-around shower was really confining. Drop a bar of soap in there and you'll have to exit the shower to retrieve it. The entire cabin never felt small. However, like all cruise lines, I wish they could figure out a way to make those twin beds truly a queen bed. We're not Ozzie and Harriet, if you catch my meaning. EXCURSIONS We booked tours at three of the four stops. In Ketchikan, Carmelia and I did the Misty Fjords flightseeing tour with Island Wings Air. Michelle piloted the four-seater, landing by an island in the middle of a lake so that we could get out and take photos and video. No other tour company does this, instead just landing on the lake and letting you take photos from there. Awesome experience, and Michelle made the tour even more rewarding with her knowledge of the area. I never knew Ketchikan was an island and not on the mainland. In Juneau, we went on the Awesome Orca whale-watching excursion with Captain Larry and Jim the naturalist. Great guys! Great senses of humor! Great excursion! Our group took over most of the boat, which holds about 25 people. Why bother booking the more expensive cruise line version with 125 people onboard? This is more personal, and we made the most of it, asking questions, joking with Jim and really making this the highlight of all our excursions. We saw whales bubble-net feeding a whooping six times! We must have seen 30 whales out there. And the scenery? Wow! When we docked, we had the option of going straight to Mendenhall Glacier or back to town. We chose the glacier and were not disappointed. When we returned to town to do a little shopping, I went back to the Orca office to let them know what a great time we had. Book this one if you want to go whale-watching ... you will not be disappointed. In Skagway we took the White Pass & Yukon Rail excursion, arranged through Carnival. It was rather foggy and they gave us the option to back out and get a refund, but like I said, we were out to have fun and weren't going to let a little fog get in our way. Although this was third best of the three excursions, we still had a nice time, even though Alanne has a fear of heights and didn't enjoy climbing along the outside of a mountain. The rest of us, however, took in the lovely scenery, listened to the tour guide's stories and enjoyed another opportunity to be together. We were in the second car, where the tour guide is situated. Her voice is carried through speakers throughout the lengthy train. Once again, we kept things lively and had a ball as a group. Shopping was good in all three of these ports. Plenty of souvenirs with mostly the same items sold at each stop. Miss something in Ketchikan? Don't worry, you'll find it in Juneau or Skagway. However, in Juneau we did get a great Alaska photo album for just $6.99. We filled all 208 slots with photos from the 13 rolls of film I shot throughout the trip. I still have plenty left, not including the 100 digital photos I took. Thank God we bought our souvenirs before we got to Sitka. There weren't many bargains there. Much of the stuff is overpriced, even though other items are worth what they're asking, such as items at the Russian American store. Wish I had the money to buy some of it. ENTERTAINMENT My group had a great time in the casino ... even though they lost lots of money. You know how it goes. Win $800 one night, give it all back the next night. Marjorie was the smart one, winning $900 and keeping it. Way to go, Marjorie! As far as the shows go .... well, they weren't very good. The first two shows at Pharaoh's Palace were just OK. The male dancers were very good. We felt the women dancers, although beautiful, were a little stiff. Each show they were screaming with excitement while dancing, which seemed kinda phony. The male and female singers had great voices, but I felt some of the songs they sang were all wrong for them. The final big stage show was awful. One by one, we walked out. I can honestly say it was the worst show I've ever seen on a cruise ship. We enjoyed the entertainment in the smaller venues more. The jazz group at Artist's Lobby was good, and so was the duo at Nouveau Supper Club, thanks to the male singer. He has an amazing voice and is quite talented. DINING We liked and disliked the Nouveau Supper Club. A few months before the cruise I met a Spirit manager online and she was able to make advance reservations for my entire group. That was a real timesaver. We didn't have to spend time the first day making reservations. I had the best filet mignon of my life, and the Caesar salad was also very good. But the dainty desserts left a lot to be desired, and three hours is way too long for this. I like fine restaurants, but I felt I was missing something sitting there so long. The atmosphere is very relaxing, especially for an Alaskan cruise. Just watching as we passed the mountains along the coast - not to mention a whale sighting or two - is reward enough. However, for the $25 cover charge, I don't think I'd do it again. But that filet mignon was spectacular. Overall, Portofino aboard Voyager of the Seas was better. If you want a truly elegant setting aboard a Carnival ship, just to see how the upper crust lives, this is the restaurant for you. If you just want good food and service, see Rafael and Helen in the Empire Room. The food in the Empire Room was typical Carnival. In other words, it was typically good. We enjoyed every meal in the dining room. We ate breakfast there once, lunch once and dinner six times. Our wait team of Rafael from Costa Rica (actually he lives in New Jersey) and Helen from the Philippines were extremely efficient and entertaining, with Rafael ("I'll sing for you, I'll dance for you") playfully flirting with the women in our group, especially Kaye. Don't worry Carnival, he was always courteous and respectful! We're making sure Kaye's husband gets a picture of the two of them in the dining room, and maybe he'll go with us next time to protect his interest. Rafael and Helen made us feel special, as did David the head waiter from Ireland, who stopped by our table several nights to check on us. Truly first-class service, each and every day. The Lido deck food is the most varied of all Carnival cruises I've been on. We had to make tough choices every day to decide what to eat, especially at lunch. You had Chinese, Japanese, a salad bar, a fruit bar, a deli, rotisserie meats, pasta, pizza, burgers and other items each time. And I ate soft-serve ice cream every day, a good thing since the deserts were the usually light and airy Carnival variety. ONLY AS FUN AS YOU MAKE IT As I said, this was a fantastic experience. But you know what? It might not be for some people. Our group was quite outgoing and interactive. We met hundreds of people throughout the 7 days and always made sure that we called people - both passengers and staff - by name. We remembered them and they did the same. By the way, our entire group is African-American, but it was never an issue. If you treat people with respect and carry yourself with dignity, people will be drawn to you. Two of the best people we met were elderly white ladies from North Carolina, who developed a relationship with Josh flying into Vancouver, continued throughout the cruise and through their flight home. I'm sure they'll all stay in contact even though the cruise is now confined to pictures, video, memory and expanded midsections. Best part of the onboard experience had to be Josh - who was elevated to star status by the time the cruise was over - and Alanne. Both are quite gifted musically. They participated in karaoke, the talent show, and also performed with the small jazz group along the way in Artist's Lobby. Both had standing invitations to perform each night, and crowds would develop whenever they performed. They were both awesome in the talent show. And Alanne, as the last act, left cruise director Shawn Bussey and her assistant speechless when she took over the post act interview. We couldn't go anywhere on ship without someone coming up to Josh and talking to him, telling how well he sang or how well he played the sax & piano or just commenting on his charisma. By the way, Alanne volunteered my wife and I to sing at karaoke, and even though I believe I can't sing a lick, everyone said that I was pretty good. Must run in the family. One more thing, I had read last year that Shawn Bussey wasn't a very good cruise director. Well, she certainly must have improved since then. I found her very engaging and funny, and best of all she appeared to be having fun. She's not bad on the eyes either. DEBARKATION This is the one area -- other than entertainment -- that Carnival really needs to work on. We don't have a problem with the 3-hour bus ride from Seward to Anchorage, especially after our driver stopped at the Big Game animal reserve. But we all feel Carnival needs to alert the first groups getting the night before. We got up at 5:30 a.m. and made it to the dining room for breakfast at 6 a.m. We had literally sat down when our tag color was called, meaning we had to get back to our rooms, pick up our carry-ons and leave the ship ... all on empty stomachs. Of course, Carnival knew that our flight wasn't leaving Anchorage until 5 p.m. Why couldn't we have had breakfast first? If nothing else, let those groups getting off by 6 a.m. know so that they can eat breakfast when the dining room opens at 5:30 a.m. We saw no point in filling out the forms, alerting them to our 5 p.m. flight time, since it meant nothing in terms of when we got off the ship. To kill time in Anchorage before our flight, some of us took a shuttle downtown. Looking for a good restaurant? Try Glacier Brewery down the street from the Egan Center. Also, I bought some last-minute postcards at a store, 10 for 88 cents. However, be aware that if you use the free Carnival shuttle, get a return ticket as soon as you get off the bus. Those tickets go fast and you could be left stranded, unless you raise a stink. SUMMARY All in all, this was our best cruise ever. Only one person did not enjoy herself, but she came onboard miserable and left the same way. The rest of us had so much fun that we are planning our next group cruise for 2004, this time to the Southern Caribbean. Now that we have returned, other people who backed out before, now want to join our group. We're looking at about 40 people next time. Which brings me to Josh's original cabin mate. Unbelievably, she backed out on him the day before the cruise! She said she "was busy." What a knucklehead, huh? How someone could cancel out on a once-in-a-lifetime Alaska cruise adventure is beyond me. But he had a great time anyway ... especially with his two "young" ladies from North Carolina. He'll see the knucklehead in small claims court. alanwhitt@attbi.comSeptember 2002 Read Less
Just returned from New Year's Eve cruise on the Spirit with an itinerary of Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama. This is our second cruise on Carnival. The ship was large and well-kept. Public areas were nice and our cabin was laid ... Read More
Just returned from New Year's Eve cruise on the Spirit with an itinerary of Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama. This is our second cruise on Carnival. The ship was large and well-kept. Public areas were nice and our cabin was laid out efficiently with enough storage space. We had previously sailed on Carnival's Victory which we preferred to this ship, but that is a personal preference. That being said, I have mixed feelings about this cruise. I had booked 10 months in advance requesting late seating for dinner, but was given early seating. You had to wait in line for an hour to speak to the maitre de and he could only "get back to you". When he didn't, I had to constantly go up there and complain until we were finally changed. Belize It was rainy when we arrived so all water and walking related tours were cancelled. We tendered to the dock and took a city tour with an independent tour guide. It was okay, but I think the real beauty of Belize lies outside the city limits. Unfortunately, I missed it. As a point of reference, everyone who took the baboon tour complained about how lame it was. It apparently was in a setting behind people's homes, and they had to whistle to find a monkey. There were lawn mowers in the backround. A must-miss from what I was told. Costa Rica We pulled up on a sunny day to what looked like a very inviting area. You could see palm trees, beaches, mountains, etc. We were all excited after rainy Belize. After we docked, the captain made an announcement that the swells were too large and we wouldn't be able to get off. So, we left. We all received a $25 credit per person, as a "gesture" on our bill. Dissapointing to say the least. Several other posters have told this story and I feel that Carnival should either change the port of call, or offer an alternative if the water is too rough. For an 8 day cruise, we spent 6 on the ship. PanamaThis was the best of all the stops. Took the Panama Canal tour at $155 per person. It was well worth it. The tour was great and you went through 2 locks into Gatun Lake. The guide was knowledgeable and spoke English well. Lunch was provided and I highly recommend this tour. Food Plentiful and mediocre for the most part. As they say, "edible, but largely forgetable". We had reservations at the supper club, but had to cancel due to a stomach virus we all contracted after our first full day on the ship. The infirmary was helpful and provided us with medications to help ease our discomfort. Did we catch it on the ship? I honestly couldn't say. Maybe it was a blessing in disguise, as I returned home 1 pound lighter than when I left! EntertainmentA mixed bag, some better than others. Amy, the cruise director, is often the vocal entertainment as well. They had a comedy juggling act called the Village Idiots which were really good. During the day, they had the usual stuff that I personally didn't find that entertaining. They have the requisite Bingo, Newlywed Game, hairy chest contests, etc. Oh, and the art auctions. They had a nice gym if you care to use it. There were lots of lounges with music to hang out at. They also have a nice library/internet cafe which was convenient for keeping in touch back home. The ship rocked and was sometimes "creaky". Often, there were sickness bags left at the elevator doors and stairs. Our room steward was excellent, and our dinner staff was impersonal, but attentive. Overall it was relaxing, but a little dissapointing. I think we will try another cruise line next time around to compare. Hope this helps anyone reading for information. Reb1121@aol.comMarch 2003 Read Less
Well, I'm feeling a little guilty because I haven't written a review yet and I really appreciated all the info I got off [Cruise Critic's] boards prior to our cruise. So, here goes! Our cruise started on 7/24 but we decided ... Read More
Well, I'm feeling a little guilty because I haven't written a review yet and I really appreciated all the info I got off [Cruise Critic's] boards prior to our cruise. So, here goes! Our cruise started on 7/24 but we decided to go one day prior because we (my husband and I) were traveling with my in-laws and we felt it might make for a very long day for them with the flights from California, the bus drive to Seward and then boarding. We booked our pre-night through Carnival and were placed at the Anchorage Hilton. The price for this is pretty ridiculous, but it does include the transfers and tips. The Hilton was nice and in a good location to wander around and see some of the downtown area. From 6p.m. to 10p.m. in the hotel, we were able to check in with Carnival. Turned in our info for the Sign and Sail card and took care of everything so we didn't have to go to the Egan Center the next day. Ate dinner at a little place down the street called the Snow Goose. It's a microbrewery, so my husband enjoyed that. Had good chowder, salads and sandwiches. The next morning my husband and I walked around some more and went by the Egan Center. We were extremely glad we didn't have to go there as there were hundreds of people, suitcases and it looked like total chaos!! We were assigned a l:30 bus to Seward. It picked us up at the Hilton. Ran a little late and then we had to go by the airport to pick up more people. Nice drive to Seward, informative bus driver. Got a box lunch when we boarded. We took our carry ons with us, but our other luggage was picked up that morning by the hotel and sent to Seward ahead of us. Arrived at the ship around 5p.m. Went through security and picked up our sign and sail cards then boarded the ship. No lines or waiting whatsoever. We carried 11 bottles of wine in a 22" suitcase. We checked it through on the airlines but took it as a carry=on once we were in Anchorage. Went through security with no problems or questions. All luggage was already at our rooms except two pieces(mine) but they arrived about 6:15. Were on the Empress Deck in 6194 and 6198. Very nice rooms, great balcony (we hadn't had one before). Plenty of storage, roomy bathroom with plenty of shelves. Beds were set up as two twins, so we just moved the nightstand between and shoved them together ourselves. When we saw the room steward as we were leaving for dinner, we mentioned that we wanted them made up as one bed and it was taken care of when we returned from dinner. All our suitcases fit easily under the beds after we unpacked. We were really glad we had brought a bungee cord for the balcony door, great tip!! Dinner in the dining room was open seating the first night. Not quite sure why but it was slow seating and didn't go smooth at all. I would think it would work better to start the assigned seating the first night. Cruised College Fjord the next morning. Very scenic. Our room was on the port side of the ship, which proved to be the correct side for some great viewing of Harvard Glacier. We were able to get within 1/4 mile of the glacier. Just sat there for awhile and saw multiple calvings from our balcony. Took many pictures!!! We didn't go into Valdez that afternoon. Long lines to get off the ship, long lines for buses to town and long lines to get back on ship. We later heard that there wasn't much there anyway. Spent the day checking out the beautiful ship, and relaxing on our balcony. We ate dinner every night in the dinning room and also had two lunches there. Our wait staff was excellent and very accommodating. We took a bottle of wine to dinner every night and were only charged the corkage one time. Loved the food, great presentation, variety, etc., etc., etc.!!! Sailed Yakutat Bay the next day back to Hubbard Glacier. Absolutely incredible sight!!! The ship got within 1/2 mile of the glacier. we sat portside(which made us very happy) for probably 45 minutes. Saw lots of calving again. It was colder on the balcony but we still enjoyed it Arrived in Juneau the next day. Rainy and foggy in the morning, but cleared later. Walked to town and bought the pass for the Mt. Roberts Tramway. This is a daily pass when it is purchased there so we rode it again later in the day when the weather cleared more. Saw bald eagles very close at the top of the mountain. Stopped by the Red Dog Saloon in town. Cute place, good stop. In port early the next day at Skagway. Pretty windy here. Walked the short distance to town. In-laws took the shuttle for $1.00. Cute little town, lots of shops, pretty touristy. Good beer at Skagway Brewery. Saw some humpback whales as we were sailing out from Skagway through Lynn Canal. Naturalists (2) on our ship did a great job explaining different things and pointing out sights and wildlife. Arrived at Ketchikan the next day. We booked a city tour, Trolley Tour, on the dock. Walked around town in the morning, shopped then headed back to the ship for lunch. Got our tour at 2:30. Good tour and good bus driver. Drove around the town, visited an eagle's next, Saxman Totem Park and got off the bus and walked back to the ship from Creek Street. Stayed up for the Grand Buffet. Went there at 11:30 for picture time only. We were still full from dinner anyway, but it certainly looked good! Next day at sea through the Inside Passage. Beautiful day so we got to really enjoy our balcony, Saw porpoises and killer whales. Beautiful scenery again. Debarkation went pretty smooth. We were allowed to wait in public areas or in your own room. Waited in our room which was much nicer. Our color tag was called about 9:30. We had booked a Vancouver City Tour on the ship since our flight wasn't until 5:30. Had a good bus driver for the 3+ hour tour. Visited Chinatown, Gaslamp District, Stanley Park and Queen Elizabeth Park. Dropped off at the airport. We used room service each morning to order two pots of coffee and orange juice to have while we showered and got moving. Really enjoyed the dining room. We left our tips on the Sign and Sail card but also gave extra to our waiter and assistant waiter. We also gave a small tip to the Maitre'd since he is not included in the tipping. Nice casino. Only went to the shows a couple of times. Denny Brunk was very entertaining, the other show was a comedy show and pretty lame. Decorating of the ship was fine, that kind of thing is not going to affect my cruise. We were disappointed there was not a sushi bar.(we had sailed on the Elation before and there was one.) We were also disappointed they didn't offer escargot anywhere on the ship the whole week. Overall, we had a great cruise and loved the ship. Booked it for another cruise next April to Hawaii. Sorry this is so long, hope it's helpful to someone out there. karchar4@hotmail.comSeptember 2002 Read Less
Boarding: We arrived at the port of Miami at around 11:00 am. Cruise departure was 4:00 pm so it was kind of early, however we would rather wait sitting down than get stuck standing in long lines. When we first started processing we ... Read More
Boarding: We arrived at the port of Miami at around 11:00 am. Cruise departure was 4:00 pm so it was kind of early, however we would rather wait sitting down than get stuck standing in long lines. When we first started processing we thought we were going to walk right on the ship. Ticket taking and initial processing took no time at all. We ended up sitting in one room for 10 minutes then got moved to another that had chairs for everybody. Once we moved to this room we had to wait for about an hour. Eventually around 1:30 we were boarding the ship. My experience was that it was great to arrive so early, and I would probably do this way again. Not sure how Carnival could improve upon this as there were still passengers on the ship from the previous cruise, so they could not speed things up. First two days at sea: The cabin was wonderful. We were in an 8I cabin on the right side of the boat near the back. Unfortunately this side of the ship is always on the opposite side from the ports. Oh well. Cabin was very large, larger than both Holland America and Costa. I wish however that they could make the room look a little more sterile with white paint. The orange walls and bed was a little too much for me. The food in the Bistro was great. I recommend the Asian buffet as it always had great food. I especially loved the hot chili sauce that they had. I had rice and chili sauce mixed together many times as a meal. The deli station was great as well. Make sure you ask them to pile the meat really high. I had one of the best Reubens in my life. I would recommend to stay away from the rotisserie part as most of the food reminded me of Furrs cafeteria. Pizza was incredible. I believe we consumed 4 or 5 pies throughout the trip, especially late at night! We enjoyed the dinners in the dining room. Our dining room staff was great! Keep a look out for the Pumpkin soup. That was my wife's favorite! She had it for starters, dessert 1 and dessert 2! The supper club was amazing. Plan to spend quite a bit of time there. We had the crab claws, porterhouse and Filet. The Lobster Bisque was great as well. Living in Dallas we have access to some of the finest steak houses around, and I would have to say the supper club was much better (especially for the money). Unfortunately our second attempt at the supper club was not as great as the steaks were not cooked as well. Oh well, all in all we would still recommend it. Unfortunately it rained the first day at sea, however the second was full of fun in the sun. We spent most of the shiny time relaxing in the sun. I would recommend to Carnival to add more pool games, especially a beer chugging contest! Speaking of pool games, I was the grand winner of the Carnival Survivor! We didn't see many of the shows because we were really turned off by the Cruise Director. Amy is a very good singer and entertainer, however as a CD we were very unhappy. She had a very annoying cheesy voice that got on your nerves. In my opinion Skippy was much better as a CD. We loved the late night Comedy acts. Both that we saw were very funny. I would highly recommend them. My wife and I are not smokers, so we didn't spend any time in the Piano bar. It was always extremely smoky. Also, there is a path that you must take from the Dining room to the entertainment on the boat that took you right through the cigar smoking area. I always found this walk very unappealing as the smoke in that area was very overpowering (even though I do smoke cigars occasionally). Panama: Loved Panama. It was a great experience to go through the Locks. I would recommend that the excursion be modified a bit. There is a very long bus ride that takes you to the furthest lock away. They then put you on a boat that takes you back in the direction you came from. You go through 2 sets of locks and then take a long river cruise. The time on the locks was great, however the bus ride before and after and the cruise on the boat before and after the locks was way too long. I would rather see the excursion drop you off just before the closest lock, go through one set, and then take you immediately back. This way it is not such a long and tiring day. Costa Rica: We found Costa Rica to be the most amazing place that we had been. We did the whitewater rafting which was truly breathtaking. Not that the whitewater itself was so great, just the entire package of taking a bus ride through the rain forest, seeing the smaller communities, and the scenery while on the raft. I would highly recommend this excursion to anybody. Belize: First of all, if you don't go on an excursion you will hate Belize. The city itself is very dirty and leaves a lot to be desired. We opted for the Cave tubing and were very happy with it. The bus ride to the rafting wasn't that great, as the scenery isn't that exciting. Once you arrive at the site were the tubing takes place you start to realize that the day is going to shape up to be wonderful. This rainforest was different than Costa Rica, and the hike through it was breathtaking. Another excellent tour. My wife and I both commented that we would do this exact same cruise again as it was all perfect! You can see pics from our trip at : and July 2003 Read Less
This was our 4th Carnival cruise, and the best thus far. After having been on the Destiny, Triumph and Inspiration in the last year, the Spirit was a totally different and a markedly improved experience for us. We were worried slightly ... Read More
This was our 4th Carnival cruise, and the best thus far. After having been on the Destiny, Triumph and Inspiration in the last year, the Spirit was a totally different and a markedly improved experience for us. We were worried slightly about this trip after some negative reviews we had read, and I am pleased to give you this glowing review. The Ship: Magnificent. We loved the dEcor, very rich and classy. We liked the layout of the atrium and all of the social floors being on level 2 and 3. They gave the photo area its own section on deck 3, which avoided the traffic jams which occurs on the Destiny class. The shopping area had its own section, also, and was never crowded. We noticed that with a full ship, we were never over-crowded anywhere. The ship was very smooth, and we thought it handled the seas wonderfully. There were a lot of non-smoking areas, in fact smoking was in designated areas only, which is in bold print in the capers everyday. As non-smokers, we truly appreciated this. The topless deck had a design flaw, as it had a weird "observation" deck above it that always had a couple of people lurking over the topless women. The showroom was great, with very few problem areas for viewing the shows. We loved the many bars and lounges throughout the ship. The Versailles lounge, on deck 1, under the Pharaoh Showroom, was a very unique but under-used lounge that we walked through several times. My favorite element of the ship was a glass staircase that protruded out of the Nouveau Supper Club right under the funnel at the highest level of the atrium. When you walked down this glass staircase and looked down through the stairs you could see all the way down to the atrium bar. The Dining Experience: There are big differences in food on this ship. I know they are supposed to be "uniform", but they simply are not. The food was much better on this ship, across the board. The main dining room was very nice, with a lot of smaller tables, even for two. The staff seemed to very happy and worked together very nicely. Due to the extra day, we had a different menu one night which included crab legs. They were wonderful, even split open and cut in half, so there was no work to it. One improvement for the lido dining areas would be that in the morning they should have separate areas for the omelet stations, as it caused unnecessary back-ups for people who did not want an omelet. The lunch was wonderful on the lido everyday- Chinese, a theme buffet, rotisserie area and my favorite, the deli, where I had a fresh grilled Rueben everyday! Beware of one lido lunch item, though: one day I saw what I thought was pineapple upside cake, but in fact it was glazed pear bleu-cheese cake... yuck! The Nouveau Supper Club was absolutely not to be missed. We had a dinner that lasted over 3 hours, and were blown away by the service and the food. I had the biggest and best filet mignon I have ever had. The lobster bisque was absolutely wonderful, but make sure it is hot. Ours was lukewarm, but it tasted so good we ate it anyway, and we both suffered stomach problems later from it. Go very hungry to this venue! It was well worth the $25 surcharge. The Stateroom: We had an extended balcony stateroom, #6226, on the Empress Deck, category 8E. It was a drastic improvement over cabins in the other classes. There was a mailbox outside every stateroom for Capers and such, which was a great idea. There was a hairdryer that worked great located in the top drawer of the dresser area. This was nice as it also drew you away from the bathroom to finish getting ready so the other person could take a shower. The extended balcony was awesome, and well worth it. My only complaint is in the combination of a higher uncomfortable chair and a nice Adirondack style chair. I wish there were two comfortable Adirondack style chairs. These chair combinations were also the same on the Destiny class, so it is not unique to the Spirit balconies. The colors in the stateroom were a welcome change, with light cherry cabinetry and muted pleasant colors. The usual pepto-pink theme is gone, yeah! The bathroom was adequate, with an improvement in the amount of shelves for your things. I was disappointed that there was not Fun-vision installed on the Spirit, it was nice on the Destiny class to be able to check your sail and sign account and order shore excursions. A neat thing to note is that there are drawers under the sofa to store shoes, snorkel gear, etc. They chose to use leather pulls on the drawers and cabinet doors, which was nice as they did not catch your clothing as you walked by. There was a beautiful glass light over one mirror above the dresser with a colored glass design, which I thought was a beautiful touch. The Cruise Director and Entertainment Staff: Amy, the cruise director, was awesome. We heard a couple of grumpy people muttering things about her, but we thought she was great. She was the most active cruise director I have seen yet. She and her assistant, Skippy, did a morning show every morning! It was great to see them having fun with their job. Amy was always very informative, cheery and was very talented. Not only was she the CD, but she was also the star of many of the performances, and a very talented one at that. We enjoyed all of the entertainment staff, especially when Steve did the bingo. The ports: We did the Two Oceans By Railroad trip in Panama, which was fantastic. We had a fantastic train-ride from the Caribbean side, along the Panama Canal, to Panama City. We had a brief tour of Panama City, a stop for pictures of the Bridge of The Americas, a tour of one of the locks, then back to the Caribbean side via train again. The train was very clean, beautiful and fun. They provided coffee on the way and a box lunch on the way back. This is a port that you do not want to wander off into. It is a very dangerous place, so be sure to book a tour and stick with it to have a great experience like we did. In Costa Rica we did the Shamen's Land Walk, which was an hour and half bus ride to a rustic resort called Almonds and Corrals in the Rain Forest. From there we went on an hour hike through the Rain Forest, where we saw all kinds of different tree's, poison tree frogs, spiders and my favorite, a bunch of monkeys jumping tree to tree. On the bus ride we got a good snapshot of that side of Costa Rica, even passing some banana plantations. The shopping was not very good here, but we expected that. Last we visited Belize. We booked Goff's Caye Snorkeling. Awesome. They picked us right up off the boat in lieu of tendering in to catch the tour. A half hour boat ride took us to a little tiny island on the barrier reef where they took us for a 1 hour guided snorkel off the boat, then a couple more hours on the beach to snorkel on your own. My only disappointment with this is that there were some people who complained about being hot and wanted to go back early and we did, which I thought was wrong. This was our favorite excursion. When we got back to the ship we had time to shower, have a quick lunch and catch a tender in to Belize City for shopping. This port was beautiful, and they had the best shopping area of the cruise. Summary: Our best and favorite cruise yet. I would highly recommend the Spirit to any destination, and I would recommend this itinerary as well. We loved the extra sea days, and the 8th day really added an extra day of relaxation. Kudos to Carnival on this ship! July 2003 Read Less
WE HAD AN ABSOLUTE BLAST! Having sailed before on 2 of the Fantasy Class ships: Sensation and Elation, and then on the Destiny Class Victory, it was nice to go back to a ship that carried less passengers, like the first two. Basically a ... Read More
WE HAD AN ABSOLUTE BLAST! Having sailed before on 2 of the Fantasy Class ships: Sensation and Elation, and then on the Destiny Class Victory, it was nice to go back to a ship that carried less passengers, like the first two. Basically a Fantasy Class footprint as far as size, the Spirit was similar yet very different. All of the public rooms are on the bottom decks, with most of the cabins on the upper decks, and the atrium is more midship to aft versus forward. This means that very few cabins have foot traffic from lounges, disco, etc. overhead. Cabin sizes are great, as usual, and the balcony is the only way to go! The dEcor is hardly gaudy, with much more natural woodwork and soft lighting on this ship, a welcome departure from other Carnival vessels. After one night at the Holiday Inn on Sheridan in Fort Lauderdale, our check-in experience was a breeze, (got to the Miami terminal at noon and there were lots of agents working) and we were on the Lido deck for lunch by 12:40. Belize, Costa Rica and Panama were the ports of call and since we had some time we booked our tours right away. The Excursion Desk was open at 12:30! Be sure to note that this exotic itinerary means lots to see-- wildlife, beautiful and lush rainforest, history and culture. This is not a tour of "Caribbean-Shop-Til-You-Drop" like other destinations. Sure there are items to buy, but you will find that you will spend more $ on experiences than on material things. If you really want to take the boat tour through the Panama Canal (the $155 tour), book it ASAP! You won't regret it! The canal is a marvel! In Belize we did the Altun Ha Mayan Ruins and River Wallace Tour. Lots of interesting history of the lost civilization and a visit to one of the hundreds of Mayan sites right there in Belize alone. The river is a showy display of green, water and plants and trees, flowers, butterflies, birds, crocodiles, iguanas, black howler monkeys, and then as the river joins the Caribbean, you will see the manatees coming up for air - a real treat! In Costa Rica we took the Green Train tour. The train itself is not green, it's blue, but the scenery is! The 1930's rail cars take you from Limon (where EVERYONE will wave at you) through the rain forest and into the banana plantations. There is a small market place at the pier where you can get wood crafts and coffee—we like Cafe Rey the best! These countries are trying to get into the tourism business to help the local economy. They have not been at this for very long but are doing well so far. We were warned not to do any on-our-own touring and this is good advice. There is little police protection and there are no guarantees of anyone's safety in these areas. For more info I would suggest visiting the US State Department website: Follow the link for Travel and Living Abroad. Don't be scared, enjoy your time there, but be smart about it. Ok, back to the ship. Food. So much of it, so little time! Empire Dining room was great, service and food was excellent. One night we had Snow Crab Legs as an entrEe choice. Be sure to get it! Lido deck breakfast was really good, but the lunch options were wonderful! Besides the grill, (burgers, dogs, minute steaks) there was the Asian Wok which was great! Usually one soup, white rice, lo mien, then 3 entrEes, one vegetarian, GREAT sushi, and some other type of appetizer, spring roll / egg roll or wonton. This was the place to eat if you like spicy food, there was usually one item that was packed with heat! Then the Deli which served awesome Reuben's and pastrami, corned beef, turkey, tuna, roast beef sandwiches! The Rotisserie has chef carved meat, ribs, jerk pork, corn on the cob, baked potatoes and the like. Salad bar, prepared salads, fresh fruit, cheese and meats such as mortadella rounded out the Lido Deck offerings. Did I mention dessert? Of course there's the 24 Pizzeria and Ice cream / Frozen Yogurt. Try the goat cheese and mushroom pizza - it's to die for! Nouveau Supper Club. An ABSOLUTE MUST! Yes, there is a $25 cover charge per person, but the food is a notch up from the Empire and you will be pampered and catered to like nothing else! I especially recommend the Onion Soup, and the Warm Flourless Chocolate Cake! While all entrEes look great, we had the Joe's stone crab and the lobster and were thrilled with them. After a bottle of wine and tip it was $90, but worth every penny! We had dinner reservations for 6 PM and we were the only ones there until 7! We had a window table on the starboard side and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. Ecaterina took great care of us! Sailing was great except for one day - first full day at sea after leaving Panama. The east coast of the US had just been pounded with snow and we were in the path of the cold front that followed that storm system. We had 8-10 foot sea swells. MANY people were sea sick, but I took my Bonine and had no problems. At one point, they considered canceling the show because it was not safe for the dancers to perform. It greatly improved by 8:30 PM, so the show went on and it was completely calm by 11 PM. That was the night of the Grand Gala Buffet and there were a lot of people there who had not been able to eat at dinner but were feeling better and famished by midnight! It was a GREAT cruise and we had an OUTSTANDING time. The crew was great, and the customer service was top notch. We really enjoy sailing on Carnival and apparently MANY people do because the Repeat Cruisers' Reception was held in the Pharaoh's Palace (show theatre). It was the only venue big enough to hold the 1,446 repeat cruisers out of the 2,020 total passengers on our voyage! July 2003 Read Less
Vancouver - Juneau - Glacier Bay - Skagway - Ketchikan - Vancouver Carnival Transfer Since I flew in the day before, I took the hotel shuttle to Vancouver Airport and arrived at 10:45 AM to take Carnival's transfer to pier. Boarded ... Read More
Vancouver - Juneau - Glacier Bay - Skagway - Ketchikan - Vancouver Carnival Transfer Since I flew in the day before, I took the hotel shuttle to Vancouver Airport and arrived at 10:45 AM to take Carnival's transfer to pier. Boarded bus quickly and it left airport at 11:00 AM. It was suppose to be a 35-to-40 minute ride, but took about 70 minutes because the bus driver decided to give us a "tour" of Vancouver. He kept making stops and getting up and talking about Vancouver this and that. It was a horrible ride for me because I just wanted to get to the pier to board the ship. Then the driver told us to tell anyone who asks that there was a lot of traffic. He seemed to have done this for an extra tip. This waste of my time (since I had no interest in this deviation) made me decide not to give him a tip at all. Boarding Ship This was unusually slow. It took about 90 minutes to get to the security checkpoint. We all had to carry our own luggage up to that security checkpoint. That's what the delayed seemed to be. Once I passed that point, the rest was extremely quick. I was on the guaranteed single share program and they told me I was with Cynthia. I was shocked that I was paired with a Female. I've done the share program before and it's always been with another male. Well, I felt a little uncomfortable with the idea, but figure I could probably live with it. We all had to pass through U.S. Immigration before boarding the ship. I was upgraded from Category 1A to Category 4C. I proceeded to my cabin and open my door. Cynthia immediately asked if I had her luggage, I told her that this was my room. She exclaimed "It can't be." I showed her my boarding pass and told my key opened the door. We then decided the best thing to do was to go to the information desk. We explained the situation. They were very nice and friendly. They apologized for the mistake and gave Cynthia another cabin and each of us ended up having our own cabin. It turned out great. By the time that was done, it was 3:00 PM. Went up to have a quick lunch: Burger & Fries with salad on the side. It was delicious. Meeting with other Cruise Critic Members We had scheduled a 4:00 PM meeting by Shore Tours Desk. I had forgotten my belt, so I got off in Vancouver to go purchase my belt. I had also plan to check in at the office. The bad thing is that it took me awhile to find a belt and the Internet was down for a while. By the time it was up and running, it was too late for me to make it back to the ship by 4:00 PM. So unfortunately, I did not get back in time to meet with the Electronic Friends. This was also due to the new security procedures and extra long bus ride. Had things gone as they used to, I would have been on board by 1:00 PM to 1:30 PM the latest, which would have given me plenty of time to get back by 4:00 PM. Sorry to all Cruise Critics I didn't meet as scheduled. However, I did ran into Pam at La Playa Grill and then later met Betty and Bobbi at the Repeat Cruisers Party. Also Met Lynn and Bob at the Spirit Atrium. To clear things up, Betty and Lynn called my cabin to arrange to meet. It was great to have met them, but we didn't get a chance to talk much. First Night I was assigned late sitting (which I had requested) at a table for 4 in the upstairs part of the restaurant. My tablemates were Cynthia (my ex-cabin mate) and a couple from Canada on their Honeymoon Anniversary. Very nice people all of them. Had a good dinner. Decided to skip dessert and ran over to the singles party, which was to start at 9:30 PM. I got to Club Cool and it looked more like couples than a single party. There was nothing going on, so I went outside the lounge a little confused. There I met Teresa, she was there for the singles party too. We started talking outside. Inside, the host was asking for singles and there appeared to be only 2 singles inside, and of course, Teresa and me outside. While Teresa and I chatted, Donna (Teresa's friend) came by and I was introduced to her. We all went inside to the "singles party." There was actually no party. I guess the host felt there weren't enough singles to continue with a party, so nothing was done for the singles. While we chatted, Teresa and Donna saw their other friend, Melanie, outside the lounge looking for them. I decided to go and approach her. I went outside and told Melanie that Teresa and Donna were inside. She came in and joined us. And that's how I met the first 3 great new friends. Dancing Dance was a pretty cool place. The first night it was kind of dead. One wall was covered with TV Monitors that changed from strange figures to camera of the disco to other objects. Also, the other wall was covered with different colored lights. The disco had the usual party lights, including a dance floor that illuminated in different colors. The DJ wasn't good at mixing, but he did play requests (if he had them in the computer). There was absolutely no mixing, just throwing in one song after the other. In fact, the DJ left the booth several times unattended and the computer did the work. Thursday Started with breakfast at the La Playa Grill. Loved the made to order omelets and the selection of breakfast food. Throughout the cruise, breakfast in La Playa Grill was the same. But it was good and you can vary from omelets to pancakes, from eggs cooked your way to French toast, from cereal to bagels, from orange juice to coffee or hot chocolate, etc. Spend most of the day relaxing, including some time in the Jacuzzi. Since I had done a lot of walking in Vancouver (like 6 miles), I decided no exercise for that Thursday. During my relaxation, I decided to eat lunch in La Playa Grill, forgot what I ate each day, but it was very good. Also went to dance class and they taught me how to dance "Merenge." It was fun. There I met Judy, Maria and Niki. Plus a few others I didn't catch their names. We then had the Captain's welcome aboard party. It was formal night, so shirt & tie, with dress slacks and shoes. That's as formal as I wanted to get. Left my jacket at home because I usually just wore it in and out of the dining room. It was pretty good. I did manage to have 5 drinks. They do serve you the type of drink you want, not just what's on the tray, but you have to ask for them. Then after the party it was off to dinner in the dining room. That night went to the disco and met Teresa, Anita, and Vicky. Three great girls, it was fun to dance with them and chit chat. Dance almost all night. Towards the end, it was practically crew only. I asked a beautiful crew member to dance, and she accepted. We danced for a while and it was fun. Her name was Monika and she played in a Classical Trio on board the ship. Friday (Juneau) Skipped breakfast. Then and early lunch (La Playa Grill). Met Allison and invited her to join a group of use who were going to Mendanhall Glacier via City bus for $1.25 each way. Advised her it included a hike about 1.5 to 2 miles. She and her cabin mate agreed to join us. We agreed to meet outside the ship by the Green little building. It was an extremely long line to get out that took me about 20 minutes to get out. Once I met them, they had decided to do a city tour and Mendanhall Glacier with a Tour Bus for $20.00. Another friend decided to join them, so it was just me and two friends going on the city bus. It was about a 45 minute trip, It was and easy walk to Mendanhall Glacier. One friend and I decided to go for the 3.5 mile hike for beautiful scenery. We were warned about the bears. We had seen on already, but were advised what to do if we see them on the trial. We are supposed to talk to them until they move away. We are not supposed to show any fear nor run away. In worse case scenario, if the bear attacks anyway, we were instructed to just hit the bear. Those instructions were a bit scary, but we didn't encounter any bears, though I was ready with my camera in case we did spot a bear. It was raining the whole hike and it was uphill, then downhill. It took us over two hours. It was starting to get dark and we seemed to be so far away from the end of the trail. We finally made it. When we got out, the tour buses and cars where all gone. We saw one pass by and we both were tempted to hitchhike, but we didn't. Then came a tour bus and my friend stopped it. They did give us a ride. Everyone in the bus seemed to laughed at us. It was quite an adventure. I rate this hike only for those in great physical fitness. We could barely walk, but when we got to the ship, I decided to walk around town before getting on board. Walked only a few minutes, then decided the Jacuzzi on board would be ideal right then. So headed for the Jacuzzi. But on board the ship, saw some girls and they asked me if I was going to the disco, and sure enough I responded yes. After the Jacuzzi, quick shower, then had dinner in the dining room (it was some delicious chicken). My ex-cabin mate told me she arranged for me to have dinner with two girls around my age for Saturday night. After dinner, barely able to walk, I walked around deck and saw Monika drinking something. She was alone, so I joined her and we chatted for a while. What a beautiful young lady. If you see her on board (She plays the violin with the classical trio), tell her Hector says hello. Afterwards, I headed to the disco and danced the night away. What fun it was. Saturday (Glacier Bay) Oh, what pain. I felt like I was hit by a train then thrown in bed. Could barely walk most of the day. Got up early and had breakfast. Then relaxed most of the day with lunch at the Playa Grill. There were beautiful sites in Glacier Bay. I was out on deck (along with lo's of other people) and just watching the Glaciers. Nice relaxing day. Got to see eagles, seals and Killer Whales. Took a dance class (I think it was Waltz this day). Headed to the Jacuzzi right before dinner. Met these two nice young ladies for dinner. It was quiet conversation, but it was nice. We talked about meeting up at the disco. I told them I would be there if they decided to stop by. After dinner, I went to my cabin for a short nap and that was it, I was out for the night. Realized I was supposed to be at the disco, but it was already 1:30 AM. Put on my shoes and headed to the disco, it was dead. I was glad because I was tired, so I headed back to the cabin and fell asleep again. Sunday (Skagway) Got up a little later than usual (at about 8:30 AM). Head breakfast with a few girls. Told them I was going to church at 10:00 AM and was not doing any tours. One of them said she would join me. Met her at pier. We walked into a nice little town. I loved the way the town was. We headed to church and there had been a schedule changed for that Sunday. My friend headed over next door, I decided to stay for some prayer and read the daily scriptures and sang some songs. It was pretty good. Afterwards, I went into a store to buy key rings. They had such bargains, I came out with a large bag of souvenirs. I then had to worry about packing them later, I already had purchased them and never thought about having to take them home on my limited space. But I did manage ok. They were offering the train ride for only $30 (2 & ½ hours). It was very tempting, but I was still very tired from Juneau and I had walked into town, which was a good walk. So I declined and headed back to the ship. Played some gameboy, lunch and Jacuzzi. Decided to try out the treadmill, but I was too tired, so only walked ½ mile because I really wanted to try them out since they were new and looked very state of the art. Great treadmills. This was the second formal night. Dressed up as usual. nice Dinner at dining room. Then walked around the lounges. Ended up in the disco and danced the night away. It was fun again. Monday (Ketchikan) Had breakfast on board. Then did a little walking around town. Prices were not as good as in Skagway. Boarded the ship for lunch. Had lunch with two friends. They had some delicious cookies. I got a slice of chocolate cake. I was going to eat this for my friend back home. It was my friend's birthday and I had agreed to eat chocolate cake. Today's chocolate cake wasn't that good. But with ice cold milk, it was pretty good. I silently sang Happy Birthday to my friend (she was all the way in Chicago and couldn't hear me anyway). Then I decided to go to Walmart. When I got off, I asked for directions and they told me to take the bus, but it would drop me of about ¾ of a mile away from Walmart and would have to walk the rest They also told me about a mall about 1 mile away. Decided to walk to the mall instead and bought a cable I was looking for. Then came back and relaxed in the Jacuzzi, Sauna and steam room. No exercise on board, all the walking was enough. Had dinner and ended up in the Karaoke Party. Nobody seemed to want to sing. One guy was bribed into singing. I decided to help encourage people by passing out the books which listed the songs available. A few did sing, and I was asked a couple of times. I kind of wanted, but never done it before and I wasn't brave enough at first. Finally, I did it and sand "You and I" from Eddie Rabbit and Crystal Gail. It was fun. I then joined this other girl and we sang "Bailamos" together. The host gave me a big medal (they gave one to anyone who sang that night). Then I met up with some of the other friends and ended up at the disco again. I agreed with one of the Teresa that next night we would sing together at the Karaoke Party. Tuesday Got up the latest today (about 9:30 AM). Got ready and went to arts and craft class. Didn't learn much, but got a nice kit to make a memo pad holder and pen holder. Skipped breakfast and had an early lunch at la playa grill. I was supposed to have met the two nice girls for lunch, but they had changed the time and I already had plans for dance class at 2:00 PM with another friend. It was a nice lunch, a little relaxation with game boy, then to dance class. Didn't like the dance class and my friend didn't show up on time, so I didn't join the class. More relaxation, Jacuzzi, and Sauna. Went to Karaoke and met with Teresa. She couldn't pick out a song, so I suggested "You and I" because now she could do the female part. We did it and off to dinner. Then chatted with some of the girls and went to pack. Then to the disco one last night. Didn't stay too long this time. REVIEWS La Playa Grill Excellent Food and Service. Much better than any other cruises I've taken. And this was my 18th Carnival Cruise. I rate this: A+. Dining Room It was a great Dining Room Wait Team. To be honest, I think Carnival had much better waiters and busboys than now that they implemented the new Dining Room Wait Team. I don't think the waiter and waitress we had were bad, but they were more busy. Maybe they had many more people to attend. I can't pinpoint the difference, but it was quite a difference. All the other cruises, I knew my waiter and specially my busboy by name. Service was much more attentive and faster. Nothing to complain about, but it wasn't the same. C-. Supper Club Didn't try it, but friends said it was great. So no rating on my part, but did looked very nice. Disco and Lounges They were excellent. I thought the designs were great. Everything was spotless and shinny. Loved it very much. The Disco music was kind of lousy, since it was the same music again and again. I requested "Dancing Queen" for a friend and they played it 4 times in less than an hour. But DJ Ray did take request. I rate these: A. Jacuzzi's & Pools I think they were great. They could have been warmer. Dome Pool was good, but the outside ones were a bit cold for an Alaskan Cruise. Water Slide was never opened and if it was, I wouldn't have gone on it (too cold). I rate this: B+. Gymnasium Great new machines. Didn't try to many, but did checked them out. Nice Sauna and Steam Room. I rate this: A+. Pizzeria Delicious Pizzas, Salads, Garlic Bread and Calzones. I rate this A. Outdoor decks Very nice and spacious. I prefer the railing than the glass that was used mostly everywhere. I specially enjoyed the outdoor deck on Level 3. I rate these decks: A-. Information Desk Very friendly and helpful every single time (3 times). I rate this: A+. Carnival Transfers What a mess. I did it years ago and I will say the same thing. Never again. Long lines to get going and not very convenient. I rate this: F. Shows I won't go too much in here because I skipped most of them. But the ones I did see were ok. I would rate them: B. Activities I played Win Loose & Draw, Karaoke Dance Classes, Arts & Crafts and Tea Time. There were plenty more. I would rate them: A. Movement For the most part, it was very smooth cruising. But the ship does move considerably in rough seas. It did get some people seasick, but most of us were just fine. Climate Control There was a quick cool button that I never quite learned how to use. But found most areas to be very comfortable. Not too cold and not too warm. Keep in mind this was an Alaskan Cruise. They better turn up the A/C for Caribbean Cruises. I would rate this: A. If you have any questions, feel free to E-mail me at CruiserKidHec@cs.comOctober 2001 Read Less
Carnival Spirit Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.5 4.4
Dining 4.5 4.0
Entertainment 4.5 3.6
Public Rooms 3.5 4.2
Fitness Recreation 4.0 4.0
Family 5.0 4.0
Shore Excursion 3.0 3.7
Enrichment 3.0 3.5
Service 5.0 4.3
Value For Money 4.5 4.1
Rates 4.0 4.2

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