I always make it a point, upon returning from a cruise, to send my comments to the cruise line and let them know what I thought. Id also like to contribute my comments to Cruise Critic. My husband and I took a mini cruise to Mexico, round trip from San Diego, on Carnival Spirit in April, 2003. As a Christmas gift to some friends and relatives, we also purchased 5 other cabins. Unfortunately, a relative had to cancel at the last minute due to a serious health problem, but the rest of us went. It took until the first of July to get reimbursed for the cruise from the insurance company.
To begin, my husband and I are nearing retirement and have discovered we enjoy cruising. Even though weve taken other cruises before, for the past four years, we have made it a point to take a cruise a year. Our first cruise was on Carnival for our 30th anniversary, and we were very disappointed. Until this cruise, we didnt think we would cruise on Carnival again. Our second was on Holland America, which was excellent. Our third was Royal Caribbean, which was a disappointment, other than the great stateroom we had.
I like to start with all the positive comments:
1. This was the nicest ship weve been on so far. The layout was excellent and there were many options for dining and relaxing. Specifically: a. The buffet area (Lido Restaurant) was arranged nicely to prevent crowding at the different food stations. There were rarely long lines and there was plenty of seating, even on the day at sea. The options were excellent. b. There were enough pool areas and lounge chairs for those who wanted to bask in the sun for a while. My only pet peeve is the same one everyone else has people come and reserve chairs by putting a towel or something on them early in the morning, then never show up until the afternoon. It sometimes seemed like half of the chairs were reserved with no one in them. This made it difficult for our group of 10 to be together in any pool area. c. The gym was far more than I expected and I was thrilled to be able to do short workouts every day without having to wait for equipment to be free. I also loved the aerobics room, where I was able to do my own Pilates class with a few of my friends. d. The casino always had room at the machines and I was happy that there were an abundance of quarter machines instead of all dollars. My husband had difficulty finding space at the blackjack tables, but thats the way it always seems to be. e. The bars and lounges were numerous enough that we could always find a seat as we wandered from one end of the ship to the other. 2. We received our luggage promptly upon boarding the ship, which was very much appreciated. 3. Our stateroom (category12) was a nice size and very well appointed. I loved all the closets and drawers for storage. I also liked the modem line in the room, even though we didnt bring our laptop along. (Ill know next time.) Even the wine glasses in the room were a nice size, and the outside balcony was very spacious. 4. The staff, except for our waiter at dinner the last two nights, was friendly, helpful and much nicer than I expected. Specifically: a. The assistant waiter, who seemed a little cold and business-like on the first night, turned out to be one of the nicest staff members we met. He had a terrific smile and went out of his way to serve us. b. I loved the spa staff. On this cruise, I splurged and got a facial, a massage and some other kind of treatment that was supposed to cleanse the body of toxins. Although facial and skin products were pushed on me to purchase, there were no hard feelings (unlike other cruises) when I declined to buy. I was especially pleased to hear one of the ladies tell me she was on her sixth contract with Carnival, which tells me they treat their employees well. This was the opposite of our first Carnival cruise when the staff acted as if they were treated as under-paid slaves. c. When one of my spa appointments conflicted with a Pilates class I wanted to take, one of the spa employees sought out the Pilates instructor and asked if I could be given a short private class. I was astonished that someone would go out of their way for me; it was very nice. d. All of the staff in the buffet area were smiling, friendly and happy to be of service. A smiling, happy staff who appear to enjoy their work makes a huge difference in our enjoyment of a cruise. It totally changes the atmosphere of the entire ship when youre walking down a corridor or past a bar and someone takes the time to say hello and asks you if youre having a good time. Just this one thing can make the difference between a good cruise experience and a so-so or bad one. 5. Its very difficult for me to express my opinion on food because I cook and entertain a lot at home and tend to be overly-critical in this area. I do have some positive comments, however, about food aboard Carnival Spirit: a. The food we had at the buffet when we first got on the ship was excellent. I had roasted chicken, barbecued ribs, potato salad and a roll. The roll was especially good, which was a pleasant surprise. Most of the bread Ive had on ships has been very mediocre. b. The food in the dining room was also very good and well-presented. I was thrilled to be able to get beef very rare. This is normally impossible on a ship and even hard to do at a land restaurant. The Beef Wellington was especially good. The lobster tail on the last night was excellent. The Caesar salad was the best Ive ever had, including what Ive had at restaurants off a ship. There was also a dessert on Friday night that was served in a cruet, kind of a puff pastry, where the waiter poured in hot vanilla-flavored sauce. It was delectable. The omelets at the buffet in the morning were also wonderful. I could tell that real butter was used in the preparation of many dishes. It was a noticeable difference. c. The sandwiches we had delivered to our stateroom were very good, as was the plate of cookies and brownies. I didnt expect them to be as good as they were and was pleasantly surprised. d. I enjoy white wine and was very happy with the Beringer Chardonnay that was served in the lounge areas. I also purchased some to enjoy in our room when we had guests stop by before dinner. 6. The entertainment was much better than I expected. The main show on Friday night was absolutely wonderful. We all remarked on the excellent costumes, sets and talent of the performers. I especially enjoyed the classical music trio that played in the late afternoon and evening. Being an aficionado of classical music, I really appreciated this. Holland America had an excellent string quartet that played in one of the lounges all evening and during dinner. It was one of the things that added most to that cruise. It certainly adds to the relaxing and soothing atmosphere. 7. Getting off the ship was a breeze compared to our other cruises. Even though our color wasnt called for 45 minutes, we were comfortably seated in the dining room up to the minute our color was called. It took us almost 4 hours to get off our last cruise on RCL and considerably soured the experience.
1. The wait getting on the ship was not an auspicious beginning. We had to wait in a Disneyland-type line for well over an hour. I really feel that check-in should be a pleasant experience, not one that wears you out before you even get on the ship. Other cruise lines check you in by your cabin category. I rather think that if you pay a premium price, you should get some preferential treatment when checking in. I also think if youve purchased a group of cabins, your group should be allowed some preference along with you. 2. I think the same thing applies to getting off the ship. 3. Our stateroom: a. The plug in the tub didnt work and the shower didnt work. Our cabin steward was unable to get either to work. A plumber was called to try and fix things, but the tub plug was broken and he didnt think he had a spare. He was able to get the shower to work once, but we were never able to get it to work. Do you know what its like trying to wash your hair under the tub faucet? It takes some rather creative and gymnastic-type maneuvers to do it. We were not pleased, as we were really looking forward to using the Jacuzzi tub. Not having a working shower was very inconvenient. I had to use one in the cabin of one of our group travelers. b. There were three large closets in the room, but only 4 triple hangers. I realize this was just a short cruise, but by the time you get the formal wear, jackets, etc., you need more than what was supplied. When I requested more, I was brought some plastic throw-away types. There were no skirt or pants hangers. Both Holland America and Royal Caribbean had an abundance of very nice hangers. c. There was only one electric plug we could use. Next time, Ill make sure to bring adapters, but if the ship is doing U.S. cruises, I think they should have more standard electric plugs. d. The television was in a very odd location in the room. It was enclosed in a very nice wood case above a dresser and the area containing the room safe. The only place to view it from was directly in front, and the only thing directly in front was a small table and two chairs. You couldnt see it at all from the bed or the sofa area. If it were on a swivel base, maybe it could have been turned, but it was still enclosed by the wooden case which still would have blocked the view. I thought this quite unusual. e. There was a VCR player under the television, but no information on where to get VCRs, if they were available, etc. f. There was no clock in the room, not even one on the television or VCR. It gets annoying having to look at your watch all the time, especially in the middle of the night. I did bring my own clock, in expectation of none being in the room, but then we get back to the issue on not enough electrical plugs. g. There was no CD player. A CD player would have been very nice or a few music channels that came into the room over a main system would have been nice. When youre in a stateroom that has something so elaborate as a bidet in the bathroom, you would think some other things would be standard. I personally think music is an essential. It was another one of those things I liked about Holland America. h. I dont understand why we couldnt have wine delivered to our room, but instead had to go down to a lounge bar and carry it back up ourselves. Beer was available on the room service menu, but not wine. i. The room service menu did not have anything suitable for a small party in our cabin. The only snack selection was vegetables and dip. I would think that people with the larger staterooms often entertain traveling companions there. I dont understand why there were no options for this, even at a cost. j. It was difficult to figure out what light switches went to what lights. It would have been very nice if our cabin steward would have spent 5 minutes upon arrival familiarizing us with our room and showing us how things worked. We would have found out right away that our shower and tub had a problem for one thing. 4. The instructor that took the time to give me a private Pilates class was not teaching any kind of Pilates as I know it. Being a certified Pilates instructor myself, I was anxious to see his interpretation of the exercises. I have always understood there are some variations on the exercises, but it annoys me no end when a class is being offered as Pilates and it doesnt even resemble the original exercises developed by Joseph Pilates himself. Such was the case here. I think, since they are offering these classes to people throughout the world, they need to set a higher standard if theyre going to offer a class like this. Pilates is not like yoga or aerobics, where there are a variety of accepted variations. The name itself is that of the person who developed the exercises and they should be taught in the exact manner they were developed or the class should be called something else. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. 5. Lastly, a not-so-positive comment regarding the desserts. Other than the one dessert I had in the dining room, everything else I tried was bland and rather tasteless. It got to the point where one of the ladies I was traveling with got a plate of 8 small desserts and fed me a bite of each asking that I identify it. The only thing I could identify was chocolate cake.