Sailing through Carnival registration and customs at the newish Brisbane International Cruise Terminal in minutes we get our first close up look at Carnival Luminosa -- what a beauty.
After having a little nip and tuck, the former Costa Luminosa is now Carnival’s first cruise ship to homeport in Brisbane. New livery has given Luminosa a more striking profile. The ship may be Italian through and through but its heart now belongs to Queensland at least until it repositions to Seattle in April 2023.
Along with Costa Toscana, Carnival Luminosa is one of two former Costa Cruises ships that will be sailing under the Carnival brand as "Costa by Carnival", and we're intrigued to find out how this hybrid of two contrasting lines work (two more Costa ships, Costa Firenze and Costa Venezia will also be joining Carnival but will retain their Italian identities).
Luminosa is for now a Carnival ship without the trademark Carnival bits and bobs. While yet to be fitted out with the usual Carnival hallmarks such as waterslides, this compact Italian will offer a pared down Carnival experience at a sometimes bargain price.
We're on Carnival Luminosa's second cruise -- seven days to Cairns and Port Douglas. At 80% capacity we're cruising with around 1,800 other passengers.
There are a total of twenty-eight sailings until mid-April 2023 and Carnival Luminosa will visit sixty different ports across a range of Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific sailings.
Here's what worked -- and what needs a bit of work still
Carnival Cruise Line was recently awarded Cruise Critic's 'Best Value for Money' in the U.S. Editors' Picks Ocean category. According to many Carnival fans on Luminosa Facebook Forums, since Carnival Luminosa first set sail on November 6, the deals have kept on coming.
If like us you're not one for shopping, gambling (I’m looking at you Bingo) or all-day drinking you can keep to a budget and still holiday. A beer or Prosecco by the pool, coffee made by a human or dinner at Fahrenheit 555 is not a splurge; it's a holiday.
Weigh up the costs of shore excursions. We took a stroll in Cairns in the morning, and took a quick tour in the afternoon, but stayed on board when Carnival Luminosa ported in Port Douglas to have the ship to ourselves. If you're watching your pennies you could just go to shore and make your own fun -- window shopping, a cafe lunch and taking happy snaps.
We couldn’t have asked for a smoother embarkation process. Once priority passengers were called, we were through Carnival check-in and Australian Customs in less than fifteen minutes.
Once onboard we headed directly to the adults-only Serenity Retreat bar to reward ourselves with a sparkling welcome.
Likewise, disembarkation took us all of ten minutes from cabin door to leaving the Brisbane International Cruise Terminal. And, we were in our Uber and on the way home in a lightning fast twenty minutes.
Over seven days, Del Capitano Pizza and Taco & Burritos on Deck 9 were consistent -- hot and delicious. We also enjoyed the Artisan Deli Eats hot dog and the chocolate soft serve.
On our last full day the Carnival Hub app alerted us that Lido Marketplace was getting a Willy Wonka makeover for two hours only. If chocolate is your thing the Chocolate Extravaganza is the buffet of your dreams. All glistening ganache, chocolate dark, light or white and even a sugar-free chocolate cheesecake.
Pro tip: We made Lido Marketplace meals a little more special by grabbing a plate and dining alfresco at the Serenity adults-only or Red Frog Rum bars. Even eating a sandwich by the pool feels special. Even better add a glass of something bubbly.
For some regular cruisers the absence of a Laundry on board is a sticking point. The solution? Simply, take extra clothes, pay for some washing or make use of the retractable clothesline in the shower.
Carnival has made significant moves to eliminate single use plastic across all their ships, but the lack of shampoo, conditioner or body lotion surprised many guests we spoke with. While there is a shower gel dispenser and hotel-sized soap, perhaps large pump packs that travellers have come to expect could be installed.
The black rattan clamshell loungers were a big hit on Deck 9’s Serenity Retreat. Carnival needs to install many more to accommodate everyone who wants to be sun-safe in the Australian tropics. The area surrounding the Sunset Bar on Deck 10 would be perfect. The Sunset Bar could also be open more regularly to take care of all the thirsty cruisers.
If you love a heart-starting tea or coffee every morning, you won’t find it on Luminosa’s Lido Marketplace. Lipton’s supposedly America’s favourite isn’t strong enough for Aussie tastes so BYO teabags or stronger coffee solutions or hightail it to JavaBlue Cafe on Deck 3 or the Atrium Bar on 2 for an espresso.
Do you need to charge something other than your phone? Not every stateroom or suite is kitted out with Australian power points. The handy bedside USB chargers are good but if you need more ask your steward for a power board and adaptor
While there's been a few teething issues with an experienced Carnival crew learning a new ship's ropes, overall most everything works well. Few queues, quick service at all of the bars and lots of smiling faces behind those masks.