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Carnival Spirit Review

Carnival Spirit
Carnival Spirit

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4.5 / 5.0
Cruise Critic Editor Rating
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Louise Goldsbury
Cruise Critic Australia Managing Editor

Carnival Spirit Overview

Five years since Carnival relocated its first ever vessel out of the United States, Carnival Spirit has grown into one of Australians' favourite cruise ships. Like a true Aussie, it's laid-back, fun and friendly -- and that describes the crew, your fellow passengers and the atmosphere onboard. The mix of families, couples and singles works surprisingly well, with most children either in the pool or out of sight in the kids clubs, and adults escaping to the 18+ Serenity Retreat or enjoying the shows, spa, bars, restaurants and casino.

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About Carnival Spirit


Water slides, new eateries and bars -- with exceedingly friendly crew


Garish design of many public rooms; no alcohol beverage packages

Bottom Line

Fun activities, good food and great service deliver a top-value holiday for all ages


Above all, it's the crew that stands out. The Carnival Spirit team is five-star, even if the ship itself is not. From the beloved senior maitre d', Dessi, to the charming waiters, patient bartenders and unflappable cabin stewards, there's a real sense of community and comradeship. Crew members will remember your name and recognise you on your next cruise -- because, judging by the return rate of passengers, you will probably be back.

Spirit may not have many bells and whistles or a sleek and sexy design, but it has enough to keep people entertained, fed and watered. The Green Thunder water slide has long been Carnival's "child magnet" point of difference in Australia, and the free poolside food venues (and self-service soft-serve ice-cream machines) are very family-friendly. In our opinion, all of the dining exceeds expectations for such a mass-market ship, from the buffet to Chef's Table. The new Seafood Corner, added in January 2017, is another upgrade in between official refurbishments, serving local prawns delivered fresh from Sydney's fish markets at the start of every cruise.

Entertainment is low-key but popular, especially the Music Manila band, whose members have rock-star status among the regulars. Passengers can also sing with a live band at Carnival's next-level karaoke, see two comedians perform every night, attend music productions and game shows onstage or just soak up the buzz of the main pool deck. The optional theme nights are also a lot of fun, lasting until late at night, with everyone dressed in 80s, Mexican or Caribbean costumes.

Walking around Carnival Spirit is like taking a trip around the world. The Pharaoh's Palace show lounge is decorated with Egyptian hieroglyphics and murals; the piano bar pays homage to Shanghai; the Artists' Lobby highlights famed European artists; the Chippendale Library is straight out of an English country manor house; there's a Mexican kiosk and a Japanese restaurant; and the Empire Dining Room has a statue of Napoleon. Initially, the hodgepodge of styles can be overwhelming. Passengers will either love or hate the look, but eventually they get used to it. Once you start focusing on the activities, the food, the entertainment and interacting with the crew, the decor starts to fade into the background. Most importantly, it's spotlessly clean (except for the grubby seat, pod and hammock cushions in Serenity which could do with a daily scrub).

The ship was first in a new class for Carnival (its sister ships are Carnival Legend, Carnival Pride and Carnival Miracle) and it also introduced some features that have since become standards, including a fabulous steak house and a wedding chapel.

In August 2015 the ship underwent an AU$44 million refurbishment, the second such face-lift since it sailed into its new home of Sydney in October 2012. Even before it debuted in Australia it was treated to an AU$7 million Aussification upgrade where Australian power points were added to all cabins, local beers were added to the bar menus and the coffee was improved following the introduction of good espresso machines and trained baristas. The big additions in 2012 were the much talked-about Green Thunder water slide, billed as the steepest and fastest at sea, along with the Serenity adults-only area and a water park of mini-slides and drenching buckets for the little ones.

The next refurbishment transformed the midship pool area on the Lido Deck (Deck 9) with the addition of Guy's Burger Joint and BlueIguana Cantina and two bars; one serves tequila-based drinks such as margaritas; the other offers rum cocktails. Other added venues included a couple that are already onboard sister ship Carnival Legend -- Bonsai Sushi and RedFrog Pub. Also new is the Cherry on Top lolly shop, a big outdoor movie screen situated on the Lido Deck and the Alchemy Bar, which is a popular meeting place, where drinkers devise their own cocktails on prescription pads. This major facelift also included new carpets throughout the entire ship, revamped kids clubs and improvements to 300 cabins.

All these enhancements work to ramp up the fun on a ship that has certainly struck a chord with Aussie cruisers.


Keep Reading: For more information, see below or click on the menu at the top right of this page.

Fellow Passengers

As the ship cruises year-round in Australia, the majority of passengers are Australian and most from the east coast cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. There are lots of families in the summer (December to late January) and Easter school holidays and then perhaps retirees from February to June and almost everyone in-between during the rest of the year, with an emphasis on the "middle Australia, let's have fun" crowd. Passengers will most likely have cruised before on local P&O, Princess or Royal Caribbean ships.

Carnival Spirit Dress Code

Carnival has a very relaxed dress code. Most evenings are "Cruise Casual" when passengers can wear anything from good jeans and dress shorts to trousers and casual skirts or sundresses. As long as you're not wearing swimwear, workout clothes or a man's sleeveless T-shirt, you won't be turned away from venues. One or two nights per cruise will be designated "Cruise Elegant" -- men are requested to wear at least dress trousers and shirts, with the option of a jacket, lounge suit or tuxedo. Suggested attire for women is cocktail dress or gown, or dressy trouser suits or skirts. Many people do dress to the nines on these nights, creating a festive atmosphere as couples and families pose for photos while other passengers people-watch in the Atrium Bar and Artists Lobby.

By day, the dress code is tropical casual as the ship visits the gorgeous isles of New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji (with the occasional foray to New Zealand and Tasmania, where it's a little bit cooler).

Carnival Spirit Gratuity

There is no tipping on Carnival Spirit. Envelopes are available at guest services desk if you would like to tip the crew. Australian dollars (AUD) are used onboard the ship.


Keep Reading: For more information about dining, activities and cabins, please click on the menu at the top right of this page.

Carnival Spirit Awards

Cruisers’ Choice Awards

2014 Best for Families

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Riviera Deck
Promenade Deck
Atlantic Deck
Main Deck
Upper Deck
Empress Deck
Verandah Deck
Panorama Deck
Lido Deck
Sun Deck
Sports Deck
Sky Deck

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Carnival Spirit Member Reviews

Carnival Spirit
Sail Date: Mar 2019
My sister and I travelled on the Carnival Spirit for an 11 day cruise to the Loyalty Islands particularly to visit Santo as many cruise Lines are no longer visiting this port due to the high Port Fees...Read More
Carnival Spirit
Sail Date: Mar 2019
travelled on Cunard, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity in the past. We will definitely cruise on The Carnival Spirit again....Read More
Carnival Spirit
Sail Date: Feb 2019
and without much hesitation, I was in. The cruise was a 12-day South Pacific jaunt aboard the Carnival Spirit, departing and arriving back to our home city of Sydney which we believe to be one of the most...Read More
Carnival Spirit
Sail Date: Jun 2019
- I’ve been there and done that, time to check out another ship. Would I recommend the Carnival Spirit? Yes. Yes I would....Read More

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