Carnival Spirit Inaugural Cruise
April 29, 2001
We are almost to the end of our cruise and that makes me sad. As I sit up here at the highest point on the ship, surrounded by an unbelievable expanse of deep blue sea, a beautiful blue sky dotted with fluffy white clouds, and soft winds blowing, the thought crosses my mind that I could easily become accustomed to this type of life. My longest cruise to this point has been a 10-day that was wonderful, but I am having trouble trying to remember back to embarkation right about now. Seems like that was two cruises ago. To those of you that say 16 days is too long, I would suggest that you reconsider. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
The red glass Carnival tail rises from this point on the ship and overlooks the Nouveau Supper Club and ultimately the Spirit Atrium. The sun shining thru these windows onto the bronze scrollwork of the Atrium casts a pink sheen on everything and the resulting spectacular look softens the Carnival glitz. The neon is gone, but the look of copper and a million lights are present throughout the ship. This look will certainly evoke different opinions, but it is, whether you like it or not, impressive.
We have truly enjoyed the Spirit, found the ship to be quite passenger friendly, plenty of places to lie quietly in the sun, more than enough lounge chairs, food, and entertainment to please most people. While I personally prefer the Caribbean to the Mexican Riveria, the experience of the Panama Canal was truly the highlight of this cruise for me. It was awesome. Below are some of my observations.
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The embarkation process to board the Spirit was different but painless. We arrived at the dock after a short tour of all the Miami docks since our taxi driver seems to have lost our ship. Still haven't figured out how you lose something that big but nevertheless he couldn't find it. Upon arrival we dropped off our luggage and proceeded thru the appointed door. Inside, a cheerful Carnival employee greeted us, verified that my docs were completely filled out and promptly directed us to the escalator to check in. Not a bad start. There were absolutely no lines at the check in and it took no more than 5 minutes. Within 15 minutes we were on board the ship, looking for our cabin. The only problem we encountered throughout the entire process was our Sign and Sail Cards were missing from our envelope and we had to go to the purser to obtain them. My first thought was maybe an upgrade, but this was not to happen� Oh well! Not a major thing, it took all of about 2 minutes to correct the problem.
We found our cabin with no problems and were truly surprised at the spaciousness of what would be our living quarters for the next 16 days. A full size leather couch and a small oval table were a nice touch and there was actually enough room for both of us to be on our feet and moving about at the same time. Our cabin had two single beds put together with of course the obligatory nightstands. There are no drawers in the nightstands, just a small cabinet in each that did not provide the usual extra drawer space that I personally like. The desk was quite large and well lighted with a mirror above it. Beneath the desk are four drawers with the top one divided and a handy hair dryer nicely tucked away on one side and the space adjacent to it served nicely for holding comb, brush and makeup. The hair dryer required no additional outlet since it's cord was conveniently already attached inside the drawer. Nice touch. The center drawer of the desk was quite large with a refrigerator under the desk on the other side. There is also a small storage cabinet with two shelves. The safe resides in a cabinet above the desk and the TV neatly sits just above that. Closet space was adequate, with one closet having double rods, great for hanging pants, shirts, etc. A second normal closet for hanging clothes and a third with four storage compartments provided me with enough space to house the excessive amount of clothes my husband has accused me of bringing. Don't know how he could come to that conclusion, it only took three men and a small boy to lift each piece of luggage. The bathroom has no cabinet but does have six glass shelves, a swing out magnifying mirror and a small shelf under the sink to store other things. It was, for a ship bathroom larger than usual. Balcony has a lawn chair, a small table and a very low lounge chair that requires a minimum amount of athletic ability to get in and out of. Our balcony was larger than most others I have encountered and there is a swing out door from the cabin.
The Empire Dining Room is a two level dining room, quite beautifully appointed and our waiter was excellent. One strangely different thing about the dining room is the Napoleon Room, which is used as a part of the main dining room, but is an entirely different room set off to the side. Diners assigned to this area were somewhat put out in that they were not included in any of the Dining Room activities. The food in the dining room ranged from fair to very good and there was seldom a night when we couldn't find something to please our pallets.
Alternative dining and the Nouveau Supper Club made a major difference in what we have grown used to in cruise dining. We were at a table for 8 and there were probably as many nights when our table was missing people as there were with all present. We tried the Alternative dining one night and found the food in the Seaview Bistro for dinner quite less than acceptable. The Supper Club on the other hand was superb. The food, atmosphere and service were exemplary and it didn't take much convincing to talk me into doing it a second time.
Food on the Lido deck for breakfast and lunch was plentiful and varied, with each station featuring a different type of food for lunch each day, Chinese, Grill, Sandwich Bar, Salad Bar, Pizza and other assorted things. Added to this was the grill out by the pool where hamburgers, hot dogs and even steak sandwiches were made. There were enough choices to cover all different tastes. The food at both breakfast and lunch was never hot and sometimes I was hard pressed to even declare it warm. Having said all this, I never went away hungryJ . Breakfast was the usual scrambled eggs, hash brown potatoes, bacon, sausage, French toast and pancakes. And if that didn't please you, omelets and fried eggs were always a choice. I would have to say that my biggest complaint was they ran out of Iced Tea and whole milk. Have never been on a ship where Iced Tea was not available.
There are so many Public Rooms it took the almost the whole 16 days to get to them all. My favorite spot on the ship was the Artist Lobby that featured an excellent guitarist named Andy most of the week. The Champions Bar featured a wall of TV's and all the championship basketball games were telecast. You could find music to suit most all tastes ranging from Karaoke, to Classical, to Country Western, Dance Party Music with a trio called Zest, Jazz and a Piano Bar in the Shanghai Piano Bar. The most puzzling thing to me was that with this wide variation of musical offerings there was no Steel Band or Mariachi Band on board and only recorded music on the Lido Deck. Somehow that just didn't seem right. The other missing ingredient (although we all complain bitterly about it) was the bar waiters hawking drinks. Not one time did I hear the now familiar "Get your Bahamas Mama". In fact I had to look for someone to buy a drink from in many of the public rooms onboard the Spirit.
The Internet cafe was in the Chippendale Library and had State of the Art computers. To encourage passengers to use this service, everyone was given the first 5 minutes of Internet time free with the charge at $.75 per minute thereafter. Even with this incentive there was always a computer available when I went there. Several times however the Satellite Link was down and Cruise e-mail was not available until halfway thru the cruise.
Pharaoh's Palace was accessible from three decks, and with the exception of the first row of seats at each level on the balconies, visibility was quite good. The top of the glass partitions fell directly in your line of vision and you had to duck to look under them unless you were much taller than I am. The entertainment was varied and we had, jugglers, magicians, comedians, singers, John Davidson and of course production numbers. We did not personally attend all of the shows, but the ones we did go to were fairly good. The dancers and singers aboard the Spirit were quite good and both shows proved to be entertaining.
Pleasant smiling Carnival employees everywhere we went rendered Service throughout the ship. Our Cabin Steward, Gabriella was marvelous and was always there whenever we needed anything. Room Service was delivered within ten minutes each time and although it offered only salads and sandwiches was quite tasty. Our waiter Manual was great and our assistant waiter in spite of the fact that this was her very first cruise was becoming quite proficient by the end of the cruise.