Just would like to warn travellers Carnival Spirit encourages passengers to do the tour of Yejele Beach ($20 per Adult and $16 child) yet they take no responsibility for the safety of their passengers. There must have been over 1500 passengers that got shuttled out to the Beach, which was beautiful, but the severe currents are so strong even a strong swimmer can get into trouble. My grand daughter, her father and her uncle went out snorkelling but got caught in a rip. The uncle made it back to the beach to raise the alarm asking the carnival staff member in the red top who looked like the only official person they had to send out help as the other two were in trouble and couldn't get back to shore. The staff member stayed quite calm and advised they had no boats or lifeguards but he advised he did call an ambulance. I became frantic and I asked again why they couldn't get a boat or raft out to assist them to which he replied there was none. I reminded him it was a 14-year-old girl in trouble and weneed to have a boat or something to help bring them back before they get taken out. It was then when then two locals swam out and assisted in their return to shore.
My grand daughter was so distraught when she got back to shore and her father was exhausted coughing up water etc. Shame on Carnival for sending so many people out to a location that has no safety rescue in place.
When I got back to the ship I called guest services to express my concerns to which they replied its not Carnival responsibility once passengers leave the ship. This may be the case but wouldn't you like to think they care enough for their passengers especially when they are encouraging the tour. Surly if they can transport all food and drinks to sell on shore to make even more money it wouldn't take much more of an effort to put in place some form of safety rescue. The facilities could easily be left with the locals to look after. My granddaughter was extremely upset by the whole experience and was lucky to come out of it with good results but I encourage Carnival to please look into this before someone loses their life. PS... I was told guest services would get back to me but still waiting............
After several Caribbean cruises, decided on Alaska. Best food we have had on a Carnival ship. Good service from friendly and attentive staff. Ship is very easy to navigate. So NO problems there.
Main reason for review is BEWARE of excursions. Train ride in Skagway is expensive. Scenery if beautiful but train speed makes it difficult to take good pictures if that's "your thing." Trip is basically up the mountain, flip your seats at the top of the mountain, and back down again. In Juneau, the "Dog sled/Musher Camp" has to be the worst!! A five minute ride on a cart which has NO resemblance to a dog sled is the highlight. People know about the dogs and mushing but.... well over $ 100 per person!! YUK!
Did the Rainforest in Ketchikan. Interesting, but... we did see bald eagles in the wild, evidence of bears but no sightings; had hoped for that. Expensive but probably worth the $$ if you enjoy nature. -- In Victoria, people "hawking" the bicycle tours are "pushy." It's also expensive, $120 for two for two hours. Long walk into Victoria but shuttle is available. Since you arein Victoria at night, limits what you can actually see.
Enjoyed the cruise but won't go there again
This was my 2nd cruise on Carnival and 12th cruise overall. This cruise was an 8-day Mexico Riviera cruise round trip out of San Diego, CA. I cruised solo on this cruise, as part of a travel agent FAM trip.
I flew into San Diego the morning of the cruise. I normally fly in to the departure city the day before, but since I was solo and the weather not usually an issue at this time of the year, I chanced it and just flew in on departure day. No problems as I arrived at around 10:30 am and took a very short taxi ride to the pier. Getting onto the ship was a bit of an adventure. Because my taxi dropped me off outside the pier, I had a 15 minute wait in line to show my ID and Carnival boarding pass just to get on the pier. After getting through the initial security, I had to wait in line again to drop off my bags to a luggage porter. I then had to wait in line again and show my ID and Carnival boarding pass just to getinto the building to check-in. After this security line, as soon as I got into the building, there was a holding area and another line AGAIN for an ID and boarding pass check just to get access to the metal detectors and security which was yet another line! I have now passed through 5 lines, including 3 to check my ID and boarding pass. I have now stood in line for over an hour and I haven’t even made it to the check-in line yet! After my check-in, I had to wait for my “boarding zone” to be called. It turned out to be 6 lines, 2 holding areas and an hour and a half from when I arrived at the pier at about 11 am to my stepping onto the ship.
The Carnival Spirit was launched in 2001. The Spirit is a very nice and elegant ship. She’s kind of a dark ship with mostly dark brown and wood paneling like walls with not a lot of interior lighting. The main decks are #2, #3 and #9, they run the length of the ship and most every public area you will want are on these 3 decks. The main dining room is in the aft portion of decks 2 & 3, so unlike some other Carnival ships where the main dining room is in the middle of the ship, you can move easily around the ship without needing to go up or down decks to get from one end to the other. There are 3 major pools with hot tubs nearby on deck 9. A nice sports area complete with jogging track, mini-golf course, and an enclosed basketball court. The crew is very good at cleaning and maintaining the ship. Everything was kept clean and well maintained on the ship.
I had a roomy ocean view stateroom on deck 1. My cabin had a nice picture window, a comfy queen sized bed, and adequate closet space. The bathroom was a typical shower only with a shower curtain, not doors.
The staff was the highlight of the cruise with their service. Our room steward and wait staff were great, and all the crew and staff did a good job. I was very pleased with the staff onboard.
While I enjoyed the food, the one complaint I have is way too much sea food on the menu, and very little basic meat and potatoes or simple pasta dishes. I used the lido buffet for breakfast and lunch, and enjoyed the service and food.
This was a not a port intensive cruise. This was an 8 day cruise with only 3 ports. All 3 ports are being dropped from future Carnival itineraries for the time being. The 1st stop was Acapulco, Mexico. I took a short, half-day tour called “City Tour”. I got to see the famous cliff divers, then we were shown around the city with stops for shopping and picture taking. The 2nd stop was in Zihuatanejo/Ixtapa. Here I had secured a day pass for the Club Med in Ixtapa and spent the day enjoying the pool, drink and food of the resort. The last stop was in Manzanillo, Mexico. I exited the ship and just walked around the shopping district for an hour or so. All 3 ports have rated so low by past Carnival passengers, that Carnival is dropping all 3 in favor of future stops in Cabo, La Paz, and Puerto Vallarta.
I absolutely loved the entertainment venues on the ship. I only took in 1 production show, and enjoyed it very much. However, the best was the Punchliner Comedy Club. Carnival has a dedicated comedy club and changed out the comedians during the port stops to keep the shows fresh. The other entertainment venues were also very good, but I spent a vast majority of my entertainment time in the comedy club.
I decided to use the self-disembarkation for this cruise since I only had 1 piece of luggage and I had an early flight out of San Diego. It was very easy; I ate breakfast in the lido buffet, and then left the cabin at 8:30 am with my luggage. We were delayed in being allowed to disembark due to some non-US passengers that failed to report to the main theater with their passports to clear immigration. US passengers were cleared quickly electronically, so we did not have to stand in any lines and go through immigration. After about a 45 minute delay, the final non-US passenger was cleared and we were finally allowed to disembark. I walked off the ship and after turning in my US Customs form to the US Customs inspector, I grabbed a taxi at the pier and went to the airport for the flight home.
I would rate this cruise a 7.5 out of 10. I really enjoyed the ship, the entertainment, the food and staff was great, however the 3 ports-of-call were not that great and I can see why Carnival is dropping them. My only other complaint is the fact that Carnival fails to enforce the dress code onboard. I saw passengers come into the dining room wearing sleeveless tank top t-shirts, cut off shorts, baseball caps and so on. I even saw one man come in the dining room wearing a bathrobe with no shirt and just shorts underneath one day at lunch! In the buffet, I saw numerous people just wearing swim suits. Many times I saw men walking around with no shirt on inside the ship, I mean really, inside the promenade, the lounges and casino, put a shirt on! I was really disappointed. I thought the Carnival Spirit was a beautiful ship with a fantastic crew and staff, but it really cries out for a better clientele in my opinion. That reason alone will probably mean this was my last cruise on Carnival, which is sad because I really loved the ship.
Not really that exciting to be on the ship and all of the port of call are tourist trap design for the cruise ship. In some way, I feel you must be at least 55+ years old or 300+ lbs to feel fit in on the ship. That's really what happen, there are fat and old people all over the ship who has to use the elevator to go up just 1 deck! I don't think I will ever go on a cruise ship again.
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 trip. 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 check point. We all had to carry our own luggage up to that security check point. 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 Critics 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 my a while 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 table mates 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 kool 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 captains 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 dinning 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 dinning 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 had an early lunch (La Playa Grill). Met Allison and invited her to join a group of use who were going to Mandanhall 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 Mandanhall 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 an easy walk to Mandanhall 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 one already, but were advised what to do if we see them on the trail. We are suppose to talk to them until they move away. We are not suppose 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, muddy and rough terrain with rocks, stairs and logs. 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 car passed 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, I took a 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 lot'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. Woke up later and 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). Had 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 a 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 in my limited space luggage. 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 game boy, 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 to sing. I kind of wanted, but never done it before and I wasn't brave enough at first. Finally, I did it and sang "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's 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 to 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+.
Dinning Room It was a great Dinning Room Wait Team. To be honest, I think Carnival had much better waiters and busboys than now that they implemented the new Dinning 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 then 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 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 to 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 sea-sick, but most of us where 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 to cold and not to warm. Keep in mind this was an Alaskan Cruise. They better turn up the A/C for Carribean Cruises. I would rate this: A.
I took my brother on this cruise. We had room 8152 on the Panorama deck with an extended balcony. We enjoyed the extra space. We had cruised on this ship a few years earlier to Alaska. The ship is well worn but served its purpose.
I am hoping someday someone will be daring and decorate a ship tastefully in soothing colors and fabrics instead of making it look like a Las Vegas casino.
This route took us to Acapulco, Ixtapa and Manzanillo. We had been to Acapulco when it was "the place to go" and now it looks tired and worn out.
We hired a cab for $45 for two hours to see Ixtapa and Zihuatenejo. The views are beautiful from the winding roads on the hills. Ixtapa was the best area -- new, cleaner than Zihuatenejo and not many vendors on the beach to bother us. We stopped at a local restaurant right off the ship in the row of shops and had some fish tacos and quesadillas with a few drinks. It was wonderful! Next door was a store with gorgeous weavings from the Zapotec Indians from Oaxaca. The ownersspoke English and they had a weaver there working on a rug.
Manzanillo has nothing to offer unless you go on an excursion. We took a cab to Las Brisas. Ugly and dirty looking ocean because it is too close to the port. We took a cab to Miramar and looked through the junk shops, and then had a few beers at a beach table. Cab from Miramar to the ship was $12.
The food on the ship was average. They have changed the buffet style to 6 stations that you must go to for different types of food. This means walking around and around searching for fruit, salad or breads. They also serve the desserts and certain foods so you don't take too many and end up wasting food. We got tired of walking all over to get things. Also not a great idea for the seniors who had walkers or wheelchairs, or just were a little unsteady on their feet.
We went to the dining room 4 nights. Our table companions and my brother and I all quit ordering beef after two nights of tough leather. Other dishes were okay. The Chocolate Melting Cake was the best dessert.
The service was slow and impersonal. Our waiter never introduced himself and the assistant was slow to fill water or even bring coffee. Two nights we never got it even though we asked for it.
You are given only one small piece of bread at the beginning of the meal. They no longer leave the bread basket on the table.
We ate at La Playa Grille a few nights just so we could get a big salad and avoid making small talk with strangers.
Our room stewardess was wonderful. She was friendly and helpful, but not intrusive.
The entertainment/shows was disappointing. We do not expect much on a cruise ship, but this was just boring compared to other Carnival cruises we have been on. We enjoyed all of the trivia and games there were to do during the sea days. There are plenty of activities if you want to stay busy.
We did not drink on the ship because the drinks were $7.50 each plus the 15% tip. Beer onshore was $1-$2 and Margaritas were all under $4.00. Plus we love to sit at a local restaurant and watch the world go by.
We had fun and enjoyed the cruise. We would go with Carnival again.
I would like to start with the bad about the cruise first; I believe that it is the most important piece of information to share with you. Debarkation was a nightmare. We took a nine day Mexican Riviera cruise out of San Diego on the Carnival spirit. Two nights (I believe) before we were to arrive in San Diego the ship experienced engine problems and we lost three hours. To try and speed up the process the crew offered what was called a self-assist debarkation process in which each guest was allowed to carry off their own luggage if they were able instead of being called by debarkation zones. For those who had an early flight, I being one of those people, there was to be a common meeting area and we where supposed to be escorted off of the ship in an attempt to make our scheduled flights. Several hundred of us gathered at the assigned location and waited for several hours for a Carnival representative to come and tell us it was time for us to go while the ship was being cleared by customs. Not a singleCarnival employee arrived until after they had started letting guests off of the ship. Instead of being one person in a group of a couple of hundred trying to exit the ship I was one in a thousand lined up 4 deep from mid ship to the forward end of the vessel. Debarkation took a total of about four hours when we were led to believe it would be a relatively fast and painless process. During this time not one employee could give you a straight answer and not one employee of the ship had the same answer as the next. Due to this general lack of communication and organization among the ship's staff we missed our flight out of San Diego airport that is about five minutes from the pier at 12:30. We have spoken with Carnival who is paying for our ticket changes but that could have easily been avoided if the staff would have stuck to their plan and communicated a little bit. Debarkation was the only time that there was a carnival atmosphere on the ship.
We booked with Carnival because they were supposed to be the fun party ship line. If that is true I am afraid to book with any other cruise line. I am 28 and my wife is 27, and we were among some of the youngest adults on the ship, but oddly enough I felt our age group was the best behaved. I only encountered a couple of obnoxiously drunk people, each of which was middle-aged women who by all appearances were normally well respected professionals. There was nothing rowdy that we came across, nothing close to a bar atmosphere. More closely akin to going to a nice restaurant and coming across someone who had ordered too many drinks with dinner. Our cruise was in October so there were not many children running around either which was nice. The vast majority of the people on the ship were there to have fun.
The shows were great and had quite a bit of variety. Everything for late night R-rated comedy to karaoke challenges that were all very entertaining. The best thing about the shows is that there was always enough room for the people who came to see them. No excessive lines or a stampede mentality trying to find a seat.
The food was spectacular. The staff in the Empire Room dining area were very friendly and helpful even if the food there was no better than what was served in the La Playa Grill buffet. I was concerned about the seating assignments in the dining room but we had a great table and met two other fun couples that were our same age and we all seemed to have a good time at dinner. If you have the opportunity I recommend the supper club on the ship. They take care of you there; have a full wine list and a fabulous menu. In the supper club on our cruise they also had a small wine tasting and food-pairing event that was fun and informative.
The shore excursions were good but could have been much better. I don't believe that anyone affiliated with Carnival had any idea what each excursion was actually like. The ship had terrible maps of the cities that we visited so if you plan on getting out and doing your own tours of the cities, plan ahead. Nobody on the ship will be able to tell you anything.
We booked a category 11 stateroom that was great. The room had a shower and bathtub combo, a changing room and several closets and ample drawer space. The balcony was spacious and comfortable. Our room steward was very friendly and very attentive. We paged him on a couple of occasions and within a couple of minutes he was at our door.
Not once did we have any issues with any of the service staff. They were always there smiling -- friendly and willing to do what they could for you. The only thing that would steer me away from Carnival was the debarkation mess.
First let me say that we are a family with a teenage daughter, and have cruised over a dozen times on all cruise lines. So, I feel that this review is fairly accurate, being able to compare this ship to other lines.
We booked an inside room guarentee, and were upgraded to a balcony -- yeah! Our room was totally adequate, a normal balcony stateroom. Our room steward, Joseph, was however the most outstanding employee we have ever met on any cruise line. He never missed a thing, ALWAYS available and always trying to please us. I truly noticed that all room stewards were always working and always in the hall to help with anything. I have been noticing on our past few cruises that we rarely saw or spoke to our room stewards, and if we needed anything, well try and find them. Not on this ship!
The crew on this ship in general truly impressed us. I am not sure why they were all so eager to please. Maybe it is the management on this paticular ship. Whatever the reason, we really felt this crew stood out as amoung thebest we have ever sailed with.
The food, which is what most people seem to be most concerned about, was in fact GREAT. We had planned on eating in the fee restaurant several nights on this cruise, but the food in the Empire dining room was really good. We never had a single complaint. Every night there were plenty of selections; and everything we ordered arrived hot and very tasty.
I had almost given up on the idea of truly being served and pampered on a midpriced cruise line. Carnival Spirit has changed my mind. If I had the time, I would have gone right back out for another glorious 8 days of sunshine and fabulous service.
Be assured, if you book this cruise ship, you can really plan on relaxing and having fun.
This is a review of our positioning cruise on the Carnival Spirit.
It's written from the perspective of a veteran cruiser who has taken 15 cruises on primarily premium and luxury lines such as Cunard, Celebrity, Princess, Holland America and Seabourn, but have also cruised NCL and Premier (we were aboard the Rembrandt when she was seized last September). Like many, I had a clear idea of what Carnival was like but I was quite surprised by what I found -- impressed by some features while puzzled by others.
The cruise was the three day positioning segment from San Francisco and Vancouver with a stop at Victoria BC. My partner and I traveled with a group of about 60 gay guys from San Francisco. The ship is brand new. Its maiden voyage was from Miami and LA, and prior to our boarding, she had hosted a couple of 2 day cruises for the travel industry. The Sprit is the first of its series in the Carnival line and the design has already been seen in the Costa Atlantica. Panamax- sized at 84,000 GRT and carrying 2100 passengers, she's large, but atthe standard size for today's newbuilds.
In general, the ship is superbly designed. The layout is logical and interesting. Passenger flow is excellent. Although the ship was full, it never felt crowded. There are an astonishing number of veranda cabins, and they are almost all in the middle and upper decks with good noise isolation. The cabins are excellent. They are spacious. There is good storage space with three large closets, drawers and under the daybed/sofa storage. The bathrooms are large with ample shelf space at the sink. The veranda was large enough and had good privacy. Personally, the choice of orange and peach is a bit dubious to me -- I'd prefer a more subdued design -- but the cabin functioned well. I had toured the Elation a few years ago, and I found those Fantasy-class cabins large, but stark and uninviting (a friend recently used "dorm room" to describe them). In contrast, the Spirit class cabins are a distinct improvement.
INSIDE JOE FARCUS' BRAIN
You can't discuss a Carnival ship and not talk about the decor. I had hoped to be thrilled by the vegasy audaciousness and conscious FUN of the design even if it's not my day-to-day environment of choice. I got some of that -- I was unprepared for how time and again, clumsy and awkward design choices inevitably compromised the effect.
Case in point - the Atrium. At the center of the ship, the 11 story atrium is stunning. It is a sharply vertical space which quickly narrows to a rectangular tower through the passenger decks. Along one wall is the inevitable bank of glass elevators with blinking birdcages. (Actually, no complaints from me -- they're fun ...and I've never been on a ship with this many elevators!). Along all the surfaces are art-nouveau styled curved and twined vine-like patterns. Along all beams and between all floors these patterns are rendered in bronze finished panels. They don't say anything particularly nautical -- but that's a different argument.
The lobby bar at the base of the atrium is a great meeting place. It's a very pleasant space with a good bar. The Purser's desk is tucked into a corner and the Excursion disk is opposite.
And then there's the mural.
It showed promise. The tall wall opposite the elevators is a perfect setting for a dramatic mural. The design chosen had great potential. It features soaring figures rising through twisting cloudlike surroundings toward the light at the top (which during the daytime is the red glass of the Nouveau Supper Club dome). There was a lot of latitude of how to render the mural and have it fit the surroundings - - the curves fit the nouveau stylings, but the figures could even be rendered as deco sprites, or they could have emphasized an earlier pre-raphialite approach with rosy colors and mythology ...and remember, the ship's name is the Sprit. It didn't even need to be made of expensive materials -- paint is fine (even printed panels are OK). It coulda' been great. Instead, what they put there looks like what was a brief 10 inch pastel sketch of the concept for the mural, photographically reproduced and blown up to 10 stories. The figures have the expressions, mass, energy and subtle grace I'd associate with a poster drawn by a high-school pep squad! It is hideous.
Time and time again, there was a concept for a room that was destroyed by something that made me wonder "What was Joe Farcus thinking??" (Joe Farcus is Carnival's head designer and the man behind the line's ships' designs)
The Empire Room is the ship's two deck Restaurant. It has a Napoleonic theme. There are circular wreaths galore and Empire-style furniture. The walls are wood paneling and there are green marble- finished columns and details. Located fully aft, it shares some similarity to my favorite room afloat, the Dining Room on the Celebrity Century -- but oh what a difference! First off, there is another case of "bad art" as you enter. There's a gawd-awful sculpture of Napoleon behind the Maitre d' station. If it were done better, or if there was a great place for it, that might have been OK -- instead, it was crowded and compromised itself. Against the aft, the Century has a dramatic beveled glass wall -- the Spirit has nothing like that -- the balcony wraps around all four walls. I know, there's a huge difference in the capacity, and the comparison may not be fair, but there's no excuse for ....the carpet! Ooooh that carpet. It's primary color is avocado-ish jade green. There is no other green remotely like it in the room. There is a lot of green marble and colors closer to malachite. It clashes like hell. On top of that, the carpet has a pattern with large medallions and empire-themed panels. It's far too busy and destroys what could have been a beautful room -- assuming of course that it wasn't that shade GREEN.
Other cases of "what was he thinking?" include the Lido. The Lido is covered with a brash curvy and colorful pattern of primary colors that looks Spanish or Italian. It's a very fun "Pedro Almodovar-meets Joan Miró" contempo look. Behind the booths are bright blue mesh ironwork designs with white lights -- it plays with the ship's nouveau twists and works great. The third element however is the puzzler. Along all the doorways and beams are rust-red painted blocks and arches with mask medallions in the keystones (connected by chaser- lights). As far as I can imagine, The ghost of Gianni Versace came to him in a dream and told him what to do -- but he was too drunk to remember the details and got it all wrong
Oh, and the Louis XVI Casino -- (huh?) I have no idea why he's choose this theme. However, the walls are finished as faux-castle blocks. Unfortunately, the result looks more like cinderblock than chateau. ...and it's home to the most lonely sculpture on the ship -- behind the bar is a bronze-like statue of ol' Louis himself. It looks out of place in the space. (especially with a country-western singer sitting behind him)
On the positive side, all public lobbies and hallways have rich wood- look paneling. The carpets echo the signature nouveau patterns in a dark rust and green and look great. The stairway landings have contemporary art which, although not really my taste, is colorful and interesting and works well in the space. I wish I could say the same about the passenger corridors. The walls have alternating silk- screened panels which are just plain ugly.
Almost without exception, the furniture is a knockout. There are beautiful pieces in most of the lounges. In particular, the Deco Lounge and Club Cool. The Club Cool nightclub is a stunning room - perhaps the nicest on the ship and it's almost hidden behind a staircase with a (at the time non-functional) fountain, It's next to the Shanghai Piano Bar. (Cute room. but the volume on the performer was excruciatingly loud so we had to leave)
Other notable public rooms include the Pharaoh's Palace showroom which is excellent and perhaps the best I've seen. It covers three decks and had good sightlines and stadium-style seating on the two balconies. Beneath it is a problematic space called the Versailles Lounge. Used for cabaret and comedy -- it's out of the way and has a silly decor. Along the walls (note the curve of the hull behind) there are cheezy village scenes with twinkle lights ...but the silliest things are the Liberace-esque mini chandeliers and sconces at the end of the aisles.
The Dancin' disco was excellent. It has a two-deck design with a video wall against the two-story-high lighted dance floor. Best of all is its positioning. Tucked-in next to the lower level of the Restaurant and the Galley, it's accessible yet isolated from disturbing cabins and quiet areas.
DINING AT THE TOP - THE NOUVEAU SUPPER CLUB
The first night we had dinner in the Nouveau Supper Club. This has great potential -- but like everything else aboard, finished short of totally successful. Like most new ships, (but a first for Carnival) the Spirit has an alternative restaurant, the Nouveau Supper Club. The room has an alternate menu with huge prime steaks and authentic Joe's Stone Crab.
There is a $15 surcharge, reservations are required, and jackets are requested. It was initially unclear what the $15 covered -- the food upgrade, tips for the specialized service staff or both. There was no note of additional tip in the pre-cruise documentation, but we were told that tips were not included when I made the reservation. When we received the bill at the end of the night, the line for gratuities was already filled in as "0." I asked the waitress to clarify and was told something like "the computer closes out the bill, but cash is appreciated most anyway." I then ran down to the cabin to dig some money out of our safe. (Our cabin was somewhat nearby.) This whole exchange was unnecessarily awkward. I have no problem adding a tip on top of the bill -- our waitresses were excellent -- it was just a clumsy and crass exchange at the end of a generally wonderful meal. This is Carnival's first experience with alternate dining and I'm certain this will be rectified in the future.
Likewise, I hope that they will straighten-out the wine service. Shortly after we sat down, our sommelier introduced herself, presented the wine list, and expected us to order -- even though we hadn't yet seen the dinner menu and didn't know what we were going to eat. We ordered drinks and waited to order wine. Once we DID order our wine, we never saw the Wine Steward until we sent out a plea for her (and our wine) as our entrees were being delivered. We had no wine for our first two courses. We then were treated to an elaborate decanting procedure complete with candle. When a tablemate tasted the wine and examined the cork, the Sommelier crassly told him that he needed a verbal judgment and never acknowledged his (obvious) nod and a polite assent that the wine was acceptable.
This mixture of upscale pretensions and semi-clueless execution was evident throughout the meal. When it came time to order, we were treated to a show-and-tell with meat. The waitresses rolled-out a display cart with massive hunks of raw meat on it, which they used as props during their descriptions of the entrees (we're talking 20 oz porterhouse steaks.) Somewhat brash -- but I could go there. ...however, what rendered the whole exercise totally clueless was that each piece of meat was carefully wrapped in saran wrap. I don't know if this is the result of some strange CDC rule or what -- however the display pieces obviously would not be served, and if I were the management, I'd forget the whole presentation rather than showcase meat props laminated by kitchen wrap!
Let me be very clear -- although some of these procedures were questionable, the meal itself was fabulous. I had a wonderfully flavorful double lamb chop on a cassoulet-style bean ragout, a tablemate raved about the stone crab, and his partner said his filet was perfect. Our two waitresses were very professional and handled the tableside service with aplomb. The Supper Club has its own grill - - and each item from the amusee at the start of the meal to the little chocolates at the conclusion -- was excellent. Even with the rough spots described, the meal was superior to the "Le Bistro" experience on our recent cruise on the Norwegian Majesty.
The last part of the experience has to do with the design of the room -- and again, it just didn't work. The Supper Club is located on the top two decks at the pinnacle of the atrium. The ceiling to the space is sloping red glass which is integrated into the base of the signature Carnival funnel. The top deck overlooks the dance floor at the center of the main floor. This is a dramatic space, which cries for a knockout sophisticated drama. Instead, the room is mostly nondescript, with brash bands of primary-colored tiles which take the clue from the Lido below. During dinner, the vocalist and accompanist performed mostly in the dark, preferring to compensate in volume what they lacked in illumination -- a number of diners had difficulty conversing. Finally, this room cries for a snazzy pre-dinner cocktail lounge. There IS a small bar at the back of the room on the starboard side -- but it's somewhat hidden. We dined with another couple and each couple independently thought of grabbing an pre- dinner cocktail, went to the Supper Club, didn't see a bar, and went back down to the lobby lounge.
Lastly, there's the glass staircase. >From the Lido deck, the main stairway to the Nouveau Supper Club above is via a curved glass (yes!) staircase that is suspended 9 decks above the atrium. It's showy, but this IS a showy ship. Luckily, there are metal bars beneath each step which makes it less scary -- and for the nervous, there is elevator and conventional stairway access at the sides. It's a flashy -- but mostly successful -- bit of design.
To adequately review the meals onboard -- I must separate those two words, "food" and "service." In general, the food was good (especially the main courses) but the service staff was obviously overworked. It was a short cruise and we only had three days aboard, so we only had two dinners, one lunch and one breakfast in the Restaurant, the welcome lunch and two breakfasts in the Lido, and dinner in the supper club as just described.
The dinners in the Restaurant were a mixed bag. The entrees were fine. Experience has shown that beef items are usually the most reliable on mainstream ships (I don't care for lobster) -- and the prime rib and the New York strip items were tasty and prepared to the requested degree of doneness (medium-rare). The salads and starters were okay -- the caesar salad was good, but the cucumber and tomato salad suffered from very "durable" cucumber skins which I was still picking out of my teeth four hours later. Freshness didn't appear to be an issue with the salads, but the bread basket appeared to contain mostly dried-out leftovers from the deli counter of the Lido upstairs.
There was no Wine Steward in the Restaurant. The waiters recited the recommended wine of the day, which was usually something from Kendall- Jackson (not a BAD choice, for mainstream, price-conscious tastes but certainly uninspired -- and I wonder what kickback CCL gets for "featuring" their wine). Our waiter was pleasant and eager to help -- but he was obviously overworked and/or undertrained. He seemed to think that the way to provide the best service was to make sure that we had enough to eat and continually offered to bring extra portions. (Although I will occasionally order two entree items or ask that a starter be served as a main course -- we aren't the type of folks who order four servings on "lobster night" or judge a meal by the quantity of food served.)
Both nights our waiter dropped-off the "special" dessert before he ran off for that night's performance. I really don't know exactly when the ability to provide helpful and knowledgeable table service became less important than the dance steps a waiter can execute during a silly after-dinner production -- but I'd sure like to see those priorities re-examined.
The Maitre d' won the smarmy staff member award. Before the waiters came out, he strolled around the Dining Room, microphone in hand, crooning Frank Sinatra tunes. The effect reminded me of Mel Brooks singing "High Anxiety" in the film of the same name. On the final night, he sang "My Way" which seemed to be an unusual choice ...somehow, I thought something more service-oriented or passenger-centric would be more appropriate (The "chewed it up and spit it out" verse was particularly questionable)
In spite of all that hoo-ha -- there was no baked Alaska parade on the final night. Personally, I've seen enough of 'em -- but we were cruising with first-timers, and it has always been part of the experience, so I told them to expect it -- and I think we both felt cheated.
On a positive note, they didn't sing "We Are The Children" or "God Bless America."
The grand buffet was both figuratively and literally cheezy -- set up in the center of the Empire Restaurant. Each buffet station was capped with one of three types of decorative centerpieces -- ice sculpture (there was only one), spray-painted styrofoam, or a bas- relief carved into orange blocks of cheese. The sight of two Corinthian columns of cheddar is not something I'll forget easily (try as I might).
BARS, DRINK SERVICE AND THE LACK THEREOF
Before this cruise, I had heard passenger complaints of being hounded to buy a drink - especially in the souvenir glass of the day. My experience was quite the opposite. We usually had to go to the bar and order our drinks. There were very few cocktail servers around. This was the case at all hours and in all rooms.
I have no explanation for this. Drink service is obviously a revenue- generator for the line, and let's be frank -- alcohol consumption is a key ingredient in a party or "Fun" occasion -- so perhaps that's why this Fun Ship never got to be too fun!
On a positive note -- there have been complaints about communication difficulties with non-native English speaking staff. There was only one occasion where there was a real problem -- unfortunately that was in the Shanghai Bar where any communication was difficult owing to the amplified volume of the performer. (I bet it was way up to 11)
ENTERTAINMENT AND CRUISE STAFF
Again, this trip confounded expectations in one regard, and provided experiences on both ends of the scale. The good news (don't broadcast it, please) -- There were few announcements on the PA during the day. I believe there were morning and afternoon announcements by the Cruise Director and the traditional Captain's daily announcement of position, speed and weather (...love that beaufort scale!) I had expected endless announcements all day long telling us how we were going to have fun, where others were having fun and how to purchase reminders of how much fun we had. This was not the case. This element alone was perhaps most responsible for keeping me away from Carnival in the past; I'm grateful that if it HAD been the case, that the announcement policy is now relatively restrained.
The two production shows were the best and the worst I've seen. The inevitable showtune revue was titled "Standing Room Only" -- it was superb. These shows walk a fine line in their choice of numbers between the familiar and the overdone and this production managed it perfectly. Starting from a "Fosse Fosse Fosse" set and highlighting shows including Kiss Me Kate, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, Miss Saigon, Lion King and West Side Story - it had great pacing, good segues between the numbers and sets and no hokey storyline. The staging was flashy, and the "naughty bits" were fun and titillating yet creative and professionally-performed.
The final show, "High Spirits" was terrible. The concept of the show was shaky and many of the numbers had potential to insult or alienate any number of passengers including Native Americans, the strictly religious, and non-Christians (and I should warn some of my fellow citizens of SF ...probably Wiccans as well ). Most importantly, it had lousy pacing and just plain didn't work.
A real treat was the "Derek Hines Quintet." Derek Hines is a superb vocalist who sings jazz and standards with his superb combo. I believe he's a member of the famous Hines family. Fantastic. We discovered them late in the cruise -- I'll keep an eye out for them both on further cruises and in town. Unfortunately, the show we attended was disturbed by loud oafs pouring into the Versailles Room awaiting the X-Rated comedian to follow.
The Cruise Staff were fine. Again, I had visions of perpetually perky fun-meisters -- Shawn Bussey the Cruise Director was spunky but not irritatingly so. We have our very own plastic trophy for winning the trivia contest (better than the keychain from the QE2, but not as nice as the coffeepot from Win Ben Stein's Money).
Our group wuz robbed of a second plastic trophy. The first morning featured a "Hairy Chest Contest" ...Let me take a bit of a digression. We were traveling with a group of sixty "bears" -- defined most succinctly as "big hairy gay guys." Among our crowd, beards and hair (front AND back) are good things and are often found on a bear of large size. ...now back to the narrative... The contest was won by a little man who literally shaved his chest. (We talked to friends later) He WAS a member of a large, loud group up front who DID also include the women called up as judges. He won against four bears who sported sizeable hair-mats Bitter? Nooooo ...it was all in good fun ...really it was ...no, really.
IT'S NOT JUST FUN, IT'S GAY
An inevitable question was how were we treated as an obvious (I'd assume) gay group. There was no problem. Our fellow cruisers treated us as we treated them. There was no question or attitude from room stewards, photographers, wait staff or any of the cruise staff. I'm not surprised -- that's been our experience on all our previous cruises and it was true here.
During our group's private party, the DSM welcomed the group and stressed that they were happy to have us aboard and the were taking steps to convince groups that may have not considered the line in the past - that "Today's Carnival" is for everyone. I know they worked with a local AIDS charity for 200 cabins, and I suspect that a large group of African Americans from Oakland may have also been part of this initiative.
I appreciate the effort. Frankly, I never expected that the line, itself would be prejudiced, but now if I hear some blowhard making an accusation, I have some actual experience to offer to the discussion.
WOULD I TAKE ANOTHER CARNIVAL CRUISE?
Yes. However, it's probably low in the priority list.
Each line has its own personality and style. Although my Carnival experience was very different from what I expected -- I still prefer a different focus than the line offers. As is no doubt obvious from this revue, I honestly DO care about decor -- my surroundings are important when I'm on vacation, and Joe Farcus-world is not for me. To a large degree, it's not about the glitz, it's about the bad glitz. ...but even if the glaring problems I noticed were ameliorated, I still prefer a design more oriented to the sea and which recalls a nautical tradition.
Furthermore, when on the lazy-man's vacation that is a cruise, I like excellent service, I want well-prepared food, served by attentive waiters from the European tradition. I like friendly and attentive cocktail staff who remember my drink preferences. This doesn't seem to be a priority for Carnival, so we'll be more disposed to premium lines which offer this.
For those who claim that there is no difference anymore between the lines' products -- I beg to differ. There ARE differences. The ships may be similar, Carnival may be upgrading, and lines like RCI and Celebrity may be slipping -- but although the differences may be minor to you -- there still are real differences in shipboard environment, service, food and attitude which may be significant to others.
I WOULD readily take a cruise again on a variation of this ship when the corporation takes the design to their Holland America subsidiary. The layout of the ship is excellent.
It was an enjoyable cruise. There were parts that were wonderful -- and certainly these complaints were pretty trivial compared to the whole experience. I'm glad I took the cruise -- it was a great mini- vacation, Victoria was delightful... and I know of no experience which continues to stir me my primal roots, than simply standing on deck and watching the sea. Always magnificent!Ain't We Got Fun? - My First Carnival Cruise
Our cruise was the Hawaiian islands and then back to Mexico. Cruising the islands is a great way to see them all. The ship experience was fine. Our steward was wonderful. He was always available and gave us great service. The food was average. We weren't given enough info about the main dining room until half way through the cruise so we didn't use it until then.
The shore excursions were WAY over priced and not that great except for the Hilo Bus Tour and the Capt Cook Bay snorkel trip. Both guides provided very interesting stories.
The debarking in Mexico was a nightmare. The charter buses were not allowed to cross the border and our luggage was held up for hours. Many people missed their connecting flights.
Next time I think I would fly to Honolulu and then fly back.