OUR SPIRIT OF ADVENTURE THROUGH THE PANAMA CANAL This was truly a trip worth remembering, from beginning to end. We left on Thursday morning, April 4th, on a flight from Tampa to Miami, where Carnival Cruise Line's newest "fun ship", the Spirit, awaited our arrival. This ship is the first in a new series of 88,500-ton vessels and features Our stateroom was the size of a mini-suite, with a balcony, on which we spent a considerable amount of time relaxing as we sailed first, on the Atlantic Ocean, then through the historic Panama Canal, known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World", and then continued our seventeen-day cruise on the Pacific Ocean toward our final port of call, which was San Diego, California, seventeen days later.
When at sea, I spent most mornings working out in the ship's two-level gymnasium and then luxuriating in the nearby Whirlpool hot tub, one of three located in the ship's huge recreation area. The afternoon hours found us listening to beautiful music played by a lovely young female pianist known as Maya or to the Arco Trio, two young women and a young man from Poland,who entertained us while playing a violin, a cello and a piano, respectively. These very talented performers were followed, one deck below, by "Tea Time", during which large varieties of tea and delicious snacks were served. In less than two hours following this, the Main Sitting of dinner began in the Empire Dining Room, where we were seated with four other members of the 24-member group with which we were traveling, as arranged by our travel agent. We were seated with these same two couples at both lunch and dinner, although on some of these days, we chose the option of having lunch buffet-style on the "Lido Deck" in the "La Playa Grill", located a few decks above this dining room.
Each and every evening, following dinner, was spent by us in the Pharaoh's Palace, a Broadway-style two-storied theatre, where we were entertained quite lavishly by a variety of performances, featuring professional singers, dancers, comedians, a juggler, a ventriloquist and even including big-name stars like John Davidson and Duke Daniels, international recording artist from the world-famous singing group, the "Platters". Following this, there was dancing to the music of a five-piece band until we felt tired enough to return to our stateroom for a good night's sleep.
The main attraction of this wonderful cruise, of course, was the numerous ports of calls which we visited throughout our journey, beginning with Cartagena, Colombia, where we took an approximately four-hour bus tour, which upon leaving the old city, took us through the residential area of Manga, with its marvelous "Republican" architecture. Following this, we visited the Monastery of La Popa with a breathtaking view of the entire city. Sufficient time was also allowed for shopping during our tour, including a stop at the Pierino Gallo shopping center, famous for the world renowned Colombian Emeralds, as well as handcrafts and leather goods. Besides this, during all of our stops in Cartagena we were deluged by numerous street vendors who approached us from every angle, desperate to sell us their wares of all different kinds. This was very annoying, but we finally relented and purchased a beautiful pink lace tablecloth.
The following day was when we spent several hours crossing the Panama Canal, which is a lock-type canal that unites the Caribbean Sea with the Pacific Ocean at one of the narrowest points of the Isthmus of Panama and the American continent. The Canal's three sets of locks, with two lanes each, serve as water lifts, elevating ships 26 meters above sea level, to Gatun Lake, to allow vessels to cross the Continental Divide, and then lower them back to sea level on the other side of the Isthmus.
The following day of our cruise was spent at sea, relaxing or enjoying the various shipboard activities and recreational facilities. Early the next morning we docked at Puntarenas, Costa Rica, where we took the picturesque Sarchi Tour for approximately 5 1/2 hours. Located about forty miles from the port of Caldera, this town is the home of Costa Rica's symbol of a simple but colorful lifestyle. During our tour, shopping time was scheduled, with a variety of woodcrafts, leather goods and souvenirs of all kinds to please every taste.
Then, after enjoying two more relaxing days at sea, our ship docked early in the morning at Acapulco, Mexico, where we took a five-hour tour of this fascinating Mexican city and where a scenic highway offered a striking panoramic view of beaches and mountains among which sat the homes of the rich and famous. Our tour also included a visit to the Mayan Princess Hotel, one of the most exclusive resorts in the world, and, of course, the not-to-be-missed thrilling Cliff Divers as they plunged into the turbulent waters of "La Quebrada".
Following this, after another most-welcomed and enjoyable day at sea, we found ourselves docked at Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, where we joined a group of fellow tourists for approximately three hours of what was called the Mismaloya City Tour, which took us on a scenic journey through one of Mexico's premier vacation destinations on our way to this interesting city. The quaint town of Puerto Vallarta and its majestic cobblestone streets welcomed us as we passed by the beautiful resort hotels, shopping areas and historic sites, such as cathedrals, government buildings and theatres. We then passed over the river Quale, where we could see Gringo Gulch, where the famous homes of Elizabeth Taylor and the late Richard Burton are located, separated by a bridge between the two homes. After this, we continued south past the Conchas residential area and the Camino Real Hotel and then enjoyed the sights and scenery of the area as we entered the Playa Sol Condos before arriving at Mismaloya, the setting for the movie, "Night of the Iguana". Once again, stops were made for shopping at stores that were recommended by the cruise line.
Day 13 of our delightful cruise found us in Mazatlan, Mexico, located twenty miles below the Tropic of Cancer and on a peninsula surrounded by cliffs and beaches. Mazatlan's name came from the Pre-Colombian Indians and means "Place of the Deer". The economy relies heavily on fishing, both sport and commercial. The downtown area is 18th and 19th century. Mazatlan is known as "The Fish Trap" - marlin run up to 750 pounds! While there, we took the City & Shopping Tour, which took us through some of the fine residential districts and the heart of the downtown section along Olas Atlas. During this tour we saw the El Cid Country Club and the deluxe hotels on Gaviotas (seagull) Beach. Also during our tour we had plenty of time for shopping at the Carnival Cruise Lines' recommended stores, which featured excellent prices and great bargains and took us to the fantastic Aztec Indian Papantla Show, as featured in the 1986 World's Fair and during which we saw the exciting daredevil Papantla flyers, who ascended a 75-foot pole and on cords, descended spinning and spiraling to the ground.
After another great day at sea, we dropped anchor at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, located at the southernmost tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. It is a charming combination of old and new Mexico. Cabo San Lucas' claim to fame is not only the distinctive flora and fauna, found only in this area, but also, the beautiful and majestic "Los Arcos", or the arches. People come from all over the world to view these incredible monoliths that rise as sentinels from the ocean floor. While in Cabo San Lucas, we took the approximately 3 1/2-hour "Coastal Highlight" tour, during which we saw some breathtaking seascapes and enjoyed a visit to a local Glass Blowing Factory, which presented us with an opportunity to observe the talents of native craftsmen and also purchase examples of the blown glassware produced there. We also made a visit to "Da Georgio's", one of the cape's classic restaurants, where we had time to explore the grounds and marvel at the coastal vistas from the nearby bluffs. We then made a stop at the "Plaza del Sol Shopping Mall", where we were given an hour to browse through the elegant shops and boutiques, and before returning to the ship, we were also given the opportunity to shop at the dockside flea market.
We arrived home from this wonderful cruise vacation on Monday morning, April 22nd, full of happy memories of all the pleasant experiences we had, as well as all the new and lasting friendships we made.
I sailed the Carnival Spirit on March 27 to April 4, 2002 for the 8 day Exotic Southern Caribbean itinerary with my husband. We are both in our late thirties and this was our first cruise. The ship was due to transition after this trip and I wanted to do these ports, despite my concerns that we were a couple traveling over Easter weekend without our kids and we would be the minority among a ship full of families with children. I wasn't quite prepared for just how many children of all ages would be underfoot. We made the best of it and didn't let anything stand in the way of our good time.
We drove to the Port of Miami and the drive couldn't have been easier. We arrived at around 11:30am and there were plenty of porters waiting to help unload the car and take our luggage. My husband parked the car while I waited in front of the terminal for about 10 minutes for him to return. We took our carry on bags and headed into the terminal building. Checking in was a breeze. Within 15 minutes wewere in line waiting for our Sign and Sail cards. There was a bit of a wait before we were allowed to board the ship as there appeared to be a couple of wedding parties that were getting priority boarding. It wasn't too long before we were on line waiting to get the security picture for the Sign and Sail card, then the embarkation photo. Finally we stepped on board.
My first impression of this ship was positive. I thought the ship was beautiful. I didn't find the artwork or decorative style gaudy, it's just a bit offbeat, which was fine with me. Everywhere I looked was something different to see. It all seemed to blend together to make an upbeat cheerful and fun atmosphere. I especially liked the art hanging in the stairwells. The lobby was beautiful and lent a relaxing air of sophistication amid the colorful sometimes frenetic design. It was a great meeting place and an area to relax and have a drink while listening to the acoustic guitar music being played live behind the bar.
We had a category 8I cabin with an extended balcony on the port side forward. Actually, where our cabin was would be just the beginning of a mid-ship location. We were in cabin 8180 on the Panorama deck, beneath the Lido deck. There was virtually no noise from above. I did hear the occasional sound of a chair being moved, but only when I was out on the balcony and it wasn't an intrusive noise at all. Our cabin was outstanding. We had plenty of closet and drawer space. There was space beneath the two nightstands, as well as two drawers under the couch. The decor was pleasant and soothing, done in peach tones with complimenting wood accents. The large lighted mirror above the desk area was the perfect place to sit and apply make-up and do my hair. The design of the room made it feel spacious and very comfortable. The balcony space was more than adequate with two chairs and a small table. We spent a lot of time enjoying the balcony, listening to the sound of the ocean rushing by and looking at the island coastlines at night, their lights like strings of pearls in the distance. The bathroom was not only attractive; it was well designed and spacious. Done in a soothing aqua green color it's counter space was roomy and the mirror had glass shelves on either side, which made organizing and storing our things simple. The shower was not huge but spacious enough with great water temperature control and terrific water pressure. The clothesline strung across the shower was perfect for wet bathing suits and other damp items needing to be dried. Needless to say, I give the cabin high marks.
Staff and Service
Much to our surprise it took less than two hours for our luggage to arrive at our room. by the time we had done some exploring, grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed a bit with a drink, it was time to grab our life jackets and head to the muster drill. We were already unpacked before the muster drill, as we had returned to the room briefly after lunch. Our cabin steward was on the ball despite the huge number of rooms occupied by children and teens. He was quick to make our twin beds into one king bed as soon as the linens were available and we only had to sleep the first night with the beds made up separately. We rarely saw him, but every time we left the room and would return it had been cleaned up. We had cute towel animals every night, the bed turned down, lots of pillows stacked up with the obligatory chocolate mint on top.
We had late seating dinner and our wait staff was excellent. The food was better than I expected and I wasn't disappointed by anything I ate in the Empire Dining Room for dinner. I especially thought the lobster tail and filet mignon was outstanding and wondered how they can prepare over one thousand meals twice a night and keep everyone pleased. I honestly was expecting mediocre large crowd catering caliber meals, but the food was actually very good. There was always a vegetarian option, pasta and interestingly delicious appetizers. The Maitre'D, Damir was entertaining to a degree. His signature "Hellloooo" grew a bit old as the week wore on. I'm sure he worked extremely hard to orchestrate the two full seatings each night, however it was our head and assistant waiters that made our dining experiences personal and pleasurable. by the second night they knew what we drank with and after dinner, never missing a beat and always having time to stop and chat. Our first tablemates had been separated from their daughters and they were replaced with a mother and her two young teens. It didn't make for great conversation as the young boy was shy and we could barely get him to grunt, let alone speak. With so many young children aboard we were happy to sit with this family, exchanging stories about our day and our experiences at ports.
The food on the Lido deck at the buffet style stations was hit or miss. We ate lunch at the La Playa Grill on the Lido deck almost daily and while the NY Deli sandwiches were very good, other selections were less than average. The pizza was decent and available 24 hours a day as well as Caesar Salad and the self-serve soft ice cream. With so many kids on this ship I'm surprised I only saw the ice cream station out of service once or twice and they always managed to have at least one machine going.
The Cruise Director, Devin Flemming was personable and seemed experienced. He had a good sense of humor and seemed to really love his job. Although, the only time I saw him was on the daily Video Diary when they ran his presentations, and at the debarkation talk, he seemed very passionate about his job. The Assistant Cruise Directors seemed young and maybe inexperienced; "Dana Banana" in particular seemed to have a forced demeanor and a false high-pitched laugh that made her seem almost uncomfortable sometimes. It was impossible to get anywhere near the pool where they ran the daily games and contests, so again, I watched them on the Video Diary.
Nouveau Supper Club
This alternative restaurant for an extra cost of $25.00 per person was well worth the experience. The service was impeccable and the food presentation was delightful. I honestly can say though, the quality of the food wasn't that much above the Empire Dining Room, the major difference being the special presentation. The wait staff was attentive and the entire experience made us feel pampered and special. It was well worth the extra cost and I highly recommend the experience. The band in this restaurant was the best aboard the ship. They created a romantic environment with their excellent cover tunes, and dining and dancing that night was great because the room was almost empty, it was quiet and there were no children there.
I found the entertainment lacking. I thought the bands were mediocre at best. Emily in the Shanghai Piano Bar was awful. The one night we stepped in to have a drink and a listen it was almost painful. The band Zest in Club Cool was almost as bad. They sang to digital canned music with a guitar and bass adding the human touch. Their voices were bland and they had no soul. Dancing to this band was impossible because the digitized drum machine that served as their rhythm was monotonous and boring. The Dancin' Disco was supposed to be closed to children under 16 years old after 11:30pm. Fat chance. The one night we braved it the place was packed with kids of all ages and at 3:15am when we finally gave up it was still going strong. Security had their hands full. There were underage drinkers all over the place so their concern was trying to control the obviously intoxicated kids instead of enforcing the age restriction. We questioned a security guard one night just out of curiosity and we were told basically just that. They were trying to curb the underage drinking and not worried about denying entry to the under sixteen crowd. The disco was an interesting two story neon and glitter filled bar centered by a winding staircase, with a DJ playing MP3 files from a computer. The video wall was not turned on the night we were there. I imagine this would have been one of my favorite places to go at night had it not been packed with kids. We saw both late night comedy shows and enjoyed them both, especially when they verbally abused the parents holding their crying toddlers in their arms at a midnight R rated show. As for the other shows, we were tired of the crowds and being told that "this row is saved", so we skipped them.
Our first stop in St. Martin was my favorite. I thought the friendly people, upbeat aura and flavor of the Dutch side of this island was perfect. We shopped for jewelry on Front Street, explored some side streets looking for bargains and then walked to the beach. We had enough time to lounge in comfort on the beautiful beach with the ship in sight, have a drink and swim before it was time to head back.
Our next port was Barbados on Easter Sunday. Everything was closed and some of the shore excursions cancelled. We opted for the Jolly Roger Party Cruise. It was an old wooden pirate ship loaded with rum punch and fun music. There was swimming and diving off the side of the boat into the warm waters and singing and dancing as the rum punch was flowing. We were in Barbados until 10:00pm that night. I wish I could have seen more of this beautiful island. Martinique was our last port on Monday. We were only there from 7:00am and expected to be back on board by 1:30pm. We had enough time to take a water taxi to the beach, then back to Fort De France to explore the open air market and then a taxi back to the ship. I'm sure this island has a lot more to offer than we were able to experience. It was also a Holiday that day and most attractions were closed.
Days At Sea
Trying to find a deck chair by one of the pools was a challenge. I stayed on the Fantail Deck on the back of the boat as this was supposed to be where the adult hot tub was located, and to avoid the chaos at the mid ship pool areas where the games were held and the Calypso Band, Rhythm Krazy performed. This band was mediocre at best, but sounded from the distance to provide a lively fun party atmosphere. People obviously ignore the Carnival request to not save deck chairs and get up at the crack of dawn to do so. I would eventually find a chair to relax in. I wish the parents of the youngsters aboard had been more considerate of others as their children were acting out, running around, splashing people by throwing cups of water at them, screaming, well, you get the picture. Security would come out now and then to calm things down, empty the hot tub of children only to walk away and as soon as they were out of sight the parents would laugh and encourage the kids to go back to whatever it was they were doing in the first place. People were obviously annoyed, but I tried to take it in stride, remembering I was on vacation and there to have a good time. The large water slide on the top deck was in operation every day. It looked like a lot of fun and was certainly getting used by people of all ages.
We set our luggage out the last night on board and it was quickly whisked away. The next morning we grabbed a quick bite to eat and headed to the main lobby area to wait to be allowed to get off the ship. This process was amazingly smooth. In no time we were off the ship and found our luggage almost immediately. There was a porter waiting to load our bags onto his dolly. We cleared customs quickly even though we were stopped. The porter walked us to our car, helped load our luggage and we were sadly on our way.
We had a wonderful vacation and we can't wait to cruise again. I won't hold Carnival totally responsible for the negative experiences with the hordes of children aboard. It was our choice to vacation during this week. I would definitely recommend this ship. It was beautiful, clean and new looking with no signs of visible wear and tear anywhere. The food was abundant and good. The staff was friendly and helpful. The itinerary was one I would like to do again. There is nothing quite like a vivid, brilliant Caribbean sunset off your balcony or a bright full moon streaking the sea silver while the warm wind blows over you as you walk the outer decks at night. The motion of the ship was more noticeable in certain areas, the dining room in particular. It wasn't bothersome at all. The vibration I have read about that people feel on this ship wasn't anything that was annoying at all. We had extremely calm seas and clear skies the entire trip, we were very fortunate. We even saw two whales, a small pod of dolphins and countless flying fish one afternoon. It was a real treat! The gentle rocking at night, to me, was like sleeping in a giant cradle. I've never slept so well in my entire life. My new mantra is, "Take me on another cruise right now!"
If anyone would like more information or you have any questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
(Message board name, deja)
I recently completed my first cruise on the Carnival Spirit on 4/4/02. This cruise was referred to as an "Exotic Caribbean Cruise".
The Spirit is a beautiful ship. The cleaning staff were continuously involved in keeping everything clean and pleasant for the passengers. My cabin steward Teofilo was absolutely wonderful. My cabin, 8114 on the Panorama deck, was always made up promptly. I never returned to my cabin without finding it in top shape. The towel animal creations were really a delite. My cabin was quite large and although it was an inside cabin, I always found it to be a pleasant respite when I wanted to be there.
I was seated at table 217 on the main floor for the early seating which was 5:45PM. My table mates were very nice and I ended up spending quite a bit of time with them during the cruise. There were 4 of us, single men in our 50's. Our waiter Mario from Guatemala, and Mariya from Bulgaria, were charming and very helpful. We all looked forward to seeing them at dinner. Their service was excellent and they were more than eager to pleaseus and our various requests for extras. The food was varied with no repeat dishes other than the salads. All the food was served at the appropriate temperature and with little waiting time between courses. I did find the cheesecake to be not very good. I only ate in the main dining room for my evening meals simply because the alternative dining on the Lido deck was outstanding. I found that I could eat anytime and in any attire and could always find a place to sit and watch the ocean while enjoying my meals.
I especially liked the Deli and it's variety of sandwiches. Juices, punch, tea were free but you had to pay for any colas that you wanted. Don't buy the beverage card if you're an adult unless you drink a large number of colas per day. At 2.50 per drink plus 15% gratuity, you would have to drink more than 2 colas per day to make it worth buying the card. The kids cola card is cheaper and probably worth it. The shows were mostly good and well attended. I did hear a few complaints about one show, "The World's Fastest Banjo Player", as being not very good. I believe it was more a matter of those individuals personal taste rather than the performance. I thought he was outstanding. He played several Banjo standards (Dueling Banjos from Deliverence) as well as Broadway show music from Cats, Godspell to name a few. The Spirit Dancers were very talented and their lead vocalists were very good. I did think their final show with the Native American segment was a little on the poor taste side.
I found the on board duty free gift shops to have a nice selection of items and many good sales going on continuously. On the negative side, I found that there were more children on the ship than what I had been led to believe. According to Devin the cruise director, there were over 700 on this cruise. The younger children were mostly in Camp Carnival and did not cause problems. The main concern were the ones from 9 to 12 or 13 years old. They were constantly riding the elevators and many times would get on at a lower floor, punch the buttons for every floor and jump out of the elevator before the doors closed. The extra large number of children also made the pools very crowded especially when you considered the rest of the passengers wanting to swim also. Actually, you couldn't swim--only sit in the water while the kids were jumping over you. This was also true of the hot tubs. Add to that the continual deck chair saving by the adults who felt it necessary to save spots for their children even though the children rarely used them. Unless you got the the pool area before 8:00AM, you didn't stand much of a chance to get a deck chair by any of the pools.
On the morning of the 2nd day we received the newspaper with the Excursion listings for the 3 islands. However, there was also an insert informing us that "Due to the Easter Holiday the following excursions have been cancelled on Barbados and Martinique". There were 4 excursions cancelled. I selected my excursions from the remaining options and went to the excursion desk to reserve my place only to find out that everything that I wanted was already sold out. In fairness, I might have been able to get a spot if I had gone down on the 1st day at sea, however 2 of the ones that I wanted were cancelled. Anyway, I decided to make the best of it and concentrate on shopping and see the local sites on my own. Our first stop was St. Maarten. There were an incredible number of shopping opportunities and the people were very friendly. I enjoyed visiting many of these shops and walking around the area. Back on ship that evening, before the start of one of the shows, our Cruise Director Devin was on stage going over our itenerary for the next day and made the announcemnt "Due to the Easter Holiday in Barbados and Martinique, the shops in town are closed". He did say that a few of the shops on the duty free pier had agreed to open for the Spirit passengers. On Barbados there were quite a few shops in a nice terminal area but not a lot of variety. On Martinique, there were 2 shops open, one for booze and cigars and one variety shop with a very limited number of items. Had it been announced about the shops being closed on Barbados and Martinique before we left St. Maarten, I would have done all of my shopping on St. Maarten.
I am sure that I made some mistakes due to my status of first time cruiser. However, I feel that as large and experienced as Carnival is, that they should have known in advance about the Easter Holiday closings on Barbados and Martinique. While I probably would have still chosen Carnival for my first cruise, I would certainly have selected a different date and/or destination if I would have been more adequately informed. All in all, it was still a good time for me, just not the best time. I think I will try one of the other cruise lines for my next cruise and certainly ask a lot more questions before booking.
Well there is a god.......we thought that we had turned into four old curmudgeons.........I agree with the reviews posted. We were all on the same deck, we were closer to the bow though, and Ican vouch for the difference in noise from above......BOY CAN WE EVER ! and of course all the darlin kiddies screaming/running in the halls.
Hence my reason for posting this......we are royally ---- with all the children on the ship. Kids playing like well-behaved kids, are after all just kids, but drunk 13-15 yr olds having sex, fighting, swearing, carving up the elevators etc etc etc etc etc is another thing. If any of you poor mothers are out there, I have a running list of the 250 teenagers, their names and exactly what they were doing, when and with whom.
How about the 2 13yr olds that dragged the drunken hommie thru the lunch room? Gee and we all had a good look at Barbie-Gone-Bad, but this drunken kid received more stares ( wasn't Barbie an eye piece).
How about "Operation Bright Star", my guess is some damn kid lit a fire......they tried to pull the fire alarmoutside 8138 one night. That would've been dishy.......sending a fire frenzy into cruisers. I could go on and on and on and on...........Get the message?
Never ever again will I sail with Carnival, (sorry, I know it's not fair to judge them this way, but heh don't they have a policy "how many kids allowed on a cruise"? I believe they do, and violated it this time, as was reported to us, "they had never had this many kids on any of their ships at one time")
The ship WAS beautiful, cruise was great, food good, entertainment sucked. I got a good tan, and a great kidney bruise from the little darlin in the fan tail pool, that body slammed me. Did you folks like the full diapers on the one kid in the pool? Yummy, thank god I'm a nurse!
P.S. Crapival did receive a letter.
OVERALL-I recently went on the 8 day Exotic Western Caribbean cruise on Carnival's Spirit. I chose this cruise because of the itinerary. I was excited about the Panama, Costa Rica and Belize itinerary because it was so unusual and afforded my husband and I the opportunity not "just to shop" on our vacation. I was hoping to participate in some excursions that involved exciting activities that Carnival's shore excursion list seemed to promise.
PAST CRUISES-I have traveled on Carnival before, as well as Princess. Overall, I was very disappointed in this cruise.
EMBARKATION/ BOARDING-I arrived at Miami's port right before 1 PM. My husband and I went through a security check and obtained our sign and sail card quickly. We then waited until just after 3:30 to physically get on the ship. Along with hundreds others, my husband and I waited in an unconditioned hallway to board the ship. No announcements were made as to why there was such a wait. People were sitting on the floors and getting angry and thirsty. Eventually, we heard from another passenger that only one machine that took pictures for the sign and sail cards wasworking. It would have been nice to hear an occasional announcement as to what was going on. When we eventually boarded the ship, there was no one to direct us to where the elevators were or where our rooms were. Our luggage arrived by 6 PM.
THE SHIP-The ship itself was beautiful. It is mostly dark wood with gold tones. The ship had a lot of columns, marble, ample seating, sculptures and statutes. The lobby was not overwhelming and it was a great place to relax. The ship itself was laid out well with most amenities such as the casino, main restaurant, lounges etc. on the same 3 floors. The pools were also laid out along one of the top decks. The remaining floors were all cabins. I felt that the ship's public areas were in perfect condition, not worn out. The only thing I did notice was that the wood railings on all the cabin's balconies were well worn and this could be seen looking at the ship from the docks.
ENTERTAINMENT-There were approximately 2 main/ "featured shows" during my cruise. The main male singer, Christopher Alan Graves (who was a singer on the Triumph when I went in 1999) was exceptional. He sang in the 2 main shows and also in a Tribute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. one evening. He should not be missed. There were also several midnight shows with comedy acts (better then most and don't miss Eddie Capone), jugglers etc. There was also a talent show which was excellent. As for the music, well, it was a mixed bag. The lido deck had probably the worst calypso band, Rhythm Krazy, I have ever heard in my life! I hated sitting near that band and always look for a deck chair far from them. That bothered me because I liked to sometimes watch the Lido Deck games but decided against it because the band was that band. There was also a singer in the Shanghai Bar, Emily. She was just as bad as Rhythm Krazy. Other then that, the music was excellent. Not to be missed is the band and singers in the Supper Club. I would even go to the bar and have some drinks even if you don't chose to have dinner there. They were that good. Also, the guitar player in the lobby bar area was excellent. The band, Zest in the Club Cool was great as were the jazz bands in the bar and sitting areas before entering the main dining room. It was relaxing to listen to them with a glass of wine right before dinner. The bar areas (approximately 18 of them including a sports bar, specialty bars, pool bars etc.) were plentiful and the staff at the bars catered to your needs and poured stiff drinks (if that's what you like). The casino, which I thought was surprisingly large for this class of ship, had slots ranging from a nickel to about $5. There were also numerous table games. There were several blackjack and slot tournaments. I would just be careful about the casino rules for the table games (basically there are no rules and play at your own risk; my husband learned this first-hand).
FOOD-I was disappointed in the food in the dining room on this cruise. My previous experience with Carnival's dining room food was excellent. This cruise offered many choices but below average quality. I just never thought any dish was excellent. I never finished a meal and had to send back several dishes. The desserts were an embarrassment (especially the cheesecake). I never went to a midnight buffet so I cannot comment on those. I did think the La Playa Grill food and selections were better then average. I was never disappointed in my meals (only lunches and dinners) there. The selection was varied (a grill serving hot dogs, burgers, chicken sandwiches, fries; a Taste of Nations area that had a different country's specialties everyday; a Chinese food area serving soups, noodle dishes and meat dishes which changed daily; a deli; a pizza area; a salad bar area). The Supper Club though, as many posters have indicated, is a MUST! The $25 per person charge is steep, yet I have to say that the atmosphere, entertainment, service, and food, is top notch. I only wish they could jack up the price for the cruise and have the same experience in the dinning room. I had a crab cake appetizer, ceasar salad, porterhouse steak, and multi-desserts (they never stopped with the desserts)! Did I say the service there was impeccable?! It is well worth the experience.
CABIN-I had a category 9A. I was surprised the room was so small. There was ample closet space. The bathroom was tiny but layed out well with enough room to store toiletries. It was adequate for 2 people but on Triumph, I had a lower category cabin but more room. I will say that the balcony was extra-large and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was on deck 8, below the pool near the La Playa Grill and location was actually great. It was convenient and I heard no noise from that area. I do have to say that one night during the cruise, the air conditioner leaked on me at 2 am and after an hour + of attempts to clean up the water on the bed and sheets, and a promise to return in the morning to ensure there was no more leak, no one returned. The leak stopped thank goodness by the AM. Nevertheless, I was exhausted from my early morning ordeal and the pursar never returned my 2 am phonecall the next day about our problem. I had to go to his office myself and tell him how upset I was. When I did, he was extremely patronizing.
PANAMA-After arriving late at the port (with no apologies for not advising us before anyone sat and waited 1 hr plus for the shore excursions to start departing), we went on the kayak and Gatun Lake / Panama Canal tour. It was excellent. I would highly recc. this tour.
COSTA RICA-Although our ship pulled into this port (and I mean literally pulled in-the ship was parallel to the dock), there was a very short announcement made that no one would be allowed to get off the ship because the seas were too rough to enable a safe exit from the ship. Some people were told at the pursar's desk, as I was, that no one left the ship because it was so unsafe however, from my balcony along with the hundreds others who had balcony rooms on port side, I saw several people leaving the ship in Costa Rica. With that ONE announcement, boom, we were gone. No further announcements, apologies, alternative ports offered, offers of reiumbursement or explanation about refunding port charges. I asked about port charge refunds and was given 2 separate answers about refunds (a yes and a no). Finally, I found a $20 pp refund on my final bill for port chgs.
BELIZE-I cancelled my tubing excursion through Carnival and chose a city tour with a taxi cab driver. It was excellent. Please email me for his name and cell # if interested. He will take you anywhere. He would be glad to make arrangements with anyone for a personal tour. He even returned my camera when I accidentally left it in his van.
DEBARKATION-Couldn't be smoother. Off the ship by 9:15AM. Tip: sit in the lobby area for quick departure.
CONCLUSION-Although I had a relaxing trip and I thought the ship as a whole was beautiful, I will not sail with Carnival again because of this experience. I feel the quality of Carnival has gone down substantially since my last cruise with them.Claudia
This was my fourth cruise....on the third, I wondered away from Carnival and was very disappointed. This was the first time I booked a balcony.....I am definately spoiled! The ship was a beauty, the food and entertainment great. To me, Carnival is the only way to go.
Now, thinking about my next destination......funny, don't even have my land legs back yet and here I am wondering where I want to venture next.Joy
Nice new ship (ideal size), somewhat gaudy decor, surprisingly good food with more choices than our last cruise on the RCL Voyager, only the deserts were mostly bland and not very tasty, friendly staff, generally very good service, too many tacky sales events on board: gold by the inch, art auction, watches, etc., extras generally more expensive than on other ships (soda card, supper club, etc.).
Many excursions are overprices and do not provide good value (kids pay FULL price on most tours), big negative: cruise line has started adding gratuities automatically to the sail and sign card - not a good idea (also disliked by the staff in question), all in all i give 4 out of 6 stars. (1=almost on a freighter to 6=top luxury class).
What a great Birthday present. Actually it was a family vacation. The 8 day cruise to Belize-Colon Panama- and Costa Rica.We really enjoyed the locks. tThere was a slight mishap with the train there- but Carnival was able to set everything right in a matter of a few hours. Due to the skilled knowlege of the crew. What a wonderful Cruise family Carnival is.
I try to observe all the little things most people over look. I am a very small town cruise agent so I like to look at the crew, watch the interaction between the cruise members and the staff. I like to learn as much as I can to help people find the cruise that fits their needs.
I was so pleased with the Spirit- She is a beautiful ship. As always, Carnival out did themselves again. The staff was very helpful, fun and friendly. Our family consisted of grandparents, My husband & I his sister,her husband and two children. We enjoyed the dining room at night- the buffet lunches as we all went in diffrent directions during the day- The children ages 7 & 11 had fun withall of us grown ups during the scavenger hunt.
The style and colors were pleasing, the grandparents loved the huge balcony they had to relax on. The bathrooms, and the cabins were very roomy and comfortable.
This was our 3rd Carnival cruise, we hope to get a chance to travel with Carnival again.
First of all, it was a great cruise. We ate too much, drank too much and spent too much, so it was a rousing success. Like all vacations it had its moments that were great and its moments that were not so great. Any negative observations are offered only with the intent to help the next traveler.
Overall we were happy with the Carnival experience, our second. We were a party of four (myself, my husband, my daughter and my mom) and we stayed in cabins 8231 and 8233, category 8I.
We flew in a day early and stayed at the Days Inn Miami at Miami Beach. We chose this hotel because of its price ($50) and proximity to the beach. We had hoped to save some money over the Wyndam and Sheraton rates on the bay. Unfortunately by the time we paid all of the taxi fares we didn't save anything at all. There are no restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. While rates to and from the airport are set within Miami, all other fares are metered. It cost us approximately $12 cab fare each way todinner. We ate at the Crabhouse - good but expensive. In addition, our fare to the pier was $45. I believe that our driver took us the long way to make the fare higher but of course I don't know that for sure. We got up early, ate breakfast at the hotel (adequate but expensive) and took a short walk on the beach. We were so excited to be finally starting our vacation and couldn't believe that we'd be sailing those same seas later that day!
We arrived at the pier about 11:00 am. From the outside it was a madhouse. There were three ships in port and a huge line of cars was waiting to get to the port. Thank God we arrived early. We were watching the taxi meter creep up with dismay. Not to worry, though, our driver edged his way through, leaning out the window, cursing eloquently and shaking his fist for emphasis. And I do mean cursing, up to and including the mother of all curse words! Sailors could take notes from this man's cursing.
The waiting area is staged. You go through the checkin, then proceed to another area to get sail and sign cards. We then were moved from one area to another to wait, about four different areas I guess. Couldn't figure out why we were moved from area to area until we got to the last point, where they were taking pictures to accompany your sail and sign cards. In order to avoid a buildup at this point they staged the waiting. I think we were on the ship about 1:30 pm so it was a bit of a wait. Not much security getting on the ship other than the aforementioned picture taking. The bag screening seems to be mostly to check for liquor. I brought four bottles of wine in my carryon and they wanted to check that it was wine and not booze. I had to unpack it to show them. We did sneak on a fifth of scotch for my husband in the checked baggage. As far as I know the checked baggage was not screened.
At the recommendation of someone on the board I had bought wristbands to hold our card keys. In general we loved not having to fumble for our card keys on the ship. This was especially nice since I had several outfits that did not have pockets. I also went prepared with my holepunch and already had our cardkeys on the wristbands by the time we got on the boat. If you are going to do this be sure to punch the hole at the very bottom right hand corner of the card. The card must fit all the way into the security machine, so I had a bit of a hassle changing the card around on the wristband. After that it was great.
Your first glimpse of your home for the next 8 days is always thrilling and ours was no exception. I've seen lots of negative comments about the decoration of the Spirit. Our assessment was that it was very richly appointed, but a little too busy. For example, they have decoration on each and every column in the Pharoah's lounge. The decorations were lovely gold depictions of flying Scarab beetles but would have been nicer if there had been one on every other column, for example. The net result of too much decoration is a closed in feeling on many parts of the ship. The atrium for example has a lot of gold filigree trim. Again, a little too much of a good thing, and so much of it keeps the atrium from having a light and airy feeling. It just closes it in too much. Even so, it is impressive, new, sparkling and clean. The neatest public room is the jungle, which is basically a walkthrough area to the funhouse but it doesn't get too much use because it's out of the way.
We had ordered cabin decorations for my mom's birthday which were unfortunately not there. I waited in line at the purser's office to ask and was told they'd be there by 2. 2 came and went with no decorations. I never did succeed in getting those decorations and now I get to have the fun of disputing the charge on my credit card. I didn't find the purser's staff especially responsive to getting this corrected.
There is a really cool waterslide on this ship at the very top of the ship. Interestingly enough, it does NOT empty into a pool but appears to just recycle its own water. I say appears because it was never open to my knowledge. It was never mentioned in the capers and I never saw or heard any reference to it. It was like it didn't exist. We didn't care enough to be bothered by this but if anyone else knows if it is not usable we'd like to know for curiosity's sake. Perhaps it was too rough on our voyage to be used.
There are only three shops on board, two of which sell the normal selection of duty free and souvenir items. The other shop is the formal shop which sold chocolates, tux rentals flowers etc. The prices for duty free items were not as good as those on shore in the ports, but I think that is typical.
The gym is very large and airy. It has a Jacuzzi in the middle that must be accessed through the spa. Of course the gym would not compare to one on land but does compare favorably to others I've seen on ships. I have to agree with some of the other comments I've seen about cruising becoming LESS inclusive than more inclusive - in addition to the Nouveau Supper Club, there was a soda fountain selling specialty desserts and coffee and there were charges for some of the aerobics classes. No, I am not kidding. Kickboxing for example was a $10 charge. I don't like this trend in cruising. We did not use any of the spa services, finding them on cruise lines to be far more expensive than the same services on land. We do our manicures, pedicures etc before we get on the ship.
The pictures taken on this cruise were excellent. We bought too many. But I have to say that you should buy them, maybe next year you won't look as good, LOL. Also I had bought a really great dress! The backgrounds were varied and interesting and seamless with the floor drapes. The beach shots look just like you are on a beach, and the Titanic staircase background is elegant. Take lots, they don't cost anything to have made! The only problem is that you may buy too many, just like us. We went and looked at our pictures everyday. The only negative comment I have about the pictures is that the shore pictures were all the same, just a life preserver with the port name and date at each port. We didn't buy any of these. At St Maarten, where the Dawn Princess was also docked, they were taking really cool pictures with the ship in the background. Carnival, take note! As a lark we talked about going over and having our pictures made by the Princess photographers but decided we might have a little trouble getting them!
The dining room was richly appointed and again well but over-decorated. It has many tables for two and four and very few tables for larger parties. It was a real disappointment to us to not get to sit at a big table and meet other people. David, the Maitre'D, explained that this was what most people wanted. What a pity. I also noticed that many people did not eat in the dining room. I have never been able to understand that. The Nouveau supper club may have contributed to the emptiness of the dining room but I think many people ate at the LaPlaya grill instead. The only nights heavily attended were Thanksgiving, the second formal night and the last night when the LaPlaya was closed.
Our category 8I cabins were fine. Despite the much-touted size of Carnival cabins we found them to be about the same size as the balcony cabins on the Rhapsody of the Seas. Storage space was excellent, particularly in the bathroom where little glass shelves at intervals provided a perfect place for his and hers toiletries. There was actually more space than we needed and we really don't travel light. There are safes and hairdryers in the cabins.
The selection of in-cabin movies was very poor, three per day and repeated every other day. They are advertised as first run movies, but unless you consider videos from last month first run you would be disappointed. Again, not something we care about (except for my 12 year old daughter) but I mention it just in case you do.
The cabinets and closets are real wood, very classy. One word of caution about the closets. They are not very deep and fasten with a snap together mechanism. Be sure to keep your clothes away from the mechanism. My husband's tux suffered an injury when it was too close to the fastening mechanism. The deck is teak, again very classy and lovely for those bare feet! The larger balcony was very nice in size. The bathrooms are decorated in aqua blue, very retro but nice. One place that Carnival skimped in the cabins is the shower - there is just a curtain. With all the rest of the lovely cabin furnishings why they didn't spring for a shower door is beyond me. We were provided bathrobes to use on our trip. There is a clothesline in the shower, one of those affairs that stretches across and anchors on the other side. Ours did not work, but I just hooked up a bungie cord on the balcony and used clothespins to dry those wet bathing suits.
Our cabin steward's name was Nelson and he provided excellent service and was cheerful and friendly. We had towel animals every day except the first and last. We had mints every day. He did not make our beds into a king and we were not aware that this could be done. Not too conducive to snuggling! But comfortable. My daughter got cookies on both formal nights.
Our balconies were sheltered by a deep overhang and we were directly below the LaPlaya. If you wanted a nice shady spot that was fine. It you wanted a sunbathing spot you were out of luck. We were never bothered by the sounds from the grill above, and the aroma of breakfast each morning was a nice plus. We had a lounge chair, regular chair and small table on the balcony. The doors between balconies DO open, but our steward would not open ours between our adjoining cabins. He stated that it would be a safety risk as they could not be secured once opened. I offered to secure it with a bungie cord but no go. We also provided a $20 tip in the hopes this would help but again no go. They open with a triangle shaped wrench and since we forgot to pack ours, LOL, we were out of luck.
A word here about bungie cords to hold your balcony door open. This will work, however, the doors are very heavy and your bungie cord will get stretched out and ruined. Either bring a heavy duty bungie cord or just prop your door open with your lounge chair.
The balconies are extremely private. Even if you wanted to see your neighbors it would be difficult. There is a small open space on the bottom (big enough for my 12 year old to wriggle through) but you will certainly feel like you are on your own private ship when you are on your balcony.
There was a lot of movement on this ship, particularly on the first day at sea and the first day at sea on the way back. I don't know if it was because we were moving very quickly or if the long narrow configuration of the ship caused the side to side rolling. Everyone commented on it. I did not see anyone sick, nor did we get sick. It was a bit disorienting, though and actually kept me awake one night. Coming back we had our sea legs and coped with it admirably. Once I got off the ship, though, I had trouble getting my land legs! I felt like I was still moving!
Our weather was mostly very good with a few brief downpours. We were walking on the deck one day and noticed a small isolated patch of rain out to sea. Very pretty! by the time we had made two turns of the deck, it was no longer a small patch out to sea but a very large downpour right over the ship - everyone really ran for cover that day! It only lasted a few minutes though. Temperatures were VERY hot and humid in the islands we visited, actually miserable, but you are there once in a lifetime and there to have fun, so ignore the weather and enjoy! We left our balcony door open some nights, but when between ports, it was just too hot and humid to do so.
The casino is very large and enjoyed a lot of activity. You must walk through the casino on deck 2 to get from the atrium to the public rooms in the front of the ship. This was interesting because on other ships, we had to make an effort to go in and they were always patrolled by a staff member to ensure no one under 21 entered. Not only could you enter this one, I several times saw children standing in the casino watching their parents play slot machines. I did not see any children observing play at the tables. One formal night when all the bars were very full, my husband daughter and I sat at the bar in the casino so we could have an after dinner drink (Shirley Temple for my daughter) and this was permitted also. My husband played roulette several nights and came out slightly ahead, unfortunately not enough to make up for our bingo losses. We played blackjack one night and I made about $25. We liked the dealers. In fact, all the staff on the ship was friendly and outgoing.
A couple of notes about drinks here. My daughter purchased a soda card. This is the first cruise where I ever felt she got a real value for it. Not only was she served a large soda (not a small glass) each time she asked, Shirley Temples were also included on the card. It was a great value.
We purchased 20 drink coupons to use on the ship thinking it would a savings. It is not a savings and I am sorry I did this. First of all, the coupons are not in your cabin. They are given to you your first night at dinner and you must ask for them. Had I purchased these as a gift I am not sure they would have been received. Secondly, the coupons state, good for one drink not to exceed $4.75, gratuity included. So there is only a savings if you drink something that costs $4.75 exactly, and what you are saving is the 15% gratuity. Now this does not affect Carnival but affects the poor server bringing the drinks! So, we tried to drink things that cost $4.75 exactly, which are mostly frozen drinks, which we don't care for. I had hoped to use them for wine but this was not allowed. And most times we gave a tip to the server anyway so the drinks we really didn't want cost us more than we would have spent anyway. So, my advice is, don't buy the coupons! The drink prices are in general (except for wine by the glass) much more reasonable than what you would pay on land!
Yes, tips were on the sale and sign card and included a gratuity for restaurant management and for Nouveau Supper club for a total of $9.75 per day per person. Of course we not only left the tips on the card but gave extra to everyone - waiter, assistant waiter, bar servers, cabin steward etc. I asked the staff if they were receiving better or worse tips since this had been implemented. They told me that it had only been two weeks since it had begun so they had no way to tell yet. I also asked several of the staff if they received all the tips that people had on sail and sign cards or if Carnival deducted anything. One person told me of course they received it all, and another told me that they got no breakdown, just a lump sum with no idea who had tipped what. I have no problem with this process as long as the hardworking gals and guys are getting all the money but I just worry that that is not the case. Call me a pessimist but I feel that cruise lines are not above cheating the help. So, if you want to be absolutely sure, take your tips off the sail and sign and hand them out, in cash, yourself. That's what I'll do next time even though it is a convenience to leave them on the card.
The two pool areas also saw a lot of action and the usual silly games etc., which are always great fun to watch. We did not spend much time laying out but noticed the usual lounge chair saving that always seems to happen on Carnival. Even so there were plenty of available spaces. We did not use the pools. It was very windy on deck during our trip.
The jogging deck is nice and you can watch the volleyball players as you make your circuit. Immediately below that is an observation area on deck 9 (actually accessed from deck 10) at the very front of the ship which is very nice. Don't miss this spot for coming into port. Also, if you are into stargazing we found the best place on the ship to do so. Between the funnel and the radar on deck 10 there is a small space where deck chairs are stored at night. This is the darkest area on deck and if you are agile you can climb to the top of the stack of deck chairs, lie down with your binoculars and fall into the sky. I am sure we would not have been allowed to climb on the stack had the staff seen us, but no one was around and we took advantage of this spot on two nights.
One area of disappointment was the age mix on this cruise, it was definitely older. Age groups in the kids clubs were changed around, I think because there wasn't a big group of kids. Our daughter ended up in 12-15 group, not 9-12 group and this group was a little mature for her. As a result, we did more silly Carnival games and activities as a family, but we had a great time doing them. We did crafts (made a Carnival pen case, and got a free Spirit ink pen, whoo hoo) participated in the Scavenger hunt and came in third and watched most of the game show activities. We were never lucky enough to be chosen but had fun watching. Alas, the coveted "ship on a stick" eluded us, and we had to be content with our bronze medals from the Scavenger hunt.
We sat at no less than three different tables in the Empire! We checked our dining table immediately and as we were assigned to a table for four, asked to be moved to a larger table. I love my family but we do have a tendency to run out of things to say to each other after a few days! David promised to try but no guarantee. The first night we were at our originally assigned table and it was fine. Our waiter was John from India and it was love at first sight, what a great guy! Also, our table was positioned so that we could converse with a couple of other tables. So we were content.
Alas, we had monkeyed with fate and David succeeded in moving us to a table for 12. We were happily anticipating meeting our tablemates the next night (formal night). The first family sharing our table arrived. The woman icily demanded what we were doing at her table. When she was informed by the waiter that the seating arrangements had been changed, she glared at us and then quite obviously moved her seat so her back was to us! We tried smiling and striking up a conversation but to no avail. The second family also indicated that they would be happier alone. No, we are not offensive people! The first woman sent back no less than three dishes that night so maybe she was just hard to please. We found them all quite good. The waiter for this section, Trevor, was very efficient but about as friendly and as stone-faced as an undertaker. After suffering through one meal, we very humbly went back to David and asked to be moved again. We had hoped to get our original table back with John but unfortunately someone else had it. I am sure they had a great time. Thank God David was able to accommodate us with another move or this would have been a miserable cruise! Really, I would have sat on the floor, or eaten in the La Playa grill every night rather than suffer through another meal like that!
Our third table was again at a table for 4, with alas, no conveniently positioned tables for conversation with others. As I mentioned before, on many nights the Empire was pretty empty. Our waiter, Benny from Indonesia, was friendly and upbeat but seemed a little overwhelmed on nights when the tables were full. He didn't really connect with my daughter - he treated her more like a six year old than a twelve year old. On the nights when it was less busy, we spent a lot of time talking to both our wait staff about their homelands and this was very interesting. My husband is a real current events nut and can talk to anyone about the events in their homeland. Our assistant waiter, Tommy from Croatia, was a dream. Extremely hard working, very personable, excellent people skills. We singled him out especially on our comment cards. John (our first waiter) also came up to talk to us several times. We gave him a small tip also on the last night which he did not want to take, but we insisted. I guess the team concept was in effect, the waiters called themselves team waiters but I didn't see any difference, you have the same waiter all of the time, and your busboy is now called your assistant waiter...? So what is really different?? Do the waiters have more tables? Our drink server in the Empire was not very personable and usually had to be asked to come to our table.
We found the food in the Empire excellent, the best food we've had on a cruise yet. I have three extra pounds to prove it, too. The lobster tail was large and succulent. Appetizers especially were good, I had at least two and sometimes three every night. Soups were less good but interesting. The pumpkin soup is outstanding. Beef entrees were tender, the duck was excellent, fish good to excellent. I did not have desserts often but my daughter had two or three every night and pronounced them yummy. We had a cheese platter after dinner every night.
We had lunch at the Empire whenever possible and it was also quite good. Lunch is at your regular table, not open seating as it is on RCI. Breakfast is open seating. We had breakfast two times in the Empire and it was OK. Not too much you can do with breakfast.
We ate at the Nouveau one night. It was very good but we cancelled our reservation for a second night. They only have one menu and it is heavily geared to main entrees, very large portions. Presentation of food was outstanding. If they had a second menu we would have returned, but we had tried everything between the four of us that we were interested in and liked the variety in the Empire dining room. We just didn't feel it merited another $80 to eat there again. Also the wine selection was more expensive so we spent more on wine than we did in the Empire.
The Empire was not open for lunch on port days. Two of the port days we had lunch on land. We only ate at the LaPlaya on embarkation day, one port day and for a couple breakfasts. The food was good for cafeteria style fare and very varied. However, I think I got lost in the LaPlaya about five times every time I ate there. All of the different areas for different cuisine are somewhat confusing. Be careful what you are standing in line for . Didn't eat any of the deli sandwiches but had some of the delicious pizza every night about 11:30. Hamburgers looked good but didn't have any. Wasn't really tempted by the midnight buffets other than the night they served sushi, which I partook of liberally. Visited and photographed the grand buffet, which was beautiful, but didn't go back to eat any. Chose pizza instead! Did get to visit with John at the buffet though.
We ate room service for breakfast on several mornings. We put out our hanging orders the night before and our requests were delivered promptly at the time we requested. We tipped $2 each time. The selection was limited but it was nice to have 'breakfast in bed'. My mom ordered tea and coffee from room service at other times of the day and said it was very prompt.
We saw most of the shows. We had a great drink waiter, who always remembered our names, our drinks and our sail and sign card number. All the staff on the ship (well most, except for purser's staff) were great! Friendly, outgoing, offering to take your picture.
I've seen lots of bad reviews of Shawn Bussy which I feel were not merited. She could be irritating at times but all cruise directors have to be a little over the top. I think she connected with the majority of passengers pretty well. At the end of the cruise there is a segment called "up close and personal" where the passengers could ask questions of the cruise director staff. This is very interesting if you like to hear how the other half lives and we heard some pretty wild stories! She really loosened up as the cruise wore on and seemed very likeable. She is Carnival's only female cruise director and I know how tough it is to be a woman in a man's world! My hat is off to her.
We enjoyed singing in the piano bar with Steven one night. Pretty campy. Some folks went every night but once was enough for us.
The captain's cocktail party as well as the repeater's party were well done and well attended. At the captain's cocktail party we ordered from the bar rather than the servers and the drinks were free. We didn't sample any of the appetizers that night. The appetizers served during the repeater's party were yummy, we had some of each. At this party, held in the Pharoah's palace, they were circulating with non-alcoholic punch, two kinds of wine and two kinds of mixed drinks. They were not at all shy about offering seconds and thirds on appetizers and drinks. A funny old gentlemen got up on stage and danced across holding two American flags while the band played classical music. Now those are definitely the moments you remember from your cruise!
We spent WAY too much money playing bingo, we played as a lark the first night and won $50. Well, that did it and we were hooked and played every game after that. Never won a penny! Oh well!. Had fun buying scratch and win cards too, lost a little more there!
We chose this cruise partly for the ship and partly for the itinerary. Neither disappointed. A quick word on the shore excursions though - I had requested a list from Carnival before we left. Once we got on the ship, a new list was in our cabin which did not include some of the excursions that were on the list Carnival sent me. So, don't get your hopes up too much if you use the pre-list. We booked immediately upon boarding the ship and got everything we wanted. We did hear people complaining that they signed up immediately after the shore talk and didn't get their choices. So, if there is something you are particularly interested in you might want to sign up on the first day aboard.
In St Maarten my huband and I did the America's Cup Regatta. Unfortunately there was no wind that day, but it was still informative and interesting if not exactly exciting. My mom and daughter did the butterfly farm tour and said they had a great time. Afterwards we took a cab to Marigot on the French side. I am a student of the French language so take every opportunity to use my French. I found the French on St Martin to be colloquial and difficult to understand. We had some wonderful calamari,onion soup and beaujoulais in La Bar de la Mer (I highly recommend it!) and then did some perfume shopping at Lipsticks. The clerk was from Provençal and was living in St Martin as the economy (and weather) was better than in France. She took her 5 weeks vacation each year to return home. Always interesting to meet people from faraway places.
On Barbardos, my daughter, husband and I did a snuba expedition. This is a great introduction to scuba. You are fitted with a regulator but instead of a tank on your back, the tank rests in a little raft. You can either use your regulator as a snorkel and hold on to the raft or dive down to look at the wreck, about 20 feet below. Although scary at first it was fun. Kelsy who is a champion swimmer, was all over the wreck within minutes. I'm a little more timid but found my way down before it was over. My mom did the city tour of Barbardos which she enjoyed. After our snuba, we had a cold drink at a nearby restaurant and then rather than take a taxi back, we walked over to Columbia Emeralds and I was lucky enough to become the proud owner of a small but exquisite emerald pendant and earrings. We were helped by Michelle who was interrupted when her boyfriend drove up outside the store and honked his horn! We told her to go see what he needed, we'd wait!.
Beware that if you want to shop at the cruise terminal in Barbados which has lots of interesting shops - the shops close well before the ship leaves. You are in port from noon - 10. We did our tour and some shopping in town and then returned to the ship for dinner, planning to return after dinner for some shopping before 10 pm. Everything was closed except for one ambitous shopkeeper that stayed open. Bet she made a lot of money!
Martinique was by far my favorite port. I would like to go back and spend more time someday. Rather than take a tour, we hooked up with a taxi driver who spoke some English to take us into town. Of course I spoke French to him all of the way. He gave us a great mini-tour and then asked if he could meet us when we were. ready to leave. We made arrangements to meet him at 1:00 pm and sure enough he was there and waiting for us. We shopped for more perfumes, cadeaux (gifts) and wine at La Cave a Vin. I had hoped that La Cave a Vin would be open for lunch but unfortunately it was not. We had a great time picking out some wines and pates. The proprietress had a ten year old daughter who was learning English so we were able to practice our languages on each other much to our mutual delight. Thre French spoken in Martinique is much closer to that spoken in France although they tend to 'tutouyer' (use the familiar tu form) much more quickly than I am used to. After all of our shopping we had some boisson froids (cold drinks) and I put my mom and daughter in a taxi for the ship. My husband and I explored a bit more and then had Salad Niçoise and kirs at a restaurant on the water during a downpour! Just as we were beginning to worry about carrying our box of wine in the rain, it stopped. We hooked up with our taxi driver again and he took us around the town square. We stopped several times to take pictures. We made a brief stop at the terminal duty free shop, where I saw many ship employees buying liquor and cigarettes, and then it was sadly time to return to the ship. I was very sorry to leave our last port.
I found all of the people on all of the islands charming and hospitable. There was none of the buying pressure that I have seen in Mexican ports or especially in Jamacai! Martinique was the cleanest and most sophisticated. I saw lots of people on the ship with braids so there must have been people offering to braid hair at some of the ports but we were never asked.
There was more security getting back on the ship after each port. In addition to using your sail and sign card to identify yourself (you insert in a machine and your picture comes up), you were wanded and all of your carryons had to go through the xray machine. In addition, you were asked to show your ship card in two of the three ports before you were even allowed into the terminal building.
Then it was two more fun days at sea prior to returning to Miami. Frankly the last day was one day too many. Our minds were already back at home by this time and it was difficult to relax and have a good time. Also by this time we had sampled most of the ship's activities and were repeating. I always said I could never get enough of days at sea but I guess that is just not true.
Disembarkation was painless. Of course, finding your luggage in that sea of black bags in that huge room is quite a challenge.
The worst moment of the trip occurred when we arrived home to realize we had left one of our bags at the Cruise Terminal. Frankly, we just lost count, sort of like Home Alone and counting heads. I called Carnival on the way home. They stated that our lost bag would be shipped out the next day via UPS and that we'd get it in 5 to 7 business days. I sure hope so. Our medications and exposed film is on that bag so it would sure be a huge shame to lose it. I'll write to the board and let everyone know if we get it safely or not. I am sure that this happens all of the time and that most people get their bags just fine. Wish us luck everyone.
Also we arrived home to an ice storm in Dallas. It was cold, dark and depressing. It's fortunate that I can relive the cruise by writing this review!
Just a few days later and it already seems like it was just a dream. Now we're thinking about the next group who sailed after us and what they are doing today. Wonder who's in our cabin? And we're starting to dream about that next vacation..Happy Sailing Everyone!