5 THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT A CARNIVAL CRUISE

News you might use before you do a Carnival cruise

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about going on a cruise for the second time in my life. My first experience, a year prior on a different ship, was good but I did find that feelings of boredom outweighed the fun bits from time to time. This trip was different, I was more prepared and determined to make some rare time off a good experience.

I was on board the Carnival Spirit for a 12 Day cruise to the South Pacific a few months back – but when it came time to research bits about the ship I have to admit I struggled a bit to find solid, reputable information from people who had actually cruised. So, if you find yourself going on board the Carnival Spirit from Australia soon, here’s 5 things that I think (or at least hope) you might want to know.

1. THE ROOMS ARE WELL-EQUIPPED

I found myself a bit confused after reading various reviews from people who had been on board the Carnival Spirit. As it turns out I spent half the cruise in a balcony room and then due to a ship problem (more on that in a future blog) was moved to a suite. So let’s get to it:

Balcony room serving up Golden Girls realness.
Balcony room serving up Golden Girls realness.

BALCONY ROOM
Decor: The rooms are clean but a bit of a late 90s/early 00’s take on the Golden Girls set. Lots of coral/peach colours, aztec patterns and framed prints can be found. There’s a wooden desk with draws and a wardrobe area with long and mid-hanging rails and shelves which can comfortably fit your clothes. There’s a mini-bar, Australian powerpoints, safe which opens with your credit card or room card and a TV which also serves as your interactive information station. There’s a lounge which becomes a single bed, two side tables, a large bed and a balcony area with two chairs.

Bathroom: The bathroom is pleasantly on the larger side with a decent basin, wall storage for toiletries, a magnifying mirror and a shower and toilet. There’s soap as well as shampoo and conditioner provided in pump-action units that are refilled frequently.

Size: If you’ve travelled in a P&O Balcony room this one will feel a bit smaller than that but it’s not uncomfortable at all.

Suite ... Sweet.
Suite … Sweet.

SUITE
Decor: This room is appointed in a much more plush style, still a bit dated, but with much nicer touches including a glamorous and somehow stable bar area with mirrored wall and enough drinking glasses to equip a small hotel. Marble/granite features heavily both here and in other areas of the room. There’s a wall of mirror behind the bed which gives the room an even larger feel. Big thick curtains, an extra large deck with two chairs and two deck chairs, a larger TV, a safe, a lounge and armchair and significantly bigger in-room wardrobes. There’s also a private dressing room area with door, table, hollywood mirror and even more wardrobes. Phew.

Bathroom: 
Did somebody say Whirlpool bath? The suite bathroom is much larger and features a spa, walk in large shower, double basins with marble/granite features and larger floor space. Toiletries are the same.

Size: This suite is huge – seriously. It was almost too big, but it made the relaxation element of this holiday even better. The bedroom area is large and very comfortable, the dressing room is a nice size and the bathroom is great. The real star of this suite is the deck which is so large I found myself marvelling at it everytime I stepped outside.

2. THERE’S ENOUGH FOOD TO, UM, SINK A SHIP.

Eating – let’s be honest, it’s the real tourist attraction on a ship holiday. When you’re on board a ship the size of the Carnival Spirit there’s no real need to have one dedicated all-you-can-eat venue, because you find yourself eating on a timetable that never really stops. Here’s the main food options:

SALADBAR
You don’t make friends with salad but this bar is great.

A) Buffet Lovers –  Lido Restaurant. Confusing at first but once you get the hang of it, actually pretty smart. Breakfast is served here (virtually the same options daily), Lunch and Dinner. The room is divided into different bars, serving salad, deli-style sandwiches, snags, delicious mini pies, hot meals from all countries and a desert bar. The real winner here for me was the salad bar, it has a HEAP of options and they’re all great for doing menu hacks – I found myself making a good salad and getting a hot schnitzel from the grill to make a warm salad.

A Starter, Entree and Desert at the Empire.
A Starter, Entree and Desert at the Empire.

B) Routine Food Lovers – Empire Dining Room – This is an over-the-top looking dining room that is huge but oh so efficiently run. You’ll most likely sit at the same table each night and order off a menu featuring a page of selections that never change and a page of selections that change daily. You’ll order starter, entree (Main) and desert if you can stomach it. It’ll arrive like clockwork and it’s usually a decent quality but there’s some real hits and some real misses. There’s also entertainment in the dining room each night which some will love and some will find annoying. But it’s the fun ship, so there’s no such thing as eating in peace.

Nouveau Restaurant. Fancy.
Nouveau Restaurant. Fancy.

C) Fine Dining Lovers – Nouveau Restaurant – A fine dining option for luxury on the high seas this is a lovely white-tablecloth restaurant which features a more refined take on the meals served in the Empire Dining Room. It’ll cost you $40 for dinner but kids under 12 are $12.

Comfort food and sea breezes go hand-in-hand.
Comfort food and sea breezes go hand-in-hand.

D) Comfort-food eatersThe Grille and Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, – Both options here serve up comfort food hot and daily. The Grille has your hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot (real) and delicious chicken schnitzel and chips plus salads and sides. At Fat Jimmy’s you’ll find a Texas BBQ take on this with pulled pork rolls, delicious glazed chicken breasts, corn bread and potato salad among other features. You’ll also find a line up most of the times Fat Jimmy’s is open, but it’s worth it.

24 hour pizza. Yes pizza.
24 hour pizza. Yes pizza.

E) All Night Eaters – Pizza Pirate, Swirls Bar, Room Service – It’s a known fact that cows technically have four stomachs so if you happen to be travelling with a bovine, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s food options through the night. Room Service which is serviced from the same kitchens as the main room mean good food is available through the night, Pizza Pirate (located in the Buffet area) serves up five kinds of fresh hot pizza 24 hours a day and then there’s Swirls located in the hallways just between the Lido Buffet and the pool which serve frozen yoghurt and soft serve also day and night. As it turns out Pizza Pirate was my favourite place to grab a bite on the entire ship.

If you have a special diet – make sure you let the ship know in advance and I’m told they’ll accommodate it. I was on a gluten free meal plan at the time so I was pleased to find some great options on board. I also watched the staff cook up special orders for people who couldn’t stomach carb-heavy meals. You’ll also find a healthy choice starter, main and dessert at every sitting at the Empire.

3. THERE’S LOTS TO DO… REALLY

Actually, there is. There’s the usual cruise ship activities which range from fun to naff. Some people could barely afford their drinks tabs, so the idea of people actually buying art at auctions on board is hilarious. There’s card games, board games, Zumba classes, trivia contests (with cool quirky trophies that feature ship replicas) dancing, mini-golf courses, cocktail making and of course musicals and shows. The Carnival Spirit also features a rather large casino and games zone on board which is addictive to both participate and watch people lose money in. That said, I would bring a book or two, or load up the iPad with some books and games, to combat those times when you just can’t stomach another hypnotist making people squawk like chickens.

4. YOU’LL STRUGGLE TO FIND A CROWD

Fact: I was on a 12 night cruise that was fully-booked. Fact: The only time I found myself stuck in a crowd was during a show or sometimes on theme nights at dinner. The Carnival Spirit is a really big ship, the biggest I’ve been on, and despite there being a few thousand people on board I never felt crowded. In fact there’s plenty of times where you’ll find yourself walking through lounges or hallways and only encountering one or two people. And if you do find yourself stuck in a crowd or wanting some time away from the kids on board there’s the Adults-only area (Serenity) that exists to help you relax even more. That feeling of space on board actually adds to your holiday experience – or at least it did for me.

5. THERE’S SERVICE WITH A SMILE

The staff on board Carnival come from all walks of life, all countries and as a result speak many languages. They’re also on board a ship for months and years at a time and don’t really have days off – so keep that in mind. That being said, I had great experiences with mostly all of the staff I encountered – except for the shore excursion salesman, eep – and they’re always there to help. Being an American ship, but also one where both cleaning and restaurant staff rely on tips to supplement their income, it’s a nice idea to leave a token for staff that really made your cruise a great one. If there’s no physical cash left in your wallet, a smile goes a long way too.

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