I am slightly nervous being without my husband and kids, but when a crew member delivers a friendly “Hey welcome aboard’, all anxiety dissipates. I discover my cabin, which is bright and breezy with ample storage, comfy bed, flat screen tv and a picture perfect balcony for me to relax on, is all very shipshape. Bon voyage baby I think, as I bounce on my bed.
My first thing to do is head to the adults only sanctuary, Serenity Deck, to meet my fellow travellers for a cocktail. Mojito is my drink of choice and goes down awfully well as we listen to some cool tunes, and leave port for the deep blue sea. You can’t get a much higher view to the Sydney Harbour bridge and Opera House from the deck, as we quickly settle into party mode, the atmosphere is electric. Serenity is my favourite part of the ship, the new modern fitout is full of lots of padded deck chairs, lounges, pool, heated spa and cool turquoise cabanas designed for 2 to cocoon in. I am thinking every backyard should have a “Serenity Deck” installed.
I am here to check out cruising cuisine and I am expecting to be queing for the buffet, however I am pleasantly surprised when told Carnival Spirit boasts several 5 star restaurants. There are gastronomic surprises everyday, from the ‘Long Lunch at Sea’ at Nouveau restaurant to Fat Jimmy’s outdoor bbq. The slow cooked pulled pork is sensational, and not to be missed.
If you like buffets, there is a more casual dining option on the Lido deck offering a high standard of international cuisine all day long.
Lido bar serves 24 hour pizza and ice cream, and they also have a bottomless cup soft drink bar, perfect for teens. If you are like me, and prefer table service, you will love the Empire dining room for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The extensive menu includes Aussie favourites, like lamb cutlets, steak, pasta plus seafood, including lobster, and everything you expect from a regular Sydney restaurant, as a bonus all the wine and cocktails are very well priced. The Empire room is impressive, you can choose to be seated in the same seat anytime between 5:45 and 9:30 p.m. if you fancy. You also have the choice of sitting with six strangers or to quietly dining on your own as I did once for breakfast. There is also an authentic Japanese experience available in the newly-added Bonsai Sushi restaurant, as well as poolside burgers and burritos at Guy Fieri’s Burger Joint and the colourful BlueIguana Cantina on the top deck.
With all this beautiful food, some physical activity is needed. Unlike our American counterparts who like to rest on holiday, us Aussies like to relax, but we also like to exercise and keep busy. Carnival indulges your every whim, and you are spoilt for choice with over 45 daily activities. Carnival Spirit has a multi-level gym , so you can sweat it out on the treadmill or cycle with million dollar views of the ocean, plus there’s a fully equipped weights room, with plenty of room to swing those dumb bells. To really get your heart racing, check out the steepest and fastest waterslide at sea, Green Thunder -a definite must for thrill seekers.
Carnival Spirit has something for everyone and have thought carefully about what you might need and want on your cruise. You will find the youngsters and the young at heart, partying and bar hopping till the wee hours. The nightlife is action packed with a comedian, hypnotist, piano singer, karaoke and bands to keep you entertained every night. Even the barmen create a show while serving mini martini’s at one of the bars.
Families can enjoy the choice of 3 pools and spas, a gym, mini golf, a waterpark, DJ, deck party plus great kids clubs catering for ages 2-17. Carnival have even worked out that families and couples will enjoy a professional photography session. This is a wonderful service, you can have family holiday memories recorded on board or in port at one of the tropical locations, the results are fabulous.
If you don’t like mingling with new friends, never fear, there are plenty of spaces to escape the crowds on the upper decks. It’s easy to find a lonely sunlounger, where you can relax with your own private ocean view and a good book, it really is magical.
Forgetful? And you didn’t pack your tux and shoes for the elegant night? Carnival have you thought of you too, and you can hire a suit, shoes, frock and accessories from one the rental shops. Now that’s good service.
Watching the sunrise as we cruise into New Caledonia is blissful, but my day trip to the Isle of Pines is truly sensational. Pristine, aquamarine waters, white sandy beaches and you guessed it, more fabulous food. You can relax all day on the beach soaking up the sun, or go snorkeling or sight seeing on the island. Our hosts are delightful and look after everyone on board.
I really don’t want to, but I can tick cruising off my bucket list.
I now understand why cruising really is addictive, so I will now add “taking the family on Carnival Spirit” to the bucket list.
Top cruising tips
- Board early so you can make the most of any special offers and raffles
- Book your beauty treatments upon boarding so you don’t miss out
- Get all your off shore trips booked before leaving
- Don’t stay in your cabin; get involved in all the hourly activities, if that’s not your thing, you can always find a quiet location to read a book.
- Book a room in the middle of the ship for a smoother ride
- Study the ships layout so you have an idea of where your cabin is before boarding
- Complete all your pre-embarkation paperwork well before the cut-off so you can board when you want to board.
- Print your boarding pass and luggage tags and attach to your bag
- Read your daily newsletter so you don’t miss out on the list of over 40 activities.
- Do order room service for breakfast just once and enjoy the uninterrupted view from your room. (The big bonus is it’s very reasonable)
- Make some time to book a family photography session onboard. Where else will you get that kind of view?
What to pack
- Passport, you are going overseas after all!
- Travel sickness medication, crystallised ginger.
- Thongs or sandals, sneakers and 1 pair of high heels for 5 star dining
- Casual clothes, cardigan for cooler nights and a few outfits for the nightlife
- Sunscreen, sunhat, snorkels (these are available to hire but nice to have your own), light waterproof jacket.
- A good book and mags
- Pack walkie talkies so you can stay connected with loved ones on board
- Chef’s table is worth booking with great food and a sneak peak at behind the scenes of a ships kitchen.
- Book in a time at the Empire room so you can plan your night.