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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Spirit

Fodorite Reviews

Average Rating

By Daly_CR

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Jan 19, 2016

Pacific Islands

Perfect for what you pay for, except the lack of professional staff in some areas of the ship (Carnival's Serenity) for adults. Had an unpleasant time there, and never came back since we felt threatened. Food was actually fine at the value we got. Excellent cabin, clean and maintained well daily. Perfect activities for kids and family. Mystery Island was a bless. Wonderful time we had on this trip with family.

Unfortunately, some staff members speak in their own language in the presence of passengers, and numerously hearing profanity in English, not the kind of thing you want to listen to when having a coffee. Heard supervisors telling off staff often too. One unforgettable experience we wish to share with everyone, hopefully to look out, or voice concerns when this happen to ensure future passengers enjoy their holiday (don't we all). Neglected bar at 'Carnival's Serenity' was a major disappointed. Husband walked up to the bar and waited for sometime, called out for assistance, no one showed up, we could see staff socialising inside the backroom through the side doors, but they seem to be busy chatting away. We waited for 10 minutes, until we saw a happy Filipino staff member walked out from the backdoor into the bar. The moment she saw us, and my husband walking towards the bar, her pleasant smile diminished as if we were the nuisance of the day. It was not as busy either. My husband asked mentioned to her of how long we waited for, she looked at me and then said to him 'What would you like to order' ignoring his concern. He placed the order and we sat together till our order came through, no thank you or enjoy from the staff member. When we ordered another drink and she brought it to us, we enquired about the delay and if she was ok, she gave us the most rudest of any look I experienced since my high school years. She said that she is fine and quickly walked away back to the bar. She picked up the phone and talked loudly in her foreign language. Moments later, a security guard came to the bar area and started chatting to her in their language. It really felt odd, the guard kept on looking at us. We could hear her tome of voice, sounding upset (can tell a lot from the body language), but he seem to comfort her while giving us the stares. We finished our drinks and left. We wrote to the captain and wrote again two months later to management about this experience. Never heard a thing, except online survey requests (which usually take place after a cruise). We are not a big fan of high expectations from staff members providing a service, and we are very happy with the cruise line, but that experience made a permanent impression on this cruise line.

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Aug 9, 2015

one way trip sydney to singapore

I am still on it, and it is the Fawlty Towers of the sea. It is going for a refit and it shows. There are no complaints/suggestions boxes. You just queue for a very long time, then get a gormless look and be told that it would be noted...and forgotten needless to say Having been on a Carnival Legend cruise in March 2015, it is like being in a time warp. Same repetition on the menus and the tv is on a two day loop, and was

the same as when on the Legend, so other then the news, it is as still on the Legend Have Indian Chef and it shows but someone should have pointed out that the meals just do not match. Mexican night, only time saw Brussel Sprouts.... in Mexican duh, When having a lovely rib of beef roast, no green veg to go with it.. plenty of Indian food but no green veg for the roast... time after time it is the same. The mix is just wrong Now 12 days into the cruise and ever lunch time that pie and snags counter are still pumping out Lamb and Feta snags... day after day. It is as if they have a few tonnes of them so getting rid of them. Variety would be nice. This morning, trying to make a bacon sandwich... every bit of white bread, on all serving stations were frozen... something as simple as not having bread frozen in the center should not be hard. 5139 is one cabin to avoid if just a couple or single. The sofa is a sofa bed and very uncomfortable and the small balcony had a triangle area in the corner which restricts the placement of the chairs and table. So you have to giggle the table etc for two people to get out average entertainment and activities. Way over priced tours. It is like waking up in a time warp and thinking I am still on the Legend... turn on tv and the same repeated channels as were on the Legend. Surely Canival can afford to have enough in their budget to give passengers better then the repeat, repeat cycle. This is my last Carnival Cruise... I go on two per year and changed the jan cruise to a Princess. At least on my last cruise with them I could get more then lamb and feta sausages and frozen bread.

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Dec 18, 2012

New Caledonia

Disappointing. We were expecting Carnival and got Carnival Lite. Too many kids. Relaxing ports with good snorkeling. The food was fair and has deteriorated significantly in quality since we sailed on Spirit less than 2 years ago from San Diego to Mexico. No lobster and very little seafood (other than defrosted prawns/shrimp or fish fillets) served in the dining room. Several people returned the lamb on one of the later nights because it

was so tough they couldn't cut or chew through it. The choice was very limited. Only 2 courses offered for dinner plus dessert. Soup/salad and appetizer all in same course (about 5 choices in all) and main course was choice of five. Amongst the most lack lustre cruises we've ever had for food. The buffet was OK for breakfast and lunch but very limited for dinner. One station is devoted to meat pies, sausage rolls and other Australian fast food 'delicacies' at lunch. The Asian and Caribbean were popular as were the Hamburger grill and overworked and very slow pizza section where you have to wait in line before ordering your pizza (limited choice of 6 - no vegetarian) and then wait again for the guy to roll the dough and pass it in through the window to have the toppings applied and the pizza to be cooked before it finally comes out again and you have to jostle for position to get it before someone else does. It would take about 15 minutes to get a piece of pizza - all going well. Our balcony cabin was the usual layout although it seemed slightly smaller than some we've had but we couldn't figure out why. The cabin steward (Putu) was the best one we've had in years. The things I most liked were that the supplied hairdryer was actually strong enough to dry my hair, the mattress was more comfortable than many I have had previously, the shower curtain somehow stayed in place and did not keep trying to attack me while I was in the shower (like on most ships). Whatever they did to it they should also do on other ships. What I didn't like was the bad vibrations you could feel while lying down on your bed especially when the ship was travelling below full speed. It was only after experiencing them again did I remember they had occurred on the sailing to Mexico as well. They seem to disappear when the ship is travelling at 20-21 knots but at 10-12 knots (ie when travelling between the actual ports of call) they are quite pronounced. Onboard activities were fairly poor and aimed mainly at children (eg. hula hooping and paper aeroplane making). The movies on show were old and many very old Australian movies (repeated numerous times) like The Castle and Strictly Ballroom. Yawn. The TV service was poor. No music channel, limited news, limited old movies repeated several times. The gym as usual was great, the Spa popular, the mini-golf fun. The kids waterpark area looked fun but can't have been too great because there were usually about 20 kids sitting in each of the two main whirlpools/spas on deck at any time of the day/evening and lots more splashing in the main pools. This made it very difficult for any adult to use one without risking being bombarded by many small and unsupervised children. The large water slides seemed to mainly be open when the ship was in port. The shows appeared to be the same as those I had seen two years earlier. The dancing/entertainment crew seem to have it fairly easy on this ship performing for about 7 hours throughout the 9-10 days of an average cruise. They surely can't need that much practise if they are doing the same shows as 2 years ago. There was the usual trivia for a ship on a stick. Only one morning of wake up TV with the cruise director (last sea day), only one dance class (last afternoon of the cruise - not much use if you wanted to practise while you had bands and dance floors available to you throughout the cruise. Bingo sales appeared fairly brisk. The scrapbooking was a joke - no kits were supplied - only limited left over supplies from past cruises with no guidance. No other arts and crafts offered other than paper aeroplane making. There were a few exercise classes for free - more than on some other ships. The Captain's Welcome Party (held at the Atrium bar) was a sad affair - no free drinks or nibbles anymore - and we had to go up to the next level to see where he was. There was no party held for returning passengers as supposedly there weren't enough to warrant it. Overall almost the worst cruise for onboard activities we've been on but it could have been worse. The excursions were expensive. In Noumea I would suggest you book a city tour when you get to the cruise terminal if that' what you want to do. They are priced at least $10 less than on the ship. Alternately, if you have local money it is easy to catch a public bus to either of the main beaches Anse Vata or Citron/Lemon Bay. In Mare the majority of the passengers paid $15/16 each for local transportation to a beach about 20 minutes away. Many people returned complaining of bluebottle/jellyfish stings. We snorkeled right near where the tender pulled up in a roped off area. It was very good but only suitable for agile people who can climb in and out of the water on a ladder and who are also good swimmers as the water is at least 8-10 feet deep and there is nowhere you can stand up in the water. In Isle of Pines you just need to walk to the beach or snorkeling area - no need for a tour at all. In Lifou you can walk to the beach just near the tender jetty. We had been looking forward to our cruise as we have been waiting for Carnival to come to Australia for a long time. What we got was Carnival Lite. In their usual wisdom, a cruise company has yet again decided that Australians are happy to pay more for their cruises than their American counterparts for less of everything. We sailed on the Spirit less than two years ago and the difference in what we experienced between then and now was significant. The only real improvement was our cabin steward. Everything else was similar or worse. The food, activities, movies, TV and even the cruise director (though he was the same one) and his staff were much worse. The ship itself was looking a little tired. The worst thing though about the entire cruise was the number of unruly and unsupervised children running riot throughout the ship at ALL hours of the day AND night. It was like Camp Carnival and the rest of the childrens program wasn't running. There were literally 100s of children (figures of over 500 and 900 were overheard on board) and no-one appeared to be responsible for them. Whereas usually they are being looked after and entertained in their own areas, on this cruise they took over all the areas. It ruined the enjoyment of many passengers - even some with their own kids complained to me about the other kids. The only areas you could escape were the gym and the adults only Serenity area at the rear of the ship. However, much of the Serenity area is taken up by 'private' two people pods/cabanas that are staked out by people at 5am and never vacated - some people even slept in them at night to make sure they had them the next day. This means that people seeking some peace and quiet relaxation time are very restricted in where they can go. We found we spent a lot of time in the cabin or on the balcony just to get away. Carnival will need to limit the number of children on board or drastically improve the services they provide to keep the 100s of kids busy, entertained/amused if they want people seeking a relaxing holiday &/or those without kids to come back to the Spirit or maybe they are happy for them to go to Royal Caribbean/Celebrity and Princess instead.

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Nov 18, 2012

Glacier Bay

We enjoyed cruising the Inside Passage and visiting the glaciers. Everything was just beautiful. Food was good. Enjoyed the evening dinners and the Steak House. Stateroom was great. We got a balcony on the rear of the ship and enjoyed the a very good view throughout the cruise. We also enjoyed sitting on the balcony in the evenings and listing to the prop wash, very relaxing. We didn't attend to many activities except for the

family stage show normally each evening around 8PM. Most of our time was spent relaxing on our balcony. Juneau we took the Evening Whale Watch excursion. The weather was cool, cloudy and off and on rain. We saw a glimpse of a few humpback whales. Water was very rough, boat spent a lot of time running around in heavy fog looking for whales. Would advise against this excursion any time weather is rainy and foggy. Took the Steam Engine Train ride in Skagway. Very beautiful trip up through the mountains into Canada. Attended the Lumberjack Show in Ketchikan. Good show, but priced too high. Enjoyed the trip very much, first time to Alaska. Enjoyed taking in the view of the Glaciers while sitting on our balcony.

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Feb 5, 2012

Hawaii

Five previous cruises on Carnival and we have had a good time on all, but noticed a general downturn in food and entertainment as we took more cruises. This, our sixth cruise only proved that point to my wife and I. Love the fact that they have past guest parties and some upgrades, but that is not enough to make up for our cruise this time. We love cruising and have never cruised on another cruise line, but we will be changing next time. Food,

both on the Lido deck and in the dining room was better on past cruises. There were times that the meals were tasty, but much of the food was just soaked in grease especially the bacon in the morning. Deserts were fantastic. My biggest complaint on the food was that it was barely warm, both in the dining room and on the Lido deck. This has nothing to do with the food, but the tile floors around the grills were extremely slippery and I fell down when my feet just went out from under me. The floors were not wet, but were extremely greasy from the open grills. I notified one of the floor mgr's, but did not notice a change for several days. Drinks on board are way too expensive. Average price is $8.75 with tip and a beer is around $6.00. Stateroom was kept clean and in good order and the room steward was great. Same old stuff as on previous cruises. Saw the same New Orleans show 2 years ago on a different ship. Carnival really needs to do something about their entertainment or they will lose return customers like myself. I really expected different shows two years later. Most all the on board activities were repeats also. We chose this cruise so we could see the humpback whale migration going on around Hawaii this time of year and were not disappointed, but to spend a total of 10 days at sea over and back this time of year turned out to be a real bummer. We had only one day of sun and no wind. The rest were very cold and windy. If I had it to do over, I would fly over and spend a couple weeks on an island. We took a couple tours, but highly recommend doing your own thing in Hawaii. Get off the ship and talk to some of the tour van drivers that are at the dock. Most are pretty honest and do a good job. Check to see if they have a PUC permit and tour license. I would not recommend this in Mexico or the Carribean. Stay with the ship tours there. Do be sure to get back to the ship on time. 5 people were left behind in Honolulu when the ship left on time. Not sure what happened.

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Oct 6, 2011

Alaska-Skagway-Juneau-Ketchikan

We had a ball on the cruise, but mostly because we were together as a family group of 23. Our children, aged 15 to 22, had the best time as they met a host of other people their age and hung out together. I think the cruise would have been harder without the group as the kids might have had a hard time meeting people and, as adults, we would have been bored without people to hang out with. What surprised me the most was how early the entertainment

shut down and the none of the bars offered a "happening" spot. Most were poorly attended. It seemed where our family was - that's where the action was. Having said that - The crew and service were awesome and Alaska is a phenomenal place to visit. In Skagway, we went on a 4x4 mule/golf cart ride, booked through the ship. It was a fun ride and the food was delicious. But for people who were hoping for something more akin to ATV and roller coasters, it wasn't that adventurous. We did manage a short hike in Skagway and that was fun. In Ketchikan, the kids loved the Lumberjack Show. The teenage girls even went back and saw it a second time. We went for a hike there, also and the rain forest was beautiful. In Juneau we organized a helicopter that we booked on our own using Coastal Helicopters. Booking on our own was easy and saved us a bundle. The whole family group traveled to the glacier together and the flights proved magnificent. This trip was the splurge and was definitely worth it. Overall - We had a great trip. I'd say skip the "free drink" events, unless it's beer or wine as the drinks weren't worth the time. The food in the dining room was excellent and endless. The food at the buffets was also delicious. I was glad they had a salad bar as veggies were hard to find. We had an inside stateroom. While cheaper, I'd go for a window next time. Without a window, the place was pitch dark and you couldn't tell what time it was. The onboard activities weren't that great. We had fun in karaoke only because we were all together. The kids went in the dance club but were kicked out because one of them was 17 -- even though no one else but the kids were in the club. The younger teens didn't really like Club O2. The shows and comics were good. Other than that, we played a lot of cards. We're not really gamblers, so the casino wasn't our choice of entertainment. I'd say the helicopter ride to the glacier was awesome. But, the scenery is so beautiful in Alaska, I don't think you can do badly as long as you're there for the scenery.

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Aug 3, 2011

Alaska

We had a great time. The weather was perfect in all ports. We saw lots of whales, bald eagles, waterfalls and beautiful scenery. Food was good. Best in the formal dining. Buffets were much the same as other cruise ships. Good desserts. Our room was ready when we got on the boat. Be sure to pack your power strip, hairdryer is in the drawer under the mirror, bungee cord for the balcony door. We had the extended balcony and the

room was a little shorter than normal. Best bar for dancing was in the Cool Club lounge (smoking). You can sit just outside for non-smoking. That had the best band. Shows -- Went to 3 shows. Two were sleepers but don't miss the last show. On Sunday night, the "Best of New Orleans" was the best I have seen in a long time. Comedy shows were fun. The family comedy show was the best. Pictures --- they have gone up like everything. Now cost $22 a picture. Drinks are up also. With the added on tip, drinks are now $10 each. Side trips take the binoculars,whale watching tours, binoculars are provided. Skagway -- Panning for gold is fun. The train ride is long and most people got bored. This stop was a little long. Good Branson type show in town at the end of Broadway street (The Days of 98). Lots of helicopter tours. Juneau -- trip to the Mendenhall glacier is a must. Good whale watching tours here also. Ketchikan - Skip the Totem tours, not much to see there. The Lumberjack show is the best and is right off the ship. When finished, the shopping is close. This is the shortest stop. Carnival shorts the guests on this stop. Victoria -- This stop was no more than walk off the ship, take a bus into town ($8), get a few pictures (best Totems are here). Get back on the ship and pack. Very short and most things are closed. Shopping in port -- Good shopping in Skagway and Juneau. Juneau had the best bargains. Ketchikan is a very short stop. Hard to do much of anything in this port. We enjoyed this cruise. Expected it to be cold and packed too many warmer clothes. Jeans and long sleeve pullovers or light windbreakers worked all the time. Might have to do this cruise again. We'll be doing the Alaska tour again. Probably will trip another cruise line but had a great time on Carnival.

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Jul 26, 2011

Seattle-Alaska-Seattle

Pleasant boat, good exercise walking on upper deck, and most crew very attentive. We booked a "handicapped access cabin" because it had great balcony, good space and king bed. Dining room nothing special, buffet plenty of choice and better views, but could get crowded of course. Steak house on upper level (extra) marvelous food and staff..A true experience to remember We also liked access to free tea/coffee any time, deli and ice cream.. Only cruise

we found with small boat excursion in Fiord up to glacier - stunning. Also only one of two cruises going to Skagway on Friday when steam train had its once per week run. Stop in Juneau long enough for private trip (walk) to Alaska State Museum, exceptionally interesting re. Eskimo life and Alaska under Russia and then purchase by US.. Nice gift shop, away from tourist shops in towns. Biggest let down was entertainment.. Main show was noisy, often discordant, and trying to do too much every night. Aside from one show-stopper the rest was highly forgettable. The adult comedy would have been good but for one portion when anti-Hispanic remarks crossed the line from humour to bigotry, unlike other ethnic jokes It was repeated the next night making it worse. We filed a complaint and had an apology. Do not expect any quiet places to relax on this vessel - only one's cabin. And expect probably like most cruises to have photography pushed,expensive drinks pushed, jewelry pushed, etc etc. Also the library was minimal - take some books if you want to read. See general comments. We also disliked that sailing in the Pacific NW salmon was offered that was Norwegian, frozen. The buffet was more than adequate, good salad bar, mix of regular vs. regional food, and had the best desserts too. Great. Nice decor, and the "handicapped room" which could have been re-assigned, had a big bathroom and rectangular shape with two chairs and small table by doors to long verandah. However the larger overhang from above reduced sunshine, when there was any (not often in Alaska or BC). When we wanted quiet we retreated to our little corner, sometimes taking meal from buffet with us. Not much relevant for us - but the walking deck was very good. Don't miss Tracy Arm Fjord small boat excursion. Take one or other train ride in Skagway. - we took 4 hour round trip steam train - with champagne in the mountains it was good fun and left plenty of time to relax in the morning, and walk around the small town in the afternoon. Longer trips offered but with Diesel-electric train. In Juneau walk to the Alaska State Museum - buy your stuff in their small gift shop, and learn lots about Eskimo life and Alaska history. In Ketchikan walk through the dockside area to the Eastern side of town and read the markers and learn about the history. Look for small shop "the Cedar Chest" at 329 on Stedman st. in the old historic area. Buy local hand made quilts upstairs in the quilting supply shops in the market at he South end of the docks. In Seattle go to the canal and locks, and eat at the Fisherman's Marina on the S. side of the water, looking over the largest salmon-halibut fishing fleet in N. America.

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Jul 2, 2011

alaska

For the money, we thought this cruise on the Spirit to Alaska was well worth it. The staff was great and informative and we would cruise Carnival again Food in dining room was better than previous Carnival cruise, many selections, good tasting, our service was terrible though. Friendly waiter and waiter asst but i dont know if they had a staff shortage or what but never saw them. Never refilled water for 20-30 minutes, one night he came around

with sour cream for baked potato, next night I never saw him. We never even went to the dining room the last night because of the consistently bad service. The rest of food on ship was ok Our steward and asst were the greatest. Room was perfect, my wife asked for 2 more pillows and had them 5 minutes later. The steward and asst would always stop what they were doing and came over and said hello and also tried to give tips on ports, etc... they were the best - names were pronounced Superman and Hi - why - en Excellent especially the shows. They performed 3 shows which we all thought were excellent. The band, dancers and especially the singers was amazing and it is hard to believe they can put on a great show with special effects on a small cruise ship. Great We only signed up for the train ride in Skagway. It was a little pricey but worth doing. The meal was surprisingly good in Bennet, British Columbia. Other people we talked to took the whale watching in Juneau and were not impressed and said they saw whales closer on the ship. We read many reviews that said do your own excursions when you get to the ports and there are many selections to check out glaciers, tours etc...if you wanted to do that without signing up on the ship. At Victoria there were several buses that would take you to the downtown area and back to cruise dock for $8 round trip. (its about a mile to the downtown area from cruise dock) Only bad thing was Victoria is beautiful. We got in late and only had a limited amount of time. Too bad they could not spend more time in Victoria. Except for the terrible service in the dining room the cruise was great. The naturalist Michelle was always letting passengers know when whales, seals, eagles, etc.. were sighted and which side of ship. The cruise director Stu Dunn was extremely friendly and positive. Many activities were fun, shore excursions were great, Our room was handled by the greatest steward and asst. The 3 shows we saw in Pharoh lounge were the greatest. We actually saw the New Orleans show twice that night.

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May 24, 2011

Mexico to Hawaii and around the islands

In short, do not do Carnival, I have tried to work with them on our bad experience and they just ignore you. The food was the worst out of all the cruise lines I have been on, the table next to us even chipped a tooth during one dinner. The beds were in such poor shape, spooning my wife on our trip was out of the question. Our room was even left open one day after they had cleaned it. OPEN TO EVERYONE so anyone could walk in. The

hot broke, the pool was cold half the trip and boiling the other half. I got sick off the pool water during the first few days. The ship is the main point of this review. Read the "about your trip" for a day to day recap. Day 1 - We showed up at the docks in San Diego to check in, we see the boat. Then we watched the boat undock and sail to Mexico where we had to take a multi hour bus ride on a narrow road. The bus driver was driving like a crazy man and ran a semi off into the shoulder. There was a cliff on our side most the ride and people were terrified on the bus ride. - We got to the boat tried the buffet and found it very limited and the food under cooked. - We headed to the dining room for a well look forward to meal and got sat pretty quickly with a wait staff all around us, things looked good. We got our drink order in right away and then ordered dinner. The drinks did not show up until right before dessert showed up. We ate the whole dinner and appetizers and never got our drinks. - The state room looked nice enough but we found two single beds pushed together rather then a queen mattress we signed up for. The two single mattresses were in such bad shape that my wife and I could not sleep next to each other. We expected a 10 day trip of passion and due to the beds we were not even able to spoon at night. It was as if we were sleeping in egg cartons. The mini bar door was locked and stayed locked for a couple days for some reason; when it was finally unlocked it was warm on the inside. Day 2 - We woke up on the next day hoping to brush off the first night as a rough start. We noticed that there was only fruit juice at the breakfast and only lemonade after that, very limited selection. The coffee at the buffet was so thick and nasty, and I like black coffee, that I could not even drink it. - We thought we would go out and sit in the hot tub and found it not working and the staff didn’t know when it would be fixed. The pools were freezing and the hot tub was broken, not the best start. - We headed back to the room to watch some TV and a movie and our TV remote was not working. We called the room Stuart and he came by and said it was not broken and I had to hold it closer to the TV, within a foot, so why have a remote? After he left he came back with new batteries, that didn’t help, so we could not order any movies and went to bed. Day 3 - We had pictures taken a number of times and we went to take a look at the pictures the boat printed out for us. We found a couple dozen pictures and with 8 days left on the cruise we asked them to hold them for us so we could pick the best ones. They said they could not do that, and the staff was not interested in working with us. On other cruises the boat has had boxes to store pictures in and with the ability to folder the ones people wanted to save. Carnival said that all the pictures would be in un marked boxes with no way of find ours without us looking through the boxes ourselves, and they warned us that would take hours. I asked if we could buy the package they had available which was buy 4 and get a 5th free, and use it for the two we really liked today and save the others for the next formal night. The staff said no, this deal was one day only. So basically they would not let us save the pictures to pick later, and then would not let us buy a package with out taking all 5 pictures that day. So I am very vary mad, this cruise is the cruise to celebrate a cancer free mom and a new engagement, and the cruise picture staff is fighting me for those memories. I went down to the guest relations desk and they said dont worry about it and that the picture staff was going to save them for us and go back up to talk to the manager. I went back up and they said that they mis-spoke and would not be willing to hold them and suggested we just put them back on the wall and hope they will be there in a few days. Very unsetting for me and our family. It was like talking to a used car salesman holding my drivers license until I sign the paperwork. But instead they are holding my family's memories, I was furious. - I went back to the room to relax and the satellite TV was flickering in and out. I called the guest relations desk and they said they were having TV dish issues. They were not interested in comping a movie for me and said there was nothing they could do about it. Again another day and a number of bad issues that no one was willing to help with, and I asked for some help and I was willing to work with the staff to make something work. - I went to the dinning room to try the breakfast since the buffet food was not very good. I had the eggs benedict and I have to say I thought that would be a great dish to have and start the day. The eggs were overdone, the muffin was soggy, and I could not even tell there was sauce on the eggs. I was very disappointed. - It was Bingo night, I took my mom down for some bingo and they had listed the wrong bingo on the daily schedule but failed to mention which one was replacing it. We still went down there and got in line and bought 6 sheets, we were trying to ask questions but the game was going to start and the staff was trying to hurry us along. Then they gave us the bill which was $20 a sheet, then we sat down to play and it was a one time game. What a waste of money, we thought we would enjoy some bingo and for $120 we got 5 minutes of play time. - I figured I would go online and check some emails and do some online games, I went to the online café and it had notes on the door saying that it was closed because the internet is not working. We are out to sea on sea days and no working TV, no working remote for movies, and now the internet is not working. - A small note, the toilet paper was super thin and took a great deal of paper to get the job done. I think better bio-paper would be worth the company's investment. - At all the other cruises I have taken the Captains’ meet and greet there has been champagne or free drinks and appetizers. Carnival had neither of the two, but was taking off one dollar on drinks which were $8-12 each. - I took a day at the pool and went in, the water was warm at this point but the water was not clean. I ended up taking a mouth full and coughing, the next day I ended up with ammonia. At the clinic the doctor said it could have been from the pool water or other unclean conditions on the ship. I boarded the ship healthy and while at sea I got sick on the last at sea day. When we boarded we had to fill out a health survey, I wonder who reviews those and checks on people. I sat at a lunch table with someone that looked and sounded on their death bed. On the bus ride down to the ship I had a woman on the bus that had something growing on her face and uzing puss, she was wiping it with a rag and coughing something nasty. I don't know how but somewhere on the ship someone or the pool got me very sick, who checks those sheets, how do they still have a job? Day 4 - For dinner I went to the buffet and found food at sub standards, pizza, salad bar with no meat, and nothing really in fresh fruit but the same sour oranges, cantaloupe, and melon. Day 5 - At the first port, the ship ended up leaving at 6pm, why so early? We didn't get much time at all on the shore. Day 6 - At Kona we spent the day on the shore and left early, when we returned to the boat we found our cabin door open from the cleaning staff. If the cleaning staff came at 10am that means our cabin was open for many hours for anyone to come in. We had valuables in the room, or medications, and other personal things. We were very uncomfortable leaving the room from this point forward. We called the guest relations desk, talked to security, and had to fill out a report. But the ship did nothing to accommodate us for the issue, but say sorry. That sorry doesn't help me or my wife feel more comfortable about our medications and if someone was in our room. - At this port we had to tenure in to shore and somehow got the worst boat driver ever. During the docking process he hit the boat on the dock. The other boat drivers had no issues docking the boat but this driver had banged the boat so bad the marks on the front of the boat was very clear. - We didn't eat dinner this day because the ship was having a luau on the top deck. We checked with the guest desk prior to our dinner time and they did say there was going to be food. We went to the luau hungry, and found no food, the food was not put out till 11pm and it was nothing like a luau. Very disappointing and we were robbed of eating in the dinning room where the only reasonable food was, we were upset at the least. Day 7 - At Kaui, the dock staff was very rude. - When we came back to the boat at previous docks they had us loading the ship on two planks. Today they decided to change it yet didn't put a sign anywhere except at the plank all the way at the other side of the dock. We were carrying all our stuff and we got to the plank entrance and they made us walk all the way to the other side. It was very poor planning on the ships side and dock personal, very poor planning. - This day we had some on shore activities and then there was a formal night. Why not have the second formal night the night before when people at able to attend with out being worn out from activities. - Once against he boat left at an early time, the boat didn’t sail anywhere near shore, no chances at whale watching, instead it would appear that the boat was only interested in getting out to gambling waters as fast as possible. - Again the buffet was very limited for dinner. - The rooms are very well done when it comes to sound proofing. We couldn't hear the boat horn when in port which was great, we could hear the intercom unless we opened the door which was great, BUT the buffet line was right above us and we could hear every wheel rolling on the deck which sounded like thunder. With the buffet being busy al the time it was hard to sleep. - We had a balcony room, spent sometime on the balcony up until the rooms around us decided to use their deck to smoke. The smoke blew right into our room and we had issues breathing, we didn't get much of a chance to enjoy the balcony, very disappointing. The ship should have a smoking side and a non-smoking side. - We ended up using the laundry service, our new shirts came back more wrinkled then when we bought it and they were smaller and shrunk. Now a diet is a must, just to fit in my new shirts that fit the day before. Day 8-9 - Maui, in port we figured the TV issues would be fixed, which they were not. I had to take my remote to the guest relations desk to get a new one since the room steward would not fix the issue. After getting the remote we reviewed the movies available and most the movies were geared towards the 60 plus crowd and very limited. - We rented a car at this port and got down to the dock were you stand in line for the cars and the ship/dock crew was directing people. There was plenty of room and ways to have each of the car rental companies to have their own lines. We were at the front of the line because we got there early. Then the rental van transports started showing up and the ship personal was not announcing that XYZ van was here please come forward, instead they stood there and just said "stay behind the gate". So people were pushing and shoving and mobbing to the front. Then people were getting mad, yelling at others, others walking to the front of the line and standing when they should have been at the end. As the next 30 minutes went on the people were getting more and more mad and the dock personal looked to be getting scared and they finally walked away to avoid issues. They left us standing there to fight with each other. The first hour of the day ruined the whole day due to a lack of planning on the ships part. - Parking the car was just as much of an issue. We headed back to the dock to park and there was no one around directing where to park. The ship personal just said not to park “here” or we would be towed, we had to search around ourselves. - Got back to the cabin, tried a glass of sick tap water and it was very distasteful, we had to buy the water in the room, which was room temp and we had no ice. - Once again the next day at Maui the dock security was very rude and not very helpful. - At the end of the day the ship left port again very early, must be all about the gambling, I have never seen a ship more interested in getting money from people in any way possible. The sail to Honolulu was slow, so we could have staying in port longer to enjoy ourselves. - We did some gambling and found the drink were not free, not even the soda, even though we are spending money on gambling. The progressive jackpots required a 10 credit play rather then the typical 1 more then the regular max play. Day 10-11 - At the last port, this one really had me mad. The ship didn't offer tours in this port until the very last minute, so with the Pearl Harbor being the main reason for this port we had to make tour plans ourselves for both days. We ended up paying more money and got less of a tour. With this in mind the ship will only work with you on your luggage if you are doing a tour with the ship. We had to cut out paid for tour short the next day because we had to get back to the ship to get the luggage in the outside holding area that was said to close at 6pm but the staff said to be back by 5pm because they were closing early. We called the front desk; we asked for help, we got no help from the ship personnel rather then just the run around and the usual "sorry we can't help" speech.

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Jan 28, 2011

cabo san lucos

Whole thing was great. I want to submit this review to give Meghan Bohners (the head of club O2) a good review, she was awesome and made the trip fun.

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Jan 25, 2011

Mexico

The embarkation was easy and fast. Our room was spotless and our cabin steward was wonderful. We found the food, especially the fish was not fresh and the food generally was bland. I had eggs benedict and steak with bearnaise sauce, neither of the sauces were made from scratch and they were tasteless. We found no information on ports except those sheets advertising shops, not even a free map! There were no talks on ports, history etc and the library

had been denuded of books by previous passengers who walked off with them. I was astounded at the number of truely obese people who were happy to load their plates with cardiac specials. Not Carnivals fault but it gives you an idea of the kind of people they cater to. Lots of drunks in the evenings and very poor entertainment. The comedian thought he could score points with the number of times he said the f word. I thought generally that the staff, crew etc were much more cultured, genteel and intelligent that the majority of passengers. Sad. If you're looking for an enriching experience this line is not for you.

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Sep 1, 2010

Inside passage

There were 11 of us, all related. My husband and I and our son were the only ones who had cruised before. Overall, what we expected on our 3rd cruise. Scenery was awesome and glaciers were simply breathtaking. Shore excursions were pretty much what you paid for, pay a little, get a little. Whale watching and glacier excursions were the best/worth the money. We also did the rafting in Juneau and enjoyed that. Getting on and off the ship was very

organized, we were amazed. Last 2 cruises we took getting on and off was a big hassle so we were pleasantly surprised. Transfers through CArnival went fine. Overpacked, dining was casual--dress slacks and shirt for men and slacks and nice tops for ladies. Only needed to dress up this much twice during the week. Definately dress in layers, a light coat that will keep out wind and rain is a must. One pair of walking shoes would have been enough--even rained most days. Meals were very good. We had 11 in our party and were served promptly always. One of our party was a large eater and the waiters never questioned, just brought him several entrees when he asked. Good variety of food, something for everyone at each meal. Service was very good. Buffett is kind of a mad-house but a lot of variety if you don't mind pushing through the crowd. This might be better organized. Gym was used by several in our party and they were impressed by the machines and variety, very clean. Do pose for every picture they try to take of you, we were surprised by how good they turned out and how many we DID want in the end. We decided that in the end the pictures and shore excursions were worth paying for . DId not see much wildlife but live in a midwestern state so can see a lot of wildlife here. DO get the motion-sickness patch if you have ANY tendency toward that. We did have a rough sea going out and were glad that we had taken the precaution of the patch. Rooms were with regular balcony and were very nice, clean always and nicely appointed. We had the door between our room and brother's opened so we could share the balconies. The people in our party who had room service were pleased with it. The live entertainment was Ok, seemed to be better on other cruises but am sure expense of such keeps going up. The last night the show was great. Went to the comedians, some were good, others not so much. Some tried the steak house and were very pleased with it. Be careful going ashore and booking the excursions. Some are fine but you can get taken also. We got taken in Ketchikan on a bus tour of "bears" (never saw any) and other wildlife (never saw any). Funny thing about this was the driver had a cute old "Trolley" and he drove it about 65 mph all of the way across town, talking all of the time. He stopped at this muddy outlet that we stood on and watched for wildlife. Then he took us to the middle of a busy bridge to look for wildlife. We were glad to get back safely. None in our party got "taken" on any excursion we booked through Carnival. Some were more expensive, but we felt probably worth it. Did seem like there were more tips required now and the mandatory tips added to everything seem to add up quick. DId not like the added expense of having to pay for soda. There was water, coffee and juice 24-7 on several of the decks though. High five to the Carnival line for making their boarding and getting off so much better!! Even our luggage was right where it was supposed to be on time. We did not use the express luggage and did not see the need for it. However, if you are elderly or need help getting around in any way, this service would be a great benefit.

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Aug 26, 2010

alaska

The cruise was my first and overall an excellent experience. The food was good with many different choices to suit most people. The stateroom was always clean. We had three single beds and the mattresses were very uncomfortable.Maybe the larger beds are better? The activities such as the dance clubs with live music were suited to our age group. The main evening stage show was well done.The ship had plenty to do so nobody should ever get bored.

MY MAIN COMPLAINT !!! The activity director spent an hour reviewing excursions. It was information overload. DO NOT TAKE THE UP CLOSE EXCURSION INTO THE TRACY ARM FYORD. It cost approx $170 and the ship followed us the entire way. The view from the ship was more spectacular. I complained at the excursion desk but the manager brushed me off. I could have used that money for another excursion. Other than poor manager response, I would say the trip was good.

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Aug 21, 2010

Alaska - Inside passage

My first Alaska cruise, all 27 others have been somewhere tropic. The last 10 of my cruises have been with Carnival and until I cruised on the Spirit, I had zero complaints with Carnival, the Funships, or the crew. Food was wonderful. I enjoyed the wide variety of seafood and of course, the steak house. My first night onboard, I reported to the Purser's Desk and to Medical that I'd been bitten several times in my stateroom. I asked if they'd

had a problem with bedbugs or fleas. ( later when I returned home, my doctor confirmed bedbugs and I had to have my entire home fumigated). Later on, I was advised that my reports of the bites were not documented. During a day at port, there was "routine maintenance" which involved painting outside on the balcony of my stateroom. Per instructions from the flyer left in my cabin, should this routine maintenance be a problem, please let them know and they would reschedule. For two reasons, I did not wish to have my balcony painted, so I called as instructed and asked to have the maintenance rescheduled. 1. I have severe allergies to perfumes, lotions, shampoos, paint, cosmetics, laundry detergents .... etc. I did not wish to have an asthma attack or allergic reaction. 2. I had a spa appointment I did not wish to return back to my cabin and face the painters and fumes from the routine maintenance, so I called and asked if they could reschedule. I was told they could and would reschedule. RIGHT! So here I show up, in port, fresh from the spa and. I run into a bunch of guys from the maintenance team painting my balcony. The fumes were unbearable. I called the Purser's desk. The Purser's desk had on record that I had called to reschedule the routine maintenance / painting and had no idea where the miscommunication occured. The routine maintenance was in full swing and there was nothing I could do. When I began to have trouble breathing, I left my cabin, went down to the Purser's office and expressed my displeasure in person. First of all, the customer service person was uncaring, unfeeling, and advised right off the bat I would not get any sort of discount. (Please note, I had NOT asked for a discount). Then to add insult to injury, I was offered medical treatment at my expense, but since I had my inhaler and antihistime, I declined. A little side note here ... Carnival knows about my allergies. I have the little shoelace on the outside of my cabin (a code for housekeeping who puts the shoelace on the mailbox outside our doors) to NOT use anything but water when cleaning my cabin. I return back to my cabin from the Purser's desk to find my entire cabin had been "REFRESHED". This means they spray a bunch of smelly stuff into the stateroom to mask odors and of course, I am allergic to it. I soon had an allergic reaction. - I spent the next several HOURS on deck while my cabin was opened up and aired out- My cabin had both doors open (balcony and stateroom) and my room was open to the public for several hours. I was advised that my steward was watching the room - but this did not fill me with comfort. My clothing stank of this stuff even after I was home, so everything had to be washed. My cloth suitcases reeked of the smell, so I had to throw out all of the luggage. Later that night, I went down to the Purser desk to explain the chain of events and see what could be done about the never-ending chain of disasters, all impacting my cruise and relaxation. After 27 cruises, the last 10 on Carnival, I was treated like a second class citizen and was offered zero help beyond pointing me to the medical doctor and being advised to take my insurance card. I spoke to several folks at the Purser's desk and I was told that they couldn't change my cabin, that the "refresh" was the best they could do", they didn't have bedbugs, and routine maintenance was something we all have to put up with. Oh, I was offered two drink coupons ... and I don't drink, so I declined. I let the matter drop and walked away from the Purser's desk, and vowed that I would never set foot again on a Carnival ship. Three days later, I was credited $30.00 to my cabin account, which I did not ask for not expect. This was not discussed with me and I do not know the reason for it. When I returned home, I advised Carnival of the issues I faced while on the cruise and to date ... 4 months later, not a single person from Carnival has contacted me to discuss. Yep, next cruise will be with anyone but Carnival.

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Aug 10, 2010

Alaska

Overall our cruise was an excellent experience and carnival did a fabulous job! Embarking and disembarking were both handled quickly, smoothly and efficiently. our room with a balcony was fabulous and our steward did a great job everyday of cleaning up after us and leaving us really cool towel animals. The drinks were expensive and the drink servers were a little pushy and they were EVERYWHERE, but i guess that's to be expected. There was good

food all day everyday, and the dining room had the best food. the seminars and classes and even arts and crafts were fun. my husband loved the comedians, he saw all their shows, the PG and the R rated ones. The food supplied at room service was terrible! we tried it 2ce and both times the food was cold and poorly prepared. The food on the lido deck (buffet) was pretty good, not great. The layout of the buffet was inefficient and it was always crowded, most of the time it was difficult to find an open table. The food and service in the dining room were both excellent! There were always plenty of choices and everything we had was delicious! We even each had 2 entrees one night, prime rib AND lobster! stateroom was fabulous and roomy and the balcony was beautiful! room 4215. the room steward was very pleasant and attentive and did our room up nice every day. we liked the bingo and the arts and crafts, and the jewelry seminars. my husband liked the drink making contest. I loved the spa!! Victoria did a fabulous job of relaxing me with a wonderful massage!! skagway - dont miss the glacier point wilderness safari. speedboat followed by short bus trip followed by short hike followed by canoe trip to the glacier. it was all beautiful and the guides were terrific! the whole trip was wonderful and we can't wait to do another one!!

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Aug 10, 2010

Alaska

My husband and I are very active people, so we knew when we went that we were probably not "cruise" people and we were right. If you are sitting on the fence like we were, and you don't think you would like to spend that much time on a ship, then go with your instincts. I did not care to be on a ship 131 hours and off for 28. The times in port were way too short. We don't drink or gamble or play bingo, so there wasn't much to do on the ship for

us. The food in the main dining room was usually good. But if you ordered a hamburger or sandwich for lunch, it took an act of Congress to get mayo or mustard or ketchup....not sure why, but they would not automatically bring it for you. I would recommend "anytime" dining as we did not like being locked down for a time every evening. The food on the Lido deck was decent, but just may not always be what you want to eat. I thought it was odd that they had a deli open all the time, but no chips anywhere to be found. I'm not sure why you can't get individual bags of chips. Burgers and dogs and pizza are always available. On Lido deck for breakfast you can get eggs, bacon, oatmeal, cereal, pretty much anything you want. Lunch will vary each day. The dessert table is ridiculous and soft-serve ice cream is available 24 hours! That's what we all need! They really push the alcoholic drinks on you b/c that's where they make money. Drinks are anywhere from $4.75 to $7.50 for the "drink of the day." Soft drinks are extra, you can buy them for $1.95 each or get an "unlimited" plan if you are an addict! I don't have any comparisons, but it was fine for me. We had a big bed that was comfy with lots of pillows, a small couch, desk/dresser, 3 closets (2 for hanging and 1 with shelves), shower and bath and a balcony with 2 chairs and a table. HOWEVER: The people in the next room had 2 rooms with 3 kids who kept going back and forth from room to room and slamming the cabin doors and yelling at each other "let me in." This went on throughout the cruise and was annoying. The cabin doors slam very hard unless you hold them b/c they are on a hydraulic hinge. Horrible choices for active people. If you are an inactive and/or retired person or have mobility issues, they are probably great. If you are obsessed with drinking, gambling and eating, it's also great. I kept my Fun Times sheets and will list activities directly from the cruise I just took. This is pretty much everything and it's just repeated several times a day: Adult Karaoke British Pub Quiz Art Auction Bridge Players Meet Jackpot Bingo Fine Jewelry Seminar (several seminars Tanzanite, Emmolite, Gemstones, etc.) Triviathon: 50s Decade, 80s, Big Screen Ballroom Dance Class (this one was good) Slot Tournament, Blackjack Tournaments Trivial Pursuit, Sports Trivia, Big Screen Trivia Shopping Seminar Rubberball Bowling ScrapbookIt Adult Arts & Crafts Shows at nite were comedy (comedians had both clean and R rated comedy, neither of which was very good), they had a singing/dancing show and that bored me to tears and they were awful to boot (i.e., they could neither sing nor dance). The quality was about what you would find at a theme park like Six Flags. The music provided was awful. There were 2 one-man band guys, 1 in the casino that nobody paid any attention to and 1 country singer in the Atrium that was the best (which isn't saying alot). They had an Asian couple that tried to sing and not only couldn't sing on key but could barely speak English! Luckily they did not play alot. They had another band that played oldies (60s mostly except for one nite of 70s disco) and they were awful too. Then they had a "jazz" band that played instrumental "muzak" Lawrence Welk style music (luckily again they didn't play too often). Kayaking the Mendenhall Lake up to the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau was AMAZING! I think we were the only ones that went. We got up close and personal to the glacier and huge waterfalls and it was breathtaking!! KNOW THIS: the kayak trip across the lake is about 6 miles RT and it gets windy closer to the glacier. I think there are small tour boats that will take you if you are not able to kayak. You can also take a tandem Kayak with Above and Beyond Alaska (great people if you want to kayak on your own). The float plane in Ketchikan was fun, but we didn't see any wildlife and visibility was low. I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND TAKING A FLIGHT-SEEING TOUR ON A CLOUDY DAY! You really can't see ANYTHING. ALSO KNOW THAT FLIGHT-SEEING TOURS ARE SUBJECT TO CANCELLATION DUE TO WEATHER SO HAVE A BACK UP EXCURSION IN MIND! We got done early and went on a bus tour that was supposed to be a wildlife tour but all we saw was an Eagle and the Salmon swimming up stream. This bus tour is more suited for retired persons and/or people who don't want to leave the bus. I think I would try the Orca watching trip on the Zodiac boats. But know that Orcas are most active in May and June even though the tour companies will take you all summer long. The train in Skagway I think is pretty much the thing to do. You can ride to the top or get off and hike to Laughton Glacier which is amazing. If you get off for a hike, the train picks you up on the way down and you don't get to go all the way to the top. KNOW THIS: THE HIKE UP TO THE GLACIER IS DIFFICULT AND REQUIRES HIGH TOP HIKING BOOTS WITH STEEL SHANKS. THE TRAIL IS EASY FOR THE FIRST 2 MILES, THEN IT GETS DIFFICULT WITH ANOTHER 2 MILES TO THE GLACIER. YOU ARE HIKING ON BROKEN GRANITE AND SCREE AND IT IS VERY SLIPPERY IF IT IS RAINING. ALSO, YOU REALLY CAN'T SEE THIS PARTICULAR GLACIER WHEN IT IS CLOUDY. Visibility was very poor when we were there. IF YOU ARE NOT AN EXPERIENCED HIKER, GO WITH A GUIDE! BRING RAIN GEAR AND THE RIGHT FOOTWEAR!! The last night we were in Victoria, BC at night time. DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY GOING TO BUTCHART GARDENS AT NIGHT! You can't see anything!! Even though some of the flowers were lit, IT WAS NOT WORTH THE $89 CARNIVAL WANTED TO CHARGE YOU TO GO! IT WAS A RIP OFF! Luckily, we went with another group on board and were able to go for $55 each. If you get a large group of 25 or 30, you can arrange your own transportation and go cheaper, but it's NOT WORTH IT AT NIGHT! SAVE YOUR $$$!! My husband and I knew when we tried this trip that we were probably not "cruise" people. We don't really drink and gamble, so that doesn't leave much other than eating. We are more "active" adventure people and this particular cruise and I think most cruises are not designed with people like us in mind. In fact, the Carnival rep even said that the ship is losing money when it's in port, so their objective is not to be in port. Carnival is changing their cruise to Hawaii after this year, no more overnights b/c it costs them too much money. Basically, you spend 131 hours on the ship and 28 hours in port. If you are addicted to eating, drinking and gambling, this is a great vacation for you. If you are very sedentary or an inactive and/or retired person or someone with mobility issues, then this is probably a good trip. There were lots of groups on board, a polka group, a line dance group, a singles group, etc. So perhaps if you are going with a group, you might enjoy it. Each port was so commercialized, it was just sad to me. Jewelry stores lined the streets with most being owned by foreigners from Middle East who are NOT U.S. or Alaska residents. Think about that when you go to spend your money there! Cruises are just not for us as I would rather go where the people "AREN'T".....but here is some helpful information for those deciding to go: IF YOU DECIDE TO GO: IMPORTANT INFO: 1) WATCH THE WEATHER REPORT A DAY OR SO BEFORE YOU PACK TO LEAVE! Inside Passage weather is EXTREMELY UNPREDICTABLE!! BRING RAIN GEAR!!! BRING COLD WEATHER CLOTHES AND WARM WEATHER CLOTHES! It was very cold and wet the entire time on our trip! They sell cheap jackets made in China everywhere for $19 if you end up having to purchase one. It will not be "rain-proof" but it will help. 2) THERE IS ONLY ONE 110 PLUG IN YOUR CABIN. You could probably bring a multi-plug cord with you (I would have tried it if I had known). Charging cameras and cell phones and using hair dryers becomes challenging. Not one OUTLET, ONE PLUG! 3) BRING A CLOTHES HAMPER. You can buy one for $5 at Walgreens that fits in the palm of your hand. 4) IF YOU PLAN TO WASH CLOTHES ON THE SHIP, BE SURE TO GET QUARTERS DURING CASINO HOURS as the change machines are turned off when the casino is closed AND GO TO LAUDRY AT 5 A.M., the only time it will be available! Trust me, I tried numerous times! 5) BRING SANDWICH BAGS SO THAT YOU CAN PACK SNACKS FROM THE DINING ROOM WITH YOU WHEN YOU GO ON EXCURSIONS! Get a sandwich at the deli and put it in a baggie and take it with you. The ship is "green" so there is no paper or plastic anywhere. There are also no chips anywhere on board. 6) BRING MOTION SICKNESS PATCHES OR DRAMAMINE WITH YOU! THEY ONLY SELL THE WRIST BANDS ON BOARD! If you don't know if you get motion sickness, I would bring the Scopoderm patch with you. The first 2 days at sea that ship was rocking and rolling! BE PREPARED! DO NOT ASSUME YOU DON'T GET MOTION SICKNESS, ASSUME YOU DO!! Once you get into the "Inside Passage" the water is very calm. 7) SPEND THE EXTRA $$ FOR A BALCONY ROOM......SOOOOO WORTH IT! I cannot even imagine being cooped up in that room without being able to go outside! I would have been claustrophobic! Also, you get to see amazing whales from your balcony!

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By Jim_CR

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Jun 18, 2010

Alaska

Wife, 2 year old and myself enjoyed the 7 day cruise. Staff of Carnival great with our kid. Food was good, service great, cabin good, family freindliness excellent, shore excursions fun, value good. Would do it again. Food was great. Wonderful variety. Pizza mediocre Great, excellent view from balcony OK Get off the ship. See the glaciers! See the humpback whales! Had a great time. Enjoyed the majesty of Alaska

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Feb 18, 2010

Mexico

The cruise was terrible. The cruise staff was indifferent, rude, and simply didn't care about customer service or anything except getting your money. Have a problem? Don't go to customer service; they'll blow you off faster than the time you spent standing in line. Want a drink? Open you wallet; they've increased the price of drinks to more that I pay on show in the states. Pool area was dirty and had hair all over the place. Want to enjoy

and adults only pool, forget it as they won't enforce their own policy. Take up your issues with Carnival on line and they simply blow you off. Basically they've gotten too big to care. This was my 4th, and last, Carnival cruise. I've seen the prices go up and the service go down to where now they've lost me. But of course, they don't care. I would avoid Carnival Cruise lines if at all possible. There are just too few vacations to spend one upset over lousy customer service, filth, skimpy menus, and extra charges every time you turn around. Good but the quantities were extremely small and the menus limited....unless you wanted to pay an extra $20 per person per meal. Old, worn, and a lousy view for a "balcony view." Boring and tired. You'd think they'd come up with something new rather than playing the same old trivia games and "hairy chest" contests over and over. Go some where else. You might pay a little more but you'll have a better experience and better memories.

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Jan 8, 2010

Mexico

This is the 4th New Years cruise we have taken in the past 5 years and we had previously visited the ports of Cabo San Lucas, Loreto, La Paz, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Topolopampo. We picked the cruise because it went to Acapulco, Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa and Manzanillo and these ports are really great. The problem was the number of tourists in Acapulco and Ixtapa this time of year. These two ports are less than a seven hour drive from Mexico

City and the beach/city of Acapulco was really crowded. In fact we were advised against taking back to back tours in Acapulco. I know individuals who did and they were 2 1/2 hours late getting back to the ship from their first tour thereby missing the second tour. Other than the crowds, the ports were great and we would go again but schedule it later in January or February. We were really generous when we rated the quality of the food as a two star. After the first night we opted to eat Nouveau Steakhouse on three different occasions. The food there was excellent. On the last night we ate in the general dining room and all of the individuals at our table were complaining about the quality of the food. While this cruise was a last minute decision and we had a balcony with an obstructed view, we were quite pleased with our room. The room was extremely quiet and very clean. The excursions are a must in Alcapulco and Manzanillo. The ship docks in the old part of town in Acapulco. While we grew up near the Mexican border and are accustomed to old Mexico, the street leading to the old market place (Mercado) was extremely dirty and the smell of urine was everywhere. There was nothing exceptional about this Mercado and the merchandise was tourist oriented. (We took the the evening cliff diver tour and it was worth seeing. Zihuatenejo is a great town and a place I would like to go back and spend at least a week. We took the city tour of Zihuatenejo/Ixtapa and it was worth the money. If you get a chance, eat at Daniel's in Zihuatenejo. Last but not least - Manzanillo. The port of Manzanillo in a cargo port and you really need to take a tour. The Colonial tour to Colima is worth seeing. L We decided to go on this tour about a week before it left. Other than the quality of the food, we were happy with the ship, the staff and optional excursions. (Please remember, we have taken extended cruises from other well known cruise lines and are evaluating this cruise against those previous experiences.)

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Jul 14, 2009

Alaska South Bound Inside Passage

My wife and I took the 7-day Alaska cruise on Carnival Spirit, departing from Whittier, Alaska on July 1, 2009. We had good weather (mostly sunny with highs in the 60s and 70s) for the first 6 days of the cruise. The week before the weather was overcast and wet with highs in the high 50's. We have been on many cruises and this one had the best scenery and wildlife, far better than the South American Cape Horn (2 week) trip. Everyone talks about dressing

in layers, which is so true, wear jeans and sweatshirts and jackets and walking shoes. Don't forget a hat and gloves, if you plan on going out on boat rides. Be prepared for rain with raincoat and rain pants. When it rains, it often rains sideways with high winds, so umbrellas are often useless. The ship was well organized and well run and the crew was great. The cruise director Chris was funny and he even sings in the disco sometimes. The food was good and there was plenty to do on the ship. We'll definitely cruise on Carnival again. The main dining room food was really good. Don't be afraid to order something else if you don't like something that you ordered. The wine is reasonably priced and service was very good. The food is all loaded on the ship in Vancouver for two one-week cruises, so don't expect fresh, wild salmon. We asked the Maitre De for some fresh, wild salmon one night and we saw it being delivered to the ship in Ketchikan and everyone at our table had it that night, it was so much better than the "Atlantic Salmon" (farm raised) that the ship carries. If you can, take the late seating (early seating is 6:00 pm, late seating is 8:15) - many shore excursions return to the ship after 6:00 pm and you'll want time to get cleaned up for dinner. If you miss your appointed time for dinner, you can always queue up for "anytime" seating in the main dining room or eat dinner at the buffets on deck 9. The La Playa Grill food was usually good, there are about 8 stations with different kinds of food. It looks crowded at breakfast and lunch but the short lines you'll wait thru are way faster than eating in the main Dining room. The made to order oblates were great, much better than in the main dining room. There were many choices of food, the pizza is good, the salad bar will produce a far better salad than you can order off the menu. The Asian counter is good. The hamburger and hotdog counters were busy, so the food must have been good. They had a featured country food that changed each day. Italian was the best. You can take your food to the outside deck right outside the restaurant and get a great view and fresh air with less noise. The Suite was a very nice room, with a wonderful king bed and plenty of closets and drawers. The room had a nice desk and sofa and coffee table and there was a dressing table outside of the bathroom. The room is equipped with 220 and 110 power, although the power point next to the desk was a 220 outlet, not handy for using your laptop, bring a converter and 2 prong adapter if you want to watch DVDs on your computer from the sofa or bed. The TV is useful for seeing the ship's position and for listening to ship programs and announcements. It carries CNN and FOX news, but no sports channels. The naturalist will make announcement about wildlife sightings and glaciers on channel 15. There is a free safe is in the room. We brought a power strip so we could plug in all of our chargers (cameras, laptops and cell phones) The balcony has 4 chairs and a small table. You'll need to wear a jacket while the ship is moving. We had a left or port cabin thinking we would see more stuff on this side than the other side, I don't think we did and the sun rose into our windows each morning before 5:00 am, so maybe a starboard cabin would have been better. The only time you see glaciers up close from the Spirit is the first morning south bound (6am) and both sides get their views as the ship spends extra time near the glaciers. There was good casino action, plenty of lounge singing to listen to, activities going on all over the ship. We really liked shore excursions that were Wildlife Watching Boat rides, you really get to see the amazing things in Alaska up close. When the captain finds some whale activity, they will stay with the whales as long as they can. The Alaskan scenery was amazing, particularly when we took shore excursions on smaller vessels. The ship was well run, the service was friendly and efficient, the food was good and getting on & off the ship was easy. There were plenty of shore excursions available on the ship or you could book your own trips, which we did 4 times during and before the trip. The suite was wonderful, with plenty of closets and drawers. We will sail Carnival again.

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Jul 6, 2009

Northbound inside passage to Whitier

Overall, we enjoyed our cruise with Carnival. We found our room to be comfortable and quiet even though we were on the lowest deck. We found the entertainment to be excellent on some evenings and acceptable on other evenings. The food was good to acceptable. The itinerary was excellent. The ship's naturalist did a fantastic job of letting us know when there were points of interest and wildlife. My main complaint is the dirty windows

that made viewing and picture taking difficult, and the inefficient embarkation and debarkation process. We also did not like the assigned dinning. We prefer to eat when we want and with whom we want. Have cruised twice previously with NCL but decided to try Carnival since their itinerary was more appealing to us than NCL's. I beleive NCL to be a better choice in cruise lines, and the freestyle cruising is much superior. However, we did have a great time on Carnival. Food in the dinning room was always good, but not excellent. Portions are small. Take as much bread as you will want the first time it comes around, because it won't be offered again. Drinks, other than water, are not offered unless you request them. The wine steward approached us the first evening and when we declined that evening, we never saw her again. There were a couple nights that I would have enjoyed a glass of wine. Desserts in the dinning room were good. The buffet was also good with a large variety. It was difficult to figure out at first where everything is. Nice salads and fresh fruit. Pizza was OK, but not great. Pizza was not readily available and usually had to ring a bell and wait for staff to serve you a piece, if any was available. Often it had to be prepared. Some evenings you can get fresh made pasta with your choice of sauce from the pizzaria, however, it is made per request, requiring a wait. We searched one night for the mexican food and finally found it outside at the burger and fries stand. We got there just in time to find them putting everything away. We did not have a good experience with fish on the ship. It all tasted fishy. If you go to Anchorage, stop for fresh fish there. We had a delicious fresh Halibut sandwich and fries at a little cafe next to the cruise ship port in Whittier. Soft serve ice cream available 24/7 was nice. Desserts at the buffet were good to horrible. The cheese cake was very good, but many items tasted the same and the taste was not good. I noticed many people eating burgers and hot dogs from the outside grill. We do not eat either items, but they looked good and we did find the fries were good. When the buffet is not open, deli sandwiches are available and we found them to be average. To summarize, we found the dinning room food to be good, but hated the assigned seating. We found the buffet food to be good most of the time. We never went hungry. We also did not try the steak restaurant due to the additional $30.00 charge. For the cost of the cruise, we can't complain. Our room was on the lowest deck. We were concerned about noise due to the restaurant and casino being directly above us. We never heard a sound and slept like babies. The room was comfortable and always spotless. The staff were very courteous and went out of their way to address you by your first name. We have no complaints with our room and found it to be comparable to our staterooms on NCL. Since we have now found ourselves in the "Senior" catagory, we have also found that what we primarily are looking for is rest and relaxation. We really did not participate in any activities, and cannot comment. It did seem that there were many activities going on throughout the days at sea if you were interested. We tried to go to the evening shows, however, we had the late dinner seating and the shows did not begin until 10:30. When you factor in the 4 hour difference in time from our home in the midwest, we "Seniors" had trouble staying awake. We did enjoy the performing arts troup an found them to be excellent. Some other nights were good. I recommend the Blues Brothers. We both fell asleep on a couple of the other nights. I guess the entertainment on those nights was just not interesting enough to keep us awake. I would highly recommend Southeast tours in Skagway. Ask for British Barry as your tour guide. He did an excellent job of showing us around Skagway. On a scale of 1-5, I give this a 5. A park ranger also gives a very informative walking tour of Skagway, lasting approx. one hour. I give this a 4 and this tour is free. We did not book a single tour through the cruise line. We found them to all be overpriced. I saved money by going on-line and booking our own excursions. I booked a Duck Tour in Ketichican. It was inexpensive and we received some interesting narration. I give the Duck Tour a 3 1/2. Took a bus from the cruise port in Juneau up to Mendenhall Glacier for only $14.00 per person. The driver did not provide any narration, but what can you expect for $14.00. We walked to the Raptor Center is Sitka. It is about a one mile walk and well worth it. The center cost $12.00 to enter, but it is worth it and goes to a very good cause. Picked up walking tour information in every port and spent hours just walking and seeing the sights. This is an inexpensive way to go and helps work off all the calories from meals eaten on board the ship. We very much enjoyed our trip. Pros: We had a nice stateroom which was spotless, well appointed and quiet. Stewards were courteous. Food was good and plentiful. Entertainment was good to acceptable. Cleanliness of entire ship was good. Ship was brightly decorated and entertaining. Adequate space on deck for viewing.Food was mostly good and plentiful. Ports of call were all great. Loved Michelle the ships naturalist. Loved the soft serve ice cream. Cons: Embarkation and disembarkation. Bad going both directions. Assigned seating for dinner-hated it. Dirty windows that needed cleaning. Windows made it difficult to view and take pictures. All of our pictures taken through the windows have visible streaks. We very much enjoyed our cruise and feel it was a good value for what we paid. However, if we cruise again, we will return to NCL.

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May 5, 2009

Hawaii

Weather crusing to Hawaii was cold and windy first 3 days, ship decor was a bit off color with many nude art displays. Too many professional photo's taken and not found. Not at all what we have experienced on Carnival ships in the past. Predictable, too many dishes repeated, average lido deck food. Nice, but had tenders below ours and most balconies, which is not considered an obstructed view. Sheets don't get changed nightly - we actually

had clean, but stained sheets for 2 nights. Not as good as some of the other Carnival ships we have been on. Trivia games geared towards 1980s and motown and majority of guests were older. They used a small cd player and microphone to transmit the game questions. Bingo is very pricey and payouts don't even match the take in - $20.00 for 3 cards and only one game per session. Do see Pearl Harbor and pay for audio with Ernest Borgnine. See Wiameia Canyon but don't do the river trip, it is boring, just a short trip down a muddy river with green on both sides. Polynesian culture center is not a Carnival excursion, but worth the trip (an hr from dock). Take the bus for $2.00 ea way, we weren't told about this and spent $40.00 per couple one way to get there in a van. If you can, do the escorted tour and Luau with show. It would be worth the extra cash. We booked way to early and could of saved alot of money had we waited, also should of booked our own flight as we were shipped to Dallas and back to Phx., which took 11 hrs. They didn't book our flights until 30 days out and we got a bad trip. I actually would of rather done an all inclusive hotel, island hop than this cruise to Hawaii, live and learn..

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Apr 13, 2009

Mexico

We did our research about the ship, its ammenities, the time of year and what type of guests would be on board at that time. We also researched our own walking tours since we had already been to two of the ports of call before (Cabo, Mazatlan). We chose this cruise line which was our first time due to the itinerary (we had never been to La Paz) and it leaving from our home town port. We try not to travel with any unrealistic expectations and are fairly

easy going travelers, looking at everything as a new adventure or learning experience. We have cruised on other lines numerous times before, to various ports of call and during different times of the year. None of those other trips prepared us for this last adventure aboard the Spirit. The food in the main dining room was basically the same food that you could get at the buffet. The food was acceptable but not anything to rave about. They had various items that you could choose from that were healthy if you chose to eat that way. The dinning room was loud and bright and the service was unremarkable. They would put dessert menues down before you even finished your entree, put the other courses down before you were finished with what you were eating, give you your red wine in white wine glasses, not come back to see if you might want another glass but deffinitely show up in time to have you sign the bill. And the dinning room was about the same as the buffet because a large portion of the guests wore shorts, flip flops and t-shirts anyway. They interrupted the dinner at times to have the staff dance, they did not look into it and it just made us feel embarrassed for them. We switched to the supper club and it was fabulous!!! some of the best meals and service that we have ever had in any of our travels. We were surprised that on this ship that that level of dining was availiable. The supper club saved our onboard dinner dining experience. If you take a cruise on the vessel treat yourself to every dinner at the supper club, it is well worth it. It is a very nice atmosphere and the decor and music compliments the dining experience nicely. The staff are very knowledgeable and attentive without being intrusive. It is an excellent way to end a day at sea. I could rave and rave about the supper club. We had an inside cabin catagory, which was actually an outside cabin with an obstructed view. We chose this cabin for the experience of never cruised in that catagory before. The room was one of the best we have had on various vessels. There was three large closets and a desk/vanity area with plenty of drawers and also a small cabinet to the left of the TV. The head was large and two people could stand in front of the mirror if need be. The shower stall was the largest we have had on any ship. There was never a problem getting hot water, you could get the water so hot out of the tap you could make tea if you wanted to. The bed was comfortable but we have had softer beds on other ships. the pillows however were the best pillows we have ever used in our lives, I am considering ordering some from their web site. The rooms decor was wood tones and rust colors which made it feel very comfortable. The temperature in the room was easily adjusted and they even had a quick cool down button so that when you get back onboard after being ashore you could cool your room down quickly instead fo running the air while you were gone. The airconditioner did make some blowing noise but it was more like white noise and actually blocked out any other noiseThere was also a fairly large couch and a coffee table that did not feel in the way. The cabin steward was pleasant and was rarely seen but the room was alwas made up and turned down in the evening and there was always ice and clean glasses etc. The cabin had floor to ceiling glass doors which was nice to let in the natural light if we wanted and the doors actually opened if we wanted to feel the temperature of the air or to get fresh air. Since it was an obstructed view we had a life boat positioned right outside and infront of the doors but we could still see the water below and the boat was about five to six feet away. All in all we might consider this type of room on another voyage on a different cruise line. Well..they had the usual activities, art auctions, bingo, bean bag toss on the pool deck, hairy chest competition, shopping talks and shows in the evening, none of which we participated in. We did see a game room and individuals on the computers. They also had wine tasting for a fee and they gave a tour of the kitchen and gave a little talk about it, we did not participate in any of those either. All in all we just kind of do our own thing relax, workout, go to the spa, steam and read. They had some musical entertainment out in the pool area from time to time but it was nothing spectacular but helped to drown out some of the noise from all of the screaming children. We researched and did our own walking tours of all the ports. CABO - the first time we just walked around the marina for about 25 minutes and went to medano beach . We brought our own umbrella and towles and kind of sat away from where all of the vendors were congregating but still close enough to get some beers and use the restrooms etc. In front of the office or the mango deck it gets really busy, you can sit in their areas with chairs and umbrellas but it is too crowded for us. The second time in cabo we did our own walking tour of some of the sights, not the new mall of the areas around the marina ( if you want to go to hooters stay in the U.S.) We always stop at the Giggling Marlin for bean and cheese dip and beers, Panchos is also a nice place to get away from the crowds. MAZATLAN - This is a great city to do your own walking tour. If you are into the diamonds international and the other high end tourist stuff go to the golden zone but it is not worth it. A 25 minute walk from the port entrance will put you in sobado centro or the central market. You can see the big yellow Cathedral from the ship and the market is two blocks from there. Also there is the square just infront of the church. If you walk a little more there is the theater and art area a few more blocks away and four more from there and yopu are sea side with more shops and restaurants close to the shrimp bucket. With some planning and a map its easy and safe. La Paz - we did our own thing agai and walked along the board walk and checked out the shops and hunted for sea shells on the beach and then had a fabulous lunch at Rancho Viejo, just down from carlos and charlies. Go upstairs and youll get a nice breeze and be away from the cars and pedestrians on the street. Then after lunch head down the street to La Fuentes for the best ice cream, look for the polka dotted painted tree outside the entrance. You will not be dissappointed. We had a wonderful time in the ports of call, our room was great, the supper club was fantastic and the ships decor was very nice. However... we knew that thre would be kids and young adults onboard for easter break and this was our first and unfortuneately last cruise on this ship because of that. The kids took over every pool onboard, we never saw an adult in the pool unless it was very early in the morning or late (very late) in the evening. And after seeing the masses children in the pools during the day honestly we did not want to go in them. In the evening or during the day the hot tubs were also filled with children or so called young adults. The staff told us at one point "There really are no adult areas, it's a family ship" There was one hot tub and area that was designated for adults but it was the farthest aft and the no children rule was not enforced there either. The kids were running around the pool areas and running in the hallways of the ship. Children were sitting on the floors of the glass elevators in groups just riding up and down and playing in the elevators, pushing all of the buttons and then getting off oe else just dropping their trash or leaving their empty dishes behind. Kids were running the halls and collecting all of the do not disturb signs. In the inside buffett young adults were barefoot and the guys were not wearing t-shirts and the kids were all over the furniture barefoot. There was no place to lounge without the noise unlike places on other cruise lines. Except for the nice things I stated before like the supperclub, room and ports of call ...if you want a floating buffet and all that goes along with that then this might be for you.

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Oct 17, 2008

Mexican Riviera

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 night (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 single carnival 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 ships staff we missed out 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. 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-paring event that was fun and informative. We booked at 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. 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 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 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, 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 to 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. 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. All in all I would book with Carnival again but just plan to be on the ship all day for debarkation no matter what they have to say.

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Dec 24, 2007

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Mexican Riviera Tara J. This was our first Carnival cruise and third cruise overall.  We have previously sailed Royal Caribbean and Celebrity.  We chose this cruise because it was an 8-night cruise that covered both Christmas and New Year's and seemed like a fun way to celebrate both holidays while trying out a new cruise line.  Pre-cruise: We stayed at the Best Western Bayside

Inn in San Diego, which is about 5-6 blocks from the pier.  It is in walking distance to Little Italy, a fabulous locale for dinner the night before embarkation.  The hotel offers a shuttle to the cruise port, making it a very convenient location. Embarkation: The hotel shuttle dropped us off at 11:55 a.m., and we were all checked in and on the ship by 12:25.  It was an easy and quick process.  Our cabins were not supposed to be ready until 1:30 p.m., but there were a lot of people already on the ship, just like us.  We spent the hour walking around the ship, fixing a plate from the buffet, and just enjoying the sunshine on the Lido Deck. Cabin: We had booked a BL Guarantee cabin and were assigned to an 8D, and happy with that!  We received our cabin assignment 54 days before embarkation.  I found out by going on to the Carnival website to see where we were assigned.  Our cabin was a starboard aft balcony – 6285 (deck 6).  The size was comparable to Royal’s balcony staterooms, so no surprises with that.  The primary surprise and disappointment was that the mini bar had not been cleaned out after the last guests stayed in the cabin, so we opened it to find their leftover dessert, yogurt, and chocolate milk.  We asked that the mini bar be cleaned out.  It was cleaned out the next day, but then locked.  It took three more phone calls to the cabin steward, and then finally to the purser’s desk to get someone to unlock it for us.  The other issue with the cabin was that on the morning of Day 2 (our first morning on the ship) when I went to take a shower, there was a wad of hair and an old, used bar of soap lying in the shower drain.  How gross!  So, either they had just not cleaned the shower at all, or they just didn’t finish it (just like they didn’t clean out the mini bar).  We had to beg (by hitting the Cabin Steward button on the phone, and then negotiating) to receive new beach towels each day, as new clean ones were not replenished in our cabin after the used ones were removed.  I forgot to mention that we never even met our cabin steward; he or she never introduced him/herself, and though we saw employees in our hallway, no one ever spoke to us.  That seemed very bizarre since we wanted to thank someone for the great towel animals we received each night! The Carnival Spirit was a nice-sized ship, and though we sailed over the holidays, it was still fairly easy to find some quiet public areas to sit alone and chat, read a book, or even nap.  The décor however was very gaudy (but who really cares about that anyway?) and reminded us of the old casinos in downtown Las Vegas.  The signage was in neon lights above doorways and just seemed like an odd theme to have on an otherwise beautiful ship.  The ship was decorated with holiday décor here and there, but I honestly forgot it was holiday time during this cruise because it just didn’t seem noticeable.  There just wasn’t a very big holiday impact, and for some people that’s a good thing, while others should know this in advance and perhaps bring some cabin decorations or something as a reminder of the time of year.  The New Year’s Eve party on the Lido Deck was fun, fun, fun with a live band, hats, and party favors! Food: The food in the dining room was very good most nights, but it was inconsistent.  We were at a table for 6, and some of us had rubbery lobster, while some of us had good lobster.  Some of us had thick chocolate melting cake, while some of us had runny chocolate melting cake.  The dishes just seemed inconsistent from plate to plate, but overall, the variety of choices was very good.  We ate at the Nouveau Supper Club one evening and I must say that it was the HIGHLIGHT of the cruise!  The ambience, décor, and style really created a romantic environment where I felt like I was on a different ship!  We were seated upstairs along the railing where we could see the live music down below (very soothing music, by the way).  The 5-course meal included 2 additional surprise complements from the chef, so I guess you could say it was really a 7-course meal.  The food was EXCELLENT!   The food in the La Playa Grill (the buffet) was good, but got pretty old after about Day 3.  The 24-hour pizzeria was not good at all.  We looooove pizza, and tried it 3-4 times in hopes that it would get better, but it just didn’t.  The pizza lacked cheese, neither of us cared for the corn crust (seemed like a giant English muffin), and the toppings were lacking.  What we did really enjoy was the 24-hour ice cream though.  My husband probably had ice cream every day, and I just nibbled on his.  The Carnival Spirit also offered a sushi cart on most nights for a few hours, and that was goooood stuff!  The chef made it to order, so if you didn’t arrive right when the sushi cart opened at 5:30 p.m., you could have a 20-minute wait just for a couple of pieces of sushi. We ordered room service a couple of times for a late afternoon snack right before our daily nap.  The room service menu was quite good even though there were no hot food items.  I ordered a wrap both times, while my husband ordered a sandwich that they completely messed up (so he didn’t eat it at all), but the menu itself is good and offers a variety of options.  Entertainment: What a disappointment.  We did not enjoy the Spirit dancers.  That just bores us.  We went to the comedian (David Say) twice – once for his G-rated show and once for his R-rated show.  They were ok.  We also saw the hypnotist, who was average.  We’ve seen several other hypnotists at other events, and this show just wasn’t as funny as we expected it would be.  None of the other featured entertainers on the schedule interested us, so we didn’t see any other entertainment.  We had wanted to see the magician/comedian combo (not David Say) that was planned for another night, but that comedian didn’t make it onto the ship due to missing a flight connection.  So, some shows were moved around.  We DID enjoy Legends, however, and one of our FUN dinner mates was “Madonna” in the show.  If you get a chance to watch Legends on your last night, do it! Nightclubs: We ventured into the Disco Dancin’ Club on the first night and were disappointed to find that it was not an over-21 club.  It was an over-18 club, but Carnival was not enforcing the age rule.  It just wasn’t much fun dancing next to 16-year-olds who seemed to be taking over the club.  We tried it again the second night, but the same thing happened, so we left after giving it about an hour of our time.  The Versailles Lounge had a nightly live band playing which was pretty good.  The age there is much older – closer to 60+.  Because of that, the music tended to be Beach Boys or other songs from the 1950s and 1960s.  We are a late 30s couple, so we had a tough time finding the right night spot for us.  We did spend one late evening in the Shanghai Bar where a pianist took requests and played until about midnight or so each night.  That was fun, however, the night we were there, we were the only couple for about an hour, and it never filled up to more than about 8-9 people. Ports of Call: Acapulco – We took a cab to Playa Caleta beach as recommended by someone on Cruise Critic.  That was a horrible mistake this time of year.  We had never seen so many bodies trying to stuff themselves on a public beach all at the same time. It was a miserable location, but we decided that it was mostly because December ushers in a 3-week Mexican holiday vacation for locals, and they all go to the beach!  If we go to Acapulco again, we will try this beach again, but not in December.  Trust me, don’t go in December!  Instead, spend your money on a paid excursion where you are guaranteed a spot on the beach in a lounge chair. In the evening, we went on the Cliff Divers Delight excursion.  The tour was overbooked, and there were a lot of unhappy cruisers.  We had 5 buses of 60 people each, so they stuffed 300 of us at the restaurant, which was overwhelming for the servers.  We were told we could order dinner there, but once we arrived, the restaurant said their kitchen was so busy that it would take 45 minutes to get a meal.  So, to our disappointment, we didn’t get to order dinner.  The place was so crowded that some people didn’t even get to sit down.  We were told that they later complained to Carnival and got full refunds for this excursion.  We felt fortunate to have gotten two chairs, though no table.  The diving show itself was pretty cool, though over very quickly.  Zihuatenejo – We took a water taxi over to Los Gatos beach as recommended by several on Cruise Critic.  Again, there was an overwhelming number of locals who were there to spend a day of vacation, and there was very little sand available to stretch out.  The closeness of our bodies to our “neighbors” was really surprising, but it was just soooo packed there that it was hard to enjoy.  Again, we wouldn’t go to a beach in that area again in December unless we were on a paid shore excursion. Manzanillo – This was probably the best shore excursion we have ever taken.  We did the Cuyutlan Turtle Experience where we were taken by bus to a turtle sanctuary.  Once there, we watched an educational video, took a tour of the various turtle tanks to see turtles in different stages of their lives, saw iguanas and crocodiles, then got to release day-old turtles into the ocean.  It was an amazing feeling to do something like that (NOTE – We were told by the tour guide that turtles are only released from April – sometime in January.)  Immediately afterward, we took a canoe tour through a lagoon, but didn’t see anything other than birds.  At that point, we would have been much happier if the excursion would have just ended.  Instead, we boarded the buses and went to an awful hotel (called Maria Victoria) where we were served a Mexican buffet (but they did not have enough food for everyone; people took more than they needed, so those of us at the end of the line didn’t get all options), and told we could use the pool and the adjacent beach.  The pool was very small and overrun with children who were likely staying at the hotel with their families (so of course they were in the pool!), so we opted for the beach.  We found an umbrella and chaise lounge, but were promptly asked for $8 for the use of the umbrella.  Since we only had about an hour and a half left there, it just didn’t seem to make sense to pay $8 for an umbrella for 90 minutes.  Again, stay away from the Mexican beaches in December unless you are on an excursion where you get your own private area included! Gift Shop Purchase (Liquor): Once back on the ship, we purchased a special in the Gift Shop – 4 bottles of flavored Cruzan Rum for $28.95.  Yum!  The Carnival Gift Shop advertisement said that the liquor purchases would be packaged securely for checking in airline baggage, and since we flew from Seattle, it was imperative that these bottles be packaged as such.  When we went to the gift shop, we even talked to the personnel about it to make sure it would be packaged securely, and we were assured that they do this all the time.  Well, guess what?  After we had arrived to the San Diego airport on disembarkation day, my name was paged and I was asked to go to the Alaska Airlines ticket counter (after I had already gone through security and was sitting at the gate).  I went back to the ticket counter where a very nice Alaska Air employee explained to me that my luggage had arrived to them from Carnival, but that 3 out of 4 bottles had broken inside my luggage, there was glass filling my suitcase (along with the rum) soaking my clothes, and that it further was spilling out onto other passengers’ luggage!  I offered to clean it up, but the employee had already done what she could to clean out a bunch of the glass and try to re-pack my suitcase of wet and stained clothing.  She really just wanted me to know that this had all happened while my luggage was in transit from the Carnival cruise ship to the airport, before my luggage even made it on to the plane, so I wouldn’t be surprised when I retrieved my luggage in Seattle and saw all of the damage.  My suitcase is completely destroyed, stained, soaked with rum, and is unusable.  I have 7 items (could have been worse!) of clothing and a toiletries bag that are permanently stained.  My goal now is to resolve this with Carnival since they “guaranteed” these items to be packed securely for checked baggage,  and obtain some sort of fair reimbursement for my luggage, clothing, and my purchase that I did not receive. UPDATE -- Carnival is unwilling to take responsibility.  They will not honor the guarantee to package items from the Gift Shop for airline checked baggage.  I am now working with my credit card company and travel insurance. Spa: I purchased a Port Day Special scheduled for the morning we arrived in Acapulco.  I chose the Lime & Ginger Salt Scrub followed by the Full Body Massage.  I probably get this combo about 5-6 times per year at various spas while on vacation or locally in Seattle.  It’s my absolute favorite!  However, this was one of my least favorite experiences.  The spa on Spirit is nice, feels like a relaxing ambiance, the staff is very friendly, consistently smiling, and just appears to be a nice place to spend some time.  The particular treatment I chose, however, just wasn’t up to par.  My massage therapist felt more like she was just running her hands on my body.  The scrub itself only happened on the front of my body, while my back wasn’t touched.  That’s the first time I’ve had a scrub where my back wasn’t scrubbed at all.  If it weren’t for that, I could probably get over the fact that my therapist just didn’t massage hard enough, but since the “special” still cost $159 before gratuity, I really should have received a full body scrub, not just on my front.  I didn’t see anything that said the scrub was only for the front portion of a body! Luggage Express: This is a new program of Carnival where they will check you in with your airline, take your luggage, and you never see it until you land in your final destination.  The great thing is that you get to bypass the check-in/ticketing process because Carnival does all of that on your behalf.  The night before you disembark, you will receive your airline boarding passes and luggage tags, saving you time the next morning at the airport.  We really liked this offering, and if it weren’t for the destroyed luggage and contents (total damage is $545), it would have made our trip home super easy and uneventful.  Disembarkation: The process started at 8:30 a.m. as planned, and we were called at 9 a.m. because we were part of the Luggage Express group.  We were off the ship by 9:03 a.m., grabbed a waiting shuttle, and were literally inside the airport by 9:17 a.m. In Summary: Overall, this was a fun cruise, but mostly because we really enjoyed our Cruise Critic Roll Call members, our dinner mates each night, and the fun my husband and I have when we travel together.  We typically don’t let minor annoyances impact our travels, but there were a LOT of little things here and there -- the inconsistent food, lack of cleanliness in our cabin initially, and in the eateries, tables not being cleaned up for hours, dishes left in the hallways for hours, and lack of good stateroom service.  The kicker is that Carnival won’t honor their gift packaging guarantee, and I guess that’s a big thing as opposed to a little annoyance. This will make us think twice about cruising Carnival again.  Never say never…but it would have to be almost free on an excellent itinerary for us to choose Carnival over Royal Caribbean next time around.  

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Sep 30, 2007

Hawaii

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Hawaii Paul & Tammy Marshall We had planned to go to Hawaii for our tenth anniversary for some time and after careful research booked on the Carnival Spirit about 18 months in advance.  We booked the 12 day Hawaiian itinerary, which consisted of:  Honolulu (2 days), Kauai, Hilo, Kona, Lahaina, Kahalui, followed by a 5 day Pacific Ocean crossing to Ensenada, Mexico.  Having twice

sailing on RCCL we were skeptical about booking with Carnival, which we considered at step down, but the price and cabin sizing swayed our decision to book.         The next morning we flew to Honolulu via Hawaiian Air.  Working in the limousine industry, we had booked our own transfer to the pier ahead of time.  They no showed us at the airport and upon calling them directly with my confirmation number, they said they couldn’t find the reservation and wouldn’t be able to take care of us today.  Welcome to Hawaii and Aloha!  We were quickly able to find a taxi and surprised that he was able to fit all four of us, the guys each being of somewhat formidable size, eight pieces of luggage and four carry on's into his town car.  Cost us $30 to the Pier. At the pier we were quickly met by what looked to be a neatly attired but independent porter, whom helped us bring our bags to the loading belt, only a few steps away from where we were dropped off.  We had all pre-filled our boarding documents and had appropriate luggage tags with our stateroom numbers on them.  The porter helped us unload our bags to the belt, wished us well on our cruise and started to walk away.  Unlike my prior experiences in Miami, where the pier workers instruct you on tipping policies in advance I was shocked.  I got her to come back to tip her, which seemed to come as a surprise.  Once our bags were loaded onto the belt we were a short walk away from entering the Carnival Spirit check in area.  Having reserved a suite, my wife and I had VIP status and as such had a special check in area.  Once we cleared through the security we proceeded to the check in area, and our travel companions proceeded to theirs.  Perhaps it would make a difference had there be more passengers checking in, but we were all on our way up the gangway inside of 5 minutes. After the obligatory stops for ships photographers, then photographs for boarding security and one more stop for ships photographers we entered the mid-ship Atrium.  After dropping our carry on luggage in our rooms, one floor apart and opposite sides of the ship, we went to search out our dining room assignment and explore the ship.  Back at our stateroom before our venture ashore, three of our four bags had made it to our door.  It was only by chance that I found a porter with our other bag, returning it to a lost bag room as it had lost its tag.  This also happened to our travel companions.  They located their missing bag later that night in the lost bag room.  Carnival should send out better luggage tags. The Ship From the moment we entered the atrium of the ship it was evident that they were meticulous in their cleaning and maintenance regimen.  As our home for the next two weeks I continued to marvel at how clean and well laid out the ship was.  The atrium shot straight up 11 floors looking up through a stained glass dome that housed the Nouveau Supper Club.  Three glass elevators, and four sets of elevators behind those efficiently transported passengers to and from their stateroom decks.  With two other banks of 4 elevators, one fore and one aft, we found that we were never waiting long to get where we needed to go.  Of note here, is that the elevators seem to operate so silently, that I would not hesitate in the future to book a room closer to them, not that a long hallway walk after dinner wasn’t of significant benefit.  We quickly found the main Empire Dining room on floors 2 and 3 aft, and searched out our Maitre D’, Drakos.  Our Sail and Sign card correctly had us at early seating, but at a table of 4.  We requested that we be re-assigned a perimeter table if possible (for the view), and a larger group would be nice.  He told us he didn’t know if he could help but to leave it with him and he would see what he could do.  We were informed by cabin message a short while later of our dining room re-assignment, table 102, a portside deck 2 table for 12 by a large porthole window. The Empire Dining room itself was well appointed and exuded a casual elegance.  The lower and upper levels were decorated differently with the upper level appearing to be more opulent.  Both levels of the main dining room were serviced by entry lounges where typically a 3 piece classical ensemble would play before and after dinner service.  In this area you will also find the ‘Dance’ Disco, a nice looking club but not utilized much on our cruise where in my early forties I was certainly in the lower 15% of the age demographic.  Going forward on deck 2 from the atrium, you will find the casino, complete with the requisite thick cigarette smoke, ringing slots, 3 or 4 Blackjack tables or variations thereof, 1 Craps table, 1 Roulette table, and a couple of poker table game (Caribbean and 3 card ).   There is also a separate area with two electronic Hold ‘Em tables that didn’t seem to draw much of a crowd. Further forward from the Casino on Deck Two, is Club Cool, a two piece lounge act room that seemed to attract more than its share of the passengers.  The act in here reminded me of a Saturday night live bit featuring Will Ferrell.  Immediately adjacent to club cool, when you can see through the cigarette smoke is a small sports bar, with several TV’s dedicated to sports highlights and games. Deck Three forward from the Atrium houses a row of shops:  jewelry, candy shop, formal wear rentals, cruise line merchandise, and sundries.  The line of shops could be expanded somewhat to provide a better range of merchandise although our wives did seems to find enough items to their liking.  Located forward from here are the Shanghai Piano bar, and the internet café/library, which was expensive to use at $0.75 a minute with slow connection speeds.  Most forward on the ship and covering decks 2 through 4 is the Pharaoh’s Palace, the main entertainment ballroom.  If you want any sort of drink service you need to sit on the main floor (deck 2) as you seldom see the waiters on the upper levels.  Deck 4 forward you will find Camp Carnival, The Jungle (a skinny long jungle themed walkway), and the TechnoArcade (although several of the games are not operating). Deck 9 Aft to Midship houses the Lido Buffet, a large dining area with comfortable seating and neutral décor.  There are at least 10 stations that serve different style of foods:  deli, pizza/pasta, salad, specialty coffees, burgers and dogs, ice cream…..etc.  Often the food at dinner is similar to what is being served in the Empire dining room that night.  The Pizza stand, deli and ice cream are available at all hours.  Deck 9 also holds two large pools and entertainment area midship, another pool and bar underneath the fantail (aft), and the Spa and fitness center (forward).  It should be noted that the Aromatherapy Jacuzzi in the spa was almost always empty and a nice spot to get away whether you are utilizing a spa service or not. Deck 9 and 10 had several areas with lounge chairs.  It was sometimes difficult to find somewhere to sit as people would ‘save’ their chair with their blue carnival towel and them nowhere to be found.  I often wanted to just take their towel at a cost to them of $22 for replacement….but cooler heads prevailed.  It was often the same problem in the Lido deck buffet, where many would sit hours on end playing cards or reading a book while others looking to sit for lunch could not find a suitable accommodations.  One ‘secret’ location was on the port side of the ship, deck 10, outside of the Nouveau supper club, where you could lay on a deck chair in relative peace from the crowds.  Deck 11 had the entrance to the waterslide which my friend and I, enjoyed for a few go-s.  It drew a bit of a crowd of onlookers, like a traffic accident scene, as they waited for us to crash through the stopping flume at the end.  That didn’t happen, although watch that you keep your head down as some of the cross members don’t allow for much clearance.  Also on Deck 11 right in front of the fantail, is the clothing optional tanning deck, which I heard sported some good views, but did not personally witness, I swear! I just need to reiterate here once again, how clean and well maintained all of the public areas of the ship were.  With limited time between sailings, and passengers on board 95% of the time I can not imagine what choreography it must take to accomplish all that they do. Staterooms Having initially planned to travel with our 2 year old son, we booked a Suite, Category 11, which has a king size bed and a pull out sofa bed.  Our stateroom was 6170, port side slightly forward of mid-ship.   The room was the largest stateroom that we had ever booked with ample storage in two closets, a desk area, and a sitting area.  It had an easy to use in room safe, a large television and three large dresser drawers.  The balcony was six feet deep and as wide as the cabin with a glass fronted railing.  The lifeboats/tenders were hung from decks 4 and 5 immediately below us which somewhat obstructed our view straight down but did not impede the view when looking out.  The bathroom had a full size Jacuzzi tub which we didn’t use even once, a separate hair and makeup area and double sinks trimmed in granite.  The suites were definitely upgraded with several details compared to the standard staterooms.  The halogen pot lighting was adjustable and the bedding was very comfortable. We liked the bedding so much that we ordered pillows and a duvet from www.carnivalcomfortbed.com.    The bathroom had a ‘gift’ pack of items such as toothpaste, mouth wash, soaps and shampoos.  The bed itself was quite firm, rocklike actually, but afforded me quality sleeping each night, although my wife complained that it was a ploy to book additional spa services..  Our stateroom attendant, Yiope, was quite good, keeping our stateroom tidy and well stocked.  We only requested bar restocking once, which had been overlooked, and he responded very quickly. Our traveling companions had an extended balcony stateroom, Cabin 5332, Starboard and aft of mid-ship.  It was well laid out, although not spacious, but effectively served the needs for two occupants.  Their bathroom had a fairly tiny shower, just enough to get sprayed off.  Otherwise the amenities were similar and their balcony although slightly smaller provided a completely unobstructed view down as they were beside the tender boats as opposed to on top of them.  They also were very satisfied with their stateroom attendant, Emmanuel, who remembered their names from the first night.  We found the rooms to be quite soundproof with the only noise we ever heard coming from the balconies not through the walls, floor or ceiling. One note of complaint here from both staterooms; being non-smokers, none of us could enjoy our balconies, with the amount of smokers in the adjacent staterooms.  They really should have sections of the ship’s staterooms that are non-smoking.  One other amenity that was lacking was an alarm clock, not so much for waking up, but just to see what time it was.  There was only one plug in available in each stateroom however we unplugged the VCR in ours to free up another outlet behind the TV. Dining The main dining room food was quite good with appropriate portion size.  The steaks in particular were excellent.  The plate presentation was very good and we never had any problems with hot food being hot or cold food being cold.  Our waiter Marco and assistant waiter Nadica were vigilant in meeting our every need.  The service did seem to be rushed and I assume that it was because we were in the first seating; they were trying to get us on our way.  We had a good mix at our table, with only one couple who were upset when someone sat in ‘their’ window seat, after everyone else at the table had agreed to rotate the seating.  The desserts in the main dining room were very good, however on two occasions, the warm chocolate melting cake that everyone talks about, was more like chocolate pudding.  We only saw the wait staff ‘perform’ once although I have seen in other forums that they have performed every night.  We did not eat in the Empire dining room for breakfast or lunch any day. We had the opportunity to dine in the Nouveau Supper Club to celebrate our anniversary.  The décor was warm and comfortable, complete with white table cloths and good china.  The service was adequate although not as attentive as in the main dining room.  We all thoroughly enjoyed our selected meals.  The plate presentation and quality of food was fabulous.  The Bone-in Rib eye that I had was perhaps one of the best steaks that I have ever eaten and I consider myself an authority in that department.  It was a great dinner and worth the additional fee of $30 per person plus ‘optional’ gratuity. The Lido Buffet was open for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The breakfast was standard fare and I never thought that I would say this ever….ever….I was sick of bacon.   There was always a good selection at lunch and dinner, with the opportunity to eat what was featured in the Empire dining room, buffet style.  The Pasta/Pizza guy was very friendly and happy to oblige you with making whatever pasta creation you chose.  There were always beverages available 24 hours a day:  Coffee, Tea, Water, Juice, Iced Tea, and Lemonade.  One tip would be to bring your own travel mug, or to save a carnival ‘collectible’ glass from earlier to use for juices to bring to your stateroom. We ordered stateroom dining service twice, once in the late afternoon as a snack after a spa treatment, and once for early morning breakfast service before going ashore.  Both times the service was prompt, complete with excellent food quality. Activities The cruise director, Shawn Bussy,, seemed to be everywhere.  We didn’t really participate in any of the games or contests other than Bingo before show time a couple of times.  Carnival plays a Red Team vs. Blue Team contest for the duration of the cruise, your team assignment based upon your dining table number, odd or even.  We were constantly given updates of who was leading, but never did find out who won in the end.  I don’t think there was any ‘prize’ for the winning team.  There were some passengers who got very involved in the contests:  scavenger hunts, hairy chest competition, Survivor, etc…They were running wildly around the pool deck, through the Lido buffet area, all in the quest to win a plastic Carnival Spirit on a Stick.  Avoid the mid-ship pool during the day if you are looking to relax. The shows ran nightly in the Pharaoh’s Palace, having both entertainment for early dining and late dining guests.  We attended the show most nights.  There was a range of entertainers:  comedians, ventriloquist, an impressionist and the Carnival Spirit Dancers.  The other guests seemed to enjoy the entertainment which maybe was geared more towards the older crowd that was on board.  The theater itself was well appointed but did have several pillars which obstructed the views. We chose instead to find our entertainment in the casino.  Having read several other reviews that depicted the casino as a no win proposition.  I beg to differ.  I played blackjack several times and won at each session.  The dealers were somewhat flat, personality wise, but the pit bosses and casino host, Aiden, were friendly and chatty.  One made an off the cuff comment to me early in the week about card counting, which I thought was strange, being that the casino uses a CSM (continuous shuffle machine) making a card count impossible.  I twice entered a blackjack tournament, once getting blown out early and the second easily making the final table only to get eliminated in fourth or fifth place.  My traveling companions played the slots and some poker but didn’t fare as well.  The spa facilities were well laid out and spa treatments were decent.  We all had massages on one day with our wives also having facial and pedicures on another day.  Although the spa is run be an outside contractor, they seem to have adopted the Carnival credo of trying to sell you something every time you turn around.  Expensive creams, or additional services, we were all offered great deals for these extras that we absolutely ‘required’.  We toured the fitness center on our first day aboard and can’t say that we ever again set foot into it.  It’s not that it wasn’t very nice, but who wants to work out on vacation?  The men’s and women’s change rooms housed separate saunas, steam rooms and several very nice intense shower rooms.  The spa area also had a tanning booth and another waiting area that contained the low intensity solar lights used to treat SAD, seasonal affected disorder.  It was hilarious to witness one regular senior citizen, who would get oil up with tanning lotion and sit under these diffuse lights thinking that they were tanning.  None of us had the heart to tell them otherwise. Ports/Shore Excursion Honolulu, Oahu-Day 1 and 2 After getting settled in to the ship on our first day aboard, we ventured out into Honolulu to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel on Waikiki Beach, also known as the Pink Palace, the previous summer home of Queen Kaahumanu.  We had scheduled to partake in the Monday night beachfront Luau.  Be sure to download a coupon from the hotel’s website to save 20% on the admission price.  I believe that you can, for a fee, also reserve a forward table which I would recommend.  The view of Diamondhead from the hotel lawns was fabulous.  The food at the Luau was phenomenal, with even my picking eating wife raving about the variety and quality of food.  The poi wasn’t as disgusting as I had been led to believe, and actually didn’t carry much of its own taste.  The show was what I had expected.  We left before the show was over, almost falling asleep at the table after a long day of travel.  We took taxi’s to and from the show, which aside from the benefit of not drinking and driving, wound up costing us what a car rental and parking would have.  Our second day in Honolulu we awoke early, ate breakfast on the Lido deck, and took yet another taxi to the Ala Moana shopping center to retrieve our rental car.  We rented a Cadillac DTS, and proceeded to Pearl Harbor.  I didn’t really have a need to go to Pearl Harbor but our travel companions had it on their list of must sees.  I have to admit that I was glad that we went as it was an eerie feeling to see the plaque upon plaque of names of the brave who perished there.  We didn’t go over to the Arizona as the wait was four to five hours.  We literally drove through the mountain to the east side of the island in search of Lanikai beach.  We passed many beautiful small towns on the way and found Lanikai relatively easily.  It is constantly rated as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and it was easy to see why.  Although the weather was overcast with on again off again showers, the water was deep azure and the beach sand was powder sugar white.  We spent a while on the beach, watching the kite boarders, returned the girls to the ship, and dropped the car back off at Alamo.  Note that Alamo has a Pier shuttle that runs on the hour every hour for free.  There are several shops worth visiting in the Aloha Tower area immediately adjacent to the pier but were a little pricey. Nawilliwilli, Kauai-Day 3 In retrospect, Kauai was probably the prettiest spot that we visited.  It was lush, tropical and in stark contrast to the densely populated Honolulu. We took a shuttle from the Pier to the airport in Lihue to pick up our rental car.  We had an afternoon shore excursion booked starting at 11:30 am, so we decided to kill some time at the beach in Poipu.  We drove to Poipu beach, and found public access to the beach adjacent to the Sheraton beach resort.  The surf and tide here were fierce, very picturesque but not conducive to the swimming we wanted to do.  We left and found the Poipu Beach Park on our way back towards the Pier.  Although we now didn’t have time for swimming, this area would be highly recommended as there was a protective reef which we heard afforded some very good snorkeling.  There was a Monk seal basking not far from shore.  On route to our excursion, we tried to stop at Puka Dog, one quirky place that I wanted to visit on our vacation.  It is located in the Poipu Shopping Village, but wasn’t open until 11AM….a good reason to go back to Kauai I think.  We booked our ATV Ranch tour independently online and saved a couple of hundred dollars over what we would have paid to book through Carnival.  We drove side by side seated Yamaha Rhinos through a working cattle ranch and down into a valley area, where we got to see several movie sites.  Our guides were very informative, not only about the areas history but also about what it is like to be a local in Hawaii.  The cost of living is so high that most locals work two or three jobs just to make rent, and dream of someday getting off the island to seek out a normal existence.  It was well worth the money and was an enjoyable afternoon.  Perhaps a little too much time was spent on equipment instruction and safety, but understandably.  There were many beautiful photo opportunities along the way and interesting to see the wild feral cats that gathered at our lunch location to look for scraps.  The tour provided us with helmets and bandanas to shield us from the dust, but expect to get dirty.  We were all covered in a layer of red dust, to the point that upon re-boarding the security officer looked us and remarked…”ATV tour huh?”, while grinning. Kona, Big Island-Day 4 Today was a tender port day, that is a day which the Spirit anchors offshore and uses the lifeboats (called tenders), to shuttle guests ashore.  Carnival has a numbering system to try to alleviate the backlogged line waiting to board a tender.  The numbers are assigned based first upon shore excursions which were booked through Carnival, and subsequently followed by a first come first served basis in the lounge to acquire your ticket.  I had previously read reports of the nightmare of getting off the ship in the tender ports, and having booked the Atlantis Submarine tour on our own, I awoke early to get an early tender number.  I went to the lounge and met with the purser’s who told me that I couldn’t get a number unless I was ready to go immediately.  We all went to eat breakfast quickly upstairs on the Lido deck and proceeded to Club Cool to get our tender tickets.  We got ticket 9 and our number was called within 5 minutes of waiting, getting us ashore probably less than half an hour after breakfast.  It was very efficient.  We did a little bit of leisurely shopping, with several nice options to choose from.  We had a 1:30 PM dive time booked as the 11:00 AM dive is blocked by Carnival excursions.  On a hunch I checked with the Atlantis office which told me we could go right away if we chose to.  We boarded another tender and were off to meet up with the Atlantis sub which was waiting at sea.  We dove in the 40 or so passenger sub to a depth of 105’, a trip filled with stunning colored fish and reef life.  After our trip to the bottom of the ocean, we boarded a free shuttle to Hilo Hattie’s, a tourist-minded department store with Hawaiian flavor.  After a quick lunch we caught a taxi to Kahalu'u Beach Park (Turtle Beach) about $16 each way for the 15 to 20 minute ride.  The beach was busy but easy enough to find a spot.  There were full facilities:  food, equipment rental, souvenir vendors, washrooms, change facilities, lifeguards and fresh water showers.  The shoreline entry was rocky with a couple of sand bottom paths past the coral outcroppings.  Swim out almost to the buoy line where you will find excellent snorkeling with plenty of colorful fish.  The right hand exit from the water seems to be a favorite gathering area for sea turtles so watch your step.  There can be pretty substantial fines for even just touching one of these magnificent creatures.  There was a line of taxis at the beach to take passengers back to the pier.  After a little bit more shopping we easily and quickly boarded the tender back to the anchored Spirit. Hilo, Big Island-Day 5 At midnight, the Spirit sailed past an area where lava flows into the ocean between Kona and Hilo.  Our onboard Hawaiian historian/guide, Kanoea (sounds like Cannoli),  awoke anyone who was sleeping at midnight with his prayer over general ship broadcast to Pelé, Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, who has made her final home at the summit of Kilauea Volcano in the Halemaumau Crater.  The ship first passed on the Starboard side, with the captain then turning full about for Portside viewing, but I guess Pelé didn’t hear Cannoli’s call because the only show of nature was a faint orange glow above the horizon in the night sky. The next morning in Hilo we again had decided to rent a vehicle and conduct our own tour.  We easily caught a shuttle to the rental car terminal at the airport and were on our way to Volcano National Park.  We paid our $10 per car entrance fee to the park, stopped at the Information station and were on our way.  It was interesting to see the hot steam seeping everywhere from crevices in the ground.  Kilauea itself was huge, but with no real visible molten lava.  There were several bright patches of yellow (I assume, Sulphur) dotting the caldera as we looked inward.  It was one of those places where there wasn’t a whole lot to see, but you were impressed by the sheer vastness of the area and now we can say that we have been there.  Saturated with Sulphuric emissions we decided to go seek out the Black Sand Beach.  Instead of proceeding further southwest to the Punaluu Black Sand Beach, where the ship tours go, we decided to seek out a more isolated Black sand beach near Pahoa, as directed by the car rental agent.  It was a little difficult to find, at the dead end of Hwy. 137 in the village of Kaimu.  It wasn’t really a village at all but a small collection of Shanty’s including a small outdoor snack stand.  The beach was accessed via a path over the lava flow of about 20 minutes.  I had my snorkel gear with me, and was warned by the locals to not go swimming.  Once we got to the beach I could see why and the warning became redundant.  There was a beautiful black sand beach with huge surf and crashing waves.  We stop and sat for a while and enjoyed the ocean breeze.  We noted the efforts to replant coconut palms along the lava flow.  I wish that I had known the story and significance of the area before visiting it.  This area was much more demonstrative of Pelé’s force than the night before.  Twenty plus years ago the town of Kaimu was a bustling yet eclectic tourist destination, with a busy downtown corridor and several beach front resorts.  In 1990, Kilauea erupted flowing lava all the way to the point  where we now stood, encrypting everything that lay in its path in a 50’ deep layer of lava.  Locals now are trying to reclaim the land, building small homes on top of the lava flow and replanting sprouting coconut palms.  Although the lava flow spared the lives of those in its path, their existence was forever changed. Lahaina, Maui-Day 6 With the Spirit anchored in the harbor along with Royal Caribbean’s Radiance of the Seas, we had another tender day.  This time we planned ahead and purchased a shore excursion through Carnival, a morning departure to the Maui Ocean Center.  We arose from bed, ate breakfast, and joined the shore excursion cattle call in the Pharaoh’s Palace.  After a while waiting our tour was called. We were escorted by a purser directly to the tender area, bypassing all those who had their tender ‘number’ tickets in hand.  I was seated in the tender beside a Carnival Officer with radio in hand.  As we arrived at the Pier in Lahaina I overheard, the Harbormaster, emphatically telling Carnival crew that they better have their security clearance certificate on board, and then subsequently telling Carnival to stop all tendering.  We were the last Carnival Tender ashore, and quickly were routed to a motor coach where we waited for about 30 minutes before departing.  We could see 4 Carnival tenders bobbing up and down in the water outside the harbor, I presume waiting for clearance.  We took the scenic drive south along the coastline to the Maui Ocean Center.   We followed a winding, well laid out serpentine underground path past hundreds of viewing tanks representing ocean life at different depths.  It was quite informative.  Two particular exhibits of interest were the jellyfish tank and of course the shark tank, where you walked a path enclosed in a glass tube surrounded by rays, sharks, tuna and various other large fish.  The entire tour probably took us about an hour at a moderate pace, allowing plenty of time for the wives to shop for gifts, and for all of us to enjoy a $10 dollar sandwich and pop (lol).   The Maui Ocean Center was definitely worth visiting.   It seemed that all the other passengers on our particular bus had boarded and were ready to go about 45 minutes before our scheduled departure, which was fine with us.\ Upon arriving back at the Pier, we hailed a taxi and were dropped off about 20 minutes later at Ka’anapali Beach, a large if somewhat crowded beach lined with Hotels, restaurants and private condo complexes.  We plunked down enjoyed the sun for a change.  We snorkeled from shore viewing several fish, though perhaps not as many as in Kona.  We did come across a huge resting sea turtle, maybe 4.5 to 5 feet in diameter in about 15 feet of water.  Diving down to get a good picture, he would raise his head posing for the camera, or maybe warning us to leave.  We arrived back at the Pier with at least two hours to spare, and were thankful that we did.  The tender line to get back on board stretched down the block.  We waited in line for over an hour in the hot sun to get back on board.  The ‘driver’ of our tender skillfully eased out of traffic at the Pier and was prematurely applauded for his efforts as he rammed the gangway nose-on at the Spirit which probably displaced several sets of dentures.  It is also worth noting here that two crew members on our tender, were complaining about some sort of internal Carnival matters, as well as being subject to have to wait in line for a tender and perhaps not make it to their appointed station on time.  Many noticed that the RCCL line was non-existent with those passengers able to board their tenders immediately.  The Radiance wasn’t set to depart until 10 PM and as such wasn’t subject to the same passenger volume departing Lahaina at the time we were.  I wonder if Radiance passengers found the same sort of lines greeting them later in the evening.  The Spirit departed almost on schedule, which surprised me based on the number of fellow passengers that we preceded on board.  We later heard at dinner that 2 or the 4 tenders broke down earlier in the day, causing the congestion.  My thought is that it was the Harbormaster slowing the process. Kahalui, Maui-Day 7 This would be our second longest time in one port, docking at about 8 AM with a scheduled departure time of 10 PM.  Once again we planned our own excursion, reserving a couple of Sebring convertibles for the mandatory Road to Hana trip.  Quickly shuttling from Pier to the airport reservation counter, we upgraded our convertible to Jeep Wranglers for an additional $12.  We set out on our journey, getting turned around a bit near the airport but quickly redirected to our intended route.  Our friends were navigating this trip with the Hawaii for Dummies book which they brought with them.  We also brought a pair of Walkie-talkies for communication between the vehicles which proved to be invaluable.  Our first stop was at Mile Marker 2, which the aptly named Hawaii for Dummies indicated to be a short hike to beautiful twin waterfalls.  As it turns out it was about 45 minutes straight uphill in the driving sun.  With a couple of water crossings along the way we weren’t quite properly attired, however we forged on.  We finally got to the top and found a pretty twin waterfall that we couldn’t really access unless we wanted to traverse waist deep water and up and over a muddy embankment.  Worth seeing but wish I had brought water shoes and a change of clothes.  The way down was quite a bit quicker.  There were a lot of flowers and other fruit plants worthy of photography if you looked close enough.  We continued along the very winding and scenic road, accompanied by many single lane bridges that required yielding to oncoming traffic.  On several occasions, it seemed that the locals were playing chicken with some of the obvious touristas.  My wife felt the effect of the winding road and contributed her breakfast to the roadside Hawaiian God of Nausea.  Driving between sessions of blazing sun and torrential downpours, we eventually made it to Hana, where we stopped for lunch and to purchase some Gravol.  From there we decided to seek out another Black Sand beach located on our return but close to Hana at Waianapanapa Wayside State Park.  It was worth the stop with full facilities and a beautiful beach.  Again I wish I would have brought my water shoes as the bottom was covered in tumbled lava rock.  The rip tide was strong but we enjoyed wave jumping.  Had a hard time getting out when the surf took my leg, twisted it given me quite the bruise and groin pull that to this day 3 weeks later is still not completely healed.  The trip backed to Kahalui was very scenic, retracing our path, with many photo opportunities.  We stopped for a Krispy Kreme and made our way back to the ship for some spa recovery time. Ensenada, Mexico-Day 12 The itinerary called for a five day sea crossing with our arrival in Ensenada scheduled for debarkation on Saturday morning.  From the second day at sea I started to realize that the ship’s speed, at about 22 knots and the remaining distance put us in Ensenada sometime Friday afternoon instead.  We were made aware of the situation from some of our dining table mates, whom had attended a returning guest party.  They were informed that a passenger was in need of urgent medical attention, was stable, but that the ship was racing to get to port as soon as possible.  The only downside to our early arrival was that the casino and onboard shops would be closed while in port.  We arrived in Ensenada mid afternoon on Friday and decided to go into port to look around.  We were met at the port by economical shuttles which took us to the downtown corridor.  We were overrun by beggars and merchants trying to sell their handmade wares as soon as we got off the bus.  We looked around at some of the stores and sought out a restaurant that we felt comfortable eating in.  The food was quite good and reasonably priced.  Not much else to do in town, so we returned to the ship.  It was rather unnerving seeing troop trucks filled with young Mexican’s, faces concealed with bandanas and carrying M249 automatic weapons.  Having last been ashore in Hawaii, Ensenada was a stark and polar opposite comparison. Debarkation We were informed that all passengers must be ready for debarkation beginning at 4:30 AM.  I did not really understand this since our original arrival time to Ensenada was scheduled to be 8:00 AM.  It seemed that Carnival was taking advantage of the unfortunate circumstances that put us in port early.  Our luggage was put out by 10:30 PM on Friday night and somehow quietly taken away in the night.  We woke up, ate breakfast for one last time at the Lido buffet before our number was called for debarkation.  It was strange that they did not require us to swipe our sail and sign card upon exit, which would ensure them that all passengers had left the ship.  It was surprising to listen over the PA how many passengers missed their departures and were left to their own devices to find their way to their respective departure point.  We were off the Spirit for the last time quickly and herded onto our motor coach for the two hour ride to the airport in San Diego.  The ride through Mexico had some scenic ocean views but for the most part it was the depressing landscape of an impoverished nation.  The highway snaked its way along the base of a mountain range where shanty homes dotted the hillside.  Doors and porches backed out of the homes where it seemed that the occupants must just open the door and throw their refuse down the mountainside.  It was literally covered several layers thick in rotting garbage and unwanted household items.   Passing through the small Mexican villages and through Tijuana, it became evident that the main industries must be illegal pharmaceuticals, strip bars, and brothels. The border was nothing like I had seen before.  Lines and lines of worn out vehicles waiting to enter the USA, while pedestrians zip past attempting to walk across.  There was a separate processing area for the buses coming from the cruise pier.  We waited a while before being queued to enter the immigration station.  It was quick and efficient and we were back on our way to SAN.  Once we arrived at the airport we found all of our luggage easily in two different but close by areas.  Our Northwest flight from SAN to DET was an on time departure and with a strong tailwind was about 45 minutes early. Overview The cruise and trip was more than worth it.  It is what you make of it.  We didn’t have a lot of sun in Hawaii but it was beautiful none the less.  The Carnival Spirit was impeccably maintained and the crew went out of their way to be friendly and helpful.  The sailing on the ship including the ocean crossing had a few occasions of rockiness, but it didn’t seem enough to bother us.  The duration of the cruise was probably about two days too long for us, being away from our son and routine of our normal lives.  We would definitely go on a Carnival cruise again, and when we do so would again book a suite.  I would even be as bold to say that I believe that we would choose Carnival over RCCL based upon our experience on the Spirit. As far as Hawaii is concerned, I think that the cruise provided us with a good sampling of the colloquial differences among the islands which make them unique.  I also think that the amount of port time was not enough to get a good feel for the island or to necessarily enjoy what they had to offer.  That said, we would love to go back to Kauai and perhaps Maui for a longer stay land based vacation.  Still it is difficult to ignore the allure and economical advantages that a cruise ship lends to a vacation.  

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Aug 15, 2006

Alaska

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Alaska Northbound Veronica Martinez   This was the best trip overall that I have ever taken! Beside the natural beauty of Alaska, The Spirit was amazing. Very well organized, clean with quality gourmet food (including the buffet). The food was superior to any cruise line. The rooms were larger than most with lots of storage area. My only complaint would be the arcade, most of

the games were broken. Outside of that, the entertainment was Las Vegas quality. The ship was immaculate with a huge emphasis on hand washing and germ control for all passengers. Excellent crew members, friendly and very helpful. In addition, the luggage was handled with great efficiency boarding and departing. We will most definitely travel Carnival again.  

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Jun 6, 2006

Alaska

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Alaska Northbound Bob Cookson Completed the southbound Whittier to Vancouver trip in June, 2006. This was probably one of our favorite vacations of all time...the ship is fantastic, the shore excursions are fun, and the sites and sounds of Alaska are inspiring. This was a family vacation including our 12 and 16 year old kids. Service Cabin stewards were polite, helpful, and

unobtrusive. We were impressed that they dealt with our schedule so effectively and kept everything clean and fresh despite our comings and goings (and never once were they cleaning when we needed to use the cabin). Dining room staff is thorough and efficient. Every waiter and assistant seemed to have a dynamic personality and provide humor without intruding on conversations and the enjoyment of the meal...so good that we felt compelled to tip extra for the dining room staff. General staff is polite and hardworking. Someone is always offering a cocktail, towel, or whatever you might want and smiles abound. Itinerary   The ports and shore excursions are great! First, the ports...each port offers options that are unique from the other ports. There is some overlap, so seek something in each port that is unique for that port. Also, the souvenir shopping is very similar in every port, so don't hesitate to buy thinking that there may be a lot more or different shops in the next port (especially with respect to t-shirts and other less expensive items). Yes, there are one or two nicer stores that carry different items, but the typical items are the same everywhere (and surprisingly cheap). This information does not apply to fine art and jewelry offerings as we did not make any of those purchases. Don't feel pressured to book shore excursions in advance. We booked all of ours on the morning of the excursion and got our first choice every time. What's more, none of the excursions were filled. By delaying, you can wait and see what the weather holds for that day. Also, if the computer says an excursion is full, ask the excursion staff to check at the dock...we had one show as full when only 9 people had signed up (they easily made space for 4 more. I can recommend each of the excursions we did as we enjoyed them all very much. They were the aquarium, hatchery, and semi-submersible (Sitka); the Mendenhall Glacier and wildlife quest (whale watching) - (Juneau); and sea kayaking (Ketchikan). Our stay in Skagway was too short to try an excursion and nothing really interested us. Spa and fitness center Best of all, there was enough of everything to go around! That's right, not everything filled up on day one and there were enough machines and equipment to support so many passengers. We never had to wait to get on fitness equipment...there is enough in the room that it does not get too crowded. The spa offerings filled up quickly for the first formal dinner night, but availability was decent after that night. Like with any cruise ship, watch the up-sell after your spa treatment. Entertainment We saw three shows and thoroughly enjoyed them. Surprisingly, the theater was only filled for the final show (which included a number of very talented passengers). We saw the before midnight, "family friendly" shows since the kids were with us and the days were pretty busy. Minor complaint...getting a second cocktail during the show is nearly impossible as waiters have to go so far to the bar that services the theater. The band is excellent. We enjoyed the performance of classical ensembles and acoustic guitars in the atrium. One performer that is not seen much is the piano bar player...the Shanghai Bar is kind of quiet, but the performer gets his crowd singing along with ease! Ship layout and amenities The ship is pretty easy to learn and there are enough elevators to travel up and down decks pretty quickly, even on port days. There are also plenty of quiet spaces where you can sit and chat over a drink without crowds or cold breezes. We generally liked all the amenities that the ship offered. One complaint (although we did not swim) was that most of the pools were closed, including the pool with the slide. The weather was great (sunny and 75 degrees) so the kids may have gone swimming had there been more than one 4 foot deep pool. Sailing The views are stunning! Except for some night cruising where you are far from land, there is always something to watch. Also, the on-board naturalist does a great job of pointing out wildlife and unique geographic sites. We chose a port cabin with extended balcony for viewing. The balcony was a great idea, but the choice of port or starboard is irrelevant...views are great on both sides! Food The food was fantastic. Dinner in the Empire Restaurant was tasty and creative. Food on the Lido deck was varied and interesting every day. The only complaint was that the offerings for off hours were limited to pizza and sandwiches - keeping the salad bar open would have made a lot of cruisers very happy. Kids programs Both kids tried to participate in kids programs. My 16 year old had more success, as the program clearly considers what teenagers like - music, hanging out, limited structure, and making friends. Club O2 was a nice place to get away and let the kids get to know each other. Activities started late, but that was OK as we had the late dinner seating. The program for 12-14 year olds was less satisfying. The program was a bit juvenile and unoriginal - kind of an extension of the kids program. Thus, my 12 year old noted that the other kids bored easily and left to roam the ship (this program does not require sign-in/sign-out like the younger program). Many of the offerings were way off base for kids this age and it left our son in limbo...so he came to find us (he's good enough to ask if he can roam around with his buddies). Unlike the older kids program, this group does not find the same chances to bond and hang out together. The arcade (known as the Jungle) is overblown. There are 20-odd games in the arcade (some duplicates) at a dollar a piece. The Jungle is pretty isolated, so it can be a little creepy thinking of your kid being there alone or with a couple kids playing games. Finally, don't be surprised - there are no organized "kid program" shore excursions. Oh yes, a lot of the older kids congregated at the back of the ship playing giant chess. It's near the 24 hour ice cream dispenser. LOL Overall experience Despite my minor complaints, we would take this trip again in a heartbeat! Of course, everyone told us we had crazy fantastic weather (no rain on any shore day) and we hope you have the same! Everything was spectacular except the 12-14 kids program and, since this was a family vacation, we did not mind spending time with the kids when on-board and on excursions.  

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May 30, 2006

Alaska

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Alaska Northbound Rhonda We just returned from our Alaskan cruise that sailed on May 31, 2006 from Vancouver, Northbound for Alaska. Our family consists of myself and husband (early 40s), sons (18 & 21), my parents (65 yrs old). My family has been on 6 cruises. Three with Disney, three with Carnival. This was my parents’ first cruise. We really enjoyed the Northbound itinerary

because the scenery gets better as you travel North. I completely agree with previous reviewers – you need a balcony to really appreciate Alaska. I would suggest a room with a 60 square foot balcony if you plan on spending a lot of time outside. Unlike the Caribbean where all you see is water, there is scenery most of the time. We were able to see whales swimming beside the ship many times. Also saw a bear with cub, sea otters, and bald eagles. Embarkation – This is the first time we let Carnival arrange all of our transportation. It was flawless. Highly recommend taking advantage of US Direct. You go straight from plane to customs with no wait. Then you are taken to the ship. You do not pick up luggage at the airport. It was delivered to the stateroom a few hours later. One suggestion is to arrive a day early in case of delays. Although we had no problems, I did speak with several people who were not as lucky. Also heard that some people missed the ship and could not board until Ketchikan. Weather - Prepare for rain. Also, dressing in layers is a good idea. Disposable ponchos are great because they are compact and fit easily in a backpack. My sons wore light waterproof jackets with hoods most of the time. Would also recommend packing one or two warm outfits. Had a couple of days that were really cold. Suggestions - Binoculars. Plastic clothespins for shower curtain, which keeps the shower curtain in the shower stall. Dryer sheets to keep drawers and closet fresh. An outlet strip. Excursions - I pre-booked most before we left home. This is nice because tickets will be delivered to your room. Just be aware that the weather is unpredictable and most excursions continue even in the rain. One tip for Juneau, an inexpensive way to see the Mendenhall glacier is the $6 bus (each way) plus $3 to get into the park visitor center. You can spend as long as you like. We hiked a short trail for better photos, which was an easy trail, even in the rain. Many tours do not allow enough time for this. Had planned on doing the tram but the weather did not cooperate. Room Steward and dining room servers were excellent. Important tip, Do not wait until the last evening to start packing because the glaciers on the last day are spectacular and you do not want to be stuck in your stateroom packing! Debarkation - Unorganized! We had a late flight and were told that our luggage would be at the Egan Center (Anchorage convention center). We had arranged the Mount Alyeska excursion in Anchorage. When a passenger on our bus asked the driver about luggage at the Egan Center, we were told by the driver that the luggage would be held at the Hilton Hotel instead. When we arrived later that afternoon, there were hundreds of pieces of luggage sitting in front of the hotel on the sidewalk. Glad it did not rain and felt lucky that our luggage was still there. Also, inadequate bus transportation to get people to the airport. We had a very late flight so it was not a problem for us, but some people were very upset. It was a shame that this was the last impression for a lot of people. Overall, this was a wonderful cruise experience for my family. The scenery and wildlife in Alaska are spectacular. I would highly recommend the Spirit.  

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May 22, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Exotic Mexican Rivera Bill Addison  We just returned from a highly anticipated Alaskan cruise. We had to cancel this same cruise two years ago due to my wife having a major illness. This time, we had a group of seven, ranging in age from 51 to 73. We came from Alabama, Arizona, Ohio and Kentucky. Three of our group had never cruised before. My wife and I booked one of the Penthouse

suites, 8268, with a wrap-around balcony. It is a little unhandy getting home at night, being on the back corner of the ship, but for the Alaskan cruise it is perfect. The balcony is almost four times the size of a normal balcony. The others booked outside cabins and shared our balcony. These particular suites have a bedroom you can close off for privacy, a sitting area with a sofa and two chairs, a separate dressing area, walk-in closet and a bathroom complete with whirlpool tub. I don't think I would pay the extra for a Caribbean cruise, but when we arrived at Harvard Glacier, we could see it for nearly the entire stay, then view it as we sailed away. My wife and I flew from New Orleans to DFW, then direct to Anchorage on American Airlines. We had booked through the Carnival fly away program and I never book without taking the vacation protection. When we arrived at DFW, we arrived at gate C36. We were told on the plane that we would depart at gate C15. When we arrived at gate C15, the area was empty. We checked at the next kiosk and found we should be at gate D15. We had to hurry then on their Sky Link to terminal D. We arrived with 20 minutes to spare, I only wish my luggage had received the correction as well. We rode the Alaska Railway train from Anchorage to Whittier instead of the bus. We had bus tickets included in our package price, but the train ride was well worth the extra $55. When we arrived in Anchorage, we were paged and told our luggage would be delivered the next day on the 8 PM flight to Anchorage. The only problem was, the ship left the next night from Whittier at 9 PM, 65 miles from the Anchorage airport. American flew my luggage to Sitka. When we got on board, I visited the purser's desk and they arranged to have my luggage brought from the Sitka airport to the ship. I had the pair of jeans I had traveled in and two shirts, my wife had the pants suit she had traveled in and one pair of jeans. We went shopping onboard and bought some nice Carnival Spirit clothes, thanks to the vacation protection plan. The Spirit is a beautiful ship, on par with the Golden Princess we sailed on a few years ago. I am not going into detail about the ship, just some of the people. We have sailed on quite a few ships, but on this trip we had the best room steward and stewardess we have ever had. My wife and I both celebrated our birthdays on board. Our steward and stewardess, Milena and Alexander, decorated our room for us for our birthday. What an unexpected surprise. Due to her illness, my wife has a little difficulty cutting meat, our waiter noticed this the first night. After the first night, as he delivered her plate, he graciously cut her meat for her. The ports on this itinerary are outstanding. At Sitka, several of our group did the semi-submersible in the morning. They all agreed this would be better in the Caribbean, there is a little too much silt in the Alaska water for good visibility. In the afternoon, we all did the Sitka tour with the Russian Dancers. This is a great tour and the dancers shouldn't be missed. They are all female, even the male dances and all volunteers. At Juneau, four of us did the helicopter flight and walk-about to the Mendenhall Glacier. What a magnificent tour, our pilot, Brad, knew the area extremely well and narrated all the time that he didn't have to be on the radio. While we were on the glacier, my niece actually lied face down on the glacier and drank from a melt runoff. Of course, I was more proper and drank from a film container. We booked this tour directly with Temsco Helicopters at temscoair.com. We had to be picked up about 1/4 mile away, due to Carnival booking flights with the same company. We felt we received more personal attention, we were picked up and dropped off by a company van instead of riding a bus. Plus, we saved a good bit of money by booking direct. In the afternoon, we rode up Mount Roberts on the tram and enjoyed that also. At Skagway, we took two tours, both booked through Carnival. In the morning we did the Skagway street car ride. Our driver was L.C., a member of the Skagway City Council. She has lived in Skagway fifteen years and is a delight. Her best line was about her Mom asking about her chances of marrying, living there. She told her Mom, "the odds are good, but the goods are odd." In the afternoon, we rode the White Pass and Yukon railway. If you don't do anything else in Skagway, don't miss this ride. The Travel Channel recently had a special on scenic railways in America and this was rated #1. In Ketchikan, we had probably the best excursion I have ever been on in all my cruising. The only thing that ranks close is seeing the Grand Canyon. We booked the Misty Fjord National Monument flight with Sea Wind Aviation. They have a website seawindaviation.com. On their site, there is a link to a write up by Tom Ogg, which is where I decided to book this. Tom wrote a very good article, but didn't praise this young couple enough. Their names are Steve and Lesley Kamm. Lesley picked the 5 of us up at the dock and drove us the short distance to their office and floatplane. Tony and I had always wanted to fly in a DeHavilland Beaver and Steve has a 1959 model. The flight was magnificent, but Steve and Lesley made us feel as if we had known them for years. I know in may heart that we were just some more passengers, but they made us feel so special that it made a lifetime memory. They have a limited number of reservations available, of course. If you are one of the groups lucky enough to get to meet and fly with these young people, you will feel the same way. Our flight home was uneventful, my luggage even came along for the trip. A friend of mine is taking the Spirit Northbound in three weeks. Yesterday he asked if I would go back, I told him to change the names on his tickets and I would pack immediately.  

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May 16, 2006

Alaska

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Alaska Julie Mendenhall We have just returned from a wonderful cruise. We consist of myself (Julie, 42) Randall (Hubby, 45), Randall's Mom and Dad, Phyllis and Russell, hereafter known as Mil and Fil. Randall and I left our home state of South Carolina on May 13th, taking a 12 hour drive to Indiana. We met up with both of our families in Indiana. We had a wonderful reunion and

anxiously awaited May 16th's arrival. May 16th finally arrived. We were up at 0430 for a 0615 arrival at the Indianapolis airport. Finally we were up in the air, after a minor glitch. Friendly advice, get a passport!  Randall and I had one, The Mil and Fil did not! They brought birth certificates and drivers license. Whoops, Mil's name is not married name on birth certificate!!! So off we go to get the driver's license and birth certificate motorized. $8 dollars later we have a piece of paper that says Mil is MIL and off we go. Vancouver, BC...wow, what a lovely city. The airport was very efficient and Customs was a breeze for Randall and I but not Mil and Fil. Finally after a few minutes (seemed like eons) we were on our way to collect our luggage. Luggage obtained, we flagged down a "tall van", a van that is able to hold 5 people and the luggage. Whoa...what a ride...that teen driver is playing race cars! Ok, after a near miss with a semi- trailer, we are at our hotel on Robson street. We stayed at the Times Square Suites. They are very nice rooms, and we had a large 2 bedroom suite. It had 2 bedrooms, one with a queen bed and one with twin beds. It had a fully stocked kitchen, bathroom, living room with TV, stereo, VCR/DVD player and washer/ dryer combo. The room was quiet and cool. The queen bedroom had an A/C but the rest of the suite did not have A/C. FYI -  if it gets cool at night, the A/C is programmed to go to only fan. We did not know this and wondered why the A/C was not on in the AM when we awoke. Robson street in Vancouver is wonderful. Lots of stores and shops and places to eat. Although, I forgot the name of the restaurant we ate in, it is at the end of Robson street on the left with a view of the water. Very good food and prices reasonable. There is a Safeway grocery store if you need to get soda or water to take on the ship. Oh my goodness...the day is here to board the beautiful Carnival Spirit! We awoke early and went next door for a nice breakfast. We went back to the suite, gathered our things and checked out. We were outside on the sidewalk in about 65 degree weather ( it had been 76 the day before when we arrived.) Well 10:30 came and went...no taxi. At 11:00 I phoned the receptionist at the suites to inquire about our late taxi. She made a quick phone call and assured us our taxi was on the way. At 11:10 the taxi was there to pick us and our mountain of luggage up. I casually mentioned to the driver that we were going to Canada Place, to board our ship. Huh?? The driver says no you are going to Airport. Ummm no, we are going to board our cruise ship! Ok now the driver is on the same page with us! Yippeee...there is Canada Place, just ahead! We are whisked inside and we really can't see our ship, but we see the famous funnel and know she is there! Gave the porter 2 bucks per bag, he said, "Thank You, but we will get your bags to the ship with or without a tip." Ok...this is not what I have read online. Nevertheless our luggage got on the ship before we did! Now we go through the Carnival check-in. Yes, we have tickets and Passports (well some of us have passports...again holding up line because no passports!) We get into the next section, which is customs. Breezed through there and went to get sign and sail cards. Done...it is now 11:35. Carnival employee's say sit and we will be called at 12:00 for boarding. 12:10 we are posing for embarkation photo and there she is ...the Carnival Spirit!!! Wow! She is a beautiful ship. Some folks might say glitzy, but we thought she was tasteful and tactful. Ok now we are on board. Came on board at deck 3. Our room is on Main deck Aft. ( Deck 4) We were told the rooms would not be ready until 1:30pm and not to go until then. I knew from being an Alaskan Cruise junkie that most stewards don't mind if you put your carry on in the room. Our stewards were Juan, with assistant Rupert. They did not mind at all if we took our carry on into the room. We passed the rest of our luggage in the main hallway on deck 4, thus the luggage did beat us on board. We went to the Lido deck to eat after dropping off the luggage. Back to the room we have the rest of the luggage outside the room. Unpacking commences. There is plenty of room for all of our things. The suitcases went under the bed easily. The cabin was 4229 Starboard side. (Mil and Fil had cabin 4231.) The shower was big, the curtain did not cling to us. The balcony was small but adequate to hold 1 lounge chair, 2 upright chairs and a small table. We go exploring around the ship until 4:30pm when the muster drill is to take place. Well...it finally takes place at 5:30 pm as we were supposed to be on our way at 5:30 PM. We were at dock until 6:30 pm due to some travelers getting delayed. ( they had booked transportation through Carnival and the ship was held for them.) 6:30 arrives and off we go!! Under the Lion's gate bridge with Fun ship special in hand...We were on our way to Alaska!! Dinner was at 8:15 pm, We went and met our waitress, Martina and her assistant Monica. Martina took wonderful care of us, Monica was wonderful as well! The food is good in the Empire dining room and on the Lido deck. All you could drink iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch and coffee, as well as juices. All tuckered out we hit the hay soon after dinner to awake bright and early for our 1st day at sea. May 18th...our day at sea and our first formal dinner. We were up early exploring the ship some more. the Capers was very helpful in knowing what to do and where. Today is our meet and greet with the CC members as well as The Mil and Fil's 48th wedding anniversary. We had cake and coffee, then went to the meet and greet. Some CC members had come to my cabin to have cake and coffee with us. It was nice to put faces to names! I went to the port talk and had to leave...the ship had hit 7ft waves and it was making me disoriented. I went back to the cabin and took Bonine and within 30 minutes was fine. By this time it is time to get ready for the formal dinner and Captain's cocktails. We went to the Captain's cocktails where the waiters were going around with trays of complimentary drinks and snacks. Music was being played and couples danced on the stage; Very romantic indeed. I bought the Anniversary package through Carnival to be delivered in our cabin on embarkation. In this package was a bottle of Champagne. Hubby and I had the bottle of Champagne this night. Followed up by the Formal dinner and photos. May 19th: Ketchikan, AK.....We booked a tour with Sourdough tours. "Best of Ketchikan." Woody was our tour guide. He was great! We saw the most Eagles I have ever seen in my life! We saw totem poles and stunning scenery. We arrived back on the ship with lots of knowledge of Ketchikan and incredible pictures on our camera. Tonight we ate in the Nouveau Supper Club. The fee is 30.00 per person and well worth it! Our dinner was complimented by the breaching of a humpback whale! We took our bottle of Shiraz (given in a fruit and cheese basket) to the dinner club. It went well with our entrees. Allow 2.5 to 3 hours for this meal. May 20th: Juneau, AK.....We took our time getting off the ship today. We had a tour Booked with Temsco helicopters for a Landing and walk around on Mendenhall Glacier at 1145 (tour was not booked through Carnival). We walked to the Red Dog Saloon, and even at 10am it was packed! We were picked up by Temsco right on time and escorted to the Helicopter sight. Given a short video to watch, we were soon fitted with our glacier shoes. They fit right over our shoes and gave grip to the ice. Up, Up and away...wow..wow..wow...The scenery was stunning!!!! We flew around the area and then landed on Mendenhall. This is our surname so we were landing on our glacier! We had 25 min to walk about (guided) and got to drink the water...boy is it ever good!!! All too soon it was back to the helipad so others could come and see what we just saw! Temsco took us back into town and we were starving. The ship was docked a block away but I wanted Halibut and chips and Alaskan summer ale. Off we went to the Twisted Fish...yum, yum, yum!!!!!! Alaska summer ale is really good and I don't like beer! Halibut is the tastiest fish I have ever eaten (sorry Salmon!). I highly recommend Twisted Fish! May 21st, Skagway AK We all 4 were supposed to have gone on the WP&YR train ride at 8:15 am ,but MIL got sick on arrival to Juneau and was quarantined in her cabin for 26 hours. So only hubby and I went on the 8:15 train ride. What a site to behold. The Yukon is so pretty. And I saw a black bear asleep and further down I saw a cub...beary cute!! (hubby did not see them as he was outside and did not hear the announcement to "look out the right side!" This is the only excursion that we booked through Carnival. If you book through Carnival the train picks you up at the dock...did this so MIL and Fil won't have to walk far...OH well...Hubby and I did not have to walk far! (Mil and Fil did get to go on afternoon train and did see 3 bears!). This was our 2nd formal night so after having an Alaskan Summer ale in the Red Onion Saloon, and shopping we hightailed it back to the ship for spiffing up! May 22nd , Sitka, AK. This was our only tender port. We caught an early tender and got ashore easily. We got the city transit for 20 each, all day pass, we used this several times to get from one area to another. We went to the Alaskan Raptor Center where we met Sitka, Volta and other Raports. It was really neat and a nice gift shop as well. The proceeds stay in the Raptor center so those cute "black diamond" bear shaped earrings and necklace just had to come home with me! (Speaking of Shopping...Ketchikan is your cheapest port for souvenirs.) Next it was off to meet with Kent and Bev from Sitka's Secrets for a 3 hour wildlife tour. The tour ended up being 3.5 hours with tons of wildlife being seen! Starting with Sea Otters in the bay! then Whales and Whales and WHales, Eagles, Puffins and too many other birds to name. We highly recommend Sitka's Secrets. The only downer to today is the tender line to get back on the ship was lonnnngggg. But we got back on board and all was good! May 23rd, College Fjords. wow...really neat things to see here! Tons of wildlife, lots of Calving at the Harvard Glacier. Time to pack and set the bags out for 12 am pick up.... Sadly our cruise is ending. May 24th, Whittier AK We got the Mount Alyeska resort tour with airport transfer. A Grayline bus took us to the Resort where we rode a tram very high in the sky to the top of Mt. Alyeska. Wow...lots of snow to play in...not fluffy and powdery like it looks though, it is rocky and pebble feeling. Still pretty snow though! We had lunch here...included in the price. Then off to the Alaskan Native Heritage Center. Pretty neat stuff here too. Now we are taken to the Egan Center. Now our trouble begins. It seems that the Egan center does not know that about 500 of us are coming. So there are not enough buses to take us to the airport. Five hours later we get to the airport. But did this dampen our cruise...no way. The Carnival Spirit is a wonderful ship, the Food is good, entertainment is good, And Alaska is wonderful! Carnival Spirit gets 5 stars for food, service, and entertainment. I have never been treated so well as on this ship. Everyone was happy and friendly and appeared to love their job. Once they knew your name, you were addressed by it from then on. The Captain, Cruise Director, and all staff were just wonderful. We are now hooked on cruising! I would say that they take way too many photos...after all if they all come out good....we would be really broke! I will now save for our next cruise. Alaska was the first but won't be the last. Oh and I guess I could say the infirmary got high marks from the MIL ...even if she was quarantined to her cabin! Lastly FYI...get a balcony...the scenery is non-stop in Alaska. And we saw lots of wildlife from the ship. Pack lighter than you think you'll need. layers is the key!  

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Apr 1, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Exotic Mexican Rivera Juliana   We chose this particular cruise because of specific spring break availability dates and the fact that we didn't want to spend an entire day in route from Seattle. Boarding the ship in San Diego was not a problem. The airport is located inside the city limits and it is very convenient to anything you want to do in San Diego. Naturally, the boarding/registration

lines were long but they progressed at a reasonable speed. We found the staff of the cruise to be extremely professional and helpful. The Camp Carnival program far exceeded our expectations - our sons. 10 and 8, loved going to camp each day. The ship has the agendas published by age groupings, so you can choose what activities that the kids want to participate in. The staff really did stick to their posted agendas and they were great with the kids. The ship is lovely, however I believe that it was built in Poland and, frankly, the main decor reflects darker, eastern European-meets-Vegas. Based on our previous experience with Norwegian, we were expecting a lighter decor with greater water views from public areas. Honestly, if you chose to stay in the main areas and the casino, you could almost imagine yourself actually in Vegas. We prefer the freestyle dining over the set schedule, but with our children along this time, the scheduled dining times worked out well. The food was very good and the wait staff was great. If you chose to pass up the dining room, the option was a cafeteria/food court style area with several choices of cuisine. The food was very good, but feeling of being at an all-you-can-eat buffet with the starving grew to be annoying. The food was very good, though. Our room steward was wonderful and our rooms remained very clean. I realize that this will sound very elitist, but we were, as was the staff we spoke with, surprised at the clientele who chose to wear (for example) ball caps to the dining room and so on. This was not a refined or generally cultured crowd. Rather, it was a spring break crowd for many who were quite beyond the age of celebrating the event. Older couples that we spoke with clearly felt expressed the same thoughts. The pool area was disappointing. instead of an area of relaxation, it was overrun by a too-loud band and groups of folks who grew slightly more crass as the afternoons at sea wore on. The poolside service was terrible. Families tended to gravitate to one particular pool. But the service was equally lousy. Briefly, we chose the nature island hike/snorkel in Acapulco and it was fabulous. We had enough time afterwards to catch a port-authorized taxi (SUV) to the cliff divers show. The max waited for us and gave us some history of the area and it cost of only $20 for a family of 4. Ixtapa/Xihuatinejo was wonderful. We swam with the dolphins - the max. package - and it was worth the money. If you can afford it, go for it. We had plenty of time after we returned back to Xihuatinejo to walk through and enjoy this unspoiled, beautiful fishing town and enjoy some great food and a little tequila. The boys even caught a swim in the bay. Manzanillo is a waste of time. Period. It's a dump. We spent quite a bit to go to the resort for the day. It is beautiful. My husband took our eldest kayaking, but the water was rough and the beach area was very rocky -- not very user friendly. There were several pools that were beautifully tiered at the resort and the pool service was great and the drink prices were very reasonable. Food came with the tickets and it was fine, also. From the cruise, it was a 30 minute bus ride and the guests staying at the hotel seemed to look at us like 2nd class citizens. Never mind that we spent close to $300 to spend the afternoon there. Due to the time of the year, the first day and last day at sea were too cool to enjoy outside by the pool. overall, we enjoyed ourselves and had a great time. However, it is a party crowd.  

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Mar 16, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Exotic Mexican Rivera Samantha I am a first time cruiser, so some of the reviews I read did help. Here is my experience. Except for a few minor details, I thought the experience was a dream. I am 36, my new husband 32 with two boys ages 11 and 7. My mother and her two sisters came along, as well as my cousin and her mate. If you take a large group, you can book through your travel

agent to have your group sit at the same table every night. We booked for a late dinner 8:15pm. It is great, but not fitting for parents if you have children. The kids camp breaks for dinner time, so you would need to pick up your kids around 445 pm. Sometimes we wished we had chosen the 515pm dinner so that we could just get the boys and go. Also the ship on some of the days has these wonderful midnight buffets which we missed because every time we got done with dinner around 10pm we were all stuffed to the gills and found it hard not to want to go to sleep. My cousin ate three lobsters, I thought they gave them to her because she was pregnant, turns out that you can eat as much as you want as long as its on the menu. You can eat in the restaurant three times a day or you can eat on the upper deck in a mall style type of eateries, such as a deli, pizza, grilled hamburger, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches, ice-cream. Just a whole lot of foooooood! If you like to drink watch out because the drink prices will kill you also every time you get a drink there is a 15% gratuity charge. The ship does not accept any cash, they make you charge everything to your room card and then pay when the cruise is over. This makes it easy to spend, spend, spend. For you alcoholics don’t be afraid to grab some water bottles and pour in vodka or rum to mix your own drinks in your room. That’s what we did and it helped save a little money. Be sure that you put the bottles in a plastic bag and put them in your luggage that you are not going to carry on. This way for sure they don’t have time to check your luggage if you check it in at port because they just grab your luggage and send it on board. They are too busy to check. They will check your carry-on luggage so I don’t recommend it. The first day will seem crappy because everyone is confused and trying to get settled in, just get it over with and things will fall into place after that. Once we got the kids sent off to kid’s camp they loved it. The parent that checks in the kid has to be the one to check them out. If you kid is 11 years or older then they can check themselves in and out. Which can be good or bad depending on your kid’s obedience level. Be sure to bring a power strip because literally there is only one plug, not one outlet with two plugs, but one plug to use your electronic stuff. You may want to iron your clothes before you go because irons are not allowed in the room. They have a laundry room that you can use, but don’t wait until the last minute to iron because everyone else is in there using laundry room before dinner. Also the laundry room was a little bit of a walk away from my room and not convenient. Acapulco was very nice if you have a handle on your Spanish you can save money and book your own excursions on the day you arrive. But watch out for the Drivers they all want to overcharge you. So make sure you get the price ahead of time. This one driver was unclear on his charges and then told us that we owed him 35. Dollars per hour after we had spent three hours with him. I told him, in Spanish that he was crazy and only gave him half the money. I was angry they seem to think that if your American and on a cruise ship that your are filthy rich. Ixtapa was just beautiful, we had the overpriced taxi jerk take us to a horse ranch and that was nice we paid 35 dollars per person to ride horses on the beach for an hour and a half. If you have someone take you to a horse place don’t allow them to wait because they charge a fortune, these people have phones that you can use and they can call you a taxi when you get done. Also don’t settle for the prices they give you always offer to pay for half of what they are asking for. You must barter, that’s the fun of it. Many people complained about Manzanillo, but that was because the ship docks in a shipping yard and all you can see are metal boxes and nothing else. For 15 dollars we got a taxi to take all four of us to the local beach there are two of them. About a 20 minute drive. There is shopping all along the beach have him drop you off and walk along the beach when you are done you can always hail a taxi or go to a business and have someone call. There were taxis constantly moving along that area all day. Comedy shows were great you must go. Vegas style shows were Vegas style. Casino was not open 24 hours but we did pretty well. They had slot and black jack tournaments almost every day. The ship also had bingo. Each day you will get a news letter with the daily activities. For those that have children if you do not want to take them on shore you can leave them in the kid’s camp and they will feed them meals until you get back. If you are not on shore you must pick up your kids daily from 12 to 2 and 445 to 7 for meals which were fine with us because we enjoyed eating with the boys. The service was great. They have this supper club that you can pay an extra thirty dollars to have super good food, service, and jazz singer and slow dancing. It is very romantic but I didn’t think it was much better than the service that we got every night in the dining hall. However the dessert was to DIE for it was DEATH by chocolate. I loved the gym you could get good work out or just speed walk around the top of the ship. It usually opened every morning around 7am. There is a topless deck just above that. All in all, we had no complaints except for the arcade. There was no supervision and the games sucked. They needed a better variety. They were all driving games. They should also play music in the arcade to give it a better atmosphere.

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Jan 3, 2006

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Mexican Riviera Jodanna I had booked a land vacation about 8 months ago for myself and my two sisters in Cancun Mexico. But then the hurricanes came and dashed our dreams of beach filled bliss. After recouping what was left of our budget less the “vacation insurance” refund I began to search the internet for a similar vacation with out spending more money. I then found a stellar

deal, on orbits of all places, for an 8 night pacific Mexican Riviera cruise on carnival spirit. I was a first time cruiser and felt the need to read any and all info I could find. Web sites like this one really helped. Thanks. Our sailing date was 1/3/06, departing from San Diego. We live in the so cal area so we didn’t have to worry about booking a flight etc. We instead were able to just park our cars in long-term parking across the street from the pier. For an 8 day cruise it’s 108 bucks but that’s a lot cheaper than a plane ticket and a lot less hassle. Firstly, embarkation was a breeze, we didn’t get down to the pier until 1:30 so I guess we missed the crowds every one is always talking about. The staff was totally friendly and the process took us 15 minutes. No kidding. We booked a category 9A “extended balcony”. It was worth every penny. The room was more than ample for the three of us and even accommodated three chronic over packing women with too many clothes, shoes, and bath supplies. The bed linens were the nicest I have seen in a while, with a duvet cover and fitted sheets on the bed. I haven’t seen fitted sheets on a “hotel” bed since I paid well over what some people make in a week for one nights stay. Great touch carnival. There were two (small) twin beds and a couch. There was also a bed in the ceiling but we decided against using it, since the couch was made up by our amazing stewardess every night so it wasn’t an issue at all. The balcony was great for sunning in the afternoon, or sitting with coffee on those slow to start mornings that somehow stretched to noon. The room is larger than most standard balcony’s I believe due to the location. There are only 4 rooms of this type on each floor located behind the aft elevators. We never heard any noise at all. If it’s available and your looking for a little more room but not wanting to pay as much as a “suite” would cost I suggest looking into it. Our stewardess only came by one morning to ask when we would be gone and after that learned that we weren’t exactly the types to completely clear the room by 10am. She was a very tall Russian woman and we tipped her extra at the end of the cruise for her stellar service. I also left her a bottle of wine in hopes that she might find time to put her feet up and relax. We did get seasick the first night. I am prone to motion sickness but I was assured both by reviews and others who have cruised that it wouldn’t be a problem. We encountered what they call long swells formed from the storms that had just come thru our area the days prior our departure. I finally made it down to the shop on board to buy those bands the next morning and they totally worked, even though they look rather goofy. Next time I’m getting the patch from my doctor. After 2 days at sea we stopped first in Acapulco. It was 100 degrees in January and muggy We caught a cab for 5 dollars to the Flea market and encountered the pushiest vendors ever. They were physically pulling us into their markets and tried to gouge us at every turn. I bought two pieces of silver jewelry that were originally quoted to be 150 dollars, I walked away for both for 60 bucks. Humph. The best part was the last store we wandered into where they served us free margaritas. They were so strong we had to have a couple a piece and one for the road. The walk back to the ship was short and enjoyable with our newly acquired buzz. That night we booked a trip to the supper club and I must say it was the best meal I have had in a long time. Maybe ever. The service was impeccable and the dinning well worth the extra fee of $30 pp. You must, I repeat must, work this into your trip. It was truly a highlight. The next day was ixtapa. I read about Las Gatas beach being a great time so we opted to wing it rather than book a shore excursion, a gamble that totally paid off. Las Gatas is on the other side of the bay where the ship is tendered. When you land at the pier don’t pay attention to the guys barking about 10 dollars a person on a special boat to las gatas. Go instead to the little ticket booths and pay 3 bucks a person round trip (30 pesos). The little boats they take you on are kind of hard to jump down into but very sturdy and totally fun. The beach was full of families since it was a Saturday. The first restaurants you come to on that strip of beach were full of pushy restaurant owners but the father you walked down the more relaxed it got. The very last stop on the beach was the perfect spot. We parked it under a palapa and our waiter David spoke wonderful English and service was fantastic. Word of warning if you want to actually swim in the ocean here, bring some water shoes cause it’s really rocky and I kind of ate it and sliced up my toe a bit. We sat out in the sun/shade for 4 hours that afternoon. I tried the spicy octopus (yum city ) and drank my share of coronas. My sister got her hair braided by one of the women who was walking the beach and we also got some really great coconut oil for something like 2 dollars a bottle. I am still using it. All in all it was my favorite part of our trip. Truly paradise. When we had to leave to make it back to the boat on time our tab was 46 bucks for 7 coronas, 2 other cocktails, 3 full plates of food, and a ridiculous pine colada that was served in a whole carved out pineapple. They even used the fruit that they carved out to make a face. Cheesy but fun. I wish we could have stayed longer. Manzinillo was the last stop. When we were getting lunch that day we ran into some of our dinner mates who had already come back from town and informed us that we wouldn’t be missing much if we didn’t get off the boat. We decided that we would rather sun by the pool and make that our spa day. The spa was wonderful if not overpriced. Massages and facials have their way of making your forget how much money your spending. I found the crew to be very friendly overall. A couple of the bartenders were kind of grumpy but that didn’t ruffle me much. We went dancing the second night at “the dancing club”. LAME LAME LAME. It’s a great set up, two stories, light up dance floor with floor to ceiling monitors. But the DJ totally killed it. He spent so much time TALKING that no one was able to dance. We even thought, maybe he was just trying to get the dance floor full, but it never stopped. No more than 16 bars of music would go by then he was chatting it up again. Saying nothing very interesting. I wanted to clock him. Seriously. I work in the entertainment industry and this guy would be fired hands down. All of us that were traveling are in our mid to late 20's and dancing all night was something we were really looking forward to. We never went back. It was that bad. The food was also not so hot. The room service menu is a joke. It consisted of sandwiches, fruit and some cookies. Also, it bummed me out that the “buffet” was really only from noon to 2:30. After that you could only get sandwiches, pizza, and maybe a hot dog (I loved those hot dogs by the way). Definitely not the food fiesta I was looking for. They didn’t even keep the salad bar open. Must we live on carbs and protein alone? I need some veggies! Please! The food at the empire dinning room was hit and miss. One night it would be pretty good and the next night we would be thinking “ I wonder if I can stomach another night of pizza?”. Our dinner mates even complained about the selections. We sat with a couple who vacations quite a bit on carnival and said it was some of the worst food they had ever had. Even desert was kina lame. Basil ice cream that tasted like soap and pudding that always ended up looking like muffin. There were some great dishes, I had prim rib that was delicious and there was lobster. That might have been it though. Breakfast was great once we convinced ourselves to wake up to make it to the dinning room. Nothing like having someone pour you orange juice in a wine glass at 9:30am. Ya know? We didn’t participate in any of the planned activities other than one afternoon of bingo. Which I won! yeah! Promptly gave it back to the casino though. Oh well. I am a theatrical technician by trade so I just couldn’t see subjecting myself to bad singing and dancing while I was on vacation since it’s what I must endure every other day of the year. I did notice that the towel folding class was packed. I happened to peek in while I was walking by, and man those people were so serious about towel folding. Who knew?? Our captain would make the most ridiculously obvious announcements. my favorite being (insert cheesy Italian accent here): "hello this is captain Palo scalo. You are on boat. It is noon. It is beautiful day at sea. I have cold but don’t worry it only affects my voice". What??? The live music they had through out the ship was really fantastic. I am a big jazz buff and thier trio was superb. It was funny how the same group of us would show up in the lounge every night to hear them. Good company though. Our table mates were really a motley crew. Picture this: 3 sisters, 23,23,( yes they’re twins) and 27, three priests from Boston,( yeah I know PRIESTS!! drinking gambling, sunbathing priests) and a gay couple from Wisconsin. It was our favorite thing going to dinner. Talk about meeting new and different people! We have a great table picture with all those boys whom we lovingly referred to as : our full house, three kings and two queens. Hooray! Hi you guys! Overall we are really happy with our experience onboard the spirit. We relaxed and laughed and had a great time with each other. They really do let you have the kind of vacation you want on carnival and we will probably book with them in the future. PS- to Mr. Wayne Lunderburg. You made me want to go cruising with your review. Every time I flushed my toilette I thought of your witty observation of where does all the excrement go? I couldn’t help but mull over the propulsion systems and stabilizers that were constantly running on that ship. Your candor stayed with my my whole trip. I wish that I could have taken you with me.

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Nov 8, 2005

Alaska

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Alaska Northbound Vickie Bowne   My husband I have sailed many times, this was our 4th Carnival Cruise, and we have also done 3 Princess Cruises. I am 40 and my husband is 49. We sailed on the 8 night Exotic Mexican Riviera Cruise November 8, 2005 from San Diego. Embarkation: We arrived at the pier around noon via taxi. We were unsure as to where to put our luggage as there

was no porters around; however we were early. We then proceeded to the terminal and started lining up. After about a half hour we were given our sail and sign cards and a boarding number. We were #7 and they had just called #1 so we left the terminal to walk around a bit and grab a coffee. When we returned they were boarding all numbers. We were on the ship at around 1:30 pm. Note when our bags were delivered to our room, one bag was ripped. We took it to the pursers office and they wrote us a letter and promised to pay or replace the bag. Room: We booked an outside guaranteed and were upgraded to a balcony cabin (7264). This cabin is at the back of the ship and quite high up, with only one more floor of cabins above us. People on the 8th floor told us that you could hear the chairs being moved around on the Lido deck above them. The cabin was very large, largest I’ve been in. We didn’t seem to have too many problems moving around. There was a mini bar, but we didn’t use it as you had to pay for it and pay a restocking fee. The t.v. had enough channels to keep you entertained, plus you can watch pay per view movies, which we did at a cost of $8.99. You can also book tours and review you bill on the t.v. Balcony: Fair size, it had 2 chairs and a table. We enjoyed breakfast out there many mornings, and late afternoon sun tanning. The downsize of the balcony is our neighbor left their outside light on all night and that was annoying. With a balcony you not only have to deal with the slamming of the cabin doors, you now have to hear everybody’s balcony door slamming, but I would definitely book a balcony in the future. We did bring a bungee cord and used it the first few days, we stopped as having the door open turned the air conditioner off and trust me when you are in Mexico it was way too hot and muggy outside to leave it open. Most evenings it was in the high 80’s. Also in the evenings we were woken up because of noise from someone else on their balcony. Bed: Very impressed with the comfort of the bed. Great duvet, and sheets. We did encounter a problem. We started noticing we were getting bitten by something, at first we figured it was probably from fleas or something in Mexico when we went ashore, but after a day at sea the next morning I had about ten new bites from the waist down. And it continued on the next day at sea too. We assumed it was from bed bugs, and told the purser, but they just shrugged and said that nothing was found. Which is silly as you can’t see dust mites. Our cruise was almost over, but we were concerned about the next passengers getting our room. Storage: No need to worry about space, you have lots and then some. Two closets, and one tall cabinet with shelves. A set of drawers and a desk drawer, plus two bedside tables. Plus our suitcases fit nicely under the beds. Bathroom: Largest bathroom I have ever had. We did notice a foul smell in the bathroom pipes after two days at sea, but a container of air fresher can resolve that. The shower was very large, and great water pressure. The sink had lots of shelves for all the toiletries. I was especially impressed with a small basket provided in the bathroom filled with lots of little things like, toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, conditioner, mouth wash, gel, razor, moisturizer and a little book. The negatives on the room: the noise from the hallways and from other cabins was noticeable. The cupboard doors don’t have handles but these little leather loops which were useless and cause the doors to bang shut which could be heard next door. The safety deposit box requires you to use a credit card to lock/unlock, which is fine, however then you have a credit card that you have to hide in your room or keep with you at all times. The air conditioner in our room hardly worked, only at a very minimum. They tried to fix it but said there was nothing more they could do. We heard that other people had commented that their AC only worked on high. There was only one outlet to plug things in to. Not a real problem for us, but others may want to bring a power cord. Food: Put it this way, we didn’t starve. There was always somewhere you could eat, and it was usually very good. Empire Dinning Room: We had late seating at a table for four. Our wait staff were top notch and the best part of the cruise. We actually looked forward to seeing them every day. The menus were good, not great, but I always found something to eat. I thought it was funny that they had several items on the menu that they had the last time I cruised Carnival ten years ago. We did bring wine on board and the three times we brought a bottle to the dinning room we were charged corkage fee ($10) only two times. We also purchased bottles and I felt their prices were very reasonable. Room Service: We ordered breakfast quite a few times. However we never once got exactly what we wanted. It was actually funny, every morning we would look forward to see what we ended up with. Lido restaurant: This is the one area I felt that Carnival really needs to work on. The food is good, the selection is great; however the layout there is horrible. The aisles are very narrow, and often would be filled with a line up for one of the stations and then people were trying to pass with their food, and then people just walking, plus the wait staff trying to clear tables etc. Often you get there, figure out what you want, line up for some pizza, then join another line for the salad, then another for dessert. You had to plan your attack, get cold items first then lastly hot items to ensure you ate food that was hot. Bar: My past experience with Carnival was pushy bar staff pushing drinks on you every five minutes. Not this time, they were always around, and would occasionally ask if you want a drink. Get this, Carnival no longer has straws! That is right, if you order a drink you have to drink directly from the glass, which can be a problem with frozen drinks, or drinks filled with ice. I stopped order frozen drinks because of this. It was a joke on board with many people, in Acapulco many people went and purchased straws for their own personal use. Entertainment: Again we found the entertainment adequate but not great. There was always something going on, but often it just wasn’t what we were interested in. They had a great comedian and a hypnotist. We didn’t see any of the big Vegas type shows, but I heard they were great. tear but nothing glaringly wrong. I found it easy to get around, and lots of elevators and stairs. Carnival always has one side of the ship that is the main corridor on the promenade deck. Great idea; however it gets rather crowded during peak times. Smoking areas were hard to avoid. In fact to get to the dinning room you had to walk through the cigar bar. Most other areas had smoking and non smoking sections, except the casino. The main show lounger was very large and never had a problem getting a seat. The main pool decks were busy but not too crowded that you couldn’t find a space. Crew: Everyone we met that worked onboard was very nice and always approachable. And I couldn’t believe how patient everyone was, I certainly would not of been as patient with some of the passengers. The captain was very funny, I actually enjoyed listening to his report every day at noon. At one point he was telling us the latitude and longitude when he says who cares what they are we are in Mexico. The Cruise Director Michael and his wife were very nice and funny and always approachable. Ports: Firstly we did not book any tours with Princess but did some research of our own and did our own thing. Acapulco: wow what a large city, and lots of traffic, which I knew it would be but was still taken back. We visited the fort, very interesting and then walked to the artisan market. We then caught a local bus (only .40) to the hotel zone and had lunch and did some shopping. In the evening we met up with a local person I knew and we had dinner at Su Casa which I would highly recommend. After dinner we went to a club called Paradise and partied with many of the crew members. Ixtapa/Zi: We tendered into this port and it was well run. You had to go up to the pool and get a tender sticker, first come first served. We were off about 15 minutes after picking up our sticker. We took the local bus to Ixtapa and walked the beach, which is a beautiful beach and you could easily spend the entire day there. We took a taxi back to Zi and did some shopping. Beautiful place and definitely worth another visit as a land vacation. Two ladies we met did the horse back riding excursion, they enjoyed it, but it was very hot, very dusty and don’t forget bug spray. Manzanillo: We were here for two weeks a few years ago so we immediately walked out to the main drag (ask the information guy on the pier for directions) and caught a local bus to Santiago with is a suburb of Manzanillo, fifteen minutes away. They have a great beach (called Playa Mirimar) plus you can find some large stores. Later in the day we went downtown and walked around and had a nice lunch. Many people didn’t like Manzanillo; however I believe that they are missing out. This city is a true Mexico city, it hasn’t been invaded with tourists. If you want a beautiful beach experience ask a taxi to take you to Playa Mirimar, that also has great snorkeling. A friend we met did take the Deep Sea Fishing excursion, here are his comments: “Deep Sea fishing was booked through Carnival prior to the cruise at $145.00 USD pp. There were 5 guests & 2 crew on the boat. Guides were great, except for speaking very little English. They had 3 boats out that day. No one else was catching anything on any other boat, or in the whole bay, per radio messages! The only thing we caught were two gulls who swooped for our bait. We untangled them & they got away safely!” Debarkation: We arrived in San Diego on time, but all non US citizens had to clear customs before we could get off. Since there was a large conference of mainly Canadians it took a while, plus they only had four custom officers that had to clear 700 people. They should have had more officers as they knew that a third of the ship had to clear customs. We then went to a public area and waited for our number to be called. We were off the ship and in a taxi in about a half hour. Very efficient. Casino: We aren’t huge gamblers; however we usually donate $20 or so to the slots every day. At times we won, but often lost. The Spirit’s casino is suppose to be the largest afloat, but it didn’t seem that big. You have to walk through the Casino to move from one end of the ship to the other, which is annoying. The room was often filled with smoke and often crowded. You can now charge your sail and sign card with gambling money, note there is a 15% surcharge. We encountered four problems, the ripped suitcase, the bed bugs, the air conditioning and lastly our most frustrating. We purchased three bottles of liquor in Ixtapa, when we boarded the ship we did as we were told and handed the bottles over to be held until the end of the cruise. We signed our name, gave our room number and folio number. However we never received the bottles on the last day. That night we contacted the purser and no one responded back. The next morning (debarkation day) we called them again, they called us back to say that the bottles were located and would be delivered. We went to customs and afterwards, still no bottles. So we lined up at the pursers desk and they were quick to reimburse us the $57, but my concerns was that they didn’t follow up on my two initial calls to ensure we had received the bottles. Final comments The public washrooms don’t have paper towels to dry your hands, only dryers. Many people were frustrated with this, it took a long time to dry and most people just used the Kleenex. The coffee bar is always one of my favorite places, but I wish they would have had wait staff to serve us like on other cruise lines. Here you had to line up and wait for your drinks that were served in a paper cup. The cruise divides the entire ship into 3 color teams, depending where you sit in the dinning room and each team gets points for participating and winning events throughout the week. Great idea; however it should be expanded and get more people involved. Often you play a trivia game with 50 other people and only one person wins and that team gets points. Only at dinner did you find out what the totals were. And at the end of it, our team won, but so what, nothing happened, not even a paper award. On Princess the Cruise Director and his assistant did a morning talk show where they talked about anything and everything and it was fun to watch. Carnival should do something like this. I did work out a few times. The gym is at the front of the ship and on two floors, but on sort of split levels. There just wasn’t enough aerobic equipment. It was difficult to access the gym, and locker rooms and I wasn’t the only one. The Supper Club was available but we didn’t go as we were very happy with the dinning room. The cost is $30 and most people I spoke to were happy with their meal there. I did enjoy a wine tasting there. The stores on board were always filled with passengers, and good deals could be had. My husband purchased roses for me and they were beautiful but didn’t last the entire cruise, but that may have been because our room was so warm. I did purchase one of the terry cloth robes, and I love it. Carnival now has their version of a time share, which we were constantly reminded of. The lady at our table is a member, she didn’t say how much it was but she said she doesn’t know if she will get her money’s worth. Carnival also pushed their credit card that offered you points for future cruises. Overall I would say the cruise was good, but not great. I would still recommend Carnival, but I don’t think I will be sailing with them again.  

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Nov 7, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Spirit Cruise Review Mexican Riviera William Freeman Embarkation: Easy as can be - we were in the process for less than 20 minutes. We got to the ship about 12:30 and by 1:15 we were working on our second pina colada. Out first thought- “Where IS everyone??” We took advantage of the “Park and Cruise” arrangement at the nearby Bayside Best Western Hotel. A nice room and covered parking for the

car while we were on the cruise- all for the price of one night’s stay at the hotel. Included a shuttle to and from the ship. Cabin: We originally selected our usual nice inside-inside- dark quiet and pleasant, but we got upgraded to an outside with French Doors, overlooking a life boat, one of those “obstructed views”. Oh well- not too bad but the door didn’t open. Perfect invisible service from the steward. Dining: We like to get a big table and make some friends, but this time we got a table for four, the closest one to the front door, right under the Maitre'd nose, and the other four people never showed up. The two-story Empire Dining room is very nice as long as you don’t look up at the stupid ceiling murals- they look like they were done by a five year old. The faux-ivory life-sized statue of Napoleon being crowned emperor by the angels is … well, you either love it or hate it. It was immediately next to our table. The service was extraordinary. The food was magnificent. Duck, mushroom soup, mango soup, escargot, smoked salmon, beef Wellington, and the tiger shrimp cocktail were some of my favorites. The lobster was good but not quite up to my expectations. The Playa Grill on the Lido Deck is great for casual dining. There’s a pizza kitchen,  24 hours a day and the pizza is dynamite! There’s one station that always had oriental food.   Activities: No live reggae band on the pool deck, just some DJ, playing hip-hop. Pretty poor for Carnival. Much of the casual entertainment aboard was of a better than average quality, especially the classical quartet in the “Artists” bar. I didn’t go to any of the big shows but I heard good comments about the hypnotist. The ships entertainment staff was superb as was the Cruise director, named Shawn. The games and contests only gave away two different prizes, a bottle of cheap champagne or a “ship on a stick” trophy about 4 inches tall. I collected 6 of those things and two bottles of champagne. Ports of call: It was very hot and humid in Zihuatenejo and Manzanillo. The former is a rather rural undeveloped little town and the latter looks like the port of Los Angeles with cargo ships, gantry cranes and naval vessels. At Zihuatenejo they were selling fish on the beach. Avoid the tour from Manzanillo to Barras de Navidad and the plantations. Rather dull and pretty surroundings but ugly town. My friend went to the tour to Colima and liked it. Acapulco is the cliff divers and shopping. That’s about it. The four days at sea were the best and the staff kept us busy. Crew: Very friendly as befits the Carnival tradition, helpful, they speak English and will drop everything to help you. Overall, a great cruise- but try it later in the year. December or January. Wow - that country is hot and humid. Be ready for it.    

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Oct 31, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Carnival Cruise Line Carnival Spirit Cruise Review 7 Day Mexican Riveria Michael Petersen This cruise had so many bad points its hard to know where to start and I really tried to keep an open mind. The checking process at the beginning was chaotic and there weren't enough porters to handle all the luggage. Once on board there was no assistance in finding our cabin or being welcomed aboard. It was basically a mob scene in to main entry

area. Then our luggage wasn't even delivered in time for dinner, so we could freshen up. When it did finally arrive it was just let unattended in the hall. This caused the halls to be to crowded and the luggage could have disappeared altogether. On most other ships it is delivered by your cabin steward and placed on your bed. My first major disappointment was the experience on the lido deck, in the casual buffet style dining area. There was practically no service at all. Instead of having stewards hand you trays and assist you in getting to table, you were left to fend for yourself. Even then you were lucky to even find a clean, empty table. And forget someone coming around to ask you if you would like coffee or tea. Then there was the quality of the food. It was pretty bad. The quality of the food was slightly better in the main dining room, but still nothing special. As far as the entertainment is concerned it was mediocre at best and the last night was a joke. They had a guest talent show on the main stage. It wasn't good at all. I can understand having a guest talent show for a smaller group in a bar/lounge area, but not as the main entertainment for the evening. As far as the shore excursions, the ones in Ixtapa and Manzanillo were very nice and enjoyable. However, the one in Acapulco was the worst shore excursion I had ever been on. It was the city tour. The tour guide literally herded passengers into a jewelry shop, served drinks and had the hard sell jewelry people brow beat people until they spend money. I know jewelry fairly well and the prices were approximately 300% higher than full retail in the states. Then the guide took us to another jewelry shop and repeated the process. You almost felt like prisoners in these stores. My fellow passengers had similar experiences and were very upset. I wrote to Carnival and asked them to refund the cost of my shore excursion and take up the issue with their tour contractor in Acapulco. They very bluntly said they wouldn't give me a refund and that they didn't plan to do anything to address the issue with their subcontractor. Why should I have been suprised? The service was so bad on the ship, why should I have expected any better customer service when I returned. Another problem was with a Carnival credit card they promoted on the ship. They advertised on the in room channel, that you would receive $250 off your next cruise if you signed up for their credit. Then I came across a Carnival representative on the ship who was asking people to fill out the credit card applications. Before filling out the credit card application, I asked her again, so do I get $250 off my next cruise for signing up on this credit card and she said yes that was correct. Well, when I got home and received the credit card I was told that was not the case and I would not be receiving the $250 credit. I again contacted Carnival customer service and again they offered no assistance and tried to blame their subcontractor, Juniper Bank, for the problem. I didn't deal with Juniper Bank on the ship. This was a Carnival credit card. The morale of this story, don't sign up for their credit card, expecting any type of bonus. I believe this issue rises to the level of fraud and misrepresentation on the part of Carnival Cruise lines. My last problem had to do with the way you are treated when disembarking the ship on the last day of the cruise. My cabin steward rudely ordered me out of the cabin, even before my disembarkation group was called. Meanwhile the cruise director kept repeating over the intercom, that passengers were not to gather in the public areas. So were are you suppose to go. I feel you should be allowed to stay in your stateroom until you disembarkation group is called. As a side note, when we finally left the ship, the crew didn't scan our sign and sail cards as we left. This seems like an awful security oversight, especially in this 9/11 world. They should be able to check that all passengers have left the ship. In conclusion, I really did try to keep an open mind on this cruise, but the service and oversights were pretty bad. The thing I find interesting is that other cruise lines such as Holland America, which is even owned by Carnival, and Celebrity have cruises similar to Carnivals that are priced about the same, yet the service and treatment of passengers is so much better on Holland America and Celebrity. It leaves me wondering why anyone would ever go on a Carnival Cruise? I hope this helps you in making your decision.  

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Aug 23, 2005

Alaska

Carnival Spirit Alaska Mark Dyviniak We found the Carnival spirit to be a very nice cruise ship. Overall, received good service and attention from the staff. The ship interior is quite nice - nicer than I had expected. This was our second cruise (first was in the Carribbean) and we came away with four key lessons learned: 1. The 7-day Northbound Alaska cruise is the best to select. This is what we had and I'm so glad we did. The

Northbound trip saves the best scenery and glaciers for the last. The roundtrip cruises that take you back to Vancouver would miss the sights of the last two days of Prince William Sound and College Fjord which, in my opinion, was the photographic jewel of the trip. 2. If you can afford to do so, upgrade to a suite. At a minimum, you absolutely must have an outside balcony. I decided to upgrade to a suite several months before the cruise and IT WAS THE BEST DECISION I'VE EVER MADE. Of all cruise destinations, ALASKA IS THE ONE cruise where you truly get value of an outisde balcony because you are seeing sights all the time along the way. For most cruises, all the outside balcony lets you see is ocean - no big dealt. On an Alaska cruise, you'll see beautfiul scenery, glaciers and wildlife galore. I found about 2/3rds of all the pictures I took were from our room balcony and I got some absolutely beautiful, postcard-like pictures that will I will have for my lifetime. 3. Select a room on the port (i.e, left) side of the ship. Our room was on the port side and I was wondering if it was the better side or not. In the end, I think the port side has the slight edge for the Northbound cruises as you'll see the other side of the Inland Passage and the numerous other small isles along the way. The starboard (i.e., right) side on the Northbound route lets you see more coastline but I really think the port side provides a slight advantage for sightseeing and picture taking. 4. Take the GrandView train from Whittier to Anchorage ..and by all means, DO NOT PACK AWAY YOUR CAMERA IN YOUR LUGGAGE for the flight home! The train enables you see much more beautiful sights than the bus trip to Anchorage. Take the train (thru Carnival's connection/excursion with the Alaska Railroad) to Anchorage and enjoy the opportunity for more breathtaking pics.

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Jul 5, 2005

Alaska

Carnival Spirit Southbound Alaska Linda Carnival picked us up in Anchorage for our 1 1/2 hour bus ride to Whittier. Very nice ride with wonderful scenery and narration by the driver. Embarkation was flawless and we were on the ship in minutes. The Spirit is a beautiful ship. Our balcony cabin was clean and spacious for our family of 4. I knew the Spirit is going into dry-dock in Feb., so I expected some stains in the carpet etc.

As seasoned cruisers, that certainly did not bother us in any way. I loved the layout of the ship. It flowed well and was easy to get around. It never felt crowded. The crew were constantly cleaning and doing maintenance to keep her looking her best. The food in the formal dining room was good. The beef was not as good as I have had on other Carnival ships, but still better than commercial grade served in restaurants. Seafood was excellent; as were the soups and desserts. The Lido deck food was excellent with few lines and plenty of options. The staff was prompt in clearing the tables. Tea, coffee etc refills and desserts were constantly brought around to your tables. Captain Scala did a wonderful job positioning the ship at the Harvard Glacier for a marvelous view. We had smooth seas and beautiful weather. Layering is best, because the weather can be unpredictable. Our cabin steward was the best one we have ever had in our 23 years of cruising. His smile will never be forgotten. My husband loved the shows (no matter how many times he has seen them) and I love Karaoke. Guest Talent Show was a treat for those of us who performed. The ship docked within walking distance of the towns at each port. At the times we left and came back, there were few lines. The only drawback we experienced, sadly, was from the cruisers themselves. They were an older crowd who were very demanding and seldom satisfied. They complained constantly about the most ridiculous things. As for the cruise ship, staff and overall experience, it was wonderful and we would go again in a minute. Debarkation in Vancouver was easy. A word of warning to those whose travel agents use Yellow Taxi...we did see many of our fellow travelers having problems with their vouchers. There were not enough "Yellow Taxi" cabs to handle the travelers with those vouchers. Not all "yellow" taxis are "Yellow Taxi". Many cruisers gave up on using their vouchers and just paid additional money to go to the airport to catch their flights. Alaska is a part of the country not to be missed and the Spirit is a wonderful way to see it.

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Jun 21, 2005

Alaska

Shabby condition for such a new ship. Carpets badly worn and stained. Paint poorly maintained; outside windows on Lido deck hull plates showing serious rust. Dining room features booths that are unusable by older cruisers or choose, instead, a table for two and isolation. There are some larger tables on the lower dining deck. Dining room atmosphere

geared to people who like to play "dress-up" and eat small portions of strange foods like Basil ice cream (yuk) and Lentil Cake which is a kind of oddly flavored instant stuffing lumped on top of a bit of fish. Casual folks, give the dining room a miss and eat all meals up on the Lido deck. Food up there was quite good and lines never too long though operating hours are somewhat limited. Entertainment: One night excellent, the rest mediocre at best, hosted by a cruise director who was unable to speak; only to SHOUT. Cabins were good with upgrades to those who bought early. Cabin service excellent. Compared with a N-bound tour on the old "Carnivale" in 1996, this one was deplorable. Just cannot recommend Carnival to friends any longer; a pity since we had been strongly recommending them based on the 1996 cruise.

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Apr 28, 2005

Hawaii

Carnival Spirit Honolulu to Vancouver Transit Nancy Stuart An otherwise fine cruise was spoiled by Carnival's policy of wringing extra money from its passengers by controlling bottled water and sodas and selling them at exorbitant prices. Although coffee, tea, and water are freely available in the dining room and grill, sodas and bottled water are available only for purchase. Fountain sodas are available shipwide for purchase,

either one at a time or by purchasing a card for unlimited sodas for approximately $5 per day per person. Bottles of water are conveniently available for shore excursions at approximately $2.50 to $3.00 per bottle. I tried to avoid spending extra money on fluids by bringing a case of bottled water with me. It was "lost" in transit from the dock to the room. Only after the shore excursions were over did the Purser offer to replace the water. One way to avoid spending unnecessary money on beverages would be to bring a large mug with a lid and fill it in the Grill to take out with you. If you bring a supply of bottled water or sodas with you, it should be placed inside a suitcase to disguise the contents.  

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Apr 16, 2005

Ensenada to Hawaii

Just returned from a 12 day cruise to Hawaii on the Carnival Spirit. I am a retired law enforcement officer, my wife is in the insurance industry. We traveled with our two friends from previous cruises, Allen & Karen. We ranged in age from 48 to early 60’s. This was our 8th cruise, and the 5th on Carnival. We have been on the Norwegian Majesty, RCCL Sovereign of

the Sea, Carnival Imagination, Legend (2x) Destiny and Triumph. To set the matter as to whether I am a staunch Carnival supporter, I remain neutral. To validate that point - I disliked both Destiny and Triumph, loved the Norwegian Majesty, and hated the Sovereign, thoroughly enjoyed the Legend and the Spirit equally. We left from upstate NY via limo and flew out of Newark Liberty Airport. Although we had arrived at the airport about an hour and half early, we were greeted with lines extending outside the terminal. When I finally made it to a sidewalk luggage counter, I was told that my bags exceeded the 50lb weight limit set by Continental and that I had to wait on the special handling line. He than told me that due to the long lines there too, I was not going to make my flight. He also said that they were not holding flights for passengers. He also told me that if I finished with special handling on time, that I would still have to proceed through security. Once again, he told me that I was going to miss my flight. Of interesting note here – my traveling partner had overweight luggage too. A different handler accepted a 5 dollar tip and my friend was on his way (we had become separated, so I missed using the same handler!). To make this part of the story short, there was a very long line, but it moved swiftly. A customer service person told me not to be concerned, I would not miss our flight – She was correct. We arrived at the gate about 15 minutes early. We flew on from there to San Diego where we were greeted by Carnival staff. We lined up our luggage outside the terminal building where a U-Haul truck loaded it on. We were placed on motor coaches and we proceeded to the port of San Diego for further processing. This was very fast and effortless. We were then encouraged to spend several hours exploring San Diego before we were to reassemble. We took a free shuttle to Sea Port Village, had a meal and took in the sights. The only truly bad part of the story comes next: After re-boarding the buses to proceed to Ensenada, we journeyed thru Mexico until we arrived at the pier. For reasons still unknown to us, the buses were stopped at the pier entrance. There we sat for almost two hours. The driver was as confused as we were. Any passenger that attempted to walk the short distance from the buses to the ship were turned away by plain clothes security agents. After awhile, a group of us approached a security man in a suit (with a radio) and demanded to know what was happening (at this point, buses were lined up behind ours as far as you could see). He told us that the pier was overloaded with passengers and vehicles and that we would have to wait. We could plainly see the pier directly in front of us and it would empty of vehicles and passengers. We insisted that a spokesman from Carnival come down and speak to us. He promised someone would. Over the course of the two hours, and after repeated demands to speak to someone from Carnival, we were still kept in quarantine outside the entrance. No one showed. Then, early evening, without explanation, all the buses were suddenly allowed in. At that point, the lines moved quickly and we boarded the ship. We had expected to have heard from a Carnival representative about the issue on the pier, but they all seemed to not want to discuss it. When we went to the purser’s desk to speak about it, they acted as if they weren’t aware that there was a problem with embarkation! The first 24 to 36 hours at sea were less than tranquil. This was NOT the fault of Carnival, but was due entirely to 37+ knot winds and as the Captain characterized as “confused sea”. At least half if not more of the passengers were sick or uncomfortable from the ships rocking and heaving. Even our room steward was sea sick. The first full day at sea, during the lifeboat exercise, people were taken away ill in wheelchairs. Other passengers were allowed to remain in their staterooms (our traveling companion was one of them; she stayed in bed for the first 24 hours). The crew did do everything that they could to make the passengers comfortable. The Captain did keep us abreast of all the weather conditions and forecasts. The following day, the wind calmed, the clouds disappeared, the weather warmed and must of the passengers recovered. The cruise director, Michael Mullane made a brief announcement that he promised to keep all of his announcements brief and infrequent. He kept his promise and unlike my previous sailings on Carnival where the PA system was always blaring - announcing or trying to sell something, he was brief and rarely heard from (at least over the PA). He kept most of his messengers to the onboard TV channel. This was a much less invasive and practical solution. The following night, we made reservations for the private dining. As in the past, it was an extraordinary experience. The food was wonderful, the service was more than anyone could expect, the décor was tasteful and the music was a delight. All this for $25.00 per person! Certainly, the best buy on the ship. The remaining days at sea were relaxing. The staff and crew were all smiles, attentive and the activities just seemed non-stop. Although the passengers were slightly older, they acted as if they were full of energy and youthful. Whenever you had an opportunity to be with a new passenger (such as in the elevator or sitting at casual seating meals), everyone was talkative, friendly and cordial. There wasn’t a passenger that acted loud or obnoxious, no drunks, no rowdy groups, just friendly, happy people on a 12 day cruise together. The ships. Although she is the oldest in the class, she was in excellent condition with few exceptions. The exceptions were: Warm air hand dryers in the bathrooms seemed, for the most part, to be out of operation; Sometimes, there was a “septic” odor in the bathroom; The main cabin corridor rugs really need to be replaced from high traffic and spills; The cabin bathroom sink would gurgle out of the clear blue. Apart from the above minor issues, the ship was immaculate. There was staff everywhere to be seen cleaning and servicing. Tables on the lido desk were quickly cleared, cleaned and replenished with eating utensils. We had cabin 8147 with an extended balcony. This cabin was super comfortable, roomy with plenty of draw and closet space. The extended balcony was just the right size for relaxation. Everything within the cabin worked. We had a down comforter that was just wonderful and the room steward was ever present and so personable and attentive to our needs, we wanted to bring him home with us. The dining room was two levels with two main sittings. We choose the early 5:45 as we always do. The team waitress and busboy made a point on the first night to know our names and our likes and dislikes and catered to them for the remainder of the cruise. The gambling casino was always busy. There was less smoke then on previous sailings (perhaps due to the age of the crowd?). My wife always seemed to have a degree of luck on the slots (albeit she would return and give it all back) and my friend Allen came away ahead after many nights of blackjack. The Pool was always the center of activity and the cruise director’s wife Jenny, also on the social staff kept everyone busy. Between the two of them, they were smiling and filled with energy and always stopped to talk to you. The music at the pool was Hawaiian and pleasant to listen to (a needed change from the steel drum bands of previous cruises). We always found lounges whenever we needed them and there was always a poolside table to sit at. There were a total of 24 “kids” on the ship of all ages, so the pools and the hot tubs were not crowed or loud. The nightclub was glittery and beautiful. The shows were at beast, fair. This, a surprising change from the other Carnival cruises. The singers were just acceptable and the dancers worked hard but the numbers were awkward and uninspiring. The comedian’s were good as was the guest singers and the hypnotist. A standout was singer Marcus Anthony who had the group wanting more. Also entertaining was the Director himself, Michael Mullane and his energetic pixy of a wife, Jenny who was an accomplished dancer. The Lido deck NEVER had lines…..very surprising. The food there was plentiful and tasty. The shops were the usual fare of duty free items, gifts, clothing and souvenirs. I never attended the art auction so I cannot comment. My wife and her friend Karen utilized the spa several times and were treated very well. The Food: I still believe that Carnival has about the best food (from my experience) at sea. I already commented on the private supper club, but the main dining food was also superb – as was the service. The main courses were tasty and exotic and when I couldn’t find anything that I liked on the menu, the waitress always found something for me off the menu. The Staff: Simply, the best! (Excluding that first night at the purser’s desk). No matter how hard they all worked, they always said hello to you, made eye contact and were very friendly. Cannot complement Carnival enough for that. Room Service: Our cabin was close to the room service outlet. It never took more than five minutes for it to arrive. The menu for room service was more than sufficient. They were courteous and almost embarrassed to accept tips. Ports of call: – Hawaii, well, just what can I – It’s HAWAII! Deb and I were there in 1982 for our Honeymoon. It has certainly got a lot busier, particularly Honolulu and certain areas of Maui, but folks – it’s HAWAII! The people on the islands are all wonderful. They smile at you and don’t treat you with that “just another tourist” mentality. While at Lahaina, a young motorist got upset with Allen for driving too slow (we were looking for a place to park and were probably driving the speed limit as it was a highly populated street). He shot in front of us, raised his fist and finally just stopped his car in front of us, got out and became threatening. He returned to his car and just a moment later, a police officer pulled alongside of us, asked us what took place and she said that she was going to stop that car “…and have a few words with him”. I will not comment on each of the islands except that before we sailed, I purchased the latest edition of “Hawaii for Dummies” on Amazon.com. We used it as a bible everywhere we went and it was right on the money all of the time. It told us how and where to rent cars, where to dine and where to go. They recommended the Feast at Pele for the Luau and it was just wonderful! Tip – if you go to Hawaii, don’t travel without it. Disembarkation: - They choose who gets off first by your flight times and or final shore excursion. It went quickly and smoothly. So, finally, here is the good, the bad, the fair and the ugly: The Good: The ship, the staff, Michael Mullane and Jenny, the food, the room, the supper club and of course Hawaii! The Bad: Embarkation, hand dryers throughout the ship need repair, carpet replacement in cabin hallways. The Fair: On board professional entertainment, The Ugly: Nothing worth mentioning – short of two hours on the bus, yards from the ship and not getting any response from anyone as to why we were waiting. My personnel recommendation – find yourself two weeks and call your travel agent and have the time of your life! Just remember – Pacific waters can be very unpredicatable. PS – I took an amazing 1052 digital pictures. If any one is interested in any aspect in particular, send me an e-mail along with whatever questions you may have and I will forward them to you. Ken  

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Apr 2, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Our second cruise on this same ship in six months. We are some thirty miles off the coast of Baja, approaching Cabo San Lucas by tomorrow morning, and one day almost to the hour since leaving San Diego on the Carnival Spirit with over 3,000 souls on board. Two paying passengers per crew member. Advice to new and repeat cruise aficionados: A single

factor worth repeating; it’s a matter of attitude. Go with the right attitude and any problem fades into insignificance. So I did what I preach in my management classes and pasted a smile on my face. I smiled at the Mexican family shouldering their way into the embarkation line, and they back off. I smiled at the security people and they were courteous. I smiled a broad greeting at the ticket counter clerk and got prompt, smiling attention in return. Attitude = response. Show a smile, get a smile. Show patience, get service beyond the call of duty. So far. Hope I don’t have to edit this observation at a later date; after all, we are only into the eight-day trip by one eighth! This attitude thing was made quite easy a week before sailing when we opened a letter from Carnival Vacation Cub giving us our new cabin number… 5173, an upgrade from a window cabin to a balcony! And when we entered our cabin, a fine bottle of Merlot from Dickinson, the CEO himself, thanking me for my long letter of complaints from our experience with the Vacation Club fiasco. Being further resolved as I write. We had asked for early seating and when boarding we discovered it was late sitting. No problem, we went straight to the dining room and the maitre de asked if wanted to sit with a group or alone and the change was made in less than a minute. Comfort, we are finding, is in the detail and not in the size. The ‘staterooms’ are as small as on the sales literature, to repeat a bit of humor by Todd, our first trip Tour Director. But then you discover your oversize suitcase really does fit under the bed, and there are enough drawers and closet space to accommodate all that junk we brought on board. The detail. Can’t turn on the shower hot water without having first turned on the cold. This is a wonderful feature especially since boiling-hot water is instantly available. I don’t know if by a nearby instant hot water heater, but most likely from continuously running water through the pipes in an effort to exchange engine cooling water to save on fuel costs which makes a lot of sense. Rather than spill engine coolant into the ocean, they chill it first by running it through our showers and sinks! Also, the tap water is distilled water so don’t buy expensive bottled water! (Note, if you open the bottle of water on the counter you will get a surprisingly large bill on your minibar account. Drink tap water!) And speaking of energy: I tried to trace the hydraulic fluid pumped by exercising machines in the Fitness Center into the engine room and failed. There are over 50 machines, most occupied by sweating, grunting, huffing and puffing people pouring their energy into these machines. The machines should be connected to generators and thus feed into the ship’s propulsion system! Tried to get onto the bridge but that feature is no longer available on cruise ships since 9/11, same with the engine room. No visitors allowed. Also, no shore visitors are allowed either. On our first trip on the Carnival Spirit I was outraged at the high prices one had to pay for a drink or a beer. So on this trip I drained a five quart box/bladder of wine over a few weeks before sailing. I then took the bladder out of the box, cleaned it, tested it, and poured a bottle of Scotch into the bladder which then went into my suitcase. Even if they use an Xray to detect bottles, the bladder is invisible. So I smuggled a bottle of Scotch to enjoy a nightcap without paying a king’s ransom. My wife took her Mexican leather covered flask of Brandy and it went through the receiving machines with no problem. Many people we talked with during the cruise say that they never have had any problem bringing a bottle of hooch on board in their luggage. There seem to be enough free activities to keep everybody who needs that kind of stimulation happy. During our first cruise we were quite content to simply explore, linger here and there, meet people, dance and occasionally do one of the activities. On this cruise my wife is going for broke in participating in as many activities as possible while I sit by a window in a comfortable chair and read Michener’s “Alaska”. Back to the details. The bathroom: A roll of toilet paper at the ready and three more in plain sight waiting to be of service without hesitation. The shower drain is backed up by a series of channels allowing excess water to bleed into another outlet thus preventing flooding on the deck. Where you could easily slip, fall and break your skull. Enough cantilevered glass bottomed trays hanging from both sides of the sink for all the goodies you ever thought of bringing. Mirrors everywhere, from above sink, to on dresser, to full length on the door. Enough to scare any Dracula into permanent hiding. The air conditioning control actually works! Turn it up hair and instant reaction. No noise, no heavy duty relay kicking in and out every few minutes. Apparently controlled from outside monitoring incoming and outgoing air from each stateroom. Since the doors are watertight, the air inside must be pumped in and out. So the room is always fresh and at exactly the right temperature. Bedside lamps just enough light for your side to read by and move about at night, not enough to bother your mate while asleep. Of course there are no television programs worth watching, but enough ship videos of activities and engineering tours to satisfy my curiosity. But I’d still like to see the bridge! Because we have a balcony, and because the main reason for our passion for the Mexican Riviera is to enjoy the tropical air, we left the door open all the time we were in the cabin. When the door is open, the air conditioning automatically shuts off. Again, quality is in this kind of detail. An ode to the toilet. It must be remembered that eating is the primary activity on a cruise ship. Continental breakfast at six overlooking the foaming wake of the ship in the twilight. Breakfast at around eight including fruits, ham, hash browns and a three-egg omelet, not counting the toast and whatever else you can load onto a tray… not plate, but tray. Then at ten, then at noon, then at mid afternoon, then dinner and lastly the midnight feast amidships. Where does all that food go? Consider – the human body can only digest and convert so many calories and nutrients into food for the body. The rest must be discharged. You have 3,000 some odd souls on board. The toilet on a cruise ship must be the most efficient and trouble-free piece of engineering on the whole ship. If toilets were allowed to clog, there would be another 500 plumbers on board to feed and entertain and the cost would be prohibitive. End of the cruise industry. The name on the toilet is simply “EVAC” surrounded by a simple logo. I have no idea where they are made, but if you have your legs pinched together and you push the Evac button you will be sucked into the bowl with no way to get out except to shove a tube between your legs to let the air into the vacuum. It takes one point seven seconds from push to full evacuation of anything in that toilet bowl. Anything! I can imagine all that excrement going into a tank and further mechanical processes feeding oxygen into it as it is being stirred and stirred and stirred. The resulting methane gas must be in the tons and surely fed into the diesel engines or burners somewhere on the ship. There is no way for the amount of sewage to be dumped into the ocean without having the Green Peace people up in arms and the dolphins far, far away from the ships. No dolphins, fewer guests. Bad for business. I imagine the remaining sludge to be sold as cleaned, bagged manure at each port. Closing in on Zihuatanejo we watched a school of dolphins surf on the bow waves of the ship. They had as much fun as we did in watching them. Yesterday was half a day in Acapulco and Melen was able to get into her magical Acapulco bay water and become a young girl again, without arthritic pain, free to move as she felt. In Acapulco we got off the ship and walked a half mile south along the boulevard, returned to El Perico which we had discovered on our first trip, had our ceviche cocktails, shot of tequila, couple of beers, some lunch and ambled off a few yards to sit under the shade of an umbrella, paid your $2 rental fee, and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon. The rest of the vacationers were on guided tours or chose to remain on board. Since we both speak Spanish we entertained ourselves by showing an interest in the few vendors walking the beach on this weekday. One lady in her mid forties approached and offered a massage. We quickly discovered she is a shaman, witch-doctor if you will, and dickered with her for two massages and spirit cleansing. She gave us her phone number Lucia, 74 41 33 31 97 and asked us to call ahead the next time and she and her apprentice daughter would be waiting for us for a repeat session. It was one of the most relaxing and enjoyable massages I have ever had and my wife says the same for her. Cost? $25 total for two, plus a $5 gratuity I was eager to pay. My advice: Learn what you can about the places you will be stopping. Make contact with as many tour companies via Internet as you can. Ask friends. Play the newsgroups. Do things on you own! The tours are OK for the novice and the person who just wants to get a feel for things. And of course the Cruise Ship company will be promoting tours where they get a fair commission. I am learning that every trick in the book is being used to part me with my money. The people The Armenians on our first cruise were big, boisterous, loud and oblivious of the rest of us on the ship. They crashed lines, held heated arguments in the middle of the passageway without a care. On this cruise about half the passengers are Hispanic, mostly Mexicans who have done well in the US and now enjoying family reunions. They kept to themselves, were very polite, easily leaving space for others, easy smiles, gracious in their manner, the kind of people you’d like being round! Sit long enough in one place and somebody will sit nearby. A minute later you will make a comment or the other and a conversation will start. “Nice day” “Yep” “Where are you from?” And so it goes for as long as you can both stand the nothingness of the chat or until something really strikes you both and animation begins. Often the silence becomes oppressive and you find an excuse to move on. As chance often has it, you move to the stern only to find your ‘new-found’ friend already there. Melen noted this is the perfect venue for a family reunion. Everybody can do as they see fit without getting lost in the shuffle. There are many family groups on this cruise. Grandparents reluctantly rolling strollers with babes down the isles as their ‘kids’ enjoy the Jacuzzi or??? But only infrequently as most family groups could be seen eating together, lounging by the pool, or just hanging out. I think a cruise would be the perfect setting for a seminar. One took place on this cruise for a group studying mediation. Their fee was about $1,000 per person for the course, plus discounted group fees for the cruise. Like it or not you will be seated with the same bunch of people every night. If I were to make a suggestion to the cruise companies it would be to rotate tables thus giving us all a chance to meet other people. But then, I imagine most people like the security of having at least one predictable element to their daily life of adventures at sea and on land. (Since writing this in the middle of the cruise, I am now thankful for no rotation as we are getting to know some wonderful people and it’s good to have something sure, something known to look forward to other than your stateroom.) It was, in fact, a sad parting of the ways with our two LA area, fun-loving couple sharing the table with us. Our shore tours were simply getting to shore, walking, taking a short boat ride to a quiet cove and dipping into the ocean blue as we did in Zihuatanejo. In Manzanillo we debated calling our cab driver from the past trip… the president of the local taxi cab association who had said he would make a special deal for anybody mentioning my name. Joel Andres Virgen Lopez, Cell. 044 (314) 10 305 28. – but instead found a shuttle service to downtown for $3 round trip and we took it. Our objective was to find something interesting in Manzanillo other than tourist traps. We found a typical Mexican restaurant in an old hotel, just a block from where the shuttle dropped us off. We spent the rest of the day there sipping Micheladas (Lime juice, beer, salt-rimmed glass, ice), munching Mexican appetizers, meeting other travelers from the Carnival Spirit with like minded love for authentic Mexico, and had a wonderful time. Our bar and food bill for the hours spent there was $18 US. The Director, Mr. Emilio Fernandez Lopez helped the waitresses and bus-boys with a smile on his face, answered questions and told us the story of the hotel. Hotel Colonial, corner of Fco. Bocanegra and Avenida Mexico, just a block south of the Western side of the Plaza. He promised to send me an email when his phone gets connected sometime ‘manana’ which means sometime in the future. We will be inviting our friends from Colima to join us there next October and will most likely call the Los Candiles (the hotel’s restaurant) to set up a special buffet for the occasion. I’ll be calling 01 314 332 10 80 or 332-06-68. On the subject of FUN! What may be fun for some, cold be hell for others. What hell may be to some, could be fun for others. So our cruise ship offers a seemingly endless menu of activities, shows, and the like. But I have learned that I need to learn how to have fun. And I’m betting that I am not alone. After a lifetime of challenges it is difficult to wake up in the morning knowing there is nothing at all that must be done to bring bread and fish to the table. But the sense of having to do something, to be active in the quest for money and goods is buried within most of us. And retirement, or long vacations, brings this to the surface. There must be half a dozen eager beaver professional cheer leaders of the crew who spend most of their time cajoling, encouraging, demanding and teaching us how to perform for one activity or other. The “Marriage Game”, dance contests, slot machine contests, are but a few examples. Then there is the full sized chess set, arts and crafts room, the library, casino, bars and lounges. Not to mention privacy in your own room with your personal playmate. There’s the Jacuzzis, four of them! The sauna, steam room, massage tables, 50 torture exercise machines and the endless sea. The shore tours either guided or on your own or with friends. The endless opportunity to shop and spend money. Evening shows and being waited on by professionals in the most elegant settings since the Titanic at prices within the reach of those of us who are not among the rich and famous. On this trip my wife was lucky enough to get selected to participate in the hypnotist act and after the show, and during the next few days, I learned what it is like to be the husband of a celebrity! Years ago she had both our children under hypnosis so she knows something abut it. On stage she showed herself to be the perfect subject and the hypnotist made the most of it. Toward the end, the last act was for the participants to believe they were belly dancers. Well, my wife, having been a professional belly dancer for 17 years, really let go, forgetting arthritis, and danced away making the audience go wild with applause and shouts, whistles and gypsy cries. She brought the house down! After that, almost everywhere we went she was met with smiles and questions “did you really go under?”, “what was it like?”, “do you remember anything?” – great fun! Ship geography. There was no way in heaven or earth for us to have known how to decide the location of our stateroom. As chance would have it, we made out like bandits with no cops in town. Level 5 and three quarters aft, just four levels from the munchies and fantail which became Melen’s querencia. (Querencia is that place a bull finds when entering the bull ring and chasing away the men in capes. Then returns after each attack. One point 6 minutes from room to lemonade, tea, munchies, coffee, chocolate, munchies, water, ice… Five minutes round trip to the Pharaoh’s Palace, the main theatre and meeting place for some shore excursions up near the bow of the ship. Never more than a thirty second wait for any elevator, ever! On the subject of FOOD Twenty four hour Pizza was advertised, and fulfilled. Gourmet dinners were advertised and have lived up to their promise. Service is always with a smile and on a scale of one to ten, a ten. We always have two options for breakfast – on the Lido Deck or in the main dining room. Same for lunch and same for dinner. The main dining room menu has always had at least five selections for appetizers, two for salads, five for the main course and several desert choices. Lobster, Filet Mignon, Veal, Prime Rib, Tiger Shrimp, Pacific Salmon, Quail, Duck, and various very elegant pastas were enjoyed by the four of us at our small table. Our next table neighbors were seen refusing an occasional dish that did not suit them for whatever reason and I noticed it was exchanged with an apology and a winning smile by our waiter. I brought the bottle of Merlot to our table on the last night and Luka, our waiter promptly brought the four wine glasses and pulled the cork with grace and great smile, poured the sample for my wife, and then for the rest of us. On the formal night we received a bottle of chilled champagne compliments of the Vacation Club. A nice touch. During my lifetime I have had the good fortune to dine at four and five star restaurants such as Anton’s in New Orleans, The Brown Palace in Denver, Tijuana’s Country Club, The Ritz Carlton, and the like. I am rating our dining on the Carnival Spirit at that level. Perhaps there is a more limited variety of things one could ask our waiters, but whatever is within their reach was made available to us with a simple request. Most often, they would make the offer and we would either accept or reject. To me, this is a sign of true quality. On the Lido deck 9 there are 9 distinct mini-buffets, the fruit bar, pizza bar, four breakfast/lunch bars one specialty bar, one oriental bar and the hamburger/steak/hot dog bar. The quality is good, but the appeal seems to be for those who measure good food and eating by the “all you can eat” mindset. The specialty bar offered Mexican fare one day and other national favorites on other days. The oriental bar was never short of sushi, sauces, wont-ton soups, sweet & sour and the like. There is always an ample supply of iced tea, lemonade, orange juice, coffee, decaf, chocolate and ice. Some statistics. 2,400 passengers, among them are some 300 kids. A crew of 924 made up of people from over 70 countries speaking some 60 languages, all getting along just fine. Over half the crew are in food and beverage services from receiving product to cleaning up and everything in between. Crew members are recruited in Carnival Cruise offices all over the world, are sent to a four week Carnival University, then assigned to one ship or other for apprenticeship and then full crew status. They work six to seven months, then take a six-week vacation and if qualified, are assigned to another ship. An observation: The inside cabins are dark and you never know when it’s daylight or night by looking. So on our first cruise we kept the TV on to the forward looking camera which provided enough light to keep from stumbling. On this cruise we had the drapes pulled open all the time and enjoyed the view! Jose and his helper, our cabin boys clean up and make the bed twice a day, once in the morning breakfast, and once during the evening meal. Mints and sculpted towel designs greeted us every night and were superb mood-lifters and smile-makers to end the day with. They also made it impossible for us to tell the purser to lower the $80 per person tip as ‘suggested’ on our bill. What with Luka and his assistant, the other servers and crew, we got our money’s worth, and more.

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Mar 17, 2005

Mexican Riviera

Embark: We arrived at 11:30, parked across from the pier ($12 a day, it’s only $9 a few streets East) and were on the ship within half an hour. Our cabin, 5218 balcony but we paid for an inside Guarantee. The ships, 1 Princess and 1 Royal Caribbean (RC still our favorite). The ship was visible of wear and stains, oh well. Helpful Things

to Bring: Ziplock bags, you’ll need them for food and snacks, liquor (pack only one bottle per bag), small alarm clock, 2 clothespins (to hold the shower curtain down), pepto bismol and Dramamine (should you need it), a HIGHLIGHTER (very helpful for marking your Carnival Capers!) The Food: Fabulous in the dining room but not so hot in the buffet. The buffet is now set up in stations so go all the way around before you decide on what you’re having otherwise, you’ll miss something. The turkey sandwich at the grill is YUMMY! In addition to free soft serve, they have scheduled sundae days where you can get real ice cream with all the frills! The Shows: Pretty bad except for the comedians. The Dance Club: Seemed a little slow but they did offer a Salsa night and it was crowded! Ixtapa: This requires a tender. Get your sticker first thing and then go for breakfast, if you miss your number called, you can always add yourself to the next group, it beats waiting! There is a taxi boat that will take you across the beach to Las Gatas, round trip for $4. we didn’t go but it seemed like a lot of locals were headed that way. We walked around town. Although they tell you not to take food off the ship, we made sandwiches and went about our way. No one checks but if anyone asks, play dumb… you didn’t here the announcement! Acapulco: We walked around town and then grabbed a cab to see the “cliffdivers.” We forgot the difference in time and missed it! Manzanillo: We heard a lot of complaining about this port so here is where we did a tour. We took the Colonial Tour to Colima and Comala and had a great time sight seeing. The Gym: Multileveled and busy. Free weights and a variety of weight and cardio machines. Don’t miss the showers! They are quite nice with 5 shower heads above and on sides. Debark: Although you’re to wait till your color is called, we played dumb and got off when they announced “rose” even though we had “purple.” No one noticed once we left with the crowd and ended up in huge room where all our bags sat. I think they call you by color only to avoid a stampede.

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Feb 21, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This was my/our first cruise ever. San Diego, our departure port has normally GREAT weather this time of year, but this winter, they have been getting more rain/storms then Seattle where we are from. Due to ongoing storms at seas in the California area during our departure, the ride outside of San Diego Bay southbound toward Mexico was a little bumpy the

first night and the report was quite a few "landlubbers" got seasick, thank goodness it is a big ship. As we cruised more south overnight and part of a day....it smoothed out real nice. Cool 65 degree weather hung around until the 2nd day at sea....then as we passed by the Cabo San Lucas area, we were up in the 70's and sun, about half way from there to Acapulco, we seemed to be in the 80's and by the time we reached Acapulco....pure heat and it felt good. Acapulco is a "rockin" city fro the young at heart and I was there twice before way back in my early years in the late 60's. The town is exciting and a lot to do and see for all ages, but like in the late 60's....it STILL has alot of hidden poverty that can be seen even on the main street that borders the bay....sad to see...also...still there from time to time even from the 60's that I remember, the lingering smell off and on of sewer along the main street by the bay.....seems they should have that fixed by now....otherwise, a fun town and alot of sun and heat and friendly locals. The Spirit is beautiful and magnificent. It was clean as a whistle and the crew was always working on things to keep it well maintained and pristine. The ONLY thing I noticed were some of the upholstered lounge chairs off the main reception bar area in the atrium near the ship's windows were getting a little worn on the arms from alot of use I am sure....and might need to be replaced. Our stateroom was awesome and we had a nice balcony outside with the water and wind going by, very refreshing and the LIGHT action of the waves for MOST of the trip caused me to have the BEST 8 nights sleep I have had in a long time...truly relaxing which is why I decided to try a cruise. The bed was hard, but for me...that is what I prefer. Forgive me for not remembering our female cabin steward's name, but she was a sweetheart and very nice and always courteous, not to mention her animals she made for us each night out of towels. A real STAR for Carnival and a credit to Carnival. The slot machines.....well....let's just say they were really TIGHT...do not plan on making a fortune anytime soon on a slot machine on any cruise ship. If you hit one....believe me...YOU ARE LUCKY!!!! I did not mind losing $300 over the 3-4 times we were in the casino, but I lost it FASTER then any casino I have ever been in....not good when you lose $30 in 10 minutes over 2- 25 cent machines and all you won total was 1 cherry on 3 individual spins 3 times...at least allow me to win a couple of small pots to get me excited and stay in the game longer, even if I am going to lose anyhow. This went way to quick for my way of thinking...beware !! The entire service staff was nothing but friendly and polite and were always there in a timely fashion no matter if in the bar or at dinner. I was impressed. Most all of the staff come from about 50 different countries, which is nice and allows you to talk to them about their backgrounds and where they are from....more of an international flavor that we liked alot. The food on the LIDO deck in the LaPlaya Grill was "middle of the road".....some was pretty good...some was not so good....but it kept you from getting hungry at mid-day and in general...it was OK. I have to admit, the giant hotdogs and the fruit punch drinks were really pretty darn good and pretty tasty if you are into such things. Some of the other meat selections at times, I found some gristle or a little added fat content in them that seemed more then normal......but again in general...OK. The main dining room I will rate as above average for eating....pretty decent food and the service was top notch. There are two floors of the main dining room, the lower one where we were seated was pretty noisy and loud...like eating in a mess hall....the upstairs section I was told by other passengers was a lot quieter. The service crew did some dancing and singing each night and all of us joined in....it was a lot of fun. We went to the TOP NOTCH Nouveaux supper club twice, and it was outstanding, you were not rushed at all...it was quiet, great view outside, a nice dance floor and a two person group, one a singer and one on keyboards that played really great music for dinner or dancing. The service BOTH times was awesome. Caution, unlike the main dining room where you can order as much as you want of any entree, in this supper club.....the extra entree WILL cost you an added fee...otherwise it is a $25 per person fee only for the reservations...which is a good deal as the food was TOP of the shelf....you are given about 3 hours to eat so you can take your time and enjoy.....the side dishes and deserts were great. We felt we had a meal worth $600 for 4 people the first night and we tipped as such. The second time...was also great except I changed to a 24 OZ Porterhouse steak from a filet that I had the first time, the Porterhouse seemed a little tough and not as tasty.....otherwise a great adventure. Do it! The Captain of the ship was quite the guy.....very nice man and very sociable and informative each day as to how the weather and cruise was going, he even got us into Acapulco 2 hours early....so more shore time for all. He also showed some humor and had fun with his crew who seem to really respect him.....a fully capable skipper who made us all feel we were in safe hands all the way. I am still amazed at how that huge ship docks itself without tugboats....amazing thruster/propeller technology...these guys are good at what they do!!! The ship has several pools, and when you get into the hot climate...that sun beats down on the upper deck flooring which is kind of a tan in color...so it absorbs the sun's rays and the deck does get really hot....so wear some footwear on deck when you go for some sun or you will burn the bottoms of your feet. Mike Mullane.....the cruise director is a HOOT!!!!!! I do not know how the guy does it, he must be loaded with energy to be able to do the same stuff cruise after cruise without much time between tells me he is something special. It has to be monotonous, but he never seems to show it. He certainly seems to really like people a lot. He runs a lot of the shows, the talent show was great....the "Newly Wed" game was a blast and really funny...he does all the announcements and gives you all the info on each port and generally holds the whole cruise together.....you will see and hear him alot on the PA system or the TV in your room....he is truly a GREAT asset to the Carnival team and he is really a fun (and funny) guy, I do not know what he makes...but I say double it!!!.....he will even bar hop with you on board the last couple nights of the cruise visiting the various lounges that the Spirit has....make sure you meet him......he has to be English as his voice is English sounding of course and I always wondered where I had heard that voice before.....now it hit me.....he sounds just like the voice of C3PO on the Starwars movies....and that is a compliment. The only question I have of the Carnival Spirit is why they told us the fancy supper club was "full and they had no room due to reservations being full" on our second attempt to go there, yet when we got there......70% of the seats and tables were wide open....how does that work? Overall....a great time...good service and I would travel Carnival again....hopefully have the same crew....but I am sure others are very good too on their many other ships.....next trip....the Caribbean for me.

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Feb 5, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This was my first cruise. I have heard nothing but wonderful things about Carnival cruises. It was a very easy transition from the airport all the way through Debarkation. Being a first time cruiser and there with a friend, the process was great! I enjoyed the different ports. I took a city tour in Acapulco and was able to see the Cliff Divers. The shopping experience

where we viewed the divers was much better than just getting off the ship and shopping locally. We had a great time at the local Beach club "Paradise". I must say that I didn't get off in Ixtapa/Zijuatenejo but was able to lay on the deck and just view how absolutely stunning the landscape was. Others in our group had a wonderful time in Ixtapa. Manzanillo was quite nice as well, but our mistake was to shop locally. There were about 8 gals that took in the excursion to the all inclusive resort. Everyone ranted & raved at how beautiful it was and how much fun they had. Wish I would of took that in. When we left Manzanillo I stood out on the front deck as we were leaving port and was able to take in the most Beautiful Sunset that I have ever seen. That was an experience in itself. I was with a group of people for our dining experiences. We were seated in the Napoleon room. We were supposed to be ordering off of the Low Carb Option menu (which was great) but I also cheated and enjoyed the full carb meals which were fabulous. I must mention that we had the most wonderful head waitress "Magally". She was absolutely lovely. The food up on the Lido deck however, did not impress me. It seemed to be the same things over and over again. I did enjoy the fresh fruit selection and array of different salads. Our cruise director Mike was Phenomenal! So was his assistant. (Shawn I believe) They were both entertaining and informative and made me laugh every time I was able to see them. Our cabin steward (Sue) was wonderful! Every night I got to come in to some wonderful new creation she made out of towels. She was there just when you needed her and was exceptionally pleasant. I have to admit I spent a large chunk of time in the gift shops and jewelry store. On a daily basis I got the pleasure of getting to see & know more about Phil, Mark, Wendy, Jeff and Duane. They made you laugh, made me feel so comfortable and most of all they were all friendly, charming & incredible! They were so entertaining and I must say that when you were around these guys, you WANT to purchase everything they are showing you!!!!! Duane was impressively knowledgeable as well! I was able to take in a massage/facial in the spa. I have been to a lot of spa's and the experience was mediocre for me. I was scheduled for an hour and 45 minute massage/facial of which I was in and out in less than 75 minutes. I was a little disappointed with that. The shows were very entertaining and very well put together. I especially enjoyed Jerome Dabney (Mr. Motown) and Talent night. I also got to participate in a slot tournament and had such fun with that. I actually was ahead when I left the ship. Better than Vegas!!!! I spent a little bit of time around the pool area. I must say that the decks are quite hot! You need to make sure you wear your flip-flops when leaving your chaise lounge to get to the pool. I found everything to be very clean and organized. We spent a large amount of time in the disco and that was great fun. They played a wide array of music and let's just say you get your exercise in there until the wee hours of the morning. I think my only real complaint would be that I felt we were at sea too long. Four days is a little much for me. I wish the amount of time we were in port was longer than just 8:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. It would of been nice to have been able to take in more sights. I think that for single people the experience is fun & entertaining. If you are not single, I feel you would probably enjoy it more if you went with other married couples or family. But then again to each his own!!! My best advice is to go and relax, live a little, dance a little, play a little, eat a lot and seize the moment. :

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Jan 4, 2005

Mexican Riviera

This cruise was planned as a family reunion, so the criteria for choosing a ship was based on west coast, warm weather, and January. So Carnival Spirit was the only ship that met everything. Boy, what a bad choice! The only saving grace on this cruise was that our entire family was onboard. The food was truly bad, the entertainment was poor, the service

was well below acceptable, and the ports are uninspiring...except for Ixtapa. We have been on 10+ cruises, on most major lines, and this was by far the most disappointing cruise ever! I have given Carnival 4 chances to prove themselves worthy of our business, and they have failed every time...this being the worst. I am not sure why their quality is so far below the other lines, really...I just don't understand it. If you have already booked, remember that the weather will surely be beautiful, if you have not booked...DON'T! Seriously, I have never written a poor review like this before, but Carnival Spirit will do nothing but break you Spirits. Lisa

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Dec 27, 2004

Deep Mexican Riviera

This was my third cruise, first time with Carnival. The ship arrived on time or early. Embarkation was very smooth, Debarkation would have been smooth but for one person that wouldn't show to immigration (not Carnival's fault). The tender service was smooth and quick. The ports were GREAT. Acapulco is a bit crowded and the city life is not for small children, but this

is to be expected - plan accordingly. We shopped locally (our mistake) but should have caught a taxi to the resort area for a beach day or done a tour. Ixtapa/Zijuatenejo was very nice. We went to a beach in Zijua - ate and drank all day on the beach, used the lounge chairs...grand total of $50 for three people. The beach is clean, the water was nice. We took a banana boat ride that the kids loved. There are numerous resorts in the area...pick one and have a great day. Some others in our group did the golf outing and it was poorly managed and no lunch provided. Opt for tropical beach paradise instead of the golf day. Manzanillo is BEAUTIFUL. The place where the ship docks is not. Catch a cab to Navidad. We spent the day at the Karmina Palace, it was $70 a day for adults, $35 for kids and included all you can eat and drink - well worth it. There is a private cove to snorkel with tons of fish in waist or chest high water (bring your snorkel gear). The kids loved the water slide and pools. Get to Karmina early because it is tough to find a chair if you are running late. Don't do the tour, it gives you only 3 hours at the resort. Cabs were $12 each way. Our cabbie took us on a tour...this was a bit scary for a minute until we realized he was just really proud of his city and wanted to show it off. We politely told him we needed to get back to our group and he obliged. The best part of this stop was when the ship was leaving port. There were hundreds of locals lining the shoreline all the way out to sea clapping and whistling at us yelling "gracias...thank you". They really appreciate the business and love the tourists. Manzanillo and Zijua have the laid back feel that Acapulco does not. The food...well....not so great. Boring at best. Pretty much the same stuff every day. The staff, they all seemed nice but a bit burnt out. It helps to be especially polite to them. People that were not polite got no service - but hey, that serves them right! Our cabin steward (Annamaria) was excellent. The cruise director Todd was very enthusiastic and could be a stand up comedian. It would have been good to have a few more activities. The activities they did have didn't really make you want to get out of your chair to look or participate. The gym is nice, but much of the equipment was out of order the entire cruise. Unacceptable... The decks around the pool got wet from the kids and no one mopped them. This created a slip/fall hazard and kids were hitting their heads. We asked several times to have someone mop up the water. It seems that they deal with water by posting a sign rather fixing the problem. Be very careful with children and elderly, the decks are VERY SLIPPERY with the smallest amount of water. Also unacceptable... Bottom line, Carnival appeals to the masses. The kids had a great time, the adults also did if they had the right attitude. If you set your expectations to the highest level, you will be disappointed. Instead, just go to have fun and watch your kids have the time of their life.

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Dec 19, 2004

Mexican Riviera

Dave L. from Yorba Linda, CA This was our 3rd cruise in two years. We love cruising. The first two cruises were in the Caribbean aboard RCI & Princess. The Spirit is a very nice ship. Unfortunately, we found Carnival to be sub-par when it comes to service and the quality of the food. From past experiences on other cruise lines, we found the

service and food quality just didn't measure up. Not that it was bad. The service at the evening meal lacked polish and attention to detail. The food was just OK, not bad, just OK. More like high-end cafeteria food. The shore excursions we booked onboard were very disappointing. In Acapulco, the first port, we took the City Tour. This turned out to be a very low value for our travel dollar. They took us to two different shops that sell locally made jewelry. Neither stop was worth my time. The tour of the city turned out to be the area we traveled between these two shopping stops. The City is old and somewhat dirty. The resort side where all the hotels are located appeared a little more modern and somewhat cleaner. The cliff diving was a 'yawn' and just ho-hum. A half-day in Acapulco is about all anyone would need. The second port, Zihuatenejo & Ixtapa were a little more attractive. Zihuatenejo is just an old Mexican town on a beautiful bay. Not much to see or do here. Ixtapa is the area North of Zihuatenejo where the resorts and hotels have been built on the beach. We spent the afternoon on a beach on an island about a mile offshore. It was nice and relaxing and the Corona's were cold. The temps were in the high 80's and the water about the same. Not bad for the middle of winter. The 3rd port, Manzanillo, was very disappointing. This is Mexico's largest industrial port on the Pacific and it is mostly large cranes and cargo ships. We opted for a Deep Sea Fishing excursion here and were really disappointed. Basically, it was a 5 hour boat ride with lines in the water. The fishing boat was OLD, dirty, and not well maintained. The crew of two acted like they could care less if we had a good time or not. The excursion was supposed to include refreshments. The crew offered none, however one of the guests found the ice chest with a few beers and bottled waters in it. If there had been ice, the drinks might have been great. Manzanillo is another old, Mexican town where everything in town needs a remodel. This port should be dropped from this cruise. It's a waste of your travel dollar. A better choice would be Puerto Vallarta or Cabo San Lucas. Needless to say, we were disappointed in this Carnival cruise. The ship, being only 3 years old, was nice. Not enough activities were provided on days at sea, so several days we spent in bed trying to watch the limited programming on the TV. It was too cold to enjoy the pools on the upper deck, so that made the days at sea more unpleasant. We found out you can only sleep so much and eat so much on days like that. Carnival really needs to provide more interesting activities for their guests on cruises like this. Bingo games just don't cut it. The evening entertainment in the main showroom was just mediocre. Much needed improvement in this area as well. I wouldn't recommend this cruise to anyone. It doesn't offer much value for your travel dollar. Stick with the Caribbean on RCI where they treat you well, feed you well, and keep you entertained. As far as visiting Mexico, you'd be better off flying to Cancun and staying in a nice resort for a week where the beaches are nice and the water warm.

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Nov 17, 2004

Mexican Riviera

This was our 4th (and last) cruise on Carnival. A combination of non-acceptable conditions on this cruise make us wonder, is it only the Spirit that this is happening on, or is the whole fleet (including Holland, etc.) going downhill?? Our complaints: 1. The staff didn't present that extra friendly, outgoing attitude. They were nice,

but didn't appear to be happy or to go that extra mile by remembering your name, or chit chatting with you once in awhile. 2. People were allowed to go barefoot in the public areas, including the lido restaurant. (We're not including the pool areas). 3. It took us 1 hour, in Acapulco, of standing in a long line to get back on the ship. They only had one x-ray machine going. They should have had two. 4. In Zihuatanejo, it took us 1 hour to get on a tendor to get off the ship. Coming back, we had to stand in the hot sun for about 45 minutes to get back on the tendor to return to the ship. This was unacceptable...we were afraid some of the older people would faint from the heat. In fact, one man was taken away in an ambulance. We're not sure of the cause, but we wouldn't be surprised if it was heat stroke. Only 4 tenders were running, when a simple solution would have been to add 2 more. At this point we complained to the pursor. We told him we were afraid to get off at the next port. We were offered a bottle of champagne, and the next port was easy on, easy off. 5. New to us: Hand blow dryers in the public restrooms. What happened to the paper towels?? Half the time the dryers didn't work, and were a nuisance. 6. The breakfast food was cold in the Lido restaurant - a definate health hazzard. The bacon was way undercooked. And they serve powdered scrambled eggs. Consequently, we chose to eat in the dining room. The grits there were cold and we had to ask to have them heated up. 7. The shore excursion desk was not staffed on a port day. Why???? 8. There was a time change that they never announced in their daily news paper. Each of these complaints, by themselves, don't seem too serious. But, together, they add up to a serious image problem for Carnival. The bottom line is, that Carnival went from treating us like royalty to treating us like lower class citizens. All the feelings of elegance go away and become feelings of despair. It's the total package that has something missing. Carnival has it's eye on the wrong ball. They have lost sight on providing an excellent package and are too focused on making more money. This is going to backfire, and they will wind up losing customers. They are looking to save a few pennies here and there because they think we won't notice it. Well, we noticed.

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Oct 23, 2004

Mexican Riviera

This was our first, and sadly, our last cruise. I will start with our background. We are a military family and my husband had just gotten back from Iraq two weeks prior to sailing. We had been saving up for this trip for quite a while so we treated ourselves to a Penthouse Suite since we would be celebrating all of the holidays and missed special occasions from the

last eight months. This I am grateful for since we spent a lot of time there. I will start with embarkation. This process took a little over three hours and couldn’t have been more miserable. We started off in a LONG line outside in the hot sun with no cover over us so before the cruise even began we were already sunburned. This lasted about 1 ½ hours. It was VERY unorganized because people kept getting dropped off from taxis or hotel shuttles and then would just merge into the line of us who had already been waiting for an hour. There didn’t seem to be anyone from the Carnival staff overseeing this and it just bottlenecked into a huge freaking mess. Once we made it inside the building we had another hour to wait in a twisty turning line that resembled a Six Flags roller coaster line only with no televisions to keep us entertained. At least we were now out of the sun with a weak air conditioner blowing on us. On the internet it recommended checking in before the cruise so we did that thinking it would cut down on our wait time, but since EVERY OTHER person waiting seemed to do the same thing we were all just put in the same long line. Our last line was about 30 minutes on the gangway with the ship SO CLOSE but just out of our reach. One of my biggest annoyances was that I saw people carrying on six-packs of wine and 24 packs of soda or bottled water which I was specifically told that we COULD NOT bring on (only one bottle of fine wine) by a representative on Carnivals 800 line. By the time that we got on the ship we were grumpy and tired to say the least. We found our room and since we had a suite our luggage was waiting outside our room when we got there which was better than the alternative…piles of unattended luggage in the elevator waiting area on each floor. Our room was great. In my opinion it was a little small for what we paid but we had to keep reminding ourselves that we were on a ship and this was one of their biggest rooms. By the end of the cruise however it seemed VERY spacious. Every time we returned it was cleaned, room service trays were gone and our bed was made. The stewards (I think that’s what they’re called) did a FABULOUS job. Next is the food. It was OK. The room service and breakfast menu were a little lacking, (I will get to the dining room later) and by the eighth day everything seemed to look and taste the same. Here’s my favorite example: refried beans, cheddar cheese and lettuce served on a whole wheat burrito shell. “Great” I thought, “one of my favorite lunches.” Well, when we got it, it wasn’t heated, wasn’t even room temperature, it was freezing cold. I thought that maybe it was a mistake so when my husband ordered one later he asked for it to be heated, but it was served the exact way that mine was. However the food in the dining room was better. Breakfast was just OK, it was the same menu every day and reminded me of cafeteria style eggs and bacon. Lunch was better, defiantly interesting creations and it changed every day. Supper was very good and it also changed every day. We really liked that you could order any amount of it. If you wanted three appetizers, two soups, a salad, three entrees and two desserts, nobody even batted an eyelash. The portions were very small so maybe that’s why people ordered so much. There was food served on the Lido deck (where the pools are) from noon until 6pm and that reminded me of a mall food court, only buffet style. Pizza (24 hours) Chinese food, sandwiches, salad bar, dessert bar etc…but only during lunchtime would they all be open at once so if you were a little late some would be closed. This food was fine, but nothing special. Finally the ports. First of all, we didn’t go to the meeting about the different excursions that the cruise director puts on because we knew that we didn’t want to do any group things, just go off by ourselves, but that was a mistake. We didn’t know what there was to do in each town, but luckily everything is taped and shown on a TV channel in loop so anything you miss can be seen at a later time. Our first stop was Acapulco. It was HOT and HUMID, quite honestly, really miserable. The men trying to get you into a taxi were insanely pushy, bordering harassment. We did our own excursions, jet skiing and para-sailing which Carnival does not recommend, but it’s a LOT cheaper than their excursions and we were fine. We talked to a lot of people who did the same. The town is HUGE and kind of dirty, but it’s not that bad. Just make sure to do research into each town that you are going to so you have an idea of what you want to do. Secondly was Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo. This was a nice town and we did one of the organized excursions which we regretted. We paid $60 per person to go on a 4 ½ hour snorkel and relaxing island getaway. What we didn’t realize was that it took almost 45 minutes to get to the marina and then a quick boat ride to the island. Our tour guide was nice but he seemed more concerned about getting people to order their lunch and drinks than he was about the people who paid extra $$ to snorkel. We were told that we had to wait for a guide to show us where to go and we ended up waiting an extra half hour when they just had to tell us to walk through the restaurant and follow a path and we would be there, about a 45 second walk. Our guide just wanted us to tip the men “helping” us find the place. It was ridiculous. Our last stop was Manzanillo. I will just say that we regretted getting off the ship and wouldn’t recommend this town to anyone. It is an industrial town that is not interesting or pretty at all and we have no idea why Carnival stops there. Honestly, all of these towns are totally gorgeous from a distance on the ship, but once you are actually on land, they lose some of their beauty. I would like to finally add that we just aren’t the cruise type of people which we learned the hard way. I’m sure that many people LOVED the cruise. They probably liked that something is planned for them almost every hour of every day. It seemed a little like summer camp. Silly games, “Survivor” type shows, bands playing, bingo, but if that’s what you like, then I’m sure that you’ll LOVE IT. We wanted a vacation that we could just relax and do nothing and while you certainly CAN do that on a cruise, it made me feel a little guilty that we spent quite a bit of money and didn’t participate in any of the activities that were planned for us. Our next vacation will just be renting a hotel room on the beach and we will probably spend a third of what our cruise cost.

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Oct 15, 2004

Mexican Riviera

This trip was the maiden voyage for Spirit on this route. The boat was well decorated, and games and activities were good, fun shows etc. Our waiter "Jose/Oscar" (depending on when you asked him) was TERRIBLE, never brought water, wine or condiments, we were always served late, or last in the dining room. Selections were good, but the first few days of the trip the meat cuts were tough and fatty. Room was great, but crew

seemed sad that they were pulled from Conquest and Hawaii trips. They cancelled the third leg of our trip to Ixtapa with only a $50 compensation back to us, but 2 days in Acapulco. We were in a group of 41, so we all did different things. We spent the evening at Carlos and Charlie's, fun, but overpriced and empty. If we had it to do over again, there is a great world famous 4 level disco called the Palladium and we wish we'd have done that. The next day we took a cab (and they're mostly all VW bugs) to the Fairmonth Princess Resort hotel. Bring your own towel or they charge you $20 per person for the towel and will ask to take your passport (NO!). Great food, great waterfalls, on the water etc. Pay no more than $20 each way, per cab full. There is a swap meet type marketplace nearby, but it's kind of scary and dirty and smelly. The locals are thieves with the prices and they're VERY pushy and aggressive. We preferred to just buy stuff in the terminal by the boat. It was INCREDIBLY humid and hot and smoggy and dirty, not what we imagined. People in our group rented cabs for a day, for anywhere from $20 per cab full to $40 for an overall tour of the area and were happy with it. Also people LOVED the boat tour of the islands, including "Cat" island, so don't miss it. Other ship, Royal Caribbean, Radiance of the Seas had a Gay singles group on board, that was really fun to see having fun, but they were turned away for being gay from Local hotels (with Brunch buffets) for "religious differences". I think they were really upset. ANYWAY, Manzanillo the next day was really industrial as well, like San Pedro, just smoggy and shipping containers. We took a cab into town to shop, $1.50 per cab full each way. Shirts are cheap, but town was pretty small. People in our group took cabs to remote beach resorts an hour away and had a great time. We did the snorkel excursion through Carnival to "Elephant Rock". Elephant rock was unavailable when boat got there due to Jelly fish, so we went to another cove with fish. Maybe I'm spoiled because of previous snorkel in Caribbean, but this water was dirty and you actually saw Toilet paper squares floating by as you swam. The fish were pretty and plentiful and the guide for the trip was really nice and fun. The boat was good, and they had comp beer/soda and Margaritas and nuts etc, but I felt Nauseous (before booze and snacks) in the water after 25 minutes. They asked to hose everyone off as they came back on boat, and then for 2 days I had this weird red bumpy rash on neck chest and arms and legs. Music on boat was fun, and info from the guide, but the snorkel was kind of gross and scary. The trip was great for us because we went with a lot of fun people and the weather on the boat was great. The pools are better than conquest, bigger and not TOO many kids in the adult pool. We had fun anyway, but I have not recommended this route to friends after that. Stick to Caribbean.

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Sep 21, 2004

Repositioning Cruise - Vancouver to Hawaii

We chose Carnival because of the itinerary out of Vancouver (where we live), because it went to Hawaii, and because Airmiles allowed us to use Airmiles to get the cruise for half price. The only complaint I had about the entire cruise was about where the cabin was located. Our cabin was located on the first (Riviera) deck. The cabin itself was great. Lots of

room, a king size bed, room for one more if they lowered the bunk bed that is hidden in the roof above the sofa. The bed is a 4 inch mattress on movable bed frames. This allows two doubles to be created for travelers arriving in pairs. For those with kids or parents in tow, the drop down bunks are the same mattress, but living accommodation would be pretty tight. The room had a nice large window that was always dirty. Located two stories up from the ocean, there was little chance of getting ‘wave wet’. Lots of storage in the rooms, three closets provide ample room for about 15 change of clothes per person. Four large drawers, and two smaller ones provide even more storage. Under night table closets, a small closet below the TV, large pull out drawers under the couch, plenty of room under the beds for luggage, souvenirs and more round out the storage. TIP: There is a good hair dryer in the room, so no need to bring your own. TIP: There is only one electrical outlet in the room. A previous review suggested bringing a splitter and/or extension cord which we did. It worked great! There is an outlet in the bathroom for shavers. TIP: Bring a sound machine or other device that makes noise or music or sounds so you can sleep. Or bring ear plugs. The cabin was located right under ‘Club Cool’, which provided music till around 12:45am most nights. The worst part was the music was always the same, every night. The same duo played the same very danceable / sing along songs every night. Had I figured this out early, I would have asked for a room further down the boat. Oh well, considering we weren’t getting to bed until around that time or later anyway, it only bothered us a few nights. Rooms without the balconies are hot. There is air conditioning but for some reason the air doesn’t come out fast. Thus the rooms are always warm, particularly if your side of the ship is on the side that is in the sun all day. Consider that when booking your itinerary and your room. First floor rooms were great to get everywhere with. One floor up was all the main restaurants, shops, bars and entertainment. We didn’t feel like we missed anything, other than a balcony, being on the first floor. The state room service was awesome. The Spirit is a pretty ship. The 9 story atrium dominates your entrance onto the boat. Pink glass atop the dome along with stain glass everywhere. Live piano music filters up to the top levels. The main eating and entertainment decks (2 & 3) feature lots of oak wood, marble, glass, stained glass, leather furniture, drapes, and art. Very European. Lots of class. For dining you have 2 main options and 2 secondary options. The 2 main options are the Empire Dining Room (decks 2 and 3 aft) and the La Playa Grille (deck 9 midship). Carnival still offers assigned seating for dinner. We asked for the early time (5:45pm) and got the late time by mistake (8:15pm). Instead of changing it we stuck with it and were glad we did. This gave us the full day to play and eat at our leisure, then eat, then go watch the shows. Carnival’s food menu is quite expansive offering 5 to 7 appetizers, 5 to 6 main entrees, a Spa menu (low carb, low fat) and 4 to 5 desserts nightly. The menu options seemed to get better as the cruise went on. The food was fabulous, with very few complaints heard from any one else. TIP: assigned seating may put you at a table where there are many guests and not enough servers. Ask to be moved to less busy areas. The maitre d’ is very gracious and the staff magnificent servers. The busier areas are a bit slower. We were lucky to have a corner, non busy area where service was fantastic. TIP: ask for multiple entrees and/or appetizers and/or desserts. They will never say no. One night they served Alaskan King Crab perfectly cooked. One table asked for 6 servings! The La Playa Grille offers four different buffet stations along with multiple drink stations. Buffets follow different nations each day, with excellent Thai, Mexican, and other themed meals. The standard fare is also offered including hams, beef, mashed potatoes and more. TOO BAD: Sodas (Coke, Pepsi etc) are not included with the cruise and cost extra. On deck and in the restaurants you can get a truly good lemonade, apple juice, orange juice, instant coffee, tea, iced tea and iced water. TIP: All the water on the boat is as good as bottled water. Ocean water is taken run over the engine heat and instantly boiled. The steam is collected on cooling rods and the condensation collected for water to drink and bathe in. Breakfast is served in the La Playa Grille and in the Empire Room and consists of all regular breakfast foods. French Toast was scrumptious. Having fresh milk (whole, skim and 1% chocolate, available all the time was nice too. Lunch is served in the La Playa Grille and in the Empire Room (the latter only during days at sea). Lunch follows the themes of the evening food. TIP: The New York Grille offers Corned Beef, Pastrami and Reuben sandwiches that are grilled. Very good food. They also serve turkey and tuna sandwiches. Open daily 11am to 11pm. Very good choice! A 24 hour pizza joint offers very average pizza. The 2 secondary options for eating is in your room, where room service is truly fantastic. The other option is to eat at their Nouveau Supper Club located on deck 10 and 11. Reservations are required for the Club and does cost an extra $25 US per person. Whether it is worth it is up to your taste buds. They serve 24 ounce porterhouse, 9 ounce lobster tails, surf and turf (9 oz filet with 6 oz lobster tail), amazing soups, and desserts. A singing duo and a dance floor adorns the eating area. TIP: Ask for the upper level overlooking the water. Carnival has been called the entertainment cruise line but only some of their shows were awesome. The house band, house dancers and large production shows were truly spectacular. Three were offered over the 12 day cruise but the first one, a tribute to Broadway was amazing. Get there early for front row seats. Other shows tossed in included John “Hollywood Squares” Davison, an adult comedy hypnotist, several comedians, a magician, and a tribute band to the Temptations. Some were good, some were not so good. But considering you have no where else to go, and its included, it’s pretty good entertainment. TIP: Look for the nights when the band plays in the Versailles lounge. Very intimate setting with great band talent. Most entertainment is offered in the Pharoahs lounge with a scant few events in the more intimate Versailles lounge. The former offers comfortable Vegas lounge like seating with an upper level with large theatre seats. Careful about the glass railings blocking your view. Check before you sit down! Several bars exist on ship including the Shanghai bar (sing along piano bar), Club Cool (aforementioned dancing with 80’s and 90’s rock), the Atrium bar (easy listening piano tunes), the Casino (country music), the Deco lounge (jazz and classical piano and strings) and the Disco (pure rock and dance music). Tours offered were all popular and very well organized. Tours are for those that don’t want venture out and do things on your own. The cruise line uses scare tactics like “if you’re late, we’re not waiting for you!”. Recommend setting up rental cars at each stop. Car rental companies like http://www.discounthawaiicarrentals.com/ will set up unbelievable rates for you. I had a $25/day rate for a car in Honolulu. Closer to departure they emailed me back with an even better deal on the same car ($20.57/day). Carnival likes to upsell. From photographers at every turn taking your picture and then trying to sell it back to you, to the Supper Club, to the can of Coca-Cola in your fridge, they are trying to upsell you are every turn. Overall the cruise was fantastic. 5 days at sea was incredible. To be so far away from life, and surrounded by water so blue, was 100% relaxing. We saw dolphins dancing in the waves while off the Kona coast, the moon setting over Mauna Loa as we approached Hilo, and so much more. Regardless of the little hiccups, the experience was tremendous.

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Aug 17, 2004

Alaska

This was our fourth cruise, all of which were on Carnival. Our previous cruises were all in the Caribbean on Carnival's Paradise, Destiny, and Sensation. We're a family of four with two older sons, ages 16 and 18. Carnival attracts more younger passengers than other cruise lines, yet there were noticeably fewer adult singles, young couples, and families with children

on this Alaskan cruise, although the cruise director said there were about 100 children participating in the Camp Carnival activities. I’m not sure whether this is due to the higher cost of flying to Alaska, lack of beaches, or some other reason. However, don’t let this keep you away from this cruise. I've tried to include information which is helpful to first-time cruisers as well as returning cruisers who are heading for Alaska. We extended our trip by visiting Denali National Park and Seward before our southbound cruise and staying an extra day in Vancouver afterwards, with these arrangements made by our travel agent and ourselves rather than by Carnival. Since these are popular destinations for those going on Alaska cruises, I've included information on those as well. If your time is limited, I strongly recommend arranging your vacation to have at least one full day in Seward so you can take a boat tour of the Kenai Fjords and drive to Exit Glacier; these are outstanding and might allow you to skip some side tours on the cruise. We were very lucky on the weather. The only rain we had on the cruise was during the two "at sea" days, which were cold, wet, and windy - definitely a good day to stay inside. The temperatures were also abnormally warm, with highs in the 70s and Anchorage breaking its August monthly record while we were there by hitting the mid-80s. We ended up in shorts and T-shirts on some days. However, for normal daytime weather and the cooler evenings you should take mostly long pants, a mix of short and long-sleeved shirts, and a jacket or sweatshirt. Remember that you're bound to buy a couple T-shirts along the way. Pack an umbrella or raincoat since rain is very common, particularly in Ketchikan. Keep the potential for rain in mind when booking side tours that are out in the open, too. Be sure to pack binoculars to get a better view of the more distant glaciers and wildlife. Our basic itinerary: - Fly to Anchorage, pick up a rental SUV (lots of luggage!) for 5 days. - Drive north to Denali National Park (4-1/2 hours), stay 2 nights, taking the 8-hour shuttle bus trip during the full day. - Drive south thorough Anchorage to Seward (additional 3 hours), stopping in Anchorage for dinner. - Stay in Seward 3 nights. Drive to Exit Glacier on the first day and take the 6-hour boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park on the second day. (Both can be done in one day.) - Return car at Anchorage airport, get Carnival shuttle bus to Whittier. - Cruise south with stops in Sitka, Juneau, Skagway, and Ketchikan, ending in Vancouver. - Ship arrives in the morning. Rent an SUV, sightsee, and stay over 1 night. Fly out the next day. This is a long cruise review, so here's a table of contents if you want to jump to an area of interest: - The - Embarkation - Cabin - Food - Activities and Everything Else - Tipping and Debarkation - Denali National Park - Anchorage - Seward - College Fjord - Sitka - Juneau - Skagway - Ketchikan - Vancouver The Ship - Embarkation: We returned our rental car at Anchorage airport and walked to the baggage claim area for arriving flights, which is where the Carnival people greet you. We took the bus shuttle from to Whittier around 4 PM. If you arrive in Anchorage in the morning, Carnival takes you to a location downtown to check in and then buses you to Whittier in the early afternoon. Getting on and off the ship often takes time, so be patient and expect delays. Whittier was opened as a cruise ship port only this year. There’s really not much to see there. Access is limited to a single-lane tunnel that is shared by cars and the railroad. Suitcases are taken by truck from the airport to the ship. You might have to put larger carry-ons under the bus. If you do, keep your camera with you. As we were riding down the Seward Highway, our bus driver, Kevin, said we wouldn’t make the 5:30 tunnel opening, so to pass the time he took us to Big Game Alaska, a drive-and-walk animal park. You’ll want your camera for this. He was able to get us in for free although naturally our busload left more than a few dollars at the ubiquitous gift shop. I’m not a fan of captive animal parks like this, but the animals did have very large areas to roam around and it was the best opportunity we had to get within inches of several moose. It really was better than sitting on the bus outside the tunnel for a half-hour! Check-in at Whittier went very quickly and the Carnival staff is, as always, friendly and helpful. To save time, be sure to register on-line from home as instructed in the ticket booklet and fill out the Sail-and-Sign credit card form and debarkation form in advance. After going through the paperwork, we went to another table to pick up our Sail-and-Sign cards, then get the usual embarkation photo taken on the way to the gangway. You’ll be handed a pocket-sized Deck Plan as you board, but it’s not as detailed as the deck plans in Carnival’s annual cruise booklet (or on-line) which show the location of all the cabins. I’ve learned to bring along a copy of the latter. First-time cruisers: Be sure to put the color-coded luggage tags on your baggage in advance, even as early as when you check your bags for the flight to Anchorage. It saves time if you use return address labels; bring extra since you’ll get other tags for debarkation. Carnival will take your bags from the airport to the hallway outside your cabin. You might not get the bags until a few hours after you’re on the ship, so put anything you’ll need for the first few hours in a carry-on before leaving the suitcases at the airport. Our bags showed up within minutes of our arrival on this trip, but on one previous cruise they weren’t delivered until the ship was underway! The Ship - Cabin: Rule one: don’t drink the bottled water. You’ll find a big bottle of water in your cabin with a bucket of ice, but you’ll probably miss the little sign that the bottled water costs several dollars. Unfortunately Carnival has a way of nickel-and-diming you and this is one of the best examples. Put ice in the glass and get water from the sink. We always get a separate cabin for the boys since the additional cost isn’t much. Officially, one adult has to be in each cabin, but the cabin stewards don’t mind when we switch. The only drawback is that the Sail-and-Sign card is an ID card, charge card, and room key, so you’ll have to switch cards while on the ship (and not charge anything) or else make sure that the other person is at the cabin to let you in. Our cabins were on the Upper Deck with balconies. Usually we stay on the Main Deck with a window, but since this cruise had lots of scenery along the way we went for the balconies to get a better view. Our cabins are listed as a partially (not fully) obstructed view due to the lifeboats. We were in the middle section with the three shorter lifeboats and could see over them just fine. It looked like the cabins in the sections with the taller lifeboats also wouldn’t miss much, so don’t hesitate to get a partially obstructed view cabin on the Upper Deck. The Main Deck obstructed view cabins are definitely obstructed. Each balcony is about 10 by 4 feet with a plastic chair, small table, and reclining chair. The balcony railing is about 30 inches high with clear plexiglas under it. Opaque plastic panels separate adjoining balconies. There’s an outside fluorescent light controlled by a switch in the cabin. We booked a cabin on the port (left) side since this was a southbound cruise and I thought most scenery would be on that side. However, you’ll be fine with a cabin on either side. The one time the captain took the ship close to a glacier, he turned the ship completely around so it would be visible from both sides. During the “at sea” days, we were usually in a channel with islands on both sides. The cabins have lots of storage space: three vertical cabinets with adjustable shelves and rods, four dresser drawers (one of which has a hairdryer), an eye-level cabinet (which includes the safe), and two small night tables. There are two beds that can be pushed together by the cabin steward, a sofa (which might be a sleeper sofa, I didn’t check), small table, chair, and a large countertop/desk with a lighted mirror and stool. Lighting is great. The lifejackets, which were in a corner storage bin on our other cruises, were in the top shelf of one of the cabinets, freeing up floor space. Heating and air conditioning are controlled by a wall thermostat that seemed better than the simple fan control on our other ships. Carnival ships tend to be on the cool side, even in the Caribbean, so I had to turn up the temperature as soon as we walked into the cabin. The bathroom layout on the Spirit is the best I’ve seen. In addition to the usual vacuum toilet and curtain-enclosed stall shower, it has a large countertop around the sink and several glass shelves on both sides of a full mirror to hold items. Other ships have a small sink and standard medicine cabinet. There’s a small adjustable make-up mirror on the side wall. The shower, although enclosed only by a curtain, has great water pressure, lots of hot water with a thermostatic control, and an adjustable and removable shower head... just be careful to point it in the right direction! The shower has liquid soap and shampoo dispensers. Each bathroom is stocked with an array of free samples that includes toothpaste and bar soap. There’s a television in the cabin that carries an eclectic mix of stations. We were glad that NBC was available so we could catch at least some of the Olympics. The TV has two channels with live views from the bow and stern of the ship (handy for early morning glacier viewing on the first day), and a third channel with maps showing the ship’s location and speed. About the only items missing are an alarm clock and an iron and ironing board. However, you can easily program a wake-up call on the telephone (I pack a travel alarm anyway) and there are a few laundry rooms on the ship with irons, and laundry service is available for a fee. Our cabin steward, Gati, introduced himself as soon as we found our cabins. He was usually somewhere in the hallway during the morning and evening. I still don’t know how the cabin stewards do it, but they have a knack for knowing when you're out so they can duck in to make up the room in the morning and turn down the beds at night. Probably due to the late departure time, the mandatory lifeboat drill takes place at 9:30 AM the next morning instead of the first evening. You can always go back to bed afterward! The Ship - Food: Carnival says they designed this line of ships to combine the best features of their previous lines, and I could see the improvements. For example, the number of passengers was similar to the Paradise, but the number of food stations on the Lido deck was more like the larger Destiny, so lines were shorter. We particularly like the Deli counter for lunch, which serves up excellent sandwiches made to order. The boys always like the 24-hour pizza counter, although the salmon pizza was never readily available and we never stayed around for the 8 minutes it would take to prepare. The food in Carnival’s dining rooms is always better than the buffet lines on the Lido deck, and the Spirit is no exception. The menu appears to be the same on all Carnival cruises, with some items replaced each year. One nice addition on the Alaska route is an additional local seafood entrée, such as salmon or halibut; although not on the menu, each is listed in the daily Carnival Capers newsletter and mentioned by the waiter. Due to the ship’s schedule, there were only a few days when we ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room. The Spirit dining room was designed with more 2- and 4-person tables than previous ships. As on our other cruises, there are two dinner seatings. We had the early (or main) seating on our other cruises, but the late seating on this cruise. If you don’t mind eating dinner at 8:15 PM, the late seating is actually better on the southbound Alaska cruise than the 5:45 main seating because of the departure times from the ports. There’s no need to rush back for dinner and miss part of the town, or stay in the town and have to eat from the buffet. If the gap from lunch to dinner is too long, hit the deli or pizza stands for a mid-afternoon light snack. There are two formal nights on this cruise. Most men were in suits, with only a few in tuxes. Even a sport jacket and tie would be fine. For the other dinners, I wore a polo shirt and slacks. Shorts are prohibited in the dining room, and you’d feel out of place in jeans and a T-shirt. If you really don’t want to get changed for dinner, there are always the buffets on the Lido deck, but I really recommend the dining room. If you eat breakfast on the Lido deck, be aware that one or two of the four buffet lines have a roped-off section for "omelets only." This is a change from previous cruises where those waiting for the cooked-to-order omelets at the ends of the lines held up those who only wanted other breakfast items. The confusing part is that the other lines still have a sign at the end that says "omelets only" but aren't roped off. Hopefully Carnival will correct this since it's a great idea. Believe it or not, I don’t gain any weight on cruises. I’m slim to start with, and between a higher activity level on a cruise and not going overboard (pun!) when eating, I don’t put on extra pounds even though I do eat a little more than usual. There are plenty of menu options for dieters, and the dining room menu highlights selections for those counting calories or carbs (I do neither). While munching an evening slice of cake with a hot chocolate, I’ve noticed a definite correlation between weight and plate size among those at the midnight buffet, and that’s all I’ll say on that topic! First-time cruisers: The first dinner in the dining room as well as the breakfasts and lunches are “open seating,” where you’ll be seated at any table. For the other dinners you’re assigned to a table where the same team of waiters will take excellent care of you; you’ll be sad to leave them by the end of the cruise. Our team of Remberto and Darwin was as delightful as those we’ve had before. If you want to change your assigned table or dinner seating time, ask the maitre’d as soon as possible. Feel free to order more than one of anything from the menu. If you order a bottle of wine, your waiters can keep it from day to day so you don’t have to finish it all at one meal; there’s an extensive wine list with selections starting around $20, as well as wine by the glass. Water, iced tea, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, lemonade, and fruit punch are free, but soda is considered a bar drink and costs extra. If you or your children are major soda drinkers, buy a “soda card” for each early in the cruise from any bar; for one fee, you can get unlimited sodas from the bars and in the dining room. The Ship - Activities and Everything Else: Don’t miss the evening shows! The only one we didn’t see was the talent show on the last evening. However, the Las Vegas-style shows, comedians, and jugglers were all excellent, and the Jim Hanson 10-piece live band was the best cruise ship band I’ve heard (and they’ve all been great). Some seats have partially-obstructed views, so you should try to arrive a few minutes early although none of the shows (at least the late ones) were SRO. Note that these shows start exactly on time, and it’s hard to find a seat when the house lights are down. I finally was able to go to one of the “R-rated” midnight comedy shows, which wasn’t really that racy and was very funny. I thought I’d only stay for the first half-hour and ended up staying for the full hour. Shore excursion descriptions were in a booklet that was sent with the cruise tickets and a similar booklet available on the ship. Be sure to read the descriptions carefully to know what you're going to see and do. When in doubt, ask the Carnival folks at the shore excursion counter in the atrium lobby. A single price list for all the ports is delivered to each cabin at the beginning of the cruise. Tours can be booked using the TV remote or at the shore excursion desk. (On previous cruises, there was a separate price list for each port and most booking was done by checking off items on the price list and handing it in.) Tour prices are generally higher than in the Caribbean. When I could compare Carnival's price with the price I could get on my own, I found that they were adding close to zero (Mt. Roberts Tramway in Juneau) up to about 8% (White Pass railroad in Skagway). The "flightseeing" trips are very expensive, from about $175 to over $400 per person. Be sure to keep in mind that it rains frequently, most of the shore excursions are held rain or shine, there's a 25% cancellation fee, and "tours cancelled within 24 hours of port arrival are non-refundable." While some of the trips with limited space might sell out, we were able to book an afternoon boat trip in Ketchikan that same morning when we knew the weather would be sunny. Yes, there is swimming in Alaska, although I only saw a few children in the semi-covered pool during the cruise. The water felt like it was heated, but it can still be on the chilly side when you get out. The ship has a multi-level gym in the bow with a great view, fancier than the other ships we've been on. As on the other Carnival ships, the weight machines use pressurized air cylinders rather than weight plates, so the resistance is different than what I'm used to. A couple of the machines were missing instruction cards but I was able to figure out how to use them anyway. Look for the treadmills on one of the upper levels. As on Carnival's other ships, there's a small jogging and walking track on one of the upper outside decks. Since I had taken the galley tour on two other cruises, I skipped it this time but would recommend it for first-time cruisers. I did attend two new “behind-the-scenes” events on this cruise which were great. One was a half-hour “Backstage Tour” in the theater. Walking through the backstage only took a couple minutes since it’s not very large, but the Q&A session led by one of the dancers with several stage crew was very informative. I was able to ask how automated the light and sound are and whether the dancers have any problems performing while the ship is moving. (She said it’s actually harder when they have to stand still.) The other Q&A was called “Up Close & Personal,” led by Todd Wittmer, the cruise director. With Todd were the stage manager and Calvin, one of the assistant cruise directors. Their answers were interesting and entertaining at the same time. For example, Calvin with a perfectly straight face said that the crew doesn’t really have cabins but cabinets, which cracked up Todd. There was also some good-natured teasing of Todd because he has a cabin “with a balcony and fruit basket” near the bridge instead of in the lower decks where most of the staff lives. (Calvin, who comes from Vancouver, was scheduled for a vacation after we arrived, so he left the ship when we did.) Carnival has introduced a “color war” competition on their cruises this year. Everyone is assigned to the red, white, or blue teams based on their dining room table number, and teams get points by participating in various designated activities during the cruise. Standings were announced every evening by the maitre’d, Joseph. Even though we were on the winning red team, I don’t think it really added much to the cruise since the “teams” are so large and several competitions are random, like the time 50 points were awarded to the team (ours) of the cruise bingo winner. There are plenty of activities on board. Our sons participated in the “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” contest, with both ending up as semi-finalists and my older son winning it, along with 10 of the first points for the red team. The question that really separated the players was which metal makes up most of an Olympic gold medal. (Silver!) My wife and I found some time to dance in one of the clubs during a dance class, on the theater stage during one of the open parties, and in the atrium lobby late one evening. There's a fair-sized casino that's impossible to miss because, unlike other ships, the pathway through the Promenade deck goes right through the middle of it. The minimum gambling age on the ship is 18, and 21 to drink. The ship's design has a similar have-to-walk-by-them approach to the several shops on board. If you're interested in buying Carnival apparel, try to wait until the last full day of the cruise when much of it goes on sale, with T-shirts marked down to $10. I didn’t see as much activity on the outside decks as on the Caribbean cruises, probably because of the rainy weather during our two sailing days but also possibly because of the average age of the passengers. One complaint I have about the outside decks is the condition of the shuffle board poles and the lack of soccer balls or other equipment for the enclosed sports field. Our boys were able to play their usual games of shuffleboard but the equipment was really banged up. They would also have liked to use the sports surface but had nothing to play with. My younger son liked playing chess with other teens on the oversized set on the Sensation which was near the ping-pong tables, but the separate location on the Spirit meant that it was usually used by adults and he didn't want to hang around there. The Spirit also has only one ping-pong table, while other ships have two. One of my favorite spots on a cruise ship is the outside of the bow, where you can feel the wind in your face when the ship is moving. The Spirit, like the Paradise, has a deck over the bridge that extends out over the side, allowing you to look back at the entire side of the ship. Keep in mind that this is Alaska and it can get very chilly standing on the bow or other parts of the outside decks. The ship does have areas that are shielded with large plexiglas to cut the wind. The Spirit also has a few wooden benches outside which I didn't see on other ships. Carnival’s ships are always... well... highly decorated, bordering on garish. Maybe I’m getting used to it, but I didn’t think the Spirit was that bad, although my wife really didn’t care for the hallways. The Spirit lobby is narrow but goes up higher than other ships, including a skylight that’s built into part of this ship’s funnel. Our first cruise was on the smoke-free Paradise. I was sorry to hear that Carnival discontinued the smoke-free policy on the Paradise, and hope that they eventually reconsider. However, many of the public areas on all their ships are still smoke-free. The only time I’ve noticed cigarette smoke is in a couple lounges on a previous cruise and a few times out on our balcony on this cruise. The Ship - Tipping and Debarkation: As you’ve probably heard by now, Carnival automatically adds $10 per person per day to your Sail & Sign account for tips. This covers your cabin steward and the waiters in the dining room and on the Lido deck. You can adjust the amount lower or higher at the Purser’s Desk in the atrium lobby; do this before the last day when people who used cash for their Sail & Sign are lined up there to settle their bill. If you want to tip extra, you can always simply give them cash directly. A service charge is automatically added to bar items, which includes wine at dinner. You’ll get an envelope before the last dinner to tip the maitre’d. The tips might seem high, but remember that the waiters and cabin stewards are paid extremely low wages (I've heard estimates of $30 to $50 per month) and depend on tips for most of their income. I have no idea what most people do, but here’s what we usually tip: $20 to the maitre’d, $5 for the bar server who brings the boys sodas in the dining room (their soda cards include that 15% bar service charge), an extra $20 each to our cabin steward and head waiter, and an extra $10 to any assistant (team) waiters. Also remember to tip any shuttle bus drivers and side tour guides; with a family of four, I usually tip $3 to $5 depending on the trip length and how much they do. This was the fastest debarkation I’ve seen, maybe because non-U.S. citizen immigration is handled in the terminal rather than on the ship and we were among the first ones off the ship. Carnival is trying something called express debarkation for those who have independent travel plans after the cruise and can carry their own luggage off. Normally, luggage is collected from outside the cabins between 6 PM and midnight (ideally 10 PM) and then taken off and placed in the terminal the next morning. The advantage of using express debarkation is that we were able to keep our suitcases and get our Vancouver sightseeing started earlier. The disadvantage is that we had to lug everything off the ship to the terminal. Catching an elevator with enough space for bags could be a problem in the future if this really catches on. Everyone gets new color- and number-coded luggage tags for debarkation, depending on whether you’re taking a flight from Vancouver, a shuttle to Seattle, a side tour in Vancouver, or your own arrangements. Debarkation was slated to start at 7:30 AM, actually started around 7:45, and we were off by 8:15. They said that everyone is usually off by 10 AM regardless of which group you’re in. Breakfast is available in the dining room and Lido deck starting early, so we were able to get in one last dining room experience before dashing back to the cabin, grabbing our bags, and heading off. Okay, enough about the Spirit. Time to talk about what we did off the ship. Remember that we saw Denali, Anchorage, Seward, and Vancouver on our own. Denali National Park: We drove right from the Anchorage airport to Denali, which is a 4-1/2 hour trip on a mostly 2-lane road. Fortunately, I felt fine after over 8 hours of flying from the East Coast, and the northern location in late August means more daylight. An alternative to driving is to take the train from Anchorage to Denali, but for a family of four it was less costly to drive. We stopped for a quick Burger King dinner in Anchorage and headed north. Wasilla, about 40 miles (1 hour) north of Anchorage, is the last real town and traffic lights we saw. There are a few gas stations along the way. The road is in very good condition. Because most of it is two lanes, there is a lot of passing. Make sure your lights are on, even during the daytime, since this makes it easier for on-coming cars to see you at a distance. Alaska is very optimistic when it comes to marking passing zones on this road, so make sure that you can see clearly far down the road before passing someone. The first time we spotted Denali/Mt. Whitney, we stopped on the shoulder and took some photos. Around 10 PM, we reached Denali State Park which has two viewing areas, at mileposts 134.7 and 163.9. We stopped at the first, Denali View South, on the way up. The view of the Alaska Range and Denali was great at 10 PM, without any clouds. We learned that this is a rare treat! The retired couple who volunteer their time at the viewing area told us that this facility had opened only a couple weeks before we were there, and also told us to be careful about moose in the roadway as we drove further north and it got darker. By 11 PM it was getting quite dark and I was getting more worried about encountering a moose the wrong way. Fortunately, we were frequently in a mini-convoy behind another car or truck. I got the impression that everyone was more than happy to let the truck take the lead, since nobody passed it when the driver had to slow down for a couple hills. We stayed at the McKinley Village Lodge, a few miles south of the national park entrance. They run a shuttle bus to the park although we chose to drive. There are very few other facilities south of the park entrance except for a small grocery store just inside the park, on the left side before the turn to the visitor center. We found later that there are plenty of stores and places to eat just a couple miles north of the park entrance. In addition to its restaurant, the hotel has a coffee bar that also sells muffins, bottled juices, and boxed breakfasts, although they were out of the latter when I asked. McKinley Village Lodge has rooms in several two-story buildings on a short loop road. The rooms are fine although limited in storage space, and do not come with an iron and ironing board. The buildings are right next to the Nenana River. There's a very scenic trail that runs along the bank. The hotel also provides whitewater rafting trips in the river and a small "pan for gold" site which we didn't do. We headed for Denali National Park in the morning. I purchased tickets on-line several weeks earlier for the 10:30 AM shuttle bus to the Eielson visitor center. It’s longer than the trip to Toklat River, but the view of Denali, visitor center, and short trails made it worthwhile. There’s a fancier “tour bus” trip through the park that was sold out; I suspect that the travel agencies and cruise lines snatch these tickets up quickly, but we found the old green shuttle bus to be just fine, if a bit dusty. Our bus driver, Linda Paganelli, narrated the trip. It’s possible to switch buses on a “space available” basis, but we stayed with bus 532 since she gave us enough time at each of the rest stops. Everyone watched for wildlife and yelled “Stop!” when something was spotted. We saw Dall sheep, caribou, moose, and grizzly bears. The only one which was really close was one grizzly. Don’t expect to see a lot of animals, just a few. Bring binoculars since many of the animals are far away. If you really don’t like heights, sit on the right side of the bus going out, although the better views are from the left (driver’s) side. Remember there’s no water or food, although there is water at Eielson. We planned for this by bringing peanut butter & jelly and bottled water from home for lunch. We returned to the main Visitor Center in time to catch the 6:30 PM ranger talk about moose. I highly recommend ranger talks at any national park. The Denali Visitor Center has 45-minute talks scheduled at 6:30 PM daily. We ate dinner that evening at the hotel restaurant. The food is on the fancier side and, after our minimal breakfast and PB&J lunch, was a welcome treat. The next morning, we checked out and drove back to the Visitor Center by 9:30 AM. There are sled dog demonstrations daily at 10 AM, 2 PM, and 4 PM, with free shuttle buses (no reservations needed) from the Visitor Center about 20-30 minutes before. Try to get there early to get one of the first buses, since you’ll have more time with the dogs before the demonstration. This was definitely a highlight of the trip. Most of the dogs are very happy to see the visitors, with some simply tethered outside their houses where you can walk up and pet them. For the demonstration, we headed to a long raised platform that provided a good view. The ranger told us the history of sled dogs in the park, why they’re used even today, how they’re trained, and what life in the park is like in the winter. (He used to work in the Everglades, so Denali was a major climate change for him!) We learned what the lead, swing, team, and wheel positions are. Then he and the staff went to get the dogs and hooked them up to a wheeled sled. The dogs were incredibly excited about pulling the sled, some jumping up in the air several feet! After a fast run around a short track, the dogs were calmer as they chewed on rawhide snacks and the ranger answered questions from the audience. We had a few more minutes with the dogs before we had to leave. We drove north toward Healy and discovered all the shops we had missed before, as well as the first two traffic lights north of Wasilla, about 200 miles away. We ate lunch at the Subway, shopped a little, and headed south for Anchorage and Seward by 2 PM. Along the way, we stopped at the Denali State Park’s View North and View South. Due to smoke from forest fires up near Fairbanks drifting south, along with a few clouds, we could barely see the mountains that were so clear only the day before. According to a display at Denali’s Eielson Visitor Center, the mountains can be seen only about 25% of the time in August, so we were very fortunate. We also stopped at the Alaska Veterans Memorial, on the left side at milepost 147.2, and for gas, which was almost 40 cents per gallon more than in Anchorage at $2.45. Anchorage: Anchorage is Alaska’s largest city, but it’s still smaller than most and easy to drive in. East-west avenues are numbered. North-south streets are lettered on the west side of the city and appear to be place names in alphabetical order on the east side. This is a good place to buy anything you forgot; I found a Best Buys to pick up more film, for instance. We didn’t plan much time in Anchorage, although there are a couple good museums according to the AAA TourBook. Hotel rooms are more numerous and at better rates than other towns, too. I had read an on-line cruise comment by a Dawn Princess passenger in May that said the Glacier Brewhouse had great food. It does! It appears to be a very popular place, so if you go I suggest calling ahead for reservations. (Check their web site for a menu and other details - www.glacierbrewhouse.com.) We ended up waiting for close to an hour for a Sunday evening dinner without reservations. There are several nearby art and gift shops, so my wife and I went exploring while the boys played cards at the restaurant’s large lobby area that’s shared with several stores and restrooms. There’s a $2 public parking lot just past the restaurant on the NW corner of G and 5th if you have trouble finding a spot. Since we enjoyed it so much, we decided to eat lunch at the Brewhouse on Wednesday afternoon when returning from Seward before returning the car. It’s only a little out of the way when coming up from Seward to the airport. Even at 2 PM, the place was very busy although we didn’t have to wait for a table this time. I think the parking lot is reserved for businesses during weekdays, but we lucked out and pulled into a metered spot right in front of the restaurant. On this second trip to Anchorage, we drove to Earthquake Park which is a slightly past the airport on Northern Lights Boulevard on the right side. There’s a short trail and descriptive plaques at the edge of a neighborhood that dropped about 30 feet toward Cook Inlet during the 1964 magnitude 9.2 earthquake. The park was fine, but not worth driving out of your way. I saw more photos of the earthquake damage in books at the souvenir shops, and there’s not much evidence at the park itself other than the steeply sloped terrain. Gas prices were at their best in and around Anchorage, cheaper than in Seward and much cheaper than the Denali area. Seward: The Seward Highway between Anchorage and Seward is very scenic. The Turnagain Arm has a significant tidal change, so we saw areas covered with water on our way to Seward which were wide mudflats on our return trip. We also noticed several areas with dead trees. During the 1964 earthquake and resulting tsunamis, salt water flooded the land, killing trees along the coastline which still stand. Further south into the Kenai Peninsula, we drove through the Chugach Mountains, many of which have glaciers on top. It was dark by the time we arrived in Seward, noticeably earlier than in Denali since we were over 350 miles further south. We checked into the Edgewater Hotel on the far side of the town. Our room had a small balcony and a view of Mount Alice across Resurrection Bay. As in Denali, the room had limited storage space and no iron/ironing board, although one could be requested. Our room did have a microwave and small refrigerator; I'm not sure whether all the rooms have these. The surrounding neighborhood doesn’t show up in the photos on their web site, but it’s not too bad. Parking in front of the hotel is limited to 2 hours during the day, so they have a gravel lot about a block and a half up 5th Avenue. There are several shops and restaurants on 4th Avenue. We ate dinner twice at Christo’s Palace, near 4th and Railway Avenue, which was quite good. The hotel includes a very extensive breakfast buffet. We took a few walks up the bike path that runs around the bay, which seemed to have a couple miles RVs and tents along the water. Seward was the first spot where we saw salmon swimming upstream, at a small stream near the northern end of the bike path. For our first full day in Seward, we drove out to Exit Glacier. This is a short driving distance from town in Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s a short hike to the glacier of less than a mile, which is flat at the beginning but gets steeper near the glacier. Expect cold, gusty winds when you get there! Take a jacket but leave any hats behind. There are signs on the way in with years on them that mark where the front of the glacier was in different years. It’s amazing how far back the Alaskan glaciers have retreated in only the last few decades. The trail gets very close to the front of the glacier, much closer than any other glacier we visited on our vacation. On the way back from the glacier, take the side nature trail. There was one spot that was marked as flooded out, but we were able to pick up the trail further on. The trail takes you right down to the water flowing from the glacier. Our older son was able to fish out a small 3-inch piece of glacier ice that was flowing by. The trail also has signs explaining the succession of plants that appear as a glacier retreats. It probably took about 2-3 hours to drive out of town, see the glacier and trail, and drive back. If you have more time and are up to a more challenging trail, there’s a side trail up to the Harding Icefield from which the glacier flows. On our second day, we took the 11:30 AM six-hour Kenai Fjords National Park boat tour offered by Kenai Fjords Tours. I had booked this a few weeks in advance. They didn’t send tickets as the Denali shuttle bus did, but they did have my name on their list. Parking in front of their office at the small boat harbor is limited to only a few hours, so they have a parking lot a few blocks away (at the corner of Seward Highway and Phoenix, just past the Benny Benson Memorial heading out of town) with frequent shuttle buses. It’s always difficult for a tour to plan wildlife sightings and the captain said that this was one of the better ones she’s led, but even if we had seen fewer animals this would have been an outstanding boat trip. We saw puffins, seals, two pods of orcas, two different types of porpoises, including one group of about 40-50 that swam alongside and under our boat, a fin whale, and a humpback whale that was so close to the boat that we could see it underwater. The destination of the boat trip was a large glacier that was calving while we floated quietly for about 20 minutes a short distance away. With the engine off, we could hear the thunder-like cracking of the glacier as it slowly moved, with pieces falling into the water every few minutes. The crew fished out several large pieces of ice that they put in a big plastic bowl near the galley for us to look at and touch on the return trip. The boat itself was large with lots of places to watch from inside and outside, a galley with water and lemonade and reasonably priced snacks, and several clean heads (restrooms). The lunch that was included in our trip was several fish sticks or chicken fingers with potato chips. The crew also served warm chocolate chip cookies on the return trip. I highly recommend both of these trips in Seward. We spread them out over a three-night stay, but it might be possible to do both in one day if you’re in Seward for only two nights. You could also see Exit Glacier while leaving town for Anchorage after the second night if you get an early start. The boat tour asks people to check in an hour before the trip. I don’t know what the park’s hours are but you should be able to contact them in advance for details. College Fjord: This was the first day we had miserable weather. Fortunately, it was an at-sea day. I didn’t realize that College Fjord was a handful of glaciers that were mostly visible in the early morning. When you hear that the ship will get there around 6:30 or 7 AM, plan on getting up that early to see the largest glacier. This is where the captain gets very close (although not as close as the two glaciers were saw in Seward) and turns the ship around. I almost missed this since we had planned on sleeping a little later. Fortunately, I woke up just as the ship was turning around and we were able to watch from our balcony without getting completely dressed. The lifeboat drill is at 9:30 AM, and you can always nap afterwards. Sitka: Surprisingly, Sitka wasn’t as Russian as I expected. As with many of the early Alaskan towns that were mostly built from wood, Sitka has had it share of fires and reconstruction. For example, the landmark St. Michael’s Cathedral with its Russian-style architecture was rebuilt in 1966. Sitka was, fortunately, the only tender port. The Spirit actually uses a few of its lifeboats as tenders to take passengers ashore. It was exciting to watch the crew drop and launch the lifeboat just next to our cabins. The drawback, however, is that the lifeboats are smaller than other tender boats I’ve been on, and it took a few hours to get everyone off the ship. If you’re not on a Carnival side tour, and we weren’t, you get numbered tender tickets on the Lido deck. I made the mistake of getting them after we ate breakfast, and it took another hour until they called for Tender 21. At least we were able to wait on our balcony and enjoy the sunny weather and view while waiting for the announcement. Sitka is not very large. There’s a staffed information booth near the dock with maps. You can easily walk to most of the main attractions and shops. There’s also a transit bus that runs in a half-hour loop, which costs $7 for an all-day pass. We just missed the bus and decided to walk to the Alaska Raptor Center, about a mile away. It’s a nice hike on walkways past the waterfront and shops, the Russian Bishop’s House, a few homes, and Sheldon Jackson College, and along the edge of the Sitka National Historical Park and over the small Indian River with spawning salmon. The Alaska Raptor Center was another AAA recommendation. It’s not large, but includes about two dozen rescued bald eagles, falcons, and owls. After paying admission and viewing a short film, one of the staff members took us on a tour of the facility. Most of the birds we saw are there permanently, and he explained why. Surprisingly, several of the eagles had collided with power lines. They’re not sure why, but maybe while focusing on prey a couple miles away the eagles miss the smaller power lines right in front of them. After the tour we were able to go back to see all the birds, which are kept outside. There’s also a short loop trail through the temperate rainforest that we hiked before heading back to town. Despite the tender delay and the walk to and from the Raptor Center, we still had time to see the main attractions in town before heading to the docks for the next-to-last tender back. I had originally hoped to see the Sitka National Historical Park before or after the Raptor Center, but I scrapped that plan since my wife wanted to do some shopping and I decided the buildings in town might be more interesting than the park if our time was limited. Juneau: While not as large as Anchorage, Juneau is one of the larger cities in Alaska. Actually, I’d describe it more as a large town. The cruise ships dock about a 10-minute walk from the edge of town. There’s a staffed information booth with downtown maps at the Marine Park Kiosk along Marine Way on your left as you head into town. Juneau still has its share of older wooden buildings, and unfortunately a major part of one downtown block suffered a major fire just a few days before our cruise started. We decided that I would have some time on my own in the morning to see the city. I wanted to tour the state capitol building, but found after I walked there (about 20 minutes) that it wasn’t open on weekends! The city museum is across the street, but since I wanted to be back by lunchtime I decided to walk a few more blocks to the Alaska State Museum. I went through in about an hour since I had to get back, although I’d recommend 1-1/2 to 2 hours at a more leisurely pace. The two-floor museum’s galleries focus on Alaska Natives, Natural History, and Alaska History. Note the Abraham Lincoln-like totem carving, since you might see the copy (and hear a different story) in Ketchikan. Bring a camera since photography is allowed. We bought the 2 PM Juneau City & Mendenhall Glacier tour from Carnival. I thought it was worthwhile since Mendenhall Glacier is about 15 miles away. Our Gray Line bus driver, Julia, and her bus, Big Mama (she advised us not to confuse the two!), took “The Road” north to a salmon hatchery and then to the Mendenhall Glacier visitor center. On the way back, she drove through the incredibly scenic campus of the University of Alaska Southeast. We bought tickets on our own at the Mount Roberts Tramway, which is only a few minutes walk from the ship. The tram goes 1,800 feet up the steep mountain that’s next to the cruise ship dock. At the top, after taking in the outstanding views, we watched a movie about Alaska’s native Tlingit. While my wife went through the gift shop, the boys and I went for a hike on the loop trail. Be sure to stop in at the smaller gift shop near the trail since it also has information on the plants and animals in the area. The trail itself has several scenic overlooks, including one that looked down on our ship. There is a small restaurant at the top if you want to eat away from the ship. The tram ticket allows unlimited trips during the day, but once was fine for us. It would have been interesting to go back up to see the sunset, but that was too close to our late dinner seating. Skagway: This was my favorite town as far as unique atmosphere goes, although my wife didn’t like it as much as I did. Skagway hasn’t had any major fires, so many of its original wooden buildings remain, as well as its wooden sidewalk. It doesn’t take much imagination to see the similarity between this gold rush town which grew up almost overnight to the frontier towns that are seen in westerns. We booked the 8 AM trip on the White Pass & Yukon Route railroad. You can board the train right at the cruise ship dock and save yourself a half-mile walk to the train depot if you buy your tickets from Carnival instead of on-line in advance from the railroad. The price difference was $7. If you like old trains and mountain scenery, this is a great trip. I know many people have recommended it. However, we didn’t think it was that outstanding. Maybe it was the early hour; it’s easy to doze off. Maybe it was because it was hard to find room on a platform to stand outside; some people share space better than others. Maybe it was because the engines are switched at the midway point and we were breathing diesel fumes for the return trip. Or maybe we had just seen enough scenery by that point. I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether to take this one. Important note: Sit in one of the middle cars! Several on-line reviewers have suggested sitting in the last car if possible because of the views from the back platform. However, when we tried that, we were told that the last (and presumably the first) car weren’t open due to the diesel fumes. We ended up in the next-to-last-car on the way up. This became the second car on the way down after the engines were switched, and the fumes really were significant. After we returned and ate lunch on the ship, we walked into town. There are trams from the ship to the dock end and then small buses from the end of the dock into town if you have trouble walking. While my wife was shopping (notice the pattern), I spotted one of the 45-minute ranger-led walking tours of the historic district and listened in to part of it. Since it sounded interesting, the boys and I decided to go on the next one and arrange to meet my wife later. The free tours are hourly at 9, 10, 11, 2, and 3 o’clock and limited to about 30 people, but only about 12-18 people were going out on most of them so we were able to join the next one out from the Visitor Center at 2nd Avenue and Broadway. The park ranger was as entertaining and informative as all the others I’ve encountered. He did a great job helping us realize why people would willingly leave a relatively comfortable city life for the challenge of hunting for gold in Alaska, not unlike the dreams that fueled the “dotcom” boom in the late 1990s. He humorously noted that the town today really isn’t much different from the way it was 100 years ago, since its goal is still to separate the visitors from their cash. He also talked about the key role of whiskey in the town’s early economy, and of the “Skagway Shuffle” of moving buildings around which continues today. My wife joined us near the end and she agreed that it was a great tour. We saw the famous, or infamous, Red Onion Saloon briefly, but the tours of the second floor had ended for the day by the time we got there. Ketchikan: This is a good port for a shore excursion, since there isn't much to see right in the town except the shops on Creek Street, which is only a block long. We were considering either the "Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show" and the "Saxman Native Village Tour," and ended up doing neither although both were probably good choices. The lumberjack show is right at the cruise ship dock; it's an open arena but the audience seats are under a roof. I saw lumberjack shows many years ago in Idaho and Wisconsin and thought our boys in particular might enjoy it. The Saxman tour includes a chance to watch and even participate in native dancing in a tribal house. We saw highlights later on the cruise television and it looked reasonably good. This would also be a good choice on one of the rainy days that are frequent in Ketchikan. Since the weather was nice, my wife thought that it would be fun to go on another boat trip to look at wildlife, so we ended up on the "Ketchikan Explorer by Land & Sea." We were able to book this afternoon tour that morning at the shore excursion desk. The first part was a boat ride. The boat was smaller than the one we took in Seward, with indoor and outdoor viewing areas. The crew handed out juice and small snacks while we were on the water. We didn't see as much wildlife as on our Seward trip, but did see some seals, a couple adult bald eagles, and an eagle nest with a juvenile bald eagle. "Captain Mark" was able to take his boat into some very tight areas along the shore where we were able to see starfish under the water along with some jellyfish. The tour guide on this part of the trip kept pointing out interesting sights along the way. I enjoyed the scenery and the boat trip itself, just don't expect to see a lot of wildlife. The boat docked at a salmon cannery that was abandoned suddenly in 1959, where we met our tour guide and bus driver for the second part of the trip. After viewing a film about the salmon canning industry and how it changed drastically due to legislation in 1959, we toured the old plant. We then boarded a bus and drove to the Saxman village, where we had a chance to look at several totem poles there and the outside of the tribal house. (This is the same one where the dancing is held on the other tour, although we didn't go inside.) There's a totem carving shed on the site that is not part of this tour. One of the tourists from another ship in port who was on this tour with us was upset that it wasn't, since he was a long-time woodcarver and had thought that it was included. Although none of the carvers was around, our guide was able to sneak us into the shed and, while we stood on the other side of a barrier from the carving area, gave an overview of the tools the carvers use. Someone asked about the totem colors. He explained how the red, black, and blue paints were traditionally mixed from local materials, but now the carvers simply get pick them up at the Ace Hardware store in town! Just as he finished, the master woodcarver, Mr. Jackson, returned. Hopefully our guide won't get in too much trouble over taking us into the shed while he was out. On the bus trip back to town, we heard a shortened version of the 5-hour-long tale behind one of the totem poles we had seen. All in all, this was a great way to spend the afternoon. Vancouver: We extended our trip by one day to see Vancouver. After all the small Alaskan towns, it was odd to be back in a large, busy city with more than one main road. Vancouver also seems to have as many Starbucks per block as New York City, which must have something to do with its proximity to Seattle. The cruise ship terminal was one of the nicer ones we've seen with many employees around to direct us and answer questions. Getting through immigration and customs was very quick. The cab line was handled very efficiently and we took a minivan cab (remember - lots of luggage) to the Renaissance Hotel, where our travel agent had arranged a one-day rental from Hertz. (We weren't staying at this hotel and there are other locations to pick up cars in town, but this was a very short distance from the terminal.) Realizing that we wouldn't be able to check in at the Delta Suites Hotel until later, we headed to the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre in Stanley Park. Stanley Park has a long, one-way loop road with a few side roads, so it's hard to get lost. We found our way to the aquarium a few minutes before it's 9:30 AM opening. Parking in Stanley Park costs only $5 for the full day. We found a parking spot and looked for a blue-and-white ticket machine. After selecting from 1 hour, 2 hour, or all day parking and inserting our credit card, the machine printed a receipt that we left on the car dashboard. (I wasn't sure if the machines would take U.S. currency, and since we were only in Canada for one day we charged everything.) The aquarium was outstanding. It's not as large as the Baltimore Aquarium, but the outdoor animal demonstrations were great. These seemed to be intentionally scheduled for half-hours without overlapping, so we were able to go right from the otter feeding to the sea lion feeding to the dolphin show to the beluga whale show. The indoor exhibits were interesting and educational. There's a large frog exhibit that proved to be an eye test when trying to find some of the smaller, well-camouflaged frogs. The only aspect of the aquarium that was disappointing was the food area. It's located outside and there are only a few tables with umbrellas. Our lunch itself was tasty, but a light rain was starting to fall and it took a few minutes to get an open table that was partially covered. The nearby beluga whale area is partially covered, too, but since another show was about to start there wasn't much room there. There is a small coffee bar with some sandwiches downstairs inside the building, but it has almost no seating. Other than this one glitch, the aquarium was a fantastic way to spend about 4 hours. We finished driving around Stanley Park, stopping at one of the scenic overlooks on the way, and headed back into downtown Vancouver to our hotel. Traffic in the center was surprisingly heavy, more like rush hour even though it was about 3 PM. There are a lot of one-way streets, so watch for the white-on-black arrow signs which do not say "One Way;" twice

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Jul 20, 2004

Western Caribbean

Amazing! That is the best word I can come up with to describe my experience aboard the Spirit. The staff was great. The room stewardess remembers small things that makes your stay even more pleasant, like proping up your bed because your wifes ankles are swollen, And the wait staff remebers your name, how you like your food perpared. They will even

keep your bottle of wine that you didn't finish the night before. The food was great. The ship was beautiful. Every where you go every thing was in great shape and kept spotless. Oh yeah! If your drink gets low, they will be on you like a june bug. The only problem we had was embarkation. They still need to work on that. But I guess with that many checking in at once would bogg down the best resorts. Yes you can when at the casino. My wife and I played Black Jack and came out with more than two thousand. I even saw a lady hit big on one of the slots. The shows were good too. Shore excursions: we did not like it that carnival would not let you book these ahead of time. They wouldn't give you the prices either. But if any wants that list for South bound Alaska I have it now. Go fishing in Ketchican -- Kudson Cove. They were great. My family will be going back to Carnival.

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Jun 29, 2004

Alaska

We have cruised several times with different cruise lines. Alaska was the cruise we had looked forward to for years. We booked back-to-back 7 day cruises on Carnival’s Spirit. She sailed from Vancouver’s Canada Place Pier on June 30th. Right from the start we noticed that the cabin was smaller than similar bookings on other ships; our last

cruise was on Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas. Spirit is a beautifully decorated ship with some nice lounges and bars. The two-tiered dining room is among the nicest at sea. The location boards showing the deck plans were poorly done. It took almost five days to learn the ship’s layout. One had to rely on a paper map from the Purser’s office to find the different areas. Voyager, while being almost twice Spirit’s size ,was actually much easier to find one’s way about. It took about two days to learn. The shows on Voyager were like Broadway productions, whereas Spirit’s were lesser attempts. There were very few shipboard amenities: 1 ping pong table, no roller rink, no basketball court, no miniature golf, no rock wall, to mention a few. Breakfast was a real free-for-all. The lines at the buffet were thirty or more people long. This line was held up by someone waiting to have an omelet or fried egg cooked at the far end. We were told to cut into line if you only wanted bacon or hash browns etc. Anybody doing this was not very popular. On Voyager there is a separate line for omelets with little or no waiting. We were 2nd seating for dinner and I’ not sure that 1st seating didn’t get the good food because we sure did not. A Russian couple seated across from us ordered the Duck medallions and said it was rubber ducky and sent it back. The food certainly left much to be desired. The wait staff was very friendly and helpful. Believe it or not, our cabin was crawling with ants and when we mentioned it we were asked by the room steward if we had brought them with us. They fumigated the cabin for the next two days. I don’t know what was worse, the ants or the smell of the fumigation. Upon arriving in Whittier we tried to get on another ship for the return trip, but couldn’t. When I approached the Purser about the problems she asked if we had cruised before. When I told her our last cruise was on Voyager she stated that Carnival was not Royal Caribbean but was a Cruise for the masses. When reading these reviews notice that many of them are written by people who have only cruised once and have nothing to compare to. They have rave reviews only because they have not experienced other cruise lines. Maybe we were spoiled by other cruises but, I would never cruise with Carnival again and have suggested the same to our friends.

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Mar 30, 2004

Miami to San Diego

  There are faster and less expensive ways of getting from Miami to San Diego, but they probably are not as interesting as using the Carnival Spirit as your prime mode of transportation. In the years following retirement, I have done about fifty cruises, averaging about five cruises a year, due in part to the fact that my house mate gave up cooking about the same time as I gave up working. We are now in the process of converting

the kitchen stove into a planter for displaying four pots of geraniums, so another cruise seemed to be in order. It really didn’t matter where we were going since the main object was to break up the regular routine of Florida condo living. I’m reasonably sure that my e-mail address has now been sold or traded to every travel agency, air line, pharmacy and cruise line on the planet, so it wasn’t difficult to find a reasonably priced cruise of about two weeks in length. An on line agency offered a balcony cabin on the Carnival Spirit leaving Miami on March 30th with scheduled stops, first in Columbia and then Costa Rica and the Mexican Riviera after transversing the Panama canal. I had to schedule the flight back from San Diego myself, but this was no problem since even the smaller airlines have pretty good web sites that even the elderly can navigate. This voyage turned out to be a repositioning cruise to move the Carnival Spirit from Miami to the west coast so that she could compete with the other lines for the Hawaii and Alaska runs. Since the Spirit will not be doing this same itinerary again for a long period of time, I shall not linger on descriptions of the ports of call, but try to concentrate on the Carnival Spirit itself for the benefit of those who may be considering a cruise vacation and want a general idea of what to expect aboard the ship. Getting aboard wasn’t bad at all compared to some of my other experiences. The ship’s photographer is right there, stationed at a point where you must pass to reach the gangway. I used to feel bad about the waste of film since I very rarely buy photographs of myself following an exhausting plane or bus ride to the dock, but I don’t care any more. The camera is now digital and if they want to waste the photo paper, so be it. Be prepared for a shock when you enter the ship. At first I thought we had taken the wrong route and were checking into the Circus Circus in Las Vegas. Talk about gaudy. The decor of the Spirit will be the subject of conversation for however long you will be on the ship. It is a bit overwhelming, but you get accustomed to it in time. In defense of Carnival, it isn’t your permanent home and if you had a choice of garish or sombre for a week or so, you might choose the former although I always expected to see acrobats performing in the atrium or clowns handing out balloons. The Spirit Atrium is the center of activity for the ship. The glass elevators face the Atrium bar centered between two fancy staircases leading to deck three. Behind the bar is a small stage where piano music was played throughout the cruise. Both the Purser’s desk and tour desk are located in this area. Across the atrium from these desks are assorted chairs and sofas where you can sit, drink, and stare at the water through large windows.. The cabins are reasonably large by cruise ship standards. When you first enter the cabin, you encounter three closets in a small hall. The first two are full hanging closets and the third has shelves.. The bathroom is on the other side of the entry. It is slightly less garish than most of the ship, but tries to compete with a dark blue floor and aqua trim and an aqua counter and sink. It has a reasonably large shower for a cruise ship, with shampoo and body soap dispensers. The toilet is the usual vacuum type which operates with a loud whoosh. Ours has a stronger than average smell. The main part of the cabin consists of a three-person sofa with storage drawers, and an adjustable height table. The beds were a bit too firm for my liking, but that is a matter of personal preference and for 16 nights it’s no big deal.. There is a long built in combination dressing table, chest of drawers, and shelving unit. In this unit you will find the refrigerator, a 19 inch color TV and a safe. The safe uses any credit type card with a magnetic strip as the combination. Don’t use your cruise card. It will work but will the key cards used by the staff work too? Note: I have never encountered a dishonest cruise employee nor do I know of anybody who has. Each evening we found a different towel animal creation lounging on our beds. We were never sure exactly what kind of animal we had, but it was fun anyway and went well with the circus decor. Did I mention that the rug was orange and the wall trim was coral? Each cabin has its own thermostat to set it to your personal comfort level. I find it very difficult to evaluate the food on any cruise ship. First of all I am very easy to please. I eat almost everything and the dining room waiter was most accommodating. I ordered a combination of appetizers and if a particular vegetable that I wanted was served with a different entree than that which I ordered, the change presented no problem. I mentioned once that the Caesar salad really should have anchovies, and not only did the anchovies appear within seconds, every subsequent time that I ordered Caesar salad a small plate of anchovies arrived with it, Not every dish was a gourmet wonder, but how could you not find good things to eat for two weeks? There was a New York style deli counter, a Chinese counter, a Mexican counter, a rotisserie counter, etc. all on the upper deck if the formal dining room was not to your liking. Pizza was usually available as was a soft ice cream machine. Unfortunately, many of things that other ships have gratis are extra on the Spirit. If you stop at the coffee bar between meals, a cup of cappuccino will set you back $3.25. Movies in your cabin are “pay per view” and shore excursions are far from cheap. Bingo and scratch off tickets are constantly pushed and the casino is a big money maker with practically all the machines and tables occupied at all times. I know how to avoid gambling if I care to, but I resent the layout that forces you to walk through the casino. I happen to be one of those non smokers that find a room full of smoke offensive. The dining room is at the aft end of deck two, and the Pharaohs Palace where the shows and lectures take place is at the other end. The casino, where smoking is permitted, is strategically located midships so that if you plan to see the evening entertainment after dinner, you either gasp your way through the casino smoke, or go up a deck and then down again to the theater.   Incidentally, the shows are excellent as is the Spirit band. Carnival has always had a reputation for excellent Las Vegas type reviews and the Carnival Spirit is no exception. The members of the ten piece band met for the first time on the day that we sailed, and by the following day they were a smooth cohesive group. The cruise director was Michael Mullane who was assisted throughout most of the cruise by his wife, Jeni. From the first night welcoming speech it was easy to see that Jeni, who participated in a little clowning around, was a trained dancer. On the second night out she did a solo dance routine that I can only describe as either modern dance or high energy dancing or something in between. I found it to be the best four minutes of the entertainment. I did obtain her e-mail address but neglected to get permission to publish it. However, if you do take a Carnival cruise, be sure to check her out. It’s possible that my judgment is clouded by the fact that she is an attractive young lady and I am a dirty old man. Anyway, they are leaving the Spirit for another assignment so the information is useless

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Mar 14, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Very nice ship, clean and the service was wonderful. Dining room experience was great, but ran out of tomato juice for breakfast even though it was available in the bars for the drinks. Disappointed with the slide - it didn't end in a pool. 3 pools but not big ones. Entertainment was wonderful. Enjoyed John (from Vancouver) in the Atrium lounge. The staff was very friendly and we found that it was enjoyable to have a chat and tell them

about Nova Scotia - it's not always cold up here! Had the wonderful Nova Scotia salmon for breakfast - it lived up to its good name. Smile - there are photographers everywhere and it is great fun to find yourself in the photo gallery. We will definitly cruise on Carnival again- next time in the Caribbean.

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Mar 6, 2004

St. Maarten, Barbados and Martinique

We had a great experience on this cruise. The decor was pretty tacky, but what do you expect? It's a cruise! The cabin I thought was quite tasteful, and the main dining room wasn't offensive. I read one review here from a guy who thought that the dinner food in the main dining room was tasteless and horrible, and that the $25 meals at the Nouveau Supper Club were outstanding. My husband and I had the opposite experience. While the

presentation of the meals in the main dining room could have used some work, we thought, for the most part, the food was excellent. Our waiter was outstanding and made wonderful recommendations. He was not shy about telling us when a particular dish was lacking, and I didn’t order one thing that I wasn’t pleased with. The Nouveau Supper Club was good, but to me, not as amazing as everyone else seemed to think it was. We both thought that the steak was way too salty, however others on our ship told us their steak was wonderful and definitely not too salty, so, our experience at the Supper Club could have just been the exception rather than the rule. We also thought the food at La Playa Grill was pretty good, especially for a buffet style. We didn’t think the shows were great, but they did have a pretty good variety. One night there was a comedian/magician/hypnotist that we really enjoyed, even though his humor was cheesy. There was also an excellent singer who did a few songs before the magician guy came out. She got the audience involved and was a great entertainer. The other comedians on the first two nights were pretty funny, especially the female comedian who was hilarious. The other male comedian on the first night was fair. The only show that really disappointed us was the Las Vegas-style show, which was a medley from different broadway shows: The Lion King, Miss Saigon, Phantom, etc., and we had seen several of those shows, so their renditions of them paled in comparison. The room (a balcony room on the 7th floor) was perfect for two. We had plenty of closet space and the bathroom was quite functional. The bed wasn’t the most comfortable, but my back adjusted after the first night. Our cabin steward was very nice and helpful, and did a great job. Overall, the staff was excellent and very friendly. Having a balcony was wonderful. We had originally booked and inside cabin but they upgraded us for free after the price of our cruise had gone down, and we called to see what they could do for us. The balcony, I’d say, would definitely be worth the slight price increase initially. The only other disappointment I experienced was in the Spa. I paid $89 (including a $5 tip) for a facial which I was told would include neck and shoulder massage when I signed up, but that was not the case. She did the cleansing, but no massage. Okay, I lied, one other disappointment –the reggae band that played out by the pool every day was awful. They couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket and the music was loud and annoying. So I just moved to the pool behind the one closest to the stage where they were playing, and it was much quieter. There’s also a lot more breeze and it’s much cooler if you move up to the deck just above the pools, even though you have to walk down the stairs if you want to swim, but no big deal. We also enjoyed our ports of call. Barbados was our favorite, where we took a sea turtle/snorkeling excursion. St. Maarten had a beautiful beach, the Orient, which was nude, just to warn you, but only a few old men went nude. Just look away. The town of Martinique was dirty, and no one spoke English (however the cab drivers did, which was helpful), and parts of it were very pretty. We took a tour of a rum distillery in the morning which was neat to see, but I was disappointed that we didn’t have time to go to the rainforest side, or see any of the beaches because we had to be back on our ship by 1:30. Overall we had a wonderful experience, but for variety's sake, we’ll probably try another ship next time.

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Mar 6, 2004

Barbados, St. Martin, Martinique

After much research and based on the itinerary we desired, my wife and I booked the 3/6 sailing on the Carnival Spirit. The ship leaves from Miami and the ports included St. Martin, Barbados and Martinique. Our five previous cruises were all on Royal Caribbean and we wanted to try something different. Embarkation and disembarkation were the best we have ever experienced. We arrived at the dock about noon for the Saturday departure and

we were in our cabin within a half hour; it was amazing. Leaving the ship was also painless as passengers are allowed to remain in their cabins or in many large designated public areas until their turn to leave. On previous cruises, passengers were herded into small public areas and the whole process seemed crowded, hot and frustrating; major kudos to Carnival for a job well done in this area. Our cabin on the Panorama Deck was typical of a balcony suite on many newer ships and it was clean, comfortable and ready for us when we boarded early. Naturally the cabin service is luck of the draw and completely dependant upon the person assigned to your section. We were fortunate and our cabin person was attentive, friendly and always there if we needed something; he also respected our privacy if we wanted it. We were very pleased with this aspect of our first experience with Carnival. On this ship, the service for the cabin and dinning attendants is added to your bill but in no way was the service compromised by this feature. I did sense however, that the attendants were looking for extra money at the end of the cruise and I suspect that within a few years, an extra payment will become customary. We enjoy casino activity and once again the Spirit deserves some complimentary comments. The casino staff is professional and very friendly; they were also patient with those guests that needed help with some of the table games. The slots were relatively loose for a cruise ship and between my wife and I, we won about $1,000, which I unfortunately donated back at the craps table throughout the week. We were also pleased with the mix of passengers on this sailing, which included mostly Americans, Canadians and English. Because of the sailing dates and the 8 day length of the cruise, there were few children, teenagers and spring breakers. The entertainment was a mixed bag. A few of the production shows featured the ship’s dancers and were fairly good. On one night however, the main show consisted of the best of the Karaoke performers and this didn’t seem to be the type of entertainment one would expect to pay for on a cruise. The “fly in” acts were also decent, as were the lounge performers. Overall however, entertainment on the RCL ships was much better. My final comment is on the food service, which falls into two main categories. For the most part, the stand in line, “cafeteria style” restaurant called La Playa Grill, was actually quite good and much better than RCL. The food was fresh, tasty and the menu varied daily; the coffee was a 1000% better than the reconstituted stuff RCL serves. Unfortunately, dinner in the evening was a much different experience. This ship served the absolute worst food we have ever had on any cruise. The food was poorly presented, of inferior quality and completely tasteless. The meat was loaded with either tenderizers or MSG (or both) and the fish entrées had no taste and several definitely did not seem fresh. The most disappointing part of the dinner experience was the disparity between the description of the food on the menus and what you actually received. One appetizer was described as “topped with caviar” and when it arrived, there were only two microscopic caviar eggs on it. The food and service of the alternative dinning option at $25 per person were both excellent; had I known how bad the food was going to be, I would have reserved a table for each evening of the cruise. As far as port excursions are concerned, with a very few exceptions where safety could be an issue, you are far better off negotiating a sightseeing tour with a local taxi driver. Not only is this a less expensive alternative to the ship’s excursions, but you will get to enjoy the exact same sites at your own pace.

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By Drew_CR

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Jan 2, 2004

Western Caribbean

Hi, This is my second Carnival cruise and I loved it. Cruise director Michael Mullane and Jeni Mullane were my absolute favorite part of my cruise vacation. I am so glad I got to meet them, they really are great people and I hope to see them on annother "Fun Ship" soon. Annother great part of my cruise was meeting The Village Idiots, they performed

a great show and they are also great guys. If you are interested in them go to thevillageidiots.net anyway I hope you enjoy all of your Carnival cruise getaways. I know I will. We'll see you out and about the ship everybody. Always wanted to say that.. Drew

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Dec 17, 2003

Southern Caribbean

Embarkation: Our only previous cruise had been on the Royal Caribbean Explorer of the Seas and the embarkation process for that cruise had been awful, so we were expecting the worst. But we were very pleasantly surprised. We arrived at the port at about 1PM and the traffic at the port was ridiculous especially given that we were 1 of only 2 ships leaving out of Miami that day. Once we got to the port things went very smoothly. We had

filled out all of our boarding information in advance so were brought right to the desk with only a minimal wait time. The staff here was very friendly and efficient. We were then taken to get our room keys and before we knew it we were on the ship at about 1:30. So already we were impressed. The We knew that Carnival had the reputation of being full of neon lights but we had also heard that this ship was not like that, and it wasn't. The decor was quite gaudy and loud but also very interesting to look at. Overall we did like the decor of the ship, except for the overwhelming brown and orange colors, which we could have done without. We then did an extensive tour of the ship and we impressed by the amount of different lounges and places to sit around the ship. We knew that we would never have to fight for a chair anywhere and this ended up being true. The only trouble we had was trying to get a seat at the pool on days at sea, since we happen to be late-risers. No worries, since we found that sitting on the upper decks facing the ocean provided us with a much more relaxing atmosphere. The Pharoah's Palace which is where all the mjor entertainment took place, was terrific. The seats are arranged such that you never have to look over anyone's head, and there really is not a bad seat in the house. Below this was the Versailles Lounge where the karaoke took place nightly. As far as we could tell not much else took place in this lounge. There were several other lounges including the Shanghai Lounge which is piano bar as well as a sports bar which we did not check out. There is a disco which was the main hang-out for the teens on the ship so we did not hang out much here either. The casino was quite nice and spacious, not too obnoxious to walk through. We heard that the ship was at full capacity and we did comment several times that we did not feel cramped wherever we went, so they deal with the crowds well. Our only complaint about the population was that there were tons of children horsing around in the pool so being in the pool during the day was not really an option for us. They really should have a separate kids-only pool as they do on some other ships. On the other hand, we knew what we were getting into, since this cruise was during the Christmas holidays. The Room: Our room was really great and we had no complaints. We were upgraded to a balcony room and decided that we would never cruise again without having a balcony. The room was very spacious as Carnival had advertised. There was a television with some network channels. The bathroom was pretty standard and the shower was fine. We actually did not use our room shower much as early on in the cruise we had heard that in the spa they had these great 5-head showers. It really was terrific to head down there after a day in the sun, take a steam and a sauna, and then hop into this 5-head shower which was like getting a massage every day for free. Highly recommended. Dining Room and Food: I would classify the food as good, but not great. Every morning we ate breakfast in the La Playa Grill which was the buffet. They did have a very good variety of food in the morning and they made fresh omelettes as well. For lunch we ate in the same place and the variety was good as well. They had food from different nationalities daily for lunch, as well as the staples in the rotisserie area. There was also a salad bar which I really enjoyed as well. If this was not enough there was also the deli counter where they made fresh sandwiches all the time, as well as the pizza bar which made excellent pizza. This was a very popular area and the guy at the counter said that they make about 400-500 pizzas a day! Dinner was always in the Empire Room which was the main dining room. I had mostly seafood at night which was by far the best that they had to offer. The beef and chicken were just ok. The desserts could have been better as well. But if you like seafood you'll do well. The dining staff were very good though we did switch our original table because of unfriendly staff. It ended up working out for the best as Regino, our waiter, was a great guy and entertained us nightly. Our friends went one night to the Nouveau Supper Club which is by reservation only and costs 25$ per person. They said that it was the best meal they ever had, so this is highly recommended. Entertainment: The entertainment was varied and good but I would say a notch below Royal Caribbean. There were 3 major "Las Vegas-style" shows with all the dance productions. There was a tribute show to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. which was good as well. There was also nightly comedy acts which most of the time was very entertaining. Our cruise director, Michael, we found a bit outdated and cheesy but I guess this comes with the territory. He had several social assistants who were excellent and full of energy. Excursions: We decided not to pay for the ship excursions since they are always way over-priced and we like to explore on our own anyway. In St. Maarten we took a taxi to near the airport where there is a beach and a bar that are right next to the runway where the planes take-off and land. Incredible experience that is highly recommended as you could almost touch the planes right before they land while you are sitting on the beach. Just tell a taxi driver to take you to the Sunset Beach Bar and you will not be disappointed. Our second stop was Barbados, and we decided that we would pay a taxi driver to take us around the island for the day which was a great experience as he took us through the back roads and we were able to see where the locals live and get a real idea of what Barbados was all about. You should not pay more than 100$ for this. In Martinique, our third stop, it was only for about 5 hours so we decided to go to the beach. We took a ferry to a very secluded beach where there are several resorts and spent 2 hours basking in the sun. Overall: We would highly recommend the Carnival Spirit and had a terrific vacation. If you do not have children, try to go during low season so it will be a bit quieter. Another reason why this was such a good itinerary is that it leaves during the week, so the Spirit is out of sync with the other ships, so that the ports are not as crowded as with other ships that leave on the weekend. Overall a great ship and we would definitely cruise with Carnival again.

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Dec 17, 2003

Southern Caribbean

This was the first cruise we took the kids on and they didn't want to leave! We have 4 children: ages 15, 14, 14 and 12. They met so many new people and had such a blast! Embarkation: was pretty smooth. Yes, it takes a while, especially with 6 people traveling. We arrived on board at 3:30. The Spirit was set to sail from Miami at 4 but we didn't end up leaving until 6:30. By then, the girls had crashed and we pulled out of port without

them seeing the lights of Miami but it had been an exhausting trip getting from Iowa to Florida. Our cabins: We booked kind of last minute so they couldn't guarantee that we would get our cabins together. But, Carnival did put us side by side (3 cabins) and we all had balconies! It was great! Fun days at sea: we really explored the ship. The kids did karaoke, the disco, bingo and watched movies with others their age. Two minor problems: no basketball hoop or space on board (my boys are mid season and really needed to keep up their games) and the pools are very small (my daughters are competitive swimmers and they didn't get any workouts in). But, we all relaxed, got some sun, etc. I took gobs of photos and truth be told, Carnival's ship photo shop is just as cheap as the developing place back home PLUS they gave me free doubles so I had all photos developed on board. Dining Room: my kids didn't like it. The food was too exotic. I guess they are burgers and fries kids. But, we made them eat with us every night and they were exposed to food they wouldn't necessarily try: caviar, escargot, etc. The desserts were great and once I actually left creme brulee on my plate and couldn't finish, a cardinal sin in my family! We usually ate breakfast up on the Lido deck. I'm kind of picky when it comes to coffee but Carnival's was great and steaming hot. Eggs, bacon, etc were great and they had some raspberry Danish to die for! My kids ate lots of pizza at the 24 hour pizzeria. It satisfied them. They also seemed to eat a lot of ice cream. Ports of call: Just not enough time at each place. In St. Maarten we rented a little SUV and drove up to Orient Beach. This was a great beach where there was some nudity. I was surprised at my kids' reaction. I guess I've raised them to be prude Americans because they thought it was gross but, it did really add to the European flavor. We were hustled a lot here for hair braiding and we fell into the tourist trap of agreeing to something that ended up costing a lot more than we originally thought it would. Agree on prices before a service is provided: my daughter got her hair braided and the gal did 54 braids at $2 a piece! My husband talked her down to $75 but what a hassle! EVERYTHING is negotiable, from the time spent on the ocean trampoline to the jet ski we rented. Kids got sunburned even with sunscreen on so be careful about this. Was good to drive through St. Maarten and see some poverty stricken areas. Barbados: very pristine. We wanted to snorkel and they suggested Folkestone Beach. Great for Snorkeling but NO beach! So, after we snorkeled, we headed around the corner and found a very nice beach at a resort. I believe the beaches are open to everyone but you can't use the chairs without paying. By the way, within 24 hours of sailing, most of the excursions were sold out, so we were on our own! Very surprising. We were ready to drop $600 on an excursion for the 6 of us to snorkel and swim with the turtles but it sold out fast! Martinique: By then, I was short on cash so didn't shop much. Took the ferry across the bay and snorkeled again at a resort area. These gals were walking around in beautiful bikini ensembles. Turns out, they were selling them and after they had paraded around for about 10 minutes they'd change right in front of everyone and put on a new one. Odd! Just not enough time again though. A person has to decide to beach it or shop, really can't do both. Fun days at sea again: well, I read 3 books on this trip. Being it was 8 days long, we really tried to pace ourselves and didn't cram too much in. My 15 year old kept late hours but I didn't worry about him too much because the environment is so controlled. Well, that and he was the biggest person on the ship. We had brought walkie-talkies but with 600 kids on board at 22 channels, they were nearly impossible to use. We used it once when my husband got off the boat and scoped out Barbados to see what we should do that day. We let the kids sleep late and then had the trip all planned by the time they got up. All in all: a Great trip! Carnival outdid themselves. I had been on carnival before and felt hustled to buy stuff. Not on this ship. One problem: I didn't sleep well because of kids running in the hallways. So, the acoustics were bad! But, would go again anytime. Loved the itinerary too.

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Sep 23, 2003

Hawaii

Embarkation: Embarkation from Vancouver’s Canada Place terminal was very well organized and went smoothly. I would advise those cruising from Vancouver, BC (mostly to Alaska, but we were bound for Hawaii) to arrive at least a day early, especially if coming from the East Coast as my wife and I did. It enables you to adjust to the time zone change, get some rest from a long flight and gives you more flexibility about when to head to

the terminal. In this regard, I would strongly recommend arriving earlier than the posted boarding time. We did this and were the first group to board. Security was thorough, but not overwhelming…metal detectors, X-rays of carry-on bags, and some minor pat-downs if the metal-detecting wands pick up something. It was pretty much exactly like the TSA does at the airports these days; there wasn’t anything like bomb-sniffing dogs for the passengers. I’m not sure about how the checked bags are screened (I’m sure they are), because they are taken from you by porters upon your arrival. Be sure the bags are tagged with those given to you in your Carnival ticket package. Also, you may want to bring along some luggage locks…you aren’t supposed to lock your bags for air flights per TSA regulations, however we locked our checked bags prior to arrival at the port and it was no problem (i.e., the locks weren’t cut off so the bag could be searched as they will do in the airports). The Carnival Spirit is a marvelous ship. I thought the décor was excellent and much more refined that the Carnival Triumph that we sailed on last year. The use of darker hardwoods and copper accents create a much more elegant interior than the more glitzy Triumph. The layout of the ship is fairly straightforward, and was easy to navigate once you memorized what was on Decks 2 (Promenade), 3 (Atlantic) and 9 (Lido) which contain the bulk of the “action” areas. I would encourage anyone wanting to have a more detailed look at the various lounges, bars, etc. to take a virtual tour on Carnival’s website. In general, the ship rode quite well during our 5 full days at sea between Vancouver and our first port of call in Maui. The one exception to this was the first night following our 5:00PM departure…as we experienced previously on the Triumph, the waters encountered close to the mainland shore seem to create much more rocking and rolling than those further out to sea. Contributing to this was what I like to call “establishing one’s sea legs,” i.e., getting used to being on a big ship at sea. Once past this initial night (that unfortunately included little sleep), things settled down nicely and it was a smooth ride to Hawaii. Our Cabin: The cabin we had was fantastic, and I would highly recommend it for those willing to shell out the bucks for a Category 11 mini-suite (which we did due to the 12-night duration of the voyage). However, we had one of the wraparound balcony Category 11 mini-suites that are located on each corner of Decks 4 through 8. Ours was number 6329 – Deck 6 (Empress), starboard aft corner. The layout was great, with a narrow hardwood foyer leading to a sitting room with TV and VCR contained in its own console, as well mini bar and bar shelves with glassware. There was even a small stool so the bar area could be used as a desk. The entire cabin contained dark hardwood crown moldings, even in the bathroom, and much more subdued colors than we had on the Triumph. The sitting room had a couch (which could be used as a separate bed), marble pedestal table and additional chair. The sitting room contained two floor-to-ceiling windows with nice curtains containing tie-backs to allow lots of natural light into the room. A small hallway was the center of the suite. One could take a right and go through a glass door to the huge balcony (220 square feet) containing one cushioned chaise lounge, two resin chairs, two resin lounger chairs and two resin side tables. To the left was a sliding door that lead to a small dressing room (more of a makeup vanity room actually). This is where one finds the hair dryer stashed in the upper drawer. Within the dressing room, yet another door led to the bathroom with tile floor and marble double sink and accents. You get a full Jacuzzi tub and shower, with the shower head height-adjustable (very nice for someone like me who is 6’ 1”). The tub/shower also contained shower gel and shampoo dispensers, a nice touch. Yet another door in the dressing room led to the bedroom. If you went straight ahead in the hallway, you come to the door to the separate bedroom containing a king bed, large lighted closet and a dresser/console unit containing another TV and VCR as well as the in-room safe. The bedroom also contained two additional floor-to-ceiling windows with the same drapery as the sitting room. Then there is the separate door to the dressing room I mentioned previously. This was a nice feature because you could have guests in your sitting room while one of the suite occupants could finish getting ready in complete privacy. It’s really hard to describe in words the actual layout, but it is terrific. Also, the interactive TV system was working for checking your Sail & Sign account and to book the shore tours Carnival was offering. I had read previous reviews that said the 2002 cruise didn’t have the tour booking capability. Now be aware – not all of these corner suites are the same. The couple we cruised with had one on Upper Deck (Deck 5) on the port side that was more of the traditional layout…a long hardwood entry, but with just a separate bathroom (with the same amenities) but with a combination bedroom/sitting room with only one TV and VCR unit. The balcony was the same, however. One thing to keep in mind with our location was the presence of black soot produced by the ships smokestack. It was a presence on our deck at various times and could easily be tracked into the cabin or stain one’s clothes if sat upon. Although our cabin steward cleaned the balcony deck and furniture once daily, we did need to keep a damp washcloth handy to wipe off any particles that gathered after the regular cleaning. Also, a spare bath mat just inside the door prevented tracking it into the cabin. All-in-all, a small annoyance compared with the quality of the cabin and balcony. Lastly, being at the back of the ship gives you the sights and sounds of beach waves produced by the ship’s wake. This was especially nice in the early days of the cruise when the weather was still somewhat cool. We brought a bungee cord to keep the balcony door open, and kept the bedroom door open all night to allow the sea air and sounds in. However, bear in mind that propping the balcony door open will shut off the A/C, so we stopped doing it once we reached the warm and humid tropical air. Finally, the one thing I have read repeatedly in reviews of certain Carnival ships – the existence of only one electrical outlet in the cabin. Such is the case with the Spirit…or so it appears. Yes, there is only one overtly visible outlet in the cabin. In ours, it was located on the dressing room vanity – hardly the most convenient place to plug in CD player or other device. We brought along a 6-outlet surge protector to extend the number of outlets since we brought a CD player, speakers and various battery rechargers for our cameras, and I highly recommend doing this if you plan to bring such items with you. But here’s what to do if the location of the one outlet is inconvenient, as ours was: go to where the TV is plugged in within its console. Unplug the TV, plug in your surge protector then plug the TV into that. Since the TV’s are normally centrally located within the cabin, you’ve just given yourself several additional outlets conveniently located. It worked great for us as we were able to set up the CD player and speakers right below the TV in the sitting room. Ship Facilities: The public areas on the ship are great, and we never felt crowded. The one exception was the fantail bar area when we left a Hawaiian port. They always had a “farewell” event, and these were very popular since there was music and great photo opportunities. The La Playa Grill, the Lido deck restaurant/food area, was great. The breakfast fare was the same each day, but tasty and plentiful. Lunchtime contained a huge variety of choices. I concentrated on the NY Deli (get the Reuben…awesome!) and the outdoor grill for burgers, huge hot dogs, etc. Additionally there is the salad bar, the pizzeria, the Asian food bar the ever-changing Tastes of the Nations buffets. There’s so much to try it’s almost overwhelming. We never went to the Empire Dining room for breakfast or lunch. Another favorite haunt was the Deco Bar, the ship’s cigar bar. It is located just outside the upper level of the Empire Restaurant, where we had our assigned table. We had the late seating for dinner, 8:15PM; so many times we would get together there for a pre-dinner cocktail, followed by a post-dinner drink. It’s a comfortable, low-lighted lounge where the ship’s jazz trio played nightly (and they were great) and where one of our favorite cocktail waitresses, Claudia, worked. The casino was very nice, and always humming. My wife and I broke even on very light gambling, but the couple we cruised with made out nicely playing roulette. Other than that, we really didn’t use the other bars or lounges, but they were designed and decorated well. One last note concerns smoking on the ship. The Spirit actually has a somewhat more restrictive policy in this regard that did the Triumph last year, but I thought it was well-balanced overall. Food and Service: The Empire Dining Room was beautiful, and our upper-level table for four sat right under one of the many crystal chandeliers. Overall, I would rate the food here as very good, and the service as good to very good. Our service team wasn’t as good as the one we had on the Triumph, but they were efficient and did a good job. I’ve already mentioned the La Playa Grill, so the other major dining area is the Nouveau Supper Club. Since this was a 12-night cruise, we went to the supper club twice and all I can advise you is to do it at least once. The food and service is world-class, and worth the $25 per person reservation charge (plus tips, drinks & wine…keep this in mind). The filet mignon and lobster tail were absolutely delicious, as were the other courses. They take they’re time in serving the meal, so be prepared to spent 2 ½ to 3 hours in a very intimate atmosphere. It’s a great feature on this class of Carnival vessels. Overall service on the ship was excellent, with a very friendly staff. Our cabin steward was excellent and always took time to ask us how our day was going and if there was anything he could do for us. The cruise director, Todd, did a good job keeping the activities going. One complaint was when he announced the tender boat departures in Kona…for some reason, they piped the announcements into the cabins instead of just the public areas. These announcements began just before 8 AM, so it was a rude awakening for those who were sleeping in that morning. Entertainment and Activities: To be honest, we weren’t into the big evening shows in the Pharaoh’s Palace or the on-deck activities during the day. Most nights we just enjoyed a few cocktails after dinner and maybe a bit of shopping or gambling. However, the variety of shows advertised in the Carnival Capers daily newsletter did indicate quite a variety of entertainment, including comedian Norm Crosby, the headline act during the at-sea portion of the cruise. The Pharaoh’s Palace was a beautiful showplace; however, as we went there for the Captain’s Welcome Aboard party on the first formal night as well as gathering there for on-shore tours. I can tell you that I thought the jazz trio was great, and even the soloist singing country tunes wasn’t too bad (and seemed to get better as more cocktails were imbibed). Ports of Call and Tours: The first stop was in Kahului, Maui, and was an overnight stop. We arrived around 8 AM on a Tuesday and stayed docked until departing at 5 PM the next day. We had rented a car (via the internet prior to the trip) for the two days which worked out beautifully since the pier had free parking for the overnight. My wife and I went horseback riding in the west Maui mountains the first day on a tour we booked independently from Carnival. It provided incredible views of the Pacific and canyons, but be prepared to get coated with dust and dirt along some very dry and dusty trails. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard about Maui’s famous red dirt (they even make tee shirts with it as souvenirs!), but I can assure you there’s plenty of it. After returning to the ship and getting cleaned up (and apologizing to the cabin steward for the red dirt ring in the tub!), we proceeded to the Old Lahaina Luau on the west coast of the island. Again, this was something we booked independently from Carnival (many tours can be arranged outside of Carnival for substantially less money). The luau was great and I’d recommend it…but here’s a tip – get there early if you’re driving yourself to get the best parking. The second day was spent exploring the west coast of Maui and shopping in Lahaina. We enjoyed Maui, especially since it was the first land we’d seen in over 5 days! Here are a couple of notes about the rental car – for the tours I booked independently from Carnival (and therefore required providing my own transportation), the tour company strongly encouraged the rental car because cabs can be quite expensive if you need to travel any kind of distance. Secondly, in Maui there are certain parts of the north coast road where the rental car company forbids their cars to be driven because the road is so snakelike and treacherous. Also, if you’re an experienced cruiser, you know that the casino and duty-free shops are closed while in port and reopen once the ships gets back into open waters. The second stop was Nawililwili, Kauai on Thursday morning. This was our favorite island stop of the cruise. The mountains are not as large as Maui’s, but they are much more green and lush. We really looked at Kauai as what we expected Hawaii to look like…tropical flowers, palm trees and lots of green fields. We rented a car here as well, and spent the morning traveling to the north coast to the lighthouse there. The cliffs and surf were beautiful. In the afternoon, we traveled to the south of the island for a Snuba tour at Lawai beach. This was another independently-booked tour and was great fun. It’s like Scuba, but the air tank floats on a raft and you have a 20-foot air hose and regulator to breath underwater. It was fun, but watch out for those rocks in the shallow water right off the beach! We set sail for the Big Island at 5 PM that afternoon. Friday morning brought us to our first Big Island stop, Kona, on the west coast. We didn’t have any tours or rental car booked, so it was a shopping stop. It was also the only port where we had to go ashore via tender boats instead of tying up to a pier, as it was with all the other stops. Basically, they use the ship’s motorized life boats for tendering. At first, they issued numbers to groups wanting to go ashore early and those with Carnival-booked tours. At about 11 AM, they opened up the tendering for general use, and that’s when we grabbed a boat to go ashore. The only complaint here was that we had to wait 10 minutes or so for our turn to pull up to the pier in Kona to get off the tender. There was a Celebrity ship anchored there at the same time, as well as independent boat-based tours vying for use of the pier. It also didn’t help that is was very hot and humid that day, with very little breeze. However, once on the ground we enjoyed the waterfront shopping district and visiting the Kona Brewing Company. As a homebrewer and lover of microbrews, it was really great to try their beers and grab some souvenirs. We grabbed a tender boat back, and this was much easier than coming in. We then set sail around 6 PM for Hilo on the other side of the Big Island. We arrived in Hilo on Saturday around 8 AM, and here we took our first Carnival-offered tour. I wasn’t able to find an independent tour that fit within our arrival and/or departure dates so we booked Carnival’s Volcanoes National Park Tour. We really enjoyed seeing the Kilauea Crater, steam vents, sulfur deposits, lava tubes and rain forests, all with Mauna Loa towering in the background. You may want to bring along a light jacket or sweatshirt because it is much cooler in the mountains where you’ll be close to 4,000 feet above sea level. The tour concludes with a stop at the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory for some shopping (as well as sampling) before returning to the ship. We then set sail at 6 PM for Oahu, the final stop We arrived in Honolulu on Sunday around 8AM and were booked on another Carnival-offered tour for the same reasons as in Hilo. This was the Pearl Harbor/Arizona Memorial, Punchbowl and City Tour. We enjoyed this tour as well, as it included your tender boat to the Memorial and a nice motor coach tour of Honolulu including the Punchbowl Cemetery, Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head. We returned to the ship to complete packing our things for departing the ship. Our flight off the island was very early the next morning, so we left the ship that afternoon after one last feast from the La Playa Grill and checked into a hotel near the airport. Because of this, I can’t comment on how the official debarkation went on Monday morning. Summary: Overall, I would recommend this ship and itinerary to those who like to cruise and to see more than just one of the Hawaiian Islands. For experienced cruisers who enjoy several days at sea as well as a variety of ports-of-call, this one fits the bill nicely. However, five full days at sea before seeing land again might be a bit tough on the novice cruiser or even the experienced cruiser that prefers some breaks between sea days and ports. So look at this carefully when making your decision. But I have no doubt that the quality of the ship, facilities, food and service you will experience on the Carnival Spirit will be top-notch and that you’ll have a great time on this vessel. Please feel free to email me if you’d like any additional information. Bon Voyage!

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Sep 9, 2003

AlaskaI just

returned from the Alaskan Inside passage cruise on the Spirit. Carnival has a naturalist onboard to help view wildlife and we loved her help and information. The ship is lovely and our cabin had a veranda. The food and the dining service was terrific and well beyond our expectations. We have enjoyed all of our Carnival cruises and this was no exception. The reason I want to post this opinion is I was troubled by some of the new policies

of Carnival and by the room steward we were assigned. The first day, gratuities were posted on our Sign and Sail card. I am strongly opposed to this policy on the Spirit. I don't think any tips should be forced but should be given for service. Having sailed on two older Carnival ships that had excellent room stewards, I was shocked by our steward on the Spirit. A vacuum cleaned sitting in the hall outside our stateroom was an almost daily occurrence and it stayed there all day. Our steward woke us up one morning a 9am asking the come into our room and inspect the sofa for damage he had reported. When no damage was found, neither apologized, and they left going to inspect another stateroom. I was so shocked that I didn't think to tell them that I thought they were out of line.

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Aug 12, 2003

AlaskaThis was

our first cruise and what better place than to Alaska. There were 10 of us all together, plus my 2-year-old daughter. We flew out of Cleveland, OH and into Vancouver, B.C. It was very slow-going and frustrating with all the transfers, customs, check-in, etc. – it ended up taking a few hours and we felt like herded cattle but once we got on the ship, we forgot all of that! What a beautiful ship! Very elegant! We found our room with no

problem but getting oriented to where everything was on the boat was a bit difficult. Knowing from the get-go weather you’re room is on the port (right) or starboard (left) side and forward (front) or aft (back) is very helpful! Laundry facilities are limited on board, too. You read everywhere that you probably won’t get sick on an ocean liner – well, I did. I saw quite a few people walking around with the seasickness patches behind their ears or the wristbands. They are good to have just in case. It’s not a problem usually while in the channel’s but once you get into open waters, it can get pretty rough. The spa is a great option! I had a massage and facial and my mom had a facial and a pedicure. It really isn’t too much more expensive than here at home. There are three options for dining – the La Playa Grill which is very casual buffet-style, the Empire Room which your assigned dinner seating but open for lunch and breakfast yet more formal. The Supper Club which is upscale fine dining, by reservation only. La Playa has food available pretty much at any time with 24-hour pizza and ice cream. We felt most comfortable taking our 2-year-old there. Empire Room is great, though, as well. We got to know our wait-staff – Katut and Dennis. They were loads of fun yet extremely professional. They also did some sort of “show” every night – weather it was singing or dancing around the room in a conga line! Everyone on the ship, most of the passengers included, are VERY friendly and say a quick hello when passing in the hall! I would definitely recommend the excursion meeting given by the cruise director! Very informative and didn’t seem to be a “hey, we own this so it’s the best” kind of thing. They give you unbiased information on the excursions. Keep in mind which ones you want to do because everyone immediately goes back to their rooms and books them (on the TV or in a REALLY long line at the excursion office) following the meeting. We didn’t partake in many of the on-board activities except for one show that was excellent! We did the Saxman Native Village tour and Lumberjack show in Ketchikan. Whale Watching and Wildlife Expedition in Juneau where we saw an unusually high number of Humpback whales, seals, sea lions and Bald Eagles. Our helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier was cancelled in Juneau due to bad weather (definitely bring rain gear!!). I went horseback riding on the Chilkoot Trail and my husband went kayaking in Skagway. We took a short bus tour in Sitka (there was a tour selling tickets at the dock when we got off the ship). When the ship docked at our final port, Seward, we were off the boat by 6:30 am and on a bus to Anchorage. Unless you book a tour, you have no time in Seward. Two of the people in our party took the train to Anchorage and said it was really a lot better (and longer) than the bus ride. We did, however, get to see Beluga whales on the bus (the train saw them too). I would definitely recommend an excursion in Anchorage if you have a later flight. We got into Anchorage around 10 am and were at a loss of things to do in Anchorage until our flight left at 7:25 pm. Anchorage seemed to be the most expensive of the cities as well. You really do have plenty of time in the ports. The towns are small tourist towns and pretty much shut down in the winter. The tours are operated very smoothly and depart on time and get you back to the boat on time. The tour guides are very knowledgeable about the area. It’s a lot if you have 2 excursions in one port if you want any time to explore the cities. You get a better guide to the excursions once you get on the ship about times and prices. You can also rent binoculars and two-way radios on board but they are rather pricey so bring your own if you have them. Two-way radios are great to have if you have more than a few people in your party. Most of the week, we took our daughter to Camp Carnival. The counselors were excellent and really loved working with the children. They have activities all day to keep the children busy and entertained. They have a great play area that they separate into age groups and counselors that work regularly with that age group. They do crafts, face painting, quiet time, cartoons, etc. They will lend you a pager in case of an emergency as well. They will take the kids up to lunch on port days while you are off the boat on excursions. They have babysitting (for an additional charge) after 10 pm until 3 am if you want to go see the shows, check out the casino, or hang out at the many bars on ship. My daughter asked to go play with the kids and didn’t want to hang out with us all week! There are very good safety measures in place. Only the parents or legal guardian can check the child in/out, the same parent that signs them in MUST sign them out. Both parents can come sign in so that either one can pick up the child. They provide diapers on an emergency basis so if you have them, bring them. And don’t rely on finding them in ports either because you can’t find them! I would definitely take this cruise again. I loved Carnival and I loved Alaska! Both were great! I would recommend it to anyone!

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Jul 15, 2003

Alaska

bjett@tampabay.rr.com North to Alaska - what an experience - we recommend taking the northern route so you can save the glaciers for last First, my wife and visited Seattle - if you have a few days in Seattle, take an all day trip to Mt. St. Helen's - it's awesome We took AMTRAK Seattle-to-Vancouver, and were surprised that it was a bus - very comfortable and the cheapest way to get to Vancouver with our luggage If you have a

full-day or more in Vancouver, think about a trip to Grouse Mountain - nice tram ride to the top and great programs when at the top (Lumberjack show, video about bears, ski lift ride) - from downtown, it's an easy walk to the pier - just to the left (I'm not sure about directions), take the Seabus for $3.00 Canadian (less tan $2.25 US, but you need Canadian exact change) and you get a transfer to the bus in North Vancouver which will take you to Grouse Mountain. Otherwise, US dollars are good everywhere - we found that our hotel would exchange US dollars for Canadian but the exchange/conversion rate was not as you could get at a bank ($1 US would get you $1.25 Canadian when you could get ~$1.35 Canadian) - but when you can use a credit card which will give you favorable conversion. Whether from Seattle or Vancouver, think about a trip to Victoria, again an all day trip - you can check with the Victoria Clipper on the internet, but just be certain about your plans because there are no refunds - in Victoria, take a double-decker bus tour of Victoria (to include a trip to Butchart Gardens and then High Tea at the Fairmont Hotel - Empress Room) - you can make these arrangements through Victoria Clipper - if you take High Tea at the Empress, ask for the small sitting room just as you enter the Fairmont, otherwise you might find it can feel crowded or noisy as you share a larger room with many more people - High Tea requires reservations at $40.00/person, but with the conversion, it's less than $30.00 US, and you get a $10.00 gift of tea to take back with you - I've never eaten so many watercress and cucumber sandwiches before, but it makes for great conversation. Get to the pier early in the morning and embarking is much easier than many have commented about. First port of-call is Ketchikan - very quaint - we took the Best of Ketchikan excursion which departed at 7:30 a.m. for 4-1/2 hours ($249/person) and worth it. Next is Juneau - we took the Mendenhall Glacier Canoe Adventure ($139/person), which gets you within 50 yards of the face of the glacier - great photography - you cannot get onto the glacier unless you take flight (helicopter for about $299/person) - later in the day, we took the Evening Whale Quest ($141/person) - there are several departures time so when you sign up onboard (you cannot signup for excursions before embarking on Carnival but signing up is easy using your in-cabin TV and remote - just be mindful, if you are signing up for the Evening Whale Quest, with various departure time, use the left/right buttons on the remote to first click on the 'times' - no one we spoke to could tell us how to select the 'times' - the trip was well worth it - we saw orcas and humpbacks - we heard from others who actually saw humpbacks breaching - we got great videos of the humpbacks, including their fluke rising from the water. Skagway is also a 'hoot - we took the Best of Skagway excursion ($189/person), which included the White Pass RR trip to the summit, then a bus trip to Liarsville where you will be greeted by prospectors and 'soiled doves' (ladies of the evening) - all re-enactors, of course, and who have a lot of fun - we got pictures of me asking a 'sweet young lady' what she was doing in a place like that - my wife was holding the camera (come to think of it, she got a photo - hope she doesn't need it for 'divorce court') - we also panned for gold and then toured downtown Skagway ending with a tour of an actual bordello from the days of the Klondike gold rush (again, some sweet young re-enactors will have some fun with you). Sitka is the only port-of-call that has a tender take you ashore - we took the Historical Sitka and Russian Dancers excursion ($45.00/person) - with an early departure time from aboard, you take an early tender - you have lots of time to shop and take photos. Before you get to Seward, you'll travel the College Fjords - we think it's better to have saved this for the end of the cruise - the glaciers are magnificent - the captain got within a ship's length of the face of Yale Glacier and stayed on station for 1-1/2 hours - the glacier 'calved' ~20 times and we got it on video - and this didn't cost extra. At Seward, we took another glacier tour - Portage Glacier ($39/person, if you already have a transfer voucher, or $89/person without) - check early with the Purser's office re: transfer voucher - ours was included in the cost of our cruise but not so for many we spoke to (I think Carnival changed its policy a few months ago - in any event, you will want to know how you're getting from Seward to Anchorage (Egan Center if you don't have a same day air connection or not at one of a few selected hotels in Anchorage). If you have the time stay in Anchorage for a day or so - hotels and everything else are more expensive, but well worth the time - great souvenir shopping if you didn't get it done on the cruise - downtown is an easy walk around, and their are tour buses $10/person) which will tour downtown and the outskirts - additionally, most hotels have shuttles to the airport, and otherwise, you can take the mass transit bus to/from your hotel to downtown, if you have a hotel out from the city - ask the driver for an all day pass ($3.00/person) - the flowers were everywhere and the weather was great (only a little rain and fog). Finally, if I've kept your attention this long, I only have the greatest to say about Carnival - they really work hard to make and keep us happy (and fed) - just one observation less than fabulous - watch out for the chlorine levels in the hot tubs. If you have any specific questions, contact us we'll be glad to give you our thoughts. Bob & Carolyn

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May 23, 2003

Alaska

This was our first cruise and we weren't too sure as to how it would be to go cruising to celebrate our honeymoon, but now having enjoyed the amount that we did, I would say its 'the best and wisest decision that we made'. We drove from Seattle to Vancouver and got our luggage checked in. we had people there to help us which made things much easier for us. Meanwhile got a parking lot to park the car for 7 days...We got into the embarkation

line at around 2pm and were through with our boarding passes by 4pm. We got the "Sail & Sign card and checked into our room...we had major problem opening our suitcase...was jammed and spent an hour trying of different ways to open it, finally we called the room service who sent someone in less than 2min who opened it for us in a jiffy, we were so impressed at how the ship was so well equipped with such efficient people. Our steward Morris was very pleasant and prompt. She made different animals out of towels for us everyday :) Room was good, enough closets n drawers, the one thing that we were not too satisfied with, was the bed. There were too separate beds and when we put them together, it got really uncomfortable. Bathrooms were spacious and had all required facilities. Food was the best, the attitude and the desire of the crew to please us is really worth mentioning, we enjoy being pampered...they went out of the way and made special fabulous Indian food for us everyday. We loved the dinner served at the Empire restaurant and didn't miss on it even a single night. They baked a special honeymoon couple cake for us and all of them sang and congratulated. Lunch we opted for the buffet, which was equally good with a lot of options to choose from. The shows in the night were fabulous...everything was so systematic and proper without wasting a single minute. The performers were really very talented and we are so glad we attended all the shows. They had these special games and activities for the newly weds, anniversary couples which was real fun. We halted at Juneau, Skagway and Ketchikan were we took different trips, in Juneau we did a city tour and walked around the Downtown, Skagway we did  'kayaking' and at Ketchikan we went 'hiking' ....The entire trip was extremely scenic...especially 'Glacier Bay' we just couldn't stop taking pictures and videos. Our wildlife naturalist was very helpful and informative too...thanks to her we could spot bears and whales from the ship. She kept us informed on every place that we were passing. Casino on the ship was fun, discos were good with very good music and lighting. On the whole, we had a fantabulous time and cant wait to go on this ship again. Nitin & Rinku

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May 13, 2003

Alaska

We have recently returned from the May 14, 2003 Glacier Bay sailing on the Carnival Spirit. What a wonderful cruise it was! Kim and I are experienced cruisers in our mid forties sailing with our 3-year-old son, Christian. Our favorite cruise lines are Princess and Celebrity. We picked this cruise for many reasons; itinerary, mid-week sailing date, price, ship and the fact the Spirit has an indoor, heated pool. It all came together for

a wonderful week in Alaska. We started by flying in to Vancouver the day before. The fact is the roundtrip Vancouver flight from Oakland for us was only 1/3 the price of the north/south Vancouver-Seward itinerary. We had booked a room at the Hyatt Regency through Priceline and got lucky with the weather in Vancouver. Our lucky weather would continue the entire week. The Hyatt is right in the center of downtown and close to everything. After checking in we caught the double decker bus tour right outside the hotel and took a bumpy ride around Vancouver. Next time we’ll try the trolley. It couldn’t possibly be as bumpy as the double decker bus. But we did have a good view. We went around to 23 places in the city and got off in Stanley Park. We walked around for a while and then caught another bus and continued. As mentioned by everyone, Vancouver is very scenic and really reminded us of San Francisco, only cleaner. It’s fun to watch all the floatplanes and ferries on the waterfront. And we got a chance to say hello to our favorite ship, the Star Princess, in port that day and only clearing Lion’s Gate Bridge at low tide by 2 feet! Next day we took a short cab ride to Canada Place and started embarkation at 11:30 or so. Unfortunately, once again, “The computer system is down.” This glitch seems to be following us. We had the same problem in San Francisco two months earlier. So after unloading our luggage, going through security and getting our picture taken we sat there for 90 minutes and waited. It’s a long time for a 3 year old. Finally the Canada Place staff realized they needed to start check-in by hand and we were aboard in another half hour. One surprise was that U.S. Customs was the last checkpoint before boarding. That way we didn’t have to do it in Juneau, our first stop. I had been worried that I wasn’t going to like the interior of the Spirit. I had seen many photos and she really looked ornate, even gaudy. Not in the old, neon Carnival way but in an overly decorated way. But the Spirit grew on me in person and I liked most everything about her. Certainly, the Spirit class is head and shoulders above the Holiday and Fantasy class Carnival ships. We were quite happy with our inside cabin on the Panorama Deck. Much classier than our previous Carnival cabins, with an increased use of finer materials used in the cabinets and bathroom. Really a fine cabin. And with Fiorella to straighten it up for us, we were in fine company. She did an A1 job. We got lucky in the dining room both in location and dining companions. Carnival put us at a window table together with another family with a 4-year-old adorable girl. Pooja kept Christian interested in coming to dinner all week long. The Empire dining room is another very ornate space. Our waiter, Janeusz from Poland and assistant, Tina from Romania were excellent. Most nights they only had two tables so we always had their attention when needed. They both made a fuss over the two children and learned all our names the first night. Then they used our names the rest of the week. This restaurant had the most personable Maitre’ D of all our cruises, David McNally from Ireland. Each night he came on the PA (which actually worked!) and shared a poem or story, made us laugh, and then segued into the cheesy but fun Carnival performance. He was a delight. The dining room food, while not quite as good as Princess or Celebrity, was still very good indeed, with very few complaints. Especially when you take the galley tour and see just how they serve over 1000 people at a time. The quality really is amazing. The Lido buffet was also a hit. The food diversity was mouth-watering. The deli was open from 11am-11pm and served delicious sandwiches on several breads, including my favorite, fresh baked baguette. Then there was an Asian section, a nation of the day section, the rotisserie with several different meats, a salad bar and 24-hour pizza and ice cream. The grill had the usual along with drinks available 24 hours, too. No one went hungry. Breakfast got a little mundane, as it was the same every day. But no one went hungry. Unfortunately, the buffet does not have enough seating for all the people that want to sit there. Many times at breakfast and lunch it was very difficult to find a table. And since we were in Alaska, many people would stay at their seats, long after they were finished eating, to enjoy the scenery. The entertainment on board was hit and miss. We saw all the shows in the theatre and the talent level was high. However, the production shows seem to be missing some thread, some thing that pulls the material together and gives it a reason to be called a show. Many times it just seemed like one production number after another, with no thought given as to theme. The Pharaoh’s Palace theatre was really fun to look at and the costumes were amazing. Plus the 10-piece orchestra accompanied all the shows and that was great. Unfortunately, this “Funship” carried no party band to dance to, a first for Carnival and very disappointing for my wife and I. Especially after seeing the banner, “Carnival Has The Fun” draped over the outside of the ship. They did have 2 good jazz groups and a classical trio for before dinner and a duo in Club Cool at night. But a duo playing hits for the elderly is not exactly a party band. The disco looked fun but wasn’t open till 11pm and we never made it. I guess we’re tweeners now. Christian and I very much enjoyed the indoor heated pool and hot tubs. They added a lot to our cruise. Unfortunately, Carnival considers this pool to be an outdoor area with smoking allowed, even though the dome was closed the entire week. And the smokers were out in force, even pipes and cigars. It really stunk in there. And, of course, that’s where the “outdoor” grill is so people were eating at tables as well. Disgusting! Port side was for non-smokers but Carnival personnel and security never enforced this rule. This is an area I would like to see improved by all cruise lines. Enforce those smoking rules! All the ports were fun. In Juneau we went with Capt. Larry on the Awesome Orca (non-ship excursion) and had a ball. We got to see about 10 humpback whales, Dalls porpoises, Stellar sea lions, eagles and a brown bear on a distant shore. It was great! In Skagway we rented a car from Avis and drove up the road into British Columbia and on into the Yukon to Carcross. It was all about scenery and much of it was spectacular. After coming back, we drove around the gravel road to Dyea and saw harbor seals at the mouth of the river and many eagles waiting to feast on some fish. In Ketchikan we just walked around town and over to Creek Street and up the hill to the salmon hatchery. They also have an eagle enclosure there with two injured eagles. When the salmon return up the creek in June they’ll swim right through the eagles’ environment and the eagles get to hunt again. Nice touch. Our cruise through Glacier Bay was really special, a day to remember, and with weather to match. We got a running commentary from the park rangers who boarded in the morning and they kept us informed about what we were seeing throughout the day. The mountains and multiple glaciers we saw were very impressive, really the reason people come to Alaska. Michelle, the Spirit’s naturalist kept us informed the rest of the week. Camp Carnival was pretty good but somewhat disappointing, too. They had a very security conscious but inefficient check in & out procedure that took way too long. The parents were kept behind a half-door while one person checked your ID and beeper. We couldn’t just go in to see what the kids were doing. They called the child up to the door after check-out. Same procedure on check-in. They wouldn’t just let the kids in first. This took too long even with only 42 kids in the program. I can’t imagine what they do when they have 600 as a counselor told me they’ve had. There were lots of counselors and most were sincere and very nice, especially Nelly and Kendra. They had a couple of parent required sessions, one the whole afternoon of the last sea day. We didn’t like that. We spent plenty of time with Christian. We didn’t need Camp Carnival taking away our last afternoon which we would have liked to spend without our 3 year old. Oh well. Carnival got lots of things right on this cruise and they are to be commended. We had a wonderful cruise to Alaska. It was great value for the money. The Spirit is a beautiful ship with lots of public spaces to relax in and enjoy. Most all the crew were friendly and helpful. And Alaska is beautiful, a much different cruise than being in the middle of the sea in the Caribbean or elsewhere. I never got to open my book. There were too many sights to see. This was an older crowd, especially for Carnival. But I’m sure there’ll be more families once school is out. Bon Voyage!

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Apr 16, 2003

Baja, Mexico

Embarkation: We arrived at the Port of San Diego cruise terminal at approximately 1:00 PM. The ship was to set sail at 5:00 PM (but didn’t depart until around 10:00 PM). The line was extremely long and the wait was 1 1/2 hours standing in line. No one had offered to take our luggage outside, we were sort of pushed along, and ended up carrying it all with us. After going inside the terminal building, I had asked about it being checked

and was told to just carry it up to the counter and they would check. I thought that was rather odd, but proceeded to do so. I later found out that it could have, and should have, been checked outside. Total miscommunication. Upon entering the lobby of the ship, my first impression was it smelled of stale cigarette smoke, and I thought the decor was rather gloomy and drabby looking. I like brighter colors than that of this ship. But if you’d look closely to the detail, it was rather impressive, and definitely did have some very fine touches to appreciate. There were different themes throughout the ship which were also done quite nicely. But overall, personally, I just didn’t find the decor appealing or uplifting. Room: We booked an outside room on the Riviera deck. Upon entering the room it was very stuffy and smelled of the sewer. We figured the unpleasant smell would eventually subside, as maybe the ship had been cooped up during its previous long trip from Miami to San Diego and needed airing out. However, the smell remained throughout the trip. The room was very noisy at night while trying to sleep. There was a lot of banging and clanking going on. We saw very little of our room steward who seemed somewhat unsociable. There was nothing exceptional about his service on this trip. On the positive side, Carnival’s rooms are fairly roomy, the bed was comfortable, and the shower was large enough that you didn’t have the plastic curtain constantly rubbing up against your back. There’s plenty of closet space and drawers to place your belongings. Entertainment: This ship had the worst entertainment I had ever seen on a cruise ship. On our previous cruises, having sailed aboard the Carnival Holiday, Carnival Triumph, RC Legend of the Seas, RC Vision of the Seas, the entertainment had been superb. I don’t know what happened on this cruise, but couldn’t believe how badly the vocals were from two of the singers on the ship, not to mention the rest of the entertainment on board. Food: I have no complaints about the food on this ship. There was a variety and was exceptionally good. The bartenders made great drinks as well. Staff: I did not find the staff very friendly or personable. On previous cruises it seemed the staff would go out of their way to be accommodating. It didn’t seem that any of the staff smiled too much, except there were a few of course. It seemed they were just there to do a job and that was it. Dining: The dining room was somewhat glitzy, but again, I found it drabby. I had requested a table for 8 to 10 persons because my husband and I like to socialize with others, but was surprised when we were seated at a table for 2, facing across from each other. It felt a little on the lonely side, although I’m sure there may be people who would have enjoyed having that table. We like to sit directly next to each other when dining, so this was not comfortable for us at all. But we made the best of it, and did not return to that dining room again. (You can request a different table if you’re not satisfied, however, but because we were only on for three nights, we decided to just forget it and not make a big deal out of it.) The 2nd night, we had dinner at the buffet, and the 3rd night at the Supper Club. Supper Club: We did do the Supper Club thing, and what a rip off that was. It certainly wasn’t worth the $50.00 extra we paid, plus the cost of caviar at the cost of 29.00 plus 15% gratuity. However, the food was good, the ambiance was very nice, the service was excellent, but eating in the dining room would have been just as good (if we had had seating with other people or a booth). We were seated upstairs where we could not see the singer, we could only hear her. She did have a nice voice and was quite pleasant, but I would have preferred to be seated closer to the stage. All in all, it was okay, but I would not pay for it again. Ensenada: We opted to walk to town instead of taking a shuttle or taxi or horse buggy ride. There is plenty of restaurants and shopping. I love to go to Ensenada to eat. The Mexican food there is so much better than in the States. We had lunch at Papa’s and Beer. The tacos, chips and avocado dip was so good!! Not to mention the drinks! Tipping: Just a few words of caution to others out there who are not familiar with cruising: please take the time to read and understand the information given to you in your brochures that are sent to you before you go aboard, because once Carnival gets your credit card and issues you your “Sail & Sign” card, you’ll have automatic charges for things you haven’t a clue. For example, I didn’t know that they would add on a 15% gratuity to a bottle of wine at a dinner seating, add 15% gratuity to the dining room waiters, staff and room steward. So we ended up eating at the Supper Club, while still paying gratuity to the main dining room as well. And when we left the ship, we tipped our room steward a hefty amount, not knowing he was already being tipped from the amount charged to my credit card. And, of course, there is always an added 15% gratuity to all alcoholic beverages. So be aware!!! You might get a seemingly great room rate, but you’ll get dollared to death and ripped off with every other little thing if you’re not well informed and careful!! Overall, this was a pleasant weekend getaway experience. The weather was good. But I’m glad I was not on this ship for any longer. I did notify Carnival of the charges on my invoice, and politely vented my dissatisfaction. They did offer an 10% discount on our next Carnival cruise, however, I think I’ll pass! I would rather cruise on RCCL or Princess next time. No more Carnival for me! It’s true, once you go RCCL, you won’t want to go back to Carnival! But that’s our experience. I certainly hope the best trip for everyone because you’re paying for it and you deserve it!!!! I can’t wait for our next cruise! Good luck and Have Fun!!!!!

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Mar 8, 2003

Southern Caribbean

MURRAY & JOANNE SMITH & FAMILY [Meghan, Shannon, Tamara & Chad] CARNIVAL SPIRIT # of Cruises: Murray (50) & Joanne (43); 4th cruise; Shannon (18), Tamara (17) & Chad (15-turned 16 on cruise) 2nd cruise; Meghan (21) 1st cruise Date: March 8-March 16, 2003 8-day Exotic Southern Caribbean 1. Preliminary Research: Before deciding on this particular cruise, we compared 4 cruise lines sailing the Caribbean during March break. Our choices

were Carnival, NCL, RCI & Princess. Murray & I have cruised on three ships; Carnival Sensation (September 2000), Norwegian Sky (with Shannon, Tamara & Chad in March 2001), and Carnival Destiny (in September 2001), and we wanted to sail on a different ship and wanted at least one new port. I then compiled a detailed listing of the top 15 ships, including itinerary, a brief overview of the ship (including sport activities, disco, dining, and other notes of interest), and instructed the kids to go to the pertinent websites, look at some cruise review sites, and also to look at some 360 virtual tours on www.mytravelco.com. After much research, the families’ priorities varied, and we were left with the top 5 cruises. Our final decision was based on price and itinerary and we booked the cruise in April 2002. 2. Pre-Cruise & Embarkation: We booked the Carnival Fly-Aweigh program and on Friday, March 7th, we flew from London, Ontario, to Toronto, and changed planes to Miami. Weather was cold, but clear when we left. At Miami airport, we found a Carnival rep who escorted us to the shuttle area which took us to the Wyndham Miami Airport Hotel (www.wyndham.com). The hotel is close to the airport (0.25 miles), has an outdoor swimming pool, fitness centre, and a bar with pool tables ($1 to play pool). Each room is equipped with t.v., coffee maker, hair dryer, iron and ironing board. The kids’s rooms on the 4th floor also had mini-fridges. Pre-registration for all the Carnival guests was held in the hotel (5:00-7:30 p.m.), so the next day we didn’t have to line up at the pier. After pre-registering, we took a taxi van to The Olive Garden for dinner and had a great time. Getting back to the hotel was a bit more difficult as we had to wait almost 2 hours to get a taxi. Taxis must hang around the airport or South Beach on Friday nights, as we didn’t even see one on the road in front of the restaurant. The next morning, Saturday, March 8th, we were told to put our checked luggage outside on the curb before 10:00 a.m., and that the shuttle to the pier would arrive at noon. Because of the large number of Carnival guests staying at the hotel (3 ships), another pre-registration was held that morning. After depositing our luggage and having it stamped by a Customs agent, we went for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. The hotel restaurant, Tamarind, is a bit pricey (buffet breakfast @ $96 for 6 people!), but there really aren’t any other restaurants nearby, so we didn’t have much of a choice. Then we waited for the shuttle to the pier, and waited, and waited, and waited.... Finally, the shuttles came. Apparently, there was a hold-up at the port for the last ship to be cleared, and the same shuttles are used by those departing as those arriving. By the time we got to the pier, there were no line-ups, and we just whisked through, got our Sign and Sail cards, our photo taken for boarding and posed for our Embarkation photo. We were on the ship at 3:00 p.m. (Just an hour before sailing!) After signing up for the shore excursions, we rushed to get our life jackets for the muster drill. As we were doing the muster drill, some people were still boarding the ship, so we didn’t actually sail at 4:00 p.m. – it was closer to 5:00 p.m. The Port of Miami was very busy 7 ships in port: RCI’s Explorer and Voyageur of the Seas, NCL’s Sun and Dawn, Carnival’s Inspiration, Triumph and of course the Spirit. On the other side of the pier was another RCI ship (Monarch of the Seas, I believe). When we left the port, the people on-board the Triumph yelled and waved at us as we passed, and of course we did the same. This was a really great send-off. We were on our way, with the drink of the day in hand! 3. Cabin Accommodations: We had originally booked 2 inside (Cat. 4A) and an oceanview cabin (Cat. 6A), on the Riviera deck. Three weeks prior to sailing, we were all up-graded to balcony cabins (Cat. 8A) on the Promenade deck (7120, 7124 & 7128), which were located on the starboard side next door to each other. That was a nice surprise! Each room had 2 twin beds (which could be made up to a double bed), with a small night stand and lamp for each bed. Each night stand opens and has a small area to hold items. There was also a pull-out couch with a small table in front of it. Under the pull-out couch are extra pillows. There is a safe in the room, and you can use your Sail & Sign card to activate it (you don’t need a credit card). There is also a small bar fridge, and you can get the key from your Cabin Stewart. If you move some items around in the fridge, you can put some of your own pop, candy, etc. in the fridge. Lots of cupboard space (3 sets of cupboards – 2 for hanging your clothes and the other with shelving), 3 drawers, and another area with shelves. There is stationery and a pen in the top desk drawer, with a large mirror above this. Suitcases can be stored under the beds to take up less room. There is a t.v., phone, ice bucket and glasses. You should change the message on your phone as soon as you get in your room. Outside each cabin is a mailbox where your Carnival Capers (cruise newsletter) is placed, plus any other items (such as invitations to past guest parties). The balcony had 1 lounger, 1 regular chair, and a small table – nothing fancy – all white plastic. Balcony cabins also have complimentary bath robes. The bathroom had complimentary amenities. In the shower area, there is a shower gel and shampoo dispenser. There is a magnifying mirror affixed to the wall, and there is an expanding clothesline in the shower area. A hair dryer is in the top drawer of a chest of drawers near the main mirror (not in the bathroom). The hair dryer cannot be moved from this location (it is locked in place). Beach towels are provided in your room, which must be used for the pool area and any shore excursions. If they are lost, there is a $22 replacement fee charged to your Sign and Sail card. 4. The Restaurants & Food: La Playa Grille & Lido Restaurant Lido Deck 9 This is the cafeteria service which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. All of the midnight buffets are also held here (except the Gala Buffet). It consists of 4 separate areas: the deli counter, Asian counter, International Taste of the Day, and the hot lunch area. There is also a hamburger, hot dog and french fry grill area. And, of course, there is the 24 hour all-you-can-eat pizza, Caesar salad and self-serve soft swirl ice-cream area. Coffee and tea are also available 24 hours. We ate breakfast and lunch at the Lido Restaurant every day. Breakfast had lots of choices which consisted of grits or oatmeal; hash brown potatoes, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, French Toast, pancakes, banana pancakes, blueberry pancakes, toast (white and brown bread), toasted bagels, and made to order omelettes (or you could have some fried eggs as well). There was regular and light pancake syrup, butter, margarine and cream cheese. There was also assorted danishes and croissants, fruit – bananas, apples, orange slices, grapefruit slices, half a grapefruit – cheeses, cold meats, assorted cereals with a choice of skim, 2% or chocolate milk and yogourt. There was regular and decaf coffee (made from real coffee grounds), tea, fruit punch, ice tea, lemonade, tomato juice and orange juice. Lunch was very varied as the menu for the International Area and regular hot lunch changed daily. The deli was one of my favourite areas. You could get a made-to-order turkey sub, Rueben sandwich, pastrami or corned beef on rye. There were dill pickles and coleslaw available also. There was also a self-serve green salad area with an assortment of toppings and dressings, and another salad area that had cold salads such as macaroni salad, beet, potato, etc. There was a dessert area and fresh fruit daily. Some days I sampled a little at all the stations. There were a lot of food choices to choose from! There was a midnight buffet served every night on the Lido deck, and we actually made it to one! It consisted of wings, bar-b-q ribs, corn-on-the-cob, chicken, etc. Lots of food. We also sampled the pizzeria and Caesar salad, which were excellent. The Empire Restaurant Aft; Promenade decks 2 & 3. The Spirit has one main dining room, the Empire Restaurant (seating for 1338), which is on 2 levels. There is also a separate area within the restaurant, The Napoleon Room, which can be reserved for private groups. We had early seating at 5:45 p.m. (which we had requested), at a perfect window table, 311, for 6 people. Our waiter (Yoseph) and assistant waiter (Joseph) were exceptional. After the main entree, but before dessert, Yoseph would challenge our kids with a brain teaser. One night he arranged some forks and knives in a particular way with the salt shaker in the middle, and the kids had to figure out how to get the salt shaker out, but by making the same picture and moving only 2 of the utensils. He was very entertaining, and the kids loved the mind challenge. Joseph was the entertainer and he loved to dance and sing after each meal. Food in the dining room was good, nicely presented and you could order several appetizers and entrees if you wanted. There was always a selection of pasta, beef, vegetarian and fish entrees. Seafood, lamb, pork, chicken (or other poultry), was also served. Lobster was served at the Captain’s dinner. All of our kids found something to order each night. Shannon especially enjoyed pasta entrees ordered as an appetizer (they were all excellent). One night, three of our daughters even ordered the vegetarian dish. All the soups were excellent, although some were not served as hot as I would have liked (our waiter said that if anything needed to be heated, just ask – he was very good). The beef was good, but there were some problems with the way the meat was prepared (if you ordered medium-well, sometimes it came as well-done). This is to be expected when dinners for 1,000 are being prepared. On two nights, there was a set dessert (Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee – I believe these were for the 2 formal nights). You could order as much dessert as you wanted. Our kids also ordered Expresso and Capuccino (no extra charge if ordered in the dining room). Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed eating in the dining room and were very satisfied with the food and service. We were so pleased with Yoseph and Joseph and the service that they provided us that we actually tipped them over and above the recommended gratuity (this is the first time we have ever done this). Nouveau Supper Club: Aft Sun Deck 10 This is a reservations-only alternative restaurant (seating for 156). A jacket for men is required if you wish to dine there. We did not eat at the Nouveau Supper Club, because there is a US$25 per person cover charge, and for 6 people, that would have cost $150! Some of the items that were featured on the menu (such as French Onion soup), were eventually served in the main dining room. We did take a picture of restaurant, which was very nice, but were very happy with the service in the dining room. Fountain Café: This small counter service area is where they served pastries and specialty coffees for a nominal fee. We didn’t order anything here. As already mentioned, if you order cappuccinos and expressos with dinner in the Dining Room, they are free. Room Service: At various times during the cruise, we all took advantage of room service, and the kids seemed to enjoy this service. A funny thing happened one morning when we ordered hot tea, we got hot tea, but also got 3 glasses of iced tea (we were only 2 in the room). That was curious! 5. Holding All Those Cards: A great idea we saw for holding the Sign & Sail cards, coke cards, etc. was to bring a lanyard (the type that holds keys) and a hole punch. A group of Parrotheads had hole punched the Sign & Sail card (not on the magnetic strip part), and adult coke card (if they had one). The lanyard also held a group identifier card. They always had their cards around your neck when on-board. The only additional thing you needed when going ashore was a photo ID, and I guess they just kept this in their wallets. 6. Drinks: The drinking age is 21 on board. All drinks are subject to a 15% gratuity, which is automatically added to each bill. Carnival now has an adult “Fun Card”. This is worthwhile if you drink a lot of pop. It is served from the can, but you cannot get the can. If you want an unopened can of pop to take with you, you have to pay for it on your Sign and Sail card ($1.73 which includes 15% gratuity). Other drink prices were $4.95 for Miami Vice, Pina Colada, etc. 7. Dress Code: During the day, anything goes. Shorts, t-shirts, and if you’re around the pool area, most people are in their bathing suits. We did tell our teens to pack a bathing suit cover-up, which was an extra t-shirt. We encouraged them to wear a pair of pants twice, etc., but to pack a clean t-shirt for each day (I personally like to wear a clean t-shirt each day and not recycle one from 2 days ago). In the evening, no shorts, t-shirts, jeans or beachwear are permitted in the dining room. Before the cruise, we had to buy our son a few pairs of casual pants (cargo-style pants) and short-sleeved shirts, as he normally lives in jeans and t-shirts. One idea for teen boys is to buy a Hawaiian type short-sleeved shirt and wear a t-shirt underneath. This way you’re dressed for dinner and later you can take off the shirt and wear the t-shirt. Another idea for boys is casual pants with a golf shirt. Girls should pack a white or black long sleeved sweater to wear in the evenings as the air conditioning in the lounges can get a bit cool. A lot of people are concerned about what to wear on a cruise. Here is what I wore each evening for the 8-day cruise. One day I would really like to be able to pack everything in my carry-on for a 7-day cruise, but I’m afraid my toiletries bag is rather large. Sat., March 8th: Casual Night (packed this in my carry-on): Some people came in shorts because their luggage had not arrived as yet, and that was fine Navy casual pants; short sleeved striped cotton sweater; socks; running shoes; small black purse with shoulder strap (I wore the same purse every night) Sun., March 9th: Captain’s Dinner - 1st Formal Night Long formal red dress with red shawl; black nylons; black dress pumps; purse Mon., March 10th: Casual Dress Khaki ultra-suede pants; yellow knit sleeveless top; white flat dress sandals, purse Tues., March 11th Casual Dress - St. Maarten Beige casual pants; blue & black short sleeved lace top; beige flats; purse Weds., March 12th Casual Dress - Barbados Ate at the Lido deck Thurs., March 13th Casual Dress - Martinique Beige casual pants; peach knit sleeveless top; beige flats; purse Fri., March 14th 2nd Formal Night Long black skirt; red & black sleeveless lace top; black jacket; black dress pumps; purse * After dinner, changed to black dress pants Sat., March 15th Casual Dress - Our son’s 16th Birthday 2-piece matching wine-coloured long skirt and sleeveless top; beige flats; purse * After dinner, changed to jean skirt and blue/black flowered short sleeved top There are some things that I packed that I didn’t wear/use such as 2 dresses; 1 pair of dress shoes; several t-shirts; jeans; an extra fancy top, an extra evening purse and capri pants. Some items that I should have packed were Visine, Solarcaine, and hats for both Murray and myself. 8. Shore Excursions: Upon boarding the ship at 3:00 p.m., we immediately went to our rooms, got the shore excursion brochures out and had a conference in our room about what shore excursions to sign up for. Because it was March Break we knew that the ship would be crowded and we knew we had to sign-up for our shore excursions as soon as we got on the ship to get the ones we wanted before they filled up. We had looked on Carnival’s website for shore excursion information before the trip, but found that 2 of the tours that we had wanted in St. Maarten were not offered this cruise (Pinel Isle Tour), so we had to make some quick decisions. The shore excursion desk was only open until 4:00 p.m., so we raced down to the Shore Excursion desk in the lobby and quickly filled out our requests and dropped them in the box. Anyway, what we found out later was that some of the shore tours had already filled up (St. Maarten Catamaran snorkel tour was the first to fill; then Intro to Snuba and snorkelling in Martinique). Oh well, at least we got some of the tours we wanted. I have never seen the shore excursions fill up so fast! If a tour is sold out, you get a notice in your stateroom saying it is filled. Once you sign up, your tickets are delivered to your room. We signed up for the following tours. We couldn’t sign up for everything or we’d be broke! St. Maarten: Murray & I: America’s Cup Regatta Kids: Tours they wanted were sold out, so they went shopping Barbados: Everyone Jolly Roger Pirate Cruise St. Maarten - (3-1/2 hrs. @ US$85 each) Although there is a pier that you can just walk off the ship in St. Maarten, we had to use a tender. The reason is that the pier can only hold 4 cruise ships, and there were 7 ships in port that day. The day before there had been none! So, we went ashore by tender, which is a smaller boat. There was some confusion with this tour, as all other shipboard excursions got off before ours. For this tour, we were told that we needed a tender ticket to get off. Tender tickets were distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis in Club Cool starting at 7:00 a.m. We were given tender # 8. While we were waiting, a group that was part of our tour arrived and had not gone to get tender tickets. When they got there, they got tender # 10. They were a bit heated and were worried that they would not get off the boat in time to get their tour. When we got to St. Maarten, we told the guide holding the sign for the tour that there were some more people coming, so they just waited for them. Murray and I have never been sailing before, but had heard great things about this tour from some of the cruise reviews that we had read. From the pier, you take a chair barge to another pier to pick up some other cruise passengers from other ships. While on the barge, you are asked whether you would like active, semi-active or non-active jobs on-board the sailboat. There are really only 2 non-active jobs on board – one is the bartender and the other is the navigator (or time keeper). Murray and I opted for active duty and I was assigned “primary deck grinder”. Then you go ashore and are put into 4 teams (these are the 4 ships in the Regatta). I really wanted to be on the Canada II, and in fact, that was the ship we were on. Then, they call you by your job to board the sailboat. There are 3 experienced crew on-board with you, so there is no need to worry if you have no sailing experience. Our sailboat consisted of mostly non-sailers, but we did have one couple that were experienced and had been in races. One was a primary deck grinder and the other a main deck grinder. These were probably the hardest jobs on-board. The 2 main deck grinders work something that looks like bicycle pedals, which moves the sail, and the 4 primary deck grinders (on a similar apparatus of pedals) tighten the rope within the sail. All I can say is that my arms were so tired after that, but we did win! It was really exciting. At one point when we were going around the marker, we were neck in neck with one of the other sailboats. It really felt like you were racing for real! When you are sailing out to the start of the course, there is a tour employee in a small motorboat racing behind you, with a whistle in their mouth. When they blow the whistle, you smile and they take your picture. This was quite humourous to watch. Anyway, we did get a nice picture of us (cost was US$30), and because our sailboat had won the race, we also bought some KC-II t-shirts as a souvenir. This was the best shore excursion I have ever been on and well worth the price! 9. General Impression & Overall Comments: The Carnival Spirit is a beautiful ship with mostly brown and pink tones. There are many lounges and places to sit and relax. The age range of this ship was the most diverse I’ve ever seen on any cruise I’ve been on. During our cruise, there were older seniors in wheelchairs, middle-aged people with families (some with babes in arms and strollers), teens, young newlyweds, and college age kids on spring break. There was also a variety of music on-board – it was wonderful. There was pre-dinner classical and jazz music, a guitar player/singer in the lobby bar and in the casino, sing-a-longs at the Shanghai Piano Bar, karaoke in the Versailles Lounge, 40's-90's live band dance music at Club Cool and late night hip-hop at the disco. The ship was booked to capacity, but you wouldn’t know it. The ship was well laid-out and every area of the ship seemed to be well-used, from the Monarch card room to the Library/internet café.

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Feb 20, 2003

Southern Caribbean

Summary – for those who don’t want the detail. We had a great time, ship is beautiful and kept remarkably clean. All service was friendly, even the casino dealers. The Kamp Carnival program for kids is excellent and greatly adds to Mom & Dad’s ability to relax and enjoy. Food plentiful and good quality. Hard to beat value of this trip (or would be if I didn’t drink at all!) This was the third cruise for my wife and I, previous

two being on Norwegian Norway and Carnival Imagination. It was the first cruise for our daughters, ages 6 and 10. We had gone back and forth over going to an island versus a cruise, and whether to bring the girls or go by ourselves. Finally decided on a cruise with the girls and booked just a few weeks ahead through vacationstogo.com, our first time using them. Nothing but positive feedback on their site & service. Flew from Rochester, NY to Fort Lauderdale on the 19th via Airtran. As we had almost missed our last cruise due to late/missed flights, and Rochester had already received 120+ inches of snow this season, we didn’t want to take any chances. Probably a good decision as most of the Eastern Seaboard was shut down the previous weekend from major snowstorms. We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Hollywood, about 15 minutes from the airport - they have a free shuttle from the airport, but if you’re in a hurry you might want to price out a cab ( or lie when you call hotel and tell them you already have your luggage!). Cost for the night was $132, including a shuttle the next day for the four of us to the Miami Seaport. A pretty nice buffet breakfast was also included. Shuttle ride to the seaport took about 30 minutes. Usual chaos there. Carnival rep directed us to give our bags to a porter, who was obviously expecting a tip, and who threw our bags into a cart approximately 3 feet away. Nice racket. We started the embarkation process about a half hour before it was scheduled to begin, along with quite a few other people. It didn’t take very long, and we were allowed to go right to our rooms which pleasantly surprised us. Our biggest surprise was that our room had been upgraded from oceanview (probably on 1st or 2nd deck) to a balcony room on the 5th deck. While the room was the same size, and the balcony is only about 3x6 feet, the perception was definitely more elbow room. We had not had a room assignment until we boarded, and the contact at Vacationstogo had mentioned this might happen. With 4 people in one stateroom, every additional inch helped! Room – Carnival really does a nice job with the 185 square feet claimed in the specs. In addition to the 2 twin beds which can be pushed together, there is a couch piece that converts to a bed and has 2 drawers underneath (some space taken by bedding), and a Pullman type bed that drops out of the ceiling to form an upper bunk over the convertible bed. We had to let girls take turns in the upper bunk to keep the peace. The guard to prevent rolling off the bunk was secure and long enough for us to feel it was safe, even with our very accident prone 6 year old up there. There was sufficient closet and storage space for the four of us, and my wife is not a light packer! There are leather thong pulls on the drawers and closet doors, which doesn’t add much to the look, but does prevent you from catching clothes on knobs in the tight quarters. Bathroom/shower – again, roomy for the limited space available. Several rimmed shelves for storage, and the shower had sufficient room and plenty of water pressure. I generally prefer shower doors to a curtain, but this one wasn’t bad. Food - Mostly went to the buffet for breakfast. It was ok, nothing outstanding. Scrambled eggs were ok, bacon not as crispy as I prefer, ham and sausages were good. After first day, I usually had an omelet made which were very good. Plenty of fresh fruit. We usually ate between 9 and 10AM which would be a little crowded but never exceedingly so. Started getting a little perturbed one morning when everything was closing up when I went thru, only to discover I had forgotten to change my watch went we went to different time zone!. Word to the wise……. My wife and older daughter had room service continental breakfast a few times, food OK and service quick. Never tried dining room for breakfast. We only had lunch a few times, also from Lido buffet. Again was good with a quite a variety. Sometimes was a little confusing with the multiple stations if I had seen everything, especially if crowded. Featuring different regional cuisine each day for lunch is a nice touch. Hamburgers from grill by pool were alright. Because of the kids, we took early seating at dinner. We were happy with our table for four on the lower level. It was off in a corner, with a partition on one end, blocking off a server station. There was a nice view, and we didn’t find it disruptive being next to the station, in fact we were always able to find our servers! I was glad we weren’t in the main part of the lower dining room as it seemed more crowded and noisy. The food was high quality, especially the vegetables. Portions weren’t overwhelming, but there was no problem ordering an extra appetizer on entrée if you wanted. Tried the seafood pretty regularly and was always pleased with it. Kids usually ordered off the children’s menu, which was mostly the typical junk food, plus the a smaller version of the adult pasta entree usually offered as a kids special. We were happy with our serving team. They always served us in a timely fashion even on those days (most of them) we were running late. The barmaid (barperson?) was friendly and accurate, but not available a lot. On a trip to the restroom one night I happened to see where she had to go for drinks and it was quite a ways from the dining room, so it was understandable. All the servers treated our two daughters well, and asked about them the couple of times they had dinner at the kids camp. An older oriental man, who worked in the various dining areas, while not assigned to our table, took a shine to our 6-year old, and always made a point to come over and say hello to her – even though some times he had a hard time breaking away as she’s quite a chatterbox! We never tried the premium restaurant, which costs $25 per person, but everyone I talked to that did so said it was well worth the price. We hit the 24 hr pizza place a couple of times, usually after a late night in the casino. We come from a city with many excellent pizza places, these pies were ok, and tasted great sitting out on the balcony at 3AM! The kids enjoyed the always available ice cream stations also. We purchased the soft drink cards for the girls - $25 plus the ever-present gratuity, thinking they’d save us quite a bit of money. Not sure it was much more than break even. They usually had juice or punch in the Lido, and soft drinks were included at dinner, and for whatever reason the girls didn’t use them as much as I would have thought. They might be a better deal for older kids. The Kamp Carnival program was great. We had to take the kids from 12- 2 for lunch, and 5-7 for dinner. Other than that, they could attend camp at no additional charge from 9AM to 10PM, and if over 9 years old, could sign themselves in and out. From 10PM to 3AM, they would watch the 2 girls for $10/hr. We loved the program, and all the counselors seemed both nice and competent. Just be sure to let them know at drop-off time if spouse or other adult can pick up and do NOT forget to bring your ship ID with you, especially if like us you’re at the other end of the ship! They are very strict about following procedures – as you have to be these days. Speaking of kids, there were not an overwhelming number on this cruise. At camp orientation, they estimated there were about 40 in each of 4 age groups, plus infants. There did not seem to be large numbers of teenagers or rowdy partyers either. Most couples appeared to be in the 35 – 50 age group and overall the atmosphere – for a cruise ship – was pretty sedate. There were 2 average and 1 small sized pools, all filled with salt water. While not as large as I had expected, the pools never seemed greatly crowded. Although the lounge areas close to the pools were almost always crowded, we could always find some place to set up shop, and always found lounge chairs. I must say the one area where quality was obviously lacking was that of the chaise lounges . The recline mechanisms were shoddy, and they regularly fell apart. Even when functioning properly, they did not fold down anywhere near flat. The waterslide at the top of the ship was closed most of the way down due to high winds – and they were strong at that height! On the way back it was open most of the time and we used it quite a bit. The lines were not that long most of the time and it was a refreshing break and fun for the whole family. Obviously if there had been more children on board, the waits would have extended somewhat. We only attended one show – a big band tribute to Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr., mostly because the kids got to participate with a routine they practiced in camp. They loved being up on stage. I’m not a big show fan, but it was OK. Didn’t hear much plus or minus from other passengers. Skipped most of the orientations as well, so can’t offer an opinion on the cruise director either. Casino is very nice, roomy, clean, and not real smoky. I usually could find a $10 blackjack table, sometimes $5, and broke even up until the last night (you can guess how that went!). My wife played the slots and found a good variety of machines (not well paying for her though). We both put in plenty of hours here without getting hurt too bad. All the dealers we dealt with were friendly and would offer advice if asked without being condescending. There are a couple variations of Blackjack, roulette, Caribbean Stud, and Let-It-Ride. Excursions – It was nice that all 3 stops were at cruise docks, and no tenders were involved. St. Maarten was right in a main shopping/beach area on the Dutch side of the island. Barbados and Martinique were industrial/commercial wharf environments. I would have liked the daily newsletter to provide some more general info about the stops but it pretty much focused on cruise sponsored tours and excursions. St. Maarten (7AM to 4PM) – Ship docks at a nice area just outside of Dutch downtown/shopping area. There is a water taxi from the dock that goes on a loop to “uptown” and “downtown” stops. Kids under 12 were free and adults could buy an all day pass for $5.00. Tough to beat that deal. We took it to the shopping area right off the beach and hit some stores. This is definitely the place for shopping on this cruise, esp for liquor; e.g. Absolut and Tangueray (sp?) $6-7 per bottle. Be aware they don’t tell you the US limit is 2 litres per family. We had 4, and the customs official looked right at it when we cleared back in Miami but didn’t say anything. You are allowed 2 more bottles from Barbados, but the prices aren’t nearly as good there. Souvenirs were also very inexpensive and negotiable. After a little shopping, we spent the rest of the time at a small bar right on the beach. They had beach service including lunches. We just rented some beach chairs and tanned and swam the day away. I wish I could remember the name of the place, but I lost all my copious notes on the flight back. Facing the beach, it’s just to the left of the ferry stop furthest from the cruise dock. Although officially “prohibited“, it’s not all that hard to bring a little alcohol back in the ship for in-room consumption. The liquor store owners are glad to offer tips if needed. Note the ship departed almost exactly to the minute of the scheduled time. I don’t know if the security system let’s them know everyone is back on or if you’re just out of luck if not punctual. We didn’t hear of anyone being left behind. Barbados (12PM to 10PM) – As noted, ship docked in a rather grim wharf area, and there were buses provided to the main passenger terminals where taxis etc. were available. Some sponsored outings did pick up right at the ship. It rained on and off most of the day, which I don’t think is that unusual for Barbados. Everything here was definitely more expensive than St. Marten, and there was not much haggling. Cab rides from the terminal were posted at $20-$40 to go almost anywhere. We hired a driver for a short cruise of the island as it was raining when we started out. Very lush and scenic. He stopped at a spot where a man had a couple of monkeys that would perch on you for pictures (and a small tip of course). The kids loved this. We had the driver drop us off at Folkestone Marine Park as we had read you could snorkel right from the beach there. The park was a small area, without a very big beach, but the swimming area is very sandy. There is a small dive/gift shop and changing rooms. It was a great spot to teach the kids snorkeling as there were fish visible in shallow water. If you follow the water intake pipe out that’s just to the right of the beach area there were numerous, if small, fish to see along with a few sea snakes and eels. The cab picked us back up at the end of the day and we returned to the ship for dinner and gambling. Martinique (7AM – 2PM) – My wife came down with an infection this morning so we got to visit the ship infirmary for some antibiotics. The Doctor and nurse were both very pleasant, and the wait was short. Since the ship was only in port a short time, and my wife wasn’t feeling that well yet, we just stayed on board and enjoyed the sparse crowds. From talking with other passengers that night at dinner and at the casino, those that went into town weren’t too impressed, those that went to one of the beaches said those were nice. Debarkation – Usual process, not real painful, but somewhat tedious. We had a late flight back, so spent some time on the Lido deck before getting off the ship. Long lines through customs, but they moved pretty quickly, and our inspection pretty cursory. As noted above, the official glanced at the four bottle case of liquor from St. Maarten but didn’t ask about them. He did question my wife as to how many cigarettes she was bringing back. It was confusing, and took a while to find transport back to the Ft. Lauderdale airport, but as we had plenty of time it wasn’t too stressful. Once there, we found a little spot just past the airport with a picnic table under a tree, where we could have a leisurely takeout lunch. This was a nice find as our terminal was fairly small, and crowded, and not a good place to be with two already tired kids.  Flight back was uneventful. With a 6:30AM wake-up call, it just made for a very long day. Overall, we had a great time, and would definitely recommend this ship & itinerary, especially for families. There was plenty of at-sea time, great food and service, and interesting islands to explore. Roughest seas we had were about six foot waves, and no one experienced any discomfort. Since we’ve been back, we’ve already had 12 –14 more inches of snow, plus an ice storm that cut the power for four days, Sure wish we were back onboard!

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Oct 18, 2002

Mexican Riviera

2002 The departure was not very good and we got away late. We were to have all day in each port but they were cut short. This ship has a lot of vibration and not as smooth at the Disney Magic or the Carnival Victory. A lot of movement is felt and the ocean never seemed that rough. La Paz has nice beaches and a quaint town with a lot of shopping we never had time to see much else. La Paz don't seem like much of a tourist trap yet. They

have a lot to improve from the transportation from the ship to tours. Cabo is beautiful!!! the only down side was all the merchants trying to sell things and others just asking for money. The private beaches kept the merchants away for the most part and everyone was friendly. We wanted to go fishing here but our time was cut short so we never got to that was a disappointment. We did enjoy the lands end tour and the nice walk back to the ship tenders from the private beach. The food on the ship was very good and the entertainment was good for the most part. We had a nice time but wished we had more time in the ports. The supper club was okay but the regular dining room was almost as good for no extra charge. I don't think I would pay the extra 25.00 a piece to dine there again. The crew was very helpful and did a nice job. Overall we had a very nice time and will go to the mexican riveria again, but don't know if we will go on the spirit again since it had vibration constantly and lots of motion was felt when traveling.

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Apr 20, 2002

Ensenada to Hawaii

The ship was great and we enjoyed our 5 days cruising the Pacific to Hawaii. Our experience in Ensenada was not the best. There was quite a delay in San Diego waiting for transportation to Ensenada. Instead of arriving mid afternoon we arrived at 2:00 a.m. the following morning! However, for our inconvenience, Carnival credited our "sail and sign" account $200 per passenger. The next fiasco was when we had to tender to the big Island of Hawaii.

This was a slow process and not well organized. We were supposed to stay overnight at Maui but the ship's generators broke down and there was no air conditioning, only 3 of the elevators were working and the lighting was cut down to about half. We slept that night with our balcony door open and were quite comfortable. However, for the people who had no balcony the heat and humidity was pretty bad. Some took to sleeping on the lido deck in chaise lounges. Because of this problem we had to leave Maui after only one day and sail directly to Oahu and disembark 4 days early. However, Carnival put up every passenger in a beautiful hotel right on Waikiki (our hotel was the Royal Hawaiian), paid for our hotel stay, reimbursed us for the entire cruise and offered a 50% discount on our next Carnival cruise. So, in spite of our inconvenience, we feel Carnival was more than fair in their treatment of the passengers. While we were on board cruising the Pacific, our food was delicious, our server was great, the room steward couldn't have been better and our room was spacious and very comfortable. The shows were very good and, in spite of there being a full ship, the show rooms were never too crowded to accommodate all who wanted to attend. We would definitely cruise on Carnival Spirit again. However, until the tendering process to the Hawaiian Islands is smoothed out, I don't think I would cruise the Islands again. This was our third Carnival cruise and, in spite of all the problems, we would definitely use Carnival again.

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Mar 3, 2002

Exotic Western Caribbean

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 was working. 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 dining 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 laid 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 purser never returned my 2 am phone call 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 recommend 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 purser'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 reimbursement 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 charges. 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.

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By Faye_CR

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Feb 1, 2002

Southern Caribbean

After a truly wonderful experience with the Carnival Destiny in '98 our Spirit cruise in February of 02 left us wondering if we would ever cruise again. The cruise was fully booked for the Exotic Southern Caribbean. The flight out of winter and into summer was great and embarkment went well. But after sitting in port for an extra 3 hours waiting for late passengers it did not get off to a good start. We had read that the ship was rocky

so I put on my seasickness patches "just in case". My husband decided to wait and see. Yes, when we finally left port the ship was indeed rocky. And we were going full out to make up time. (I guess. This rockiness continued and the fact that we had paid extra to have a larger balcony at the rear (not seaman's language I know) Port? made matters worse because the propellers made the water so choppy that it seemed worse and was very noisy. As the cruise went on I began to feel sick and assumed it was from the motion. On day 2 my husband also started to use the patches. And by day three his vision was blurry. We only felt good when in port. The ports of call St. Maartin, Barbados and Martinique were very nice. Our favorite was Martinique and the rain forest was very nice. Barbados is the most natural of the three islands and does not depend on tourism as mush as the other two islands do. But the tour of Barbados was in a bus with no air conditioning and it was not pleasant as it was so hot. Our tours were tours of the islands and consisted of visiting points of interest such as churches, a plantation, a museum with artifacts from an area which had been destroyed by a volcano. After day 3 we were so sick that we went to the ship's doctor and she told us it was the patches that were making us sick. We took them off immediately and she gave us medication for seasickness which made us sleep much of the time. We stopped the medication after two days but by then most of the cruise was over. It was not our best vacation. I hope our experience will give you some insight in what NOT to do.

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Jan 14, 2002

Panama, Costa Rica, Belize

Dear Cruise friends - we just got back from the BEAUTIFUL Carnival Spirit cruising the Exotic Western Itinerary from January 14 through 23, 2002 - Panama, Costa Rica & Belize and just had to share our experiences with other cruise-aholics! ABOUT US Our group consisted of eleven adults, all of us in our early fifties - mostly couples - all repeat cruisers - celebrating Birthday’s & anniversaries - all doing this ship

& this itinerary for the first time. Two of us have put together our impressions to benefit those LUCKY souls going on a cruise in the near future. Most of the couples have done at least three cruises, mostly with Carnival, but also with RCL, some as many as TWELVE usually one or two a year, usually 7 or more days. As you can see, we LOVE cruising and we LOVE Carnival, so honestly, this time was no different - we wanted to stay on and on and on...Like you may have heard someone say, a bad day cruising beats a good day back home ALWAYS! Oh, well, hopefully we can go again VERY SOON! Reading so many reviews, we were a little concerned about the new design of this ship, the itinerary & the entertainment. So now it's our turn to express our experiences. THE PORT OF MIAMI Since we live in Miami, (YES, we’re VERY LUCKY!) we only needed to drive about 20 minutes from home, park (at $10 a day) and walk over to the ship. One caution, the additional security at the port as well as the number of vehicles (cars & trucks) coming in to the port on a weekday (we sailed out on a Monday) was a bit trying. Allow yourself enough time to get through this traffic and bring lots of patience - after all, it's not up to your Cruise company. We crossed the port bridge around 1:00 p.m. and it was around 30-45 minutes by the time we got through security, we parked & started our walk to the terminal, A similar trip in the past would be 15-20 minutes. Your hand-bags get x-rayed and any scissors, bottles, etc., are located. You can throw them out - or you can sign to pick them up at the end of the cruise. No problem if you put them in the regular baggage, though - but be aware that baggage also gets x-rayed & checked by Police Dogs. Anyone carrying diving knives and the like should be prepared to explain their contents. The line to check in and get your Sail-N-Sign card was easy, it took us no more than 10 minutes for everything. THE SHIP We loved the "LOOK" of this ship - everything is very different from other Carnival Ships - we're told it's modeled after a Costa Cruise Lines Ship - Almost all the common areas (shops, casino, lounges, etc) are on deck 2 & 3; and of course the Lido Deck, Pools & Gym on Decks 9 & 10 – the other in-between Decks 4 - 9 as well as Deck 1 (Riviera) are all cabins. The pools are all very nice, seems like chairs are always available. The new system with the towels (you have to sign up for them) reduces "chair-saving." The water slide was working, but not full-time. The operating time was posted in the Capers - Lots of passengers took advantage of the slide, however we did not use it. We did spend A LOT of time at the Spa. The whirlpool is WONDERFUL, then you have the Steam Room, the Sauna & of course the Solarium - We found that at 4pm EVERY day at SEA we just had to go and pamper ourselves there. Oh, by the way, the showers are also GREAT. Four wall-mounted shower-heads as well as the ceiling shower that "surround" you! TRY IT - YOU WILL LOVE IT! About the vibration that others have mentioned, we did feel it - but it’s nothing to worry about, unless you make it an issue - it’s not a problem. About the “rocking of the ship” three people in our group started to “feel the motion” of the ship & they quickly got their BRACELETS on - & it was over - Don’t leave home without them - otherwise you pay $15 at the Gift Shop. Most of ours were bought aboard the Jubilee a few years back - definitely a good investment! The rest of us felt FINE & never needed the bracelets or any medicine for that matter. We did see some areas that show the wear-and-tear that 2,000 passengers & all the elements inflict upon their "floating hotel" but - in our view - nothing of significance. In fact, it may work sometimes to your advantage. Two couples in our group were asked by the Purser's Office (via letter) to allow access to their cabin by maintenance workers between 10 am and 2 p.m. during the Costa Rica stop. Obviously not a problem since you spend the day touring. As a thank you each couple received four complementary bar tickets - How about that! This ship also has an alternate Restaurant, Nouveau Supper Club at the top of decks 10 & 11. It is very cozy & elegant but at this point you pay an extra $25 per person. We did not feel a need for that - after all, the food in the restaurant was excellent, truly - in our case - no need to improve on it. The stairway to that Supper Club is SPECTACULAR - it's free-standing in the Atrium from deck 9 & features a glass floor - so you are literally walking on glass in the Atrium. Great Kodak Moment. No charge for that - just a little exhilarating! We went by during the morning and saw the Versage dishes that they use and which, by the way, are also available for purchase at the Gift Shop for $75 each (WOW!). The shops are beautifully lined up like a Mall area. Although much smaller, it reminded us of the Mall area at the Paradise Resort in Nassau. The items, nothing spectacular, regular Carnival items, T-shirts, jewelry, perfume, etc. For this itinerary, there's little to find on the ports of calls - other than crafts, post-cards & magnets - so you are better off getting your goodies on board, we did! Oh, don’t miss The Jungle - which is the path leading to the children’s Play Room - it’s quite different - seems like too much space for that, but they again it does isolate the Play Room. THE CASINO & THE BINGO Our view always is to take the money that you can AFFORD TO LOOSE. We did that & our friends likewise. We don’t do the Casino as full-time entertainment so mostly broke even or lost - as is the case in most other cruises. One person in our group won $300 in the $1 slots - she had brought $200 to play with and was down to about $20 when she won. They have LOTS of different slot machines, even the one cent slots for the pure entertainment of playing! From other cruises, it seemed there were less Bingo games available - specially if you have second sitting dinner. Oh, well, the "Free Cruise" Bingo is available to everyone and a definite MUST DO. There are some restrictions as to what ship you can book it, but HEY it's a Category 12 suite for a 3, 4, 5 or 7 day itinerary! Sorry...we were not the winner... THE CABINS We had BEAUTIFUL balcony cabins on Deck 8- seems like much bigger than others - you can walk around both sides of the bed - this is a BIG PLUS - at least for us - because whoever gets stuck with the wall-side of the bed - has to jump-over to get in and out - right? well, not this time! We had the two twin beds as a one king size bed and a sofa with a small table. LOTS of storage space. Mini-bar with lock, we did not use it, but it's nice to have. HIGHLIGHT of the cabin: the extra-large balcony - WONDERFUL!!! trouble is it's a bit misty while the ship is moving - worst of all...we will be hard-pressed to have a better cabin, unless we go to a suite the next time! We had read that the cabins on deck 8 aft were noisy because they are right below the Lido deck, we had some friends in that location, and they had no problem whatsoever. Another couple claimed when you are quiet enough, you might hear chairs moving but not actually the "noise" coming from upstairs. Our cabin was right below the Spa - absolutely no noise, no problem, just HEAVEN. We also read about paper-thin walls and that you are able to hear the people in the next cabin, but no one in our group had that problem. As has been mentioned in other reviews, the A/C control is on the wall - WHICH WE LOVED, this way you don't have to get on a chair to adjust it. The room temperature was always perfect. One couple felt their room was not "cool" enough, but when we were there it seem fine. The bathroom is much bigger than other ships & they have Shampoo & Shower Gel in dispensers in the shower and also some samples in a little fish-shaped basket! - Also shelves along the side of the mirror - fantastic for all the "goodies" that you bring along. The safe is right below the TV - it's easy access & you don't have your clothes obstructing the safe door. Every cabin had bathrobes for each of us to use during the cruise - WONDERFULLLLL~ They collected the robes and the little fish-shaped baskets the night before you pack - I guess far too many were getting "lost." I suppose if you "put-it-away" before then, they can always use your "Sail & Sign" card...jajaja. We understand from our neighbors with inside cabins they did not get the robes and that the cabins were actually smaller, no sofa, only one chair. Sorry...should splurge for a balcony if you can - it's well worth it! As with other cruises, you get towel animals every night - usually hard to tell exactly what it is, but so much fun, and of course, they get photographed. True Story: We saw a lady bring her towel animal on top of a pillow - carrying it like a baby - she did the line at the Pursers' Desk to ask what it was....unbelievable! Sorry....We don't know what they told her - what we can say is that they did keep a straight face....one of us almost made the line to ask what they said to her...can only guess it's her first cruise! :o) PUBLIC AREAS. Our cruise ship was full - we had one couple in our group that decided on the cruise only eight days before sailing - and they were told only 5 cabins were left. In fact they went on "stand-by" & only got their cabin number the day of the sailing. Again, the ship was full but yet you never saw a big crowd of people anywhere - except the night of the Captain's party. The set-up of the Lido Deck food has been re-done, instead of six or more stations with the same variety of food, they have six or more stations with different types of food - One for sandwiches, one for fruit, one for salads, one for Hamburgers/HotDogs & Steak Sandwiches, another w/ the "Food of Nations" (different every day - for example: Caribbean, Mexico, French, Italian, American, etc.) This means you do much smaller lines, get what you specially like & go back later for a different thing. The service at the Lido Deck is FANTASTIC! We usually sat around an area serviced by Daniella - very sweet & hard-working waitress from Bulgaria and three other young people. They not only clear the tables when you are done...they bring and prepare your coffee, bring you water, etc. and constantly try to please you. We always had our breakfast & lunches at the Lido Deck & Dinner at the Dining Room. Oh, and the plates, glasses & ice cream cups are all in pastel colors perfectly coordinated with the decor! Must be a girl's thing but definitely a nice touch. By the way, on days at sea, don't miss - make your own Sundae - between 3pm and 4pm - next to the Fantail Bar on Lido. We made it RELIGIOUSLY every time at 2:55 p.m. (so we'd be first in line!) :o) DINING ROOM. Beautiful Room, very elegant - all-in-all excellent service & excellent food. We had requested second sitting and a table for 11. Although we did get second sitting, there was a confusion about our "table for 11" which we addressed the same day we boarded - they had split us in a table of 7 and another of 4. We were not guaranteed the requested "change" and were convinced the arrangements were not going to be improved - well, guess what, they were - and we got the very next day our table of 11, still second sitting, on the second floor. The lesson is, ASK, just in case they can accommodate you - but be sure you ask right away. Nothing is "for sure" but they do try. The menu has great food - and no problem with a second or a different entree should you request it. They served lobster the first formal night & it took two seconds for our waiter to bring around a second round of lobster tails for those that wanted them. We can only guess we looked like Seafood Lovers! Desserts likewise, excellent, and no trouble with seconds. Our waiter Abraham & his assistant, Manuel were very nice. Manuel made THE BEST CAPPUCCINO AND THE BEST EXPRESSO for us EVERY DAY! Note, the Cappuccino and the Expresso at the Dining Room is free, if you get it from the other places, like The Fountain Cafe - then it's not. DISAPPOINTMENTS On the down side, to us it seems there's a less of a constant party atmosphere as in other Carnival ships. The music was more mellow, one or two people for VERY SHORT periods of time - definitely not as many bands. The deck party was run by a DJ - the pool area music was also DJ & even on formal evenings the last music session wrapped up around 1:30 a.m. - except the disco, which had EXTREMELY loud music for the younger crowd and is open late. This was fine for us who usually went to sleep around midnight. - Oh, but you can guess, the Casino was always open (and full) & during the day, there was always something to do. Our Cruise Repeater's Party was a bit rushed. We learned that in our particular itinerary they had over 1,000 repeater passengers. They were arranged in three sessions of 45 minutes each starting at 3 in the afternoon on a day at sea. The Captain’s Farewell party was definitely a disappointment, there was really no "party." Everyone was dressed up with no where to go - there was no music in any of the lounges and the drinks were happy hour (reduced prices), no goodies to eat. We did enjoy the music of 2-Slick a couple of times at Club Cool, but most of the time, the other lounges seemed quieter. The other disappointment was the Deco Lounge (Deck 3), since this is a designated smoking area but it happens to be on the promenade walkway of the second floor entrance to the dining room. Since we are non-smokers, it was a bit difficult to make it through in - or out - of the dining room through the cloud of smoke. We got smart & started using the stairs or the elevators to avoid it. Hopefully Carnival notices this & re-locates the smokers! ON THE UP SIDE! On the up side, the shows were very as expected, ALL VERY GOOD! The cruise director, Shawn was VERY, VERY nice and knowledgeable. We had met her back in the Jubilee in January 2000 - she is not like John Heald, but definitely, from our perspective a close second. The comedians were very good and the singers EXCELLENT. For FUN AT SEA, like we said before, in this cruise we spent more time at the Gym's Jacuzzi with a SPECTACULAR VIEW ! We also used the Sauna, Steam Room, Showers & Solarium. In case you did not hear it the first time...don't miss the wrap-around showers at the Gym! Oh, a tip, many of us signed up for a Scalp, Neck & Shoulder Massage offered only on the last day of the cruise, for a reasonable $19 for 25 minutes - DO IT, YOU WON'T BE SORRY! UNEXPECTED SURPRISES Carnival provided for a Catholic Priest to be on board the WHOLE TIME. He celebrated Mass everyday and an Interdenominational Service on Sunday. This was important to us and to many other passengers, since ALL the services were well attended. We understand this is not always available, but we were very pleased that Carnival was thinking of our spiritual well-being also. Of course, the ship has a Chapel and there was a wedding on the day we sailed. We never saw the bride & groom after that…don’t know if they were just “busy.” :o) SHORE EXCURSIONS In our cruise the itinerary was reversed from what was shown on the tickets. We were advised at the Travel Talk on Day 2 (at Sea). It was not a surprise because we had "inside" information about it - since we wanted to be sure we could connect with family in Costa Rica. As such, instead of Belize, Costa Rica & Panama - we did Panama, Costa Rica & then Belize. Shawn explained the reason for the reversal was to hit Belize on an off-day from the Pride. This is a tender-in port & with two ships each with a couple of thousand passengers to tender simultaneously, would mean someone would be delayed. This was no problem for us at all - we’re just including so you know they can change itineraries. We signed up for a Carnival Shore Excursion in Panama (to Panama City, Colonial Panama & the Miraflores Locks - on the Pacific side) including lunch at a FANTASTIC RESTAURANT called Las Pencas. - If you we recommend the Pepper Steak! We also signed up for a Carnival Shore Excursion in Belize - formerly British Honduras - definitely a very poor country, but already developing fast in the area of tourism. Here we visited Belize City & the Mayan ruins of Altun Ha - and even did the big climb to the Pyramid dedicated to the Sun God - WHAT A GREAT VIEW - don't miss it! In Costa Rica we went to Puerto Viejo Beach & saw a couple of black sand beaches along the way. We were taken there in a mini-bus hired by the cousin of one of the people in our group - She is a native Costa Rican and she & her husband just loved showing us their country. We found out the mini-bus was about $100 for the whole day - this is transportation ONLY, no lunch included - and it accommodated 8 comfortably, 11 a little cramped. For lunch our new friends took us to Manzanillo Beach, to a beach-front restaurant called Maxi's - Fresh Red Snapper coupled with rice & beans & plantains - DELICIOUS!!!! The bill for all of us was around $100 US Dollars, including beers & refreshments. ON YOUR OWN. Of course, there are a lot of adventurous cruisers out there. Well, CONGRATULATIONS to you! You will be saving a lot of money...but will have to deal with the risk missing the ship or feeling worried about the individuals & the transportation you selected. All three ports are at least one hour away from most of the interesting sights - so that means that if you want to see ANYTHING you will have a good hour of driving AWAY from the port. Otherwise, just stick around the port kiosks and browse through the arts & crafts (nothing spectacular, trust me!) We had originally decided to venture out on our own to save money, after all there was quite a few of us and we all know Spanish - we did decide at the tail end for Carnival Shore Tours and we are VERY HAPPY to have done so. Sure, you can get a taxi or a mini-bus for A LOT LESS money - but you have no idea where they are really taking you and run the risk of a flat tire or other mishap - like a traffic jam - which cannot be communicated to Carnival. If that happens, then you really have to spend money getting to the next port on your own. By the way, if that happens...& you don't have your U.S. Passport - the troubles multiply! Oh, don’t forget to take your camera so you get a BEAUTIFUL picture of the Spirit WITHOUT YOU... boo! We wanted to skip that risk and that worrying - - - so for us, the best option was to pay a little more and have the peace of mind. We had two terrific guides, Bennie (a girl) in Panama & Big Ed in Belize. They were very knowledgeable, friendly and a joy to be with. Oh, and in both tours they had COLD WATER BOTTLES for us - at no extra charge! True story #1: Panama - the security around the Canal Zone is very high. Local taxi drivers are not necessarily allowed to the Locks’ Visitor’s Viewing area - at least the day we were there. So they must drop you off, you pass through security showing your ID’s & then WALK a few blocks to the Visitor Center. Our tour bus of course was allowed in (after the security check was completed at the gate) and we were WELCOMED at the Locks. Oh, almost forgot to tell you, our bus was escorted THE ENTIRE DAY by police escorts...with lights flashing...just like VIP's - running through the traffic jams in the city...WOW! Even when we stopped for lunch, our tour buses were safely kept in a street area blocked off by the police cars...WE LOVED IT! By the way...our sailing time was scheduled for 4pm (which means you must board by 3:30) well, due to the lunch break & the traffic, etc., we arrived at the port around 4:20pm - and of course the ship was waiting for us. In fact, we noticed that during the day, the tour guide was communicating with Carnival and advising our whereabouts! - Must say it again, WE LOVED IT! True Story #2 - In Belize, once the tour bus passed Belize City - we headed out to THE REAL JUNGLE to find Altun-Ha (the Mayan Ruins) - it is a REALLY deserted area, dirt road (seems like only a one lane road) and after 45 minutes you arrive at a fork in the road that then leads 15 minutes later to the Ruins. Had we been on our own, we would have wondered WHERE they are taking us...No thanks, we don't need that worrying. You must know: If you are going to Altun-Ha, the national bird is the mosquito - they are HUGE! - well, you got to remember this is their natural environment - and they do get you! DON'T FORGET THE INSECT REPELLENT - we brought it AND USED IT! On our group we had only one person with two mosquito bites. By the way, don't embarrass the guide by asking if yellow fever and malaria have been controlled (as someone asked) - they are! Your only problem is the itching...jajaja The only adventure on our own was Costa Rica - which we went to a couple of beaches & double & tripled-checked our route and distances to ensure we made it back in time. The beaches we visited were about 2 hours away from the Pier and we did not (THANK GOD) miss the ship. There was one Carnival tour group that was delayed & the ship waited until they arrived (two hours late). PHOTOS The prices for the professional pictures are still the same, 5x7 at $6 (or 2 for $10); 6x9 $8 (or 2 for $15) and the 8x10 at $20. They do a GREAT JOB, and if you can - they are the best ! This cruise, they even had Western clothes a couple of nights for those black-and-white “Old Time” Photos & for a change, there’s also a digital picture w/ special effects - usually different every day - at Deck 2 right before dinner. They are GOOD! We noticed the photographers were not pushy at all, in fact, we had to flag them sometime or we'd be missed. By the way, if you find Andrew the photographer - please say “Hi” from “the group of 11” - He will probably remember J He is VERY VERY NICE, even helped out with one of our cameras when it seem it was broken! We got our own pictures today and are thrilled of how they turned out - must go now, it's time to plan the next cruise! By the way, if you are planning a Carnival Spirit Cruise & have any questions - we have the Capers for the whole week & we’d be happy to answer if you just drop us a line! Oh, and when you read other reviews of people that are worried about a future cruise or did not like their own cruise, remind them of the 10 Commandments of traveling - especially #1 #2 & #3 - They are listed below for your reading pleasure! Ten Commandments for Travelers These have been around for a long time, but, although a bit cute, they have lasting value. Even the most experienced traveler might find value by reviewing them occasionally. 1.Thou shalt not expect to find things as thou left them at home...for thou hast left home to find things different. 2.Thou shalt not take anything too seriously.. for a carefree mind is vital to a good vacation. 3.Thou shall not let other travelers get on thy nerves.. for thou paid good money to enjoy thyself. 4.Thou shalt not forget.. thou are a representative of your country at all times. 5.Thou shalt not worry.. for he who worrieth hath no pleasure and few things are fatal. 6.Know where the passport is at all times.. for a traveler without a passport is a traveler without a country. 7.As a stranger in a strange land.. be prepared to do as its people doeth. 8.Thou shalt not judge all people of a country.. by the one person who hath given thee trouble. 9.Blessed is the traveler who can say thank you in any language.. for this and a smile doubles the value of any tip. 10.Remember thou are a guest in every land...and those who treat their hosts with respect shall be treated likewise. Bon Voyage! Mercy (& Eddy) - Costa Flavia, Tropicale, Carnival Destiny, Victory, Fascination & Carnival Spirit mercyez@yahoo.com Cuqui (& Frank) - Ecstasy (x2), Fantasy, Carnival Destiny (X2), Inspiration, Imagination, Jubilee, Fascination (x3), Victory & Carnival Spirit Franke@netrox.net

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Dec 21, 2001

Southern Caribbean

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 overpriced 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)

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Dec 13, 2001

Western Caribbean

Just a little background before I start this review. We are moderately experienced cruisers with 12 previous cruises on Carnival and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. We first started cruising in 1988 on the Carnival Mardi Gras. I also realize cruising will never again be like it was back in 1988 when service was very personal and the crew had more time available to interact with the passengers. As Carnival has grown the personal touches have

disappeared especially in the dining areas. But that is the case with all cruise lines in this price range. This review will not be how much we liked this or that but a summary of what to expect and how much things cost so you can better plan your cruise. On with the review. We booked a cruise on the Carnival Spirit for the December 13, 2001 sailing primarily because of the great prices being offered. After searching the internet for the prices I settled on MYTRAVELCO.COM not because they were the lowest but because of getting trapped by Carnival’s pricing philosophy. Plus I had experience with MYTRAVELCO.COM and always received excellent service. For this cruise the lowest price I found for a two person cabin was $1,012 at STERLINGCRUISES.COM. They also were very helpful and I was going to use them but on the day I was going to book with Sterling Cruises I got a surprise from Carnival. I had been checking cabin availability for about two weeks with no change in price and continued to hold a room at both agencies back & forth. Then one day when I checked the prices had doubled so I had to take the room I had held with MYTRAVELCO.COM ($60 more) since my hold had expired at STERLINGCRUISES.COM. Because of this I think a warning is in order - Carnival may raise the prices at any time. I assume it is related to how full the ship is – when the ship fills up above a certain threshold the prices go up. I took a chance and booked a category 5A cabin (lowest price outside cabin) not knowing exactly what I was getting into. The choices I had were to choose a specific room or a guaranteed cabin of equal or higher value. Here again Carnival messed me up. The 5A cabin is an outside room with French doors that open, the category 6A the next step up is two floors down with only a widow. Not wanting to take a chance on this upgrade??? I booked a specific cabin to avoid this possibility. All other upgrades (8A & above are great rooms) but again I chose not to take a chance on getting stuck with the 6A. The 5A is an interesting cabin. It is the same size as a category 8X cabin and has the following features; Opening French doors, an excellent view of the lifeboat in front of your door and a peek of the ocean if you look just right. While this sounds negative, if what you want is the sound and fresh sea air the room is just fine. We slept with the doors open and found it very relaxing. I have mixed feelings if we should have paid the extra $600 to get a balcony. My wife felt that the room was just fine and happy we saved the money. If the prices are closer say less than ~$300 go for the balcony. If you choose the balcony try to get the ones in the back of the ship on each corner – they have huge balconies or the ones in front of the lifeboats on the Upper deck. Embarkation (Miami) – We arrived at ~ 1:00 P.M. and evidently hit the peak time for passengers arriving. All the lines to involved in embarkation were long but moved fairly well. From the bridge to the pier ~25 minutes, dropping of luggage ~ 5 minutes, getting through security ~10 minutes, Carnival check in ~30 minutes. All in all not too bad. Other passengers we talked to that arrived at different times reported wait times of less than 10 minutes. It appears it just depends on how you hit the crowds. If you carry on luggage be aware that all luggage must go through a metal detector that has been modified to limit the size of the suitcases. If your suitcase fits in the overhead on a 727 or MD80 (smaller overheads) airplane it should fit in the machine. The one suitcase we checked arrived at the room very quickly (within two hours) other people had similar experiences. First impressions – We have been on many Carnival ships (Carnival, Mardi Gras, Jubilee, Imagination, Destiny, & Fantasy) and this ship is completely different. While I am a big fan of Carnival a still felt their ships décor was always a bit gaudy - especially the newer ships in the Destiny class. This ship is very elegant and impressive. My wife said she felt like we were on the Titanic. The ship conveys a sense of warmth with its extensive wood trim and paneling, marble, art deco décor and an overall elegance. I have never been on a ship that made me feel good when we walked through the common areas. As usual you do not get something for nothing. The party atmosphere has been replaced with a more upscale atmosphere. Still a very pleasant ship to go on. Room amenities – The old turn the vent on the ceiling has been replaced with a more conventional thermostat on the wall which seemed to work very well at keeping the room at a comfortable temperature (the air conditioner automatically shuts off when the outside doors are open). The room contained a television that received the 3 major networks (ABC,NBC,CBS) plus movies but the interactive service was gone. According to the purser’s information the company that supplied that service went bankrupt and Carnival hasn’t found a replacement yet. Other features: Plenty of cabinet and closet space, Twin beds that pushed together (but with individual sheets & blankets), Spacious (for cruise ships) bathroom, Lighted vanity, Couch with table, Room safe, An honor bar, and bedside end tables with reading lights. Surprises – For your convince??? Carnival has started including the tips automatically on your Sail & Sign card at a rate of $9.75 per day per person. Their breakdown is as follows: Cabin services $3.50, Dining Team $5.50, Dining management $0.45, and alternate dining service $0.30. They do give you the ability to adjust the tips but it requires a stop at the purser’s desk. You can pickup a form that allows you to increase or decrease selected tips or eliminate them completely and give the tips the old fashioned way – via handshake and envelopes. Food service – What can I say so many choices that you are always able to find something good to eat. The LaPlaya grill area has Six separate eating areas that change each day. For example on one day we had the following choices: Indian, Chinese, Pizza & Salad, Delli sandwiches, Hotdogs & hamburgers, and American (fried chicken, roast beef, potatoes, gravy, pasta, & more). The Empire restaurant is the main dining area and is two stories. It has tables for 2, 4 6, & 8 people with 4 & 6 being the most prevalent. On past cruises we have had tables for 2, 6 & 8. My preference is for a table for 8 because of all the interaction – but you can end up with a couple that spoil the whole atmosphere. If you want to change your seating do it immediately upon boarding to have the best chance at getting what you want. Also we prefer the late seating but like Royal Caribbean Carnival also schedules some events that conflict with the late seating. Early seating is 5:45 and late seating is 8:15. Also if you like the entertainment during dinner I suggest you get a table on the first floor of the dining room – on the second floor the sound system is not that good and you miss the main part of the show. Noveau Supper Club – Get reservations early (as soon as you board) if you want the stone crab legs because they sell out early – within the first day. We did not try the supper club since the stone crabs had sold out by the time we decided to make reservations(first night out). Ports of Call Belize. In Belize you must tender in because of the reefs in the area. Once at the dock you can easily walk into town. I t appeared to be very safe and friendly with police everywhere to help out and give directions. The town has not been turned into a tourist trap yet so it is very unspoiled and natural. The people are very friendly – when you leave the dock the surrounding area seems like is it someplace you shouldn’t be but after the initial shock you will find the people very friendly and helpful. Almost no pushing you to buy something. Another thing Carnival won’t tell you is you can hire a cab for the entire time you are there for $80 (most will hold 4 people – very few with A/C). They will take you wherever you want to go including to the Maya ruins and wait or give you a personal tour. Everybody we talked to spoke very good English. Limon. When you exit the ship in Limon you are within 1 block of the downtown area and prior to exiting the dock area there are lots of souvenir stands with silver, semiprecious stones, wood carvings, paintings and lots of other items. We felt the items for sale were priced very reasonable. As you are exiting the dock area there will be port licensed entrepreneurs offering tours. For an experience we decided to try one. For $20 each in a 20 person van you can take a 4 hour tour that includes; Countryside drive, Banana plantation & factory tour, 1 hour at a nice beach with a restaurant (very reasonable most items less than $7.00) that servers huge portions, and a drive through various neighborhoods. While the tour was very informative & enjoyable when we were leaving the restaurant we saw the tour guide get a kickback from the restaurant which was OK but makes you wonder. We also walked through the city and felt safe and nobody pestered us at all to buy things. Colon. When you arrive at the dock there is what looks like a brand new shopping plaza with ~30 stores that has a bridge to provides access from the ship to the center. There is a supermarket in the center that has good prices on liquor and wines. A 1.75 liter of Bacardi rum was $12.75 for example. We did not venture into town but a tour we took drove through the town and it didn’t look very safe. However the locals we spoke to said it wasn’t that bad – but I wouldn’t recommend going into town. In Colon we took a Carnival tour that went to the Gatun locks and Fort San Lorenzo. The locks are OK nothing spectacular but you can say you saw the Panama Canal. The Fort is located in a spectacular location over looking the Caribbean Sea. It was a good tour but a little over priced at $130.00 for two people. Tours – Below are the tour prices Carnival charges as of 12/13/01. The tour prices are in paid in advance with no refund within 24 hours of the tour departure. The price per person for the tours offered on the Western Caribbean cruise are as follows: Belize City Belize - Altun Ha & Belize city (4 hours $39.00),Altun Ha Mayan Site / River Walace (7 hours $65.00), Baboon sanctuary & Belize city (4 hours $43.00), Belize city (2.5 hours $29.00), Biking in Belize (6 hours $48.00), Cave tubing & rain forest (7 hours, $79.00), Jungle horseback (7 hours $85.00), Goffs cay snorkeling(4 hours $39.00), Shark / Ray alley snorkel (7 Hours $59.00), Xunantunich Maya site (7 Hours $65.00), Caye Chapel Golf ($225.00). Limon Costa Rica tours - Arial Tram (5.5 Hours $89.00), Biking in a Caribbean village(4.5 hours $69.00), Costal highlights Drive(3.5 hours $45.00 adult/$29.00 child), Historic Banana tour(4.5 hours $59.00 adult/$39.00 child),Hiking Sharman’s land(4.5 hours $65.00), Horseback riding(4 hours $89.00), Limon city tour(1 hour, $23.00), Offroad adventure(4.5 hours $89.00), Green train ride(2.5 hours $59.00 adult/$39.00 child), Tortuguero Canals(4.5 hours $78.00 adult/$59.00 child), Tropical flower paradise(5 hours $55.00 adult/$39.00 child), Whitewater rafting (5.5 hours $89.00). Colon Panama – Embera Indian village experience (3 hours $87.00), Fort San Lorenzo & Gatun Locks (4.5 hours $65.00), Grand tour Eco, Indians & locks (5.5 hours $125.00), Kayaking the Panama canal (3.75 hours $75.00), Panama canal tour (6 hours $155.00), Panama City tour (8.5 hours $75.00), Portobelo pirates paradise (3.5 hours $43.00) If you are taking the Southern itinerary here are the tour prices: Philipsburg, St Maarten – St Maarten “America’s Cup” Regatta (3.5 hours $82.00), The Butterfly Farm & Marigot (3.5 hours $38.00), Certified Scuba Diving (3 hours $93.00), Discover Scuba diving (3 hours $66.00), Explorer cruise & island tour (4 hours $59.00 Adult $29.00 Child), Golden Eagle catamaran (3.5 hours $69.00 Adult $49.00 Child), Pinel Island Snorkeling tour (3.5 hours $35.00), See & Sea island tour (3.5 hours $45.00), Shipwreck Cove snorkel tour (3.5 hours $45.00), St Maarten island tour (2.5 hours $25.00), Everything cool beach tour (At leisure $24.00) Bridgetown Barbados – Atlantis Submarine (2.5 hours $79.00 Adult $38.00 Child), Sail & Snorkel beach adventure (4 hours $39.00), Carlisle Bay snorkel beach tour (6 hours $43.00 Adult $34.00 Child), Jolly Roger party tour (3.5 hours $33.00), Snuba Tour (2 hours $56.00), Barbados coast to coast (3 hours $39.00) Fort-de-France, Martinique – Botanical gardens (2 hours $45.00), Calypso party boat (3 hours $39.00), Fort-de-France Walking tour (2.5 hours $28.00), Catamaran tour (3 hours $69.00), Jeep Safari tropical adventure (4 hours $79.00), Snorkel adventure (3 hours $51.00), St Pierre & Rum Distillery tour (3.5 hours, $61.00), St Pierre island tour (3.5 hours $48.00) Cruise Director – I was kept thinking the cruise director we had was a temporary one until the real one came back unfortunately she was the permanent cruise director. Her name was Shawn Bussey and one of the most lackluster I have ever seen.- no enthusiasm just go through the motions and get it over with. However near the end of the cruise she was a little better but by that time it was too little too late. Activities – There are plenty of activities to keep you entertained when you are at sea. We especially like to games. Examples are; Trivia, What’s my Line, Pool games, Horse racing, Bingo, and many more. One of the cruise staff “Chris” was excellent and made many of the games very enjoyable. Entertainment – Thursday – Welcome aboard, Friday Las Vegas type show “Standing Room Only”, Saturday – Singer & Ventriloquist, Sunday – Tribute to Frank Sinatra & Sammy Davis Jr., Monday – Passenger talent show (Any one can sign up), Tuesday – Singer &.Banjo player, Wednesday – “High Spirits” Las Vegas type show, Thursday – Farewell show Juggler & Comedian. If you go on this cruise don’t miss the lounge act 2-Slick. The best news is Carnival still has the midnight R-rated shows which are hilarious - but fill up quickly usually beyond capacity. If you like this kind of entertainment try to get there at least 30 minutes before show time if you want a good seat. Drinks – Drinks were very good and were strong enough to satisfy me. The specials of the day are $6.25 with souvenir glass or $2.95 without glass plus 15% tip of course. Other drinks we had were $3.95 – $4.95 plus 15% tip. Sample prices are; Margarita, Daiquiri, Pina Colada $4.95, Domestic beers $3.25, Imported beers $3.75, Soft drinks $1.50, Glass of Chardonnay $6.25. Carnival prohibits you from bringing any liquor on board (look at the small print) but you can buy it on board. However there is a small catch – if you want to take it to your cabin there is a $9.00 cork charge on top of the listed price. For those of you who drink lots of soda there is an option to buy a Fountain Fun card that entitles you to unlimited soft drinks for $39.00 adults and $26.45 children plus a 15% mandatory tip. Miscellaneous Art Auctions - Park West Art auctions which appears to be on every cruise ship was also on this one. I did some research before going to one of their auctions – my advice - know what the art is worth before even considering bidding (warning here) but at least there is free champagne. Also for fun read all the terms and conditions in the book they hand out I think you may find it interesting all the ways they cover themselves. Laundry facilities - There are self service laundry facilities on board but there are 4 for the entire ship so they tend to fill up near the end of the cruise. Drinking age – 21 Deck chairs – Carnival must have given the contract for deck chairs to the lowest bidder then negotiated the supplier down to half price. They are the cheapest chairs I have ever seen. But there are plenty of them and they do hold you up. Summary - Keeping in mind we have cruised quite a bit so we are probably more critical than most people but we still had a great time on this cruise and would highly recommend it. The main strength of this recommendation is because of the elegance of the ship. My intent in writing this was to give the reader most of the important information on this cruise so they know ahead of time what they are getting into and how to plan accordingly. If you have any specific question I will try to answer them. My E-mail is karter@mpinet.net .

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Sep 25, 2001

Hawaii

We just returned from the maiden voyage cruise on the Spirit to Hawaii. The ship is beautiful, our waiter Anthony was wonderful, also David the assistant matre'd was really fun. Our room steward, Camelia was also really great. The ship is clean and we loved out outside balcony room. It's too bad that the tendering process in Hawaii is such a mess. I would not recommend this cruise to anyone who likes to do their own thing. If you

are booked on a ship cruise then you have preference for getting tendered ashore. If not - you wait and wait and wait. We waited from 8:00 a.m. until 1:45 to get ashore in Kona. Then got back in line at 4:00 to get back on the ship (took until 5:30). So, we had 2 hours on Kona and 6 hours of waiting. That's not what we like to do on our vacation. It was similiar to this in Maui as well. It took us until 11:00 to get off the ship the first day. Again, the ship tours had preference. Same thing again on day 2 in Maui. Until you can actually dock in Hawaii you will be very frustrated with taking a cruise on a large ship to Hawaii.

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Sep 25, 2001

Hawaii

Overview All in all, I thought that this was an absolutely fabulous cruise, but not without it's problems and drawbacks though. I will give Carnival the benefit of the doubt, as this was the first time they've cruised the Hawaiian islands with a ship this large (as all the locals said..."we've never seen a ship that large come through these islands"). If they can rectify the problems they encountered on this cruise (the long

wait for tender boats and the ability of those driving them were the 2 most glaring problems, which is the only reason I gave it 4 stars and not 5), then the next time they take the Spirit through, it will be even better than the maiden voyage was. I would highly recommend this cruise to all. My wife and I have fallen in love with the islands (first time there for both of us) and all we've been able to talk about since we returned home was getting back there...to live....forever. It was that beautiful!! Public Areas/Lounges Seeing as the Spirit has only been sailing since April, the ship is still in immaculate shape and the crew did a fabulous job in keeping it that way. The public areas are plentiful, clean, roomy and quite comfortable. Some are out in the open so you can sit, relax and people watch if you like and there are others isolated enough to give you peace and quiet if that's what you desire. One particular lounge my wife and I loved going to was the Deco lounge (Cigar Bar). Inga the bartender was an absolute gem and Conrad the bar waiter who worked with her was a riot! They were a perfect pair working together. Besides being one of the most excellent bartenders I've seen (and I've seen plenty!), Inga was very personable and sweet and after talking to her for the first time, we couldn't wait to go back there to relax and see her some more. We made it a point to stop there every day before and after dinner. They had a pianist playing there before dinner time who was excellent as well. Big Diamond Dave at the Piano bar was a hoot as well. Good entertainer and wasn't afraid of the old "give and take" if you wanted to harass him a bit. The entire staff working in the casino was great. Friendly, helpful (even when they were taking my money) and very personable. They didn't make you feel as though you were just in an ordinary casino and their job was to take as much money from you as possible. In fact, there was one night in particular when there was only myself and one other guy who I had met early in the cruise sitting at the Caribbean Stud Poker table (no one else at all was left in the casino but us) and they let us sit and play till 3:30 Am without one complaint. A special thanks to all the bartenders and bar waiters on the Lido deck as well. Four pools, plenty of lounge chairs and not a lot of waiting to get a drink....for faster service, just look at one of them and say..."What's up", just like on the TV commercial...they'll be there in a flash. One finally special thanks goes out to Vlada, the best bar waitress on the ship. She was the first waitress to offer me a beverage the first day on board and for the rest of the cruise, whether I was near the Atrium Bar, in the Pharaoh’s Lounge playing bingo or watching a show (those were the 2 main areas she worked) or even up on the Lido deck where she worked occasionally, she was always right there to make sure my wife and I were well taken care of. The shops were all centrally located and offered a wide variety of items, souvenirs and essentials. A little high priced in the beginning, but came down as the cruise went on. Food Service The 2 level Empire Dining Room was spacious, comfortable and quite nice looking. All in all, the food was quite good and there was plenty of it! I personally am one who likes to try different types of food when I'm on a cruise, that I usually wouldn't eat at home, so I was eating some things for the first time (frog legs, venison, squid, etc). Most of it tasted delicious, but being as it was the first time trying some items, I wasn't sure exactly what it was suppose to taste like. Whatever I may not have particularly liked (and there wasn't much I didn't like), the waiter was right there to take it back and bring me something else from the menu...whatever I wanted and as much as I wanted! Yogie our waiter, Nengay the bus boy and "Mr." McNally the Maitre d’ were absolutely fabulous! Kudos to all of them. The food up at the LaPlaya Grille was great as well. There was usually 4 different varieties of food at lunchtime (all quite tasty) and the breakfast items were hot and plentiful. Only small drawback was because a good portion of the passengers was above the age of 65, it was sometimes a bit of a wait in the food lines and getting a seat was a bit challenging, sometimes it took a couple walks around before you found one. The 24 hour pizza bar was out of this world. I actually stood there one night and just continued to sample a slice (plus calzone) from every pizza they brought out. The crust is soooo light and airy, you felt like you could eat it forever. My wife and I had room service almost every morning and on a few occasions for a late night meal or snack. Service was quick and friendly and except for one evening (maybe the sandwich maker was having a bad night?), the food was delicious. Lastly, I highly recommend the Nouveau Supper Club (even for a $20 per person reservation for dinner). The food and service was of the highest quality (we did 1 lunch, no charge for lunch, but you still had to make a reservation and 1 dinner). If you've never dined in that type of elegance ( 2 1/2 - 3 hours, 4 or 5 courses plus complimentary courses from the chef), it's a must try event! In fact, when I made the dinner reservation for my wife and I, they asked if it was any type of special occasion and I said it was our anniversary, but that it was 4 days ago. I didn't think anything of it until we were dining and low and behold...they brought us a freshly baked chocolate anniversary cake to top off dinner...very nice touch! Cabins We had cabin 5268, Upper Deck Aft (very back of the ship) with a balcony. Plenty of room for both my wife and I to be in the room together, showering, getting ready for dinner, etc. After unpacking, we could store all our empty luggage under the beds and then there were two full closets (plenty of hangers) and one closet with shelves. In addition, there was 3 drawers at the dressing table as well as 2 large drawers underneath the sofa (which also could have folded out into another bed). I'm 6 feet tall, 225 pounds and the shower was just fine, especially as the shower head was a stationary and hand held one, all in one. If it was just a stationary one on the wall, I may have had a little problem. No need for a hairdryer as there was one in the top drawer of the dressing table and as an added bonus, the laundry facility was directly across from our room (with an iron and ironing board). Terry cloth bathrobes in the closet were a nice addition too. I also have to add in a special thanks to "Mandi" our cabin steward. The cabin stewards are without a doubt some of the hardest workers on the ship. According to the Carnival manual in our room, cabin stewards are suppose to work from 7Am - 12 Noon, then again from 4PM - 10PM. Not a day went by when I didn't see Mandi NOT working. He was still cleaning rooms after 12 o'clock when he was suppose to be off duty, he was the one who delivered our morning room service, every morning at 7AM and I don't think he was ever able to get off the ship to see any of the beautiful ports because of the long hours he put in. I even begged him to NOT clean our room 1 day so he may have time to get off the ship, but he ignored me and cleaned it anyway. He took care of our every need and he should be highly commended. Shows/Entertainment While I didn't make all the shows, the ones that I did see were excellent. A special commendation to the Spirit Dancers as the ship was "rocking and rolling" a bit in the beginning, which made it quite difficult for them to perform their dance routines, but they did it without a hitch. The Spirit dancers were also the ones responsible for working the lounge during the ports we tendered, passing out numbers and taking the tender groups to the gangway. They took a lot of flack and verbal abuse from some passengers, but they always did it with a smile. A special hello and thanks goes out to Angela, even if she didn't give me the $1000 scratch ticket or winning bingo card! John Davidson was on board for one show and he was quite entertaining and friendly. He posed for pictures (and autographed them afterwards), although you still had to purchase them from the photo shop. All the other singers, comics, performers and especially the Spirit Band were all very, very enjoyable and entertaining as well. I personally thought Dave the cruise director was a scream, although I did hear a lot of people who were not that enamored with him. From what I understand, this wasn't his first time on the ship, but it was his first as cruise director, so I assume he'll improve with experience. He was also right there, out in the open after the bad experiences with some of the tendering problems and he took it like a trooper. He could have easily hid out elsewhere on the ship, but he didn't and he tried his best, on behalf of Carnival, to make the best out of some bad situations. Hee-Haw-Haw Dave!! Ports/Activities The first 5 1/2 days of the cruise were at sea and to be honest, they went by quite quickly with all that there was to do. Audience participation stuff, games, contests, bingo, shows, ice carvings, galley tour, eating, drinking...you name it, they had it. Or if you wanted nothing to d...they had that too! The weather was a little cool and breezy after we first left Vancouver and there was probably one day I can think of in the beginning that was cloudy and a little rainy. After that, and the closer we kept getting to Hawaii, the warmer and better the weather got. After about the 3rd day at sea, I don't remember another bad weather day. Our first port to stop at was Kona, on the big island of Hawaii and this is where the first of the few problems occurred, but I don't blame Carnival for this one. I hate to bring this up during my review, but I blame Bin Laden and the terrorists for the problems we encountered at this particular port. We were told the day before docking in Kona that we would be tendering in, but that because this was the first American port we were coming in to from Canada, we were at the mercy of the Coast Guard, Customs and Immigration. They would have to clear the ship and until they did, no one would be allowed off (this was repeated a thousand times over, so everybody should have been prepared). The mistake Carnival made here was telling everyone that tendering would probably start at around 7:30 AM. Instead, they should have just left it that tendering would start "as soon as possible" once the ship was cleared. There were Coast Guard divers checking under the ship, there were bomb sniffing dogs checking the entire interior of the ship. The ship wasn't cleared until late morning and the first tender boats didn't start leaving the ship until around 11AM. On top of that, you couldn't leave the Pharaoh's Lounge after you got a tender # because they weren't broadcasting what #'s were being tendered other than in the lounge as they didn't want everyone wandering all over the place when the numbers were called and having to wait for everyone to show up for a particular tender to leave. Anybody whose cruised before knows the big lounge isn't made to accommodate EVERY passenger on board all at once, so the cramped quarters just added to the misery. This procedure was changed after this port. After my wife and I got off in Kona (about 1:30 or so) we had a blast. We did a submarine ride with Atlantis Submarines and it was quite an experience. From there we did a bit of shopping and there was also a small beach right near by which we laid out on for a while. The last tender back to ship was suppose to be at 5:30, but after hearing that the last of the passengers didn't get onto land until 3:30 or so and seeing as there was a line a mile long at around 4:30 or so trying to get back on board, we figured it was quite safe to not try and rush back or stand in the line in the hot sun and wait, plus the Carnival crew members working the tender line told us so! So we found a nice little bar room across the street from the tender line, gathered up a dozen or so friends we had met on board that were foolishly standing in line (along with 5 or 6 crew members) and had one helluva party! The tender line got down to a reasonable amount around 7:00 PM, we paid our tab, said mahalo and were back on board by 7:30. We continued partying on board till the wee hours of the morning as we prepared for our next stop in Hilo...or so we thought?! Stop #2 in Hilo didn't quite go off as planned and I think this is where the size of the ship played a factor and it was probably the one and only time I can say I got angry. Me staying up in the casino and drinking until 4:00Am didn't help, considering I got up at 6:00Am to go golfing on Hilo. I had just dragged myself down to the Atrium deck when "bing-bong" message time..."due to the presence of a high pressure system north of the island and high ground swells within the harbor", we weren't going to be able to go to Hilo due to safety reasons. Needless to say, not a lot of people were pleased about this. Carnival did try to make up for this non-port somewhat...after we turned around and headed back the way we came, they kept us 3/4's of a mile off the coast and took us by where the lava flow from the Kiliwae volcano met the ocean. You could faintly see the red glow of the lava and the steam plums were quite impressive as was the landscape. On top of that they had an open bar, somewhat, for an hour and a half as there way of saying "sorry", but as one passenger said..."they tried to do something nice and screwed that up". Instead of having the open bar throughout the ship, they limited it to just the Lido deck. Can you picture over 2000 passengers fighting there way up to the Lido deck for free drinks? Next stop Maui (for 2 days). We're back to tendering again, but at least this time, you went down and got a number and could wander throughout the ship until your number was called. This went a bit smoother than Kona, but the tender drivers were still on their learner's permit I think. From what I understand there was one or two tender driving groups that kind of knew what they were doing, but I never saw them. Crash, bang, boom was the order of the day trying to dock at the pier and again back at the ship and with a passenger list of 80% 65 years and over, this was not a pretty sight to say the least. Once on land, Maui was gorgeous. Plenty of shopping (hundreds of stores!), beautiful beaches up and down the coast and the scenery and mountain ranges were breathtaking. We found a very nice travel info booth where Jim helped my wife and I book a horseback riding tour with Ironwood Ranch for the next day. Right behind this booth was another small shopping complex with a very nice bar called the Blue Lagoon, with a very nice bartender named Jay, from Ohio worked. He told us about a happy hour he was having from 3:00PM till midnight, half priced drinks all night and free food after 9:00. Needless to say, after some shopping and more beach lounging, I started spreading the word with my fellow ship mates and we had another great bash that evening! Now for some strange reason, which I never got a straight answer on, we had to be back on board ship by 11:30, even though we were going to be in Maui through Friday. The ship pulled out, drove around the ocean for a while and pulled back into the harbor at 6:30AM...go figure. The 2nd day in Maui wasn't suppose to require tender #'s...just go down to the gangway and get on a tender and off you go....NOT! It seems that a Royal Caribbean ship had come in later that first night and we would have to share the tendering pier with them. So at 11:00PM the first night in Maui, a notice was sent around to all passengers (but I only think 3/4's got the notice) telling everyone that tender #'s were again the order of the 2nd day in Maui as well. Once on land day 2...my wife and I caught the bus to Whaler's Village (a definite must see for shopping enthusiast's) where we waited for the Ironwood Ranch shuttle to pick us up to go horseback riding. Never having even petted a horse before, this was a once in a lifetime experience! The scenery was beautiful, the ranch guides friendly and helpful and after an hour and a half on horseback, I now know why cowboys walk the way they do! After this it was back to the Blue Lagoon for lunch and after gathering up our "crew", we found a nice little bar across the street from the tender line and played the same game as we did in Kona...have a party, wait till the line was reasonable, pay our tab, say mahalo and back on board within 20 minutes. Next stop, Kauai.... Watching the captain (or harbor pilot) steer this gargantuan size ship into this harbor was worth the price of admission. In fact, From up on the Sun deck where I was watching, I didn't think there was anyway we'd get in here. In through a narrow opening in the harbor (with a break wall on our left), turn the ship left to avoid the "other" break wall which is farther up on the right, now turn the ship to the right to head it over to the pier we were docking at (yeah! No tendering!) and then spin the ship completely around so it was facing back out the way we came and put it up against the pier. Nice driving Captain!! I can guarantee you that NONE of the tender drivers were pulling this maneuver off. I can't say too much about Kauai as about all I saw of it was the most beautiful golf course I have ever played on in my life. This was my golf make up day from the trip I missed out on in Hilo and my wife went her own way to shop till she drops. I played on the Kauai Lagoons golf course, designed by none other than Jack Nicklaus and you could actually see it as we were pulling into the harbor (I wasn't positive that was it as we were pulling in, but I had my fingers crossed). Just when I thought one hole was the most beautiful I had ever seen, the next one was even better! Playing along the ocean, over cliffs, mountains in the background, palm trees...it was a sight to behold AND I shot a 106! Not too bad for a duffer like me from Massachusetts. A special thanks here goes out to "Radio" the golf pro aboard ship who organized the tours, along with his assistant (or girlfriend, I wasn't sure) "V". You guys were super, thanks so much! While Kauai is the most beautiful of all the islands (from what little I saw, but mostly from what the locals told me) and was my wife and my first choice to move to, we also were told it has no night life and shuts down around 8:00 or so. So we've decide to move to Maui instead. Last stop, Honolulu....big, beautiful and just the place you want to be if you like city life. I live in the country about 35 miles south of Boston, so I've never been partial to living in the city, but I'd have to say if I was going to, Honolulu would be the place. I've never seen a city so clean in my life! You could barely find a cigarette butt or scrap of paper anywhere. Big, beautiful buildings, gorgeous parks everywhere...even the airport had a park right in the middle of it, complete with palm trees, bushes and a large pond. I wouldn't find any of that at Logan Airport in Boston! We did a tour of Pearl Harbor the 2nd to last day on the ship and of course it had to coincide with the first day we started bombing Afghanistan. The tour didn't get cancelled thankfully, but security was increased 100 fold. Seeing the wreckage of the Arizona that close was quite the moving experience to say the least...a MUST see for all. After getting off the ship (not that bad a process either), my wife and I were staying another 2 nights on Waikiki Beach. We just couldn't face a 13 hour plane flight right from the ship (not to mention losing an addition 6 hours in time changes). I highly recommend staying a day or two after a cruise to unwind if you can. From here we relaxed a bit (the back of our hotel emptied out on to Waikiki Beach) but found time to do a luau Monday night(Paradise Cove...another wonderful time) and also a sunset helicopter tour over the city on Tuesday night. All in all, every island was a blast, Carnival definitely has some bugs to work out concerning the size of the Spirit if they are going to continue taking it through the islands and if they want to learn how to drive tender boats, tell them to send some executives to Pearl Harbor and take their tender boats out to the Arizona...smooth as butter. A highly recommended cruise, from my stand point anyway. I know I'd get a few arguments against from some of the older passengers (I'm no kid, I'm 42 and my wife is 52), but if you let the problems get you down, then you've got no one to blame but yourself for having a bad time. Making a good time and having fun in the middle of a bad time is half the challenge, right? Passengers/People We Met I actually met someone who lives 15 minutes away from me within 45 minutes after getting on board the first day. If that wasn't enough, his wife use to live 1 mile down the street from my wife and I and her brothers played hockey with my wife's son...talk about small world! From here we met another couple from Massachusetts and from there our little circle grew to about a dozen or so and we all had a ball. My wife and I and the 2 couples from Mass are planning a reunion for sometime next month. As I stated earlier, at least 80% of the passengers were 65 years and older. More than I thought there would be and while there was the usual number (or maybe unusual number would be more appropriate) of complainers, moaners and groaners, for the most part, everyone we met was friendly and personable. I was actually "adopted" by a sweet couple from Seal Beach California who were absolute gems. They even switched their table in the dining room so they could have dinners with us and the 4 of us had lunch in the Nouveau Supper Club one afternoon. We hope to stay in touch with them as well.

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Sep 18, 2001

Alaska

The Ship Despite its size, the Spirit is a remarkably well-planned ship that is easy to get about. We have traveled on ships ranging from 12,000 tons to 80,000+ (the largest being the Spirit) and were amazed at how the size did not overpower us. The expected “glitz” and neon of many of the Carnival ships (which we do enjoy) was not evident – the Spirit is attractively decorated and very elegant in comparison. The Spirit compares

to many of the more “upscale” ships on the sea. It was easy to get from one location to another. The presence of the many elevators and staircases was very important to the older guests. Having most of the major sites (casino, main show lounge, shops, and dining room) on two decks increased the ease of our capability to get around. We were particularly pleased by the large number of open deck spaces which added to the ability to see the beautiful scenery and increased the “openness” of the ship itself. We never felt crowded in any of the venues. Cabins: 8228 and 8226 on the Promenade Deck – both with the larger balconies. We had more than ample room to store our clothing and personal items and the empty suitcases fit easily under the beds – a welcome addition. We spent much of our time on the balconies as these were nicely protected from the wind and cold – and the overhang above us protected us from the rain. I would recommend the Promenade Deck for that reason. The views from this deck were also spectacular – the higher location allowed us to see a number of sea mammals that we might have missed at a lower level. The bathroom and its large counter space and shelves was a welcome sight – room enough for just about anything you needed to use. The shower was larger and the location of the curtain made it much easier to use than in most cruise ship showers. As is Carnival’s habit, the presence of a hair dryer was essential. This time, however, it was located in a drawer in the “dresser” – much more convenient. Bathrobes added a new dimension for cruisers in the outside cabins. The large, heavy pile robes were very welcome after a day outside in the cold, rainy, weather. A well-stocked honor bar (and refrigerator) was a pleasant surprise. The prices were in line with those in the ship’s bars and the items included added to the convenience. For some reason cruise lines tend to use hard beds. My husband was pleased while I was not. It might not be a bad idea to bring a foam pad (or perhaps the cruise lines could provide them as amenities). Exercise: The running track on the very top deck is the best I have seen yet at sea. Its rubberized surface made running, jogging, and walking a much easier proposition. Fortunately many people hadn’t discovered it and the number of us making our rounds (15 to a mile) were few. On the days we couldn’t get to the deck (40 knot headwinds combined with 22 knot speed) the gym provided enough exercise equipment to suit any fitness buff. The treadmills were state-of-the art and filled the bill. The Crew The Cruise staff seemed to be enthusiastic but with the change over between Alaska and Hawaii at Vancouver many of them were ready to go home. We didn’t make the Captain’s cocktail party or the repeat cruisers parties – were too busy watching outside for wildlife or attending our favorite machine in the casino. Our Maitre d’ David McNalley was the most “reachable” and enjoyable Maitre d’ we have ever been served by. Usually you see the Maitre d’ the night before the tips are due and then only briefly. David came by our table several times to talk and was a welcome addition to the usual Carnival “dining room entertainment”. Jose “A” and Jose “B”, our table waiters, were great. They kept our glasses full and Jose “A” always had good tips on wine. We never lacked for attention. The only down side to our trip was our cabin service. We were used to having our cabins made up when we left for breakfast in the morning. Don’t know whether our steward had too many cabins to keep up, but we often didn’t have the beds made until late in the morning. The service was good but spotty. I guess we have been spoiled by super service in the past so anything less was disappointing. The naturalists on the ship kept us apprised of animals to be seen as well as the many glaciers and other land-based attractions. Our trip into Glacier Bay was beyond our expectations. Apparently the number of ships to make the route we did have been severely limited. Our luck was exceeded only by the magnificent views of the glaciers. We had the opportunity to see several “calving” activities – a spectacular breaking off of huge chunks followed by an enormous crashing and thundering noise. The crew, on the whole, was courteous and friendly. The casino staff was a kick. The Food Empire Dining Room: Whomever keeps making the comment that Carnival tends to quantity rather than quality has not been on a Carnival ship in years! Each time we travel on Carnival (this being our sixth trip) we are more and more excited about the food. Gone are the old days of lots of “good” food….replaced by smaller portions of “great” food. The number and variety of choices are exceeded only by the tasteful presentation and quality of those choices. The lobster tail (as well as the many other seafood dishes) was sweet, fresh-tasting, and equal to any in a fine restaurant. The presentation, flavor, and quality seems to continue to improve. Lido (La Playa Grille): Our breakfasts and lunches were consumed on the Lido. The old days of hot dogs and hamburgers being the main staple have been supplanted by ethnic presentations (the Chinese food was great), salads (everything fresh and tasty), a deli line with all types of sandwiches, and a “grille” with a variety of items. The breakfast fare included the staples of hash browns, scrambled eggs, ham, bacon, sausage, toast, bagels, croissants, cereal, and French toast, but made-to-order omelets and over-easy eggs have been added. The only down was the lack of really interesting desserts for lunch. The cheesecake offered on one of the days was exceptionally good but the regular fare of cakes with gooey frosting did not fit our palettes. We never made it to the special dining room – the food in the Empire Dining Room was too good to miss. I guess the only thing missing in our dining experience was the tradition of “French night”, “Italian night”, etc….although the food was there. We did not miss the escargot – our waiter was able to purloin enough orders to more than fill our taste. This was an added joy – that we could make a “special order” for something that was not on the menu. All it took was a day’s notice. We discovered this when we saw sushi being delivered to the next table and asked if we could do the same. NO problem! Our waiter showed up the next evening with multiple orders of escargot. Remember that if you travel on Carnival. The Entertainment Have to admit we only attended the first show. The dancers were enthusiastic, the costumes spectacular, and the scenery beautiful. The show, however, seemed to lack continuity. They had attempted to create a “spirit-based” theme but somehow it jumped all over the place. We do not usually attend more than one show per cruise so we couldn’t provide meaningful reviews of the entertainers. The Passengers Most of the 2100 guests onboard the Spirit were older. The large number of wheelchairs indicated that the ship was well-situated and planned for people with special problems. This might be kept in mind for those travel agents looking for cruise ships for their clients with special needs. There were a few children, but the size of the ship and the activities designed for them kept their presence almost unnoticeable. The Voyage The added security during embarkation resulted in our leaving two hours later. Realizing that additional problems were occurring, most of the passengers were patient. The remarkable thing was the number of passengers who did make airline connections and the fact that the ship was almost full (we departed just eight days after the bombings in New York). It rained nearly every day on the trip, but with it being late-September we expected the colder, damper weather. That was made up for in the fact that we were able to travel so deep into Glacier Bay. The only “rocking” we felt in the boat was during our transits of Queen Charlotte Sound, an open spot of water, and when we ventured into the open sea just after leaving Glacier Bay. For the first day, however, as we traveled between Vancouver Island and the Canadian mainland, the boat never rocked. It was so smooth the only way we could tell we were moving was to look outside. Our first stop was Juneau. Two members of our party found the Red Dog Saloon, a favorite of travelers and locals alike. The highlight of the watering hole was the folk singer who seemed to know all of the greats – “North to Alaska”, “The Edmund Fitzgerald”….the sawdust on the floor, the great companionship of fellow travelers, the beer, and the décor added to the enjoyment of all who visited the bar. We took the tram to the top of the mountain above Juneau. The view is worth the trip, and we would have seen more except for the fog and rain which quickly moved in. My husband was delighted on the trip up by the sight of a bald eagle flying just under the tram car. Shopping for souvenirs seemed to be the best in Juneau. Prices were very reasonable and the selection the best of all three ports we visited. Suggest you do your main shopping here if you are on the Vancouver/Vancouver trip. The Russian shop has some beautiful items. Our next visit was to Glacier Bay. During the early months ships cannot even enter the bay as the harbor seals are calving. Later months find ships restricted by the fact that the humpback whales are feeding. We came after all of the restrictions and were able to sail up two of the arms that are rarely traversed. Both of the glaciers we visited had some major calving – great hunks of ice would break off with resulting thunderous crashes. Incredible! We next visited Skagway and took the White Pass Railway. The waterfalls, turning leaves, and sheer mountainous cliffs were worth the trip. Fortunately the weather cooperated and we had clear views all the way up and down. The wind kicked up and it was cold walking back to the ship. Should warn anyone with problems walking that the cruise ship docks are quite a distance from the town. A shuttle (charges $1) can be taken each way. The train, however, does back up onto the dock, which significantly reduces the walk. At its completion of the trip to White Pass the train will let you off downtown or will take you all the way back to the dock if you stay aboard. Our last stop was in Ketchikan. We hadn’t signed up for any tours so we walked the main streets and picked up our last gifts to take home. The cruise dock was right in town so the walk was quite easy. A word on the tours: be ready to spend about $200 or more per person if you wish to take a helicopter or plane ride in any of the ports. Also sign up for the local tours early – we waited too long and missed a tour we had wanted to take. The train ride gave us somewhat of a flavor of what the interior of southern Alaska looks like but it would take a voyage north to Anchorage to really see Alaska. We enjoyed our trip and were very glad we took it. The ship was more than we expected and we were almost sad to not be able to continue its journey to Hawaii. We took the same trip on the Tropicale and Jubilee and hope to take it on the Spirit in the future. Eileen

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Jul 31, 2001

Northbound Alaska

Travelers: Family of 5, Mom and Dad in 40's, Boys 14 and 10, Girl 6. Third cruise. The cruise was part of a 19 day trip, with the 1st 5 days in Seattle, 2 days in Vancouver, 7 days on the Spirit and the final days in Girdwood, Alaska and returning to Florida. Many thanks go out to all the members of these boards, as the information learned greatly enhanced the cruise experience reviewed below. The Ship

The Spirit is a magnificent vessel displaying elegant charm and luxury. Comments have been made about the decor being too busy and brash, but stimulating and rich are better decriptions. The ambience created a feeling of comfort and style that you might get from sitting in a new car about two steps higher than you could afford. The ship is very new and is in the finest condition as you would expect from a very modern liner. It seemed that the designers and builders had thought of everything when the Spirit was put together. Everything worked as you would expect, no problems of any kind with plumbing, electric, or the heating/AC systems. Getting around was easy as the deck layout was well thought out. There is plenty of deck space for wildlife viewing which will be great for getting a tan when the ship sails the Caribbean in the fall and winter. The public areas flowed together from the atrium on the lower level to the lounges, casino, main restuarant, shops and the showroom. The photo gallery is conveniently located just above the lobby bar in the atrium. The atrium is just stunning with triple glass elevators rising from the lobby bar to the red glass fantail high above. Don't miss the clear spiral staincase up to Noveau Supper Club, Carnival's upscale, $20 per person, alternative restuarant. The climb up the stairs is free. Four pools, one domed, four spas, the gym, salon and Nautica spa areas, along with the La Playa Grille and pizzeria are all easily accessed on the Lido deck. Bars are located fore, aft, starboard and port, so you are never far from liquid refresment. Ice cream and frozen yogurt machines, along with coffee, tea, lemonade and juices are also available in several places on the Lido deck 24 hours a day. Cabins: 7259 Verandah Deck with balcony and 7261 Inside Cabin directly across the hall. Spacious, well designed, comfortable, cabins are the norm on Carnival and the Spirit is no exception. Plenty of closet and drawer space, a couch and balcony were the perfect accomodations for cruising any itinerary. Included were essential toiletries, plenty of towels, built in hair dryer, 110 volt outlets both in the bathroom near the vanity mirror. The twin/king bed was made into a king after being pushed together on the first night of the cruise. The balcony was ideal for wildlife watching or just viewing the magnificent scenery of Alaska. It was easy to prop the blacony door open with the balcony furniture, so the bungee cords brought along weren't needed in this cabin, but some may find them useful. The gym is two decks high and I've read that it is the largest at sea, something like 13,000+ square feet. It is superbly equipped with modern workout machines, weights and a large bank of treadmills which overlook the sea (when not in port). Both steam and sauna rooms are available at no charge. The Crew The Captain and the Hotel Director were seldom heard from or seen. Their introduction on stage, shown on the ship's TV, along with their names in the Carnival Capers was for the most part all the exposure the passengers had to them. Perhaps they were busy attending to their responsibilities as the operation of the ship and the hotel with ran as smoothly as a Swiss watch. Cruise Director Shawn Bussey is enthusiastic enough but did not seem to connect enough with the passengers. She could use a little more exposure, maybe at the Captain's cocktail party she could grab a microphone and liven things up as most of the guests on board were packing the lower atrium and nearby promenade relaxing with the complimentary beverages provided. The Camp Carnival Staff deserves commendation for the friendly and joyful manner in which they do their jobs. Always, always smiling. The kids who participated with them were well cared for, entertained superbly and anxious to return for another session whenever possible. The Maitre d' Ken Byrne is by far the best at his position. Many with his responsibilities just do an adequate job, not interacting much with guests and then waiting at the dining room exit for a tip on the last evening. Not this gentleman; every evening he would sing a few songs (he was excellent), make announcements, and lead the wait staff in the post dinner entertainment. This was in addition to his duties supervising a staff of over 200, and making sure all the dining guests were satisfied at each meal. Service under his direction was nearly flawless. Honorable mention goes to Chef Xavier Praxmarer who was spotted at the midnight buffet working diligently to rearrange a display after an ice sculpture fell. He is a hands on person, leading by example to ensure that high quality, well displayed food was always available. Carnival's naturalist, Michelle, provided information about Alaskan wildlife and nature throught the cruise, both in scheduled lectures and impromptu information as wildlife and other natural wonders were observed. She spent lots of time on the bridge, scanning the waterways and mountainsides, then alerting the several hundred guests on the "wildlife watch" to the eagles, whales, otters and porpoises she observed. She also described the waterways, mountains, fjords and glaciers extensively throughout the voyage and presented an interesting slide show about whales. Her presence enhanced the cruise greatly, espectially for those interested in wildlife. Spoiling the nearly perfect rating for the 900 plus crew members was one Peter Kinloch Anderson, Carnival's Shore Tours Manager, who went out of his way to criticize and demean the shore excursion choice of five guests, because they had not booked their glacier helicopter trip through his department. He was rude, arrogant and condescending and stated outright that the only reason the helicopter tour with Coastal was chosen was because it was cheaper. Did this ignorant bloke (he is from Scotland, thus the bloke reference) really think the party of five with a previously committed tour, prepaid and costing several hundred dollars would cancel and go on his "superior" excursion, forfeiting the entire sum paid and rebook with him? Apparently he thought so. Carnival would be well advised to remove this gentlemen to a position with, shall we say, less exposure to the public. And to further his negative impression, Mr. Anderson was smoking while directing guests as they disembarked at the pier in Juneau. Had it not been for this one incident, this entire review would be so positive and upbeat that one would suspect the reviewer to be an employee of the cruise line. The staff of this ship, overall, was unbelievably courteous, competent, friendly and efficient, never intrusive, and not bothered by unusual or even untimely requests. This is a remarkable accomplishment for a cruise ship on the waters just over 3 months. Surely there were guests with problems but they were not readily observed. Apparently most problems were handled quickly and quietly to the satisfaction of most guests. The Food Food on the Spirit seems to be continuing the tradtion of improvement that Carnival has established over the past few years. While other cruise lines are cutting corners by eliminating the midnight buffet and lowering quality, Carnival continues to improve the quality and availability of its menu offerings. The late night buffet was served every night of the voyage with a Grand Gala Buffet on the sixth night, featuring many elegantly presented displays of ice carving, carved fruits and vegetables along with a wide variety of food selections. The Empire Restuarant, the ship's main dining room featured a vast array of items that should please most appetites. The food quality was very good to excellent and some selections were fabulous. Eat what you like, the preparations were unique and flavorful. A note to the executive chef at corporate headquarters; the company recipe for Caesar dressing is a little on the fishy side, please reconsider the amount of anchovies. Also the area in which there is the most room for improvement is deserts, in the dining room as well as the La Playa Grille. Seafood, Vegetarian, Meat, Pasta and Nautica Spa selections were available each evening, along with a couple other items. Appetizers were especially tasty with salmon and crab legs being the highlight of the offerings. The La Playa Grill, located on the Lido deck serves as the ships buffeteria and alternative to the ship's main dining room. The food here is very, very good. There are many selections each day. Carnival features a different Taste of Nations each day, including, French, Italian, Japanese, Caribbean, Indian, Mexican, and American. The New York Deli features hot and cold sandwiches from 11AM to 11PM daily and the Seaview Bistro serves seafood selections during dinner hours the first six nights. The Service Late seating, Table 393 Here is where the stars shined!! Dining room service was impeccable, prompt, friendly and honest. Antonio, Team Head Waiter, and his assistant Rey, Team Waiter, both from the Philipines provided prompt and professional service each evening of the cruise. Menus were delivered instantly upon seating and special requests were accepted graciously and served with eagerness to please. Needs were anticipated and it was rarely necessary to request anything. Complementing the food waiters was Juan, the bar waiter from Puerto Rico. Juan anticipated the soft drink needs of the children at dinner and served them consistently throughout the cruise. Several times each evening, Juan would deliver a round of Diet Cokes, even though there was no gratuity for any of the 50 or so soft drinks he served during the week. This guy had the warmest smile this side of heaven and was well rewarded for the superior service he provided along with his inspiring smile. Bartenders and Bar Waiters in other areas of the ship provided quick and friendly service at all times, even to the children using their soda cards. They had no problems getting first class service. Carnival also provided two complimentary cocktail parties, one for all guests at the Captain's Reception and another at the Repeaters Party for anyone who had sailed with Carnival in the past. These gestures were very much appreciated, and quite unexpected. Service was quick and availability of drinks very sufficient during these events. Rounding out the excellent service was Cabin Steward Dennis Untal. Ice bin always filled, room made up promptly, about 12 different towel figures between 2 cabins during the week, clothes folded and room straightened regularly were the highlights of his excellent service. It would be difficult to find a better service team on any ship. The Entertainment Shows on the Spirit were well produced and reasonable entertaining, as were the comedians and magician. The Spirit Orchestra is quite good as were the other singers and dancers on board. Greater attendance and audience participation would have enhanced the performances. A little too much Sinatra perhaps; maybe the music selection will change when the ship heads south and the passenger profile gets younger and more active. Late night comedians were funny but some may be offended by the R rated content. The Passengers The 2300 plus Guests sailing on the Spirit were for the most part in the 50+ range as are most Alaska cruisers. However the walker and oxygen tank crowd was totally absent on Carnival. A small percentage of the guests were children and teens, but for the most part this was an older subdued group. Late night activities were quiet and sparsely attended. No wild, outrageous partying was seen on this itinerary. This is quite understandable though as the beauty and grandeur of Alaska are not to be traded for a late night party. Be advised that this will change though when the Spirit reaches the Caribbean and the partying cruisers embark. The Spirit will "kick it up another notch", as Emeril would say, and compared to an Alaska cruise, this ship is gonna rock!! The Voyage Embarkation was routine but a little behind schedule as was departure time from the pier. Overall the voyage was very smooth with great weather. There was a little rocking and rolling a couple of times and it could be noticed more in the back of the ship. The captain did have the stabilizers extended whenever needed to reduce the motion. Sailing under the Lion's Gate bridge was dramatic as the Spirit's fantail nearly reached the height of the bottom of the bridge. The afternoon and evening were routine for a cruise, lunching on the lido deck, unpacking, getting familiar with the ship, getting to dinner on time, and a comedy show to close out the day. But that routine would soon change. Mother nature was out in all her glory for the rest of the week. Words cannot begin to describe the majesty and grandeur that lay ahead. Pristine snow capped mountain peaks, waterfalls, valleys and vistas, and wildlife captivated the hundreds of passengers on the "scenic watch". Eagles, whales, including one which surfaced about 50 feet from the ship, porpoises, otters with their young along with several species of waterfoul were spotted throughout the voyage. The waterways were dotted with local boat traffic, fishing vessels, lighthouses, islands, and an occasional jumping fish. The northbound itinerary saves the best for last though as cruising through Prince William Sound and College Fjord is on Day 6. Viewing glacial valleys of blue ice between towering mountains of granite, while sailing through iceberg laden waterways is a most amazing, thrilling and awe inspiring experience. Stunning, Awesome, Majestic, Pristine, Beauty and Grandeur are descriptions that barely begin to convey the experience of this overwhelming display of the Creator's handiwork!! John Muir described glaciers in 1879 this way: "The whole front of the glacier is gashed and sculptured into a maze of shallow caves and crevasses, and a bewildering variety of novel architectural forms, clusters of glittering lance-tipped spires, gables, and obelisks, hold out standing bastions and plain mural cliffs, adorned along the top with fretted cornice and battlement, while every gorge and crevasse, groove and hollow, was filled with light, shimmering and throbbing in pale-blue tones of ineffable tenderness and beauty". If you haven't done so yet, and you ever get the chance, go and see and hear and feel and touch and taste the glaciers: it is a don't miss experience of a lifetime. Well you can't touch or taste them from the ship but eating some glacial ice was one of the first things 10 year old Daniel did after landing on the Herbert Glacier near Juneau. The Ports Vancouver is a marvelous city with many first class hotels, eateries, shopping opportunities and of course a beautiful port, Canada Place. A somewhat pricey dinner in the revolving restuarant on top of the Harbour Centre provided panoramic views of the city. Tours of Stanley Park and the Vancouver Aquarium were enjoyable and informative. The people employed in the hospitality industry in Vancouver set a standard of excellence in care, courtesy and service without rival. The Delta Vancouver Suites, a top notch hotel, located about four blocks from the pier, was an excellent value. There is a good sized liquor and wine shop located in the Harbour Centre, (3 blocks from the pier and very walkable) that made it convenient to buy a few bottles of wine just prior to embarkation. Prices are reasonable, especially with the current exchange rate for US dollars. Taxis were available and waiting at all major locations in the downtown and port areas. Ketchikan is a quaint little village with lots of charm featuring Ketchikan Creek, a salmon hatchery, sailboat harbor, totem poles, the pier and in late July and early August, a plentiful population of salmon. A walk up Ketchikan Creek to the hatchery revealed thousands of salmon headed upstream to spawn, while locals and tourists were catching the fish from a bridge overlooking the mouth of the creek. Flightseeing excursions of all types are available here with take offs and landings throughout the day. Charter boats abound and poles are available to rent for those interested in fishing from shore or the docks around the harbor. Juneau, capital of Alaska, is home of the famous Mendenhall Glacier and the surrounding Juneau icefield, excellent whale watching, the Mt Roberts Tramway, and the historic district in the downtown area. Tickets for the tram are good all day for as many trips of you care to make. Planning your own excursions seems to be a great way to go as it will save you money, give you flexibility, get you away from the "herd" that must by necessity exist for large ship tours. And you will have a much better chance of doing your first choice activity. In Juneau, Orca Enterprises takes you whale watching on a jet boat with 25 others. The ship tours book with 150 on board a larger slower vessel. You'll have more time on the water, be closer to whales and Orca will drop you at your next excursion if at all possible in their schedule. Try that on a bus with 60 passengers returning to the pier. Coastal Helicopter operates glacier landings independent of the ship's tours. Here is a summary of the experiences with these two companies. Our family of five flew on the Coastal 1 hour glacier landing tour Saturday August 4, at 1PM and had a great time!!!!!!!! They were picked us up at the pier about 45 minutes prior to the flight and transportered our party and another couple to the airport about 10 miles away. The Herbert glacier landing and flight were memorable. Our pilot (JAG, his initials) was informative, friendly and took several pictures of us on the glacier. We did have to fill out the weight form on the van and they did verify with a scale in the office before the flight. This is a very important safety measure though and should be expected from a reliable company. Our preflight safety talk on the van was audible and clear. The boots provided were less than ideal, and we would have been just as well off to wear the walking shoes we had on prior to the flight. The boots would have kept us warm however, if the weather had been cool. They also have hooded coats available if the clothing you arrive with is not warm enough for current weather conditions. After taking off the pilot took us on an ariel tour of the Mendenhall Valley and glacier, the harbor and the surrounding area. The Juneau ice field was clouded in and not visible. We flew to an altitude of about 2500 feet for the landing on Herbert Glacier, flying over breathtaking ridges, mountain peaks and jagged glacial ice formations. We also saw a mountain goat on the hillside above the glacier and had a nice tour of the area again on the way back to the airport. It is expensive; (Coastal is the lowest) $160 each for a 1 hour trip. Worth it though, as there are sights, sounds, and sensations that you experience on the trip that no words, pictures or other descriptions could possibly adequately depict. Go for it!! Orca Enterprises took us whale watching about and hour after the glacier landing. We were so pumped from the helicopter flight that it really didn't seem to make much difference whether or not we saw any whales. But Captain Larry had about 20 other avid whale watchers to please and he was not about to dissapoint. What we witnessed over the next 3 hours or so was the most amazing sight imaginable. A pod of 6 or 7 humpback whales were feeding as a group in a process known as bubble net feeding. The whales would dive, form a circle and release a circle of bubbles around a school of fish. The fish, with a natural fear of the bubbles head toward the surface and center of the bubble net. After signaling or telling each other (the whale speak was audible to us from the hydrophone Captain Larry had placed in the water) that it was time to surface and capture their meal, the whales would simultaneously breach the surface, filling thier mouths with the catch. They would lounge around on the surface a bit and then dive again, raising their massive tails skyward on the way down to create another bubble net for the next feast. The whales continued this cooperative feeding over and over for the next couple of hours. Watching these whales feed in this manner was incredibly thrilling. The mate informed us that this behavior is somewhat rare and not often seen on whalewatching expedtions. This was confirmed by Michelle, Carnival's naturalist. It was a very, very special treat!! We were also able to observe seals, eagles, and other wildlife on the return trip from Auke Bay to the harbor. We were on sensory overload after the day in Juneau, shaking our heads in awe, disbelief and gratitude for the privileges granted us on this most memorable day. Skagway, a most relaxing port with a train ride up and down the mountain to the summit on the Candian border. The scenery was beautiful, picturesque and tranquil along the 20 mile White Pass Railway line. Skagway has a colorful gold rush history and heritage, kept alive by the train, the Red Onion Saloon, Gold Rush cemetery and the town's other historic structures. As in all the ports, the ususal souveniers are available, from 50 cent train whistles to bronze and gold eagles at $25,000.00 per copy. Also available are many unusual items, including native art, clothing, furs, ulu knives and totem poles. Lots of flightseeing and local tours are offered as well. Sitka is a quaint village of Russian heritage and reminds you of a European setting. From the unique domed cathedral to the Russian bishop's former home, the settlement is a delightful reminder of a time gone by. Tours of the area are offered at the pier by locals but town is just 1 block away. It is about a mile and a half to the raptor center, a favorite attraction for many. Just before the raptor center is a National Forest Park with well marked trails featuring about a dozen totem poles. Signs at the entrance warn of recent confirmed bear sightings. A creek runs through the park and should be loaded with salmon right now as they were just starting to run on August 6. The area is home to many eagles and other birds of prey. Shopping was similar to the other ports. The wildlife adventure tour received rave reviews from those who went. Seward/Anchorage Few passengers saw much of Seward as you disembark the ship directly on to a bus at the pier and are whisked away to the Anchorage airport. The harbor is filled with boats that were lined up to get out fishing by 6 AM. The stream of boats continued out of the harbor for most of the early morning. The ride to Anchorage is quite scenic with snow capped mountains, waterways and a few glaciers visible along the route. Cruisers meet up with their luggage at the airport or other Anchorage locations such as local hotels. For anyone who is renting a car in Seward and has some extra time before heading home, there are a couple of inexpensive things for you to do in the Portage Valley, about 50 miles south of the airport. Big Game Alaska Wildlife Center is located at Mile 79 on the Seward Hwy, Portage Glacier AK 99587. Turn left directly into the center just past the Portage Valley turnoff which is on the right as you head north. They are a rehab center for orphaned wildlife. You can see bison, moose, elk, muskox, caribou, Sitka black-tailed deer, eagles, Siberian boars, and other birds and animals including a grizzly bear. There is a nice gift shop and snack bar. The birds are caged and the larger animals fenced, but you can see them really close; close enough to touch in some cases. $20 for a carload, or ala carte-$5 adults, $3 kids and seniors, under 4-free. www.biggamealaska.com And if you gotta have one more fix of glacier viewing, be sure to take that right turn to the Portage Valley, Portage Lake and Portage Glacier. About 5 miles from the turnoff you will see a National Forest Visitor Center, cafeteria, and gift shop. The visitor center has a 20 minute film of the area, but bring the bankroll, it costs a hefty $1 per person. From there it is about 1 mile to the Portage Glacier Cruise, a one hour excursion, $25 adult, $12.50 kids, that will take you across the lake to within a few hundred feet of the Portage Glacier. The tour is well narrated and the views are spectacular! The Spirit got within .8 mile of the Harvard glacier; that's about 4000 feet away. The Portage Glacier cruise will get within 250-400 feet of the half mile wide Portage Glacier. You can also take a three quarter mile hike to the Byron Glacier (next to the Portage); directions available from the staff at the visitors center. Cruises run about every hour and a half throughout the day with the last one at 4:30. One last tip: Bring the best camera you can with tons of film and don't forget binoculars. Wal-mart carries a nifty model by Tasco, the EyeMax, 7x power, with a wide 602 foot view at 1000 yards. They are compact and very easy to focus to a single image. $59.95 plus tax. Jim

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

My wife and I are in our early 30’s with no kids and we cruised for the first time on the Carnival Spirit from 2 – 10 Dec 02. I have read many cruise reviews from people (mostly cruise experts) which helped me prepare for our cruise experience – but none of those reviews truly reflected the “first timer”. Embarkation – the process was relatively quick and organized. Have all of your paperwork filled out (as specified) in the package

that they send you, and have a credit card ready (to obtain your sail and sign card). There are lineups – just be patient…. Being a non-US citizen, I had to surrender my passport, which gave me an uneasy feeling, and the fact that I had to show up at 6 30 am on the final morning to pick it up again was a pain in the butt. With all of that said, I suggest arriving around 11 am and you will be one of the first on the ship!! Carnival Spirit – the ship in my opinion was absolutely beautiful. I have read how gaudy the décor is, and perhaps to people who have sailed on other more “expensive” ships, it probably is – but for me, I thought it was amazing. The ship looks brand new and was extremely clean. Stateroom – we stayed in room 8118, an inside cabin. The stateroom was quite roomy as I was expecting a lot smaller. It was located in the forward part of the ship and turned out to be a really really quiet location. I read a lot about the balcony debate and I am quite happy that I did not spend the extra bucks for a balcony. Plus, it’s great to have absolute darkness to sleep in. My wife and I did not spend much time in the cabin as we were always out enjoying the various activities on the ship or on shore. It definitely would not have been worth the money. For those of you that expect to spend more time in your cabin, perhaps a balcony is for you. Entertainment – I would rate this as average. There were some good shows (magic act, Spirit dancers and a few others), but the rest of the shows (most of the comedians, tribute to film) were sub par. But remember, this is only my opinion. The shows were good to go to if you wanted to fill an hour of your time! The games during the day were a lot of fun to participate in as well as to spectate. The more involved that you are in the activities the more fun you will have. Food – Simply outstanding. Lobster, crab legs, scallops, jumbo shrimp, prawns, salmon, fish, filet mignon, chateaubriand etc etc etc. The food was excellent and plentiful in the main dining room (the Empire). The 24 hour pizza bar was fantastic, as well as the other food stations on the Lido deck, which offered an alternative to dining in the main dining room. I was however disappointed in the midnight buffets. Although the food was plentiful, somehow I expected a better presentation. There was only one night in which there was a gala buffet, which was truly beautiful – but that was the one that everyone went to, and the lineup was huge, and the food was quickly gone. Shore Excursions – After doing a few of these, and hearing what other people had to say about their excursions this is purely a hit and miss part of the trip. I enjoyed our excursions but they are probably not fully worth the money that you put out for them. In any case, if you are going to participate in an excursion (which I recommend that you do so) fill out the form (which will be waiting for you in your stateroom upon your boarding of the ship) and submit it immediately!! Do not wait for the excursion talk on the first day at sea – it is a waste of time. The faster you submit your form, the greater the chance that you will get what you want! St – Maarten: We did the bus tour of the island ($25 pp) and loved it. The tour lasted a few hours and we covered the entire island. We were dropped off in Phillipsburg and shopped as well until we returned to the ship. The biggest tip for this island would be: do all of your shopping here (liquor, t-shirts, jewelry etc). This is the best shopping stop on the cruise (selection and price) - do not wait for Barbados and Martinique. Barbados: We did the snorkel adventure, which is half scuba diving and half snorkeling combined into one activity. It was a lot of fun but at $50 pp, a little expensive. The downtown area was good to walk, but the shopping was better at St-Maarten. Martinique: We did not do any organized activity, and just walked into and explored the town. It was a quaint town, but the shopping was better in St-Maarten. Tipping – A lot has been said about the tips being automatically added to your bill ($9.75 per day per person – for a total of $78 per person). The service that you receive definitely warrants the tipping fee. It is totally up to you whether or not you want to leave it on your bill (convenience) or have it removed in order that you can personally tip at the end of the cruise. I left it on my bill, but looking back, I should have had it removed in order that I could have left “cash” for the servers, and that would have given me the flexibility to tip those deserving (our dining staff) more. Neauveau Supper Club – For $25 pp, you can make reservations at this “private” dining room. Although we did not spend the money because we thought that the food was awesome at the regular dining room, our friends who went said that they really enjoyed the experience. If you want to plunk down an extra $50 – have at it, the food and service is exquisite. Activities – The volleyball court, waterslide, pools and whirlpool were a lot of fun. The whirlpools closed at 10 pm every night (that I consider way too early). My wife and I went up to the “Topless deck” and it was great for the privacy. Kids and the Crowds – We were pleasantly surprised with the lack of kids on the cruise. I saw perhaps a total of 10 kids the entire cruise – they were probably still in school. The ship was completely booked (2000 people) but the ship seemed empty (except at dinner time)! There was no wait for the elevators, and I never felt cramped. Debarkation – This is a rather smooth process. You wait until your colored tag is called. They start at the bottom of the ship and move up. We were on the 8th deck and were basically the last called at 1030 am. Recommendations: 1. Do not buy your alcohol on the ship – it is much cheaper in St-Maarten. 2. Ask for the late dinner time (815 pm vice 545 pm). We booked the early time because we thought that we would miss the shows – wrong. With the late sitting you are done dinner around 1015 pm, the late show starts at 1030 pm, and then you can either go dancing or wait for the midnight comedian. We found that with the early sitting, we were done eating at 8 pm, and had a little too much time on our hands until the next activity. 3. Book your return flight (if you can) around 11 am. You will be given “special consideration” and be allowed to leave the ship first. You will have plenty of time to catch your flight. Our flight was not until 4 pm and we waited in the airport for a considerably long time. 4. You can “smuggle” alcohol on board – put it in your luggage (not carry-on). During your shore excursions they ask that you hand over your alcohol that you purchased on shore, but I just kept mine and went up to my cabin with it. The price of a drink (ranging up to $6.95) can be a little steep. There is nothing wrong with getting “warmed up” in your cabin on your “cheap” booze before you spend money on theirs! 5. Don’t wait until the last day to buy photos (the ones that they take of you) – wait until the second last day. That way you can order a 5X7 from the 8X10. The 8X10 is $20, while the 5X7 is $7. 6. Book your shore excursions immediately upon boarding the ship!! 7. If you want to save a few bucks and enjoy walking – don’t take taxi’s into/out of town. The towns and shopping are not that far away from the ports (10 min walks). Enjoy a picturesque stroll into town and save $$$$. 8. Don’t be shy - meet people as much as you can. It will make the cruise much more enjoyable! I think that the key to cruising is to understand your expectations. As this was our first cruise and all we had to compare this to were “land” vacations, our expectations probably could be considered “low”. The “extras” and how much fun we had pleasantly surprised us!

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Nov 30, -0001

Northbound Alaska

The Spirit is a very elegant ship. The layout makes it easy to find your way and connect with other travelers. Maitre D' Ken was the most interactive Maitre D' I've ever had the pleasure meeting, making our dining experience wonderful. The food and service was excellent. Carnival Spirit had a little different way of disembarking which made the usual nightmare of locating your luggage a breeze. We also were able to check our luggage with Alaska Airlines

right at the pier in Seward prior to boarding our bus to Anchorage. No check-in was required at the airport. There was a total of 18 of us and not one complaint.

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By ES_CR

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: February 4th, 2003 This was my second cruise overall and my first with Carnival, with my previous cruise being on the Sea Princess (Princess Cruise Lines). We booked a cruise only package through Carnival and arranged the hotel, air and transportation on our own. I prefer to take a cab as it is much quicker than the bus transport and I believe it was actually cheaper given that 3 of us shared

the cab. We arrived in Miami the night before and stayed at the Best Western Marina Park Hotel on Biscayne Blvd. We chose this hotel for its location and because we read on the internet that there was a free shuttle to the port as well as a complementary breakfast. Well, Holiday Inn has taken over the property and the shuttle and the breakfast are no longer offered. On the bright side, it appears that the rooms have been renovated as we had a very large room which was in very nice condition. Also, we shared a cab to the pier with another couple and the ride was both short and inexpensive. Embarkation: I wish Carnival would do something about the porters at the pier in Miami. They are extremely aggressive about taking your bags and I felt compelled to leave my bags and, of course, provide them with a tip for handling my bags. Frankly, in these times of heightened security, I would prefer not to leave my bags unattended and would have preferred to carry the bags to the terminal (a very short distance, I might add) on my own. Furthermore, one of the passengers at our dining room table had mentioned that their bus driver had warned them of porters who had ripped off other passengers and apparently nothing could be done about it as the porters all stick together when it comes to filing police reports. My recommendation: ignore the porters and take your own bags. Once inside the terminal, the process seemed to move fairly efficiently. When it came to getting our sail and sign cards, however, the Carnival rep seemed extremely confused as to how we wanted to set up our accounts. I might add that we received two different answers when we spoke to the Purser's desk on the ship. I can't understand why Carnival can't train their staff in what seemed like a very simple matter. Once we got through this part, there was again confusion at the part where you get your picture taken. The line was moving well until we were stopped and told to wait until we were called. I couldn't understand how we would be called as there was no way of identifying us among the hundreds of people who were told to wait and, as I suspected, nobody was called. Rather, it was a mad dash for the photo line once it was apparent that this area was once again moving. I don't understand why they couldn't just have a line progression as they did when you first picked up your sign and sail cards. Get it together Carnival. Once you had your pictures, it once again appeared that we were being held up for no apparent reason. My guess is that we were being held back while the photographers were setting up. You can't imagine how livid this makes me. My guess is that the vast majority of these pictures get thrown in the trash, and I can't understand why they don't just set up a spot on the ship where people can voluntarily get their pictures taken after they have boarded. Also, for foreigners who bring their passports (including Canadians), be forewarned that Carnival takes possession of your passports during embarkation and does not return them to you until the end of the cruise, although I am not sure why. I contacted Carnival prior to the cruise to enquire in this regard and they assured me that passports were not taken. That being said, you will require a copy of your passport or photo I.D. whenever you leave the ship. The Cabin: Once on the ship, everything proceeded very smoothly. We had a balcony cabin and I must say that it was a beautiful cabin (port side aft on the main deck). There was more than enough room for the 3 of us with tons of closet and storage spaces. The decor was very much to my liking, the balcony was quite large, and the bathroom was also well laid out. We also had a 20 or 21 inch TV with stations that seemed to change depending on the hour of the day, and there was a definite lack of movies. The selection was very poor with seemingly only B movies being played with the exception of Minority Report. The room had a Bar fridge which was stocked with liquor (at a charge, of course) but we simply stocked it with some soft drinks once the cabin steward opened it for us. The room also had a safe which is only accessible with a credit card. I don't understand why it couldn't be set up to open with the sign and sail card or equipped with a numbered code as it was very inconvenient with 3 people in the room but only one credit card having access. The not share that opinion, and pictures I've seen on the Internet appear much darker than in reality and do not do the ship any justice. Personally, I thought the ship was beautiful in appearance and very well laid out. No negative comments in this regard. Dining: The buffet was fantastic. Although this was one part of the ship where I didn't particularly care for the design, I must say that the quality and variety of the food and beverages being offered was absolutely superb. The deli and pizza were excellent and frequented on many occasions. The burgers and fries were also very good in addition to the regular buffet fare. I also appreciated the variety of beverages being offered: ice tea, lemonade, fruit punch, apple juice, milk, coffee, hot chocolate and regular tea. Excellent job Carnival. The Empire Dining Room was beautiful. We had a table at the rail on the upper floor and it provided a very elegant atmosphere. The service was excellent although not as good as on Princess, and I suspect it's due to the fact that there are fewer staff working more tables. Regardless, the service was prompt and staff seemed eager to please. The food, while nothing out of the ordinary, was very good and quite plentiful. Good enough in fact that we cancelled our reservation at the Nouveau Supper Club. Also, special marks to the Maitre'D who went out of his way to assist us with a special request one night. He was extremely accommodating and courteous. We tried room service on several occasions and found the food to be adequate and the service to be very prompt. My one request here would be an expanded room service menu. The Shows: I didn't see any but I heard they were good. It seemed to be the standard fare as far as showgirls, comics and hypnotists are concerned. As for me, if I want to see a good show I go to Las Vegas. Having said that, what do you expect for free? The Excursions: Rhino Rider in St. Maarten and Horseback riding (Barbados) sold out very quickly. I recommend you pick your excursions and sign up for them as soon as you get on the ship. In this regard, I have a very large gripe with carnival. There is usually nobody at the excursion desk so you are required to fill out a form and stuff it in a box. It's too late if you change your mind because there is nobody to talk to. We changed our minds about one excursion 2 minutes after we stuffed the box and did not get a chance to discuss it with someone until we went to the purser's desk (that's right --- still nobody at the excursion desk) 4 hours later at which time we were told there would be a 25% cancellation charge ( if cancelled 24 hours before the excursion) and no charge if we picked something else on the same date. In the end we decided to stay with the excursion we chose, but only because the alternative had already sold out. Princess had people working at the excursion desk on a regular basis, and I can't see why Carnival couldn't do the same. Carnival gets a failing grade in this regard. The Islands: Martinique, St. Maarten and Barbados were all beautiful and the locals were very polite and accommodating. With that said, keep in mind that everything (including cab fare) is negotiable. A little bit of shopping and you will see that prices for similar items will vary considerably. Also, don't be intimidated by shopkeepers who tell you that they can't negotiate their price. On all but one occasion I was able to get a better price by telling them that I had seen the same article for sale in another store for several dollars cheaper and I would just buy it there, and this seemed to work to my advantage. For example, I was able to buy a $20 Polo shirt for $16. No big deal, except that we ended up getting 3 of them. I'm convinced that only suckers pay full price and I refuse to be one. On the other hand, the retailed is also entitled to make a reasonable profit. The one problem with this itinerary is that we arrived at Barbados and Martinique on the weekend. Guess what? Almost everything is closed by 2:00 p.m. If you want to go shopping, forget about excursions because you just won't have the time. Excursions: We did the Atlantis sub in Barbados ($85). The staff were great but the excursion was a let down. You do see a lot of fish and a shipwreck (actually, a ship that had been intentionally sunk) but it seemed like a bit of a let down. On the other hand, I can now say that I've been on a sub that went down 150 feet. In Martinique we did the Snorkel Adventure ($54). This was my first time snorkeling and I highly recommend it. The water is crystal clear and there is plenty to see. All 3 of us enjoyed this. Disembarkation: Typical disembarkation process. Up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready to meet Customs at 6:15 a.m. and then off to breakfast and back to our room after that. Had to be out of the cabin at 8:30 to allow the staff to clean the cabins, which means you wait on 1 of 3 decks until your tag color is called. Again, it seemed like there was a great deal of confusion here. We waited for our tags (pink, main aft) to be called until finally, after about 1.5 hours we went to the purser's desk who insisted that ours had already been called. I assure you it had not been called as none of us heard it. Nevertheless, we departed at that time and caught a cab ($18 standard fare) to Miami International. Since tag colors are not monitored when you disembark, my guess is that we could have left regardless of what tag color had been called, and I will keep this in mind for future cruises. My overall opinion was that this was a great cruise. The issues that needed improvement were minor and I would definitely recommend this ship and itinerary to everyone else. I never experienced any seasickness or even much motion as I had on my prior cruise with Princess (which I thoroughly enjoyed), and the rooms appeared to be very well sound proofed. Also, I had read comments about vibrations or shuddering and while I did detect something like that while in bed, I can honestly say that it did not disturb me which had been a concern of mine prior to the cruise as I tend to be a very light sleeper.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: February 12th, 2003 A fabulous cruise! The ship: Carnival's refreshing departure from neon and chrome to inlaid wood makes for a new level of affordable and fun elegance. The ports: amazing Central America, especially Belize, should be on everyone's must-see list. The staff: unusually helpful, due in part to leadership by cruise director Amy Van Wyk and a easy-going affable Captain, Pier Paolo Scala.

The first of many changes we noticed (see list below) was the ship's official name on our initial Carnival Caper newsletter. It's now called the DeAz/s Spirit. This stands for Diesel Engine Azipod Ship, a new propulsion technology for greater speed and more efficient fuel use. In addition, there are two stabilizers to make sea trips more steady. Unfortunately during three days of our eight they were broken. We rocked and rolled but not so much that we got sick. Carnival's Spirit was built in 2001 as a new class prototype. The Carnival Legend and the Costa Atlantica are carbon copies. As usual, most of the crew are from countries such as Croatia, Indonesia, the Phillipines, various former Soviet republics, and Romania. The ship's navigational and engineering staff, including the Captain, are Italian. Social hosts are from the US, Australia, and the UK. Best Deals Definitely take a taxi to and from the Miami airport -- it is way cheaper per person and much faster than the Carnival bus. Plus you don't have the long waits for other passengers, their bags, and the chaos involved getting on and off the ship. $18 for a full cab to (or from) the airport. If you get to Miami the day before, South Beach is a wild night among the pierced, tattooed, chic, barely clothed, and international crowd. Be sure to have breakfast at the News Cafe where movie stars frequently start their day. Although Carnival says embarkation starts at 1:30, get there by 11:30 and you'll be on by 12. Head for lunch on the Lido deck as your room will not be ready until 1:30. To save time, be sure to complete all paperwork before getting to port. With an adult soda card, get all the soda you want -- a great savings over buying them one by one for $3. The card costs $39/adult for a 8 day cruise. Buy one the first day. We drank 4-6 sodas a day each saving over $100. There are cards for kids, too, at a lower price. The 24/7 pizza/salads/ice cream/yogurt are universal hits. They also serve calzones and chicken caesar salads on request, as well as some nonmainstream but delicious pizza (like goat cheese). Mildly amusing: the daytime pizza guy acts like the "Soup Nazi" on Seinfeld. Stand in the wrong place, ask for the wrong thing - no pizza for you! Dinner in the Empire Dining Room was consistently well-prepared, interesting, well-presented, and delicious. We loved the soups (pumpkin is not to be missed). The very best food and service yet on a Carnival ship. The Nouveau Supper Club ($25 a person) is Carnival's experiment in "premium" dining. Although skeptical at first, we were won over. The service is impeccable as are the seven courses you'll receive. Be warned, though. Hustle up there FIRST THING to get the time and day you want for that special romantic dinner. Good times sell out quickly. And come hungry - this is not a dining experience for the timid of appetite. A very minor thing - sparkling water offered before the meal is not free, we discovered. In Belize, the most popular tour in the country is the Cave Tubing (around $85), an astonishing day trip down an underground river. Panama's tours vary between visiting the Canal ($80) and actually going through the locks ($155). We chose the latter and it was well worth it. Costa Rica's port is as yet unimpressive but any tour to the rain forest will be exciting. Panama's port shopping and Free Zone shopping is second only to the deals in St. Maarten (which you won't be visiting on the Western itinerary). Book all your tours IMMEDIATELY upon getting on board. On the Ship Our cabin (Panorama 8186) was a treat. Lots of room, as in most Carnival ships, and spotless. Spirit's elevators, toilets, lights, and other systems always worked. Breakfast in the cabin is a wonderful way to wake up. Salmon, bagels, fruit, cereal, coffee, tea, and breads brought to your door starts the day off right. Breakfast is also served up on the Lido deck and in the main restaurant, Empire. Lunch is standard fare except for the NY Deli which featured delicious reubens and roast beef. Lunch and dinner are on the Lido deck and in both restaurants. You'll wait 5-10 minutes at most stations. At dinner, all the fun flaming desserts (Cherries Jubilee, Baked Alaska, etc.) are no longer served "hot" due to past accidents (glad we weren't at those tables!). Best value? The wine markup is much less than landside restaurants. You can get many good ones (try the Chateau St Michelle) for under $20. The most romantic spot is up by the mid-ship white navigational "ball". Hike up there late on a moonlight night and have a nearly 360 view of the ship and ocean. There are hot tubs everywhere. The "adults only" tub aft always had a kid in it during the day. The spa tub had no kids and was almost always empty. Despite Carnival's rules, people still save chairs on deck -- which irritates us no end. Get on deck by 9am if you want a chair near the pool. The gym/spa features workout machines everywhere, a hot tub, separate wet and dry saunas for men and women, an aerobics studio on the second level (it's that big!), massage rooms, a hair salon, and locker rooms with five-head showers (gotta do these at least once). Want to indulge cheaply? Try the mind-numbing (in a good way) 45-minute Indian Scalp Massage in port or the last day when it's on sale for $44. Carnival "taxes" your shipboard Sign and Sail card $10 per person per day for tips which be changed at the purser's desk. The Maitre'd has to be tipped separately. Ours did nothing special. He primarily made announcements and introduced the wait staff entertainment (which had us on our feet, especially the new "Ketchup Song" and the venerable "Macarena"). Cruise Director Amy Van Wyk should be on Broadway not on a mere cruise ship. She has a stunning stage presence singing and dancing, having started as a Carnival dancer since the early 90's. Amy became a CD in the last year, first on the Imagination. In the role of performer she's a pure knockout. In the role of emcee, however, loosening up would really help her natural charm come to the surface. The over-gestures and big winks that make her performances so compelling look artificial when just chatting from stage. Her recommendations for a happy cruise? Bring a pair of old shoes you can get dirty on excursions, book your special events early, and read the fine print. Carnival will not trick you (we found them to be very forthright) but there are policies and rules for everything, especially refunds. Amy and asst CD Skippy from Australia do an informative "morning show" on TV each day. This innovative program, the only one in the fleet, gives timely data on the day's events, ports, changes, and charges. Watching will save you time calling the Purser's office with questions they've heard a zillion times before. Finally, we loved the big band Spirit Orchestra and encourage Amy to have them play outside a few times for dancing on deck! Not So Great The waterslide is fun for kids but DANGEROUS for adult males. George was one of many guys who hit their heads in the last curve on the way down. Almost knocked him out. Carnival should have this slide open only for those under 130 pounds. Stupid reached new heights during the Farewell Show. Its stars, the aptly-named Village Idiots, should have been thrown off the ship in the first five minutes. At the casino, there is no easy money. You only choose how much to donate. Play Bingo the last day for the free cruise - otherwise unless you're bored Bingo is a waste of money. There are also Scratch-off Lotto cards for a buck. Carnival makes a mint on these. We NEVER heard of anyone winning. At the Captain's Welcome, you don't get your picture taken with him unless you take it yourself. You'll only shake his hand if you happen to be in line when he is, which is only for about half an hour. At the Asian Station (Lido deck), the sushi is either overcooked or vegetarian. Although this "saves" us from the perils of eating raw fish, this sushi was awful, truly awful. We heard from others that the Nouveau Supper Club's sushi was the real thing and quite good. The Photo staff is talented and friendly but overworked due to their crazy scheduling. Let 'em sleep, Carnival! Haven't Been on a Fun Ship in a While? There are many changes: 1. Wired? Fees for using the Internet are cheaper by 25% from a year ago. 2. Big gambler? Join Carnival's Ocean Players club to rack up point for comps for your next cruise. The casino now charges a 3% fee to buy chips on the Sign and Sail card. 3. Group gym classes like aerobics and kickboxing, formerly free, are now $10 each. 4. Like those little contests on board? With a few exceptions, you'll only win the infamously cheesy "ship on a stick" (not even worth bringing home). 5. There are minibars in many rooms but you'll still pay a "restocking fee" of 15% for pouring your own. The good news is that alcohol prices are the same as at the ship bars - no surcharges as in many hotels. 6. At some ports, especially tender ports, Carnival issues disembarking numbers to avoid long lines. 7. No more free pool towels -- you're on the hook for the blue Carnival beach towel in your cabin. Lose it and pay $22. Leave it on the cabin floor, however, and you'll get a fresh one in a few hours! 8. Getting off in Miami was fast given all the new security/immigration/customs procedures. 9. Wanna get hitched? There's a wedding chapel on board. Weddings happen in port before shoving off so Uncle Ed and Aunt Verna can attend without going on a cruise. In recovery? The chapel also aptly doubles as an AA meeting once a day. Spirit alternates W and S Caribbean during the winter then goes to Alaska in the summer. Spring and Fall each feature a 16-day Panama Canal transit between San Diego and Miami. Hellos to Mike and Meg from Washington, first time cruisers who have caught the fever and will be back again! To see all our reviews, visit www.strategicdevelopment.com/travel . Happy Cruising! George and Eleanor

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Nov 30, -0001

Exotic Western Caribbean

Ok…here is our review for what it is worth! We are in our 30’s and can have a good time doing just about anything! We took the Carnival Fly Aweigh Package (we always do) and they put us up at the Wyndham Airport Hotel, which was nice although it cost us 20 bucks to go to Bayside for something to do. Day 1 – Monday January 14, 2002 Embarkation! Got up around 9:00 am and went to the Lobby to pre-register for the ship. I think that is one

of the nicest things about buying your airfare and night before package with Carnival is the fact that they pre-check you in at the hotel so you avoid the LONG lines at the pier! It still took us about 30-40 minutes to get registered at the hotel and once that was done we went back to our room to watch TV and chill until it was time to check out at 11 am. We had brought some Krispy Kreme doughnuts from home so we ate those for breakfast figuring that we would have a huge lunch when we got on the ship. At 11 we went downstairs and checked out and took our entire luggage outside with us until it was time to go. We sat by the pool and read until about 11:35 and then we headed into the lounge in the hotel to wait until we could get on the busses at noon. At about 10 min until 1200 they started loading us onto the busses. They made sure all the luggage got on the bus, took our transfer tickets and we were off. It took about 10 – 15 min to get to the pier from the hotel. When we pulled in the Carnival Fascination was in port as well as a Royal Caribbean Ship. The Spirit was beautiful sitting in port. Got off the bus and immediately got hit up for tips and got TOLD by the porter that we tip him THEN AND THERE and he stood there until he got it! I thought that was quite rude but we paid him (we would have anyway) and took off towards the pier door. When we got inside we went through one security checkpoint and you could see hundreds of people already waiting in the LONG check in lines so I was glad that we had already done that. They put a sticker on a ticket in your pamphlet and then they know you pre-registered already. We headed up to the 2nd floor where we got our sign and sail cards. I was immediately ticked off to say the least that they had given us late seating when I booked this cruise over a year ago and asked for early seating! I was still mulling this over on the way up to the 3rd floor. Up there we walked a long ways until we hit a long line! There were windows all the way along and you walked along side the ship all the way. The anticipation was mounting but I was still furious about the late/early-seating thing! The LONG line was for the stupid embarkation pictures!! Ours stunk because I was still fuming over the late/early seating thing. Once we got through that long line it was down an escalator where they didn’t have anyone down there directing traffic so by the time we got down to the bottom of the escalator we had nowhere to go! I was annoyed but they finally got someone to come tell people to keep moving! Then it was another long line which moved pretty quickly where you had to have your sign and sail card ready and you insert it into the machine and they take your picture for security checks. Then down a little hallway like an airport jet way and BOOM onto the ship we were! From hitting the pier until stepping 1 foot in the atrium on the ship was 30 minutes so not bad. My first impression was IT WAS AMAZING! I LOVED the atrium décor! It was so classy and not as glitzy as the other Carnival Ships! Lots of dark woods and wood tones! I loved it! There was a HUGE mural from the 4th floor to the 10th floor and it was neat!!! We decided while waiting we would go to the room, drop off our luggage and head straight to the tour desk, then to Nouveau Supper Club and then to the Spa and finally to the Lido deck to eat lunch. We went to our room and they had the tour forms in the room along with a pamphlet about each tour offered. We spent about 10 minutes filling that out and then we headed to the tour desk back on deck 2. We got tired of waiting for an elevator to go to our room, which was the Empress Deck Aft room 6219, and it was a GREAT LOCATION! I LOVED IT! So convenient! We were right by the Atrium and only had 1 balcony neighbor! Anyway we went downstairs to the tour desk and turned in our tour form. Later on I found out that a lot of the tours were sold out BEFORE we even left Miami! I was glad that we put our requests in early! Then we headed up on an elevator thankfully, to the Nouveau Supper Club and got our reservations for Wednesday night! They had to change our itinerary because there were going to be 4 ships in Belize that first day if they didn’t so we went to Panama first and went backwards which was fine with us….we didn’t care! Anyway we got the Supper Club reservations on the night we wanted at the time we wanted and it didn’t appear that many people were in a hurry to book it because the night we went it was almost empty! Then we headed up to the spa to make a couple’s massage appointment! We let the girl there talk us into 2 spa reservations…1 for the next day (Tuesday) and one for the following Monday. The couple’s massage is a 50 minute massage and it cost $170.00 total (VERY worth the money in our opinion). Then we finally headed off to the lunch buffet on the Lido deck! They had really good lasagna and pasta along with Pizza, Chinese, Rotisserie stuff and a Salad Bar. Good variation!! About 2 we went to the dining room to see the Maitre D’ about our seating time and it was a JOKE! I couldn’t believe it took us 45 min to get to see him and then he told us he wouldn’t know until the next day so we had to go to late seating that night which was fine. We were in a booth near the back of the dining room for 4 people, table number 204. About 3 we got all of our luggage so we decided that we would hurry and unpack before the Muster Drill, which happened about 4pm. The drill took until about 4:30 and we ran back to our cabin and headed up to the very front of the ship to watch us sail out. They had scuba divers checking the ship and they finally unhooked us from the pier. We had to go down to the end and turn around and we were being escorted by a Coast Guard Boat and Police Boat who would not let ANYONE in the Channel while we were turning around or heading out to sea! There were National Guardsmen on the side of the road across from the pier with fully loaded guns also! They stopped quite a few boats from going down the channel and I felt completely safe! We headed out to sea and we went down to get ready for dinner and do more exploring! At 7:00 we went to Karaoke for a while and it was ok…lots of blah singing but it was ok for something to do until dinnertime. I was a little mad because they scheduled Who Wants To Be A Millionaire at 8 pm and late dinner started at 8:15 so we missed that! I thought they should have waited until dinner was done for both seatings but oh well. We went to dinner and met our tablemates! Carrie and Mark from Chicago who we just hit it off with right away! We had a great time chatting at dinner. Afterwards we went to the welcome aboard show and I got my first glimpse at Shawn Bussey! I really liked her enthusiasm but I had no idea that would be one of the few times I would actually see her! We had a great time at the welcome aboard show! We were beat so we went to bed shortly afterwards! Day 2 – Tuesday January 15, 2002 At Sea Got up at 9:15 or so and got ready to go to our Couples Massage after we ate breakfast. Headed up to the Lido deck for our breakfast and I was NOT impressed here at all! The food was ALL cold and the variety stunk! I did like that they did made to order omelets however! It was cloudy and windy today! We headed over to our 10:30 spa appointment and got checked in. Went to the locker rooms, put on our robes and headed to the waiting area at the front of the spa near the hot tub! Thought that the hot tub looked really nice until some gross guy who had just got done working out came down from the gym, all sweaty and gross and just hopped right into the hot tub without showering! That made me sick to my stomach!! We waited and waited and waited for someone to come get us. Finally my husband headed up to see what was up. Seems that the girl who made the reservations for us messed up big time and put us down for 2 at the END Of the cruise (something she talked US OUT of doing) and so my husband got a little huffy and they offered to give us a massage the next morning at 10:30 for a reduced rate. We went back and got changed and headed out to the cloudy outside. We went to our cabin to get our suits on and got a notice from the Maitre D’ that they had changed our dinner seating to the main seating and how ironic we had the same exact table just the earlier seating! We went up to the Lido deck near the Dome pool, found 2 chairs and hung out pretty much all afternoon. Ate Lunch on the Lido….had Pizza and Salad and it was pretty good! We liked that Carnival only gave out the towels in your room instead of having the bins on deck it seemed to HELP cut down on the chair saving although then people started putting books and stuff on them (seemed to be stuff they didn’t care if they lost or not) but we still didn’t have any problems finding a chair! We headed down to our room to get ready for early seating! We went to the early seating and met Joe and Jackie who were VERY nice people but we just didn’t hit it off with them like we did the first couple! Tonight was the first formal night and it was the Captains Dinner so we went to the Cocktail party first and got our pictures taken. Dinner was the Lobster dinner and it was very good! I can’t remember what else there was but that I do remember was Lobster and Prime Rib. After dinner we went to the crummy show in the Pharaoh’s Palace. It was called Standing Room Only and seemed to be a tribute to Musicals, which, neither of us can stand to listen to so we left! I wasn’t impressed with the costumes or the dancers on this ship. Tonight was the first R rated late night comedy act and we decided to go. We happened to meet our late night dinner seating couple and we all decided to go to the comedy show so we met up outside the show and watched it. It was hilarious! After the show we went to the disco to get a drink since we couldn’t find another open bar. It was so loud and obnoxious in there that we left and went and sat in the Artist’s Lobby. Eddie Capone (the comedian) came by and Mark (our new friend from dinner) asked him if he could buy him a drink. We ended up having quite a few laughs with Eddie and at 2 am we went upstairs to have some pizza. By this time I was a walking zombie so we decided to call it a night and go to bed. Day 3 – Wednesday January 16, 2002 Sea Day again Woke up around 9 again to LOTS of sunshine! Today was supposed to be our “makeup” massage for the one they messed up the day before so we headed once again to the Lido deck for some breakfast and to the Library to email the kids and then off to the Spa for our treatment. Luckily this time they had us down and we went and got a great massage. Afterwards we went into the locker rooms to get dressed and I tried out their shower. I want one in my house. They had jets in the sides and then one on top and so it hit your body at lots of angles. It was so nice!! We saw they had a slot tournament and so we decided to enter it. It cost 20 dollars and if you won you won $500.00 so we went for it. We entered and had to be back at the casino at 1:10. We went upstairs and laid out for a while and had some lunch until it was time to go to the slot tournament. Of course neither of us did anything in the slot tournament so we donated 40 dollars to Carnival. Went back to the chairs for more lying out and it was SO windy. The boat was rocking quite a bit and I wasn’t feeling that well even after taking another Meclazine. About 3 we tried to go to Battle of the Sexes part 2 outside Club Cool on deck 2 but I got really sick and had to go lay down. I fell asleep until 5 and then woke up and got ready for the Supper Club. Our reservation was at 6:30 and we arrived on time! I didn’t get all snazzed up but should have I guess. I wore a nice pair of pants and a nice shirt and felt very under-dressed. Next time I will take a nice pantsuit or something. They seated us upstairs next to the railing so we could look down onto the dance floor. They brought my husband Asparagus soup and they brought me a quail egg, which I did not eat. My husband said the soup was very salty and he ate my quail egg, which he said he would never eat again. The waiter brought them as “compliments of the chef” but who knows why. They brought wonderful bread and I had really good French Onion Soup with what seemed to be sweet onions. Husband had Crab Cakes and said they were superb! We had our choice of Caesar Salad or Spinach Salad and we both chose the Spinach Salad. It was really good even if it had mushrooms in it! Then on to the Main course! I had a 9 oz. Filet Mignon that was so tender I could cut with my fork and husband had 12 oz. New York Strip, which he said, was also good. You could choose from a 9 oz Filet, a 12 oz New York or a 24 oz. Porterhouse along with Joes Stone Crab or Lobster Tail. Great presentation and we ordered Baked Potatoes, which came on their own plate with small little individual portions of sour cream, butter, chives, you name it to put on the potato. Finally came dessert which husband had Flourless Chocolate Cake and said it was delicious. I ordered the cheesecake sampler and it was wonderful as well. Then they brought us some petit fours and they were really yummy too! My advice would be to GO HUNGRY that is for sure! I wasn’t feeling very well because of the motion of the boat so I didn’t enjoy it like I wish I could have. They brought us an anniversary cake since it was our 10th wedding anniversary and it was yummy as well. It took about 3 hours from start to finish and it was worth every penny! We thoroughly enjoyed the food and the service was impeccable! We were going to dance but some other couples were trying and they could hardly stand up it was rocking so badly! I wasn’t feeling all that well anyway! We left the restaurant and met our tablemates again. We decided since we left the late seating they didn’t have anyone sitting with them that we would go back to the late seating and be with them who we had a lot more in common with. I still didn’t feel well so we decided to call it a night and I went to bed. We had an early morning the next morning in Panama so I wanted to be well rested and refreshed! Day 4 – Thursday January 17, 2002 Panama Set a wakeup call for 6:15 since we had to meet at lounge by 7 am for our Panama Canal tour. Went to Lido deck and got some breakfast and brought It back to our cabin and watched us pull into port on our balcony while eating breakfast. It was really pretty!!! Went to the lounge and we were off the boat by 7:20 and on to the tour busses to take us to the Panama Canal. Took us 1 ½ hours to ride on the bus to the Canal but it was worth it all! In the Carnival brochure of tours it says they will give you a snack. It consisted of a ham sandwich on a bun, a banana muffin and a warm soft drink! It was SO hot…around 90 degrees that day so we were dying! We saw that the sandwich had Mayo on it so we didn’t eat it. After being on the tour for 6 hours we were starving when we got back. Going on this tour was a highlight that is for sure! We went through 3 locks and it was amazing!!!! Got back to the port at 2:30 and did some shopping. Bought some Lladro at a store there for me and my mom at really great prices. Then we got into a horrendous line to get back on board the ship. The Security people from Carnival were wanding every single person going onto the ship so that took awhile plus you put your card into a reader and they make sure you are you! Then the stuff goes through the X Ray machine and you are ready to go to your room or wherever. Went to the Lido deck and brought lunch back to the room to watch us leave. Watched us pull out and sat on balcony for a while and then went to dinner. Tonight was another show in the Lounge called Singing with the Big Band A Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Sinatra. It was excellent to say the least!! We really enjoyed it!!! After we headed into the Casino for another “donation” and then headed off to bed. We had another big day tomorrow in Costa Rica. Day 5 – Friday January 18, 2002 Costa Rica Ordered Room Service today and ate on our Balcony watching us come into port again in Costa Rica. We decided to go into town right after the boat got into port because our tour didn’t meet until 12:30. We walked quite a ways until we hit the city and I was really nervous to be the only Americans in the city at that time and we don’t speak Spanish. It looked like a very poor place from the moment I started walking into the city and I was sad about that. We wandered around trying to find some stuff to bring home and we also tried to keep ourselves from getting Tourist Brain (where it looks really cool on vacation and then you get home and wonder what on earth you are going to do with THAT!) LOL Anyway we headed back to the ship not realizing that there is a tram that will pick you up at the ship and take you to an open-air market place where you can shop! It of course started to rain and so we got wet making our way back to the ship! We went on the Lido deck and got some lunch and then headed off to the pier because that is where our Off Road tour met. Got there and was told by Tracey (tour manager) that the vehicle would be there shortly! Waited until 1 pm and still no vehicle. Come to find out the Celebrity ship was in port too and they somehow got first billing on that tour and they couldn’t find out where the tour was they had lost radio contact with them so for that reason I am glad we couldn’t go but it was still disappointing! We threw a tour together on our own however that included a site seeing tour, trip to a banana plantation and a trip down the Torturengo Canal all for 25 bucks a person. Carnival refunded our money, which I was happy to hear!!! In the Canal we saw 2 and 3-toed sloths, monkeys, various birds and a baby crocodile. Headed back to the ship around 4 pm and were getting ready for us to sail off when they announced that we would be leaving 2 hours later than expected because 2 of the tours hadn’t made it back. No problem (or so I thought at the time) and so we waited until 7 before we pulled out of port and set sail for Belize. We had a narrow encounter with a cargo ship, which missed the front of our boat by a few feet. We had really annoying balcony neighbors below us that kept giving each other the “play by play” of what was happening to the ship. It got really annoying!! Tonight they played the 3 Bears game but of course we were at dinner and missed it. Tonight was also the guest talent show but we decided to hang out with Mark and Carrie and have a great time together just doing nothing!! At 11 we went upstairs on the Lido deck for a party and it just plain sucked! The band 2 slick sucked too!! It was a joke! It was supposed to be a Mexican Fiesta and we got stuck listening to songs from the Commodores and stuff! The whole thing seemed stupid to us so we left. We decided to call it a night around midnight! Day 6 – Saturday January 19, 2002 At Sea Was up all night due to the motion not feeling well and sitting in the bathroom all night long! The boat movement was SO bad today! Worse than any other day so far! Very windy and very rocky and it was hard to walk or do anything. The Captain was trying to make up the 2 hours we were late leaving from Costa Rica in order to get us to Belize on time and it was great except for the movement!! We went to the Lido deck and by this time I had had it with the breakfasts on the ship! I know there aren’t a whole lot of variations for breakfast but they could have at least been “lukewarm” when we ate them! I was annoyed at this the whole cruise! I thought breakfast ANYWHERE even the dining room was terrible the whole week!! We went to the spa again for another massage and it was nice although I got a really deep massage and my back hurt to touch it for 2 days afterwards! We decided to lie out in the sun for a while until lunch. The movement of the ship seemed to get better as the morning wore on so that was good! I was finally able to feel more like myself! We went to lunch in the dining room and it was excellent! I think the best lunch I had all week!! The only downside was the terrible vibration in the dining room! It was worse at that lunch than at any other time! I couldn’t believe how loud and obnoxious it became the longer we sat there! We went back upstairs on deck near the spa and laid out again and it was nice!! Today they did the Survivor Game, a ship wide scavenger hunt, Ping Pong Tournament for the Ladies, Golf Putting Competition, and they also played Sea Feud (something similar we heard to Family Feud). Today was also the Galley tour. We went to get ready for dinner (the days just kind of slip away from you and all of a sudden it is time to go eat AGAIN! LOL) and so we went to dinner and then headed to the Casino. We eventually made our way up to the Shanghai Piano Bar for some singing….which sucked! Too many old songs, not enough life to the party....just all around boring! It didn’t seem like they had a lot going on this ship this time. When we went on the Destiny they always had something going like a Merengue Dance class or something but this ship it didn’t seem like they had a whole lot to do. Of course there was the usual “people making fools of themselves in deck games” and some bingo which cost a fortune! 10 dollars for 3 cards and only 1 game for all 3 cards and whoever won and that was it....you were out 10 bucks! I didn’t like that aspect of it either! To drop 20 bucks to play 1 round of bingo seemed a little pricey to us! It seemed that they were catering to the “older” crowd (no offense to them) and so the stuff stopped about 10 pm. I remember thinking at night….what are we going to do after dinner??? We always found a way to entertain ourselves but they didn’t seem to have much going on EVER!! I was disappointed with that!!! Tonight was Showtime with Amy Van Wyk who we were NOT impressed with at all. She had a screechy voice to us. Headed off to bed around 11:30 to get ready for Belize the next day! Day 7 – Sunday January 20, 2002 Belize Ordered room service in our cabin again and it came about 7:15 ish. We ate and we were still sailing but we had to be in the lounge at 8:15 to get ready to go on our scuba excursion. Got there about 8 am and just as we got there Shawn Bussey announced that we wouldn’t be dropping anchor until at least 9 am! We were still an hour behind schedule from the Costa Rica late departure even though we had made up 1 hour we still were an hour behind so we sat in the lounge and waited. Met some other divers and it was nice for me since this was my first open water dive I was very apprehensive about it all!!! Finally at 9am they made the announcement that in about 20 min we would have dropped anchor and that they would start disembarking the tours first!! At 9:20 they called the first tour!! At 10 am we were still sitting in the lounge. They called tours in numerical order starting with tour 801 and ours was 814 so we had a long time to wait. Since Belize is surrounded by barrier reef you have to tender in and it takes about 15 min to tender to the pier and they only had about 8 –10 boats tendering so it took awhile! At about 10:10 they started disembarking people with Tender tickets BEFORE those of us who had spent a fortune on the Carnival tour, which really really really irked me! I was furious at the thought that I had paid almost 200 bucks a person and those who didn’t pay a cent were getting off before me! NEVER in my cruising, has this happened! The tour people were always given preferential treatment since we had places to go and time frames to meet! Went on the Norwegian Norway and we had to tender in every port and they NEVER let those who didn’t have a tour go before those who did!! I was furious by this time!!! Finally at about 20 min to 11 they finally called our tour (out of order….they were only on tour number 807 when we got called) and we headed down to the loaded and busy gangway on Deck A. Thankfully our Scuba boat was waiting for us at the ship so we loaded off on that boat and saved 15 min in tendering and we were off. We went to the Turneffe Atoll and docked. It was about an hour boat ride to get there and we got our equipment set up and ready to go and then we anchored down. We split into 3 groups of about 8 each with a dive master. It was a VERY well organized tour! I was SO impressed with this operation!! I had done research on my own before I found out that Carnival had hired Hugh Parkey to do the scuba tour for them and found nothing but good reviews on them so I was confident that things would be great and they were. We went down 60 feet or so along a reef and we saw some great stuff. We saw a sea turtle; a barracuda only about 10 feet from us (looked more like 2 feet LOL) but it was neat! He was very polite; let us all look at him, showed all of us his teeth and then took off. We got to touch the sea turtle so that was really cool. We also saw beautiful fish!!! Then we surfaced, had a snack of chips and salsa, sweet rolls, orange wedges and pop. Then we had been out about an hour so we got to do again to the other side of the reef and they were only 20 feet apart but completely different places it seemed! On the 2nd side we saw a HUGE grouper in the distance, a Moray Eel, schools and schools of fish and the best part was a baby octopus! It was so neat!!! Once we were done we boarded the boat and headed back to the Ship. We got there and only had about 40 min to go to the pier (one of the major drawbacks to being an hour late arriving and an hour later getting off the ship) so we hurried and tendered to the pier. It was beautiful there! It reminded me a little of Grand Cayman (or what I saw at the pier) with really nice stores and people!! Finally we caught one of the last tenders back to the ship and got to our room about 5 pm. We were exhausted from diving (not realizing how much it takes out of you) and so we slowly got ready for dinner. Tonight was the last Formal night (bad night to do it in my opinion) and so we got dressed and headed out. I found the ship to be VERY cool at night and needed a sweater every single night! Tonight was NO exception! I was freezing and the dining room was especially cold every night! I was miserable to say the least!! I sat through dinner with my teeth chattering and goose bumps all over my arms and I didn’t like that! It seemed our table was right below an air conditioner vent and it was freezing! I also hated having to rush to get ready for formal night after a very exhausting day of tendering and touring. I felt they could have re-arranged the schedule and done that formal night the night before! The dinners have all been ok. Some were very good and some were very poor! I had Prime Rib this night and it was so tough I could hardly chew it, which is something I have never had with Prime Rib. The selections were ok on appetizers and the salad selection never seemed to change ever. It was always mixed greens or a Caesar Salad and those were your choices. The Desserts were ok too….typical Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee neither of which I like. They had one night with really good Éclairs and one night with awesome apple pie which we had alamode! The desserts were pretty good in flavor also. We were really looking forward to Key Lime Pie but of course they served that the night we went to the Supper Club! LOL The show tonight was High Spirits featuring Amy Van Wyk and Christopher Alan Graves and the Spirit Dancers. I personally didn’t go to this show but my husband and our tablemates did and said after about 20 min they got bored and left. They said it started out ok and then it went into a “ghost” theme and it wasn’t that great so they left. Tonight they had another adult comedy show in the Versailles Lounge and the comedian was David Saye which none of them thought was worth listening to. He didn’t make any of them laugh!! At midnight was the Gala Buffet and I fell asleep and didn’t make it to see it but hubby did and said it was ok. Our tablemates went to it to eat it and said it looked a lot better than it tasted. They said it was all pretty bland! They let you take pictures from 11:30 until 12:30 am and our wonderful waiter Danillo told us a tip to go UPSTAIRS in the Dining room instead of on the main level and you will avoid the long lines so that is what my husband did and he said he got MUCH better pictures up there although there were probably some heads in the way it was nice to not have to stand in the line for an hour and wait to see food! I fell asleep after dinner and missed all of this but from what I was told by Hubby and Tablemates I didn’t miss ANYTHING! Day 8 – Monday January 21, 2002 Last and Final Sea Day Today I woke up to the feeling that I don’t know how people stay on a ship much longer than what we have been on because at this point I was ready to go home. I felt like I had been gone forever which was good because that meant the trip didn’t fly by and I was looking forward to packing up and going home. Woke up about 9 am again (seems to be our magical time) and went up for our 2nd to last yucky breakfast meal on the Lido deck. Off to the Spa for our final massage, which was really good although I felt a little pressure to buy something I withstood it and said no. I felt really bad about saying no for some reason but thankfully after a small no thank you and then a firmer no thank you they let it go. We went and took a shower in the showers in the spa locker room again (anyone can use them not just spa people…should have gone in there before dinner every night because no shower curtains to deal with and large roomy stalls! But anyway took a shower and then headed out to lie in the sun and bake! It was SO hot today in the sun!! Went and got some lunch and tried to lay out some more but we just got so hot we got sick!! Today on deck they did an ice carving demonstration followed by the deck games finale. They also FINALLY did a dance class, which was the Austin Powers Dance Class, but we didn’t go. At 3pm they did the newlywed/not so newlywed game and then at 3:30 they did Up Close and Personal where you can ask Shawn and her staff what life Is really like on a ship! I heard that was pretty cool but we decided to go during that time and pack up most of our stuff so we wouldn’t have to do it later that evening! It took us about an hour to get packed up and ready to go. Sat in our cabin (wanted to use the balcony but we couldn’t because it was just too windy) so we sat in the cabin and read for a while. Time to get ready for dinner again! We went to dinner and had a great time for our last dinner!! The waiter and his helper (cant get used to the new titles!) but they were great!! We tipped them over and above the sign and sail tips on our account because they were fabulous! Our dinner was superb this last night! Tonight the show was Farewell Showtime, which featured the Juggling Entertainment of Steve Athearn and the Comedy of David Saye (who was the comedian the night before or 2 that my husband didn’t laugh once at) so we skipped it. We went to the Casino again and made our final contribution there and then we went to go email our kids one last time. Got to the Internet library about 10:10 and just got online and they kicked me off saying it closed at 10 pm. NOWHERE did I read that they closed that early so I was a little perturbed! We decided it was late and we had to get up really early to make it to our last and final breakfast (thank goodness for that) so we went to finish our last minute packing and put our luggage in the hall and went to bed. Day 9 – Tuesday January 22, 2002 Disembarkation Day Woke up this morning to a wake up call at 6:30 and got up to watch us pull into Miami! I was somewhat sad to think that reality was going to set in soon but I was also ready to go home and see my kids!! We went to the dining room and they did the open seating thing which I HATE! We got stuck with some boys who we didn’t know, didn’t care to know and just wanted to eat and get on with it. Finally we saw our dinner tablemates come in just as we were getting ready to order so we bolted and ate with them at a table! POOR POOR POOR service here this morning! It was as if they knew they already had their money and we were leaving so “go away” type of an attitude! I was disgusted by the “smart a$$” comments our waiter made to us and wrote it down in my comment card which I lost later on in the day!! During breakfast they called out 1 lucky comment card winner of a whopping $100.00 just for filling out the card. We headed upstairs to get our stuff and you could sit in the Lounge, on the Lido Deck or on the Promenade deck. This morning we also got our final bill of our sign and sail card and the Spa had made a billing mistake and charged us 150 bucks more than we should have been charged and then only credited us 60 dollars back so we were still short on the money we were credited so we headed to the pursers desk. We got there only to be informed that that would be handled by the Spa people at the spa after 8 am. Went up there around 9 and no one around so hubby went back to the pursers desk and waited until they could find the manager. At about 9:20 they started calling out colors to disembark and our color was the first one to get called. I was in NO hurry to get off the ship and we were still waiting for Spa manager so we waited around until she came. We showed her what the problem was and she fixed it without any problems at all. Gave us our credit and we decided to head out to the airport because our flight was at 12:55 (good thing we did too!). We walked off the ship and since we waited until almost everyone from our color had gone off our luggage was SIMPLE to find!! We walked through customs no problem at all and we went outside to an organized mess! LOL We were told from one man to go to one bus so we started heading there and then we were told to board another bus. We gave the guy our luggage and got on board. We waited about 10 min for the “geriatric” crowd to get their acts together and we were on our way!! It took about 20 min to get to the Miami International Airport and once there, WHAT A MESS!!! There were tons of busses dropping people off at the airport and we waited for what seemed to be an eternity until he could find a spot and unload. He (driver) picked a spot, grabbed EVERY PIECE OF LUGGAGE out of the cargo hold of that bus, put it all in one spot, asked for his tip and he was gone. A real mess! They dropped us off between Us Air and Continental with Delta (our airline) at the end. We smartly chose to skycap our luggage....worth every penny of every dollar because when we got inside they had a HUGE line of people. We started towards security and there was a HUGE line of people and you went through 9 sets of switchbacks before you got to the end. Once there you had to place EVERYTHING ON YOU even your wallet or credit cards in a container on the belt and walk through. My husband had a belt on and of course it beeped so they pulled him out of line, took him to another place, made him take his shoes off, made him take his belt off, and patted him down twice! I couldn’t believe it but it made me feel a little safer (not much but some) then he finally got done and we headed to the gate!! It took us about an hour from the skycap to the gate! I wasn’t prepared for that but thankfully we had enough time!! Final Thoughts on the Ship and Itinerary! Bad parts of it all 1. The bar staff in our part of the dining room was horrendous to say the least!! When we confronted the Maitre D’ he promised to make it better the next night and it was a little better but this was night 5. The rest of the nights we had our drinks waiting for us (which is what I remembered that service to be like from previous cruises) but having to wait until ½ way done with your entrée seemed a little long to us!!! 2. The Lido breakfast (as discussed earlier) was terrible! I have never eaten such cool to cold food in my life except cereal!! 3. NO ENTERTAINMENT worth sitting up for in our opinion!!! The shows were all boring, the comedians except for Eddie Capone were lame, the dancers seemed less than energetic to be there and it seemed that during the day there was NOTHING to do but lay in the sun or participate in stupid deck games where you make a fool out of yourself but not enough for all 2000 people to do anything!! I was disappointed in that!! 4. The band selections were poor also! I thought the only good band was the spirit band in the main show lounge! They had classical music going almost every night in the atrium....would have been nice to have a change. They had a guy playing the Artist’s Lobby and he sang the same music set EVERY NIGHT so after 3 days of hearing Brown Eyed Girl I got sick of it! 5. The crowd was MUCH older than we are used to on a Carnival ship and while that wasn’t all bad it wasn’t all good, either!! Some of them were downright RUDE and Crotchety!! One woman went off on me in the elevator for 5 min about how rude “my generation was” and I wanted to yell “BACK AT YA HONEY!” but didn’t!! 6. The food in the dining room had nights where it was almost inedible! Tough Prime Rib and no salad selection to say the least. 7. I hate the new way of waiting on tables with the team concept! It was very impersonal and cold! We never got to chat with our waiter except if we stayed LONG after his other tables had left!! I like to get to know them and them to know me!! 8. The vibration of the ship in the dining room! It drove me crazy every night! It was worse some nights than others but still always there and very pronounced. 9. The toilet flushing! We could hear it VERY loudly in our room and it sounded like it was multiple toilets going and it never seemed to stop! I hated listening to the WHOOOOSH constantly! 10. NO STORES to shop in hardly! They had 2 stores and that was it! I thought the prices were ok but the selection was your typical t-shirts, alcohol and Tommy Hillfiger clothing! I didn’t see anything too eye catching and it was sad that this gorgeous promenade was wasted on NO shops! THE GOOD parts of it all 1. Taking the fly aweigh with Carnival was great! They took great care of us and let us check in early at the hotel…missed a huge line! 2. Our room location was wonderful! Where the lifeboats are the ship is a little more recessed than where the lifeboats are not and we lucked out and got the first cabin on the jut out right after the last lifeboat and it was awesome! We only had 1 cabin neighbor next to us and then on the left side of the balcony there was no one near us! It was big enough for the 2 chairs and the table but nothing else! We were at the center right next to the Atrium and I thought at first bad place to be but it turned out to be wonderful! We never heard the elevators once! 3. Quiet rooms! Never heard our neighbor! Don’t know if that is because they were older and went to bed early, if they were just quiet or if the rooms were quiet but except for the bathroom noise listed above that was awesome! 4. Getting around the ship was a breeze! I love the fact that the galley was in the basement so that you could have a straight shot on all the floors and not have to go up or down a level to go along the ship. 5. The Nouveau Supper Club was definitely a highlight!! The food and service were impeccable! It was quiet and romantic and a really nice atmosphere!! We enjoyed the fact that we were the only table our waiter had so we got extra attention!! The food was magnificent and the cheesecake and warm flourless chocolate cake were awesome!!! 6. We could ALWAYS find a deck chair on board! Our ship was almost all full! I think they had 2 available cabins Shawn Bussey said and yet when we went up on deck there were still stacks and stacks of chairs not being used and we still didn’t find a problem in getting a chair! I think most of this was because of the older crowd but hey I am NOT going to complain here! It seemed on the Destiny if you weren’t up there by 6 am you didn’t get a chair ANYWHERE! 7. Room Service was wonderful as well. In the morning we wanted fresh fruit and it wasn’t listed on the breakfast list so we jokingly wrote it in and the next morning we had a bowl of fresh fruit! It was great! Our room steward(ess) Patarin or Pat for short brought it to us and it was always on time if not a few minutes early! After going on the tours we were starving so we came back to the boat, ordered a huge amount of stuff from room service, took a shower and it was there and waiting for us!! We tried the BLT’s and they were excellent and they came with CHIPS! We were craving potato chips and they came with them. We also ordered a chicken wrap on a tortilla and it was excellent as well. We had vegetable sticks and the cookie brownie selection for dessert! All of it was wonderful and our tablemates said the same thing! 8. It was nice to be able to wait in more places than just the lounge to disembark this time! We waited up on the Lido deck overlooking the pier and watched all the action going on! They have the process down and once they started calling colors it went very quickly!! We were off in about 10 min and had our luggage 2 min later! Of course some of that was because we waited for a few more colors to be called before we headed down so there wasn’t a whole lot of luggage in our section left. All in all this was a wonderful vacation and we REALLY enjoyed ourselves! We sat back for 8 days and just relaxed and let others take care of us! The motion on the ship was a lot more pronounced than other ships but except for the one night and next morning I did ok with it! I think that had to do more with I was stuffed silly from dinner and the motion kind of took over the rest! LOL We had a great time and we honestly really enjoyed the ports!! I loved that they aren’t so tourist trapped yet and the tours although they had their problems (but what ship doesn’t have at least one tour have a problem….none that we have been on anyway) they were nice and very well organized in our opinion!! The pier at Costa Rica is kind of yucky because it is a main shipping yard but I am sure that will change with time!! I read tons of reviews where people hated the stops and I was really apprehensive but I LOVED THEM!! I would go back on that ship and itinerary in a heartbeat!!! I would love to go with a YOUNGER crowd and with different entertainment but if someone offered me to go again on that ship, same itinerary, same entertainment I would jump on it in a heartbeat!! I already miss her beauty!!! She was very elegant and very tasteful and I thought that the different themes, in the different rooms, were a nice touch! At least then you KNEW you were in a different room with a different theme and you couldn’t get confused! I loved that the atrium was more toned down although it did seem much smaller than the Destiny Atrium I still preferred the Spirit’s Atrium! I asked a deck mate about the supposed ash problem (Which we saw very little of) and he told me it was because of garbage burning. He said they were now burning garbage AT NIGHT while we all slept to avoid a lot of problems with it and we didn’t see much problem on our balcony. We had one day where it was really bad but I think that had more to do with how badly the wind was blowing than anything else. All 4 days the waterslide was open and operational. I didn’t go on it…. In fact I only went to the very back of the ship on deck 9 once to take pictures….but I went to see if the waterslide was open and it was. They had it open at specific times not all day long but it didn’t look like much of a problem. The slide was open from 10 am until 1 pm and from 2 until 4:30 pm weather permitting and like I said it was open all 4-sea days for at least part of the time. Also if any of you are wondering they have a few NON smoking places and so I am going to list those places for those of us who get really tired of being overcome with 2nd hand smoke! The following are the places that are nonsmoking on the ship (not many): The infirmary The Photo Gallery The Versailles Lounge The Information Desk The Empire Restaurant The Gift Shop The Chippendale Library The Pharaoh’s Palace The La Playa Grill The Fitness Center and Spa The Jungle Walk And The Fun House. These other places are available to smoke in: Shanghai Piano Bar Club Cool Louis XIV Casino Dancin Dance Club Nouveau Supper Club Cigar and Pipe Smoking is restricted to Open Decks and Deco Lobby is designated as cigar bar. There is an adult’s only whirlpool on Lido deck aft. The first day at sea while laying out they came by and told several smokers to put out their cigarettes where we were laying out…I was SO thankful for that!! I don’t care if others smoke but don’t do it around me! I don’t like to smell it or smell like it or breathe it!!! I hope this review helps others who are going on this ship or on this itinerary or both!! I know reading helped me a lot although I did notice it made me a little more apprehensive about the ports but that was all in vain! I loved all 3 of them! I would like to go back to Belize to see more of it but the impression I got was it was close to Grand Cayman! Take Care and Happy Cruising! Heidi and Ryan Smith

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: November 24th, 2002 PRELUDE This was my 17th cruise and my Dad’s 35th or so (we lose count). We have cruised Carnival, Celebrity, RCI, NCL, Princess, and Costa over the years, all of them multiple times. We have seen a lot of changes to the industry over the years, most of them bad, some of them good. For the most part, Carnival has definitely improved their product over the years. What I write is

objective based on my past experiences, I am both critical and praising where it’s deserved. I hope you enjoy the review. EMBARKATION: After 30 plus years Carnival has yet to get the embarkation process to run smoothly. Sorry to say it that way, but it’s just the facts. I imagine this is partly because the port facilities in Miami are too small to handle the megaships that Carnival has produced over the years, yet there seems to be no look of change for the future. Nothing is more frustrating than having to walk back and forth through lines like being at Disney World, people become impatient waiting for their turn to get to the representative and start their vacation. Other cruise lines I have been on have adjusted their embarkation process over the years to make it a more streamlined process, I just wish Carnival would do the same. So after you get checked in, finally….you proceed up the escalator to a table where you pick up your cruise card….then up another escalator to walk for what seems a mile to get to the photo opportunity. Ahhh, but that’s not all, then you have to go down a flight of stairs of course showing your cruise card to security at the top, the first landing, and the bottom of the stairs…uggh! Now it’s onto more meandering lines as you wait to have your photo taken for the A-Pass (honestly the greatest innovation in cruising) before you can finally walk the gang plank onto the ship. My Dad and I arrived at the port around 11:30 and were on the ship by 1:00pm…. THE SHIP One word describes the Spirit – beautiful!! Thank God they finally got away from the gaudy neon and fitted out the Spirit class in elegance. If the ship didn’t have the trademark Carnival funnel, you wouldn’t know you were on a Carnival ship. Spirit is in the same décor class as the Grand Princess and Century type vessels. The layout of the ship is also very accommodating. Traffic flow is very seldom congested, accept around the photo gallery and the lounges outside the dining room. The theater has been well thought out and designed. There truly isn’t a bad seat in the house. The Pharoah theme is well done and not overkill. Also, look for the hidden elevators inside the theater that can take you from the Versaille Lounge below to the top deck of the Pharoah Lounge. I didn’t notice it until mid way through the cruise. The casino is probably the best one I’ve ever seen at sea. There is a nice bar area within the casino that flows with the entire room. It is well lit and you never have that cramped feeling or leave the casino smelling of smoke. The table layout is excellent as they alternate between blackjack, Caribbean poker, 3 card poker, and roulette which makes the casino look more active than it is sometimes. The dining room has also been well thought out. The server lines are behind the line of booth tables, so you don’t have to watch the waiters preparing your dishes. I just wish they would stop putting booths in the dining room and go to just tables and chairs to add to the elegance. THE ROOM We had a balcony room on deck 6. The room is more than spacious and probably has the nicest bathroom layout I’ve ever seen. Finally a bathroom that you don’t have to sit at an angle to use, and better yet, a shower curtain that doesn’t hug you while you wash…. The room is accented by wood veneers and eye pleasing colors. I only wish they would have designed the rooms to have the seating area next to the balcony doors instead of placing the beds there instead. SERVICE Carnival is trying to upgrade their image with the Spirit class ships, and have with the acception of the service on board. They are close, but still have a long way to go. Our room steward was excellent and was always pleasant. We also had excellent dining room service from our assistant waiter, Radka. Our waiter was relatively new so he fumbled a lot, yet he was always accommodating and did his best to please us. The photo staff was excellent and beyond taking a variety of superb photos, they were very talkative and proud of the job they were doing. My Dad and I were talking with the photo manager one night about the Panama Canal and he actually went into the photo studio and brought out photos he had taken during transit that they did not sell on the ship. He also told of his adventures through Panama to catch the ship as she sailed through the canal river. The biggest problem we had was bar service, whether it was poolside, in a lounge, in the disco, or the casino. The barstaff was not friendly at all and I noticed how the waiters and waitresses would take an entire trays worth of orders before going to the bar to fill up the orders. Sometimes this would take 30 minutes or so until you were refreshed. This may not seem to be a big deal to some, but when you are used to being pampered by bar staff on other cruises, you begin to expect the same everywhere. One day I ordered a Pina Colada 15 minutes before the pool games started, and when the drink actually came, the games were just finishing….that’s too long. The bartenders were also very stand offish and not overly friendly. For what they charge for drinks and tips, they need to address this. Also, in order to have dark rum poored on top of your Pina Colada, be prepared to pay and extra dollar. Finally – the cruise staff!!!! UGGGHH!!! Our cruise director was Amy from Wisconsin..and I had read reviews about her prior to the cruise. All the reviews were correct, she is terrible!! She also only has a staff of 3 others to accommodate 2,100 passengers that are craving activities. Fun ship? I don’t think so. We had 5 days at sea over the cruise because we didn’t stop in Costa Rica, and there were literally no activities planned for those sea days outside of bingo and art auctions. When we didn’t stop in Costa Rica, it took Amy until NOON to come up with activities for our sea day, which of course was Jackpot Bingo!!! FOOD Better than I could have ever expected from Carnival. Kudos to them for putting together excellent menus and selections. Even the Lido grill area had a variety of selections daily that were very tasty. The only bad thing was breakfast in the Lido was the same thing every day…no variety at all. PORTS Panama – we took the canal tour on a tour boat going from the Mira Flora locks to midway through the canal river. Awesome experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone. A little pricey at $ 155 each, but a once in a lifetime tour. We passed the World when we were in the river, nice to see the all condo ship up close. Costa Rica – well, we almost docked there, but since the swells were so large, the captain decided to pull out and go to sea. We watched the cargo ship next to us rock back and forth even though it was fully tied to the dock… Belize – We took the Alan Ra Mayan Ruins tour. They are restoring the ruins now and it looked like they were using modern techniques. If you go to ruins, check out Chachoben in Mexico our of Costa Maya port…those are much better. It still wasn’t a bad tour, it’s always interesting to see the past. ENTERTAINMENT The comedians were excellent, Eddie Capone was on board and he was great. There was also two guys, the Village Idiots that did a midnite show which was hilarious, only no one was there to see it but a handful. They did perform the last night in a regular show and were excellent. I only saw one production show, and it was okay, but had no continuity to it….lots of effects, no substance. Of course we missed the Newlywed Game and another one time show because “AMY” planned them during 2nd sitting dinner so the ones fortunate enough to dine late could not attend those shows. Other than that, the ship literally died by midnite. The disco was seldom full and the only other place of activity after midnite was the casino. What happened to the Fun Ship of old? THE CRUISE Okay, straight truth on the ship movement…she rocked and rolled, pitched up and down the entire trip. The only day she didn’t move a lot was the last day at sea. Granted we had 30 knot winds all the way from Miami to Panama and up to Belize, the seas never had white caps, just swells. I personally like the movement of a ship at sea and feel it’s part of the experience, but a lot of others didn’t which was evident by the vomit bags staged throughout every stairwell and elevator. I was under the impression that the azipod system allowed for a vibration free cruise. I guess I was misinformed because the entire back of the ship consistently vibrated back and forth with a lot of noise to accompany the vibration. The vibration was worse on the top deck aft…so I imagine the ones staying in the aft cabins had that comforting vibration to help them sleep the entire trip. DISLIKES: Spray on decking around the pool areas…ugggh!!! This stuff always gets slippery and there are constantly “caution” signs on the deck Pool attendants pick up all the deck chairs at 4:00 on the dot every day and rope them down so you can’t get them down to sit on Lack of shipboard activities to keep people busy

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Nov 30, -0001

Baja Mexico, Cabo San Lucas & La Paz

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: October 19th, 2002 12:00 – Arrived at pier to drop our luggage and was told that registration would begin at 2:00pm and to come back to the pier. We went and parked the car, had lunch and returned to the pier around 2:30. There were a couple of hundred people in line waiting for a bus to take them to an offsite facility for the registration process. The cruise terminal was being used by another

line, so Carnival had to do their check-in elsewhere. We decided to skip the bus line and take a cab over to the remote terminal. There were about one hundred people mulling around and another two hundred in line. We got thru in about an hour and were told to sit and wait until they called our bus #. We waited there for several hours. Finally a bus came to take us to the ship. I think it was around 7:00pm before we boarded. My sister, who has taken lots of cruises said she had never experienced anything like it before. It was a mess! The boat was supposed to leave San Diego at 9:00pm, but because of the delayed registration and a medical emergency (an elderly person had to be removed to the hospital) the ship did not leave San Diego harbor until 4:00am. The late departure threw off the crews schedule and they never seem to regain composure. The itinerary had to be changed so we spent the next two days at sea instead of one and went La Paz first instead of Cabo. The change through them and as a result the capers were wrong just about every day. The ship is beautiful and the rooms were great. We were on deck 5 aft and we had an extended balcony. Being in the back was nice because the ship blocked the wind so even when it was cool or windy at the pool it was lovely on our private patio. We had a lounge chair, a regular chair and a little table. Because of the schedule change we went to La Paz first. La Paz was not well met to receive such a large ship. There is nothing at the pier at all. We had to wait in a very long line to take a bus (which there were not enough of) to either the beach or to town. We went to the beach first. The beach was very pretty, but again, no shops or vendors at all. Just the beach and a little bar and restaurant. We pulled up a lounge chair and hung there for a couple of hours. You could rent a jet ski if you wanted but that was about it. Then we took a bus back to the boat to get onto another bus to go to town. The town’s people were very nice and pleased to see the cruise revenues, but their prices seemed a little high for Mexico. I don’t know if they bumped them up for our arrival or they are always high. La Paz is not a tourist town, but a mission town. There is not much to see on the way to the beach or town, just lots of cacti. We pulled out of La Paz at around 5:00 and headed for Cabo. Cabo is the polar opposite of La Paz. We got a late start in Cabo because we waited around until 10:30 am for our excursion to start and when we went to where we were supposed to meet, we found out they had moved the time up two hours and we were never called. They credited it, but we were pissed. We got off the boat and were hit by a wall of locals selling their wares, you could not escape them. We opted for a water taxi ($16 for 2 ppl – round trip) that took us to see Lover’s beach, the sea lions and the pelicans and then deposited us on the beach. The beach was small and crowded with vendors walking up and down power selling their wares. It was like home shopping club from hell. No matter how many times you said “No Gracias” they kept coming back like a bad penny. I even turned over and attempted to sleep, but they would just poke me and offer to braid my hair. Now, I’ve never been to Cabo so I don’t know if it is always like this or it was just because United Nations had been there all week and there were no tourists all week. Either way, it was really annoying. Now, I’ll tell you briefly about the rest of the cruise: Guests: Eclectic group. Lots of families, lots of seniors and loads of really nice gay men. Now, I am married and didn’t really care, but there were few singles on this boat to be found, so if I were single I’d think twice about this cruise. Disco: Loud and empty most of the time. The set up reminds me of a fishbowl where the folks dance down below and people hang over the top and watch them. Casino: Seemed to pay out early, then dried up towards the end. We played slots and roulette and did well the first couple of days and then nothing. I don’t know if they do this on purpose to get you hooked. I did see one guy hit a dollar slot machine for $1600 and I heard about someone winning big at craps. Pools: The pools were much smaller than I would of thought, but it was fine for sunbathing. Lots of chairs and waiters willing to sell you a souvenir drink in a $6 plastic glass. Spa: We got massages ($89 each). The massage itself was nice, but the hard sell on the overpriced products was a bit much. Dining Room: We had second seating and our wait staff was very nice and accommodating. The food was nothing to write home about, average at best I can’t remember a single meal that stands out and the deserts were disappointing. Pizza Bar: Open 24/7 and the pizza was ok. Entertainment: The first big glitzy show was very good. They compiled a bunch of popular dance acts from popular musicals and it was very well done. It went down hill from there. There was one “R” rated comedian and he was very funny. Staff: Dining staff was very good and we loved our room steward, Vania. She was great. The staff at registration in San Diego needs to work on their people skills, but I think they were bussed in from L.A., hence might be the problem. They were an unhappy lot. The cruise director tries a little too hard to be funny, but was fine otherwise. In conclusion, we had a nice relaxing time, but that had more to do with being away without the kids and just relaxing & hanging with my sister than it had to do with the boat. I have cruised Carnival once before & always heard good things about Carnival so I was a bit surprised at all the screw-ups. The boat is big and pretty, but these ports weren’t great and schedules changes didn’t help. I would probably try another line before going back to Carnival.

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Nov 30, -0001

Panama Canal

Ron & Jill Line Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Sailing Date: April 4th, 2002 This was our first cruise and boy did we pick a good one. Seventeen day Panama Canal cruise sailing April 4, 2002. Carnival Spirit is a fabulous ship, with lots to do if that is what you like or lots of quiet places if you just like to read etc. Seventeen days is a long cruise and we had lots of time to explore the ship and take advantage of the

things that interested us. The shows in Pharaoh’s Palace were very good, with a nice variety of acts that appealed to many age groups. There were also areas throughout the ship where you could sit and listen to musicians and singers in a variety of musical styles. We spent quite a bit of time in the casino and we also made use of the internet cafe to send e-mails home to keep the family up to date on our experiences. We didn’t go to any of the lounges or bars, but there are quite a few to choose from. The food was excellent. We ate in both the buffet area, the La Playa Grill and in the main dining room. The only meal I got sick of was breakfast. There were all the usual choices, but the same every day. Lunch and dinner on the other hand, were wonderful. Never the same thing twice, and that’s saying something on a 17 day cruise. The service in the dining room was very good, and the wait staff were always friendly and cooperative. The only negative thing I could say about the La Playa Grill was that once you got your food (and it was very good) you sometimes had to walk around a while to find a table. On the Carnival website, they mention that you can get a card, similar to your sail and sign card, for a certain fee, that you use to purchase soft drinks. At home we usually drink a lot of soft drinks so we considered getting a card but luckily we found out that we really didn’t need it. There are areas in the La Playa Grill and near the pool area where you can get coffee, tea, hot chocolate, ice tea, lemonade and apple juice, 24 hours a day for no extra charge. We found that was all we needed. Our stateroom was Category 8, with a balcony. We were in room 6204 which is just about in the middle of the ship. We really enjoyed the balcony and feel that is was well worth the extra money. The room was tastefully decorated and there was plenty of space for the two beds (which were pushed together) and a small couch and table along with the full wall length of drawers and cupboard space. It really does look just like the pictures on the Carnival web site, only the colours are less gaudy. Embarkation was extremely easy. From our arrival at the airport, Carnival representatives were right there and helpful, to actually boarding the ship, everything went smoothly. We booked shore tours for every port we stopped at. Every tour we took was interesting and informative and we really enjoyed them BUT, at the end of every tour, they took you to a shopping area. This wasn’t too bad the first time, but it didn’t take long to realize that at every port, they had the same jewellery shops that sold the same merchandise. These stores are the ‘preferred shopping’ stores and are plugged by the cruise line. That was the only thing that disappointed me. We really didn’t get too many opportunities to purchase quality local crafts. Debarkation was the only part of the trip that was not a pleasant experience. In this case though, I don’t fault Carnival, I fault the bus company that was providing transportation from the dock to the airport. They were so disorganized, the two people in charge didn’t know what the other was doing. Also, the people getting on the buses were pushing and shoving and butting in front of others. It was a situation that could have been handled much better. I would recommend just taking a taxi from the ship to the airport. There was a line for that too but it seemed to be orderly and a lot shorter. All in all, this was the trip of a lifetime. I don’t know how we are going to beat it, but we’re sure going to try. It’s true what they say; once you’ve cruised you’re hooked.

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Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

Jason M. Gionet Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Sailing Date: April 21st, 2002 This was quite possibly the worst experience of my life. I wouldn't recommend that anyone sail with Carnival cruise lines at any time. The troubles began with a 12 hour wait just to get on a bus from San Diego to go to Ensenada Mexico, which added 2 additional hours to the journey. After arriving in Ensenada it took an additional hour to get onto

the ship. At this point we have lost a day on our cruise with carnival Offering a token 200 dollars per passenger to make up for their mistakes. Our five days at sea, or the 4 and a half I should say because we slept most of our first day away went by relatively without incident. I will say that it seemed as though they were making a strong effort to make up the time because the first 2 days were extremely rough at sea. Upon arrival at Hilo, it was supposed to take 2 hours to clear customs with our first tour scheduled at 0900 in the morning. We finally got off of the ship at 1130 am, and were then rushed through our tour of the volcanoes national park. The following morning upon arriving at the island of Kona, I had to wake up at the crack of dawn in order to get a tender number. These tender boat operators I believe received their operator licenses that morning. It was quite possibly the worst small boating experience for my wife and I. The day in Kona went by without a problem. I will say the same snorkeling trip that was 140 dollars per person on the ship, we were able to do for about 60 dollars for 2 with a vehicle rental. Upon getting back to the tender boats, we were rewarded with a two hour wait to get back onto the ship with the novice tender operators. Our next day was to be in Maui for the next two days, and once again we rented a vehicle so as to not have to pay the outrageous prices of the tours, of which I would like to add that they sold out of most of the tours about 2 hours after the tour lecture. On our way to Maui that night, something had happened to the air conditioning system, and were assured that it would be fixed by noon. After spending the day in Maui, and parking the vehicle for the night, we sat down to relax and have a few drinks with friends. Not long after, we met up with another couple who informed us the AC was still broken, and that we would be sailing to Honolulu that night missing our second day in Maui. I now had a vehicle that was difficult to return because the rental agency was closed, and also stood to lose the money for the next days rental. Upon waiting in line for the novice tender operators once again for an hour, we were welcomed back to an incredibly hot ship. It was at this point we were informed that we would be refunded the cost of our cruise minus the airfare. This does not make up for the ruined honeymoon experience lost to my wife and I forever. The next morning we arrived in Honolulu, altogether missing the island of Kauai, which we had anticipated more than any other island. After arriving in Honolulu, we were informed that Carnival would put us up in local hotels for three days until our flights home were ready. We got to Honolulu at nine am, but were unable to disembark the ship until almost five thirty at night. During this time cold drinks were not to be found any where on board. When we finally got off of that ship, we were shuttled to our hotel, which I will say was nice, but no comparison to the suite that we had on the ship. It wasn't until we were off of the ship and settled into our hotel that I was finally able to relax. I will say that our wait staff at dinner and our room steward did an excellent job through out the cruise, but that is were my praise ends.

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Nov 30, -0001

Southern Caribbean

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 delight. 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 please us 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 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 very 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 Deliverance) as well as Broadway show music from Cats, Godspell to name a few. The Spirit Dancers were awesome and their lead vocalists were very good. 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 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 itinerary for the next day and made the announcement "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 that I will try a different cruise line for my next trip and certainly ask a lot more questions.

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Nov 30, -0001

Mexican Riviera

This was one of the best vacations of my life. It was my third cruise - first on Carnival. It was my niece's first cruise. She was 19 at the time. I have been taking my niece on vacations since I she was 9. This was the first we had been on as "adults". We could have been on any cruise line and had an absolute blast, but I was glad I got to experience Carnival. The crowd was much more fun than Royal Caribbean. And it was fun to see the snobs turn

their noses up at everything. I was suprised. The food was excellent. I am very lucky in that I am able to dine at very nice restaurants frequently, and this was comparable. The wine list was good as well. My niece loved the food. We ate in the dining room each night. I never eat at the restaurants on board because I like to save my money for wine. Our servers were fantastic! The best I have ever had. I had sushi one night at a special sushi station set up for that evening. It was quite good - fresh, good flavor. Just the basics, but it was free. I don't do the midnight buffets so I don't even know if there was one. The regular restaurants for breakfast and lunch were just fine. Again, I was suprised. It was nicer than the rooms I have been in on RCCL (Majesty & Radiance). I always do interior staterooms - again, saving the money for booz! The bathroom was nicer and it just seemed bigger. We had a blast doing the Scavenger Hunt. The bars were a blast, but then again I was with my niece who didn't get carded. Yes, I'm a bad influence, but she is a straight, full ride scholarship student who is very responsible but enjoys drinking on occassion. As if none of you drank when you were college age! Anyway, she met this really nice kid who was 2 years older than her. I made him show me his ID to make sure he wasn't a lot older! LOL. The three of us hung out each night and had a blast. The disco was a lot of fun, but not very crowded. The Karaoke bar was a blast. The Casino Bar had a GREAT BAND. The singer interacted well with the crowd. The stage is above and behind the bar so we would go to the Casion Bar each night to hear them play. I'm not much of a gambler but this was a really fun bar so we spent a lot of time there. In fact, this was were my niece smacked my digital camera out of my hand and it broke. I also did the wine tasting during one of the days at sea. It was great. The ship's sommellier paired several different types of wine with various food. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We went to the spa and were disappointed. I prefer the spa on RCCL. We are big into the spa thing. We had are hair done at the salon one night and they didn't do anything but blow dry it. On RCCL, if you just want them to blow it out for you, it's much less expensive. If you actually pay to get your hair done, they actually style it. My niece was also pretty sure her massage therapist was dosing off as she was giving the massage! She would stop and then all of suddent start up again like she had just fallen asleep and woke up suddenly. It was not very relaxing. She's had several massages before so she knows what to expect. The only other part that I didn't like is that the lounge chairs around the pool look like those you would see at a cheap motel. Other than that, the pools and pool bars were great. A major difference I noticed was that the other guests on the cruise were so much more fun than guests on RCCL. LA PAZ! LA PAZ! LA PAZ! - You must do the Los Oslotes (sp) Sea Lion Snorkel adventure. This is one of the coolest things I have ever done. The Sea Lions swim right up to you, inches away. There are hundreds of them. It was cold so we had to wear wet suits. Later we went to a really pretty, secluded beach and found tons of huge, gorgeous shells. On the way back, the crew spotted a group of dolphins. I have photos and videos of them. It was amazing! There must have been 40 of them. In Mazatlan, we did one of those Beach Break excursions. It was not that great. In Cabo, we did a Zip Line Tour. I had done one in Jamaica with The Original Canopy Tour and absolutely loved it. This one was not nearly as good. There is nothing to see because your out in the middle of the desert. It got up to 100 degrees. It was very physically challenging compared to the other one which wasn't really physically challenging at all, just a lot of fun. My niece, of course, loved it because she had never done it and she is in really good shape. There was a lot of hiking with this one and one of those rope bridges which I did not do. There was also a rock climbing wall you had to do or climb a really tall ladder. If I get back into shape at some point, I want to go back to this place and finish the course - I actually didn't make it through because it was over 100 degrees and all the hiking and mostly because I'm not in great shape. When I say that, I mean that I don't work out at all but I do play soccer and volleyball so it's not like I'm a total couch potato. Once again, it was one of the best vacations of my life. Food was excellent. Night Life was excellent. Cabin was very nice. Only one excursion was disappointing but we still had a blast that day. Thumbs down on the spa and pool lounge chairs. I would love to do a Carnival Cruise with my boyfriend sometime. I think we would have a blast.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: We arrived at 1 PM and quickly received our Sign and Sail card and headed to what we thought would be the typical welcome aboard photo and short trip to our cabin. Instead we waited for over an hour in a long hallway with fellow passengers wondering what the delay was. I asked a security guard and she didn’t know. It was hot and people were getting short tempered. Not the best way to start a vacation. Once we were aboard there was no

one to guide you to your cabin. Instead they handed out pocket sized maps so you could find your own room. This was the first cruise I have ever been on that we were not escorted to our cabin. We finally reached our cabin at about 3 PM. The Ship: The Spirit is not as gaudy as some Carnival ships. Lots of nice wood and comfortable areas were seen. Not being a sun worshipper I can’t speak to the amenities of the pools and activities except to say they were certainly being used. Most areas were very clean and there was ongoing maintenance while we were at sea as well as in port. It may sound picky but there sure were a lot of light bulbs burned out. When you have marquee lighting everywhere those random burned out bulbs really stand out!! The Pharaoh’s Palace has plenty of seating for the shows. The Casino is roomy and well staffed. The Internet Café was a really plus. Be sure to buy the block of time. It wasn’t until we got hooked on emailing home that we realized that was the best value. The Shanghai Lounge was a lot of fun, especially with Karaoke! Cabin: About 2 weeks before the cruise our travel agent informed us we had been upgraded to a Category 11 suite (Cabin #6162). We had booked a Category 8H (Cabin#8192) cabin with a balcony and were pleasantly surprised with the news. Our cabin was wonderful , complete with Jacuzzi tub, dressing room, lots of closets, granite floors and counters in the bath, courtesy bar, sofa and roomy balcony. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to cruise with anything less. Service: We never really met our Room Steward. He never introduced himself, kept an extremely low profile, but did keep the stateroom spotless. We ordered room service the first 3 days, then ran out of the menus. Seeing that we preferred our breakfast in the cabin you would have thought he would bring us more menus. Nope!! The rest of the staff were very friendly. One thing I noticed was that the bar staff was not pushy. Many cruises we have been on they have pushed the “drink of the day” very heavily. This time it was very low-key. Food: We felt the food was wonderful. Every meal was a treat. Our wait team was very attentive. Orlando and Danielle were the best. Typically the Maitre d’ is annoying. Damir was a bit, but less that most. Our table in the Dining Room was in the rear of the room by the stern of the ship. There was a lot of engine noise and vibration during many of the meals. Also being back there we tended to miss a lot of the activities (waiters singing, general announcements). We were traveling with another couple and they were our dining companions. In the past we have enjoyed meeting other people at the table. Instead we had just a table for 4. I am sure we could have changed the arrangement, but wanted to point this out as there were quite a few smaller tables. We enjoyed lunch and snacks in the La Playa Grille. The cheeseburgers and deli sandwiches were great. The variety of dishes was wonderful!! The stir fry Chinese cuisine was a favorite of my husband. As always the self serve ice cream was a hit! Panama: Since we docked late, the tours were late leaving. We had a 9:15 tour time and didn’t leave the ship until 11:45. Lots of waiting and short tempers! We chose a ship sponsored tour of the Gatun Locks and the Embera Indian Village. It was an all day tour. It really gave a wonderful overview of the area. We spent about 45 minutes at the Locks and watched a ship go through the lock. The true highlight of the tour was the boat ride on Gatun Lake and the visit to the Embera Indian Village. The warmth of the Indians was evident. They did a traditional dance and welcomed people to see their huts. The boat ride was a lot of fun. We saw lots of tropical birds and even a sloth hanging in the tree. We would recommend this tour. Costa Rica: As mentioned in an earlier review of the cruise, we never did get off the ship in Costa Rica. According to the Captain there were some swells in the water and he was fearful the gangway could not be secured safely and that the ship could break loose from the dock. I don’t think there was anyone happy with the decision, but what are you going to do? The Captain’s decision is the Captain’s decision. We were at the dock for about ½ hour and a couple of people got off quickly, then we peeled out of there. I still say, as did many on the ship, there was more to this than a few swells in the harbor. We were all credited for the tours we had booked. Belize: We anchored in the harbor and tenders were provided to get where you needed to go. My sister and I booked the snorkeling trip to Shark Ray Alley. We took a speedboat directly from the ship and went through Mangrove channels out to the area of the Ambergris Cay. The ride was about and hour and a half. Once we reached our destination we jumped off the boat into the most beautiful crystal clear waters and swam with Nurse Sharks and Sting Rays. The coral formations were amazing as were the tropical fish. Be sure and bring an disposable underwater camera!! The boat then took us to San Pedro for lunch and free time. Another hour and a half long boat ride back to the ship concluded a tour that made the entire cruise worthwhile! My husband and brother-in-law went on the Atun-Ha River Wallace tour. They visited some ancient ruins and took a wonderful boat ride through Mangrove Channels and saw wonderful wildlife. Debarkation: We waited in our stateroom until our luggage tag was called and then proceeded to leave. The ship started disembarking at about 8:45 and we were completely done with everything by 10:00. Conclusion: This was our second Carnival cruise and will probably be our last for awhile. Their level of customer service has fallen. There is a lot of competition for cruise dollars right now and my money will go to the cruise line that provides the level of service I expect. The ports we saw were wonderful. I guess we’ll have to go to Costa Rica another time.

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Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

Nancy N. Sellman Cruise Line: Carnival Cruise Lines Sailing Date: April 21st, 2002 Our honeymoon trip on the Carnival Spirit 12 day cruise to Hawaii proved to be an unique trip. If you like to be delayed at everything by hours, stand in extremely long lines, miss hours of time on shore due to unorganized tender boat trips, like to ride on tender boats that are driven by people who don't have a clue as to what they are doing,

I highly recommend the Carnival Spirit. Our arrival time on the ship was supposed to be early evening. My new husband and I arrived in our room at approximately 2:00 a.m. Carnival did give everyone on the ship a $200.00 credit for this, this was just the beginning. Our week at sea was great. We have no complaints there. However, when we arrived at our first port of Hilo, we yet again experienced huge delays. Our time on Hilo was cut short due to the hours of waiting to clear customs. My previous cruise, I have never experienced such delays when it came to customs. Hilo was wonderful. Our next stop of Kona, yet again met us with delays. In addition to these delays, we had the unfortunate experience of the tender boats. After waiting hours to get on the tender boat, we were met by what seemed to be an extremely inexperienced boat driver. Not only was the short trip to shore extremely rocky (due to the driver, not the water) it took forever for him to dock the tender. However, our trip on Kona was great. Maui, our third destination proved for the third time, that this ship should have just stayed at sea and not visited any islands. We woke up to find that the air condition was broken. Carnival said it would be fixed by noon (if you go by Carnival time, add about an eight or so hour delay). My husband and I enjoyed our visit to Maui. Unfortunately, it was here, that we found out that our cruise was going to be cancelled due to the fact that the ship could not be repaired. As we returned to the ship, we had the worst tender boat ride that anyone could imagine. The sea was extremely rough causing a rough ride. Half way to the ship, the tender driver stopped. As we sat there literally rocking up and down the sides of the tender, many people put on life preservers. The tender driver finally let us know after about 10 mins. of waiting, that he could not get to the ship because the captain needed to move the ship due to currents. I understand this was necessary, but what was unnecessary was making us wait on this tender for close to 40 mins. while the captain moved the ship. We should have been taken back to shore to wait. Once the tender boat driver finally got us to the ship, it was at this point that I was told that I could not leave the tender until I returned the life preserver. The tender at this point was still rocking extremely rough, and I was astounded at the fact that I was told I could not leave the tender with the life vest on. I understand that they have to have the jackets on the tender, but what was so difficult about me getting off, and then handing the jacket back. Needless to say, I did not even attempt to take the jacket off until, I was off the tender. When we returned to our room, we found out that we were going to be reimbursed for the cruise, and put up in a hotel by Carnival for the remainder of the trip in Honolulu. While it is extremely unfortunate that Carnival Spirit was not the honeymoon that we had hopes for, I will give Carnival credit for making up for it. Our hotel in Honolulu was absolutely amazing, and we are very pleased with the fact that all our money will be returned. Our overall experience with Carnival is this--when it comes to disorganization, delays, and horrible tender trips, Carnival is the worst experience. However, Carnival fully acknowledges these problems and is absolutely wonderful at compensation. So, if you want a trip, that will more than likely end up refunded due to serious problems, travel with Carnival.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

We cruised the Inside Passage 3 yrs. ago on Holland America and enjoyed it so much that we wanted to go back and see more of Alaska. We chose Carnival Spirit because the dates preceded a travel trade show I wanted to attend in Vancouver. This was a northbound cruise so we flew into Seattle and took the bus to Vancouver as we saved a lot on airfare by doing this. The bus ride is about 3 ½ hr. The ship is beautiful and does not have a lot of neon.

I do, however, prefer a smaller ship for Alaska as they can get in closer to the ports and the glaciers. The food was very good. Although we were confirmed for early seating before the cruise they had us at late seating. We were able to change back to early by the second night. For breakfast and lunch we usually ate in the lido area which was buffet. Instead of a long buffet line there were many different areas which had a food item (such as fruit) so we had to go hunting for our food which we did not like. It was very crowded and frustrating to have to stand in 4 or 5 lines to get your meal. The pizza was quite good as was the corned beef sandwiches but each place had only one person serving which meant a wait. I tried the spa special one day which was an aromatherapy wrap and massage. It was a great experience and I highly recommend Kelly if you use the spa services on this ship. She spent 2 ½ hrs with me and I did not feel rushed at all. Of course they always try to sell you $600 of their products but she was not high pressure. We had a naturalist on board for the first half of the cruise who was very knowledgeable and pointed out landmarks and wildlife. One evening 2 Orcas killed a seal near the ship. We missed seeing this as we were in the dining room and did not know about it until later. We had a different naturalist for the second half of the cruise (Stephanie). She was very lacking in her knowledge and it was clear to everyone on board. Our room steward was nothing exceptional. It took him 3 nights to put our beds together to make a king bed although we had requested that prior to the cruise and again the first night. Our dining room waiters were efficient but they had too many tables to serve. Perhaps we were spoiled by the pampering we receive from Holland America. The activities on the ship offer a good variety of things to do, although in Alaska the scenery provides the entertainment so we did not go to a lot of classes etc. We dined in the supper club one evening. Although we did not try the stone crabs which they are famous for, our steaks were extremely good as was the entire meal. They also had a singer and piano player called “Two’s Company” which was the best music on the ship. This is a great place for an intimate, romantic dinner. They now charge $25 person to dine here. They were never full any night on this cruise and were always looking for more people to make reservations here. Maybe this will take the price back down. This was Carnival’s first Alaska cruise this season and hopefully, they now have some of the kinks worked out. Embarking the ship was very slow. Since we did not arrive at the ship until about 2pm I thought we would be able to walk on but we had to wait at least an hour. Being tired and hungry it seems like it would be a good idea to offer their waiting passengers something to drink and maybe even some appetizers. The disembarking seemed to go quickly. Since we had made our own arrangements in Seward we were to be the last off at 9:00. However, the cruise director started yelling over the sound system at 7:00. This was a very rude awakening as it came into our rooms. We could have heard her even if the sound had just been on in the public areas. People eating breakfast in the lido area were complaining of headaches due to the loudness of the cruise director. They really need to tone it down. This does not make for a positive last impression. PORTS OF CALL Ketchikan – This was one of the rare days it did not rain here. We walked to Creek Street and shopped there. Found some good syrup in different flavors to take home. Juneau – Went to Medenhall Glacier and saw a mountain goat and a porcupine. Went shopping and after much looking for some gold quartz jewelry I found what I considered a good buy at Julie’s downtown. On our last visit here we had gone on a whale watching trip with Captain Larry from Orca Enterprises. Although that was the highlight of our last trip we opted not to do that this time and had something similar planned for Seward. Skagway – We did our best shopping here. Found some books for the grandchildren and even got them signed by the author. Sitka – We did not stop here on our previous visit. This is the only port we had to tender but every ship does. We walked through a national forest and saw some totem poles and then walked over to the raptor center. A very nice town with a lot of Russian influence but we had just a short time here. After waiting in line for an hour to get back on a tender to go back to the ship they finally decided to use larger boats to take us and it went much faster. As we saw in Russia last year, there were children on about every corner playing an instrument with a box for our donations. College Fjord – I always find the glaciers to be so awesome. We did not get as close to them as we did when we were here before but they were still beautiful. When we got off the ship in Seward we took our luggage to the train station as we were taking the 6pm train to Anchorage. This gave us a full day in Seward. We decided to take a Resurrection Bay boat tour for 5 hrs. After eating lunch at Fox Island it started to rain and the water was very rough. We did see a lot of marine birds and some stellar sea lions but no whales. The 4 hr. train ride was very enjoyable. We were late getting to Anchorage but at midnight it was still light. After a couple of nights here we flew back to Vancouver. I highly recommend spending a day or two here before or after a cruise. This is a beautiful city. We took a 5 hr bus tour of the city and saw the highlights. I would have liked to spend more time at Granville Island. That is a neat place. We stayed at the Fairmont Waterfront hotel because it was close to the convention center where we attended a travel convention. It was pricey but very nice and had a great harbor view. In conclusion, we enjoyed our cruise and found it to be a good value (although we prefer the more upscale Holland America.) The prices seem to be very good this year and therefore I would recommend upgrading to a balcony cabin as it allows one to see more of the scenery.

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Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: September 25th, 2002 This was a fabulous cruise. The ship was immaculate and the crew kept it that way. The food was delicious, varied and plentiful. The final show was terrible, everyone expected to see a great send off show, but there were only four numbers, one by the drummer of the band who wrote and sang his own songs, it was painful. The jazz trio in the Deco lounge was fantastic; I tried to

listen to them every night. Dave the cruise director hopefully would improve with experience. The first tendering in Kona went smoothly, you got your tendering ticket, waited for them to call your number and then you boarded. The only problem was that we had to wait ½ hour on the water, because there was another cruise ship and we had to take turns docking. The next tendering went without a hitch. Tendering was done by the Carnival crewmembers unlike previous cruises. The islands were of course beautiful with plenty of shopping and wonderful beaches.

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Nov 30, -0001

Hawaii

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: September 25th, 2002 Aloha! There we went again. Around the middle of August, my Queen started making those “I gotta go on vacation” noises. Being the man of the family I always keep a “Big Picture” focus on all relevant matters concerning our activities. With a wet finger in the air, testing the vacation wind direction, I said we’d go back to Australia. She said “Hawaii.” I then

suggested going on another Alaska cruise. She said “Hawaii.” Not to be put off by royal dictates I then recommended a Caribbean cruise since her highness had never been there. She said “Hawaii.” Suddenly, the sun rose and a light came over my “Big Picture”. I said “Hawaii.” She said “What a wonderful idea you smart, handsome devil.” So, Hawaii it would be. Now the next challenge was to decide how we were going to accomplish this trip. Would it be a couple of weeks on a single island, split the trip between 2 or 3 islands, or find a cruise itinerary that made us both happy. Hell, I used to live there in the early 70’s. Simple enough, eh? NOT!!! Using all the analytical skills garnered from 33 years working on Department of Defense weapons systems programs, I got to work. I pulled out pencil and paper, signed on to the web and started writing down hotel, car, tours, and airfare rates. After adding in a little food and a lot of drinks it quickly became apparent that we could either go to Hawaii for two weeks, or buy our dream dump on Maui, and not eat or drink. It gets expensive quick. With the consent of her royal highness, I made the command decision to book a cruise to the islands. Several cruise lines tour the islands. None of them had an itinerary that made either of us jump up and down and shout, “We’ve got to go on this one!” Port calls were just a few hours and the sea days were trips to Fanning Island or Papeete to satisfy the law prohibiting foreign registered vessels from sailing between US ports without a foreign port visit. They’re not “Hawaii”. Then (do you hear the dramatic drum roll?) we found the 9/25-10/7 Carnival Spirit, Hawaii cruise. Actually, it found us. I had signed up for the Vacations To Go newsletter after our Sea Princess, Alaska cruise last year. Therein lied (?) the answer. A 12-day cruise to Hawaii going to four islands with overnights on Maui and Oahu. It also had 6 sea days in a row. I love sea days. The cruise departed Vancouver, Canada, sailed 6 days to Kona, Hawaii. Then onward to Hilo, Hawaii, 2 days in Lahaina, Maui, a day in Lihue, Kauai, and 2 days in Honolulu, Oahu. If we were screaming types, we’d have let loose with the previously mentioned shout. I immediately called Vacations To Go and booked our first Carnival cruise through their cruise specialist, Dawn Bellis. She was a dream to work with. The rate for an 8A guarantee was about the same as her, er, our booze requirements on a land only vacation. This was also an opportunity to use some perks from my last professional position. I had a bazillion frequent flier miles on Delta, and a half a bazillion HiltonHonors points. For the $15 security fee we were able to book first class airfare to LAX-Vancouver and then Honolulu – LAX for both of us. We also booked 2 days post cruise at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Honolulu for $30. (I think the $30 is Hilton’s way to punish me for not planning far enough ahead.) Finally, we booked a room at the Best Western Vancouver Airport for the night prior to the ship’s departure. After doing the “get there” and “stay there” stuff, we booked rental cars on Maui and Kauai through Budget. Finally, we booked the Safari Helicopter Deluxe Volcano and Waterfall tour out of Hilo. That was enough work for one day. One last task remained before we could leave. I blew the electronic dust from the packing spreadsheet from our Alaska cruise and began replacing long underwear and coats with shorts and Aloha shirts. I was careful not to delete the 3-outlet 6-foot extension cord from the packing list. Cruise ship builders seem to follow some law that only allows one outlet in the main cabin area. This proved to be true on the Spirit. Eventually, the 24th of September arrived. We packed and then drove to the kids place in the afternoon. They drove us to LAX for the relatively short flight to Vancouver. We got in about 9:30 that night. Around 10:45 we got to the front of the airport terminal and called the hotel shuttle. Security and customs took about 10 minutes. Has anyone mentioned to you that it is a looonng walk from the plane to the terminal? We took our passports and driver’s license for documents. When you go, check current requirements because they seem to change all the time. We got up the next morning and had a leisurely breakfast. At about 10:00 AM the hotel desk called a cab for us. It took about 45 minutes and $17 CN (without tip) to get to Canada Place. We hadn’t been there since they opened the new cruise ship facility. Wow, is it ever nice. A couple of young fellas grabbed our bags from the cab, looked at our cruise tickets, and slapped tags on them. We didn’t see our bags again until they showed up in our cabin later that afternoon. We gave those fellas a small tip even though there were really big signs that said no tipping. They didn’t give it back. After entering the facility, all cruise ship passengers go through metal detectors just like the airport. Only ticketed passengers where allowed past this point. Once through the scanners, signs pointed the way to various ships. (Guys, you don’t have to ask directions, they’re also really big signs.) It was a two-room process for boarding Carnival. To get into the first room, you pass under the obligatory Carnival arch to get your welcome aboard pictures taken. Since our experience has shown that these pictures are only slightly more flattering than a driver’s license photo, we grabbed a very cute Carnival employee and put her in our picture. This was our small attempt at punishing Carnival for any mishaps that may happen. Damn girl must have been a professional DMV model before her Carnival job. She looked great, while we looked liked two old folks that had been traveling for two days. Drat, another good plan gone bad. After the picture, we picked up a group number card from a table and were then directed to a row of seats. We were part of group number 2. Handouts with boarding instructions were handed out. (I guess that’s why they’re called handouts.) Several Carnival folks walked through and made sure our groups’ paperwork was correctly filled out. After about 20 minutes sitting in the first room, our group number was called. That was our invitation to go to room number two. Here were about 30-40 stations to process your tickets and get boarding passes. A very pleasant lady handled this quickly and gave us a map of the ship, and our sail and sign cards. (These cards are the “money” used on board; you’re getting on and off pass, and cabin key.) Here’s also where we found out we had been upgraded from an 8A to an 8G cabin. >From there we took a seat in the main area and waited to be called by group number to clear U.S. Customs and board the ship. OOPS. Big delay number 1 just happened. The customs folks work at both the airport and Canada Place. You got it, no customs folks. After a while, the chief boarder (a Canadian gentleman) announced that the U.S. Customs folks forgot they were scheduled to be at Canada Place for our departure. 45 minutes or so later they arrived. The customs folks said Carnival didn’t schedule them. Uh Oh! A U.S. corporation, foreign registered ship, U.S. Customs, all on Canadian soil! Call the UN!! Yeh, right after we get on board! About 20 minutes after the customs folks showed up, Carnival started priority boarding wheel chaired passengers, families with small kids, the Skippers Club, and cute girls with good stories. (Remember that the chief boarder is a guy!) After that, they started boarding by the same group numbers we’ve now had for about two hours. The next stop was the aforementioned U.S. Customs. This was great for this cruise since we didn’t have to spend time in our first port visit doing the customs clearance. Finally, at a little after 1:00 PM, we walked on board. (Bet ya didn’t think we’d ever get here! Just wait.) Crisis number one occurred as soon as we stepped into the atrium. The atrium bar was open. A friend I’ll call Mr. Miller Lite was screaming my name. He shouted that he had been onboard too long and needed to be drank before he went bad. Being trained to respond to a plethora of emergencies, I immediately set myself into action. My Queen recognized my desire to fix problems as soon as I find them, and in her most regal tone she said, “Hold on, Bucko. He’ll be there when we get back.” The first place we went was to the dining room. This was aft (back of the boat) from the atrium. We had requested early seating for this cruise. As usual on this request, we were assigned late seating. The Matre’d made himself available starting at 1:00 PM to change the seating if possible. We made our request for change and were told it would be the next day before we would hear anything, and we should attend our assigned seating that night. The dining room takes up two levels. It has a very pleasant décor with a mix of tables and booths. The second level is a balcony surrounding the main dining floor. Our seating for that night was a 4-person booth on the port (left) side of the main dining area. The day’s menu is posted outside the dining room each day. The trick is that the dining room has two sets of doors. In order to see the menu when the dining room is not open, you have to open the left hand door and squeeze into the 2-foot opening between the double set of doors. You won’t find that hint in the ship’s daily paper, the Carnival Capers. Now, it was off to see the cabin and explore the ship while the rest of our 2500 roommates got on board. Our balcony cabin was number 7219 on the Verandah deck. This is on deck 7 about amidships on the starboard (right) side. We really enjoyed this cabin. There was plenty of room for the two of us for the 12 days we were onboard. Storage for everything we brought was not a problem. Our large suitcases fit easily under the bed. We had requested that the beds be made up together. This gave us quite a bit of walk-around room. Don’t be confused that it’s got enough room for a game of volleyball, but it was as comfortable, albeit smaller, as any standard motel room. We really liked having the sofa to set on as opposed to a single chair and the bed we’ve had on other cruise lines. When you first enter the cabin, three closets line the small hall. The first two are full hanging closets and the third has shelves. Your life jackets take up one shelf unless you shove them under the bed. There is a placard on the back of the cabin door with emergency directions and a map to your lifeboat station. A roomy bathroom is on the other side of the entry. It had a large shower, for a cruise ship, with a shampoo and body soap dispenser. There was a single “shavers only” outlet in the bathroom. (What the hell does that mean!!) We had a large basket full of product freebees such as razors, shampoos, Dramamine, Skittles, and other stuff. I reckon it’s good advertising considering the number of folks onboard. The main part of the cabin consists of a three-person sofa with storage drawers, an adjustable height table (which was fantastic for room service), very firm beds that were exactly how we liked them, and a long built in combination dressing table, chest of drawers, and shelving unit. This unit held the 19” color TV, the safe, the built-in hair dryer, refrigerator, and the infamous 1 AC outlet. Two robes were in the cabin for our use on the cruise. (I personally think they should swap them out after about six days of a twelve-day cruise if you know what I mean.) The safe uses any credit type card with a magnetic strip as the combination. Don’t use your cruise card just in case you lose it and give someone else access to your cabin AND your safe. Each cabin has its own thermostat to set it to your personal comfort level. This presumes you’re tough enough to whip your partner. Personally, I’m comfortable wherever Judy puts it. The refrigerator is a locked mini-bar. The room steward needs to unlock it. I hear if your really nice, they’ll empty it out for you. Each evening in our cabin, we were greeted by a different towel animal creation. We really began to look forward to see what creature was awaiting our return. The balcony door is an out swinging French door. A two-foot bungee cord hooked to the handle and under the balcony divider can keep it open. This does turn off the cabin air conditioner unless you’re a magnet wizard and override the door switch. We didn’t do this since it was too cold the first three days, and too warm the rest of the cruise. Our balcony was about 12’ wide and 5’ deep with a Wal-Mart rosin chair and lounger. I mentioned we were upgraded from an 8A to an 8G cabin. That means we were on a higher deck with about a 2’ deeper balcony. Otherwise, all Cat 8 cabins are basically the same. Enough about the cabin already. Even though it is virtually soundproof, I could still faintly hear the cries for help from Mr. Lite coming up from the Atrium. It had come the time, regardless of what my beautiful Queen Judy said. I had to do my knightly duty to rid the world of frightened beer. By the way, I did consider this noble task as part of the ship’s tour. We hurried in a safe manner to the glass elevators and descended to the atrium. The Spirit Atrium is the center of activity for the ship. The glass elevators face the Atrium bar, which is framed on each side with the grand staircase going up to deck three. Behind the bar is a small stage where different “mood” music was played throughout the cruise. The Purser’s desk and tour desk is located in this area. Across the expanse of the atrium from these desks are assorted chairs and sofas to set and watch the world go by through large windows. I digress. With a grim determination, and a growing concern for Judy’s safety caused by her swiveling head, gawking at the décor in the atrium, I planted my butt and her royal heiny on stools at the bar. With the fear for her highness’s safety allayed for the moment, I proceeded to deal with the Mr. Miller Lite dilemma. You’ll be glad to know that Mr. Lite was saved from going bad, and we saved many, many of his family from the same fate over the next twelve days. As we sat there doing good deeds, we continued exploring the Spirit. This consisted mostly of discussing the ship’s décor and watching cruise mates embark. As Judy so eloquently pointed out, “We’ve got twelve days to check out the boat.” Much has been said about the Spirit class ship’s decor. Many were not kind. I’ll admit that it’s a bit overwhelming when you first see it, but it grew on us. The dark colors highlighted with gold, and the repetitive geometric designs became familiar. If folks miss the old Carnival use of bright, colored patterns just go up to the pool deck. WAHOO! Elevators and public restrooms are plentiful on the Spirit. We now know where all the restrooms are, and never had to wait for an elevator. It soon came time to get underway. We went to our cabin and watched the departure from our balcony. It was a sunny, pleasant late afternoon to catch the Vancouver scenery. We also used this time to unpack and get ready for dinner. The ride out and through the long passage of the Straits of Juan DeFuca was smooth and uneventful. We also got to watch the season premiere of the “West Wing” while driving towards the wide, blue Pacific. The ship’s cable system had Primetime 24 East for the whole cruise. So, if you could adjust your TV watching clock to east coast time you could keep up with your favorite shows. We also filled out the customs forms that were in the cabin in advance of our arrival in Honolulu a week later. As 8:45 neared, we headed down for dinner. We had no tablemates that evening so we missed one of our favorite parts of cruising. That is meeting different folks who have also left their cares and woes on the beach. Yep, I reckon that was a vote for “Personal Choice” style dining. Because food is subjective (even if my opinion is always right), I’ll forego 12 days of dinner descriptions. The dining room food was plentiful and tasty, and repetitive, without being extraordinary throughout the cruise. Most nights, the Matre’d and his staff did some type of skit or dance, and their service was very professional. I know that’s not an overwhelming ovation for the dining room, it’s just to say everything was just fine. >From the dining room, we went back to the atrium for an après dinner cocktail before retiring. Don’t yell, when I ski, it’s called an après ski beer. Got It! After the après it was time to turn in. Day one was over. We are cruising!!! The next five days were filled with many cruise highlights that I’ll synopsize in a rambling fashion so as to not use 5 pages a day. The first couple of days were very cool, weather wise. After that it warmed noticeably the further south we went. Six sea days in a row may seem boring to many cruisers, but somehow we stayed busy even if we were busy doing nothing. (This scared her highness once she figured out how well I could actually do nothing.) Carnival does schedule a boatload (get it?) of activities to keep you busy if’n you so choose. Sometime in the middle of our first night at sea the weather turned. Watching the ship’s TV channel, we registered 60-70 mile per hour winds and 20-30 foot swells. While the stabilizers did a great job, needless to say that there were a whole bunch of people who missed that days activities. The lifeboat drill was conducted at 9:30 that morning. It was held indoors in the hallways to be safe. It took about 30 minutes. A lot of the folks looked like they’d rather have been washed overboard. Things started to calm down after the first day and we saw more and more of our shipmates getting out and about. We woke up early each morning of the cruise and called room service. We would order 2 pots of coffee, orange juice, Danish, and bagels. The stuff got to our cabin in less than 10 minutes each time. We had brought a bunch of $2 bills and used them for tipping onboard. What a great crew. The first morning, Judy opted for the dining room for breakfast. Both breakfast and lunch are open seating. The food was O.K. It was not quite up to the standards of a good “Lenney’s”. It was our last time to have breakfast here. This was not a cruise breaker by any stretch. There are enough places to eat onboard that the pickiest eater can enjoy. The next morning we ventured up to the pool deck to the La Playa Grill. Now they have a breakfast here! All the choices were fresh and very tasty. Lines were non-existent. Floor to ceiling windows provided a fantastic vista while folks ate more in one sitting than they probably would in a day at home. Yep, that’s cruising for ya! Just a bit more about food, then I’ll get on with it. After breakfast that morning we went back to the cabin to get ready for our day at sea. A card from the Matre’d was in the cabin saying that we had been changed to early seating at 5:45 PM. We were now in a booth on the other side of the dining room with a retired couple from Florida via New York and the Philippines. We spent several nights enjoying their company at dinner. We ate about half our evening meals in the dining room, and the rest at the La Playa Grill. We never had lunch in the dining room, nor dinner at the added fee Nouveau Supper Club, so I can’t tell you first hand what that was like. But, I am a second-hand expert on the supper club. Virtually every person we talked to raved about their evening there. I guess we got so busy doing nothing that we didn’t have time to go up 2 decks from our cabin to try it. The La Playa Grill and pool deck is also the location of other culinary delights. Each evening they had a “Taste of Nations” buffet set up. This is a little misnomer unless you agree that burritos, pork chops, and such all come from India. There was a definite Indian flavor to all these dishes. They have a poolside grilling area for great hamburgers, hot dogs, and brauts. My personal favorite was the Deli, and Judy’s favorite was the Pizza Bar. The Deli sandwiches were fresh and moist and delicious. My German heritage queen, Judy, ate so many Calzones that she was speaking Italian by the end of the cruise. To top all this off, on the aft pool deck there were several self-serve soft ice cream and yogurt machines to help fill whatever small crevices of your insides that you had left. Finally, below on the Promenade deck is the Fountain Café. Here is the place that if your sail and sign card is low on charges, you can purchase desserts and coffees for a nominal fee. I don’t get it. Food, coffees and desserts up the kazoo and they’ll actually sell you more for a “nominal” fee! I don’t want to get too far into the cruise without recognizing the absolutely phenomenal cruise staff and crew onboard the Spirit. They were all personable, professional, and friendly. If it was in their power to do something for you, they did it. We did have our three favorites. They were Donna and Jo Anne from the Philippines, and Geniviete from Lithuania. We spent a lot of time with those three in many enjoyable encounters and conversations. Speaking of the pool area, which I spoke of somewhere in this thing, after the first couple of days it really got a workout. The warm days and beautiful skies kept it crowded. We never saw “chair hogging”. The aft pool deck always had piles of chairs for passengers to use. We never did see the slide open. Each day there were contests such as “Survivor Carnival Style”, ice-carving demonstrations, and our favorite, “Hawaiian Sounds” by a group called “Ikapuahana”. Say that once real fast! After dinner each night we would go up to the pool deck for coffee and ice cream, and talk romantic cruise ship type stuff. Before the cruise, I had “volunteered” to be the center post for a cruise forums get-together for the folks at the Cruise Critic, Cruise Mates, and Cruise Addicts web sites. This was scheduled on our second full sea day. Before leaving home, I had made up a beautiful, professional sign with the logos from these forums. At the appointed place (Champions Bar) and appointed time (1:00 PM), the queen and I plopped our keisters down, started saving frightened beers, and awaited the swarming throng. In 3 hours of awaiting, 3 folks swarmed us. The time was well spent with our Lite family duties and meeting SPUDWITCH from the Cruise Critics board. SPUDWITCH turned out to be half of the Sharon and Earl team. These are great folks that we occasionally ran into around the boat, and on the beach. By the way, they are from Idaho (SPUD) and Sharon’s birthday is Halloween (WITCH). I got it after she explained it. To further add to the excitement of our days at sea, my sweetie invited me to attend the arts and crafts activity held each day. She has always been into this stuff. If you should run across her someday, be sure to ask her which of the two of us actually finished the official Carnival plastic canvas penholder. Oh Yeah!! Let me ramble a moment (again?), less we forget shopping on sea days. Deck 3 contains the Fashion Blvd. I didn’t count, but there were about 8-10 shops here. Momma used it to get her store fix, and to keep me in the practice of tagging along with my mouth shut, until the time we reached port. Actually the shops contained a variety of stuff with pretty good duty-free prices. The law required them to shutdown in port. Late afternoons were taken up with Judy retiring to the cabin, taking a nap when she could, and working on a baby blanket for our soon to arrive granddaughter. (She’s here now, and she and our other granddaughter are the best looking women in the family.) I split my time between the Atrium Bar and the Champions Bar talking to the international bartenders, continuing my crusade for the Lite family, and bothering any unsuspecting passenger who happened to get too close. What a life! One of those unsuspecting types was a gent named George from San Diego, via England. I mention George not only because he’s a great guy, but also because he related a theory that answers the ever-present question about how old the average passenger was on this cruise. I was a young 51 and George was 62 at the time of cruise. Just aft of the atrium area is the Dancin’ Dance Club. This is a disco type dance hall with a sign out front that said unescorted teenagers must vacate at 11:00 PM. George held that age is relative. If that holds to be true, he said we’d have to find someone to escort us into the club after 11. No offence, but he wasn’t far off. We did count eleven little pirates marching along with the Club Carnival kids group. The age group on this cruise was probably a factor of both the dates of the cruise, and it’s length. The casino was open anytime we were at sea. Don’t worry about finding the casino; it’d be tough for Daniel Boone to find a way fore and aft without going through it. I don’t remember seeing the casino not crowded, unless we were in port. I was surprised at that. As tight as we found the machines, you’d think with that many folks gambling they could have pooled their money and bought the boat. I guess some folks are luckier than others. The evenings were spent attending the shows in the Pharaohs Palace, the Versailles Room, and other venues around the boat. The shows were all energetic, entertaining, and professionally done. Norm Crosby was the headliner for this trip. Right next to the Champions Bar is Club Cool. This is a smallish lounge with a dance floor and stage. This is where tender tickets were handed out. It’s also where karaoke was performed. Those were some brave passengers. Judy and I were in Champions the first time karaoke fired up. The bartender, Jo Anne, ran to us with horror in her eyes looking for help. It was no use. Until that time, Judy and I had assumed we were afraid of absolutely nothin’. Again it goes to show where assuming will get you. Those paxs sure were having a great time though. That about takes care of the trip across the Pacific to the islands. It seemed to take about as long to do it as it does reading to here. Before I blither on about the port calls, I want to mention that we did not book any tours through the cruise line. We’ve found they cost way more than doing them ourselves. This overrides the small risk of being left behind. Heck, buy third-party vacation insurance with the saved money. It also leads me to the one thing about cruising that puts a giant bite on our backsides. Folks who book tours through the cruise line are the first off in ports where tenders are used. We understand why the lines do this. Don’t bother flaming me or arguing cause I don’t care. Cruise lines, please hire enough tenders to take care of your tour paying passengers, and enough to get those of us who paid the same price for our trips, on the beach at the same time so we all can enjoy the limited port time. This ain’t rocket science, and we’re not traveling steerage. Whew! I feel better now. Next is security. Every time you get on or off the ship, your sail and sign card is run through a machine to confirm who you are, and whether your onboard or not. When we first came aboard in Canada, our picture was taken by security, and associated with the card. They looked at the picture every time we boarded to insure you-is-you. When returning to the ship, all hand-carried items are hand searched, ID’s checked, and your body is wanded on the pier. Once on the ship, your card is scanned and your carry-on stuff is run through an x-ray machine. Now on with the cruise. We pulled in and anchored in Kona about an hour and a half ahead of schedule. Her majesty had designated this a shopping port with some picture taking and eating as a sideline. After getting our tender numbers from Club Cool we proceeded to the beach. AAARHHG! Free shopping buses from Hilo Hattie’s and Wal-mart where waiting, as they were in every port. Kona is a tourist town that circles beautifully around its bay. Judy says it reminds her of Avalon on Catalina Island. It reminded me of Kona since I’d been here a couple of times in my youther years. It was hot and sunny as we began the marathon-shopping run. There were some folks training on the Iron-Man triathlon venues. Those wimps would have died keeping up with my Judy. As usual, we hit every store within the boundaries of this side of the island, ate some food for strength, and then did some real shopping. We did get a chance to slip into the oldest missionary church on the island, which is built out of coral, without being blasted by the oft spoke of bolt of lightning. Kona is truly a beautiful place. After the marathon, we returned to the Spirit and continued our late afternoon and evening routine on board. The ship departed for the other side of the island at around 5:30. Upon awaking the next morning, we went out to the balcony, with our morning victuals, to watch our approach into Hilo. The early morning was bright and clear as we proceeded down the coastline. With no clouds forming yet, we had clear views of the observatory stations at the top of Mauna Kea, down across Mauna Loa, and a stunning view of the volcanic plume of Kilauea. We tied up at a pier a couple of miles from downtown, and right next to the airport. Upon disembarking, we finally got “lei’d” in Hawaii. You could tell the cruisers from the rest of the folks by the purple flower leis we were all wearing. (Not to mention the bright, white legs on oh so many of us.) Hilo can be a pretty wet place. They get between 130 and 200 inches of rain a year. As the morning warmed up, clouds rapidly formed. Starting about noon that day the rainfall average was significantly added to. This microclimate of warm and sunny on the west side of the islands, and warm and wetter on the east side holds true for most of the Hawaiian chain. Also, the year round temps across the islands are almost always in the 80’s during the day, and the 70’s at night. Look out Al Roker, me sound like I know weather, uh. As I said somewhere towards the top of this thing, we had booked the Safariair helicopter tour of the volcanoes and waterfalls. This was the tour we were most looking forward to on this trip. We were not disappointed. I love any type of flying, and Judy had never been in a rotary wing contraption. The combination of my anticipation and her trepidation got our “couples” karma out of whack. We were already a little uncertain whether the flight would get off with the building weather. When we booked this flight over the Internet, we had requested the 1:30 PM flight just in case there was a major delay in getting off the boat. When you book these rotary wing tours you need to give your height and weight so the pilot can calculate center-of-gravity and weight and balance for the aircraft. We received an e-mail from them prior to leaving home; implying one of us was just a little too “tubby” for the 1:30 lift-off. We were shifted to the 10:00 AM flight. A representative from Safariair picked us up from the pier at about 9:15 and drove us to their facility at the Hilo airport. Once inside, we were weighed on a digital scale to confirm no “slimming” fibs were told over the Internet. After the rest of the tour group arrived, we were given a safety briefing, our seating assignment, and introduced to our pilot, Jim. The aircraft held seven people. Four sat in the back seat, and two paxs and the pilot sat in the front. We got really lucky here. Four nice people loaded into the back, Judy got the middle, front seat, and “tubby” got the left hand, front door seat. What a fantastic view for the hour-long flight. Jim gave us another flight safety briefing, and we went light on the skids. We all wore Bose noise-canceling intercom headsets during the flight. These worked fantastically. You could barely hear the airplane, but the piped over Hawaiian music and Jim’s superb and entertaining narration was crystal clear. The aircraft was equipped with a video camera system with forward and side mounted cameras and six videotapes. The tape has the flight video with Jim’s narration, and the Hawaiian music for $20. They’re worth it for the music! It had started raining fairly hard as we departed the airport. Jim kept up his running narration of points of interest as we flew toward the Kilauea calderas. The rain stopped just as we started flying over older lava flows. Once we got over the southwestern side of the volcano, we could see the venting plumes from the lava tubes running down to the sea. Periodically we could see the molten lava as it broke through the surface. Once over the ocean, we could clearly see the orange-red lava flowing into the ocean from several tubes, sending vast clouds of hydrochloric acid into the air. That would be a baaad place to take a deep breath if you were on the ground. After showing us the volcano area, Jim headed back to the north of Hilo. Along the winding river, flowing out to the sea, several huge and majestic waterfalls came into view. We descended and circled the waterfalls for about 15 minutes. Way, way too soon it was time to head back and land. After landing, we deplaned the rotary thing. A staffer grabbed our cameras and took a shot of each of us in front of the helicopter. Safariair is one class act. We were driven back to the pier upon completion of this fantastic tour. We later heard that the rains and low clouds had cancelled the afternoon flights. Tubby is now glad he didn’t listen real close to his cardiologist. Otherwise we’d have missed our flight. The helicopter ride was silky smooth, Judy likes helicopters, and all is right in the world. During our flight, Jim had told us that downtown Hilo is not really a “tourist” type place as far as its layout goes. So… momma made a decision and we went shopping. We jumped on the ever-present gratis Hilo Hattie’s bus and headed out. The Hattie’s representative handed out free puka shell necklaces. They did this in every port. (OOPS! Kids, the necklaces we gave you were the really, really expensive ones.) After Hattie’s, we walked across the street to Wal-Mart for more vacation fun. From there it was back to the ship for our now normal shipboard routine, and our departure for Maui. The next morning the ship anchored in the bay at Lahina, Maui. We’d be here for two days. The ship did lift anchor and head out to sea after midnight, and then returned and anchored early in the morning. Yeah, you could stay on the island all night if you wanted. We went back to the boat since we’d already paid for our room. We heard that shorts were allowed that night in the dining room. That was the only time on this cruise. Once we went through the get off the boat and tender thing (yatayatayata), we walked a block through town to pick up the Budget rental car shuttle. Lahina is an old whaling village that has maintained its charm. The seaside bars from my youth are now a lot of, no, hundreds of, no, thousands of shops. We had both been here during the years before we met. You know, the unhappy years. Anyway, we picked up the car and headed across the island to Hana. If you haven’t taken the infamous “Road to Hana”, you gotta try it someday. The road is a little over 30 miles long with over 600 curves and 59 one-way bridges. It winds through some of the most beautiful and lush tropical mountain rainforest that we have ever seen. Waterfalls are spread throughout the trip. It’s also the only road I’ve driven that has the sign “Speed Zone Ahead” where the speed limit goes “up” from 15 mph to 30 mph. The round trip from Lahina can take all day, and is well worth the time. After entering Hana, we took the fork to the right and searched out a place for lunch. We found it at the Hotel Hana Maui. This is one high class, high-end inn. Don’t confuse it with a high-rise hotel. It’s low-slung buildings and oriental gardens spread across the landscape presenting a view just short of heaven. We had lunch in their covered lanai dining room overlooking their unbelievable ocean vista. We did not want to leave, but with anything less than winning the lotto, it would have been a short stay. Kicking and screaming, we got back in the car and retraced our route back to Lahina. We searched out a lot to park the car for the night. There are several on the street about 2 blocks from the pier. Be warned that they vary in price without any seeming reference to the proximity to downtown Lahina. We found one directly up from the wharf for $10 a night. With very little begging on my part, my queen consented to forego shopping until the next day. Instead, we did manly stuff. The Pioneer Inn is a hundred-plus year old wooden hotel sitting at the foot of the wharf where our tenders arrived and departed. Sailors, whalers, and other tough guys have frequented this joint for decades. My new, old buddy George was sitting in the open sided bar imbibing with his three female tablemates from the ship. He graciously asked us to join them. Shortly after we arrived, one of our new, young crewmember friends, Geniviete, and her friend joined in. A Samoan singer large enough to make Shaq look like Minnimee from Austin Powers, sang beautiful Hawaiian songs while our six female tablemates and us two guys did manly bar things. This lasted until the call for the last tender of the night forced us to return to the ship. God I love port calls. The next morning, it was up early and onto the tender back to town. We found our car and went to the Lahina Cannery shopping center for a couple of hours of shopping. After that tour of duty, we loaded up and headed back to Budget to turn in the car. A quick shuttle ride back to Lahina placed us back into the “Judy shopping heaven” portion of the port call. The next several hours (read days) were spent going in and out of the lots of, no, hundreds of, no, thousands of shops. Looking down the sidewalk was hilarious. The lined up, vacant stared shopping “husbands” could get an invite to the International Identical Twins Day festivities. Then it was back to the ship to go to Kauai. Nawiliwili. That’s a name that deserves to stand-alone. Lets all say it together. Nuh-willy-illy-willy. P.S. You’ve got to say it real fast to say it right. Yep, that’s where we tied up on Kauai. It’s located just outside of Lihue. Kauai is often referred to as the most beautiful of the Hawaiian Islands. I don’t know about that, given the awesome beauty found throughout the island chain, but there are astounding visionary spectacles to behold on this, the oldest of the islands. With extraordinary skill, care, and a boatload of thrusters, the Captain maneuvered the ship through a small opening into the harbor, and tied up to the pier in the place I said above. I dare you to say it again. Our visit on Kauai was a relatively short eight hours. Even though we had reserved a car, her royal person and I decided to forgo the pleasure of getting it, and turning it back in. We had planned to drive up the coast and do the Wailua River and Fern Grotto tour. Instead, we asked one of the cab drivers at the pier how much. He said 16 bucks. We said OK. We got in, and away we went. A short ride north of Lihue brought us to the River tour office and restaurant. Anyone who spends time watching movies rather than working will recognize this place. Let’s see, Donovan’s Reef, Blue Hawaii, and Jurassic Park to name just a few. We bought our tickets and waited for the time to board the really big river barge for the two and a half mile trip up the Wailua River to the Fern Grotto. Once aboard we set sail for the leisurely cruise. The barge had a small band to do band stuff, and hula ladies to do hula stuff on our way up. They were really good considering the number of times they do this trip day in and day out. A half hour trip brought us to the docking area for the grotto. Upon reaching the grotto dock, we walked on a concrete path for about 10 minutes through the jungle. Don’t fret; Hawaii has never, ever had snakes. The grotto suddenly opened up through the thick foliage. It’s a truly beautiful place with giant ferns overhanging the cliffs and grotto. We were invited to walk into the grotto. Once there, the crew sang the “Hawaiian Wedding Song”. Remember Elvis. And yes, they really do perform a ton of weddings here. After that we loaded onboard the barge and headed back to the tour dock. On this trip, the pilot gave a great talk about what we saw on the boat ride. O.K. it may sound a little hokey, but we loved it. Once ashore, we called our cab company and had them take us to downtown Lihue. The town was putting on their part of the annual Aloha Festival. This festival is held all across the islands. The festival was set up in the town square. We spent a few hours here rummaging through the crafts, watching the entertainment, and eating hot dogs. This was a case of a small town, good time. Rather than spend money on another cab, we walked a few blocks to Hilo Hattie’s and took the free bus back to the ship. Onboard we went, and it was Honolulu bound. Honolulu. This is it, our last port, the end of the road, the place to get off, the last of this novella! Aloha. Not yet. We didn’t disembark until the next day. This gave us a whole day and night in Honolulu, with a room. That is until we shifted over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village for two more days. We tied up that morning next to the Aloha Tower and got ready to ransack the island. This was “my island”, the place where I had lived and loved for three years. (WHOOPS! yet again. Judy didn’t know about that part.) I was going to spend the next few days taking my sweetheart to all my old haunts and hideaways. That took about 5 minutes discounting driving time. What the hell did they do to my island in the last 28 years? I’ll tell you! They built a herd of new buildings all over the island; added new roads; grew the population by 100%; and tore down my old haunts and hideaways. Damn, I hate it when that happens. I know, I know, you don’t care. That’s fine, Judy didn’t either. Okay, okay. We had planned this first day as the day we explored Waikiki. We departed the Spirit that first morning, and to my surprise, we went shopping at the Aloha Tower. Once we exited the pier building, several tour buses, cabs, and company shopping vans were waiting to take the milling throngs to their appointed places. This was also the place we found the Waikiki Trolley stop. These are open sided trolleys that run different routes from the Aloha Tower through the downtown and Waikiki area for $2 a day. The first thing we did, after the little shopping spree, was to jump on the trolley and ride it down to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (HHV). I wanted to verify our room reservation and give Judy a preview of the 24-acre “hideaway” where we would be spending the next couple of days. Whew! I’d like to own 24 acres on Waikiki for about the 30 seconds it would take to become a multi-billionaire. Once the reservations were confirmed, we stopped by the hotel’s tour desk to book the Arizona Memorial Tour and reserve our rental car for the next couple of days. >From the HHV we hoofed it down to the Waikiki beach area. This is where the first dramatic changes to “my island” were noticed. I had regaled Judy with the absolutely true, unvarnished, no bull facts about the functions I had attended at the world famous, pink Royal Hawaiian Hotel and it’s equally famous Mai Tai Bar. I couldn’t find it. How in the world could I NOT find a giant pink building on Waikiki beach? Simple, high-rise store/office buildings were built in the front of it. We eventually found the “free beach access” alley and went to the Royal Hawaiian for a walk around. She’s still a beautiful place. >From there, we headed over to the International Market Place for an afternoon of shopping. The mostly open-air market place is located in the middle of the Waikiki beach area, and has been there for decades. We spent a long, long time here. After the Market Place, we crossed the street and “walked the sands of Waikiki”. Yep, just like the words from the songs. In the late afternoon we boarded the trolley to head back to the Spirit for one last night of that ole cruise feeling. Disembarking the next morning was a piece of cake. Earlier in the cruise we had filled out a form that had been left in our cabin. This form detailed each passenger’s post cruise itineraries. Based on flight times, tour schedules and such, Carnival assigned a number and color for getting off the ship. Luggage tags with this info and directions were delivered to the cabin. On the last night, we packed up and put the tags on our bags, and then set them outside our cabin by midnight. For those folks leaving the island, remember to keep out clothes and stuff for the flight home. We heard that folks forgot to do this more than once. I’m not sure that the new airline security measures allow you to fly home only wearing day old underwear. I can think of cases where that could constitute a terrorist act. When our color and number was called, we departed the ship, went to the luggage holding area, and grabbed our stuff. We were off the ship by 9:30 that morning. We hopped a cab and checked into the HHV. As it was early, no room was available. They checked us in and took our luggage anyway. The HHV has a desk setup to come back later and pick up the room keys later in the day. We then walked around the corner to the small Budget office and picked up our car. Today was our vehicular tour of the island of Oahu across Diamond Head, and up the coast to the North Shore. After working our way through the Waikiki traffic, we wound our way up Diamond Head to the lighthouse and lookout point. From there it was down to Hanauma Bay, Makapu Point, and up the coast to the North Shore and Sunset Beach. The surf was calm at Sunset and Bonsai Beach, so Judy didn’t get to see how terrifyingly huge this can be. >From there, we cut across the island through what remains of the Dole pineapple plantation, and worked our way back to Honolulu. Driving times on the islands are deceptive because of the winding coast roads, and lower speed limits. This trip took us all day. We got back to the hotel and picked up our room keys. Our bags had already been taken to the room. We walked down to the ever-present ABC convenience store and picked up snacks and liquid sustenance for use in the room. We had dinner at one of the whole bunch of eateries in the village, and returned to our room to partake of the afore mentioned sustenance on our balcony. Sorry that there’s no review of the village. We didn’t really avail ourselves of all they had at this beautiful resort. The next morning we had scheduled the Arizona Memorial Tour. Our tour left the village at 6:30 in the morning. This atrocious time was selected so as to be in the first group at the memorial. Later in the day, the lines and waits can become brutal. When I was stationed at Pearl Harbor, I was a member of the Fleet Reserve branch that participated in the fund raising and construction of the museum associated with the Arizona Memorial. I had seen conceptual stuff before leaving the island, but had not returned to see the final product. Many of my old shipmates and other organizations toiled unflaggingly for the years it took to get this part of the memorial opened. They exceeded the definition of a superb job. The shuttle took us to Pearl Harbor. Our tour guide quickly got our group lined up and signed in at the museum. The tour is free to all, and it is first come-first served. So get there early. We milled around smartly for a little while until our number was called. Once called, we entered the theater for a 20-minute movie of the history leading up to, and the attack on that infamous day. At the conclusion of the film, we loaded onto a launch piloted by U.S. Navy personnel, as only it should be. After a short ride, we arrived at the Arizona. Each group has 15 minutes to board and view the memorial. The quiet, solemn air and feeling of this final resting place of so many brave men must be felt, while never truly being explainable. At the conclusion of our time onboard, we reloaded the launch and returned to the museum site. Plenty of time was allowed to tour the museum proper, and then it was back to the shuttle and our return to the hotel. We jumped into the car and headed out to the eastern side of the island for our last day of the trip. This was “my side”. We drove past the airport, Pearl Harbor and into Aeia. This was the first town in which I resided. I was able to recognize it by viewing the arrangement of the surrounding hills. Darn, they did it again. We pulled into a large coffee shop for breakfast. After eating we got back in the car to continue the “old haunt” search. As we were pulling out of the parking lot, I thought I recognized the layout of a small road. We made that turn, and I’ll be durned if my old apartment building wasn’t still standing. Somebody must have messed up and not knocked it down for a used car dealership. Now I also know why the helicopter place inferred that I was a little “tubby”. The place had gotten a lot smaller than when I lived there. After the ten seconds of reminiscing, which was about all Judy could stand, we headed north up Kam highway. Our destination was Naval Air Station Barbers Point on the north end of that side of Oahu. With my previous family, we had moved from Aiea to Barbers Point. The house was so new when we moved in, that the paint was actually still wet. Damn again. NAS Barbers Point had been decommissioned, and my house was now a giant fuel storage tank. What the heck, we’re really not nostalgic folks. Besides, we had accepted our new, holy mission to rid the world of bad beer, didn’t we? So, it was back to the hotel to pursue our new mission in life, and to pack for our flight home the next morning. Judy did get a driving tour of the entire island of Oahu. If she wants to see anything in detail, we’ll have to come back. The next morning we packed up the car and sallied forth to the Honolulu International Airport. We dropped off the car, checked in for the flight, and boarded the plane for our last “waited on hand and foot” first class ride back to LAX. The smoothness of our vacation didn’t end here. Oh contraire! As Judy was struggling to get the in-seat video unit out for the in-flight movie, the ever vigil flight attendant jumped in to help her. With a practiced pull and twist of the display by the flight attendant, my honey’s index finger was smashed between the display and the seat. She was cut clear to the bone. We now had a horrified flight attendant and a queen in pain for the rest of the flight. We did get good service, though. Alas, not everything can be perfect. The cruise breaker we did experience was the ride of the Carnival Spirit. When at sea, with the right conditions, our cabin shuddered so hard that we had to pack the drinking glasses in towels to keep the clanking noise in check. Judy made up for her lack of sleep with naps when she could, and some sleep in port. To be fair, the shuddering decreased dramatically the lower we ventured on the ship. That was not the way to venture forth into new adventures. I’ll stand on my experience of 10 years of sea duty on various classes of Naval vessels, and our previous cruises to say that this violent shuddering was mechanically or ship design induced. For the first time in my life I wrote a letter of complaint. I asked Carnival to give us an explanation just so we had the “real” story to base future adventures with them, on this otherwise unbelievable ship and cruise. Carnival did respond thanking us for our input, and 15% off future cruises with them. It’s with a saddened heart that while this otherwise “trip of a lifetime” was truly enjoyable, we just can’t recommend the Spirit to our friends and associates until we know that the problem is fixed. And this, my friends, concludes this very condensed version of what we did on our summer (fall) vacation. While we thoroughly enjoyed our adventure to those golden Pacific isles, 15 days away from home with an expectant little girl, and a longing for my recliner, allowed us to return home with light, though shaken, hearts. Aloha, Joe and Judy.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska

For our twentieth wedding anniversary, my wife and I went on a seven-day Alaskan cruise aboard the Carnival Spirit. We made our own airline reservations, but we went through Carnival Cruise Lines to arrange for transportation from Anchorage to Seward and from Vancouver to Seattle. Registration for the cruise began Wednesday morning at the Convention Center in Anchorage from 8:00 to 12:00. We arrived at 9:00 and the lines were not that

long. In less than twenty minutes we completed the registration process and received boarding passes for the 12:30 shuttle to Seward, Alaska. The first shuttle left at 12:00 and shuttles ran the rest of the afternoon. Our bus left Anchorage on schedule and the ride to Seward was nice and the box lunch was not bad either. Our bus driver, Brian, a senior in College, was an excellent tour guide. While en route to Seward he stopped at a small glacier outside of Anchorage so that we could stretch our legs. We arrived at the pier at 3:45 PM. Embarkation went smoothly, the whole process took about 10 minutes. We went through the security check point (x-ray machines and portal metal detectors similar to those used at the International airports), received our Carnival “Sail & Sign” cards (which are also your room keys), and had our picture taken for their access control system. When you embark and debark the ship, you are required to swipe your “Sail & Sign” card in a card reader and as long as the data on the card matches the data and picture displayed on the security guard’s access control display, you are allowed to pass. Our cabin was a category 6 stateroom. It was on the port side of the Riviera Deck and the view from our window was fantastic. Our steward Rafael was very pleasant and efficient. As others have mentioned in their reviews, the animals that the stewards make out of the towels were lots of fun! We had requested the early seating for dinner, but when we received our “Sign & Sail” card with our assigned dinner table number, we learned that we had the late seating. However, I spoke with the staff and the next day (Thursday), our time was changed to the early seating. The meals were great, we ate breakfast and lunch at the La Playa Grille and we ate dinner in the Empire Restaurant. However, on Saturday night we ate in the Nouveau Supper Club/Steakhouse. It was nice, but we are not sure the additional $25.00 per person was worth it. The dinners served in the Empire Restaurant were just as nice. The evening shows were as good or better than Las Vegas, and we had a lot of fun attending other activities on the Ship such as the “Battle of the Sexes” and “Newly Weds and not so Newly Weds” games for adults. The weather was cold and rainy until the last day of our cruise. Once we entered International waters the sky cleared and on Tuesday, August 13, 2002, it the high was 64 and everyone was enjoying the sun deck! We went on three shore excursions; the Mendenhall glacier and wildlife quest (whale watching) tour ($125.00 per person) in Juneau, the Klondike Gold Dredge (panned for gold) tour ($34.00 per person) in Skagway, and the Totem Bight and City Tour ($35.00 per person) in Ketchikan. The whale watching trip was our favorite and it was worth the price because we were able to see four humpback whales, many harbor seals, and an eagle. We had such a wonderful time on this cruise that we plan to go on other cruises on a regular basis.

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Nov 30, -0001

Alaska - Seward to Vancouver

The first night we went to the Nouveau Supper Club. You must make reservations for this once you get onboard, and jacket/tie is required. Don't miss this opportunity. The food, service and ambiance were topnotch. We tried to go back later in the week, but it was booked solid. There is an additional $25/person surcharge, but we felt it well worth the money. We had our own little band (which was excellent for dancing), and there was no rush whatsoever.

Best three hours onboard the ship. My son also had a 1/2 body massage, the first day (his first ever). He was delighted, and managed not to buy $100 worth of therapeutic stuff. First port of call was Valdez. I had heard it was not overly exciting, so I took a nap. My husband shopped on the pier from a number of vendors. My son took the free bus into town and returned an hour later. According to him, there's "not much there." Our next port of call was Juneau, and the weather was awesome. We took the Mendenhall Glacier and Scenic Wildlife tour. First we rode a bus to the Glacier Visitor Center, where we had about 45 minutes to take pictures and enjoy the scenery. There was a very large waterfall near the glacier you could hike to, but you may miss the bus if you do, as a few of our bus-mates found out). Then we went to the pier and boarded a large jetboat that with two glassed-in decks, plus lots of open area. Again, the weather was perfect, and the animals cooperated. We saw lots of eagles, sea lions, several humpback whales, including a youngster who entertained us for at least 20 minutes with its gymnastics, porpoises, and a variety of birds. The naturalist on the boat and the "captain" were very knowledgeable and made sure we had lots to see. Later that day we took the aerial tramway to the top of the "mountain" overlooking the city. Nice hiking trails and great views. Great shopping in Juneau. Another word of warning: the shore trips are extremely expensive when purchased from the ship. I talked to quite a few passengers who bought their tours off the pier, and saved a substantial amount of money. To give you an idea, our Mendenhall Glacier/Wildlife Cruise, tramway and train ride in Skagway cost us almost $700 for the three of us. Another big warning: the Sail and Sign card can be dangerous. The ship doesn't deal with cash (except in the casino, obviously), so everything is charged to your card and you get a bill on the last evening. It adds up fast, even if you're frugal. Drinkers, beware!! Buy a soft drink card for your kids from the bar. At $20 for the week it's a bargain. Better yet, try to do without. Juices, coffee, tea, hot chocolate and lemonade are available 24 hours on Lido deck. The spa treatments, beauty salon, jewelry sales and souvenirs will all end up on your charge card. Also plan on the bill including approximately $10 per passenger per day in tips. Our next stop was Skagway. Very pretty little town with lots of fun shops. We took the 3-hour railroad trip which leaves right from the pier. The scenery is beautiful as you go up the mountains. Definitely take your camera. We saw a cinnamon colored bear about 50 ft. from the tracks (which we were informed was a black bear - they come in different colors.) Final port before Vancouver was Ketchikan. Probably the best shopping opportunities here. My husband found the totem village to be interesting. The ship was docked port-side-to, so our balcony was looking out over the harbor. We really enjoyed the seaplanes coming and going, eagles flying by, kayakers, and a pod of killer whales who came meandering through (I'm not sure the kayakers were too thrilled with the whales.) We did not sit at our assigned table (1st seating) until the third night. We shared the table with two retired educators, who helped us celebrate our son's graduation (much to his chagrin.) They were delightful. We were spoiled from the Supper Club - the food in the dining room was very good, though the desserts were pretty mundane. Our waiters Zoran and Ruslan were very professional and tried to take good care of us, though I think the waiters are spread too thin. Zoran rounded up a chorus of waiters to sing "Happy Graduation" to my son, which we enjoyed at his expense. We had two formal nights - jackets and ties for men, dress or pantsuit for women. This was their big opportunity to take "formal" pictures to sell you. If you are interested in the pictures they take, they develop them quickly, so look for them no later than the next day. It can be difficult to find yourself amongst 200 pictures of a family posing with a black bear. Another warning: do not plan to linger over coffee after dinner. They run you out right after dessert. I heard they weren't in such a hurry for second seating. We ate two suppers in the La Playa Grill (Lido Deck) because we missed the dinner seating while on shore excursions. The food was good, served cafeteria style. At times it was extremely crowded and very difficult to find a place to sit. We ate all of our lunches on the Lido Deck, usually fairly late. If all else fails, there is Pizza and a Deli, both of which were quite good. Never made it to the Midnight Buffet, but my son said it was pretty good. The entertainment on the ship was highly varied; we thoroughly enjoyed a string trio, jazz trio, two country western singers, and loved the ship's orchestra/jazz band. The duo in the Shanghai Lounge was not great - I thought it was passengers doing Karaoke. That lounge was usually close to empty. The Pharoah's Palace theater had its ups and downs. We loved the salute to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, and the Big Band Review. The last show was awful - called High Spirits. We stuck it out, hoping it would get better, but it didn't. It was a hodge-podge of unrelated and poorly executed singing and dancing. Unfortunate, after the other shows were so good. Here's another warning: If you're at all claustrophobic, do not sit in the back of of the theater on the first floor - it's like looking out of a cave. We much preferred the second floor, but another problem there. The seats directly behind the glass partitions are not good. When you are seated, the partitions come right to eye level, so you either have to scrunch down and look through them, or crane your neck to look over them. I'm 5'7" and chose to crane. Not comfortable. The ship itself is HUGE. We got lots of exercise just getting from place to place onboard. We failed to find a unifying theme in its decor, and found it a bit "glitzy". It was, however, immaculate at all times, fairly well ventilated (we're not smokers and smoking is allowed in most of the common areas of the ship except the dining areas), and laid out in a way that you could get around easily. Looking at it from the shore, it looks like a floating condominium building. The ship's staff was wonderful - very courteous and helpful in all cases. I enjoyed talking with all the young people from different nationalities - all of whose English was excellent, though obviously not their primary language. We saw little of Shawn, the cruise director. I found her a bit "over the top", like a hyper game show host. The debarkation process was not impressive. We got pointed in different directions by the staff, then ended up having to run (literally) through customs to catch our bus, which brought us to SeaTac. Overall, we had a great time. The two highlights were the scenery and the Nouveau Supper Club. My son and his new friends found plenty to do to keep them up to 4AM most nights. I managed to make $100 last a week playing quarter slots, and actually left with $91.25 - small price to pay for lots of fun (we're talking several hours per night in the casino.) There was a good mix of passengers - lots of seniors, many families, some newlyweds. Even though there were almost 2000 guests onboard, we could still find quiet spots. Although we had no problems that needed resolving, I felt that the ship's staff would handle anything that may arise in a friendly, professional manner. The few negative points were minor, and may be just because we have never been on a cruise before and didn't know what to expect. One souvenir we found worthwhile is the cruise videotape. Very professionally done, and you're in it! We will definitely cruise with Carnival again, but with careful attention to purchases onboard. The extra money we paid the ship for the convenience of getting our tickets there (and not realizing we could get them off the ship for much less) was exorbitant.

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Nov 30, -0001

Baja Mexico

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: October 19th, 2002 As Carnival only sails occasionally from San Diego it was inevitable that there would be problems during embarkation and disembarkation, and there were many. The biggest problem, however, was the lack of communication from Carnival to the hundreds of frustrated people waiting to board and to disembark. However, my review is of the ship. I own a CruiseOne Franchise and sell

cruises for a living. I just completed a one time, 6 day sailing on the Carnival Spirit for our yearly conference. What a wonderful choice this ship was. There were close to 450 of us and Carnival had no problem at all coordinating our meeting requirements and the requirements of our social calendar for this event. Our cocktail parties were filled with wonderful food and drink and entertainment, the staff gracious and determined that no one leave hungry or thirsty. What a beautiful ship she is. Bright and open and airy during the day and copper and brass and luxurious seating with the look of stained glass and huge, colorful murals that span over 6 decks high. The Promenade is centered around a beautiful curved marble bar and access to all decks is easy and entertaining via an array of glass elevators that are entered through glass doors so that you don’t miss a thing during your ride. The Pharaoh’s Palace theatre with its Egyptian deco is spectacular and the shows and costumes were great. The Versailles Lounge is beautiful and well appointed with comfortable seating and unique lighting. The Versailles Lounge was used for almost all our workshops and meetings as well as our cocktail parties; it was very comfortable and served us well. The Jazz trio and the chamber trio in the Deco Lounge were extremely good and the music from the unusual disco made you want to dance. The Casino is huge and entertaining and the sports bar is not to be missed. If I tried to describe it, I know that I would blow it, suffice it to say, it never looks empty or boring. The dining room is a delight; our head waiter and wait staff took fantastic care of us and were eager to meet all our requirements. The food was a vast improvement over my last experience with Carnival. We did not have the opportunity to eat in the alternative restaurant but heard from those that did that it was out of this world with 5 star service and food. We had breakfast most mornings on the Lido deck and the food, although typical of breakfast buffet food, was always fresh and hot, the juice was always cold and the chef at the omelet station was always willing to make my eggs over easy. We had breakfast and lunch once in the dining room and the eggs benedict was delicious as well as the pan fried trout and salad for lunch. We had a balcony cabin and it was quite comfortable with more than enough storage and light. We found the bed to be quite comfortable and had no problem falling off to sleep each night. The cabin came equipped with hair dryer and just down the hall was a washer and dryer and ironing board. I didn’t remember reading about that and was quite pleasantly surprised. We visited the ports of La Paz and Cabo San Lucas and attended a private beach party in La Paz so I never had the opportunity to actually go into the town of La Paz. It is quite a ride from the pier to the town and you must take a bus or taxi and it costs approximately $25 for a taxi full. Cabo San Lucas was its usual and charming self and we shopped for silver jewelry and just enjoyed the lovely day. We came back early and sat on our balcony and looked out over Land’s End and the Arch. We pulled away just prior to sunset and were soon on our way back to San Diego. I thought that this ship was beautiful and for the most part very well run and maintained. The Purser’s desk was very cordial and helpful and the dining room staff was ready to meet our every need. If you have any questions about the Spirit, please contact me at lvucich@cruiseone.com

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