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Richard Forcella

Age: 57


Number of Cruises: 6

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Spirit

Sailing Date: March 6th, 2004

Itinerary: 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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