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Bob Cookson

Age: 42

Occupation:Student (Again!)

Number of Cruises: 3

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Spirit

Sailing Date: June 7th, 2006

Itinerary: 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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