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 orbitz 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. Thanx Our sailing date was 1/3/06, departing from San Diego. We live in the socal 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 peir. For an 8 day cruise it's 108 bucks but that's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket and a lot less hassel.
Firstly embarkation was a breeze, we didn't get down to the peir until 1:30 so Iguess 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 linnens 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 payed 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 Acupulco. It was 100 degrees in janurary 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 payed off. Las Gatas is on the other side of the bay where the ship is tendered. When you land at the peir 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 kinda hard to jump down into but very sturdy and totally fun. The beach was full of families since it was a Saturday. The first resturants you come to on that strip of beach were full of pushy resturant 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 kinda 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 caronas. 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 caronas, 2 other cocktails, 3 full plates of food, and a rediculous pina colada that was served in a whole carved out pinaple. 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 kinda grumpy but that didn't ruffle me much. We went dancing the second night at "the dancin 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 chattin 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 protien 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 captian would make the most rIdiculouly obvious announcements; my favorite being(insert cheesy Italian accent here): " hello this is captian 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". Wha???
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 motely 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 and others. They really do let you have the kinda 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.
My partner and I took a northbound cruise from Vancouver to Whittier (Anchorage). We used to Anchors Aweigh program, so once we arrived in Vancouver, we were under the wing of Carnival right at the airport. Everything was fairly organized. We were herded like cattle to various areas, but we were herded nicely. One really nice thing was that we did not have to claim our luggage. It was taken from the airport to the ship and then delivered to our cabin. We took about a 40-minute bus trip from the airport to Canada Place Pier. The bus driver gave us lots of information about Vancouver and the various sites we passed.
Our cabin was 1125 on the Riveria deck, the lowest deck with passenger cabins. Our cabin was an exterior Oceanview cabin. This was a pleasant surprise, as I was expecting an interior room. The cabin was 183 square feet. There was plenty of cabin and storage space. The bathroom was surprisingly large. It did not have a bathtub, but it had a roomy shower and vanity area. Sometimes you could feel the ship roll and vibrate, but it nevertook away from my enjoyment of the cruise.
So how big is the Carnival Spirit? The Carnival Spirit is 960 feet long. At its widest point, it is 127 feet wide. At the water line, it is 106 feet wide. The draught, the depth of a vessel's keel below the surface, is 25 and half feet. The cruising speed is 22 knots (25.3 miles per hour). The ship had a total guest capacity of 2,124 and a crew of 920. The ship was built at the Kvaener Masa-Yards, Helsinki, and was delivered on April 14, 2001. Our captain was Captain Pier Paolo Scala.
Our room steward was Elviro from the Philippines. Aleksandr from Romania often assisted him. Elviro was excellent, and I loved the towel animals that he made us every night.
Dinner was served in the Empire Room, done in early 19th century French Napoleonic style. Our headwaiter was Joey from the Philippines. He was assisted by Winarni from Indonesia. Joey liked to perform magic tricks at the end of every meal. We had late 8:15 seating, so dinner was not rushed. Most of the food was excellent, some was mediocre, and some was downright bad. Besides our wonderful tablemates, dessert was always my favorite part. The Grand Gala Buffet on the fifth night was beautiful, but I was so full from dinner that I did not partake of it. For breakfast, we did room service or went to the La Playa Grille. The food at the La Playa was mediocre and the conditions were crowded. I enjoyed the soft-serve ice cream and the pizzeria a bit too much. For lunch, we were usually in port somewhere, so we ate off the ship.
On Friday, July 1st, we ate at the magnificent, reservations only Nouveau Supper Club. This was a true dining experience like you would find at a fine four-star restaurant on land. The "nominal" charge is $30 per person, but that does not include the tip, and it certainly does not include the alcohol. The meal was leisurely paced, the service was excellent, and the food was divine. Situated beneath the ship's funnel, this two-story restaurant offered great views and magnificent entertainment with "Just Us Two", who serenaded the diners with romantic dancing music.
After dinner, we would usually go to Pharoh's Palace and watch a show. Some nights there would be production shows. There were 3 production shows - "Standing Room Only", "Singin' with the Big Band", and "High Spirits". "Standing Room Only" was my favorite show. It was a medley of popular Broadway songs. The production values and costumes of all the shows were wonderful. Music was provided by Jim Hanson and the Spirit Orchestra.
Shawn Bussey, the cruise director, was often the Master of Ceremonies for the evening's entertainment in Pharoh's Palace. She was an energetic, funny woman. One night there was an R-rated hypnotist, Jac Rene, who got some members of the audience to do things I'm sure they'll never do again! Other Late night shows included R-rated adult comics. On our first night aboard, the comic Carol Hughes performed and was very funny.
Our first full day was a "sea day" in which we sailed "The Inside Passage". In the morning, we lost badly at an expensive game of bingo. The price was $20 for 3 cards, and there was just one game! During this day, I enjoyed Spa Carnival. I had a hot stone massage. Chantel, a statuesquely beautiful woman from South African, gave me the hot stone massage. Later, another South African woman, Julie, gave me a facial, which was excellent, and a manicure, which was not up to snuff. But it was nice visiting with her and learning about what it is like to live on a cruise ship, so I forgave the bad manicure.
The shore excursions were all very organized and worth it. I would recommend buying the shore excursions through Carnival before you even go on board. The only negative aspect of our trip was at the airport going home. Holland America Line, a division of Carnival, was very unorganized and gave us bad information. They said there were shuttle buses between the airport and downtown Anchorage, but there were not. We had a very long, boring wait at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.
I would do this cruise again in a heartbeat and would recommend it for anyone.
Our first cruise aboard Carnival Spirit. If this were our first cruise I believe it would have been our last. We flew into San Diego and were met at the airport by the Cruise Line and bused to the embarkation point. Was not the best but acceptable. Then came the bus ride to Ensenada. We were on a bus that had a jammed bathroom door and exhaust fumes coming up through the floor and a driver that we were sure was doing his best to kill us all. We spent about 5 hours on that bus.
When we got to the ship we were not allowed off the busses because there was some sort of delay and no one could tell us what it was. There was a person from Carnival who got on each bus, remember there were over 2 thousand people, and told us there was a problem but not what the problem was, in fact no one gave us an explanation for 5 days. Finally the pat excuse of computer problems was used. Need I say so far a trip from hell.
We boarded the ship finallyat about 9:30 PM. Food was still available on the Lido deck but was cold and stale. Our luggage was at our door when we got to our balcony state room which was very nice. Our cabin steward was perfect and very attentive. The bed linens actually fit the beds and were of excellent quality. No pilled sheets. Our Empire dining room staff was the best I have encountered on a cruise ship or possibly anywhere else. The food was not the best but ok. An alternative steak was offered if the menu items were not acceptable and that was usually very good. The food on the Lido deck was barely acceptable.
The Jazz Trio in one of the lounges was excellent as well as the group who played at the fantail pool each night we left port in Hawaii. The shows in the theater were not worth staying for. We left most after 15 minutes. Debarkation was almost as bad as embarkation as the ship was so slow in getting luggage off that the tour that we booked left the ship 1 ½ hours later then scheduled and there for we did not get a complete tour. At this point we were two sick of it all to complain. Carnival will not be our cruise line of choice in the future.
We had a great time on our Carnival Cruise, this was my wifes second time and my first on Carnival. The ship was beautiful and our accomadations wer top notch. This was our first balcony stateroom and we were most comfortable. The bedding was superb, we were thinking of getting a set of linens for home. We went to three ports, Acapulco, Ixtapa and Manzanilla. We very much enjoyed the last two, but we could have skipped Acapulco. It is too big of a city and there are lecherous street people that lead you to their shops in old downtown and try to sell you overpriced goods. Really spooked my wife and some other passengers we talked to. We enjoyed the 2 days at sea coming and going, very relaxing.
The staff was wonderful and we enjoyed the choclates and the towel animals on our bed in the evening. Spring break weekend is not a great time if you want lots of kids and teenagers in your way. The only other complaints we had is that there were too many smoking areas on the ship and a cigar bar onthe third deck outside of the restaurant, a real turnoff to non-smokers. I cruised on Princess 11 years ago and I don't remember as many smoking areas. We had a great time and cruising is still one of the best vacation values you can get. We are already looking at our next adventure.
This was my 4th sailing on the Carnival Spirit and was by far the best. In the previous 3 years, embarkation was the absolutely worst I have ever been through (in more than 30 cruises). You would think that Carnival had never loaded 2000 passengers onboard a ship before. This year, I am delighted to say, they had their act together and we were onboard in record time. The "cattle call" and conflicting instructions given by staff at embarkation were things of the past. All instructions were clear and everyone was surprised by how smoothly it all went.
I do love this ship. I scrimp and save to get a balcony cabin every year and it is worth every penny. The cabins on the Spirit are terrific - spacious with all Carnival ammenities (dish of sample toiletries, hair dryer, disposable razors, etc.)
This year, I was delighted to find a surprising new Cruise Director, Michael Mullane. Michael, from England, was warm, friendly and genuine. Of all of the cruises I've been on, he ranks up with the best (certainly in the same league as John Heald of the Glory and Liberty). Hisfresh take on the "old, tired" Carnival games (trivia and such) is wonderful. He also gives an orientation talk for those who have never cruised before which is terrific since many in my group were first-time cruisers. What an idea! Tell people what to expect! Wow! Keep it up Michael!
The typical Carnival shows are really not my cup of tea - too much energy - it just wears me out to watch all that clapping and stepping. This cruise, I just enjoyed the atmosphere of the ship and skipped the shows but the folks I traveled with said they were great.
The ports on the Alaska Glacier Bay cruise are always delightful too. Juneau is great for critter watching (whales, seals, eagles, etc.) Skagway is a great walk-around town. The White Pass and Yukon railway trip is well worth the money and the Ghosts and Goodtime Girls walking tour is also quite fun. You can't get the Ghosts tour except from Carnival so buy it onboard if that sounds like your cup of tea. The folks I traveled with raved about all of the tours except the Jeep excursion.
I heard some complaints about the food on board the Carnival Spirit. I'm not so picky and I loved all meals but some of the folks I traveled with said that the food during the first few days of the cruise was sub-standard. If folks tell me they are real food gourmets, I usually try to steer them away from Carnival. But if they just plain like good food (and lots of it), then Carnival can usually deliver.
Some of the chaos we avoided at embarkation caught up with us for debarkation - with several people telling us to go in several different directions - but we'd had a great cruise so we just closed our eyes and remembered the previous week until we made it through the mess at debarkation.
I'm also happy to say that they've toned down the Carnival Vacation Club sales pitches. Last year, it was announced morning, noon and night but this year, it was rather subdued. So much so, that I stopped by to see what it was all about. I mentioned to the folks casually that I was already booked on another Carnival Ship and that I would think about it and maybe sign up in October, it was as if I'd passed gas in church. Once they realized that they weren't going to get a commission from me, well, they didn't want anything to do with me.
I'd highly recommend the Carnival Spirit to anyone who wants to go to Alaska. I prefer the Glacier Bay route because it's round trip out of Vancouver. The rest of the year, you either go Northbound one way or Southbound one way and you have to deal with flying into one airport and out of another. I just don't think Anchorage and Sitka were worth the added expense in airline tickets.
This was our 12th Carnival cruise, but 1st time in Alaska. We arrived in Anchorage one week ahead of the cruise and rented a car for a tour of the interior. We did a complete circle from Denali to Fairbanks to Glennallen and back to Anchorage. Unless you are into fishing, if I had it to do over again....I would simply concentrate by time between Anchorage and Fairbanks on the Denali side, with a side trip to the east to walk on the glacier just east of Palmer. (Mile marker 102 Hwy 1) Well worth the $12.50 per adult to drive your car up to it and walk on it.
We stayed at the Hilton in Anchorage (right next to the Egan Center). But be advised that you will have to pull your luggage about 1 1/2 blocks to the Egan Center. We were blessed to have our luggage ready, when they were picking up the luggage from the rooms for a 8:30AM Carnival tour, and we gave the bellman $7 (for 4 pieces) to pick up our luggage with theirs.
We paid for the $49.95 per person for theCarnival (Holland Tours) transfer to Whittier. We arrived at Egan around 10:15am and there is a very nice conference room where you wait. You check-in right there (but don't pick up your room keys until you get to the ship). If you are pulling your luggage, you give it to a very nice young man before heading down the escalator to the Conference Room. We were on the second shuttle to be called that left at 11:00AM. (The first shuttle left at 10:30AM) Very nice coach ride down. Since you can only go through the Whittier tunnel ( one lane) at a certain time, we stopped at the Wildlife Reserve just before you get to Whittier and got to view it for free. An excellent stop. This is not always a guarantee, but they do try to stop if possible.
Exiting the bus, we simply picked up our room key,(our Platinum Sail & Sign....our 14 year old was so excited that he was Platinum) went through security and got our picture taken and we were on board by 1:30pm. What a breeze!! They have not implemented the Elite (black cards) yet, because my husband cruised 9 times when he was single with Carnival (total 21) and he still got the Platinum.
The ship is beautiful. We had cabin 5289 w/balcony(which was on Upper - Starboard side) Yes, we survived not having a port side room! Amporn was our Cabin Steward and the best one my husband has had in his 21 cruises with Carnival. We had plenty of room for 2 adults and 2 teenage boys. I would recommend you take extra hangers. A very nice room with comfortable king size bed (two twins pushed together - but you could not tell it) for us and that wonderful duvet. The boys slept on the twin bed/couch and one pull down. One word of warning about this location at the rear of the ship, I could not use my balcony as much as I would have liked because the crew smoke right below your balcony on their breaks. So if you are sensitive to smoke, do not get a balcony at the rear of the ship. If I had paid the money for the rear suite next door, I would have really been upset.
I can not address shore excursions, since our son is a special needs child....we could not do the ones they offered this trip. Since we had spent so much time in the interior (and walked on a glacier) we don't feel we missed anything. I heard great reviews from other guests about Captain Larry Orca in Juneau and the Railroad Trip in Skagway.
All ports are within walking distance with Ketchikan being the closest. Please note that if you are going to take the city bus in Juneau to the Mendenhall Glacier that it is a 2 mile walk (30 minutes) from the bus stop to the glacier. It is about an hour ride to your stop. I would recommend the $5 per person (each way) Glacier Express. You will see the the buses as you enter the welcome center of Juneau.
We had no lines or wait to get off or on the ship. But then we came and went at odd times, since we did not have any tours.
You must take binoculars...but they will sell or rent them from the ship. You can glass the mountains for dall sheep and the shorelines for sea otters, etc. Michelle is an excellent naturalist with just the right amount of announcements. Not overwhelming but informative.
Food - This is only the slight down side based on other Carnival ships. In the formal dining room, I only eat beef and the beef fares on this cruise were not as good as the previous cruises. Don't get me wrong...they were still good (commercial restaurant quality) but clearly the worst of all the ships I have sailed. Soups were great. The chocolate desserts on this ship were to strong with the chocolate...but that is a personal opinion.
Lido was fine with lots of variety. Loved the Deli. Great pizza. Great burgers and hot dogs. They kept the tables clean and neat. They were constantly coming around with coffee or tea for refills. I found all the ice cream dispensers on Lido and used them constantly.
Entertainment was fine. I am not a show person, but hubby enjoyed it. I spent my time in karaoke and had a great time with Emie. Don Russell was in the piano bar and he is ok. Not the most personable fellow I have ever met. Talked more about his knowledge of Broadway and musical history than he did playing, so I did not go in there much. I play the piano and sing and felt he played all the sing along tunes way to fast.
Michael Lee was playing guitar in the Casino and was excellent. Steve was playing guitar in the Atrium and was good the few times I heard him. They usually play the same time as karaoke....so that limited my listening time. The best entertainers of the trip were the Russell Duo (not to be confused with the piano player). I think their first names were Stan and Sue (but I could be wrong) They were the duo in Club Cool (underneath the piano bar) and they were fabulous. Extremely friendly and fun. Great musicians. This is the first cruise I have been on where the duo lounge was packed every night.
I don't do casinos, so I can't report on the gambling. My oldest son enjoyed the older teen activities and my youngest son did not participate in Camp Carnival this time (due to fears of Funship Freddie). But I did get to meet the wonderful Camp Carnival staff and they would have been a delight to have care for my children.
Beautiful weather and Havard glacier putting on quite a show just topped off this wonderful cruise.
We were the last ones off the ship (since we were spending the night in Vancouver). Please note that the taxi lines are very long, but they do move quickly. However, we saw a problem with passengers who had a Yellow Taxi voucher to the airport. There were very few Yellow taxis at the time we disembarked and they ended up paying the $30.00 to the airport just to make their flight.
So if your travel agent offers you a "deal" on airport transportation through Yellow Taxi (not all yellow taxis are "Yellow Taxi") I would say no...if your flight leaves before 1:30pm. (especially if you have a large group like these 32 folks did)
American customs at Vancouver were thorough, but very nice the next morning at 5:00AM. And we were on the way home on our 6:15AM flight.
Overall - we had a wonderful time. The scenery was wonderful, the ship is beautiful and well staffed and the ports are awesome.
This cruise was an extremely pleasant experience. My 15th cruise and it ranks in the top five. We booked two cabins for a a total of five people. One cabin was a balcony and the second was an outside. Saved a few hundred dollars this way as we were one family and all used the balcony cabin for a lot of our wildlife viewing.
This trip was full of wildlife, whales, orcas, porpoises seals, sealions and even otters were all visible from our cabin or up in the buffet cafe.
Next was the glacier viewing, first the smaller glaciers in the inside passage and then climaxed by fabulous up close viewing in College Fjord.
This ship offers what I believe is the best itinerary in Alaska. Four ports, Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway and Sitka each with enough time for more than one excursion.
Our favorite was the "Sea Otter and Wildlife quest" out of Sitka. We had a beautiful day and loads of wildlife viewing. Sea otters, seal and sealions were plentiful and so were the humpback and gray whales.
I suggest waiting to the northern ports for these type of excursions as you seemto get better weather here than at Ketchikan or Juneau. We had rain in both of those ports. That was also consistent with my two earlier Alaskan Cruises.
Watch out for the Salmon Bake in Juneau. $32 p/p and no longer worth it. Mendenhall was great and free, rent a car and do it on your own, the 14 hours in port make it worthwhile. We did Ketchikan on our own also, hired a tour cab off the ship, five people under $100 total.
A few comments on the ship. Was quite happy with the food although the buffet setup was pretty bad, no way of avoiding standing on multiple lines to get all of your food. Salads at one station, entrees at another, dessert at a third. One thing though, I felt the quality of the food in the buffets exceeded that served in the main dining room.
They even served Filet Mignon at the buffet one night earlier than it was served in the dining room. It tasted better at the buffet plus we had a great view, lots of people chose the buffet at dinner time because of the scenery.
A few other complaints but this cruise is about the scenery and wildlife and I for one have no complaints on that score. We all got our money's worth on this cruise. My compliments to Carnival and the crew of "Spirit"
Vancouver - We arrived a day early in Vancouver in order to allow us to adapt to our jet lag. Stanley Park in Vancouver is a must to see. You can reach it easily from any point in the city by catching a local bus.
Spirit - Excellent service and very friendly staff! If you plan to book any excursions, make sure to check the ship's lunch schedule. The hot food bars are only for limited hours; therefore if you miss it, there's only pizza or a deli sandwich to hold you over to dinner. The Lido deck's lunch is very good; however, the dinner menu (hot foods) is very limited.
Camp Carnival - Our 11 year old enjoyed meeting and making friends of her own age. They provided a lot of activities geared for all ages; however, as you get into the older groups, there are more personal freedoms. Sign you child up for one of the slumber parties. My child had a blast with the varied activities, especially staying up until 3:00. The staff made it very safe and enjoyable.
Evening Shows - The first show wasn't that good andcontained a scene that I didn't feel were appropriate for the Camp Carnival kids who were in attendance as a group. One of the songs/scenes depicted a man slapping a woman around and pushing her down.
Coke Card - If your child or another family member likes to drink a lot of sodas, purchase a coke card for them. It'll save you a lot of money.
Balcony vs. Inside - For this trip a balcony is a must! You won't regret it.
Ketchikan - Go see the lumberjack show - it's excellent and rather inexpensive when compared to the other excursions. We also went on the Misty Fjords Wildlife Cruise and were very disappointed. Although the sights were pretty, there was very limited wildlife and major sights. In addition, the temp was 78 degrees and there was not an proper ventilation inside the boat. You had to go upstairs to "breath". Make your purchases here or in Juneau as the prices and selection is a lot better.
Skagway - We signed up for the Glacier/Dogsled Flight; however all flights were canceled due to poor visibility. There was no prior notice from the Spirit and very limited time/space to book another tour. We found out that all the flights had been canceled throughout the morning - advanced notice from the ship could have allowed proper time to realign our plans. We hurriedly signed up for the last White Pass/Yukon Railway excursion. It was nice and relaxing with great scenry.
Juneau - We signed up for a boat trip with Orca Enterprises and Captain Larry. The price was very good and we were able to see orcas, otters, sea lions, and many eagles. Very enjoyable.
Skito - Very limited stop. You don't need a lot of time to walk around the city as the number and variety of shops are very limited.
Glaciers - Our ship was able to get 1/4 of a mile from a beautiful glacier. It was awesome watching the ice break off, sounding like thunder as it hit the water. Save film for this part of the trip.
Whittier/Anchorage - Leaving the ship was easy and painless. Buses took us to Anchorage. We extended our trip with a 3-day trip to Denali via the McKinley Express. Looking back, we don't feel like the trip was worth the money. Instead, we would have rented a car for the Denali visit. The train ride was 8 hours long (only 3 - 4 hours by car to Denali) for the first day of the trip. The train was very majestic with dining on the lower level. The guide provided detailed information as we traveled along. For a lot of the train trip there was not a lot of unique scenry. When we arrived in Denali we signed up for the dogsled excursion to Jeff King's camp. It was very unique with our daughter enjoying the dogs and especially the puppies. We spent the night at a local chalet which was simple for adequate. There are very limited restaurants and those which are there have high prices. The best places were the nearby pizza restaurant and a Subway. You'll still have sticker shock; however nothing like the prices at the chalet's restaurants.
The next morning we took a bus ride lasting several hours through the park. We saw only limited wildlife. We boarded the train for the ride to Fairbanks which lasted another 4 hours (total 12 hours on the train - - - if we'd only had known!) Food was hard to find in Fairbanks as the hotels where we were accomodated seemed to be away from the general shopping area. In fact there were only 3 restaurants around us - two in the hotel (YEP, YEP) and one nextdoor.
Conclusion - We would have probably enjoyed it more if we'd taken the South Bound Cruise instead of the North Bound. We could have flown up early to Fairbanks or Anchorage and visited Denali via a rental, enjoying it at our own pace, etc. The scenery during the last 1/3 of the trip was breath taking but we'd already used a lot of film by the time we had arrived.
Denise, 40, traveling solo for the first time. I ran out of people to drag to Alaska.
Embarkation I arrived the day of the cruise at Vancouver airport. I met two ladies on the plane who were going on the same cruise. We waited in line about 45 minutes to go through Canadian customs. We were quickly loaded on a bus to Canada Place, and that's where the nightmare started. The line for customs was huge. Both Spirit and the HAL Vollendam passengers were in the same line, so figure over 4,000 people and from two to eight slow, surly customs agents. While we were waiting in line for three hours, one of the ships' officers was watching and looked really, really mad. But there was nothing Carnival could do. They promised it will not happen again.
I boarded the ship minutes before 4, which was when I was supposed to meet up with my internet buddies in the Atrium. I dropped off my luggage and made it there just a couple of minutes late, and we had a great time finally meeting each other!
The next night at the Captain's cocktailparty, he informed us that to make up for the long lines (which weren't even their fault), they were granting us an extra two hours in Juneau and Skagway. I thought that more than made up for the delay, since I got to do more stuff! But before we got to Ketchikan, he announced he'd try to make it two hours early there too. We made it an hour early, which still allowed me to see the lumberjack show, which I would have missed. Kudos to Carnival for that very kind gesture.
Room I booked the starboard aft wrap-around balcony cabin on Empress deck. The room was lovely and I miss it! See my pictures. The only thing I didn't photograph was the bathroom, which had two sinks (I could brush in one and spit in the other) and a whirlpool tub. Since this was my 40th birthday trip, I had two dozen roses, two bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne waiting in the room from family and friends. Awww! Almost made me cry.
The balcony is large enough for lots of people, and I had plenty of parties with the CC folks and some other people I met onboard. Unfortunately, it's not covered, so when it rained in Glacier Bay, I was up on deck instead. It's worse than not covered--the small overhang pours water. But, when it was nice outside, it was luxurious. Deck 4 is covered, and if I ever get one again, it will be on deck 4. And people, quit throwing stuff off the lido deck. It just lands on the balconies.
I had two room stewards for some reason. Maybe one was training. One was very nice--he was always smiling. The other looked like she was on her last nerve. She always tried to smile but looked more like she was going to cry. On the last evening, when people had put out there luggage, she swore as she was trying to move her cart. I just felt sorry for her. If I had to do that job 7 days straight for 6-8 months I'd be swearing and crying too. Anyways, my room was always clean and stocked with ice. I had tipped in cash the first night the amount of another passenger, since it wasn't their fault I was traveling solo.
Ship There are lots of pictures online. This was my third time sailing the Carnival Spirit to Alaska, so obviously I like the ship. The carpet is a little more worn and things are not quite as bright and sparkly as the first time I was there, but it's still lovely. I took the Ecstacy Ensenada run once and Spirit blows that ship away in every area. There are so many window areas all over the ship that it really makes cruising Alaska a joy.
There were 300 Australians who did the back-to-back Hawaii-Alaska cruise. They were such fun people. I really enjoyed meeting quite a few of them. I thought our time at Customs was bad, but not only did they have to wait 3 hours in Hawaii IN THE SUN, they were also told they wouldn't have to come back through US customs in Canada but Customs didn't agree and they did. They're not happy at all with travel in the states anymore, and I met a few couples who won't be coming back. Very sad. A few said they enjoyed Alaska more than Hawaii, because Australia has better beaches.
I didn't see any shows, unfortunately. I spent time in the casino playing blackjack and time with my new Aussie friends.
The CD, Michael Mullane, was pretty bland and mostly unseen except for his talks. I heard he apologized for that and said he had a lot of paperwork to do. Dunno why. I adored Dana Hodson my first time, and I think he's on the Victory now. He's extremely entertaining. This was my third time with Captain Pier Paolo Scala, and I adore him. Sweet man.
Food This is my fourth Carnival cruise, and I've always enjoyed the food. I had room service coffee every morning and it always arrived in 5-10 minutes. Pretty impressive. I also had a BLT from them twice. I dined in the dining room for breakfast twice, lunch twice and all but one dinner, and enjoyed each one. I really like the open seating breakfast and lunches, but I skipped both meals a few times--too much food! I met people that I then saw throughout the cruise, including another single lady. They did seat singles together for dinner. One lunch was very funny--a lady (and I say that loosely) ordered calamari, but didn't know what it was. When it arrived she pronounced it disgusting (Squid? Disgusting!) and sent it back. She had ordered the salmon with some kind of sauce for an entree, and it turned out the sauce was green. Dill maybe? I don't know. She pronounced it disgusting without trying it and went up to the Lido deck to eat. The rest of us at the table had a nice laugh when she was gone. Remember--if you don't know what something is, ask the waiter. I'd hate to see the person who ordered escargot and didn't know what it was. I only went to the Lido twice, once for pizza at 3am (don't ask) and once for Indian, since I love their Indian food. The head waiter on the ship is from India, so go figure.
My waiter was a much better entertainer than waiter. He never told us the specials, forgot my soup once, many times had one person served and not the rest for 10 minutes or vice-versa, and just didn't impress me. The assistant waiter was great. Some Aussie friends had the same waiter for 19 nights and he was so wonderful he brought cheese trays up to our balcony party! They just adored him and exchanged addresses. Luck of the draw I guess.
The Grand Gala Buffet is beautiful but not all that great to eat. Take pictures, then go get pizza. I didn't get to any of the other midnight buffets.
Excursions This was my third trip, so I didn't do any town walking.
Mt. Roberts Tram
The tram is within easy walking distance of the pier, and you can see it from all over. It's easy to find. For $23.95 you get an all-day pass and yes, your hand stamped. At the top they have a partially blind eagle, restaurant, shop, mini theatre and nature center. There are hiking trails, but it was still snowy and some were 'at your own risk' or closed. I thought it was a beautiful view from the top. During the CD's excursion spiel, he said that even if it's foggy, it may not be at the top, and showed a lovely picture of a view of the clouds from the top. I'd probably still go if it was foggy.
Pilot's Choice Helicopter Tour (Temsco thru ship)
Since it was so early in the season, our helicopter pilot seemed very excited about being out and about. This was only his third run. We saw not only glaciers and spectacular mountains, but some very interesting things going on with a couple of them. The pilots know where the neat stuff is. Herbert has blown a giant hole in its terminus, and water is pouring out at the rate of one olympic swimming pool per minute. We actually landed right at the terminus to see it. We landed on another glacier which had a gigantic hole in the top of it. Everyone agreed it was well worth the money, but it does seem to just fly right by and soon you're back to reality.
Evening Whale Quest (Allen Marine thru ship)
For the third time, I set out on a large catamaran to see the whales. Once again, we had a real character for a bus driver. I do like the ship's excursion. The captain and naturalists narrate it well. They had a large appetizer spread including a steaming roast beef, crab dip, cheese tray, etc. etc. They also have a bar, and a glass or three of wine in the evening is a great way to take off the chill of the deck. There are two inside viewing areas, first and second level, and two outside viewing areas, second and very top level. The very top is not opened while we're moving. Most people chose to stay indoors and not go out on deck.
We saw a group of transient orcas, some humpbacks, eagles, stellar sea lions and a bear speck. I do say speck because as soon as you get close, they get up and leave. That happened three times on my trip. Shy bears!
The earlier group saw the transients teaching the young one how to kill a seal. They were tossing it in the air and... just eww. Kinda glad I missed that.
I was talking with the naturalist and told her about my experience with bubble-net feeding and she wanted pics, but I wasn't able to snap them fast enough, so she asked for my Email and will Email me pics if she sees it this season. She has a list of passengers' Emails and said that some of her best pictures have come from passengers. Very sweet ladies.
Eagle Preserve Float & Scenic Cruise(thru ship--dunno!)
This was the most special excursion this trip, and it's hard to explain why. This was my third time in Alaska, and I do many excursions, but I just felt like I got to know the area, the history, the current residents of Alaska so much better, and had a feeling of being there.
We walked to the catamaran ferry, where we were met by Scott, one of the rafting guides. He comes over from Haines to escort us back to Haines. The catamaran ferry is owned by a native Tlingit tribe, and fully narrated for 45 minutes along the goreous Lynn Canal by a native Tlingit. He spoke about his tribe and culture, and it was really fascinating.
When we arrived in Haines, we hopped in a bus to the river. Scott narrated the bus ride, and he's quite a character. This is his 13th season in Alaska, mostly in Haines, and he's wintered there also. He has ALL kinds of fascinating trivia. He's a great speaker and has a fun sense of humor.
When we got to the river, we suited up with life jackets and boots and met Liam. He's the other raft guide. We had two out. I went with Liam. He's also very knowledgeable about the area. We floated and watched eagles with the background of gigantic snow-covered mountains. We did see two active nests, one with momma inside and dad watching from a nearby tree.
The river is very shallow, and even as more glacier melt arrives it spreads out instead of deepens, so don't be concerned about falling out. You could stand up and get back in.
We ended with some sandwiches and cookies, no big thrill. Scott stayed with us on the bus back, then we boarded the catamaran back to Skagway.
Please don't do the jet boat. It's harming the environment. http://www.aptalaska.net/~lcc11/erosion.html
On the catamaran on the way back, the kayakers said they had a great time, the jet boaters said they did have fun but were disappointed with the noise.
Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show
If you've seen it on TV, it's about the same. The children really enjoyed it. I liked the displays of skill, and they really are skilled, but I found the narration silly and drawn out. I'm still glad I finally saw it.
Misty Fjords Wildlife Cruise (Allen Marine thru ship)
This cruise was 4 1/2 to 5 hours long, and we didn't really see much wildlife. But it was well narrated by someone who grew up in Alaska. We saw another bear spec, and some sunning seals. We cruised by some absolutely fantastic waterfalls and other scenic areas. We had a light snack of clam chowder or veggie chili on the way back in. I much preferred the float plane trip, but this is a great way to see just a small part of how big and wild the area is and hear more about living in Ketchikan.
Well, it's not an excursion, just a destination. I'm going to get flamed alive for this, but I didn't understand all of the hype. We were only able to view three glaciers, Lamplugh, Marjorie and the Grand Pacific, which is so dirty from moraine it doesn't even look like a glacier. John Hopkins inlet and thus John Hopkins glacier was closed off due to seal mating season. Or was it sea lion. I forget. Anyways, we were able to stop in front of Marjorie for a long while and observe some calving. The Grand Pacific would be impressive if it even looked anything like a glacier. The bay itself is very beautiful, with high snow-covered peaks. But I liked College Fjord (with its 16 glaciers) and Hubbard Glacier just as well. They're all somewhat different experiences, but all good.
I noticed that kids liked doing anything with anticipation, participation, spotting. The only time I heard kids were whale watching, where they squeeled with delight when a whale surfaced after waiting for it, and watching the Marjorie glacier calve, after they'd been waiting for it. Notice a trend? They also liked the lumberjack show a lot.
Good Things Champagne art auction--grab champagne, walk through and out the other door. heeee!
The Captain's Cocktail Party and Past Guest Party both had a lot of servers. I don't remember being that well served on previous cruises. Maybe they were trying to get us drunk enough to forget embarkation. They actually had two past guest parties, due to the 300 B2B'ers and large number of past guests.
Ships are not allowed to make announcements in ports. We always have very few announcements (except the Naturalist on open water) when in Alaska.
Getting off in ports was very easy, and even when there was a long line to get back on, it went fairly quickly, but in one port they had everyone trying to get back on at the same time it seemed--dinner time.
Please try to attend the naturalist talks with Michelle. They really give an insight and understanding of the area. You'll have a much better cruise experience with that knowledge.
It still amazes me how friendly people are on a cruise. When we got back to the airport, I noticed everyone clammed up and went back to reality. On the cruise, everyone says hi in the halls, talks in the elevator, and I really enjoyed all of the company of strangers throughout.
Bad Things The Carnival Vacation Club. They tried to shove that thing down our throats all day every day. Notices in our mailboxes, all over the Capers, signs on members' doors, just disgusting. One of my dinner companions was 80 and had notices something along the lines of, "You have not responded!" in her mailbox three days in a row. She went to the presentation and said they were very pushy--until they found out she doesn't have $4,000.
The ship's videograher was on two of my excursions, and on the first one took all profiles of me. I have a bad profile. Hrmph.
It was over WAY too fast. I don't remember either of the others flying by so fast. I think it's because I was doing so much! Many shore excursions, many parties, much fun. On my previous two, I think that waiting for everyone else to either get ready or decide what to do took up a lot of my time.
Conclusion Would I sail Carnival Spirit again? Yes, and fill out 100 comment cards about the Vacation club. But I think I'll try a different line next time, just for some variety and comparison.