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|Carnival Spirit |
She offers a wonderful vacation value in opulent surroundings
Jack and Toni White (December 17, 2002) - Photos by Kvaerner Masa Yard and Jack White
We were fortunate enough to sail on the inaugural cruise of the magnificent Carnival Spirit, along with over 2100 other passengers.
This impressive 88,500-ton ship, built in Helsinki, Finland, at a cost of approximately $375 million, entered service in April, 2001.
With a length of 960 feet, it is among the longest, sleek vessels cruising. With a 105.7 foot beam, it is narrow enough to transit the Panama Canal, allowing for a variety of exciting itineraries.
Carnival Spirit is the first in a series of ships built with this design.
Sister ships, the Carnival Pride and the Carnival Legend, are scheduled for 2002, and the Carnival Miracle is scheduled for delivery in early 2004.
We didn't feel any rock and roll or rough movement while at sea.
The Spirit is propelled at a cruising speed of 22 knots by two "smokeless" diesel-electric propulsion systems made by the Finish engine manufacturer Wartsila NSD.
Advantages include the reduction of visible emissions and enhanced fuel efficiency.
A $2 million state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system, the first of its kind in the Carnival fleet, will soon be in place.
The ship received the "Green Star" designation for meeting the stringent environmental standards established by the Registro Italiano Navale Group (RINa), an Italian ship classification and certification society.
The Carnival Spirit design is the work of architect, Joe Farcus. Joe and his wife-partner selected the many design elements that make up the ship's public areas and passenger accommodations, including color schemes, furniture, fabrics, carpet, draperies, and wall covering.
He has been responsible for the design of every Carnival ship, since 1972.
We often feel Farcus never met a pattern or color he didn't use.
However, when he gives a tour of the ship and explains his choices they make sense. He has almost free rein and very few budget constraints, so luxury and expensive materials prevail.
A first time cruiser might not even be aware of the major dollar décor, but they get a fantasy vacation..
The steward showed us to a comfortable outside stateroom with a verandah, a bit larger than former Carnival staterooms. There are a total of 1,062 cabins, 849 outside and 213 inside.
The Carnival Spirit's long, sleek hull design creates extensive public space while allowing eighty percent of the staterooms to offer ocean views.
Acceding to consumer demand, eighty percent of the outside cabins have private verandahs.
We always encourage passengers with budget issues to take one less tour or economize somewhere else, in order to book a verandah cabin.
Once passengers have experienced a verandah, they're hooked.
Enjoying breakfast or a drink on your own balcony while enjoying the view is the best.
Cabin amenities include color television, refrigerator, hair dryer, private safe, and a multi-function telephone.
Plush terrycloth bathrobes are available for guest use only in ocean-view accommodations.
The suites are designed with a separate sitting area and include a whirlpool tub.
Bathrooms in regular staterooms are still small.
The physically challenged are not overlooked.
Sixteen cabins are wheelchair accessible.
For those who study statistics the Carnival Spirit has six penthouse suites (415 sq. ft. with private balcony); 52 suites (315-360 sq. ft. with private balcony); 624 ocean view cabins (225-245 sq. ft. with private balcony); 68 obstructed ocean view with French doors (185 sq. ft.); 99 ocean view without balcony (185 sq. ft.); and 213 inside cabins (185 sq. ft.).
Wandering through the ship, one is almost overwhelmed by the different decorating eras represented. The Spirit's public rooms create a potpourri of design, representing art nouveau, postmodern, funky, and Egyptian.
The interior design reinvents the traditional central thematic idea by creating a mood of diversity.
Joe Farcus likes it when the passengers constantly become aware of something new to view.
The Lobby - The Heart of the Ship
Soaring many decks high, this dramatic atrium has three panoramic glass elevators.
Decorated in the art deco style, the lobby houses two grand staircases, a bar with dance floor, and the information and tour desks. These are not the conservative, elegant ships of yore. Think Trump Tower style and glamour.
The three-level, 1200-seat Pharaoh's Palace show lounge is decorated in Egyptian Revival style.
This venue is much more audience friendly and successful than Carnival's earlier showrooms.
A circular staircase and elevator provide access to all three levels of the theater, which has a retractable orchestra pit for its' ten-piece stage band, and a turntable stage.
We have always found Carnival's entertainment to be among the best on the high seas.
Gorgeous girls in sparkling costumes perform fast paced choreographed numbers in slick Broadway type reviews.
Cabaret acts, singers, magicians, and comedians, some rather blue, provide a variety of entertainment.
Personally, if we never hear another comedian tell jokes about how the toilets flush, and the shower curtains cling, it would be a real entertainment plus.
The smaller 350-seat Versailles Lounge is elegantly decorated in the manner of 18th century France.
With a large dance floor the room is a cross between a lounge and an intimate theater.
Numerous bars, provide a variety of ambiance. Dancin' Disco is decorated in the abstract art style of Jackson Pollack. Late at night the disco rocks. The Champions Sport Bar is lined with life-sized statues in bas relief, including Arthur Ashe and Michael Jordan.
The glamorous Louis XIV Casino decorated in Versailles-type style, is crowded with a variety of slot machines and gaming tables.
The casino bar has a dance floor, bandstand and video screens.
The ship is designed, so it's impossible to avoid the casino when going anywhereg.
There is a small no smoking section in the casino, but the smokers still reign, discouraging non-smokers and those with smoke allergies from gambling.
The sixty-seat Wedding Chapel, a first on a Carnival ship, is designed in Gothic style.
An adjoining bride's room is available for changing clothes. The "Weddings at Sea" program, starting at $750, is available on Alaskan sailings through an arrangement with Canadian authorities. The cruise industry finally caught on to combining weddings with honeymoons. Naturally, all the brides we saw looked lovely.
Food and Beverages
Carnival has a new concept called "Total Choice Dining." The core of this idea is four staggered dinner seatings and dining room team service.
Dinner service in the formal dining room permits passengers to be seated at either 5:45 PM; 6:30 PM; 8:00 PM; or 8:45 PM.
The main dining room, Empire Restaurant, seats 1,250 in a two-level setting. Occasionally, there seems to be a delay getting later seatings in at their assigned time, but the food is quite acceptable.
An excellent dining alternative is the super-elegant two-level 156 seat Nouveau Supper Club.
This reservation only venue carries a charge of $20 per person, and features top-quality aged USDA prime beef and stone crabs from Miami Beach's legendary Joe's Stone Crab Restaurant.
We danced in the supper club in between courses and really enjoyed our evening there. Felt it was worth every penny.
Passengers who complain about the surcharge are not forced to eat there. In addition, the La Playa Grille serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner informally.
24-hour pizzerias, self-service ice cream and frozen yogurt, grill areas, meat carving, and pasta stations satisfy hungry passengers.
Passengers can, also, have complimentary 24-hour stateroom service, and the nightly midnight buffet orgy.
Passengers are pampered at the Grecian inspired Nautica Spa, a 13,700 square foot, fully equipped spa and health club. The Beauty Salon features hair care, facials, manicures and other treatments staffed by Steiner professionals, who sometimes are too high pressure pushing their products.
Passenger, Gene Diamond, walked out of his massage aggravated by an annoying long sales pitch.
We worked out in the gym using exercise machines, free-weights, whirlpool spas, saunas, steam rooms, massage, aerobic room and outdoor track.
If that isn't enough exercise, those with a black belt in shopping can hit a variety of boutiques.
Often there are end of the cruise sales, so we usually wait until the last day at sea to do our buying of purses, perfume, glittery t-shirts, and gifts.
We enjoy basking in the sun facing the ocean and found ample outside deck space dotted with chaise lounges. There are four swimming pools, including one with a twisting, corkscrew slide, and five whirlpool spas.
One area of the deck has a retractable glass roof that can be closed during inclement weather, permitting the deck to retain an open atmosphere.
The Fun House, decorated in a playful undersea motif, is a 2400 sq. ft. area all junior passengers will enjoy.
It is their exclusive two-level children's and teen center, fully equipped with games and diversions for ages 2-17.
Professional youth counselors organize a full schedule of activities to keep all ages occupied throughout the cruise, including scavenger hunts.
Little ones of every skin color, happily hold hands and march for milk and cookies.
Ports of Call
The Carnival Spirit has eight-day Caribbean cruises from November through April sailing from the homeport of Miami.
From May through September, the ship will sail in Alaskan waters on seven-day cruises followed by repositioning cruises around both the Hawaiian Islands and through the Panama Canal.
Although some passengers we spoke to complained that the ship carries too many people, and they can't find their way around because it'stoo huge, the design prevents a feeling of crowds by dispersing people over the many venues on the ship.
To lure first-time cruisers, the line offers an exclusive Vacation Guarantee that allows guests to disembark the ship, if dissatisfied for any reason, and receive a prorated refund for unused cruise fare and reimbursement for air fare home.
Cruisers who remember early Carnival cruises negatively should give the "fun ship" another chance; this line has grown up.
Considering the passenger/staff ratio, service can still be a bit spotty, but a Carnival cruise experience is generally quite polished and almost elegant.
The Carnival Spirit offers a wonderful vacation value in opulent surroundings.
For further information: Carnival Cruise Lines