Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cruising Insights - The Carnival Spirit Weekend Shortie

Taking a family cruise has long been on our list of things we'd love to try. I've always wondered just how much money would be required on board, and whether the cruise price really is all inclusive.

My mission on this long weekend cruise was to demystify cruising for all the cruise virgins out there. I took one for the team and set out to experience everything, and had a seriously awesome time.

The cheapest cabin type (no window, no frills) was quite compact. Don't expect to spend any time in there other than to sleep because that is all there is room for. The TV has a few basic channels on top of the cruising channels, but there is so much to do outside the room. Plenty of cupboard space for a family of 4, and on the Carnival Spirit bath and pool towels were replaced daily so there is no problem with a build up of wet towels. The en suite is basic, and comes with a small clothes line strung through the shower, and PLENTY of shampoo and shower gel.

Your room steward makes your beds daily, turns them down at night time, and leaves a towel animal and chocolate on your bed. There are no tea and coffee facilities in the room, but there is a mini bar (we locked ours!). There is a laundry on board, or laundry can be done for you at a cost. The rooms seemed to be the same size no matter what the configuration (twin, double, bunks, etc).

Watch out for: There was only 1 power point in the room, but since Internet and Phone costs are at a premium on board it's no hardship to let devices go flat.

The ship is all old world charm. I honestly felt like I was floating down the stairs on the Titanic....with a few extra lifeboats of course! There are couches and chairs everywhere, along with deckchairs up on deck, they make sure that everyone can relax. No matter where you are (except the inner cabins!) there is an awesome view.

All of your food is included in the price. You can eat a fantastic variety of great foods, and eat as much as you want, both in the casual food court style dining hall, but also in the seated restaurant with an assigned table and waiter. The service is unbelievable, with our waiter getting to know us well very quickly, and stopping by often for a chat. The food court and restaurant are open for broad hours across each meal, but outside of hours there was a 24 hour pizza bar + ice cream machines.

The food was of a high standard, but if you want something spectacular then the fine dining restaurant Nouveau has a base cover charge of $40 per person that allows an entree, main, & desert. We also received x2 wines per person and a pre entree courtesy of the captain, and from talking to other passengers it seems this is a regular thing although I can't swear that it would always be included.

There are sundry cafes and coffee shops on the ship that you can buy items from. I honestly never once felt the need. Every could be gotten at the right times at no charge in the food court dining hall.

Alcohol was not included on my cruise, but didn't seem too badly priced. Most cocktails seemed to be $10-11 for example, which is not unlike everywhere else. Alcohol costs would add up though if you were drinking daily.

Watch out for: Curiously soft drink is not included. Tea, Coffee, Hot Chocolate, along with some juices, water and basic Lemon Squash is. If you really want soft drink, there were packages available daily for unlimited drinks. 

There is so much to do on board. Nightly shows such a magic show and a dance production, new release kids movies in the large cinema, and a nightclub to keep you going after dinner. During the day there is a ball court, walking track and gym, mini golf, ping pong tables, giant chess set, and pools all over the the place along with the giant slides and spa's.

I happily joined in some of the trivia events running, and I was VERY regretful that the I couldn't join in any bingo because it clashed with the conference.

Shannen from the biggest loser was on board as the Carnival Cruise ambassador running the biggest boot camp at sea, and there was heaps of live music and bars to spend time in. If you are truly all funned out, it's not impossible to just stare out at the ocean. There was so many people sitting in the couches and lounges strategically placed everywhere just talking and watching the ocean.

There was a small charge for the bingo cards, but otherwise everything above is included! You will easily fill a day in and drop into bed exhausted.

Watch out for: There is also a casino on board with slot machines, roulette etc. While I have no objection to gambling in moderation, I don't love exposing my children to it and this casino is not barricaded in any way. Children walk through all the time on the way to the dining hall. There are plenty of other ways to navigate around the ship if you choose to keep your children away. 

On board shopping was not the price gouge I was honestly expecting. I picked up souvenirs for the kids and Husband spending just $30 all up, feeling a little shocked that the cruise play set, crystal earrings, and Carnival shot glass did not cost more. (The shot glass was just $2.85!) I also collected a stunning new evening bag for myself for only $10.
Wandering over to the clothing section I felt confident that I would find the inflated prices here. It's when a person does not have a jacket for cold weather, or a pretty dress for formal dining that they are willing to fork out the money. But no, the gorgeous dress I looked at was only $40 instead of the $100+ I was expecting, and so was the jacket. Definitely not the usual tourist destination prices.

There isn't a whole lot in the shops, but if you did plan to buy anything, the sales were frequent. Keep an eye on the fun program each day for tips on spot sales on certain merchandise. On the first night, there was a sale in the evening for 50% off all cruise merchandise.

Watch out for: Necessities were not well represented in the shops. Need ladies hygiene products, nappies or wipes on board? Make sure you take more than enough with you.

This was the only place I was shocked at the prices. Everything else had been more than reasonable, but the spa prices were at a premium. A pedicure cost $80+ (not a mani-pedi, just a pedi!) and everything else is along the same scale. It's definitely a treat you should think hard about before booking. If you want nice hair and nails for the trip, book them in the morning in Circular Quay instead. If you really want to experience the spa conditions on board (and they were good) get on board early and book for the first night as the prices are cheaper.

Watch out for: The up sell and the tip. Gratuities are included on board (although the service staff do an awesome job so feel free to leave a gift at the end of your stay) but the spa tacked on a tip into my receipt without asking. There was also a fair effort into selling me $150+ worth of product. The pedicure was good, and the worker did a great job, but I won't ever feel the need to use the cruise spa again at those prices.

The staff on board are phenomenal. My waiter was the loveliest, most personable guy I have ever met, the Captain and Cruise Director are incredibly generous with their time, the Maitre'D Desi, our steward, every person you interact with is just amazing. Carnival Cruise line have got customer service nailed. And Shannon. You know, me and Shannon. Besties.

Cruise Summary

I was astounded at what a low maintenance holiday this was. I normally come back from holidays absolutely wiped from arranging everything meals and entertainments and hustling the kids for travel. It is all done for you on the cruise, you just turn up if it suits you!

No souvenirs, no alcohol, and no spa? It is 100% possible to spend NOTHING on board the ship. For a short cruise with no stops like the one I went on, I would think that plenty of people don't spend a cent.

For longer cruises with offshore trips available, I understand that offshore tours range between $50-$200 per person. It is possible sometimes to organise your own activities at lower costs. Talk to the experienced cruisers you will meet at the breakfast table for tips! Call the cruise line before hand to find out the expected costs so you can budget accordingly and allow for money to spend offshore on food and activities.

Do: Checkout last minute cruise sites such a CruiseAbout and OzCruising as they will often include on board credit in the costs.
Do: Pack some pretty cocktail dresses to wear for Formal night on board. You can rewear the same one, but you will enjoying dressing for dinner.
Do: Take the opportunity to have a family photo on board! Photo's were not cheap overall, however they were beautiful and taking the kids in their best gear on Formal Night for a family photo will be much cheaper than going to a studio for portraits. At $30 for a good sized photo its the cheapest quality family portrait you will ever get!
Do: Pack a lanyard for your room key which also doubles as your payment method for everything on board. You won't handle cash at all! (Which can be dangerous, watch your account balances by checking in at the terminals)
Do: Take advantage of the kids club. The kids on board looked like they were having a blast, and were definitely well cared for. The kids clubs are all included.
Do: Make sure you are deck when the ship comes through the Heads at the end of the cruise. You will appreciate the home coming, no matter how early it is.

Special thanks once again to my DPCON14 sponsor Switched On Media, who have recently launched a Blogger Sign up page. If you are interested in working with terrific brands who have great representation, I can't give them more thumbs up (I ran out of thumbs).


  1. An absolutely fantastic summary

    I went on a 7 day cruise a year ago and agree with everything you've said.

    It is very possible to spend nothing and still have a great time but if you want the extra they are there as well.

  2. AMAZING!!! It all looks so good. Think we'll have to add cruising to our list of "to do's" now!

  3. I would love to go on a cruise one day. Thanks for demystifying it for cruise virgins such as myself!!! PS you looked like you had a ball - so jealous I couldn't come along this time around...

  4. Wow such great tips! I have never had the desire to go on a cruise before but really enjoyed reading this. You never know, one day we might jump aboard xx

  5. Great write up - thanks for sharing. I am trying to convince hubby to do a 7-day Pacific one but because we're a family of 5 we need 2 rooms, which hikes the price up. I really enjoyed all the honest points and JELLY of meeting Shannon - HAWT! Glad you had fun on board! Emily :)

    1. Lol thats so funny, I was reading over at your blog while you were commenting on mine.
      We have a family of 5 too, but I didn't find the pricing so bad. I found a 7 dayer in September this year that we could go on for just over $4,000 which I thought was pretty good! Take Grandma (wink) and get some built in babysitter time while reducing the cabin costs! Work out the room at a 3 person room + a 2 person room, was the cheapest combination I could find

  6. This is a fab write up, I'm going to link to it on my Aussie Family Holiday Friday news and tips post. You've done a fab job.

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