There’s something you should know about me. In high school I was in the Pep Club, which was a fallback for those who weren’t coordinated, pretty, or popular enough to be a cheerleader. We wore outfits that looked just like cheerleader outfits though, so when someone would approach me in the grocery store and say, “oh, you’re a cheerleader for Skyview?,” I’d totally lie and say I was. Shrug. Anyway there’s this cheer we used to do that went like this:
We’ve got spirit, yeah, yeah
We’ve got spirit, yeah, yeah
We’ve got what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what what
We’ve got SPIRIT!
So fast forward about 15 years (or maybe closer to 20, okay, 25) and now I’m the mom of a 9-year-old wannabe teenager who gets embarrassed by everything I do (short of adding money to his ship card for the arcade, then all-of-a-sudden we’re best friends). I’m really not mad at this, because embarrassing your kids is one of the few perks of parenting. And I went all in as we crossed the threshold of the Carnival Spirit for our latest mother/son cruise when, you guessed it, I launched into my SPIRIT cheer, dramatic arm motions, spins and kicks, and all! I would have worn the outfit too, but it’s shrunk like 6 sizes since high school (just smile and nod and pretend like you believe the skirt got smaller instead of my waistline growing wider).
In any case, that’s how our cruise onboard the Spirit started. Stay tuned to find out how it ended.
And read on for the highlights of what happened in between. But first, a ship tour (don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel):
A Tour of the Carnival Spirit
20 Things I Loved about the Carnival Spirit
Here are 20 things I particularly loved about the Carnival Spirit:
1. Design and Furnishings on the Carnival Spirit
There are lots of words that come to mind when attempting to describe the design and decor choices on the Carnival Spirit. For this Instagram reel, I went with “understated:”
I dunno, it must have been Opposite Day or maybe I was blitzed out of my mind on my new favorite Carnival cocktail (stay tuned). In any case, I returned home to undergo expensive plastic surgery to remove an elongated nose. And to avoid it growing right back, here’s how I’d really describe the design and decor on the Carnival Spirit: garish, flamboyant, loud, gaudy, splashy, and ostentatious.
But I mean that in the BEST possible way, because I LOVED it! Not because I have terrible taste (no offense to my 9-year-old or anyone else who finds this ship beautiful!), but because I appreciate irony. Trust me, this ship will have you talking and laughing and shielding the eyes of young children (there are a LOT of naked women around the ship and you can make a game out of finding them – kind of like the cruise ducks).
Speaking of naked women, I gave a crew member quite the shock when I stepped out of the bathroom in my birthday suit to discover him working on the tender boats right outside my window. Which brings us to one of the things I loved most about my sailing on the Spirit…
2. My 4K Cabin on the Carnival Spirit
This will go down as my favorite “interior” cabin ever! Why? Because it had a giant floor-to-ceiling window with a (bit of a) view! Before you conclude, once and for all, that I have no credibility, see a tour and read my full review HERE. You might still think I have no credibility, but I wasn’t lying about the window, right?!?
3. The Crew on the Carnival Spirit
Say what you will about Carnival, but I’ve sailed 30ish times on most non-luxury cruise lines and can tell you that the crew on Carnival is always the best. Our sailing on the Spirit was no exception. They were kind, friendly, high energy, patient, and efficient.
I brought along some of these cute cards (available on Amazon HERE if you want to pick up a pack before your next cruise) and passed them out at the end of our sailing with a personalized thank you note and an extra cash tip:
I’m always amazed at how hard ship crew work (especially post-Covid) to make our vacations so special.
4. The Glass Whale Tail on the Carnival Spirit
Looking at the exterior of whale tail on the Carnival Spirit from the outside, you might get the impression that this ship is classy. But step inside the funnel, where the Nouveau steakhouse is located, and you might find yourself wondering if a renaissance painting threw up in there:
Lol, just kidding (it’s pretty cool actually). But seriously, I adore the glass whale tail funnel on the Spirit – it’s beautiful and unique. It’s also featured on the Carnival Miracle, which I sailed on last summer, so I was happy to see it again on her sister.
5. The Heated Pool on the Carnival Spirit
The pool on the Spirit was so warm that we elected to stay on at port in Juneau where it was chilly and rainy and go swimming instead! And I don’t mean warm to a 9-year-old who refused to wear pants for the entire duration of his 8th year, it was warm to someone (me) who owns a pair of heated gloves she wears to walk the dog anytime the temp dips below 60 degrees. We had the entire pool deck to ourselves and had a blast!
6. The Basketball Court on the Carnival Spirit
While the basketball court was small, it did the trick and was my son’s favorite spot to hang with friends. Sometimes I’d pretend to walk the track to spy on him, but I’d barely make it one (very short – stay tuned) lap before he’d notice and accuse me of being the most embarrassing mom. Not just on the ship, but on all ships, in all lands, throughout history. I asked if he’d print me a certificate for the wall saying that.
7. The Serenity Deck on the Carnival Spirit
Fine kid, if you need me, I’ll be on the Serenity deck, so find a cooler mom to stand in the pizza line for you!
Located aft, the adults only serenity deck features comfy loungers and clamshells, a pool, two large hot tubs, a bar, and a coffee shop. A perfect spot to pretend you’re hiding from your kid who is really hiding from you!
8. Window Seats in the Jungle on the Carnival Spirit
The large porthole windows in the “Jungle” area made for a perfect spot to sit and read, play video games, gaze out at the scenery, complain about unruly teenagers (stay tuned), and take ironic photographs for Instagram.
9. Complimentary Gym/Spa Amenities on the Carnival Spirit
While most newer ships require guests to purchase a spa pass in order to use saunas, steam rooms, and indoor hot tubs, these amenities are available for free on the Carnival Spirit. There are also huge showers and locker rooms offered in the spa/gym area. These are some of my favorite features of the Spirit class ships on Carnival.
10. Spin Bikes in the Gym on the Carnival Spirit
Before we move on to food, I should mention that because I cruise so frequently and eat so prolifically, I begrudgingly visit the gym most days. And if I’m lucky I can sneak onto a spin bike (usually only available if you pay to take a cycle class) for 30 minutes before gym staff notice and kick me off. But for the FIRST TIME EVER, spin bikes were available for anyone to use at any time, no class required (or available – so not so great for those who prefer to take a class) on the Carnival Spirit. There are 4 bikes and I never had trouble, even at the most crowded times, getting one.
Now, onto the reason I needed those spin bikes…FOOD!
11. Main Dining Room Desserts on the Carnival Spirit
While those of us who cruise frequently are hoping Carnival will roll out some new dinner menus soon (only because we’re getting bored of the same selections on every cruise), there are some classic items that NEVER get old. High on the list are my two favorite desserts: Carnival Chocolate Melting Cake (you can find out how to make this at home HERE) and Bitter and Blanc. And remember what I said about the amazing crew earlier? Well I forgot to order two ice creams with my melting cake one night and my waiter read my mind and brought me two anyway (try it with peanut butter too, if you’re a peanut butter/chocolate fan).
You can see the current Carnival dinner menus HERE.
12. Coffee Shop Desserts (extra charge) on the Carnival Spirit
I’ll discuss the disappointing buffet cakes later, but thankfully the chocolate cake available at the coffee shop for a small extra charge ($2.25, but we had a ton of onboard credit to burn through, so it didn’t cost us anything out-of-pocket) is rich, moist, huge, and delicious! My son also loved the doughnut he ordered, but nothing tops the chocolate cake in my (sugar addicted) mind.
13. Bonsai Sushi (extra charge) on the Carnival Spirit
Looking for other fun ways to burn through our onboard credit, we ate twice at Bonsai Sushi. Perhaps an odd choice for two vegetarians who don’t eat seafood, but we really enjoyed the light and tasty soup, salad, and noodle dishes we ordered.
But the desserts were the highlight, both excellent!
14. Deli on the Carnival Spirit
While the buffet can be hit or miss on Carnival (usually miss, although it was better on the Spirit than it had been onboard my prior Carnival cruise on the Panorama), the deli is always a winner! Keep in mind that you can order a custom sandwich or wrap (as long as they have the ingredients, they’ll make you whatever you want).
15. Blue Iguana Cantina on the Carnival Spirit
The Blue Iguana Cantina is another one of my favorite complimentary dining options on Carnival ships. I especially love the breakfast burritos and arepas!
16. Sea Day Brunch on the Carnival Spirit
But perhaps my favorite feature on Carnival, and something no other line can compete with, is the Sea Day Brunch.
Here’s the menu:
Carnival Sea Day Brunch Menu
17. Spicy Chipotle Pineapple Martini on the Carnival Spirit
I always like to try something new on every cruise, so this time I opted for a new cocktail in the dining room for our traditional last night toast. I went with the Spicy Chipotle Pineapple Martini and loved it. Sweet pineapple with a hint of chili flavor. It reminded me of stopping at a roadside stand in Costa Rica to sample fresh pineapple brushed with chili powder. Delicious!
Here’s the cocktail menu in the main dining room where you can find it (the Carnival Cosmo, Espressotini, and Chocolate Martini are also excellent choices):
Let’s move on from food to entertainment…
18. 88 Keys Production Show on the Carnival Spirit
While Carnival can’t really compete with other lines when it comes to production shows, I thought all the shows on the Spirit were quite good, I think mostly due to one of the lead male vocalists who was OUTSTANDING. He played the “piano man” in my favorite of the 3 shows we saw: 88 Keys. Don’t miss it, especially if you like Elton John and Billy Joel (if you haven’t figured out my age yet, that’s a big clue…lol).
19. Naturalist on the Carnival Spirit
Chris Mirabal was our onboard naturalist and, while he wasn’t the best naturalist I’ve ever had on a cruise, I was just SO HAPPY to have a naturalist (they’ve been hit or miss on my post-Covid cruises to Alaska and they make such a difference in the experience). He gave several presentations and broadcast regular commentary over the ship’s P.A. system in public areas of the ship. He also made an announcement anytime he spotted wildlife.
20. Towel Animals on the Carnival Spirit
I listed this one under “entertainment,” because we spent a long time trying to figure out what the animal in the first photo was. I posed this question on my Instagram page and the consensus was that it was an elephant. But I disagreed and then we got an actual elephant (in the second photo), so it definitely wasn’t that. Post your guess to the comments. There was also a towel animal folding class that we attended. Even though it was fun, I didn’t post a photo because my son told me my bear was “so embarrassing!”
5 Things I Didn’t Love about the Carnival Spirit
No cruise is perfect, but thankfully there were many more things I loved about the Spirit than things I didn’t love. Here are a handful of things that could have been better:
1. Buffet Cake on the Carnival Spirit
First, some context for the below photos. Just a few days before embarking on this cruise, I spent the night in the emergency room with my 3rd bout of severe stomach pain followed by days of debilitating illness (body aches, fever, nausea, chills, etc). Long story short, I was poisoned by a now recalled “health food” (a vegan lentil crumble made by Daily Harvest – Google if you’re interested…it’s quite the thing!). Anyway, on embarkation day I ordered every one of the cakes on the buffet for two reasons. First, to test out my stomach. And second, to stick it in the eye of everyone who’d been teasing me for being poisoned by vegan health food: “oh yeah, well look at my diet now!”
Anyway, I’m heartbroken to report that the buffet cakes, which are normally excellent on Carnival, were dry and lacked flavor. My in-laws who’d been on the Spirit a few weeks before us told me this and I refused to believe them (they can be particular when it comes to food and I usually like everything). But it was true. Didn’t stop me from eating them though (but if you want excellent cake, go with the chocolate from the coffee shop).
And I’m happy to report that my stomach cooperated and I’ve given up on “healthy” vegan food at home in favor of cake!
2. Gym Hours on the Carnival Spirit
Gym hours on Carnival are always so bad. The gym didn’t open until 7am on the Spirit, which is pretty late for those who like to get a workout in before heading out to port or before their kids wake up. Considering how much food is available on a cruise ship, the gym should really be open 24/7 to keep as many people as possible from the medical unit. Maybe they’ve got a kickback deal with the ship doctor. I dunno. But this is one thing that really irritates me about Carnival versus other cruise lines. And I’m not alone – there is always a huge line of people by the time the gym opens, some arriving as early as 6am expecting it to be open.
3. The Promenade Deck on the Carnival Spirit
Those who follow my blog know how much I love a wide, wraparound promenade deck. One of my favorite (nerd alert) cruise activities is to walk the promenade deck while listening to an audio book and looking for wildlife. And while the Spirit had a decent promenade deck (although it didn’t go all the way around the ship), most of it was blocked off with “crew only” signs and seemed to be used as a crew hangout spot and smoking area. I’ve never seen this before and it was very disappointing.
4. The Jogging Track on the Carnival Spirit
And if you’re thinking, “I don’t care about the promenade deck or gym hours because I’ll just get up early and hit the jogging track,” you’ll find it so tiny that you’ll need to maintain a turtle’s pace to avoid becoming dizzy and so narrow that the only soundtrack you’ll hear is, “passing on your left!” A sign posted said “60 times around = 1 mile” (that’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one).
Obviously, what you should be thinking is, “I don’t care about the gym or promenade deck OR track because I’m on vacation and only plan on leaving my lounger to pee (what are husbands and kids for if not to bring you more pizza and soft serve, right?).
5. Rowdy Teens on the Carnival Spirit
It was bad enough that I had to sail with my own pint-sized teen impersonator, but the legit teen crowd on the Carnival Spirit was the rowdiest and most disrespectful I’ve ever experienced on my 30ish cruises. Now while I’m old enough to qualify as a curmudgeon, I’m pretty laid back and don’t mind kids and teens having a good time (in fact, it makes me happy to see them having fun). But some (certainly not all) of the teens on the Spirit were painting the walls of the Jungle with ice cream, sitting in the middle of the basketball court vaping, using racist language, and loudly insulting people as they walked by. If you ever see my kid doing any of that, please alert me so that I may box his ears before banishing him to our cabin closet with no screens for the remainder of the sailing. Actually his life. Thanks!
I concluded this cruise on the Carnival Spirit much like I started it, with a few modifications to fit my somber mood as we disembarked:
We had spirit, yeah, yeah
We had spirit, yeah, yeah
We had what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what, what what
We had spirit. But now we have to go home.
Then I started sobbing, my head hung low and arms drooping. And my son, whom I swear popped out of the womb embarrassed because my face was red and I was out-of-breath from pushing (get it together MOM!) responded with, “OMG mom, you’re sooooooooo embarrassing!”
But even he will admit that we had a great time on the Spirit together. And I hope you do too, if you’re lucky enough to be booked on her. And with that…
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Homework (10 points): Post any questions about or experiences with the Carnival Spirit to the comments. Then check out my Guide To Complimentary Dining Venues On Carnival.
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