Tag Archives: chocolate covered strawberries

Impressions of a first time cruiser

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in  July 2014 issue.   

977

I have always had cursing on my bucket list but never thought it would happen soon.

During Christmas 2013, I was desperately looking for places to go for our holiday. After evaluating our list and considering our finances, we booked our first cruise on Carnival Spirit to New Caledonia and thus our journey began.

Once we booked and paid for the trip, it was time to do our research and I have to admit there were so many different opinions on the internet that it was hard for us to make up our mind on what to expect. We both decided that no matter what happened, we would try our best to make the cruise holiday memorable.

The first thing we noticed when we went to Circular Quay to board the ship was how massive it was. We joined other excited holidaymakers clearing the customs and boarded the ship. Our luggage was checked in and would be taken directly to our room.

Embarkation was as easy as giving them our credit card and getting a Sail & Sign card (Sail & Sign is Carnival’s on board cashless credit program, which allows you to charge all your services and purchases during your cruise to your room.) We were told to wait on the top deck where drinks and lunch was waiting for us until our rooms are ready and the luggage is delivered.

As we walked in, we noticed that the ship was huge and amazing with Christmas decoration everywhere. I was excited to see so many different bars, lounges and restaurants on the map. It was as if I was in a different city and it was going to be our home for the next 2 weeks.

Once we finished lunch, we were told that our room was ready. We got a room with a window and it was just perfect. It was not very big but enough for two with en suite, a big wardrobe, TV and mini bar. By the time we went to our room our luggage had already arrived. While unpacking, I was really glad that I didn’t need to re-pack until the end of the trip. I also didn’t need to learn a new culture, to speak a different language or to stick to transport schedules but could just relax and enjoy our time on board and look forward to an awesome time in New Caledonia.

The first impression for both of us was really good, starting from the nice lunch to the room, we were assigned and the things we learned. I was quite surprised by how much there is to do on a cruise ship. It is your choice, if you like to have a day full of nonstop activities or simply relax on one of the deck chairs or hammocks and read a book. Every day there is an enthusiastic voice through the loud speaker system, telling us what is happening that day, where we can go, what we can eat and what we can buy on an hourly basis so you are always informed.

We utilise all the facilities on board and were always busy doing one thing or another. My best place to relax was definitely the Serenity area and it was always fun to go and ride in the Green Thunder.

Food was always available no matter the time of day or night. We had most of our breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck and dinner in the Empire dining room. The few times we had afternoon tea, we were very impressed by the selections of cakes and fruits. We saw kids running around with pizzas and ice cream all the time. We had no complains about the food at all.

The one thing I really loved on board the Carnival Spirit was the entertainment. There was always something happening especially during the night that we had no time to be bored. Most nights we were going from one event to another fully enjoying each performance. From stand up comedian to hypnotist, juggler, Vegas style show they had everyone covered. If you are into trivia and games, you could always find one area hosting the event.

They tried their best to make the sea days more entertaining and full of activates to every kind of travellers. Apart from kids club for the young ones, they could be entertained in many other ways. They will definitely enjoy the rides in Water Park so just get wet. They will love the Chocolate extravaganza day and they will never worry you regarding food.

Port days were fun and well managed. If you want to know the details on what to do, please research before you board so you can Google the images and read reviews of the things to do in each island.

Disembarkation at all ports was easy and no stress at all. We really enjoyed different ports in New Caledonia but we were glad to come back to the ship and carry on with our holiday with awesome food waiting for us each time.

I might sound vain but I also enjoyed the fact they made our room twice a day. Every time we came back to our room, it was clean and the bed was made :).

After reading, my experience if you are wondering if cruise is your cup of tea, here is the list of pros and cons I experienced which I hope will help you make up your mind.

Pros

  • The most important pro of cursing is that it is definitely value for money. Your cruise package includes room, dining, most entertainment and many extras. Except alcohol and soft drinks, you don’t need to buy anything unless you are shopping. This gives you a clear picture on how much you are going to spend in advance.
  • Less hassle as everything is planned for you.
  • If you are a social person, it’s a great way to meet new friends. We made a few friends while on board.
  • No need to worry about food. It is always there and always changing. No matter what kind of taste you have, they cater for you.
  • I felt more relaxed during the whole trip as there was not much to plan and no running around. There are fewer unexpected problems to solve.
  • Pack and unpack only once.

Cons

  • Less exploration time as you are in one port for a day only. (May be multiple days depending on cruise but still less than if you go to one place only.)
  • Fewer destination options as your destination will be the coastal areas only
  • If you are after a quiet, relaxing getaway, then cruise may not be your cup of tea.
  • Motion Sickness can be a problem for many people. Do not forget to take some medicines of it.

I hope this has given you some useful insights and helps you make up your mind if Cruising is for you.

Happy Cruising!!!

Take care everyone ,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO

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Behind the Fun Tour on board Carnival Spirit

Before we had even boarded the ship, we had already decided to do the behind the scene tour on Carnival Spirit because there aren’t many times that you get an opportunity to see how the big ships are operated and cater for 3000+ guests and staffs.

The carnival website describes it as Behind the Fun tour, which costs $95-per-person and lasts around three-and-a-half hours and which includes a visit with key shipboard officers such as the the chief engineer, chef de cuisine and also a visit with the captain on the bridge. It also includes stops backstage in the main show lounge, the ship’s laundry room, crew galley and dining room, crew gym, crew training centre, the main passenger galley, the ship’s bridge and engine control room.

Behind the Fun participants receive a number of commemorative gifts, including a Behind the Fun baseball cap and photos with the captain on the bridge. The capacity is limited to 16 passengers per tour, and passengers must be 13 or older to participate.

We booked this tour on our first day on board and luckily got two tickets. I was a bit disappointed to know that cameras, or anything with an audio or video recording function, are not allowed as it would have been fun to take a few photos for the memory.

We were asked to wear flat comfortable shoes and not to wear skirt or dress for women. Therefore, I was wearing my running shoes and short. We meet others at the meeting point , the Shanghai bar, at 8:30 am. We met our guide who checked our tickets and gave us a lanyard with a tour pass. We were asked to make a single file and we followed the guide to the theatre, our first stop.

The lead dancer who was taking us around took us behind the stage where we could see hundreds of costumes, wigs, jeweleries and props. It was brightly lit and had several mirrors. He gave us an overview and then we moved on to our next stop.

We exited the theater and made our way to our next stop, the photography lab. The lab was smaller than expected but I learned a few new stuffs from the manager in charge. They only have a few computers and two huge printers. She told us that thousands of photos are taken every day around the cruise. For those of you who haven’t cruised, every photo taken of you by a ship’s photographer is displayed in the gallery for the duration of the cruise. One can go and buy the photo if you like. Since photos cost between $10 and $20 each, many photos end up not being purchased. She told us that even if just 10% of the photos are sold they are happy while on this particular ship, the sale has been around 20%. Rest of the photos will be recycled. I was a bit disappointed that they didn’t give digital copies of the photos instead but they have a plan to do that in future.

From there our next stop was the galley where the chefs prepare our delicious meals every day. We met the head chef who explained how much food is consumed every day in the ship. Here are some fun facts that they told us during this trip.

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They were making chocolate covered strawberries so all of us were allowed to taste them along with some freshly baked pastries. Before we moved on to the next stop, Carnival’s photographer did take a few photos of us with the chef.

From the galley, we descended one level to our first visit to a crew deck, to the storerooms. They had big cool rooms bigger than our cabin rooms to stores everything from beer and wines to fruits and veggies for the whole tour. The guy who managed the tour told us that on their first Australian trip, they had run out of coco cola and beer the last few days and it was very disappointing. So they stock 30% more alcohol in case Aussies decided to go on a drinking spree. I always find it weird to hear that we, Aussies, are so much into drinking when I can see that the same thing happening everywhere in the world.

From there we walked further in the corridor unofficially named I-95 (after the main highway on the East Coast of the United States). We saw crew/staff rooms, staff dining room, bar, staff computer room, staff library and other areas.

The tour guide told us that all staffs must speak English in guest areas and there is language training and other education programs on board making sure crews/staffs are trained in every aspect of their job.

From there we went to went to the environmental control/garbage room. The Waste Management Plant consists of two dry garbage shredders for the burnable and un-burnable waste (i.e. cartons, wood, plastic, glass and tins), which is collected from passenger/crew areas and transported to the Garbage Room at Deck A level. The unsorted waste is fed into two heavy duty high capacity shredders. One waste compactor is suitable for compacting cardboard, paper and plastic. Glass (three colours) is collected in bags or containers and stored on board for later delivery to shore side reception facilities. One tin identifier, capable of compacting 70kg of tin cans per hour is also on board as are two garbage incinerators which are automatic, multi-chamber, semi-pyrolitic marine type with an incineration capacity of 1,400kW each.

I was really happy to see that they take care of the environment and recycle everything possible.

The next stop was engine control room. There we met two officers, both from Italy. They explained to us about the engine room and how they controlled that from the engine control room but seriously now I have no memories about it 🙂

After we exited the engine control room’s little corridor, we took elevators down the deck below the waterline and to the laundry room.

First, we walked through the area where they cleaned and iron the passengers’ personal items. Nearby were racks of crew uniforms and everywhere were people keeping busy. The rooms were very noisy. After a few turns we gathered around the man in charge and the machines, and there were machines: the towel and sheet folders.

They did a demo and asked if anyone wanted to try it. I gave it a go and it was fun :). The laundry in charge told us that the stewards keep two backups for each stateroom’s linen in their cupboards at all times.

From there we were taken to HR office/training room where we rested for a while looking at photos of different areas we couldn’t go to especially the crew’s rooms as it was their only personal space. Everyone who had questions was allowed to ask and the tour guide was nice enough to answer all those questions.

We left the office, backtracked a bit, and came to the crew bar where there were cookies as well as soda, juice, and coffee. I had a glass of orange juice and some cookies. After everyone was done with their food, we took the elevator and stairs to the Bridge. This part was the most exciting for me as it is the place where everything is controlled from and is the headquarter for the entire ship.

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We met the captain, the head of the ship. He was an Italian man who I saw smiling a lot. His name is Adriano Binacchi and he was nice and friendly. He explained the different equipments and how the ship works. The view from the bridge was amazing and I could see the crew’s deck at the front of the ship, where they have their own hot tub. Potted plants lined the big bridge. There was also a glass on one side of the floor and the view was great as you could see all the way down to the water and standing on it felt like you are standing on thin air.

After this, we queued to have our photos taken with the captain and also had a group shot with him. That was the end of the tour and we were back to the Shanghai bar where we met in the morning. The tour was over 3 hours and all of us were tired. It was really thoughtful that coffee, juice, and pastries were available at the Shanghai bar when we got back.

We got a goodie bag each with swans made out of soap, a bag, a lanyard and bracelet with Behind The Fun inscribed, and a baseball cap inside. It also had a leaflet with ship statistics and a recipe for the famous chocolate melting cake. This was lovely as I didn’t know we were getting all that.

warm melting cake

Later that afternoon we also got the print of the photos we had taken with the captain and the master chef as well as a treat, a plate of chocolate covered strawberries and some freshly baked pastry.

We both loved the tour as we would have not known so much about the ship for sure if we haven’t gone on the tour.

Take care everyone ,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO