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Impressions of a first time cruiser

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

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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.

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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

Serenity Deck on board Carnival Spirit

Before we even boarded the cruise, I had heard a lot about the Serenity Deck on Carnival Spirit so I was curious to find out what it looked like.

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Serenity is defined as the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Serenity Deck is an adults only sanctuary (18yrs +), a free area to enjoy at your leisure with pods, deck chairs, hammock to lie down on and a heated spa and pool, if you want to take a dip. There is a bar where they play live music in the evening, separate towel service and waiters are always around if you want to order drinks.

When we got on the ship on the first day we went to deck nine where Serenity Deck is  and the first thing I noticed was the 270-degree view of the ocean. The pods are round bed-chairs that fit up to 3 people and looked really comfy. The huge hammocks were partially shaded. On day one there were not many people there so we thought we would give it a go another day.

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One of the first sea days after lunch we went around the Serenity area to see if we could get a pod but it seemed as if every adult on the ship tries to secure a spot in there, so it was quite crowded. It was a big mistake to think that we would get a space easily. It looked like parents leave the kids in kids club and hide there.

I didn’t want to give up so we decided to go round again and luckily I saw a lady in one of the hammocks leaving. I waited for her to gather her stuff and we finally got the hammock.

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As it was a nice sunny day, the hammock was not a great idea as the sun came straight into your eyes. We relaxed there for an hour and then we moved on to do other things.

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People normally came early to the Serenity Deck and left their towels to reserve their area. Even though a sign said you can’t hold the pod/hammock for more than 40 minutes there was no one enforcing it really. We definitely didn’t want to waste our energy waiting for a space as there was so much you could do in the ship. But whenever we went around the serenity area, it would be full. But we learned that in the evening, when the first dining sitting started, people left to go and eat so we went there just to relax for a few hours in the evenings before our dinner, for the rest of the days on board.

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It was the perfect time as we got to enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

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We quiet enjoyed the pods and hammocks as it was really relaxing just to watch the open ocean or sky while lying there. But at the same time I didn’t think it was worth it to spend a whole day there missing every other activity on the ship.

Serenity Deck was not as quiet as it is supposed to be as people would be on the phone or with friends talking so loud that you be left wondering if they even understood what serenity meant in the first place.

Anyway, for me and AS, it was a fun and relaxing time on this part of the ship.

Take care everyone ,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO

Celebrating Christmas on board Carnival Spirit

Our cruise on Carnival was advertised as a Christmas cruise so obviously I was expecting the Christmas to be special on board.

As soon as we walked onto the ship, I could see that they had beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere. It actually felt like Christmas all the time we were on board.

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Definitely, Christmas day was very special. We had sea day on the 25th of December so everyone was on the ship. They had announced the previous day that they were going to have special Christmas lunch so we were looking forward to that.

On Christmas morning, after a quick workout at the gym, we went to the buffet area for breakfast. Most of the staff and some of the cruisers were already wearing Christmas hats, ties, headbands and earrings. The environment was very festive and there were tables full of families enjoying the Christmas breakfast.

IMG_1043-tile-vertAll the dining areas had watermelons craved with figurines like, Merry Christmas, Santa’s face, flowers and other the Christmas decoration. Also there was an area where they built a gingerbread house, some snowmen and it looked really pretty.

IMG_1024 (2)We had our usual breakfast and as it was nice and fresh. When we were done with breakfast, we saw that a few staffs were craving something on a big block of ice.

We went back to our room and on the way back we saw many rooms door decorated with Christmas decoration. Actually, they were giving prizes for best-decorated doors.  Once in the room, we had a shower and went back to the buffet area again and was surprised to see this beautiful ice carving of Santa with his reindeers and it looked absolutely amazing.

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The staffs on board worked really hard to make sure the ship had full Christmas vibe. The captain of the ship was walking around wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and we managed to take some photos with him too.

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After admiring all the decoration on that floor, we went around to find more activates. Everywhere we saw people in Santa hats and red outfits. I felt like I was in a mall somewhere, not on a ship.

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There were photographers capturing family photos with Santa and Christmas tree and there were families enjoying their time together. For me and AS, we didn’t want photos with Santa so we kept on roaming around until we found the hall where bean bag throwing competition was about to start. It was going to be Men Vs Women.

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I wanted to take part so went and had my name written down. After a few minutes, game started. 4 males vs 4 females.  They gave us 4 bean bags about 10 inches square and it had to go inside a board with a small hole around 15 feet away.

It was a fun game. The first few times, all my bags were either on the floor or on the board but once I got the hang of it, I scored a few points. It was entertaining for everyone watching as well but unfortunately, the male group won the game.

By that time, it was time for us to go to the restaurant (Empire dining room) for our Christmas lunch.

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When we arrived at our table, there were already Christmas crackers on the tables and the staffs were in a festive mood wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas. Rest of the couples from our table arrived and we started the lunch.

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They told us that they used to have Christmas dinner before but for the first time, they were organising Christmas lunch because that is an Australian tradition and they wanted us to enjoy an Aussie Christmas. It was really thoughtful of the management and staff because it was extra hard work for them to organise the special lunch.

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The menu was even more aussiefied with crusted lamb roast, prawns and pavlova on the menu. We loved the food and it was fun popping Christmas crackers and wearing the hat. I have to admit, they made us all feel special on the special day.

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After lunch, both of us were so stuffed that we went to the upper deck and just relaxed on the lounge. We enjoyed the beautiful sunset on the horizon before going to the room to get ready for dinner.

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Like every day, the Empire dining room served one of the best dinners and we were happy with the service and food.

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After dinner, special Christmas show was organised in the main hall (Pharaoh’s Palace) so we went there.

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The Christmas show was fun with Christmas carols from the singers and some kids, followed by Christmas song, Christmas story and many more entertainment and of course Santa Clause.

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Overall, AS and I had a splendid Christmas on board Carnival Spirit.

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On the way to our room we had a quick stop at the casino and had some fun :).

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We were both tired after a while and were off too bed.

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Hope all of you a great one too.

Take care everyone,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO

I am back

Hello everyone and a very happy New Year 2014. Yap I am finally back to reality from my wonderful holiday. I am back with refreshed mind, few more kilos on my body, 5 shades darker and lots of memories.

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I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a very Happy New Year. Thank you so much for all your good wishes.

Thinking about this, I just realised that time goes so fast and it’s already been a year since I was writing a Happy New Year post from Kathmandu.

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Anyway, I am happy to report that I loved the cruise and all my fears vanished once I stepped into the Carnival Spirit. It was so grand and majestic that I loved everything.

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I already miss twice-a-day housekeeping, wonderful and yummy foods, the amazing views, snorkelling in crystal clear water, relaxing on the pool side and watching amazing shows every night. Everything made us feel spoiled and made our holiday perfect. We also meet some great people who made our holiday even better. I have so much to share with you all but before that I need to unpack, do the laundry, clean the house, do some grocery, get in touch with our families and get ready to go back to work from tomorrow.

So as I get my life sorted in the real world, please enjoy some amazing photos from our holiday. I promise I will be back with heaps of posts soon.

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Take care everyone,

M from nepaliaustralian

XOXO