Imagine an all-inclusive island holiday where instead of long sleepless flights, tedious waits in transit with tantrum-chucking tots and tweens and stodgy, dodgy airplane food, you wake to a new location every day in your own bed, with an incredible variety of fun activities and a surplus of dining options at your disposal? It may sounds like the stuff of family holiday fantasy but on Carnival Spirit, it’s an everyday reality.
With accommodation, meals, activities, childcare and transport all included in the one price, a Carnival Spirit cruise holiday stretches your holiday dollar further. With everything packaged together, its all simple to organise. You don’t need to search for accommodation, cheap flights, activities, or even where to eat. Just book, pack and board and everything you need is right there ready and waiting as you float across the ocean to your destination.
So smitten were my wee kittens by our recent Carnival Spirit cruise to the stunning Pacific paradise of New Caledonia that when I sat down to write about it, a little he said, she said ensued as the kids started regaling me with their individual happy memories.
And so instead of another story about cruising on Carnival Spirit with kids, eight-year old Raffles and five-year old Sugarpuff are sharing the inside story on Carnival Spirit by kids with their top 14 cruise highlights.
1.The daily activities
On Carnival Spirit boredom is not an option, and with 45 plus activities on board each day our kids were kept in a perpetual state of dizzy bliss. From family arts and craft sessions at Creative Cove, sports, trivia, and crew-led fun, there’s something to float everybody’s boat, if you’ll pardon the very intentional pun.
He said: “The Hairy Chest Competition was really funny. I was a bit sad my dad didn’t enter though becasue he’s so furry he would have nailed it. I also liked Wiggle for Westmead where we got to dance and be silly to help raise money for sick kids in hospital.”
She said: “My favourite thing was painting my own special beach bag with mummy with the arts and crafts lady. Mine was prettier than mummy’s though.I also liked going to the spa and getting my nails done.”
2. The Carnival Waterworks
This fabulous water play area on the top deck includes a SplashZone for little cruisers with mini-slides, water play and tipping buckets. Bigger kids, and their parents, can try the two-storey Twister waterslide and the free-falling, 65km/h Green Thunder waterslide that snakes out over the water while you shout words that sound uncannily similar to ship.
He said: “The water slides are epic! I loved the twister and I went on it at least a billion times. It took a bit more convincing to get me on Green Thunder though. It was so steep and so fast, and it went over the edge of the ship. But eventually I decided to just go for it. It was super scary and I went about 63,000 kilometres an hour but it was over so fast and was so fun, I just had to do it again. And again.”
She said: “I really loved the pink waterslide in the SplashZone. It was only little but super fast. There was water spraying everywhere so we were always wet. I loved the Twister too. I was really brave and went on it lots of times and it was so swirly and so fun and it made a big splash at the end.”
3. The facilities
There are so many family friendly facilities on board Carnival Spirit besides the water slides and splash zone. There’s a games arcade on deck 4, a sports deck with table tennis, mini golf, a netted sports court for football and basketball and the Lido deck, home to three swimming pools, including an adults only retreat for when the kids are otherwise ensconced in the kids’ club.
He said: “My favourite place besides the pool and water slides was on the sports deck where I played mini golf, ping pong and totally thrashed my dad at basketball. I even won a foosball comp.”
She said: “I liked ping pong and mini golf and playing basketball with daddy.”
5. The kids’ club
While there are so many things for families to do together, occasionally parents and kids need space to do their own thing. Camp Ocean, devised by an expert panel of specialists in children’s engagement along with actual parents, offers hundreds of educational ocean-themed activities designed by age and stage. It is divided into three age-appropriate areas including Penguins for two- to five-year-olds, Stingrays for six- to eight-year-olds, and Sharks for nine to 11-year-olds.
He said: “I’m not usually a big fan of kids’ clubs because I prefer to hang out and annoy my mum and dad, which I am a bit of an expert at. But Camp Ocean on Carnival Spirit was really good. That’s because they separate the kids into different age groups and I got to hang with a bunch of cool kids my own age.”
She said: “I went to Penguins and I loved it so much because I got to do craft and paint my own t-shirt and the girl who looked after me said my colouring was so good that she gave me a trophy.”
5. The Seuss at Sea program
One ship, two ships, Dr. Seuss was on our cruise ship! From a Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast where the kids dined on Seuss-themed goodies alongside the some of Dr Seuss best loved characters, to a Seuss-A-Palooza Character Parade along the promenade, interactive story times and other Seuss themed activities and events, the Seuss at Sea program was a winner with my Seuss fans.
He said: “I first saw the Cat in the Hat dancing on the deck as we sailed out of Sydney. He had some seriously good moves. There were loads of Dr Seuss activities on board but the best was the Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast. I hung out with Thing One and Thing Two and actually got to eat Green Eggs and Ham! And I did like them Sam I Am. I also liked the yoghurt parfait schlopp, and not just because of its funny name.”
She said: “I got to cuddle Sam I Am, the Things and the Cat in The Hat. He was soooooooo tall. I ate yummy French toast covered in coloured crunchy things and I drank Goose Juice, which tasted a lot like apple juice. It was so fun.”
6. The nighttime entertainment
As night falls, the activities don’t slow down with “Dive In” Movies by the pool, piano bars, game shows, karaoke, rock bands, comedy performances and epic Broadway shows, most of which are family friendly.
He said: “The movies by the pool were really good. They gave us popcorn and we grabbed ice creams and laid on deck chairs to watch them. The shows were awesome too but my favourite thing was being allowed to go to a pub to watch a rock band for the first time ever. The band was called Music Manilla. They were really good and played all my favourite rock songs. I even got to see my friend Jennifer sing with them and she kicks butt! I think she sings Sweet Child of Mine even better than Axl Rose (but don’t tell him I said that).”
She said: “I loved the movies and the Red Frog Pub because I got to dance with my mum and my friend Jennifer and I got a special drink with an umbrella in it.”
7. The Pharaoh’s Palace
The three-level Pharaoh’s Palace is the place for family-friendly Broadway style theatrical extravaganzas, mesmerising magic shows, guest comedians and the fun and interactive Hasbro, The Game Show.
He said: “We were really lucky and got to go behind the scenes at Pharaoh’s Palace where all the costumes and props for the shows are kept. It was super cool but not as cool as actually seeing the shows. Hasbro, The Game Show was fun, even though I missed out on getting to join in and I totally picked who the murderer was in The Cluedo Show. I also saw an awesome magic show! The magician was hanging upside down doing acrobatics and everything and I couldn’t work out how she did any of her tricks. I think she might be really magic. But my favourite show of all was Epic Rock, which really was so epic that I went to both shows.”
She said: “I really, really liked seeing the dancers and singers in Epic Rock because they were so cool and the songs were nice and the boy dancers were so strong.”
8. The movable feast
Be prepared to come home a few kilograms heavier because there’s more than just one place to eat on board Carnival Spirit. Along with the Empire dining room (more on that in a moment), there are special events, casual dining at the International Food Plaza, barbecue delights at Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ, tacos and burritos at Blue Iguana Café, and incredible burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint. And they are all included in your cruise fare. For a small surcharge you can (and we did) indulge in delicious Japanese inspired dishes at Bonsai Sushi or nosh on prime cuts of beef, seafood and lobster at fine diner Nouveau.
He said: “I still have dreams about the lobster ravioli at Nouveau, it was so good. And I must have eaten about 100 tacos at the Blue Iguana Café. Then there were the burgers; they were so delicious, especially the Chillius Maximus. And learning how to make the ship’s chocolate melting cake was so cool.The breakfast pizza and eggs benedict in the food plaza were awesome too, but my number one tip is to not miss out on the breakfast burritos because they are the bomb!”
She said: “The macaroni cheese at Nouveau was the best thing I’ve ever tasted and I really liked the sashimi at Bonsai. But my favourite place to eat was a candy store called Cherry on Top.”
9. The Empire Dining Room
The glittering two-deck a la carte Empire Dining Room is not only the place for a fantastic breakfast, lunch or dinner – with a great selection of to-order dishes including the ship’s famous warm chocolate melting cake – it is one of the most fun places you’ll ever eat with impromptu performances by the talented wait staff each and every night.
He said: “Dinner in the main dining room was so cool. Not only did we get to choose from an awesome menu with amazing dishes like grilled lobster, it had a different theme every night, so we got to dress in crazy Mexican hats, ugly neon clothes from when my mum and dad were kids (the eighties) and fancy schmancy clothes on formal night. But the best thing was the waiters who sang and danced every night. They were so amazing and they had me up dancing every single time.”
She said: “I loved dressing up for dinner and the singing and dancing waiters and hanging out with my new friends. And the desserts are yum.”
10. The High Tea at Sea
We donned our craziest hats for the Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea party, where we ate and drank our way through an enormous spread of teas, coffees, hot chocolate and tables laden with delectable canapés, cakes, and sweet treats. We were even joined by a certain white rabbit, the wicked(ly funny) Queen of Hearts and Alice herself.
He said: “OMG! I couldn’t believe it when we went for High Tea at Sea. There were huge tables heaving with delicious savoury snacks, scones and cakes and a huge ice carving of the mad hatter. There was so much food it was almost enough to fill even my belly! And the Senior Maitre d’, Dessi, who is like the funnest person ever, was dressed as the Queen of Hearts. Awesome.”
She said: “I loved the high tea so much because I got to eat about 2,353 hundred macarons and they were so yummy. And everything was so delicious and pretty. Especially the Queen of Hearts’ dress.”
11. The Divine Dessi
From our kindly room steward, Jayson, through to Captain Adriano Binacchi, every one of the 930 crew members on board Carnival Spirit deserves high praise. They are warm, friendly and went above and beyond to make our holiday a magical one. But there was one person on board who the kids, and every other passenger, took a particular shine to. I’ll leave them to tell you all about her.
He said: “All of the staff on board were super nice to us but Dessi was just about the funnest, and busiest person, I’ve ever met. Even though she was looking after thousands of people every night in the Empire Dining Room and a huge staff, she was really easy to talk to, went out of her way to make everyone happy, and never made us feel like we weren’t important because we were just kids. I love her.”
She said: “I loved Dessi so, so much. She was so funny and wore the prettiest dress at the tea party. She gave me a hair clip and drew a moustache on me for Mexican night. She even painted my nails for me in my favourite colour. But I like her most because she gave me nice cuddles.”
12. The ice cream
Kids and ice ceram go together like, well… kids and ice cream. So you know they are going to love Carnival’s free-flowing ice cream from the two 24/7 poolside ice-cream stations.
He said: “It’s so epic that they have ice cream and frozen yoghurt on tap. I ate so much it was practially spilling out of my ears. I don’t know why mum wouldn’t just let me lay down under it and guzzle it straight from the tap all day.”
She said: “I loved the swirly chocolate and vanilla ice cream. It was so yummy. I got really good at making my own and one time I even had two ice creams at once.”
13. The Stateroom
There’s nothing worse than toting tired kids through airports, but cruising means an end to the “are we there yets”. Being able to fall asleep in one destination and wake up in another every singe day without tantrums in transit equals family holiday bliss. Our comfortable and modern balcony stateroom on Carnival Spirit proved the perfect home away from home for this little family.
He said: “On Carnival Spirit we had our own balcony where we could sit and watch the water and we got to sleep in bunk beds just like at home. Best of all we never had to wait around to get anywhere. We’d just go to sleep and wake up somewhere new. Magic.”
She said: “I loved how every night a cute little towel animal would be waiting on our bed. I loved the doggie best of all.”
14. The Ports
While Carnival Spirit proved to be a destination in itself, we also enjoyed delightful experiences in the stunning islands of New Caledonia. Much of this thanks to Carnival Spirit’s shore excursion crew who proved to be genius at pointing families, at least this one, in the right direction.
He said: “New Caledonia is so beautiful. We spent a day on the beach in Mare and I had so much fun playing with the local kids who were so cute.
In Noumea, we went to a place called Amedee Island where I got to jump off the dock and swim in turquoise water with giant green turtles, which was the most incredible experience I’ve ever had. The giant feast the island people served us for lunch was right up there too. The Isle of Pines was like another world. The water is so blue and the trees so green and I went on a speedboat where giant manta rays and reef sharks swam right alongside us in the clear water. We even saw an enormous loggerhead turtle. But the best thing of all was eating platefuls of giant garlic butter forest snails and the most enormous barbecued snapper I ever saw.”
She said: “I loved all the islands because we got to spend every day on the beach building sandcastles and swimming in the water. My favourite place was Amedee Island because mama let me eat two plates of dessert at lunchtime and I loved playing with my new friends on my giant pink flamingo.”