The Best + Worst of the Carnival Spirit: Family Cruise Review

South Pacific cruise Carnival Spirit review
The Isle of Pines in New Caledonia, divine even on a grey day

Ahoy captain and hello sailor.  Are you on the hunt for an honest Carnival Spirit review? 

We were missing our Dad/husband and spirits were low, so we set sail on the high seas to cheer ourselves up.

Myself and the twinnies cruised aboard the Carnival Spirit, we did the 8 night South Pacific cruise. This had four sea days and three days stopping off at the islands of New Caledonia.

But it was not all plain sailing!

This post is divided up into the Best and the Worst sections, we start with Best as we did enjoy the trip very much, then there’s some Worst and we end with some of the Best again.

PS If you’re keen to look at Prices first, check Carnival Cruises deals on Deck Chair Cruising here in a new tab and then keep reading here too.

PPS  You might also enjoy reading our Beginner’s Guide to Cruising With Kids alongside this article.

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5 of the Best Things About A Carnival Spirit Cruise

1. The Tours, Especially The Snorkelling

Our cruise stopped off in Noumea, the capital of New caledonia, then at the island called mare, and finally at the beautiful Isle of Pines.  There are all sorts of tours that can be done, we kept it simple as we love snorkelling. Even though the weather was not good on any of our island days, we really enjoyed each one.

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Learning French and biology on Duck Island!

In Noumea, we went on a speedboat ride to Isolet Canarde aka Duck Island where there is a coral reef with a snorkel trail marked out. You get a lounger and umbrella as part of the package too. 

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The beach at Duck Island
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A coconut to drink as we walk along the beach of Mare island, life’s simple pleasures
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This is the lovely little islet off the beach at the Isle of Pines, we snorkelled all around it joyfully.

It wasn’t at all busy getting off the boats, we were slowed down once by myself as I was sure we didn’t need passports but we did need some photo ID so I had to pelt back to the room for them.

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Leaving the Carnival Spirit on a tender to get to the smaller islands
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The beach at the Isle of Pines, gorgeous even on a grey day
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About to take a drop on the Green Thunder

2. The Slides and the Water Playground, and Pools and Spa

You cannot write a Carnival Spirit review without mentioning te water slides! The Green Thunder lived up to its name and reputation. There’s a vertical drop at the start and there was certainly screaming in my ears when we dropped.

The yellow slide is much gentler and tended to be busier but when we visited neither slide had long queues. This might have something to do with the wind which makes climbing up the tours and waiting to drop really quite thrilling, or scary even.

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Gentler sliding for the little kids – and me

My twins enjoyed the slides a lot. They’d slide for a while and then run to the spa to warm up.

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The green Thunder above Deck 10, it is scary, I can tell you from personal experience

The two family pools are pretty small and often got busy, but if you find a quieter time to pools which are chilly and the spa which is toasty warm are great places to had=g out. Our favourite visit there was straight after the visit to the Isle of Pines, we went straight up there to warm up and chill out. Lovely.

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The water playground on a sea day – very quiet here
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3. Walking the Decks (not the plank)

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Deck 10, which you can walk around in a loop

My joy! The twins got right into it too. Being out in the middle of the ocean is so unusual, the sensation of moving through water and being so far from land is to be savoured.  Walking laps of the decks is a great way to enjoy this.

Deck 10 is the best known deck for doing laps, you wan walk it in a loop, round and around, and feel as if you are floating over the sea as you stroll.  Lots of people do laps here.

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The beloved Deck 3, most nautical

My favourite deck is the 3rd one, there’s rarely anyone else walking and you really feel as if you are on a ship, a vessel, an ocean going explorer. The tenders are above you and the life rafts are right there. There are swabbed decks and portholes and it’s all very nautical.

On Deck 3 you can only walk from one end of the ship to the other on each side, then duck through the ship to get onto the other side. It was such a joy.

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A breezy walk around Deck 3

4. The (Millions of ) Shows + Activities

No need to feel bored for a second, there are so many organised activities, presentations and shows. To be honest we only did a tiny fraction of what’s on offer, but still definitely feel we got great value from the cruise as these were mostly free shows.

We watched a movie on the deck at 7.30pm, having cunningly got there early and eaten our pizza dinners on the loungers so we had great spots. The Greatest Showman. There are two – three movies a day available with all ages covered.

There are also in-room movies which cost and we did watch one of those one lazy afternoon Pitch Perfect 3.

Comedy Club:  we saw a couple of the PG shows and then I did sneak out late ad watch one of the 18+ shows. These are on most nights. And were a highlight for us. Watching a comedian’s brain frying as he keeps his routine PG was a laugh in itself.

We played bingo one night – and won $250. Must be beginners luck, the twins were utterly thrilled.

The big shows. We saw am Illusionist and acrobatic show from Miss Houdini and the ships singers and dancers. This was a real spectacle. The kids wanted to be miles from the stage so it didn’t matter that we turned up at the last minute, if you want good seats definitely go early.  There are big song and dance shows on other nights.

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Dance class, anyone? Everywhere you look there are things going on… bingo, loads of games, trivia, talks and lectures

5.  The Gym, Spa, Sauna and Steamroom, Yoga and Pilates too

This area is adults only and it has modern and fresh decor, a relief from the gaudy.  The gym equipment is good with lots of cardio machines and modern weights machines.

A visit to the steam room and the sauna afterwards was a huge treat and finishing off with a bubble in the warm bubbly spa is totally relaxing. Who knows what the kids were up to? Who cares??!

On sea days there were yoga classes at 8am and pilates classes at 9am. I snuck away from the snoozing kids to do yoga one morning and enjoyed stretching and bending and then lying very still.

Getting back to the room to find the kids wrestling and the beds in a total state took the edge off the serenity and connection to the universe, but y’know it was good whilst it lasted.

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Our cabin was at the read of the ship, with wonderful views from the small balcony. Sorry about the mess


7 of the Worst Things About A Carnival Spirit Cruise

1. The Decor… aaarrghhhh

Dear Lord, nothing can prepare you for it. If you’ve ever been to Las Vegas or you were around in the 1970s you will be familiar with this style. If you’d hoped never to go back to either, tough.  

The decor of many of the Carnival Spirit’s spaces is so gaudy.  If I never see gilt or a pharaoh statue again I’ll be a happy woman.   Not all of the ship is so lurid, luckily. The gym, Serenity Deck and Sports Bar are modern and classy…. much easier on the eye.

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Spare me any more prancing Greeks or Roman columns!
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Even the buffet dining area was making my eyes water after a few days

2. The Wind At Sea

My god, the wind!!  Now we like a salty breeze as much as the next seafarer but it does get wearing  at times.  Note to self: bring more woollies and a wind cheater next time.

Also, you need to be brave to climb the tower to the slides where there’s a stiff sea breeze, we did and survived.  Of course, in really high winds and rough seas, the slides are closed and you just stay cosy inside the ship with a mug of hot chocolate.

3. Tours Sold Out

By lunchtime of day one the five tours we had decided on were all sold out!  This is just a lack of experience, I hear.

There are limited places, and it’s good to keep numbers going into pristine places low.  The upside was saving loads of money.

In the end, we booked one tour (the Speedboat Ride and Duck Island Reserve trip at Noumea), plus the bus to the beach on Mare and that was it.

4. Interior Rooms

On a previous cruise (three days for a blogging conference) I had been in an interior room and absolutely hated it. It felt small and scary, in that you’d have to get out if the ship was sinking. Is it just me? On this cruise we had a room with a balcony and It was 100 x better. I’d never ever book an interior cabin ever again.

5. Wet and Rough Weather

You’ve got to take what you get when you weigh anchor and sail forth.  The seas were heavy on the way home with swells of up to six metres, so that made walking around the decks impossible and the pools were drained. But fair enough, it’s weather, you cannot really complain.

6. Tea Issues

I knew I’d forgotten something… and it was the multitude of teabags I usually taken when travelling to non 5 star locales. If you love Liptons or green tea you will be dandy. If you savour a chai or adore an Early Grey you must BYO or pay for your cuppa. Or buy some in a French supermarket in Noumea as I did.

7. The Themed Nights- 80’s, Mexican etc etc

Look these might well be in your Best not Worst list. We did enjoy seeing waiters letting rip in the Empire Dining Room and loads of people dressed up and really getting into the spirit.

But if you are the type of person for whom a Big 80’s Night was never fun, not even back then in the 80’s, you might find it all a bit much.  There’s no pressure to dress up and let rip though, so you can relax if that’s just not your scene.

5 More Best Things 

1. Food, you will not go hungry…

There plenty of options and food is available 24 hours a day, although sometimes this means pizza and ice cream only.   There’s a huge variety of buffet options as well as the sit down dinners in the Empire Dining Room.

I really enjoyed sitting down there and ordering from the menu, which changes daily. Whilst the desserts were always a bit of a disappointment, the meals themselves were not bad and there was always something novel. Even frogs les… and no, we didn’t try them.

2. The Serenity Deck

This is the the 18s+ only area and it is a pleasant place to hang out. It’s got loads of modern poolside furniture, with not a golden bauble in sight. The small pool is good for a few mini laps and the warm bubbly spa is a delight.   There’s a bar on the Serenity Deck and circulating waiters. This is a top spot to escape the kids and read a book or just doze, loungers do fill up fast though.

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The adults only Serenity Deck, seen from the slides’ tower… so near and yet so far

3. The Kids Clubs

There are many of these, for children of all ages right up to late teens.  They divide the kids up into age groups and then do activities either in their own appointed spaces (which are spacious) or around the ship.  My kids were right on the cusp of two age groups, not comfy with the 12-14s but felt too old for the 9-11s.  So they only did a few kids club activities, but did enjoy them.

4. Duty Free Shopping and the Lolly Shop 

We only had one major purchase, a GoPro and it cost us about $50 less than we would have paid in Sydney. A win!  The kids insist I mention the lolly shop, but I could have done without it… also they had no bars of dark chocolate, horrors.

5.  Just sitting out on the balcony reading a book or watching the ocean

For me, and even for the kids, this was just heaven. We spent some really enjoyable time on the way home just hanging around the room and on the balcony reading and watching movies.

And watching the ocean, the changing lights, the sunsets.

Around the decks there are lots of loungers and the round daybed sun loungers and many people would spend hours curled up in these reading books and fiddling with their devices. Lovely.

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A book and a sunset, what more do you need?

The Best Best Thing About A Carnival Spirit Cruise

It’s the price… there’s no doubt about it, cruises can be very cost effective. If you are careful – and don’t drink like a fish or gamble like a maniac – you do not need to spend much on top of the all-inclusive cost of the holiday.  Meals are included (though you can pay to dine at specialist restaurants) and there is HEAPS of free entertainment.  Make that more than HEAPS… MOUNTAINS.

For this three berth cabin on an 8-night South Pacific Cruse we paid $4755.  We only had to get to Circular Quay so didn’t even need to pay for a taxi to the airport.

I had been looking at Queensland island holidays and also at Fiji and Vanuatu…. the cruise was much cheaper.

Unexpected Pleasures

There’s nothing so lovely as a little event or item that comes right out of the blue and tickles you pink. Two things stand out:

  1. Being given warm dry towels when we came aboard after our shore expeditions. We’d been snorkelling for hours so our towels were soaking and we were a bit chilly. Swapping them for the warm towels was HEAVEN.
  2. The card tricks from the wandering magician one day in the restaurant. How he did it we have no idea, we stared hard as we watched several tricks, to no avail. This was a delightful moment for all three of us.
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Mr12 would like to mention the Sports Bar which shows all the big games night or day. He got up to watch a big European soccer match one morning at 5.45am and was thrilled to be able to see it

So that’s our of Carnival Cruise New Caledonia review!  Would we do it again?  Yes, we would, it was a real holiday, relaxing, no washing up, we liked being at sea and enjoyed our island sojourns too.

Myself, I have secret dreams of crossing the Atlantic in the QE2 one fine day… but there’s plenty time for that.  I am glad we went, my husband is working overseas and it worked well for a solo parent trip. Hubby would not have liked it, so great to make a virtue of necessity and go when we could.

Have you found any other very honest Carnival Cruise reviews? Australia is such a hotspot for the company and we all need honest ones. Your tips in the comments would appreciated.

Read more about Carnival Spirit cruises on the Carnival website here.

Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Cruising With Kids too, it’s here. 

What about you? Are you a family that has cruised? 

What’s your best and worst of life on the high seas?

Find good deals on Carnival Cruises at Deck Chair Cruising here!

A beginners guide to cruising with kids 4

PS This post contains some affiliate links meaning that, if you buy an item using the link, a small commission is paid to support Hello Sydney Kids, at no cost to you. Read my full disclosure policy here.

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  1. says: Julie

    Oh how I enjoyed this read. I can imagine it would be a wonderfully relaxing holiday. I feel we are kindred spirits as I too love a warm towel (remember when airlines used to welcome you on a flight with them?) and always travel with my own tea.

    I’m glad you had a good holiday and it is helpful for people to read the good and the bad about an experience.

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