At the end of each cruise, passengers fill out comment cards with criticisms, suggestions, and requests. After four years in development, Carnival's collective response is the impressive Carnival Spirit, first in the new Spirit-class. This huge, yet intimate, cruise ship reflects passengers' wishes expressed over the years. The slender, sleek design permits navigation of the Panama Canal, not possible with the behemoth Destiny-class ships.
Joe Farcus, the ship's designer, spared no expense providing the luxury, at affordable fares, passengers requested. Teak decks, burl wood veneer, sandblasted plastic, granite, marble, stained glass, and crystal are blended into a luxurious "intimate, living room atmosphere." Farcus chose the Porsche auto factory to construct unique metal chairs, but passenger Rose Schjelderup of San Marino, California, describes the Carnival Spirit as, "the Rolls Royce of Carnival ships." The Schjelderups have booked thirty-eight reservations on the ship for their fiftieth wedding anniversary, a multi-generation celebration.
Passengers prefer outside cabins with balconies, so eighty percent of the cabins are exterior. Eighty percent of those have glass verandas, for optimum viewing. Corner demi-suites, with enormous wraparound balconies, are perfect for viewing Alaska's magnificent scenery on summer cruises. Cabin size has been increased. The ship has numerous suites, and several double-deck penthouses.
Cabin telephones utilize the latest technology, allowing passengers to call anywhere in the world directly. Other appointments include TVs showing first-run films, hair dryer, adjustable shaving mirror, basket of grooming amenities, and a security safe. Ocean-view cabins contain robes. Improved lighting now eliminates 'Bozo the Clown' make-up. Ample storage space accommodates over-packers.
Fulfilling the need for an upscale dining option, the reservations-only Nouveau Supper Club, is a "wow." A glass staircase ascends to the double-decked, 180-seat club located at the top of the atrium. An awesome overhead, hand-painted mural is actually part of Carnival's glowing red glass signature funnel. Romantic candlelit dining is accompanied by music and dancing. Starters include lobster bisque with vintage cognac, marinated maple leaf duck breast, and salads. Prime steak and chops are featured, but lobster and crab lovers are not slighted. Famous Miami Joe's stone crabs are new to Carnival menus. Among the decadent desserts is a trio of crème brulée, symphony of cheesecakes, and tarte tatin with homemade truffle ice cream. The $20.00 charge per diner, is a modest fee for the ambiance, impeccable service and cuisine.
The bi-level Empire Dining Room, lit by brilliant chandeliers, seats 1350 at two seatings. More tables for two and four, high-backed booths, and well-disguised service areas create the intimacy passengers desire.
The Playa Grille and Lido Deck Seaview Bistro provide casual dining. Lunch buffets include meat-carving and pasta stations, extensive salad bars, and a New York-style deli. Updated midnight buffets incorporate the lighter fare today's travelers prefer. A 24-hour pizzeria, and around-the-clock room service provide independent travelers with flexibility and choice.
Often, in connection with a honeymoon cruise, romantics desire to marry at sea, or participate in vow renewal ceremonies. Now a charming Gothic wedding chapel, with pews seating sixty, is a first for Carnival ships. The wedding package, including an officiate, starts at $795, and must be purchased in advance.
The Carnival Spirit includes a well-staffed cyberspace computer area. The computers and library share space. An eleven hundred square-foot conference center is another popular new addition to satisfy the needs of guests.
Carnival entertainment is always professional and excellent. Two new revues brought sophisticated audiences to their feet. The shimmering stage curtain, and gorgeous showgirl costumes and headdresses are reminiscent of Ziegfeld. The orchestra pit raises and lowers on command, and state-of-the-art theatrical lighting includes laser effects. The Pharaohs Palace showroom has technically perfect acoustics and stadium seating for audience comfort and pleasure.
The Louis IV Casino is a glamorous, efficiently-run gambling casino. The casino is spacious, but unfortunately, populated with smokers. Carnival's Paradise, an entirely non-smoking ship, is the only cruise ship casino minus smokers.
Today's "buff" cruisers need spacious gymnasium and spa facilities. The Roman Spa is an amphitheater design, overlooking the sea and furnished with superior equipment, an aerobics room, jogging track, Ping-Pong®, and several TVs. A large whirlpool awaits tired exercisers who have sampled kick-boxing, spinning, and yoga classes with the three fitness directors. Massage and facial rooms, and a beauty salon staffed with Steiner professionals, are available for vacation pampering.
The ship offers a choice of three pools and spas surrounded by chaises, bars, snack grills, and dining areas, all with magnificent sea views. A glass dome can be closed during inclement weather, permitting the deck to retain an open atmosphere.
The soaring, mid-ship atrium is flanked by three glass elevators, bar, and dance floor. Divider paintings, framed as medallions, create intimate seating areas.
The Carnival Spirit's promenade, lined with boutiques, such as Tommy Hilfiger, is a passenger pleaser. "Shops On Board" guarantees prices equal to or lower than those found ashore for identical items.
Seniors want value and safety. They are drawn to Carnival by special AARP discounts, along with diverse activities and amenities. The line's exclusive Vacation Guarantee, the only one offered in the cruise industry, permits guests to disembark the ship if dissatisfied for any reason, and receive a pro-rated refund for unused cruise fare and reimbursement for air fare home. Special equipment has been installed, for the safety and security of guests, a primary concern of the company.
The game arcade provides family amusement. Camp Carnival is the industry's top rated childcare program. A 2,400 square-foot playroom is stocked with "goodies" sure to entertain. The Carnival Spirit features a new turn-down service, providing youngsters with freshly baked cookies on the first and last nights of a voyage. Who wouldn't like that?
Among the twelve bars and lounges is Dancin' disco, decorated in the abstract art-style of Jackson Pollack. Champion's Sport Bar is lined with life-size athletes in bas relief, including Arthur Ashe, Chris Evert, Mark Spitz, and Magic Johnson. The mysterious Shanghai Piano Bar and jazzy, Club Cool lure passengers.
Shanghai Piano Bar
The Carnival Spirit's theme emphasizes design. A cruise through architectural history, as represented by Empire, Louis IV, Queen Anne, Chinoise, art deco, Egyptian Revival, moderne, Rococco, Gothic and many others awaits. A group of international artists assisted in creating "a masterpiece in the art and spirit of having fun."
Facts: The 2124-passenger, 88,500-ton ship cost $365 million. Construction began in April 1999 at Kvaerner-Masa Yards in Helsinki, Finland. This is the fifteenth ship in Carnival's fleet. She is cruising Alaska from May 23-September 19, 2001. The Carnival Spirit will be the first "Fun Ship" to sail two 12-day, Hawaii cruises. A 14-day Panama Canal cruise, sailing from San Diego to Miami, culminates with a unique, eight-day program to "exotic" Caribbean ports-of-call beginning November 3, 2001. New Spirit-class ships are planned for debut in 2002, 2003 and 2004.
Photos courtesy of Jack White and Andy Newman, Carnival Cruise Lines.
For lots more SeaLetter photos and information on Carnival Spirit, click HERE.
Jack and Toni White of Rancho Mirage, California have, for many years, been freelance travel writers specializing in cruise travel. Their articles have appeared in newspapers throughout the United States and Canada, including the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Vancouver Sun. Prestigious Palm Springs Life magazine published their article on filming the movie Out to Sea on the Holland America Line Westerdam. They also write regularly for Mature Living and Plus, formerly Senior Life.
Jack graduated from USC as an architect. His background in architecture allows him to review, write, and produce photographs from a unique perspective. Toni attended UCLA after graduating from Hollywood High School where she had been the Feature Editor of the Hollywood High School News, where one of the writers was comedienne Carole Burnett. Toni lived abroad for many years in South America and in the UK and has a familiarity with different cultures that influences her writing. The Whites love to travel and especially want to share their passion for cruising with you.
Toni & Jack White may be reached at: JACNTONI@aol.com.
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