Cruising the South Pacific Islands

We have just come back from a 10 night cruise of the South Pacific Islands of Vanuatu, Mystery Island, Lifou and Noumea on the Carnival Spirit sailing out of the magnificent Sydney Harbour, Australia.

This was my first cruising experience. Warm weather and colourful sea and corals beckon and so with the encouragement of our good friends, Chris & Carina, we set forth on our very first adventure on the high seas.

I like the idea of the inclusion of all meals, the activities on board and the opportunity to see some South Pacific Islands.

With a little trepidation and a lot of excitement, we were set to sail leaving Sydney in the midst of the fantastic Vivid Light Show. Many buildings around Circular Quay were used as backdrops but none came close to the dramatic shapes as to be seen on the iconic Sydney Opera House. What a send off!

We purposely chose a inner room down low on the ship as Rob is one of those unfortunate people that is inclined to get sea sick on a lake! (By the way, he is the one who repeatedly asked over the years to go on a cruise!). When we arrived we were "upgraded" to a window cabin right at the back of the ship. I guess they thought they were doing us a favour. The room was certainly roomy with 2 singles clamped together to make a king size bed, a lounge, a chair and a separate closed off ensuite, which is something I really appreciate.

I have mucked up the bed with an afternoon nap, but you get the gist.

Every night, a daily activities guide for the following day along with 2 chocolates and a cute towel animal will be placed on our bed. I certainly love how the stewards change our bedsheets and make up our bed daily. The cabin stewards were tremendous... always smiling and greeting us by name and making inquiries re our health, comfort and enjoyment.

The ship has many kinds of activities, mostly geared at families and younger adults (under 35) including gym, sports, trivia and bingo, karaoke, and the casino. I was disappointed that all the 'lectures' were aimed at selling you something, whether it be nutrition or art. There were sadly not much activities aimed at the older people (apparently they reckon that at 50+ I am classed as old!) nor were there any crafts activities planned. We found we were at a bit of a loss as what to do during the 'sea' days. Sure I can relax and read a book, but I don't spend my money on a cruise to read which I can happily do at home! Neither of us are gamblers in any form so that the casino and bingo are not appealing to us.

One thing for sure is that the ship is very ornamental to the point of being superlative. It is almost as though they couldn't make up their mind which them to go with and so decided to include everything  including real and fake lead lighting everywhere, art deco, art nouveau, postmodern even to Egyptian styling in the glitzy grand theatre.

Glass lifts in the Spirit Atrium

I loved the stairs and fountain in the Fountain Lobby

Entry to the shopping arcade.
The days in port were the highlights. They were wonderful and full of activities and tours were available at 3 of the 4 islands. Sightseeing, snorkeling and visiting markets being our favourite. We were blessed with glorious weather.

Thankfully cannibalism has been done away with

We watched them prepare a hangi meal and we get to taste it too! Yum.

Tchou Tchoo Train is a great to explore Vanuatu

On board there are plenty of water activities, including 2 water slides. A special mention has to be made of the Green Thunder, which is the world's steepest and fastest waterslide at sea. Rob and I had a go at both. You step into the ‘Green Thunder’ then with a audible countdown, the floor drops away and you plummet ten metres, almost vertically, through a semi-translucent green slide before looping and splashing down on a lower deck. The Green Thunder sure is scary, however it is very short and you haven't time to panic! I even did it twice.
Michelle exiting the Green Thunder

The other waterslide

The children of all ages certainly appeared to well catered for with many activities and kids clubs for various ages, even though we still saw lots of kids around the ship at all times of the day.

Rob at the kids' water park
One of the open pool areas including spa
Two main pools and spas were open to the kids. However there was an kid free area, ‘Serenity’, complete with a pool, spa, double hammocks, sun lounges and cocktail bar. It was so popular that we tried to go there about 4 times, with only once finding a space for us. It was not a peaceful place to be though with music blaring and people trying to talk over the music. I guess I am one of the minority that like music free areas for quiet conversations which were few and hard to find.
The very popular Adults only pool & spa retreat

The all you can eat, casual bistro style dining is quite American oriented, even with the 'oriental' food bar, and seemed more like take away after a day or two. It is not running 24/7 but there is a Pizza bar that is 24/7. It was quite popular. The cuisine at the very large Empire Restaurant is superb as is the service. The staff also did a mini song or dance most evenings adding to the fun atmosphere. We chose to sit in the same area as we became quite attached to our waitress and waiter and requested their area each time. In addition, there is an excellent restaurant, The Nouveau, which you pay extra for and the food is just sublime. It is a very reasonable price of $35 pp for a 3 course meal. I highly recommend this restaurant for at least one meal on your trip.

La Playa Bistro Dining area
This is just a tiny selection of choice for afternoon tea

We found more things to do at nights. Most evenings there was some sort of show in the main auditorium, The Pharoah's Palace. The quality of the performers were very high both the regular show band and performers as well as the imports. The shows were rather short being just 45-60 minute duration. No photos were allowed of the shows for copyright reasons.

Entry to the Pharaoh's Palace
The grand stage in the Pharaoh's Palace

From there you could move on to the ever running Casino, the Piano bar, the nightclub and the Adult Comedy Club. I did like listening to Andy on the piano at the Piano Bar when it wasn't too crowded.

They are a couple of party nights. The one we attended, the Caribbean Beach Party, was crowded into the Lido Deck, which offers very little dance area Between the pool and the stage. There was not enough room for everyone who wanted to join the dances. It would have been fun had there been room to move. We knew not to bother attending the others because of the over crowding. Unfortunately we encountered the same problem in the Spirit Atrium, where once again there was not enough room for the dances especially when they had the 'dance lessons'.

The Atrium.

Bean Bag Toss in the Atrium - and they wanted to run dance classes in this little space too!

We are glad we went on the cruise. I only wished we had known that the the Carnival Spirit is not the one we should have gone on. I found it impossible to get any information about the on board activities and theme nights before we set sail. The music, trivia, activities and such, I feel were aimed at people under 35, both singles and families.

I guess you can say that cruising is not our thing. We will stick with the wide open spaces of Australia that a motorhome or caravan gives us. We can come and go as we please and still get the ports and activities that we like and even stay longer than a day if we so desire. When we are too old to drive a motorhome safely, then we might very well try cruising again!


  1. WOW the ship looks much more lavish than the P&O ships we went on Both the P&O The jewel and The Pearl. One cruise was 9 day the other was 12 days. still had a great time but just feel the need to get on the road.
    Cheers Sharlet and Dean Or Fester.

    1. It was a very lavish decor. I do agree with you that the desire to hit the road was strong. The ability to come and go as the will takes you is the ultimate freedom.


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