I recently had the chance to sail Carnival Spirit when it arrived in North America. Previously the ship had been sailing in Australia for the past 10 years, so it always seemed out of reach.
In early 2022, Carnival announced it would be shifting some ships out of Australia for the summer season and moving them to Alaska. Part of that redeployment brought Carnival Spirit to Jacksonville, Florida for several weeks before going to Alaska.
Since I live so close to the port, I decided it was time to board the ship for a short Bahamas cruise.
For context, Carnival Spirit is the flagship of Carnival’s Spirit class, and debuted in 2001. Ships that followed were Carnival Pride, Carnival Legend, and Carnival Miracle.
Here are my first impressions of Carnival Spirit.
1. Unique Layout
The ship is a departure from the eight Fantasy-class ships that were launched in the 90s and the Conquest-class ships that started entering service in the early 2000s. All the action happens down on decks one, two, and three on this ship, and then on the Lido Deck.
On most every Carnival vessel, the promenade is one deck that goes from the front to the back of the ship. Ships in this class have two promenades that run the length of the vessel, making it easy to bypass the casino if you’re sensitive to smoke.
2. Never Seemed Crowded
The guest-to-space ratio on Carnival Spirit is very high. The Spirit-class has the most footage in this ratio in the Carnival fleet, which is 40 cubic feet.
(Note: Guest to space ratio is found by taking the gross registered tonnage of the ship and dividing it by the number of guests the ship carries.)
This made it perfect for doing things around the ship without worrying about hundreds of other people being in the same area.
3. Secret Hallway
Located on deck three forward is a secret hallway called The Jungle. This space wraps around the outer walls of the main show lounge and is perfect for enjoying some peace and quiet on the ship. It is themed with greenery and jungle animals and has dozens of tables and chairs to read, work, or gaze out at the horizon. A lot of people don’t know about this space and if you’re not looking for it, you may never find it. The first time I saw it, I thought it was a crew hallway.
4. Three Main Lido Swimming Pools
Up on deck nine, you’ll find three main swimming pools. Two of them are located midship by Guy’s Burger Joint and the poolside bars, the other is located on the aft end. The aft one is for adults only but if you have little ones, you shouldn’t have a problem finding space in one of the two family pools.
One of main lido pools is covered, which makes it perfect for chilly or rainy weather. As a bonus, the Dive In Movies is part of the covered area, so even if it’s pouring rain you can still watch the movie without having to seek shelter under deck 10.
5. Great Observation Areas
It didn’t take long to notice there was no shortage of spots to watch sail away on Carnival Spirit. The place that I spent the most time was on deck nine above the navigational bridge. This space is accessible by walking on the lido deck and going all the way forward on either the port or starboard side. There’s an opening at the very front that gives you the same views (if not better) that the team on the bridge on the deck below you has.
Another spot, aside from your typical looking over the railing, is one of the observation points between the two swimming pools. There is a staircase to climb up and be level with the satellite receiver. Or if you want to go even higher, there is a deck at the funnel of the ship that wraps around. This space is really cool if you’re going under a bridge because you think you’re about to hit the bridge. It’s a really cool photo spot.
6. Connecting with the Water
I was drawn to deck three on Carnival Spirit. This is the deck where not only the lifeboats are, but also a promenade that wraps almost the entire ship. I say almost, because when the track circles the front of the ship, you are diverted inside in The Jungle and then head back outside again. What was really cool is that you are able to walk to the very back of the ship and be really close to the water.
The aft dining room butts up against windows that look straight down into the water on other ships. On deck three on the Spirit, there’s a walking track outside.
7. Adults Rule the Aft
The adults-only Serenity area takes up the aft end of Carnival Spirit, which gives a lot of real estate not only to sun lovers, but also to shade seekers. You will find about a dozen clamshells lining the perimeter of the space (also a perfect space for a sail away with windy weather).
There’s also a Serenity pool, hot tubs, a giant Serenity bar, and a coffee shop on the back deck. If there is one downside to the space, it’s that the slides are right above you. However, it really isn’t that bad because the Green Thunder drop slide is enclosed so you can’t really hear people screaming with excitement as they fly down the flume.
8. Fun Waterslides
During a previous refurbishment, the Green Thunder waterslide was installed. This drop slide is located on deck 11. You enter the slide and wait until the bottom floor drops out (usually you have no clue when). Along with the Green Thunder, there’s also a twisting slide and a kid’s splash zone.
This was a slide that people of all ages were going on again and again.
9. Hot Tub in the Gym
Something we only see on this class of ships is the hot tub that’s located in the gym. Aside from the sauna and steam rooms in each locker room dedicated to men and women, there is a co-ed hot tub on the second level of the gym. On other ships, you’d need to purchase a spa pass in order to access a whirlpool like this. On Carnival Spirit, it remains complimentary to any guest.
10. Steakhouse in the Funnel
If you ever thought it’d be cool to dine inside the big red funnel of a Carnival Cruise Line ship, this is your chance.
The two-deck steakhouse is located at the very top of the ship, inside of the funnel — literally. You are dining inside the translucent smokestack of the ship.
This is one of the largest steakhouses in the fleet with plenty of window views on both levels. As of May 2022, the cost to dine at a Carnival steakhouse is $42 per guest.
11. Slow Wi-Fi
This is by far my favorite class of ship in the Carnival fleet. But it wasn’t all perfect. The Wi-Fi on board was the worst I’ve experienced since the rollout of onboard internet over a decade ago. This makes it an issue for someone who wants to work from their cruise.
It’s also concerning that Carnival is increasing the price of two of its internet packages onboard. Let’s hope they invest some of those extra dollars into bandwidth and equipment to make the internet actually work. It was so slow on my Bahamas cruise that I wasn’t able to even load the SpeedTest website to see exactly how slow it was.