Lately there’s been whispers of a new cruise terminal to be built right here in Newcastle, meaning Novocastrians won’t have to trek down to Sydney to sail away to exotic locations on a cruise line. To find out what locals could expect from a cruising holiday, our contributor Dan hit the high seas aboard the Carnival Spirit, here’s what he had to say.
Let me begin by saying that I never thought of myself as a ‘cruising’ type of person. Before I boarded the Carnival Spirit in Sydney on 2nd of March, with my wife, to celebrate 10 years of marriage, I thought cruising was exclusively for retirees and those looking to pick up. I was wrong. While I did notice a few retirees and a couple of young people ‘looking for love’ I was surprised to find that cruising seemed to be for everyone. From families, to young couples to tragic romantics like myself; everyone onboard seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.
The service I received on board was ‘next level’. From the room stewards and bar staff to the dining room waiters and the pool attendants, everyone was at the top of their game. To be honest it’s a level of service I haven’t received on dry land in many years.
While there are now several cruise ships stopping here in Newcastle, once I was on board the Spirit, I couldn’t help but thinking how good a dedicated cruise terminal would be for our local tourism industry. Not only would it give Novocastrians more opportunity to take a cruise for their holiday, we’d be more likely to take advantage of last minute specials and whet our appetites for cruising by viewing the different ships while they were in port. A dedicated cruise terminal would also give those arriving in our city the opportunity to experience our vibrant night life, arts culture and take day trips to our worldclass Hunter Valley wine country.
Rather than bore you with paragraphs describing how amazing I now think a cruise holiday is and flying the flag for a dedicated cruise terminal in the harbour, I’ve decided to break it down into bite size pieces.
Having a meal in the main dining room gives you a chance to have a napkin carefully placed on your lap and be waited on hand and foot. Before we booked we noticed some reviews mentioned the food on cruise ships was often served cold or luke-warm, we never found this to be the case. We thought the food was interesting, plentiful and varied. We told our waiter what we liked and often took his recommendation on what to order from the extensive menu. The Carnival Spirit has the C-Side BBQ with pulled pork sandwiches and American-style salads and chicken. It was hands down our favourite place to eat during the day. I should also note that there was 24-hour pizza and soft serve ice cream. If you’ve got kids, this is a total winner.
On the night of our anniversary, my wife and I had dinner in Carnival’s ‘fine dining’ restaurant – Nouveau. Carnival bill this restaurant as being a six star experience – they’re right. Enjoying a fine dining experience is always on the top of our holiday ‘wish list’, and we were blown away by the dining experience offered to us at Nouveau. For an additional cost of $30 for lunch or $40 for an evening experience, Nouveau is one of the best dining experiences we have ever had.
All food except for Nouveau restaurant was included in the price of our ticket.
DAY TIME FUN
Trivia, water slides, bingo, pools, spas, karaoke, arcade games, towel folding & dance classes. If you’re looking for something to do during the day besides lounging around and dipping into the pools, then there’s something for everyone.
We LOVE live music and would have like to have seen a little more of it during the day. In saying that though, I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of live entertainment on offer when it hit the various stages around the ship in the late afternoons. From solo artists on acoustic guitars in the bars to big band shows in the lounges, most of the live entertainment was extremely good.
I must make mention of the band on our cruise called Music Manilla; I don’t think I’ve seen a band work harder than these guys and they seemed to play everyone’s favourite song. Their show on the Lido stage (on one of the outside decks) was a highlight of the trip.
A few times watching the production shows on offer in the main theatre, I had to remind myself we were on a cruise ship and not at the a theatre in the city. The staging, set design, sining and dancing were all brilliant. There was an amazing illusion show, a musical tribute to New Orleans and several big band shows.
I want to especially mention one of the singers in the production show – Justine, who sang the hell out of the song ‘Queen Of The Night’ as part of the New Orleans’ show; What a voice, she is absolutely worldclass.
We saw a lot of the comedy shows and were really surprised with how good the comedians were. Anil Desai, Lenny Schmidt and Simon Palomares were extremely entertaining with material that was both side-splittingly funny and clever. They offered both family-friendly comedy shows and adults only sessions in their purpose-built, Punchliner Comedy Club.
The price of the drinks were very affordable. Cocktails priced between $10 to $12 and beer and spirits at normal pub prices. We read reviews before we left saying the drinks were often “watered down” on cruise ships and that branded alcohol was substituted. We never found this to be true. I love a drink, and all the beverages I consumed on the Spirit were full-flavoured and the real deal.
Were to start. There are so many options when it comes to relaxing. We were big fans of the adults only Serenity area that had easy access to the bar, not that you need to leave your seat as waiters walking around are happy to take your order. Relaxing in specially designed pods and deck chairs was a popular choice for us, and even sitting in one of the comfy chairs inside watching the water go by was awesome. Cruising is just so relaxing.
We’re saving for a big Asian adventure at the moment, so we just went for an interior cabin on deck 1; the budget option. We loved it. It was everything you needed and we never felt treated differently by the staff because we had gone for the budget option. The cabin was extremely clean, practically appointed and bright. There were a few marks on the walls and another power point would have been nice (we bought a new power board that we left in its packaging and had no problem getting it approved for use) but they’re only minor things, and we wouldn’t hesitate in booking another interior room for our next cursing holiday. Our room steward Lindon was like a ninja – bed made and towel animals hung in the blink of an eye.
I booked a manscaping package in the spa. I’d never experienced such a thing before, but my wife insisted, so I obliged. It included a haircut, shave, facial and neck massage for about $100. It was magic. Pro tip: check out the daily specials when it comes to the Spa.
Lots of duty-free alcohol and cigarettes, perfume, jewellery and watches are on offer aboard the ship (they deliver the grog to your room the night before you leave). A great selection of merchandise and some discounted surf wear was also available. We would have liked to see some electronics in the shops, there were a few cameras including moderately discounted GoPros but that was about it. In saying that though, we weren’t on holiday to shop and what was on offer was perfectly adequate.
We visited several ports in New Caledonia including Mare, Isle Of Pines and Noumea. I don’t want to focus too much on the ports in this review because there are numerous destinations you can visit on cruise ships both domestic and international. Although I would like to say that the people of the Pacific are as beautiful as the scenery, and we found Noumea (often referred to as a dump) to be a thriving port city with bustling markets, street art, buskers and delicious French-style food.
The Carnival Spirit (The ship Dan traveled on) is heading to dry dock later this year for a multi million dollar refurbishment that will see a few amenities change and dining options added. You can find more information about Carnival Cruises by visiting their site http://www.carnival.com.au/
The next cruise ship to make its way into our harbour will be Rhapsody of the Seas. It will arrive around 7 am on the 7th of April. For a full list of cruise ships coming into the harbour you can visit this webpage – http://www.portofnewcastle.com.au/Commercial-Opportunities/Cruise/Cruise-Schedule-2014-15.aspx
You can read what Will Creedon had to say about a Newcastle Harbour cruise terminal in the Newcastle Herald here – http://www.theherald.com.au/story/2824126/its-time-our-boat-came-in/
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