Our family of four took our first cruise on Jan 28, 2011 for 9-days aboard the Carnival Spirit. We traveled to the Mexican Riviera, which was the first time to Mexico for all of us. We are newbies, that have decided we like cruising, I hope you find the following posts helpful. Cheers!
I have been taking my oldest to tea since she was 18 months old. It’s how we roll around here. We enjoy tea, tea time and tea delicacies. I was very pleased to find out that on sea days Carnival has afternoon tea.
We caught it right on time, but should have arrived earlier as we nearly didn’t find a place to sit. The tables for tea were teeny, tiny. Luckily, my girls are accustomed to the settings and no accidents occurred.
The tea was packet tea served out of a pretty wooden box, inlaid with fabric. We selected our herbal teas and they poured the hot water. We did ask for honey, as that’s how we take our tea. They had a few folks walking around pushing trolleys with finger sandwiches, macaroons, apple tarts, cake bites, other sweet treats, and fresh strawberries.
The apple tart was delicious, as were the few strawberries they were reluctant to serve us. The macaroons and other treats were almost too sweet. Overall, we enjoyed our little girl time in the Artist’s Lounge while we let my hubby have a nap.
Empire Dining Room:
This was where we had a specified table each night and the same waiters. We sat at a table of 14.
We selected the early seating time of 6pm, as that was pretty near to when we eat dinner at home. The Empire Dining Room also offers open seating for breakfast. We had our first breakfast onboard at the restaurant. It was nice to have the service, but we spent the rest of our breakfasts up on the Lido deck buffet. There was a broad selection that we could quickly pick up for ourselves, without waiting. We also could take it back to our room, if the girls were still sleeping, or on my way back from the gym. Room service didn’t provide hot breakfasts, just cereals, pastries, etc.
Overall, for dinner there were a few dishes that were decent. Some things were disappointing. But we recognized that Carnival was not a ship focused on providing that extra oomph for foodies. They are focused on the masses, and the massive masses aren’t all that particular about their food.
Note: they have a kids menu - but we only ordered off it one of the last nights of the trip, because the kids menu is all that crap they have everywhere - chicken nuggets, fries, pizza, etc... I found that I could order off the main menu and the girls did just fine. They are used to us exposing them to a variety of food - and I believe it is my responsibility to cultivate their palates. Sometimes there were starter sizes for the entrees so I didn’t feel like we were being completely wasteful.
The Lido Deck buffet worked well for lunches. Each day they had a “taste of nations” station. For folks that are not adventurous, and inexperienced when it comes to enjoying good food - the Lido Deck affords them a chance to try a variety of food. For those of us that are more accustomed to enjoying fresh ingredients, the fare is a little lacking. There were moments where a dish here or there was decent, but there wasn’t anything particularly memorable.
Options that were decent included the sandwich station. My husband enjoyed the corned beef sandwiches, and I am always keen on tuna sandwiches. They had a pizzeria that served decent pizza. There was also a grill where they had hamburgers, hot dogs, which I heard were okay.
I also made sure to get fresh fruit for our meals and there was a wealth of cantaloupe, honey dew, pineapple and watermelon.
There’s a 30.00 per person fee to eat at the steakhouse. The fare is supposed to be a step-up from the all inclusive food provided on the ship. The restaurant is more elegant and intimate, and reservations are required.
It didn’t seem like many people chose to dine there, as it never felt crowded. The ambiance was nice. The food was better than the main dining room. My husband and I were hoping to be blown away by unique flavors, but everything, while good, wasn’t anything we hadn’t had before.
I suppose the key here is, if you are a foodie, Carnival probably isn’t the right cruise line for you if you want spectacular food. If you aren’t a big food person - go hog wild.
If dinner wasn’t to your liking, order the included room service. My daughters love room service whenever we travel, so they were tickled pink that they could get it every night if they desired. We discovered that room service’s chocolate cake was much better than the dining room’s molten chocolate cake, and you can get a big plate full of chips with any sandwich. We also loved their veggie strips, sliced bell peppers, carrots, zucchini, celery with bleu cheese. They also had a fruit bowl that we all enjoyed.
Be aware that sometimes it would take anywhere from 30min to an hour to get your order. I also made sure to get extra waters when we ordered to fill up our water bottles.
The ship had bars aplenty. You could purchase soda cards for the week, or day for unlimited sodas, juices, etc. We're not big soda drinkers, so this didn't make sense for us. My hubby would have a ginger ale a couple times on the ship and our girls and I might get a juice, or smoothie a couple nights at dinner, so it worked out.
There was also a small area where they sold coffee, pastries, cupcakes for a fee. I did also notice a sushi station onboard.
Overall, be grateful they have a gym onboard. It's quite easy to just spend every waking moment stuffing your face. I totally turned into a goldfish. It felt good to come home to a fridge empty of food, just to not feel full every moment.
I had no idea the dining would be this long.
ps. I am not being compensated in anyway to post about cruising. I like information, and am sharing information that I would want, if I were considering my first cruise.