Friday, June 7, 2013

Carnival Spirit - May 2013, Day 12 It's All Over

 Our bags are almost packed :-( Unlike our other cruises on the Dawn and Jewel on the Spirit you take your own luggage off the ship - self assist. This worked fine. We did notice some people leave their bags out on the last night which seemed mainly for people who had organised their transfers through Carnival but if you were doing your own thing they requested that you take your own bags off the ship and not leave them outside your cabin. A couple of days previous we received a form to fill in advising what our debark plans were. We chose the latest time as we weren't in a great hurry to leave. Then on the last sea day we received our debark notice advising what time we would be leaving the Spirit - it was about 9am. Another sad face :-(
Back at the Overseas Passenger Terminal - 6.30am arrival

Not many people about at this hour of the morning, especially when it's still so dark

Looking to the rear of the ship (aft)
We had an amazing time onboard the Carnival Spirit and just couldn't believe that it was already over - where did the days go??? We had planned on being up a bit earlier to see us sail through the heads but it was SOOO dark and SOOO early. By the time I woke up and rang the other cabin we were almost docked! Apparently Mr 6 lifted his head, said he was still tired and promptly fell back to sleep! One of the, many, great things about cruising is that we had no worries about leaving him in the cabin while we all went upstairs - I don't think he even realised we'd gone!

We did notice that the beverage station had run out of hot chocolate and only a few of them still had coffee - a little bit disappointing as we were still on holidays! Not sure why they would run out or decide to clean them before we had all disembarked especially when our arrival time is so early - people need the coffee! Thankfully I did find a machine working properly - phew, crisis averted! There were a few other things running low, like Yoghurt - there was no strawberry left. I wonder what would have happened if we'd been running a day late like our last cruise on the Jewel??? Would they have had enough toilet paper to see us through??

Waiting in the Atrium for our debark number to be called

Booo - we're off. Our cabins were behind the middle tenders. Starboard side.

Circular Quay Train Station
We were catching the XPT back home and decided it would be much easier to catch a train from Circular Quay to Central than walk! Our train didn't leave until 11.40am so we had plenty of time. Once we got to Central we checked our luggage in and then headed back into town to find something for lunch on the train. The train does have a buffet, (which the kids loved) not quite like the Spirit though, but the choices aren't huge and they are a little pricey. We found a Coles and went all out with bread rolls and ham - we all missed the buffet!
Almost at Central, at least we didn't have our suitcases!

On the train and heading home - only 7 hours to go!

Lunch when you're not on a cruise ship!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Carnival Spirit - May 2013, Days 9, 10 & 11 Sea Days

The daily Funtimes you get each evening.
We're now on the return journey of our cruise, the last 4 days absolutely flew by! This morning began with a coffee and orange juice in the cabin, courtesy of Miss 13, while looking through the Funtimes and find out what's happening onboard today.
4117 in the Decorate Your Door Competition

Decorate your door competition - judging is on the last sea day. This is the artisitc creation of miss 13 and myself, so clever! I'll let you know later if we were a winner or not! (the suspense, I know)
Breakfast time - let's go already!

Waiting in the corridor ready to head upstairs to the buffet for breakfast. Where's your cruise card mr 6? The kids did have a habit of leaving their cards in the cabin, especially when they were getting changed in or out of their swimmers. There were also a few times when they'd finish swimming and they'd zoomed off to the cabin to get changed only to realise they'd left their cards with us back on deck 9 (we're on deck 4 remember - although I have a feeling they used the lift more often than not)

Lido Deck - Towel Bar

There is a Towel Bar up on the Lido Deck where you collect the sports equipment from like basketballs, putt putt gear etc plus you can also exchange your wet towel for a nice dry one. You are told that you must have one towel per person in each room if you have any more (or you misplace yours) you will get charged for them.
Lunchtime - toasted sandwiches
 In the background of the above photo you can see a lot of people looking at something. This was on the Lido Deck near the stage - ice carving was happening!
or pizza!
Lido Deck stage area - retractable roof
On stage during the day was one of 2 DJ's, they were ok. This area was also where they played a lot of games. Currently people are practising the chicken tosing! A few chickens did get caught up on the roof on numerous occasions.

Relaxing on the Lido Deck

Celebrating a birthday! (only a couple of months early!)
We spent a lot of time up on the Lido - it is such a great place to sit and the pool area is fantastic!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Carnival Spirit - May 2013, Day 8 Port Vila, Vanuatu

This is the Pilot boat - he helps our captain not crash :-)
Vila - we love Vila! This is my 4th visit and my sisters 3rd! All by cruise ship. Seeing as you're only at each port for the day, generally 8hrs, we haven't really spent that long in Vila so it certainly doesn't worry us coming back on each of our cruises! This time we had decided to go to Erakor Island as recommended by a friend of my sisters. After googling and trying to work out where it was and how far away it was we felt we'd be fine once at Vila to find a driver to take us there. (and to not be overcharged!). It took us a couple of tries but we finally found someone who understood what we wanted to do and not tell us what we should do! Be firm but friendly.

Being able to walk off the ship makes it a lot faster to disembark than when you have to catch a tender. Over breakfast we worked out our game plan, head to Erakor (after finding a driver) after Erakor go into town for a bit of shopping (Mr 11 was after some Nikes!) and then back to the markets near the ship - our day was sorted! It was hot so we made sure we had some water with us and plenty of sunscreen and just be warned, the drivers always say they have airconditioning. Some have real airconditioning and some have Vanuatu airconditioning - a window!
The Carnival Spirit checking out the markets!

Off the ship and heading towards the markets
After you get off the ship you head out the gates into the markets. On previous visits the taxis and buses were all lined up along the road here but this time they weren't allowed into the market area and were waiting at the end. Possibly it was a safety reason but it just meant we had to walk further to find a driver! (it was hot remember, very hot). After finally negotiating a price we were on our way. Our driver was to drop us off at the wharf to get to Erakor Island and then pick us up 3hours later to take us into Vila. We don't pay until the end just to ensure they come back and get us! (He did)
On the boat heading for Erakor Island

Erakor Island - here we come!

Erakor Island - this side is very sheltered

Kids playground - this is the otherside of the island (the island's only about 100m wide)

Ordering lunch!

Erakor Island is only about 5-10minutes drive from the ship and then a 5min boat trip across to the island. It's only small but it was lovely and so peaceful. One thing with a cruise is that generally wherever you go there are always going to be hundreds of other people there as well so this was a nice change. I think there was only couple of people from our cruise there. Are, the serenity! To get across to Erakor you do have to pay (the kids were free) but then you can use that to pay for things on the island. We hired some snorkle gear and also got some food and drink as we wouldn't get back to the ship until well after lunch (shock horror!). We did spend a bit more than what our voucher was for as we'd done the exchange rate a bit wrong but it was only a few extra dollars. I think we paid about $40 for the 6 of us to catch the boat across and back. We could have stayed all day but we did have other things to do - Nike shopping for one! The snorkling wasn't quite as good as Hideaway Island (we went there on our 2nd cruise on the Dawn) but there were still plenty of fish and starfish to see. The starfish were everywhere! We all agreed it was a lovely place to visit and Mr 6 even went so far as to say it was his favourite island of the cruise!

Back in the airconditioned van heading for Vila

The Carnival Spirit (in the distance) and someone's finger!

Our driver was waiting for us when we left Erakor (phew) so into Vila we went. As you can see and hear by the video below our van had 'Vanuatu' airconditioning and it's not the newest of models! 

We had thought our driver was going to drop us in town and then pick us up an hour later but he had other ideas. He did drop us in town (in the middle of the street) but he wasn't going to take us back to the ship, we had to find another van to do that. We paid him $30 ($5pp) so it wasn't too bad and there are plenty of taxi's and van's in Vila offering to take you back to the ship! Off Nike hunting we went! Vila is hot and humid and the people there don't seem to like to use deodorant - you have been warned!
After a success shopping trip we head back to the ship. The markets are stilling going so we have one last look just in case we missed something the first time! The kids wanted to buy a few things, like bows and sling shots, so we'd thought it would be better to get them now than this morning - saved us having to carry them around all day. These get taken off you when you reboard the ship and you collect them on the morning of debarkation - it's because they are classed as weapons. You do have to declare these so customs can check and make sure they're ok to bring back to Australia. All the ones we had were fine. We also had some beer holders that we bought at Mystery Island which were made from reed, customs also checked these - they made it through too. Time to get back on our ship - final boarding is 4.30pm with sailaway due at 5pm.

We all went back to our cabins to drop of our purchases and a quick shower and then back up top to watch us sail out.
Cheers Port Vila - we WILL be back!
We didn't need to rush as it turned out. There was a medical emergency with one of the passengers who had to be taken off the ship. We did watch them leave and at least they were waving as they were stretchered off and loaded onto the waiting ambulance. Bit of a disappointing end to their cruise though! We left Port Vila at 6pm. Seeing as we were now heading back to Sydney I don't think it made too much of a difference to our schedule.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Carnival Spirit - May 2013, Day 7 Mystery Island

We were excited to be going to Mystery Island as we'd never been here before and we had heard it was gorgeous. It certainly is gorgeous - we definitely would love to come back here again (and again). This is another tender port and everything was running smoothly today. If you weren't ready to get on a tender then don't get your tender ticket yet because as soon as you get your ticket your called to go downstairs to get onboard, no waiting around today.

The view from our cabin as they were using our tender again! Mystery Island is on the right.
As we hadn't been here before we didn't know which island Mystery Island was (it was a mystery!). There is a large island and then a much, much smaller island which turned out to be Mystery Island. No-one lives on this island, it is tiny, but the people from the larger island (I'll have to find the name of it) come over and set up some markets for us cruisers.

We decided to be a bit fancy today so went to the Empire Dining Room for breakfast - we all preferred the buffet. The food was fine, well except for Mr 6's boiled eggs - they were hard, very hard but the waiter went and got some poached eggs and they were cooked just right! We did find the service was a bit slow. We're not sure if it's because we weren't regulars or if it's always like that. My mum and sister had to wait about 15mins to get hot water for the tea bags. We got the coffee and tea bags quite quickly so we're not sure why the hot water took so long. I also found the coffee wasn't as nice as the buffet coffee. Nevermind. We didn't have to cook or clean so it's always going to be better than doing it yourself! We didn't go back to the Empire for breakfast. We decided it was much better for dinner.

Up to the Lido to get our tender tickets and off we went, woohoo!

A quick 5 minute trip and we were at the absolutely beautiful Mystery Island! The water is so clear with a lot of fish swimming around the wharf. Like all stops you always get your photo taken by the Carnival photographers, this was the only photo we bought. It just typified our cruise, sun, sea, sand and smiles! The photos were $20ea.
Off to find a nice spot on the sand and dive into the gorgeous water. We didn't have any snorkel gear with us (next time) just goggles but these did us fine. The water was a little chilly at first but it didn't take long to warm up and enjoy being in the south pacific.
What's not to love.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Carnival Spirit - May 2013, Day 6 Noumea, New Caledonia

We arrived in Noumea right on time - 8am. Carnival Spirit is a fairly large ship so it is unable to dock at the main cruise terminal like the PO ships do so this meant we were docked at the container terminal. It isn't far from the main terminal it just means that you have to catch a shuttle bus when you get off the ship over to the main terminal. They do not allow you to walk around the contain terminal for safety reasons. It's only a few minutes drive away but it's not as convenient as being able to just walk on and off the ship as we have been able to do on previous visits on the Dawn and Jewel.
You can just see the containers out the window - we're docked and we're fueling up for the day! Seeing as the bus drops us off at the main cruise terminal we thought we might as well check out the markets. These are found upstairs in the cruise terminal although they aren't that cheap, actually nothing in Noumea is cheap!
These are the markets upstairs at the main cruise terminal. As you can see, even though we docked at the container terminal, our ship isn't very far away!
A few small purchases were made and then we made our way back downstairs to see about changing some money and getting tickets for the hop on/hop off bus. I only wanted to exchange $20 as we were only planning on going to the supermarket but the minimum amount was $50. After getting our French Pacific Francs we walked outside to where all the buses and touk touk trains were and just waited for one of the many tour operators to come up to us - it didn't take long. We opted for the $5 hop on/hop off bus. The whole journey takes about 1 hour in total and there are about 7 stops along the way. We got off at the 2nd last stop (out the front of Maccas - we didn't go in) so then we could do a bit of sightseeing on foot.

There are markets on near the marina, this is also one of the stops for the hop on/hop off bus, so we checked those out. I bought a wooden ring for $4, it has painted flowers on it but they are gradually wearing off! After the markets we walked through the centre of town popping into a few shops here and there but as mentioned nothing is cheap in Noumea. After doing a big (not on purpose) loop of the town we headed for the supermarket. This is just across the road from the main cruise terminal. We stocked up on a few nibblies and drinks and $50 later we were done! We met a family from our cruise who were a bit frustrated that the locals spoke French and very little English - hello, we are in their country! People are funny.

Almost time for lunch! Now where's that shuttle bus!!
Mexican - yum!
After lunch we decided not to bother getting off the ship again - we have been to Noumea before and seeing as we hadn't booked any tours we would just be looking at the same things again. So what should we do? Putt Putt of course!

and then a bit of football throwing
The top sports deck (deck 11) is such a great use of space. There's the putt putt that goes around the sides and front of the deck and in the middle of this is the basketball court, also used for football throwing. Then down one level there are table tennis tables.