weekend sampler

Carnival Cruise’s weekend sampler review

We went on a cruise! After all these years of hearing about how wonderful cruising is, we finally did it. The Spark and I sailed from Sydney to Melbourne on a weekend sampler, a two day cruise designed to give you a taste of life on the high seas.

The strangest thing happened. All the things that I expected to hate, I loved, and all the things that I was looking forward to were average.

We had an el cheapo room on the bottom, inside row of the ship. The cave-like darkness and gentle rocking of the ship meant I slept like a drunk baby.

The tequila bar made exemplary cocktails – notably the savoury bitterness of the Paloma – which made the mini-golf on the top of the ship even more giggly and competitive.

I expected to be freaked out by the open ocean, but nope. I loved it. It’s so relaxing looking out at all that blue, with the sun and the breeze on your face. The Carnival Spirit has many deck chairs and cute little cane ‘pod’ chairs facing the water so you can lob up with your book and spend the day somewhat horizontal.

The best meal onboard was a special event American-style BBQ that was served on the upper deck. Mac ‘n’ cheese, potato salad, homestyle slaw, and spice rubbed slow cooked meat and sausage links combined to make this meal especially memorable and cholesterol-laden.

Everything else? It was OK. The breakfast and lunch buffet options were fine. The included beverages were passable. The meals in the main dining room? Similar to being at a $20K wedding at the local Leagues Club. The wine list was overpriced – Dan Murphy would blush at the prices.

The service was delightful, if a little too well-rehearsed. The staff put on a corny show during dinner that made me feel like I was a dementia patient in a nursing home activity room.

I had the worst Mai Tai of my life in the Sport’s Bar/casino. It was the colour of post-Berocca urine and tasted like a chemist’s own brand of pineapple cough syrup.

The shows were lame. The live music was competent but played with as much soul as you would expect from a cover band playing the same set list, night after night, to drunk bogans.

The pools were petite and populous. The movies on the deck were kid-friendly and cheerful, except it was hard to jag a seat, and it was raining on the first night (the theatre areas are open air).

Despite being bombarded with entertainment options, the things I liked the look of, cost extra (the day spa and the Soul Play art space), and the free stuff was overrun or scheduled at ‘adult’ hours, meaning The Spark and I were already asleep because we keep tradie/toddler hours.

Would I go on a cruise again? No, not on a weekend sampler.

I enjoyed the sleep. It was a huge novelty to be onboard a whopping great ship and experience check-in and disembarkation. The tequila cocktails were glorious but I’m an exhausted middle-aged woman so I’m not looking to get crazy and toss my size 18 K-Mart underpants at a cover band.

Have you been on a Carnival Cruise weekend sampler? What did you think?

If you enjoyed this post, check out this funny story by my friend Genevieve Frew.

This trip was self-funded and I feel a bit bad for critiquing Carnival as they just donated $350K to the bushfire relief effort which is impressive and very kind. 

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