When the Carnival Spirit cruise ship sails into Sydney Heads today, winding up a 16-night voyage from Hawaii, its contingent of Australian passengers will be visible. Many will be on the vessel’s top decks, drinks raised, leading a welcome-to- Australia party. “The Aussies are ready,” says the senior vice-president of guest operations for Carnival, Mark Tamis. “They’re going to bring the ship in for us.”. Carnival, the world’s biggest cruise company, has spent $US7 million ($6.9 million) stripping the vessel of American apparel to fit with the needs of Australian passengers, including installing Australian power points and switching the on-board currency to our dollar. The changes extend to the drinks menu. VB, New and Carlton Draught is on tap, bottles of Pure Blonde and Crownies are in fridges. The “sav blanc” is from Marlborough, the “cab sav” from McLaren Vale. Advertisement Fat Jimmy’s, a barbecue on the ship’s highest deck, is tipped to be the hot spot on board this summer. Here, passengers can order slow-cooked pulled pork, smoky chicken breast or Black Angus beef sausages, with salads, jacket potatoes and onion rings. A few steps up – literally and gastronomically – is the Spirit’s Nouveau Steakhouse, the only restaurant on board that attracts a surcharge ($35 for four courses). The steakhouse is worth every cent: prime cuts are wheeled to your table prior to cooking, seafood options include lobster tail and ahi tuna tartare, and service is excellent. Another change is the launch of theme nights. Beyond the usual fancy dress parties that are held on cruises, Spirit staff start the fun at dinner. Meals and drinks match the theme, and waiters break into choreographed dance moves. Then the party moves to the pool deck, with live music, themed cocktails, games and giveaways. Breakfast aboard Carnival Spirit. Interestingly, when Carnival asked its Australian Facebook fans to vote on favourite themes, locals expressed the same preferences as American passengers: Mexican fiesta and Caribbean beach party. Pack your sombrero and practise your reggae moves; these party styles are set to be held on every cruise. Spirit’s most advertised attraction, Green Thunder, is billed as the world’s steepest waterslide at sea. It lives up to the hype. The almost vertical drop induces shock and awe in equal measure.
Best spots on board
Head for the ship’s Serenity adults-only retreat before everyone else works out where it is. Just before sunset is another ideal time to curl up on a cabana or have a spa at Serenity. Plus, Serenity’s outdoor bar is open later than most (until 3am or 4am, if people are still buying). At breakfast, fresh omelets are also available at La Playa Grille buffet’s back counter – where the queue is shorter. For lunch, be pampered by waiters in the Empire Restaurant (12-1.30pm). At dinner, choose “any time” seating or help yourself at La Playa Grille. The Green Thunder waterslide is busy between 11am-3pm, or try it on port days, when most people are on land.
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