The statistics will tell you that cruise ship holidays are on the rise year by year, 20% increase year on year growth from 2013 to 2015. More than one million Australians are now choosing to cruise when planning a holiday! The stats will tell you that Australia is now one of the biggest markets for the cruise ship industry. You may be thinking that this post was written by a mathematician, but never fear, I will leave the stats for later and jump straight to the two day cruise (the last leg from Brisbane to Sydney as part of Carnival Spirit’s return from the dry dock – cruise lingo for multi-million dollar upgrades, $44 million to be exact!) that Jen and I had the pleasure of going on.

Pre-boarding / Check-in

The check-in process to board a cruise ship compared with boarding a plane is easy! From the moment we arrived at the Multi-User Terminal at Grain Wharf, Port of Brisbane, we had our names marked off, grabbed our Carnival pass, a quick security check and we were aboard the ship.

If you’re the type of person who weighs your luggage five times the night before in fear of it being overweight, you’ll love that there is no baggage limit with cruising.

The Room

Our home for the two days was a Stateroom with Balcony on Level 5. All 17m2 of it was well designed to maximise the space, we even had a little lounge area!

Stateroom with Balcony
First impressions, clean with lots of natural light!

Sofa with a table and painting

Bathroom basin
Basin inside the cabin

Bonsai Sushi

We had lunch at Bonsai Sushi, one of the new restaurants built as part of the dry dock upgrade in Singapore. A small fee was required to dine there. For the price and quality, it was definitely worth every penny!

We ordered a few appetisers to get the taste buds going. We had the edamame beans, miso soup ($3), tuna and mango tartare ($5), waygu kakuni ($5) and sashimi ($2 per piece) to start. The service was efficient and the food hit the spot.

Edamame beans
Edamame beans
Miso soup
Miso soup (white miso soup, silken tofu, green onion, garnished with daikon and nori)
Tuna cake
Tuna and Mango tartare (tama miso sauce, tobiko and coriander)
Waygu buns at Bonsai Sushi
Wagyu kakuni (slow braised wagyu short rib, caramelised onion and teriyaki sauce on a steamed bun)
Sashimi at Bonsai Sushi
Sashimi of salmon, yellow fin tuna and hamachi (amberjack)

Next we had some divine sushi, Ship for 2 ($18), which as the name of the restaurant suggests is what they specialise in. Where else could you eat a boat on a ship? There was a great variety of sushi rolls and nigiri on offer, from salmon to tuna and chicken teriyaki. By this time we were completely satisfied and ready to explore other parts of the ship.

Sushi boat at Bonsai sushi
How cool is this? Eating a boat on a ship!

Red Frog Pub

What you’ll find when you are on a cruise is there’s a vast number of restaurants, bars, snack bars, cafes available to choose from. We stopped by the Red Frog Pub, which is a Caribbean themed bar that serve their own specially brewed beer, Thirsty Frog Summer Ale! Throw in some plantain chips and I wasn’t going anywhere!

Did someone say beer? I think I've died and gone to heaven ;-)
Did someone say beer? I think I’ve died and gone to heaven 😉
Red Frog Pub
Specially brewed for Red Frog Pub, Thirsty Frog Summer Ale
Plantain chips at Red Frog Pub
Plantain chips

One of the best things about cruising is the amount of time you have to have a proper conversation, time to relax and unwind and also the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life.

Polaroid photo with people we met on the cruise
Polaroid photos of our travel companions

Before we set sail into the sunset from Brisbane, we spotted a pair of dolphins swimming close to the ship. After a mad dash to get the camera, this was the end result… those with eagles eyes may be able to spot the dolphins!

Sunset dolphin departing Brisbane
Dolphins over the horizon before departing Brisbane for Sydney

Alchemy Bar

Pre-dinner drinks was at Alchemy Bar, a swanky bar with a quirky science lab theme. While you can order a drink straight from the menu, the fun part about Alchemy Bar is to grab a seat at the bar, fill out a form which asks your preference in liquors (vodka, tequila, gin, rum, whiskey or cognac), fruits (passionfruit, orange, watermelon, ginger, mango, strawberry, raspberry or peach), savoury (rosemary, mint, elderflower, basil, lavender, cucumber, sage or thyme) and bitters (aromatic, orange, lemon, cherry, chocolate), and a mixologist will handcraft an elixir just for you!

We took this one step further and selected quite a bizarre combination which definitely gave the mixologists a challenge – thankfully they met the brief with a delicious cucumber whiskey cocktail.

The bar had a fun and vibrant atmosphere. Definitely a place to check out.

Alchemy Bar set up
Alchemy Bar – what’s your poison?!
Alchemy Bar Menu
What medicine do you need 🙂
Pick the drink to your liking at Alchemy Bar
Pick the drink to your liking…
Alchemy Bar mixologist
…and the mixologist will whip up a drink to suit your taste!
Alchemy Bar mixologist making cocktails
Did someone say fire?
Cocktails at The Pharmacy
Grab a cocktail or three!

Empire Restaurant

The most popular dinner option aboard Carnival Spirit is to dine at Empire Restaurant. The a la carte menu at Empire features two categories – an ‘every day’ menu which remains the same for the duration of the cruise, and the ‘today’ menu which changes every day. A ‘thumbs-up’ icon on the menu denotes a healthier choice, which are lower in calories, fat and sodium and is endorsed by Shannan Ponton of The Biggest Loser fame.

The Empire dining room was ginormous, spanning across two decks. Ceiling murals, extravagant chandeliers, gold finishes and marble columns made the room warm and inviting. I think the beauty with cruising is the variety of food that you get to try. There are no additional charges when dining at the Empire, it is silver service and the speed in which the restaurant of this size operates to cater for the masses still amazes me every time I cruise. 

I must also warn you that a loud dance performance by the staff breaks out towards the end of dinner. Be prepared to join in the madness!

Empire Restaurant on board the Carnival Spirit
Main dining room aboard the Carnival Spirit – Empire Restaurant
Empire Restaurant menu
You can choose from the every day menu or the daily special (or both!)
Entree at the Empire Restaurant
Starter – Scampi cocktail, salad of crayfish and vegetables served with louis dressing
Mains at the Empire Restaurant
Starter – Tagliatelle bolognese, meat sauce with parmesan shaving
Main at the Empire Restaurant
Mains – Filet mignon carnival, pomegranate mustard sabayon and double baked potatoes, peppered broccoli, candied carrot gratin
Mains at the Empire Restaurant
Mains – Osso buco, braised veal shank in red wine sauce with risotto, peppered broccoli
Creme Brulee at the Empire Restaurant
Dessert – cherry clafoutis with pistachio icecream
Dessert at the Empire Restaurant
Dessert – warm chocolate melting cake

Facilities / Activities 

There are plenty of things to do when you are on a cruise ship, every day you receive the daily guide which tells you all the activities, shows and the ins and outs for the day (there are over 45 activities to pick from daily!). There are cocktail making classes, movies by the pool and massages to name a few. 

Fitness and Wellbeing
Walking through the fitness and well-being centre to the gym

Jen and I decided to hit the gym on our last day at sea to burn off some of the extra calories we may have consumed the night before…

Gym inside the Carnival Spirit
Two level gym helps to burn off the cheeky snacks

Afterwards we went for a bit of a wander and found this!

Jen near the threatre Carnival Spirit
Where’s Jen? Looks like the mummy was shopping at the same store as her 😉

This is an absolute must-do on the Carnival Spirit! The Green Thunder water slide! Now I am the first to admit, I’ve seen the Carnival Spirit sailing in and out of Sydney many times before and I used to think to myself ‘that water slide is probably boring’… OK OK, I was definitely proven wrong…

Green Thunder waterslide
Green Thunder water slide… steepest water slide at sea!
A lot scarier than I thought it was...
A lot scarier than I first imagined…
Green Thunder on Carnival Spirit
Thumbs up just before the vertical drop
Green Thunder on Carnival Spirit
How fast can you go?
Green Thunder Carnival Spirit
Me? 5.38 seconds 🙂
Carnival Spirit Tail
A closer look at the ‘Tail’
Carnival Spirit rear
Looking at the back of the ship 

Want more food?

Pizza Pirate on Carnival Spirit
New pizza shop opens 24 hours
Buffet on board the Carnival Spirit
Buffet – a whole range of food to choose from and of course pies
Taco machine on the Carnival Spirit
Machine making tacos from scratch!
Taco dressing and toppings
You can choose your own taco toppings and sauces
Taco on Carnival Spirit
Not a bad way to start the day with taco breakfast 🙂

Guys Burger Joint on Carnival Spirit

Another new addition as part of the dry dock upgrade is the addition of Guy’s Burger joint. This is a chain created by Californian chef Guy Fieri, who has a line of successful restaurants in America.

Guy's Burger Joint - The Ringer
Chilius Maximus Burger – Rijo Ring (Cripsy spicy onion ring), S.M.C (Super Melty Cheese), the donkey (Jacked up secret sauce) and topped off with chili

Day 2 lunch at Guy's Burger Joint

The Chef’s Table

On the second and last night before we arrived back in Sydney, we enjoyed a private dining experience called The Chef’s Table. Before we get onto the food, we were first taken on a tour of the main galley inside the Empire Restaurant. 

Daily menu on the Empire Restaurant onboard the Carnival Spirit
Photos of the daily menu as part of the tour of the galley

We sipped on Champagne and were given a few canapes to open up the palate. It was fun to see the chefs experiment with molecular gastronomy techniques and bring this experience to the masses.

Canapes inside the main galley of Empire Restaurant
It looked like an egg yolk but tasted like mango. Mango Sphere, Rosemary Biscuit
Canapes
Salmon Tartar Cornets, Sesame Seeds
Canapes
Beef Carpaccio on Air Pillow, Chocolate Bacon, Apple Ribbons
Canapes
Double Cooked Lamb, Tapioca

What fascinated me during the galley tour was the ordering system. Here you can see the log of the ordering system,  this allows the chefs to see the most popular dishes ordered for the night so they can adjust accordingly. The Braised Lamb Shank looks like a hit!

Order system
Display of the ordering system
Main galley
Spring rolls

We then moved to the night club which had been converted into a private dining table and in true Zen style, sat at the head of the table 🙂

Group photo at The Chef's Table

Entrees being prepared
Entrees being prepared
Sitting down at Chef's table dining experience
View from the head of the table 🙂

Onto the food. We were served a seven course degustation and needless to say, we were very satisfied by the end!

At just $75, the degustation which includes wines, is undeniably an affordable fine dining experience. Although there was a little too much going on in some dishes, it was mostly thoughtful in its showcase of culinary technique and the flavours and textures of key ingredients.

Bread to start
Bread to start
Course 1
Course 1: Beet Blanket, Spiced Grape Tea. Asparagus, Cauliflower, Honey Carrot Tian, Lambs Lettuce, Lemon Streusel
Course 2
Course 2: Blue Swimmer Crab Stack. Corn Custard, Polenta Cracker, Tangerine, Passion Fruit Caviar
Course 3
Course 3: Duck Textures. Creamy Quinoa, Parmesan Churros, Olive Snow, Port Wine Jus
Course 4
Course 4: Bisque Our Way. Two Tomatoes, Three Basil, Crisped Brioche, Garlic Chip
Course 5
Course 5: Barramundi, Chorizo Crust, Fried Popcorn Pudding, Lemon Macaron, Lobster Foam
Course 6
Course 6: Wagyu. Bone Marrow Souffle, Green Onion and Garlic Panisse, Gremolata Crisp.
Course 7
Course 7: Pastry Chef. Sea Salt Praline Chocolate, Raspberry Mojito, Sweet Lime Cake, Apricot Vanilla Gel, Citrus Cream

We arrived back at Sydney after two days and two nights. Lots of eating, lots of drinking and lots of fun! They say that the Carnival tagline is From Zen to Adrenalin. You know, after what I’ve been over the last two days I think there might be some truth in that! 

Carnival Spirit
Carnival Spirit docked at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay

As promised at the beginning of the post, for the number lovers 🙂

Carnival Spirit Stats:

  • Year Built: 2001
  • Capacity: 2680 Passengers
  • Decks: 12
  • Gross Tonnage: 88500
  • Length: 293.52m
  • Beam: 32.31m
  • Number of Crew: 930
  • Cost to build: $USD375 million

Carnival Spirit Fun Facts

During an average week on Carnival Spirit, Guest will consume:

  • 250 kg of prime rib
  • 7060 kg of chicken
  • 2060 steaks
  • 375 kg of veal
  • 90 spatchcock
  • 3300 racks of lamb
  • 390 kg of ham
  • 3125 hamburgers
  • 430kg of Salmon
  • 4260 kg of potatoes
  • 220 kg of tomatoes
  • 450 kg of cucumbers
  • 1100 kg of lettuce
  • 4900 kg melons
  • 1750 kg pineapples
  • 28860 eggs
  • 765 loaves of white bread
  • 1600 bulk boxes of breakfast cereal
  • 6900 L of homogenized milk
  • 120 kg fresh strawberries
  • 2699 kg of flour
  • 2100 kg of bacon
  • 1150 kg of butter
  • 400 kg of coffee
  • 1150 L of fruit juice

Counting the number of plates leaving the galley, 7200 plates are served per seating which means a plate leaves every 1/2 second!

For more information on cruising with Carnival, go to carnival.com.au

I Ate My Way Through travelled as guests of Carnival Spirit