On the 22nd of March 2012 I was lucky enough to start my amazing journey to Los Angeles. I got to Sydney Airport, checked in and cleared customs and still had time to get my duty free shopping out of the way! I boarded flight QF 11 to L.A and instantly felt like my holiday had begun. I had the pleasure of flying on the Qantas A380 and it was the most pleasant aircraft I have ever experienced. The seats were comfortable and I felt like I had plenty of legroom. The in-flight entertainment was available straight away which is a bonus, especially during take off. I had an Aisle seat on one the sections of three and when it came closer to departure time I was feeling really excited because the 2 seats next to me were yet to be occupied. I had my fingers crossed that nobody would take the seats next to me so I could have some extra space! My dream ended when an elderly couple were guided by the cabin crew to take a seat right there. I started to read my book when I was interrupted by one of the cabin crew coming to tell me that a young man in the next cabin had noticed I was travelling by myself and had offered me the exit row seat next to him. I was thrilled and we all had a glass of champagne to celebrate! I didn’t sleep a wink on the way to L.A (I think I was too excited) so they flight was taking longer than I anticipated. The Qantas service was something I could not fault at all, the food was nice, the beverage service was amazing and the cabin crew were very helpful in making the flight as comfortable as possible!
I arrived at LAX, cleared customs and collected my baggage all in about an hour. I had not pre-booked a transfer as I planned to just hop in a Taxi to get to my hotel when I was approached by a nice woman who worked for ‘Prime shuttles’ who offered to take me to my Hotel for $15.00 USD, I didn’t turn it down as I was told the taxi would cost about $40.00. I got in the shuttle and was lucky enough to meet a lovely girl from Sydney, a similar age to me who was also travelling solo. Michelle and I got on extremely well and had made plans to meet for dinner that night. I was dropped off at the Ramada West Hollywood on Santa Monica Bvld which was going to become my new home for the next 3 days.
As I arrived earlier than expected, my room was not quite ready for me and reception advised that it could be a few hours before it could be. I checked in and the staff at the Ramada did all they could to ensure my room was ready, I was taken up and wow was I surprised. I walked in to a 2 story loft suite with a bathroom, kitchenette, living area and the bedroom on the top floor. It was not a 5 star property but it was clean, comfortable and there was plenty of room for me myself and I!
It was finally time to do some exploring of the famous Los Angeles. I started by getting in a Taxi and going to the Beverly Centre to spend some money! My cab driver was really hopeful in giving me some pointers on what to do and where to eat. It was about $10.00 in a taxi from the Ramada to the Beverly Centre and realised I my hotel was in a really good location, I also went to the grove in hope of seeing some celebrities. I met up with Michelle at her hotel ‘ The Grafton’ on sunset blvd, the Grafton has quirky decor but is in a Killer location right next door to the house of blues. We headed out for dinner and we experienced some of the famous cuisine L.A had to offer. We went to the famous sky Bar for a cocktail and both called it a night as we were feeling very sleepy. The following morning we headed to the Citadel Factory outlets to do some serious shopping! It was about a $60.00 cab ride but well worth it for the bargains we picked up! After a few hours we headed back to the City and did more shopping at the Famous Melrose Avenue and window shopped Rodeo Drive. That night we had an amazing Mexican Feast at Rosa Mexicana followed by a drink at the Viper room where we met the famous ‘McLovin’ from the movie Superbad.
The next day was my last day in L.A and we decided to go to Universal Studios, grab some Burger in and out and visit the Hollywood walk of fame. These were all a bit of a disappointment (besides the burger) but still token tourist things to do. Our last night was a quiet dinner followed by more drinks in Beverly Hills. The time had come where we had to say goodbye to eachother and move on to our new adventures. It was an amazing 3 days!
Day 1 – From Los Angeles to San Diego
My day started with my 5am wakeup call from the Concierge. I went downstairs and waited in the Lobby for my transfer to the station. I walked outside to be surprised with a shiny stretch limousine waiting for me. It’s about half an hour from the Ramada West Hollywood to Union Station and being a Sunday Morning there was no traffic at all. I arrived at Union Station with plenty of time to spare to check in for my Amtrak Train to San Diego. I found the Counter quite easily and proceeded to check in and leave my bags with the staff. I explored to station and then walked up to the platform where my train was departing from. I boarded the Surfliner to San Diego and took a seat in my comfy chair. The train was mostly empty so I had 4 seats to myself which was a bonus. The train had free Wi-Fi so I contacted home and then had a long nap to wake up in San Diego.
What an awakening it was! San Diego is a small but very beautiful city, the people are lovely and the train Station was Located right across the road from the Cruise Terminal where the amazing Carnival Spirit was docked. I walked over with my several suitcases & bags from all my shopping in L.A and was so excited when I got closer and closer to her. I was greeted by the Carnival Staff but was the first in my group to arrive. I waited with anticipation and finally, some of the Complete Cruise Solution staff arrived. We all waited for the rest of the group to arrive before we got on board the Carnival Spirit. We had a large group of about 28 people, a combination of JTG and flight centre industry people.
Our first item on the agenda was to meet our Cruise Director Stu and have tour of the ship and have a sneak peak of all the cabins before their occupants started to arrive. Stu is fabulous; he is an Aussie guy from Sydney that is just so much fun! The ship is amazing and everyone agreed that she is going to be the perfect fit for our Aussie market. The tour started and we visited all of the different cabin types available. The interior cabins were much bigger than I expected and are configured of twin, Queen or Quad/Bunk bedding. The beds are a standard single size and each cabin is fitted with a T.V, mini bar, wardrobe, dressing table and a bathroom that I was extremely impressed with. It had a long mirror with storage shelves on either side as well as a huge shower. Its heaven compared to some of the other Cruise Ship bathrooms I have experienced. The next cabin type is a Standard Oceanview which is similar to the Interiors but boast a large Oceanview window, these cabin types are only located on deck 1. After the Oceanview’s it was the moment I was waiting for, we finally got to visit the strange cabin type that everyone seemed to be confused about. An Interior Stateroom with opening Windows (obstructed by the Lifeboats), it was excellent! The bedding in all of these cabin types is Queen/twin as well as a single sofa that is made up every evening and if it is a quad – there is an upper pullman berth that retracts from the wall. These cabins are slightly bigger than the Interiors and are a great option for families as they are well within budget (cheaper than Oceanviews) and you still can get some fresh air inside. We also got to see some of the suites that were yet to be occupied.
After our tour I was greeted by Anneke, who would be my roommate for the next 5 nights. Again, we got on like a house on fire and I knew the next 5 days were going to be fun filled! We went to our cabin and we were both lucky enough to have a Balcony which we were thrilled about. It really does make a huge difference having fresh air on demand. We had some lunch, did a bit of exploring and headed to the Artists Lobby for pre-dinner drinks before the Nouveau Steakhouse for our first group dinner. The group was split into 2 as it was so large, so it was the JTG and the flight centre groups. We were seated at a huge round table under the stars as the steakhouse is located on the top 2 decks of the ship. We were given a menu to start ordering our 5 course dinner. The service was amazing and the night started with a selection of wine as well as a variety of breads and canapés. Our first course was a small soup, followed by a salad and then a Lobster Bisque dish as an entree. For the main course I ordered the ‘Surf and Turf’ which was a fillet mignon and a Lobster tail with potato sides and was I impressed! We had a selection of desserts including mousse, tiramisu and a variety of chocolates. The quality of the food was so amazing and only a $30.00 per person cover charge. I ate so much that I had to call it a night and I went back to the room for one of the best night’s sleep I have ever had!
Day 2 – Our first day at Sea
Our second day was started by a 9:00am session in one of the conference facilities/art galleries on board. Our groups met and the Complete Cruise Solution staff gave a short seminar about the marketing and details of the Carnival Spirit and what it meant for Cruising in Australia. It was a short and sweet session, followed by a day at leisure. Anneke and I were on the hunt for a good cup of coffee, we found a cafe located right next to Casino got our caffeine fix then went back to the cabin, got changed, grabbed our books and went up to the deck to enjoy some much needed sunshine. We lay out in the sun for a few hours and decided to try the deli for lunch, the deli is open from 11:00am until 11:00 pm and has a selection of cold/hot meats, salads, cheeses and breads all included in your Cruise fare. Also within the main buffet area (La Playa Grille Lido Restaurant) there is a pizzeria, an Asian inspired section and then several other buffets that change menu from day to day.
That night it was time for formal night! At about 5:30 we went back to our cabin, dressed up in our finest and went to meet the rest of the group in the Lobby bar for pre-dinner drinks. Being formal night, we had a group picture that was taken on the staircase and we each received a copy. We then migrated to the Empire Restaurant which is the Carnival Spirit’s traditional dining option. We were not disappointed at all! There is a first sitting dining which is at 6:00pm and a second sitting which is at 8:00pm or alternatively there is ‘anytime dining’. Both of our groups were allocated second sitting so we could enjoy pre-dinner drinks together every night. The dinner menu in the Empire is huge; it has a special’s section that changes day to day as well as a set menu that is there for the duration of the cruise. Dinner consists of salads (Ceaser/Greek) & soups (French onion/bisque/minestrone) for the appetizers, entrees of seafood’s such as Oysters, mussels & prawns as well as a variety of Meats and the Main meals are also meat or seafood. The Empire also has a good range of vegetarian options. Desserts are amazing, my favourite being the apple & caramel toffee pastries with a vanilla bean ice-cream!! Another thing that carnival also does differently is the ‘Did Ya Ever’ menu which is a selection of foods (1 or 2 each night) that you always have wanted to try but never had, such as alligator risotto balls, Quail and other delicacies.
After dinner we all headed to the comedy club for some adults only comedy! There is an earlier show which is suitable for families and kids as well. After the Comedy we went up to the ‘Dancin Dance’ night club for some more drinks and lots of dancing! It was a fun night for everyone with lots of token Cruise ship music! The nightclub is also much bigger than other Ship’s nightclubs, as well as so much more fun! Day 3 & 4 – Cabo San Lucas
At about 8am I woke up, walked out on our balcony and was surprised with one of the most amazing views I have ever seen! We had the next 2 days to explore the city of Cabo San Lucas! We went off the ship and our mission was to eat as much Mexican food as we could. We found a small restaurant along the pier that had authentic Mexican cuisine, the main thing we had been waiting for ..
We enjoyed a feast and decided to walk around the markets and head over to Lovers beach for some sunbaking. It was an excellent day with perfect weather! At about 3, we headed back on board as we had to meet in the lobby for our bridge tour which was an amazing experience. I had never seen a ships bridge before so i was surprised at how big and technological it all looked! We ended our first day in Cabo with some more pre dinner drinks in the Champions sports bar and dinner in the Empire Dining Room. We had a deck party up top and all of us were dragged into the Congo line to join Stu with his crazy dance moves!
Our second day in Cabo was pretty similar to the first! When we got off the ship, the carnival Splendour was also tendered in Cabo for the day which made an interesting photo having never even seen all that many Carnival ships before. We began with another Mexican meal at a beautiful restaurant on the wharf followed by a short boat ride over to the Beach to experience some true Spring Break beach parties! It was crazy, from beer sculling battles to push up competitions and jelly shots all round! The beach Club there was called Mangoes which is where all of the spring breakers head for the short amount of time they have in Cabo San Lucas! Our group had lots of fun and I could confidently say we all were not ready to go home yet!
When we were back on board we decided to do it big for our last night in Mexico. Our group started with Drinks in ‘Serenity’ which is a beautiful adults only haven on deck. We then all headed to the Empire dining room for another amazing meal (not that any of us needed any more food) followed by another night of Music and Dancing at the night Club!
Day 5 – Our last day at Sea
Our last day at Sea was really quiet, we had a morning Session with the Complete Cruise solution team and were broken up into groups to see who could win the pop quiz! Our team was headed by Lance Dye- not someone you want as a captain! We watched a short video from Jennifer Vanderkreeke apologising for not being there and telling us all of the fun facts about the Spirit! We managed to fit in a tour of the kids clubs and found out about all of the different age brackets: Club 02 – 15 to 17 years, Circle C – 12 to 14 years, Camp Carnival – 2 to 5 years, lots of fun for kids of all ages, the staff there are amazing!
The rest of day we caught up on some much needed sleep and did lots of relaxing. Most of the day we were up on deck sunbaking and reading with some lunch and an afternoon nap! Then came time for our final night of pre-dinner drinks followed by the show ‘New Orleans’ in the Pharaoh’s theatre. It was a musical production starring the entertainment crew of the Carnival Spirit and we were not disappointed! Our final group dinner was in the Empire dining room with more amazing food, wine and great company.
Day 6 – Time to say Goodbye
The time had finally come to say good bye to the group and head our separate ways. I had a few hours to kill so I walked around San Diego, had a coffee in the Gaslamp Quarter and fixed my Mexican food addiction with some more Taco’s from Chipotle. I did some shopping and went back to the train Station ready for my long journey home. I was really lucky in having a Business class train ticket back to L.A, which meant I was given a big comfy seat as well as refreshments throughout the train journey. It made it that much more comfortable! I went straight from the train Station to LAX and proceeded to check in for my flight home. For such a big Airport there really isn’t a lot to do there so I went to the gate and started reading my book. Luckily Aneke was on the same flight home so we could keep eachother company while we waited to board. The flight home was a dream! I had a good 7 hours sleep followed by a couple of movies and before I knew it I was home!
It was an amazing trip and I would happily recommend the Carnival Spirit to anyone! Older couples, Younger couples, Singles, Families & Friends. It was a great week meeting new people, experiencing different culture and having lots and lots of fun! Thank you Donna!