Believe it or not, getaway on a cruise is the new trend and all the cool kids are doing it!
If you haven’t already, get on board and join a cruise. Trust me, I was just as skeptical as you before my first cruise experience and you can read all about it. But after spending 7 nights on Carnival Spirit to New Caledonia, I had a new found appreciation about cruises and definitely can see myself doing it more often to different destinations in the future. I already had my eyes set on Hawaii for my next cruise. I was very lucky to find myself on the Carnival Spirit again this year for a short 5-night trip to Tasmania. The Carnival Spirit has undergone an extensive refurbishment September last year, so I was eager to check out the new facelift and all the dining options on board.
The Carnival Spirit is a foodie’s dream comes true. If you love food, then you will love Carnival Spirit. There are more than 20 bars, lounges and dining options on the ship. So you will never go hungry and you will be swimming in cocktails. According to the statistic from Carnival Cruise Line, during an average week, Carnival Spirit guests consume more than 9074kg of meat, 4535kg of chicken and poultry and a further 11,339kg of grocery and produce. And that is a lot of food. All meals are already included in the cruise package (except special dining options), so you can go all out and eat to your heart content. Having said that, it is so easy to overindulge and I definitely learnt the hard way and put on a few kilos from the last cruise. It actually took me a few weeks to shed it off. Hence, this time I did it differently and making sure I’d still be able to enjoy all the different dining options on the ship but without being excessive.
Whether you are a first timer or this is your 5th time on Carnival Spirit, I bet there are still a few foodie secrets on the ship that you are not aware of. Here’s my top 10 foodie tips on Carnival Spirit that everyone should know about. So let the feeding frenzy begin.
1. A-la-carte dining at Empire Room on first night
While the all-you-can-eat buffet-style casual dining up on Lido deck is rather tempting, you definitely do not want to go crazy with the food on the first night when your body is still adjusting to the motion of the sea. During our first night sailing across Tasman Sea, the weather wasn’t great and the sea was choppy, many passengers struggled with motion sickness and fell ill. Can you imagine what could happen after consuming a large quantity of food with motion sickness? The re-enactment of that famous scene in the movie The Exorcist bound to happen.
Besides, the first meal on the ship is rather special and exciting, so I’d highly suggest to have it in the elegant Empire Room where you can enjoy a well prepared 3-course a la carte meal. The menu changes daily and the food is always well prepared and presented. They also have “healthy option” in the menu for those who are health conscious. Apart from the food, the service from a team of passionate waitstaffs is always impeccable and they will make sure you are well looked after. And don’t forget to join in for some half time dancing and singing fun too.
2. Cheapest, freshest sushi at Bonsai Sushi
A new addition to the dining options on Carnival Spirit is this sleek Japanese restaurant Bonsai Sushi. It is located adjacent to the atrium, the restaurant is far from the crowd, so guests can have a quiet meal and enjoy some tasty sushi. Cruise lines take food hygiene issue extremely seriously. So when comes to serving raw fish on the ship, you can rest assure that they use the freshest top quality seafood.
You do have to pay a little extra (not included in the package) to dine at Bonsai Sushi, but it is ridiculously cheap! All nigiri is only $2 per piece, and the rolls come are only $6 – $8! The maguro yellow fin tuna ($2 per piece) was so delicate that just melt in the mouth. We also ordered the spicy tuna rolls which came in eight pieces for only $6! I don’t think you will be able to find that price at any sushi restaurant in Sydney. And the sushi was delicious too! Love the little spicy hint in the tuna tartare as well.
3. Long Lunch at Nouveau Restaurant
Psst… let me tell you a little foodie secret that even the seasonal Carnival Spirit cruisers don’t know about. Many guests tend to miss out on dining at the fine dining Nouveau Restaurant on top deck which is very popular and it is usually fully booked in advance on most evenings. But little did you know that the restaurant actually also open for lunch and their “long lunch at sea” menu which is a little bit different from the dinner menu. For e.g., the seafood platter is only available on lunch menu. The food at Nouveau Restaurant is always top notch, just like what you will get at any fine dining restaurant. The finest aged beef is cooked to perfection according to how you like it. The lobster is always fresh and chocolate lovers will be in heaven with their decadent chocolate tasting finale. A 4-course meal that only costs $40 (extra for the seafood platter), it is well worth it.
4. Awesome fries and burgers at Guy’s Burger Joint
I can’t go past a good burger and Guy’s Burger Joint is an excellent addition on the Carnival Spirit. They have teamed up with American celebrity chef, restauranteur and Food Network personality Guy Fieri to offer guests a great American burger experience. The menu is short but punchy, with the Aussie spin by introducing “Boomerang Burger” which comes with beetroot. I have to admit the menu is a little confusing with many abbreviations that you need to decipher by reading the description below the menu. So no matter what burger you choose, just head to the toppings bar with your burger and add even more toppings to your liking!
The burger I had was pretty juicy and love the smokiness from the fat rendered on the grill, but it was the fries that winning me over. The fries was Ah-mazing! It totally reminded me of America, the fries were unpeeled so it adds an extra level of crunch to it, it was also heavily seasoned with spices, love dipping them in the spicy aioli. It was so good that we actually went back to the burger bar and ordered an extra side of fries!
5. Drinkies at Serenity Adult Only Retreat
Want some peace and quiet and stay away from the crowd and children? Then chillax with a pint at the Serenity adult only retreat is the perfect remedy. Located at back of the ship on top deck, the Serenity has its own bar where the friendly staffs are super keen to keep your hydrated. Just make sure you have your little Carnival Spirit card handy.
Here is a little tip for the first timer on Carnival Spirit. When you check in, each guest will be given an ID card which has all the details you need to know about the cruise including your assigned dining time at Empire room, your emergency evacuation master station, it is also a keycard to your room. You can also open an account by linking it to a credit card, then all transactions made on the cruise will be stored in the account which can be settled at the end of the trip. So lock the wallet in the safe in your room and the only thing you need to carry throughout the whole trip is this little card around your neck.
6. Pre-dinner drinks at Alchemy Bar
The Alchemy Bar had become our second home on Carnival Spirit. The old and tiring Artist’s Bar is long gone and converted into a unique vintage-theme cocktail “science laboratory” with premium bar experience offering high-end cocktails and they are delicious too. We found ourselves here almost every night before dinner, sipping cocktails and chatting to the friendly mixologists behind the bar.
Let’s talk about the cocktails, the bartenders were concocting a few classics like Mojito, Cosmo, Manhattan and Mule but with a sophisticated twist by using unique ingredients such as lemongrass, rosemary, homemade bitters and even freshly-made syrups like chipotle and pineapple. The Perfect Storm is one of our favourites, it was entertaining to watch our bartender prepared the drink for us, she set a sprig of rosemary on fire and let the smoke permeated the glass, then sprinkled cinnamon dust into flame and sparked into thousand starlights. It was like a magic show! All cocktails are set at $12.00, you simply can’t stop at one.
7. Interactive cooking class with celebrity chef Massimo Mele
Occasionally, Carnival Spirit runs special events and activities on different cruises. For our 5-day cruise to Tasmania, they have invited celebrity chef Messimo Mele to host hands-on cooking classes at the Nouveau Restaurant for $65 per person which includes lunch. It was actually a very fun afternoon, Messsimo shared his passion about Italian cooking and showed us how to make ricotta cheese and spinach ravioli then we all got to sit down and taste our own creation.
I liked to see how all the ravioli we made were so rustic in different shapes and sizes, but they were very tasty all the same. Massimo showed us how to make the super easy sauce for the pasta by simply tossing ravioli, a big knob of butter, some hot water the pasta was cooked in and mixed them all together, finished with some baked cherry tomatoes, basil leaves and a good shave of Reggiani cheese all over. Delicious!
But there’s more. Massimo had also prepared two more courses for us. Born and bred in Tasmania himself, Massimo wanted to showcase some of the best produce the little Apple Isle has to offer. The second course was Cape Grim Beef roll ragout served with silky smooth polenta. Then it was a slice of gooey chocolate brownie for dessert, simple but perfect treat to conclude our lunch. I believe Massimo Mele will run another cooking class on the Tasmania cruise in April, if you get to be on that cruise, make sure you book it ASAP!
8. Late night pizzas at Pizza Pirate
This tip is not much of a secret really, but is one of those things that you simply have to do while on the Carnival Spirit. The Pizza Pirate station at the Lido Deck opens 24 hours but the busiest hours are usually from 10pm till after midnight when everyone just came out from the shows, comedy or the dance club, a little bit tipsy and craving for some midnight snack. Good things can’t be rush as the pizzas are made to order. So be prepared to join the long queue and wait patiently until you get rewarded with a piping hot pizza straight out of the oven. The pizza was about 6″, so you can smash a whole one easily by yourself. The Pepperoni pizza I had was tasty and hit all the spots, crispy pizza base, melty cheese and spicy pepperoni, that’s all I wanted to cure the hangover.
9. Foodie tours in Tasmania
Tasmania is a foodie heaven with lots of fresh produce and exciting food scene. On the 5-Day Tasmania cruise, the ship will dock on Tasmania at two locations – Port Arthur and Hobart. There are many excursion tours in different categories from history, geological to food, that guests can experience. But make sure to book early as they usually sell out fast. So have a look at the on-land tours brochure in your room and also can be viewed on TV, choose the one that you would like to join and book them ASAP.
For the foodies, don’t miss out on the sightseeing tour in Richmond (a small village near Port Arthur) where visitors get to visit lavender farm (hello, lavender ice cream!) and also chocolate tasting. Chocolate!!! In Hobart, you can easily find amazing food around the water front at Salamanca. If you happen to be there on a Saturday, then the Salamanca Market is definitely a must-do and indulge yourself in all the amazing produce the Apple Isle has to offer. For the beer lovers, then you simply can’t miss out on the Cascade Brewery Tour. It was actually my first time to the brewery and the tour itself was actually very insightful and interesting where we learnt about the history of the Australia’s oldest operating brewery and the process on how to make beers. Not to mention all the beers and ciders we got to taste which were included in the tour.
10. VIP dining experience at The Chef’s Table
Have you ever wondered how they prepare meals for 2500 passengers on the ship?
Limiting to a select group of 12, this Golden Ticket will grant you an exclusive private tour to the galley where you get to witness this bigger than Ben Hur food operation in action. Imagine this, 3-course dinner for approximately 2,600 passengers is equivalent to 7,800 dishes to be sent out from the galley to the guests all within a few hours timeframe, this military precision operation is truly remarkable.
The Chef’s Table dining experience is one of the highlights on Carnival Spirit that any foodie can’t miss out on. The VIP experience started with a glass of champagne before we were led by Senior Sous Chef Siva into the galley where we were treated to tasty hors d’oeuvres followed by a quick demonstration on how to make the chocolate lava cake, the most popular dessert at the Empire dining room.
All the food served on this dining experience are not found on the regular dining menus. I particularly enjoyed the bite size appetisers of Mango sphere on rosemary biscuit, chocolate bacon with beef carpaccio and the salmon tarter cornette.
After the tour of the galley, it was time for the most mind-blowing dining experience all set up in the middle of the dance floor. We finally got to meet Chef de Cuisine Clytus J. Dias who had designed an exquisite 7-course dinner for the occasion. We sure felt spoiled and no doubt overindulged.
First course was beet blanket with asparagus, cauliflower honey carrot tian with spiced grape tea poured at the table. Very theatrical. Each course was unique and presented beautifully. The one I liked the most was the Bisque Our Way, a simple two tomatoes soup with basil, crispy brioche and garlic chip which was executed perfectly. The meal was definitely value for money with each dish prepared using top quality ingredients including barramundi, foie gras and wagyu beef.
Apart from what I have mentioned here, there is a lot more other food options on Carnival Spirit to whet your appetite:
- Fat Jimmy’s C-Side BBQ – Outside the roof deck where the barbecue is smoking with backyard-and-beach-cookout fare like Italian sausage, pulled pork sandwich and BBQ chicken.
- Freshie’s corner – Aussies love their seafood and here you will get a taste of the ocean where fresh prawns and mussels come in a bucket, or try the classic fish n chips and the new bespoke Spirit Burger
- BlueIguana Cantina – A new addition on the ship serves up delicious Mexican fare including tacos and burritos.
- RedFrog Pub – Here you get to kick back and sip their tasty signature private-label craft beer Thirsty Frog Summer while grooving to sweet Pacific and Jamaican tunes performed by a live band.
- RedFrog Rum Bar & BlueIguana Tequila Bar – Red vs Blue is the new theme on Carnival Spirit. These two new bars outside on Lido deck are battling it out to see who can serve the best cocktail on the ship.
- Last but not least, don’t forget the 24 hours self-serve ice cream and frozen yoghurt machines on Lido deck!
About Carnival Cruise Line and How to book
Carnival Cruise Line has two ships cruising from Sydney – Carnival Spirit and Carnival Legend – offering a range of cruises to the Pacific Islands, New Zealand and Australia as well as shorter weekend getaways.
Carnival Spirit sails from Sydney year-round and is joined by Carnival Legend over the summer months.
Both ships boast 45 world class activities over 12 decks of fun including a fitness centre, sports court, spa, mini golf, three swimming pools, more than 20 bars, lounges and dining options, youth programs, a child-free Serenity Retreat and the Green Thunder waterslide and SplashZone.
Following its 2015 drydock, Carnival Spirit also offers BlueIguana Cantina and Tequila Bar, RedFrog Pub and a top deck Rum Bar, Guy’s Burger Joint, Bonsai Sushi, Alchemy Bar, lolly shop Cherry On Top and a new ocean-themed kids’ club.
Fares on Carnival Spirit’s five-night roundtrip cruise to Tasmania, with calls to Hobart and Port Arthur, departing Sydney on January 24, 2017 start from $799* per person twin share. Price includes accommodation, main meals, and onboard entertainment.
For more information and bookings see a travel agent, contact Carnival Cruise Line on 13 31 94, or visit www.carnival.com.au
*Fare correct at time of publishing. Subject to availability, conditions apply.