She almost dwarfed the Opera House sitting there alongside the Overseas Passenger Terminal and, all I knew when I approached the red carpet for VIP check-in with my friends was, that we would experience as much of Carnival Spirit as we could in one night.

With such a plethora of activities and amenities available for her 2,680-passengers, that was going to be no mean feat but my friends and I were determined.

Heading to cabin 6156, we were all pleasantly surprised to find our quad-share cabin was not only equipped with a separate dressing room to the full bathroom (which would come in handy when preparing for the elegant evening later on) but also an extremely spacious balcony that, for the moment at least offered a breathtaking view of the Sydney Opera House.

Flopping onto our beds we revelled in the pillow top mattresses and feather-filled pillows before changing into swimsuits for our first Spirit experience…’Green Thunder’.

The steepest and longest speed slide at-sea glistened green in the spring sunshine and nerves tingled through my body as my friends and I mounted the stairs to take us to the entrance of the ride.

Sitting almost as tall as the Opera House, ‘Green Thunder’ requires riders to enter a capsule only to have it close around them before the countdown to

one of the most exhilarating experiences you will ever experience.

The floor drops from beneath you after a count of three and you zoom through a transparent green tube off the ship and back onto the WaterWorks deck where you arrive…somewhat dishevelled but, keen for the rush again!

Wearing what I dubbed my ‘Green Thunder’ hair, we tried the tamer ‘Twister’ waterslide before relaxing in the ‘Serenity’ adults-only area where we managed to score a shell lounge and order our first beverage of the day…for me, it had to be my traditional first cruise cocktail…a mai tai.

The wait was longer than we anticipated with only two bartenders serving and I was surprised to be charged $10 when the menu stated $9.95 but, for someone used to tipping aboard ships in the U.S. and Europe, five cents wasn’t a major issue.

‘Serenity’ proved to be a popular place for the travel agents and media who were embarking at hourly intervals during the day and it was no wonder, with the breathtaking view and cushioned lounges and hammocks surrounding a pool and two spas…I could only imagine how popular it would be on a sea day!

We indulged in the buffet that was offering a range of delicacies from Italian to Asian, salads to a sandwich bar and proceeded to climb the stairs to ‘Green Thunder’ again.

Mustering is never a fun task and, whilst it took a while for everyone to gather,

this emergency drill was made extra special for our group when positioned right behind us was none other than the fabulous comedian, Peter Rowsthorn!

Having screamed and jumped up and down when I saw his name in the ‘Fun Times’ earlier, I just knew I had to chat to him and chat we did….not during the actual drill of course!

My cruise buddy Izzy and I took photos with the ever obliging Peter and we chatted about all things “Kath and Kim” and enjoyed a more comedic commentary than we are used do whilst mustering!

The poor man was trapped!

Being a part of the first sailaway party of any Carnival ship out of Sydney was almost as exhilarating as speeding down ‘Green Thunder’!

Everyone was in true party mode and we were blessed with the weather that Sydney had turned on for us.

Sailing through the heads, the music was pumping and a pod of dolphins

decided to grace us with their presence…Carnival couldn’t have planned it any better!

Retiring to our cabin to prepare for our elegant evening, we revel in the space we have to play with but are disappointed to find that there is only one Australian power point in the entire cabin.

This makes life a tad difficult with four people wanting to charge devices and style hair and, knowing of the power point changes as part of Carnival Spirit’s “Aussification”, not one person had packed a U.S. adaptor.

The balancing act commenced and we made it to the “Welcome Aboard” show right on time.

Carnival Australia CEO Ann Sherry opened the official proceedings before being joined on stage by an excited Carnival Cruise Lines president and CEO Gerry Cahill, Carnival Cruise Lines director for Australia and New Zealand Jennifer Vandekreeke and Carnival Spirit cruise director and fellow Aussie Stu Dunn.

The passion for both this ship and the brand exuded in waves from those on

stage and we were treated to a performance by the four lead vocalists onboard who were backed by some of the fabulous crew and an Aboriginal duo showcasing the art of didgeridoo playing.

Mr Cahill rounded off the presentation in a very special ‘Aussie’ way…by donning the Sydney Swans uniform…tight shorts and all in his quest to become an honorary Australian.

Now that is what I call courage!

Official proceedings over, it was time to transport us to the “Big Easy” and showcase just part of one of the production shows onboard.

Elaborate staging, bright costumes and a large ensemble of singers, dancers and musicians pepped up the audience and in a matter of moment everyone

was singing and tapping their feet along to the infectious performance.

Sailing with first time cruisers has rarely been a positive thing for me, with many battling seasickness in the past, but this time was very different.

One of my cruising buddies had resisted cruising his whole life and I was surprised when he accepted my invitation to cruise aboard Spirit.

For him to turn to me after only one day aboard a ship and say, “I get it Nat,” assured me that it wasn’t just me who caught the cruising bug quickly.

First time cruisers are becoming repeat cruisers every day worldwide because of this light bulb moment that occurs when people cruise.

They can finally see that the perception that cruising is for the “over fed and nearly dead” is a thing of the past and it is moments like these that really

excite me as someone who is so passionate about the industry.

Anthony had that light bulb moment whilst singing along to some old school soul in ‘Pharaoh’s Lounge’ and I was honoured to bear witness to it…he hadn’t even experienced dinner yet!

Popping from the Egyptian-themed theatre into the Asian-themed ‘Shanghai Bar’ for a quick tipple, I snuck off to do a spot of souvenir shopping ahead of dinner in the ‘Nouveau Steakhouse’.

Located on Deck 10 just near the whale tail, we were seated at a table near the entrance, which was prone to quite strong vibrations that concerned our fellow diners but did not pose a problem for us.

We were too excited by the prospect of a menu that was so tempting we had

difficulty deciding just what to order!

I settled on two entrees (only when cruising of course), the escargot and beef carpaccio along with the broiled lobster tail, which I knew, was to die for given that the menu was similar to the steakhouse offering aboard Carnival Breeze.

Service was attentive but surprisingly slow with the restaurant only three quarters or so full.

The meal was divine but it did take just under three hours which was a lot longer than anticipated,, especially with only one night to experience the ship.

We headed straight to the Caribbean party to work off some of those calories

consumed on the dance floor and the party atmosphere was intense!

The bars were packed with only limited bartenders on duty and I decided against waiting in line for a beverage after twenty minutes with no service from the one bartender serving our side of the bar.

I’m hoping that because the ship wasn’t at capacity that they cut down on staff because I can’t imagine that regular patrons would be happy with waiting so long.

Words: Natalie Aroyan