Carnival Spirit: Extended Balcony Stateroom (7160)
Having to choose a cabin is one of the more pleasant worries that could sit upon your shoulders, but it's still a worry. We (I want to add "regrettably," but I'd be lying) had a balcony for our first cruise, so we can at least eliminate "inside cabin" and "oceanview cabin" from our stateroom choices. There's nothing wrong with those cabins (in fact, stay in them often enough, and you'll have savings left over for another cruise), but for us the balcony is a big part of the fun. Fresh air and endless water - we don't see much of that back home.

Suites remain out of reach (our "suite" on Elation was just a balcony room with a very attractive swine flu price tag attached), so for Spirit, we chose within the balcony category.

Now, there are several balcony categories on a Spirit-class ship (Spirit, Legend, Miracle, Pride).... unless you book only a few weeks in advance. Then you won't have to worry about whether to pony up for a 9A aft-wrap (most people love them, but some report extreme vibrations and ash and debris from passengers overhead) or if you can get one of those rare and fantastic regular cabins with the balcony three-times as long as everyone else's. Our options were straightforward: regular balcony, or extended balcony for ten bucks more.

You'd think the extended balcony would be a no-brainer, right? You get 33% more balcony!

Except, for most extended balconies, if you look straight down, you're looking at lifeboats instead of the water. No big deal - we looked at a deck on Elation, and a bit of lifeboat was sticking out near the bottom on Splendor. Yeah, but on Spirit, the lifeboats are only a deck or two down. You will see them.

Okay, so you don't mind the lifeboats. Will you mind having your peripheral view slightly obstructed by the regular balcony cabins that jut out from the ship's side? Or maybe you do mind the lifeboats and only want to see water when you look down, so you grab one of the extended balcony cabins on Deck 5, by the front of the ship. And let's say you like the front of the ship. (We do, but many people prefer being midship for reasons of both motion and overall convenience.) How will you feel about being directly about the showroom? Or about being beneath a non-extended balcony, meaning that when people on the decks above you look straight down, they (partially) see you?

And what about the extra shade you get on most extended balconies, what with the Lido deck on top of the ship sticking out so far? Heh... (I can't even pretend that this was a consideration for us. Shade? BONUS.)

The water view vs. lifeboat view haunted me for awhile, but I couldn't resist trying something new. Extended balcony, here we come!

And there we were, 1:30 p.m. on the dot, approaching cabin 7160. We chose a cabin on the Verandah deck instead of the deck above, Panorama, because any deck sitting right under the Lido deck gets a bad reputation for having to listen to chairs scraping above you. Some people don't have that problem, but enough people insist that you ideally want to be sandwiched between two passenger decks (no public areas above or below), that it didn't seem sensible to yet again stay on the highest deck. (While that was a great idea on Elation and Splendor, those decks were also unusually short with nothing popular above them.)

Our stateroom door was open, but no one was inside. We stepped in. (As did our steward Marvin, a few minutes later, for a final wipedown and removal of the balcony ashtray. Ew. Marvin, though, was great.)

Hmm... was this room... smaller? Because it looked.... smaller. Definitely smaller. But, that's impossible, it's 185 square feet like the rest, so... hmmm.

Later we would decide that this first impression was probably due to the window, The room on Spirit was the same size as our last two, but on both Elation and Splendor, we had a huge picture window. Splendor's window even had a little ledge where we could stack things. But Spirit's design was less generous in terms of view. Here, let's compare:

Our window situation on Elation:

Carnival Elation - Our Own Catalina View

Our window situation on Splendor:

Mike and Puerto Vallarta Outside (Cabin 1101, Carnival Splendor)

What we got on Spirit:

Carnival Spirit - Cabin 7160

I couldn't stop looking sadly and where the needless, solid wall was turning a bonny widescreen view into a patio door situation.

By the end of the cruise, I didn't even notice, but nor did we ever lie on the bed and stare dreamily out the window, either. It's these little things, sometimes. But it was fine, really, just a little surprising with a "oh, that's a shame" element at first.

The cabin's interior was much the same as the last two:

Carnival Spirit - Just the Sofa (Cabin 7160)

(Ignore that accidentally disassembled towel animal, and pretend I took this when we walked into the room for the first time.)

Carnival Spirit - Room Safe

The safe was a swiper, like what we had on Elation, as opposed to the keypad coder on Splendor. I prefer the speed of the swipers, but Splendor was nice, because we didn't have to mess with carrying another card. Of the three cruises, this safe had the best location. Elation's was in the closet; Splendor's was under the counter; this was in a cabinet beneath the television.

Speaking of the television, no flat screen, as on Splendor, but also no green screen, as on Elation. Sometimes I feel like we're the only people who watch television while on the cruise, much as this cruise's programming seemed to be trying to discourage that. (I think that silly, manipulative movie with Cameron Diaz, the one where they grow a younger daughter to use for parts for their older child, was on every other day... plus shown in the Versailles lounge at least once.) The day's movies aren't announced in the new "Fun Times," which recently replaced the old "Carnival Capers," which was also surprising. (But I'll save my "You spend two paragraphs on this but don't explain that" about the Fun Times for later. For the most part, though, I think the new design is excellent.)

The counter was nice - photos will show up at some point later - and the bathroom was very nice, although I seem to not have taken any photos of it at all. Oops! We had a "corner toilet," just like on Splendor. I find this design just wonderfully clever, a great way to provide, um, stance with limited space. Look, I will cheat and show you the one on Splendor instead:

Toilet and Shower (Cabin 1101, Carnival Splendor)

Except on Splendor we didn't have an upper towel rack that wanted to fall down on your head if you touched it too hard. Ah, these "older" ships. (2001.)

Here's a blurry view of our Spirit stateroom, taken from the balcony (which we're getting to, I promise):

Carnival Spirit - Cabin 7160 from Balcony, at Night

That you can see so much of the cabin with a regular camera lens is already a testimony to the size of these marvelous extended balconies. Here's a peek out the window while still in San Diego:

Carnival Spirit - Extended Balcony - Oosterdam (Cabin 7160)

And here's a pic while at sea:

Carnival Spirit - Extended Balcony from Cabin (again)

Both of our chairs are on the left. A far cry from the "loved it at the time, but now understand the criticism" demi-suite balcony on Elation:

Carnival Elation - Verandah Demi-suite Balcony

And definitely larger (although it's hard to say "better" - how about "interestingly different"?) than what we had on Splendor:

Another Balcony Photo (Cabin 1101, Carnival Splendor)

Let's get a better view, shall we?

Carnival Spirit - Extended Balcony Needs Wider Lens

Carnival Spirit - Extended Balcony Feet

(Note Mike's hobble-foot.)

Carnival Spirit - Mike Reclining on Extended Balcony

People wonder if it is possible to have a deck chair out there. It would depend upon how many people were using the balcony, and how, but we could have fit one out there easily, so long as the other person didn't want to be close to the rail (or the person in the deck chair wasn't very reclined.) I often sat out on our balcony reading, reclined quite far in one chair, with my legs stretched out and feet resting in the other chair. There was certainly more than enough room to lie on the deck itself.

Carnival Spirit - Extended Balcony - on the Floor

I don't remember if there was such a revealing gap at the bottom of the other balconies, but then again, who cares? There wasn't enough room to lie down, anyway. That said, I seem to recall the privacy dividers being better on the other two ships. I could easily look through the seams at our neighbours on Spirit.

Carnival Spirit - Peeking at Next Balcony

It's our neighbour, the chair. I didn't do much peeking, but I mention all of this because those who are pensive about the opportunities provided by a larger balcony may wish to consider that any resulting activities may not necessarily go unobserved.

Carnival Spirit - Our New Deck View

Above is the view you get when your lifeboats are used as tenders. The bare deck is actually far more distracting than the lifeboats, I think, but apparently I didn't upload a photo of the lifeboats. They are much higher than the deck, so (odd as it may sound) it's easier to ignore them and just see the water beyond. Meh, I'm not explaining this well. (But I'm too lazy to plough through the files for a lifeboat view.)

The short version is that not being able to look straight down into the water didn't bother us. We still had plenty of foam and seaspray to look past when keeping an eye out for sea life. (Sadly, we didn't see much on this trip, but then I think we also spent less time on the balcony.) You don't see the lifeboats at all when sitting or when just looking across the water.

Just Nice Water

Carnival Spirit - Looking up at Extended Balconies (Starboard)

The oddly tilted photo above gives you something of a view of the extended balcony cabins from outside the ship, below. (They're the ones above the lifeboats, not extending. Ha.) These are starboard side, aft cabins. We were port side, nearly midship, having a fear of vibrating sometimes found at the back. (And some people prefer the vibrations, comparing it to the soothing movement of a train. Shrug.)

So, yes, the extended balcony was worth it. For us. For that price. Twirling happened, and it was good.

Still, there were some unattractive splatters on the partitions and deck glass (that didn't go away after the usual "please close your curtains and stay inside while we powerwash your balcony tomorrow" session), and the peeling paint on the door was not up to Carnival's usual standards:

Carnival Spirit - Peeling Paint on Balcony

(Not pictured: a safe cabinet that wouldn't quite shut, missing door pulls.)

But overall, cabin 7160 was a fine choice. We were a short U-shaped jaunt from the elevators that took us to our usual haunts, the obstruction to the side of our panoramic view was hardly noticeable, the lifeboats below were a reasonable trade-off for the bounty of space, Marvin took excellent care of us, and our love of balconies remains passionate.

Carnival Spirit - View on Last Day

Carnival Spirit - Double Sunset

03 May 2010 |






Carnival Elation (2009)
Carnival Splendor (2009)
Carnival Spirit (2010)
Carnival Spirit (2011)
Carnival Splendor (2011)
Norwegian Pearl to Alaska (2012)