So here we go .. we've put together a photo gallery of Carnival Spirit ahead of her being home ported in Australia for the 2012-13 Wave Season. Spirit has already gone through "round one" of refurbishments earlier this year which included the addition of Serenity - the adults only deck area at the back of the ship - which includes a bar, a swimming pool, a jacuzzi, deck chairs, two-person romantic cabanas and comfy chairs. You can also dine out here as La Playa Grille, the buffet, is just inside.

Most of the cabins have also undergone a spruce-up and now feature decor with orange and bronze highlights and light wood finishing which adds a real brightness to the accommodation spaces. We were in a balcony cabin on deck 7 with enough room outside to comfortably sit and watch the ocean.

We've heard that the next wave of refurbishments will take place in Sydney in October and will include an outdoor BBQ station, Australian-oriented beer and wine selections, and a change-over in the electrical plugs on board from US to Australian. Other changes are also being considered including what to do to improve the experience for coffee lovers. There are two espresso cafes currently on board on deck 2 and deck 9 in the buffet area, and these charge about $2.50 for a cappuccino and the baristas do a good job.

Otherwise this is pretty much the Carnival experience .. the main dining room called Empire is a grand space that serves classic cuisine at night and a simplified breakfast and lunch menu during the day. The bars are all lively and have music or karaoke and do great cocktails, but as with most ships, it is possible to find a quiet spot if you want to.

As for restaurants, Empire and La Playa do a good job as the standard venues on board. We did a night at "Chef's Table" which is held about once or week, or three times in a 14 night cruise, and at $75 a head it is a degustatation menu that is more than good value for money. We were looked after by head chef Jerry Furtado and the experience was extraordinary and when you consider that a couple of very good wines are included, it should go down well with Aussies who fancy themselves as serious foodies.

We're off to the other alternative tonight .. Nouveau which is a steakhouse .. before disembarking in San Diego.