We’re back and we had a wonderful, wonderful time!!!!!!
This is pretty detailed as I’ve tried to cover most of the subjects people seem to have questions about.
We left home at 2am on Sunday 9/28 to go to the airport. If we cruise again, we’ll fly the day before we embark – we were really tired by the time the ship sailed at 4pm. Neither of us sleeps well on airplanes so we napped a little before sailing, but were still pretty tired by evening.
We way over packed. We had 2 carry-ons with essentials - medications, a couple of changes of clothes, cameras, etc. We also checked 3 suitcases. We came home with a large suitcase and a small suitcase of never-worn clothes. We packed 2 bottles of wine and they traveled safely – the guy at the airport who x-rayed our luggage joked with us and said “this must be the goodie bag!” when he saw the wine and corkscrew! We used the overdoor shoe bag – great! Didn’t take a powerstrip and didn’t need it.
Embarkation: Very well handled. We got to the airport at 10:30, boarded the shuttle at 11:30, got inside the port terminal at 12 noon and were eating at the Lido buffet at 12:50pm. The Carnival staff at the airport and at the terminal were friendly, efficient, and helpful.
Our cabin: We had an Upper Deck oceanview cabin (categaroy 6A) on the stern – our window looked out over the wake. It was a beautiful view and the engine noise was not at all disturbing. We had lots of storage space and plenty of room. My dh was really surprised at how spacious our cabin was. Our steward, Catherine, had our room ready for us – the beds were together and everything was in great shape. She was quiet but friendly and did a great job. She kept our room very clean and neat, kept us supplied with ice for the wine, made great towel animals, and was almost completely invisible.
The ship: Inspiration shows her age (yes, the carpets are worn and stained in spots, there are chips and scratches on walls and railings) but the crew kept her very clean and tidy. I’d sailed on the Ecstacy a few years ago and the ship was nasty (dirty public restrooms, trays from room service left in the passageways for hours or overnight, trash on tables, etc). Inspiration was such a nice contrast. The décor is really gaudy and almost hideous (especially the Brasserie, which looks like ugly giant purple squid tentacles) but we really didn’t care. We spent most of our time on the open decks enjoying the sea views and the stars.
Food: We ate all of our meals from room service or the Brasserie. The Brasserie food was plentiful and decent, but not outstanding. My husband says it’s like a chow line on a Navy ship. We are vegetarian, so the selections were limited, but that’s our choice and not a criticism, although more cooked vegetables would have been nice. The meat entrees were plentiful and people seemed to enjoy them. Salad bar was fine. Breakfast was excellent – great omelets! Desserts were beautiful, but very bland (except for the chocolate cake from room service!!!). The coffee was excellent. The room service menu was very good, although some hot foods would have been appreciated – maybe soups or baked potatoes. And my husband must have had 25 ice cream cones!
Crew: The Brasserie staff was outstanding – friendly, courteous, helpful, and very hard-working. The Cruise Director, Marco, was pretty obnoxious (personal opinion – I don’t like the game show host type) and his PA announcements were almost impossible to understand due to his very rapid speech. The pursers desk staff were not friendly and were not especially helpful – the same with the Internet Café host. The only time we saw the Captain, he was rude - he was strolling the deck with a lady and we simply said “hello” and smiled and he looked right at us and didn’t speak! But the majority of the crew were helpful and smiling and we refused to be affected by the very few that weren’t.
Entertainment and activities: We only went to one show and left after about 10 minutes. Vegas type entertainment is not appealing to us, although the audience seemed really pleased. My opinion – it was mediocre at best – all flash and little real substance, although some of the performers were talented – I think it was the material. The lounge pianist was adequate and the Promenade guitarist was truly awful. The band, Music Forever, from Manila, Philippines, was outstanding – very good musicians and singers with a great repertoire. My husband requested a popular Filipino song and they were thrilled to play something in their own language. The calypso band was really great, too. (My dh and I are both professional musicians, so our standards are pretty high.)
We didn’t attend any activities – it’s just not our thing, but they were well attended and people seemed to have a good time and there were certainly many things to do.
Ports of Call (I’m going to post full reviews on the appropriate message boards, too):
Grand Cayman: We walked around the tender pier area for a while, back into the neighborhoods and into a gift shop while waiting for our tour transportation. We went horseback riding with Honeysuckle Beach Rides and had a great time. Tendering back to the ship was a real pain – the lines were very, very long.
Costa Maya: Unfortunately, we missed this port due to high winds and rough seas, so went straight to Cozumel.
Cozumel: We arrived at 4pm and stayed until 6pm the next day. We stayed on the ship the first day. The second day we took a taxi to La Caleta Marina and met our snorkle guides – Eagleray Divers. We had a great time snorkeling beautiful coral reefs and having lunch at the Nachi Cocum Beach Club. We taxied back to the pier, picked up a couple of quick souveniers and boarded the ship by 4pm. (As you can tell, we’re not real avid shoppers.)
Belize: This was our favorite port. We snorkeled with Coral Breeze and ate lunch at Caye Caulker. This was truly one of the best days we’ve ever had. Everything was perfect! Our next vacation will probably be in Belize – it was wonderful. We tendered back to the ship (no long wait this time) and slept! By the way, we had no trouble getting the first tender into port. I just got in line, picked up stickers for cave tubing, and went to the gangway. Piece of cake.
Tipping: We adjusted our tips – we didn’t eat in the dining room at all, so we took that off and increased the alternate dining tip. These people work very hard and certainly deserve to be recognized. We increased the daily tip for our cabin steward and also tipped her in cash on the first and last days.
Debarkation: The PA system didn’t work in the Paris Lounge, so we, along with hundreds of others, didn’t hear our tag colors called. Once that was fixed, everything went smoothly and pretty quickly.
We had some real high winds, rain on embarkation day, and choppy seas. Neither of us gets seasick, so the motion of the ship was enjoyable for us.
We had only a few minor complaints – drink prices ($3.50 + 15% for domestic beer is outrageous!!!!), some poor quality entertainment, a few unfriendly crew, and the relentless selling, selling, selling, selling by the staff. In addition, we had a hard time finding any privacy other than in our cabin – of course, we knew we’d be sailing with 2000 other people, but this was hard for us!!!! Also, it would be nice if they sold domestic cigars on the ship – not just cigarettes and expensive imported cigars.
It was a great vacation and we thoroughly enjoyed our cruise. We wouldn’t hesitate to recommend the Inspiration and the exotic Western Caribbean itinerary (especially Belize). I’ll post our website address soon so you can see our pictures and our smiling faces!!! Thanks to all of you who shared ideas and suggestions that made our cruise more enjoyable.