We just got back from our cruise on the Inspiration (08-25-05 to 8-29-05). This was our second cruise on the Inspiration and I have to say we loved it just as much as the first. I traveled with my two children (12 & 14) and my daughter’s friend (13). We had one inside cabin with bunk beds and found it to be very comfortable. We flew down early the day before the cruise and spent the day at Busch Gardens. Was this the time of year to go! There was hardly anyone there. The longest line we waited in was about 10 minutes.
AIR: I booked the air on my own. While we live in NH and the Manchester, NH airport is close to our house I ended up booking a flight out of Logan in Boston. JetBlue and Song were bother offering airfare at $59 each way (and both were non-stop flights). We flew down on JetBlue and back on Song as neither had the airfare at that price for both legs of the trip. I would encourage anyone who has several airports within driving distance to them to check flight information and price at each airport. The cheapest price I found in Manchester was $260.00 roundtrip for the same days. As we booked our own air we did fly into Tampa a day early to avoid any potential problems with airline delays, especially since we were traveling during hurricane season.
ACCOMDATIONS: I booked the Wyndham Westshore for $78 per night through Hotwire. While it was fine for one night, I wasn’t overly impressed. When I booked it was rated as a 4 star. About a month after booking I got an email from Hotwire saying they downgraded it to a 3.5 star based on member comments and I was given the option of keeping the reservation and getting $50 Hotwire dollars toward a future reservation or canceling and getting my money back. I decided to keep the reservation. While the lobby area was nice, the hallways and rooms had peeling wallpaper, worn carpets, and banged up furniture. Our beds were comfortable and they offered your choice of pillows. We were on the 11th floor and the views were great. The air-conditioning didn’t work all that well. While it was better then outside, the room never got really cool. The pool was nice, but small. The views from the pool deck (9th floor) were also great. I would rate this hotel as more of a 2.5 star.
BOARDING/DISEMBARKING: We arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m.. We checked in and were on board and eating lunch by 12:00 p.m. Disembarking was a breeze, although we were rerouted to Fort Lauderdale due to Hurricane Katrina.
DINING ROOMS: We had the early seating (5:45 p.m) in the Carnivale dining room. I took the early seating as I was traveling with children. As usual the food and service were fantastic! It was well prepared, and there was a large selection. We ate in the dining room every night. Our waitstaff was very attentive and made sure that we liked everything we ordered and if we wanted an extra plate of anything they were happy to provide it.
We ate breakfast and lunch in Brassiere Dining room which was a buffet. Again the food was plentiful and good. Both the pizza and sandwich stations were also very good.
ACCOMODATIONS: As I mentioned earlier in this review I booked a 4A guaranty cabin. Well the upgrade fairy visited us and we were upgraded to a 4D. We were on the Empress Deck which I found was very convenient to everything. I never saw our room steward, but can say whoever it was he or she did an excellent job. Our room was cleaned twice a day, we had a towel animal every night, along with a mint on the pillow.
ENTERTAINMENT: We all enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The song and dance shows were excellent, the comedian very funny, and the Mexican Folklore Show was wonderful. We all enjoyed the band at the pool and in the Avant Garde Lounge. The kids had a great time watching “Fear Factor” poolside. The Men’s Hairy Chest Contest was also very entertaining.
CAMP CARNIVAL: As my kids are older we didn’t use the camp program. They did go the first night for the meet and greet for the 13-15 year olds. They went to one activity and found the group to be very immature and opted not to go to the rest of activities. The organized activities ended for this age group ended between 10-11 p.m.. After that if you wanted you kids to participate in any of the late night activities there was a charge of $26/per child.
SHIPS CONDITION: This is an older ship and I found it to be in good repair, clean and comfortable. Everyone I went there was someone cleaning something. I didn’t see any stained carpet or disrepair. I know some people have commented that they felt the ship wasn’t at its best but I have to disagree.
EXCURSIONS: IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER – We stayed on ship’s time the whole time. Cozumel was one hour behind us! If you don’t book through the ship make sure your tour operator knows what time you need to be back to the ship. You need to be on board 30 minutes before departure. We left Cozumel at 12:00 a.m.. At around 11:30 p.m. they kept calling three people’s names over the speaker system asking them to call the Purser’s Desk. At midnight the ship cast off and we pulled away from the dock. We were about 50 yard away from the pier and three people came running down the pier waving and yelling. Well, the ship did not go back! My guess is these were the three they were paging earlier and they missed the ship.
I booked a snorkel trip through cozumelinisder.com during the day and a night snorkel through Carnival. Both trips were cancelled as the water was too rough (Saturday, August 27, 2005 – Hurricane Katrina was in the Gulf). Carnival credited my Sign and Sail and cozumelinsider processed the credit to my credit card before I even made it home. I would definitely book through them again. Instead we went to Chankanaab Park which is absolutely beautiful (we’ve been before). We were able to book the sea lion swim there and the kids had a great time. Our sea lion was Charlie and we all enjoyed our time in the water with her. We hung out at the beach for a while and then went back to the port to do some shopping.
SEAS: As I mentioned earlier we were in the Gulf when Hurricane Katrina hit. The ship’s Captain and Cruise Director kept us well updated at to what was going on. When we left on Thursday it was smooth sailing. Friday was a beautiful day at sea and it wasn’t until late Friday that they started making announcements about Katrina. By late Friday/early Saturday we were told that there was a chance we wouldn’t get back to Tampa on Monday, but no firm decision had been made. By late Saturday we were told we definitely would not be going back to Tampa on Monday and we may spend an extra day at sea (which would have been fine with me!!), but nothing was sure yet. Saturday night late (after 1:00 a.m.) it did get a little “bumpy” but I didn’t think it was that bad. No one in our cabin was the slightest bit seasick. The next morning the captain announced we went through 40 foot waves! The Inspiration must have a heck of a stabilizing system because it really didn’t feel like the waves were that big. By Sunday morning we were told we would be disembarking in Fort Lauderdale and bused back to Tampa by motorcoach. Carnival allowed us all free calls all day Sunday to make travel arrangements. I called Song and changed our flight back from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale. Song was great and made the change with no charge. From speaking with others JetBlue, Southwest and Delta did the same for other passengers. I thought Carnival did a great job keeping us updated and safe. Surprisingly, our final day at sea was very nice. It started out overcast and then cleared about 11:00 a.m. and we had smooth sailing all the way back to Fort Lauderdale.
If there are any other questions or other information you would like to get about the ship or my experience, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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We again had a great time on the Inspiration and would sail her again. My daughter’s friend told me this was the best vacation she’s ever had, which was great to hear. My kids are already planning next year’s trip.