Well here goes.We were on the Inspiration on Feb 1st 2004 and had a GREAT time.Although this was my firstcruise I thought that it was great.First off start with embarkation we arrived in Tampa the night before and were at the port around 11:30 am which we thought was perfect a little crowded due to people getting off the ship but not as bad as I thought it might be. We boarded about 12:30 and went to check out our room.It was nice my mom had it decorated for our honeymoon. We went to the lido deck for lunch the food was ok .Then we went to walk around.Luggage arrived around 5-6pm.I didnt find the boat to be dirty be anymeans as I had read on other reviews.
The entertainment was great .It was super bowl so they had some great appetizers in the sportlounge.We had a room on the rivera deck.Which by the way is where we had to meet at get off at the ports which was nice.
As for the ports we went to Belize n did the cave tubing Highly recommened a BLAST .Cozumel we did thedolphin swim the most beautiful experience.In costa maya we shopped make sure you bargin walk away if they dont come down on prices itll be there when you walk back by if you dont find it half price afew shops down.Also I bought a sun in costa maya and found it 1/2 the price in cozumel so make sure you shop around.Grand Cayman we did the stingrays swim and oh my gosh that was fun .Yes at first I was a little scared but it was great.
The one complaint we had is that it took for ever to get off at the ports and they never explained why. The crew was great our wait staff Johnna n Magally were great the best... Our steward was awesome I dont have any thing to compare him with but could almost betcha he ranked one of the top ten.. The formal nights were so much fun gettin dressed up eatin all the fancy food which by the way we found excellent.Make sure to do the photo shots they have stands set up all over on most nights you dont have to but them but its like havin a photo shoot without paying the price.The photos werent that high in price an 8X10 was $20.00 - the 5x7 were 7.99 and you could order more after the 1st pic bought.
As for gettin goff the boat sad that it had to end but actually didnt go to bad had to wait a little while but thats to be expected .I hope I answerd a few questions for some of you..If you have any questions you can email me n ill do my best to answer them All I can say is have fun dont pick out the small stuff n enoy your VACATION
It was my first cruise. Ports were Cozumel, Gr. Cayman, Costa Maya, and Belize. I liked the cruise. I like being busy and lazy at the same time. My husband felt he was too scheduled, especially at the ports of call. He never wants to do another cruise. He couldn't go on the good dive in Belize, because the ship was behind schedule and it was an hour and a half away from the port, etc. I booked online a month ahead for Swimming with the Dolphins in Cozumel. It was amazing. Expensive but amazing. I did it on X-mas day! But again, since the time is limited, my husband couldn't be with me for this- he had to do his own excursion, which slightly overlapped, so it did not leave time for him to see me w/ the dolphins. My husband enjoyed swimming with the stingrays, but they startled me. Dolphins were much more fun. Other than the stingrays, we were disappointed at Grand Cayman. We had originally planned to go there for a vacation, but decided to cruise and see 4 destinations and go back to our favoritethe next year. Good plan- we decided we'd love to go back to Cozumel. Plus, the ferrying back and forth to the island from the ship was AWFUL. Took hours. Costa Maya was just a touristy place that caters to the cruise ship passengers. Surprisingly pleasant and good shopping and entertainment. Not much adventure. Belize was depressing to everyone who had been there. DON'T do the city tour. Ugh. Dangerous.
I'd recommend doing an excursion in the rain forest, but if it's one of the last ports, make sure you book with the ship, or have flexible times. Our ship was always late arriving. We're in our late 20's and we met 2 great elderly couples at our dinner table on the ship. They were so fun. They were experienced cruisers and gave us good advice. We never even knew who our cabin caretaker guy was. So, we couldn't relate to all the chummy stories other reviewers discussed. We regret not making it to the midnight buffet. But maybe that was good, since I only gained one pound on the trip,even with going to the gym on the ship 3 or 4 times. I liked all the food courses. We never eat this good on our own vacations. My husband got to main dishes at dinner every night. Great waiter. I prefer the dining room for lunch and dinner. I wish we'd ordered the free room service more often for lunch tho- although it never came when we ordered it early for breakfast before we had to go to port for an excursion. Don't order it then. Everybody does and nobody gets it before we get off the ship. The shows at night were great. Comedy was superior. Hated the gift shops and photos. The photo people kept messing up my hair. Plus, the backdrops are cheesy. We had fun in the blackjack tournaments. I loved ordering the drink specials for $3. Pack your own towels, so you don't have to worry about losing the ship's. I do get motion sick, but after the first day, I didn't need any medication. My husband felt clausterphobic at times.
Just got off the Inspiration (11-30 THROUGH 12/7)and here is my review of things I did in ports and general ship comments, I'll try and touch all bases. This was my first cruise and I found these boards extremely informative so I though I'd chime in with a first timers review.
We arrived at the port at 11:30 in attempts to board the ship early. Didn't happen. I guess the ship was late getting in and customs was also holding up the debarkation process or the previous guests. We waited until about 1:30 before they called the first group to board. I still recommend getting to the port at 11:30 to avoid the long lines and they do get long. If I remember correctly they announced 2300+ prople were on board. Luggage was at our room very quickly!
EXCURSIONS: I had booked excursions at Grand Caymen and Cozumel myself online. I chose the Stingray Swim with Native way and both the Dolphin Royal Swim and Sea Lion Swim with Dolphin Discovery in Cozumel. I'll get into more of those soon. I didn't book tours at Costa Maya or Belize so after findingmy room I went to the Shore Tour desk picked up a copy of the Shore tour list and chose a beach and snorkel tour in Costa Maya and the horseback riding tour in Belize. More to come on those also.
SPA: I also went to the spa to book a couples massage for my wife and I. The couples massage was expensive- I think $242 for an hour. My wife caught a virus of some sort in the middle of the cruise and I had a bad stiff neck from the pillows. Don't get me wrong the beds were comfortable I just didn't seem to care for the pillows themselves. Due to these two things, we cancelled the massages with more than 24 hours notice and didn't suffer a penalty for that. I figured if I'm going to pay that much for a massage I damn well am going to enjoy it. And between the neck and the virus we didn't feel we would enjoy it. Here's something I did find. After like the fourth day into the cruise, the spa started running specials, lowering the prices on their services. Massages are cheaper in a port then during a sea day. My wife and I were walking along the Lido deck when I saw a deck massage chair that advertised 20 minute back and neck massage for $20 and a foor and ankle massage for the same amount of time for $15. My wife and I both did these and they were wonderful. I'm glad I cancelled the full price deal and then found this Lido deck deal. Money well spent. Neck was still sore but a little better. Anyways, I'm not sure if the spa kept lowering their prices because they weren't booked or if this is common on all ships.
DINING ROOMS: We were seating at the late Dining time (8:30) In the Mardi Gras Lounge. I feel this time is best because it gives you time to visit the ports, get back on ship, have a nap and a shower and get to dinner, and enjoy the rest of your night on ship. Our Server was Noli. The food choices, preparation and Service were all top notch! Excellent dinning room food! Excellent service! If you want more than one item- no problem! But you have to ask. They won't just give it to you. There was only one dish I didn't care for and Noli had absolutley to problem in changing my item for something else. It was just a personal choice, had nothing to do with the preparation.
For breakfast I either had it delivered to the room by a time I designated (cards for this are by the rooms closet) or I had In the Brassiere Dining room. Practically everything you could think of for breakfast was there and was outstanding.
Lunch I had at either the Brassiere Dining room or on the Lido deck. Once again- excellent! Lido deck is always Hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken sandwiches and Garden Burgers. You need to ask for the Garden burger to be made if that is what you like. Also, fries, cold salads and other picnic type foods. The Brassiere was always a buffet style with two sides to it. On one side is a taste of the day with dishes served emphasizing a certain culture. I remember Chinese, Italina, Mediterranian, and spanish. The others I don't remember. The other side had typical buffet style food- some pasta, a carved section (one day beef, another pork, another chicken and etc.) cold salads, some rice dishes. A salad bar was in the middle of the room. Everything once again was excellent. I cannot over emphasize the quality of all the food! Pizza was good- my wife felt it was awesome and I rated this as good- being originally from Chicago I'm picky about my pizza, but it was still good.
I didn't eat at the midnight buffet but the friday night one which is THE BIG ONE is definately one to be seen. The way that the chefs get artistic with the food is absolutely amazing! I took a huge amount of pictures of this. This friday night midnight buffet is definatley not to be missed! It looked so good I can't believe that everyone destroyed it by eating it. GRAND CAYMEN: Arrival in Grand Caymen was by tender which you catch on the third floor front of ship. Like I said I booked the Stingray Sandbar tour through Nativeway Tours online. I went with them because of recommendations I found on this board. And I'm glad I did. I easily found them where the tender let off in Grand Caymen. One of their representatives were holding a sign that read "NAtiveway Tours". Now the reason I'm glad I didn't book through the ship is that all of the ships in port (I think there were 3 of them) had this excursion cancelled due to "unsafe" water conditions. Now I don't want my life threatened but at the same time I've come so far to experience this that I don't want a snap judgement to end something I've been waiting three months to experience. The Nativeway representative was always on the phone with the crew aboard their boat to dertemine the water conditions were not unsafe. And they were correct. The water was a little wavy but not unsafe by any stretch of the imagination. Had I booked through the ship, been cancelled due to some waves, and then found out that the water really was not bad I would have been pissed. The Nativeway crew was very helpful. Highly recommend this company. And I paid $25 pp instead of the $65 or whatever the ship was. Oh and it is on a sandbar, water is between 2-5 feet deep so If you can tolerate the waves at a beach, then these water conditions would not have bothered you. After about 1 hour with the Stingrays we went to another area to snorkel some. This is where the small waves could bother people. If you aren't experienced at snorkeling, you probably ingested more sea water than you cared to with waves going over your snorkel. If you book with Nativeways they have two times, a morning and an afternoon trip. You must take the morning tour! There is not enough time to take this tour and get back on your boat.
ONE THING I HAVE NOT READ ON THIS BOARD: The ship remains on ship time which is the time you left out of the port. In my case it was eastern standard time. You must keep this in mind if you book tours on your own. Also, ports where you must tender to the ship you must be on the ship 1 hour before the sailing time. So if you are in Grand Caymen until 3:30, you must be back at the tender no later than 2:30. You miss that time you miss the boat. Other ports where you walk right off, you must be back on 30 minutes before ship time
COSTA MAYA: We booked a beach and snorkel adventure through the ship. It was cancelled due to dangerous water conditions. Which once again meant the waves were too high. Could you imagine if you were booked for both of these excursions through the ship and they were cancelled how you would have felt? The thing I didn't like about the trip being cancelled was that we were not told until after we got off the ship that it was cancelled. If you book a excursion through the ship you have to meet at the Paris Lounge. I would have imagined that the ship personnel would have been notified of the excursion cancellation. If we were told about it ahead of time, we could have made some last minute decisions on another excursion that was available. We weren't extended this courtesy and were left on shore with nothing to do. We made the most of it by spending the day looking at the shops and on the beach at the port. The Costa Maya Vendors are very pushy for you to buy something and the pricing is near ridiculous. I heard some of them ask for $45 for an item that the person walked away from and by the time they were out the door the price went to $10 and then to offer me something. So don't be afraid to basement lowball an offer on something you're interested in. Or walk out and see how the price changes.
COZUMEL: by far the best time I had in a port!!! I booked a Royal Dolphin Swim and the Sea Lion Swim onlne through Dolphin Discovery. Once again I did this for two reasons- 1) I hear this excursion books quickly (and it does) 2) the price. Now I have seen on this board that you cannot book this tour on your own if you are on a cruise ship. THIS IS COMPLETELY FALSE! You can book on your own. When booked through the ship, this excursion will cost you $179 pp. And this is for the Dolphin Swim. There is another ship package which is cheaper and from what I saw is a waste of money, so the swim or nothing. I went on my own and booked both the Dolphin Royal Swim and The sea Lion swim for $159 total per person! What a deal to go on your own! I think the dophin royal swim alone was $119 and the Sea lion alone was $69 pp. Because I booked both as a package, I received an additional discount. And this price included the price of the park admission ($10). The difference between the ships swim and the Roayl swim was the Roayl swim got to do everything the Ships swim did and then we got to experience tricks with the dolphins. We got pulled through the water by two dolphins while gently holding their upper fins. Pushed us through the water by placing their snoots on the balls of your feet and swimming forward, and jumped over a pole that two people hold in the water. You are supplied with life jackets so no need to worry if you are not a seasoned swimmer. This was fun- a video of the experience was $49 and I think pictures they took were $14 each. Now- you are not allowed to take an underwater camera with you on the dolphin experiences, so don't think you'll get your own pictures. Trying to take video from shore is a waste also as it is too far away unless you has a super zoom on your camera.
Now for the shocker- I liked the Sea Lion Experience better than the Dolphin experience!! I'm a huge dolphin fan, and for me to feel that way is a huge surprise. This is not available to book through the boat. On My dolphin swim there were approximately 20 people each trying to get as much petting and playing time as possible. The sea Lion Swim is not popular at all, and thus there were three of us. Me my wife and another gentleman! What an awesome time!! In my opinion, it blows the Dolphins swim away, and that might have something to do with the amount of time you get with the animal. A video of this was $29 and pictures were still $14 but they allowed us to bring a waterproof camera on this experience. I think we spent 1.5 hours with the sea lion and approximately 85% of the time was actually playing or petting with the animal. The rest of the time was speaches teaching you about the animal. You don't just sit on the shore petting the animal either, you are actually in the water with the sea lion where they do the sea lion show. I highly recommend this Swim over the Dolphin Swim. The price is right so you might as well book both on your own. I booked the 12 pm dolphin swim and the 2:15 pm sea lion swim and found that this is probably the latest time you can do these two swims and make it back to the ship on time. Go to the park early (via taxi $10) and spend the entire day there. I didn't go early and wish I did. There is so much more to experience in the park.
BELIZE: I booked the horseback riding trip through the ship and had a great time. They have horses for both experienced and inexperienced riders. Very Beautiful ranch in a nice mountainous country setting. A vast difference from Belize City which is a dump of a place! An absolute dump! I don't recommend walking around outside of the tourist shops in town. If it wasn't for the setting around the horse ranch, I don't think I'd want to ever visit Belize again. I'd like to take the ruins tours before I totally wrote off Belize though.
ACCOMODATIONS: I booked an oceanview room but did not choose my specific room at booking and left it TBA. We would up with an Upper level ocean view room. Sixth floor. Room was nice. Bigger than I expected it to be. No refrigerator. No Hair dryer, but there was a basket of tooth brushes, tooth paste, razors and other items that are yours complimentary. Bed was comfortable, but I didn't care for the pillows, might bring my own next time. No clock either but you can place wake up calls through the phone system and it worked everytime!
ENTERTAINMENT: My wife and I are not into the Las Vegas style song and dance style shows- they aren't impressive to us.. We did see one of them and really didn't care for it as we felt. But if you like those types of song and dance shows I'm sure you would have liked the ones on ship. The comedians were all good. The magician started out his show great and then got boring and lost the crowd in my opinion. The adult only shows very very funny and very adult.
SHIPS CONDITION: I felt the ship was in awesome shape! I've read that some believe that the ship has gone down some but I disagree. If it is true, then it must have been one absolutely beautiful ship when it was first constructed.
SEAS: The seas were rough on my cruise. Even some of the staff could be heard commenting on it. Several passengers were sick due to the seas but I wasn't completely bothered. A dose a dramamine each day helped with that. I'm sure everyone would have had an even better time if the seas had cooperated, but that obviously is not Carnival's fault.
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. Put in the subject line Carnival Inspiration so that I don't accidentally delete it.
The only complaints I have about my experience are that I wish we would have been told about the excursion cancellation before we got off the ship in Costa Maya, and a bad problem we had with the Port parking garage. You can read about that by doing a search on the title "Dangerous Parking in Tampa". Besides those two things one small and one quite large, I highly recommend this ship!
Well, here it is my, and I emphasis MY, review of our 9/14 sailing on the Inspiration. Please try to read all of it before you make up your mind concerning my review. We sailed this week with another couple who we are friends with. They were only on one other crusie.
Review a ship is like telling a new mother how her child actually looks. I am a father of 3 daughters and one son. He is now a handsome 36 year old and my girls are all attractive ladies of 25, 29 and 33 years of age. I was there when they were all born and man they we ugly as babies. But I never told my wife this until they were grown. Reviewing a cruise is like telling the truth about babies.
Before I begin let me give some background on my wife and I. 1. We are both in our 50's. 2. We are conserative. 3. Neither of us drink, but people who do drink don't bother us. 4. We both gamble some. I like Roulette my wife like slots. We broke even for the week. SoI consider us winners. 5. We are both pleasingly plump, we both enjoy good food. She likes it plain I enjoy more fancy food. 6. She has been on 11 and I have been on 13. 7. We lie smaller ship. We especially liked the older classic ships. 8. Price is our main concern on a cruise. We like to cruise more than once a year, so price mean alot to us. 9. We are what I consider middle class American. 10. We like the Western Carribean the best.
Well that was alot but if you are still with me you will understand what I am going to say a litte better. Now my day to day review.
Sunday: We left home from Pleasant View, TN, 40 miles from Nashville Airport, 3:30 a.m our flight left at 6:30 a.m. We arrived in Tampa about 11:30 a.m. I had booked Tampa Shuttle to take us to the pier. After we got our luggage and waited for the shuttle we arrived at the peir at 1:30 p.m. We entered in the embarkation line and stood for the next 45 minutes. Once we got to the checkin desk our paper work took about 5 minutes. We were on the Ship just before 2:00. Went to our cabin U-42, which was a 6-C cabin. We were pleased with the cabin, It was in the forward section. Noticed very little noise during the week. Only problem with room was beds. As my wife said we didn't have beds we had boards with cloth over them. Our "Sleep comfort" bed at home has spoiled us. Our cabin attendant was from Russia. Her name was Annastasia. She were nice. I tipped her $20.00 that afternoon and told her I was diabetic and needed ice to keep my insulin cold, a sharps container, wanted our beds move in a different direction and asked her to remove the water and soda. (We brought 2 six packs of coke ourselves.) She got all this done within minutes. She did an excellant job all week long.
After we got to the room we toured the ship and got some lunch on Lido deck. Ship is a little like Vegas with neon and all. Food on Lido by the pool was just so-so. We returned to our cabin about 6:30 to get ready for dinner. We walked around some more and discovered more places we liked. My wife just fell in love with the Shakesphere Library. It was beautiful. Most of it was real wood not the plastic looking wood in the rest of the ship, (now just so you won't blow a gasket plastic wood didn't bother either of us).
At dinner the 4 of us were seated at a table for 6. We had plenty of room. I actually made up an imaginary friend who sat next to me. He became a joke with the staff by weeks end. We met a young lady, Juditra, who was Hungrain, she spoke excellent English she was our assistant waiter this was her first contract and wasn't sure she was coming back. We learned she was on her last week and was leaving the shop with us. She was wonderful. Our waiter was Denni from St. Vicent. He had been on the ships for 10 years all with Carnival. Food was good all weeek long but not excellent. Portions were small but you could get more than one portion. Deserts were the worst item on the menu no flavor. Beef was not the most tender I have ever had. Turkey was very good. Prawns were just medium shrimp. Lobster was samll but good. Could never just get a wedge of lettuce. One night they ran out of baked potatoes. Waiter and Assistant had 22 seats to care for. They were over worked. They ran all night and couldn't keep up with bread, tea etc. One night we came to dinner and one of the settings had been used. Often we didn't have enough glasses. I tipped the waiter an extra $20 in cash to encourage him for better service, didn't work! Best time we had in the dinning room was when we got a cake for Juditra and sang to her on her last night on the ship. She actually cried. Of cource I gave her additional tips also.
We enjoyed our cruise and would rate it as a 6 out of 10 compared to our other cruises. The problem wasn't the staff but it was more on the restrictions and demand Carnival places on the the staff. My wife said she felt like she was being watched. She caught the room steward counting the towels and our dinnig room staff didn't have time to talk to you much. Everytime you asked them a question it seemed like the were in a rush and I watch them and they were running just to keep up.
Denny Halliday was the cruise drector. He was very good. Entertaiment was very good. Comedian were really funny. Didn't go to later night shows. People said they were extremely dirty.
Monday: Day at sea. Poolside was crowded but not unbearable. Hot tups could of been hotter. Found pool on top deck Saturday not as crowded and hot tub was just right.
Tuesday we were in Grand Cayman been here three times seen everything. Had to tender in. It very easy. Followed our ritual. Bought coins and jewelry for ourlselves and family. Bought myself a really nice watch.
Wednesday was Costa Maya we have never been here before. It is actually a port built just for cruise ships. I heard one native tell someone, "Remember Cancun about 15 years ago, well that is what Costa Maya is now." We took a Mayan tour. We have been to 6 of them sonfar. Really enjoyed it. Bought some local stuff. I went to the fishing village about 2 miles away. It is very small and poor located right on the waterfront. Had the best shrimp cocktail I have ever had. It was in a Sunday glass, the tall ones, the shrimp were about the size of half dollars. Locals are very pushy you must just walk away as they are still talking.
Thursday what can I say Cozumel been there at least 9 times. Did the shop in my store and get free something thing. Wife has a thing for free. We actually walk miles to get a 50 cent trinket but wives will be wives. Returned to the ship early and swam. Was really nice having the ship almost to ourselves. Lunch on port days was a buffet either on the Lido deck or dining room. Yes, I said a buffet in the dining room.
Friday we were in Belize. We have done all the Mayan ruins here so we had a local give us a city tour. Four of us toured for $50.00 for about 2 hours. We were in a 1980's something van. But we enjoyed this more than anything else we did. We were lucky to have a fine young man to give us the tour. He stopped where ever we wanted. We saw just how blessed we as American are. Our friend and us both work at the same homeless shelter in Nashville. The homeless folks in the states actually live better than some do in Belize.
Saturday was a day at sea. We slept late had breakfast in the dining room and went to deck activities. They were fun. Most fun of the day was Newly Wed Not So Newly Wed Game. We took a nap and swam. That night was very happy and sad. We lost friend we made during the week and we also saw the gleam in the eye of Juditra as she was working her last meal. All she was thinging about was seeing her Moma and Daddy. As I said we order a cake for her. All her tables gathered around our table as we sang happy vacaton to her. She actually cried and hugged each and everyone of us.
Sunday was leaving. We had breakfast in the dining room. Then went to deck 9 to wait for our color to be called. We were second color called and were of the ship by about 10:15. We didn't leave for home until 6:55 at night so we did the Aquarium right next to the ship. It was fun. Got to the airport at 2:45. We played cards until we left. I will say all the other airport could learn from Tampa. I believe it is the easiest time we have had in an airport since 9/11.
If you have read all this you are probably asking why did he only rate this ship a 6 out of 10. Well here are the reasons. 1. Service was slow, not because of staff but because of few number of staff. The Matre De told us they only 140 waiter on the ship. We had 2200 dinner guest each night. 2. Poor selection of food. Only really out of the ordinary was the Escargo and Lobster. All shrimp dishes were made with extremely small shrimp compared to other ships I have sailed and Carnival the last time I was in the Celebration in 1998 or 1999. 3. They don't trust you. You actually have to sign a sail and sign slip to get a towel at the pools.
Was the ship dirty? In some areas you did see some stains but that didn't bother us. But generally it was shining clean. I did find some trash from the week or weeks before in our cabin. I actually picked it up and put in in the window sill it was still there when we left on Sunday. But our cabin attendant probaly thought I collect little rubber things. Considering they have between 2000 to 2500 people on this ship each week I consider the ship to be clean. Was everything in exactly the best workin order? No. One of the hinges on our closet door was loose but who cared? All the lights worked, the A/C was cold. Only problem was the beds were extremely hard. But for the ship being 7 years old I thought it was in good repair.
I guess what I am trying to say is Carnival is just trying to meet market demands and the market demands cheap cruises and to do so they have to cut corners somewhere. I wish they would find a really good $600.00 pp outside rate and stay with it. I guess if they sail people for for less than $350.00 per week they can't give the best food on the seas or white glove service.
Will I sail Carnival agin? Yes. But only if it is cheap or I can be assured the cruise food and service has improved.
Now are the other line I travel that much better than Carnival? No, not really. They have the same problems. I just think Costa makes up for poor service some by better food. And Royal Carribran makes up for poor food with better service. Carnival might make up for poor food and poor service with cheap drinks, loose slots but theta diesn' really impress me!.. I said we broke even in gambling but we only use $50.00 to gamble with.
Did i enjoy myself? YOU BET YOUR LIFE I DID.
Happy cruising. Hope I didn't offend anyone. As I said at the beginning this is MY review of the Inspiration.
I hope I haven't offended anyone about by talking about one of their babies. I know how attached some can become to one cruise line or one special shgp.
Background: This was my first cruise for my daughter (age 8) and me. My husband and others in the group have all cruised before. We picked this itinerary because of four port calls and it was a seven-day cruise. We flew in on the same flight Carnival would have booked if we went through them. We booked our flights and saved over $100 per person. We paid $20 per person through Carnival for a roundtrip shuttle to the pier.
Embarkation: We were treated like cattle. The lines moved swiftly, but it felt like Disney World. Prepare to wait at least an hour. Very organized, problem was 90% of the cruisers showed up around 2:00 p.m. for a 4 p.m. departure.
The Ship: The ship was very clean. Really large. Had problems locating our dining room (Carnivale). When it says 8th floor, that is really only accessible from one end of the ship. That was strange. Teenagers were everywhere.
Cabins: The cabins were nice. I thought they were small until I heard about other cruise ships. Our steward, Orlando, kept the room clean. He was outstanding. We had an Oceanside view. It wascool waking up and looking at a port when you fell asleep at sea.
Food: The food was good in the dining rooms on most nights. Feel free to ask for two of something in the formal dining rooms such as lobster or a double helping of shrimp. The serving size is as if you are in a 5-star restaurant, not the local Sizzler. If you want Sizzler, the lido deck had two great buffets for lunch and dinner daily. Also, a 24-hour pizza bar, which my daughter constantly consumed. One of the buffet lines has snackbar food (hamburger, hotdog, etc..,) but very good and the other had regular Golden Corral buffet menus. Our waiter was very knowledgeable and so was his assistant. The entertainment during dinner was great. Also, Carnival has a soft drink card that you can purchase for $20 (all-you-can-drink). We knew we would drink $60 of soda in one week, there we chose to just purchase a soda when we wanted one. Can to less than $20 dollars on our final tab.
Entertainment: The shows were just okay, meaning the first Las Vegas style show was awful and the second one was great which averages out to okay. Our friends camped out every night in the karaoke bar. They had a great time. The casino was pretty good and they even had a slots tournament. My mom won $60 one night and a lady next to her won over $500 while playing slots. There is not a lot of entertainment for teenagers though. Most onboard grew tired of the video arcade after the first night. Then marched over the boat like gangs. The teen disco didn't seem too popular. Bingo was extremely popular and I'm not a bingo player. I enjoyed it both nights. Packed house. The comedians they hired sucked horribly. They were not funny. Seemed like Atlantic City rejects.
Ports Grand Cayman -You have to catch a tender from the boat. The port is too small for a cruise ship. It was the best stop for me. We went to Stingray City and snorkeled on the Uncle Marvin's tour. We booked online in advance. It was great. The boat only has about 15-20 people on it and was very personable. The crew and staff were very nice. I highly recommend him. I even booked the wrong time and they emailed me w/ the correct time for our ship. Just remember, Grand Cayman is an hour behind us. The cruise-sponsored tour boat came up behind us in Stingray City w/ hundreds of people jumping in the water like discarded cattle. Bought a video for $50. It was pricey, but well worth it. Just one of those vacation expenses. My parents took the ship-sponsored tour of the city and Hell. They thoroughly enjoyed the tour. My husband and I would like to fly back later to vacation for a week.
Costa Maya - Cruise ships created this port. It was a nice spot. We didn't do anything but shop and hung on the beach. There was nothing really to do except snorkel. The beach was nice, but the water was extremely rocky. Bring beach shoes and a towel. Those w/out didn't stay in the water too long. We rented beach chairs, but my husband bought some drinks at a bar on the beach, so we moved to a table. This was the most relaxing port out of all of them. When shopping, we bargained down everything we bought. There was entertainment in the amphitheater in the center of the shopping area. That was nice.
Cozumel - It rained most of the day and was extremely cloudy the rest. We caught a taxi to Chankanaab Park for $10, but some rented scooters. It was nice. Had a nice beach, no rocks and the beach chairs were free. We ate at a restaurant in the park hoping to experience authentic Mexican food. It was really gross. Nothing likes the Mexican food at home. My daughter (8 yrs old) did the dolphin encounter at Dolphin Discovery. We booked online in advance. She loved it and it provided great photo ops. Pics were expensive as well as the video, but we just couldn't resist buying the pic of her kissing a dolphin. Others in my group shopped or did a ship-sponsored tour of Cozumel. There is plenty of shopping to do there. Also, we stopped at some bar on the pier for some really good drinks and music.
Belize -Don't know why this is a port call. Plenty of shopping, but nothing else. Plenty of snorkeling. No really nice beaches to hang out on. We took a ship excursion of a tour of Belize City. The city is extremely poor. It was terrible. If you shop anywhere, stop by the pharmacy at the pier. The pharmacist used to work for Wal-mart and sells meds that require a prescription in the U.S. over the counter. She hawks them like a "snake oil salesman." My family bought some stuff. Debarkation: We slept in and got to breakfast late. They wanted everyone in a different meeting area on the ship to clean for the next cruise. We sat for over two hours waiting because for customs and not Carnival (at least that is what they told us). Debarkation was extremely smooth after our group was called. We waited until last and our luggage was easier to pick out. We rode the Carnival shuttle back to the airport and got home very safe.
Overall, it was a great cruise. I would like to try another cruise line such as Royal Caribbean or Norwegian. The port calls, excursions and ship were great.
A little background first and then the review.
This was our 6th cruise. We have gone on a cruise the last 5 years now. The last four were in February but this one was during the summer. My family consists of myself at 48, my wife 50, daughter 14 and son 17.
We picked the Inspiration for a number of reasons such as departure from Tampa, ports of call and a seven-day cruise. My wife insisted on a summer cruise which I will never do again (more later on that).
We arrived in Tampa a day early and stayed at the Sailport Resort. I chose it because of the suites available. I would have rather stayed at the Marriott Waterside Hotel because of its proximity to the port and other activities in Tampa such as Ybor City. We arrived at the ship around 10:30 am. Embarkation was smooth and was inside the building by 11 am. At 11:45 am we were headed on the ship. We were originally scheduled for early dining and were pleasantly surprised to see we received late dining 8 pm.
I grabbed a bucket of beer and proceeded tolie out by the empty pool. By 1:15 pm we already had our luggage. Lifeboat drill was uneventful but nice that we did it inside instead of standing out in the heat.
I'll revisit each day and then return to individual departments and activities on the ship itself.
Monday was our first day at sea. I was up early and when I went back to the cabin at 8 am to take a short nap there was little or no chair saving in place. I was real surprised when I went back out at 11am to find almost all the chairs being taken. Most actually had people in them. Not like the times on the Destiny where rows and rows were full of chairs with towels and nothing else. I found a couple after a little search and relaxed all day.
Tuesday was Grand Cayman. We had done the stingray and turtle thing (highly recommended) in the past and opted for a prearranged horseback ride along the beach with Honeysuckle Stables. Very reasonable, $10 booking fee and $50 for the actual ride. They picked us up near the port and the ride went along the beach, into the water and then also a short stint inward. A nice time that I would have preferred riding side by side instead of nose to tail but they said some of the horses don't like to be next to each other. Cayman can be very expensive to eat and drink so we went back on the ship.
Wednesday was Costa Maya. Someone who had been there before wrote that it seemed like a "private island" type of stop. I would have to agree except give it credit for a lot more than that. They have everything you need as you get off. Pools, shade, restaurant, live music (great band), shopping and a lot more. I had done a little investigating prior to sailing and found there was a small fishing village Majahual 5 miles away. You could rent an taxi at $5 per cab, rent bikes at $10 per day or rent a golf cart for $12 an hour or $50 per day. Knowing they would go lower due to comments by prior cruises I got them down to $10 and $40 and he also threw in a coupon for 4 free cervesas at his stand. I took the all day option and headed off to the town by way of nice paved roads. We went back and forth from the dock to the village a few times and got my monies worth plus my teenagers were able to ditch us and do a little exploring on their own. If you just want to see the village and then go back rent a taxi. Almost everything is in a short 4-5 block long area. The bikes looked like a nice option but it was real hot and I wouldn't recommend that option. The village was great. Most locals were real friendly. We were invited to sit at a beachside area across from the hotel. $2 beers and $1 sodas and some delicious salsa and chips. After that we started shopping and they definitely will bargain. Things that started out at $20 got down to $8. Some items they moved on more than others. I brought books, toys and candy for the kids and they and their parents were very thankful for those items.
We stayed there awhile and then headed back to the beach resort. Natalie and Jay went swimming in the pool and Julie and I headed for the live band. There was food and drinks available which were slightly higher than the fishing village but reasonable for sure. A great band was playing and got the crowd going.
After an hour or so we were heading back to Majahual to do more shopping and drinking via the golf cart. I sat outside a bar and took in the scenery and the fresh ocean breezes. As we left we stopped to get our free beer and had a delicious nacho plate. Costa Maya was a great all round stop in my opinion.
Thursday was Cozumel. There was a medical emergency on the ship just as we left Costa Maya. The captain brought the ship up to full speed and announced that we would be arriving in Cozumel around midnight. They weren't sure if passengers and crew would be able to get off but they were going to request it. All the crew was of course concerned for the well being of the ill passenger but were ecstatic about being able to have an evening in port. They said this happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year. If I was to guess 65% of the ship got off. They did allow the crew and passengers off around 1 am. I was too tired to go into town and stayed in bed. My teenagers were up and saw the Celebration leave shortly after we pulled in. The Holiday was also in port due to a tropical storm.
In the morning we headed to Chananabab National Park were I had reserved the dolphin swim for the girl's months in advance. It was pricey but everyone who had done it before us raved about it. I could see why because both girls loved it. Jay and I were allowed to go on the pier with them and experienence it and also take pictures. I thought about doing the Sea Trek (Helmut diving) but considering where they were doing it and the cost I decided against it. For those of you who have never been to this park there are plenty of other things to do. They have a small beach and lagoon for small ones. There is a considerable amount of areas to snorkel and dive. Numerous shacks rent all the equipment you need at competitive prices. There is a restaurant for food and drink, which were reasonably priced. There was also a sea lion show that we had planned to see but timing wasn't right and the girls were hungry.
Cozumel has recently redone the area where the cruise ships dock. It now has all the shops and some of the famous watering holes nearby. The last time we were in Cozumel, which was a few years ago, we had to take a taxi to town to shop, eat and drink. I enjoyed that part of it compared to the artificial shops with roll up door fronts.
Friday was Belize. I had investigated a number of excursions. The most popular seems to be tubing down a river into caves. There are private and ship sponsored tours. After a lot of debate we decided it wasn't for us. It involved a 1-hour bus ride there and back along with a 30 to 40 minute walk with your inner tube. Most people I spoke to enjoyed the river part but seemed to bring up the bus and the walk. I arranged a riverboat fishing/sightseeing tour with Action Belize. We never did catch any fish but enjoyed the sightseeing part of it. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the country and the area. Overall I was a little disappointed in what I received considering the cost. I think I was expecting this big fishing and wildlife extravaganza and it never developed. My family and I enjoyed it but no one was overwhelmed. I still don't think the tubing is the answer although I didn't do it. Belize is noted for snorkeling and diving and if I were to do it over again I would have gone snorkeling. We did walk into town and it was rundown but the people were friendly and there was plenty of police present. You could be safe for a short walk but don't get off the main streets. There really isn't much so don't plan on doing more than a short walk, stop in for a beer and soda and head back to the ship.
Saturday was our final day at sea. I always got up around 6:30 am. It's hard to adjust your sleeping habits for a week and I enjoy that quiet time on deck. I grabbed a couple of chairs but it really didn't start filling up until 11 am. We watched the ice carving, hairy chest contest and for the first time I went to the not so newlywed game, which was funny, and I recommend it.
Sunday was debarkation day. We had an early flight out and the purser's desk accommodated us with early departure off the ship. We were off the ship by 9:50 am and at the airport shortly thereafter.
And now to the ship:
Everyone has an opinion and it is interesting how everyone's differ but I am happy to share mine. Food: A-
I thought the dining room food was very good. I honestly can't think of a dish I ordered that I didn't like. I would normally order two starters, skip the salad and order two entrees. The portions seemed to get larger as the cruise went on to where I should have only ordered one entree but they never question it and it was fun experimenting with all the different food. They didn't offer ground pepper on the salads and some of those small things that people expect but I was very pleased. Natalie had a few fish dinners that weren't perfect but wee all shared and certainly didn't starve! Desert was great and toward the end of the cruise we stopped ordering it because we were getting so full after dinner. Carnival does the usual singing and dancing on certain nights. It was neat on the first few cruises but now it has lost its appeal to both of us. I was doing the Macarena 10 years ago! We had a tables near us show up every night 20 to 30 minutes late! It was so rude of these people to do that to the wait staff but they just rolled with it. A new thing with Carnival but something we experienced last year on NCL was the option of buying a bottle of wine and you could either save it for the next night and it would be at your table or take it back to the room with you.
The Brasserie Bar and Grill offered plenty of options morning noon and night. We never ate there at night but found the afternoon and breakfast set-ups satisfactory. The breakfast was the same thing everyday except rotating between pancakes and French toast. I really enjoy corn beef hash but none was available except in the regular dining room breakfast seating. I found the omelet ingredienents not hot enough. He wouldn't allow the cheese to melt or the ham to warm up. I quickly corrected that the next time by asking him to cook it more. The whole family loved Danish. Let's face it, it's a steam table and unless you have it right out of the oven it losses some appeal.
The grill out by the pool served some cold salads and the usual hamburgers, hotdogs and fries. I liked all three.
There was a frozen yogurt and ice cream machine that got a lot of use. People were constantly transporting ice cream 24/7. Never made the midnight buffet.
Pizzeria was good.
Lounge/Bar Entertainment: C
This rating is for the lounge acts and not the main shows. My biggest disappointment was the non-exisistant disco! One factor is they turned it into a teen disco until 10 pm. After that it was still overrun by teens. I think it was a great idea to have a spot for the teens but the entire cruise and the entire time the disco was open? I would guess the average age on the ship (speaking of adults) was 25 to 55. Please don't tell me that that is still not a disco crowd. The piano singer Darin even commented on how all the "Disco Dj" was playing was hip-hop and "who wants to dance to hip-hop?" I never went in there except to stick my head in it. There was never an adult, and the teens were NEVER dancing but just goofing off. Please remember I brought two of my own teens, 14 and 17 with me so it's not like I'm out of touch. My point is why not let the teens have it for a period of time and then release to the adults.
Next on my bashing was the horrific singing of "Jimmy" and his guitar. I would walk through the casino to get away from him. I must admit he had people there every night but it was so loud and he sang every artist you could think of but in my opinion he didn't have the range to accomplish that.
The Karaoke bar was fun. I didn't get the nerve so I waited till the last day and did two songs. Previous cruisers complained about the smoke but I never saw that as an issue. It could have been larger but you just have to make due.
There was a band called Music Network that did pretty well. Not bad and only one of two places I would even consider sitting.
Darin has a great voice and range. His strongest points are Billy Joel songs and he was really good on others.
The Lido deck band wasn't what I've heard in the last four cruises. Now I will admit the typical Lido band exhausts there song list by day one but these guys had no good or bad songs. They all kind of sounded the same.
Paris Lounge Entertainment: N/A
It wouldn't be fair for me to rate this because all I went to was the main show Shout and that had a lot of nice things and a few ok skits. My teens went to most of the shows and what I got out of them was most of the other shows were good.
First night out to sea I walked up to the roulette table and won 5 out of the first six numbers I played with only three chips on the table per spin. That was a quick $130 or so. Interestingly enough I won every night except the last night and walked away with over $200 in winnings. That's pretty good for me as I am a somewhat conservative gambler. Casino staff and management were very friendly. I saw a lady win $400 and then someone else win $100 on a quarter slot machine. Someone else won about $300 on the two end 5-cent machines.
It was your typical Carnival cabin. The Fantasy class has a larger bathroom. The last four cruises we took had balconies so we missed that but the ocean view window helped. Cabin Steward cleaned the room and nothing else. Never would say hello and didn't figure out that we had late seating until the second to last day.
Lido Deck and Activities: B
Plenty of space to lay out and lots of chairs. What ever happened to the late night or daytime congo lines singing and dancing or the limbo game. Instead they did the hairy chest contest and a game with beanbags and golf balls. I thought the staff didn't do enough or be creative.
Total Grade: B
I like the Fantasy class ship, as they were easy to get around. There was enough bars/lounges etc. if they only would have been put to good use. I will never cruise in the summer for a few reasons. I never understood the increasing chances of tropical storms and hurricanes. We fortunately missed any our week but there was one before and after our cruise. I didn't enjoy all the kids on the ship. Gosh, I must be getting old! Please remember I brought a 14 and 17 year old on with us. It just seemed that the 13 to 16 age groups didn't have enough to do. Everywhere I saw more than 8 of them they had a security officer following them around at night. The younger ones were fine and well behaved. My teens didn't interact with any of the others as they hung out together or with us. My daughter loved Camp Carnival when she was younger. The problem for that age group is there really wasn't anything for them to do but roam. I've been to the Western Caribbean twice now and probably wouldn't go back. If you have never done it is a great area of the Caribbean to visit.
My wife and I and son(17) and his friend and daughter(15) and her friend arrvied at the terminal at 11:15 a.m. and were on board at 11:45 a.m. This was the fastest check-in we have experienced in the eight cruises we have taken. We had our documents checked and sail and sign cards issued and we had to wait in the next room for 10 minutes before they called our number. They told us we would not be able to go to our room because they wouldn't be ready. However, we checked anyway and they were. So, we dropped the carry-ons and went up to the Lido deck for lunch.
Room: we had two rooms, both on Empress deck. One inside and one outside. We booked very early for cheapest deck and ended up on Empress deck. Both rooms had two single beds and one cot. Cot was short and not long enough for one of the boys. His feet hung over end of cot. There was plenty of storage for clothes and there was plenty of room to move around with three in each cabin. Shower was adequate andCarnival provided shower gel and shampoo enough for a week. Also, there was small quantity of provided toothpaste and razors,etc. provided by Carnival.We had Rhoda,cabin steward, and saw her quite a bit in the hall way.She was quite good and always kept the room in order and with fresh towels.
Food: Lido deck was good. You always have a good selection. They had Lasagna the first day that was fantastic.We usually ate lunch and breakfast here. We ate in the Mardi Gras dining room for dinner. We, with a larger group, had tables 121 and 123. John from Pakistan and Michaela from Slovakia took very good care of all of us. John was very quiet and pertained to business but Michaela was very personable. Food in Mardi Gras was very good. Rack of Lamb, prime rib, lobster, steaks, salmon, grouper, shrimp, etc. and appetizers, soups, salads and deserts.....If you wanted an extra anything John brought it without hesitation.
The ship: The ship was very clean. I did not see any signs of needing repair. The only problem we experienced was the toilet overflowed in the girls room...twice....they compensated us with six drink coupons for the inconvenience. They did respond immediately when my wife called regarding the problem,both times.
Activities: plenty to do....or not to do if you choose...we went on The Pride last year and this ship was more active and a lot more fun. We did not use Camp Carnival. They have ping-pong tournaments, games at the pool,two adult pools,hot tubs,gym, aerobics, casino, long drive contest(simulator).Check the Carnival Capers newsltr every evening for the next day activities.
Shows:Cruise Director was very good,Lenny Haliday.He was seen quite a bit and was very funny. Guitarist at Violins Lounge was excellent. There was quite a crowd here every night. He played everything and the place was hoppping. Shout was excellent! Others shows were just okay. Comedy shows were good....Tony Esposito was very good and Dave(?) Miller was too.Don't miss the midnight shows.
Ports: Cayman Islands: very clean. Went on Sting Ray trip. This was our second time on this tour and it is just fantastic. We were taken to the sand bar and even though there were a lot of boats there it was not crowded and there were atleast one hundred stingrays... had just an hour to shop and did not buy anything...had to tender in here and not bad tendering in but what a line trying to get back to the ship
Costa Maya:they do have some excursions here but we did not take any. We took shuttle to end of pier where there are two small "resorts" where there are pools and a very small beach to swim at...no charge to use facilities...also quite a few merchants selling everything under the sun...make sure you bargain,do not pay the price they are asking. They will come way down.
Cozumel: emergency on board so we hightailed to Cozumel and got in at midnight instead of the next morning. We got off at 1:00 a.m. and were in Carlos and Charlies til they closed and then went to Senor Frogs...."out of control"....Strobe lights, fog, no lights, blaring music, and wall to wall people. We were back on board at 5:00 a.m. and up at 9:00 a.m. for Chankanaab Park....small taxi fare and $10.00 to get into park, per person. Stopped at Fat Tuesdayon way back to ship and what a pary going on there, dancing on the bar,singing ,drinking....
Belize: Went on Cave/River Tubing thru the ship.Thought aboout doing thru Reggie but opted out because of the distance away from ship. This was an excellent trip. Don't miss this one. We took early excursion and got on first tender in and on first bus to leave for river. Buses were old but clean and were air-conditioned. You can wear your suits or change when you get there..You will get wet. You grab a tube and light for your head and life vest if you need one and walk or rather hike for quite a while...about 25 minutes up a crude trail until you drop your tube in the water for a float down river.I had water shoes on. Not enough support for the rocks when walking. My son had flip flops on and was a problem too. His friend had on sneakers and had to put on and take off when crossing streams and did provide the best support on the trail but he didn't want to get them wet and he kept them dry until the last water fall when in the tube. It is low in some spots and deep in others. If you can get to the front of the group it is worth it because the guide is very informative. We were at the site for a total of apprximately two hours.Most of the time was spent going thru the caves and it is good to have the light so try and get one. You do see some bats at the end of the caves. The water is cool not cold. We stopped on way back to the city for lunch at Cheers.....rice and beans,chicken, cole slaw,mango and banana and tea or lemonade. Not the cleanest place in the world but not that bad. You can leave your valuables on the bus without any fear.Buy a under water camera from Wal Mart and take it with you....do not take your good camera.
Days at Sea: always something to do or not to do...
Disembark: off at 9:30 a.m. you can sleep in but Lido deck will be crowded with everone trying to eat....
Had a great time on the Inspiration.
Background: This cruise was a gift from our children to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Our group included my wife and myself (age 70) our three children's families (ages 40-48) and three grandchildren (ages 10-19) for a total of eleven. Our cruise experience was from zero for one member to nine for my wife and myself. It was everyone's first cruise on Carnival. We picked the Inspiration primarily for its itinerary, since no one had been to Costa Maya or Belize.
Embarkation: Since we live in Florida we drove to Tampa and parked in the nearby parking garage. (Cost is $70 in advance but they do take credit cards). The directions we had were great until you exited the Interstate. From that point it was not very well marked and you had to go slow to find the street signs. The bag drop area at the pier was small, but the security officers kept traffic moving through it. After dropping the bags, even though the garage was across the street, the signs to the entrance were small and hard to follow. There appeared to be plenty of parking spaces.
It was 12:30 bythe time we had dropped the bags and parked. We headed into the terminal for processing. It was fairly crowded but they had a good system so it took about 30 minutes until we were ready for boarding. Everyone was on Riviera Deck and all the rooms were made up when we arrived. It was decorated with streamers and 50th Anniversary banners. We dropped off the carry on baggage, met our room steward, Kerina from South Africa, and headed to the Lido deck for lunch. After lunch we spent about an hour exploring the ship, went back to our room. Our bags were waiting for us so we unpacked and got ready for the perfunctory emergency boat drill. Surprisingly it was held indoors in one of the lounges. I thought the whole exercise was pretty casual and wasn't sure how it would be handled if their was a real emergency. Since it was indoors, we missed the departure from the Port of Tampa.
The Ship: The ship was clean and neat. Considering they board 2500 people each and every week, there were little signs of repair needs. The décor is very modern and a little eclectic. The only problem we encountered was finding the Carnivale Dining Room from the front of the boat. It seemed as if you always had to go up or down a deck to get to it.
Cabins: One pleasant surprise was the size of the rooms. We had an inside cabin. It was larger than some of the outside cabins with balconies on other cruise ships. The bath was also larger than most others. There was a safe but no hair dryer. The cabin steward soon learned our routine and always had the room made up. The towel animals are a cute touch.
Food: The food at dinner was very good with a lot of variety. We ate dinner in the Carnivale dining room every day and the selections on Saturday, the last day of the cruise was as good as what we had on Monday, the first day. If you couldn't make your mind up between two items there was no problem in ordering both. We split our breakfast and lunches between the dining room and the Brasserie buffet on the Lido deck. I felt the buffets were a little boring with not a lot of variety. However the pizza at the Pizzeria was excellent. The ice cream machine was a major player in the six pounds I gained. Our waiter Rommy was from the Philippines and his assistant Ane was from Romania. They provided us with excellent service during the cruise. Ane was especially attentive to my ten year old grandson.
Entertainment: The shows in the Paris Lounge were very good. The costumes, scenery, lighting, etc. were first rate and they had the largest cast of singers and dancers I've seen. The quality of the comics, jugglers etc were also first rate. However Lenny, the cruise director should forget the song and dance and stick to the small talk and introductions. The other lounges throughout the ship seemed to be fully energized. The karaoke bar seemed very busy every evening. And of course they had the usual cruise games, BINGO, "The not so newlywed game", the hairy chest contest etc., entertainment seems to be Carnivals strong point. However I would have liked a small intimate bar where you could get a drink and not have you ears shattered by the sound system.
Ports of Call: Grand Cayman -With no pier you have to take a tender into Georgetown. Most of our party either went on a tour and then shopping or to Stingray City, my choice, though I felt it was more hype than anything. It turned out to be an enjoyable encounter. Some of them are huge and seemed at times to be a little aggressive. It is an interesting feeling to have them suck the food from your hand. We added a side trip to a coral reef and had a great time snorkeling and snapping pictures. Upon our return to Georgetown some of our party decided to go shopping. I caught the tender back to the ship, showered and had a couple pieces of pizza on the Lido deck. Everyone enjoyed the day.
Costa Maya - A pleasant surprise. Since this is a new port of call we were not expecting much. While one daughter went on an excursion to the Mayan Ruins and loved it, the rest of us stayed in the beach village. This stop was a little like the private islands that some other cruise lines own. There were some shops that sold souvenirs and trinkets, a large salt-water pool with a swim up bar, a restaurant with a band and free beach chairs. The beach itself was rocky and not a good swimming area. After checking out the shops we spent the rest of the day around the pool (and pool bar).
Cozumel - We had a medical emergency on board soon after leaving Costa Maya and the ship steamed at full speed to Cozumel arriving around midnight. They announced that they might allow the passengers to disembark after they handled the emergency. At 1:30am it still hadn't happened so we went to bed. The next morning my son and I who are certified divers took his 10-year-old son and my 16-year-old grand daughter to a beginner's scuba class. It was a quick study but it allowed them to experience scuba diving in the crystal clear water the surrounds Cozumel. They both loved it. Another group who weren't so adventurous went on the snuba tour and the rest went to Chakanaab State Park to enjoy the beach. Of course everyone ended in town for the shopping before reboarding the ship. It was a great day for all.
Belize - This is another port that requires a tender to go ashore but since most of our group opted to spend part of the day at Goff's Caye the tour boat picked us up at the ship. After about a thirty minute ride the boat captain dropped part of the group on the atoll and took the rest out to a deeper reef. This was a major disappointment. First, they didn't have snorkel vests and you had to use regular life vests. Second, you had to stay with the group, which didn't allow any independence in exploring the reef. After about 45 minutes we went back to the atoll and spent another hour there. The inshore snorkeling was much better, a much varied amount of sea life and clearer water. If I would do it again I would stay on the island all day. After discharging those passengers that wanted to return to the ship, the tour boat took the remaining passengers into the terminal area at Belize City. We looked for the last minute souvenirs at the small shops before returning on the tender. The high steel barred fence around the terminal area did not give us a comfortable feeling about going into the city for our shopping.
Debarkation: This process was fairly easy. The Lido buffet was crowded and if you slept in you would have had a difficult time finding a table. Those that had an early flight were off the boat by 9:30. Those that drove were the last ones off the ship. We were called a little after 10. The pick up area was jammed so I tipped a porter $10 to take all our bags to the parking garage. We were on I-275 ten minutes after loading the bags in the trunk.
Overall: Everyone in our party thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It was full of families and young adults. It was nice seeing people enjoying themselves with out being loud and raucous. Now that I have had the Carnival experience I would not hesitate to use them again.
Getting started ---------------
Embarkation in Tampa was pretty easy. We drove down from Virginia on Saturday to Orlando (picked up my daughter
at the Orlando airport - my son and his fiance flew from Baltimore on Sunday morning) and then drove over to the port on Sunday morning in a driving rainstorm. Parking is $70 for the week (they take credit cards as well as cash) in a spacious parking garage. There is a drop off point for your luggage before you park, however the drop-off point is not covered, so our stuff got somewhat wet dropping it off . They was no security check dropping our luggage off which surprised me since there was one in Port Canaveral on our Pride cruise. We got to the check-in line about 11:15. I had directions to the port, but of course forgot to bring them with me :) I really thought it would be well marked like it is in Port Canaveral and Miami, but I was wrong. We got off at the right exit on I-4, but of course got lost. We eventually could see the ship, but had no ideahow to get there. We found a nice police officer who pointed us in the correct direction. Check-In was pretty easy. As we were finishing up getting checked in, the started letting people on the ship and since we were in the first group, we went right on. They told us not to go to our cabins before 12:30, but since we are "special" (okay, stubborn), we went to our cabins and asked if we could just drop off our stuff. The cabin stewardess said no problem. Our cabins were on the Verandah deck (one balcony and 2 inside cabins across the hall). We then went to the Lido deck to have lunch. Lunch was the usual, typical first day buffet and was fine. Muster drill was at 4:00 and was relatively painless. Unlike the Pride, the Inspiration uses the older thicker life vests, but since it was overcast and STILL drizzling, it was not hot.
The Cabins ----------
Our cabin was a Category 11 on the Verandah deck. We had the standard balcony and a couch. Our bed was already made up with the king-size sheets which was very nice.
Our cabin stewardess, who I never did get her name, was excellent! My son and his fiance are very neat as so are we old fogeys. The other 3 kids in the room were all pretty messy! Sure glad I was not cleaning their room. We did tip her extra for her great service.
Unlike the Pride's Category 11 cabin, the Inspiration cabin had plenty of power outlets, but I had my power strip just in case! The rest of our group were in two Category 4E cabins. They brought in a roll-away bed for the 3rd person in the one cabin.
The ship --------
We have been on many Fantasy class cruises (4 on the Ecstasy, 3 on the Fantasy and 1 on the Paradise), so we were quite familiar with the ship layout. I did notice that the ship is showing a little wear and tear, but considering that the ship has 2500 passengers a week it was not too bad.
Food & Service --------------
Dinners were really good to excellent. Lunches were good. We ate all but one of our lunches on the Lido Deck. Our dining room waiters, Cirilo (I think that is the correct spelling) and Konstantin, were excellent. My wife is lactose intolerant and Cirilo went out of his way to help with the selections. We had late seating at 8:30 (I had requested early seating, but when they gave us the late seating, we ended up keeping it. We really did not like the late seating. We, my wife and I, tend to get up early and go to sleep near 10. We did not finish dinner till 10-10:30 each night and by the time I spent an hour in the casino losing, it made for a late night and an early morning. Some nights we got our main course by 9:00 and others around 9:30 depending on how many other people at our waiter's tables came to dinner).
The Inspiration does not carry any non-dairy creamer that we could find, but having learned her lesson the Pride, my wife brought her own Coffeemate. We were at a very nice table by the window for 8 (for the 7 of us). We did get to see one really nice sunset the first night, but that was it :)
Saw very few shorts in the dining room after the first night. We rented tuxes for the four of us boys (my first time in a tux since my wedding day!). We got some great pictures of all of us. Now that we have done the tuxes, I probably will continue to rent them for my future cruises as it was great not having to bring suits and dress shirts.
Ports & Weather ---------------
Our ports were Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Belize City. As we were leaving the Port of Tampa, the rain/drizzle finally stopped. The weather on our first day at sea was great. The pool area was packed, but since I spent a lot of time in the casino, it was not a problem to me :)
Grand Cayman ------------ We arrived at Grand Cayman the next day and took the tender into port. It was a very nice day. There was a short sprinkle around noon, but it was not a problem. None of us scheduled any excursions for Grand Cayman. We did some souvenier shopping and a lot of rum cake tastinging/buying (my personal feeling is that the Don Lorenzo Double Chocolate Fudge Rum Cakes in Nassau are the best, but the Tortuga and Blackbeard Rum Cakes are not bad either).
Costa Maya ---------- Another great weather day! 4 of the kids had an excursion in the afternoon (Kayaking and Biking). All 5 of the kids went into port and did some souvenier shopping and visited the pool at the port. We went in a little later. The port is very nice. We also did some souvenier shopping as well. They all really liked the excursion. The three of us who did not do the excursion just took it easy on the ship (the pool area was pretty empty).
And then the weather changed... We had booked the Snorkel, Sail and Beach excursion for 1:00 PM. Decided to go into port at about 10:30 AM to do some souvenier shopping. It started to sprinkle and then the skies opened up with a deluge! It was a good thing we were in the Tanzanite International Jewelry store, otherwise we would have gotten soaked. By the time we left the store at 11:30 (it was my wife's birthday), it had pretty much stopped raining. We thought this just perfect for our excursion. We finished up our souvenier shopping, got back on the boat and had lunch at the Brassiere.
Met on the pier for our excursion and it started to rain again. The tour operators (the boat crew) announced that if you decided to not take the tour, that Carnival would refund the price of the tour. Well, I spent about $300 on my prescription dive mask and I was not going to miss the opportunity to use it for the first time, so we stayed (I think there was one family that got off the tour). The snorkeling was great. This was the first time I could actually see in the water.
Once the snorkeling was over, the rain and wind made it very cold. There was some dry spots in the very center of the boat, but of course, we were not there. We then set sail for the beach (about 20-25 mins). Even colder and more wet.
The beer and mararitas were flowing. We stopped at the beach for about an hour. People seemed to have a good time in the water (said it was very warm). I stayed on the boat. My wife wanted to take a cab back to the ship (someone said it was $30 per person - being cheap, I said no :) ). We then sailed back to the dock (about 20-25 mins). The beer and margaritas were flowing even more. Finally was able to get warm as my wife sat on my lap and we huddled under our wet towels. Most everyone else was having a great time and we did just watching them.
Belize City -----------
The weather ranged from partly cloudy to overcast and back to partly sunny. Five of us (my son's fiance was a little bit under the weather from having too good a time on the Cozumel excursion) did the Carnival Cave Tubing excursion.
This was definitely the high point of the trip for me! We met in the Paris Lounge at 8:15 to leave. Even though there was a 7:45 Cave Tubing excursion, we did not see them leave (they may have left before us). We then moved to the tenders. The ship "docked" about 7 miles out from the port and we took speedboat tenders to the port. It was a pretty nice fast ride. We then moved directly onto buses for the trip to the caves. We did get a little sightseeing on our trip out of town with our guides, Roland and Carlos. The bus trip took about an hour with a stop at Cheers near the end to allow people to change. The last 6 miles of the trip are on a bumpy dirt road (and when I write bumpy, I mean bumpy :) ). We arrived at the starting point, got our tubes, lights and live vests (required for kids, optional for everyone else).
The 30 minute walk through the jungle was not really bad as we stopped several times to let the group ahead of us gain some distance. The bugs were not awful, but you definitely need insect repellant (a couple of my kids did get some bites, but I escaped unscathed). We finally got to the cave and started down the river. The water was pretty cold (about 70 degrees) for about 2 minutes and then felt really refreshing. We tubed for at least 45 minutes. The water level was a bit shallow in some places (the rainy season is just starting). It was a great experience! We then got back on the buses and started back. We were about an hour behind schedule, so they attempted to drive as fast as possible. That bumpy dirt road got even more bumpy :). We then stopped back at Cheers for lunch (included with the tour). The lunch was pretty good - chicken and rice with rice and beans and cole slaw. The fresh mangos and bananas should not be missed! As soon as our bus got back, we went right to the tender and back to the boat as we were late.
We did not get back to the ship until 4:30 (the last tender was supposed to leave at 3:30). The only negative is that we did not even have time to shop for souveniers at the dock.
It was overcast and rainy during the morning of our last day at sea (Tropical storm Bill?), but got a little better in the afternoon.
This was our lucky 13th cruise and this was the worst weather we have had.
Getting off the ship was pretty easy. We were told to wait in the Rhapsody in Blue lounge (next to the Mardi Gras dining room) at 9:00 (on the Inspiration, they ask you not to wait in your rooms). We were there for about 15 minutes and they came and got us and told us we could leave the ship (pretty sure we were the first regular color called). It was pretty easy to find a porter (unlike when we got off the Pride in Port Canaveral in April). I did make sure the porter would take us all the way to the garage, he did. Since we (okay, me) got lost trying to find the port, I was sure that it would be really easy to get back to I-4. I followed the signs, but as was typical for our trip, the last sign to point the way was not visible (at least to me), so we missed getting on. Eventually, we turned back and found it :) Our drive to Orlando to drop my daughter off at the airport and the rest of our drive back to Virginia was uneventful, but long.
This was our 10th cruise on Carnival and we were definitely not disappointed. The staff on the ship was great. We saw a little of the cruise director, Paul Evers, and I thought he was pretty hilarious (his debarkation talk should not be missed :) ). The staff in the casino was first rate and went out of there way to be friendly to everyone. I am not sure I would want to sail on another Fantasy class ship (we booked this one prior to booking our trip last March on the Pride) as we really like the style of the newer ships. We are booked on the Miracle out of Baltimore next May 30 and I have already started my countdown for that. About the only real negative was that the public rooms seemed to be freezing all the time.
We arrived at the Port of Tampa at 11 am and were on the ship by 11:30 am. We went to the Brasserie for lunch and then stopped by our cabin #R36 (outside stateroom) to drop off our carry-on luggage. We got to the cabin and it was already clean and ready. We met our cabin steward Jose, who was truly unbelievable. Our luggage arrived at the cabin by 3:00 pm. I cannot stress how easy the embarkation process was.
Ship décor and cleanliness:
The atrium was small and filled with neon lights..somewhat gaudy. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the other public areas of the ship. I could not find the filth that other reviewers have spoken of. The ship was spotless. As soon as passengers would get up from a table in the Brasserie, they would jump over and clean it up. There were busy crewmembers everywhere keeping the ship tidy.
Food and Beverages:
This is where I am utterly disappointed in the cruise. I speak for myself, as well as my entire family.BLAND! I only have my experience on RCCL Monarch of the Seas to compare this to, but what adifference! The Brasserie served the same breakfast items every morning.we were so sick of it by the end of the cruise. In the dining room there were not great entrees to choose from and I often walked away from the table dissatisfied. The 24-hour pizza parlor, on the other hand, served the best pizza. This is what my family survived on all week. Our waiters expressed to us that Carnival has really cut a lot of money out of the food budget.to the point that they find it difficult to recommend anything on the menu. The only dessert I recommend is the chocolate éclair cake.delicious.
We purchased some drink coupons prior to our cruise and they worked out great. I purchased 4 books for my husband and I. We used them all over the ship and never had a problem: lounges, poolside, and at dinner. I got the souvenir glass the first day and used the coupons to get refills of the daily special in the glass all week. My children drank the free drinks all week, but at the show nightly we would allow them the get a smoothie $3.50 or Shirley temple $1.50.
Our tablemates: Vic, Angie, Natasha, and Zach were truly the delight of our dining experience!
Grand Cayman - Captain Sterlin's Sting Ray Tour - wonderful time.much better than the ship's excursion.we could see them on the other side of the sand bar.very crowded.
Costa Maya - Basically it has a visitor's complex with a salt-water pool that has a volleyball net and a freshwater pool.that looked very nice. My husband and I walked over and did a little haggling with the local merchants, but didn't do any excursions. Our tablemates did the Maya ruins tour with the ship and loved it.
Cozumel - we did not have a scheduled tour planned.we were just going to go to a beach. However, as soon as we arrived in Cozumel, the skies opened up and let out rain like I've never seen in my life. So we did some souvenir buying at the pier shops and brought our children back to the ship. We headed back out to try and make it to Carlos and Charlie's but it was raining to hard. Instead we went to Fat Tuesdays right at the end of the pier. We had the best time. It is a crazy place with swings and hammocks, instead of chairs, that hang from the ceiling of this open-air, straw roof bar. We sat there for a while and watched the rain outside.
Belize - Reggie's Cave tubing. Had a blast! I highly recommend it over the ship's cave tubing tour. We were a group of 16, unlike the ship's tour with 100s. The ship's tour bus actually got stuck on the dirt road in the mud that lead you into the jungle. We went right around it in Reggie's van, while they sat there waiting for another bus to come and transfer passengers. He gives you a lot of the background of Belize while on the tour. It was very education for my children, as well as, a lot of fun!
Camp Carnival - Now this is where I think Carnival beats RCCL. The councilors were wonderful. My son Cody, age 7, went 4 times over the 7 days. Usually in the afternoon when he was tired of the sun and the pools, he would ask to go over. He loved it and the councilors seemed to love their jobs.
Entertainment - Very good. The only show I didn't see was the Broadway style show that the cruise ship performs. My older son and tablemates went and said it wasn't great.
Debarkation - Well, we were on the Riviera deck (brown luggage tags) and were the last passengers called off the ship. It really didn't take long though. I love to watch people and we just did a lot of that while waiting to leave. Unfortunately people began pulling out cigarettes and smoking in the areas designated for passengers to wait in. As a result, my family moved out of the area designated for us to the area close the exit. I only found the casino to be very smoky while the ship was at sea.
I hope you find my review helpful and if I've left something out feel free to e-mail me any questions at email@example.com. I took seven rolls of film so I can send you some pictures also.
Cheryl Pelissier Swansea, MA