Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Inspiration by Stacie Renee Western Caribbean February 25, 2008
We booked our first cruise for a 5-day trip from Tampa to Grand Cayman, Cozumel and then back to Tampa again. Since we live close to Tampa we drove and parked in the long-term parking which costs about 60 dollars total. The Port Authority was close by and not a long walk from the parking garage at all. I thought getting through Port Authority was going to be a nightmare, but once there porters will take your bags and it is customary to tip $1 per bag. It took about 40 minutes the get through the security checks; have your picture taken for your sign and sail card that is tied to your credit card and then on to the ship! We arrived around 1:30 and lounged around the lido deck. First thing you will notice is the offering of the drink special of the day. You get a tall souvenir glass for about 7 dollars and then discounted refills. The drinks were not bad and they did not skimp on the alcohol at all. After that wegot lunch in the Brasserie Grill. The food was great with a hot buffet, salad bar, sandwich station, pizza station and many types of desserts. After 2PM we were allowed to get into our room. Greg our steward was very courteous and introduced himself to us both. Even after, every time he sees you he will address you by name, which was really nice. In fact every single crewmember says hello with a genuine "hello." Every day our room was made with chocolates, fresh towels and towel animals and they put our personal sunglasses and hats on them. It was hilarious.
Before we set sail at 4PM we had to muster for an emergency drill. We read the information posted on our door about our muster station. Took the life vests from the top shelf of our closets, met at our muster station (the Paris Lounge), listened to the instructions, did the drill in front of the lifeboats and that's it. Painless. It took about 40 minutes in all.
The ship was in good condition and I was expecting worse because of the other reviews. This being my first cruise however, what do I know? But, I did not see any broken glass or laminate peeling off. Maybe I was just in areas where I did not see that. I also didn't see people smoking except where there were designated areas in some of the lounges and casinos. The ship has a very good ventilation system and it was contained nicely. My boyfriend liked to smoke his port-acquired cigars (stinky) and the air was contained and filtered nicely. I was also apprehensive because I've read some reviews that it was a drunken party ship or a college party ship. Maybe we went while college was in session but we had a good mix of families, seniors, young party kids and middle aged people. There were late night parties on the lido deck that were fun and rambunctious but every adult had a great time. The only complaint I have is that our room was a connecting room. We did not know that at the time but looking at the ship deck map online, I now know what the little triangle meant. Duh. If you get a connecting room, be prepared to hear every single uttered word from your neighbors. They weren't even trying to talk loud. They were just talking normally and you can hear every word, sigh, everything. Don't get a connecting door in your room because there is no sound proofing at all.
One of the neat things about the staff is that they are from all over the globe from Indonesia to Britton. Their name and country will be on their nametag and it was interesting to meet the crew, talk with them and learn about them.
Our mealtime was in the Mardi Grass dining room for 6:15. We were lucky because we got a two-person table and didn't have to sit with people that we don't know, plus, it was a romantic getaway so it was perfect for us. Our headwaiter and his assistant were excellent. I'm sorry, I do not remember the headwaiter's name but Ely, the assistant, was from the Philippians and told us he had been working for Carnival for 10 years for 8 month stretches at a time. It is all done to support his wife and three kids and he hopes to retire soon. He smiled the whole time, ran around with controlled urgency to serve everyone, and did so very happily. It was nice to see him entertain and play with the kids at the table next to us. They both were great. The food was very good and each meal had a vegetarian option for me and filet minion, T-bone etc. for my boyfriend. There was also a very nice choice of starters, salad, and desserts including wines and cheeses. It was probably some of the best dining experience I've ever had. All that and each night they danced, sang and even got everyone included in a conga line.
There was one formal night and it was great. Every one dressed up and it was like being able to go to prom all over again. Throughout the trip there will be photographers set up to capture your every moment. We had many pictures taken by about 5 photographers but by far all the pictures that we purchased were by a man named Dimitri from Belarus. As we were narrowing down our choices we noticed all the pictures we choose were all done by him. His pictures were very professional and made me look awesome and in the top of the best professional pictures I've ever had taken in my life as well. The pictures are 8x10 and they are posted in the Promenade deck. If you don't want to purchase them you don't have to, but they are $21.95 per photo so it can get expensive. Dimitri's photos were worth it.
We got to the Grand Cayman and I had booked the shore snorkel adventure. I would not recommend this one because the snorkeling site was not very spectacular as there were not many fish or coral to see. It was also very hard to get in and out of the water without someone pulling me out so I mostly sat on the tiny little beach. Getting back to the right ship was confusion and pandemonium. There are not piers in Grand Cayman so you have to take the right ferry back to the ship. That day, there were 4 other ships and the ship's ferries were not very well marked until you got right up to it. I passed it once, and there were so many people butt to butt all over the street I wasn't even sure I was going the right way. My boyfriend booked the "Off the Beaten Path" Jeep tour excursion. He drove but got stuck with a couple of women who did not like the bumps so he had to drive around them which missed the whole point of being "off the beaten path." If you book this one, be in a group of four.
Cozumel was awesome and my favorite photographer, Dimitri, was one of the crew showing us onto the Pier. You start to notice the same crew working different jobs and they do work their fanny off. We booked the Myan Ruins of Tulum. It took a 40-minute boat ride to mainland Mexico. Now, let me warn you that the waters are very choppy and you will get sick. At the beginning of the boat ride a nice woman passed out bags to everyone. I didn't make it as well as about 5 other people. The Boat is equipped with many restrooms though. If you purchase Dramamine from "la farmacia" it will cost you 12 US dollars or you can get the Mexican branded equivalent called Vomisin for 6 US dollars. Just be prepared. Then, we took an hour air-conditioned bus ride to the ruins and were entertained by our tour guide Carlos who was a descendent of the Myan people. He was very informative, entertaining and shared some Myan as well as Spanish language with us. He was very educational while explaining the purpose of the temples, how they were discovered, and the ancient people. We were then given an hour to explore on our own before we had to be on the bus. The walled Mayan city is built on a cliff that over-looks the most beautiful beach. I just wish we had more time to spend there.
For your expenses, everything is paid with your sign and sail card that you assign a credit card to. Extra expenses can add up like the $21.95 per photo but I also spent $99.00 on a "spa taster" which included a facial and back massage. The therapist I had was very knowledgeable and I was pleasantly surprised at her knowledge of sports massage, shiatsu and human physiology. I've had an on-going muscular problem and she took extra time with me, which was really nice and unexpected.
Additional charges will include 10 dollars per day per person so there will be another 50-dollar charge on your sign and sail account. This is for tipping all the waiters and stewards. It makes it very nice to not have to remember to tip everyone but they did such an excellent job and really go out of their way to make you happy that we gave them more.
If you get any drinks from the bar, alcohol or soda, (even in the main dining room) it will cost extra. For soda, you can buy a 20-dollar soda card for unlimited glasses. If you frequent the sushi bar, Café Des Artistes, or Internet café, spa, or special classes like kickboxing you will pay extra charges as well. Only your dining room and Brasserie Grill, coffee, tea and juice beverages are completely free.
Debarkation day went smooth. The day before, there was a debarkation briefing in the Paris lounge, which we didn't attend. There is, however, a channel on TV that runs Carnival information, which I called the "ship show." On that day they re-ran the taping of the briefing. It gave us all the information we needed to know from the breakdown of how to fill out your US customs forms and declaring what you are bringing in to the U.S., when and how to debark. It also informed me that I couldn't take my roses off the ship because of customs. So, Carnival does an excellent job informing you of the who, what, when, where and how's. In fact, people from other ships at the ports were complaining their cruise ship company didn't inform them of returning times, etc. We didn't have a problem with that with Carnival.
All in all it was an excellent time.
Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Inspiration by Ashley Abbott Western Caribbean February 7, 2008
Day Before Flew into Tampa the day before the cruise to explore the city. My friend Sarah, who was joining me on the cruise, had lived in Tampa until she was 10 years old. We rented a car so she could see all of the changes and the house she grew up in. We headed to Clearwater to walk on the beach and enjoy the Sunset. Very pretty! Over all I really enjoyed my time in Tampa. We stayed at the LaQuinta Inn near the airport. It actually ended up being a great choice in that it was clean and perfectly located to the airport and the Port. A good price (thru Hotwire) and served its purpose for 1 night accommodations.
Embarkation Day We drove around the Tampa Bay area and found ourselves at the Cruise Terminal around 11am. Before we returned our rental car we decided to drop off our luggage with the porters. It took 2 mins for them to take our luggage and for us to tip them. We then headed to the Marriott amile away from the Terminal to drop off the car. Hertz had a Shuttle that took us back. This whole process took less than 15mins. We were back at 11:30. The check-in process was smooth and amazing. We had checked in by 11:45 and were on the ship no later than 12:15, though we couldn't get into our room until 1:30. Everyone that we encountered was very friendly. One thing I thought was a good change was that you took the picture for your S&S card before you left the terminal, not when you entered the boat like the other 2 cruises I have done. Helps with gridlock entering onto the ship.
We walked into the Atrium and it was BRIGHT! It looked very similar to the Elation which was my 1st ship. You can tell the ship has had a face lift and everything looked so shiny and new. We walked around for a few mins and then headed up to the Lido Deck to grab lunch. We found the typical offerings and enjoyed our lunch at the aft window in the restaurant. Yummy as always.
When we finished lunch we walked up to the renovated "Evolutions of Fun" area. It LOOKS amazing. Granted I am not a waterslide fan but it looked great and I can see why everyone has been raving about this upgrade. It's worth raving about. We also ventured to the Serenity area which is great as well. Though good luck on EVER getting a seat as EVERY last one of them everyday was either being saved or occupied.
The main pool area has been improved as well and the renovation is nice. It looked a bit more like the Conquest ship with the tiled area around the pool. And it had nice benches and stools with umbrellas around it.
We finally were allowed to head to the room. We were in room R66 which is a 1A and was right beside the Mid-ship elevator bank. It's in the very middle of the Rivera deck. This was the 1st inside Cabin that we have booked and I admit I was a bit nervous about it. This nervousness was unfounded though. Our room ended up being great and much more spacious than I ever would have expected. The layout worked really well too. It had 1 bed and 1 bunk that were perpendicular to each other. I slept on the bunk and I loved it! I would not hesitate to book this category room for a shorter cruise (for our 7 day cruises I can't give up my OV). My only complaint was that the bunk was folded up when we arrived and was that way until we returned from Dinner. I felt bad for lounging on part of Sarah's bed while we were relaxing before getting ready for dinner.
Our room steward, Jamor, stopped by to introduce himself. Jamor, BY FAR, has been the best room steward that we have EVER had. Very polite, responsive, and did a great job. I asked him in our initial meeting if he would leave the bunk down instead of folding it away. This was not a problem at all. In addition to all of that we were treated to 4 amazing towel animals, which Sarah and I had not seen before (cat, turtle, crab, frog). This was the 1st cruise that we ever left anything extra for our steward and he deserved it too.
One cool thing about sailing out of Tampa is going under the Sunshine Bridge. The ship's funnel clears it by about 9 feet. Huge groups were outside watching. It was quite the sight. Also it was VERY windy, and people on the front of the ship were having a hard time walking against the wind. I will try to post some video of it soon.
Food wise, dinner was great, however Sarah and I were the only 2 people who showed up at a 10-person table. We are best friends and all, but meeting people at dinner has been one of the highlights of every cruise. We talked with the Matire'd and he said that if no one showed up the next night we could move to the table behind us (which we ended up doing).
We went to the Welcome Aboard show, which is the same as the other cruises. Our Cruise Director Felipe and the social staff were introduced. Felipe chatted for a few mins and then comedian Kenny Miller did his "clean" act. He was pretty funny.
After the show we just walked around and then headed back to the room to go to bed.
Day 1 -- At Sea The weather was BEAUTIFUL though a bit windy. It actually was nice because you never got hot. Heck I don't even think I broke a sweat. While on deck we watched the Ice Sculpture demo. During this time I learned that Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel and her crew were onboard taping a show. She did some of the sculpture and talked with the man doing the sculpting (and Felipe was the one emceeing the event). They had a woman carrying around the Waiver board, which basically said that by being on deck we agreed to be filmed.
Then came the hairy chest contest which is always funny. Sarah and I went inside to do one of our favorite activities -- BINGO. Wouldn't you know it? We FINALLY WON! It would have been $250 dollars if someone else hadn't called it as well! Blah! We were on cloud nine and we walked our butts up to the spa deck and booked a Port day Massage special and then went down to the purser's desk and put the money on our S&S cards. It paid for half of it.
We played some trivia, grabbed some sushi, and headed to dinner. After dinner was the production show SHOUT. The show itself was good though I must say I wasn't too impressed with the execution. The male dancers were NEVER in sync and were to the point of being distracting at times. This aside, the women were pretty good, the singers ok, however they had a couple featured in the shows and they were AMAZING!
After Shout, Kenny Miller did his R-rated comedy show. He was funny, but he was no Happy Cole!
Day 2 -- Cozumel Sarah and I had decided to do the Jeep 4x4 Cavern/Snorkel beach combo excursion thru Carnival. We really enjoyed this and would recommend it. We took a ferry over to the mainland. Afterwards we met up with our guides Kekay and Ruben who were great. We snorkeled in this amazing cavern about 20 mins drive from the ferry and then we drove 25 mins to a remote beach. At the beach we had an amazing lunch and had some time to just chill and relax in this oasis. My only negative comments about this excursion were that though the caverns were amazing, I would have liked to have had more time at the Beach. On the Jeep ride back to catch the ferry, Ruben halted the line of Jeeps and we had to pull the tops on. This was a good thing because about 2 mins later the sky opened up and dumped tons of rain on us.
After we returned to Cozumel we went shopping, for about an hour, rolled our eyes at those at Carlos and Charlie's and headed back to the ship to clean up before our massages.
As for the massage, it was wonderful. I upgraded and added hot stones. It was worth the price. Glennda did a wonderful job and did the required sales pitch afterwards. I however was not swayed. From what I was told, Sarah enjoyed her massage as well! 4 thumbs up for the newly renovated Spa Carnival! Our only complaint was that in the new Relaxation room they had this wonderful serene music playing and then the flat screen TV was showing CNN and all of the election drama. Not very relaxing.
Now for the funniest part of our cruise. Sarah and I decided that we wanted to do the Battle of the Sexes Trivia. It started around 7:30pm. We got there and only about 10 people were there. Sarah was picked to be the women's captain. She did a great job and at the end of the questions the women were up. Then Phil and Morganna (our 2 favorite social hosts) said it was time for the Physical part of the challenge. Sarah was told to pick 4 people who could run and jump and not have a heart attack. Sarah picked me, and 2 other women, and she competed as well. We were told to blow up a Balloon the size of our head and tie it off, place it between our knees, put a T-shirt over our clothes, and a straw hat our on heads. We then had to hop down the stage stairs, down the middle aisle, around the back of the bench seats and up the sides back to the stage, hop back up and pop the balloon which then signaled the next person to go. I was the 1st for the ladies. Blew up the balloon, had the shirt and hat on and hopped my little heart out. I popped the balloon and before I knew it the other girls were helping to remove the t-shirt. However they didn't realize that they had lifted MY shirt up in the process. I started screaming, MY SHIRT!!!! The audience (that had grown to about 400 people since trivia ran late and bingo was next) did a collective GASP and Phil the Social Host just doubled over laughing and screaming. I just fell on the stage laughing all while pulling my shirt down. Everyone in the place was red from laughing so hard. It was hysterical and I of course was mortified. Anyway, the girls came from behind and pulled out the defeat. My flashing of 500 people was not in vain. I bared my chest and all I got was a lousy Carnival medal! I should have at least won a 24-carat ship on a stick!
Dinner was great and this was the 1st night at our new table, which was the table right behind the original one. We had a new waiter who wasn't half as good as our first one and he really wasn't all that nice. It was sweet because our 1st waiter and his assistant kept coming by and asking if we were doing ok. We told him numerous times that we missed him!
After dinner there was a Magic show and the comedian Brad Tassel. Both were pretty good. Then came the Pirate Invasion Deck party, which was a BLAST! Phil and Morganna were AWESOME! There was lots of dancing and people just having a blast. Shortly after the official party was over it started storming pretty hard and most people cleared off the Lido deck. This was our sign to head to bed after a VERY full and exhausting day.
Day 3 -- At Sea After an exhausting day Sarah and I slept in a little. We were up and ready to go around 10am. We ate breakfast and then headed to the lido to grab a chair for the daily festivities. The sun was shining and it was beautiful, however the wind was blowing very, very hard. I honestly never took off my cover-up pants. It was a little too much wind to be comfortable for me. Granted there were others in their bikinis that seemed to be fine, but I was freezing. We watched Survivor at Sea, which was funny as always, and about the time it was over my ears were hurting from the wind.
Sarah decided to try out the Water Slides (I am personally not a fan). She raved about them and went down a few times. She said it would be hard to go on a ship that doesn't have them. Also while she was back there Samantha Brown was going down as well, however unlike Sarah, she was holding a camera and had to go down multiple times with said camera. Samantha said she enjoyed them very much.
After we went inside we tried to our hand at the Win a Cruise Raffle and to win again at Bingo. Our efforts were not successful though. We wandered around a little more and then decided to get ready for dinner and pack.
The late seating had the early show, which was Fiesta Latina. Most people raved about it. I wasn't overly impressed except for the featured couple (Dmitri and ____). Dinner again was wonderful and the waiter FINALLY cracked a smile. I guess my North Carolina charm finally wore him down!
We went to Brad Tassel's R-rated comedy show, which actually was MUCH better than the clean one. And all in all it wasn't really that scandalous.
We headed back to the room to finish packing and to put our bags out for the next day.
Day 4 -- Disembarkation Sarah and I were in group 22 since we had later flights. We went to eat a leisurely breakfast and just walked around 1 last time to say good by to the Inspiration. We headed back to the room to grab our stuff and head to the Promenade deck until our number was called. We were off the ship by 10 and headed to our prearranged post cruise transfer to the airport. We waited on the bus for about 30 mins before we left for the airport. We were there no later than 10:45.
All in all, it was a very smooth disembarkation. There is nothing I can really complain about.
Final Thoughts I had a wonderful time on this cruise! The social staff was AMAZING and we had a blast getting to know them. Felipe our CD was awesome and the most visible CD that we have ever had. (I think he is actually an assistant CD, but since Risa Barnes was at the CD conference on the Victory, he was filling in.) He was great and Sarah and I enjoyed chatting with him quite a few times. There were over 290 Red Hatters on our sailing. This was the only down side. I am sorry if I offend anyone, but every single one that I encountered on the ship was unpleasant. Quite a few other non-Hatter passengers that we talked with ran into the same issue. They were especially nasty when it came to seats and seat saving in the lounge even though Felipe and Phil mentioned quite a few times that it wasn't allowed. Anyway, I know that not EVERY Red Hatter is the same and I am sure there are nice ones around. I just never experienced them first-hand on this cruise.
The renovations were noticeable and were amazing! I can't wait for everyone to experience it themselves! After sailing on the Glory, a Conquest class Ship, I must say that I prefer the smaller ships. Honestly, with the renovations I wouldn't hesitate to pick a Fantasy class over a Conquest class any day!
Sorry this ended up being longer than I originally planned. Hope it was helpful and enjoyable!
Carnival Cruise Lines Carnival Inspiration by Melvin Reese Western Caribbean November 19, 2007
Good and bad points about this cruise.
As expected, the folks at Camp Carnival were outstanding. All of the shows were great. The room steward that we had for this trip was the best one of all of our Carnival cruises, nine in all. Thank you, Didy! You did a great job.
Did not get to eat in the main dining room. Seating was for 8:00 P.M. and that was just too late for us. Tried to get the seating changed, but no luck. Lido deck food was good except for the last night. Choices were extremely limited.
For a ship that just got redone it looks like it needs to go back. Several doors had broken door glass, elevator glass was broken and laminating on the stateroom doors was coming off. This is something that I am not used to seeing on Carnival ships.
Smoking policy was not enforced at all. You could smoke anywhere you wanted to on the Lido deck and folks did. Complaining did no good.
Don't get me wrong, I will still continue to sailCarnival. I just will not go back on this ship again.
(1) We opted for the valet parking at the dock which was only $15 more than parking it yourself. This proved to be very helpful in us "old folks" not having to lug all of our belongings to the car.
(2) The cabin was small for the three of us -- but we knew that it would be that way. I had a problem with my bed. It broke! I called the room steward and he was very helpful -- although I had to sleep on a roll-away bed for one night, the next night, he had my bed back fixed. However, when I laid down, it broke again and I didn't have the heart to complain about it. They did send me a bottle of champagne, chocolate covered strawberries and a letter of apology for the first time the bed broke, which I thought was very considerate.
(3) The food and all of the meals were exceptional. We fell in love with your waiter and his assistant -- Omar & Luis. They treated us like kings.
(4) The entertainment was exceptional and we thoroughly enjoyed the musicals, comedy, magic. The seatswere especially comfortable and spacious.
(5) We had one problem with the bingo game, about which I plan to register a complaint with Carnival. Donna Gannaway, on the first night of the cruise, won bingo. She is a very shy person, and it took all she could muster to stand up and shout bingo -- but she did. The prize was to be $500. At that point, one of the assistants came over and looked at her card and said she was disqualified because the card was torn. Donna showed him the numbers that were punched, but he said because she punched them out that this disqualified her. We were all very upset. The hostess gave a very brief explanation of the game -- and I never did hear her say how to mark your cards for bingo -- but when we went to the Darcy, the cruise director, she said that the rules were explained and that Donna was disqualified -- and somewhat rudely dismissed her. They were more concerned about trying to get someone to guess the hostess' father's name -- he was supposed to be a football player.
(6) The embarkation and debarkation went very smoothly. No complaints.
(7) We wish they had given us more time on the ports of all -- especially Grand Cayman -- it seemed very rushed.
Embarkation I had never cruised out of Tampa before, and didn't know how long it would take me to find it from Orlando, so I left at 9:00am. I easily found the port and was there by 10:20. As I pulled up to drop off my luggage, I noticed that I could have my car Valet parked for $75 – only $15 more than self-park – so I valet parked.
I looked for the Platinum line to get in the building (because it was 40 degrees and I was in shorts and sandals) like they have in Port Canaveral – but didn't find one. This was the only thing I didn't like about the process. I stood in a not too long line to get in, then was given a card showing VIP check-in so the staff would direct me to the correct location.
I got checked –in and went to a special place for VIP to wait to board. We were waiting on two wedding parties to board then we would be next. I was on the Lido deck with drink in hand by 11:30am.
The Ship The ship isin pretty bad shape, but this never detracts from my fun. I saw a lot of masking tape holding things together, the Lido deck tables and chairs were wobbly, and the shinny parts had lost all of their luster. Carpets were stained and dirty and walls were drab. The drawers and doors in my cabin were hard to close and didn't close flush. There was also a slight sewer smell coming from the floor drain in my bathroom. It was not so bad that it was unbearable, so I just kept the bathroom door shut so that it would not permeate that cabin. I confirmed with the crew that she is going into dry dock for three weeks in September.
Cabin Steward and Assistant Fernando and Jenny were wonderful! When they came by to introduce themselves, Fernando told Jenny that I was Platinum and to give me whatever I needed. At that point I asked for more diet coke, two more pillows and an ashtray. All items were in my cabin by the time the Muster Drill was over. For the rest of the cruise, there wasn't anything they couldn't have done better. I explained to them that I am up and out of cabin by 7am and that I was not going to eat dinner in the dining room (8:30 seating), so they knew they could get to my cabin fairly early – and they always did.
Entertainment Casino was not too bad to me. I did, one day, sit down at the penny machines, put in $20 and walked away with $88. I played Blackjack the second night, but then some drunk lady sat down and began playing stupid. After three of her worst calls, I left with even money (I was up $40 when she sat down). I tried to play BJ a couple of more nights, but she kept showing up, so as soon as she sat down, I got up. So the last day (sea day), I sat down at the table with about 5 other people, one more joined to fill the table. We were all playing so well, and winning, that none of us wanted to get up. There we sat until about midnight not letting anyone else in as not to disrupt the dynamic. We had all at some point encountered the drunk stupid lady, so we didn't want to risk her coming back. All said and done, I tripled my money.
The shows were on par with other Carnival ships. The comedian was a riot – Tony Esposito – his clean show was funny, but his adult show – which really was only adult due to language, not sex references – was one of the funniest I have seen. There was a juggler that was OK at juggling; I think he would have been better at comedy.
The piano bar player, Doug, was one of the worst I have ever seen. He did not know how to entertain. Very little, if any, audience participation and forget trying to request a song – he probably didn't know it – and the requests were normal, reasonable piano bar songs. Doug also had a chip on his shoulder that didn't really need to be there. He thought he was the best, but he will find out that at least one person, thought he stank after they read my comment card.
Art Auction I attended both sessions. I had not planned on buying anything this cruise, but I did. At the first auction, I got another Neil J Farkas (have one already) and at the second one, I bought another Farkas. I also won one of the raffles, so I came home with a Bellet also. I'm running out of wall space for all this. I just love the art auctions. They had a mystery auction this time that was a Peter Max – for $5200 – man, I wish I could have afforded that – what a steal! The art auction staff was fun and enjoyable. Would have had a blast even without buying anything!
Crew One of the best I have encountered. Everyone very friendly and always with a smile on their face. Purser's desk staff the nicest I have dealt with. The only problem I encountered was when a guest who was in the regular line got a little huffy when they called me up to the Platinum line ahead of her. She not so nicely said to me and the purser that she was next in line. The purser explained that I was Platinum. She then said “I don't care if you are Platinum” and before the purser could say anything I turned around and said “Well, apparently Carnival does”. She didn't say another word and the purser mouthed “Thank you” to me.
Food I didn't eat in the dining room at all, so I cannot comment on that. However the Lido deck food was wonderful as always. I love the pizza and Caesar salads. I forgot just how good it was. The food was fresh and hot/cold as required. The one thing they changed that I was happy to see is that those little round hash brown things on the breakfast buffet are gone and replaced with real home fries. All the coffee, tea, and juice machines were functional 100% of the time, so no walking around looking for what I needed. Room service was always quick and good.
Ports/Shore Excursions When traveling solo, I always book excursions - it is much safer to do so than roaming around on my own.
Our first stop was Grand Cayman. I woke up that morning and watched us pass right by Georgetown and wondered what was going on. Well, with as bad as the seas were on Sunday on into Monday morning, it was not safe for us to dock in Georgetown. There were 6 ships scheduled in Georgetown that day. How it played out is that the GC port authority gave clearance to dock in Spot's Bay – a ways up from Georgetown. However, only three ships would be allowed. We were one of them, thank goodness. The other two were the Imagination and an RCCL ship. The other three ships were turned away.
I booked my two shore excursions online prior to sailing. Once on board I found that was a good move because one of the excursions I booked for $39 was selling for $47 on the ship. Not sure if this is par for the course, but it made me happy.
In Grand Cayman, I did the city tour that took us to Hell (I had not seen it in about 9 years so wanted to go back), the Turtle farm (somewhat interesting)- more turtles than I have ever seen at once, and the Rum Factory (waste of time). I then just did some shopping in Georgetown and took a taxi bus back to the ship. Next time in GC, I am going to go back to Seven Mile Beach and just relax. One of the people I had met on the first day was also on this excursion, so we just hung out together.
In Calica/Playa De Carmen I did a tour called Playa De Carmen Shopping and Beach Break. What a waste of time. They take you to what they call a jewelry factory - it is just the Lapis jewelry store. Then they tell you they are taking you to the Plaza de Festival to do some shopping - this is just one store. Then, they finally take you to the beach. By the time you got there, it was time to leave. I suggest if all you want to do is shop and beach in Playa - do it on your own.
Calica is not a town, but rather a cement company that allows us to dock at their pier since Ivan messed up the Playa port so badly. They have allowed about 10 vendors to set up shop, so there is nothing to do unless you taxi in to Playa or book an excursion.
While driving through Mexico, I saw a big roadside sign in Spanish, and didn't need to know what it said because right in front of it was a smashed up car, with a mangled dummy holding a beer….My guess is that it was a don't drink and drive sign. Shortly after that, I saw a convertible Mercedes with a beer in it's cup holder – guess he had not seen that sign yet.
Disembarkation What a breeze. At 7:15, they began to let self assist people off. This probably cleared off 60% of the passengers – it went on until 8:30. Platinum members who did self assist were off first, then the rest of them. Platinum members who checked bags (like me) were asked to meet in the Library at 8:30. At 8:35 we were escorted down an empty stairwell (other ships it was trying to get through a big crowd) and off the ship. I was in my car by 9am and had an easy drive home.
Overall Experience What a great 5 day getaway! I would do this one again in a heartbeat. Just the right amount of time to get away from the daily grind and much less stressful than a land based getaway.
Overall cruise was good, weather was cold and rainy. Excursion on Christmas day to Cozumel was rainy. We took tender to Playa Del Carmen and did the jeep and cavern tour. It was not really worth the money, you see the whole cavern on the little blurb about the excursion on the cruise web site. The lunch served on the beach with the tour was the best food of our trip and the beach was beautiful but we only got 45 minutes there, it was rainy so that was OK.
Next excursion day was for Grand Caymen and we could not tender into the island because of high seas. Disappointing but beyond anyone's control. Ship was very rocky, and we had about a total of 6 hours of sunshine (whole trip) and they were very windy, so windy that we could not even lay in the sun.
Food was less than I expected in terms of "quality", and desserts were WAY below par. Same selections every night at dinner and basically non existent on ship otherwise. Also we had dirty dishes; dried milky substance in a champagne glass, and dried ketchup(?) ona plate. Room service was prompt and correct. Dining room staff very efficient.
Our cabins were immaculate and were maintained that way the whole time. The window in our room was larger than I expected and nice to have.
I was among a party of nine who took the Thanksgiving-week cruise to Cozumel and Grand Cayman, and I should state up front that this was my first cruise. As such, I did not know quite what to expect.
The staterooms (Main Level) were pretty roomy, and the beds were tremendously comfortable. The bathroom had a bit of an aroma, but nothing that we could not live with. Unlike some of the other reviewers, we were assigned as requested to four consecutive rooms.
The seas were rough, and several of the crew made mention that we were experiencing the worst weather of the season. For that reason, our stop in Grand Cayman was changed to Progreso (Mex). Though this was obviously not the fault of anyone, I must say that there is really not much to do or see in Progreso. I was more interested in seeing a foreign city than I was in any of the excursions. As such, I spent a few hours walking around Cozumel, which was an interesting way to pass the time.
Back on board, the food was pretty good, though most members of my party and Ihave been telling others that it was hit & miss depending on what you ordered. The "fast" food options were plentiful and there was rarely a wait.
The entertainment was also hit & miss, as we enjoyed some of the "game shows", yet the comedians were pretty awful. I did not mind the profanity, but if they are going to be profane, they ought to at least be funny.
The crew seemed disinterested, and often was the time that I had to get out of their way. Though I've heard that Carnival is something of discount line, it would nonetheless be nice if the employees would see fit to move out of the customer's way instead of the other way around. There were, of course, a few exceptions. Our head-waiter (Sergio) was always doing his best, and the maitre'd (George) was a riot and entirely personable. I got to know a few of the crew, as I was interested in hearing about life on a ship. Though I would not want to do that for a living, I was surprised that I heard few complaints from those with whom I spoke.
Though I was on the ship for five days, I still hadn't mastered the layout by the time I disembarked.
I would certainly do this again, but may want to try a different line or at least a more expensive trip. That might sound perverse, but I am thinking that we get what we pay for.
The ship was near to being full. The most time we had to stand in line was 5 minutes to wait for a burger to finish cooking. Embarkation took 2 minutes.Debarkation, we waited in a lounge and walked right off. We were home (Clearwter) by 10:00 the morning we arrived back in Tampa.
We had a great time, only issues were the voice of the cruise director which grated on my nerves, and the fact that we could not get our inside cabin to warm up. One night I ran the hair dryer for about 15 mins to try to drive out the chill. People in the outside cabins complained about sweating in the cabin. We went to the Disco every night, and saw two shows, the comedian (very funny) and a father and son fire show, which was excellent. Service in the dining room excellent as always, food good to excellent, depending on what and where we ate. Room service every morning for coffee, prompt and courteous. We like the back deck for sun and swimming, as adults only. We had perfect weather, even during hurricane season and the Gulfwas like glass. Oftentimes we were moving and did not know it, being inside. Ports: Grand Cayman, too short a time, also have to tender, not enough time to do anything but shop in our book. Calica: Went to Xcaret, wonderful place, we are going back there either land vacation or another cruise.
We sailed almost a year ago, but I am finally getting around to writing this review. Not sure of the exact sail date, but it was near the end of September 2006.
My wife booked this cruise without my knowledge for our tenth anniversary. I had low expectations of Carnival and would not have booked this cruise if it were left to me. I was wrong.
Embarkation: Smooth and no problems, no long lines.
Cabin: I expected very spartan accommodations, but was surprised. Comfortable and spacious for two. Bathroom was larger than expected. Not luxurious, but very adequate.
Crew: Friendly and efficient.
Ship: I expected Las Vegas. Some hint of that in the lobby, but the rest of the ship was fine.
Food: Prepared well. No bad meals.
Other Passengers: Great mix; not a bunch of twenty-something partiers I expected.
Complaints: 1. Our server and hostess had a personal conversation right behind us at dinner that distracted all the people at our table. I had to discretely get our servers attention to let him know this was aggravating to all of us. Once he was aware, the conversation stopped.
2. Main pool bathroom was very small.For that reason, it got more use than was designed for. It wasn't pleasant at all. Used it once, but never again.
Conclusion: The crew of the Inspiration did a good job and I would sail with them again.
We arrived in Tampa the day before and rented a car to take up to the beach in St. Petersburg. This was terrific and since we arrived before 1 pm the day before, it worked out perfect for us.
The next day we found the Carnival representatives in the airport (we booked transfers to the pier) and waited a bit. It was very smooth going through to get on the ship and we were on by 2 pm. We found our room- we had booked the inside guarantee and got room U17, with 2 portholes. It's small but worked fine for the two of us. I could see it being really uncomfortable if we had 3 people though!
We ate on the Lido deck. It was okay. This was the only meal we ate here. We ate in the dining room for every dinner (which I highly recommend!). We finally had some company for dinner on our 3rd night- our booth held 6 but we were alone until then. Our waiter was Leroy and his assistant was Wini. Both gentlemen were terrific and made sure we had everything we needed orwanted. The food was great too- we always had plenty and did 2 desserts, 2 appetizers, etc. Not a problem at all! We did wear nice clothes every night too though our tablemates wore jeans each night. We did see people in shorts and a lady in a bikini top at night as well.
Our room steward was Diego and we saw him in the hall often and he was very pleasant.
We booked our first excursion to Grand Cayman on our own, through Captain Marvin. We were supposed to be there by 9 with the ship arriving at 7 but we were still in the long line in the hallway at 9:20. This was probably the worst moment of our trip, waiting on the stairs with hundreds of others. There's got to be a better system for this. It's such a short time there as is and the tendering took forever. We ran to the tour and they saw the ship and waited for us. It was a great tour, but short, and I would recommend it. We went snorkeling and to see the stingrays.
We booked through Carnival for our Cozumel excursion. We did the clear kayak/snorkel trip. While the trip itself was very good the price was quite steep, I thought. I think I'd do this on my own next time. And this time, the ship was right at the pier and we got off quickly.
The ship was in good shape. We didn't gamble at all and had just a few drinks. The captain's party is a must- free drinks just flowed! We ate breakfast at the Brassiere most of the time and took it out on the deck. The pizza is good too! We didn't do the subs though it looked excellent.
I was disappointed in the pools. I would love to see a bigger, deeper pool. Also the two I did go in are salt water- I'm not sure if any of them are fresh water. The 3rd pool was never opened.
We did do 2 shows- the fire gauchos and the Inspiration dancers. Both were good. We also saw two comedians. Each of these comedians only were on stage for about 30 minutes. It seemed very short.
We had a late flight back and they said for people not to wait in the hallways to disembark. When we came back from breakfast about 7:45 obviously this was ignored as there were hundreds on the stairs again. Gosh, we thought we were going to Grand Cayman again! We pushed through them to go back to our stateroom and waited about 15 minutes until they called for self assist. Then we went and didn't have to wait very long at all.
Overall, we loved this trip. I was ready to come home though. (we left our small boys with grandparents) If you have any questions feel free to email me!