We embarked on the inspiration out of the port of Tampa. Wouldn't recomend it to anyone with children under 10. I have 4 children we needed two rooms. My mother came with us and we were suposed to have rooms next to each other(or close to each other) instead we had rooms 35 doors away from each other.We paid extra for rooms on the upper deck and ended up on the bottom. They do not have rooms to accomodate large families. The lay out of the ship was confusing. The entertainment was great. Highly recomend it. The pool, slide was a big hit
The staff was OK, they would benifit from english classes. My younger children 6 & 7, were bored. Camp carnival wasn't an easy place to locate. After an hour to search for it we find out if you needed the camp carnival between 11:30 am & 2pm you were out of luck. But it does not state that online anywhere. Our 11 & 15 yr old were self amused. Just being able to be away from mom and dad was worth it for them.
I do not recomendto go into the port of Calica. Cozumel or Cancun is alot better. Not much in Calica as in souvigners, do not take the xcarta tour...The brochure looks great but it's the worst place I have ever been. The kids were tired of walking in circles and looking at large animal pits with no animals. Well unless you like iguanna's they're everywhere. But Grand Cayman was great we took the stingray city tour. Excellent!!! It was well worth it. My children loved to swim with the giant sting rays and give them kisses. I even got my 15 yr old in the water to enjoy the activities. Great time there. Overall trip was disapointing at times but we made the best of it and had as much fun as we could with 4 kids in tow. Not exactly a family vacation I had in mind. It would have been more enjoyable if it were my husband myself and my mother to enjoy the amenties the kids cannot partake in.
Our party consisted of 3 adults and 4 children divided into 2 rooms. We chose Carnival because we live in the Tampa FL area and it's the only cruise line serving that port. Before the cruise I read all the reviews online and decided I too would submit one. The rooms were better than I had expected. The bathroom was large with a full sized shower. We had paid extra to be on Upper deck but were instead 'upgraded' to the lowest deck with a window. Our travel agent assured us we would be placed within close proximity of each other but instead were placed in rooms 70 and 152. Too far apart trying to share toiletries and sick kids. Yes, we all got sick, the adults for only a day each, one child stayed sick for 3 days. My room had a sewer gas aroma.
On the plus side, our cabin steward was excellent. We only ate in the dining room once, too much hassle with kids and the food was the same as we could have gotten at the buffet. I specifically asked our travel agent the dresscode for that ship's diningroom and was told men and boys had to wear a jacket and dress slacks, tie was optional. Well guess what? Most of the men had no jacket or tie, just a dress shirt and slacks. Many younger boys wore shorts. All the food was adequate, hamburgers, hotdogs, and pizza were always available and the fresh fruit was delicous.
We did 2 offshore excursions. Swimming with the Giant Stingray's in Grand Cayman was excellent. Xcaret in Calica Mexico was a $350 bust. I like to refer to it as the Flintstones version of Busch Gardens without the rides or the animals for that matter. It was hot and walking on a gravel path with hieroglyphics for signs got old real fast. The kids were bored because we only saw some horses, a musk ox and a deer with one antler. Everytime we bought anything they tried to gave us peso's for change. Souvenirs were expensive everywhere, even in the tent city pitched next to where the ship docked.
All in all, we did have a good time but I don't believe I'll ever do it again. They told me if I had flown instead of sailed I would have gotten a stamp in my otherwise never used passport.
This was our first time cruising. My husband and I brought our twin teenage boys (15 year olds). Embarkation went smooth and a lunch buffet was waiting for us on the main deck. It took at least a day to get orientated to where everything was on the ship. Our indoor cabin was small but fine. The bed was very comfortable (the boys had bunk beds that pulled out of the wall)and there was a slight rocking of the ship which lulled you to sleep.
Breakfast buffets were always the same food (It's almost like they took yesterdays leftovers and reheated them!) Free drinks were very syrupy. We dined for dinner in the main dining room which always had great food and friendly waiters. Get used to accents. Everyone who worked on the ship had a different one! The shows were excellent. The negatives were mostly for our sons. Only one of the three pools were open (no water until the second day as they use sea water).Only four feet deep and jammed packed like the jacuzzis.
The promised tons of activities for the O2 teen club were almost non-existant. After checkingseveral times there, nothing was happening and no one was there. Everytime I saw the director she and two teens were eating! Where was the music,movies, games etc...mentioned in the brochure? My sons were bored to death almost the whole four days. The other negative besides the sail and sign account was the ultra short Shore excursion. We had 3 and a half hours to go through the ecological park we chose in Playa Del Carmen. We didn't even have time to swim! Definitely not worth the $356 we paid! We were very disappointed overall and did not feel we got a good value for the money.
Just returned from the Carnival Inspiration Cruise - April 20th thru April 24th (2006). There was a party of five celebrating my father's 80th birthday.
Embarkation- Arrived at Tampa Seaport between 11:00 - 11:15 am, checked our bags with the porter (included $2 tip per bag) and went right into the terminal. There was no line when we got upstairs (they have an elevator for those with walking difficulties or you can use the escalator) and check-in was smooth and painless. We sat and waited for the announcements to board (we were group #4) which started around noon. We were on board between 12:20- 12:30 even with stopping for pictures. We were told that the rooms were not available yet (they weren't - we checked) and to go right to the Lido deck for lunch (which we did).
Food- Food was typical cruise line food - both buffets and dining room. It was better then adequate but definitely not gourmet (which I don't expect for that price). I've never been to a local restaurant that the food is always perfect - there are always good days and bad days when it comesto preparing food - even on board a cruise ship.
Our waitress was "Lina" and asst. was Anthony, both were outstanding with everything. We gave them a nice tip (above the daily charge to our sail and sign card)at the end of the cruise for their outstanding care for and to us. Lina, especially, made the dining experience wonderful.
Room- We booked an inside cabin this go around - even though my DH and I have been on many cruise and cruise lines, we did this for the other guest with us - they were first timers and we wanted to keep the price down. Our room was M-159 on the Main Deck. We had Elias as our steward and we barely saw him, but he did a wonderful job keeping our room tidy. My father's room was next to us and my sister and her husband was next to his. They had Angel as their cabin steward and we saw him often. He also did an excellent job keeping the rooms clean and neat. The towel animals every night in our rooms were different. If I had a seal - they may have had a pig. We thought it was cute. Being mid-ship and that low caused no problem with ship movement or noise (except for returning guest to their rooms). I did have a problem with my bearing for a few days. I'm so use to a window to tell me which way the ship was moving and with no window, I found it a little difficult. Oh - the showers were large and clean.
Now - the bad news. We had a smell in our bathroom coming from the floor drains (in all our cabins) until my DH put soap down them a couple of times and that took care of it. The other thing was the towels - they were horribly stained the entire cruise we kept getting towels in our rooms that looked as if someone had used them to clean up messes. I have been on more then 20 cruises and never seen that before. Are the environmental officers not allowing bleach???? My sister and father had drain problems the second day out. They weren't draining. We called for maintenance and kudos for Carnival maintenance - they were there within ten minutes and fixed the problem. No more slow draining.
Entertainment- The entertainment was wonderful. The Vegas style shows were nice but loud. We saw only one comedian (they had two) on the first night - Kenny Miller (the other one was Carl Faulkenberry). I never laughed so hard.
Chris Roberts was the cruise director and was the typical cruise director that I've seen on other ships . . . I guess when you've seen one - you've seen them all. They had dance classes that were given (no charge) during the cruise that I thought was nice but, at times, it was hard to understand the instructor . . . and I have a knack for understanding accents.
And speaking of understanding - my goodness - the captain (Candeloro Donato) needs to speak up when he introduces his officers. I couldn't tell if he was speaking Italian or English and I wasn't the only one. It wasn't until I watch the replay of it, again in my room the next day, that I knew what he was saying.
Other then that there was the typical hairy chest contest, ice carving, bingo, horse racing and my DH's favorite - the slot machines.
Ports- Cozumel was both beautiful and hot. We rented two jeeps. The jeep rental was $66.00 for the day (for each) and we elected to get insurance (full coverage at $25.00). We also had to replace the gas we used and that was about $15.00. We got to stop and go pretty much where we wanted to and eventually parked in the downtown area to do some shopping.
We got a number on the Lido deck to get off the ship by way of tender. We only waited about a half hour and our number was called. In Cozumel there is one pier open and there was a RCI ship docked there when we arrived. There was also another Carnival ship that was tendering too. We came back about five to tender back and only took maybe 30 to 45 minutes to get back to the ship. That night we decided to eat at the buffet because our dining time was at 6:15 p.m. We wanted to spend as much time on shore.
Debarkation- Debarkation was not as organized as it was for the embarking. After they called for the self-assist it was a free-for-all for the rest of us - instead of calling floors or sections - they just said the rest of us can leave. Even with that - we waited in the Paris Lounge until most everyone left and then left the ship with no problem. My father and I cannot stand for long periods and it was just better for us to wait it out. They take your sail and sign card and "punch" you out. I guess it's their way of making sure everyone got off the ship. Then you go find your luggage - go through customs (do not and I repeat do not use your cell phone at that time - big no-no with customs) and then you're outside the terminal in no time at all.
Our cruise for two departed Tampa the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The weather was beautiful and a welcome relief having left freezing temperatures in the Midwest. We boarded the Inspiration in the first group called and quickly found our way to the Brassiere Grill for a delicious buffet lunch. The meal was wonderful with many choices and eye catching presentation. A more casual lunch was available poolside but we were eager to experience all the Inspiration had to offer.
With lunch out of the way our journey of exploration of our new surroundings began! Like two little kids in the toy store – we peaked and peered into every inch of the ship. The top deck gave us full view to the pool area and water slide. Sunbathers were already claiming their deck chairs and hot tubs were already hosting their fans. The ship is fun to explore and her colors and style are unique and offer any guest a fantasy experience. We booked our cruise with the idea of doing something different – I'm glad we didn't choose a boat that was a carbon copy of 20 others!
Navigation around the boat wasdifficult at first but only added to the adventure – by day's end we were pros. The pocket deck maps distributed at embarkation were helpful and easy to read. The ship was decorated for Christmas and the colors easily added to her beauty with large sprays of greenery framing the Atrium on every level. The rich burgundy and gold trims made it all the more magical.
Upon discovering the Spa we were treated to FREE 5 minute mini massages and would later learn that the cruise day specials should be taken advantage of – this also includes internet specials for those of us who can't leave all technology behind!
We were disappointed to have the muster drill and actual sail away to be at the same time – cell phones were expected to be turned off and being new to this process we had already promised family we would call as we sailed out of port. Calls were made late and our early dining came too soon to see us sail us away from the last lights of shore. Nothing to complain about certainly – all of it's a learning experience and offers more opportunity to make different choices in the future! As the day went on our luggage appeared at our door – as if dropped off by invisible porters! Our cabin steward was available at all hours…and never too busy to chat with us. His attention to detail and extra attention to our personal needs was worth far more than the "recommended" tipping scale.
Our dining experience was wonderful – the staff was friendly, attentive and very helpful. It took a little effort to adjust our hearing so that we could understand the many dialects on board – but considering the staff speaks multiple languages we figured it was the least we could do to allow them to be more patient with us!! After all…I can't even master a single language!
We were amazed at all the spots on board where entertainment was waiting to be enjoyed. The piano bar, poolside, in the center of the Atrium, cozy alcoves on deck – it was hard to keep track. The nightly songs and dancing after dinner were fun and light-hearted again, always adding to our experience as new cruisers.
We attended nightly comedy shows both the early show as well as the late night (more adult version) and found each enjoyable. We were not offended by the adult style humor of the later show – it's what we were expecting and enjoyed it. The Vegas style shows offered were fun to watch and certainly entertained us. The music, choreography and costumes were of the highest caliber – as were the entertainers! Performing nightly with so much energy and precision must take its toll at some point – however it never showed in the performances we attended. The performers always appeared fresh and energized. Seating in the Paris Lounge was plentiful and "good seats" were always available.
Chris, our cruise director was delightful and entertaining. He obviously loves his job and is a true professional at it. Any staff member that we were in contact with was eager to offer assistance, tips or directions…by disclosing our status of "first time cruisers" we generally received an over abundance of help which was always appreciated!
Our 5 day cruise included ports of call in Grand Cayman and Costa Maya. We booked our ship excursions on our "at sea day" and had no trouble getting our first request at each port. It was nice to have additional information on excursions available on board to help make our decisions with more confidence than with the limited narration on the Carnival web site. Grand Cayman was alive with shopping and stores were packed with cruisers looking for the cheapest bargains on everything from diamonds to sunglasses. Shopping maps from the ship made locating stores a breeze and coupons offered a chance to play our own version of a treasure hunt!
Costa Maya is a diamond in the rough – her white beaches and emerald waters are irresistible. Snorkeling at this location is a must do! The area is on the verge of exploding with commerce and we were able to appreciate the fact that we were experiencing a port still in its infancy. The Beach Break excursion to Uervo Beach far exceeded our expectations…the area is pristine and is an oasis hidden among the jungle growth you pass on the buss ride there. The lounge chairs available next to the water far exceeded the visitors only adding to the experience of being at a private resort. Activities were abundant from unlimited snorkeling and paddle boats to parasailing.
Our cruise ended all too soon and debarkation day came rudely and unwelcome. Our compliments to Carnival and their new process of debarkation – the only complaint goes to the many cruisers who chose not to listen to the instructions and debark at their leisure. A rush for the exits only caused frustration. There is plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast and stroll on the deck before leaving the ship (there are no prizes for being the first person off!).
We loved sailing with Carnival and will do so again. Some may say that our experience was positive because we had nothing to compare it to…but good service is recognizable by even the least traveled individual. The secret to our first cruise was to keep our expectations and minds open to the entire experience. The adventure is what you choose to make of it and looking for fault will only find fault. Looking for adventure will take you to places you never expected to find!
Carnival Inspiration really impressed me. Knowing the ship was 9 years old, I expected to see some wear. But this ship had fresh new looking carpet and furniture. Everything looked clean, bright, and new.
Embarkation was the easiest ever. We arrived at the port at 11:30am and was on the ship in our cabin by 11:55am. We dropped off our carry-on, ate lunch, and became familar with the ship. All the staff members were helpful, polite, and gave their best at all times.
The sevice on the ship, from cabin steward to dining room servers was the best. We could not have ask for anything better. This was my mothers first cruise and I wanted to be just fantantic for her, and it was!!
The food in both the dining room and buffet restaurant ranged from very good to outstanding depending on what we chose to eat. I had salmon and grouper that were mouth watering. We even had Baked Alaska, which I thought had been taken off of Carnival's menu.
The shows were very good. We saw 2 Vegas type shows and watched an Elvis impersonator, which was fantastic!!! Activities offered thoughout theship on sea days were good, but more could have been made available.
Our only port was Cozumel, Mexico. We spent the day at the Playa Mia Beach. Very nice shore excursion. I would recommend it since it has everything. Your buffet lunch, open bar, non-motorized water equipment, lounge chairs, pool, and transportation are included. They offer many other things like messages, para-sailing, waverunners, braiding, and shopping. The port offered plenty of shopping, restaurants, music, and clean restrooms.
Debarkation was a little time consuming since half the ship did the self assist to get off the ship. We stood in line for an hour to get off.
All in all we had a great cruise and I would like to cruise on Inspiration again.
We sailed on Carnival Inspiration out of Tampa on 10/06/05, a 4-night cruise that went to Cozumel. This was a birthday gift to my mom, who's birthday was 10/9. Also accompanying us was my mom's sister. This was our (mom and I) 4th cruise, 2nd time on Carnival. Aunt's 2nd cruise and first time on Carnival.
We flew out of Detroit the day of the cruise (I know, we should fly in a day before). Got to Tampa about 11:30am and took a cab for $25 to the port. Got on the ship by 1pm, check-in was a breeze.
Went to our room but it wasn't ready yet so we went up to the Lido deck for the buffet. Buffet was just okay--we prefer the dining room for meals, especially on Carnival Cruises.
Since I can't remember too many specifics of the cruise I will just give some highlights:
First sea day we played Bingo and the slots as well as participated in trivia. We also played Bingo on the last sea day as well but never won :( The Bingo prizes get better as the cruise goes along. We enjoyedthe slots and entered the slot tournament on the last sea day. Price was $20 a person to play and my mom ended up being the big winner! She won $500! I was so happy for her as it was also her birthday :) I was able to be a contestant in a game show so that was fun as well. The enterainment guy, Bradley (also went by Bee-rad) was great! Food in the dining room was great--ate there for every meal! Service was always great there as well. On our port day (Cozumel) we got off the ship and took a cab for Chankanaab. I think it was $10. All the cab prices to various places are posted at the cab pick up which makes it very easy. This was my 2nd time to Cozumel and to Chankanaab. I really enjoyed Chankanaab--saw a lot of big lizards! Not many people at the beach and was able to rent snorkle equipment for $6. Snorkeling was pretty good--saw a Barracuda, which kind of scared me! After Chankanaab we left and took a cab to Paradise Beach. We were disappointed by Paradise Beach. Their brocure said free beach chairs but when we got there they wanted $8 a person to use their equipment. The beach was okay but the water wasn't as pretty a Chankanaab and didn't like like it would be worth snorkeling there so we left and went back to the ship. Later I took a cab downtown to shop but didn't see much--most of the things I saw downtown I saw at our Puenta Maya Pier (Where Carnival docks at).
After the cruise, we stayed one night in Tampa at the Residence Inn, downtown. What a great hotel! Got it on Priceline for around $70, including taxes. Hotel had a free shuttle to go anywhere within a 2 mile radius (they probably would have picked us up at the port!) so we took it to Ybor City to do a little shopping (not much there during the day, however) and back to Channelside to eat dinner. We also enjoyed the pool and hot tubs at the hotel as well as their free drinks and snacks that evening as well as the huge free breakfast the next morning. Highly recommend this hotel--the room was spacious and included a fridge, stove, dishwasher, & microwave.
We just got back from our cruise on the Inspiration (08-25-05 to 8-29-05). This was our second cruise on the Inspiration and I have to say we loved it just as much as the first. I traveled with my two children (12 & 14) and my daughter's friend (13). We had one inside cabin with bunk beds and found it to be very comfortable. We flew down early the day before the cruise and spent the day at Busch Gardens. Was this the time of year to go! There was hardly anyone there. The longest line we waited in was about 10 minutes.
AIR: I booked the air on my own. While we live in NH and the Manchester, NH airport is close to our house I ended up booking a flight out of Logan in Boston. JetBlue and Song were bother offering airfare at $59 each way (and both were non-stop flights). We flew down on JetBlue and back on Song as neither had the airfare at that price for both legs of the trip. I would encourage anyone who has several airports within driving distance to them tocheck flight information and price at each airport. The cheapest price I found in Manchester was $260.00 roundtrip for the same days. As we booked our own air we did fly into Tampa a day early to avoid any potential problems with airline delays, especially since we were traveling during hurricane season.
ACCOMDATIONS: I booked the Wyndham Westshore for $78 per night through Hotwire. While it was fine for one night, I wasn't overly impressed. When I booked it was rated as a 4 star. About a month after booking I got an email from Hotwire saying they downgraded it to a 3.5 star based on member comments and I was given the option of keeping the reservation and getting $50 Hotwire dollars toward a future reservation or canceling and getting my money back. I decided to keep the reservation. While the lobby area was nice, the hallways and rooms had peeling wallpaper, worn carpets, and banged up furniture. Our beds were comfortable and they offered your choice of pillows. We were on the 11th floor and the views were great. The air-conditioning didn't work all that well. While it was better then outside, the room never got really cool. The pool was nice, but small. The views from the pool deck (9th floor) were also great. I would rate this hotel as more of a 2.5 star.
BOARDING/DISEMBARKING: We arrived at the port at about 11:30 a.m.. We checked in and were on board and eating lunch by 12:00 p.m. Disembarking was a breeze, although we were rerouted to Fort Lauderdale due to Hurricane Katrina.
DINING ROOMS: We had the early seating (5:45 p.m) in the Carnivale dining room. I took the early seating as I was traveling with children. As usual the food and service were fantastic! It was well prepared, and there was a large selection. We ate in the dining room every night. Our waitstaff was very attentive and made sure that we liked everything we ordered and if we wanted an extra plate of anything they were happy to provide it. We ate breakfast and lunch in Brassiere Dining room which was a buffet. Again the food was plentiful and good. Both the pizza and sandwich stations were also very good. ACCOMODATIONS: As I mentioned earlier in this review I booked a 4A guaranty cabin. Well the upgrade fairy visited us and we were upgraded to a 4D. We were on the Empress Deck which I found was very convenient to everything. I never saw our room steward, but can say whoever it was he or she did an excellent job. Our room was cleaned twice a day, we had a towel animal every night, along with a mint on the pillow. ENTERTAINMENT: We all enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The song and dance shows were excellent, the comedian very funny, and the Mexican Folklore Show was wonderful. We all enjoyed the band at the pool and in the Avant Garde Lounge. The kids had a great time watching "Fear Factor" poolside. The Men's Hairy Chest Contest was also very entertaining.
CAMP CARNIVAL: As my kids are older we didn't use the camp program. They did go the first night for the meet and greet for the 13-15 year olds. They went to one activity and found the group to be very immature and opted not to go to the rest of activities. The organized activities ended for this age group ended between 10-11 p.m.. After that if you wanted you kids to participate in any of the late night activities there was a charge of $26/per child.
SHIPS CONDITION: This is an older ship and I found it to be in good repair, clean and comfortable. Everyone I went there was someone cleaning something. I didn't see any stained carpet or disrepair. I know some people have commented that they felt the ship wasn't at its best but I have to disagree.
EXCURSIONS: IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER - We stayed on ship's time the whole time. Cozumel was one hour behind us! If you don't book through the ship make sure your tour operator knows what time you need to be back to the ship. You need to be on board 30 minutes before departure. We left Cozumel at 12:00 a.m.. At around 11:30 p.m. they kept calling three people's names over the speaker system asking them to call the Purser's Desk. At midnight the ship cast off and we pulled away from the dock. We were about 50 yard away from the pier and three people came running down the pier waving and yelling. Well, the ship did not go back! My guess is these were the three they were paging earlier and they missed the ship.
I booked a snorkel trip through cozumelinisder.com during the day and a night snorkel through Carnival. Both trips were cancelled as the water was too rough (Saturday, August 27, 2005 - Hurricane Katrina was in the Gulf). Carnival credited my Sign and Sail and cozumelinsider processed the credit to my credit card before I even made it home. I would definitely book through them again. Instead we went to Chankanaab Park which is absolutely beautiful (we've been before). We were able to book the sea lion swim there and the kids had a great time. Our sea lion was Charlie and we all enjoyed our time in the water with her. We hung out at the beach for a while and then went back to the port to do some shopping.
SEAS: As I mentioned earlier we were in the Gulf when Hurricane Katrina hit. The ship's Captain and Cruise Director kept us well updated at to what was going on. When we left on Thursday it was smooth sailing. Friday was a beautiful day at sea and it wasn't until late Friday that they started making announcements about Katrina. By late Friday/early Saturday we were told that there was a chance we wouldn't get back to Tampa on Monday, but no firm decision had been made. By late Saturday we were told we definitely would not be going back to Tampa on Monday and we may spend an extra day at sea (which would have been fine with me!!), but nothing was sure yet. Saturday night late (after 1:00 a.m.) it did get a little "bumpy" but I didn't think it was that bad. No one in our cabin was the slightest bit seasick. The next morning the captain announced we went through 40 foot waves! The Inspiration must have a heck of a stabilizing system because it really didn't feel like the waves were that big. By Sunday morning we were told we would be disembarking in Fort Lauderdale and bused back to Tampa by motorcoach. Carnival allowed us all free calls all day Sunday to make travel arrangements. I called Song and changed our flight back from Tampa to Fort Lauderdale. Song was great and made the change with no charge. From speaking with others JetBlue, Southwest and Delta did the same for other passengers. I thought Carnival did a great job keeping us updated and safe. Surprisingly, our final day at sea was very nice. It started out overcast and then cleared about 11:00 a.m. and we had smooth sailing all the way back to Fort Lauderdale.
If there are any other questions or other information you would like to get about the ship or my experience, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com. Put in the subject line Carnival Inspiration so that I don't accidentally delete it.
We again had a great time on the Inspiration and would sail her again. My daughter's friend told me this was the best vacation she's ever had, which was great to hear. My kids are already planning next year's trip.
My wife, two sons (ages 19 and 15), and I recently arrived home after our first cruise. Since we had never cruised before and weren't sure we would enjoy it, we decided to try a 5 day cruise on the Carnival Inspiration departing from Tampa. We all agree it was one of our best vacations ever.
We booked our own airfare and flew into Orlando from Pittsburgh, because the flights to Orlando were cheaper than flying to Tampa, were non-stop, and at more convenient times. We flew in two days earlier, stayed at the Hampton Inn in Orlando and went to Universal Studios which we enjoyed. On the day of our cruise, we drove to Tampa and returned our rental car (which we had rented at the Orlando airport) to the Tampa airport. We then took the Avis courtesy shuttle to the cruise port in Tampa.
Embarkation: This was very organized. We arrived at the cruise port at 12:30 p.m. The whole process only took about 30 minutes. We received a handout, which stated that our room would not be ready yet, but in the meantime, lunch would be served. Oncewe boarded the ship, we were not sure where to go or what to do. We felt someone should have been directing you once you got on board especially to benefit first time cruisers.
The Ship: When we first saw our ship docked at the cruise port we were amazed at how large it seemed. However, once other larger ships were docked next to us in Cozumel, our ship didn't seem as large. The ship is beginning to show some wear (it is nine years old), but was kept clean and you always saw crew workers cleaning, painting, or doing maintenance. The casino was good and so was the gym. The gift shops, although they were well stocked with souvenirs and alcohol, they seemed a bit too small for the crowds. The same can be said for the photo gallery. The deck plan of the ship seemed a bit confusing to us, perhaps because we were first time cruisers. I always had a deck plan with me in my pocket. The kids however, had no trouble finding their way around the ship.
Our Cabin: We had booked an interior guaranteed stateroom and were assigned to the upper deck aft. The room was smaller than we expected. It would have been ok for two persons, but for four, was a little tight especially in the evening when the upper beds had been pulled down. In the morning when we got up, we had to be careful not to hit our heads on the pull down bed that was above our bed. When we first went into our room, we noticed that there was mildew on the shower curtain, but when brought to the attention of our cabin steward it was promptly replaced. Otherwise, the room was clean and we always had plenty of extra towels when we requested them.
The Staff: Our room steward Jorge, waiter Michael, and assistant waiter Daniel were all pleasant and helpful. The cruise director's staff and the rest of the personnel were all fine.
The Food: Overall we felt the food was very good. Perhaps not top gourmet, but fairly decent and portions were average. We preferred the dining room rather than the buffet in the Brassiere Lounge. Breakfast and lunch in the dining room gave us the opportunity to sit with and meet different people. We had requested the 6:15 p.m. dinnertime but were given a 5:45 p.m. seating and did not bother to request a change. Next time however, we will request an even later seating, so as not to be rushed for dinner. We had not planned on purchasing the optional soft drink cards for $27.50 per person. However, when we found out that only coffee or ice tea would be included in our dining meals, we decided to purchase three cards for convenience. My younger son only drinks water, but bottled water was not included in the drink cards. It would have been a lot simpler if all non-alcoholic beverages were included in the price of the cruise.
Ship Activities: They don't call Carnival Ships Fun Ships for nothing. We thought we may be bored, but there were so many activities and things to do that we could not even do everything we wanted to do. Our 15 year old son at first was hesitant about going to the info session for the Club O2, which has activities for 15 to 17 year olds. However, he was glad that he did go. Although he did not participate in every single activity, he made friends with a group of kids and hung out with them a lot. There were no planned activities for my 19 year old other than a singles meet that was not well attended. Although he did meet a few girls, there weren't many his age. However, he did enjoy going into the casino. We all enjoyed the evening shows especially "Shout" (singing and dancing show), the guest talent show and the final show "El Nuevo Caribe".
Ports of Call: We did not do any shore excursions and decided to relax at the beaches and do some shopping. At Grand Cayman, we enjoyed the calm, beautiful blue water, although our youngest would have preferred ocean waves. Our only regret is that we had a limited time at this port since we had to be back on the ship at 1:30 p.m. We had more time in Cozumel and did some shopping first. My older son enjoyed bargaining with the sellers. We then took a taxi to Mr. Sancho's beach area. The water here was clear and had a few minor waves that my younger son liked. We had beautiful weather and smooth sailing except on Thursday evening when we had mild rocking.
Debarkation: Since we had a late flight we decided to take our time and not rush off the ship. We left the ship at 9:45 a.m. and it took a mere 15 minutes to disembark and go through customs.
Overall Impression: There were quite a few first time cruisers on the Carnival Inspiration and we would recommend this cruise since we really had a great time. In the future, we plan on cruising on a larger Carnival ship for seven days.