I sprung out of bed in our home in Brandon, Fl (20 minutes from Tampa) and began the exciting last minute packing of toiletry items and such that I couldn't pack a month ago when I started preparing for our journey because they would be needed the night before.
By the time I had showered and adorned my "cruise embarkation outfit" complete with a wide brimmed straw hat, the group of those who would be coming with us started to arrive. Along with my husband and son, my two sisters were joining us and they both brought a guest. So it was 7 cruisers in all. My husband, son and I had sailed 4 times before this but it was the other 4's first cruise.
There was a ton of last minute craziness as we tried to get out the door but finally we were off. As we were driving down the road full of anticipation, the blue and red symbol of all that is Carnival came into view at last. The funnel towers over the surrounding buildings at the Port of Tampa. Then the whole ship could be seen andwe cheered for our new home.
As we drove closer, we passed by cruisers milling around with their luggage. One look at them and we were slightly worried, none of them looked happy. What kind of people were we traveling with? That's when I realized they were not our fellow cruise mates BUT those who had just gotten off the ship. They all looked sad and I knew it was because they had to go home. I couldn't help but feel mixed emotions part of me was so HAPPY to not be them as they sat and waited for their transportation to take them back to their jobs the next day. The other half of me felt a sense of foreboding because I knew all to quickly that would be me in just 7 shorts days. I decided to go with the happy feeling, as I'd have plenty of time for the sadness next Sunday.
We dropped our luggage off and we said good-bye to our parents, who had graciously dropped us off. We headed up the escalators to the check-in area. As we waited in line for the metal detectors they started calling group number one to board the ship, this was around noon. As we passed through the security area, I was surprised at how big the check-in area was. It's much larger then Port Canaveral (the only other port we've sailed out of.) There were plenty of extremely helpful Carnival staff to take our boarding information and before we knew it we were assigned a group and directed to the waiting area. We were group 10, as we sat down they called group five. We had maybe a 30 minute wait and we were ready for our boarding pictures. This didn't take as long as we thought it would. There were several large groups in front of us which speed up the embarkation picture taking time since they all took their pictures together. We got on board and one of my sisters headed directly to the pursers desk to add money to her Sail N Sign Card so she would avoid the lines later. The rest of us had used a credit card. The atrium area is nice and the large golden sculpture that adorns the area reaches up to the beautiful skylight above. The main "lobby" area does feel a little smaller then on other ships we've been on (Pride, Fantasy, Sovereign of the Seas) but it is centered around the beautiful marble stair case.
We headed up to the Lido deck to waive good-bye again to my parents who had walked over to the Channelside Shopping area to catch a movie so they might be done when we sailed. Next, we went into the Brassiere for lunch. The décor in here was as others had suggested a tad "loud." It took a little getting used to because it made the room feel more crowded then it really was. The metal tubing décor was neat but it took up extra space that could have made the room feel more open and inviting. Otherwise it was a good lunch. My son and husband immediately went to the pizza line. I had some very nice lasagna and other foods. There was a nice variety and I tried a little of everything some things were wonderful others I didn't care for. But in my opinion that's the one of the great things about cruising, trying new things. The burgers and hot dogs are really good. I know that's not the exotic cruising menu that you would imagine but after eating escargot and quail the night before sometimes a traditional American food is comforting while away from home.
After lunch, we went to check out our staterooms. One sister had a 1A (inside cabin with an upper and lower bed) and this was the first time I had been in one. I thought it was quite charming and enough space for the two of them. They did say that they took turns sleeping in the "top bunk" because it wasn't as comfortable as the bottom. Not sure if it was their bed in particular or all 1A's have this problem. My other sister and her boyfriend had a 2 person Outside Cabin on the Starboard side and we had a 3 person Outside Cabin on the Port side. The cabin was nice and clean. My one complaint was their cabin seemed cooler then ours. I know some people complain about the inside rooms on the ship being too cold but my husband enjoys keeping the thermostat at our house to 72 degrees during the day and 69 at night. So it was hard getting used to the temperature change. We turned the dial on the air conditioner to high but it never got quite as cold as we would have liked. I saw no blatant areas of disrepair in the rooms. The bathroom floor did look like it had been re-tiled recently. And there were some carpet stains in some of the hallways but nothing that seemed alarming. The elevators were the one place that needed attention. The tile on the floor (small mosaic patterns) was missing tiles and the paint on the doors was peeling or had been unfortunately engraved with initials of some careless teen. Otherwise, every time I turned around there was a happy crew member polishing the stair rails, wiping the glass, or scrubbing off chairs.
After perusing the material in our rooms, we went to the shore talk for the first two ports were we met our cruise director Steve. We soon found out that Steve was a funny guy but he talked and talked and talked way too much. This would be a theme throughout the cruise. He would start out great and then just get into way too much detail about events. His announcements over the load speaker were even worse. We often joked about placing bets on how long he would talk for at the next announcement. It got to the point where we would tune him out. We left the shore talk early because we felt like we were back in school attending a lecture. We had pretty much decided on the tours we were taking anyway, thanks to the tips on the message boards and reviews we read.
Next, we were called to the life boat drill. This was the easiest drill ever. On past drills we were made to line up military fashion, life jackets buckled, as the crew members checked our names off on a list and we waited on the hot deck for what seemed like hours. This time we had the Lido deck as our muster station. I guess they felt sorry for us having to wait in the non-air conditioned space because we were allowed to sit around on deck chairs near the pool and never once had to adorn a life vest. This was over fairly quickly but to my disappointment the ship had already pulled away from the port before we were dismissed. We made our way to the back of the ship to wave good-bye but we had already made it so far away from the pier, the people at Channelside were already a blur. A tad dismayed we made our way back to the cabin to stow our vests and then headed back up on deck for the customary Sail Away Cocktail.
We went to the Aft Verandah deck and found some lounge chairs to relax in near the smaller pool, as we navigated our way out of the channel. Not having sailed out of Tampa before, I was really looking forward to sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I had heard in past reviews that it's quite a site and that the funnel barely fits. So with much anticipation, we awaited as the triangular forms got closer and closer. As we began our pass under the bridge, I felt like a child again. I knew deep down that we wouldn't hit the bridge but at the same time I could not help feel a slight fear because it does in deed appear to just barely scrape by. It was a great adrenaline rush as the funnel cleared the huge bridge span and we were on our way out to sea. Everyone up on deck clapped!
We lingered on deck for a while and then strolled over to the front (bow) of the ship for a different view. It was quite windy up front and we had to hold on to our hats and tuck in our shirts. We were just staring out at the vast blueness and then something happened that I've always wanted to see on a cruise. In true Titanic fashion a group of dolphins was playfully racing the ship out to sea. They jumped in and out of the water right in front of the boat. It was a beautiful sight.
After that we headed to our cabins to get dressed for late dinner in the Carnivale Dinning room (8:00pm). Dinner in the dining room has always been an event for me. We get dressed up and dine in style. Unfortunately, this night would be a tad disappointing but the good news is it got considerably better each night. Because it was the first night there was quite a large line to get in the dining room as passengers were directed to their tables by the numbers on their cards. I don't think anyone enjoys waiting in line but this one seemed to take an eternity. The only consolation was that it would not be like this every night. We finally found our table. It was a 6 person booth with an extra chair at one end on the starboard side a row away from the windows. We sat down and were given our menus. I like to take full advantage of the menu by ordering an appetizer, a soup, a salad and an entrée. I had the fried tiger prawns with rice and a very nice honey ginger sauce (which was quite good). Others had lamb. My sisters' boyfriend had steak. The waiters (sorry they told us their names a few times but I am horrible with names) brought out the appetizers to those who ordered it and the soup to the rest and then skipped right to the salad for everyone rather then bringing out the remaining soups. They were gone so long getting the main course we didn't have a chance to ask for the missing soups. When they brought the main course we decided to just eat that and not worry about the soups as we could always get more food later. The next issue came when they forgot the steak and we were all done with our meals before my sister's boyfriend even started his. Dessert was uneventful but I had a heavenly Chocolate Decadence Cake! I think overall the desserts were much better this cruise then any I remember in the past. Usually, they taste bland to me but they were great this time. They still need to work on the Cheesecake though. I like a heavy New York Style cheesecake but on cruises I've only been able to get French style which is too light and reminds me too much of Jello.
After dinner we went to the welcome aboard show. There was a comedian who was quite good but this was the one combined show (early and late dinners) and there was no room for those who had late seating. After the show we brought our son (age 11) back to the room for bed and as expected the room steward had turned down the beds and placed the chocolates on our pillows. Ahhh the cruising lifestyle! She had also brought the welcome basket of goodies which I noticed was missing when we first went to look at our rooms. I had assumed Carnival had stopped this process but thankfully I was wrong. We went for a walk on deck after this. The moon was almost full and was a beautiful sight as it reflected on the water. We kind of missed the star gazing that we had on past cruises as the moon was too bright. But the full moon at sea was a new experience for us and we relished it. Around 11:30pm, we headed over to the Candle Light Lounge to watch the R rated comedian. I liked him the most of all the R rated shows we'd see as he didn't have to use a ton of cussing as his main form of comedy. After the show we were exhausted and went to bed.
Monday May 31, 2004
We woke up fairly late for a cruise. It was about 10am and since it was a day at sea we weren't in a rush to do anything. We got dressed and eventually made it up to the Lido deck for lunch. We did the usual sampling of each dish. My son stayed true to his beloved pizza. After lunch, we went up on deck and played the hunt for lounge chairs game. We found an open area and a stack of chairs near by so we claimed them both. No sooner had we settled in, when all around us people were doing the same thing. Before we knew it, we were pretty much boxed in. It was a beautiful day and we spent several hours reading magazines and watching the ship stream through the water. I finally got a tad too hot and decided it was worth the risk of stepping on people to take a break from the heat.
We did some exploring, found some bars and shops we'd missed yesterday and then headed to the Candlelight Lounge for the Art Auction. My son went back to the room to watch a movie. The art auction was pretty much like others we've been to. I go for the free champagne but my husband is all about the art. I admit its nice learning about contemporary art. After the auctioneer promised a free piece of art to who ever showed the most enthusiasm, it was a game to 2 fellow passengers. They had a "whooo hooo" and "wow" fest over every little thing. At first it was entertaining but by the 2nd hour it got a tad annoying. We did find a painting we wanted to bid on. We'd gotten 5 on a prior cruise. One was a free give away for all who attended, one we won and the others we bid on because we had just moved and needed something to cover the walls. Two were Kincaid seriolithographs which compared to the starting prices now, we got for a steal back then. For this auction, we found an Alexander Chen for about $115. We have one he did of the New York sky line and this one is of the Grand Canyon. My sister and her boyfriend bought two pieces of art also. If you've never been to an auction it's worth a try.
After the auction we went back to the cabin to relax and then get ready for the Captain's Gala in the Paris Lounge. It was formal night. We were all dressed in our best and my son was especially excited to dress up in his new suit. We found a seat way in the back of the Paris Lounge and the waiters brought hordevers and drinks by. We listened to the welcome speech by the cruise director and the captain introduced the senior officers. Everyone cheered the loudest for the chef.
Next, we went around and had our picture taken at the pre-set backdrops. I tried to get a nice group shot but as I would later find out that was near impossible. I had my eyes closed in some. People were looking in 5 different directions in another. It was fruitless.
Next came dinner. Lobster tail night! But the tails were disappointing. My tail was at least edible but others at my table sent theirs back in exchange for the fish. My one tip is to listen to what the waiter recommends. He never steered me wrong and if he suggested a dish I didn't want to try, I'd ask for the next best recommendation. Another good rule of thumb, I've come to learn, is to stay away from pasta dishes on all cruises. There's something about them, I don't think pasta does well to be mass produced. I confirmed this by trying my son's pasta dishes. It's been posted before but I can confirm that you must try the Pumpkin Soup. It was the most memorable dish the whole trip. And its not overly pumpkiny either for those who don't like pumpkin, its just so good!!
After dinner, we headed over to the Candlelight Lounge to watch the first part of the hockey game (GO LIGHTNING!!!) Then during intermission we went to the Paris Lounge for the first dancing show. "El Nuevo Caribe" was a very good show. The two singers were wonderful. The male singer was great for the songs as he and they were both of the Latin persuasion. The female singer reminded me very much of Christina Aguilera. We thought we had to get there super early to get a good seat but we ended up in the second row. The cruise director was nice enough to announce at the end of the show that the Lightning had won (YEAH!!!) which had to be hard for him as he hailed from Canada and was a Flames fan. They also asked all Military personnel to stand up before the show in recognition of Memorial Day. I thought this was a nice touch especially since there were only 3 American crew members on board. We left the show and went to bed.
Tuesday, June 1
We woke up and were docked out just off the coast of Grand Cayman. We had an early shore excursion and woke a tad late so we dressed and ran to the Paris Lounge to meet the rest of the ppl on our excursion. We got there and were told to go directly to the 3rd deck and get on a tender. The tender ride was not long maybe 5 minutes. We got off and took the customary picture and then waited under the sign for our tour. We had decided on a city tour because on past cruises we never got the full "educational" experience of the port. We got on a nice bus that was well air conditioned. In Grand Cayman they drive on the left side of the road since it's a British Colony. We drove by tons of hotels and the governor's house. The governor's house was not that impressive but the driver made a big deal about it and even stopped in front for a few minutes. She was an interesting tour guide. While she did give us a good educational talk about the island, some of the things she thought to be exciting were a tad strange. The most so was the "Outback Steakhouse." I still can't get over the fact that she made a huge effort to pull into the parking lot and stop so we could admire the Outback Steakhouse. He he he.The highlight of the tour was the Turtle Farm. I would recommend visiting there by itself though. The rest of the tour was a tad disappointing but I got what I wanted out if it which was the education part. The other places we stopped where 7 mile beach (for a quick picture), the town of Hell, and the Tortuga Rum Bakery/Store. The Tortuga Rum store is right next to the Turtle Farm so it's not much of an additional stop as it seemed to be advertised. But they have really good rum fudge and you get to sample all the cakes and drinks you wish. When we finished the tour, we took a quick walk to the west of the pier and bought some t-shirts and other souvenirs. We thought about going to the beach after this but we were tired and hungry so it was time to go back to the boat. My sisters each did there own thing in Grand Cayman. One went to the Treasure Island beach which was a ship excursion that included use of the hotel's amenities but you had to pay for the taxi to get there. We noticed a very nice public beach on our drive and I'd advise saving the money and just getting a taxi to there. My other sister rented a Jeep and went bar hopping. She's the brave one as I wouldn't attempt to try and navigate the traffic especially on the "wrong" side of the road.
Back on the ship, we sat outside and enjoyed the view of the city as we ate lunch. There was a Royal Caribbean boat anchored there also. The funny thing was they were using their tender to ferry passengers back and forth but we used Grand Cayman ships. Not sure why that was. We could also see quite a few snorkeling excursions that were just off shore. After lunch, we went back to the cabin to watch a movie and napped. We went to dinner early and had drinks at the Chopin bar just above the Carnivale dining room. This was to become our main pre-dinner hang out. We talked about our day at dinner and while I can't recall the menu I do have one piece of advice. If you have the pumpkin soup, don't try the Lobster Bisque the next day. It pales in comparison and seemed to be made with the overcooked lobster from the night before. The rest of the meal was wonderful though. There was another R rated comedian at night and we stayed out late since we didn't have to get up early in the morning the next day (docking is at 11pm in Costa Maya).
Wednesday June 2
We slept in late and went up for lunch around 11:15pm. They were still setting up and changing over from breakfast so we went outside to watch the docking process at the Costa Maya pier. We were at the back of the boat and one look at the seas gave me a sense of foreboding. Past cruises we've missed a port because it was unsafe to tender. I was happy that we would be docking at a pier here, rather then tendering, until the Captain came over the load speaker. The minute I heard his voice I knew there was a problem. The waves were too strong to dock! We watched as the workers below on the pier released the ropes and we started to move away from the pier. I was devastated. The Costa Mayaians didn't look too happy either as they saw a source of revenue slide back out to sea. We went into the Brassiere and I just sat there too upset to eat. Eventually, the cruise director announced over the speakers that we would be leaving immediately for Cozumel. We would dock by 7pm and stay overnight there so we would be able to enjoy the night life. This consoled me a little so I was at least able to eat but I was still upset that we would be missing the most exotic port. We ate lunch and went back to the room. We had received a new Caper and a letter from the Captain apologizing and letting us know there'd be a $25 credit on our Sail and Sign account. This made me feel better too. I know its not much but its more then we received on past cruises after missing a port. My spirits were lifted even more when I went to talk to my sister in her cabin and we met her room steward who told us how excited he was about missing the port. It turns out the crew lives for times like this when they can go out to Cozumel at night and enjoy themselves. Even though we didn't take advantage of the nightlife in Cozumel (although my sister and her friend were the first person's off the boat) because we had a 7:30 am tour the next day, I was happy for the crew.
I don't recall all that we did to bid our time until the ship docked but around 6pm, I went up on deck and got a good seat for the docking at Cozumel. There were 3 other ships all Carnival already docked at the 2 piers and we tried to see who could read the names first. I had my binoculars but it was very windy. Finally, we could make out the Holiday, Celebration, and Elation. One of them was leaving and we ended up docking next to the Elation. They finally left at about 10pm. We went to dinner minus my sister and her friend so it was just 5 of us. Then we went up on deck and had a night game of volleyball. My sister and her boyfriend brought a ball and they were dying to play but it had been too windy previously when the ship was moving. We played and then watched the sister ship sail away. Next, we went to catch the end of the show in the Paris lounge. It was a magician and the comedian from the night before. The magician was better then expected but the comedian was indescribable. We commented the night before that we wondered how this guy would do a PG show because 90% of his act was cussing. Well it turned out he couldn't do PG. There were tons of little kids in the audience because their parents thought they'd enjoy the magician. When the comedian came out, the 3rd sentence out of his mouth had the "s" word and then as he tried to get into a story he used the "f" word and other colorful language. The little boy in front of us instantly caught it and yelled, "Daddy, he just said a bad word." This was not the worst of it, however, because as the comedian continued on, we could noticeably tell he was plastered. He was slurring his words and not making any sense. Half of the comedy that night was our amazement that he was allowed to go on stage like this. His set only lasted about 10 minutes but the cruise director was notably upset afterwards when he bid us goodbye. We went to bed after this so we could manage the tour in the morning.
Thursday, June 3
This was the best day of the cruise. We got up early, dressed and grabbed a muffin and then headed to our meeting place in the Paris lounge again. We left for our tour and immediately boarded a ferry to take us to the main land of Mexico (Playa del Carmen.) We had originally wanted to book the horseback ridding trip but it turned out despite excursion lists we read online, it was for ages 12 and up and our son just missed the cut off. We racked our brains for something to replace it and decided upon the 4 X 4 Cavern and Beach trip. Mostly because everyone else was going cave tubing in Belize and we had already decided snorkeling was a must here because of past reviews. Also, because I've never been in a cave and have always wanted to.
We found a seat on the ferry and thought even though it was a 45 minute ride it would be a good way to wake up. However, the boat will be forever dubbed the Puke Ferry. I never felt sea sick but this was the exception. I should have gotten the hint when we were in the Paris Lounge and one of the Asst. Cruise Directors was passing out Bonine but I had to learn the hard way. I also should have taken the hint when I got on and noticed everyone was sitting in the middle aisle away from the windows. Why did they not want to enjoy the view? I soon found out that it was because the side to side motion was horrendous. No, I didn't officially get sick but I've never come closer. We finally docked and I was so happy to be off that boat. I was, however, dreading the ride back.
We separated into our tour groups and walked through the shopping square to our awaiting Jeeps. Another reason we choose this tour was because my husband gets car sick unless he drives so the thought of being able to drive was a quick sell for him. We got in our jeeps and drove off caravan style to the caverns. It was very interesting driving. It was the first time I've really felt like we were in a foreign country. The signs were in Spanish and the neighborhoods made the poor neighborhoods of Tampa look like palaces. There was a lot of rubble everywhere. I couldn't help feel like we were in a war zone with piles of rocks scattered around everyone's yards and large holes in walls. We drove on the Mexican highway and then got off on a dirt road to get to the caves. My husband was a tad disappointed as he thought the off road part would be more exotic and that we'd get to go faster but I was happy enough with the bumpiness of the dirt road.
We arrived and were given stylish red hard hats and let into the cave. It was very beautiful to see the stalactites and stalagmites. We went half way in and then saw above us an opening to the air with a tree growing right in the cave. It felt like magical place out of a story book. Just beyond this was the underground lake. We changed to our suits and put on the provided life jackets. As we jumped in, the water was freezing. It took a while to get used to but after that it was refreshing. We swam around with our tour guide pointing out different things and even got to swim through a small above-ground passageway. The view and the water were magnificent. The whole cave is lighted and the only draw-back was trying to swim in between people to get a good view of certain things. We left the cave and were given a cold drink. We were allotted 10 minutes to use the rest room and shop at the "Mexican Wal Mart" that had been set up while we were in the caves.
Next, we got back in the jeeps and drove to La Playa beach. It was a longer drive then I had expected but it gave us a good opportunity to sightsee. We passed many of the other sites offered as tours including many of the ruins and XCaret. We arrived at the beach and found a picnic table for our belongings. My son and husband hit the water but I was starving so I found the buffet that was included in the excursion. There was salad, beans, chicken, beef and fish tacos, and chips. It was all very good but very spicy! The beach was nice but smaller then expected. There were hammocks and a small amount of lounge chairs. The water was refreshing and there were nice waves. Being from Tampa, we only get small waves most of the year on the east coast of Florida so it was nice to have west coast type waves to enjoy. After swimming, I relaxed in the hammock and then we took a few pictures. One word of caution (or incentive to some males out there), there are topless beaches or perhaps it was one itself. We were not prepared for this and it wouldn't have normally offended me but we did have our 11 year old son with us so when the topless women went strolling down the beach it was a tad awkward.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Puke Ferry. We got back in our jeep and headed back to the pier. It was a tad of a wait for our Puke Ferry to dock. Normally, I would have been impatient with having to wait but the dread of leaving my stomach in Mexico was enough to keep me from getting annoyed. We finally got on the boat and this time went right to the middle row in the middle of the boat. Whew! It was not as bad this time. It was probably in part due to the fact that we were so tired so my son and husband napped while I read a magazine. We got off the Ferry by our ship and walked to the shopping area to find some souvenirs. We found all we needed in one store. I can't recall the name but it resembled a flea market. We got shirts and my mother-in-law's requested vanilla. We were heading back to the ship but my husband decided to try some Mexican beer. There was a Fat Tuesdays just to the left of the pier if your back is to the ship but it was really crowded and commercial looking. However, we found a small bar/restaurant to the right and it was very nice. It was a tad loud as they blared music. When my husband went up to the bar and tried to tell the bartender he wanted Mexican beer, I'm not sure he got the best kind (Victoria beer???) but it didn't taste too bad (which is saying something because I can't stand beer.) We decided to sit down and enjoy the view. We found ourselves in a setting for a Corona commercial. We sat on a small dock and everyone else around us was drinking Corona. We laughed at them because why would you drink a beer you could get in the US when you are in Mexico? We were enjoying ourselves so much that I we decided to order another round and we also tried some Mexican Nachos. It was the perfect end to a perfect day in port. My sister and her friend rented a Jeep here as well and drove around Cozumel. The other sister and her boyfriend did the Horseback ride excursion. They said it was nice but the ruins looked fake. They had a drawing and won a bottle of Tequila so they were very happy.
We did the usual pre-dinner drinks at the Chopin and then went to dinner. We watched part of the hockey game then took a walk on deck and went back to the room to watch the Bolts loose in overtime. Very upsetting! We went to sleep exhausted from our day in port.
Friday June 4
Today we visited Belize. We had been planning for a while to take the Goff's Caye snorkeling excursion. We woke up and went to breakfast. We didn't have to meet our excursion group until 8:45am so it allowed us some to eat. I was very worried about being able to tender here after the Costa Maya experience, any suggestion of high waves had me squeamish. We watched as people began to board tenders and felt a great relief. There were many different size boats taking people to shore and to their excursions. It seemed like all the ones with snorkel gear were big 2 deck boats and I was quite surprised when we boarded a small 15 person speed boat.
While we were boarding, the waves felt enormous. I was shocked they let us leave the ship. The description of the excursion didn't prepare us for the speed of the speed boat. We zoomed through the water and bounced up and down on the waves. There was no side to side rocking like on the Cozumel Puke Ferry so it didn't bother us at all. I did feel sorry for those sitting up front in the bow of the boat as the front end smacked down into the water every few seconds. However, we in the aft were getting our punishment as well by the continuous sea spray. It was refreshing though and as long as you had sunglasses to protect your eyes it was actually pretty fun. We arrived at Goff's Caye after a slower ride through some mangroves to distribute snorkel gear. The guides dropped a few people off at the tiny island and the rest of us went as close as we could to the barrier reef. The coral was amazing but unfortunately the fish were still sleeping or something because there were not as many as I would have liked. One person remarked that there were more fish at Chankanaab Park were they were hand feeding schools of fish. So I guess next time we will have to try that out. Snorkeling was fun but it tires you out very quickly. It wasn't a movement problem as much as breathing. We got back on the boat and set off back to the small island. We were given bags of water especially made for boating so you don't injure yourself on the plastic bottles as the boat is moving. We were told there was usually someone on the island selling barbeque food and drinks but unfortunately they didn't show up today. It was disappointing that they didn't show up or that the tour didn't include food. After four hours, we were starving. We relaxed in the sand and my son built a sand castle. Others were snorkeling off the island but I'd had my full. The island is so small you could throw a football from one end to the other. We got back on our boat and started the thrilling speed boat race back to the ship.
We had planned to take another tender to the city when we got back but we decided we were too hungry and tired. Also, it was 1:30pm and the last tender was at 3:30pm. Factoring in the 30 minute ride, we wouldn't get much quality time in the city anyway. So we headed to our rooms to change and then to the Lido deck for food. They had a really good chicken on a skewer for the Japanese buffet and we ate hardily.
We decided to try and go up on deck to see if we could get a glimpse of the city with our binoculars but on the way we happened past the Candlelight lounge and noticed the very in end of the "LOR The Return of the King" was playing so we relaxed in the darkness and watched the end.
Afterwards we went up on deck and looked around but we were anchored too far from the city to see anything. We watched the tenders zoom back from the city. It was about 3:30pm and the last few boats were coming in. We heard the infamous drinking boat excursion before we saw it come in. Next thing we knew, there was a large boat with about a 100 dancing passengers trying to dock. The boat had two decks and the top one was full of people. We noticed one guy in particular who was kneeling with his head resting on the seat of one of the benches. As the people began to get off, he tried to get up but could only stagger a few feet and then down he went. It was morbid curiosity that kept us watching as he was helped to a sitting position by one of the tour guides and then instantly began to vomit. I knew I should not watch but at the same time we couldn't help ourselves. Would this guy have to be carried off the boat in a stretcher? He tried time and again to get up with the help of the guide. What appeared to be his girlfriend and a few other friends, all almost as plastered, came over and oblivious to his plight would try and get them to come dance with them. Finally, once everyone else had got up, he summoned enough strength to stand and he was nearly carried off the boat by 2 of the guides. The boat speed back to Belize and I felt sorry for the clean up crew.
Feeling slightly queasy, we went back to the cabin and took a nap / watch a movie before we would have to get ready for dinner early so we could attend the welcome back party. We got dressed in our next set of formal attire and headed to the party, invitation in hand. There were a lot of people there and they passed out drinks and hordevers as they had at the Captain's Gala. The first drink I had wasn't very good. So slightly jealous of the party boat's passengers, I decided to try some rum punch on the next round. Funny thing was, there wasn't so much punch in the rum punch. I guess they saved all the punch for the kids NA drinks but not being a heavy drinker I was quite dizzy by the 3rd sip. WHOOO! After the "welcome back" movie, which we'd seen on past cruises we went out to the Promenade and I was determined to get a portrait of the three of us that actually looked good. So we stopped at each back drop and I tried desperately to keep my balance as they posed us in different formations. I don't think anyone else can see it but the portraits we ended up buying both have me with a nice Rum Punch smile (small trade off for my eyes being open.)
We milled around the decks and then headed to our favorite lounge but I didn't need a drink that night so we went to dinner and then changed to go to the 2nd Las Vegas type dancing show. It was "Shout" and it was good. The two problems I had was the male singer who had been so good in "El Nuevo Caribe" with its Latin tunes just didn't translate well to the American rock-n-roll songs of "Shout". The worst part was when he tried to sing a Beach Boys' song. The other problem I had was as one of the main songs they chose to do the Macarena! I know it's a cruise ship and I should expect to hear that awful song and I dealt with it at dinner BUT to see the professional dancers doing it and then them asking the audience to join in. That was just too much for me. Perhaps I'm being silly?
We went to the last "R" rated comedy act after bringing our son back to the cabin to go to sleep. The comedian was funny not because he was necessarily "R" rated but because he picked on the audience members. He was taking a survey of what everyone was drinking and then making up names for the based on the type of beverage. It was very improvisational and I liked that. Afterwards, we went to sleep.
Saturday June 5
We woke late for our "Fun Day at Sea" and the last full day of our cruise. It was kind of a melancholy day. We were supposed to go to the debarkation talk but having been to them before we knew what to do and that it would be on the TV later. I was disappointed after watching it later that the cruise director used the same jokes we'd heard on a past cruise. Not sure who stole which jokes from whom but it kind of tarnished the past memory of the great cruise director we'd had on the Pride.
I was too sunburned from snorkeling to want to lie out in the sun so we ate lunch (there was a wonderful chocolate dessert buffet) and went to the photo gallery to purchase my Rum Punch induced pictures. Then we went to the shops to purchase souvenirs for people we missed buying things for in the ports. After that we went to the Newlywed / Not So Newlywed game. This is always a fun show. Even though they ask the same questions on each cruise, there are always different and hilarious answers.
Following the game we decided to get the packing over with so we could enjoy the nighttime activities and not be stressed about getting our luggage out in time. That's when we turned on the TV in our cabin and heard that Ronald Reagan had died. I was sad but thankful it had happened at the end of the cruise rather then at the beginning.
We took a break from packing and tried to go on the Galley Tour. I'd been on it before on another ship so when we got to the meeting place and discovered they were only half way through with BINGO and it would be a while before they'd start the tour, we decided to skip the tour and grab a snack on the Lido deck. It was hot so we sat in the shade and had a burger or hot dog and some fries. Again, they are good burgers and hot dogs! The crew members were even up on deck getting their lunches of burgers and hot dogs. I think this is the first ship I've been on where we saw so many crew members eating up on deck. Perhaps it was because they always eat late and we did so on many occasions this trip as opposed to past cruises?
We went back to the cabin to finish packing and then took a nap. We went later then usual to the Chopin before dinner and since none of our party was there we went into the Candlelight lounge to watch the Game 6 Hockey pre-game show. Dinner was especially nice this evening. My sisters bought 2 bottles of Champagne so we could toast the wonderful cruise and they all signed a card to thank me for the planning I had done. It was very touching. As the waiter was getting the champagne ready, the table next to us asked their waiter to open the blinds and it revealed a beautiful sunset. We watched as the sun sank into the ocean and then began feasting on the last dinner. I had a very good Beef Wellington and others who had the Turkey dinner said it was good too. The waiters sang their last song, something they made up but it was to the tune of, "Leaving on a jet plane." What a great night!
After dinner we went to the Candlelight to watch the hockey game. It was a long game and by the end of the 1st overtime I was beyond tired. My son and I went back to the room to put the luggage out while my husband stayed to watch the end of the game. We were just in time for the luggage as the cart came by right after I put the last piece out. Of course at the same time the Lightening scored the winning goal and I missed it but I was happy they won!
Sunday June 6
We woke up and were just docking at the Tampa port. I wasn't ready to leave but before I knew it we had dressed and were up eating our last breakfast at the Brassiere. I was surprised that we were able to get a table and relax as we waited for them to start calling colors. They did the usual announcement for people who hadn't cleared immigration or still had debits on their Sail N Sign cards. We got tired of sitting in the Brassiere so we went out on deck and watched the ballet of the forklifts below as they maneuvered around each other to load the food for the next cruise on the boat. It wasn't until about 9:45 am when they started calling people to leave the boat. We were the last group called and were off and meet our parents outside the luggage area at 11am. We had arranged to put our luggage in their cars and then go to the movies to see Harry Potter 3. It's just my little way of extending our vacation as long as possible. After that we had lunch at Red Lobster and finally made it home.
Overall, it was a great vacation. When all was said and done we were quite exhausted by the 3 ports and missing Costa Maya turned out to not be that big of a deal. I would definitely sail the Western Caribbean again and if we wanted to go on a shorter cruise the Inspiration is a great choice as she's switching to the Sensation's itinerary in November.
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.
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.
We just got back from our cruise on the Inspiration (4-25-04 through 05-02-04). This was our first cruise with Carnival and as I was able to obtain a lot of useful information from this Board and from other people's reviews I wanted to post my review to hopefully help others. We are a family of six, although only five of us cruised. We are from New Hampshire and it was school vacation week for three of our children. We booked the cruise in October of 2003. We booked two inside cabins on the Riviera deck at $549/pp. For those people who need to travel during times when their children are on vacation I would recommend booking as early as possible.
AIR: We booked our flight out of Boston, MA as the airfare in NH was about $200 per ticket higher. I would encourage anyone who has several airports within driving distance to them to check flight information and price at each airport. I've found there was a big difference. As we booked our own air we did fly into Tampa a day early to avoid any potential problems with airlinedelays. The flight down was a non-stop on Delta Song and everything went fine. Coming back we had a layover in Atlanta. We were delayed there. First was due to the flight from Fort Lauderdale coming in late. We then were on the runway and were further delayed. We were told it was due to weather. We found out after we got home the computers were down in the Atlanta airport for two hours which created a huge backup. We were supposed to arrive in Boston at approximately 7:30 p.m. and didn't end up getting there until about 9:30 p.m.. This is the reason we always fly down a day early.
ACCOMDATIONS: As we are a large family we stayed at the Chase Suite Hotel in Tampa. We had a two floor room with a kitchenette, living room with pull out couch, bedroom with king size bed and full bath on the first floor and another bedroom with a king size bed and full bath on the second floor. The rooms were very nice, clean and comfortable. They provided free pickup at the airport and free transportation to the pier. It was $159 per night. I booked it on line.
BOARDING/DISEMBARKING: We arrived at the port at about 11:45 a.m.. When we arrived the ship was just disembarking the passengers from the previous week. We got checked in fairly quickly and then had to wait in a large room until they started calling groups to board. This was about 1:30 p.m.. Once we were on board we went to the Lido deck for lunch. We sailed out on time and our luggage was in our room by about 5:30 p.m.. Upon arrival back in Tampa we docked on time but did not get off the ship until about 11:30 a.m.. We had to meet in the Chopin Lounge at 9:00 a.m.. I'm not sure what the delay was, but be prepared and bring a good book with you.
DINING ROOMS: We had the early seating (6:15 p.m) in the Mardi Gras dining room. We took the early seating as we were traveling with our children. On a previous cruise we took the late seating and found that while it was fine for the adults, it was tough for the children. Our waiter was Antonio from India and our assistant waiter was Vanrick from St. Vincent. The service we received from both of them was fantastic. The food was excellent. It was well prepared, and there was a large selection. We ate in the dining room every night. Antonio made sure that we liked everything we ordered and if we wanted an extra plate of anything he was happy to provide it. I think my son had three orders of escargot!
We ate breakfast several times in the dining room and again the service and food were great. We also had breakfast in the Brassiere Dining room which was a buffet. Anything you could imagine for breakfast was on the buffet and it was also good.
We had lunch in the Brassiere Dining room, again a buffet and salad bar or on the Lido deck which served hamburgers, hotdogs, fries and salads. Again everything was excellent. The Brassiere had a theme to their buffet every day, ie Asian, Mexican, Italian, etc. While I didn't try the pizza my kids assured me that too was excellent.
Every afternoon sushi was served in Violins from 5:30 -8:30 p.m. While I don't eat it my daughter and husband assured us that it was very good. We also didn't eat at the midnight buffets, but I did take pictures at the Gala Buffet on Friday night. I was absolutely amazing and everything looked very good.
ACCOMODATIONS: As I mentioned earlier in this review we booked two 4A cabins right next to each other. We were on the Riviera deck. We found the rooms to be very clean and comfortable. Our steward, Daniela, was awesome. We had towel animals every day and she couldn't do enough for us. The shower drain in our room wasn't working well and we mentioned it to her. Several hours later it was fixed.
SELF-SERVE LAUNDRY: There were two, one on the Upper Deck and one on the Empress deck. I used the irons several times and did two loads of laundry, mainly because we brought our own beach towels. While the ship does provide them, if you lose it they charge you $25 per towel. It was $2.00 per load to wash, $2.00 per load to dry and the individual boxes of detergent were $1.00. You need to get quarters either at the casino or the purser's desk as there isn't a coin machine in the laundry room. I found that to be a little inconvenient, as did others.
ENTERTAINMENT: We all enjoyed the entertainment on the ship. The shows were great and we liked all the comedians, except for the one on the last night. The fiddler they had was unbelievably good. My husband played the slots in the Casino and I played bingo. He lost about $40 and I won $250! Although we didn't go to the adult comedy show we did hear from other people that they enjoyed it. The Newlywed not so Newlywed game was hysterical. There were movies offered in the Candlelight lounge but I cannot comment on them as we didn't see any. I was not impressed with the art auction. I thought Deonne (sp) did too much talking and not enough selling. My husband and I went to one and left after the auction started. In 30 minutes he only sold two pieces. The band on the Lido deck was all right. Not good, not bad. The kids had a great time at the pool and water slide. We didn't have any problem with deck chairs. We used the pools at the back of the ship and were always able to find available chairs there.
CAMP CARNIVAL: I can't really comment as my children did not use the program. I did speak with some other parents who were using it and according to them their children were all having a great time. The only complaint that I heard was that one mother was not told that she had to pick up her child by a certain time. They didn't page her until about an hour after and she was charged a $12 babysitting fee. She felt she should have been paged within the first 15 min.
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.
SEAS: The seas were very smooth. I get seasick fairly easily and only took two Bonine pills the entire cruise.
SPA/GYM: I didn't use either of these so I really can't comment on them, other than to say that I thought the prices in the Spa were on the high side. On the last two days they did run some specials. If you want to use the Spa I would recommend waiting until then to do it.
SHOPPING: I found the jewelry and liquor prices on board the ship were better than in port. The prices in Grand Cayman were very high and we didn't buy anything there. In Costa Maya you can bargain a lot. We did so some shopping on the pier and bought some items in Mahahal. Cozumel had the same things as Costa Maya but we found the vendors were not willing to bargain as much. Belize had no shopping to speak of.
EXCURSIONS: IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER - We stayed on ship's time the whole time. Grand Cayman, Costa Maya and Cozumel were one hour behind us and Belize was two hours behind! If you don't book through the ship make sure your tour operator knows what time you need to be back to the ship. The last tenders for Grand Cayman and Belize run one hour before the ship departs and in Cozumel and Costa Maya you need to be back on board 30 minutes before departure.
Grand Cayman: I booked the Stingray City/Snorkel trip myself on line with Soto's Cruises. There were 14 people on the boat and it was $24/pp. We went to all the same sites as the ship's tour. They had about 100 people on their boat and the cost was $47/pp. I would highly recommend this tour to everyone. We tendered in just fine the Soto's representative met us on time at the pre-designated location. We did two snorkel sites and then the Sting Ray sandbar. We had a great time.
COSTA MAYA: We didn't book a tour here. We went and walked around the pier and did some shopping. Don't buy at the first price quoted as they are willing to bargain down. My husband bought some sunglasses that started at $30 and he got them for $10. We rented a golf cart @ $15/hr and drove down the village of Mahahal. We walked around there and did some more shopping. Again they will bargain with you. They are pushy and don't want to let you walk away without buying anything. It is a very poor area and it appears that most of their income is made from selling items to tourists.
COZUMEL: We did two excursions here, both at Chankanaab Park which is absolutely beautiful. I booked a sea lion swim on line and we booked the Sea Trek through the ship. The Sea Trek was first. You get into the water with a helmet on your head and go down into the ocean about 20'. Air is pumped into the helmet through a hose in the top. The water never gets above your neck. We walked around the bottom of the ocean for about half an hour. One of the best experiences we had. The cost was $89/pp for adults and $79/pp for children. This included entrance to the park which is $12/pp adults and $6/pp children and round trip transportation (which would have been about $15 each way). It also includes lockers for everyone. We bought the CD which was $50. The park also provides restrooms, showers, beach chairs, restaurants and bars. At noon we did the Sea Lion swim. I booked this on line at $59/pp. What a wonderful experience. We did the dolphin swim last year in Nassau and thoroughly enjoyed it. On a scale of 1-10 I would rate the dolphin swim a 10 and the sea lion swim an 8. Our sea lion was Nena and we all got to pet her, got a hug and kiss, danced with her, fed her, and played with her in the water. We did buy the video which was $29
BELIZE: I booked the Cave Tubing through XStream. Thomas met us right at the end of the pier. There were 14 people in the group and he took us to the site in an air-conditioned van. It's about an hour away from the pier. The walk to the river is about 45 minutes and you have to carry your own tube. I don't recommend this for any one that is under 10 or not very fit. My younger children who are ten and twelve did have some trouble with the tube while walking. There is a path and there are some steps for the up and down parts of the trail but it is definitely a 45 min walk through the jungle. Our guide was great and stopped at several points during the walk to tell us about local vegetation, the caves, showed us bats in the caves, etc. and that did help to break up the walk. There were several older women in our group that did have a very hard time with the walk. Once we got to the river we did two caves, while the ship's tour only did one. There were about 200 people in the ship's group. The river was low so there was quite a bit of paddling involved. Again, the younger children and older women had some trouble with this. Our whole family thoroughly enjoyed this trip. It was $65 which included a chicken barbeque lunch. The ship's tour was about $90. Xstream got us back to the pier before the ship's tour even got back. I would highly recommend them. The only other comment I have to make is to please remember that you are in a third world country. There is a restroom at the site but it does leave a lot to be desired. There were quite a few complaints from some of the older women in our group about the restroom and how the tour wasn't "glamorous". If this is what you are looking for don't do this excursion.
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.
Overall we all had a great time and felt that we could have gone longer than 7 days. My kids are already planning for next year. I would definitely sail with Carnival again and on this ship.
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 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.
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.