We arrived at the Port of Tampa at 11 am and were on the ship by 11:30 am. We went to the Brasserie for lunch and then stopped by our cabin #R36 (outside stateroom) to drop off our carry-on luggage. We got to the cabin and it was already clean and ready. We met our cabin steward Jose, who was truly unbelievable. Our luggage arrived at the cabin by 3:00 pm. I cannot stress how easy the embarkation process was.
Ship décor and cleanliness:
The atrium was small and filled with neon lights..somewhat gaudy. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the other public areas of the ship. I could not find the filth that other reviewers have spoken of. The ship was spotless. As soon as passengers would get up from a table in the Brasserie, they would jump over and clean it up. There were busy crewmembers everywhere keeping the ship tidy.
Food and Beverages:
This is where I am utterly disappointed in the cruise. I speak for myself, as well as my entire family.BLAND! I only have my experience on RCCL Monarch of the Seas to compare this to, but what adifference! The Brasserie served the same breakfast items every morning.we were so sick of it by the end of the cruise. In the dining room there were not great entrees to choose from and I often walked away from the table dissatisfied. The 24-hour pizza parlor, on the other hand, served the best pizza. This is what my family survived on all week. Our waiters expressed to us that Carnival has really cut a lot of money out of the food budget.to the point that they find it difficult to recommend anything on the menu. The only dessert I recommend is the chocolate éclair cake.delicious.
We purchased some drink coupons prior to our cruise and they worked out great. I purchased 4 books for my husband and I. We used them all over the ship and never had a problem: lounges, poolside, and at dinner. I got the souvenir glass the first day and used the coupons to get refills of the daily special in the glass all week. My children drank the free drinks all week, but at the show nightly we would allow them the get a smoothie $3.50 or Shirley temple $1.50.
Our tablemates: Vic, Angie, Natasha, and Zach were truly the delight of our dining experience!
Grand Cayman - Captain Sterlin's Sting Ray Tour - wonderful time.much better than the ship's excursion.we could see them on the other side of the sand bar.very crowded.
Costa Maya - Basically it has a visitor's complex with a salt-water pool that has a volleyball net and a freshwater pool.that looked very nice. My husband and I walked over and did a little haggling with the local merchants, but didn't do any excursions. Our tablemates did the Maya ruins tour with the ship and loved it.
Cozumel - we did not have a scheduled tour planned.we were just going to go to a beach. However, as soon as we arrived in Cozumel, the skies opened up and let out rain like I've never seen in my life. So we did some souvenir buying at the pier shops and brought our children back to the ship. We headed back out to try and make it to Carlos and Charlie's but it was raining to hard. Instead we went to Fat Tuesdays right at the end of the pier. We had the best time. It is a crazy place with swings and hammocks, instead of chairs, that hang from the ceiling of this open-air, straw roof bar. We sat there for a while and watched the rain outside.
Belize - Reggie's Cave tubing. Had a blast! I highly recommend it over the ship's cave tubing tour. We were a group of 16, unlike the ship's tour with 100s. The ship's tour bus actually got stuck on the dirt road in the mud that lead you into the jungle. We went right around it in Reggie's van, while they sat there waiting for another bus to come and transfer passengers. He gives you a lot of the background of Belize while on the tour. It was very education for my children, as well as, a lot of fun!
Camp Carnival - Now this is where I think Carnival beats RCCL. The councilors were wonderful. My son Cody, age 7, went 4 times over the 7 days. Usually in the afternoon when he was tired of the sun and the pools, he would ask to go over. He loved it and the councilors seemed to love their jobs.
Entertainment - Very good. The only show I didn't see was the Broadway style show that the cruise ship performs. My older son and tablemates went and said it wasn't great.
Debarkation - Well, we were on the Riviera deck (brown luggage tags) and were the last passengers called off the ship. It really didn't take long though. I love to watch people and we just did a lot of that while waiting to leave. Unfortunately people began pulling out cigarettes and smoking in the areas designated for passengers to wait in. As a result, my family moved out of the area designated for us to the area close the exit. I only found the casino to be very smoky while the ship was at sea.
I hope you find my review helpful and if I've left something out feel free to e-mail me any questions at email@example.com. I took seven rolls of film so I can send you some pictures also.
Cheryl Pelissier Swansea, MA
I was put off by the degree to which Carnival wants to dominate shore activities. They make it difficult to go on excursions with independent operators, because they pocket around 50% of the excursion fee when they book it. As an example, in Belize -- a beautiful destination with all kinds of adventure opportunities -- we had only 6 hours available and the only way to get off the boat early was to be on a Carnival excursion.
And being on a Carnival excursion means you're stuck with 100's of hoopin' and hollerin' cruisers. Yuck. In Costa Maya, they stop at a port in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by extreme poverty. So you spend an entire day trapped in a brand new, shiny tourista mall, with little more than shopping and drinking available. No doubt Carnival gets a cut of that action as well.
My wife and I drove down to Florida from South Carolina. We decided to stay overnight at the Best Western in Brooksville, Fla. The next morning we drove to Tampa to the Channelside 2 Port.
We arrived there around 10:30 a.m. We could not board the ship until 11:30. We are notoriously early!! Better early than late! Embarkation process was approximately 1 hour and was very smooth and uneventful.
Our rooms were not prepared for us when we boarded, so of course we headed for food! We headed for the Lido deck. We decided to get something simple to start with. Just burgers and fries. Nothing fancy but very tasty. Our rooms were available at 1:30. After the drive and nourishment we were ready for a nap! We took a little snooze.
We had the early (5:15) seating for dinner in the Carnival dining room. We met our waiter, Leonardo, as soon as we were seated. He hailed from the Philipines. His assistant was Vera. She hailed from South Africa. They were wonderful! They are such an asset to the cruise line. We really enjoyed their service. Our food was brought to uspromptly and was perfect. The temp was just right and cooked to our expectations. We could find no fault in the food or service at all. Our dinner mates Sam and Veronica from Detroit, Wayne and Lynn from Santa Barbara were a pleasure to dine with.
We ate breakfast every morning on the Lido deck. To us, we had the best variety here. My wife loved the fresh fruits and croissants for breakfast. Yum! To our surprise, many people ate ice cream and pizza for breakfast. We never noticed a dirty table or any dirty dishes left around. It was as if they had an "eye in the sky" looking for dirty objects!!
Our room steward Orlando and his assistant kept our room immaculate. We even "caught" them a few times cleaning the bathrooms and disinfecting everything. What a comfort to know that we were in such a clean room. Especially with all of these scares about viruses now. Imagine, if you will, being in a place where everyone constantly amazes you with their abilities. This is what we found to be true. The staff was so friendly and capable. No matter what the duty, it was service with a smile.
One of the places we visited included Grand Cayman Islands. My wife is a tad bit disabled right now due to a knee injury. She was unable to disembark on Tenders. I went to Sting Ray City alone. It was an amazing experience. One I wish I could have shared with her. Captain Marvin's Sting Ray City is awesome. I booked this personally. I would recommend it highly! What a thrill!! The Captain and crew were top notch. This was a once in a lifetime experience.
We could not go to Costa Maya. The wind was blowing 35 miles an hour and the seas were turbulent with 16 foot seas. What a bummer! I really wanted to experience this port. My wife would have been able to go also because of the foot pier. The ship rerouted to Cozumel. We had to dock at a different pier because of other ships arriving earlier. We arrived their around 3:15 p.m.
We docked and we shopped to our hearts content! We had to be back at 5:15 to eat dinner so we didn't shop long. One thing we found interesting in Cozumel was the free shots of Tequila. Every store was trying to get you to come in so the offered Tequila shots as an incentive. BEWARE!! This was a woman's shopping paradise. My wife was thrilled to find such great prices. Bartering was a hoot! These people expect you to barter. Don't be shy about it. NEVER pay full price! Chankanaab Park was great.
We visited Balize. The distance on Tenders was around 6 1/2 to 7 miles. Allow at least 45 minutes each way. I did not take a tour at this port. I only shopped and browsed around alone. My wife was unable to go with me into this port due to the Tenders. Balize is a very poor country. The shopping areas did not belie this fact. The hour time difference from ship's time and port time created havoc for those who did partake of the tours. Their were alot of latecomers!!
Much too soon we realized our journey was coming to an end. We had seen some fabulous things and had some wonderful experiences. We met some wonderful people from all over the world. Most of the people we met were not "virgin" cruisers. Part of the cruise experience is meeting others.
We were a 2 hours late coming back into port in Tampa. Debarkation process was appr. 1 1/2 hour process. No biggie!
We recommend this cruise to any and all.
Just returned from a Western Caribbean cruise on the Inspiration. Generally speaking we had a good time but then again, I have never not had a good time on a cruise. That aside, Inspiration had many more kids/teens on board than I might have expected. I don't mind that in itself (have 4 of my own). They constantly occupied the adult hot tub (never did get the chance to use it)and were present at the "adult" entertainment performances even though they were told that they wouldn't be allowed. Even the comedian had to stop the show and ask one of them how old they were because he said they looked about 12 years old. No staff or parental correction of this sort of activity was evident at any time. If being pushed, shoved, stepped on, climbed over and the subject of rude remarks is your idea of acceptable behavior from children then by all means, book a trip on Inspiration. There's plenty of it for you.
The carpets were dirty, the linen was way overdo for a change when I arrived. The blanket on the bed was stained with, well Ican only imagine what. I finally got them to change the blankets and linen but they just threw the blanket in the bin that stores the life vests so I'm sure the next guest will be subjected to that dirty covering. The entertainment consisted of total unknowns who were trying but were obviously of a much lesser quality than the professionals I have enjoyed on other cruise lines.
When we got off the ship for excursions, other cruise lines had people to direct their passengers and organize them into their tour groups once on shore. Carnival had no such help for its guests. Other ships I've been on had the cruise director or assistant greeting and directing guest as we departed the ship at the various ports of call. No such service was provided by Carnival (it was very much needed).
The debarkation process took us exactly 2 1/2 hours to get off that ship. Not a trip highlight I can assure you. Now on the plus side, the food was generally good and they did have a 24/7 pizzeria that came in handy from time to time. The buffets at midnight wer not bad at all.
The wait staff in the dining room we were assigned to was generally very good. Our Maitre'd was very good as well. The one thing that bothered me most was the fact that our waitress was in the infirmary for a couple of days in the middle of the week. She returned to her duties with little voice left. When I asked her about what was wrong she said she had a "big infection" and a fever, and the doctor on board refused to prescribe antibiotics to her and would only give her Tylenol(she called him a veterinarian, a joke I think). Oh and she said one more thing "would you like some more bread". Now there's something you really don't need to hear from your sick waitress, especially during these times of Norwalk and SARS viruses scaring the heck out of everyone.
All in all the ports of call (Grand Cayman, Cozumel, New Orleans)were fun. Things on ship such as services, functions, and they way things were run in general could stand some review and improvement. I suppose had this been my first cruise, I may not have been quite so critical. But by now, I know what a good cruise ship is like and I'm sure my next cruise will be on one of those (Royal Carribean is my favorite), not on the Inspiration I'm afraid.
Let me start by saying that we had a GREAAAAT time. We had a direct flight to Tampa early Sunday morning, and were on the ship by 12:30-1:00 p.m. easily. Embarkation in Tampa was absolutely no problem. It took us about 40 minutes from the time we first got in line until our group (#8) was called to board the ship.
Since I addressed embarkation, I'll address debarkation now, too. We had absolutely no problems. We did happen to be in the first color group called (red - for Main deck forward), so I have no idea how long it took for the last group to be called. We got into the Paris lounge, our designated waiting area, at 8:30 a.m., and our color was called at approx. 9:30 a.m. Then we proceeded to our luggage area, where our bags were easily located and porters were available (I had placed a bright colored duct tape on all of our luggage handles). Then off the airport to go home:(
Our cabin was Main Deck 66, a standard outside cabin. My husband, myself, and our three sons seriously had no problem living therefor a week. Part of this was because our steward, Jesse, was fabulous, and always had our room back together by the time we were finished with breakfast. I know many people have stated on these boards that five people in a room is awfully uncomfortable, but we didn't find that to be so. I guess it would depend upon how close your family or group is normally, though.
The ship is not brand-spanking new, but all of the posts I read about the elevators being so scratched up and keyed that you couldn't tell what floor you were on were bogus (and believe me, we were in every elevator numerous times when our legs were just too tired to carry us). The cleaning crew on the ship works non-stop, and the ship looked pretty good, considering how many folks have sailed on it. The carpets are not horribly stained or anything like that, either. There is what I would call normal wear and tear, but nothing out of the ordinary.
The food - how can I start? It was just high quality all the way around. We had an early seating at the the Carnivale Dining Room, and our headwaiter (Lalu) and his assistant (Iva) were fabulous. They were very patient with three pre-teen boys who are not the best at manners. Our bar waitress asked us what we wanted on the first night, and from then on it was always on the table when we arrived. These staff people were beyond excellent. We ate in the dining room every night, and for most of the breakfasts. The food was uniformly well-cooked and well-presented, and high quality.
We usually ate at the Lido deck buffet for lunch, and there was plenty of variety, usually with a different carved meat item every day, plenty of fresh salad makings and fruit, and wonderful desserts. The pizza and the soft ice cream at this location was also a big hit with our boys.
We arranged all of our excursions privately, so I can't comment on Carnival's excursions. We did stingray city/snorkeling in Grand Caymen with Nativeway Sports (they were great). The trip from the ship to the island was tricky, as the waves were high which made the tenders very rocky. Many seniors had trouble getting on the tenders. I understand that after our tender left (we were in the second one), they decided to move the ship to the other side of the island where the waters were calmer. Thank goodness the Nativeway Sports folks found out about this, because otherwise we would not have known where the ship was! Anyway, Nativeway delivered us right back to the ship when we were finished.
At Cozumel, we went to the national park, which was very pretty and pristine. There were many things to do, but we mostly relaxed at the beach and snorkeled. It was $10 per person to get in. One thing I wish I had paid more attention to: most of the places at Cozumel that we went to did not accept credit cards. We had not really brought along enough cash, so thank goodness that the cantina on the beach did accept Visa/MC, or we would have all been sharing one burrito or something for lunch. Next time we would double the cash amount we took along.
Our other port was New Orleans, which we also really enjoyed. We had decided to do a carriage tour of the Garden District, and we easily found a vendor. It was 1 1/2 hours long and our tour guide seemed very knowledgeable (my husband is an American History teacher, so the guide couldn't get away with a whole lot of ad-libbing). It was a nice way to spend the morning. For lunch, we ventured into the French Quarter to go to Pat O'Brien's (this is my husband's name, and he wanted to get a T-shirt). The food was only so-so, but the experience was worth it. We kind of hurried our pre-teen boys out of the French Quarter, though. Even at noon, it is not G-rated!
The shows on the ship were uniformly of good quality. There were two vegas type shows: Nuevo Caribe and "Shout", which we enjoyed. There were also several good comedians, who would normally do a "family" show earlier and then an adult-only show at the later venue. They were funny even at the early shows. We also had a magic show and some dance group from Argentina who were quite good, and put on quite a unique performance. The cruise director, Greg Kneale, was pretty amusing.
We did not gamble at all, so I could not comment on the casinos or the bingo, horseracing, etc. People seemed like they were having a good time, though.
Camp Carnival did not disappoint, although our guys were old enough to pick and choose their activities. They did about half Camp Carnival and about half just hanging with the friends they had quickly made on board.
The best thing I took along (besides my family) was the over-the-door canvas pocket organizer. It was invaluable to store all the little items like sunscreen, socks, hairdryers, etc. I think this is why our cabin always seemed roomier than it was, because there was a place to put everything.
We are already looking at booking another cruise. I would happily go on the Inspiration again, but would probably try the Paradise, because a smoke-free environment would be so nice.
When we booked our cruise we were under the impression that we were able to see all shows on board thru Carnival and had heard an advertisment on the radio about the Rock-n-Roll cruise which we changed our vacation plans to be able to go on this cruise and booked thru our travel agent and were never imformed from Carnival that we would have to go thru a certain agent to be able to attend the shows.We did not know until on Sun morning that we could not attend and the agents in charge of the show were the rudest in the world. There were about half of the passengers on the ship that were miss informed of this and the agents blamed Carnival and the Carnival People claimed they knew nothing about it.
Needless to say we were very disappointed in this matter. This is not the first cruise we have taken but was the first one on Carnival and found that the life boat drill was very brief and did not give enough information, also the debarkation talk was not very well presented. On all the other cruiselines we have been on we had a lot more information about all the procedures on board ship. We are not very impressed with Carnival and hope that maybe they will improve their services. Thank you for letting us have somewhere that we can let other cruisers know what we have experienced.
From the moment I made a request to our cabin steward and received a response of "as you wish," I just knew this was going to be a wonderful trip. We sailed out of New Orleans (only a 25 minute car ride from our home in Louisiana) on September 9, 2002 on the Carnival Inspiration. If I had to choose one word to describe this vacation, I would say it was MAGICAL. We were waited on like royalty and we were totally relaxed and comfortable the entire cruise.
This was definitely an experience of a lifetime. This was our first cruise, and we have since decided to book a second cruise on the Norwegian Dream this coming November. I would definitely cruise on Carnival again, but Norwegian is offering a different variety of ports that we have yet to visit and that is the only reason we have chosen another line for our next voyage. I would not hesitate to travel with Carnival again and I would certainly recommend the Western Caribbean cruise on the Inspiration to anyone.
Carnival is still the greatest as far as I am concerned! We were a group of 10 this cruise. We had some new cruisers with us. They just loved it and are hooked. Getting on the ship took a little more time then usual. There were 2 weddings and they had to board first. But it wasn't that bad of a wait. This is the biggest ship we have been on and it is just beautiful. Found our rooms with no problems. Had a wonderful buffet lunch for us. We did some exploring around to get our bearings. Everything was pretty easy to find too. Our luggage did not arrive till after dinner. So we went to dinner in our shorts. That made me uncomfortable but most of the diners were also in shorts. Our cabin steward was very good. Our room was always clean and always had plenty of towels . Our waiter was very good also. The assistant waiter was very helpful. They made our dining experience very pleasnat and fun too. We had great table neighbors. There were 10 at our table and no room forother guests to get to meet. So we had the table next to ours to visit with. Made a very fun dining experience.The shows were great the food was great. No problems at all. Had a wonderful vacation and we are all ready to go again soon. We are already planning our next cruise. Also our group is also getting bigger. We already have 16 going next cruise and I am sure there will be many more. We did our own excursions and had a great time with that. They were much less costs and with no complications.
I did a lot of computer work to make sure we were doing the right things. With a lot of help from my new friends on the cruisemates chats, I found out a lot of ideas. We took our own Juta Taxi in Jamaica. Had a wonderful driver and we did tip him quite well. He took us to Margaritaville and waited there for us. We did out thing there and then walked down the street to Dr. Cave Beach resort. it was only $3 to enter the resort. We had use of there facilities while we swam in the beautiful waters. The beach is very nice there. Not very crowded either. Also our driver took us to the shops to do a little shopping before margaritaville. We were a little too early to get in there. So he was right there when we were ready to go on. Never charged us extra to go to the shopping center either. That is why we all tipped him well. His name was Henry and gave us excellent service. Our next excursion was on Grand Cayman.. Very pretty island! We were tendered to the pier and we all decided to do some shopping and go back to the ship to go in the pool. It was a very hot day and that was what we all decided to do. Some of us have been to cayma before and did the tours before. Then Cozumel. We went shopping again. This is my favorite place to buy souvenirs. It was fun. But also very hot there too. So we went back to the ship and went in the pool again. It was so relaxing and a very fun vacation for all of us. The entire staff on the Inspiration were all very helpful and so pleasant to us all. In the pursers desk there was Andrew.. Very good looking and very personable too. my daughter made many trips there to cash her travelers checks. He would always wave as we walked by his desk. Bought our regular pics from the photographers there. Turned out good. Didn't do very well at the casino..... Made our deposits every night. Out of the 10 of us in our group 8 of us bought the adult soda cards. It worked out very well. We are not big alcohol drinkers and the cards made it easy and much cheaper to get the sprite we enjoyed. I was concerned about having a problem getting the waiter and waitresses to get them for us. i heard that they didn't wantwaste there time getting our soda because the tips were paid in the beginning when we purchased the cards. Well I can say i had no trouble getting a glass of sprite any time I needed one. And always with a smile. Carnival you did it again for us.. It was great. Our travel agents gave us wonderful surprises too. We received a bottle of Champagne and chocolate covered strawberries in our rooms when we arrived. Also they had a complimentary group photo for each couple. Thank you to the greatest TA. You have our business from now on! We spent two days in new Orleans. One the day before the cruise. That was a wonderful idea also. We relaxed by the pool after a great dinner at Jazz's seafood and steak house. We stayed at LaQuinta in kenner. Very close to the airport. The restaurant is only one half block away and we walked there. Spent another day in New Orleans on the the day we came off the ship. We went to the French Quarter and had a great time. Went to Cafe D'monde for coffee and Bienet's. The whoe trip was so very nice and relaxing. Just what we were looking for. Happy cruising to you all!
Traveled during spring break with my husband and two children ages 8 and 10. Overall, this is a great family cruise. Don't expect luxury but do expect fun.
We arrived at the port of New Orleans around 12 noon. Embarkation was a mess as we stood in line two hours. It really seemed that the people at the port were very disorganized.
The Inspiration is clean but somewhat worn. I did notice that people were constantly cleaning it. Our room was an inside cabin on the Main deck. It was plain, but clean. All four of us stayed there but I would recommend getting two cabins for a family of four as storage space was not ample enough.
After getting into our cabin we toured the boat and had one of the daily drink specials. We then had lunch in the brasserie. Food in the brasserie was pretty poor. Pizza and hamburgers were OK but the buffett food was pretty un-edible. We took the spa tour and then got ready for dinner.
Dinner in the main dining room was overall, very good. I did not like feeling rushed during dinner butfood and service is well worth it. Portions are small but with multiple courses it is plenty!
Day 2-full day at sea
Make sure you read your Carnival Capers every day to get an idea of ships activities for the day. There is plenty to do and tons of activities for the kids at Camp Carnival. Some activities included scavenger hunts for the kids, poolside games for adults such as "survivor", shopping talk, snorkeling info etc. We spent most of our time at the pool but be sure to get a lounge chair early as they do fill up. That night, we attended the captains welcome party with free drinks and appetizers. Dinner was lobster and cherries jubilee for dessert. It was excellent.
Day3-full day at sea
Hung out by the pool. Nightime entertainment was a show called "El Nuevo Caribe" and it was excellent.
Day 4-Montego Bay
We arrived at Montego Bay around 7:30AM. Many passengers were on deck watching us come into port. It was a beautiful day. We went to Doctors Cave Beach and I highly recommend it. You will not get hassled there. The beach is very clean and the water is crystal clear. We then walked from the beach to Margaritaville and were hassled quite a bit by the locals. Margaritaville is a restaurant/bar but also has mulitple decks with slides and water trampolines. The kids had a blast and it was quite crowded but a lot of fun.
Day 5- Grand Cayman
We took the 10am Captain Marvins tour. They want you there by 9AM but all we did is wait at the captain marvins office, quite boring. The bus picked us up just before 10 to take us to the boat but then we waited another 30 minutes to get on the boat. The boat took us to two snorkeling reefs and then to Stingray City. If I were to do it over again, I would probably just do the 2 hour stingray tour. The reefs were nice but snorkeling is better in Cozumel and I would have preferred to see more of Grand Cayman. Stingray City is awesome and the water is the clearest and most beautiful that I have ever seen. After getting back to the port, we barely had enough time to eat lunch. Lines getting back to the tenders were very long.
This was our favorite island. We spent the day at Chakanaab park and it is very beautiful. They have reefs right off of the beach where you can snorkel or scuba dive. They also have restaurants there and a dolphin encounter. The snorkeling is excellent. There are jungle trails there and a beautiful lagoon. We made it back just in time to do a little shopping but I thought it was a ripoff. The cruise director really sells the shopping in Cozumel. I suppose he gets some kind of commission.
enjoyed our last day at sea. i had a massage in the spa and really enjoyed it.
Took about two hours so get ready to wait.
Great cruise for families with children. Lots to do and I can see why they call Carnival the funships. Ports of call were excellent. Food in the main dining room was very good but in contrast, very poor in the brasserie restaurant. Cabin service was not up to par as we did not meet our steward the whole time and when we paged him, he did not show up. The room was kept clean though and we liked the towel animals in our room every night. The cruise director was very good but get ready for a constant sales pitch on the excursions and the shopping in Cozumel. Shows were pretty good but the magician show was not worth it. Camp Carnival is excellent and they have a contantly changing itinerary for all age groups. Most of the passengers seemed to be families but this was a spring break crowd. Next time, we will probably try RCI or Princess just to do something different but this cruise was well worth it.Paula
Overall, this cruise was a great VALUE. The word VALUE is important here. It is a classic case of 'you get what you pay for'. My husband and I had a great time, and Carnival offered pretty good food and service. It is not, by any means, a luxury cruise line, so don't go into your cruise expecting to be pampered continuously. The name 'fun ships' is appropriate--they have a very laid back atmosphere, and provide plenty of activities and venues to have a great time.
Our biggest dissappointments were with our fellow cruisers. Given the price of Carnival's cruises, they attract a primarily lower to middle class crowd. Now I am not being elitist (I am a young professional and my husband is a student) as we are low middle class ourselves, and I am only talking about a small percentage of the passengers. But the small percentage seemed to ruin it for everyone else. We experienced rude and inconsiderate behavior throughout our cruise. Everyone was 'in it for themselves' and would push anyone out of their way to get what they wanted. I mostly experienced this with families that wouldteach the rude behavior to their kids and would make no attempt to curtail thier rowdiness in public areas.
Embarkation and Disembarkation took a long time, but Carnival did an OK job considering how many people they had to move. We were in the last group off and did not get off the ship until 12:15, so keep that in mind when you make travel arrangements. Show up early to get on the ship, and don't expect to get off until late. I suggest you find a comfy outside area to wait to disembark, that way you can at least enjoy the good weather and scenery.
We purchased some fun shore tours. During all the excursions, guides were 'pimping for tips' and would make you feel very guilty if you did not oblige. We did the Mountain River Rafting in Jamaica. The tour itself was fun, but the Jamaica experience is not great at all. We encountered ultra-aggressive souvenier selling and hair braiding. Our friends did Dunn's Rivers falls and said they were constantly hounded by the locals. If I had to do it again, I would choose the Wet and Wild tour. You get to encounter the natural beauty of Jamaica without ever really setting foot on the island and dealing with the people.
Grand Cayman was absolutely gorgeous. We did the stingray city and island tour. We appreciated the tour of the island, but wished we had bought the stingray tour with a local company ourselves. There were about 150 people on our boat and it was just very chaotic to really get time with the stingrays. Next time, we will find our own tour when we get to Grand Cayman--it is cheaper and more personalized.
We toured the Mayan ruins of Tulum in Cozumel. It is a 6 hour trip, and 4.5 of that is spent traveling to/from the ruins. After a nauseating boat and bus ride, we were hardly excited to see the ruins themselves. I am glad we saw them, but we really did not get to enjoy the day or see ANY of Cozumel besides the inside of a bus and a boat.
Our best times were on the boat, when we could find an area that was not over-run with rowdy children (some were well-behaved, others were not). They were aggressive in selling the drinks, but we were happy with that. The drink of the day specials were a good value at $2.95, but skip the souvenier glass! The casino was fun, but a little too smoky at times. Our cabin was spacious and we enjoyed room service immensely (although they got our order wrong 33% of the time). We had an outside cabin on the lowest deck, and were not sure the window was worth the extra money. I can't imagine paying a higher price for a higher deck--the view is the same, and you take elevators to everything anyway.
Overall, we had a great time. I was scared by other reviews. But just keep in mind that this is a 'fun' ship and you get what you pay for, and you should have a blast. I didn't mean to be overly negative in this review, but just a warning to future passengers on what to expect, especially on the shore tours.
We will definitely be cruising again in the future. I think I will try and save for a more upscale cruise line (preferable non-smoking adults only) if my husband and I go again. If we have children and want to bring them along, then we will be coming back to Carnival.Jennifer