Mother Daughter Birthday Celebration Cruise 4/30-5/4
I flew into warm and sunny Las Vegas from cold and cloudy Portland on Sat. 4/28. I spent the weekend at my parents along with my sister. We booked this cruise just 4 short weeks ago. My mom and I wanted to surprise my sister with a trip to celebrate her birthday. Option 1: Live it up in Vegas...No good, they don't gamble, not big drinkers and in the 8 years my parents have lived in Vegas they have only seen one show! Option 2: Girls trip to Disneyland...Not very relaxing and when you add up the cost of hotel, park fees and food it quickly becomes expensive. Option 3: A 4 day cruise on the Inspiration! It has it all...A relaxing get away, entertaining shows, new places to visit (at least for me and my sister, our mom actually sold cruises for 16 years and has been on a similar cruise), no cooking or cleaning, best of all the price was incredible!
So we took off Monday morning, leaving behind the mid 80 degree weather, and made it to the cruise terminal at 11:10 by 11:50 we were on the ship and heading to the Lido deck for lunch. We all had a made to order sandwich from the deli, 2 Rueben's, 1 turkey wrap, 1 iced tea and 2 drinks of the day! We wandered the ship a bit and before we knew it our OV room M185 was ready! The room had plenty of space for 3. The shower was a nice size, no sliding door, but the shower curtain stayed in place and didn't attack you while you showered! The one place that could use more storage was the bathroom, we were glad that I had brought along an over the door plastic shoe holder. It's a great place to store things like hairbrushes, small makeup bags, accessories, sun-glasses, travel hair drier, etc. when not in use. You will also want to bring a power-strip, as there is only one outlet in the room.
We roamed around the ship some more and then at 4:30 it was time for the muster drill. This was the longest strangest drill any of us had been to. I won't go into detail, just be sure if your muster station is outside and it's a cool windy day to have a jacket/sweater! No life-vest needed. We stood outside around the aft bar area of the pool deck for an hour. We watched as other groups were taken to lifeboats, but our group never was...good thing we didn't need to know which lifeboat was ours! : )
We had early dining; it was our only option as we booked late. We were at a table for 11, but only 8 of us remained at the table. A family of 3 was to join us, they had a special needs child, they were surprised when they showed up to dinner and found it wasn't a private table. Within minutes they had a new table, the staff was prompt and friendly in the transition. Our server was Elena from Bulgaria. Very personable and she had our names down in no time. They work very hard, we saw Elena the next morning working the breakfast shift in the buffet and she took time to chat with us and to make sure we were informed of up coming events and that we were aware the breakfast was also offered in the Mardi Gras MDR (we were assigned to the Carnival MDR for dinner). Back to dinner...the three of us ordered the beef barley soup and the beef dish. The soup was tasty, the beef a bit bland. We also ordered the chocolate melting cake that I had read so much about on CC. All through out the dinning room the wait staff was singing Happy Birthday or Happy Anniversary to guest, my sister had just said don't do that for me...just as Elena brought over my sister's dessert lit with a candle as she and a few others started to sing for her! A couple of years ago my mom and sister surprised me with a trip to Farrell's restaurant in Hawaii where I had to stand up, say my name and say how old I was turning while holding my candle lit sundae...I didn't feel too bad for her! We didn't make it to the Welcome Aboard show that night it was held at 10:15 or 10:30, we had a long travel day so we all went to bed early.
We didn't plan any excursions for this trip, so we were in no hurry to get off the ship after our breakfast in the buffet. However they made so many announcements to be on a tender to Catalina before 10:00 that I think it made the tender line longer then need be. It also didn't help that the crew did little to no crowd control. In reality it only took 25 minutes to get on a tender and only 5 minutes to get to Catalina. We arrived a little after 10AM. My sister and I found Avalon to be charming and beautiful! The landscape is a cross between desert and tropical. If I were to go back I would absolutely rent a golf cart to explore more of the town! Unfortunately throughout our cruise we had very cool temperatures. All three of us bought sweatshirts that say Catalina on them! Lots of passengers did, we saw them all on display being worn by our fellow cruisers! So we spent the day walking and shopping and had lunch over looking the pier. Just a lovely day! Back on board I got in a little exercise walking the track. I had to borrow sweatpants from my mom and wear my new Catalina sweatshirt, but I was determined to work off last nights melting cake!
Before we knew it we were heading to dinner. Today is elegant dress night. It is also lobster night! Order two if you go for the lobster, they are very small portions and no problem ordering more than one. The dining staff puts on a little show towards the end of dinner and couples are encouraged to get up and dance. It was a lovely evening! After dinner we went and had a couple of pictures taken before the show. I've never seen so many photo stations on a ship before!
Tonight's show was a Latin inspired number, I'm sure to inspire us for our day in Mexico! It was a fun show with beautiful costumes, not over the top but nice. Make sure you choose your seats wisely! There are support beams that make viewing difficult. After the show mom heads to bed and my sister and I roam the ship. We stop into a couple of venues but don't stay long due to the smoking policies. We are not smokers. Most of the venues have a smoking and non-smoking section, but lets be honest the smoke doesn't know to stay only in one area! No it takes over the whole venue. We finally found the Rhapsody piano bar; too bad it's nearly midnight. We found a great smoke free area and the best talent on the ship! We listen for a while and then call it a night and head to bed.
We awake to a partly sunny sky! Today we have breakfast in the MDR. My mom loves lox and bagels so she is happy, my sister has perfectly poached eggs and I have an omelet that is swimming in butter, but that's OK because it is only the size of my hand...very small! Getting off the ship isn't a problem. We opt to walk into town. We have to work off all of the extra calories from dessert every night, from the drink of the day and all that butter from my omelet! Expect to see the same things over and over and to have vendors really work you. Around lunch time we found ourselves being led to Mango Mango's where we had fresh guacamole made table side for $7, you pay the man then and there. We also had a margarita. My mom had been here before and remembered that the drinks were free-not any more! Make sure you find out up front what the price is. We had so many guys trying to get us into their restaurants offering Â½ off or buy one get one deals, so by the time we sat down we didn't really know and based on my mom having been there before...well??? We ate our delicious guacamole and sipped our very weak drinks...they were free right? We sat and sat and sat until we each went to leave a tip for our "free" drinks. When finally a guy came over and said $21. At which point we were all like for those crappy drinks? He said that we should have complained once we received our drinks...maybe the mixture in the machine was off/wrong...I'm sure it was...intentionally! We gave him the $21 and no tip. I told him I was going to let people know about his weak drinks...I think I just did! More shopping, a stop at Starbucks for some caffeine, more shopping and back to the ship!
I had read about Carnival's pizza and wanted to give it a try. I ordered the goat cheese and mushroom one, mom and sister were too hungry to wait and had chicken caesar salads. While waiting for my pizza I grabbed drinks from the bar for sis and me. Let me tell you these were the best drinks and they actually had alcohol in them! : ) The pizza was so worth the wait!!! We decided to lie by the pool and read for a while. No problem getting a lounge. We also had a special drink served in a coconut with the face of a monkey carved into it, the top had a slot for coins so that after the trip you could use it as a penny bank...you know to save for your next cruise! We only got one to share...again not big drinkers...light-weights really! The drink was $15 but you can refill it for $6.50.
Well, it's time to get ready for dinner. Again dinner doesn't disappoint! I had a white fish that was perfectly prepared. Again, great fun entertainment by the dining staff. We filled the hours after dinner with a refill of our coconut/monkey and enjoying our fellow passengers sing in the Paris Lounge, Karaoke with a live band! We went back to our room to layer up in our Catalina sweatshirts so we could enjoy the deck party on the Lido deck; it was a lot of fun. This was also the night of the midnight buffet, it was a Mexican theme. We didn't take part; it was just another buffet line nothing special. Off to bed!
We awake to overcast skies and wind. We head to the buffet for breakfast. One thing that is nice on this ship is that we always found a table. I found the eggs in the buffet to be well, gross. I never went looking for the made to order station. I'm not a big breakfast girl; at home it's just a protein shake. But I'm happy with the oatmeal and the silvered almonds, raisins and brown sugar! I've also found the danish station-I'm on vacation after all! There is also a nice variety of fruit. After breakfast its up to the track for more power walking! After our exercise session we are determined to at least get into a hot tub. So we change into our swimsuits grab our towels, sweatshirts and yes our bathrobes. By the way I've never been on a ship before where so many passengers roam the ship in these robes! I think a lot of us were caught off guard by the cold weather. Now the excuse for wearing the robes over PJ's in the buffet??? Hey we're all on vacation! We head to the adult only solarium and of course there are plenty of lounge chairs...90% are open. We decide to read our books first, we huddle down and try not to freeze, we notice the people who step out of the hot tubs and the look of pain as the cold wind hits their warm, pink flesh, we decide it's not work it! Instead we head inside for something warm to drink. Mom and sis are fine with coffee/tea from the buffet, but I want to try a latte. So we find seats around the cafe, I go to order my skinny vanilla latte; I'm surprised that a large is only $3.50. While waiting for my order I spy the most delicious looking Black Forest cake. I'll try to describe it...it is a layered cake contained in about a 3 or 4 inch cylinder that is make out of a thin layer of chocolate. Being that this is a birthday cruise I can't resist, it's only $2.25 for the dessert. I'm sure on land it would sell for $8.50 or more. Best dessert on the ship! As I set the treat before my family we all realize that today is the chocolate buffet...Oh well! After we share our treat, Mom's off to shower, sister and I decide to at least go look at the chocolate buffet-we see some desserts in the buffet where Elena said to look, but nothing special, maybe we missed it? I'm sure it wasn't anything as good as our Black Forest cake! Off to shower...
Lunch already? We make it to the MDR just before it closes for lunch service. I don't recall what mom had but sis and I have another white fish dish. Best entree of the cruise for me! We watched some of the activities in the Paris lounge, looked at the photos we had done and before we know it its time for afternoon tea-can you believe more food??? We sit at a table for 3 and we are served tea of course, but also little finger sandwiches, lox on a toasted beget (for mom), strawberries and cream, cream puff type treats and a chocolate meringue sandwich cookie filled with dark chocolate cream-Sinful! Oh there was more to choose from, but really!?! We already had our treat earlier and by this time my sister is on a sugar rush and needs to walk it off! Not sure what she and mom did, but I went back to the room to pack my suitcase, they soon returned and we all finish packing.
Dinnertime! Again the staff sings and entertains us. We have a lovely evening. I had the mushroom soup and it did not disappoint. My mahi-mahi wasn't good though, nor was my crab cake. Strange how the other two fish dishes were so good! After dinner it's show time. We arrive early and grab front row seats for Shout! Fun show. Afterwards we purchase our pictures and roam the different venues then hit the hay!
Why Mom was up and showered by 6:30 on the last day I have no idea? But she was so sis and I followed suit and off to the dinning room we went with our carry-on bags in tow. We say good-bye to our room steward in the hall on our way out. He has done a great job and treated us to towel animals every night. For breakfast I encourage my sister to try the eggs Benedict, as she has never had it and the lox as well. Mom ordered the same thing, there was so much that they could have shared one order of each. I remember the poached eggs that my sister ordered the other morning and go for that and fruit. We finish and head back up to the Lido deck for another cup of tea/coffee and find a nice window seat where we sat and read until our number was called. They must have been running late because we weren't called until 10:10. It took a while to get through customs but finally at 11:00 we were in our car heading back to Vegas!
Not mentioned but worth noting:
-Our room was cold, so I called the # for our room steward and asked for additional blankets. Good call!
-While the shower certain didn't attack you the smell of sewage might! I had read about this in previous post so I brought a can of Lysol with me. Not a problem in the restrooms throughout the ship only in our cabin. Thanks for the heads up CC!
-I took the bed by the window and found it a bit loud there, mom and sister's "bunk bed" was tucked against the wall and they said it was quiet. I used earplugs and it helped.
-The ship layout is a bit choppy; remember deck 8 is blocked mid-ship.
Great cruise for the price we paid. This was my 1st Carnival cruise as it was for my sister. We didn't know what to expect. I'm sure all sailings are different, but I really liked the vibe of the ship, friendly staff, all ages of passengers-families with little ones, families with older kids, young couples, newly weds, 30-60 something couples and a few seniors. Missing was the college crowd, but that is due to the time of year. By the way, my mom is in her mid 60's and my sister and I are approaching our mid 40's...she's just beating me to it! The only other advice I can think of is always take the stairs (if you are able), it helps to keep the extra lbs away! This review is for those of you (like me) who want all the info you can get while planning, for the rest of you sorry it was so long!
Happy cruising!!! Oh, and yes! I would take this cruise again for the right price...I noticed it really does vary depending on the time of year. : ) Enjoy!