This was a cruise to celebrate my birthday with 3 of my best friends and we had a great time! I did not think this was an out of control party cruise like I had been led to believe, it was lively and had a lot of fun friendly people on board, which made for great energy and a good time!
We are from Tucson, so it is a manageable drive to Long Beach for us. We stayed in the Queen Mary the night before the cruise, which was fantastic since it was right next door to port and we were able to do an early check in onto the Inspiration from the Queen Mary, as well as reduced cost pricing to park in their lot as opposed to the port terminal lot. I highly recommend staying there if you are sailing out of Long Beach, though the Chelsea Chowder house, one of the three restaurants on the Queen Mary was AWFUL!
As previously mentioned, we were able to do an early sign in on the Queen Mary and had our Sign and Sail cards in hand by 9:45 AM, no lines at all! They were supposed to have porters there to take our luggage to the ship, but they were not there for some reason, so we had to walk our bags over, but since it was next door it was not a big deal at all. We then were free to go do some more exploring for ghosts on the Queen Mary before boarding time at 11:30.
We were in Zone 2 and walked right onto the ship, we were on the Lido sipping DOD's by 12:00PM. The ship is a little dated looking, and like all Carnival ships is visually rather "busy". Think Vegas....unfortunately in this case think Circus Circus circa 1980! Lost of purple and orange, smoky mirrors and neon! I have sailed on the Carnival Dream which is also bright and busy, but it has a more refined look that the Inspiration was missing. The bizarre purple tubes with orange and black web glowing caps on the ends that overtook the Buffet were weird beyond description. It looked like mutant tube spiders were about to drop onto unsuspecting diners! But the drinks were yummy and we were all set to enjoy our cruise!
Other than the strange decor, there was little else to complain about on this cruise. The staff was super friendly, the drinks and food were pretty good and the hot tubs were warm and toasty which was nice since the weather was a little bit chilly, though clear and pretty! My only real complaint was the band they had on the Lido deck the first day. I think it was called X-Centrique. They were TERRIBLE! I have no idea where they came up with their play list, but good grief! Everything was slow, boring and dull. For example, after we asked if they could play something more upbeat, they played Rocky Mountain High by John Denver. The lido on the first day (really all days!) should be lively, high energy and fun, and I think the crowd would have been up for it if we had any help from the band, but they were not having any of it. They would have been boo'd out of a Nursing home! The "ouch" song was so bad that everyone was making fun of them. It was that bad, every time they were on the stage the lido deck cleared. I would rather have picked someones Ipod at random and come up with a play list. I can listen to everything from big band to slipknot, so I am not picky, but good grief, this was supposed to be a party!!!
The food was good in the main dining room, we tried Prime Rib, Lobster tail, Veal Parm., braised short ribs and they were all fantastic! The only main dish let down was the Turkey dinner which was so bad I could not eat it. They seem to have some problems with figuring out how to get drinks to the diners also, bar orders take forever, and if you say you do not want something from the bar, you may end up with only water for dinner. Not sure why that is so complicated for them, but it was for every seating. Servers were wonderful though, very nice and friendly. We used Any Time dining and liked the freedom it gave us. Breakfast on the ship was excellent, we loved the omelets and the buffet was great, we did not eat breakfast in the main dining room.
Catalina Island was beautiful, we had a great time on our Wild Dolphin Excursion, even though we were the only group not to see any dolphins (at least not until the tender took us back to the ship, they were playing in a big pod by the prow! Curse you dolphins!). The tour guides were funny and it turned out to be a beautiful way to see Catalina Island and learn a lot about it, so it was worth the trip! We did not disembark in Ensenada, we are from Tucson and go to Nogales all the time, so not much new for us to see there. We stayed on the ship and lounged on the Serenity deck, which was VERY nice! Two hot tubs not chock full of unsupervised children...yeah!
We had a great time with Seth in the Piano Bar, he is very talented and has a wicked sense of humor. Not for the PG crowd (Cee Lo's F^%$ You was a hilarious piano bar song and his cat song made even me blush!), but great for adults! Superstar Karaoke was a great idea for all ages, and on the second night (missed the first) the talent was outstanding! Lots of great voices with a fantastic house band had us all up and dancing and cheering! The shows were great, and I think there is something for everyone on this ship. We had great pedi's in the spa and it was worth every penny! Casino looked good, but we did not gamble this time out.
Disembarkation was OK, about 30 minutes in line to get through customs, but no snags other than freezing on the long gangway between the ship and the building, it went smoothly and as expected.
Overall, I would recommend this cruise if you just want to get away from land and enjoy yourself. This is not a high class ship, it looks dated and the limited amount of balcony cabins is unfortunate, but if you can overlook the ugly decor and survive with an ocean view room, this is a fantastic value for a great 4 days! The age range huge, with a slight skew towards the 20-40 crowd, and they have tons of activities for everyone. We had a blast!