My family and I went on this itty bitty 3-day jaunt on board the Carnival Inspiration in January 2012 to Ensenada, Mexico and back from Long Beach, CA just so I could "test-drive" cruises. I tend to get motion sickness at the drop of a hat and my parents were a little concerned about that, since we're planning to go on a 12-day cruise on board the Caribbean Princess in August 2012. After speaking with multiple co-workers about their Carnival experiences, I kind of went on board with low expectations in terms of service, food, quality of the ship and noise/atmosphere. I think it would be safe to say that my expectations were blown out of the water, so to speak. I guess I'll just give a little brief run down of what I was happy with and what I wasn't so happy with.
Pros: 1. Food. Everyone I spoke to complained about the buffet and the main dining areas. While I sorta agree with the buffet being a tad "meh," the main dining areas were AMAZING. The food was fresh, beautifully prepared and even though we opted for anytime dining, we kept asking for the same server and bartender/sommelier, who were both pretty awesome. I loved how Carnival offered a "Ever wanted to these?" portion of the menu and I managed to sample alligator! Delish! Oh, and unlimited ice tea, lemonade, tea and coffee? Yes, please. I really almost managed to wean myself off Diet Coke over the weekend, thanks to their beverage selection. My family and I also loved the Mongolian stir-fry station they had set up outside near the swimming pools.
2. Service. Again, see above re: dining staff. Most of the other Carnival staff members we met were professional and efficient as well, aside from 2 exceptions.
3. Amenities and entertainment. I personally loved their comedy acts and the Vegas-style performances (I think one was called "Shout!" or something along those lines? Not sure anymore). I couldn't get over how BIG the ship was and how much there was to see and do. We never set foot in the spa or fitness facilities the entire time we were on board.
Cons: 1. Crowds. Every main area of the boat was always packed and it did at times seem to be overrun with really loud and drunk people. However, there were plenty of quiet places to hide in, so this never really became a problem.
2. Ports and excursions. After reading multiple reviews of Carnival's land excursions, we decided to just wing it and ended up having a good time on our own.
3. Day 3's Day at Sea. This was my "Ack!" moment of the cruise, when the ship anchored out at sea for the entire day and bobbed on the waves. It was the only day during the cruise when I felt I might be sick, due to the constant motion of the waves. I tried looking out over the horizon as others had suggested - no use whatsoever. In the end, I learned that just always being on my feet and moving seemed to help, as well as chewing ginger candies and popping Dramamine.
All in all, a really great trip! I'd repeat this in heartbeat.