We just got back yesterday from a four day cruise on the Inspiration. We had read a very favorable yet insightful review from a travel agent so we really didn't have high or low expectations of this boat. As, I mentioned in my tag line; a vacation is what you make it. We were down in the Riviera deck in what I like to call steerage. The biggest downside to being on the lowest and rear part of the boat was feeling the motion of the ocean even more that being mid-ship. We were also more prone to hearing the rumbling of the ship's motors which can wake you up very early on any day the ship gets into port.
Let's talk about the food. Many people hear about this ship's or that ship's great food and then come expecting some vision of what someone else has said. This was my 7th cruise and I can honestly say that food wise, I was not only not disappointed,, I was also pleasantly surprised. The Lido deck has the usual fare for breakfast with home fried potatoes, pancakes and such. The best food on this deck came in the afternoons with the Mongolian grill where one can assemble the noodles and vegetables on your own and then hand the plate over to the cook who adds the choice of beef, chicken, or salmon as well as the sauces to either have a bland dish or a spicy one to your taste. The same deck also houses a pizza place that seemed to be open all day and night as well as a Deli area where one can order a carver sandwich either hot or cold on freshly bakes bread. We had read about an all you can eat sushi bar which we never found except for one night in the heart of the The Brasserie on the Lido deck. The sushi was good but nothing to write home about. They have the basic California rolls and spicy tuna. Desserts varied from good to great. My daughter really liked the ever present ice cream dispenser that is on even at breakfast time.
We were assigned to the Carnivale dining room where the waiters did their best to serve and bring the food up as soon as they could. Here is where we learned a little morsel of experience. If you show up early and your order gets into the kitchen early, then you will be eating within a half hour. If you show up just 15 to 20 minutes late, your food orders will arrive behind some 250 previous requests and you will not get your entree until an hour later. I recommend you try the Pan Steak and be sure the not miss out on the lobster. For dessert, the melted chocolate cake is not to be missed. We had three small children in our group and they mostly had the chicken nuggets and french fries they desired at every meal. They were happy campers and were always served first to keep them occupied.
There were plenty of activities to keep you busy throughout the day and night. Catalina: This is a very small island with a limited amount of things to do there except for shopping, eating expensive lunches,renting golf carts or bicycles for land lovers and many other water based activities which for several in our group (of which there were 27)parasailing. We tried going for zip lining but although it is talked about on the ship's itinerary, it is not offered through the ship's excursion offerings. We made it on shore at about 10:00 am and the spots were already sold out for the day.
In Ensenada our group booked one of the offered excursions for renting ATVs. They were a lot of fun but very expensive. One can do it for less than half once you get to town. Remember that the cruise line gets anywhere from 45% to 50% of the fee. A large part of our group got talked into a Buffadora/shopping/horseback riding excursion for $35.00 each and they had a great time for a great price. I think the ship charged $35.00 just for the Buffadora. One can easily walk to the center of town in ten minutes. They have a shuttle that charges $2.00 to take you there and $1.00 to get you back to the boat. I think the price reflects the idea that one figures out how close it is when you take the two block ride from the boat. Don't worry about having a passport since Baja Mexico really only requires that you have a driver's license or state issued ID to get back in. None of that is ever clear in any of the written stuff about going to Ensenada. Really your room key is all they checked when we got back on the boat.(here is the legal disclaimer- I'm not an expert-just our experience, but that's all we had to show)
The day at sea was a bit of a disappointment since the whole cruise seems to wind down a bit. For two nights in a row the cruise director made a very vague excuse as to why they could not have the Latin Fiesta show. They had an impromptu show which I had to get up and leave because neither the band or the singers seemed to have any enthusiasm for what they were presenting. It was odd really. There was a music show the next night of which I attended the last part with music from the 60s and 70s which was geared for my generation but which I think might've left the kids a bit bored.
This seemed to be the week for families. There were lots of them and lots of kids. If folks in their 20s and 30s is what you were hoping for, go in the summer and you will see nothing but that and lots of crazy drinking games and that sort of stuff of which we saw nothing of this trip. That made it really better for us.
Lets talk about the rooms. They are small, but larger than they used to be. Yes the showers are not much bigger than one found on an RV but one doesn't spend a lot of time there. The beds were very comfortable and the pillows a bit too thick (I always pack my own). The hallways on the Riviera deck smelled like a city dump on a couple of occasions. I think someone left a vent open on the massive trash bin they must have on the boat. Folks tend to throw away about half of what they serve themselves so you will see a ton of waste. I understand it is fed to the fishes.
We brought our own large group but met a lots of folks which were rather nice people and had a ton of fun. Warning!: People don't look at all the young skinny blonde models you see on all the advertisements and brochures. But then again, neither do I, nor most people. And yes there are people who fit themselves into swimsuits that show more than they should. But enjoy the sea and the boat and all it has to offer and you will have a great time.