This was my second cruise, the first one also being with Carnival on the Fascination. I went with my brother on this cruise.
We drove to Tampa from Orlando, arrived at ChannelSide, found the terminal and parking garage by about 12:45, and were on the ship by 1:00. The process couldn't have been any easier or quicker. The Port of Tampa / Channel side is a really nice area with a shopping center, movie theater, and Florida Aquarium right there, and hotels just blocks away. My first time in that area and it all looks to be relatively new.
Our Cabin was on the Verandah deck. There are only a few interior cabins on the Verandah deck, and the rest were suites. This turned out to be perfect. On the Inspiration (as well as the other Fantasy class ships in Carnival's fleet) the verandah deck gives you close access to a deck above the bridge, as well as puts you on the same deck as all the deck chairs and rear pool. Other than sailing away, there was almost never anyone on the deck above the bridge which meant I kinda had my own private giant balcony when I went out there.
Overall, I was impressed with the Inspiration. The interior of the ship was in very good condition, and there was always someone, somewhere cleaning , polishing, or painting something. As far as the actual cruise, the seas were never more than 4-6 feet and the sailing was very smooth. The ship could barely be felt moving.
Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. We booked a kayak/snorkel excursion through Carnival. I think it was a little on the expensive side for what it was, but it was fun. We had a relatively small group (not the masses that go to Stingray City) and a very nice and informative guide. It was a two person kayak and my brother and I ended up in a competition with a married couple in their 40's. The beat us every leg of the excursion. This was not part of the excursion, just something that kinda happened that made it a little more fun.
The second port of call is Calica. There is NOTHING in Calica. However, all the tour companies were ready for the ship when it arrived. I counted 22 tour buses, plus numerous vans, and dozens of cabs lined up. Calica is a 10 minute ride from Playa Del Carmen. There my brother and I chose an ATV/snorkel combo. Again, we had a small group and a very nice tour guide. We were driven to a ranch that's about 10 minutes from the pier and given a short orientation. Then we were headed out to a trail on the ranch and drove the ATV's, stopping a few times to view a cavern and a cenote. After that it was off the beach and did some snorkeling. For me to snorkel and see these beautiful tropical fish swimming around me in the ocean was neat. I am used to only seeing these fish in tanks! We wanted to go to Playa Del Carmen, but our excursion ran a little overtime (which was ok because everyone was enjoying themselves) but that left us with not enough time to shower, eat, and cab over.
Both sea days were filled with Carnival's usual plethora of activities.
The part of the cruise though we enjoyed the most was definitely dinner. We had a good group of people at our table and after we broke the ice, dinners were fun. We also had a fantastic head waiter. The Maitre d' was also very entertaining. On top of the service and dining experience, the food was excellent. On my first cruise aboard the Fascination, the food was just ok. Not this time. There was nothing I didn't really enjoy. In fact, everyone at the table commented how much they enjoyed their dinners. All of the food was also served at the right temperature, nothing was cold or lukewarm.
I cannot understand how some people complain about not having variety. There was a pasta, a poultry, a sea food, a beef, and a vegetarian entree at every meal, and they were never the same. There were always 3 or 4 appetizers, as well as 3 soups every night. There were also 2 salads...a salad is a salad anyway. Even the desserts were excellent. After my first cruise, I was just expecting fair to good food, but this time my expectations were greatly exceeded. As far as the Lido restaurant food, it was also very good. The lunches that I had also surprised me. Breakfasts are average though, and seemed to be the same every day. We never made it to or ate at any of the midnight buffets.
On my first cruise, getting off the Fascination was somewhat disorganized, and once off the ship, waited over an hour in the customs line. NOT this time. The debarkation was as smooth as butter. My brother and I were in no hurry, so we waited for the relaxed debarkation. By 9:15 AM they called everyone was free to leave the ship, so we headed down. We got to the debarkation area and waited about 5 minutes. Then we were on our way, down the escalator, to the baggage area, found our bags immediately, then to the customs agent who took our cards and flagged us through. The whole process couldn't have taken more than 10 minutes, 5 of those waiting on line on the ship. It was so quick and easy, it shocked me.
Overall the service on board, the food, the entertainment (both comedians I enjoyed) the condition of the ship all were very good. If there was a downside, it was the makeup of the passengers (not Carnivals fault). There were hundreds of high school seniors on this cruise, and a crew member said he was told close to half the passengers were teenagers or children. Great for teenagers, bad for 20 something 30 something single people looking to meet other people. The high school seniors did get obnoxious at times and definitely found ways to get alcohol. While I personally was not bothered by them, I heard others were. Additionally, they took over the ship disco every night. And every night it was the same music, hip hop. That basically became an off limits place for me!
My next cruise will be with Carnival again and on one of the newer larger ships.