With years of being an ocean liner nostalgic (reading dozens of books on the golden age of transatlantic liners of a bygone era), I boarded the Carnival Inspiration with mixed feelings. This ship was the one chosen by the group I traveled with, a mixed group of Deaf and Hard of Hearing folks, hearing family members with a Deaf relative, and ASL interpreters.
I was most curious to see how Carnival would handle staff/crew interaction with Deaf guests using ASL on a daily basis - and to see how Deaf-friendly the cabins would be. This cruise was part one of a three-part vacation, and out of three hotels and one ship cabin, it is clear that the ADA has a long way to go when concerning Deaf guests.
Giddy with the prospect of boarding a realio trulio ship after touring the RMS Queen Mary several years prior, I was among the first to board the 4-day cruise out of Tampa with a port of call in Cozumel.
Once I was on board, I found the interiors to be a tad too 'kitschy' for my taste, but then, I have been spoiled by the gorgeous pictures of public rooms found on ocean liners. With that in mind, I took off for the upper decks instead with positive results. I did miss the wooden deck chairs and a wraparound Promenade deck but delighted at the fact that I had the lifeboat deck to myself - apparently not many discovered the secret glass doors separating the pool/sunbowl area and the lifeboat boarding deck. This is where I found my private haven - and a nod to the past. Instead of a deck chair, I made do with the life-jacket storage bench or stood at the railings.
The cabin itself was... interesting. A cookie cutter inside cabin - I didn't expect too much - a cabin is a cabin and I spent very little time in mine. What interested me the most was the ADA supplies that the Carnival folks had installed prior to my visit. They had set up a flashing light alert for both fire/emergency and the door. With the door flasher, a doorbell was attached to the door itself (with only a few cases of Ding Dong Ditch from the youngsters on board). Once someone pushed the button, a white light (similar to fire alarms, imagine my confusion in the morning when I was awakened by this, thinking it was an emergency - but no, the room service steward had only stopped by to drop off our breakfasts). A bed shaker (which I used to ensure I woke up before the sunrise in order to have breakfast on deck and watch it rise) and a TTY were also provided.
We take calling the concierge desk and room service for granted. Despite attempts by several cabin stewards, nobody could get a connection on the TTY, let alone order room service. Ironically, the same situation occurred at the hotel I stayed overnight prior to the cruise, and the hotel at Universal Studios after the cruise. What's up with TTYs on ships and at hotels? The poor outdated machine sat forlornly on our vanity for the entire time, unused.
As I traveled with a group of 30 ASL users, we had six sign language interpreters on board. This was a fact that I loved - being able to peruse the Carnival Caper, highlighting the items I planned on attending, and be ensured that an 'terp or two would show up. (They even showed up to high tea to keep the old nostalgic me company while the "modern" cruisers went off to the pool or other Carnival-type activities.)
Another perk that I loved about this cruise was dinner time - we had the early dining seating, and our ASL group was able to sit together, thus avoiding the much-dreaded Dinner Table Syndrome where a Deaf person is seated among multiple hearing people that do not sign, which leads to frustration and boredom during mealtimes. With DTS avoided, dinners were my favorite time during the cruise, aside from the midnight walks on deck.
During dinner, our sommelier took great joy in learning the signs for different types of alcohol while our waitress learned the basics - "hello"; "thank you"; "enjoy", etc. This shows great effort on the staff's part to make us Deaf passengers feel welcome. Perhaps it is something that international folks and Deaf folks share - the cultural and linguistic thing? Those same staff were willing to gesture with us when a 'terp wasn't around to interpret. This is a far cry from the average hearing person interaction whereas they resemble a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching car. So instead of "Deaf? Eek!", we had "Deaf? Hmm..."
Aside from the missing forward-facing lounge, wooden deck chairs, and a wraparound promenade deck of yesteryear, I enjoyed this cruise very much. For a first time cruiser, Carnival is a welcome step into the unknown world, and I look forward to more cruises in the future, with Carnival or another cruise line.
And as always, those towel animals greeted us each evening with chocolate. I hated to dismantle them for use. Fortunately, we took pictures of those adorable creations.