Carnival Inspiration Cruise Review by cyclenut: Great Post Summer Getaway
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Great Post Summer Getaway
Our first cruise was on Carnival almost 10 years ago and we really had a good time. Our second cruise was on Royal Caribbean and after that, we decided we would never do a cruise with Carnival again. We are glad we gave it another try. We would sail with Carnival again.
Our very first impression wasn't good. It took us over 2 hours to get on board. There is no excuse for lines that long. There just were not enough people to process all the people. We arrived at 1:15 and didn't get on board until after 3:00. We have NEVER had to wait that long. We were told that the "Groove Cruise" charter before us was to blame because it took them so long to get everyone off the ship and have it ready for us, backing up the early check-in lines and jamming the entire process. A better bet may have been to arrive at 3:00 instead. On the upside, our cabin was ready and our luggage was already there.
The entire purpose of our cruise was a quick, and cheap, getaway. We knew from our More past experience not to expect much. We were pleasantly surprised. The Inspiration is a very nice ship. While the décor was more “cheap 70s plastic” than what we had become more accustomed to, we didn’t mind. It reminded us a bit of old school Vegas. The exception was the absolutely beautiful library. Very well done.
After setting down our things in our stateroom, we grabbed a bit to eat at the buffet. We purchased one soda package at the bar inside, but had to find a place on the pool deck to purchase the tumbler. We were also surprised that there was virtually no wait staff in the dining area. While we expected to get our own drinks, on other lines, the wait staff offered to help find us a table, bring us drinks, etc. Still, we found a good table with an aft window view and enjoyed a casual lunch. We then decided it was time to grab a cocktail and find our muster station. We were muster M, which turned out to be the Candlelight lounge right below the buffet and just above our restaurant and stateroom. Perfect. We sat and visited with another cruiser while the muster drill was called and the room started to fill up. Muster went without a hitch and we headed out to the pool deck.
Out on the pool deck, we purchased a tumbler and were approached at least six times in ten minutes asking if we wanted to try the Drink of the Day. No we knew where the all the staff was. This was pretty much the theme for the rest of the cruise. When we did order, they pushed us to order more. Order a beer, they try and talk you into a bucket. Order a mixed drink, they try and talk you into a double. There is also a 15% gratuity automatically added to each drink order. Something we were a bit surprised by at first, but also decided it was fine. I usually tip a little better than that so the 15% actually worked out OK.
We always choose late seating but decided to skip the sail-away show in favor of exploring the ship. We then went to our stateroom to change for dinner. We were seated at a 10-top and had a great time with all of the couples at our table. Two of the couples did attend the sail-away show but were not impressed and left before it was over. Our server, Christopher, was excellent. He worked very hard and never missed any detail. Our assistant waiter was slow to refill drinks and handle bread service. We found it awkward that the bartender had to bring out soda, even if we had the soda package. If that is the way other lines work, they make it more seamless. Dinner service was quick but not rushed. The food selection was great and all of the dishes were well prepared and tasted very good. The only thing that was odd, is the portion sizes were very small. While you can (and we did) order more than one item, we were surprised that even the baked potato was smaller than a baseball. I do have one tip on a desert to avoid. The sugar free pumpkin pie. The only thing that resembled pumpkin pie was the shape. The color, texture, taste and consistency were all WAY OFF. Christopher encouraged us to order ice cream with it. We found out later it was because he has never had a guest that ordered it and liked it, but oddly enough, he didn’t tell us at the time not to order it. We dined in the main dining room every night and enjoyed it.
The entertainment on board was good, but not great. There were two comedians on board (Thomas Brown and John Caponera) and we liked them both. Our cruse director was Jeff Brrronson and we were told this was his first cruise as a cruise director. He did the love and marriage show, which we found to be pretty funny. I guess we were easy to please in the laughs department. While we skipped the sail-away show and the “Fiesta Latina” show, we did take in “Shout” in the main theater. First a word about the theater. It was set up more like a lounge with a balcony. It was even called the “Paris Lounge”. The problem is the sight lines were poor as a result. There wasn’t enough of an upward angle and most seats in the balcony were obstructed in some way. As for the show, we knew it wasn’t going to be a full broadway production show, we didn’t expect it to be as plain as it was. The music was good, but stuck to very common tunes. Only the two lead vocalists were performing live as the ensemble was dance only. The choreography was uninspired and the costumes were not very elaborate. The performers were also good, but not great. The vocal range of the lead was limited , but within range, was very good. Even though our expectations were low, they were not met by this show. The best entertainment we had all cruise may have been out on the pool deck with the DJ. This is where the fun was at and where we spent most of our time, either just lounging around reading a book or sitting in the hot tub.
In all, we had a very good time. It was just about what we expected for the price, nothing fancy, spectacular or breathtaking. Good service, good food and decent accommodations. Overall, this cruise was a good vacation value that afforded us the opportunity to relax and unwind, which was just what we needed. Less
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TThe cabin location was excellent. This is an Empress Deck room and our previous Carnival cruise was on Riviera. Much prefer Empress. We were looking out at the ship's wake from our window and really enjoyed the view. There was also quick access to the Serenity deck and the Buffet through a back set of stairs. We found ourselves stopping by the stateroom more often when it was that convenient. The room itself was pretty sparse. We were used to a small sofa and coffee table in the room from other lines, but appreciated the extra open floor space. There is also no curtain separating the sleeping area that we were used to. While Carnival does publish that they don't have hair dryers on board, we were still surprised by it. The vanity area was OK, with good lighting and a pull out stool. There was one 110 outlet and one 220 outlet. Bring a power strip for your electronics. We also didn't have any sort of clock. We used our smartphone for setting an alarm. The bathroom was tiny and the shower did not drain well at all. There was a small shelf for bar soap and they had shampoo and body wash dispensers like you might find in your local gym. No place to put your shampoo bottle or conditioner if you brought your own. The vanity area in the bathroom was as joke. One tiny shelf and almost no room around the sink. There is one 110 outlet above the mirror. We saw our stateroom steward only twice. Both times when he wanted to make up our room. Friendly, but not very helpful. We didn't have much trouble with noise, until we went to dock in Ensenada. Apparently the thrust used in this port creates a significant vibration that can be felt even on the upper decks. It was enough to wake us both up. Otherwise, no issue with aft cabin.One issue we could not really get over was the occasional smell of cigarette smoke. It wasn't constant but it was there. It seemed to come through the Air Conditioning unit. It wasn’t often enough to ask for a different room but it was noticeable and if you are highly sensitive to it, stay away from this cabin. There is nothing they can do to fix a ventilation problem.
Port and Shore Excursions
We took the advice offered by Carnival and left the ship early. The Fun Times suggested that we should leave prior to 9:30 or after 11:30. We were ashore by 9am and encountered no lines. Others we spoke to tried to leave the ship around 10am and found the lines to be very long.
We decided to purchase the Casino - Behind the Scenes tour from a local operator on the dock. It is exactly the same tour, given by the same tour guide, for less than Carnival charges on board. the tour was excellent, but more about that in a moment. The tour didn’t start until 12:30 and here it was 9:00, what to do now?
We found a great little miniature golf course that was unlike any other course I've ever seen. It was in a garden are with lots of shade and very fun hole layout. No dragons and windmills here. Just good fun in a cool place. It is located just a couple of blocks from the dock. After that, we stopped in at Vons (grocery store) and picked up some snacks and water then sat down in some shade. After wondering around through the shops, we decided to head for the Casino. There is a little restaurant next door that serves some of the best fish tacos. We had a quick bite to eat and then went to the tour.
The tour was excellent and the tour guide made that possible. One of the best tour guides we have ever had, anywhere. Great projection and enunciation. No trouble hearing or understanding anything. You start at the backstage door and are treated to a typical theater backstage arrangement with original lighting panels and rail controls. From there you walk out on stage where the view of the auditorium is spectacular. The guide talks about the artwork on the walls and then walks you past the pipe organ where you learn what makes it go. Then you are seated in the theater for a short film before making your way to the lobby. Next is a stop at the dressing rooms, green room and other backstage areas typical of live theater. The guide then walks you up the ramps where you are eventually taken to the projection room, private viewing room and a few other treats. The final stop is the large ballroom and a walk outside with an excellent view of Catalina's Avalon Harbor area. The tour is every bit of 90 minutes and does require walking and climbing stairs, but it isn't strenuous. It is about a 20 minute walk from the Casino to the dock.
We chose to board the ship after the tour, again avoiding long lines at the tender station.
Nothing too exciting here. We visited Papas and Beer for what turned out to be more of a typical US Mexican bar than a bar in Mexico. We also wondered by all the shops and made a few small purchases. We walked to and from the ship, but the busses to downtown are just a couple of dollars per person.