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 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.