Carnival Inspiration cruise – Sept 13-> 16, 2013 to Ensenada, Mexico
First a little about me. This is my tenth Carnival cruise – yes, I am now platinum. This is my 23rd cruise overall. I have been on one Fantasy class ship before, the Carnival Paradise, before it was upgraded, so now I can compare the two ships, as the Inspiration has been fully upgraded. This is my first time on the Inspiration.
The cruise started off on a bit of a sour note for me. I booked this cruise last year on an Early Saver rate. However, I booked the cruise for September 27 -> 30, 2013. Carnival sold that cruise to full ship charter, so I had to move. That was no big deal, until I found out Carnival would not honor the old rate. It was Carnival’s decision to move me, not mine, and I was supposed to have a protected rate. The new cruise (this cruises) was $100 higher. Eventually the price fell until it was only $20 more. Then there was another price drop. However, rather than give me the $20 price drop Carnival gave me a $25 on board credit (OBC). Then there was another price drop. I asked my agent to see if I could take advantage of the new price drop. Turns out that if I did, I would lose the OBC, so my agent told Carnival to keep it were it was. However, the Carnival representative that my agent was talking to had already changed it, and because the old fare was no longer available, could not change it back. Though my agent asked a supervisor to put me back in the same position I was in, the supervisor refused.
Neither incident by itself really bothered me. After price reductions I am only out five dollars and as things worked, the new date actually works out better for me. But the whole thing has left a bad taste in my mount. As a result, I not saying I will not cruise on Carnival, as there are at least two more Carnival cruises I want to go on. However, I not going to reward such poor customer service with the same loyalty. It took me thirteen years to get ten cruises on Carnival. It will take me a lot longer to get my next ten. My next three cruises at least will be on Royal Caribbean, which will give me eleven cruises on Royal Caribbean.
As it turns out, a friend called me around July and asked about my cruising schedule, which I e-mailed to him. Then he asked if he could join me on this cruise. Of course, and since I had already made final payment, I just put him in touch with my agent. It cost an extra $30 to add him. Then two of his friends joined us. It is always a lot more fun when friends join me (or I join them).
Friday, September 13 – Embarkation day
I woke up at 6:30am and packed (yes, Long Beach is a drive to port for me). I had some time to kill before I left to pick up my friend, so I played Bejeweled 3. The game comes with four games that can be played, and if you score a high enough score on each game, you unlock another game. I had an easy time with three of the four games, but just was not doing too well on the fourth game. So I started playing this morning with determination. Once again I was not doing too well. However, after one game I knew I had done well. At the end when the final points started to be added, I ended up getting a high enough score to unlock the fourth mystery game. So the day started off on a high note for me.
However, once on the freeway, I ran into traffic. Why are there so many people on the freeway at 9:45am? Shouldn’t they be at work already??? I was fifteen minutes late getting to my friend’s house but fortunately hit no more traffic and arrived at the port shortly after 11am.
My friend is getting a red card (I think that means it is his first Carnival cruise), but since this was my tenth Carnival cruise, I was platinum and thus I had priority. Since my friend and I were in the same cabin, he had priority also. Boarding began shortly after noon and we were at our cabin door at 12:20pm (the cabins are not supposed to be ready for diamond, platinum, suite or FTTF guests until 12:30pm, but I found the room steward and he was ready for us.
The luggage tags say priority on them also and our luggage showed up before 12:30pm, before we even had the chance to leave the cabin. We put our luggage in the cabin and headed up to the lido deck. Now normally the first thing I do is take pictures so that I can get as many pictures as possible with as few people in the picture as possible. However, my friend was hungry, so we had lunch. The grilling station (hot dogs and hamburgers), the Mongolian station and two Italian stations were open. We went Italian and it was good. Then we split up and I took pictures. I don’t know what my friend was up to.
We meet up again in the cabin. I told my friend that this would be a good time to go to the restaurant and see if the seating could be rearranged so that the four of us were sitting together for dinner. Then we went back to the cabin and rested awhile until my friend’s friends boarded. We met them near the pool while they were having lunch. My friend gave his friends our new table number. They seem like nice people. As I was hot, I had a couple strawberry margaritas because they were nice and cool. Eventually we each went back to our cabins to wait until it was time for the muster drill. I am in R2 which is all the way forward on the bottom passenger deck (Riviera) in a porthole cabin. I picked it because I had never been in a porthole cabin before. It is priced the same as an inside, except there is some natural light.
The cabin would be great for families with small children because there is a about a three foot shelf next to the portholes that the kid(s) could lay on and look out the portholes (though this cabin only sleeps two). Another thing, outside the porthole is about two feet of hull, so it is like looking out through a tube. I don’t know if the cabins further back with portholes have the same looking through a tube view, but we are in R2 and I’ll bet it is the same for R1, R3 and R4. I also cannot verify that all the porthole cabins have such a nice big shelf next to the window, but once again I am sure cabins R1, R3 and R4 do. However, I don’t know if any of these cabins sleep more than two.
The only real downside to this cabin is that being so low; we have to have everything off the floor before high tide. Also, I am sure one of the forward thrusters is directly under our cabin, but that is no big deal since I want to be awake when we come into port anyway (we were). Actually, the real downside is that while the shelf space in the main cabin is adequate, the shelf space in the bathroom is lacking. The shower included a handheld shower head with three settings and the shower is big enough for one person to comfortable take a shower. This cabin has no mini refrigerator, and the safe is operated by the magnetic strip on a credit card. I prefer the type where you punch in a four digit number. There is an issue with the elevators also. The buttons are all lit up, and the buttons you push are just a little brighter than the ones that are not pushed, thus it is very difficult to tell which buttons are pushed and which are not.
We do not have to bring our life vests to the muster drill, and out muster station was in the Paris Lounge (the main show lounge). Then we climbed up to deck ten which is the embarkation point for boarding the life boats.
When the muster drill was over, we stayed on deck ten to enjoy the sail-away (which is a lot easier when not dragging a lift vest around) while those with early seating got ready for dinner. We were dock side for the sail-away until I notice a boat squirting a lot of water into the air. Unfortunately by the time we made it to the port side the fireboat had run out of water.
The harbor patrol was there and took off to get a sail boat to change course so that it would be further from the ship by the time we caught up with it. So I was surprised when it made no effort to drive off a yellow power boat that was floating near the breakwater. However when the yellow power boat starting running parallel to us, I realized it must be the pilot boat. We stayed long enough to watch the pilot abandon ship and then headed back to the cabin to unpack and get ready for dinner.
For dinner I went Italian again. All four of us enjoyed our dinners.
My friend likes to gamble. His favorite game is three card poker. However, that table was full, so he played Caribbean Stud. Basically you play against the dealer. You are dealt five cards and the dealer turns the last card face up. You look at your hand and then either fold and lose your ante or you double your bet and wait for the dealer to reveal the other four dealer cards. If the dealer has an ace-king or better and you beat the dealer you get paid even money for both your ante and your bet. If the dealer does not have ace-king or better you get paid only on your ante, but keep your bet. No matter what, if the dealer wins you lose both your ante and bet.
You can also bet on getting a good hand, where the payout varies from even money to 50 to one payout (for a royal flush). So it is possible to win a lot, if you have a good hand and beat the dealer who has ace-king of better, or it possible to have a better hand then the dealer, but not have a very good hand, and if the dealer does not have ace-king or better you end up losing the good hand bet, but winning the ante and just keeping your bet. So getting a very good hand and winning against a dealer who has ace-king or better can mean a big win. For example you could bet $5 on the good hand, $5 for the ante and $5 for the bet. If you have a very good hand that pays five to one, you would win $25 for the good hand, $5 for the ante and $5 for the bet, so you win $35. You could also lose to the dealer but still win for the good hand and still end up $15 ahead on that hand. When my friend was done he was down $5.
Then with nothing better to do, my friend decided it was time for bed while I decided it was a good time to grab some night time photographs of the ship. Then it was time for me to grab some sleep also.
Usually I cruise solo, so I it didn’t occur to me that my friend would be asleep with all the lights off until I entered the cabin. It is dark enough that I can’t see anything. I need at least a little bit of light. Finally I figure I can turn on the light in the bathroom and leave the door open slightly and I’ll have enough light to do what I need to do. The next morning I found out that my friend sleeps with shades on, so as long as I am quiet I’m not going to wake him.
For those that are interested, here are the benefits of becoming platinum:
1) Priority embarkation and debarkation.
2) Unique ship pin.
3) Priority dining seating.
4) Priority specialty restaurant reservations.
5) Priority spa reservations.
6) Dedicated guest services phone number.
7) Chocolate delight on 5+ day sailings.
8) Casino: buy 1, get 1 free entry into a tournament. Good for second player or second tournament.
9) Complimentary arcade credits. Valued at $5 for up to two children under 18 per member.
10) Complimentary wash and fold laundry service. Two free bags on 3-6 day cruise or three bags on 7+ day cruise.
11) Carnival logo gift item.
12) Priority tender boarding.
Saturday, September 14, 2013 – Ensenada
My friend and his friend are big UCLA fans, and this ship has no sports bar. So the plan is to go into the city to watch the game. We had breakfast on the ship in the restaurant. I had eggs Benedict, bacon, a banana and orange juice. It was very good.
After breakfast we went into the city. The shuttle to the city is two dollars per person and the return trip is only one dollar. We walked around a bit until we found a bar that is more than willing to accommodate our choice of games to watch (UCLA vs. Nebraska). Just outside the bar is a vendor selling $1 tacos. The taco was okay, but I know of a place that makes better tacos near the blow hole (La Bufadora), but it is 18 miles away. When we arrived Nebraska was winning 21 to 3. When we left UCLA was winning 41 to 21 (38 unanswered points against a ranked opponent). Go Bruins.
After the game we head back to the ship for lunch. While walking back to the ship I bought a couple of leather belts for $40 (thought I think a couple of dollars was added to the price when converting the purchase to pesos). I checked online and my bank is showing a pending transaction for $43.92.
The restaurant on the ship was not open. My friend went to guest services to find out why and was given a deck of Carnival cards to sooth his disappointment. Lunch in the buffet turned out to be very good. We both stopped at the sandwich grill and then I added some jerk chicken while my friend had two different sandwiches.
After lunch it was back the cabin. We both took a little nap. My friend took a long nap while I decided to upload my photographs and work on this. Then I realized that I forgot to repack the charger for my DSLR. It is only a weekend cruise and I have two fully charged batteries, so I should be okay. Still it is a dumb mistake. I also have a travel camera (aka a point and shoot) that I use offer the ship and at dinner, since I don’t like carrying my big DSLR around all the time.
We then went up on deck to watch Ensenada slowly sail away into the distance. After that we grabbed a little snack and then went back to the cabin to rest and get ready for elegant night. My friend got all dressed up, but I went with a Hawaiian shirt and dress pants and shoes.
Dinner was very good, with my friend ordering lobster and I decided to go with the gourmet hamburger (the only thing that swims that I like is shrimp, and I ordered the shrimp cocktail both nights so far). It actually was a very good hamburger. Of course my friend enjoyed the lobster.
After dinner my friend decided to gamble again (I just watch – so I’m not down anything). This time he is playing three card poker. It is a lot like Caribbean Stud except the hands are made with only three cards and the dealer does not show any of the cards. But otherwise you can bet on getting a good hand, you put in an ante and if you think you can beat the dealer, you match your ante with a bet. In this game the dealer pays or collects the bet if the dealer has a queen or better. If the dealer has no cards higher than a jack, then you cannot win or lose the bet, but you can still win or lose the ante and the good hand bet. In this game a straight is better than a flush.
My friend did not do so well, losing $100. Meanwhile my friend’s friend’s wife is paying the penny slots and hits big – four cherries and a triple payout. Total win – 6,000 cents ($60) on a $1.80 bet (180 credits). I went to the on board store and bought a couple of shirts for $20. The shirts were $16.95 each and I didn’t see any signs regarding the two for twenty dollars sale, but one of the sales clerks saw me carrying around one of the shirts and told me about the sale. So basically I got the second shirt for $3.05.
After gambling and shopping we went to bed. Sometime in the middle of the night I got up to go to the bathroom and almost closed the door on my thumb. So now I have a small black and blue mark on my thumb as a souvenir of this cruise.
Sunday, September 15 – Day at sea
We woke up late and went to breakfast. This time I had an omelet, a slice of ham, a banana and orange juice. After breakfast we came back to the cabin. I’m a Green Bay Packer fan, and since the game was on TV (until Green Bay was up 38 to 7) I watched the game. Meanwhile my friend did some gambling. Finally around 2pm my friend called. He was having lunch at the buffet. I found him and joined him. This time he did well in the casino, winning $125, putting him up $20 for the cruise.
After lunch my friend went back to the casino and I went back to the cabin to get my good camera. I decided this would be a good time to switch batteries. Okay, I'm missing both the charger and the second battery. I have a funny feeling when I get home I'm going to find one very well charged battery. Good thing the one I have was fully charged and this is a short cruise. In the last two days I have taken over 370 photographs and videos.
When I returned to the cabin my friend had done very well, winning $450 (so now he is up $345 for the cruise). Unfortunately on a three night cruise, the third day is packing day (seems like only yesterday I unpacked). Fortunately my next cruise is one full week, the one after that ten nights and the one after that two weeks. So, in the future I’ll have more time between packing and unpacking, but for now, it is time to pack.
For dinner I had the chicken while my friend had the seafood pasta. After dinner we spent a little time watching the world go by, which would have been easier to do if the moon had been out. Then my friend played some more three card poker and won $40 more. Afterward it was back to the cabin to finish packing and to put the luggage out.
Sometime during the night I woke up and the room was all lit up. Turns out there was a full moon looking into our portholes.
Monday, September 16 - Debarkation day
We woke up around 6:30am so that we could get breakfast before departing. Actually we got out of bed around 6:30am. We woke up around 6am when the thrusters were used to spin the ship. I had the French toast, a banana and orange juice for breakfast.
Being platinum we both had priority debarkation which was scheduled for 8:30am. We actually debarked a little after 8:30am. The process was fairly smooth. The customs officer quizzed me about my name and birth date, then let me back into the USA. I dropped my friend off at his house, and was home shortly after 10:30am.
Overall a very fun and relaxing cruise, made all the more enjoyable by having a good friend join me (and pay for half the cruise). The food was good and my friend wants to do this again next year (I'll have to check my vacation schedule). Of course, for me I've got two weeks to get ready for my next cruise, so until then - happy cruising.
PS – for those that are interested, I came home to find one very well charged camera battery.
Here is a link to the same review with pictures ...