Just returned from a weekend cruise to Ensenada on the Inspiration. We had 3 generations of our family with us. We had three Grand Suites on the Upper Deck. We enjoyed the extra space and the balcony. However, this cruise seems to be the new destination for bachelor/bachelorette parties and other groups celebrating special birthdays, etc. It seems like someone in these groups will pay for one suite and then cram all their friends in for LOUD parties in the larger cabin. Also, they can smoke on the balconies, and that smoke then drifts, much to the annoyance of non-smoking neighbors. My in-laws couldn't enjoy their balcony at all because of the smoke and the loud, intoxicated passengers next door. However, the suite comes with Priority boarding and that was a great perk. It was also great to have a refrigerator. We brought on our own water bottles and soda cans.
I am a Gold member of the Carnival loyalty program, so I have numerous cruises under my belt and I am seeing an overall decline in service. The food in the dining room was decent, though NEVER hot. Desserts, especially the cakes, were consistently dry and tasteless. (One exception was a wonderful chocolate cake served at the afternoon tea on the sea day). No Baked Alaska, which is a cruise tradition. The chateaubriand was amazing. I did not care for the "American Table" change to the menu. Sides were brought out in large bowls and passed around. Part of the charm of cruising is being served and I felt like I was at the family Thanksgiving table passing around the green beans. We ate a few times on the Lido deck. Sandwiches were great. Pizza was doughy and undercooked.
I was disappointed in the entertainment. The first night's show was just ok, little taste of the comedians and a revue of oldies songs. It was the only show and it started after 10pm. The next night's show appeared to be largely audience-participation based, so we skipped it. The last night's show? The same as the first night! I've never seen a repeat of shows, even on a 7 day cruise, much less a 3 night! No magician. We went to the comedians' family-friendly shows. They were ok. Our family was really excited about the new Hasbro Family Game Night Show that's being brought to Carnival. The only show they had was on the last night at 7pm. Problem is, the early seating for dinner is 6pm. Many families choose this seating as many young kids don't do well at an 8:15pm dinner. So they have this one and only game right in the middle of when many families are having dinner?!
As a cruiser of more than 25 years, I was struck by how little Carnival seems to care about guest comments. I never saw one comment card and in the past, cruise lines really cared about the feedback from their guests. It's obvious that Carnival is much like many low-budget airlines now: cheap to get on, but they'll nickel-and-dime you once on board. I'm sure they were disppointed by our group of 8 having a $0 bar tab.
I must saw how wonderful the staff at Camp Carnival was. My 9 year-old enjoyed every minute of it. I didn't enjoy how they moved around the ship to different rooms, though. It made it difficult to remember where to drop off and pick up. WaterWorks was great too, especially when the ship was in Ensenada and there weren't many people onboard. I do like that it's located far from the pool and bar.