My wife & I took a belated Honeymoon aboard the Inspiration the week of Jan. 11/04. We booked airfare through Carnival & arrived in Tampa at 2:20 p.m. from Toronto and were immediately greeted by Carnival staff. We quickly boarded a waiting bus with 20 other passengers from our flight & arrived at the terminal about 2:50 p.m. Gave our luggage to the pier workers (with a tip) and waited about 15 mins to sign in, then we boarded ship by 3:20 p.m.
I booked a 5A guarantee & didn't know where our room was until we arrived at pier. We got upgraded to a 6A (nice start to the trip). We were on Riviera Deck 240 at aft of ship (3rd from rear). Great cabin, super clean, very quiet, elevators were close too. Bathroom was nice & clean, good supply of toiletries, shampoo & conditioner provided free of charge. There was a safe in our closet. High Seas Romance package that I ordered 2 weeks prior was waiting when we arrived.
We were immediately thrown into the muster drill, which was a bit disorganized. It took about 45 mins, and the only bad part was that everyone missed the sail away due to the drill. Luggage was delivered to our room by 5 p.m.
We chose late dining and felt it was a great decision because we never felt rushed throughout the week, and didn't miss the best sun of the day (4:30-6:30 p.m.) and the quietest time on the sundecks. We felt sorry for people wandering the deck at 5:30 p.m. in dinner attire. Our table service was outstanding and our tablemates Andrew & Paul from England made dining the highlight of each day. The menus were always outstanding & rivaled any great restaurant we have been to. Wine list was also great. On evenings when we couldn't decide what to eat, the waiter brought 2 entrees. Each evening the dining room was entertained by the waiters during dessert. Monday & Friday were formal nights, MAKE SURE TO HAVE THE LOBSTER. Each night from 4p.m.-9p.m. you could eat buffet-style in the brasserie instead of dining room if you wanted, but why bother when you could be spoiled in the dining room.
There was a 24hr pizzeria in the brasserie that was great. Hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers & fries were always available during daytime on the Lido Deck. Breakfast & Lunch buffets were always served in the Brasserie. Same each day for breakfast, although you could custom order eggs & omelettes. Lunch was always super & was a different national theme each day (ie Indian, Italian, American, French, Chocolate etc.) Room service was available 24/7 with a pretty broad menu. On several occasions we would post the breakfast room service checklist outside our door the night before (don't forget to tip the porter). It was nice to have a pot of coffee delivered to the cabin rather than fight for cups in the brasserie. Also, if you are tempted to drink the coke provided in the cabin, be prepared to pay $2.50/bottle (my wife found this out first day!)
After first day on board, it never felt crowded. We never waited for an elevator or fought for a deck chair (and there was 2500 people on board). The seat savers must have been on another ship that week. We preferred the aft deck during the day, as it was much quieter than lido deck. There was a nice pool & 2 jacuzzis, which were never crowded. The same cannot be said for lido deck pool/Jacuzzis although that was where most of the activities were each day, incl. Caribbean Band.
Show lounge was beautiful, always seats available. Each show was put on twice (8p.m. & 10 p.m.) to accommodate both dinner sittings. The major productions were on the formal nights, with comedians, jugglers, balancing act filling out rest of the week. Productions were pretty good, rest of the entertainment was okay. Still entertaining provided you had a few cocktails. The casino was always active when the ship was at sea. Piano Bar seemed to be the hot spot each night, beware if you don't like smoke! My wife enjoyed some of the services in the spa/beauty salon too.
In Grand Cayman we went to Stingray City with Capt. Marvin, which we booked online. It was GREAT. Only 14 people on our boat vs. 100 on the ship-sponsored shore tour. In Costa Maya, we just enjoyed the facilities at the pier. There was lots to do, incl good shopping. Cozumel is absolutely gorgeous, we did the Fury Catamaran which was by far the highlight of the week. It was so relaxing, 45 minutes of snorkeling, then sailed to a private beach for a while, you could swim, sunbathe or use their kayaks for free, and best of all, FREE BEER & MARGARITAS the entire time. On the sail back to the ship, the crew organized an impromptu dance party onboard. This tour can only be booked through Shore Excursion desk & worth every cent. (don't forget to tip the crew, especially bartender who just about force feeds you!)
Belize was beautiful too, we just spent the morning wandering through the tourist village. Next time I will book a shore excursion because it does feel confining in the tourist village after an hour. The ship anchors about 2 miles offshore in Belize & it is a 20 minute tender to port.
WE NEVER WAITED FOR TENDERS OR IN LINE TO LEAVE SHIP WHILE IN PORT. Tenders were always quick, one waiting behind the next, and the crew was efficient with security check-in. I was worried we would always wait in line to leave or board in port and that never happened.
Disembarkation when we arrived back in Tampa was a bit slow, but that was mostly customs-related. IF YOUR NAME IS CALLED, PLEASE DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. Otherwise it holds everyone up. We were off the ship by 11 a.m. though. I was impressed that we could even get room service on the morning that we arrived back in Tampa. That was great, I highly recommend it as the brasserie was a cattle line that morning. Carnival shuttle promptly brought us back to airport, though it was not near as fun on the way back.
As a footnote, I would highly recommend to those booking their own flights that you NEVER book a morning return flight. We never would have made it based on the disembarkation wait, and the week before, we were told the ship was 3 hrs late getting into port.
In summary, the ship was beautiful AND CLEAN. This was my second Carnival Cruise (wife's first) and we were never disappointed. Food was great, I highly recommend the Dining Room for night meals, as you can do buffet for breakfast & lunch. Bar Service was always great, staff were friendly. The cruise represented a very broad spectrum of people from all ages, walks of life. Everyone had one thing in common, they were there for fun. We wouldn't hesitate to take another cruise on this wonderful ship.
I also want to say a special thanks to those on Cruise Critic who took the time to write reviews as I found the information invaluable. After hours of scouring the boards for information & advice, we felt very prepared for this trip and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A cruise is whatever you make of it. This summary is based on OUR EXPERIENCES only, but I am convinced if you go aboard with a negative attitude & looking for problems, you will find them.