Nearly a week has gone by, so will share a few thoughts from our 5 day Inspiration Cruise (Tampa/Grand Cayman/Cozumel) Have only been on larger newer carnival ships so was wondering how we would like a smaller one. Loved it. The ship doesn't have the specialty dining room or fish and chips, but also doesn't have as long lines at the buffet. In fact it never seemed crowded. Very clean ~ saw crew constantly cleaning and dusting. The crew on this ship seemed to be about the happiest we have encountered and very accommodating.
Embarkation Flew down a day early so ready to roll by 10:30. We were on the lido deck enjoying salads, reubens and icecream by 11:30. Tampa is a very nice port for embarkation, and all went smoothly. After lunch, met with the maitre d'(to be at the mardi gras dining room entrance at 12:30) to ask to be switched from 5:45 to 6:15 dining time. We got there around 12:20 and were first in line. We got our request (notice delivered to room in the afternoon) and were seated with 2 other lovely couples. We had a bonvoyage gift of wine to be delivered at first diner, so went to the purser's desk to show our table change and it was delivered by the maitre d' the first night (didn't want someone else enjoying our gift ) Went back to the room to unpack (luggage arrived quickly and undamaged). We noticed a "sewage" smell in our room,toilet didn't flush and the room electrical plug was loose. By the time we returned to our cabin after supper the plug was anchored properly and the toilet flushed. The next am workers returned to the cabin and did something in the bathroom and the room smelt nice and fresh for the rest of the cruise. We appreciated the prompt attention to requests and noticed this throughout the whole cruise. MUSTER DRILL~ A necessary evil. Since we were on the upper deck, our muster station was lido deck beside the pool. I was really glad we got tables and chairs in the shade. I really felt sorry for those sweating in the sun since the drill took awhile and they were just baking. The man beside me didn't even have a life vest and when questioned by a staff member, he said it was in his cabin Hmmmmm, you think they would have made him get it. Enough about that.
DINING ~ We had mardi gras 6:15 time - worked perfect with our schedule and thought Ajimi the Maitre d' was the best. He was friendly and funny and seemed to really care about everyone's dining experience. His workers also seemed happy and worked well together. Our waiter was very efficient and his assistant constantly offered bread, refilled glasses, told us the next nights menu before we left each evening etc. We were not impressed with the service in the mardi gras at bkfst. In our large table of 10 repeated mistakes were made by the servers and 3 different people had to get up on different occasions to ask for coffee/ condiments etc. The eggs benedict were not worth going back for even tho I had ordered extra hollandaise sauce to top it up (shared with others at the table) DH spoke to AJimi about the bkfst and he was aware of problems and said they were looking into it (he also said he would have preferred to keep his staff he trained in his dining room) ~they were up on the lido serving and clearing tables. It was nice to see them on the lido - someone was always available to get drinks etc. At one lunch the southern fried chicken was in only one line. Of course that was the line my husband wasnt in I was surprised when he sat down with out it and as he was telling me a server was clearing the next table and obviously overheard. Lo and behold the server came back with 3 pieces of fried chicken on the plate . You cant beat that service. Did not care for the crepes on the lido lunch buffet on french day. We missed them on the glory so made sure we were back for them on the Inspiration. When I think of crepes I think of the Magic Pan Creperie. NOT! They were potato crepes with lemon sauce Being irish means I like potatoes (give me an ulster fry with fried potato bread any day ) but IMHO potato crepes are pretty yucky and the lemon sauce doesn't help. I would suggest just skipping that one. Had great meals in the dining room and OD'd on the deserts (esp the warm melting choc cake and grand marnier souffle). Only had room service once and it was prompt and hot. DH went to a few more of the midnight buffets than me (I made it to the mexican one and it was great~ Im not a night owl) but he brought me back some food from others. They served the white chocolate forest cake (from the Cafe Des Artistes) one night and he brought 2 HUGE pieces back to the room YUM
SHIP ACTIVITIES ~SEA DAYS~ Not really sun lovers, but always found plenty of empty chairs on the lido deck (in sun and shade). Surprised to see so many empty chairs by the pool still available at 11am on the last sea day. This was not a cruise of chair hogs -What a difference that makes. Went to both art auctions and bought a thomas kinkade and a small painting of Venice. Also won a draw for a pic (had to pay $35 shipping) but that's ok b/c it was a picture with memories for us. Payed for ParkWest Galleries to frame and ship the other pictures. The prices were reasonable but it does pay to do homework and know before you go. Too bad the auctioneer was so long winded (took from 1pm for preview to 4pm to sit thru auction and attend follow-up appointment for later in the evening) So that meant missing most of the afternoon tea time (altho on this ship it is in the piano bar with a few sweets so not quite as classy a setting as on the glory but still enjoyable) The long auction on the 2nd day meant missing the galley tour by our maitre d' (Since this is one of the few ships to still do this tour I would have loved to go on it but time didn't allow). didn't join in by the pools with various activities since this cruise was just some down time for DH and self. Managed to find small tables outside the aft lido dining room buffets on the last sea day, so sat there for a few hours to rest and read.
LOUNGES ~The only lounge we visited was the karaoke in the candlelight lounge, since one of our tablemates sang there every night. He was really good (is retired and does this on the side at home) What we cant figure out is why the karaoke staffer didn't tell him about try-outs for the guest talent show. He would have surely been picked b/c he was very good. We asked him one night if he had auditioned for the talent show and he didn't know what we were talking about. He then asked but they had already had the initial auditions so he couldn't ~ (I thought that was really remiss of the host in the karaoke bar. ) Oh well, he said now he knows about the try-outs for his next cruise.
PORTS~ Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Have done both so decided not to do any tours (not the same without the kids) Just shopped. Had looked into Philip Stein watches since the glory cruise (b/c of arthritis, insomnia etc) but didn't really like the looks of the ones we saw in ST Thos and St Maarten. So checked out cayman and cozumel and got the one with blue sapphires and leather band for $800.00(no tax) This was a great buy for me so now we'll see if the teslar technology really works. DH and I went to the store in our town that sells this watch and it is $1600 here so I think I got a great deal. Once again, it pays to do homework at home before going to the ports and to know exactly what you want.
TENDER~ A word of caution. We have been to Grand Cayman 3 times and you would think we wouldn't have made this mistake, but we did There were 3 Carnival ships( Inspiration, Imagination and Liberty) and 1 RCCL ship in port on this day. TD and Super Shopper both advised everyone to be in the line for tendering back to the ship by 1pm. So by 12:40 dh and I decided we'd shopped enough and went back to the tender dock. Hustled to a tender getting ready to leave by 2 carnival employees who checked our S & S card. didn't recognize any on the tender, but that's natural when you think how many are on the ship. As the tender headed towards the Imagination my DH questioned me if we were on the right tender. Of course I just told him maybe it was like a bus that stops at each ship(sometimes my rationalization scares even me) Anyway, everyone got off at the Imagination except us IMAGINE THAT. Then the crew realized we were on the wrong tender, but we had to wait to make sure no one from the ship wanted to go back to shore. We finally... slowly ...headed back to the pier, and had to wait for 2 tenders to leave before we could pull up. Of course by now its after 1pm and Im having a bit of a panic attack(if only I had already had my philip stein watch I could have assessed the tesslar calming affect LOL) We were then directed to the proper line and made it back to the ship on time. We accept our responsibility for going to the wrong line at the pier (it looked familiar b/c it was the same area used by our previous cruises on the Liberty and Atlantica) HOWEVER, it does no good to have the carnival staff at the pier only look to make sure you have a carnival s & s card and not to check which ship you are on. Believe me, for the rest of the day you can bet they were checking EVERYONE'S card very closely. I did notice that RCCL had a sign up for their ship's line. With 3 Carnival ships in port that day, it would probably be a good idea for them to label each line with a portable sign (what about people who have liquid lunches~might help them a bit) I did write to carnival with this suggestion, but not sure if they will follow thru.
DEBARKATION~ Great if you are American. As a canadian (and any other foreigner) you had to get up at 6:15 am to clear customs, then allowed to go back for bkfst. DH was wonderful and got up early and kept me company. The line moved ok for customs, it was just sooooo hard to get up early after relaxing and sleeping in for 5 days CD~ thought Risa was a great CD and was visible throughout the cruise (and not just on the annoying overhead announcements like another un-named CD we had at Christmas) didn't attend all the shows, since we've seen some a few times, but what we saw and heard was good. Thought the magician with his one trick was pretty lame, but it didn't affect my cruise adversely!
SUPERSHOPPER Dave~ Great guy with lots of great tips. Also available for individual chats and never treated you like he was in a hurry to move on. All in all, a great cruise and I wouldn't hesitate to go on an older and smaller Carnival ship again. DH and I thought it was perhaps our favorite cruise so far.