Having been on a couple cruises before this (with Royal Caribbean) I looked forward to seeing the differences between the two lines. Both times on Royal Caribbean we had sailed on the Sovereign, an older boat but still lots of fun.
Fast forward to this cruise, we set sail on the Inspiration which is a slightly newer boat than Sovereign. Getting onto the boat was quick and easy. We even had to split billing between rooms and that was a breeze during the check in process.
Getting on the boat we always get the fountain cards for unlimited soda. While the price was reasonable Carnival doesn't give you a soda cup like RC does and you also have a separate card instead of a sticker. If you want a soda cup they will sell you one for $4.95 (w/card) or $6.95 (w/o card).
When we got to our room it was warm, something that didn't really get rectified until a couple days into the trip. The oceanview cabin we were in was comparable to other oceanview rooms we had been in. The closet doors wouldn't stay closed in this room and the TV was not programmed for the channels Carnival offered.
The beds were comfortable and our room steward was marginal at best. We saw him once during the entire cruise and the room wasn't made nearly as much as I had expected. A couple times I paged the room steward and he didn't even respond.
The room service offerings were sparse only offering you cold cut sandwiches, something to drink, and a few dessert items. Their "Continental Breakfast Menu" didn't feature anything but cereals, breads, fruit, and drink offerings. There was nothing CONTINENTAL about that.
After dropping the luggage we went to explore the boat. The boat looked old, inside and out. Their decks aren't stained, they had at least half a dozen windows on the Lido deck that were boarded up by wood, and several lights around the boat were in need of repair.
It had been rumored that this ship would be going in for a refurbishment so I asked one of the crew when that was supposed to happen, September was their answer. I was really disappointed the ship was in such a run down condition, it just seemed that they were doing the very minimal to keep it floating till September.
The biggest let down on this ship was their entertainment. While they always had something going on in the Paris Lounge they had ZERO presence outside. This was a major let down. The bars on the pool deck didn't stay open past about 8 and they had absolutely no entertainment at night on the pool deck. The pool only stayed open til 10 and the hot tubs til 11. On top of that the adults pool and hot tub on the next deck up never stayed open that late (even though they didn't have different hours posted) nor were they even filled with water more than half of the day.
I can't stress how disappointed I was with their outside activities, Royal Caribbean did one heck of a job keeping guests entertained by the poolside and these people flopped big time. I expected so much more from a "fun" ship.
The only outlet from the shows in the Paris Lounge were the other night clubs. Most of which were unusually small and didn't stay open very late. There were only 2 clubs that seemed to stay open late night and this definitely isn't enough to entertain a whole boat of people.
So, I have to say we ended up being really bored on the ship. I am 32 and my partner is 21, we aren't real big party animals but there just wasn't enough to keep us occupied.
I did try my hand at the Mardi Gras Casino and left disappointed. I played slots off and on during the week but didn't see anyone getting huge payouts. It seems their machines are set pretty tight, you'd be better off holding onto your money or trying the dice/card games.
Food on the boat was horrendous. We read several items on Carnival that said they were consistently improving their cuisine but you definitely couldn't tell from the food we were served. We ordered a filet on the first day and instead of it tasting like a fine cut of meat it tasted like pot roast. Yes I said pot roast. The only thing redeeming about their foods were the dessert selections although other friends complained about the cheesecake. It wasn't served cold and it was a strange mixture of a pound cake and a cheesecake combined.
We actually looked forward to both of our stops in Grand Cayman and Cozumel so we could eat regular food off the boat. You shouldn't have your customers running off the boat for good food.
While we didn't get to do any excursions on our ports of call we did take in the local sites. We were supposed to be in Grand Cayman from 7 to 2. People didn't actually start getting off until later, no reason was given and we all had to be back by 1 because that was the last tender back to the ship. So, all in all, we lost at least 2 hours on the island.
For those looking to go to Grand Cayman, be aware they are still extensively rebuilding from the hurricanes. While there is still plenty to do there is also a lot of construction going on.
Cozumel was much smoother because the ship was docked, we spent much of the day checking out the local sites. We both liked this much better than Nassau. Less locals nagging you for tours, rides, gifts, or whatever other wares they were peddling. Cozumel, in general, just appeared more clean than our other cruising ports of call.
Towards the end of the cruise I checked my room charges. They had pre-billed service gratuities for the staff (waiter, head waiter, room steward) of $50.00 per person. I DESPISED this approach because I should be the one deciding who gets what monetarily. Royal Caribbean gives you 4 envelopes and allows you to distribute money as you see fit, giving only recommendations for the various staff.
The staff, as a whole, wasn't very exciting or happy. They did their job and went on to the next customer. The dining staff seemed to be the only exception. In fact, it seemed there were more "fun" activities held in the dining room than anywhere else on the ship. The dining staff was very warm and personable. They liked to get to know you (as well as your food preferences). Risa, the cruise director, was bubbly but came off very insincere. The assistant cruise director wasn't much more memorable after watching him during some of the shows.
I WOULD NOT RECOMMEND THIS CRUISE TO ANYONE. I was left with a really disappointed feeling especially since we had asked a couple of our friends along and it was their first time cruising. Carnival would be wise to check on their competition and incorporate some of the activities other lines are doing.