We left our hotel around 11 the morning of the cruise, and after a short taxi ride, we were dropped off at the port. The porters were very friendly and took our bags, then we went on inside to check in, which was extremely fast and easy. Everyone is very friendly, too. Much different than some of the other ports. We were in group 10 to board. They call the numbers every couple of minutes, so we were onboard within 30 mins of being dropped off.
We headed up to the Lido to eat, (hamburgers and fries from the grill...YUM) and then toured the ship and took photos. My kids loved the ship, and we found the Inspiration to be in great shape. Kudos to Carnival on the upgrades. It was very cool in Tampa that day (60'ish) so the kids didn't get to try out the new slides until day 2.
We had 5:45 dining time in the Carnivale dining room. This was my 5th cruise, and I must say we had the best wait team that I have had on a ship. Every request was met with a smile, and the kids were given lots of extra attention. The Maitre'd, George the Greek, is awesome. He has a great personality, very entertaining, and seems to enjoy his job very much. I never get excited about Maitre d's but this guy is different. The food was very good. Not great, but very good. I especially liked the pork chop, and the spring chicken was good, too. Instead of a typical starter, I just asked for the fruit cocktail that is offered to the children. And, of course, every night ended with the warm chocolate melting cake for dessert. I'm addicted to those!!
I'm not a breakfast eater, but everyone else seemed to enjoy the breakfast buffet. Any type of breakfast food that you can imagine is served. We didn't make it to the dining room for breakfast, although I wish I had went at least once. We mostly took advantage of the grill for lunch everyday. My kids also enjoyed the hot chocolate that is always available.
Our staterooms were OV on the Riviera Deck. Just the typical rooms, but with the flat screen TV's and the bathrooms are all new. They are in great shape and everything very clean. Our room steward was right on top of things. The air in my stateroom wouldn't shut off. Even on low it was blowing at full force and it was very cold. He tried to fix it, but couldn't, so he called maintenance and it was fixed while we were at dinner. I know some complain about things never getting fixed, but this was the 3rd small issue we've had in a Carnival stateroom, and they have ALWAYS been handled VERY promptly.
The shows were new to me, and we had just sailed in October on the Triumph. These were the best shows that I have seen Carnival do. We also enjoyed the comedians, but having children, I never made it to the R rated shows. The best entertainment, though, was the activities that include the audience. Like the welcome aboard "spoon game", the "In the Bag" game, battle of the sexes, TV trivia, etc. My Mom even participated in the TV trivia one night. Oh, and don't miss the Newlywed/Not so Newlywed game. It is hilarious! The cruise director, Risa, is terrific. I rank her right up there with Todd Whitmore, and that is saying a lot. If you want a good seat for the shows, make sure you show up at least 30 minutes early, because they fill up fast.
The new water works area is a blast for kids, and even adults. It kept my children entertained for hours, so I got to kick back and relax while keeping an eye on them. The sun deck in that area is huge, so chairs are readily available. Now I know that if I cruise again with my children, I'll have to book a ship with the waterworks!!
I played slots a couple of nights and came out about $30 richer than when I left. Oh well, not much, but at least I didn't lose this time around!! The casino seemed to be full most nights.
The promenade deck is very pretty, and is a great place to kick back and people watch.
Tried room service a few times and it was delivered quickly.
We didn't make it to any of the disco, karaoke, or piano bars. Cruising with children is very different. But fun all the same. My 7 yo went to Camp Carnival on several occasions, and never wanted to leave. I even paid the extra $6 per hour at night so that she could stay and watch movies/order room service with her new found friends. I feel this is a fair price; it's well worth it to make her happy. We did the build a bear one afternoon, and it was actually priced very comparably to the actual "Build a Bear" stores. The counselors that work there were awesome, and you can check on your child at anytime. Every room is shown on the tv screen at the entrance. So you don't have to worry about your children being mistreated. I can't say enough positive things about Camp Carnival. It's a great program.
Our ports of call were Grand Cayman (7am-2pm) and Cozumel(9am-6pm). There were 6 ships in port at Grand Cayman so I expected a nightmare. Instead, everything went very smoothly. We lucked up with the tendering process this time around. We went down to the gangway around 8 am and walked right on the tender, no waiting. We took a taxi to Royal Palms for $4 each. At Royal palms, we took a right and walked down to a quiet uncrowded, shaded area of the beach. We stayed there til nearly 11, then went back to the dock and walked right on the tender again. We came back early for 2 reasons: 1)to avoid long lines and 2)the kids couldn't wait to get back to Waterworks!!
In Cozumel, we went to Nochi Cocum for an all inclusive day ($49pp for adults and $11 children). We had use of chairs, umbrellas, a pool, bathrooms, and a shower. Plus, the best part...we were waited on hand and foot, and ate and drank all day. This place is beautiful. Highly recommended!
Sea days of course are filled with the usual Hairy Chest and Survivor competitions. That's one thing I like about cruising. If you want action, it's there. If you want peace and quiet, its there, too.
Disembarkation was easy for us as we were in the last group to be called. We had a nice, long leisurely breakfast and walked right off the ship and were thru customs in just a few minutes. We had 4 hrs before our flight, so we checked our luggage at TPA and then took a taxi to Westshore Plaza mall for some last minute Christmas shopping ($10 each way). This is a great place to go to kill time and catch a bite to eat.
The security lines at TPA moved very quickly, and again, everyone very friendly. I love this airport. Its very easy to navigate and not crowded.
I have only 3 small gripes. The first being the seat saving/chair hogging in the Paris Lounge. We tried to sit down one evening, and a very grumpy old lady had the whole row reserved! Once she seen we had a child with us, she did "ALLOW" us to sit down. I was going to sit down anyway, because I figure I could have taken her if I needed to, LOL But she was VERY rude to some people, and I felt bad for them. I wish Carnival would enforce their rules in the Lounge and at the pool. My second gripe is that at times, the Riviera deck (and our staterooms) smelled funny. Like fried onions is the only way to describe it. Maybe it was just me and I was too sensitive to it. I never did figure out exactly what it was that I smelled, and it wasn't constant. My last complaint is that our stateroom windows were very dirty. Yes, I do realize it is nearly impossible to keep them clean, but it looked as if these windows hadn't been given a once over in a long time. Like I said, these are small complaints and certainly didn't affect my cruise negatively in the least.
In summary, we had a great time aboard the Inspiration and love the new upgrades. This ship is excellent for children, and has a great itinerary. I wouldn't hesitate to sail on her again! __________________