I am Julie (Jrmende63) Hubby is Randall. We are from Huger, SC, near Charleston. This was my 4th cruise and Randall's 3rd. I have been on the Carnival Spirit, Celebration, Carnival Victory, and now the Carnival Inspiration. We sail on the Carnival Freedom and the Carnival Splendor in Nov and Dec of this year. Randall and I enjoy cruising very much. We think it is the best bang for our buck. We left Huger, SC on Weds, Feb 6 and drove to Tampa. We stayed the night at the Ramada Inn on Morris Bridge Drive. It is easy to find, just off of I-75. The Ramada was clean with new rooms. We had no problems with the hotel and will stay there again in the future. We had dinner and breakfast with cruise critic member, Lora,(China C). Lora is a delightful person and great company. And Lora will be sailing with us on the Carnival Splendor in December! After a wonderful breakfast at the IHOP located right next to the Ramada, we packed up our belongings and waited. That is the hard part for me, knowing in a few hours, I will be sailing down the Tampa Bay. Of course Randall is anxious too! We checked out about 1030 am and went the short distance of 15 miles to the port. I printed out directions from Mapquest and they were right to the "t". Soon we were pulling up in front of our home for the next 5 days and 4 nights. We pulled up to unload the luggage and were offered 'valet parking' for an extra $12 over what we were paying to park in the garage. For that extra $12, they take your car to the garage for you ( nice because there was a lot of traffic congestion. They then have your car waiting for you as you enter the garage after the cruise. We gave the keys to the driver, also tipping him, filled out some paper work and walked into the cruise terminal about 11 am. We were stopped at X-ray because I had 2 little bottles of Champagne and one big bottle of wine in my carry on. The guard hand searched the bag, saw it was just two 8 oz bottles of Champagne and the one full bottle of wine. The guard was very nice and said, "Have a nice time!" We checked in online with the fun pass. We went straight to the counter, showed our printed funpass, and passports, gave our credit card to imprint and were given a boarding number of 3. We sat down and waited about 10 min and were on the ship by 11:40 am. We could not go to our cabins yet, ( the firedoors were closed). We went to the Lido deck and had a slice of de Chevere pizza. YUM. We sat and looked out the windows and people watched until about 12:45. We got up to leave our table and said hello to the 2 young girls sitting one table over. It turns out the 2 girls were Ashley and Sarah from our Cruise Critic roll call!!! We were thrilled to meet them. We saw them often around the ship. We walked around the ship and explored. At 1:25pm we went to see if our firedoor was open. SUCCESS! The firedoor was open and we went to our cabin. U 230(Upper Deck). Our cabin was completely AFT. We had an OV that looked out over the ships wake. The motors were gently rocking our cabin. We love the AFT and book this whenever we can! Our Cabin steward was Innocent. Innocent is wonderful. He was so efficient we hardly to ask for anything and when we did have a special request, Poof! there it was! We went back up on deck to finish exploring without the heavy carryons. The muster drill was painless and punctual. That overwith we went to grab a Funship Special for me and a Budlight for Randall and watch us pull out of port. The weather was partly cloudy with strong winds. ( the Captain said the winds were 44 MPH) The winds were off and on. We were out on the deck looking at the new slide when we started to move. We ran to the side to wave at all who were on shore. About this time the wind kicked up again and took my Carnival Visor with all my ship pins on it and pulled it off my head. I could not catch it and could only watch helplessly as my visor spiraled 11 decks down, into the Tampa Bay. I was sad to have lost it but knew I could buy a new one on the ship. I thought I could contact Carnival and possibly get my pins replaced. ( I did call Carnival Customer Relations after our cruise and 2 weeks later I have my pins again!!!!) The Funnel was spraying water out of the side ( not sure if this is normal as I have not noticed it on any other Carnival Ship)on the 11 deck. The water coming out of the funnel was so bad that it was getting my camera wet and we had to go to the front of the ship. I was afraid that we would not be leaving the port of Tampa. But we did and the ship had normal speeds. We went back to the cabin to freshen up and relax. We felt the ship slow down and knew we were getting ready to go under the bridge out of the Tampa Bay. We rushed up to the 11th deck and got some fantastic shots of us going under the bridge. It seems as though the ship will touch the bridge, but somehow you slide under it! We were going to get a burger and fries to split between us, as we had late dinner in the Mardi Gras dinner room at 8:30 pm, and were hungry now. But the grill closes at 6:00 PM, so we settled for an ice cream cone and walked around the ship, exploring more. I made an appt for a manicure the next day at the Spa. Deck 9 goes all the way through the ship making it easy to get front to back. The ship is beautiful with nice new cabins and fixtures in the restrooms. The lido deck is a little weird with purple tubular things on the ceiling. We went to dinner and met our table mates, Fil( short for Filomena) and Carlo from Ontario, Canada; Kelly and Laurie from Indiana; and Mark and Denise from Michigan. We were at a 10 top but only 8 of us sat there. The food was hit and miss. Never bad, just ok to great. The warm chocolate melting cake was wonderful all nights but the last. It was not baked long enough that night and was runny. I don't remember what I ate for dinner this night,but do know that I had the warm chocolate melting cake for dessert. We went to the Welcome aboard show. It was crowded because there was only one showing, but we found seats easily. We came back to the cabin to find a towel animal and chocolates. Usually we do have Chocolates but the first night we have never had a towel animal before. Innocent is Awesome! The next morning we went to the Mardi gras dining room for breakfast. I had a Waffle with whipped cream and strawberries. YUM. The dining room was good at breakfast and dinner. We did not eat lunch in the Mardi Gras. ( the Carnivale dining room was only open for dinner, not lunch or breakfast.) We had a Cruise Critic meet and greet at the Lido deck Aft bar at 1030 am. Several members came out and we had a nice time putting faces to the names. We decided we would try out the slide and lay out to get fried, umm I mean to get a tan, well maybe I do mean fried! We used sunscreen but missed a swatch on our legs...OUCH! The Caribbean sun is much hotter than SC's sun! LOL. The slide is HIGH up! I am scared of heights but managed to go down it twice. It is fast and fun! The weather was gorgeous and we had a blast in the pool on lido deck. We had no problem getting a chair about 1100am right by the pool. We decided to have lunch at the grill and get the burger and fries. Well I wanted a minute steak sandwich...but this ship does not carry them. So I settled for a Cheeseburger and fries. It was just ok. OF course we had to go get ice cream, well actually I sent Randall after it so I could keep our pool seats. BEWARE...The frozen yogurt melts QUICKLY! He got ice cream and it did not melt fast. We were out by the pool when the hairy chest contest started. That was fun to watch, Randall was chicken to enter though! We then watched the ice carving...that was fast and furious.
Randall has challenged me to a game or two of Putt putt golf. We go to the course to play and had a great time...even if he did win x 2! He got a hole in one! We then went in to get ready for formal night. I went to the SPA for my manicure. It was ok, but not really worth the extra money. ( the polish only lasted 2 days!) We went to the Captains party and had snacks and free drinks. I had a Manhattan for the first and last time. WOW...very strong drinks. We went to dinner, all the previous people from the night before were there and the 2 missing people came over. They sat down and then got up and went to another table where there newly made friends were and sat there. So our 10 top was an 8 top all cruise. We had lobster tonight. It was very good. Our waiter was "K-Man", he automatically brought 2 lobsters for everyone who ordered the first one. He, however, forgot Filomena's salad and never even realized he forgot. He said, "Oh did he already get your salad plate?" The lobster was yummy, but K-Man and the assist Rodell were very slow that night. The dining room needed to be cleared of guests so they could set up the Gala buffet and this was the slowest night of all of them, taking 1.5 hours to serve us. As soon as we got out they closed the doors to set up the Gala buffet. We went to the show, it was fantastic. Infact all the shows were great. We got out of the show and went to take pics of the grand gala buffet. There was some amazing things there...unbelievable it was all food! We were still full from dinner so we did not eat of it, but it was beautifully presented. time for bed, Cozumel tomorrow! We had the Atlantis Submarine pre-booked online. Our tickets said meet at 1000 am on the pier. We went and got breakfast at the Mardi gras dining room. Breakfast menu is the same each day, but it is hot and fresh.A tablemate at breakfast asked for and received salmon in place of the Canadian bacon on her eggs benedict.
We got off the ship to see the Holiday and Royal Caribbeans Navigator of the Seas in port with us as well. Carnival Imagination was out in the harbor as well. We walked down the pier, peeking over the edge at the beautiful blue water. The water was crystal clear, so clear that we could easily see fish, including 2 barracudas!! Right off the pier!! We walked down the pier to the duty free shop. There are some good vanilla, and alcohol buys there. We found our meeting place and decided we would come back later to make some purchases from the duty free store. We loaded into Taxi's and went a short ways to the Atlantis loading sight. We walked down a pier and got on a boat. We then went over to the other pier by boat and picked up passengers from the Holiday and Navigator of the Seas. We were taken to a sight out in the ocean where we parked and waited for the submarine to surface. Our guides spoke very good English. The submarine surfaced and the people on it got onto our boat and we were allowed to board the sub. We were sitting close together but had our own porthole windows to look out. We preceded to dive down but it was slowly so you really did not notice as you were looking out the windows and trying to identify the fish ( there are placards that have all the fish in the area pictured and named). Before I knew it we were 47 feet down and going by beautiful fish and coral. ( those fish just won't pose for a pic though!) I did manage to get several decent shots of coral and fish. We went deeper to 103 feet below the surface. It was so neat to see all the sealife at that level. The water is crystal clear,even at that depth. Randall and I are now submariners and have the certificate to prove it! The sub ride is about 30min or so. I don't know exactly as I was having so fun looking at the fish that I did not take note of the time. We came to the surface in a frenzy of bubbles. The balists release air and bubbles are all the way around you... makes a pretty neat pic. As we surfaced there was another boatload of people waiting to get on. We unloaded and the transport boat took off with us back to shore. The Carnival Imagination ( the Inspirations sister ship) had docked beside us while we were gone. After we were going they offered us orange juice with or with out Rum. And pictures were taken as we arrived at Atlantis, we were given the opportunity to purchase them for 10.00. We did purchase ours...it turned out really good. The Rum and OJ were good as well! We were taken back to the Atlantis gift shop. Then after being allowed to browse for a few mins we were taken back to the area in front of the pier, where all the shops are.
We walked along the area looking at the map of stores Carnival shopper Joanna had given us. I went to Diamonds International to collect my charm for my bracelet. ( we also got a card in our cabin telling us about the charm bracelet) I had my bracelet with me, as I started collecting the charms in 2006. We then looked at the map and saw the "silver emporium" 3 doors down from D.I. But the store name on the store said " Gold and silver Factory". I went in and asked if this was a Carnival recommended store and was assured that is was the same as the Silver Emporium on the map and it was a sister shop to the silver emporium down the street. I was satisfied with this answer and went in to browse. I found a 14k white gold Tanzanite with diamond chips ring that was stunning. I asked the price and was told today it was 50% off at 300$ USD. But if I had cash instead of Credit card then it would be $ 250. I told the man I did not have that much cash on me and I needed the cash I had for the littler shops. He said ok he would sell it to me on the credit card for $250. The ring needed to be resized so he said they would resize it and to come back in 3 min. I said ok and left the store. We ran into the Carnival Shopper Joanna. I asked her how come the Silver emporium is called Gold and Silver Factory. She said all the names are correct on the map. The store is silver emporium. She said what did you buy? I told her about the ring. She said go back and make sure that they did not switch the 14k ring for a sterling silver because that store is not Carnival approved or the name would match. I said ok but the store is number such and such on the map. She said they are not on our list, that I must have miscounted doors. I was scared at this point thinking what am I to do? I went back to the store and asked to see the ring. They said 3 more mins to finish. In about 30 secs they brought out a ring that looked like the one I bought but I asked to see a jewelers glass to make sure. Well instead of the 14k that I could clearly see before, now there was a .925 !!! They had switched my ring out for a sterling silver one. I demanded my money back and after some brief arguing with me, I got a slip that showed the charge was cancelled. We got out of the store and went directly to the shops we wanted and then crossed the street and walked down the other side back to the duty free shop. We got some vanilla and a small bottle of tequila. The tequila was not taken from us as we reboarded the ship. We had to show sign and sail card to get back on the ship. We were told to have picture ID as well but the Mexican authorities did not ask for the picture ID. We were worn out from walking all around the streets, we went to lido deck and had lunch and then went and took a nap. Dinner tonight was fish for me and teriyaki boneless ribs for Randall. We had bitter and blanc for dessert. The show tonight was a comedian. Pretty funny. off to the cabin to see what towel animal awaited us this night!
Awoke late to a lazy seaday. Went to breakfast in the Mardi gras dining room. Ate and went outside in hopes of sitting in the sun on the Adult serenity deck. The was plenty of room as it was so windy outside that it was actually cold. So we went back inside and meandered around the ship. We ate lunch on the lido deck, Stuffed corn bread and fried chicken are 2 of the things I remember. We went and took a nap...woke up and was hungry again! LOL...I had to have a last slice of pizza. Also had to meander through the shops. Went back to the cabin and watched the sunset...beautiful hues of pink, lavender and orange. Got ready for our last dinner in Mardi Gras...wow this cruise flew by! Saw the show and then decided we would watch the R rated comedian. Then to bed. The next morning brought breakfast at the Mardi gras and carried off our luggage. Easy as pie. Went to the garage, they called for our car and we were off to home.
Reflections: There was a gathering of Red Hat ladies on our ship. LOTS of Red and purple everywhere! Samantha Brown from the Travel Channel was aboard our cruise and we had a blast watching her tape and interview people. I will print directions from pier to I4 next time! So we don't end up in Ybor city! Oh well honest mistake and we know now! This cruise was a rest and relaxation cruise. And that is exactly what we got. We loved the ship, the crew was so friendly and the ship was very clean. I love Carnival and I love cruising. Eventually I will try other lines, but for now I am all Carnival and 2 more booked this year! Kids...there were some kids onboard but all were well behaved. You would not know they were there if you did not see them. The serenity deck is enforced for 18 and older.