This is our second cruise on the Carnival Inspiration, but this time we took family and friends for a total party of 10. Eight of us occupied four 1A cabins on upper deck and two had a penthouse suite, also on upper deck.
We originally booked this cruise on the Fantasy but they canceled it do to an extended dry dock. We were able to keep our same rates and book the Inspiration, even on a holiday weekend (meaning fewer missed school days). We also were refunded part of the gas surcharge b/c we originally booked the Fantasy before Carnival started charging for gas. Total price per person w/all taxes and surcharges? $310...$62/night! We were also refunded $25/person for port fees for Key West, so I guess technically it worked out to $57/night.
Embarkation: SLOW! My MIL and FIL were directed to VIP checkin. Most of our party had not completed the online funpass, and one person was a last minute sub so we had a lot of paperwork to complete. It was extremely time consuming but our "checker inner" was very patient and sweet. DH has a fuse like a ticking time bomb so it took several hours afterwards to get him calmed down. All in all it took close to 40 minutes to check the 8 of us in. And we still had to "rearrange" our room assignments which meant waiting in line at the pursers desk for another hour.
Gustav was brewing in the gulf so our first port (and the one we were looking forward to the most), Grand Cayman, had been changed to Key West. However, after attempting to skirt Gustav, the captain canceled our first port stop all together.
Cabins: Our cabins were nice and arranged well. We got a lot of space for a minimal cost and no one seemed to mind dealing with bunks. Our main complaint was the stewards. One night they didn't show up to do turn down service until 9:30pm. Between me and my kids, we had two cabins so I attempted to move to the other cabin while they pulled the bunk down but another steward showed up and basically kicked us out of the room..in my pjs! It was irritating. My mom asked for ice several times, along with a tip and her chest was only filled once. This is the first time we didn't leave an extra tip for our steward. I honestly believe, that b/c these are the lowest category room on the ship, that they must train new stewards on them. And the fact that our beds were never made till after lunch tells me we were last on the list to get done everyday.
We also noticed that sewer smell in the hallway. It was ONLY in the center hallway where the aft 1A rooms are. I never noticed it in the rest of the ship and I rarely noticed it in the rooms themselves.
My Mil's penthouse suite was beautiful. Very large with tons of space. We hung out with them in their room quite a bit. They also raved how good their butler was.
Food: Very good as usual. Heard very few complaints from my group. The warm melting chocolate cake was a huge hit for several. Our waiter, Joseph, was OUTSTANDING. All 10 of were at one round table and he did a beautiful job at handling everyone's requests. Several people in my party ordered multiple shrimp cocktails every night so he just started their order by asking how many they wanted. As for the buffet, always found plenty of seating.
Entertainment: Both comedians are VERY funny..my mom regrets sleeping thru the first one. We really didn't go to many shows. We hit Karaoke, dancing on the deck, towel folding, bingo, scavenger hunt, the newlywed show, and the ice carving demonstration. My group really did have a great time..their only complaint being that so many of the activities were scheduled so close together that you couldn't do them all. I was extremely disappointed there was no past guest party.
The ship: very clean. didn't have the sail away litter and debris that we saw with our last trip on this ship. The renovations are very nice. DH was disappointed with them as he said the slides were a waste of space and the pool to small. I kept telling him that even without the slides, the new pool is no smaller than the previous one. My mom tried the adults only deck but said it wasn't to her taste. She said their was no breeze and no Caribbean music. Her and her best friend pretty much baked on the top deck...but she paid for that later :)
Port: Or only port was Cozumel due to Gustav. We were, of course, immediately accosted by people offering tours and taxi rides. We wanted to go to Paradise Beach. We approached a man to inquire about a van ride for our group who promptly informed us that Paradise beach is not very nice today b/c of turbulent "mucky" water. He offered to take us to another beach and throw in a free entrance fee or some such package deal. We told him we would think about it. We had a moment of panic, not sure if we should go to PB after all. DH walked into a cruise tour office that sells tours strictly to the cruise lines (as in not on an individual basis, as in they could not sell to us, as in any advice or recommendations they gave were not motivated by profit b/c there was none to made). We were considering Chakanaab instead and they informed DH that they share the same beach and if the water was mucky at one, it would be at the other BUT that he had heard no such thing and that the man who had told us so was likely only trying to get us to go to a beach where he has a business arrangement. So we headed downstairs to the taxi line and squeezed 9 people into 2 cabs (FIL decided to stay on board). Total cost was $30 + tip. At PB the water was BEAUTIFUL and clear. Later in the day as the tide changed there was some seaweed...but what do you expect. Its the ocean for crying out loud, not a swimming pool. Our waiter took money up for our wristbands but took nearly an hour getting them to us. I'm not sure what happened but we had another moment of panic thinking an impostor had shown up to take our money and run. I guess we're just a bunch of nervous Nelly's. Service was great! We had lots of free shots. We ordered several yard drinks, buckets of bears, nachos, and quesadillas. I think our total with generous tip was something like $120..much less than I was expecting. We took a van taxi back for $32 + tip and did some shopping before returning to the ship.
Disembarkation: Very smooth. We were permitted to disembark VIP with our MIL/FIL. The only thing I found strange was the handicap disembarkation. VIP disembarked first which I think was inappropriate and the crew was announcing to those waiting to disembark that required wheelchairs (many with their own..unquestionably disabled), that only one family member could priority disembark with them and that the rest would have to leave when their color category was announced. I realize that some families may be trying to take advantage but that is just DUMB! You only have to fill out ONE claims form per group and your entire group is processed through customs TOGETHER, so why would Carnival split the parties up? I'm hoping that this was just an isolated incident and that the crew member just didn't know better.
Overall we had a great time and our family is hooked on cruising now. I would have given this trip 4 stars if our stewards had taken better care of us.
However, a family & friends cruise is exhausting! Its so tiring playing host/hostess to a bunch of newbies! DH and I are very much looking forward to our 9 day S. Caribbean cruise with just the kids this March.
Would I go a third time? Most definitely if the price was right. I would just consider very carefully whether or not the 1A rooms are worth the savings.