Embarkation: Our group of 9 (5 adults & 4 children) arrived at Tampa Airport on 8/22. Cabs were plenty. We needed a car and a van since we were told it was against the law to put 5 in a car size cab. The one cab driver taking the 4 people in our group advised us the price is the same: $20. from airport to pier regardless of cab type. Our van driver tried to up the price & we haggled to $22. The other cab driver, who had the rest of our group, had them call us on our cell phone & tell us not to pay more than $20. & don't give a tip because what our driver did was illegal. We appreciated the concern. On the return trip we got a yellow cab van service outside the pier & had no problem. Just know ahead the law is $20 per cab -period!
We arrived at the Pier around 11:00 a.m. The embarkation process started immediately with being directed to the counter of Carnival reps standing ready to check us in, take our Sail & Sign card info & assign room keys. Then onto being seated in a comfortable waiting area (unlike NYC port with no chairs). After a short wait a representative made a bit of a game out of boarding by saying the first person to bring him a butterscotch candy was a prize winner - that being first family to board, next was showing a driver's license from a state he named, etc. After a few of these to pass the time a little, group #s on your boarding pass were called. All luggage came later in the afternoon with plenty of time to unpack before dinner.
Cabins: Our group was assigned 2 oceanview rooms and 2 interior rooms, Main deck aft. It was a convenient area, only negative was vibration from the engines at night when the ship traveled at a faster speed. Only one night did it actually wake me up. All our rooms were the same in size and decor; the only difference being the window. Our room steward kept our room in excellent shape, made towel animals and kept out wine chilled. He never did introduce himself so until the end of the cruise I was unsure exactly who he was; he basically slipped in and out unnoticed and we never had reason to call him for any problems.
Ship: I have been on at least 8 Carnival cruises (and about 5 on other cruise lines). Usually with Carnival we book on the newer, larger ships. I was pleasantly surprised with the Inspiration. Being on a smaller ship made for easier getting around (with the exception of hard to find dining room) and less lines. The only area that showed wear was the inside of the elevator doors; otherwise it showed minimal wear considering the volume of passengers using it week after week for an extended period of time. Very clean. We were told it will be dry-docked the end of Sept. for a period of time to update some areas.
Dining Room: We had a waitress named "Windi" and she had a female assistant, who's name is difficult to remember. Both were equally terrific. They were super efficient and couldn't have been more pleasant. The assistant waitress made it a point of speaking to each person at our table every night, including the kids. She also made sure one person from each of her tables got up to dance with her on the nightly dinner entertainment. The woman staff member who oversaw the dining room came by our table each and every night to chat, ask how everything was & about our plans for the next day. That was a first for any cruise. There was also a young man from Poland overseeing the dining room (he would make the nightly announcements)who was very pleasant, always greeting us upon entering & leaving the dining room. This was one time I felt the dining room supervisors actually deserved getting a tip in the envelopes that are always left for them that leaves you thinking "Why???".
Food: Overall we found the food to be good, good selection, and our waitress always offered a suggestion for choice. We ate breakfast & lunch almost everyday on the Lido deck. Breakfast selection is the same everyday, but how many breakfast choices could there really be? Only thing I could think of to be added to the choice is waffles. Lunch always offered a nice variety, with each side of the buffet having a item or two different than the other side. It seems like Carnival is trying to add new items, such as one day hollowed out individual loaves of bread to be filled with soup was offered. Looked nice & they have the best bread, which is baked fresh everyday. Each night the buffet is open again for those that want to grab something late at night, as well as 24 hr. pizza (though I can't imagine who would still be hungry after dinner).
Ports: I never can say enough nice things about the Western Caribbean. It is my favorite itinerary. This was our 3rd time there.
First stop, Grand Cayman. Beautiful island with no real visible signs of poverty. Ship docks off shore & you take a tender. We booked in advance on-line with Captain Marvin's for the 2hr. snorkel/String Ray tour. It was great! Capt. Marvin's only about a 3 block walk from where the tender leaves you off. Before going I doubted if I might be able to get in the water with the stingrays since I thought they looked so gross. They are so gentle and reminded me of having the personality of the family dog - just wanting you to stroke it's back while it calmly laid in someone's arms. Each person, including myself, held one as it was laid across your arms. Don't miss this tour! Just keep in mind when booking that the tour time is Cayman time, which is an hour earlier than the ship's time - so if your tour gets back at 1:00, it is really 2:00 ship's time. Captain Marvin's was very helpful in keeping that mindful when I was choosing our tour. Allow more than 2 hrs. since you are asked to get to the shop about a 1/2 hr. prior to the time the tour departs and we came back a little later. I would think this is the equivalent of the ship's 3 hr. snorkel/Stringray tour. Also visit Tortuga rum shop. They have cheap liquor prices, as well as selling rum cakes, and the ship will match any of the prices if you bring back the ad. You get the best of both, low price without having to carry your liquor back on ship & risk breakage in doing so (which we saw happen to someone).
Costa Maya: This is a port owned by the cruise ships, from which I didn't expect much. It was really very enjoyable & a nice relaxing day. There are shops as well as a beach with umbrellas and beach chairs at no charge. There is also a saltwater pool available, as well as a shaded area where Mexican dancers put on a nice show. We were told of a fishing village a short ride away but chose just to stay on the beach, have a couple of drinks (not cheap - $10. for drinks in tall test-tube type glasses) enjoying the water & view of the ship. You MUST bring water shoes for the beach if you plan on going in the water. There is, what I assume is, dried up coral at the entry point of the water. Very hard on the feet. Also might want to pick up some inexpensive snorkel masks and breathing tubes at home before the cruise since the shops rip you off on this type of stuff.
Belize: You must book a tour here. It is very impoverished and I wouldn't want to walk too far from where the ship docks. We opted for the cave tubing tour. We booked with Action Belize on-line and got a great price of $49.00 each since we were a party of nine, otherwise, I believe, $60.00 per person. The ship charges $89.00 per person for this tour, but includes a chicken lunch. We ate lunch back on the ship after the tour since I am cautious about eating food off the ship or you could have bought a chicken lunch, which smelled delicious, for $3.50 at the tubing place. The tour was a lot fun. The walk thru the rainforest was very easy. No insects, shady, and a dirt path to walk on.
We were told it is approximately a one mile walk. We could have walked further to go through two caves but decided to go in the water at the first entry point since we wanted to be the first ones in the water to go through the caves with just our group. You do work at paddling with your arms to get yourself thru the caves as the water doesn't have much of a flow to it. This could have been due to them not having had much rain in a while. We had a guide named Roberto who was the best. He was unbelievably patient with our spastic group, having us hook our tubes together using our feet to keep us from separating. He hooked on as the lead, half dragging us along, but laughing along with us throughout it. He was also aware of some people's concern with doing this tour & assured the group, watching us constantly the whole time. There really was no worry or danger in it. He certainly earned his money that day. We tipped him well at the end - mainly, he deserved it, but you also realize how fortunate we are to live where we do when you see how others struggle.
Cozumel: We took a cab downtown (well started walking because someone said it was a 15 minute walk - it is NOT, probably. at least 3 miles) and shopped. Be sure to bargain. We later sat on the beach by Fat Tuesdays, had a drink and relaxed watching the sunset. Very nice. On a past trip we took a cab to a beach, which was nice, but I don't recall the name of the beach.
All in all this was a great vacation. Fun ports, good food, great weather, nice relaxing days at sea before and after ports, good entertainment. What more can be said except hope your vacation is a fun as ours!