We are in our mid 40s and early 50s and love cruising on Carnival most of all. Sometime the kids (21 and 24) join us but not this time. We always eat in the dining room when possible and have the late seating for dinner.
EMBARKATION & DEBARKATION Embarkation and debarkation is easy and quick at Port Tampa and a big reason we enjoy this port. It also helps that it is 20 minutes from home. With Channel Side and the Florida Aquarium as neighbors Port Tampa is very pretty, clean and cheerful. Port personnel are very nice and accommodating. We arrived at the port at 10:30am and were on board by 11:15am. We do have VIP status and get express embarkation and debarkation which makes it even easier and faster.
DINING – The BEST things about this cruise was Yusuf, our Maitre Di. We had sailed with him on our last 2 cruises. He remembered us and could even tell us what table we had on our last cruise. They probably have all that on record but that doesn’t matter. He made us feel special by stopping by every evening. The food on the ship was very good – not great – but very good. We ate breakfast and lunch everyday (except for lunch on port day) in the dining room as we like to be waited on. Our waiters for all meals were great. Our dinner waiters John and Mirza were, as we’ve found on every Carnival cruise, very friendly and good at their jobs.
SHIP & CABIN – The ship was extremely easy to navigate. Décor was typical Carnival which we like because of the bright colors and festive feel. I loved the red/green/blue lights circling the atrium on each deck. We really liked that to get from bow to stern you did not have to go through the casino on the Promenade Deck. You went passed it but didn’t have to go through it and deal with the smoke. With no balconies on this ship we had an ocean view. I missed having a balcony, refrigerator and hair dryer on this ship. Our cabin was fine for the 2 of us and stewards (Arnold, Ari and Marketa) were amazing, always available and accommodating. Ask for something, blink and it was there. We had a lot of fun with them.
ENTERTAINMENT –The Welcome Aboard show was OK. The crew shows - Shout (2nd night) and Fiesta Latina (4th night) - were actually very good. The 2nd night - magician (Mark Miller) was great and we wished his show had been longer. Diane Ford was hilarious on night 2 so we went to her R rated show the last evening. I don’t think I have ever laughed so much. We really didn’t care for Kenny Miller – just not our style of funny. I also really enjoyed Sin the dining room magician…still don’t know how did those tricks.
EMBARKATION DAY We went to the Lido deck purchased a soda card for my husband and then on to lunch. After lunch we made our way to the excursion desk to inquire about the Behind the Fun tour. (More on this tour later.) Since this was our first time on a Fantasy Class we did some exploring. By 1:30pm we were in our cabin and had met our cabin steward, Arnold. I went to the Spa tour and got some great discounts and entered the $500 drawing. At 3:30pm it was time for the safety talk (used to be a muster drill). We relaxed and unpacked until about 5:00 then back to the Spa for the drawing (didn’t win). Around 5:45 we went to the bow of the ship to watch as the Inspiration went under the Sunshine Skyway bridge – according to the captain there is only 9 to 15 meters clearance under the bridge. It looks a lot closer than that. Then it was back to the cabin to dress for dinner in the Mardi Gras dining room.
SEA DAYS This was a relaxation cruise for us and we just wanted to take it easy with no schedules. Therefore many of you may find what we did boring so I’ll mention that there is something to do all the time. There are the usual Lido pool games and BINGO as well as some other trivia games. There are dance lessons and more kinds of music than I had seen on other ships. I have a thing for steel drums so I particularly like the Calypso Music by the pool area. There’s a water slide, miniature golf, a driving cage and a jogging track on deck 14. Almost all Carnival ships offer the Family Beary Cuddly (similar to Build-a-Bear). I do this every cruise and name the stuffed animal after the ship. It’s an inexpensive fun souvenir. We enjoyed most of the afternoons on the Serenity (adults only) deck, reading, having a few drinks and enjoying the hot tub. Very quiet and relaxing.
COZUMEL This was our only port this cruise and since we had been there a few times before we chose to stay on board. On past cruises we gone horseback riding, to Paradise Beach, Sea Trek and rented a car to explore on our own. All of those were great. I did go into the port area by myself to pick up a couple gifts. I won’t do that again as I felt like an easy target and it seemed those trying to get you into the shops were even more aggressive since I was alone. I got what I needed and was back on the ship in an hour. I had booked the Seaweed Detox and full body massage for 2:00pm and it was amazing. You get great discounts when you book spa treatments on port days.
BEHIND THE FUN TOUR This is a tour of almost the entire ship, lasts about 3 hours and your have to climb a lot of stairs but it was fascinating. I don’t want tell you too much about this but if you have never done this, do yourself a favor and do it on any Carnival ship (don’t know if other cruise lines do it). The cost is $55 for Fantasy class and $99 for Spirit class ships. There is very very very limited space on this tour so book it as soon as you can. You get lots of goodies as well.
IN CONCLUSION We really liked the ship, the food, and the atmosphere of the Carnival Inspiration. Mostly we liked the staff and crew and will sail on the Inspiration again. We had one negative the entire cruise which was about getting sodas brought to the dining table in the can. He asked the bar waiter to just bring him the Coke in a can and was told it was against the rules but he would do it anyway. Unfortunately, he was told by the bar manager on evening 3 that he could no longer accommodate this. We were devastated that we may have gotten this guy in trouble and all he was doing was trying to make a passenger happy. We spoke to the assistant Maitre Di on duty. He said he would personally handle it and not to worry. The next evening there was a can of Coke on our table before we were even seated. Another reason we like Carnival – any problem we’ve ever had has been addressed immediately and to our satisfaction.