We sailed on the May 2, 2011 cruise out of Tampa to Cayman and Cozumel. We have cruised once before on Disney Line. We chose Carnival because it was much less expensive and allowed 5 in the smaller rooms. Embarkment and debarkment went smoothly. I highly recommend using the valet parking inbound ($10 more than self park) and a porter on the way out. Several people have commented that this ship was gawdy but we really liked the decor. It was whimsical, which is how a "funship" should be decorated. I will say that the wave patterns on the floor were a bit hard on tipsy eyes though. I can't imagine how they looked to the young folks drinking all day/night! we had one bad morning of heavy rocking from waves where our famly had a tough time getting out of bed due to sickness but it passed in a couple hours and the rest of the cruise was fine.
Stateroom: We had an ocean view room that had a queen bed, two pullmans and a cot. Our children are 10 yr old twins and a 7yr old. Arrangements we definitely tight, particularly at shower/changing times but it worked. The major problem really was when more than a couple people wanted to relax in the room for a while, the queen bed was the only place to sit as the steward closed the pullmans each morning to give us more room. Our steward was wonderful. We didn't need to ask for much but when we did, he was always gracious and quick.
Activities: lots for adults to do all around the ship. Not so much for the kids. They have a "water park" that basically consists of 2 straight slides and one long tube slide. None of my three even bothered to try them as they thought they were babyish - spoiled by the large water parks we have gone to. The one pool the Inspiration has is a salt water pool and very small compared to the number of people on board. it was constantly filled with drunk young adults. There were 2 hot tubs on board as well, which they enjoyed for brief periods of time. They liked the mini golf and the ping-pong as well as some of the adult activities like bingo and dancing. They hated the kids camp. Way too rigid in their schedule and age groups. My 3 all said most of the activities were boring and the ones that were interesting were too short in timing. We dropped them off so we could have some alone time enjoying the adult shows. My twins really just wanted to "hang-out" and relax - reading or play some games but they were forced to participate in a karaoke game. The staff were condescending to both the kids and to the parents.
Shows and lounges: We had a great time with these. They weren't exactly stellar and certainly not to the level of Disney Cruise line but they were entertaining. The comedians were good and most of the musicians were decent.
Dining: The buffets and snack areas were OK. Quick and easy to grab and go. The poolside grill had made-to-order omelets in the morning and wok meals in the afternoon. Pizza and ice cream 24hr a day. The clean up crews were amazing, always ready to clear tables as soon as people left. Dining in the main dining room was disappointing - very rushed and impersonal. It was difficult to understand our waiters and they interacted very little with the cruisers - very different from our experience on the Disney Cruise. We had asked a few different times to leave something off the plate (like mushrooms or shrimp) - mind you, these were not actually in the main plate but a side on the plate. We didn't want to "waste" food we knew we wouldn't eat but they told us they didn't adjust the plates. Everything was prepared ahead of time. That statement there gives you vision of assembly line prepared food. The food was luke warm at best, except for the soup, which I think was kept in a hot crock right in the dining room. The actual food was just fair: a 2-3 out of 5. and their desserts were down right untouchable on 3 of the 5 nights. Their best one was an apple pie, which still had a bit of an odd taste to it. Thankfully, we were seated with a very lovely family and we had a great dinner experience despite the poor service and food.
Ports: Had a great time walking around Caymna. We had only a few hours there so we didn't venture beyond the port area. Hard Rock Cafe was small but had some interesting memorabilia in it. Cozumel: we had the great fortunate to be on the island on the one day in a month that it decided to downpour! We went to Chankanaab National Park. It has dolphins, sea lions, manatees, snorkeling and SCUBA / SNUBA. The excursion was just OK. The park was not well kept and the staff hospitality was lacking. But the food was very good and reasonably priced. Plenty of chairs and umbrellas. The sand was beautiful. There was no walk-in to the water however, as there was a ledge and stairs to descend. Not a big deal for us but might be for others. Once we located the prime snorkel area, we had a blast but it took several attempts of going in and out of different areas to find it. It would have been nice for the staff to direct us to the best locations. In hind sight and after talking with others who went on other excursions, I would have chosen a beach resort instead, like Playa Maya, but we had a great day anyway and got to see some amazing fish.
General Staff: Aside for the dining room and the kids camp staff, everyone else we encountered were friendly and helpful.
Photos: We did several of the professional photos sittings and most were excellent quality. I was very impressed. The fees are a bit more expensive than what you can get at a discount place at home but there are several backgrounds to choose from each night and you can then pick and choose. The downside is there were so many good ones, we had a hard time choosing.
Summary: For what we paid, we were happy with our overall experience. We now have a better idea of what our family needs/wants to make it enjoyable for everyone. We likely will not cruise the inspiration again but we may try one of their larger ships that have more activities for the kids. More likely though, we will pay a little more and try Royal Caribbean, which is know for having more activities and better food/atmosphere.