Embarking: On our cruise in February we arrived at the port shortly before noon. The baggage area was packed with cars and it took us 15 minutes to escape that craziness. This time we got there a little after 11 am, dropped the bags off and to the parking garage took a little over 5 minutes. Here is a tip: get there earlier than later. Checking In and getting on the ship was about the same for both cruises, about 30 minutes or less.
Regarding the ship, we have been on two other Fantasy Class ships (Sensation and Ecstasy) and the Inspiration by far is a ship in better condition than the other two, with the Ecstasy being better than Sensation. We are going to miss the Inspiration as it moves to CA. later this year. I am concerned that the Paradise will not be as in good condition as the Inspiration, but I will have to wait and see to make that judgment.
The most significant difference we noticed on the cruise was regarding the cruise staff and the entertainment.
First the cruise staff: on our February cruise Stephanie Meads was the CD. I can say she was the worst CD I have ever witnessed on 13 cruises. At the shows she only appeared on the first night, then you only heard her threw the PA system, and wondered if you were listening to a recording. She was not engaging and was a huge disappointment. The August CD had Felipe Cuoto. He was very engaging and was also very visible. He did tend to ramble on a bit, it was better than Stephanie's non-engaging non-appearance. With all that being said about Ms Meads, the staff from the February Cruise was by far more entertaining than the August cruise. Lee was better than Nick as assistant CD. One thing that did irritate me on both cruises is the fact that both CD's on the first night wanted everyone to stand during the show and shake hands with the audience. OK, I am not at church, but I am on a contained vessel where germs spread like wild fire. Carnival are recommending that CD's encourage this? I will not shake hands with some stranger and get sick because that person carries some virus. If Carnival allows this, shame on them. We refused to stand shake hands with total strangers. Not being snobs here, just don't want to share the germs and get sick and ruin my cruise.
The other big difference is the comedians. The Feb cruise had Chris Wiles. Let me be clear here, he SUCKS. The August cruise had two different comedians throughout the entire cruise. They were great. One guy did great sound effects and was extremely funny in a more classic style of joke telling. The other gentleman was from Tampa and was very edgy and was slightly funnier than the first guy, but both were Las Vegas style shows. I hope Carnival moves to this format with more comedians, because it is great fun.
The food was very good on both cruises. We did ATD on both and the longest time we waited was 10 minutes (August Cruise, Elegant night).
Both cruises we did Paradise Beach, but this past August will be the last time for a while. PB is going downhill fast. The wait staff has always been slow; but the equipment was always in good shape. But not anymore, the inflatable toys have numerous handles missing or broken, but the biggest disappointment was the paddle boards, or should I say paddle board. They only had one board available, but they had four boards hidden to the side but they were broken (fins - I guess - according to their staff). The drinks are extremely weak and overpriced. If I am required to buy a wristband to use the toys and toys are broken or unusable then I feel I am getting ripped off. If I order a drink and the bartender uses some device to limit the alcohol that is poured in the drink and charge me a price more expensive than the Cruise Ship, I guess I need to find another place to hang out when I am in Cozumel. I think PB has lost their edge and is just another tourist trap. One other thing I noticed, when we were there on Feb 20th the place was packed, but on Aug 6th it was very quiet. I guess people have gotten the word about PB being a tourist trap and I just ignored the memo.
The final day a sea was very enjoyable on both cruises. It was sad to see the August cruise come to an end because we knew that when we got home it would be time to get the kids ready for school.
Debarking: We did self assist and it went quickly. We were in our car by 8:45 am and in two hours we were home working on the back to school list.
Finally, our plans are to go on the Paradise in February and I will then compare the Inspiration to the Paradise. I would think the Inspiration has an upper hand, but you never know. Of course if I get on the Paradise and Stephanie in the CD then the Inspiration wins, because Stephanie isn't on the Inspiration putting those passengers to sleep.