After five previous trips on Inspiration I felt that it would be appropriate to take one more before she gets reassigned to the West coast. Several family members and a few friends joined my wife and me on the four-night cruise to Cozumel. We all left out the morning of the cruise; it takes about two hours for us to get to the Port of Tampa.
We arrived at the pier around noon. The embarkation process went smoothly, as is usual for the Port of Tampa. Our traveling companions were only a few minutes behind us, even though we went through the VIP line. We were on the ship about twenty minutes after parking.
Very little has changed aboard Inspiration since my last cruise on her back in early 2009. The only noticeable improvements were made to the guest elevators. They have been re-floored and have new wall coverings. They have also gotten new controls and digital displays. Overall they were much improved, the last time I was onboard they looked pretty shabby.
Food and Service:
The food in the main dining room on this cruise was top notch. Chef Michael is running a great kitchen and it was a pleasure to dine each night. Our serving team, Juan and Emilio, were outstanding. They knew all of our names after the first night and were very friendly.
The Brasserie buffet was the usual fare, so I stuck with the deli's offerings. I wasn't at all impressed with the food from the new Mongolian Grill, or the service from the pizzeria. I have said before, and will say again, that they need more than one man at the pizza counter. I went to afternoon tea on both sea days and enjoyed it a lot.
I did not attend any of the shows, but I did go to see both of the comedians in the new Punchliner Comedy Club. They were both pretty good, and I like how Carnival is offering multiple shows each night. It is a good idea, but it still has not reduced the overcrowding in the smallish aft lounge. If you have a party that all want to sit together you'll have to arrive very early. This is a continual problem that they could easily fix by having the popular adults-only comedy acts in the main theater.
I can't share any stories about our time in Cozumel because we did not leave the ship. I'm really beginning to enjoy just staying on the ship when we visit the same old ports. It's so nice to be able to enjoy the hot tubs, water slides and the (only) pool without the throngs of fellow passengers around. The pool is seriously overcrowded on sea days since it is the only one on board. It's a shame I have to wait for everyone to debark to enjoy the Lido area. But now that the ship has lost two hot tubs and a pool, the Lido deck is nearly unusable due to overcrowding.
The (lack of) Guest Relations Desk:
I suppose I should count my blessings that in my 15 previous cruises with Carnival I have never had any major issues with the crew. Unfortunately that streak came to an abrupt end on this voyage. The problems began pretty mildly on the first day. My wife went to the Platinum desk to ask a question. The crew members working the desk looked over at her and obviously knew she was there. After finishing with the guests they were attending to, they motioned more folks over from the regular line. It was as if they just assumed she was in the wrong place. They eventually came over and helped her, and it wasn't really a big deal, but it foreshadowed things to come.
Later that same day she had to return to the Guest Relations (GR) desk because our group amenities ($25 OBC and a bottle of wine per cabin) had not been added to our booking. The GR folks were just as unhelpful on the second visit. They could have easily contacted the Group Booking Department as a pleasant gesture, but instead decided that it wasn't their problem. So my wife had to take care of it on her own cell phone. Thankfully we were still in port. The amenities were eventually restored, no thanks to the ships GR people.
On our first sea day we again stopped by GR to reserve our spots for the Platinum Galley Tour. The guy at the desk took down our names and cabin numbers, and even allowed us to bring the rest of our group. He told us the tour would meet in the Mardi Gras Dining Room on the last sea day at 3 PM. Things seemed to be looking up.
On the last sea day we all arrived at the empty Mardi Gras Dining Room. When I say empty, I mean totally deserted. One crewman walked by and knew nothing of a tour. So I again got to visit the GR desk. The lady at the desk informed me that the tour had been at 10:30 that morning. Great! My wife and I informed her that her counterpart told us that the tour was to be at 3 PM. She spoke to him about it, and his retort was that he "didn't recall saying that". Wonderful! She then rather brusquely said that the tour had always been at 10:30 since the Inspiration started sailing.
My wife and I both found that last statement to be a bit dubious. The ship nerd in me figuring that Inspiration is now 15 years old, and the girl was all of 25. So it's fairly unlikely that she has been working on the ship since she was in grade school. My wife's reasoning was a bit more helpful. She had taken a cruise with her girlfriends on the Inspiration in May; and the galley tour was indeed at 3 PM. So it was not always at 10:30 AM. But what was done was done, and they offered no apologies for our trouble. The issue would have been minor had it only inconvenienced my wife and I. But the other six members of our group left what they were doing to attend the tour. We took down the crewmembers names, and we plan to send a fairly lengthy letter to Carnival about the issues. I don't expect people to be perfect, and I'm far from hard to please. But it bothers me when I get dirty looks, lies and attitude from people being paid to help out.
In spite of the glaring problems both ignored and caused by the Guest Relations people, we all still had a great cruise. Since I have cruised more on Inspiration than any other ship, I am glad that I got to see her once more before she leaves us for California. She has been sailing from Tampa now for several years now. If she has the same longevity on the West coast, she may not return to Florida before being retired from the fleet. That is a shame, but I look forward to many good cruises on Paradise in the future. Farewell Inspiration, thanks for all the good times!
My full pictorial review on the Cruise Critic Forums can be viewed at this link: