370 Carnival Inspiration Cruise Reviews

Embarkation was a little slow due to being helped by a new person who was still in training but overall easy. We got there about 1:30 and boarded about 2:45 p.m. Our first impression of the ship was absolute awe! (Our first cruise!) The ... Read More
Embarkation was a little slow due to being helped by a new person who was still in training but overall easy. We got there about 1:30 and boarded about 2:45 p.m. Our first impression of the ship was absolute awe! (Our first cruise!) The ship was well kept, we saw workers cleaning all the time. Our cabin was nice, there was four of us, we had plenty of room for all of our belongings. The bathroom was bigger than I expected, and there was lots of samples left for us. My 7 yr old son, and 9 yr old nephew loved Camp Carnival, they had lots of activities for the kids. Our only complaint, they are only open for certain blocks of time and that can get very annoying when you want to do/see something, so plan accordingly. The arcade was also a favorite. They loved the pool slide also. We had a total of eight in our group and were able to get seated together in the Carnivale dining room, which is very lovely and our wait team Christopher & Christopher (yes, same names) were great!! I wish all restaurants had service like this. Almost every night we each had two starters and entree's. We had way more food then we could have ever eaten but they wanted us to try everything!! The breakfast buffet in the Brassier was great, as was the LIDO buffet of burgers & hot dogs. The kids loved the pizzeria and ice cream and they had a sandwich bar but we never used that. We did room service A LOT and the BLT's are GREAT!! Not a big selection but it is adequate. Our ports had to be re-arranged twice but it all worked out well in the end. Our first stop was Cozumel, which is an ok spot but we were taken back by the shop owners. After a few hours we were used to their begging and trying to drag us into their shops. We managed to get some good deals once we learned how to haggle with them.... Next port was Costa Maya, I liked this port, because of the pool that was right there by the shops. We went to the Chocchoben Mayan Ruins here $45 for adults, $22.50 for children. It was a small site and took about an hour to see all of it. In the heat that was plenty of time! We went into the fishing village Mahalhul, nice beach, but the same little shops selling the same items as all the others. Back at the main port we ate at Bandito's. The food was great and the drinks were some of the best I've ever had! (I HIGHLY suggest the PAI AI.) Next was back to Cozumel, due to a problem at the port in Calica. This time we choose to go to Senor Frog's, and boy was this a good idea. We had so much fun there, make sure you do a shot!! We did see a few of the shows at night. They were all great singers/dancers and were good, just not exactly my style, but none the less good entertainment. My favorite was the Adult comedy shows!! Most of the bars were good, just not a lot of action while we were onboard, due to a 400 person group of elders. All in all it was great, we can't wait to go again and i hope this review may help you in some way. Read Less
Sail Date October 2004
Arrival -- Embarkation was a breeze. From the time we arrived in the terminal to our cabin was about 30 minutes. Our luggage arrived at appx. 7 p.m. w/no problems. We met our room steward Rupert and he was excellent throughout the cruise. ... Read More
Arrival -- Embarkation was a breeze. From the time we arrived in the terminal to our cabin was about 30 minutes. Our luggage arrived at appx. 7 p.m. w/no problems. We met our room steward Rupert and he was excellent throughout the cruise. On the cruise was myself, my wife and 10 year old daughter along w/my in-laws. Cabin -- We had a balcony cabin. We had plenty of room and was plenty storage space. The room was nicely furnished and appointed w/a leather sofa that made into a bed and 2 twin beds that turned into a king. TV had a nice selection of channels. The balcony was a plus; we enjoyed sunsets from our private balcony and was very relaxing. We originally booked an inside room, but was upgraded about a month before by our travel agent. The next cruise we will book a balcony right away; well worth the extra $. Food -- We ate every night except one in the Mardi Gras dining room at the late seating. The food was great and had good service from Celio and Leanna. The nice thing about food on a cruise if you get something you don't like, you can get something else. I highly recommend the late seating due to port calls and it gives you plenty of time to relax and prep for dinner, especially on formal nights. The food in the self serve buffet was average to good. Had access to ice cream and a pizzeria. Public Areas -- The casino was good times. They have blackjack and slot tourneys aboard; I played in 2 BJ tourneys and won $500 in one. The games are similar to a regular casino to include slots, roulette, craps, BJ and 3 card poker. The exception to the regular is a BJ game where you can place an extra wager; if you hit BJ you spin a "wheel of Madness" -- this is a sucker bet for a few reasons -- first, BJs are rare and second when someone won, it was less than $25; well went to $500. I watched this several hrs and never played that sucker bet like most did. The bars are average. Drinks are expensive. Pools are crowded and are saltwater; loaded w/lots of kids -- no specific adult only pools. Spas were nice. The lobby/atrium was nice and a focal point. Entertainment -- The comedian was very good and entertaining. The shows were poor to average. I suggest arriving in the show room early to get a good seat as a lot of views are obstructed. The cruise director Marcial was funny and kept passengers well entertained. Ports of Call -- 1. Progresso -- We were diverted from Grand Cayman due to Hurricane Ivan to Progresso. This appeared to be a poor town. Good opportunity to buy souvenirs; you can barter easily. We took a tour of Dzibulitan ruins. Took a 20 minute or so ride to the ruins. Tour guide was good. The ruins were very interesting and educational. Highlight for me was the pond there where we got in and waded. Very relaxing cool water. We purchased the tour in town for 3X as cheap. The pier was 4 miles or so long and had to ride a bus to the town entrance. 2. Cozumel -- There are a lot of opportunities for shopping here. We purchased a snorkeling tour on the ship. This was great and one of the highlights of the cruise. This was a 1st time snorkeling for us. Beautiful clear waters and great fish. 3. Belize -- This has to be the hottest place I have ever been. We take a tender from the ship to town which took about 15 minutes. Good shopping opportunities. We only stayed off the ship for about 2.5 hrs due to the heat. 4. Costa Maya -- We enjoyed this stop. Good shopping ops here too. We spent a very relaxing day on a beach close to the pier drinking margaritas and Mexican beer. Good times. Debarkation -- Went smoothly. Was sad to leave after having a great time. No problems w/luggage. Summary -- The ship was nice for a older ship and comfortable. This was the last cruise prior to going to a refurbishing. They are always cleaning and painting and giving the ship a nice appearance. The 2nd day was a bit rocky aboard due to Ivan. A lot of people complain about all the picture taking and marketing of items; we had no problem w/this. We will definitely sail w/Carnival again; our 1st cruise was memorable. Going on the Glory in Oct '05. Read Less
Sail Date September 2004
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 ... Read More
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! Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
I read through so much information on this website before I went on my cruise I feel it is my obligation to give back and write a review myself. I will make it as thorough as possible (thus why it has taken so long to post). Just to set ... Read More
I read through so much information on this website before I went on my cruise I feel it is my obligation to give back and write a review myself. I will make it as thorough as possible (thus why it has taken so long to post). Just to set the stage - Our cruise was from August 22 - August 29. I traveled with my husband and another couple we are friends with. We are all in our mid 20's. This was the first cruise for 3 of us (one of these people being myself). We are by no means party animals but we do like to have a good time. Most of us were fairly well traveled so we had been on a variety of other vacations before. All four of us had a fabulous time on this cruise. Embarkation - my husband and I had arrived in Tampa a few days earlier to visit family so they drove us to the port. Since we were being dropped off we got out in an "unloading" zone. There was a porter there who was able to tell us our cabin # (which we wrote on our luggage) and then take all of our luggage for us). We met our friends in the lobby area of our terminal (#2). I found the embarkation process to be quite smooth. All and all the whole process took us about 45 minutes. We arrived at the terminal at about 12:30ish and we were on the ship between about 1:15pm and 1:30pm. You wait in an intial line to go up an escalator, then wait in a line to go through security, and then finally the line where you do your final check in. There was a waiting area near the gangway to enter the ship but by the time we got over there we just walked right on (I assume this would be another waiting area if the ship was not boarding when you got there). Breakfast - For the most part everything that we ate on the ship was very good. We ate breakfast every morning in the Brasserie. The had a buffet that included scrambled eggs, sausage links, ham, bacon, either French toast or pancakes (they switched every other day), hash browns, made to order omelettes, toast, bagels, fruit, cereal, and pastries. We never felt the need to go to the dining room because we heard for the most part they served the same thing with the exception of a couple of extra's (poached eggs and corned beef hash). Lunch - On days we were at sea we ate lunch in the Brasserie. They had a good variety of things at the buffet (things that stood out - BBQ chicken wings, chicken parmesan, and steak fries). We all really liked the salad bar they would set up. It always had very fresh vegetables and a good assortment of extra's (egg, cheese, croutons, etc). It was very amazing to me that every day throughout the whole cruise they managed to keep the vegetables just as fresh as the day before. They would also set up a dessert table and the ice cream/yogurt machines were always available. Pizza was also available during lunch (really 24 hrs a day) - I found the pizza to be average but I thought the calzone they offered was very good. I was not a huge fan of the Caesar salad they served but others in my party enjoyed it. On days we were in port we were generally not on the ship for lunch time. So when we got back to the ship we would usually have a burger or hotdog from the Lido Deck grill/buffet. They usually had hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, coleslaw (and some other salads), and fries. Dinner - We had the 8:30 seating in the Mardi Gras dining room. The four of us were seated with two other couples that were traveling together. It worked out well because there was never an obligation to constantly talk to each other but when the opportunity arose we usually had good conversation (they were fairly similar in age and life stage to us so it worked out well). I debated throughout the cruise about the late seating vs. early seating. I think my opinion in the end is that I did enjoy having the late seating. We never felt rushed to leave port or the pool or whatever other activity we may have been doing. It gave us plenty of time to shower, take a nap, and just relax for a little while. The other thing was that I don't think there were any children (small ones anyway) that were in our dining room. This would not make a difference to me either way but for those of you who it does matter this may be a pro. The only draw back I saw was that we often could not partake in eating at the late night buffets - this could arguably be a good thing because there was really no need to eat again.  Anyway back to our dining experience - our waiter was Edi and he was awesome. All of the wait staff was very attentive and never let anything lack. By the end of the week they knew what we liked to drink and how we liked our food cooked - it was great!! I am not going to say that everything we ate was outstanding but nothing was flat out disappointing either. For the most part everything we ate was average to above average. Some of the high points . . . The soup was very good - I had navy bean soup, Cuban black bean soup, minestrone, broccoli cheddar soup, sun dried tomato soup, and vegetable soup. They usually had a couple of different ones to choose from and everyone always enjoyed the soups they ordered, except one - I think it was called chilled crème of leche - it was awful (sweet, cold - just not things myself or the rest of my party enjoyed). There were other appetizers that were also very good but the soup stood out to me as being the best. One of the salads they served remained the same each day and it was good (normal dinner salad but always very fresh) and the other salad changed on a day to day to basis. The few days I tried the alternate salad it was very good. Good dressings - ranch, balsamic vinaigrette, and they had a fat free or lo-cal (can't remember which) vinaigrette that was very good. EntrEe's - The last day of the cruise I had filet mignon and it was fabulous, I tried duck the night before and it enjoyed it as well, and I had several pasta's - the vegetarian lasagna stood out. I myself don't eat seafood but several people in my party did and they enjoyed all of it very much. Dessert - was always a highlight - my husband and I tried to order different ones so we could try a lot of different things. In general all of the desserts were good - some of the cheesecakes had more of a jello consistency that I was not used to. However a couple of the cheesecakes served in the dining room were just perfect. We went with the philosophy of trying all of the desserts of the day and in most cases it was worth it. Gala buffet - unfortunately we were not hungry or awake enough to eat off of this buffet but we did go and view during picture time and it was pretty amazing. It is definitely worth just going to see even if you decide to not eat off of it. Mexican buffet - the night we left Cozumel (which was our last day in a port, Friday) they had a midnight Mexican buffet - make your own tacos, nachos, and other Mexican goodies. They had a dessert/fruit bar also set up that was very good. One of the members of my party grew up in Mexico and he even thought it was pretty good. Nightlife on the ship - We went to four of the shows in the Paris lounge (we always went to the 10:30pm show based on our dinner time) and all of them were very good. We saw a Las Vegas type show (costumes and all), two guys that did a lot of stuff with fire and then a magician, a show that had a lot of skits with oldies music, and then the guest talent show. We spent a little bit of time in the casino (my husband played in the blackjack tournament) and it was fine as far as casinos go. We spent a few nights in the Candlelight lounge watching karaoke we never actually participated but it was often quite humorous to watch. We went to the piano bar one night but found it way too smoky inside (the was the only time we encountered any issues with smoke). Every time we walked by the two dance club type places they seemed to be set up for the teen activities. Day 1 - after arriving on the ship we immediately booked the one and only excursion we booked through Carnival (more on excursions later). We did it because they had told us they would be holding a drawing that night for anyone who booked tours before 10pm. Whoever's name was drawn would receive any excursions they booked for free (we did not win but it was worth the effort). We received a map of the ship and were told that lunch was being served on the Lido deck and in the Brasserie. We went to the Lido deck for lunch and then just walked around the ship to become more familiar with our surroundings. The ship set sail at about 4pm. We had heard that the ship would be sailing underneath a bridge as it went out to sea in the Gulf of Mexico and it was kind of neat to watch. Although it was nice to be out on deck and watching the ship leave we spent a good two hours waiting to get to this bridge (I would say it is not worth it to see the bridge alone but was nice at times seeing the different things we were passing and just watching the water). We went back to our rooms at about 6pm and found that some of our luggage had been delivered (we had someone tell us that all luggage should be delivered by 6pm and someone else told us it would be by 7pm). Throughout the course of the evening we ended up having someone else's luggage delivered to our room before we ended up receiving our final piece of luggage, in the end it all worked out fine. Day 2 (Fun day at sea) - We really just spent most of the day at the pool and watching some of the activities on the Lido deck. We played Bingo in the late afternoon, it was fun but we did not win. It was really just a day of relaxation. Day 3 (Grand Cayman) - After much research on the boards here on Cruise Critic we decided to book our Stingray City excursion through Captain Marvins. We had to get on one of the first tenders off the ship in order to ensure we would be there in time. We noticed there was a huge back up going down the stairs to get to the gangway so we decided to take the elevator. We walked off the elevator and got right in line and walked straight onto the tender. I felt a little bad cutting in front of other people but I knew we had to get the first tender. We got off the tender and followed the directions that were provided to us by Captain Marvin's and found their store no problem. We waited for a little while until their bus came to pick us up to take us out to where their boat was docked. The drive was a pleasant one. The driver pointed out what some of things we were passing were and we got to see a little bit of what the city looked like. Once we got to the dock we got on the boat and were pretty much on our way. They had a woman on board that video taped the excursion (we did not buy a copy but she did show it on the way back and it seemed pretty good). Our first stop was for snorkeling at coral gardens. The water in Grand Cayman was just beautiful and I thoroughly enjoyed the snorkeling. After we spent some time there we were off to Stingray City. It is a very shallow sandbar that was only about 3ft deep. Pretty much as soon as we all got out of the boat (there were 14 people in our group) the sting rays were coming towards us. Our captain had some food to feed them and before we knew it there were several swimming around us. We each got to hold one and the captain took pictures with our camera's. I was hesitant at first but once I actually held it I was pretty comfortable - they are very soft and sleek animals and actually quite gentle (I am sure they are very used to people at this location). After that we headed back to shore, the whole trip only had us gone for about 2.5 hours. We spent some time shopping - went to a Tortuga rum store and then walked in and out of a couple of shops. Then back to the ship we went. I wish we would have had more time in this port but I felt we did as much as we could have in the time we had. Day 4 (Costa Maya) - Since we were scheduled to get into Costa Maya at 11am we decided to watch the ship dock (this was the only opportunity to do this because we got into all of the other ports too early). We ended up getting into Costa Maya about 30 minutes late (rumors had it that some people were left behind in Grand Cayman and we turned back to get them). It was a quick walk off the ship and down the pier. After doing some research online (mostly through Cruise Critic) I could not seem to find any recommended independent excursion operators so we decided to just book something through Carnival. We ended up deciding to do the Chachobeen ruins. There are two different ruins tours offered and this was the shorter of the two (still about a 4 hour excursion). Our tour met at the end of the pier. The tour guide ushered us off to a bus and we got comfortable for the drive out to the ruins. At the ruins there was a small market and a counter that sold food and drinks. They allowed to browse and go to the bathroom before we started the tour. I found the tour to be very interesting. Our guide was informative and the ruins themselves were very interesting to see. We were not allowed to climb them because past visitors who climbed cause deterioration. There was one point where we climbed one in order to get up to another area where there were more to see. I would definitely recommend this excursion to others. It was not necessarily the most exciting excursion we did but it was certainly really neat to see. It was very hot and required quite a bit of walking so I would say you should be in decent shape or at least willing to get a good day's worth of exercise. After returning to the pier area we decided to walk around and check things out. I was pretty impressed with what the cruise lines had built there. There were several shops, restaurants (with bars), a pool, a beach area with hammocks, chairs, and little huts. We ended up going to one of the restaurants (not sure of the name of it - I was sick this day from some motion sickness medicine I took so my memory is not great) and having drinks, chips and salsa, and some seafood salsa type dip. It was all very good. There was a guy that came around blew a whistle, put a blanket over your shoulders, poured salt and pepper in your mouth, squeezed a lime in your mouth, and then poured a shot of tequila down your throat, put the blanket over your head and shook it up. This caused the men in our party to become a bit intoxicated (the several beers before that did not help the cause!!). Then we went off to the shopping to see if could find anything interesting. I got some blankets and other Mexican wares for pretty cheap. We walked along the shore and got some amazing pictures of the water and ship. All and all we had a really great time in Costa Maya. Day 5 (Belize) - Belize was another port that we had to tender at. They anchor quite a ways off shore and it takes at least 5 minutes to get to the pier. After doing a lot of research on Cruise Critic we decided to book our excursion through X-streme cave tubing. We met them in the courtyard at the pier, which is where we checked in and paid for our excursion. There was a group of about 14 of us that went off with one of the tour guide. They loaded us up into a van and drove about an hour and a half into the jungle where we started our hike to the caves. The walk was tiring and hot but a pretty neat experience. We saw lots of flowers and trees unique to the area and even saw a tarantula. It was about 2 miles (a little longer than Carnival's excursion because we tubed through an extra cave thus had to walk further to get to it) to get to the caves and once we got there it felt great to get in the cold water. You basically climb down a rope to get into your tube and pretty much from there you float (and occasionally paddle) down the river. The caves were pretty neat and the lush vegetation of the jungle that surrounded you was a beautiful site to see. We spent a good hour in the water and had a small hike back to the area where we started. You could buy a BBQ lunch at the small restaurant they had - a friend purchased it and from what I tried it was quite tasty. The tour provided us with fresh fruit which was also very good. We got in the van for our long ride back to pier. About half way through our drivers van started to overheat. He had to use the remainder of the bottled water he brought for us in order to cool down his engine. It was a little scary because we were in an area that looked like a deserted ghost town (an old abandoned gas station) but it turned out to be no big deal. Once finally back to the pier we got on the tender and headed back to the ship. I would highly recommend this excursion. Although it required you to be in at least decent physical shape it is well worth doing. It is something I feel like I probably will never do again and I am glad I experienced it. Day 6 (Cozumel) - We docked in Cozumel at the pier that is not downtown. This worked out fine for us because we already knew we wanted to rent a car. We had looked into some local places prior to leaving but decided that we would feel better if we used a well known place. At the pier there was an Alamo rental place that we ended up renting a convertible VW Bug (or as they called it a Mexican Ferrari). It was about $70 for the day, and for what we saw it was well worth it. The car was stick shift and my husband was the only person able to drive it. We started off down the road heading in the opposite direction of the downtown area. We had read that there was a lot of nice beaches to explore if you drove the whole way around the island (which we figured out there is only a paved road that goes half way around the island and them through middle that basically took us straight into the downtown area). We first stopped at a place called Ponchos. They had a few shops, a bar area and then tables and chairs set up along the beach. The water was beautiful in Cozumel and we thoroughly enjoyed the beach at this location. We ended up deciding to get some drinks and chips and salsa while we were there. One of the people in our party is from Mexico (born and raised) so they did the ordering for us. When the bill came the guy ended up charging us in pesos and it was three times more than what it should have been. We did not realize this until we paid and once we confronted him he just gave us some U.S. money back (which still did not cover the discrepancy but we just decided to cut our losses at that point and get out of there). It was disappointing because it sort of tarnished our view and really upset my friend who is a Mexican native. It was a nice place but I would not recommend it for the sole reason that they ripped us off. We then drove down to the southern part of the island. It is very desolate down there and there were few beaches that you could swim at. However the scenery was breathtaking (hard to even do justice for it through this review). The colors of the water, the coral, the waves - it was very nice. Once we followed the road all the way back we ended up downtown and had some lunch and did some shopping. We were back to the ship by late afternoon for some relaxing before dinner. Day 7 (Fun day at sea) - Again spent most of the day by the pool and just relaxing. We spent quite a bit of time packing up our room so we could put our bags out when we got back from dinner that night. Disembarkation - I would not say this went as smoothly as embarkation did. I think for releasing us off of the ship Carnival does it the best way it seems that they could. You are divided up by color based on where your cabin is located. We only had to wait in our designated waiting area for about an hour before we were allowed to get off of the ship. This part was totally fine and organized. What got crazy was the luggage and actual customs portion of it. Your luggage is also organized by color in what seemed to be like a big warehouse. It was easy to find our luggage but the lines for customs were a mess. People were all over the place, cutting in front of each other, people were being rude - it was a mess. I think the simple solution to this would be for them to have some sort of roping to rope off each line. There was just no way for people to stay organized. Once we were in a line we quickly got through it (no issues with customs) and exited the terminal. We quickly found a taxi van (needed one being that there were four of us with all that luggage) and made our way to the Tampa airport. In general I have no complaints about Carnival or the Inspiration. The cruise experience was fabulous and I would do it again in a heartbeat and would sail on Carnival again. I had read quite a few reviews that the ship was old and showing wear - I did not find this to be true. I am sure if you looked closely you would find something but honestly I was there to have a good time and unless it was something major what do I care about some scratches in the elevator doors. I think this ship is currently not sailing but if and when she does again I recommend her to all. It was wonderful :) Side notes - · I took the advice of many posts on this board and took a power strip. I found this to be a very good item to bring. There is only one outlet in the room and we often plugged in hair dryers, curling irons, battery charger for my digital camera, etc. So it came in handy. · It is also good to bring a bag that you can carry on shore each time you go into port. It was really good for beach towels, camera, excursion info, etc. · I would not recommend using the patch. I and one of my friends each used it and within a few days we had severe blurred vision (which caused us to have headaches and be nauseous). The nurse on board said in her country (Australia) they won't even prescribe it. I am not a doctor but we had some pretty bad side effects. The nurse gave us the pills they had on board and I took those the whole time and never had any issues with feeling motion sickness and never had problems with being drowsy. Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
The Never-Ending Cruise, The Never-Ending Review Inspiration 08/29/2004 The Players Myself: 30 years old, never cruised before Barbara, my wife: Celebrated the second anniversary of her 29th birthday on 8/30. Janet, Barb's mom, ... Read More
The Never-Ending Cruise, The Never-Ending Review Inspiration 08/29/2004 The Players Myself: 30 years old, never cruised before Barbara, my wife: Celebrated the second anniversary of her 29th birthday on 8/30. Janet, Barb's mom, 50ish Lenny, Barb's dad, 50ish Barbara, Janet and Lenny have all cruised before in the late 80's. This was my first cruise. Embarkation The embarkation process went fairly smoothly. After making a few wrong turns in Tampa getting to the port, we arrived at the curbside luggage check around 12pm. After tipping the porter $1 for each bag (which he was very gracious in accepting - no intimidation here), we quickly made our way inside the terminal to be guided by security to the check-in line. One curious note: Everyone seemingly was directed to the same line, whether they had used the Fun-Pass on line or not. The line moved fairly quickly, and there were personnel at every station at the counter busily getting everyone's documents in order. By 12:45 - 1:00 we were getting our embarkation photos taken and onboard the ship minutes later. First Impression Upon entering the Atrium, I expected to be overwhelmed with a sense of awe or wonder. Surprisingly, this was not the case. The best way I can describe it is as a mass of excited confusion. With the bright dEcor and somewhat crowded layout of the public area of the Empress deck, combined with the small army of Carnival personnel waiting to greet you, our grand entrance was more akin to four absentminded people searching for their lost cars in the parking lot of the mall then the beginning of a great celebration. We entered with no idea of what we wanted to do next, as the announcements made during our brief wait inside the terminal all requested that we not go to our rooms until after 1:30. A Carnival employee took note of our dazed and confused state and asked if they could be of some assistance. He gave us simple directions to our quarters and told that there was no problem with us going early. And off we went... The Cabin Both cabins were Upper deck. Barbara and I were in U29 and Janet and Lenny were in U33 - outside view with the large picture windows. The cabins were about what I had expected, after having read so many descriptions on the Cruise Critic message boards. The rest of my party was impressed with the size, having only sailed before aboard the Carnival Festivale and NCL Sovereign of the Seas. They all were of the opinion that the Inspiration had much larger cabins. As ordered by Janet when she initially booked, the room was decorated for Barbara's birthday. Foil streamers in Carnival red and blue hung from the four corners with an elaborate decorative cluster of small banners and smaller streamers at the center. Also hung from the ceiling were several small 'Happy Birthday' signs, as well as a banner in the window. In the corner, underneath the television was a stand-up centerpiece of red and blue tinsel with more 'Happy Birthday' signage. One small drawback, however, was that as someone who is 6'4" tall, I had to constantly duck to avoid entangling myself in the celebrative arms of the streamers. No price too large to pay for my wife's dream birthday celebration! The cabin itself was Spartan in design and the designers had obviously made a valiant effort to make the best use of the space available. The two beds, already set up as one queen-sized bed, dominated the room. There was ample closet space for two people for seven days (nine too, but I'll get to that later) with both shelves and two separate hanging rods. Inside the closet with the double doors was the safe, measuring about 12" wide by 6" tall by 8"deep. There was also a small desk/vanity with four drawers to provide more storage space. Under the desk was a small stool, and a chair was in the opposite corner. Between the bed and the window was a foot and one half wide space with a small table. At the foot of the bed was the life-jacket storage compartment, which also served as a counter top to further spread out our 'stuff'. In their effort to use all of the space available, Carnival did overlook one small thing; the person sleeping on the side of the bed closest to the window either has to slide towards the foot of the bed or climb over the life-jacket compartment to get up while their partner is still in bed. In all, though, the room did not seem crowded. The bathroom was not cramped, and the shower stall was of a reasonable size. Inside the bathroom was the 'goodie-basket', full of various sample sizes of toothpaste, breath strips, disposable razors, soap, and various headache and allergy medications. The room certainly seemed prepared to serve as our home for the next week (or more). Our luggage was waiting for us when we got to the cabin, and we pulled it inside to unpack later. With our luggage safely stowed atop the bed, we set off to explore the ship. The Public Rooms Most of our first day is lost in the fog that being someplace new is often accompanied by. Our exploration was haphazard at best. We peeked inside the Paris lounge, walked the Promenade, stopped to take a look at the sculpture in the atrium, and stood at the front of the ship on the sports deck as we made our way out of the harbor. One thing that I made sure to do though was to see the receptionist at the Nautica Spa to schedule an appointment for a couple's massage on our first Fun Day at Sea, Monday. Although the price was certainly higher than any massage that we would have gotten on land, we were looking very much forward to it. As one fellow cruiser put it, "A massage at sea is always better than one on land." After scheduling our massage, we went down to the Lido deck to peruse the buffet. The outside eating area had plenty of space, with tables available in the sun, in the shade, in the smoking area, and in the non-smoking area. I'll address the food in a different section of the review. Inside the Brasserie, although I was forewarned that the dEcor was ahh... unique, I was still not prepared for the grotesquerie that awaited me. Whatever 'inspired' the designer to use 12" diameter purple undulating tubes accented with orange backlit domes at the tips as the central focus of the room must surely be a controlled substance. These purple tentacles, combined with their glowing 'eyes' seemed to be something from one of Jules Verne's more horrific nightmares. We grew used to them, I suppose, but in looking back, I still cannot help but shake my head and ask myself, "What was he thinking?" After our 'adventure in purple', Barbara and I excused ourselves to our room to unpack. From there, it was time to shower and get ready for dinner. The dining room was one of the few areas where we felt cramped. We sat at a booth for six, with Peggy and Ricky, two friends of Barbara's parents. I haven't mentioned them yet, as they were very much into doing their own thing, and we rarely saw them except for at dinner. The dEcor was elegant, yet the room seemed very crowded. Even on days when there were fewer people in the dining room, the layout made it seem like the designer had added just a few too many tables. The aisle going to the tables were narrow, and if there were a member of the staff or another cruiser trying to make way, someone would invariably have to squeeze themselves to the side so that the other could pass by. On the first night, the mode of dress ranged from (gasp!) shorts and t-shirts to 3pc suits. Barbara and I decided not far into the planning stage that we would do our best to conform to what we thought was formal attire. We both felt overdressed for the occasion. I wore a jacket and tie. Barbara wore an evening gown. We did not let the underdressed nature of some of our fellow cruisers detract in any way from our experience. We enjoyed looking good for each other, and that was enough for us. On the following nights the dress code was more closely followed. We did see some people in slacks and a polo on formal night, but no jeans. The overwhelming majority of men wore dark suits and the ladies were also well dressed. Lenny and I opted for tuxedoes rented through Carnival. We looked sharp and the feeling of being some of the best-dressed people in the dining room was enjoyable. By the last few nights of the cruise, the dress code seemed to become more casual as, presumably, many passengers simply did not pack enough for a 9 day cruise. We wandered quite a bit throughout the entire cruise, but I somehow feel like we didn't see everything. Some of the rooms simply held no interest for us; others were empty when we checked them out. A few thoughts about some of them: The Rock and Roll Disco - I should have known better, but it's certainly no place to try and have a conversation. Barbara and I met up with her parents here one night, where they had gone for the live music. The music wasn't terrible, although hearing classic rock tunes sung with an Asian accent was a new experience. It was too loud for me though, and I'm not averse to cranking it up to '11' when the song calls for it. The Rhapsody Piano Lounge - Interesting set up, where the piano is the center of the room, surrounded by a counter made up to look like piano keys. The entertainer here, Scotte, was good at his shtick, although at times it seemed that he had been doing the same thing for a little too long. Barb and I stopped in for a bit of 'Name that Tune', and it was a worthwhile diversion for a little while. The Paris Lounge - Used for quite a few different events, the room was spacious enough to accommodate all those who wished to be there without feeling cramped. Bar waiters made the rounds frequently, and were quick to return with our orders. I can see how some may find the lounges to be uncomfortably cold, although I prefer it as cold as possible. The Candlelight Lounge - This was where the Karaoke was held, among other things. Again, like the Paris Lounge, there was plenty of room. Both lounges had a more 'classic' feel to them then most of the rest of the ship. It was cold here, too. The Galleria - The on-board shopping, one of Barbara's favorite places. We spent an obscene amount of money on jewelry here, much to the delight of the manager, Joe. Both Joe and one of her sales associates, Camelia, were helpful to the utmost. Having worked in retail all of my adult life, I can appreciate great service, and I was very impressed with both their abilities to make the right recommendations, as well as their generally pleasant attitudes. The Galleria as a whole can become somewhat crowded at times. I would recommend leaving your shopping for the last hour before the shops close, as most folks have had their fill by that time. The Photo Gallery - Whatever possessed Carnival to locate the sum total of their portrait-selling space to a small hallway in the middle of a busy deck is beyond me. At times, the gallery was simply packed with people searching high and low for their pictures. People were stepping on toes, lodging their elbows in uncomfortable places, and blocking the little precious walking room while discussing the varying merits of a picture with a dancer or a 'native'. It certainly was not my favorite place to be, but it was one of Barbara's favorite places to spend. The pictures themselves were professional quality, with some of the formal night pictures destined to go on the wall next to portraits from our wedding. We bought quite a few...all of them, in fact. The Violins Bar - My favorite indoor 'hang-out' aboard ship, this little bar along the Promenade was simple, mostly quiet, and staffed by a few extremely generous bartenders from Croatia. Dubravsko, my personal favorite, spent quite a while regaling me with the cultural significance the Kamikaze (the drink, not the pilot) in his homeland. I think he might have been making this up, but after the first few, who cares anyway? He also made them rather potent. Also, at certain times during the night, there was a very good singer tucked away unobtrusively in the corner. He played mostly current pop tunes, as well as some of my favorites from the '80's. The Monte Carlo Casino - Having only been to Vegas once when I was 16, I have little to compare to. I can say, however, that I felt quite at home here. There are certainly enough games to choose from, with plenty of slots (Barbara's favorite), a bank of 8 or 10 'multi-games' where you can choose from Keno, video poker, video blackjack and a few other games where you get to choose from a minimum bet of $ .25 and max of $1.25 or a minimum of $1 to a max of $5 (where I won a bit of cash at video blackjack). There also were plenty of table games. They offered two $5 min blackjack tables (where I gave them all of their money back), two $25 min blackjack tables, a roulette table, craps table, a few tables that offered some type of poker, and of course 'Fun 21'. The bar waiters also made the rounds here, and it paid to get to know the 'right' waiter/waitress. Some of them would simply wander the casino holding an empty tray, while others would actually ask if you needed anything. By the second night, two of the waitresses knew my favorites, and kept my glass as full as I allowed them to. Overall, the casino was my favorite place aboard ship. The Service Staff Our wait-staff was made up of Jason the headwaiter and Ronald the waiter, both from The Philippines. Although it was difficult at first to understand Jason due to his heavy accent, by the end of the first night, we were conversing well. Some of our jokes (Lenny and I both have a rather dry sense of humor) went completely over his head, but that was part of the fun, I suppose. Both Jason and Ronald were very accommodating, and had to ask on only the first night what we preferred to drink. From that night on, he always had our favorites on their way as we sat down. They were also very accommodating in terms of our special requests. Barbara is a very finicky eater, preferring everything without sauce, seasoning or spice, and Jason made it happen with even the most difficult dishes. I cannot remember exactly what Barbara ordered from night to night, but many times, when it was the seasoning and sauces that were supposed to be the entire reason for the dish, Jason would manage to provide it plain. Ronald quickly discovered that I love my bread, and I found that I always had one more piece of bread on my plate. It was a privilege to be served by them. On one night when Barbara and I were just too tired from our day's excursions to be bothered getting dressed for dinner, they even provided me with take-out! I simply came into the dining room at the tail end of the first seating, explained the situation, and he was happy to bring two entrees from the dining room, in covered dishes, one even made to Barbara's peculiar tastes. Our room steward was Rohan, a very friendly and garrulous fellow from Jamaica. He also had two other stewards as his assistants. I think that they did most of the work of actually cleaning the rooms, while Rohan spent most of his time attending to special requests, following up on their work, or just 'talking it up' with the passengers. I've always appreciated someone with a sense of humor, and Rohan did not disappoint. When we saw our first towel animal, an elephant, it became immediately apparent that it was under-dressed. Barbara and I gave it a pair of our sunglasses, a mini-sombrero and a cigarette in his trunk as well. Rohan thought this was a riot, and from then on, all of our towel animals were equally as well dressed, even including a troll wearing a bow tie. As far as service, Rohan and his crew excelled. Our ice was never empty, our towels always fresh (well until day 7, that is...more later.), and the room was always clean. Rohan even managed to find a cardboard box for us to use to pack some of the more fragile souvenirs we planned on bringing back, and even offered to wrap them in paper and pack them for us. I give two very enthusiastic thumbs up for Rohan and his assistants. Other crewmembers around the ship were also helpful. I can honestly say, outside of a few disinterested bar waiters wandering the casino, that I did not meet a single Carnival employee that was less than friendly and more than willing to do whatever it took to make me happy. Special kudos goes to Daniella and Gayda in the Nautica Spa. The couple's massage that Barbara and I booked was so enjoyable, immediately after it was over, we booked another for the next day at sea. To say that their hands were capable of magic would be an understatement. Muscles that had been tense since I entered the real world of working for a living were suddenly free and relaxed. Also, they were not pushy in their 'after the massage sales pitch' as we had been warned that they might be. The entire staff of photographers was a pleasure to work with as well. Their patience is remarkable, as they would try to corral large groups into the smallest sets, or convince the most hardheaded passengers that they really did know best when it came to poses. The results speak for themselves, as we left the ship with a veritable cornucopia of portraits from the cruise. Entertainment Organized entertainment has never really been my thing, but we gave the Vegas style shows a shot. The one we saw was very well put together, and the dancers were very good at what they do. It wasn't for me, though, and we left about 10 minutes into it. I've already mentioned Scotte, from the piano lounge, but I figured I'd put a plug in for his humor here as well. Sarcastic, dry wit is his thing, so if you like that type of humor, be sure not to miss him. Karaoke was hit or miss. It seemed that we didn't have too many people interested on our cruise. To me, the best part of singing karaoke is doing it in front of a large crowd, and on the nights that we went, the lounge was rather empty. Maybe our timing was off though, as I spoke to some other cruisers who said it was quite crowded earlier on. Oh well, maybe next time. We also hung around the Lido for the ice carving demonstration, which was interesting. It was quite impressive how a block of ice can be made into a swan in a matter of 10 minutes. You may have noticed little mention of our cruise director, Marascahl. Perhaps because Barbara and I were into 'doing our own thing' we didn't see much of him. In all actuality, we only saw him at the Captain's cocktail party and the disembarkation talk. We did run into the assistant cruise director, whose name escapes me now, at a few events, and found him much more lively and entertaining. Dining I've never been one to indulge in the foreign or the exotic on a regular basis. I guess it wouldn't be exotic then, would it? At home, I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy. Usually when we go out to eat, it's pretty much the same thing, although I will occasionally have a hankering for some seafood. I took the opportunity of having already paid the cost of the food up front to try quite a few different things in the dining room. I can't remember everything I ordered, but there was nothing that I found poorly prepared. There were some things I just didn't find to my liking, but those were few and far between. Overall the food quality in the dining room was very good. Barbara and I also ate at the Brasserie on the Lido deck a few times, when we were either too tired or too late to bother with the dining room. The choices here were varied, but themed to a particular region on certain nights. This meant that if you are particular in your tastes, the service of the dining room was the way to go. Twice when we went to the Lido, Barbara found almost nothing to her liking, as on one night it was entirely Indian, and another it was Mexican. We made due with room service. Room service was limited in selection, and the quality was adequate at best, and they did not make things 'to order'. Barbara loves a B.L.T. on a bagel, but when I asked if they could make one on a bagel instead of bread, I was told that the food was pre-prepared and they could not do so. So, we just ordered a B.L.T. and a bagel. When your tastes are as particular as hers, you learn to be creative. Shore Excursions Although we certainly had fun aboard ship, the ports of call were what I was looking most forward to. We decided early on to book our excursions independently, opting for the more personal and less expensive options that the independent tour operators could provide in exchange for the security of the cruise line organized cattle calls. We booked excursions in Grand Cayman, Belize and Cozumel, leaving Costa Maya open for random explorations. Grand Cayman We booked the Stingray City / Coral Reef snorkel with Captain Bryan's aboard The Hannibal. We had a short walk from the pier (the directions were simple and very well explained) to the meeting place and arrived a few minutes early. If you have the time, get there early enough to enjoy something from The Olde English Bakery, right in front of the meeting place. The Hannibal is a trimaran, essentially a catamaran with a center hull. There were about 18 passengers on board as well as three crewmembers, and there was room to spare. Some passengers chose to lay out on the trampolines at the front of the boat, while most sat on the benches in the shade. The ride to Stingray City took about 30-45 minutes. Snorkel gear was provided to all, and the captain spent a good deal of time explaining how to handle a stingray in the water without hurting it or placing it in danger. And then, we were in the water! There were two other boats at the site while we were there, but there were stingrays enough for everybody, and then some. They were everywhere, so much so, in fact, that it seemed you had to be careful to avoid stepping on them. The water was about 4' deep, and crystal clear. The captain and his mate were showing everyone how to hold a stingray and give them a kiss, as well as helping folks feed them and pet them. The videographer, Heather was getting shots of everyone doing this, as well as shooting the stingrays as they swam about. The whole experience was incredible. After about 25-30 minutes in the water with the rays, we all got back aboard the Hannibal to head for our next destination, the coral reef. A short ride later (maybe 10 minutes, at most) and we were there. Here the water was significantly deeper. I am not the world's greatest swimmer, but with the natural buoyancy provided by the saltwater combined with the buoyancy of the fins, I had no problem staying afloat, even when I grew tired and just stayed in one place to rest. I am somewhat unsure of the amount of time we spent at the reef, but my best guess is about 35-40 minutes. There is plenty to see here. Whether you are interested in reef formations, tropical fish or moray eels, this reef offers it all. Heather filmed it all, spending a good deal of time with the eels as they were coaxed out of their holes by the captain and his mate to swim around for all to see. She even got one to come out so she could give it a kiss! My description is really doing this excursion justice. It truly is something you have to experience to grasp the full nature of it. The Hannibal, her crew and the entire excursion are highly recommended. Costa Maya In Costa Maya, we did not have an excursion planned. After shopping in the pier area for a while, we decided to try something different. We rented waverunners from Mayawal tours for $70/hour per person. Janet stayed ashore as Barbara, Lenny and I all cruised about. Sort of. Barbara's waverunner stalled and then died completely not long after getting started. Since she wan't really enjoying it much, she gave it up, and was given a full refund. Lenny and I had a blast zooming about for the remainder of our time. One thing about waverunners - be careful. They can reach some impressive speeds, and it is quite possible to turn sharply enough to throw yourself right off of the machine. I came close twice while trying to see just how fast and sharp I could turn. The machine would start to fishtail, then hydroplane sideways for a bit and then suddenly catch itself in the water. If I didn't have a death-grip on the handlebars, I surely would have been tossed away. As it was, one hand came loose and one leg came off, but I managed to stay on the thing somehow. The waverunners were fun, but Mayawal tours seemed, at best, a rag-tag operation. I have no complaints, but there was certainly a 'rustic' feel to the whole thing. Again, not that it was a bad thing, but I just felt I should mention it. Next time in Costa Maya, I will probably do something a little more organized. Belize It's a toss-up to decide which I enjoyed more, Belize or Cozumel. In Belize, we booked the Stingray/Shark Alley tour with Coral Breeze. We got to shore early enough to do some shopping and met up with them a little before our scheduled time. I'm guessing that there were somewhere between 15-20 people aboard. The boat was The Coral Breeze, a fully covered speedboat with plenty of room for everyone. The crew was very friendly and informative, sharing information about Belize, the stingrays we would be swimming with as well as the nurse sharks. Two people that I feel deserve recognition for their part are Monique, who was the person we met up with on shore, and the guide himself, who I can only remember his last name, Ash, because it was tattooed on his leg. The guide, I guess I'll just call him Ash, told us about the history of Belize, the culture, the weather, anything we wanted to ask. He was funny, personable and very friendly. After about a 30 minute ride, we stopped at Caye Caulker for them to pick up some equipment and to drop off our lunch orders. We were back underway shortly, and after about 5 minutes more were at our first stop. Let me say this: Even though you know they are harmless, when you look into the water below you and see 10-15 black sharks swimming about, a sudden shiver travels down your spine. The nurse sharks know where the food is, as well as the rays, and not long after the captain dropped some food into the water, they were everywhere. The captain warned that the sharks were shy, and would swim off once we started to get into the water and he advised us to get as many pictures as we could while still in the boat. We did, and as he said, once we jumped in, the sharks started to swim off. The stingrays, however, are not so shy. The stingrays of Belize are much larger, travel in larger groups, and are more playful than those in Grand Cayman. Where the largest ray I saw in Grand Cayman probably measured about 4 ft across, there were some off the shore of Caye Caulker that were easily 6-7 ft wide. They also were everywhere. I actually had to wait a few minutes for a clear spot in the water to jump in, there were so many rays swimming about. Once in the water, it was surreal. We were literally right in the middle of a swarming mass of very large stingrays. They swam under us, around us and between our legs. They brushed up against us, pushed our feet out from under us, and occasionally tried to swim right over us. It was absolutely awesome. And during it all, right on the outskirts of the commotion lurked the dark shapes of the nurse sharks, patiently waiting for the calm to return. I separated myself from the mass of stingrays and slowly swam towards the last place I had seen the sharks. They were somewhat uneasy at my presence, but when I simply stopped swimming and just floated nearby, they remained where they were for me to marvel at them. Eventually I decided to swim towards them, and all of them but one swam off out of my reach. The one that remained was about 7ft long, gliding very slowly along the sea floor. I was actually able to swim up above it and run my hands along its sides while it swam with me for a few feet. Then, with a flick of its tail, it was gone. I could go on and on and on and on about how much I enjoyed this excursion, but there was more to it than swimming with the rays and the sharks. After about 30 minutes in the water with the sharks and rays, we moved a little further from shore to the coral reef. Here we snorkeled in something resembling a line along a 'path' by following the guide as he led us over various coral formations, and around the taller ones where we might possibly damage the coral or ourselves. This was all very nice, but it didn't compare to swimming with sharks to me. Once we had our fill of snorkeling, we were brought to Caye Caulker for lunch and some shopping time. Lunch was at a small restaurant called, I believe, The Rainbow. One word of advice: Get the Chicken Burrito. It was delicious. Huge and delicious. The shopping was all right, I guess. Shopping just isn't my thing, but Barbara seemed to enjoy herself. She picked up a few trinkets of some kind or another, but we bought so many things throughout the cruise, that I can hardly remember what was bought where. After about 1 ½ hour on the Island, we hopped back aboard the Coral Breeze and made it back to the pier at Belize City with about 45 minutes to spare before the last tender. Cozumel Cozumel was the one port that Barbara had been looking forward to the most. We had booked the Royal Dolphin Swim, the Sea Lion Swim and a sea lion show at Chankanaab National Park through Sherrie and Jacqueline at CozumelInsider.com. We had swum with dolphins before, at Sea World Orlando's Discovery Cove, and she had fallen in love with the idea. I believe that all of our other ports of call could have been cancelled and Barbara still would have been happy, so long as she was able to swim with the dolphins. Catching a cab from the pier to Chankanaab was a breeze, as cabbies are lined up waiting for passengers. There is a large sign posted with the rates per carload to go to the various places. The fare to Chankanaab was $5. The ride was quick an uneventful. Once at the entrance to Chankanaab, we were somewhat unsure of where to go. There were several lines formed at the counters for check-in, paying your entrance fee and for tours, but we had already pre-paid everything through CozumelInsider. After asking a few of the park employees we were guided to the correct spot, where a young lady quickly checked our reservations and let us through. We quickly checked in for all of our activities and received armbands to allow us entry and to mark the times. And then, we were off to swim with sea lions. Immediately after we were fitted with our lifejackets and on our way to the pool area where the swim would be done, a bright flash of lightning followed closely by an ear-splitting peal of thunder stopped us all in our tracks. We waited the storm out for about 20 minutes, during which time we met a group of Canadians who were seeking shelter under the same overhang that we were. Talking hockey with them, one of my favorite pastimes, made the wait seem much shorter, and suddenly, we were on our way. What an experience it was! There were 14 people in our group. We were invited to sit on the edge of a stage overlooking the pool area as the trainer gave us some information about the sea lions, and had them perform some basic tricks for us. Once in the water, the fun began. The sea lions swam by, allowing us to pet them, swam up alongside and gave us a kiss, and even jumped over us as we held hands and formed a 'gate' for them to jump over. Photos and a video were taken of all of the action and were available for purchase inside the gift shops. Our sea lion show was scheduled for 1:30, and due to the delay caused by the rain, it had already begun by the time we had watched the preview of our video and made our purchase. Since we had gotten to actually swim with them, we figured 'No big deal', and shopped a bit while we waited for our dolphin swim. The dolphin swim takes place in a large area separated from the open sea by a series of fences. There are several pens separating the different groups of dolphins from each other. You are led down a long boardwalk, on the outside of which is the open water, complete with barracuda eyeing you hungrily and on the inside is the large area reserved for the dolphin swim. Once the dolphins have been introduced to you, the swim by much the same way as the sea lions to allow you to pet them. They also put their heads in your hands and wait for you to kiss them. Then they allow you to hold their flippers while they dance with you. But this isn't the half of it. All of this takes place on a platform in the water below the boardwalk. After you have 'played' with the dolphins, the trainer has you swim out to the center of the pen. Two dolphins come up on either side of you and you grab hold of their dorsal fins and they pull you in. The power that these creatures have is incredible. I weigh 230lbs, and they seemingly had no trouble hauling me in. They really impressed me with their power in the next exercise. Again, you swim out to the center of the pen, this time laying on your belly with you legs slightly spread apart and your arms extended in front of you. Then two dolphins again join you. This time instead of you grabbing a hold of their flippers, they start pushing you by the balls of you feet with their noses! They have such strength that you are actually lifted out of the water and are 'flying' like superman. What a rush! Again, the entire thing was photographed and recorded on video, which we purchased. You are able to view the video before buying it, and I must say it was well done. One tip: If you intend on purchasing the video, be sure to go to the viewing area to see it before hand. The people who go to view it are all asked their names and the videographer adds your names to the title screen. One couple who I saw in the gift shop later was asking the attendant why their name was not in the credits, and that was the answer they were given. After all of the excitement of swimming with sea lions and dolphins, we were quite tired and hungry. A short walk from the dolphin swim area is a very good restaurant that I didn't catch the name of. Lunch for four cost about $40US, and was well worth it. After that, a short cab ride back to the pier and we were back aboard the ship in time for dinner. Frances Comes for Dinner I have mentioned a few times how the cruise turned out to be a little bit longer than we had expected. Even before the cruise departed Tampa, we were all anxiously eyeing Hurricane Frances as she spun her way towards the Caribbean. Although the projected path did not show her heading our way, I was concerned that if she headed on a more westerly course than was expected, she would have been in Cozumel the same day as us. It turned out that the forecaster had this one right. Instead of making our lives miserable on the cruise, Frances made a turn towards our homes to make things difficult for the people there. All during the cruise, pictures of the hurricane's path were found throughout the ship, noting speed, direction and the projected path it would take. They were changed often to keep them updated. It seemed that the crew was well aware of the concern of some of their passengers and were doing what they could to keep us aware. The first impact that Frances had on our cruise was on Friday. As I mentioned earlier, we arrived in Cozumel on Friday. Before our excursion at Chankanaab, Barbara and I decided to do some shopping on shore. When we were on our way back to the ship to unload our purchases and grab our bag for the park, we met several people coming off the ship who said that we would be staying later. Not long after we came aboard, an announcement was made that due to the hurricane, and in an effort to avoid the rough seas associated with it, we would be staying in Cozumel until 3am with a planned arrival in Tampa late Sunday. We didn't think much about it at the time, and it seemed a wise decision. Upon our return from our dolphin and sea lion swims, we again ran into another passenger who said that we would be staying the night in Cozumel. Once aboard, another announcement was made to confirm this, stating that Carnival expected the port of Tampa to be closed, and that we would wait things out in Cozumel. We were scheduled to leave at 3pm Saturday afternoon with out arrival in Tampa planned for early Monday morning. Again, 'No big deal', we thought, and went about our business. One drawback to the extra time in Cozumel was the fact that all of the ship's stores were closed, as was the casino. I had been having a great time in the casino, winning every time I played, and Barbara had been having a great time at the jewelry shop on the ship, spending my winnings. Many of our fellow passengers went ashore to enjoy the Cozumel nightlife, but we were simply too tired to do so and both would have enjoyed having the casino open. Instead, we spent some time at the Violins bar where we met Dubravsko and his heavy-handed Kamikazes. I must mention that the ship seemed deserted Friday night. Apparently everyone was either partying hard on the island or was in their cabins recovering from their partying. The few people we did see were at the purser's desk. From the time of the second announcement changing our plans, it seemed that there was always a line at the purser's desk. I assume people were trying to change their return home itineraries. We drove to the pier from home, so this was one headache we didn't have to deal with. We did see some people hauling all of their luggage to the taxi area in Cozumel, so I assume some people had arranged to fly home from Mexico. We did some more shopping on Cozumel on Saturday, and once again, when we arrived back at the ship, we were told via the loudspeakers that we would be leaving Cozumel later than anticipated because the port of Tampa had already been closed, and would stay closed for at least 24 hours. There was no reason for us to leave, since we had no place to go, it seemed, and the plan was for us to leave early Sunday morning. We finally left Cozumel sometime Sunday morning. I am not sure exactly what time it was, because I was asleep, but I do know that the casino was open at noon. Sunday was a day at sea. The purser's desk was becoming more crowded by the day, it seemed. All around the ship, the conversation was turning towards the extra length of our cruise. Most people seemed to be fine with the idea, but a sense of tension could be felt at times. My feelings toward the matter were simply 'go with the flow', as there was nothing I could do to change any of it, and I was in fact getting extra time that I did not pay for as an added bonus to an already wonderful vacation experience. Others however, were not able to be so relaxed. It's difficult to describe. Mostly it was a strained look on people's faces, or extra harshness in the way in which they spoke to their children or other passengers. There were no overt complaints, per se, more just a feeling of uneasiness. Speaking of uneasiness, the seas were starting to get rough by mid-day Sunday. Seasickness bags started appearing, taped to the railings in the stairwells and in the passageways. The ship was rocking and rolling. I had posted a question on the boards asking how high do the waves have to be before you actually feel them. I got my answer on Sunday. The captain came across the loudspeakers again, informing us that we were sailing in approximately 16ft seas, and we would be spending Sunday at sea, with intentions on returning to Tampa Monday morning if the port was open. I must say that I was rather happy with myself. Having never cruised before, I was somewhat concerned at the outset that I might become seasick. The only time that I began to feel unwell was when I had all but closed the AC vent in our cabin because Barbara was cold and then tried to take a nap. The warmth of the room, combined with my lying on my back with the drapes closed was too much for me. Instead, I found our room steward, chewed a couple of Bonine he provided, and went topside to watch the waves. From then on, I was fine. I guess I finally got my sea legs. On Sunday, during dinner, it was becoming apparent that the ship was not stocked for additional days. Folded paper towels unceremoniously replaced the heavy cloth napkins that had been provided throughout the cruise. The menu was the same as our first night at sea, but some items were unavailable. Jason, our headwaiter was very apologetic about it all, but we viewed it as something to be joked about, not something to be upset about. The joking increased when the captain came across the loudspeakers yet again to inform us that we would not be arriving in Tampa until late Monday night or Tuesday morning. The theme song from 'Gilligan's Island' was heard, and mention was made of a 'never-ending cruise'. When we returned to our rooms from dinner on Sunday, it became apparent that the room stewards were also running low on supplies. Where we would have a full assortment of fresh towels twice daily before, we now had two towels and two washcloths hanging in the bathroom. Monday was more of the same. At the breakfast buffet, bacon was usually put out in one of the trays but you now had to ask for it to get it. Apparently the supply was running low, and they wanted to make sure that there was some available for the omelet maker. The small paper napkins used at the bars had replaced the napkins on the Lido. Room service had run out of bagels and whole milk. And more people were running out of patience. I don't want to imply that things were getting ugly. Merely an increased level of tension was becoming obvious. Where people were friendly and talkative in the elevators earlier in the cruise, by day 8 the elevators were usually traveled in silence. The ship was also far less active. Perhaps the rolling seas outside had a part to play in this as well, as those that were up and about were usually seen wearing seasickness patches or wrist bands, but the overall mood seemed much more subdued than earlier on. Maybe people were just getting tires. I know I was. During dinner on Monday, word came from the bridge that we expected to dock in Tampa on Tuesday morning by 10am. Relief was visible on the faces of the other passengers. Speaking only for myself, I was rather disappointed. I would not have minded a few more free days added to my cruise, even if we were using toilet paper for napkins by that time. Debarkation Tuesday morning, we pulled into Tampa promptly at 10am. We were told to be at our disembarkation station, the Promenade deck, by 11am. We got there early to ensure that we had a comfortable place to relax while we waited. And waited. And waited. The entire disembarkation process seemed to have no organization to it whatsoever. When the people who were taking advantage of the self-assist disembarkation process were called, it became apparent that although it may have seemed like a good idea on the drawing board, the entire self- assist idea still needs some work. It seemed that half of the passengers were trying to use the self-assist process, many with 5 or 6 suitcases each. Apparently the idea that they would have to be able to handle all of their luggage by themselves down two flights of stairs was lost upon them. People who had checked their luggage the night before by leaving it outside their cabin were also trying to use the self-assist process. Several announcements were made throughout the process stressing the importance that only those who could handle all of their own luggage, who had not checked any luggage the night before, were to use the self-assist process. Some people seemingly failed to understand. It took 3 hours for the self-assist passengers to complete the disembarkation process enough for the colored tags to start being called. From the first tag color called to ours (we were the fourth color called) was a total of 15 minutes. From that point, we were off the ship in about another 15 minutes. From talking to some of the porters inside the luggage claim area, it seems that many of the passengers who chose self-assist simply had too much luggage. According to one porter, they were dropping their luggage while on the escalator, blocking traffic and completely stopping the disembarkation process several times. I think that Carnival needs to set a limit on the number of bags that a passenger can carry to be allowed to self-assist debark. Once we were in the luggage claim area, we found a friendly porter who said he would be glad to take our luggage to the curb while we got the car and pulled up to load it. For $20, he agreed to instead bring it all directly to our car. For 16 pieces of luggage for the four of us, this was one heck of a deal. I would have been happy to pay the guy $50 at that point, because once we saw the pile of luggage we had when it was all put together, and the crush of people waiting curbside to load their luggage into their cars, I realized that we would have been waiting for at least another hour before we were on the road. With his help, we were in the car and on the way home by 2pm. Conclusion For those of you who have the patience to read a review this long, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did my first cruise. The people were friendly, the ship enjoyable and the ports of call were as exotic and interesting as I had hoped. My next cruise is in the embryonic stages of planning, but rest assured, there will definitely be another! Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
"Inspired" Who: Me, My hubby, Greg, and our two teens - Samantha (19 y/o) and Kyle (16 y/o). From: Southern California To: Western Caribbean When: August 1 - 8, 2004 What: Carnival's Inspiration We arrived in Tampa on ... Read More
"Inspired" Who: Me, My hubby, Greg, and our two teens - Samantha (19 y/o) and Kyle (16 y/o). From: Southern California To: Western Caribbean When: August 1 - 8, 2004 What: Carnival's Inspiration We arrived in Tampa on the night before our first cruise ever with such anticipated excitement. We stayed at Marriott Springhill suites near Westshore and took a cab/van to the port the next morning for about 15 bucks (for the whole cab, not per person). We were a little worried because it was really rainy and we thought...well we did book this thing during rainy season, so we will just have to make the most of it. However, we were assured by a few of the crew (once we boarded), that we were headed for a sunny Caribbean. But I am getting ahead of myself.... Embarkation: This was a breeze. We arrived around noon and were whisked through different check points and security checks. We did some waiting but nothing bad at all. We were in group 5 to board and before we knew it, our number was called. We walked through the gangway and you would have thought we all entered Oz. We looked up at the atrium and staircase and all we could do was smile. We immediately took a self guided tour around what would be our "home" for the next 7 days. We then headed to our cabin and settled in and met Joaquim, our room steward. He was awesome. Three of our bags had arrived already and our son's came shortly thereafter. We decorated our cabin door with a dry erase board and a fun little picture of "The Grisafes of the Caribbean" and went out on deck to watch the ship leave port. The rest of the day was spent getting to know the ship and her crew and guests. We had a great dinner and loved our table mates. We were seated at a table for six. It was the 4 of us and then a young couple celebrating their 1st anniversary. They were a lot of fun. Our waiter, Edi, would prove to be fantastic. Always remembering our likes and dislikes and little details throughout the week. He was terrific. Later that night, my DH and DD and I went and had fun doing Karaoke while my son went to a Teen meet. We met a lot of people and, from that moment on, we didn't go anywhere on the ship where someone didn't say "hi" to us. At midnight, my daughter went to the singles meet at the Rock n Roll Disco and my son ended up there too. They had a blast and met sooo many people. First Fun Day at Sea: The sun was in and out all day, but that didn't stop the pool from being used. We opted to just walk around and visit the casino. The kids hung out with their new found friends. This night was a formal night and Greg and Kyle went and rented tuxes for the occasion. We knew it wasn't mandatory, but we wanted to really dress up on these nights. We all chose to wear black and white and we had some great pictures taken. We attended the Captain's welcome dinner in the Paris Lounge and enjoyed the complimentary Manhattans and Whiskey Sours. It was great to meet all the officers too. Captain Garribbo (sp?) was one of the most handsome and youngest captains I have ever seen. I didn't expect that (the fact he was young, not the fact he was handsome..hehe). Greg and Sami danced, so did Greg and I and then Sami and Kyle danced together too. We then went to dinner and enjoyed Filet Mignon and Lobster Tails. Afterwards, the kids went to do some dancing and we joined them after Karaoke. Grand Cayman: We had a late night, so we caught a late tender to shore. We were just going to be on our own and we were looking for a taxi when Kyle spotted a girl he had met. She was with her Mom and her friend. Her Mom had been to Grand Cayman before and said they were headed to a beach and we were welcome to go along. So, we all took a taxi to "The Sea Grape" beach. We had a nice day just out by the ocean. They had chair rentals and umbrella rentals, but we just used our towels. Greg rented some snorkel equipment (just the mask and snorkel) and he and the kids went out for a little while. I enjoyed just wading in the water. We had to be back to the ship by 2:00 PM (short day in port) so we left the sea grape at 1:00, which left us some time to spare. We did no shopping here as I was told it was expensive. We got back on the ship and left port. Then, about 5 minutes out, the ship stopped and waited. Greg and Sami were up on deck, about to play in a Volleyball tournament, and they said that the ship had to stop because a couple was left behind and they were on a tender coming out to meet us to get back on board. I would say that was close!!!! I heard the couple being paged over and over after we got onboard and wondered what was going on. When you go ashore, your card is swiped, so they know who came back onboard and who is missing. That couple has a story to tell...albeit, a bit embarrassing. Our impression of Grand Cayman was that it was a nice little city with beautiful beaches. Costa Maya: I loved the ports where the ship would just pull right up to a dock and we didn't have to tender in. It was nice just getting on and off the boat whenever you wanted. Costa Maya is the most "untouched" of all the ports. There is port shopping, restaurants, native dancing and swimming built right at the pier just for the cruiselines, but we opted to rent a Golf Cart and head to Mahahual, a small village about a 10 minute golf cart ride away. This was my son's favorite port because it was a bit primitive (in comparison to the other ports). Having the golf cart was great because we could explore on our own. There were little bars and restaurants along the sandy road. There were vendors selling their wares and they were happy to haggle. My son got sunglasses and a puka necklace for 10 bucks. The beers were 2 bucks at many of the walk-up bars along the beach. We were told by some crew members that this is what Cozumel was about 15 years ago. If that is the case, it will be interesting to see Costa Maya in 15 years...to see the results of the tourist's dollar....good and bad. After our golf cart adventure, we went back to the port and had a late lunch at "Mamacita's". It was very enjoyable, although it wasn't a bargain. The food and beverages (alcohol and non-alcoholic) are about the same amount as they are at a Mexican Restaurant in the states. My daughter did get a cute little drink that was a hollowed out coconut Monkey with "Costa Maya" written on his belly. Nice little souvenir. Belize: The tender ride from the ship is about 5 miles. I am not sure if this is because of a reef or shallow waters or what. But we were anchored way off shore. We had booked cave tubing with Wet n Wild. We got to the port way too early. Belize is two hours behind ship's time and we had to wait for our excursion. We could have slept in....but better early than late. 14 of us packed into an air conditioned passenger van and off we were to the rain forest. First impression of Belize City is that it looks to be very poor and there are a lot of safety bars on windows and inside stores (between the customers and merchandise and clerks). Our driver said crime is bad there. We were out of the city and onto country roads for about an hour's drive. The last 20 minutes of the drive was an adventure in and of itself. We were taken off the main road and through bumpy, rocky terrain. There was some good jostling and I wondered how much the upkeep was on their vans from making that trek just about every day. We arrived at this little clearing where there were stacks of tubes, life jackets, restrooms and a large thatched-roof covered verandah. We left anything we didn't want to get wet in the van and off we went on about an hour's walk. During the walk, Rudy, our guide, would point out plants and paths and tell us stories of what things were and the animals that once lived there (they are gone now since too many people walk through there). There were some points were it would get a little steep but there were little stairs in the hillside. As long as you watched your step, you were okay. I saw where the cruise line cave tubing excursion was entering the river and we walked up further. We got into the river where there was a little rocky cliff and you had the option of jumping off the cliff and into the water or just getting in. Greg, Sami and Kyle all jumped off the cliff and I opted for the mild mannered way of getting in. The water was great! Especially after an hour hike. It was about 70 degrees. So far, we had encountered no bugs. Just a few little flies. I have had worse "buggy" situations in Florida and Alabama. We were into a cave shortly after entering the river and it was spectacular. HUGE caves that looked like a ride that you would see at a Disney theme park...but this was ALL natural. My favorite cave was the one with a waterfall inside of it. At one point we got off our tubes inside of a cave and went up onto a "beach" area (still inside the cave). Rudy asked if anyone wanted to follow him to climb into this remote area. My two kids were the only ones that went. They climbed up into this crevice and my daughter said there were remnants of some artifacts there. They had to slide on some mud to get down and I was a bit worried, but they were okay. We continued on down the river and there were parts that they called "rapids". We would have to go feet first so you could push yourself away from rocks if you got near them. I almost always had to do this. You also had to be sure to lift your bottoms because a lot of places were shallow and I hit my rear once on a rock. It didn't feel too great, but I was lucky and didn't get a lasting bruise from it. The ride down the river lasted about an hour. Afterwards, we headed to the verandah area where you could smell barbecued chicken on the grill. They served us a meal that was sooo good. 2 large pieces of barbecued chicken, rice, beans, fried plantain, bread, salad and a yummy chocolate almond cake for dessert. We enjoyed some "Belikin" beer (which we bought), it was very good. They served lemonade which came free with the meal. After our meal, it was time to board the van and head back to the port. On the way back we had another little adventure. Our van broke down twice. The first time it seemed the belt was slipping because of the air conditioner. He turned off the air and opened the windows. This actually was better than the air conditioning anyway...so it didn't bother me one bit. Then ...a little while further down the road...the van died completely. Our driver didn't seem worried at all. He came into the van, got a fuse, went back out and put it in and "voila"...we were back on the road again. Although it was a bit scary since we booked independently and knew the ship wouldn't wait for us, I couldn't help but be impressed as to how prepared they were for such unforeseen circumstances. Marvin of Wet n Wild has never had people miss a ship yet and he told me it would be very bad for his business if it ever happened. They want you to get back on time just as much as you want to be back on time. We got back to port in time to do a little shopping before we caught the last tender...it was our second formal night and we were thankful we had an 8:30 PM seating for dinner. Note: Wet n Wild cave tubing cost 60 dollars per person and that includes the wonderful lunch. Cozumel: This was mine, my hubby's and my daughter's favorite port. My son liked it too, but he picked Costa Maya as his fave. This port is another port where you pull up to a dock. Our ship was lucky and we got the dock closest to town and all the shopping. There is another port further down where we saw "The Conquest", a RCCL Ship and another ship (can't remember which one) all docked. We were to be in Cozumel until 10:00 PM and were very excited that we had a close walk to Carlos and Charlie's and Senor Frogs. For our day time entertainment, we decided to take a taxi to Paradise Beach because I had heard soo many great things about it on the internet. Let me say...it lived up to it all. We arrived about 11:30 am and were able to get free chairs, umbrellas and a table right by the water. The kids went out to the "iceberg" and immediately conquered it. It was a beautiful day and we had a wonderful conversation with Paradise Beach Tom, who gave us a little history about the beach. The Kayaks were free to use, the snorkel gear (even with fins) were free to use, the rafts were free to use, the tables, chairs, umbrellas....all free!!! It was amazing. Even if they charged a little fee per person to get onto the beach it would still be worth it. The only thing you paid for was food and drink. We had 2 orders for buckets of beer (5 beers on ice in a bucket), 3 "foo foo" drinks, an order of supreme nachos and an order of chips and salsa throughout the course of the day for 56 bucks...maybe a little more because we tipped the servers. The taxi ride was 14 dollars. The day wasn't bad at all for four of us. Oh, and let me say, the salsa was magnifico! Around 4 o'clock we left Paradise Beach (we got changed in their dressing rooms) and headed back to the town to shop a little. It was 14 dollars back and we went into a few stores but got our best deals with the outside vendors. My daughter got 3 necklaces (the shell and macrame type) and 2 anklets for 10 bucks from a man selling them from his cart. He offered any 3 necklaces and one anklet for 10 dollars, but as she was paying for it, he said to me..."you pick an anklet too, mama". I am still wearing it and haven't taken it off since. We also bought some tequila here at a place that let you taste the tequila. I got a bottle of Cofradia for 22 dollars. After some shopping we headed back to the boat to drop off our purchases and freshen up and then head out for dinner at Carlos and Charlie's. Some of the kids' friends from the ship were going to be there. We arrived at Carlos and Charlie's and got a table by the road and overlooking the ship and pier. This place was a lot fun! We did the chicken dance on our chairs and had fun dancing and listening to the music. What a fun place. The food was nice...comparable to mexican food we have had around Los Angeles, where we live, but it was nothing to rave about. This place is all about the party atmosphere. The kids found their friends and soon my hubby and I were on our own and we headed back to the ship...closely behind our kids. What a beautiful nighttime walk back to the pier. The Inspiration looked marvelous as her and her lights were reflecting in the water. What a great day. Another Fun Day at Sea: It was a nice day, but a lot of it is spent preparing for debarkation. We attended the debarkation talk. It was nice to be able to recognize and applaud some of the crew there. Afterward, we had to pack and get ready to put our bags out between 10 PM - 12 midnight. Greg, me and Sami wanted to do the talent show which was at 10:30 PM in the Paris Lounge, so we knew we had to get our packing done so we wouldn't be rushed after the show. We signed up for the talent show around 4:30 PM. They take the first 8 people in line. Then we had a rehearsal. All the performers were great. Greg and I did a duet and Sami had brought her guitar, so she sang an original song and played her guitar. It was sooo much fun being the entertainment in the main room for the last night. We all got our "24 carat gold plastic ships on a stick" and a certificate of participation and the next day we bought the talent show video. What a great momento! The rest of that night, we couldn't go anywhere without being stopped and complimented...it was our little 15 minutes of fame. Debarkation: This wasn't quite as smooth as embarkation. Just be prepared to wait. We had the pink group and we were called toward the end. We had to wait in the Paris lounge for our color to be called. It wasn't too bad...they had movies playing on the big screen. Once we were called, we got off the ship and were taken to this big area to find our luggage. Then, another wait in line. My hubby had got up early to go to the customs check at 7:30 am in the Shakespeare Library because we were over our alcohol limit. We had 5 liters of booze we bought on the ship plus the bottle of tequila from Cozumel. We thought that each adult could bring 2 liters off the ship tax and duty free, but found out it was 1 liter per person at the debarkation talk. This makes me wonder why they sell "2 fers" with a free bottle in the ship's shop. We got 2 bottles of Absolut for 19.99 and 2 bottles of Baileys for 34 bucks...with that purchase they gave you a free bottle of gin. Anyway, Greg sat down with the customs official and was asked questions and the guy was very nice and waived us through without having to pay the tax or duty on any of it. It pays off to be honest. Since our declaration had been approved already, when we got to the front of the line in port, we were put through quickly. That was it...we waved goodbye to the Inspiration and headed toward Tampa to stay a few more days....apparently we left just in time last night as Tampa is battoning down the hatches for a hurricane. Talk about timing. Overall Impression of the Ship: I can't say enough good things about the crew. The service was outstanding. Edi, our waiter in the Mardi Gras room and Joaquim (he had us call him "Joe"), our room steward were fantastic. We had a great time with Marcus, one of the social hosts too! The ship itself is showing a bit of wear and tear....mostly in the elevators where unruly guests have not given the Inspiration the respect she deserves. That was sad to see. I was worried about sea sickness, but only felt a little "off" on the first day...and I think it was more psychological than anything. Our cabin was main aft and while pulling in and out of ports we did have some vibration and there was a very light "humming". I don't know if this happens in all the cabins aboard though..I have nothing to compare it to. We did feel some gentle rocking, but we actually liked that. MVT (Most Valuable Tip) - It would have to be a toss up between the over the door compartment hanger and the power strip. Both were very handy and I don't know what we would have done without them. There is only one 110 outlet in the room, so if you want to plug in camera chargers, curling iron, blow dryer...etc. The Power strip is the way to go. We still tried to only have 2 things plugged in at once, so as not to overload the system. The over the door compartments were a much needed space saver...especially with 4 people in a cabin. LVT (Least Valuable Tip) - The duct tape never came out of the wrapper. This is not to say if we would have had torn luggage or something that it wouldn't have been handy...but for this particular cruise, it was not needed. Good Tips - We had six hundred dollars in traveler's checks and cash. We had 2 bundles of 25 singles. This was very handy! Having the singles ready for room service tips, taxi tips, laundry...whatever...it was great and just the right amount of cash/traveler's checks. Another good tip...the kids going to the meets the first nights to meet people their own age. I have a feeling they would have been alright anyway...but this was a great way to break the ice. The late seating was wonderful. We are night owls and this worked great for us. I was sooo thankful on those days of getting back to the ship at 5 PM from a port that I didn't have to immediately get ready for dinner. We could catch a nap if we wanted to and take our time. Hubby's only complaint about the late seating was that it interfered a little with the Karaoke times...haha! MFT (most fun tip) - Putting a dry erase board on our cabin door. This was not only a handy way of communicating with our room steward (ie: "can we have some clean beach towels?..thanks"), but it became very fun. Joe (our steward) would write things like "Tonight is formal night..hahahaha" or "Have fun in Cozumel"...and we would write back to him .."Thanks for all you do, Joe" or "You are the best, Joe". He cleaned up so many of our messes and at the end of the cruise we were sure to put our money where our dry erase board words were and gave him more money over the suggested amount we paid on the S & S card. The board was also fun for the kids. The friends they would meet on the cruise would come by our room and leave messages like "Sami, come find me up at the Rock n Roll club"...or "Kyle, Meet us at Carlos and Charlie's". The latter was waiting for us when we got back to the ship before going out to C & C's in Cozumel. Their friends would write nice little notes to them too. We got little fun comments on it from strangers just passing by too. Not one time did anyone write something negative. The doors of the cabins are metal which makes it easy. Just buy one of those magnetized dry erase boards and you are set. Note: I only mentioned names of crew members and excursion guides to help any future cruisers. I didn't mention names of fellow cruisers because I don't know if they would have wanted that. I do want them to know that I remember them and their names, but left them out because I didn't want to assume I had permission to use them. We had such a great time meeting you and spending time with you (and you know who you are..hehe). Thanks for making our cruise that much more special. Final Thoughts and conclusion: What a fantastic way to experience our first cruise. It was a great way to vacation. We loved the ship and Carnival. If you go with a positive attitude and to have fun...you will!!!! No doubt about it. The food was not fantastic, in our opinion. Some nights and some entrees were, but overall, it wasn't amazing...but it was good. I didn't enjoy the Brasserie (the buffet) as much as the sit down meals in the dining room. I loved room service and enjoyed the 24 hour pizza that was available. The drinks on board were yummy and the cost was about the same as any night club. Take advantage of the drinks of the day which are $2.95. The service was great and we always saw crew members polishing, shining and cleaning the ship. They had pride in her. After all, it is their home and only ours briefly. They truly want you to admire her (the ship) and have a good time while traveling aboard. All in all, it was a fantastic cruise and my family agrees it was one of the best family vacations we have ever had. It was truly memorable. The Inspiration has definitely inspired us... ...to become cruisers for life! Feel free to email me or post any questions on the board. I will be happy to answer any inquiries to the best of my knowledge. Read Less
Sail Date August 2004
We just got back home from our FIRST (and by no means LAST!!) cruise!! Aboard Inspiration out of Tampa. All I can say is that I can't think of very much that would have made the cruise better. We had an incredible time. And so, on ... Read More
We just got back home from our FIRST (and by no means LAST!!) cruise!! Aboard Inspiration out of Tampa. All I can say is that I can't think of very much that would have made the cruise better. We had an incredible time. And so, on with the review!--I just reread this and I didn't realize it was so LONG...you've been warned! EMBARKATION We had absolutely no problems here. We live in South Tampa and only had a 10 minute drive to the terminal. We got there about 11:00, just as the majority of the previous passengers were getting off. It really looked like a zoo but we found a porter right away and had no problem checking in. No waiting at all. We got our sail n sign card and had a couple of hours to kill before we would be able to board. You can stash your carry-on luggage for $5.00 in the lower part of the terminal where they sell tours. Good deal. We dumped our carry-on bags and went to Cold Stone Creamery in Channelside for some ice cream. We piddled around Channelside for the rest of the time then headed back to the terminal. NOW there was a crowd!! We retrieved our bags and got into line. The personnel there were telling everyone what to have in hand and when they saw our sail n sign cards they waved us past all the lines and right upstairs. Same thing there. We bypassed all the lines and went straight onto the ship. E-Z. Once aboard a crewmember showed us to our cabin and we were ready to go!! DEPARTURE We had a couple of hours before departure so we made our way to the Brasserie on the Lido deck to grab a bite to eat. Hot in there! Also crowded. This was the only place aboard that was open and it looked like everyone went straight there from the gangway. We had a full ship and had a problem finding a seat. Then there was the food. Adequate....barely. It significantly improved later in the cruise though. We read on here about the great pizza. Disappointment--ours was probably pretty good an hour ago when it was hot. But like I said there were more people than there were seats. So we headed out of there and went to the lifeboat drill. It took about 10 minutes and then we were off. The ride down the channel takes a couple of hours. We went to the Sun Deck forward for the ride past Harbour Island and out under the Skyway. It really looks like the ship won't clear the bridge! In our cabin there was no sense of movement at all. No vibration, nothing. FUN DAY AT SEA We slept in and finally hit the Lido deck pool area about 11:00. No deck chairs to be had anywhere. We went to the aft deck area--same thing. Then we saw the 'adults only topless' sign by the stack. We went up there and saw...nobody!! We went around the stack and there were two people on that side. So there were only four of us in this huge deck space!! Ahhhh.... That was our sun-place for the rest of the cruise. And the 'topless' part was not what one might think. No big deal at all. The most people I counted up there at any one time was less than a dozen. MUCH better than the crowded Lido deck. Plus there was a good breeze. Formal night was a lot of fun. We dressed in our best and had a good time. We had late seating in the Mardi Gras dining room. If catching the main show is a priority for you I wouldn't recommend late seating. A couple of people at our table went and there were no seats. The shows weren't a priority for us so late seating worked well. The Mardi Gras dining room was great. Octavian, our head waiter and his assistant Wat were outstanding. Octavian was the epitome of the dignified waiter, making good suggestions and fulfilling every request. Wat balanced this with his youthful enthusiasm and irreverence while somehow always making sure our glasses were filled and we had what we needed without ever needing to ask. Carmo, the Maitre'd led the dining room staff in a song every night and we even had a conga line going one night! The food was outstanding. Especially the hot chocolate Souffle'. I had a couple two-dessert nights! GRAND CAYMAN A bit of excitement in the morning...when they drop anchor the chain makes one $&@#!! of a noise!! We did our own thing here. We brought our own snorkel gear and walked off the ship to Eden Rock. Good place for beginning snorkelers such as ourselves. Total cost: $4.00 for locker rental. You can rent gear there for $10.00. We saw a couple of snorkeling excursion boats in the same place we were...I'm very glad we didn't pay $40.00 per person for one of those!! The snorkeling was a lot of fun. The water depth dropped off pretty quickly and there were underwater caves and canyons...and loads of fish. Especially the yellow and black striped ones. They would come right up to us and we swam in the middle of them. We also saw a couple of very large Barracudas--they didn't hassle us and we didn't hassle them. On our way back to the ship we stopped at the Tortuga Rum store. They have all their rums to sample for free. A 'sample' is about a double shot! So if you sampled all the types of rum they have you can be more than a little tipsy when you leave the store. And the rum cake...you can sample that too. GREAT!! We bought a 1-liter bottle of Mango rum and a 6-pack of rum cakes. Total spent in Grand Cayman: less than $50.00. Not bad. COSTA MAYA This place was built purposely for cruise ships. There is a total tourist-trap right at the end of the pier. Nice pool with a swim up bar and loads of shops all aimed squarely at the tourist and his dollars. Nice enough but not for us. This was the only stop where we went on a tour booked through the ship. We visited the Chacchoben Mayan ruins. This was the shorter of the two ruins tours. We had a bit of adventure on the way there--our bus blew a tire! Good thing there was a string of tour buses going (two ships in port at the same time)..the next couple of buses picked us up and we met our guide, Andrei, at the site. The trip was about 45 minutes or so through the countryside. Andrei was a superb guide. And the ruins themselves were awe-inspiring. They were only discovered in 1997 and they are not fully excavated yet. So you really get a sense of history. I've been to Egypt and seen the pyramids there--the similarities really make you wonder. When we were done with the tour our driver George (in his repaired bus) had cold Sol beer waiting for us! Man did it go down good!!! The ride back through the countryside was nice and relaxing. When we got back to the pier end we ate in a restaurant. I was looking for authentic mexican food and what I got was like something from Chi-chi's. Kind of a disappointment. We bought some woven blankets with Mayan designs on them for $7 each. We should have waited...same thing later in Cozumel for $2 each. No big deal. SO...the ruins trip was very well worth it. COZUMEL We walked off the gangway and saw the Sensation, a sister ship of the Inspiration. You walk along a pier between the two ships--that's pretty cool. Royal Caribbean's Explorer of the Seas was there too--that's a BIG ship!!! They've got it so you have to walk through the duty-free shops to get off the pier. At least it's air conditioned. We rented a lime-green Volkswagen Bug (old kind of bug) from Executive car rental and drove all over the island. Awesome time!!! Total cost for the bug with extended insurance (you want to get this if you drive in Mexico, believe me) was $77.00. We drove out of town to the other side of the island and there were very very few people there. We found a stretch of beach--one among many--where we could see nobody in any direction! We had our own secluded beach. Very nice. We ate lunch at a place called Coconuts, pretty much aimed at tourists but not nearly as much as Costa Maya. And the food was much much better. Coconuts is on a cliff and you eat outside with an incredible view. We buzzed around in our green bug with the top down all day. Whenever we got too hot we would stop by the side of the road and hit the water to cool off. One thing to keep in mind--my girlfriend got a nice white tan mark from the seatbelt!! Total cost for the bug, food, gas, t-shirts was around $120. Not too bad at all. LOADS of fun. Unless you're a die-hard scuba diver or something, DO THIS. BELIZE Long tender ride to the pier here. We went cave tubing with Marvin at Wet n Wild. I highly recommend him. Let me say that again--I HIGHLY recommend him. There were only 9 of us in our group. The other 7 were a family from New York. We had loads of laughs. We drove for about 30 minutes on a nice paved road and then went for 3 or 4 miles down a ridiculously bumpy road. It would be a good marketing gimmick for Ford to show the durability of their vehicles (Marvin's van was a Ford). Once we got to the park (all cave tubing tours regardless of where you book them go to the same place) it started pouring down rain. It served to cool us off, and after all it's the tropical rain forest, right? The hike through the jungle was no big deal for someone in reasonably good shape. Our group ranged in ages from early teens to late 50s and we had no problems aside from slipping in the mud in places. Bugs were no factor. We went farther than the ship tours and went through a second cave. Awesome sight!! Crystals in the cave ceiling, and Marvin passed around some sugar cane he grabbed on the way for us to chew. He kept good control of our group and we passed a couple ship tour groups of 30 or 40 people. And the best part was at the end! For your $60 per person (about 2/3 of the ship price) lunch is included! Everyone also eats at the same place. But where we saw other people ordering and paying for lunch, the people there asked us "Are you with Marvin? Right this way." and led us to a nice table on the side already made up. Lunch was barbecue chicken, rice, beans, pasta salad, potato salad, garlic bread and a delicious muffin for dessert! Get the double chocolate. Huge amount of food and very very good. Marvin was an outstanding guide, telling us about things along the way both going and coming back. Once again I can't recommend him highly enough. Wet n wild is definitely the way to go. We hit some traffic coming back but we made it in plenty of time to make it back to the ship. If you want to go cave tubing, Marvin at wet n wild is the best choice I think. He also offers other excursions too. FUN DAY AT SEA We hit a pretty big storm during the night coming out of Belize. We were 5 decks up from the surface of the water and whenever the ship would heel to the left the splash and spray would come up to our window! We thought that was very cool--seasickness was never a factor for us. (Even if it were I wouldn't admit it or loads of Air Force aircrew members would never let me live it down! ) We pretty much literally ate constantly all day. The second formal night was just as much fun and the staff sang us a farewell song. Everyone at our table became good friends and we'll miss them. ARRIVAL / DISEMBARKING We hit port around 8, customs and immigration came on board around 9, and they started letting people off around 10. Not a big deal. A frequent cruiser we talked to advised us to carry our own bags off the ship. Many thanks to him!! I recommend doing this if you can. They take your bags the night before and disembark you by color coded groups. Getting off the ship is easy. Getting your luggage looked pretty tough--Carnival does it as good as I'd think it could be done...but you have 2000 people all wanting to get their bags and get out. We passed them by and went straight out, no problem!! Clearing customs was easy--be honest on the form and you'll have no problems. And that, as they say, was that!! FINAL THOUGHTS --Karina, our cabin steward, did an exceptional job. Our room was always impeccably made up yet never once did she intrude. --Octavian and Wat: I mentioned them earlier, kudos to them again. --Maraschalh Stanton, cruise director: he was great, and he seemed to be everywhere! --Literally every crewmember we met had a smile for us and went out of their way to help us if we needed it. I've been in a lot of 5-star hotels all over the world in my job and I've never seen a better staff in any Ritz-Carlton. --The ship was obviously not new but there were cleaning crews everywhere. They were never obtrusive, and the ship always looked great. I'd be glad to answer any questions. Just remove the dontwant.nospam from the email address. We're already looking at another cruise!! Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
We traveled with a group of 12, including 5 kids from 7-11. We read probably 100 reviews before going, for insight. Saved a lot of $ because of it. Ship was very clean, good condition. We did not get to use all the amenities and much of ... Read More
We traveled with a group of 12, including 5 kids from 7-11. We read probably 100 reviews before going, for insight. Saved a lot of $ because of it. Ship was very clean, good condition. We did not get to use all the amenities and much of the entertainment because of the schedule & kids (no taking your 8 yr. old to the bar to listen to some Buffet). The kids didn't like camp carnival, so we didn't force it. We let them do their own thing, in a buddy system. We took about 8 good walkie talkies which helped. Food and table waiter were very good. Cabin Steward was average, so we removed the kids from the $10/day/pp tip they automatically charged, and gave it to the table waiter at the end. Excursions- About any excursion offered by Carnival is available at the pier for 1/2-2/3 the price. Just watch out for 7-8 hour excursions. Carnival only waits for you if you booked through them. Belize-Took a scuba excursion for $130 where they flew us over the barrier reef to san pedro and did a 2 tank dive. People were very nice. It would be a nice place to return to. Costa Maya- went to Chocchaban ruins. For 12 we paid $300 vs $840 through Carnival. Enjoyed it very much. Cozumel- scuba was good. Also took cab to Natl. Park & spent the day. Plenty to do there. Cozumel shopping was disappointing. Grand Cayman- Good snorkeling, some you just walk from the road side. Shopping & dining were expensive. Probably our least favorite stop. Other tips- read lots of reviews, take water & wine, walkie-talkies, took our own snorkel gear & golf towels on excursions, rather than hauling 50lbs of wet towels and worrying about good rental gear. For a family of 4, allow about $800+ in excursion fees, not using Carnival. We also did not give kids access to the sail & sign account. You must tell them to exclude them. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise very much. Now need to take a rest from our vacation. Read Less
Sail Date July 2004
This was my 1st cruise and my husband's 2nd. This was a present from my father in law for our honeymoon. We had a blast. The ship, even with it being an older ship, was is awesome shape (except the elevators had some wear and tear on ... Read More
This was my 1st cruise and my husband's 2nd. This was a present from my father in law for our honeymoon. We had a blast. The ship, even with it being an older ship, was is awesome shape (except the elevators had some wear and tear on the doors). It took about a day for us to learn our way around without getting confused, so that wasn't too bad. Our tablemates were the best and we are still keeping in touch with them. We absolutely loved our head waiter and assistant waiter...Vlad and Tiger. They were the best...Vlad is in the Carnivale dining room and is the one that wears the boxing gloves during their performances. He was a hoot and made it fun to go to dinner every night, so we didn't miss a night. Day 1-We were so exhausted that this day was a blur...our wedding was the day before so we hadn't slept in over 24 hours. We still went to dinner that night, and to the welcome aboard show. Day 2 (Fun day @ sea)-I laid out in the sun and we bought pics...we got acquainted with the ship and went to dinner and the comedy shows that night. The comedians on this ship are hilarious. Day 3 (Grand Cayman)-WE did the Stingray sandbar and snorkel. It was the best, you can't go to GC without seeing the sting rays. We then went around the port and bought some Tortuga rum cakes for friends and family at home. That night on the ship, we went to dinner and to the shows again. Day 4 (Costa Maya)-This was by far my favorite stop...you have to go here before it gets too commercialized. This was an absolutely beautiful stop, as close to Heaven as one can get on land. We went into the fishing village of Mahahual and took school supplies to the schools there. The teacher was so welcoming and the children were so polite....and they were so cute in their uniforms and such. We then ate at Tapas, and talked with a couple from St. Louis that own a resort there that specializes in Scuba diving, so we got the inside scoop about Costa Maya. That night on the ship was the same...dinner and the shows. Day 5 (Cozumel)- We did the dolphin swim and snorkel....yes it was expensive but well worth it. We walked around Chankanaab for a while then went back to the ship, changed clothes and went into Cozumel to go to Carlos N Charlie's and Senor Frogs. We aren't drinkers so we wished we had stayed @ Chankanaab and snorkeled some more. Now we know. That night on the ship, the water was rough and my husband wasn't feeling well so we went back to the room and he slept. Day 6 (Belize)-We did the Horseshoe reef snorkel and then also snorkeled with the stingrays and nurse sharks. This was great, but after the excursion, we went into Belize City and we wished we had stayed on the boat. We were very uncomfortable... people were pulling our arms to get us to look at their stands, and our comfort zone was interfered with. We heard that the cave tubing was great, but we wished we would have done the snorkel tour that also took you to Cay Caulker for the day. We heard that was the snorkel tour to do. Same night life as every other night-LOL. Day 7 (Fun day @ sea)- Pretty much the same as the 1st, except we took the galley tour (a must do) and played the Newlywed and not so Newlywed game. That was a blast. We also did Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. These were all so much fun. Disembarking -This was not as bad as everyone says. Customs just has to clear the boat, and this leaves you sitting around for a few hours in your predetermined area which is boring. Once cleared, we were the 1st ones off of the ship due to an early flight. We got to the airport in plenty of time. Don't book anything before noon if you can help it. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Western Caribbean Carnival Inspiration May 30, 2004 I sprung out of bed in our home in Brandon, Fl (20 minutes from Tampa) and began the exciting last minute packing of toiletry items and such that I couldn't pack a month ago when ... Read More
Western Caribbean Carnival Inspiration May 30, 2004 I sprung out of bed in our home in Brandon, Fl (20 minutes from Tampa) and began the exciting last minute packing of toiletry items and such that I couldn't pack a month ago when I started preparing for our journey because they would be needed the night before. By the time I had showered and adorned my "cruise embarkation outfit" complete with a wide brimmed straw hat, the group of those who would be coming with us started to arrive. Along with my husband and son, my two sisters were joining us and they both brought a guest. So it was 7 cruisers in all. My husband, son and I had sailed 4 times before this but it was the other 4's first cruise. There was a ton of last minute craziness as we tried to get out the door but finally we were off. As we were driving down the road full of anticipation, the blue and red symbol of all that is Carnival came into view at last. The funnel towers over the surrounding buildings at the Port of Tampa. Then the whole ship could be seen and we cheered for our new home. As we drove closer, we passed by cruisers milling around with their luggage. One look at them and we were slightly worried, none of them looked happy. What kind of people were we traveling with? That's when I realized they were not our fellow cruise mates BUT those who had just gotten off the ship. They all looked sad and I knew it was because they had to go home. I couldn't help but feel mixed emotions part of me was so HAPPY to not be them as they sat and waited for their transportation to take them back to their jobs the next day. The other half of me felt a sense of foreboding because I knew all to quickly that would be me in just 7 shorts days. I decided to go with the happy feeling, as I'd have plenty of time for the sadness next Sunday. We dropped our luggage off and we said good-bye to our parents, who had graciously dropped us off. We headed up the escalators to the check-in area. As we waited in line for the metal detectors they started calling group number one to board the ship, this was around noon. As we passed through the security area, I was surprised at how big the check-in area was. It's much larger then Port Canaveral (the only other port we've sailed out of.) There were plenty of extremely helpful Carnival staff to take our boarding information and before we knew it we were assigned a group and directed to the waiting area. We were group 10, as we sat down they called group five. We had maybe a 30 minute wait and we were ready for our boarding pictures. This didn't take as long as we thought it would. There were several large groups in front of us which sped up the embarkation picture taking time since they all took their pictures together. We got on board and one of my sisters headed directly to the purser's desk to add money to her Sail N Sign Card so she would avoid the lines later. The rest of us had used a credit card. The atrium area is nice and the large golden sculpture that adorns the area reaches up to the beautiful skylight above. The main "lobby" area does feel a little smaller then on other ships we've been on (Pride, Fantasy, Sovereign of the Seas) but it is centered around the beautiful marble staircase. We headed up to the Lido deck to wave good-bye again to my parents who had walked over to the Channelside Shopping area to catch a movie so they might be done when we sailed. Next, we went into the Brassiere for lunch. The dEcor in here was as others had suggested, a tad "loud." It took a little getting used to because it made the room feel more crowded then it really was. The metal tubing dEcor was neat but it took up extra space that could have made the room feel more open and inviting. Otherwise it was a good lunch. My son and husband immediately went to the pizza line. I had some very nice lasagna and other foods. There was a nice variety and I tried a little of everything. Some things were wonderful others I didn't care for. But in my opinion that's one of the great things about cruising, trying new things. The burgers and hot dogs are really good. I know that's not the exotic cruising menu that you would imagine but after eating escargot and quail the night before sometimes traditional American food is comforting while away from home. After lunch, we went to check out our staterooms. One sister had a 1A (inside cabin with an upper and lower bed) and this was the first time I had been in one. I thought it was quite charming and enough space for the two of them. They did say that they took turns sleeping in the "top bunk" because it wasn't as comfortable as the bottom. Not sure if it was their bed in particular or all 1A's have this problem. My other sister and her boyfriend had a 2 person Outside Cabin on the Starboard side and we had a 3 person Outside Cabin on the Port side. The cabin was nice and clean. My one complaint was their cabin seemed cooler then ours. I know some people complain about the inside rooms on the ship being too cold but my husband enjoys keeping the thermostat at our house to 72 degrees during the day and 69 at night. So it was hard getting used to the temperature change. We turned the dial on the air conditioner to high but it never got quite as cold as we would have liked. I saw no blatant areas of disrepair in the rooms. The bathroom floor did look like it had been re-tiled recently. And there were some carpet stains in some of the hallways but nothing that seemed alarming. The elevators were the one place that needed attention. The tile on the floor (small mosaic patterns) was missing tiles and the paint on the doors was peeling or had been unfortunately engraved with initials of some careless teen. Otherwise, every time I turned around there was a happy crew member polishing the stair rails, wiping the glass, or scrubbing off chairs. After perusing the material in our rooms, we went to the shore talk for the first two ports where we met our cruise director Steve. We soon found out that Steve was a funny guy but he talked and talked and talked way too much. This would be a theme throughout the cruise. He would start out great and then just get into way too much detail about events. His announcements over the load speaker were even worse. We often joked about placing bets on how long he would talk for at the next announcement. It got to the point where we would tune him out. We left the shore talk early because we felt like we were back in school attending a lecture. We had pretty much decided on the tours we were taking anyway, thanks to the tips on the message boards and reviews we read. Next, we were called to the life boat drill. This was the easiest drill ever. On past drills we were made to line up military fashion, life jackets buckled, as the crew members checked our names off on a list and we waited on the hot deck for what seemed like hours. This time we had the Lido deck as our muster station. I guess they felt sorry for us having to wait in the non-air conditioned space because we were allowed to sit around on deck chairs near the pool and never once had to adorn a life vest. This was over fairly quickly but to my disappointment the ship had already pulled away from the port before we were dismissed. We made our way to the back of the ship to wave good-bye but we had already made it so far away from the pier, the people at Channelside were already a blur. A tad dismayed we made our way back to the cabin to stow our vests and then headed back up on deck for the customary Sail Away Cocktail. We went to the Aft Verandah deck and found some lounge chairs to relax in near the smaller pool, as we navigated our way out of the channel. Not having sailed out of Tampa before, I was really looking forward to sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I had heard in past reviews that it's quite a site and that the funnel barely fits. So with much anticipation, we awaited as the triangular forms got closer and closer. As we began our pass under the bridge, I felt like a child again. I knew deep down that we wouldn't hit the bridge but at the same time I could not help feel a slight fear because it does in deed appear to just barely scrape by. It was a great adrenaline rush as the funnel cleared the huge bridge span and we were on our way out to sea. Everyone up on deck clapped! We lingered on deck for a while and then strolled over to the front (bow) of the ship for a different view. It was quite windy up front and we had to hold on to our hats and tuck in our shirts. We were just staring out at the vast blueness and then something happened that I've always wanted to see on a cruise. In true Titanic fashion a group of dolphins was playfully racing the ship out to sea. They jumped in and out of the water right in front of the boat. It was a beautiful sight. After that we headed to our cabins to get dressed for late dinner in the Carnivale Dining room (8:00pm). Dinner in the dining room has always been an event for me. We get dressed up and dine in style. Unfortunately, this night would be a tad disappointing but the good news is it got considerably better each night. Because it was the first night there was quite a large line to get in the dining room as passengers were directed to their tables by the numbers on their cards. I don't think anyone enjoys waiting in line but this one seemed to take an eternity. The only consolation was that it would not be like this every night. We finally found our table. It was a 6 person booth with an extra chair at one end on the starboard side a row away from the windows. We sat down and were given our menus. I like to take full advantage of the menu by ordering an appetizer, a soup, a salad and an entrEe. I had the fried tiger prawns with rice and a very nice honey ginger sauce (which was quite good). Others had lamb. My sisters' boyfriend had steak. The waiters (sorry they told us their names a few times but I am horrible with names) brought out the appetizers to those who ordered it and the soup to the rest and then skipped right to the salad for everyone rather then bringing out the remaining soups. They were gone so long getting the main course we didn't have a chance to ask for the missing soups. When they brought the main course we decided to just eat that and not worry about the soups as we could always get more food later. The next issue came when they forgot the steak and we were all done with our meals before my sister's boyfriend even started his. Dessert was uneventful but I had a heavenly Chocolate Decadence Cake! I think overall the desserts were much better this cruise then any I remember in the past. Usually, they taste bland to me but they were great this time. They still need to work on the Cheesecake though. I like a heavy New York Style cheesecake but on cruises I've only been able to get French style which is too light and reminds me too much of Jello. After dinner we went to the welcome aboard show. There was a comedian who was quite good but this was the one combined show (early and late dinners) and there was no room for those who had late seating. After the show we brought our son (age 11) back to the room for bed and as expected the room steward had turned down the beds and placed the chocolates on our pillows. Ahhh the cruising lifestyle! She had also brought the welcome basket of goodies which I noticed was missing when we first went to look at our rooms. I had assumed Carnival had stopped this process but thankfully I was wrong. We went for a walk on deck after this. The moon was almost full and was a beautiful sight as it reflected on the water. We kind of missed the star gazing that we had on past cruises as the moon was too bright. But the full moon at sea was a new experience for us and we relished it. Around 11:30pm, we headed over to the Candle Light Lounge to watch the R rated comedian. I liked him the most of all the R rated shows we'd see as he didn't have to use a ton of cussing as his main form of comedy. After the show we were exhausted and went to bed. Monday May 31, 2004 We woke up fairly late for a cruise. It was about 10am and since it was a day at sea we weren't in a rush to do anything. We got dressed and eventually made it up to the Lido deck for lunch. We did the usual sampling of each dish. My son stayed true to his beloved pizza. After lunch, we went up on deck and played the hunt for lounge chairs game. We found an open area and a stack of chairs near by so we claimed them both. No sooner had we settled in, when all around us people were doing the same thing. Before we knew it, we were pretty much boxed in. It was a beautiful day and we spent several hours reading magazines and watching the ship stream through the water. I finally got a tad too hot and decided it was worth the risk of stepping on people to take a break from the heat. We did some exploring, found some bars and shops we'd missed yesterday and then headed to the Candlelight Lounge for the Art Auction. My son went back to the room to watch a movie. The art auction was pretty much like others we've been to. I go for the free champagne but my husband is all about the art. I admit it's nice learning about contemporary art. After the auctioneer promised a free piece of art to who ever showed the most enthusiasm, it was a game to 2 fellow passengers. They had a "whooo hooo" and "wow" fest over every little thing. At first it was entertaining but by the 2nd hour it got a tad annoying. We did find a painting we wanted to bid on. We'd gotten 5 on a prior cruise. One was a free give away for all who attended, one we won and the others we bid on because we had just moved and needed something to cover the walls. Two were Kincaid seriolithographs which compared to the starting prices now, we got for a steal back then. For this auction, we found an Alexander Chen for about $115. We have one he did of the New York sky line and this one is of the Grand Canyon. My sister and her boyfriend bought two pieces of art also. If you've never been to an auction it's worth a try. After the auction we went back to the cabin to relax and then get ready for the Captain's Gala in the Paris Lounge. It was formal night. We were all dressed in our best and my son was especially excited to dress up in his new suit. We found a seat way in the back of the Paris Lounge and the waiters brought hors d'oeuvre and drinks by. We listened to the welcome speech by the cruise director and the captain introduced the senior officers. Everyone cheered the loudest for the chef. Next, we went around and had our picture taken at the pre-set backdrops. I tried to get a nice group shot but as I would later find out that was near impossible. I had my eyes closed in some. People were looking in 5 different directions in another. It was fruitless. Next came dinner. Lobster tail night! But the tails were disappointing. My tail was at least edible but others at my table sent theirs back in exchange for the fish. My one tip is to listen to what the waiter recommends. He never steered me wrong and if he suggested a dish I didn't want to try, I'd ask for the next best recommendation. Another good rule of thumb, I've come to learn, is to stay away from pasta dishes on all cruises. There's something about them, I don't think pasta does well to be mass produced. I confirmed this by trying my son's pasta dishes. It's been posted before but I can confirm that you must try the Pumpkin Soup. It was the most memorable dish the whole trip. And its not overly pumpkiny either for those who don't like pumpkin, its just so good!! After dinner, we headed over to the Candlelight Lounge to watch the first part of the hockey game (GO LIGHTNING!!!) Then during intermission we went to the Paris Lounge for the first dancing show. "El Nuevo Caribe" was a very good show. The two singers were wonderful. The male singer was great for the songs as he and they were both of the Latin persuasion. The female singer reminded me very much of Christina Aguilera. We thought we had to get there super early to get a good seat but we ended up in the second row. The cruise director was nice enough to announce at the end of the show that the Lightning had won (YEAH!!!) which had to be hard for him as he hailed from Canada and was a Flames fan. They also asked all Military personnel to stand up before the show in recognition of Memorial Day. I thought this was a nice touch especially since there were only 3 American crew members on board. We left the show and went to bed. Tuesday, June 1 We woke up and were docked out just off the coast of Grand Cayman. We had an early shore excursion and woke a tad late so we dressed and ran to the Paris Lounge to meet the rest of the ppl on our excursion. We got there and were told to go directly to the 3rd deck and get on a tender. The tender ride was not long maybe 5 minutes. We got off and took the customary picture and then waited under the sign for our tour. We had decided on a city tour because on past cruises we never got the full "educational" experience of the port. We got on a nice bus that was well air conditioned. In Grand Cayman they drive on the left side of the road since it's a British Colony. We drove by tons of hotels and the governor's house. The governor's house was not that impressive but the driver made a big deal about it and even stopped in front for a few minutes. She was an interesting tour guide. While she did give us a good educational talk about the island, some of the things she thought to be exciting were a tad strange. The most so was the "Outback Steakhouse." I still can't get over the fact that she made a huge effort to pull into the parking lot and stop so we could admire the Outback Steakhouse. He he he...The highlight of the tour was the Turtle Farm. I would recommend visiting there by itself though. The rest of the tour was a tad disappointing but I got what I wanted out if it which was the education part. The other places we stopped where 7 mile beach (for a quick picture), the town of Hell, and the Tortuga Rum Bakery/Store. The Tortuga Rum store is right next to the Turtle Farm so it's not much of an additional stop as it seemed to be advertised. But they have really good rum fudge and you get to sample all the cakes and drinks you wish. When we finished the tour, we took a quick walk to the west of the pier and bought some t-shirts and other souvenirs. We thought about going to the beach after this but we were tired and hungry so it was time to go back to the boat. My sisters each did there own thing in Grand Cayman. One went to the Treasure Island beach which was a ship excursion that included use of the hotel's amenities but you had to pay for the taxi to get there. We noticed a very nice public beach on our drive and I'd advise saving the money and just getting a taxi to there. My other sister rented a Jeep and went bar hopping. She's the brave one as I wouldn't attempt to try and navigate the traffic especially on the "wrong" side of the road. Back on the ship, we sat outside and enjoyed the view of the city as we ate lunch. There was a Royal Caribbean boat anchored there also. The funny thing was they were using their tender to ferry passengers back and forth but we used Grand Cayman ships. Not sure why that was. We could also see quite a few snorkeling excursions that were just off shore. After lunch, we went back to the cabin to watch a movie and napped. We went to dinner early and had drinks at the Chopin bar just above the Carnivale dining room. This was to become our main pre-dinner hang out. We talked about our day at dinner and while I can't recall the menu I do have one piece of advice. If you have the pumpkin soup, don't try the Lobster Bisque the next day. It pales in comparison and seemed to be made with the overcooked lobster from the night before. The rest of the meal was wonderful though. There was another R rated comedian at night and we stayed out late since we didn't have to get up early in the morning the next day (docking is at 11pm in Costa Maya). Wednesday June 2 We slept in late and went up for lunch around 11:15pm. They were still setting up and changing over from breakfast so we went outside to watch the docking process at the Costa Maya pier. We were at the back of the boat and one look at the seas gave me a sense of foreboding. Past cruises we've missed a port because it was unsafe to tender. I was happy that we would be docking at a pier here, rather then tendering, until the Captain came over the load speaker. The minute I heard his voice I knew there was a problem. The waves were too strong to dock! We watched as the workers below on the pier released the ropes and we started to move away from the pier. I was devastated. The Costa Mayaians didn't look too happy either as they saw a source of revenue slide back out to sea. We went into the Brassiere and I just sat there too upset to eat. Eventually, the cruise director announced over the speakers that we would be leaving immediately for Cozumel. We would dock by 7pm and stay overnight there so we would be able to enjoy the night life. This consoled me a little so I was at least able to eat but I was still upset that we would be missing the most exotic port. We ate lunch and went back to the room. We had received a new Caper and a letter from the Captain apologizing and letting us know there'd be a $25 credit on our Sail and Sign account. This made me feel better too. I know its not much but its more then we received on past cruises after missing a port. My spirits were lifted even more when I went to talk to my sister in her cabin and we met her room steward who told us how excited he was about missing the port. It turns out the crew lives for times like this when they can go out to Cozumel at night and enjoy themselves. Even though we didn't take advantage of the nightlife in Cozumel (although my sister and her friend were the first people off the boat) because we had a 7:30 am tour the next day, I was happy for the crew. I don't recall all that we did to bide our time until the ship docked but around 6pm, I went up on deck and got a good seat for the docking at Cozumel. There were 3 other ships, all Carnival, already docked at the 2 piers and we tried to see who could read the names first. I had my binoculars but it was very windy. Finally, we could make out the Holiday, Celebration, and Elation. One of them was leaving and we ended up docking next to the Elation. They finally left at about 10pm. We went to dinner minus my sister and her friend so it was just 5 of us. Then we went up on deck and had a night game of volleyball. My sister and her boyfriend brought a ball and they were dying to play but it had been too windy previously when the ship was moving. We played and then watched the sister ship sail away. Next, we went to catch the end of the show in the Paris lounge. It was a magician and the comedian from the night before. The magician was better then expected but the comedian was indescribable. We commented the night before that we wondered how this guy would do a PG show because 90% of his act was cussing. Well it turned out he couldn't do PG. There were tons of little kids in the audience because their parents thought they'd enjoy the magician. When the comedian came out, the 3rd sentence out of his mouth had the "s" word and then as he tried to get into a story he used the "f" word and other colorful language. The little boy in front of us instantly caught it and yelled, "Daddy, he just said a bad word." This was not the worst of it, however, because as the comedian continued on, we could noticeably tell he was plastered. He was slurring his words and not making any sense. Half of the comedy that night was our amazement that he was allowed to go on stage like this. His set only lasted about 10 minutes but the cruise director was notably upset afterwards when he bid us goodbye. We went to bed after this so we could manage the tour in the morning. Thursday, June 3 This was the best day of the cruise. We got up early, dressed and grabbed a muffin and then headed to our meeting place in the Paris lounge again. We left for our tour and immediately boarded a ferry to take us to the mainland of Mexico (Playa del Carmen). We had originally wanted to book the horseback riding trip but it turned out despite excursion lists we read online, it was for ages 12 and up and our son just missed the cut off. We racked our brains for something to replace it and decided upon the 4 X 4 Cavern and Beach trip. Mostly because everyone else was going cave tubing in Belize and we had already decided snorkeling was a must here because of past reviews. Also, because I've never been in a cave and have always wanted to. We found a seat on the ferry and thought even though it was a 45 minute ride it would be a good way to wake up. However, the boat will be forever dubbed the Puke Ferry. I never felt sea sick but this was the exception. I should have gotten the hint when we were in the Paris Lounge and one of the Asst. Cruise Directors was passing out Bonine but I had to learn the hard way. I also should have taken the hint when I got on and noticed everyone was sitting in the middle aisle away from the windows. Why did they not want to enjoy the view? I soon found out that it was because the side to side motion was horrendous. No, I didn't officially get sick but I've never come closer. We finally docked and I was so happy to be off that boat. I was, however, dreading the ride back. We separated into our tour groups and walked through the shopping square to our awaiting Jeeps. Another reason we chose this tour was because my husband gets car sick unless he drives so the thought of being able to drive was a quick sell for him. We got in our jeeps and drove off caravan style to the caverns. It was very interesting driving. It was the first time I've really felt like we were in a foreign country. The signs were in Spanish and the neighborhoods made the poor neighborhoods of Tampa look like palaces. There was a lot of rubble everywhere. I couldn't help feel like we were in a war zone with piles of rocks scattered around everyone's yards and large holes in walls. We drove on the Mexican highway and then got off on a dirt road to get to the caves. My husband was a tad disappointed as he thought the off road part would be more exotic and that we'd get to go faster but I was happy enough with the bumpiness of the dirt road. We arrived and were given stylish red hard hats and let into the cave. It was very beautiful to see the stalactites and stalagmites. We went half way in and then saw above us an opening to the air with a tree growing right in the cave. It felt like magical place out of a story book. Just beyond this was the underground lake. We changed to our suits and put on the provided life jackets. As we jumped in, the water was freezing. It took a while to get used to but after that it was refreshing. We swam around with our tour guide pointing out different things and even got to swim through a small above-ground passageway. The view and the water were magnificent. The whole cave is lighted and the only draw-back was trying to swim in between people to get a good view of certain things. We left the cave and were given a cold drink. We were allotted 10 minutes to use the rest room and shop at the "Mexican WalMart" that had been set up while we were in the caves. Next, we got back in the jeeps and drove to La Playa beach. It was a longer drive then I had expected but it gave us a good opportunity to sightsee. We passed many of the other sites offered as tours including many of the ruins and XCaret. We arrived at the beach and found a picnic table for our belongings. My son and husband hit the water but I was starving so I found the buffet that was included in the excursion. There was salad, beans, chicken, beef and fish tacos, and chips. It was all very good but very spicy! The beach was nice but smaller then expected. There were hammocks and a small amount of lounge chairs. The water was refreshing and there were nice waves. Being from Tampa, we only get small waves most of the year on the east coast of Florida so it was nice to have west coast type waves to enjoy. After swimming, I relaxed in the hammock and then we took a few pictures. One word of caution (or incentive to some males out there), there are topless beaches or perhaps it was one itself. We were not prepared for this and it wouldn't have normally offended me but we did have our 11 year old son with us so when the topless women went strolling down the beach it was a tad awkward. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Puke Ferry. We got back in our jeep and headed back to the pier. It was a tad of a wait for our Puke Ferry to dock. Normally, I would have been impatient with having to wait but the dread of leaving my stomach in Mexico was enough to keep me from getting annoyed. We finally got on the boat and this time went right to the middle row in the middle of the boat. Whew! It was not as bad this time. It was probably in part due to the fact that we were so tired so my son and husband napped while I read a magazine. We got off the Ferry by our ship and walked to the shopping area to find some souvenirs. We found all we needed in one store. I can't recall the name but it resembled a flea market. We got shirts and my mother-in-law's requested vanilla. We were heading back to the ship but my husband decided to try some Mexican beer. There was a Fat Tuesdays just to the left of the pier if your back is to the ship but it was really crowded and commercial looking. However, we found a small bar/restaurant to the right and it was very nice. It was a tad loud as they blared music. When my husband went up to the bar and tried to tell the bartender he wanted Mexican beer, I'm not sure he got the best kind (Victoria beer???) but it didn't taste too bad (which is saying something because I can't stand beer). We decided to sit down and enjoy the view. We found ourselves in a setting for a Corona commercial. We sat on a small dock and everyone else around us was drinking Corona. We laughed at them because why would you drink a beer you could get in the US when you are in Mexico? We were enjoying ourselves so much that we decided to order another round and we also tried some Mexican Nachos. It was the perfect end to a perfect day in port. My sister and her friend rented a Jeep here as well and drove around Cozumel. The other sister and her boyfriend did the Horseback ride excursion. They said it was nice but the ruins looked fake. They had a drawing and won a bottle of Tequila so they were very happy. We did the usual pre-dinner drinks at the Chopin and then went to dinner. We watched part of the hockey game then took a walk on deck and went back to the room to watch the Bolts loose in overtime. Very upsetting! We went to sleep exhausted from our day in port. Friday June 4 Today we visited Belize. We had been planning for a while to take the Goff's Caye snorkeling excursion. We woke up and went to breakfast. We didn't have to meet our excursion group until 8:45am so it allowed us some time to eat. I was very worried about being able to tender here after the Costa Maya experience, any suggestion of high waves had me squeamish. We watched as people began to board tenders and felt a great relief. There were many different sized boats taking people to shore and to their excursions. It seemed like all the ones with snorkel gear were big 2 deck boats and I was quite surprised when we boarded a small 15 person speed boat. While we were boarding, the waves felt enormous. I was shocked they let us leave the ship. The description of the excursion didn't prepare us for the speed of the speed boat. We zoomed through the water and bounced up and down on the waves. There was no side to side rocking like on the Cozumel Puke Ferry so it didn't bother us at all. I did feel sorry for those sitting up front in the bow of the boat as the front end smacked down into the water every few seconds. However, we in the aft were getting our punishment as well by the continuous sea spray. It was refreshing though and as long as you had sunglasses to protect your eyes it was actually pretty fun. We arrived at Goff's Caye after a slower ride through some mangroves to distribute snorkel gear. The guides dropped a few people off at the tiny island and the rest of us went as close as we could to the barrier reef. The coral was amazing but unfortunately the fish were still sleeping or something because there were not as many as I would have liked. One person remarked that there were more fish at Chankanaab Park where they were hand feeding schools of fish. So I guess next time we will have to try that out. Snorkeling was fun but it tires you out very quickly. It wasn't a movement problem as much as breathing. We got back on the boat and set off back to the small island. We were given bags of water especially made for boating so you don't injure yourself on the plastic bottles as the boat is moving. We were told there was usually someone on the island selling barbecue food and drinks but unfortunately they didn't show up today. It was disappointing that they didn't show up or that the tour didn't include food. After four hours, we were starving. We relaxed in the sand and my son built a sand castle. Others were snorkeling off the island but I'd had my full. The island is so small you could throw a football from one end to the other. We got back on our boat and started the thrilling speed boat race back to the ship. We had planned to take another tender to the city when we got back but we decided we were too hungry and tired. Also, it was 1:30pm and the last tender was at 3:30pm. Factoring in the 30 minute ride, we wouldn't get much quality time in the city anyway. So we headed to our rooms to change and then to the Lido deck for food. They had a really good chicken on a skewer for the Japanese buffet and we ate heartily. We decided to try and go up on deck to see if we could get a glimpse of the city with our binoculars but on the way we happened past the Candlelight lounge and noticed the very end of the "LOR The Return of the King" was playing so we relaxed in the darkness and watched the end. Afterwards we went up on deck and looked around but we were anchored too far from the city to see anything. We watched the tenders zoom back from the city. It was about 3:30pm and the last few boats were coming in. We heard the infamous drinking boat excursion before we saw it come in. Next thing we knew, there was a large boat with about a 100 dancing passengers trying to dock. The boat had two decks and the top one was full of people. We noticed one guy in particular who was kneeling with his head resting on the seat of one of the benches. As the people began to get off, he tried to get up but could only stagger a few feet and then down he went. It was morbid curiosity that kept us watching as he was helped to a sitting position by one of the tour guides and then instantly began to vomit. I knew I should not watch but at the same time we couldn't help ourselves. Would this guy have to be carried off the boat in a stretcher? He tried time and again to get up with the help of the guide. What appeared to be his girlfriend and a few other friends, all almost as plastered, came over and oblivious to his plight would try and get them to come dance with them. Finally, once everyone else had got up, he summoned enough strength to stand and he was nearly carried off the boat by 2 of the guides. The boat sped back to Belize and I felt sorry for the clean up crew. Feeling slightly queasy, we went back to the cabin and took a nap / watched a movie before we would have to get ready for dinner early so we could attend the welcome back party. We got dressed in our next set of formal attire and headed to the party, invitations in hand. There were a lot of people there and they passed out drinks and hors d'oeuvre as they had at the Captain's Gala. The first drink I had wasn't very good. So slightly jealous of the party boat's passengers, I decided to try some rum punch on the next round. Funny thing was, there wasn't so much punch in the rum punch. I guess they saved all the punch for the kids NA drinks but not being a heavy drinker I was quite dizzy by the 3rd sip. WHOOO! After the "welcome back" movie, which we'd seen on past cruises we went out to the Promenade and I was determined to get a portrait of the three of us that actually looked good. So we stopped at each back drop and I tried desperately to keep my balance as they posed us in different formations. I don't think anyone else can see it but the portraits we ended up buying both have me with a nice Rum Punch smile (small trade off for my eyes being open.) We milled around the decks and then headed to our favorite lounge but I didn't need a drink that night so we went to dinner and then changed to go to the 2nd Las Vegas type dancing show. It was "Shout" and it was good. The two problems I had was the male singer who had been so good in "El Nuevo Caribe" with its Latin tunes just didn't translate well to the American rock-n-roll songs of "Shout". The worst part was when he tried to sing a Beach Boys' song. The other problem I had was as one of the main songs they chose to do the Macarena! I know it's a cruise ship and I should expect to hear that awful song and I dealt with it at dinner BUT to see the professional dancers doing it and then them asking the audience to join in. That was just too much for me. Perhaps I'm being silly? We went to the last "R" rated comedy act after bringing our son back to the cabin to go to sleep. The comedian was funny not because he was necessarily "R" rated but because he picked on the audience members. He was taking a survey of what everyone was drinking and then making up names for the audience based on the type of beverage. It was very improvisational and I liked that. Afterwards, we went to sleep. Saturday June 5 We woke late for our "Fun Day at Sea" and the last full day of our cruise. It was kind of a melancholy day. We were supposed to go to the debarkation talk but having been to them before we knew what to do and that it would be on the TV later. I was disappointed after watching it later that the cruise director used the same jokes we'd heard on a past cruise. Not sure who stole which jokes from whom but it kind of tarnished the past memory of the great cruise director we'd had on the Pride. I was too sunburned from snorkeling to want to lie out in the sun so we ate lunch (there was a wonderful chocolate dessert buffet) and went to the photo gallery to purchase my Rum Punch induced pictures. Then we went to the shops to purchase souvenirs for people we missed buying things for in the ports. After that we went to the Newlywed / Not So Newlywed game. This is always a fun show. Even though they ask the same questions on each cruise, there are always different and hilarious answers. Following the game we decided to get the packing over with so we could enjoy the nighttime activities and not be stressed about getting our luggage out in time. That's when we turned on the TV in our cabin and heard that Ronald Reagan had died. I was sad but thankful it had happened at the end of the cruise rather then at the beginning. We took a break from packing and tried to go on the Galley Tour. I'd been on it before on another ship so when we got to the meeting place and discovered they were only half way through with BINGO and it would be a while before they'd start the tour, we decided to skip the tour and grab a snack on the Lido deck. It was hot so we sat in the shade and had a burger or hot dog and some fries. Again, they are good burgers and hot dogs! The crew members were even up on deck getting their lunches of burgers and hot dogs. I think this is the first ship I've been on where we saw so many crew members eating up on deck. Perhaps it was because they always eat late and we did so on many occasions this trip as opposed to past cruises? We went back to the cabin to finish packing and then took a nap. We went later then usual to the Chopin before dinner and since none of our party was there we went into the Candlelight lounge to watch the Game 6 Hockey pre-game show. Dinner was especially nice this evening. My sisters bought 2 bottles of Champagne so we could toast the wonderful cruise and they all signed a card to thank me for the planning I had done. It was very touching. As the waiter was getting the champagne ready, the table next to us asked their waiter to open the blinds and it revealed a beautiful sunset. We watched as the sun sank into the ocean and then began feasting on the last dinner. I had a very good Beef Wellington and others who had the Turkey dinner said it was good too. The waiters sang their last song, something they made up but it was to the tune of, "Leaving on a jet plane..." What a great night! After dinner we went to the Candlelight to watch the hockey game. It was a long game and by the end of the 1st overtime I was beyond tired. My son and I went back to the room to put the luggage out while my husband stayed to watch the end of the game. We were just in time for the luggage as the cart came by right after I put the last piece out. Of course at the same time the Lightening scored the winning goal and I missed it but I was happy they won! Sunday June 6 We woke up and were just docking at the Tampa port. I wasn't ready to leave but before I knew it we had dressed and were up eating our last breakfast at the Brassiere. I was surprised that we were able to get a table and relax as we waited for them to start calling colors. They did the usual announcement for people who hadn't cleared immigration or still had debits on their Sail N Sign cards. We got tired of sitting in the Brassiere so we went out on deck and watched the ballet of the forklifts below as they maneuvered around each other to load the food for the next cruise on the boat. It wasn't until about 9:45 am when they started calling people to leave the boat. We were the last group called and were off to meet our parents outside the luggage area at 11am. We had arranged to put our luggage in their cars and then go to the movies to see Harry Potter 3. It's just my little way of extending our vacation as long as possible. After that we had lunch at Red Lobster and finally made it home. Overall, it was a great vacation. When all was said and done we were quite exhausted by the 3 ports and missing Costa Maya turned out to not be that big of a deal. I would definitely sail the Western Caribbean again and if we wanted to go on a shorter cruise the Inspiration is a great choice as she's switching to the Sensation's itinerary in November. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
My family, me, husband, 12 year old, 18 year old and my mom are back from a really nice cruise aboard the Inspiration. We enjoyed the 4 ports of call and wished we could have stayed longer in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. We were surprised by ... Read More
My family, me, husband, 12 year old, 18 year old and my mom are back from a really nice cruise aboard the Inspiration. We enjoyed the 4 ports of call and wished we could have stayed longer in Cozumel and Grand Cayman. We were surprised by the poverty in Belize. Costa Maya was not much better. The port area was nice there. We went on the Cave Tubing in Belize which I booked online for $60, much less than ship price of $89 and the group was 14 instead of 50 people. The ride to the caves was 1 hour 15 minutes over rough roads and then over very rough dirt road for the last 25 minutes. Caves were very interesting and the walk was not too strenuous. 12 year old girl got very cold during the last part of cave which was windy and the water is about 70 degrees. But all in all a great trip. We also booked a snorkel trip through same company. It was on a sail boat. We went to sting ray city and 2 other spots. Group was small and guide was informative. Sting rays were amazing and everywhere. Again saved money vs ship. The trip we enjoyed the most was at Cozumel to the state park - Chankanaab Park. The park was beautiful!! We took a taxi ride $15 for 5 over and $20 back?? Entrance to the park was $12 each. They had beautiful beaches with chairs and huts & trees for shade. We had all our own snorkel equipment so we just went right in the beautiful blue water. There were millions of fish of all colors, shapes and sizes. Lots of coral and sea fans. We walked down to the far end of the beach away from the crowds. The botanical gardens were great and many flowers. Showers and bathrooms facilities were nice. We didn't do the dolphin encounters because of cost. Several people said it was really wonderful to swim with them. Just too expensive for us. We really enjoyed the day at the beach - just needed more time. We liked the food on the Inspiration. However, breakfast was the same day after day on Lido deck. Lunch was varied but mostly strange for southern tastes. The salad bar was great with lots of fresh fruit. We liked the grill out near the pool for hamburgers, dogs, chicken and fries. Of course the ice cream machine was great. My husband and son enjoyed the free sushi bar. Dinners were acceptable. They seemed to care more about presentation than taste sometimes. We liked trying the different meats and fish. Duck, lobster, shrimp, scallops, and lots of steak were tried by all of us. We also tried different appetizers. Most everything was good we just craved some vegetables from home. The casino was small and very smokey. The rooms were average size for that size ship. Cabin steward was wonderful-kept our room spotless. The maitre d' changed our dinner time to the last seating which was at 8:30. We loved it because some of the nights we were just back from port. We had time to relax and get a nap and then get ready for dinner. Also got to see the sunset every night. It was beautiful... There were 2 formal nights. Everyone was varied in degree and style of dressiness. Some prom dresses, evening gowns but mostly just nice dresses and shirt and tie. (even some nice pant suits). Waiter staff was very attentive. They brought us everything we wanted or needed. Including too much to eat most nights... The Inspiration is showing her age. I noticed it more because we cruised on Carnival Spirit in Alaska last year. That is a newer much nicer ship. My mom and daughter did not notice as much as they had not been on any other ship. There was lots of wear in the elevators, some broken and chipped tiles, scratches on the brassy work all around the promenade area. It was not dirty by any means, the staff was constantly shining, vacuuming, painting, cleaning everywhere. Definitely a clean ship, just a little worn. We never went in the pools because they were crowded and sea water. We just waited for the ocean snorkel trips. Good first time/value cruise. Price and ports were what attracted us. Also out of Tampa, drivable from Atlanta. Read Less
Sail Date May 2004
Embarkation with the funpass was great. I was on board within 45 minutes. I thought that was pretty good. The food was great in the dining room with the exception of the cheesecake. It was a little dry. The ship is almost 10 years old. It ... Read More
Embarkation with the funpass was great. I was on board within 45 minutes. I thought that was pretty good. The food was great in the dining room with the exception of the cheesecake. It was a little dry. The ship is almost 10 years old. It shows it in some areas. It is holding up pretty good though. There were some funky smells in the hallways sometimes, but nothing major. The ports of calls had fun things to do. My only beef with the cruise was that if you book an excursion outside of carnival, you may not get off in time to make your appointment. Carnival will give priority tender service to those guests who have booked excursions directly with the ship. Personally, I think that sucks. It should be first in line, first off the ship. But then that is just my opinion. There was plenty of food and plenty of activities to keep you occupied for the entire trip. The shows were not Vegas quality, but were entertaining. There was only one that sucked. It was some comic that they had. He sucked big time and was almost booed off the stage. Other than that, they were fun. All in all, I will continue to cruise with Carnival. I traveled with my wife and another couple and we all had a great time. :) Read Less
Sail Date April 2004
First of all - very, very good. So here's the detail. Embarkation...the ship was four hours late because of fog - they wouldn't let it into Tampa Bay. But - there is a neat little shopping area, so my 20 and 18 year old daughters ... Read More
First of all - very, very good. So here's the detail. Embarkation...the ship was four hours late because of fog - they wouldn't let it into Tampa Bay. But - there is a neat little shopping area, so my 20 and 18 year old daughters and myself went to a movie. We came out and voila! there was the ship. We went to lunch and waited. It became quite crazy to embark then because everyone was either getting off or pushing to get on. They did the best they could with so many, many people. People complained which I thought unwarranted. Our room was just as represented. Clean, big, the girls had large bunks. Safe in the wall, good shower, lots of hangers, etc. The ship could use some sprucing up in some places - some carpet worn, etc. But overall in good shape. Food was very good - we all watch our weight so went for lots of fresh fruit, yogurt, fresh fish, veggies, fresh salads, etc. We had no problem keeping our weight down all week. We were conservative during the day, and ate wide open at night. When our server realized we wanted fresh veggies a lot, he brought fresh ones every evening. Our entire table was doing this by the third night, so he brought out large bowls of fresh broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, etc that we all shared family style. Lots of good desserts, fresh pizza all day that the teenagers loved, frozen yogurt, etc. Good sushi too - find the sushi bar. Entertainment was good - music on board, some good shows, gambling, music by the pool, a huge dance one evening by the pool, etc. Lots of fun. As for trips, I reserved ahead of time over the internet and saved a lot of money. Shop in the Caymans and get it over with - we did perfume, designer purses, watches, and pearls. The one little Mexico stop was junky shopping but fun stuff that we negotiated with real dollars for silver, dishes, etc. The girls liked it - very good for teenagers. Then in Cozumel we went swimming with the dolphins (reserve over internet) and in Belize we did the cave tubing (again, reserve with Action Belize over internet). For those of you who golf - one word - GO! The Belize golf was incredible. Take travel set of clubs, they only have 5 sets to rent and no women's. Spend the money on Carnival Golf...expensive but...that's why you're here, right? Spa is very nice, we had massages. Work out room was excellent. We did that almost every day. Debarkation - do NOT make an early return flight. We did get in at 8:30 but just barely made our 12pm flight. Make it for 1-2 and then you just can relax at the airport - they have lots of good lunch restaurants. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
Had three guaranteed inside cabins. No upgrades as this was a completely booked ship. Embarkation was great...Checked in around 11am, did paperwork and started to board around 12noon. Was pleasantly surprised at the size of the cabins as ... Read More
Had three guaranteed inside cabins. No upgrades as this was a completely booked ship. Embarkation was great...Checked in around 11am, did paperwork and started to board around 12noon. Was pleasantly surprised at the size of the cabins as this was our first time on Carnival. Left Tampa on time and got a beautiful picture going under the bridge with the sunset behind it. Luggage arrived early so we could change for dinner. Sunday - At Sea - Got the kids enrolled in their Camp Carnival...One in the 9-11 group and one in the 12-15. Spent the day at the pool and hot tubs; kids loved the slide. Had breakfast at the buffet, which we loved...so much to choose from..and lunch at the burger/hot dog bar by the pool. Burgers and Dogs were much better than the last ship we were on. Never a long line, everything was smooth. Formal night, everyone dressed, had lobster, prime rib and escargot. Yum!Got my son-in-law to try the escargot, and he absolutely loved them. Make a point to do so. Tuesday - Grand Cayman - We were all booked on StingRay City. It was cancelled due to water conditions. Went ashore.The 7 that had never been there before took a tour of the island for $15 each which they got right on the pier. My husband and I just wandered the flea market and shops since we had been there before. Bought some rum and had turtle fritters in the snack bar on the island. Wednesday - Costa Maya - Definitely a good time. Did not do any shore excursions on this one since there was nothing that sounded good. We were not into the ruins. The compound of shops had a great pool right in the middle of the courtyard, with a swim up bar, and a great outside amphitheater with entertainment. After we shopped, we spent the rest of the day in the pool and had wonderful Mexican food and beers. Very nice relaxing day. Thursday - Cozumel - Took a cab to Mr. Sancho's Beach. Absolutely terrific place. We definitely recommend it. Beautiful beach with shade if you need it, warm water, trampoline in the water for the kids to jump on and off, did some snorkeling (they rent the equipment there), saw quite a lot of fish. Had some more Mexican food, beer and margaritas. The people are all really friendly and joked around with us. Everyone had a great time. Friday - Belize - Fancy shops at the pier...Rest of the city very run down and poor...Took a carriage ride through the city and was a little apprehensive about the area. Was glad when we got back to the ship. Do not recommend going out on your own. Some of our group took the boat down the Belize River and trip to the ruins. They really had a good time. All the people were very friendly and really want the tourism. They are working on making their country more of a tourist oriented destination. This is our 5th cruise, the first on Carnival. We liked the cabins and the variety of sandwiches available from room service. Our steward, Nestor, was great. Everything was kept in perfect order. We were a little disappointed in the dining room. The service was really not very good. We asked for an additional entree one night, which they forgot to bring, as well as beverages for the kids one night. We asked twice and still did not get them. We adjusted our tips accordingly with the purser on the morning of departure. I did not feel we got the service as on other ships. The layout of the ship was confusing. I had a hard time finding things as you could not walk the entire floor. Sometimes you had to go up one floor and come back down. The atrium had only one working elevator the entire trip. The Camp Carnival program was terrific. We booked Carnival this time on the advice of my travel agent, mainly for the kids to have a good time. It was TERRIFIC. The kids raved about the many activities. My 12 year old grandson was out every night until 12:30. He was more impressed and had a better time than any other vacation we have ever taken with him. My 8 year granddaughter was moved up into the 9-11 year old group as she was not happy with the smaller children. She, too, had a wonderful time. You could not ask for a better program. Another cruise including the kids will definitely be on Carnival. Read Less
Sail Date March 2004
A little background. We live in the land of the tourist down in Florida. After 25 years of being married we have been on family trips to mouse world, MGM, Universal, B. Gardens, etc. more times then we can count. To the point that the kids ... Read More
A little background. We live in the land of the tourist down in Florida. After 25 years of being married we have been on family trips to mouse world, MGM, Universal, B. Gardens, etc. more times then we can count. To the point that the kids would say "not again !". We live on the west coast with some of the finest beaches in the U.S. and warmest water, great sunsets. We see gators, deer, fox, bobcat, manatee, dolphin, etc. a lot. We are spoiled a little and take for granted what others pay a high price to enjoy for just a week. That said this was the best vacation we ever had, just wish the kids had been with us to share it with. This was our 25th wed. ann. and we had never been on a cruise before, my wife who gets sea-sick on a elevator had no desire to ride the waves of the great blue. But after years of hearing co-workers and friends stories of their cruise's we cast caution to the wind and set sail. We also made sure that my wife had the little patches for sea-sickness that go behind the ears. We had family take us to port (only a hour drive for us) and gave our bags to the porters, also got our cabin number from them since we booked TBA. All we asked the travel agency for was a O/V. We were early and embarkation was long but after 9/11 we rather have them safe and not sorry. The line was inside and cool, much better then any line at any of the tourist parks. We found our room right off on E deck, to the right and down the hall. The room had more than enough room for us and everything we had in tow (enough for a 3 week cruise). Next was the life vest drill, dull but needed. We made our way back to the room to return the vests and were pleased to find our bags were already there. After unpacking we went a-wandering, being this was our first time on a cruise we were in awe of the size and beauty of the ship. They are really something for a first timer. Made our way back to the rear deck, had the drink of the day as we watched Tampa fade away. When we went to book the cruise we asked the agency for a cruise for our age (mid 40's) and likes. My wife loves to dance, I like music but we're in that middle group were it's hard to go out, either the music is all rap or elevator in the clubs. And we both just wanted to have fun. We aren't very formal and more laid back. Price wasn't a big concern, they said either Royal Car. or Carnival. We tossed a coin and it came up heads, Carnival it was and we weren't sorry. I'll give you the worst first. It was the dining room for us. They sat us at a ten top with only one other couple by the doors. If they didn't show up we were the only ones at this big table with everyone walking by. Our waiter was lack luster and we seemed more of a pest to him. We had a late seating so they would clear the table for the next day half way into our meal making us feel rushed. The last day we ate in the dining room was on our 25th ann. which they didn't make mention of even though other tables had theirs done up right during the week. They knew about it, even got a card for a discount from the spa, but our waiter could care less. In all fairness everyone else who had a different waiter were treated like kings and queens. After that night we ate in back or up on lido and the service was great and the food was wonderful. Room service was great, the room was always clean, workers and crew were helpful, cheerful, and great to deal with. If you can't have fun on a cruise you are either dead or dead wood. There is so much to do we couldn't have covered it all if we had two weeks. Every kind of music, action, lights, games, always something going on. And just walking the decks at night under the stars late at night was great. In Coz. we booked the fury cat. onboard, can't say enough about that trip, it's great. In Casa Maya we just shopped and took a drip in the port. Very nice, clean, pretty, good music, good food, nice people. Belize, take a tour or not much to do. Went to the ruins and climbed the temple, great. Even the long bus ride was nice. In Grand Cayman I have to give the Captain bonus points. It was very rough and it looked like we wouldn't make shore leave. What he did was very cool. He backed the ship between a royal car. and the mickey ship using them as wave breakers and we were able to board the tenders. We were the only ship to make port that day. We met some of the others from those ships the next day at the next port and they weren't happy. The mouse ship had stayed a extra day there and still never left the ship. All of them were ready to jump ship and join us on Carnival. The ship had some kids on it but we didn't see many unless it was when we walked past where they had a camp going on, also try to remember you were once kids also. They don't rub off, you won't catch a case of children. Debarkation was a pain because some non-American guest's didn't show up for the head count and no one can leave until they are located. Once again after 9/11 one can't be too careful. You are on board with 2000+ people, most others just wanting to have fun and many that are interesting and easy to talk to. If you want to be all alone stay home and watch the travel channel, you will be happier and so will everyone else on the ship. If you want a jumping ship, nightlife, great people, great food, dancing, music, action, great tours, and most of all a lot of fun then book asap. We loved it so much that after 2 weeks of being back we booked another cruise with Carnival for later in the year. Dollar for dollar when you compare hotel cost, food, car rental etc. with what you get on the cruise, the cruise wins hands down. It's all in what you make of it. P.S. my wife didn't get sea-sick, even on the elevator. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
My wife & I took a belated Honeymoon aboard the Inspiration the week of Jan. 11/04. We booked airfare through Carnival & arrived in Tampa at 2:20 p.m. from Toronto and were immediately greeted by Carnival staff. We quickly boarded ... Read More
My wife & I took a belated Honeymoon aboard the Inspiration the week of Jan. 11/04. We booked airfare through Carnival & arrived in Tampa at 2:20 p.m. from Toronto and were immediately greeted by Carnival staff. We quickly boarded a waiting bus with 20 other passengers from our flight & arrived at the terminal about 2:50 p.m. Gave our luggage to the pier workers (with a tip) and waited about 15 mins to sign in, then we boarded ship by 3:20 p.m. I booked a 5A guarantee & didn't know where our room was until we arrived at pier. We got upgraded to a 6A (nice start to the trip). We were on Riviera Deck 240 at aft of ship (3rd from rear). Great cabin, super clean, very quiet, elevators were close too. Bathroom was nice & clean, good supply of toiletries, shampoo & conditioner provided free of charge. There was a safe in our closet. High Seas Romance package that I ordered 2 weeks prior was waiting when we arrived. We were immediately thrown into the muster drill, which was a bit disorganized. It took about 45 mins, and the only bad part was that everyone missed the sail away due to the drill. Luggage was delivered to our room by 5 p.m. We chose late dining and felt it was a great decision because we never felt rushed throughout the week, and didn't miss the best sun of the day (4:30-6:30 p.m.) and the quietest time on the sundecks. We felt sorry for people wandering the deck at 5:30 p.m. in dinner attire. Our table service was outstanding and our tablemates Andrew & Paul from England made dining the highlight of each day. The menus were always outstanding & rivaled any great restaurant we have been to. Wine list was also great. On evenings when we couldn't decide what to eat, the waiter brought 2 entrees. Each evening the dining room was entertained by the waiters during dessert. Monday & Friday were formal nights, MAKE SURE TO HAVE THE LOBSTER. Each night from 4p.m.-9p.m. you could eat buffet-style in the brasserie instead of dining room if you wanted, but why bother when you could be spoiled in the dining room. There was a 24hr pizzeria in the brasserie that was great. Hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, hamburgers & fries were always available during daytime on the Lido Deck. Breakfast & Lunch buffets were always served in the Brasserie. Same each day for breakfast, although you could custom order eggs & omelettes. Lunch was always super & was a different national theme each day (ie Indian, Italian, American, French, Chocolate etc.) Room service was available 24/7 with a pretty broad menu. On several occasions we would post the breakfast room service checklist outside our door the night before (don't forget to tip the porter). It was nice to have a pot of coffee delivered to the cabin rather than fight for cups in the brasserie. Also, if you are tempted to drink the coke provided in the cabin, be prepared to pay $2.50/bottle (my wife found this out first day!) After first day on board, it never felt crowded. We never waited for an elevator or fought for a deck chair (and there was 2500 people on board). The seat savers must have been on another ship that week. We preferred the aft deck during the day, as it was much quieter than lido deck. There was a nice pool & 2 jacuzzis, which were never crowded. The same cannot be said for lido deck pool/Jacuzzis although that was where most of the activities were each day, incl. Caribbean Band. Show lounge was beautiful, always seats available. Each show was put on twice (8p.m. & 10 p.m.) to accommodate both dinner sittings. The major productions were on the formal nights, with comedians, jugglers, balancing act filling out rest of the week. Productions were pretty good, rest of the entertainment was okay. Still entertaining provided you had a few cocktails. The casino was always active when the ship was at sea. Piano Bar seemed to be the hot spot each night, beware if you don't like smoke! My wife enjoyed some of the services in the spa/beauty salon too. In Grand Cayman we went to Stingray City with Capt. Marvin, which we booked online. It was GREAT. Only 14 people on our boat vs. 100 on the ship-sponsored shore tour. In Costa Maya, we just enjoyed the facilities at the pier. There was lots to do, incl good shopping. Cozumel is absolutely gorgeous, we did the Fury Catamaran which was by far the highlight of the week. It was so relaxing, 45 minutes of snorkeling, then sailed to a private beach for a while, you could swim, sunbathe or use their kayaks for free, and best of all, FREE BEER & MARGARITAS the entire time. On the sail back to the ship, the crew organized an impromptu dance party onboard. This tour can only be booked through Shore Excursion desk & worth every cent. (don't forget to tip the crew, especially bartender who just about force feeds you!) Belize was beautiful too, we just spent the morning wandering through the tourist village. Next time I will book a shore excursion because it does feel confining in the tourist village after an hour. The ship anchors about 2 miles offshore in Belize & it is a 20 minute tender to port. WE NEVER WAITED FOR TENDERS OR IN LINE TO LEAVE SHIP WHILE IN PORT. Tenders were always quick, one waiting behind the next, and the crew was efficient with security check-in. I was worried we would always wait in line to leave or board in port and that never happened. Disembarkation when we arrived back in Tampa was a bit slow, but that was mostly customs-related. IF YOUR NAME IS CALLED, PLEASE DO AS YOU ARE TOLD. Otherwise it holds everyone up. We were off the ship by 11 a.m. though. I was impressed that we could even get room service on the morning that we arrived back in Tampa. That was great, I highly recommend it as the brasserie was a cattle line that morning. Carnival shuttle promptly brought us back to airport, though it was not near as fun on the way back. As a footnote, I would highly recommend to those booking their own flights that you NEVER book a morning return flight. We never would have made it based on the disembarkation wait, and the week before, we were told the ship was 3 hrs late getting into port. In summary, the ship was beautiful AND CLEAN. This was my second Carnival Cruise (wife's first) and we were never disappointed. Food was great, I highly recommend the Dining Room for night meals, as you can do buffet for breakfast & lunch. Bar Service was always great, staff were friendly. The cruise represented a very broad spectrum of people from all ages, walks of life. Everyone had one thing in common, they were there for fun. We wouldn't hesitate to take another cruise on this wonderful ship. I also want to say a special thanks to those on Cruise Critic who took the time to write reviews as I found the information invaluable. After hours of scouring the boards for information & advice, we felt very prepared for this trip and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. A cruise is whatever you make of it. This summary is based on OUR EXPERIENCES only, but I am convinced if you go aboard with a negative attitude & looking for problems, you will find them. Read Less
Sail Date January 2004
This was our 2nd cruise and a late 13yr anniversary for us. Getting there: We drove to New Orleans from the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and stayed the night in a hotel. Embarkation: We took a brief walking tour of New Orleans. I recommend ... Read More
This was our 2nd cruise and a late 13yr anniversary for us. Getting there: We drove to New Orleans from the Dallas/Ft.Worth area and stayed the night in a hotel. Embarkation: We took a brief walking tour of New Orleans. I recommend checking in before doing this. The warehouse where we sat to wait for embarkation and check-in was extremely hot and crowded. Things got a little better when we got to a place where we could sit to wait, but it took maybe 40 minutes for the whole process. It did seem like a long time in the heat. When we finally got onboard, we wanted to put money on our shipboard credit card and get it activated. Everyone had the same idea. Several terminals for doing this were unmanned while we continued to wait for over an hour. People in line began to grumble. I finally got up the courage to ask if they could open up some unmanned terminals. I found a guy in a carnival coat who turned out to be one of the activity directors. I explained that we had been waiting for over an hour and his response was a sarcastic, "And???...." Maybe he wasn't the person to ask, but he could have at least directed me to someone who could help or at least explain why my request could not be fulfilled. Things improved after this. Cabins: We were on the Riviera deck. Only crew were below us. Still our room seemed large with a large shower and closet. We had a porthole. I was very happy with our cabin. It was kept immaculately. My only complaint is that you can't seem to get a real bed for two. They push two beds together and bridge them with a foam pad or something. Not the same as a bed for two. Food: Awesome breakfast, I'm a creature of habit, so I had my daily french toast, bacon, and scrambled eggs in the cafe at the rear of the ship. We always ate outside on the deck out of the wind, but with the Caribbean sun and sea as our view. The food other than breakfast in the "cafe" (I forgot the name) is fair to good. Sometimes there is a wait for breakfast in the morning or for pizza. We usually got lunch poolside. The burgers were great. The drinks were awesome. The best food was dinner. I especially remember the filet mignon and the best carrot cake I have ever had, ever (that's saying something). Breakfast was nice in the dining room also, but kind of a stuffy formal feel so early in the day. It's better to get out and enjoy the sun and fresh air. Snack food in the bars was the same choice everywhere (ad nauseam). Best snack choices were poolside followed by the cafe. Entertainment: Above average. The entertainers do a good job of putting on a happy face and performing well, but if you talk to them for any length of time you'll find most are not happy. Apparently, pay, leave time, and living conditions are not what most of the crew and entertainers envisioned when they signed on. The comedian was best suited to our tastes, and was so popular, I only got an obstructed view from just outside the doorway. We came late and only happened upon that show. Both comedians were very funny and popular. Next, we enjoyed the karaoke, though this seemed to be dominated by the rowdy recent high school grads from rivaling Alabama and Oklahoma. It was crowded, but fun. We spent quite a lot of time in a bar area in the thoroughfare between the casino and the disco where a singer/piano player was set up playing James Taylor type 70's music along with music from other genres and eras that fit in. He was fantastic. Though he confessed to feeling like a "human jukebox" going through the motions. The guy in the actual piano bar was bitter about not being let off the ship at every port. He grumbled between songs and made it clear that he was quitting as soon as possible. He was o.k., but gave off a negative vibe. The broadway style shows were great, some better than others. Some a bit cheesy with a Vegas flare. Fit the casino style lounges. Poolside reggae band was just the right mood for relaxing by the pool and watching the participation games the activities people set up. Mock game shows were also very entertaining. They should have kept these and karaoke going nonstop. Bingo was available, but we didn't play. Service: Other than the rude activities director, everyone was unbelievable, down to the last detail. We never went without any request or waited long for anything. Everyone was friendly and accommodating. This seems amazing to me considering that they are so underpaid and overworked. My husband and I began to feel we were on a slave ship of sorts. We were discretely told that the cooks (who get no tips) were paid only $300/month. Below decks, the living conditions for crew are crowded, noisy, and unfriendly. International cultures sometimes clashing. For the public, this is imperceptible. We got the chance to speak openly with some of the crew. Our cabin steward should be given an award for patience. Though we never had a complaint about our cabin, the drunken spoiled brat teen two doors down was whining loudly that she wanted this poor guy (who was busy trying to get the entire deck's luggage off the ship) to make her a towel animal because she messed hers up. He did it, but not before calmly smiling and speaking a few words (in an African dialect) to his co-worker. I turned to him, smiled sympathetically, and said, "I bet you're glad she doesn't understand your language." He and his co-worker about fell over laughing. He was tipped generously. Ports of Call/Excursions: Our first port of call was JAMAICA. Jamaica is a poor country. This is obvious when you see Montego Bay port and the countryside. We chose the Dunn's River Falls climb in Ocho Rios. If you do this. Make sure you wear your suit under your clothes. I never really got a chance to change and went in denim shorts. This tour was neat, our driver "didn't waste time" and the guide was informative and friendly. The trip was a little rushed. We got off the bus, were herded up the falls, hand in hand. If someone slipped, it was up to the people holding their hands to help them up. A few times the guys who kept the herd moving up the falls lent a hand. 3/4 the way up, they push you down in the water (sitting) and snap your picture. Then they herd you up to the top. It's done. I kind of longed to jump into the Caribbean at the beach at the foot of the falls. I thought surely there would be a chance to do that, but no. At the top, you are shown your photos for sale, then you have the opportunity to go through a shopping village on the way to the parking lot. We were greeted at the gate by a man who led us directly to his booth where we were guilted into buying something. This happened twice more before we escaped the "village". My husband began to stress and said to me, "I cannot support the whole Jamaican economy single-handedly, let's get out of here." His opinion was that the shopkeepers were pushier in Jamaica than anywhere he'd ever been, including Thailand and Mexico. I was fascinated by the British colonial holdovers juxtaposed by the Jamaican culture. Notably, the British traffic turnarounds with pigs roaming free on them. Livestock ran free everywhere. Cows in the road, goats sunning themselves on raised burial plots. There seemed to be a sting running where government officials undercover would sell marijuana to cruise passengers, then tip the customs agents off as to who was carrying. We ran into a fellow passenger (youth group minister) who was being continually pestered to buy marijuana. The guy asked if he could join us, so maybe the guy would leave him alone. Back onboard, another couple told us they got a day pass at one of the resorts. Beach time, pool time, drinks included. Nobody pestering you. I had no idea you could do that. We wished we had known. We plan on doing that in Cancun this year. Next port was CAYMAN ISLANDS. Gorgeous. We chose the island tour which included the sea turtle farm, the Tortuga rum cake factory, the town of Hell, and the highlight of our entire vacation: Stingray City. The turtle farm was cool. My favorite part was plucking the baby turtles out of the water for a closer look. We didn't stay here long, but it was fun. I could have done without the rum cake factory. Hell was a funny little stopover. A sign on a church lawn points the way to Hell (away from the church, "Turn or burn, baby!"). Just a gift shop and outcropping of coral turned black that has a hellish appearance. Cute little photo op. You can buy postcards in the gift shop that say Greetings from Hell, Wish you were here. Kinda funny. All the t-shirts are puns along the same lines. The cashier takes great joy in shouting, "Who in Hell's next?" Last, Stingray City was not to be believed. Never would I imagine how friendly and fearless, and gentle stingrays are with humans. Feeding them is kinda like putting a kleenex in a vacuum hose. They are so graceful and will let you pet them. One of the crew even briefly lifted a stingray up for us so we could see the underside. (It looks like a smiling face.) We could stand on the soft sandbar, or snorkel, or just swim to the bottom with our masks on. Incredible experience. Bring your underwater camera. We ate lunch on the patio of a little restaurant after some shopping. The view was unforgettable. We grabbed a real estate magazine on the way back to the boat. That's how much we loved this place. It's a playground for the rich, though. My husband described it as "Santa Barbara on steroids." Next time, we'll skip shopping, the turtle farm and the rum cake factory. We'll go straight to Stingray City and spend the rest of the time on a public beach. There are no private beaches in the Cayman Islands, but they all appeared to be immaculate, beautiful and fairly empty. Next stop, COZUMEL/TULUM: This was an enjoyable stop. A boat took us from the ship to Playa Del Carmen where we were escorted to a bus that took us to the Mayan ruins of Tulum. Lots of walking from the front gate and at the site. Wear comfortable shoes, bring money for cold drinks, you'll want one for the tour and one after. The tour was interesting and informative, but wear your suit under your clothes again. There is the most beautiful beach I have ever seen over the cliff that ruins sit atop. There are no amenities here, but you'll wish you had more time. If the Mayan history doesn't interest you very much, you may want to ditch the tour and head for the path under the arch at the far south (right) of the site. Take a gander at the vista below before you do. Get your camera ready, it's a Kodak moment. This is the place I picture most when I need to de-stress or clear my thoughts. It's that good. After the bus ride back (air conditioning, Pepsi, Sol Beer) we were ferried back to Cozumel where I did some shopping while my husband found a bar for a beer or two (It was very hot.) The owner was an American who came on vacation and didn't want to leave. We had margaritas, chips and guacamole on a nice little patio where we were serenaded by 3 mariachis playing for tips. Caught a taxi-van back to the ship. It was depressing as hell to watch the crystal Caribbean waters slowly change to muddy brown as we approached the Mississippi delta. Debarkation was quick and painless, with crew joking that they could sneak you back on for a bribe. Sigh. Public Spaces: Way above average, but in an over the top Viva Las Vegas kind of way. I really liked the piano bar and the casino for decor. Every part of the ship was decorated, nothing was bland. I did wish the disco was a little bigger. The 70's piano guy could have easily been on a stage that wasn't being used instead of a busy thoroughfare. Debarkation: July 2003 we stayed in the Tulum area at Bahia Principe Akumal for a week instead of taking a cruise. You can read my review of this on TripAdvisor.com. For July 2004 we will be taking a "Texaribbean" cruise, (4 ports out of Houston: Cozumel, Honduras, Belize, and Cancun.) I'll try to post a review then. Read Less
Sail Date July 2002
Inspiration, Jan. 2-7, 2006 Embarkation: What a breeze! We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Airport/Stadium (nice motel except they had a problem with their water heater and we only had cold water) and our wonderful shuttle driver ... Read More
Inspiration, Jan. 2-7, 2006 Embarkation: What a breeze! We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express-Airport/Stadium (nice motel except they had a problem with their water heater and we only had cold water) and our wonderful shuttle driver picked us up at 10:30 to take us to the pier. We arrived at the pier at around 11:00AM (lots of traffic due to the Outback Bowl) We checked our luggage, took the escalator up, walked right up to the counter to check in and were assigned Group #4. We embarked at about noon and were having lunch at the Brassierie by 12:30. Cabin: We found our cabin at about 1:20 and met our room steward, Mohammed. He was very nice and always kept our cooler of bottled water full of ice. There were 3 of us in an inside cabin on Upper deck and it worked out quite well. We had plenty of space in the closets and the roll away didnt take up much room at all because it was pushed under the counter during the day. Dining Room: We had late seating (8:30) in the Mardi Gras dining room and it was wonderful! Our waiters name was Catelin (or call me Bobby-everybody does!) and he made dinner such fun every night, our whole table was in stitches! He danced for us and was very funny and friendly. Our assistant waiter was named Joel and he was nice, too. We had a table for 9, which included my 19 yr old daughter, 78 yr old mother and myself (46), a couple from Canada and their 18 year old daughter and a couple from Minnesota and their 18 year old daughter. We all seemed to have a lot in common and got along quite well. The food was very good. My filet mignon was cooked to perfection and very tasty. Formal night I, of course, had lobster and I expected it to be rather chewy like the lobster Id had on the Miracle last year. I was pleasantly surprised to find it very tender and tasty. The only thing I didnt like was the grouper one night. It didnt seem to have much flavor. We ate in either the Brassierie or the Lido Deck Grill for our other meals and both were good. Shows/Activities: We went to the Welcome Aboard show the first night and the comedian was pretty funny. His name was Tony Esposito. We went to Name that Tune-we didnt do very well, only got 10 ½ out of 15! Fear Factor was a lot of fun to watch, as was the Hairy Chest Contest! My dd and I went to the Deck Party the night after Cozumel. Fairly light attendance (too much Carlos & Charlies?!) but we had a good time anyway. The only other show we went to was the Fire Gauchos/Blues Brothers Show. The Fire Gauchos were great but I didnt really care for the Blues Brothers. The Gala Buffet was beautiful. We took pictures, but were too full from dinner and too tired to go back and eat. Ports: Grand Cayman was our first port. We booked an excursion through Captain Marvin for 8:30, so we needed to be off the ship on the first tender. We simply blended in with the ship excursion people, got on the first tender and were at Captain Marvins with about 20 minutes to spare. I think we had 28 people in our group, all from the Inspiration and most of them (coincidentally) from Iowa like us! We got to the stingray sandbar and held, kissed and were massaged by the stingrays! I had done this before, but it was definitely a new experience for my mom and daughter! They really enjoyed it and we took lots of pictures! Next we went to Stingray City. I didnt see the big stingray there, but my daughter saw it and took a picture. I did get lots of pictures of fish. My mom didnt get in the water for that part of the trip, because she doesnt swim and it was deeper there. We tendered back to the ship and had lunch on board. Cozumel was our second port and we had to get tickets to tender to the Island. We were in line for tickets by about 8:15 and they started giving them out at 8:30. We were in group 2 and got on the first tender at 9:25. We were on Cozumel by 10:00. We grabbed a cab and went to Paradise Beach where we had lunch. Cab fare to Paradise Beach was $13 one way. At Paradise Beach, we had Shrimp Ceviche, Guacomole and chips, 2 yard Dos Equis and a bottle of Dos Equis and our bill was less than $40. Very good food!!! My dd got a henna tattoo for $10 and we each got braids in our hair for $2 per braid. We stayed at Paradise Beach until about 2:00. We got a cab back to Puerta Maya, did some shopping at Los Cinco Soles and had a margarita (wow&strong!) at Panchos Backyard before we got back on the ship. Weather: The weather in Tampa, pre-cruise, was wonderful! We wore short skirts or capris, tank tops and jackets. The jackets didnt last long&the temperature was probably about 80! Our first 3 cruise days were very warm also, but the weather took a drastic turn on our last sea day! Right after we left Cozumel the water became a little choppy. Our last sea day was VERY uncomfortable! Being in our cabin was bad, being in the Paris Lounge was REALLY bad. We discovered the 2 best places to be: the lido deck in the open air, even though it was cold or the Promenade on the window seats. It was very cool in Tampa when we got back on Jan. 7&I think it was 42 when we left the ship. Disembarking: Not bad, actually. We chose relaxing disembarkation. We ate a leisurely breakfast in the Brassierie (didnt eat much, we were still rocking and rolling from the day before!) and then sat in the Paris Lounge to relax until they called for us to leave. We waited until most people had left the Lounge and the line was a little shorter. We handed our custom form to the custom person, they waved us through and we were off to find our luggage. A port person noticed my mother struggling with her carry on and sent us down to the warehouse on an elevator. My daughter and I parked grandma by a wall with our carry on luggage. We walked over to the purple tags, picked up our luggage, found a porter who found us a cab and we were off to the airport very quickly. I think we got to the airport by about 10:00, plenty of time for lunch and shopping before our 1:44 flight (which got delayed to 2:30!). All in all, it was a great trip! I was pleasantly surprised to see most people in the dining room dressed appropriately. Most people dressed nicer than I had expected even on the casual nights. There were a lot of children on board, but I didnt see any misbehave at all. A couple younger boys got a little overly excited during a scavenger hunt and were running, but a Carnival employee put a quick end to that and I never saw them misbehave again. I did see security kick a couple kids out of the adult hot tub a couple times. There seemed to be a lot of chair saving, but we never had trouble finding some when we wanted them. One complaint that I can say I have was the tickets for the tender to Cozumel. There was a little confusion over where we were to wait in line to get the tickets, but I hesitate to even mention this, because we ended up being among the first in line and were on the first tender! The tender to Cozumel was very nice. It looked like an airplane inside and was a very smooth ride to the island. Another complaint I have is that the photographers on the ship were a little annoying. I enjoyed the embarkation picture and the pictures taken in the dining room on the first night and formal night. I also enjoyed the optional stations available for photos, but the others were just annoying. Like the guy who shoved the life ring around my head and insisted on taking my picture or the woman with the sombrero who jammed it on my head at dinner. They dont even give you time to smile!!! I didnt like that at all, but it was a small price to pay for the rest of the cruise. One tip I have is to take lots of small bills...it seemed like between taxis, porters, etc we were tipping ALL the time! But I didn't mind because everyone was so nice and helpful. Read Less
Sail Date January 2000
I found Embarkation very easy. We printed the fun passes, but they weren't really needed. My only regret was that we didn't fly into Tampa the night before so we would have been refreshed for our first day of the cruise. I highly ... Read More
I found Embarkation very easy. We printed the fun passes, but they weren't really needed. My only regret was that we didn't fly into Tampa the night before so we would have been refreshed for our first day of the cruise. I highly recommend this, and will do this next time. We went to the Lido deck, but for the most part, the food on the Lido deck is nothing short of gross (hamburgers, hot dogs). I did like the ice cream though! The entertainment was fun, and being a little crazy I also got into the action and participated in the games. I won a really nice bag. I also threw a couple of dollars in the slot machine and won 100 dollars. I took my coins, cashed them in and walked right out. I saw some poor idiot with his head in his hands. Some people sadly can't just walk away. :( The absolute, most important tips I got, were from Cruise Critic. I originally booked my shore excursion through Captain Marvins for 35 dollars. Thank God I did! That morning, all the people who booked through the boat shore excursions had their Stingray City tour cancelled. For those who booked the stingray/Hell/Turtle Farm excursion they could do the two out of the three (But Carnival did not tell them that they would not refund part of the money so people paid over a hundred for what they would have paid 10 on the dock.) So I went to my excursion with about 13 others (those who also booked because of Cruise Critic) and it was the most amazing time. We also snorkeled on this gorgeous coral reef and I felt like I was in another world. One important note. In order to get to my excursion, I had to make sure i was on the first tender. YOU HAVE TO BE ASSERTIVE ABOUT THIS. Carnival only wants the people who booked THROUGH THEM to go on the first tender. Bring your paperwork and show them that you have to be where you need to be for your excursion. I told them that manager approved it and it went off without a hitch. I also bought a huge bottle of grand marnier for 25 dollars. Mexico was wonderful. Because of Cruise Critic, I took a cab to San Miguel (12 dollars) and went walking way back down the side streets (away from the touristy sights). If you go far enough they stop charging U.S. and only in peso's. But you also lose English speaking sellers as well. Seen some neat stuff and bought tons. Also got some beautiful mexican blankets at Los Cinco Soles for 4 for 11.95 (not kidding!) Bought some vanilla but for only 2.50 a bottle early on in San Miguel. From there, we took a taxi to Paradise Beach (13 dollars). Seen so much destruction on the way there. The restaurant was awesome and we had nacho's, enchilada's and other stuff. Seriously, they served the best darn Pina Colada's (and strongest) I have ever had. The weather was crappy, but I still had a great time. Word to the wise. Get to the Paris Lounge EARLY and say you are on a tour (ie, shopping tour) to get on the first tender to Cozumel. Our friends didn't and they didn't get off the boat till 11:30!! That is when their group was called. Eat in the Dining Room. It is so much better than the buffet. It is worth the time to get dressed up. We took the early dinner and if I had it to do over again, I probably would have done the late. The lobster was to die for. As was the Baked Alaska, and the bread..and butter. It was a fat person haven. We had some really rough days at sea's and were just rocking and rolling. So glad I brought the big box of bonamine. My poor kid was green. She really enjoyed Camp Carnival but didn't go in it until half way through the cruise. When I originally took her, there were no other kids, so obviously she didn't want me to leave her (and I didn't.) When she started making friends around the pool they all started going to the camp. She enjoyed it, and won a medal which she has worn around her neck for about five days now. She also did the good bye t-shirts and made some great memories. I researched the heck out of this vacation, so there were a few things that surprised me. First, I can't believe how darn spooky the ocean is at night when you're out there all by yourself and there is fog on the water. Creepy. Two, I love, I mean love sleeping on a boat. You feel like a baby being rocked to sleep. Three, the boat is smaller than what I expected. Five days was perfect for a first cruise, but I would need to do a seven the next time. Fourth, and most important, this was the most economical vacation I have ever had. As long as you don't buy into all their promotional crap (pictures, yadda yadda) It's great. I tipped myself and removed their gratuities. I gave a reasonable amount for those who had a direct impact on my vacation (waiter, housekeeping, etc..) I think the frozen drinks are a rip off and don't have hardly any alcohol in them. But if you ask for a Long Island Ice tea, at 4.25 you will be hammered after three!! Pina colada's are nice, but they have no kick nor do most of the specialty drinks. The prices on board were reasonable. Debarkation was not nice. Long boring, and being a Canadian meant getting up at 5 a.m. for immigration. I am also still feeling the effects of the boat and am rocking (for last two days.) Well that is all. We had a great vacation, ate, partied, jacuzzied, swam, saw sting rays, snorkeled, drank, tanned, and watched some awesome shows. Can't ask for much more considering I only paid like 350 dollars for it! Thanks Cruise Critic for all the tips. Read Less
Sail Date January 2000
Carnival Inspiration 01/02/06, out of Tampa, FL, 5 nights, Grand Cayman and Cozumel ports of call. GENERAL: 8th cruise, 1st on Carnival and apprehensive about it as we are 60 and prefer an older, quieter crowd. Have been a happy ... Read More
Carnival Inspiration 01/02/06, out of Tampa, FL, 5 nights, Grand Cayman and Cozumel ports of call. GENERAL: 8th cruise, 1st on Carnival and apprehensive about it as we are 60 and prefer an older, quieter crowd. Have been a happy RCL/Celebrity customer. Pleasantly surprised. While the crowd is younger, drinks more and is a little rowdier, there were no incidents involving drunkenness that I saw (but we retire by midnight). While the crowd is different, it was definitely not a "show stopper" for us even though we're older more sedate travelers. Great value. Monday to Saturday, 5 day schedule is convenient. Tampa is an excellent departure city. Great kids programs. We prefer children "to be seen but not heard," and that's exactly how it played out. Carnival is noted to have very good children's programs. It seems they do as I never saw a miserable, whining child anywhere on the ship. I've seen plenty of miserable complaining older adults who are not happy about anything on Celebrity/RCL - there are less of those on CCL. A nice change. It all balances out. EMBARKATION: Modern, efficient airport and cruise terminal in Tampa. 20 minute cab ride from the airport ($24.05 for 4). Porters take your bags, you proceed to check-in ($2 per bag is standard tip). Late arrival at Terminal (about 2:45) we were the only passengers being processed. Took 10 minutes to clear and board the ship (fill out your embarkation details on line, print out fun pass and present it to embarkation personnel - saves time). I'd recommend late arrival for families with small children who don't like to wait. A breeze and a quantum leap better than Miami and Fort Lauderdale arrival experience. The Ship: Older ('95) but very clean and in good repair throughout. Cleanliness improved on day 2 - 4 which indicates good ship's officer supervision of maintenance staff. Difficult to move forward and aft because of partitioning but not a major drawback. Gaudy colors (purple and orange) and design in buffet dining area and elsewhere. Looks better at night. Somewhat cramped public spaces which we do not use a great deal anyway. Lots of open deck space and outside seating with tables compared to other ships - a nice feature that we liked. Beverage and serving stations well located and convenient. Typical pool arrangement. Cabins/Pricing: We always book a guaranteed inside cabin to get the lowest rate about 90 days out and usually get upgraded to an outside cabin. It worked with Carnival. Typical price for the 5 day cruise is $400 for passengers 1 and 2 and $290 for passengers 3 and 4. There are benefits to being on the lower decks and amidships in the more "iffy" cruising months like January. You can experience some rough weather - we had one day (the last at sea day enroute back to Tamap) of 50 MPH winds and 25 foot seas. We had our 2, 20 something daughters with us in a 4 berth room. It worked out OK since no one ended up killing anyone despite shoes and hair dryers everywhere. Bath area as spacious as any I've seen. No 115 AC outlet in the bath area for hair dryers and no hair dryer provided. Bring one to plug in at main cabin desk. Very comfortable mattress and bedding. Poor AC controls and cabin tended to be on the cold side. Storage not well designed in cabin but adequate for 4 on a 5 day trip. Would be inadequate for a 7 day trip or more for 4. Good storage above the sink in the bath area. No shelving in the shower area but you can use the large sink surround - that works fine. Cabin service on a par with RCL/Celebrity maybe just a tad less visible but no problems. Stewards were friendly and responsive when asked. ENTERTAINMENT. There was one good production show out of 5. We enjoy the shows so I was a little disappointed but not outraged. Sight lines are not optimal in the theater area but adequate if you watch where you sit. The seating is flat from back to front. Not good. Get there early. It fills up fast and the best seats go quickly. CCL pushes the photos - take advantage. You can have all the photos done you want for free. Get several at different locations on formal night. At the end of the cruise, pick just one or two that you really like. Its expensive to buy a bunch but if you get a couple of good shots of your party, its worth every penny to buy the best two. Be disciplined. You can spend a ton on drinks. Set a budget and stick to it. Bring your own soft drinks and a sports bottle to hold water from the taps. You can save by bringing a couple bottles of wine. I did not get charged the $10 cork fee by my head waitress (she got that back in tips - good move on her part). Can't say that's policy. She'd probably get hammered by supervisors for not charging me if they knew about it. Liquor and Perfume are duty free - you can get some good buys from the ship. Some jewelry is favorably priced. I'd still shop at reputable stores ashore in Cozumel for jewelry and bargain. Its more fun. DINING: Buffet with good variety and tasty foods. Salad, fruit/cereal/yogurt/pastry, omelet, sandwich bars. Good pizza, burgers, fries and hot dogs. Food a-plenty available all the time and conveniently located. Good and always available beverage service in the buffet area and near the pool. Great pastries and cookies. Buffet dining area staff slow to clean up tables which indicates poor ship's officer supervision in this area. Wait staff was eager to do anything you asked though. Don't hesitate to ask them. There are plenty standing around. Uninspired but good sushi after 5PM on deck 8 in a lounge area - it was fine and I ate plenty of it. A good deal of outside table seating in the buffet area - we like this. We dined twice in the Mardi Gras dinning room - once for breakfast, once for lunch. It was fine although I prefer the buffet. We selected late dinner seating in the Mardi Gras dining area (8:30). We always do this and ask for a large table of 8 or more as we like meeting other guests - a highlight for us. We've never had bad table mates and this cruise was no exception. Table service was slightly rushed. Nicely varied menu. Wait staff discouraged substitutions in subtle ways but you got what ever you wanted if you persisted. Small portions - that is fine with us. Great desserts. Frankly, this was the best run dining room and best food I've found on 8 different ships (except Celebrity specialty restaurants but you pay extra for it). A pleasant surprise. CCL is reported to have invested a great deal of effort and money to improve its food and dining service. Its very apparent on Inspiration. ITINERARY: This is our first 5 day cruise. 6 years ago, our first cruise, we traveled for 10 days and loved it thinking we could never get used to less. Less can be better - its cheaper and tends to fit better into busy work schedules when you can't afford to take too much time off. Traveling on Monday and Saturday, to and from the cruise port is also cheaper, less stressful and less crowded. You have a weekend before to pack and a Sunday after to unwind and get ready to go back to work. I recommend departing from the lesser used ports such as Galveston, Mobile and Tampa. We had a very good experience arriving and departing from Tampa compared to Miami or Fort lauderdale. Ports of call included Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We've eliminated future cruises with Grand Cayman on the itinerary. Been there 3 times and my impression is that locals don't particularly care about cruise travelers even though the Cayman government pushes the cruise lines to keep coming there. Why do I want to pay $10 for a bracelet made in China in a Cayman shop with rude employees when I can buy it for $5 at Target in the US. The whole shopping experience is like that. There are good jewelers in Cayman but its high end stuff at discount but high end prices. Some like the 7 mile beach (nice if you like beaches) and the snorkeling with the sting rays. Its a personal thing with me but I think this is over-priced and over hyped. Cozumel is coming back following the hurricanes and I have high praise for businesses that stuck it out and are trying to make a come-back. Compared to Cayman, these people want your business and work hard to get it. There's still a good deal of obvious damage but the downtown area and shops around the ports are open and in good repair. Plenty of restaurants now open. Most resorts on the beaches are still closed having sustained extensive property damage. We've started booking tours on the internet instead of using the cruise tours - just watch your times as the ship won't wait for you on privately booked tours. Its a better value. Try Cozumel Sailing. We chartered a 38 foot catamaran from 10 AM to whenever you wanted out of Porta Debrigio - about 20 minutes from Porta Maya and a $12 cab ride. $70 per person. We had all the food (prepared fresh on the boat) and all the drinks we could have wanted. Grilled Chicken in a great sauce, steak fajitas, tortillas, guacamole, pasta salad. We sailed, snorkeled, fished, ate, drank, went to a beach and rode a spinnaker. Wow - it was a great value. Both Cayman and Cozumel use tenders, Cozumel because the cruise piers are gone, Cayman has always done it. Be prepared for a wait both debarking and embarking but it works out OK as long as you plan for it time wise and are patient. Its well organized at Cozumel, not so well organized at Cayman. Cozumel has two ports serving the cruise ships both about 5 minutes apart from each other by taxi. Porta Langusta is right in the center of downtown. Porta Maya is newer and has a nice shopping area located at the dock (what's left of the former cruise ship terminal). If you book a tour on the ship, you'll get priority debarkation. If you didn't book a tour and want to get off the ship early, for Cayman get in line by 7:45 on deck 4. Cayman tenders are small (maybe 70 seat max) and frustratingly infrequent. In Cozumel, the ship used a numbering system. Pick up your number tags from activity staff on the pool deck by 8:00 AM EST (ship stays on EST but Cozumel is an hour earlier on CST). Tendering for non tour booked passengers starts at 9 AM EST. We were in group 8 and got on the first tender which held about 200 folks - yes, they're big. Smaller ones held about 90-100. We were ashore and in a cab by 9:55 EST (8:55 CST or Cozumel time). Don't get confused about times - stay on ship time or you'll miss the embarkation and the ship. FITNESS: Gym was a tad small but adequate. Not enough tread mills/elliptical trainers. My wife and I cruise to exercise together. We like step and floor aerobics classes. We've found that all the ships we've been on suffer a declining level of well run fitness programs. Steiner - a private contractor that has a corner on the market - provides fitness staff and programs. The cruise lines are not involved in fitness or spa programs except to hire a contractor to provide these services. Steiner has de-emphasized free aerobic and stretching classes to focus on the revenue producing Yoga, spinning and Pilates classes ($10 each) and useless body analysis programs that they actually charge money for. Can't believe people actually buy this. 3 of the 4 free fitness classes were cancelled - 2 for unacceptable reasons. This has become typical. Steiner appears to me to be uncaring about complaints - why should they care. They have no competition. The cruise lines don't seem to care much either. If you are as unhappy about this as we are, start complaining to the cruise lines. Maybe they'll start thinking about dumping Steiner and re-competing when their current contract expires. TIPPING: Included in your sign and sail account is a $10 per day/ per person charge that goes to the cabin and wait staff. You can adjust this amount up or down or give money directly to your waiter or cabin steward (which I did). You are asked to tip the Matre'de separately and I did as the dining room service and food were top notch. FINAL COMMENTS: I was impressed with CCL and Inspiration despite my initial apprehensions. While the ship is perhaps a little gaudy for my tastes and the cruise/activity staff a little more active than I like (lots of announcements and overly energetic staff), I'd still recommend Inspiration to flexible, open, older travelers who are looking for good value. Its great for families with young kids and/or teens. As RCL and Celebrity prices rise, CCL is holding there's down and working to provide the same level of service and food that's a given with Celebrity and RCL - I think they've achieved it. While CCL/Inspiration is definitely service oriented toward a younger crowd who wants to party and to families with young kids, I found it to be a nice, low priced alternative. I'd go back. Read Less
Sail Date January 2000
Carnival Inspiration Ratings
Category Editor Member
Cabins 3.0 4.1
Dining 4.0 3.9
Entertainment 4.0 3.8
Public Rooms 4.0 4.1
Fitness Recreation 4.0 3.9
Family 4.0 3.9
Shore Excursion 4.0 3.9
Enrichment 1.0 3.3
Service 4.0 4.2
Value For Money 5.0 4.1
Rates 2.0 4.3

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