870 Carnival Inspiration Cruise Reviews

This trip was a Christmas Present to myself, husband and twins boys that are 18 years old. We escaped the frigid temperatures of the South Shore of Massachusetts and jumped on a plane to Tampa due to a huge discounted airfare. We chose ... Read More
This trip was a Christmas Present to myself, husband and twins boys that are 18 years old. We escaped the frigid temperatures of the South Shore of Massachusetts and jumped on a plane to Tampa due to a huge discounted airfare. We chose Carnival merely for the departure port of Tampa. Bonus was we really enjoyed the first time Carnival Experience! We have exclusively cruised NCL and RCC in the past. We booked two inside staterooms category E Forward. Empress Deck (Deck 7)was convenient to all the activity decks above. Deck 8 and above are where everything happens! We were underneath the Paris theatre so if you are the type to retire early you will get to hear the shows in your room. We don't so it didn't matter. Our cabin stewards were fantastic. Elusive Carlos, our steward, was very rarely seen but you knew he was there! Room was always tidy and towel animals awaited us every night. We had elephant, turtle, stingray, monkey and a dog. Flat screen T.V. worked well but bed (two twins put together, that were sooo comfortable, were put under one of the bunks that was tucked up into the wall and locked. Didn't keep us from bumping our head at least 4 times (2 times each) on the frame that sticks out over your head. Be careful if you are in a quad room. It hurts! Rooms were larger than we experienced on the other cruise lines and bathrooms were almost twice as big. Plenty of storage and hangers. Ice bucket always full. Loved the room. My sons steward, bless him, keep their room as tidy as possible. He earned every bit of his gratuity and we did leave extra for both stewards! Ship is beautiful. In great shape for her age and they did a nice job with the refurb. A lot of the common rooms are rarely used and we had a full ship. Piano bar we seldom saw more than 5-10 people there. Violin Bar the same. Sushi was popular and they only had one chef on hand to prepare as ordered so the line lasted a long time. I believe they did it almost every night 5:30-8:30. The kids clubs were sparsely attended maybe due to the time of year. The super slide on the sports deck was a blast! Due to our weather it was closed on the last day at sea or we would have taken more rides. Must do! 18 hole putt putt is probably better to do in a port day. A must do is to be out on deck on the sports deck near the putt putt course to see the passing under of the sky way bridge! Incredible sight from the front where you are and then you can look back to see the tail end of the ship creep under. A lot of people skipped their first night (early seating) dinner to see it and glad they did. Food throughout the ship is very good. I would even venture to say better than the other cruise lines that I have been on. We had excellent service in the dining room and through out the ship. 24 hour soft serve is very popular as well as the pizza or calzones to order. The gym has plenty of great equipment and flat screen tvs on the tread mills so bring your ear buds and watch a movie as you walk miles. You can also use both the dry and steam saunas. The spa has a great raffle on the first day so get your ticket they give away a lot of coupons for 1/2 off services and a $1000.00 worth of free services to one lucky ticket. The odds were pretty good as you had to be there to win. We saw the comedian shows and they were very funny. Didn't go to any of the other shows. Spent alot of time in the casino which was just ok. They do not have a great comp program for gamblers as other cruise lines do. We did receive great service from the casino staff. Plenty of tables and machines. 18 year olds were a little bit bored on this cruise. They are in that tough age where you are too old for the camp carnival and too young for the drinking crowd but they did enjoy the food and shows with us. Spent a lot of time in their room playing their guitar and watching movies while sampling everything on the room service menu! They didn't gain a pound unlike their mom and dad. Grand Cayman 8-3 (by the time we tendered more like 10-2) We went snorkeling on 7 mile beach at Sr Geckos which the bus driver located right off the dock brought us to($5 a person to and back with a drink at the beach club included). Not a lot of sea life (man made reef) but enough to entertain us. We had planned to go to Cemetery Beach (local beach with no services, but supposed to be a fabulous snorkel destination)only the bus driver told us we might not be able to get a bus or cab back in time so we changed plans due to her advise and the short time on the island. She could have been connected to Geckos as she gave us a coupon for a free rum punch or beer while we were there. It was a pleasant place to enjoy the beach. Lounge chairs were $10 and came with options of soda or water to drink. Live 1 man band on the beach was entertaining. He did trivia and if you answered you were given a free drink. The 18 yr old twins loved the fact that they could order a beer from the bar. We stopped for a quick drink at Senior Frogs on the way back to the ship. Fun place! Cozumel 10-8 We booked Nachi Cocum beach resort for $49 a person which included all you can drink and a three course lunch. We sat in the "not so" hot tub and swam in the 80 degree azure blue waters and ate good food! Again the twins loved being of legal drinking age. Hated to leave the "fun" ship. We had a flight at 12:40 and just relaxed while almost everyone stood in lines to get off until about 10:30 when we pretty much just walked off with no lines. Customs was a breeze. I will definitely choose to cruise carnival again if the price is right! Read Less
Sail Date January 2009
Living in New York City can be really exciting, but after a while you need a vacation. In 2008 (my first vacation in over 5 years) my girlfriend and I decided that this vacation was going to come in the form of a cruise. After looking at ... Read More
Living in New York City can be really exciting, but after a while you need a vacation. In 2008 (my first vacation in over 5 years) my girlfriend and I decided that this vacation was going to come in the form of a cruise. After looking at multiple reviews and comparing cruise lines for quality, rate, and overall experience, we settled on the Carnival Inspiration. Upon arrival in Tampa, we looked for a taxi stand to get to the Pier (we opted not to go with Carnival's shuttle service). $25 and a pleasant taxi ride later, we arrived at the Tampa Port Authority. We got out of the cab and were immediately greeted by someone who took our bags and informed us where to go and how to proceed. - Embarkation: Overall this was a relatively quick and painless procedure. We went into the Port Authority and were immediately greeted with a long and twisting line that had to extend at least 150 feet from the starting point before twisting back around 3 times. Much to my amazement, we were only in line for about 15-20 minutes before we got to the counter to check-in. After showing our Passports and our Documentation, we were assigned a number (16 if I remember correctly) and went to sit in the waiting area and take in the views of the ship. We were called to board about 20 minutes later and after quickly making our way through the metal detectors, we were on the ship. - Upon entering the ship, you find yourself immediately in the Atrium. While not the pinnacle of elegant dEcor, the Atrium does impress with the sheer fact that it is 6 stories tall (if I remember correctly) and leads to a glass ceiling overlooking the bright blue sky. After being informed that the cabins would not be available until 1pm (it was around 11:30am at this point) my girlfriend and I made our way to the lido deck restaurant for lunch. The food on the lido deck was not bad, but definitely nothing to write home about. It was your typical buffet style fare including sandwiches, hamburgers, pizza, frozen yogurt, a salad bar, and a couple of hot dishes. It sufficed for lunch and my girlfriend and I loaded our plates, indulged in our first of many high-calorie meals, and made our way to our cabin. - Cabin: While I have read some horror stories about luggage taking hours to get to the staterooms, we had the good fortune of having both of our bags waiting for us when we arrived. Upon entering the room, we were pleasantly surprised at the size. While not a place you would want to spend exorbitant amounts of time in, it was definitely comfortable and spacious enough to meet the needs of a 5 day vacation. The room was very clean and I was pleased to find that, despite the fact that we booked a porthole room instead of a full window, we had a decent view. Waiting for us was not only the daily schedule, but a wealth of information on the ship, the ports of call, and all excursions offered. After dropping off the luggage and settling in a little, it was off to explore the ship. - Upon preliminary inspection of the ship, everything seemed pretty clean and well attended to. The library was very cozy, with dark wood tones and dim lighting, and very inviting (although this first excursion to the library would end up being our last). Moving our way up, we took a quick walk through the Promenade deck. One of the few critical things I have to say about this ship could be found on the Promenade deck in the photo area. Every time we walked through this area (and it was necessary many times as a lot of the ships activities, shops, and entertainment are located on that deck), without fail, it would smell like a combination of Sulfur Dioxide and Methane (commonly referred to as a "fart" smell). I would plead insanity had my observation not been confirmed by my girlfriend and other passengers aboard. Thankfully the smell was only relegated to that one area and once you passed through the archway next to the sushi stand, you were greeted by much more pleasant scents. We were then introduced to the person who I would say was one of the best Carnival employees ever: our Cruise Director Felipe Cuoto. He is not only an incredible cruise director who was friendly to guests and attentive to any questions, but he was a genuinely good guy and bought me and my girlfriend a drink when we approached him before a show one night. To Carnival: He is by far one our your best assets, do not lose this guy. After a little more exploration, it was time for our first dinner in the Mardi Gras Dining Room. - Dining: I can't speak for the Carnivale Dining Room, but the Mardi Grad Dining Room was an excellent experience all-around. We waited in line for about 20 minutes before we were seated. Upon entry to the Dining room, we were greeted by the Maitre'D: George the Greek. He was an excellent source of entertainment and keep a very attentive, nice, and most importantly, consistent staff. We had Edguardo as our main waiter and Desi as our assistant waiter. Both were not only excellent at their jobs, but were also great people. It was nice to be able to joke around with them and have them joke back. The food in the Dining Room was pretty good. It was by no means the finest in five star cuisine, but was not shabby at all. The lobster tail was especially tasty on the formal night. We didn't feel rushed and were always attended to if we needed anything. - Ports of Call: Our first port of call was Georgetown, Cayman Islands. This was by far the better of the two ports. We boarded our tender and were off to the dock. The tender ride was very relaxing, gave a great view of the island, and was only about 5 minutes from boat to shore. We got off at the dock and were brought through customs to the pier. We waited for about 30 minutes for our snorkeling tour to begin. We boarded the boat and were brought to two great locations (a coral reef and a shipwreck) that lasted about 2 ½ hours. The tour guides were very informative and very friendly. We had about 2 hours left after to tour ended in which we ate at a great seaside restaurant recommended to us by our snorkeling tour guides. It was the first time I got to taste both turtle and conch, and I would highly recommend both. We reboarded the ship and were on our way to Cozumel. Our arrival in Cozumel was not a grand as that of Grand Cayman as it was raining, but I can't really fault Carnival for that. We decided to not purchase an excursion from Carnival for Cozumel. We attempted to walk from Puerta Maya (where we docked) to downtown which was almost a 1 ¼ hour walk. DO NOT WALK THIS IF THE WEATHER IS BAD. My girlfriend and I were soaking by the time we got downtown which made the rest of that outing somewhat miserable. Lets move on to a more positive note: the entertainment. - Entertainment: The Welcome Aboard show was a great introduction to the staff and the main theater. While I didn't partake in the vegas style shows (as I have a lot of performance experience and genuinely hate this type of show) I did see two comedy shows, both of which were great. My first impression of the main comedian was that he was overall completely melancholy and lackluster. Much to my surprise, he turned out to be extremely funny in his late-night special. Definitely don't go by first impressions when it comes to comedy. There were cocktail waiters and waitresses constantly bringing you drinks which was a nice touch at a comedy show. My only wish is that the show would have lasted a little longer! The final thing worth talking about is the debarkation process. This also went very smoothly and without any hinges. We opted to take our luggage off with us, and I'm very glad we did. At 7:45am, they announced that those passengers carrying off their luggage could begin debarkation. We took our bags and left our room. We walked up to the Atrium and grabbed a spot in line. I took a few minutes to thank Felipe for a great vacation and within 5 minutes we were off the ship and getting a taxi to the airport. Overall this cruise was a fantastic experience. Even now I am starting to plan another cruise on the Carnival Miracle for September. I would highly recommend this ship to anyone who seeks a great cruising experience. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the ... Read More
Planning - We started planning this vacation about mid-year. After comparing the price of holiday time cruises for a couple of weeks it led us to this cruise due to value. After booking via an internet agency in July, the price of the cruise dropped TWICE. The first I feel was due to the economy and the second to fill the ship. The first time our cruise was not paid off yet and Carnival was kind enough to adjust our price. The second time our cruise was paid in full and Carnival was kind enough to give us an onboard credit for the difference. Later, Carnival dropped the fuel surcharge and gave us onboard credit for that. It would be an understatement to say that Carnival and our agent were very accommodating with our booking. Please note that you must keep up with the price of your cruise and call and ASK for the discount/credit - it DOES NOT happen automatically (except for the fuel surcharge)! Airport to Cruiseport taxi was just $24. Embarkation - We arrived Christmas Day and were the second family there and only waited about 20 minutes before we were shuffled through and awaiting to board. We were on the ship about 30 minutes later. This was a great experience compared to past experience. The Inspiration - My first impression was very clean and well maintained! We do not drink but still found the "welcome aboard" complimentary glasses of champagne a nice jester but eventually got tired of saying "no thank you" due to the many, many offers. We walk around the ship to get oriented and I suggest everyone do the same. You are not able to walk front to aft on most levels/floors so learning the maze if very helpful. Stateroom - Our cabin was roomy even with 2 kids (14 & 10). The beds were very comfortable! Bathroom was basic and watch out because the hot water is HOT! Sometimes we could not mix enough cold water in. Our cabin was ALWAYS well taken care of. The towel animals prompted me and my daughter to go to the demonstration on how to fold them. Room service was prompt and tasty. Food - We ate most breakfast and lunch meals at the buffet and found it quite pleasing. We did eat one breakfast in the dining room and the Eggs Benedict was awesome! For the evening meals we ate in the dining room. We sat with the most amazing family from Virginia! We couldn't wait each night to get to see them again! We know we will see them again some time down the road! OK back to the food. The dinner meals were delicious! Everything prepared nicely. The appetizers were all great. Main dishes were hard to choose from so I ordered two and the waitress was happy to bring both (she was very kind, informative and delightful!). On lobster night my son ate two entire meals. The Chocolate Melting Cake is the ultimate dessert! It is hard to order anything else, but try them all. If you want to see how challenging it is to feed over 2,000 three meals a day take the Galley Tour. (It should be mandatory for those that discredit the food in their reviews!). This ship has a FREE sushi bar that opens around 5:30 pm each afternoon. Get there early - the line gets long quick but it's worth the wait! Entertainment - Maybe not Vegas quality but you are not paying $100 a ticket. The singers were very talented as were the dancers. The orchestra put out a big band sound with only 8-10 musicians. The shows were put together well. The magician was good and the comedian was even better. We did not attend the late version of the comedian and appreciated the Cruise Director's warning that it was not appropriate for kids. Karaoke was fun. Trivia was also. For the kids - AWESOME! The ship offers many things for kids and it looked like all the kids were enjoying them! (This cruise has a lot of kids onboard so if this is something you don't care for - find another cruise) Formal Night - We had the onboard credit so we rented tuxedos for me and my son. If you do this, do it online before you go or first thing on the ship. There inventory is small and they may run out of your size. We met the captain and went to the dining room where just like every night Wilson (our Maitre' d) welcomed us. Cozumel - This was the second cruise to Cozumel for the wife and I so we were able to plan our visit better. We went to Chankanaab National Park and snorkeled. I have heard there are better places off shore to snorkel but this was our first time and this place was perfect for us. Beautiful fish, some nice coral reef and other things to do inside the park also. The taxi was $10 and admission was $49 for the four of us. Snorkel gear and life vest were $15 each to rent. We returned to the ship for a late lunch and then in to town for shopping. We had experienced the hounding of the store workers last trip so this was short and again unpleasant. So we went back to the pier and bought our stuff then got back on the ship. Disembarkation- Very quick and easy! Do the one where you take your own luggage! Show up early as they start before the time given. In summary, we had a great time! This is a 3 star cruise ship and you cannot expect it to compare with a 5 star. For the price this is an AWESOME cruise, do not hesitate to book this cruise. I found it to be nothing like some of the negative comments in a few of the previous reviews. If I had to complain about anything it would be the constant solicitation of having your picture taken. A simple "no thank you" took care of each. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
If you are someone with low expectations then this cruise line may be ok. Never imagined that my christmas would be ruined this way. Let alone my relationship. I was looking for something really wonderful for my first cruise ... Read More
If you are someone with low expectations then this cruise line may be ok. Never imagined that my christmas would be ruined this way. Let alone my relationship. I was looking for something really wonderful for my first cruise experience so I found something for a little over 1200 dollars. It was the biggest waste of my money. first I will start with the good points: -nice ship -really spacey and beautiful room -ports of call (grand cayman and cozumel were fantastic) -didn't feel crowded eventhough it was a full ship heres the bad stuff: -first and foremost the food: I was expecting something decent because I have heard nothing but raving and ranting about the food. it was stale and disgusting and I did not have one thing that didn't taste like day old cafeteria food. This is completely unacceptable. A decent meal is not hard to achieve and shouldn't be on a cruise so expensive. It was not even to the quality of crappy fast food you can get at wendys. Me and my boyfriend are young and really not hard to please.. but my health suffered from all the bad food that I forced myself to swallow. - customer service: Nobody knew what was going on besides the information people and even they had a little confusion. Though it was nice to have people from all around the world (I myself am colombian and love to be around people from different countries), A lot of them spoke little english and were hard to understand. Not one person understood one thing I asked or could carry on a simple request. -Waiter- the waiter was lifeless, not friendly and barely spoke to us. Came over once to check on us if we got lucky that night. The maitre d was nowhere to be seen. -shows and entertainment: Not appropriate for all ages. They had very boring events and then some that were a bit "too" much. Very corny and cheesy contests that were tacky and not entertaining in the least bit. I did not pay 1200 dollars to see harry chests, absolutely ridiculous. Not one event captured our interest or made us happy. Once again I stress upon you that we are not hard to please and on sea days we were miserable. -time in ports of call- we were in grand cayman (the most beautiful place) for barely 2 hours, had lunch and then we were almost late getting back to the ship. what a waste. in cozumel we were there longer but stayed the bare minimum because everything closed down at 4 so the experience was shortened as well. I do have to say that getting off that horrendous ship of annoying employees made those 2-3 hours feel like heaven. Not sure if I am allowed to say this on here but I feel cheated. I feel ripped off and these people took a grab at my money any chance they could... to communicate with someone, to get help, to have a friendly person to talk to. No courteousness whatsoever. I intend to let everyone know what a crap cruise line this is. Please go with someone else. I may never cruise again. They knew nothing about dealing with someone who had diabetes (such as myself) and I am in the process of suing them for ruining my christmas eve. Read Less
Sail Date December 2008
First a little background,,,DH and I booked the Inspiration for the 11/03/08 sailing as a gift to ourselves in lieu of 25th anniversary gifts. Twenty years ago, when I was a travel agent, we had received a free cruise (except for port ... Read More
First a little background,,,DH and I booked the Inspiration for the 11/03/08 sailing as a gift to ourselves in lieu of 25th anniversary gifts. Twenty years ago, when I was a travel agent, we had received a free cruise (except for port charges and taxes) on the Dolphin IV with the now defunct Dolphin Cruise Lines,,,,ok, so I'm dating myself, but its the truth. For the past 20 years, we have been promising ourselves another cruise, but with the raising of three children (now 22, 20 and almost 17) it was difficult if not impossible,,,most of our "travel" money went to family vacations geared towards children that my husband considered "economical",,,Camping, Disney, trips to the beach, seasons passes to amusement parks, etc. OK,,,I'll say it,,,DH is CHEAP. Wonderful man, mind you,,,,,,please don't think otherwise,,,,,but cheap, nonetheless,,,,one major joke in our family is that when the costs start adding up, we say that DH is "chinging",,,you can see it in his eyes,,,they glaze over,,,his mouth works but no sound comes out,,,whether we can AFFORD it or not, is simply not the issue,,we could have 10 times the amount of the expenditure in the bank, it matters not,,as the costs rise, so does DH's blood pressure. Anyway,,,We live outside of Tampa, so the obvious answer to keep costs down was to sail out of Tampa,,As an ex-travel agent, i knew Carnival was our line,,,we didn't want to buy completely new wardrobes, or be out of our element,,,DH is a hard worker and a good provider, but we are working class people,,,,this gave us the choice of the inspiration or the Legend. I, of course, remembering our absolute RAPTURE with our 3 night cruise on Dolphin, wanted to book the 7 day Legend, in a balcony cabin,,,as a special treat to celebrate our anniversary. DH started chinging as soon as I started pricing,,,, without even LOOKING at the prices,,,eyeroll,,, To avoid a second heart attack for DH, I surrendered to the 5 night Inspiration, outside cabin, with no balcony,,,some things aren't worth fighting for. It was STILL 5 nights without children, and one has to be thankful for small miracles. And it WAS a small miracle that DH surrendered to 2 extra nights AND an outside cabin,,,,compromise,,,no wonder we've managed to stay married for 25 years. So we booked and paid for our 'second honeymoon' which we hoped would be better than our first (If one can rate Niagara Falls, it would have received an F),,, Two weeks before sailing, I managed a 40.00 OBC, which thrilled DH and caused him to call me 'savvy' to his mother on the phone,,,,so thanks to my CC friends for THAT little reminder to keep checking prices and call my PVP when the rates went down,,,,, So now with some background,,on to the review of our INCREDIBLE cruise on Inspiration!!!!! EMBARKATION: NOT fast,,,,,,but relatively easy,,,,we arrived at the Port of Tampa at about 11:30,,,and promptly waited in line for 1 hour and 30 minutes,,,,All Carnival staff was pleasant, and informative, and the wait went quicker because of their chattering with us, and when we got to the front of the line, we were told that their computers were down, the wait was usually much less, but the agents were having to add everything in by hand, rather than simply scan everything,,,If you ask me, dealing with the literally HUNDREDS of people trying to board that ship WITHOUT computers, it is an incredible feat that they managed to keep the wait down to that short of a time,,,I have waited for Space Mountain longer. The Agents deserve a big pat on the back for that one!! Now comes my first surprise,,,,DH hands the credit card to me and says "Have her authorize 600.00 on it, instead of 400." After I got over the shock of it, I smiled and simply said 'we won't need it,,,,and if we do, we can put more on later." DH looked at me in askance and said "Do you know how much things COST on vacation? Food, drinks, entertainment,,,," I smiled at him and reminded him that we had paid for our excursions weeks before (Great budgeting option, Carnival!!!), and our food was included, as was most of our entertainment,,,,,and we had cash for shopping in Mexico. Literally 10 minutes later, we were eating on the lido deck, listening to some fabulous cruise music, and I had a DOD in my hands,,and twenty minutes later, we found our cabin AND our luggage (amazing). Our cabin steward, Sushi, found us and introduced himself,,,,we tipped him for ice, and thereafter, we had it daily. He was beyond fantastic! he ALWAYS remembered our names, and our cabin was cleaned TWICE a day to perfection, with towel animals EVERY day. Our cabin was large compared to other lines, with plenty of closet space,,,drawer space was a bit limited, with 4 wide but shallow "desk type" drawers,,,but with 4 or 5 very large deep shelves in one of the three closets, it was more than adequate. The cabin itself was airy and bright, the bathrooms clean and in great shape. We went back up on deck to watch the ship pass under the Skyway Bridge,,,,,,which is beautiful beyond measure, and thanks to y'all, I knew to be on the topmost deck as she went under just as the sun was setting on Tampa Bay,,,gorgeous,,,,,The only thing I could add would be to be on the topmost FORWARD deck,,,we were on the funnel deck, and we didn't have as clear a view of the bridge,,,,but it was STILL something I wouldn't miss!!! OTOH, the photos I have from the funnel deck, showing the lights and lido deck in the foreground are magnificent,,,so maybe it was worth it! We had the 8:15 dinner as requested, and our servers, James and Yoga were fantastic,,,,more on the dining room later. The rest of the day we walked around, went to bars, shows etc, and got to know this beautiful ship!!! And she IS absolutely beautiful,,,, SECOND DAY (Day at Sea): Now comes my second shocker,,,,DH and I had been a bit worried that we would be bored on the Sea Days (2 on this cruise),,,our first cruise had not involved any days at sea. We were in for the shock of our lives,,,,,,we LOVED the Days at Sea. We slept late, had coffee and pastries delivered to our room, had a leisurely breakfast in the dining room (eggs benedict,,,yum!!!) and wandered the ship a bit,,,basically went in circles,,,,I think we were a bit "out of place",,,not knowing quite what to do at first,,,,thinking we had to keep busy,,,we are both busy people, not used to simply relaxing, and it took a few hours for us to figure out that all we WANTED to do was lay by the pool, drink a few DOD's and listen to the fabulous entertainment on the Lido,,,,once we figured that out, we changed to bathing suits and made our way up there,,,,Here's another shocker,,,I was a bit worried about chairs on the Lido,,,,many reviews I had read about this ship (which has only one pool) seemed to imply that FINDING seating would be an issue,,,,,here we were, over 2000 people on board,,,the ship was COMPLETELY FULL, on a sea day, and we had NO PROBLEMS finding somewhere to sit,,,Certainly if you wanted a deck chair RIGHT NEXT TO the pool, you have to get there early,,,,,but if you're willing to go a bit further afield, you will have no problems,,,,DH and I climbed up to the deck that overlooks the pool area, and had a fantastic view, could hear the music perfectly, and in OUR opinion at least, it was NICER,,,,less noise, but still close to the activities,,,we could see and hear everything,,,,and it was a very short walk down to the pool for a dip when we got hot. The pool was crowded. A second pool would have been nice, I think,,,,but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, frankly. I would say there were many people IN the pool, but they were NOT on top of eachother,,, We were planning to go down to the restaurant for lunch,,,,but were enjoying ourselves so much that we simply grabbed buffet food,,,i read in the sun and took short dips in the pool all day,,,,absolutely AWESOME. That night was the Night of Elegance, which was absolutely LOVELY,,,and so nice that it had been the Sea Day, because we didn't have to rush. About 5pm we made our way back to our cabin, took showers, I did my hair and watched the election results (which were STILL uncertain!!!) before making our way (slowly, due to the photographers) down to the restaurant,,,,i had the lobster and shrimp, which although small, was SUPERB. Really excellent quality,,,,it was just a very special night. THIRD DAY (Grand Cayman): We awoke early that day to the coffee and pastries we had ordered, and checked the weather out the window of our stateroom,,,,,,,UTOH,,,it didn't look good. But we HAD managed to drop anchor, and the tenders were set to depart, and we counted ourselves lucky after hearing on this board that Grand Cayman is often cancelled,,,so we made our way to the Lido, grabbed an excellent breakfast, and then made our way to the Paris Lounge to meet the rest of our group going to Sea Grape Beach. Ours was one of the first groups off, and we were met quickly by a member of 'the Tour Group' (Yes, that's their name) that Carnival had arranged our tour with. They gathered us all together, and told us that the weather was uncertain (it was grey and overcast, but not yet raining) and offered anyone that wanted to cancel now a full refund,,,,,,stupendously professional, IMO. DH and I, however, decided to go for it!!! They assured us that Captain Jack's had a sheltered area in case it rained, and they would send back busses early if it did rain, so no worries. We enjoyed two hours on the beach before it rained, and we did indeed find shelters when the rain began, and The Tour Group did indeed send the busses back early,,,,,so we consider it was an excellent day, considering the uncertainty that can be Grand Cayman. It rained the rest of the day, so we simply wandered the ship, sat by the bar on deck under the overhangs, gambled in the casino, and went to dinner and shows. I checked my email,,,,and received an email from my DD saying we should be in the Avant Garde lounge at 10pm on Friday to meet with Risa Barnes, cruise director,,,,,,Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm,,,,Katie had NEVER been on a Carnival cruise, much less this ship,,,,how would she know the Avant Garde OR Risa Barnes?? Curiouser and curiouser,,,, FOURTH DAY (Cozumel); ABSOLUTELY STUPENDOUS day!!!!! DH and I knew, when booking this vacation, that we wanted a relaxing, tropical vacation,,,,knowing DH works for so many hours, and knowing i had had a previously herneated disc three weeks prior to the trip, fortunately healed, but which I didn't want to aggrivated, we decided to forgo our original plans to go to the ruins at Tulum (hey an excuse to go back someday, right???) So we planned instead, a day at the Playa Mia beach break, deluxe, which included our transfers, all buffet food and unlimited alcoholic beverages at the three open bars (yes, they use filtered water, and no it wasn't a problem),,,,we swung in hammocks rigged in the shade, swam in the crystal clear waters, tried new drinks we had never tried before, and ate buffet food,,,,,,,the buffet left something to be desired, but it was edible,,,,,,,but the rest of the day was simply STUPENDOUS,,,I can not say enough about this tour!!! We shopped in Cozumel before and after the tour, buying those little gifts for the children, T-shirts, a Mexican doll for my DGD, and a gorgeous shell for my DD( katie) who collects them. I heard later you can not bring Conch shells into the country, but I did declare it on the customs form, and nobody said anything, so I'm not sure what's up there. The weather was amazing, and we were sorry to say goodbye to Cozumel,,,,,,,but we still had dinner, entertainment that night, and another Sea Day to look forward to,,, Except we were exhausted,,,we just simply could NOT make ourselves go down to dinner,,,,or even up to the buffet,,,,,,but NO WORRIES,,,,Carnival offers room service,,,,so we ordered sandwiches and cheesecake at 6:30 and told our steward , Sushi, he didn't need to bother with turn down service that night,,,put out our do not disturb sign,,,,,,,and went to bed early,,,,OK, so we're boring,,,but it was an incredible treat (not to mention very romantic) for us to have dinner in bed together!!!! FIFTH DAY: (Day at Sea),,,which turned into quite the SURPRISE day,,,,but before that, we enjoyed yet another day (this time with no confusion as to what we wanted to do!!!) of relaxing on deck, swimming in the pool, drinking drinks,,,,,MONKEY HEAD FOR ME!!! and watching the very funny entertainment between the red team and the blue team,,,our team lost!!! Dinner again in the diningroom, with dancing and singing waiters,,,,,,,and then off to the Avant Garde for our surprise,,,,,which was incredible,,,I am still stunned at the lengths this cruise line went to to make our WHOLE CRUISE, and my daughter's dream, a reality,,,,unbelievable,,,,Apparently, our oldest DD wanted us to dance to the Alan Jackson song "Remember When",,but she couldn't figure out how to make it happen,,,so she got ahold of a host on CC, who got ahold of someone who got a hold of Risa Barnes, who MADE it happen, even going to great lengths to FIND the song,,,we received a chilled bottle of delicious champagne, a romantic dance to my favorite song, and at disembarkation, our names were flagged, and we received a beautiful picture in a portfolio, AND a disc of the pictures taken, ELEVEN in total,,,,,unbelievable,,,I am still stunned. I sat through the entire Fiesta Latina show and the R rated comedy show with a silly stunned look on my face,,,, DISEMBARKATION: At 6:45, we had to be at the Avant Garde again, to declare that we had purchased more than 1 litre each of rum,,,and to pay our tax on it,,,it went quickly and smoothly, and the very nice customs man waived our extra two litres,,,,how nice,,,Due to some German citizen who thought he didn't have to go through immigration because he had VIP status, regardless of the number of times his name was called over the loudspeaker, we were late having the ship cleared,,,,but it was certainly relaxing sitting on deck eating the buffet for breakfast,,,, And because SOMETHING has to happen to me on ANY vacation,,,,,of course it did,,,we were off the ship quickly and smoothly, received our lovely gift of the photograph and CD from Carnival, and off to zone 25 for our luggage,,,, Except one of our bags was missing,,,,,It was clear, after searching and searching, that it was simply GONE,,,,we were the last ones there, all luggage cleared out,,,,with our 2 NON-missing bags at our feet,,,,,,,,,and one lone, blue NOT OURS bag remaining,,,,,someone had taken the WRONG bag,,,and left THEIRS by mistake,,,Port Authorities were extremely helpful, helped us fill out a report, and promised to call the owner of the bag,,,we certainly didn't know how anyone could make that mistake, as Carnival had been VERY clear about checking name tags on the bags, as many bags look alike,,,,,and OUR missing bag wasn't even the same size and COLOR as the one remaining,,,,,but obviously it DID happen,,,but it certainly wasn't Carnival's fault,,,or even the Port Authority's fault,,,,,,things happen. Even with all that,,,,,and even being literally the LAST out of the port,,,,we were STILL in the car by 10:30,,,I call that FANTASTIC!!!! We were home in 30 minutes, as we live just outside of Tampa,,,,,and by 12 noon, we received a call from a woman with a church group that had been on the cruise,,,,she asked if we were missing a bag, and said she had it, and called our number on the bag,,,,And she assumed we had the bag belonging to one of HER group,,,I explained that we did NOT have it, the Port Authority did,,,and she seemed irritated,,,Apparently someone OTHER than the actual owner of the bag claimed it using the NUMBER on the bag to match,,,,not realizing that it was a ZONE number, not a bag number, and there were literally DOZENS of bags with the number 25 on the tag,,,,,,oy vey,,,and they cruise OFTEN,,,,,that's the scary part,,,, So back in the car for the two hour trip to Ocala (4 hours round trip, as they certainly weren't interested in meeting us half way), thankful that at least the church group had NOTICED it BEFORE it was on a plane to Indiana,,,,the woman had told me there would be someone at the church or the parsonage next door at all times,,,,,,,,we got there about 2:30,,,,,and no one,,,,we waited nearly an hour, and still no one returned,,,,sigh. Finally, we had to leave to find a restroom, but left a note on the door of the parsonage next door that we would be back,,,,and fortunately, the minister had returned and had our bag. he was quick to point out that OBVIOUSLY Carnival had made the mistake by giving us BOTH the same number,,,,,until we showed him that MANY people had that same number as it was a ZONE number and not a BAG number,,,,We certainly didn't want Carnival slurred on this one,,,,,,it simply wasn't their fault,,,,,and if this group cruises OFTEN (which he said they do), we certainly didn't want this happening to anyone else,,,,,Frankly, with the size of this group, it is an absolute MIRACLE that only our bag was affected,,,,,and at least we LIVE in Florida and had the option of driving to the bag. Better it happen to us, than someone transferring directly to the airport!!!! Hopefully, we set them straight, and this won't happen again. I will now address some aspects of the cruise that I found helpful when reading reviews,,,, FOOD: Very good to Excellent,,,,,,,I won't kid and say it is 5 star restaurant, gourmet food,,,,it's not,,,,but neither did I find food swimming in grease, over or undercooked, or of poor quality,,,,some was better than others, but NONE was bad,,,,,,,and obviously the restaurant was better than the buffet,,,that is simply the nature of a buffet,,,,the plus to the buffet is not having to leave the Lido deck, being able to go back easily for more, and having a variety to choose from,,,,,we sampled the buffet on the Lido, the buffet in the Brasserie and the pizza and sandwich stations,,,,,,all were very very good,,,,closer to excellent in quality,,,,It is simply not fair to judge a buffet by the standards of a gourmet restaurant,,,,it's an impossible comparison. There were lines,,,,,but NOT nearly as long as I would have expected,,,,EVEN on sea days with a VERY full ship,,,the lines moved quickly, and within 10 minutes at MOST, we had our food,,,, I simply don't understand the complaints in this department,,,,,at busy times, BOTH sides of the buffet were open,,,we were HIGHLY satisfied. Food in the diningroom was, of course, a step above food at the buffet,,,,,it was simply delicious,,,,again, they are cooking for 2000 people, so not 5 star quality,,,,but certainly FANTASTIC,,,,my favorites were the lobster, the short ribs, the baby back ribs (OMG do try those!!!), the best onion rings on the planet, room service chocolate cake, room service roast beef with brie on a french baguette (get two if you're hungry, it's a small sandwich), the chocolate melting cake, and the tiramisu. Portion sizes in the Dining Room were (for the most part) a bit smaller than you will find in a restaurant,,,,,which is a PLUS in my mind,,,on a cruise you eat 17 times a day, for goodness sake,,,you are simply not as hungry at meal time as a general rule, and if you ARE hungry, they will HAPPILY (dare I say EAGERLY???) give you more!!! Do not complain about the size of your piece of cake, when they will happily give you the whole CAKE if you ask for it!!!!! SERVICE: Phenomenal,,,,we tipped our room steward, and our dinner servers extra, above and beyond, the service was so Phenomenal. Dinner was fun, it was brought quickly, we were not rushed, and it was hot (or cold if appropriate) on delivery,,,,we had a blast at dinner every night we went, which was all but one,,,,and they served us a piece of cake for our anniversary and sang for us,,,,,,truly fun. ENTERTAINMENT: A great deal of fun with many options to choose from,,,We saw two shows,,,the Welcome Aboard show and the Fiesta Latina show,,,,,both were good,,,,,although not Broadway quality,,,,but who expected Broadway quality??? We enjoyed both, but we LOVED the comedy shows,,,,,we also ROARED with laughter at the two R rated adult shows and the Love and Marriage (Newlywed/Not so newlywed show). i do suspect the love and Marriage show is a bit rigged though,,,,I am not the first person to say in a review that one of the husbands was a PASTOR,,,,,,hmmmm. But it was obviously fun, and I can personally see how it would be difficult to leave all of it up to chance, and rigging it just a weeeeeee bit made for more fun. I can't prove it,,,,nor do I even want to,,,,,but I think it's likely. Entertainment on the deck was wonderful,,,I've heard complaints about the entertainment playing only a half hour,,,,simply not true on my cruise,,,he played for hours, and when he took a break, there was pre-recorded music,,,,, The games were great fun to watch,,,,we didn't want to participate, but we truly enjoyed watching them,,,,lounges, bars, etc had wonderful entertainment,,,,,It is simply not possible to be bored. THE SHIP: oh, where do I start???????? She is BEAUTIFUL!!!!!!! First I have to tell you that i was a travel agent for many years, and I saw this ship in 1996 when she was new,,,,,,,,and she looks as beautiful today, if not more so,,,,,she is CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN,,,,,her drydock must have been extensive. As an ex travel agent, and a front desk worker in a hotel, I LOOKED for issues,,,,,,I have worked in hotels that are going under,,,,I have seen second rate hotels in hotel inspections (more than I care to remember), and while certainly not an expert in cruising, a cruise ship IS very much like a floating resort, so I like to think I have at least SOME knowledge as to what to look for,,,and what is skimped on when things are not going well. She has no issues,,,,,,,she is gorgeous,,,her carpeting is not worn, torn, or fraying anywhere that I found,,,,,,the towels are thick, fluffy with no wear or tear, clean (pristine actually) and white white white, with plenty left in our room,,,in perfect shape,,,,the toilets are new, no dirt behind them (yes I looked!!!!), the bathroom grout is clean and white, not torn, not stained, not worn,,the bathroom fixtures and mirrors clean and shiny, looked new and were in perfect shape,,,the tile in the public areas is not worn or dull,,,,the oak railings gleamed,,,no rust to be found anywhere,,,the curtains in our cabin were fresh, new, not yellowed on the rubber backings as old curtains are,,,the pool is not stained or dull, and EVERYTHING was in top working order except one of the lobby elevators on embarkation day,,,,which they fixed quickly by the second day,,,, Honestly, the only sign of wear i saw was in ONE of the elevators,,,,barely noticeable wear above the buttons,,,,,and the mosaic floor in one looked like it needed replacing,,,but when you consider the THOUSANDS of people in and out,,,,well, it's simply not a huge issue. Because NO vacation is perfect, and because I PROMISED myself that on this vacation, no matter how wow'd I was, I would be fair and balanced, and offer a CRITIQUE (not a criticism) of my PERSONAL experience,,,,,I offer the following while I put my flame retardant suit on,,,,,NONE OF THESE THINGS impacted our vacation negatively in THE LEAST,,,,and to my mind, that these things are SO minor is a testament to how well run Carnival is,,,,,I do not try to be picky here,,I just want to show that I was NOT blind to any small issues and problems,,,,OK??? (Flame retardant suit now buttoned up),,,, 1) Because the computers were down on embarkation day, quite a few people had their S and S cards suspended on the first full day at sea,,,it was somewhat embarrassing to be told your S and S card was suspended while standing at the gift store with your purchase. It was a simple fix, however,,,down to the pursers desk, run the credit card again, and off you go (total wait time 5 minutes),,,,,,,,,,AND Carnival gave EACH of us a 10.00 credit per cabin for our trouble,,,not necessary, but a very nice gesture nonetheless, and certainly a free drink on Carnival's dollar was appreciated. DH, the cheapskate, was impressed,,,, 2) The Maitre'D,,,,,,,,,we have no idea who the dude was,,,,never met him,,,,On the last day, we received an envelope for a tip for him,,,,I willingly put in 10.00, because i felt that if he trained our FANTABULOUS waiters, then he had at least earned THAT,,,,,but he never came to the table, even on the last day, and so he didn't receive it,,,,,his loss, because there was an extra tip in it for him. Neither was anything said to a nearby table that often had drunk, rowdy people who used the F word quite freely and frequently and LOUDLY,,,,maybe I'm wrong, but I think that was HIS job,,, Although it only made us laugh, it MIGHT have bothered someone with small children,,, 3) Drink service in the restaurant,,,,On the first night, no one at our table ordered any wine or drinks (most of us having already had several out on deck) and so he NEVER returned,,,,,we had to chase him down the rest of the cruise,,,,Our waiter was wonderful about it though, going and finding him when we wanted drinks,,,,,,so it certainly wasn't that big of a deal,,,he was noticeably present at the table across from us however, as they purchased many drinks in an evening. 4) It would be AWESOME if Carnival offered dipping sauces for the EXCELLENT chicken fingers at the buffet,,,,they did not (I can't believe I'm down to this!!!!! That's how little was not perfect),,,,If the salad bar was open, you could grab ranch dressing,,,,,,hmmmmm maybe I should have asked??? They might have accommodated :) 5) Room service was nearly perfect, and certainly a fabulous option!!! However,,,,,there was usually some terribly minor, ridiculously silly thing not quite perfect (again, i can't believe i'm down to this),,,,,,Again, not a big deal,,,,my husband received grape jelly instead of strawberry,,,,I got 2 percent instead of whole milk,,,,,,,and we got apple juice instead of orange one morning,,it was 15 minutes late one day,,,I'm sure there were many people ordering that day, as it was usually quite punctual, and I'm CERTAIN it would have been fixed promptly, had we bothered to call,,,we didn't because it was so minor,,,,and it was a bit disappointing to discover that (at least on this ship's menu) they no longer have the cookie and brownie plate,,,,, Obviously, I'm reaching here, if i'm down to mentioning dipping sauces and grape instead of strawberry jelly!!!!! THAT is how little went wrong!!!!! I think the thing to remember on ANY vacation is that it WON'T be perfect,,,,its not the minor issues that happen that matter,,it's how they are FIXED that matters,,,,and Carnival was stupendous about that,,,,,,,truly stupendous. So there we sat,,,,,,on the morning of Debarkation,,,,,,wistfully staring at Tampa, and wishing we were getting ON instead of off,,,,,and DH says to me,,,,"Let's plan another,,,this time a 7 day",,,,I looked at him and said ,,,"Well, DH, a 7 day would be a bit more expensive." And DH says,,,,,,(drumroll please) "I don't care,,,It wasn't expensive at all." It's a good thing i was sitting down.We now refer to it as the "More bling for Dad's ching thing",,, As for me,,,,,,I've learned that I now have a difficult time sleeping without a chocolate and a towel animal on my bed at night. Holly Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
A little about us....we were a group of 9 in total. There were 2 couples with our 4 kids (ages 3, 5, 7 & 13) and my 75 year old mother. This was my 3rd cruise, but I haven't cruised in over 20 years (was on the Holiday and Jubilee ... Read More
A little about us....we were a group of 9 in total. There were 2 couples with our 4 kids (ages 3, 5, 7 & 13) and my 75 year old mother. This was my 3rd cruise, but I haven't cruised in over 20 years (was on the Holiday and Jubilee when I was in my early 20's). My husband, mother and kids have never cruised. The other couple cruised 2 times before, but not with kids. We would have liked to have flown in a day early, but that wasn't meant to be so we booked a 6:40 am flight out of Boston direct to Tampa. We arrived in Tampa at 9:30 am, got our luggage and hopped in a taxi to the port. It was a chilly morning in Tampa - only in the 50's, but it warmed into the 60's by mid-day. We had to take a taxi and a mini-van to the port because there wasn't a vehicle big enough for us all. There were 5 of us in the mini-van and it was approximately $30 for the ride. We were at the pier before 11 am. The whole embarkation process was painless. We filled out our Funpasses on-line and were through security in less than 15 minutes. We did have to wait in the "waiting area" for our number to be called for about 45 minutes - there was some sort of delay, but I'm not sure what it was. We were in group 5 and we were on board having lunch by 12:15 - this was a very good experience. We headed up to the Lido deck and grabbed some burgers & fries and our first Funship Special. The food was good and there were very short lines at this point. We noticed the lines grew longer as the afternoon progressed. After we ate, the kids put on their bathing suits and we headed up to the Waterworks area. It was empty, but I don't think it was because of the temperatures, it was just fairly early. The kids went down the slides about 20 times each and had the whole place to themselves. Then we wandered down to the pool so they could swim there for a few minutes before we went to check out the rooms. Our rooms were ready just after 1:30, although our luggage didn't arrive until after the muster drill and sail-away. We had connecting cabins on the Riviera deck and one single cabin for the other family we were with. My mom and my 2 sons were in cabin R196 which consisted of 2 twins and 1 upper. There was a connecting door to our cabin (R194) which had a king size bed. My only "complaint" is that the king size bed was pushed up against the connecting door so you couldn't open it - kind of stupid. If we pushed the bed up against the other wall - then we wouldn't be able to see the TV. We decided to leave it like this for one night to see how it went. The next night we decided to move the bed against the opposite wall, but to keep the pillows at the end near the door so we could see the TV - this worked out great and we left it like that for the rest of the cruise. The cabins were great - no complaints at all. They were certainly spacious enough for us all - there was plenty of storage (although you may want to bring more hangers) and they were very new and clean. The beds were sooooooo comfy. The bathrooms were nice and new and plenty roomy. We did bring an over-the-door shoe organizer and I highly recommend that you do this - it saved on a ton of clutter and worked out really well. The only issue I had with the bathroom was that the water in the sink was very hot - so the little ones had to be very careful. Our steward was fine - our room was always clean and stocked with ice and we had different towel animals every night. We had nice big windows which were very close to the water which was cool. I would definitely do low and mid-ship again as we didn't notice too much movement (even though we had 40 mph winds one night) and it was very quiet. The other thing I would recommend is an extension cord with more than one outlet. We had a compact extension cord with 3 outlets to charge our batteries and it worked out great. Muster drill was in the disco and it was very quick, we went up to the deck above the pool for sail away which was uneventful. We did a little more exploring before it was time to get ready for dinner. We had early seating in the Mardi Gras dining room and Wilson was our Maitre'D. He was fine although I was hoping for George the Greek. We had a big round table in a corner for the 9 of us and we could see out the windows. A great location in the dining room which was beautifully appointed. It was confusing heading up to dinner the first night with all the lines of people trying to figure it all out, but it did go more smoothly the rest of the week. One hint - make sure you are in the correct elevator bank when heading to the dining room. The rear doors of the dining room are closed off, and if you go to the correct floor in the wrong elevator, you either have to go down or up one to get across to the correct doors - it took us a couple of days to get this straight! The service in the dining room was great except for the "drink guy". The waiters bring you water, milk, coffee and lemonade, but you had to get drinks and soda from the "drink guy" and he was very slow. He seemed new and lost, but he was very nice and trying real hard so we cut him some slack. Our head waiter (Jagadesh) was good, but our assistant waiter (Rico) was awesome and paid great attention to the kids. A little about the food…….we liked most everything that we tried. There were some big hits and a few misses. Shrimp cocktail, Caesar salad, French Onion Soup, Short Ribs, Prime Rib, Lobster, Sweet-n-Sour Shrimp, Warm Chocolate Melting Cake and Tiramisu were probably the favorites. The Flat Iron Steak wasn't good the first night, but was excellent the last night. Grilled Chicken was always pretty good, the pasta with chicken & mushrooms was pretty good and the Baby-Back Ribs were also pretty good. The kids menu was very basic (Pizza (just OK), Hot Dogs, Chicken Nuggets & PB&J which was on toasted bread??). We also ate breakfast in the dining room 2 times and I had the Eggs Benedict which was yummy if you ordered the Hollandaise Sauce on the side so you knew it was fresh. The omelets at the breakfast buffet were very good and the other breakfast food at the buffet was good, but very basic. We had lunch on the Lido Deck every day which was fine. We did the burgers, chicken strips, mac-n-cheese (awesome) and fries and onion rings (yummy) more than we did the buffet in the Brasserie Grill. The salad bar was pretty good and the Panini sandwiches were also pretty good. We ordered room service for breakfast (boring) and we ordered a BLT, Tuna Sandwich and Chocolate Cake one night - all very good (especially the cake!!). A little about the ship….all the areas that were re-furbished were beautiful. The dining rooms, public bathrooms, lounges, serenity deck, pool & waterslide areas, art gallery etc…were all in excellent condition and very nicely decorated. I could do without the neon glass elevators and the purple worms in the Brassiere Grill, but overall I would say the ship was in excellent condition. The mini-golf area is fun (better than I expected), there were always plenty of chairs up by Waterworks, but it was very crowded by the pool. We lucked out and were able to get loungers in the Serenity Area one morning, but it was pretty full and we just happened to be in the right place at the right time. My DH went to that area later one afternoon and said it wasn't so crowded. The only thing I want to mention about the ship is that at times, there was a smell of sewerage in the area by the glass elevators on the upper floors. It wasn't constant and I never noticed it anywhere else. It was pretty stinky when it was evident, but it wasn't there all the time so I'm not sure what the deal was. We were usually just passing through that area when we were trying to get somewhere else - so it only bothered us for a minute or so - not really a big deal. There were 800 kids on this ship - we expected that because it was Thanksgiving Week - but it didn't bother us one bit. Sure the hot tubs were full of kids at all times, but my kids were in there too so it was fine. I wouldn't have wanted to be "kidless" on this particular week though - that might have been annoying. All the kids were well behaved and weren't totally out of control - just a ton of teens having the time of their lives and I thought it was great! Speaking of kids - I don't know what to say about Camp Carnival except that it was AWESOME!!! My boys (5 & 7) absolutely loved it. I only wished I used it a little more. They did great face painting and crafts. The got to color Camp Carnival T-Shirts and Backpacks (free!) and they went on a scavenger hunt. We went to the family Welcome Aboard party the 1st night and my 7 year old won the dance contest!! The camp counselors were so nice - even though my boys were in separate age groups - they both said it was great! I highly recommend Camp Carnival and my kids can't wait to get back there!! Ports: Our first stop was in Grand Cayman. My husband booked a 2 tank dive through Carnival and said it was very well run. They were the 1st off the ship in the morning. The tendering process was simple - the line moved very fast. The rest of our group hopped in a taxi to Sea Grape Beach. I think the van for all 8 of us was $40 including tip. Sea Grape Beach was fine. It was very windy that day so we were getting hit with sand a little bit. The bathrooms were clean, the water was crystal clear and they had outdoor showers to rinse off. We didn't eat there, but the frozen drinks were yummy (but expensive!). There was a slight drop in the water which would be dangerous for very little ones, but fine for my 7 & 5 year olds. We did a little bit of shopping in town before heading back to the tender. Cozumel - we really liked this port. We docked at the new pier (Puerta Maya I think) and there was a very nice shopping plaza there. We did most of our shopping on the way back. The 9 of us hopped in a van and headed to Mr. Sancho's which I definitely recommend. We did not do the all-inclusive. The ride was $4 per person. When we arrived at Mr. Sancho's, they took a picture of the entire group in sombrero's - great picture for $10. The best part was there was a man there that would let you take pictures with his monkey, python and tarantula for $5 per person. I have the most awesome pictures of my 2 boys holding the monkey, the python around his neck and the tarantula on his head!! Unbelievable photos - I would have paid $50 for these pictures so the $5 each was a steal - I still can't get over that my kids did it - just awesome! We got a big table down on the beach with umbrellas and we were waited on all day by Daniel. We had some good food (chips, salsa, guacamole, fajitas, octopus, ribs & a burger) and plenty of drinks. I only wish that our table was on the side by the pool, but I didn't discover this until the end of the day. The pool was small, but clean and a nice change after swimming in the ocean all day. The ocean was warm, there was a little seaweed, and a ton of fish. The kids were snorkeling and trying to catch fish all day - lots of fun. There were clean bathrooms and showers, but they were not private. My husband went diving again in Cozumel and said it was the best dive of his life - he was pumped! I will do something different next time in Cozumel, but I do recommend Mr. Sancho's - especially for the awesome picture taking opportunity. Miscellaneous….The shows on the ship were very good - better than I expected. I liked both Shout and the Latin Fiesta. The magic show and comedian were good and the R-Rated show was a riot, but it was Tony Esposito's last night on the ship so I'm not sure about the replacement. The hairy chest competition was good, ice carving was OK and we also did the galley tour which was short, but worth it. Disembarkation was a breeze. We had an early flight out of Tampa because the airline changed our original flight. We had no choice but to do self-assist. We were up in the main elevator bank by 7:45 am and it was packed. They kept calling out 2 passengers' names who were not US Citizens to report to the Disco for debriefing, but it took a while to find them. Once we were finally cleared customs by 8:15 am - we were off the ship and at the airport in Tampa waiting for our plane by 9:00 am - very impressive - we had plenty of time to make our 10:40 am flight. Overall - great, great vacation. We really had a good time and I can't wait to cruise again (neither can DH :)), but we will definitely do a 7 day this time - the 5 days really went by too fast. I absolutely recommend the Inspiration for families with young kids - my kids had the time of their lives and I couldn't be happier about it. Here is the address of my pictures - email if you have any questions. http://good-times.webshots.com/album/569091464gyMGBW Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
Background Information This time, it was just myself, my DD (turned 18 on the cruise), and her best friend (17). This was my 8th cruise (5th on Carnival), DD's 3rd, and her BFF's 1st. I have also sailed with Norwegian and Costa, ... Read More
Background Information This time, it was just myself, my DD (turned 18 on the cruise), and her best friend (17). This was my 8th cruise (5th on Carnival), DD's 3rd, and her BFF's 1st. I have also sailed with Norwegian and Costa, and have previously done 3, 4, 5 and 7 day itineraries to the Bahamas, Southeastern Caribbean, and Western Caribbean from every port in Florida (plus Charleston). This was my first cruise with only one port of call, and second time leaving from Tampa. Hotel Info We stayed at the Sailport Resort in Tampa. I had been there before, and they have really nice suites for $79/night. It is close to the airport and about 20 min from the port. The suites have balconies overlooking the bay. Their breakfast is kinda lame, but other than that it was nice. They have full kitchens and a bedroom and a pullout sofa in the living room, as well as covered parking. They lost my reservation (made through their own Web site), but I had a printout, so it wasn't a problem. Next time I'll call ahead the day before to confirm. Embarkation (Thanksgiving day) We had spent the night in Tampa and went to Wal-Mart to find bathing suits. We were surprised they didn't have any available as it is "winter" in Tampa...LOL! So, we ended up arriving at the port at 10:30—much earlier than I had planned. All was well though. We pulled up at the luggage drop-off point, dropped off our three large pieces with the porter (tipped $5) and were directed to the parking garage after a fairly strong attempt to up-sell us valet parking. They try to tell you how far away the parking lot is for self park ("that one way over there"), but it is only about 150 yards I think. The only reasons to use the valet IMHO would be if you are late, you have mobility problems, or you are planning on using self-assist debarkation with lots of luggage. The port is about 15 minutes from the airport, by the way. The garage was $14/day which you prepay with cash or credit card. After we parked, we stopped at a surf shop right there at the port to buy DD a bathing suit. It was definitely not a Wal-Mart budget purchase, but the only open store there! Then we walked around the corner back to the terminal and had to wait a few minutes before we could go in (probably 11:15). You have to present cruise docs/funpass and passport/ID to get in to the building. Then up the escalator to the security check-in which was very quick and painless. The line for a check-in agent was practically nonexistent. They were very friendly. DD is in the military, so we had booked with a discount. They did not ask for her Mil ID, nor did they want to see the notarized letters we brought for her BFF who was a minor traveling without her parents (nor was this ever scrutinized in Mexico as I had been told it would be). We were assigned zone 6 and were on board by noon. I was putting down cash and Funship dollars for my on-board account, so we went to the purser's desk first and there was no line at that time. There was quite a long line the next time I walked by there, so get there ASAP (plus you can't buy anything with your S&S card until you do anyway). I was able to set up my card as the main one and set a limit on spending for the girls. Ship Info The ship has been recently refurbished with "evolutions of fun" improvements. I prefer Fantasy class ships so far (only been on one larger). The ship is easy to navigate, was clean, and in working order. I like the new look of the Lido deck. The new waterpark area was really nice and would be great if you are bringing little ones. The new loungers on deck were nice. The Serenity area (adults only) looked really nice too. The dEcor seems a bit more subdued than past Carnival cruises I have been on. Stateroom We had cabin R127—an ocean view cabin with one upper bed, on the starboard side, midship on deck 4 (Riviera). It was pretty much standard except it was an adjoining cabin to a cabin with strangers. We kept the beds-apart "L" shaped configuration. I'm not even sure it could be arranged as a king due to the presence of the door to the other cabin on the opposite side from where the TV was mounted. The lower under the upper was in such a position that you could not see the TV (new flat-panel) when the upper was down. This was mildly annoying, but I didn't watch much TV (really none). I do leave the TV on the "bow cam" channel at night so if I wake up I can see if it is getting light out yet without getting up to open the curtain (or when in an inside cabin). I only heard the neighbors the first night when I went to bed early and they couldn't get their small children to wind-down and go to sleep. Not really a big deal, but could be if you get loud neighbors. It would have been nice if you are a family of 5 or more to have the adjoining cabins. We may consider this option in the future. Hint: you NEED the over-the-door shoe hanger if there are more than two women in the cabin (or a family of four or five)! It really helped us keep our bathroom and vanity uncluttered and keep everything handy and not get similar items mixed up that didn't belong to you. I'm sure the stewards appreciate it also...makes their job easier I think. Otherwise, there is plenty of storage space for clothes, but you may want to bring extra hangers. Plenty of room under the beds for large luggage. Dining We had late seating in the Mardi Gras restaurant (midship). The DR opened about 10 minutes late that first night. We were seated at a 10-top with two other families with teens, so it was a bit crowded. The first night was quite awkward with little interaction among families. They did a good job matching us up though, and by the end we were all talking and having fun. The other teens were 18, 17, 14, and 14, plus their parents whom I assume were around my age. They did serve Turkey for Thanksgiving, but I have never liked their Tom Turkey with dressing (this was my 3rd Thanksgiving cruise). A couple people ordered it and really didn't like it either. The fillet minion looked good. I had the grouper, which was just OK. The menu had salads, appetizers and soups all grouped under "starters" which is misleading. I was the only person who ordered more than one of these the first night (thanks to CC, I knew you could). I did not have dessert, but the girls enjoyed the warm chocolate melting cake! Our servers were efficient, but not very personable that first night. There were no dancing waiters that night either. The second night was the formal night with Captain's Reception. If you want to shake hands with Risa (Cruise Director) and the Captain, enter the Paris Lounge on the right side of the lower floor—that is where they were greeting guests. There are four entrances—two upstairs and two downstairs. The night we were in Cozumel, I would say the DR was only about 2/3 full. I ordered the lasagna which was pretty good and the Caesar salad again. I had ordered a cake from the Bon Voyage dept. online for DD's 18th birthday. Those cakes are really good and an excellent bargain at around $8. It was enough for the 7 of us at the table. They bring it with candles and sing happy birthday. I also ordered cappuccino again as I always do after dinner. We managed to escape before the singing and dancing began...we just weren't in the mood tonight. The last sea day, we decided to eat in the dining room for lunch just for a change of pace. I had the creamy tuna salad on a baguette...really good! One of the girls had the Chinese pepper steak and said it was the best thing the whole cruise. We were seated at a table for 10 on the side by a window. I noticed the dress was a bit more casual in the dining room at dinner that night. I had the pasta which was OK. DD had a steak which was good. Lido deck food is always good in my book! I almost always have breakfast and lunch there. Try the passo-Guava juice...it is delicious! Hint: bring an insulated travel mug for your coffee. Saves you trips back to the drink station and keeps it hot longer than the tiny plastic mugs they offer. Children's Clubs The girls loved Club O2 for teens 15-17 years old. They had organized activities every day after noon until late in the evening. They did games like a picture scavenger hunt where they had to get pictures of each other hugging random people and another game where they had to find and wear goofy items of clothing (I have a picture of a boy wearing one of DD's skirts...LOL!). The girls both gave it two thumbs up! Shore Excursions We had a tour booked in Cozumel with a taxi driver named Gerry who came very highly recommended over on the Cozumel ports of call board here on CC. I had made these arrangements about 2 months prior. You send him an e-mail (his friend actually) and they will reserve your time, give details about where to meet, etc. They also can make suggestions as to where to go, or create an itinerary out of the things you want to see/do there. He charged $80 for the first 3 hours (up to 4 people) and then $20 per hour after that. We did 6 hours. I ended up paying him $175 with tip. A great deal when you consider what the cruise lines charge for excursions with masses of other people. (NOTE: I just read that his prices have gone up a bit, so my prices are no longer accurate). Gerry is a very nice man and very knowledgeable about the island. He will make sure your belongings are safe in the taxi, and will go with you at each stop. We three women felt safe with him. I would definitely book with Gerry again next time we go to Cozumel. He is a gracious host and is flexible to do whatever you want to do. First we drove around town where Gerry showed us the sights, explained some island history, etc. We stopped at a local grocery for pop, water, beer, and ice. He keeps a cooler in the back for this. Then we drove north and looked at some of the better resorts and some homes of the more wealthy people living there. I had asked him to show us the city and neighborhoods as well, so we drove around and saw churches, schools, hospitals, and homes. After that, we headed inland toward the San Gervasio Ruins. The ruins cost $7.50 per person to get in. You can pay extra for a guide to tell you about it, but we chose to do it on our own. It is a pretty neat place, and they have signs telling you about the various areas. It was already getting hot when we were there around 10:30 or 11:00. Also, there are mosquitoes, so you may want to wear bug spray. The area was nice, with a small eatery/bar and a small store (we did not use either), and clean bathrooms. They only take cash, so be prepared for that. After the ruins, we stopped at a road-side stand to buy souvenirs. They had good deals there...so much so that I didn't bother to haggle on prices. We bought jewelry and a few other things. They had big blankets for $5 but we didn't want to haul them home,so didn't get one. Next, we headed over to the east side of the island for some great photos. We stopped at three placesCoconuts and El Mirador, and I can't remember the other one. After all our stops, we decided to stay at Playa Palancar for lunch and beach time. This was recommended by Gerry, and he was right on! It was great. A nice beach with food, drinks, tables with palapas, lounge chairs, clean restrooms, a changing area, etc. The food was great. We ordered chicken tacos, beef tacos, and guacamole, (and chips and fresh salsa were free), plus we ordered 3 drinks. It was about $30 plus tip and was plenty for the three of us. They do not take credit cards either, so bring plenty of cash. You can snorkel there, but it was slightly choppy that day, so we didn't really get too far with that. Service Cabin Stewards were extremely efficient. While they didn't ever introduce themselves to us, they always spoke to you in the hallways when they saw you. Our clean-up in the morning and turn-down at night were always timed perfectly (only ran into them cleaning once when DD went back to the cabin during dinner to get the camera). We ordered room service breakfast twice and service was right on time and friendly. Bar service in the casino and on deck was excellent. You were never in want of a drink for very long before a server would come by, and they would remember what you wanted and keep track of your folio number so you didn't have to produce your card every single time. Service in the dining room, while efficient, was definitely not over the top this time. I really hate to complain, but our dinner service was pretty average throughout the cruise. They were very efficient, but just not trying really hard to please. For example, by the 3rd night, I would expect them to know I would want a cappuccino after dinner. Every night I had to wait at least 10 minutes for it to arrive and often everyone would be done with their dessert and coffee by the time I got my capp. It wasn't a huge deal, but those little touches seemed to be lacking this time. Other than that, everything was served in a timely and correct fashion. Disembarkation We finished our cruise on Monday morning. We elected to do self-assist with the luggage. We each had one large suitcase and one or two small bags. Didn't feel like getting the luggage out the night before and waiting for our zone to be called (22) the next morning. It took a while to clear customs because several non-US citizens apparently weren't showing up for their clearance. They kept calling names over the loud speakers for over an hour I think. They can't let anyone off until non-US citizens clear customs. If I had an early flight I would have been freaking out. I think they finally cleared the ship around 8:30 or 8:45 (we were in port way before 8:00when it was still dark outside). We were off the ship around 9:15 and in the car by 9:35. Overall, it was pretty smooth doing it this way. I had never done self-assist before. The day was nice, so we decided to drive over to a friend's home in Clearwater Beach. It is about 30 minutes from the port and is a really beautiful beach. I would recommend it for pre- or post-cruise overnights. Miscellaneous Overall, this was a great cruise and the weather cooperated, so that was a bonus! Four days is too short. I am not really a fan of 7 days either. I think 6 days would be perfect. The ship is easy to get around, so you have it figured out by the end of the second day, which is good. The passengers: Lots and lots of kids and teens on this cruise!!! I've done spring break cruises before and I think there were more kids on this Thanksgiving one than any other cruise I've taken. Everyone was well-behaved from what I could see. It seemed everyone we met was from Florida. Maybe 75%? I'm sure the timing of it starting on Thanksgiving and ending the Monday after, as well as the short length had a lot to do with that. Smoking: If you are a non smoker, the casino probably be too smoky for you. I didn't see anyone smoking on the wrong side of the Lido deck. I did not smell any smoke coming from the cabins in the corridors. I did not frequent any of the bars where smoking was allowed, so can't really comment on that. I did get $15 OBC, which I'm assuming must be the partial fuel surcharge refund I heard mentioned on here. I meant to ask them what it was for, but forgot. This was refundable because I got a check at the end for the amount I hadn't used, which included that $15 (we paid cash for our account). I would definitely sail this ship and itinerary again if the timing and price are right! Read Less
Sail Date November 2008
In short we had a really fantastic cruise and are always going to love Carnival. To make this a bit easier to digest I'll use the category system. Pre Cruise- We arrived in Tampa a day early and stayed at the Sheraton Riverwalk ... Read More
In short we had a really fantastic cruise and are always going to love Carnival. To make this a bit easier to digest I'll use the category system. Pre Cruise- We arrived in Tampa a day early and stayed at the Sheraton Riverwalk in Downtown Tampa. We got it on Priceline at a good price and it was a descent enough hotel for one night. It was old but the staff was very nice and we had no problems. They have a complimentary shuttle that will take you anywhere within three miles and we used that to get to the pier. We also ate dinner at Channelside which has some great restaurant selections. We decided on Margarita Mamas and enjoyed ourselves. Warning- we had reserved Blue One Transportation to take us from the airport to the hotel because it was recommended by the Sheraton and on the Cruise Critic Boards. I booked my reservation early and confirmed it two days before we left. When arriving I called the number and was told where to go and that it would be 15 min. After 35 min we called again, and no one would answer the phone. After an hour we booked the super shuttle which had a booth right at the airport, more expensive but they came in 15 minutes and we made it to our hotel. We had also booked Blue One to pick us up from the port and bring us back from the airport but we decided to not bother and took a taxi instead. Be warned if anyone recommends them and you are in a hurry. Embarkation- Having gone out of Miami and New York, I found Tampa to be a bit confusing. At first we were unsure of where to go and only learned after being warned by a guard for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We got there by 10:30am had a bit of breakfast in the coffee shop and sat around and waiting till they let us in. Everyone inside was incredibly friendly (The woman who checked us in was just fantastic!) and we were in the first group that boarded the ship, we were in Lido eating by 11:30am. Our luggage was waiting for us when we returned to our cabin at 3pm and we had no problems with anything. Dinning- Achmad and Deddy were our waiters in the Mardi Gras room for late seating and they were the best team we have every had! Achmad was incredibly efficient and friendly, constantly making jokes and doing tricks. He had a gift for making 7 strangers feel at ease. Deddy was efficient and kept us all well fed and watered. If there was a chance to have them again I would jump on it. Achmad after finding out it was my husband's birthday brought a cake with his name on it and sung to him without us even asking. On the first night he really impressed us by having our appetizers out in 5 min time so that we could catch the second half of the football game that was on that night without missing dinner. The food was very good as always with Carnival. I missed that there was no Supper Club on this ship but enjoyed dinner every night. My personal favorites in the dinning room are Fried Mozzarella, SoufflE, Onion Soup, Any of the Fish Entrees, and the Vegetarian Indian Dinner. Kudos to George the Greek, the most energetic and friendly Maitre d' we have ever had. He was a ball and we loved having his dinning room. Lido had some great choices, some of my personal favorites, du Chèvre Pizza, Caesar Salad at the Pizza Bar, Turkey Panini at the Deli, Banana Cream Pie, Fries with Gravy, Macaroni and Cheese and the Midnight Mexican Buffet. The last favorite food I have on the boat is the Sushi Bar, simply fantastic, and definitely worth the wait in line. Activities- When first arriving I enjoyed a facial in the Spa which was fantastic. The spa staff was top notch and very friendly. Afterwards we went straight to the gaming demonstration and received a free gift. We took part in the majority of the Trivia Games and loved them all, TV Theme Songs, Genius Trivia, Love and Marriage Show and Game Show Trivia all being memorable. And of course the Extreme Lido Deck Challenge in which my husband won our Ship on a Stick for being runner up. There was always something to do so we were never bored! Often finding things we wanted to do conflicting with others. We also love Tea Time, great little sandwiches and deserts and a great time to unwind. We always do the Galley Tour just to see the kitchen and enjoy it. Out of the big shows the only ones we attended were the Variety Show and the Guest Talent show which was because we were part of the Halloween Costume contest afterwards. Unfortunately we didn't win but we had a lot of fun participating. What was disappointing was the lack of costumes since Carnival doesn't advertise that they have Halloween activities. We found out only through Cruise Critics and were prepared but it would have been nice if more then 30 of us had dressed up. We saw the second late night comedian who was hysterical, we really enjoyed his show. I spent some time at the Roulette wheel in the casino and managed to double my money before quitting so that was really fun. The Casino staff with the exception of one dealer was very friendly and helpful, not intimating at all. Grand Cayman- Our first stop on our 5 Day cruise was Grand Cayman. We decided to go on our own to 7 mile beach and enjoy the day. We took a cab at the pier ($4 a person) to the Royal Palms. It is a great spot and with no other ships in port was very empty. We had a great drink at the Reef Grill (Dirty Banana is my new favorite) and enjoyed the beach. Although water sports, chairs, and umbrellas were available we didn't bother. Afterwards we opted to walk back to the boat instead of another taxi. It is a long walk (About an hour) but most of it is over the beach and it was very enjoyable (beware private property) Cozumel- We had pre-booked an excursion at Cozumel (Snorkel, Beach Party Boat) but when we awoke in the morning we found a piece of paper saying that due to high wind there was a small craft advisory and our excursion was canceled. Unfortunately by the time we got that note some excursions had already left and the majority that were our back ups were booked or also canceled. It would have been nicer to get a telephone call so we could have known to get our lazy butts out of bed and to the shore excursion desk earlier. That being said though we ended up booking the rather expensive Mini Jeep Tour. Since we had prepaid it was only an addition $40 a person but still hard to swallow. We had a blast on the trip though and Miguel and Lorenzo were fantastic! You bus over to the mini jeeps (not manual for you automatic lovers) and then we tooled around the island making stops at the light house for chips and salsa (homemade and fantastic) and pictures, and the crocodile preserve where we did see crocs! Then on to the beach for a 3 mile snorkel trip and some relaxing in the hammocks. The snorkeling was exhausting though and they did not warn us just how far we would be going. On the way back against the current and wind was really a push for many in the group. The rescue boat was used quite a bit for those who were tired and didn't want to finish the swim. Beware though you will get dusty driving those jeeps at 60 km/h and no windshield. I would even do the trip again we had so much fun! Room- Our steward was a bit disappointing. We have in the past had great friendly stewards whom we had come to love by the end of the trip. Unfortunately this time he was aloof and didn't smile. The room was always clean, but his heart was not into it. Ice was also incredibly hard to get and we often went to Lido ourselves to fill the ice bucket. For Halloween we made up trick or treat bags for our steward, waiters, and maitre d' and we never even got a thank you from our steward (Everyone else loved the candy and was thrilled to get it even if they didn't understand the weird Americans Holiday!). We had an inside room on the bottom of the boat and still found ourselves rocking a bit with the high seas we encountered. In typical Carnival fashion we were prepared for the orange jarring style of the cabin and were not bothered at all. Debarkation- Was quick and easy. We set our luggage out the door at 11pm and then slept in a bit. Going to breakfast on Lido for one last time (I was disappointed that they limited the selections on the last day, I was looking forward to my usual but it wasn't there). We then waiting till about 10am before our number was called and we were able to leave the boat. Our luggage was right where it was supposed to be. We shared a taxi to the airport by asking someone in line if they were interested ($25 flat rate) and just like that our vacation was over. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
We drove down to Tampa and stayed at the Hyatt Place/Tampa Busch Gardens hotel before embarkation. We booked at a great rate thru Hotwire and would strongly recommend this hotel! Really nice room with a huge flat screen TV. The ... Read More
We drove down to Tampa and stayed at the Hyatt Place/Tampa Busch Gardens hotel before embarkation. We booked at a great rate thru Hotwire and would strongly recommend this hotel! Really nice room with a huge flat screen TV. The ship's TV seemed less than l/4 the size of the hotel one. Parking at the port was a surprise price increase of $70 for the 5 night cruise. We had been told it was $l2 a day/$60 for the 5 nights. Embarkation was not a problem as this was my l0th Carnival cruise so we were VIP. We were taken to a sofa to sit down until someone at a desk became available. Then we were seated at the desk to go over paperwork avoiding the lines after that to get on the ship! Dining room service was very good. Our server, a young woman from Russia was very friendly. Food could have been better. We did enjoy the Choc. Melting Cake. Room Steward kept the room clean except for one day he must have forgot us. He did clean that night tho. Ports! This was my favorite part! lst stop was Grand Cayman. We booked thru Moby Dick online before leaving home the Stingray excursion. It was exciting! Those stingrays are a lot bigger than we thought they be! lst stop was snorkeling and it was absolutely beautiful. I had snorkeled other trips at Cozumel and thought that was great but Grand Cayman was better! The Moby Dick crew was great and I definitely feel you get more personal attention than you would have booking thru Carnival. The rate was $40 per adult and $35 for our ll yr. old. I just wished we could have stayed longer in Grand Cayman. No time for shopping. 2nd port was Cozumel. This was our 4th cruise stopping at Cozumel. 2nd time going to Mister Sanchos. I'd highly recommend the Moby Dick Tour for Grand Cayman and the Mister Sanchos for a beach experience in Cozumel. At Mister Sancho's the guys rented the WaveRunners and my daughter and I had a massage. Our lst and we loved it. They charge $38 for a 30 min. massage here which beats the ship prices! It's a free beach club. I've heard they just want you to eat and drink here but no one was ever pushy in the least. We did order food and drinks and enjoyed it. Snorkeling was great here too. There was schools of yellow fish around the rocks in the water. There is a fresh water pool here and plenty of souvenirs being sold. Shows on the ship. I enjoyed the Fiesta Latina show the most. It's very colorful. We also went to Shout which was not quite as good. Sea days - we enjoyed the pool, Serenity Deck and water slide areas. We did not have any trouble finding a lounge chair. Camp Carnival - my daughter enjoyed the 9-ll yr. old age group. Debarkation was a breeze because we were VIP on our l0th cruise we left after breakfast on the Lido deck when we were ready. If you are Platinum you don't have to wait to have your # called. Being VIP meant we had a load of laundry done free, a gift left in our cabin with the Carnival logo, several food gifts left as well as being invited to the "past guest" party. This was our 2nd cruise on the Inspiration. lst was Feb. 07 so we could see the improvements such as the water park area, new slides. We had a good time but I would like to try a different ship next cruise! Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
Embarkation went very fast we arrived at the port at 11:20 am and was eating lunch by noon on the Lido grill. The room wasn't read until 1:30, not bad when you think about it. The first day at sea was very nice the serenity ... Read More
Embarkation went very fast we arrived at the port at 11:20 am and was eating lunch by noon on the Lido grill. The room wasn't read until 1:30, not bad when you think about it. The first day at sea was very nice the serenity area was nice and quite. One of the staff (shmity)was always somewhere and very fun if I had a say he would of been the CD.Dinner was good every night we were in the carnival dinning hall at the early seating. Hay table 293. Dinner entertainment was fun to watch, even when you cant understand what there saying. Our first port was Grande Cayman we didn't book with the boat and I was a little nervous at first. We booked though Moby Dick tours to go to the stingray city and reef snorkeling and that was the best tour of the enter trip even when we got rained on,on the way out to the reef. We got back to the ship around 12:45-1:00. Be careful seating out side on the lido deck next to the buffet when the ship leaves because the water park spills over and gave me a after noon shower while eating lunch. Our next port was Cozumel MX. we did the three reef snorkel and was very disappointed there wasn't much to look at,and very crowded there were people everywhere. The guide was great (Jerry) but that's was it for the great time. maybe thy can change the reefs thy visit or something. Last full day at sea was a little ruff, but they cant control that. The shows on board were all good not great didn't do the deck party. Ice carving was fun to watch. didn't use camp carnival no kids on this trip. Disembarkation was very slow and never heard why. They need to keep people better informed. After we left the ship Our flight didn't leave until 5pm so we went across the street the the FL. Aquam it was very interesting but there must of been six or seven school field trips going thought that same day very crowded and noisy. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This cruise on the Inspiration was our first. We were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. I must say, I was totally impressed! I was like a little kid(I'm 61) wanting to see everything.Our cruise left Tampa at 4pm, with the ... Read More
This cruise on the Inspiration was our first. We were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary. I must say, I was totally impressed! I was like a little kid(I'm 61) wanting to see everything.Our cruise left Tampa at 4pm, with the mandatory boat drill before we left. It didn't last long. Boarding was very smooth, and we went to the buffet then to our room. Very nice room, very clean. and Candice, our steward was awesome!!!We had an oceanview room, but window was very dirty. They can't keep them clean. One piece of advice. Take a power outlet strip with you, as there is only ONE outlet in the cabin! We were glad we were in the dining room with George the Greek. This man is such a gentleman! The waiters put on a nightly show after dinner, which was so much fun. Day One at Sea Since this is a smaller ship there is only one pool, which we didn't even try to get in. The serenity area for adults was very nice, and we didn't have problem finding two loungers together. It's hot back there, and I can't for the love of me figure out why there is a HOT tub there. There is all kinds of things to do, and even though there was a ton of people and kids, it didn't seem crowded. Note There is a lot of drinking going on. How one can drink that much blows my mind! Another that really impressed me was all the areas that led to side deck, where the lifeboats were, where you could just watch the sea, and the dolphins. I found myself out there many times, even after dark, and it was beautiful beyond words. Cayman Islands Only regret we have is that the time there was not long enough. This place is just beautiful. I would rather cut the Cozumel stay and have a longer one here. Many on board told me the same thing. We went to the Seven Mile Beach, then shopping. Cozumel I saw enough, that I do not want to ever go there again. We weren't able to go on the catamaran boat trip, because the nite before I had lobster, which Wed. morning I was broken out from head to toe with a red itchy rash. The nurse knew what it was and gave me Benedryl and said no sun for that day. Bummer!!! Be careful what you eat that you may not be used to. The delicious food and things you have not eaten may cause problems. Sea Day Our last day home was filled with lots of fun, especially in our dining room. As the waiters sang to us, I actually cried. A cruise is what you make it, and I am one to say to the Inspiration, I AM INSPIRED. Very clean, staff working constantly to clean up messes. And, for the health inspection report, the Inspiration scored 96 out of 100, 100 being perfect score.For a smaller older ship, I would recommend this 5 day to all. Disembark Was a total breeze. We were off ship by 10am and to the airport. Carnival, you have this down to perfection!!!! Inspiration, keep up the good work. We are planning another cruise on Carnival with our two boys next year, God willing. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was a first cruise for my boyfriend and I. We've both been just about everywhere and we wanted to do something different that neither of us had done before. We're regulars in Vegas and wanted something "out of the ... Read More
This was a first cruise for my boyfriend and I. We've both been just about everywhere and we wanted to do something different that neither of us had done before. We're regulars in Vegas and wanted something "out of the norm" so we booked a 4 day cruise, just to see if we liked the idea of cruising. My grandma, aunt, and her two kids heard about us going and booked right along with us on the same cruise. EMBARKATION: I didn't know what to expect being a first cruise but we arrived at 11AM, valet took the bags and we walked up to the 2nd floor check in at the Port of Tampa. Check-in took about 15 minutes. We then waited about 15 more minutes to get boarded onto the boat - on the boat by 11:30. The first thing we did was walked up to the Lido deck and had a hamburger and hot dog lunch. The food was better than I thought it would be. It was a little crowded but expected as this was really the only thing open on the boat. After the lunch we were off to explore. ROOM: We booked straight through Carnival and did the Oceanview Guarantee. I was worried about this because I didn't know where our room was going to be. Lo and behold we ended up on the Upper deck in room U22. It was in the front of the boat. We were traveling with my grandma, my aunt, and her two kids, they were in a separate room on the same floor. We had a king bed, which was very very comfortable, a little bathroom with all the necessities and our room came with robes, which we wore a lot. Our steward was very good, providing us with turn down service and little towel animals every night - something neither of us are used too. DAY 1: Left the port right at 4PM. That night we had dinner in the Carnivale dining room. I can't remember our server's name for the life of me but they were both awesome. We got sat at a table with the rest of my family. Good thing, I didn't want to end up at a table with people I didn't know. The food in the dining room was great. I had chicken and the chocolate melting cake for dessert. The red potatoes were top notch. After dinner we walked around just exploring the boat, sat out in the Serenity area for a while which was awesome and watched the sunset. That night we ended up going to bed around 12 - the Dramamine we taken earlier kicked our butts. DAY 2 - Fun Day at Sea Got up early this morning and room service breakfast (just because room service was free and once again, something We're not used to getting). I had cereal and toast, the boyfriend had salmon which he said was awesome. Walked around the boat that morning exploring. Ended up playing Uno in the library until it closed then moved our game to the Promenade. The decor on the promenade is golds and blues, we had an ongoing joke that it looked like a Persian nightclub. We spent a lot of time here people watching and just hanging out relaxing. We played ping pong up by the pool, (the pool stays VERY crowded on sea days) and that night we played putt putt on the top deck. Had dinner at the buffet that night (opted out of the Capt. Dinner.) The 24-hour pizza is really good. Day 3 - Cozumel We woke up at 7AM this day - Docked at 8AM. As soon as the boat docked we were off. Took a cab ride to the San Gervasio Ruins which was awesome! Pay the extra for the bug spray though, there are mosquitos everywhere!! After that we took a cab ride to Mr. Sanchos Beach. That place is so fun. There is a freshwater swimming pool, bar, and a little flea market. The water there is so beautiful. It was overcast that day but when the sun shined on the water (for a whole 5 mins) it was beautiful. After relaxing at the beach we took a cab ride to San Miguel to meet the family for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe. I love that place. It's so small but the food was very good. From there we walked around and did some shopping in downtown San Miguel. NOTE: Don't shop at the main plaza on the waterfront!! Go 2 or 3 streets back and shop there. Same items, cheaper prices. (So cheap It's almost free!) After the shopping, we walked to Senor Frogs. That place is awesome!! I got in the conga line for free tequila shots. They had drink specials all day. Stayed there for about an hour then back on the boat....we left Cozumel at 6PM sharp. That night we had room service for dinner, we were both tired. Then we left and walked down to the casino. THE DRINKS IN THE CASINO ARE NOT FREE. I thought they were free (I'm used to Vegas). But come to find out, after the drinks were delivered I was charged for them. I didn't spend to much money in the casino for this fact and the roulette dealer was rude. I'm just to spoiled with Vegas to sit there. The roulette table said Minimum bets were $1 - I laid $3 in chips on red and the dealer made it CLEAR in front of everyone at the table that the minimum bet was $5. I felt like an idiot so I doubled my money at the table and walked out. Sat at Violins bar and drank until about 1AM then hit the room. Day 4 - Fun Day at Sea Woke up early this morning, went and had breakfast at the buffet. The food was good. Stay away from the "scrambled" eggs though. They're powdered and gross. Opt for a made to order cheese omelet. This day we walked up to the top decks and explored the spa. The steam rooms and sauna are free which was awesome. I sat in the sauna for about 20 minutes just relaxing. Had lunch in the Mardi Gras dining room - food there was very good. Had dinner in the Carnivale dining room - I had the flat iron steak with red potatoes and both were awesome! As the sunset the boyfriend and I took our drinks and went to the Serenity adults only area in the back of the boat. The chairs there are padded and I could've slept out there it was so relaxing. After this we went to the Chopin Lounge, had a cigar, then caught some karaoke in the Candlelight lounge. Sat there for about an hour then walked to Avant Garde lounge and caught a band playing. Very very good stuff. Had a lot of fun this night. The next morning we woke at 7AM and were off the boat by 8AM. We did the self assist luggage. I think we agreed next time we'll do the valet. All and all this was a very fun experience as neither of us have ever been on a cruise and had never been to Mexico. We picked the 4 day cruise just as a "test" cruise to see if we like cruising. We did very much!! Although We're not going to make this our primary way of vacationing, We're already planning another one for September next year on the Carnival Freedom. I think we'll use cruising as a "secondary late in the year" vacation. We usually take one big vacation a year and a second little one. Cruising will be that 2nd one. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was our first Carnival cruise (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian previously). We booked this cruise because of a great military discount that could be combined with my credit card rewards and FF miles for the flight from NY to Tampa. ... Read More
This was our first Carnival cruise (Royal Caribbean and Norwegian previously). We booked this cruise because of a great military discount that could be combined with my credit card rewards and FF miles for the flight from NY to Tampa. Couldn't pass up the opportunity for the low price and had no expectations. What a pleasant surprise! I have very few complaints about the cruise and will probably sound petty with the ones I mention since they are so minor. We paid $25 for a cab from the Tampa airport to the cruise terminal; however we learned later that we could have taken the Thrifty/Dollar rental car shuttle for free because since we had reservations for a car post-cruise. Here are a few comments and observations - Embarkation: Efficient and organized. It was less than an hour from arrival at the port till we were in line for lunch on the Lido deck. The worst part of the embarkation experience was the hold-up by photographers at every turn and ramp. They are set up in the main walkways, blocking the flow of traffic. Get out of my way.... I just want to get on board and start my vacation! These same photographers continued to drive me crazy during the cruise. They were in my face way too many times: at each meal (with silly props), at every port (holding up the line again!) and scattered around the ship. Cabin: Super clean and well-organized room. Nice bathroom with toothpaste, razors, shampoo & body wash furnished. Watch the water temperature in the shower! I didn't understand that one knob was for temperature control, in Celsius, and nearly scalded. The retractable clothes line in the shower was handy. Pack a couple clothes pins. The flat screen TV gets plenty of stations and current movies. The bed was very comfortable. Minor complaints: no fridge and dirty window (from the outside). Salt spray from the ocean keeps the window "cloudy". Public spaces: Loved the Serenity deck! We spent hours each day relaxing here. The chairs and loungers had thick cushions, and there were plenty of side tables for our drinks and umbrellas for shade. Low-volume background New Age music masks the noise of the kitchen exhaust just around the corner. We never had a problem finding a place to sit. There is also an adult-only outdoor eating area above the Serenity deck, off the back corner of the Brasserie, by the pizza shop. It's nice to have the option of a kid-free/teen-free place to hang out. Dining: We ate in the Carnivale Dining Room every night, 8 PM late seating. Small portions and much diversity were ideal. I sampled a couple different appetizers and entrees at every dinner. The melting chocolate cake with a side of ice cream was perfect! We had a breakfast and a lunch in the dining room, but preferred the buffet at the Brasserie. I found the buffet to be far superior to the other cruise lines - lots of variety and decent quality. The sandwich and pizza areas were terrific also. Sushi was freshly prepared each evening at 5 on the Promenade deck. We used room service for coffee in the morning. The galley tour was interesting. Ports: We love to snorkel, and since we had been to both Grand Cayman & Cozumel before, we brought our own gear and planned to snorkel from shore at both ports. In GC that plan worked out fine. We snorkeled 2 sites, then back to the ship to clean up and have lunch, then back to shore to walk around. I dislike shopping in Grand Cayman - way too expensive! Unfortunately the weather didn't cooperate for snorkeling in Coz. We took a taxi into town ($6) and walked inland a couple blocks to a nice open shopping plaza. Prices are much lower than on the main waterfront street or at the cruise pier. The new department & grocery store, "Mega" was interesting. Little packets of local spices were priced 3 for a $1. A few other observations: The plan and organization of the Inspiration is confusing. Because of the center atrium area, you can't just go from the back of the ship to the front of the ship. You have to go up and down and around - I was constantly lost and confused! To add to the confusion, decks are sometimes lettered ("E"), sometimes numbered ("6") and sometimes named ("Empress"). There didn't seem to be a consistent system nor decent signage with directions. I think that the Serenity deck is so quiet because most passengers can't find it! Many of the balcony cabins were quite exposed as the balconies jutted out over stairwells. I'm glad we didn't pay extra for that. The ship was recently refurbished so everything is nice and clean. But the dEcor is tacky with way too much purple, plastic and "brass". I couldn't understand the color combinations used in the Brasserie and the crazy tube decorations. On the last day at sea there was a special laundry offer: $15 for everything that fit in a bag they furnished. We were continuing our vacation in FL for a few days post-cruise so this was perfect for us. I wouldn't hesitate to cruise on Carnival again. Overall it was an excellent value. Read Less
Sail Date October 2008
This was my fourth cruise and my mother's second. My reasons for choosing Carnival Inspiration were the ship's recent renovation, the four day itinerary and the convenience of flying on Southwest from Chicago to Tampa. As ... Read More
This was my fourth cruise and my mother's second. My reasons for choosing Carnival Inspiration were the ship's recent renovation, the four day itinerary and the convenience of flying on Southwest from Chicago to Tampa. As always, we flew down a night early and took a taxi to the Hyatt Tampa Downtown. The airport was about 15-20 minutes from the hotel and it cost us $37 for the taxi. The Hyatt sells Starbuck's coffee along with some basic items for breakfast and lunch including fruit, cereal, bagels, sandwiches, etc. (Buy your water here; a regular bottle of water in your room is $5!) There is a full service restaurant and a small bar outside of the restaurant. The pool is located on the 5th floor of the hotel where there is a very nice sun deck and hot tub along with what appeared to be a well equipped workout room. Blue One Shuttle is used to transport guests to and from the airport but they are only available until 10:00 p.m. which is why we took a taxi when we arrived. The port is only about five minutes from the hotel but they do not offer complimentary shuttle service. We used Blue One which cost $6 for the two of us. You cannot walk to the port from the hotel. We arrived at the Port of Tampa about 10:30, handed off our bags to the porter and were inside, checked in and waiting to board by 11:00. It took about 45 minutes to get on the ship and once on board, we headed to the Lido deck for our first foofy drink and lunch. Our cabin was not available until 1:30. One of the first things I noticed about this ship was that the employees were really friendly! There is nothing I love more than friendly cruise ship employees and this ship has them by the boatload - no pun intended! From the first bartender to the destination shopping specialist, I truly enjoyed my interactions with these people. Our cabin steward was Candice from South Africa and she was excellent. She made sure that we were well taken care of, towel animals and all! Risa Barnes was our cruise director and believe everything you read about her - she is awesome! Felipe is Risa's assistant and was very entertaining. In the Carnivale dining room, we were lucky enough to have George the Greek (Opa!) as our Maitre'd. Our head waiter was Stephen from the Philippines and Fritz, his assistant. The last person we had a lot of interaction with was Darin, the shopping specialist. We went to his presentation on the stores of Cozumel, which was very informative. After making some purchases, he helped us with the Carnival 30 day guarantee forms. After the cruise, we ran into Darin in Tampa and he took 15 minutes out of his day off to talk to us about himself, the cruise, our past cruises, etc. I have never encountered friendliness on this level from cruise employees and it capped off a really good vacation. The second thing I noticed is that the food is better than the last two Carnival ships I was on. I also thought the Lido buffet, the Brasserie, was laid out very well with the hot dogs and burgers at the back of the pool area and a juice bar. Inside the buffet, stations on either side of the entrance featured hot items. In the middle of the buffet were two salad bar stations and right behind this was the deli that also served as the omelet station for breakfast. Sandwiched between the salad bar stations is the 24 hour ice cream and on the other side, in front of the deli was potato chips, pickles, pickled carrots and veggies, fruit, etc. Off to the right, at the back of the restaurant is the pizza station. On either side of the salad stations are the dessert stations, and finally there were two coffee & juice stations at the front of the restaurant. There was something for everyone at any time of the day. We had an ocean view cabin on the Upper Deck which was large enough for two with the beds laid out in an "L" shape. I love the new flat screen TV's as it frees up more space for your things. There was plenty of storage in the closets, although we did bring a shoe bag to hang over the bathroom door to hold all of our toiletries. The bathroom was shiny clean and was always spotless. I noticed the toilet was a little worn out so I guess they didn't change those out during the renovations. What I was surprised at was the lack of cleanliness in the outdoor public areas. The decks were not that clean and there were always a lot of dirty tables whenever I was searching for a one. The Serenity deck was also a bit dirty and worn. The cushions on the lounge chairs were tattered with stuffing coming out of some of them. There were cigarette butts on the deck and dirty glasses and tables. Lastly, the public bathrooms were disgusting! I just don't understand why people think it is ok to leave a public space so dirty! With that being said, I don't think there are enough employees assigned to clean these areas. I do have to say that I feel sorry for those who are assigned to clean up after these people. It's truly frustrating to see the mess people leave behind. My only other complaint about the ship was I kept getting lost! It was very hard to find our way around and I never did find a map of the ship. But being the optimist that I am, I probably didn't gain as much weight from all the wandering around that I did! We did manage to find our way to the observation decks at the front of the ship during sail away. This was a great place to take pictures of the sunset and a great place to check out the stars at night. When you go up to the miniature golf area, keep going all the way forward and you will find the observation deck. Go down one flight of stairs to the Verandah deck and go through the hallway of cabins leading to the front of the ship. There is another observation deck there which is just below the one in front of the mini golf. Embarkation Day - We spent the day checking out the ship, eating lunch at the Lido, meeting our cabin steward, meeting up with our CC roll call, the obligatory muster drill and waiting for the highlight of the sailing; going under the bridge with inches to spare! After you leave Tampa, you sail through the bay for about two and a half hours until you reach this bridge that the ship barely fits under. (I never found out the name!) Once underneath, everyone cheers. I assume this symbolizes the start to our ocean sailing, or maybe, two and a half hours later, they are just liquored up and ready to party! Whatever the case, it was great fun to watch the approach and the "squeeze" under the bridge. From there, it was time to get ready for dinner in the Carnival dining room and then on to the Welcome Aboard show which was ok. The comedian was hilarious though! The layout of the theater is horrible though. The seats sit very low so you can't see that well over the chairs in front of you and there are poles scattered throughout the theater that you have to look around to see the stage. Unless you are down on the main level, there are very few good seats in the house. Sea Day #1 - We went to the shopping seminar and then spent the rest of our morning lying out at Waterworks, which we loved! The Lido pool is small, so it's hard to get a chair there. The Serenity deck is even smaller and people laid out all day long there - you had to stalk the chairs to get one! But at Waterworks, which is one deck up from the Lido deck, we had no problem finding chairs. When it got too hot, we ran over to one of the large sprinklers and cooled ourselves off. The slides looked like a lot of fun but I never got to try them. There were just as many adults as there were kids in this park and I think everyone who was up there really enjoyed the space. In the afternoon, we managed to get some space down on Serenity and over the course of a few hours, stalked our way to some chairs under umbrellas. It was so hot down there and with only hot tubs to go in, there really was no way to cool down. Carnival either needs to install a pool back there or turn one of the hot tubs into a cool tub! They also have an area that is like a cabana that could really benefit from the installation of some outdoor ceiling fans. The thing I did enjoy about the area was the music they piped in which was a cross between new age and spa music. It was very relaxing and you could also hear it when you sat outside at the Lido buffet seating. In the evening, we went to see the show Shout. We really enjoyed the show and it was much better than the welcome show. Since this evening was "cruise elegant" we opted to eat dinner in the buffet. Carnival calls it their casual dining option and makes it look fancy in pictures, but really, it's just a limited buffet. It was Caribbean Cuisine night but I ended up with turkey and salad. Dessert was ice cream and a piece of chocolate cake. It's slim pickings because everyone else is eating surf and turf but for those of us who opted not to dress up, it really wasn't a big deal. I'd say there were about 20 of us in the buffet, so I understand why they wouldn't set out a big spread. Cozumel - We docked at Punta Langosta which is a nice set up for the cruise ships. The area has a two level mall where you can shop, catch a taxi or head down to the main street which takes you to the downtown area. If you are able, you can easily walk the downtown area and back to the ship with plenty of time to spare. Be careful of the jewelry stores here at Punta Langosta. They were trying to sell blue topaz as aquamarine. Knowing what we know of aquamarine, we quickly left those stores behind. There are some good stores for souvenirs though. We opted to spend the day shopping and sightseeing on our own. We ate lunch at Palmeras, which is an open air restaurant and is recommend by Carnival. The food was very good and cost $40 for chips and pico de gallo, two chicken taco dinners and two large margaritas plus tip. As we shopped our way through Cozumel, I made two stops at Fat Tuesdays for some very large Banana Banshees. Yum! We also grabbed a horse and carriage for $40 and we were taken down to the public beach and back through downtown Cozumel. The driver then took us through the residential area and pointed out houses and offered some tidbits about the area's residents. He also took us to an old church where we were able to get out and take pictures. After that, it was back to Punta Langosta where we did a little more shopping and went to Senor Frogs. A yard of a green froggy drink, a yard of strawberry margarita, some balloon hats, a shot of Sex on the Beach and we were partying. After Senor Frogs, we stumbled back to the ship and hit our cabin where I promptly fell asleep for the next 14 hours! Mom went up on deck for the sail away and as we were pulling away, some people were running to catch the ship. The ship pulled back in for the group and then we were on our way. We found out later that four others weren't so lucky and never made it back to the ship. Last I heard, two of them ended up on Imagination, which was in port with us, and were headed to Miami. Sea Day #2 - We spent the morning hours back up on the Waterworks deck, the afternoon checking out the last day sales in the on-board stores and enrolling our Cozumel purchases in Carnival's guarantee program. We also did the galley tour which was interesting to see how they keep up with us hungry cruisers. The evening was spent with Mom winning $20 in the casino on a quarter slot machine and me breaking even on a penny machine. Dinner was back in the Carnivale dining room with a yummy Baked Alaska for dessert. Then it was off to pack our suitcases and set them outside our door for the luggage pick up. Disembarkation - We waited in the buffet until our number was called and made our way off the ship about 9:30-10:00. We found our luggage right away and made it through customs all in a matter of about 15 minutes! This was by far the easiest disembarkation I have ever been through. Not realizing how easy it was going to be, I had booked us on a late afternoon flight which meant we had a few hours to kill before we had to be at the airport. We were able to leave our luggage at the port authority office and at the same time, arranged for Blue One shuttle to take us to the airport at a discounted rate - it was $9 per person. We also bought discounted tickets to the aquarium, which is across the street from the port office. The aquarium is small which meant we made it through the exhibits in about an hour. From there, we wandered around Channelside which is mostly restaurants. We lunched at Hooters and were on our way to the airport by 12:30. It took about 15 minutes to get to the airport from the port area. Some final thoughts – I did not use the spa on this cruise, so I can’t comment on this area of the ship. There was a Florida radio show on board that was broadcasting from Margaritaville while we were in Cozumel. They brought a huge following and they were very loud and sometimes rude. The ship’s employees kept apologizing for their behavior and except for not being able to carry on a normal conversation at dinner, they really didn’t affect our trip. There were about 150 kids on board although we hardly noticed them. Interestingly enough, they hung out more at the Lido pool than at Waterworks. Even more interesting, most of them were better behaved than the radio show’s group! We tried the sushi bar which was really good. I never ordered anything at the coffee bar except a bottle of water, so I can’t comment on the specialty coffee. We really like sailing with Carnival as they continue to provide the type of vacation and service that my family and I have come to expect and enjoy. Are there things that can be improved upon? Of course! Will it stop me from cruising with Carnival? Never! I always say a cruise is what YOU make of it. If I’m going to worry about the small stuff, I might as well stay home and go to work! Bon Voyage! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
I've been on a few cruises in the past (mostly Family cruises where everything was taken care of). Last year my fiance and I went to Vegas for the week, after seeing the bill for food/hotel and booze I decided our next trip would be a ... Read More
I've been on a few cruises in the past (mostly Family cruises where everything was taken care of). Last year my fiance and I went to Vegas for the week, after seeing the bill for food/hotel and booze I decided our next trip would be a cruise for the two of us. This was my first time planning a cruise. It would also be my first time on Carnival and my fiancee's first ever cruise. We had a fantastic trip and I would recommend this ship to all my friends. Hotel We stayed at the Tampa Downtown Courtyard because they offered a free shuttle service to the port (which we took advantage of). The place was brand new and the rooms were great (nice LG flatscreens). We flew in the night before the trip and found this to be our best option once we weighed the costs of the other hotels in the area that didn't offer free shuttles. We did, however, have to pay for a cab to the hotel from the airport but that only cost us about 30 bucks. Embarkation We got to the port at about 10:30 in the morning. It was a little hectic with us trying to find out where we're going and everyone coming off the ship but we eventually found a porter and our way to the Carnival Desk. Since we came in early there was virtually no line to speak of and we got everything taken care of quickly. We then sat around waiting for our group to be called and shortly thereafter boarded the ship. Activities Compared to other ships I have been on I was very pleased with the amount of things to do on this cruise. There was always something to do! Either karaoke, casino, trivia, mini-put, contest we never found ourselves looking around for something to do (I even sang at the Karaoke!). The staff were great. My only complaint would be I wish I saw more of the cruise director. We went to a bunch of the activities and never even saw her. Service The service was better that what I've received on other cruise lines, I spoke with the maitre'd before our first dinner and he confirmed for us that we would be at a couples only table which was great. Our head waiter and assistant waiter were really personable, remembered us and our orders and even came up to us during non-dinner hours to talk to us (at the buffet or if we saw them in the halls). Other staff were great as well, very friendly. We met a waiter at the buffet who recommended to us a great Filipino restaurant in Cozumel for us to enjoy. Dining I really enjoyed the food, though I'm not a very picky eater. Having said that I felt there were a few too many deep fried item on the dining room menu. The atmosphere itself was great, the tables were always clean. Shore Excursions Since we only had two stops (Cayman and Cozumel) we only did two excursions: - Allure catamaran to stingray city in Cayman - Chakanaab park Dolphin push, pull and swim in Cozumel We enjoyed both excursion immensely. The catamaran was with only 10 people so we had the whole sandbar to ourselves, surrounded by stingrays. The staff were really friendly and the prices for the pictures was fair. Be warned, though, this is a booze free excursion. The dolphin swim was an amazing experience. I had done the dolphin encounter and for the same price felt the push, pull and swim was a better deal. The park is beautiful and safe and I wish we had had more time to explore the park. Stateroom Our cabin was an interior cabin on deck E underneath the galley. The room was larger than what I've used in the past and the bathroom was so much nicer than anything I've seen before. There was more than enough room for the two of us. My only complaint is that the wall between us and the interior hall way was rather thin and on our last night at sea it sounded like a heard of elephants were moving luggage around. Also for some reason there was a constant pipe banging sound coming from below our cabin at 2am and sometimes in the afternoon. We were pretty sure it wasn't the galley. Nightlife There was plenty to do on this ship after dinner, and every night we did something different. From Karaoke to a great DJ in the disco to jamming with the live band or lounging in the piano bar we never had a problem finding something to do on the ship. Disembarkation I can't say how easy this was. After packing and labeling our bags we left them out and the following morning simply waited for our zone to be called. Once we got our bags immigrations was a breeze and found the cab stand waiting outside. Summary To say we had a great time on Carnival would be an understatement. We made some good friends, had an amazing time and I look forward to cruising with them in the future. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
My husband and I sailed on the Carnival Inspiration departing Sept. 22nd. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and ship! Our experience was pleasant, fun and relaxing. The food was fabulous and couldn't have been better! The buffet ... Read More
My husband and I sailed on the Carnival Inspiration departing Sept. 22nd. We thoroughly enjoyed this cruise and ship! Our experience was pleasant, fun and relaxing. The food was fabulous and couldn't have been better! The buffet selections in the Brasserie Grille each day were abundant and varied. And the chocolate chip cookies they make are really good! I only wish they were available 24/7 like the ice cream and pizza! Formal dinner dining was truly a gourmet experience and the menu items were consistently full flavored and beautifully presented. The lobster, prime rib, braised short ribs, "Tom Turkey" dinner was all exceptional. I would have liked to have complimented the food and beverage director and chefs if given the chance. The crew was extremely hard working, professional and courteous. A 15% gratuity is automatically added to the bill which passengers may adjust up or down as they may see fit. (We're surprised that 20% is not automatically added to the bill - as our concern is that more people would not add to the already 15% billed when crew members like the cabin stewards and waiters definitely are deserving of 20% at least - as in our opinion; one would be hard pressed to find better service anywhere!) It was our impression that certain types of passengers do not adjust "up" as they really should; given the exemplary service. (These are probably the same people that smuggle in the alcohol and liquor because they're too cheap to pay! If they can't afford to buy a few drinks; they shouldn't be taking a cruise then! To their credit; the crew seemed to ignore this although I'm not sure I could have; as it was very obvious when witnessing women walking around with plastic pitchers of Margaritas made themselves or men with beer selections/bottles not available for purchase on the ship. Beer should be served when chilled at a certain temperature; so of course; these people would have to go to great lengths to find ice; chill their own beer, mix their own drinks, etc. Certainly not worth the effort! I'd rather be served a properly chilled or properly mixed drink! Just as I wouldn't want to have to cook my own meals and make my own bed; I sure wouldn't want to have to make my own drinks while on a cruise! We witnessed no issues with "unruly" or disruptive people. We saw no one in the dining rooms for dinner wearing ripped t-shirts or inappropriate clothing. The only thing we did find "inappropriate" as mentioned earlier were certain types of passengers "smuggling" on large quantities of beer and liquor because they're too cheap to buy alcohol on the ship. Carnival does allow each passenger to bring a bottle of wine with them if they'd like it with dinner but otherwise bringing alcohol is prohibited. One passenger said that they took a 2nd large suitcase loaded with nothing but beer and liquor! If Carnival were to limit suitcases to up to 1 large suitcase per person (instead of 2); it might help curtail this issue; as it is rude and in poor taste. (In our opinion; there's no reason why a passenger would need more than 1 large suitcase anyway for a 5 day cruise.) The shipboard activities were many and varied everyday. The waterslides are a lot of fun and not just for kids! There were not many kids on our cruise - since we cruised in September. The production shows put on by the crew were well done and worth seeing. The costumes were colorful, varied and the choreography excellent. It may take a few days to start to figure out the ship's layout; but that is the case with any cruise ship. There are basically 3 groupings of elevators that go up and down (a group in the middle and one towards each end of the ship). The pool(s) was small but the real purpose of those would be "a plunge pool" just to jump in and cool off. There are 2 hot tubs also out by the pool and also a separate "Serenity Deck" adults only area containing a lot of lounge chairs and 2 more hot tubs. In addition to the background music played on the Serenity Deck; it would be nice if Carnival considered changing up the music alittle bit on that deck - perhaps playing some "easy listening" type music; not just the "spa type" style music that's always playing which sounds rather "weird" after awhile. Excursion options are many. We chose the Coral Reef & Sting Ray Safari tour on Grand Cayman Island which we would very much recommend. The sting rays literally swim up to you and seem to enjoy human interaction because the tour guides have food for them. We were instructed on how to pet them and not to touch or pet their tails or down near the tails which are barbs. We chose the powerboat tour on Cozumel which was a lot of fun also. One thing that we do laugh about though is that this tour stated that we would have lunch at a private beach club; which sounds so special. I would describe the beach club on our tour as more like a "beach compound." One might also want to keep in mind that the these tour operators would very much appreciate a tip and are not bashful in asking for cash tips so if one feels they're deserving; one might want to be prepared. The cabins were clean and well attended to. Looked forward to the towel animal each night and the chocolates! The beds were comfortable. We slept like babies! The shower was large and the water nice and hot! We would highly recommend this cruise to anyone and plan on cruising again on the Inspiration with family! Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Fly into Tampa the day before, my DH and another couple on their first cruise, the shuttle from Howard Johnson Downtown picked us up. Rooms were nice, location close to the port area, so that they would shuttle you to Channelside area that ... Read More
Fly into Tampa the day before, my DH and another couple on their first cruise, the shuttle from Howard Johnson Downtown picked us up. Rooms were nice, location close to the port area, so that they would shuttle you to Channelside area that night. We went down and ate in Channelside and then driver to us and a couple of other people to the store to buy water and soda. Day 1-Next morning we shuttled over to the port around 10:45am and gave our luggage to the porter, easy embark, we were in group 5 and were on the ship and eating at 11:45am. Ship looks good, our friend remarked the whole time how clean they keep it all and how much they clean. The bathrooms have nicer fixtures now and the Serenity area chairs are to die for. We loved that area with the hot tubs and relaxed their quite a bit. Walked around the ship a bit, got to our rooms and had our luggage by 6, unpacked and had late seating for supper, it was good as always and initiated our friends into the wonders of chocolate melting cake. Also at Dinner we were seated with 4 ladies from Detroit, a Hi to Debbie, Patricia, Elinda and Linda, you made our trip so much more enjoyable, we all just couldn't wait to come to dinner every night and our waiter was Dante and he was so much fun also, we were treated very well. Went to the Welcome aboard show and it was good, Kenny Miller was the comedian and he was good. . Day 2- At sea, weather was nice, smooth seas, we did Bingo, saw Love & Marriage game which we always love. Our friends went to a couple of the Trivia's and enjoyed it. We tried to watch the Ice cravings but unless you went and stood on the platform you couldn't see anything. We all went to Captain Reception, hadn't done that the first time, but always good to meet nice people. It was formal night so had the Lobster and Prime Rib. Our friends went to "Shout" and they liked it, and then we all went to Adult comedy, again Kenny Miller it was pretty decent. Day 3- Grand Caymans, the tenders were easy to do and find, we did private excursion and had no trouble getting off on the first tender. They did a big tender (holds around 100) for the people with Carnival excursions out of one door and a smaller tender (holds around 50) for everyone else out another door. We went on snorkel and sting ray excursion with Sotos and they were great. There were only 9 of us on the boat so it was very personal, we first stopped to snorkel and it was so much fun, never had done it before and really enjoyed it, just one other small boat in the area with us, otherwise all to ourselves. Then onto Stingray City, which can't be helped but to be with all the other boats, our guys found a spot that wasn't to crowded to get into and took us into the water to explain about stingrays shows us how to hold and pet them and they had food for us to feed, we had plenty of stingrays around us.. When done we tendered back to the port got on for lunch, another day of lounging and .. supper again was good, we went to the Variety show that night, Magic & Illusion with Mark Miller and Comedy of Mark Hawkins, both entertaining enough for us. Our friends went to the guest talent show and like it. Side note, we had one couple missed the departure time and had to hire a boat to bring them out, they were seated next to a lady that we stood by while watching the people coming from Carlos and Charlies in Cozumel, she said it cost them $150, but missing it would have been lots more expensive, we hadn't gotten very far away before we slowed to pick them up. Day 3- Cozumel, easy to get off, easy to get a cab and go where you needed, we had once again booked privately and went on Jungle hike. It was hard finding the meeting spot something I will address on the Cozumel boards later, but finally a bus came for us and off we were. They had said in the information "Mosquitoes" and we took it to heart being from Missouri were we also have them, so we wore appropriate clothing and had plenty of spray. Others (from Royal Caribbean ship, so maybe that was the problem) apparently can't read and were not prepared. The guide said it was the worse day he had been out for mosquitoes and they had been dry lately.. so since we weren't miserable the hike for us was good, lots of history and information about the trees and animals, not something I would do again but my DH loved it. I must say our group did not complain and just kept putting on spray and went the whole 3.5 miles. Others on our bus out were doing the biking part and were also not prepared and stopped their excursion early and had to wait on the bus for us to finish. When we got back we tried to find somewhere to eat not in the Mall area, I had a map and had ready about some places to try but honestly we got to tired of the vendors just hawking us every step of the way that we turned around and went back to the Mall area, where it was just as bad. We did not want to eat Carlos and Charlies or Senior Frogs and really the only shopping we wanted were a couple of T-shirts so we went into the store that didn't have people bugging you as you walked by. I have been to Progresso and another part of Mexico and the hawking was not near as bad as here. We went to the ship early and just had late lunch there and stayed there. Our friends went on an all day excursion with driving jeeps in the Caverns and Beach stop and had a really day and mostly avoided the venders except for having to get back on the ship. It was a nice day for us, but next time I would probably do what they did and do an all day somewhere, even a beach.. That night was Mexican buffet and Lido deck party the only night of Midnight buffet, but with us eating late dinner we really weren't that hungry and just sat out and listened to the music. Went to the Casino for an hour and lost at pennies. Day 4- last day at sea, it was overcast and sprinkled a few times, but not enough to dampen our fun time, the girls beat the guys at mini golf, the weather cleared by late afternoon. Played more Bingo, we went to the Casino again and this time the Penny slots liked me enough that I moved to quarters, on my second spin I hit it pretty good, ended up $44.00 over for the night... Dinner again was good but we were so sorry to have to say good bye to our new friends. Our friends once again went to the "Fiesta Latina" show and liked it. Saw late night comedy with Mark Hawkins, he is R-rated for sure but seemed not to go too far with his jokes. Day 5- Debark time. Had plenty of time to eat a breakfast and sit on the Lido waiting for our number to be called, we were off the ship around 9:30 and headed to the airport. Other thoughts- We had a great time, we didn't use the pool or slides but saw several that did, not many kids at all on this trip, but all were very well behaved. We sat a few times and listened to the piano or the guy playing the guitar and enjoyed it all. The table next to us at dinner was in their 20's and very much enjoyed the Rock and Roll Lounge most every night. I used the gym some and it is nice, but mainly was up early and walked outside, it is usually pretty windy on the track area, so I walked on the Atlantic deck, that is the deck above Lido and no one is around except the workers setting up chairs (I gave them a wide berth so not to bother them) you can see more things, longer walk and not as much wind. Did notice a lot of chairs being saved but no one really complaining and still seemed like lots of available seating anyway. Buffet for Breakfast and Lunch, the Omelets are great and Rubens are the best. Plan to cruise again although we will save up for a few years and want to do the Alaska cruise, our friend loved the experience to and also want to do that with us.. Any questions I will try to answer, we didn't participate in everything but enjoyed all we did and just the relaxing in general. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because of the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From Heathrow to Istanbul ... Read More
We, (my husband and I aged 56 and 55) originally booked the NCL Jewel cruise because of the itinerary. We have previously sailed on the QE2 and so were unsure how "Freestyle" cruising would suit us. From Heathrow to Istanbul (remind me never to fly from HR again!) we docked at Izmir for Ephesus, Dubrovnik, Venice, Naples, Rome and Barcelona. We flew back to the UK from Barcelona. First impressions were good - the ship looked colorful and huge. Embarkation was fine and our cabin (inside on deck 9) though quite small, was adequate and clean. The bed was comfortable and suited us although we had to request additional softer pillows. The shower was powerful and spacious and although other critiques had said the hairdryers on the ship were powerful, I was not convinced they would be - I thought they would be those silly little piped in dyers you get in some hotel rooms. However, the dryer was great - almost professional!! Small things make me happy...... There was also a launderette on our floor and I think, a couple more dotted about on the ship. Four quarters for soap powder and then free use of washing machine and dryer - there were also 2 x irons and boards. The laundry rooms are small and always busy - pick a shore day to use. Customer base ranged from families - there were quite a few teenagers and a couple of dozen younger children - to couples of all ages. I was really quite surprised by the average age profile - younger than I expected. There seemed to be many different nationalities on board but mainly Americans and Brits. Lounges and bars - Bar City was a nice place for pre dinner drinks. Quiet and in a position to watch the comings and goings of our fellow passengers. It got a bit more busy after dinner and when the shows were finished. Never went to Fizz, the Karaoke bar but the Star Bar was OK. The Spinnaker lounge seemed to be where it all happened later in the evening. We went a couple of times and enjoyed the 60's music night. Entertainment - We never went to the theater to see the shows. Not our kind of thing - reports ranged from excellent to abysmal - personal taste I suppose. The individual entertainers and bands dotted around the ship in other lounges were professional and very good. Restaurants - There's always more to restaurants than the food but the main free restaurants, Tsars Palace and Azura were fine. Tsars was impressive in a Hollywood sort of way - lots of glitz, big and noisy. Azura was more contemporary, smaller and noisy. We tried a few of the optional restaurants. I felt The Bistro was pretentious, nicely fitted but kidding itself on that it was a quality restaurant. Cagney's - we had the best steak ever there and went back a second time. Sushi was good and the chefs were happy to advise. Teppanyaki, the Japanese restaurant is worth a visit to enjoy the entertainment provided by the chefs. Mama's Italian place always seemed to be busy but we managed to get in one night and it was disappointing. We couldn't get in the main restaurant and so sat on the deck outside at what was The Great Outdoors through the day so maybe we didn't get the full experience and atmosphere. Speaking of The Great Outdoors - it was, for us, the best place for lunch and/or afternoon tea. The Food - apart from Cagney's, Teppanyaki and Sushi, was average - up-market canteen food, which is not a bad thing necessarily - they are catering for thousands of people after all but don't expect haute cuisine. Most of the food was pre-processed - for instance in the majority of the restaurants, all the chicken, veal, lamb, steaks etc came with those stripes on them that are supposed to be barbecue grill marks. Yeah right. I was looking forward to some great puddings - New York cheesecake etc, again all was pre-prepared and the cheesecake was like marshmallow with sponge base. - not my taste. However, all were nicely presented with drizzles of coulis and flakes of chocolate. Breakfast, however, in The Garden Cafe was superb. Lots of fresh fruit, cereals, freshly made to order omelets, waffles, pastries, bacon, sausages, hash browns, beans, cream cheese, pickled herring. You say it, the buffet probably had it. Something for everyone and well set out. SHORE EXCURSIONS - There was also a Shore Excursion desk next to the Reception desk and intermittently open, which was fine if you wanted to purchase one of the ship's excursion which NCL was anxious to sell. If you wanted to do your own things at a port - forget the Shore Excursion desk. In many cases you would get misinformation. One example of this was Venice. Elsewhere on the Internet, I had found that a shuttle bus was offered to take you from the pier to/from Piazela Roma (saving a 20 minute walk). On enquiring about this, I was told one had to walk. In fact there was a shuttle bus. We used it 3 times and had to walk on the 4th occasion because the shuttle-bus stopped running after 5:30pm. Check with the bus-driver when the last one leaves or ask at an information desk at the pier. In Venice, NCL arranged for a shuttle boat from the ship to Piazza San Marco at a cost of $25 for unlimited use. This was not useful to us as we wanted to go other places. Further, other cruise lines offered a free boat shuttle! However, if you could find the right person at the reception desk, you could get useful information with maps, directions and general information. My impression was that NCL was very poor in supporting any shore activity that did not make money for them! The NCL arranged shore excursion were of pretty good quality but quite expensive. We and our kids took several but not always the same ones. The tour guides were nearly all locals which enhanced their knowledge, However, in many cases, their command of English and local accent made them difficult to understand. We selected our excursions based on whether or not it would be easy to do our own thing and do it reliably enough to make sure one returned to the ship on time. In Istanbul we had already stayed an extra night in a hotel (Avicenna, one block from the Blue Mosque and highly recommended) to make sure there was time to react to any lost baggage (there wasn't any lost baggage) and also because doing so was less than half the cost of NCL arranged pre-cruise (and post cruise arrangements). We used a local tour operator. Our itinerary allowed us to visit more sights in less time than NCL could offer. We also took a cruise on the Bosphorous. In Izmir, we took the Ephesus and the Virgin Mary tour. We had an excellent lunch in a small restaurant by the Temple of Artemis. For Izmir we used the same tour operator as we did for Istanbul. We were very impressed with the services provided. You can email this company at ephesustours@yahoo.com Athens - we used Spiros from www.athenstaxi.net He is very reasonable...around 200 euro for up to 4 people for a full day tour. In Dubrovnik we took the Croation Riviera Tour. Light lunch in a quaint country setting and a glimpse of breathtaking views in the country around. Dubrovnik is a beautiful city that has been completely restored following the siege in 1993 by the Bosnians. Dubrovnik was the only port that required "Tendering" - boat from ship to shore. In Venice we did our own thing. Our kids took the Murano/Burano tour on the 2nd day and enjoyed seeing the glass factory. They nearly got left behind while engaged in negotiating the price of a piece of glass! We experienced a temporary set-back when all of about 5 ATM machines we tried on Sunday evening were out of money! Our kids took the Capri/Sorrento/Pompeii 10 hour tour seeing a lot more than one could probably accomplish by oneself. We chose to do Capri on our own using the same Hydrofoil that the Taste of Capri tour used at much less cost. We visited Anacapri, Villa San Michele, Gardens of Augustus and had a nice pizza lunch in a restaurant with a beautiful view. The 3:25pm Hydrofoil from Capri gets back at 4:05pm, providing plenty of safety factor to make sure one is back before the 7:00pm sailing from Naples. From Civitavecchia, our kids took the Vatican Tour and we did our own thing. We were ready to get off the ship when it docked at 7:00am. NCL is required to provide shuttle busses to the port entrance from which there is about a 15 min walk to Civitavecchia railroad station. We missed a 7:38 train but caught an 8:08 train to Rome, arriving 9:40. The train fare is 4.10 euros one way per person. A little after 10, we took the #110 double-decker sight seeing bus to Piazza San Pietro (The Vatican). The bus offers an wonderful overview of the city providing earphones on which one can hear commentaries in various languages including English (though rather brief) about each site. The whole route takes 2 hours! One can hop on and off at any stop. The cost is 13 euros per person (An earlier blog reported problems with lining up for tickets and buses arriving full. I think this has been eliminated as tickets are purchased on the bus and they dispatch the bus from Piazza Cinquecento in front of the Roma Termini before each bus is full.) There was a line all around the Piazza with people waiting for the Basilica security check! Previously I had booked a Vatican Museum/Sistine Chapel tour with Odyssey tours (http://www.odyssey-tours.com/tours/museum.asp). We were led through the museum and the Sistine chapel by Erin, their tour guide, who is a Texan studying in Rome. She is an excellent tour guide and speaker! After visiting the chapel and the Basilica, we had time to visit the Trevi fountain and return to the Termini station to catch the 5:00 reserved seat EuroStar Express arriving Civitavecchia on time at 5:40. (Note that I reserved the seats with Trenitalia on-line! The cost was 14 euros per person for the reserved 1st class seat. This is 3 times the regular 2nd class fare. Whether it is worth is a matter of personal taste! We felt somewhat out of place surrounded by Italian businessmen in expensive suits! Being on this train is like traveling by air. They serve free pop and peanuts.) Most of the other Jewel passengers that went to Rome by train came back on the 4:30pm commuter train arriving at Civitavecchia at about the same time we did! We were in plenty of time for the 8:00pm sailing but got drenched by a thundershower walking back to the port entrance and waiting for the shuttle bus. It is interesting to compare our tour with the NCL 9 1/2hour tour taken by the kids. They arrived at the Vatican at about 9:15 and had to wait in the security check line for the Vatican Museum for 75mins. We arrived at the Vatican at about 11:15 after an hour on the #110 tour bus, and stood in the security check line for the Vatican Museum at 12:00pm for 20 minutes. The kids had a good tour-guide, but he was difficult to understand. Our Texan guide was terrific. The tours of the Museum and the Chapel each lasted about 2 hours total, not counting security line time and the Basilica tour. After spending an hour and half in a hotel for lunch (much too long), the kids saw Rome briefly and had a quick stop at the Coliseum and a brief tour of Rome on the NCL bus. We all or course enjoyed the Sistine Chapel and were not rushed though it! Our tour and transportation cost each was $80 plus $7 snack and the kids tour cost $185 each. CONCLUSION No ship is perfect. NCL provides a good cruising experience provided you are willing to work around the restaurant issues. We like the free-style concept. NCL keep things very "ship-shape". NCL costs are somewhat lower than the competition. The itinerary was excellent. Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
Background....I turned 50 and my boyfriend turned 47 during the cruise. I'm a registered nurse and he's an electrician. Traveled with another couple that was 51 and 52. She's also a nurse and he's a zoning ... Read More
Background....I turned 50 and my boyfriend turned 47 during the cruise. I'm a registered nurse and he's an electrician. Traveled with another couple that was 51 and 52. She's also a nurse and he's a zoning commissioner/farmer. The farmer was the only one who'd never cruised before. This was my 3rd cruise. All of our cruises have been on Carnival. We flew Southwest airlines from St. Louis, MO to Tampa. Got a taxi without any problems right to the port. From drop off to being in our room took about 45 minutes or so. We got there about 1:30 pm and there were lines but moving fairly well. We checked out our rooms and dropped off carry on luggage. To the Lido deck for lunch. We started the tour of the ship at the Serenity deck as we were to meet fellow cruise critic members though we were late and missed everyone. Getting around the ship was fairly easy for us. To avoid congestion and smoke in the casino most of the time we went to our floor(Upper) to get from back to front of the ship. This also allowed us to stop in our own cabin to use the facilities. Our ship steward(Tony and Sup) were great always greeting us with a smile and calling us by our names. Kept the rooms clean, fresh ice, and towel animals. In fact got 2 animals on the last sea day. One in the morning and anther that night. Ate dinner everynight in the Carnivale dining room with George the Greek. Lelix was our waitress and she was FANTASTIC! Amazed at how hard they work. Tipped both her and the room steward extra. Food was really good except for the last night. Did not like the pasta dish and sent it back and got the steak. My friend did the same thing. Something about the pasta tasted very "fishy". Just didn't care for it. First time in my 3 cruises I actually sent something back. Crab cakes were VERY good as was the mushroom soup. Always had an abundance of bread, tea, etc. My BF got his soda waiting for him each night we came to the table. On my and my BF birthdays Lelix brought us the warm melting chocolate cake with a candle. They sang to us and she made a cute hat out of one of the napkins. She really did a great job. Our first stop was Grand Cayman. Did the Stingray City, Coral Reef, and Starfish snorkel trip with NativeWay. It was awesome. Met fellow cruise critic member Rick on this tour. We had 15 total on the boat. They met us when we got off the tender, ushered us to van, then to the boat. Had water and juice to drink. Very good at explaining everything. I was the only one who'd done the Stingray city before. It was still very neat. Got the coral reef and I finally got the hang of snorkeling....well at least did it better this time than 3 yrs ago. And the starfish swim was cool. In Cozumel we did the Nachi Cocum Beach break which I'd reserve online myself. Got a taxi to the beach which cost $15 one way. Found there were only about 15 here too all of whom were on the Inspiration. Got the all inclusive so had lots of drinks made to order. Food was good...the salsa very hot. We stayed there til closing and got another taxi back to the ship. On the sea days we tried to pack in as many activities as we could. Never did get to play mini golf though. Never had a problem with finding chairs either in the sun or shade. Was a little crowded by the pool but still able to find chairs when we wanted them. There was some chair saving but didn't seem to be a big problem as far as I know. Ate breakfast in the dining rooms except for the day at Grand Cayman and used room service that day. Then the last day prior to debarkation we ate in the Lido deck. Never did get to the dining rooms for lunch. Usually got something from the buffet. The shows were fantastic too. I really liked Dimitri and Maria's ballet performances. Enjoyed the comics both early shows and the adult shows. I think I've run out of adjectives to explain how much we all enjoyed the cruise. It was my first 5 day one though and it seemed to end way too soon! Jane Read Less
Sail Date September 2008
To start the embarkation process was fast and easy. We were traveling with our kids ages 5 & 10. Once on board our staterooms we ready and we were anxious to start our vacation. To sum up the highlights of the cruise: Margi Gras dining ... Read More
To start the embarkation process was fast and easy. We were traveling with our kids ages 5 & 10. Once on board our staterooms we ready and we were anxious to start our vacation. To sum up the highlights of the cruise: Margi Gras dining room with George The Greek is fantastic. We really enjoyed his service, he has exceeded our expectations. he was the maitre'd in in this dining room and on other cruises we haven't even so much as greeted the maitre'd, so this was different. My kids loved Camp Carnival, I recommend it, they have activities all throughout the day for them and fairly inexpensive at night. The ports were Grand Cayman and Cozumel. I strongly suggest doing excursions on your own, the ship was over charging at least 30 to $60 pp on some tours. Very safe in cayman to go off on your own and cozumel was surprisingly reliable with taxi service. The shows in the paris lounge were on par with other cruises. Comedy shows were just okay nothing to brag about. My only complaint is that the pool is too small for 2,000 people. Most times we could not find a chair. Serenity area is over rated nothing there but a hot tub. This was our 5th cruise and I have to say we had no complaints on the food, whereas on some we have had to skip meals for nonsatisfaction. Everything was always cleaned and organized. As I said better than expected and if I could I would probably go on this ship again except I don;t like repeating ships :-) I strongly recommend for people with kids, plenty of them running around having fun. Lots of families with children on board. I wouldn't do this ship without kids, I would choose another. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
August 7-11, 2008. Adults 6th cruise, kids 2nd. Kids hated the Disney cruise - too old. So, we wanted to give them another try at enjoying cruising. Got connecting cabins, they loved this, made them feel very independent, they are 16 and ... Read More
August 7-11, 2008. Adults 6th cruise, kids 2nd. Kids hated the Disney cruise - too old. So, we wanted to give them another try at enjoying cruising. Got connecting cabins, they loved this, made them feel very independent, they are 16 and 12. We did purchase 4 walkie talkies beforehand, so we were always in touch w/them, as the walkie talkies worked through the entire cruise. First day was exploring the ship, and our first dinner. They matched us w/another 16 year old girl, and all three kids bolted after dinner, for fun around the ship. They seemed to enjoy this free time very much, since neither of my kids were interested in the club activities. 16 year old is shy, and 12 year old felt too confined by the clubs, wanted to be independent. With walkie talkies, we were fine w/all this, and enjoyed casino and bars together as a couple, and not being Mom and Dad! Second day was at sea. I pampered the 16 year old w/a mani-pedi. The spa messed it up, only gave her a pedi w/no french tips. When I called them, they refunded me. However, they did charge me an adult price for the pedi when she qualified for a teen price. I will deal w/this through email and see if I get refunded. All cruises are about double the cost of any treatment you could get at home, so I do them at home. Don't need relaxing when I'm already relaxing on a cruise! 12 year old got a little bored this day, and wanted to hang out alone in the cabin, once he got to this for a while, he was fine again. Skipped the fancy dinner that night, and thought it was a poor idea to have the midnight buffet that night, when the next day was cozumel and shore excursions. Seems like they could have matched that w/an at sea the next day. Food - Adequate. It was what I expected, nothing more or less. Typical Carnival food, only a few things stood out - Talapia at dinner, Snapper at casual dinner, Crab Cakes at dinner - ordered a second one! Service - dull. No one really interacted w/us, wait staff didn't even tell us what events were going on that night, or what meals would be the next day. Cozumel - we all loved the Atlantis Submarine. My husband dives, so it was not so exciting for him, but since the kids loved it so much, he enjoyed it too! It was a really great family day. Mexican cab rides are scary, but I had this experience before, so was ready for it. Shopping has very aggressive sales people. I don't care for that at all, but have learned not to look them in the eye, or they hound you even more. I basically did souvenir shopping in a "junk" shop, really getting everything I wanted to get. The second at sea day, we spent sleeping in after cozumel. My kids loved room service, and the freedom we gave them to order whatever they wanted. Had breakfast in room each morning, and kids had room service throughout the trip. I left them some $1 to tip with. The afternoon, we looked at photos, but no ship we have ever been on has a good way to find your photos, so we just went with the one from Atlantis of the four of us, and the camera we brought. Bought some alcohol on the ship, as the price was half what I spend at home. Of course, didn't save anything, as I bought 2 bottles! Disembarking was VERY smooth, as was Embarkation. Carnival REALLY has this down. OVERALL - For my husband and me, this was an average-type cruise. We want to try a newer, upgraded ship next time, as we have done several ships and lines in this class. For the kids, they really enjoyed it, and I think they would both do it again. Hope this helps! J.   Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We live in the Tampa area do we drove and parked at the garage by the pier. It's $12/day to park. We drove around a bit before figuring out how to enter the garage. Embarkation was a breeze. We all have passports and had ... Read More
We live in the Tampa area do we drove and parked at the garage by the pier. It's $12/day to park. We drove around a bit before figuring out how to enter the garage. Embarkation was a breeze. We all have passports and had filled out our Fun Passes. We were on board about 11:45am. We had a few carryons we carried around since halls to rooms were closed. Another Cruise Critic member we met just opened the door, went to his room and asked the steward if it was okay just to drop backs and they did. We strolled around trying to get the lay of the land. I must say I stayed fairly lost for the whole cruise! Up to the Lido deck for a drink, walked around the ship some. Grabbed some lunch, a Reuben that wasn't that good, and waited for 1:30pm to go to the cabin on Main midship to put down our carryons. Room was much smaller than I'm used to, just the desk and 2 beds with a small nightstand. No mini fridge. I put my "I'm a Cruise Critic member" sign on the door. I never saw another door decoration. Our fruit and wine basket ordered from Bon Voyage department was there when we walked in. Very nice white wine. I love the cheese and crackers. We had 3 room stewards, the regular guy, Rudy, we didn't meet for 2 days. He said he had a cough. Tegue and Rene did a good job. Kept my soft sided cooler filled with ice. When Rudy came on he didn't know the things we'd asked for and it was like starting over again. Muster was done in a lounge and went quickly and it wasn't during sail away! Our roll call met up a little later and I met some really nice people. They were great! Bill and Logan, Jamie and Rachel, April RN and I know I'm leaving others out. Great roll call group. There was a sail away party with dancing on the Lido deck. Everyone was having a great time from the sound of it. Missed going under the Sunshine Skyway bridge but saw it in the dining room. We asked for a table for the three of us and were seated at table 255 in the back. I had asked the M'd if he could get my daughter Lauren who was celebrating her 21st birthday an invitation to dine with the Captain. He told me the Captain seldom went to the dining room and there was no dinner with him. Jose was our waiter and did a great job. April Day was the assistant and also very attentive. The ceasar salad was good and the portion was more for one person rather than the huge salads I've gotten in the past. I had a pork chop that was a bit tough. The sides were yummy, peas with some sauce and macaroni and cheese. My daughter, 20, and son, 19, had steak and it was very good. Warm chocolate cake for dessert I did not like it! It was like a brownie on top and warm liquid unsweet chocolate inside. My son loved it. Wandering around a couple in their 60's stopped me and asked about my being a Cruise Critic. I explained about it but no matter what, she was convinced I wrote for some publication and wanted me to tell everyone embarkation was a breeze and staff were all so very nice. Went to the spa raffle but didn't win anything. The first night welcome show was okay but nothing elaborate. Later I participated in some trivia games including "Twisted Trivia" and "Game Show Mania", both were a lot of fun. I had entered the slots tournament. The lady next to me was not getting many points and said she'd never pick that machine again then she started racking up the points and came out ahead of everyone else. I had 92,000 points, she had about 95,000 and was in the lead but didn't win. The final winner got about 110,000 points. It was five minutes of fun! Finding a place to smoke proved difficult. There is a small area on the Lido deck but not all tables had ash trays. Several lounges were off limits as there was a private function which turned out to be modeling agents testing different people who had won the honor earlier in the year. Ashtrays in the casino were minimal also. Lounged around, mostly out of the sun. For lunch we ate in the dining room which was nice. The hairy chest contest was made more fun because of Philippe who should be the Cruise Director. Risa was okay but Phillipe was fabulous and funny. Went to the piano bar where there were only 4 people. Rick was playing and he just can't sing. There were never a lot of people there. He also played in the Atrium. This was formal night and the Captain's party. No movie or anything but the Captain introduced his main staff. Drinks and hor'd's were plentiful and okay. Dinner was the famous lobster. I ordered 2 and it came with shrimp. Very tasty. The midnight buffet was a sight to see. I took lots of pictures. I really wanted to grab a hard boiled egg but that wasn't going to happen until midnight and I was was tired and went back to the room. We were docked in Cozumel at the Punta Langosta pier when we woke up the next day. Went to the dining room for breakfast. The eggs benedict were a big disappointment. The hollandaise sauce looked like it had sat under a heat lamp for 45 minutes. Really bad. We walked around Cozumel—it was very hot—and had lunch at Casa Dennis. I mentioned the website and we all got a free margarita. The salsa with the chips was HOT! Got a beer! My kids had quesadillas which were good. Very cute little place. Went back to the ship around 2:30pm and went to the Lido for the "TV theme trivia" at which I knew I wouldn't be very good. Only one other person showed up so he gave each of us a ship on a stick! Won be default. Later I did "Famous faces" and won another ship on a stick. There were two of us tied but he didn't know Lady Bird Johnson so I won. Sports trivia was way too out of my league but fun. So was "Twisted Scattergories." I went to Serenity and got in the hot tub just as a bit of rain fell, then it poured. I left my towel in the bin but the lady who signed them out was not there. Later I found I was charged for it and called the Purser's desk to let them know she was gone and I had indeed returned it. I was told they would credit my account. I'll have to check. I went to the Pursers desk later and told them I was active on Cruise Critic. Neither of the ladies knew of the site so I explained it and then told them there is talk on CC about how people complain to them about the dumbest things so I was there to demand 50% off my next cruise as I had found a typo in the Caper—the Bathrobe Party was spelled Pary. I DEMAND 50% off my next cruise or else! They laughed their heads off. I was drying my hair when the power to the thing went off. The plug didn't work. No other plug available. I called the Pursers desk and it was about 45 minutes before someone came to the door to tell me it should be working and it was. For dinner I had the honey glazed bourbon chicken which wasn't that good. There seems to be a pasta dish, a fish, chicken and some kind of meat each night. I didn't pick the right thing. Again the sides were tasty and well presented. Our waiter would usually come to ask us how things were and if we wanted something different. There wasn't anything that had looked a lot better so I ate the chicken. It was just chicken. Entertainment was Mark Miller, a magician, which I didn't care for too much and a comedian from Tampa, Happy Cole. He was very funny. Played some minigolf. You have to get the club and ball from poolside which my son knew or I would have been looking all over near the minigolf. We all did the "Genius Test" trivia. It was really a lot of fun. They hand out a paper with what they called equations you have to solve. For example 7=D in a W is seven days in a week. I got 19 out of 32. The winner had 22. The hard ones were 1=H on a U. One of the ones I knew right away was 7=B for S B. Try it. There was no Cruise Critic log in the library. I never saw an attendant there. The room is beautiful. We ordered room service and it took 35 minutes. We got a BLT since so many said it was so good. It wasn't. The shrimp salad was okay but on an English muffin which was weird. About 6pm they started cleaning the Lido deck and stacked up all the lounge chairs. The smoking section was roped off for cleaning. I thought that was a bit early to be putting us off the ship! DinnerNo escargot!! Only on the 5 night cruise. I offered to stay but...The stuffed mushrooms were good The evening show was just fantastic! Fiesta Latina had lots of elaborate costumes and very good signing and dancing. The ice skating show on Royal Caribbean was good, this was better. At midnight the comedian, Happy Cole, did the X-rated show and it was standing room only. He was very, very funny and ribald! He did a 45 minute act and the room was filled with laughter the whole time. I spent all of $1 in the penny slot and had a good 4 minutes of play. I swear I can't add fast enough to play blackjack. Those machines that push the quarters closer to the edge actually had quarters falling off. All in all we had a great cruise. I'm not sure why so many rave about the ship "especially after the refurbishment." It was kind of ho-hum to me. The art on the walls was very ordinary. The dining room has only the one level so you don't have the soaring ceiling. The public restrooms have automatic flush toilets, no paper towels but little tissue to open doors. They were very clean. The Main deck doesn't go up to the Lido deck so you walk up one flight of stairs. I stayed lost but the diagram of the ship by each elevator let me know which direction I was going to in order to know which side to walk to get to my room. There weren't too many kids and only once were they running down the hall. I book port side so I can see the port city but that didn't work this time, docked headed the other way. We were next to the Imagination. The Holiday docked at a pier away from the main city area. We had great weather. I didn't hear many gripes from anyone which is always good. My final bill showed a $15 room credit and I don't know why. I would have been just as happy with an inside since the window wasn't much of a deal. I didn't go on the water slide but Bill and Logan did and really liked it. It's so nice to meet other CC'ers who end up being so nice and Bill, please say hi to Logan, he's a great kid. The bathrobe deck party was fun. Not too many people in bathrobes however. Lots of line dancing. They were doing the red/blue team thing and people really got into it for some reason. I don't get it. Sunday was another sea day. The ship was rocking a bit and many people were having a rough time of it. Had a nice breakfast on the Lido deck. We missed the towel folding demonstration since we didn't get up early enough. We went to preview the art at the art auction. Never saw any champagne. The guy was actually telling someone they never had to refund anyone to which I commented "That's not true, it's all over the internet about Park West having to refund people." He just ignored me. We didn't stay. No champagne. At midnight the comedian, Happy Cole, did the X-rated show and it was standing room only. He was very, very funny and ribald! He did a 45 minute act and the room was filled with laughter the whole time. I spent all of $1 in the penny slot and had a good 4 minutes of play. I swear I can't add fast enough to play blackjack. Those machines that push the quarters closer to the edge actually had quarters falling off. All in all we had a great cruise. I'm not sure why so many rave about the ship "especially after the refurbishment." It was kind of ho-hum to me. The art on the walls was very ordinary. The dining room has only the one level so you don't have the soaring ceiling. The public restrooms have automatic flush toilets, no paper towels but little tissue to open doors. They were very clean. The Main deck doesn't go up to the Lido deck so you walk up one flight of stairs. Debarkation was the old stand and wait. I really have to learn to just stay in my cabin a bit longer. Sad it was over but the best way to get over that is to book another cruise. I have the solo December Glory planned to Eastern Caribbean but I'm looking at a solo sometime in March or April. I will avoid August since it's hurricane season and we had the scare of Fay plus it's too darn hot. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
This is our second cruise on the Carnival Inspiration, but this time we took family and friends for a total party of 10. Eight of us occupied four 1A cabins on upper deck and two had a penthouse suite, also on upper deck. We ... Read More
This is our second cruise on the Carnival Inspiration, but this time we took family and friends for a total party of 10. Eight of us occupied four 1A cabins on upper deck and two had a penthouse suite, also on upper deck. We originally booked this cruise on the Fantasy but they canceled it do to an extended dry dock. We were able to keep our same rates and book the Inspiration, even on a holiday weekend (meaning fewer missed school days). We also were refunded part of the gas surcharge b/c we originally booked the Fantasy before Carnival started charging for gas. Total price per person w/all taxes and surcharges? $310...$62/night! We were also refunded $25/person for port fees for Key West, so I guess technically it worked out to $57/night. Embarkation: SLOW! My MIL and FIL were directed to VIP checkin. Most of our party had not completed the online funpass, and one person was a last minute sub so we had a lot of paperwork to complete. It was extremely time consuming but our "checker inner" was very patient and sweet. DH has a fuse like a ticking time bomb so it took several hours afterwards to get him calmed down. All in all it took close to 40 minutes to check the 8 of us in. And we still had to "rearrange" our room assignments which meant waiting in line at the pursers desk for another hour. Gustav was brewing in the gulf so our first port (and the one we were looking forward to the most), Grand Cayman, had been changed to Key West. However, after attempting to skirt Gustav, the captain canceled our first port stop all together. Cabins: Our cabins were nice and arranged well. We got a lot of space for a minimal cost and no one seemed to mind dealing with bunks. Our main complaint was the stewards. One night they didn't show up to do turn down service until 9:30pm. Between me and my kids, we had two cabins so I attempted to move to the other cabin while they pulled the bunk down but another steward showed up and basically kicked us out of the room..in my pjs! It was irritating. My mom asked for ice several times, along with a tip and her chest was only filled once. This is the first time we didn't leave an extra tip for our steward. I honestly believe, that b/c these are the lowest category room on the ship, that they must train new stewards on them. And the fact that our beds were never made till after lunch tells me we were last on the list to get done everyday. We also noticed that sewer smell in the hallway. It was ONLY in the center hallway where the aft 1A rooms are. I never noticed it in the rest of the ship and I rarely noticed it in the rooms themselves. My Mil's penthouse suite was beautiful. Very large with tons of space. We hung out with them in their room quite a bit. They also raved how good their butler was. Food: Very good as usual. Heard very few complaints from my group. The warm melting chocolate cake was a huge hit for several. Our waiter, Joseph, was OUTSTANDING. All 10 of were at one round table and he did a beautiful job at handling everyone's requests. Several people in my party ordered multiple shrimp cocktails every night so he just started their order by asking how many they wanted. As for the buffet, always found plenty of seating. Entertainment: Both comedians are VERY funny..my mom regrets sleeping thru the first one. We really didn't go to many shows. We hit Karaoke, dancing on the deck, towel folding, bingo, scavenger hunt, the newlywed show, and the ice carving demonstration. My group really did have a great time..their only complaint being that so many of the activities were scheduled so close together that you couldn't do them all. I was extremely disappointed there was no past guest party. The ship: very clean. didn't have the sail away litter and debris that we saw with our last trip on this ship. The renovations are very nice. DH was disappointed with them as he said the slides were a waste of space and the pool to small. I kept telling him that even without the slides, the new pool is no smaller than the previous one. My mom tried the adults only deck but said it wasn't to her taste. She said their was no breeze and no Caribbean music. Her and her best friend pretty much baked on the top deck...but she paid for that later :) Port: Or only port was Cozumel due to Gustav. We were, of course, immediately accosted by people offering tours and taxi rides. We wanted to go to Paradise Beach. We approached a man to inquire about a van ride for our group who promptly informed us that Paradise beach is not very nice today b/c of turbulent "mucky" water. He offered to take us to another beach and throw in a free entrance fee or some such package deal. We told him we would think about it. We had a moment of panic, not sure if we should go to PB after all. DH walked into a cruise tour office that sells tours strictly to the cruise lines (as in not on an individual basis, as in they could not sell to us, as in any advice or recommendations they gave were not motivated by profit b/c there was none to made). We were considering Chakanaab instead and they informed DH that they share the same beach and if the water was mucky at one, it would be at the other BUT that he had heard no such thing and that the man who had told us so was likely only trying to get us to go to a beach where he has a business arrangement. So we headed downstairs to the taxi line and squeezed 9 people into 2 cabs (FIL decided to stay on board). Total cost was $30 + tip. At PB the water was BEAUTIFUL and clear. Later in the day as the tide changed there was some seaweed...but what do you expect. Its the ocean for crying out loud, not a swimming pool. Our waiter took money up for our wristbands but took nearly an hour getting them to us. I'm not sure what happened but we had another moment of panic thinking an impostor had shown up to take our money and run. I guess we're just a bunch of nervous Nelly's. Service was great! We had lots of free shots. We ordered several yard drinks, buckets of bears, nachos, and quesadillas. I think our total with generous tip was something like $120..much less than I was expecting. We took a van taxi back for $32 + tip and did some shopping before returning to the ship. Disembarkation: Very smooth. We were permitted to disembark VIP with our MIL/FIL. The only thing I found strange was the handicap disembarkation. VIP disembarked first which I think was inappropriate and the crew was announcing to those waiting to disembark that required wheelchairs (many with their own..unquestionably disabled), that only one family member could priority disembark with them and that the rest would have to leave when their color category was announced. I realize that some families may be trying to take advantage but that is just DUMB! You only have to fill out ONE claims form per group and your entire group is processed through customs TOGETHER, so why would Carnival split the parties up? I'm hoping that this was just an isolated incident and that the crew member just didn't know better. Overall we had a great time and our family is hooked on cruising now. I would have given this trip 4 stars if our stewards had taken better care of us. However, a family & friends cruise is exhausting! Its so tiring playing host/hostess to a bunch of newbies! DH and I are very much looking forward to our 9 day S. Caribbean cruise with just the kids this March. Would I go a third time? Most definitely if the price was right. I would just consider very carefully whether or not the 1A rooms are worth the savings. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
We were on the 5 day itinerary out of Tampa to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Itinerary had to be adjusted for Tropical Storm Fay - more about that later. EMBARKATION: Based on other reviews, we arrived at the port early (around 11:00 AM) and ... Read More
We were on the 5 day itinerary out of Tampa to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. Itinerary had to be adjusted for Tropical Storm Fay - more about that later. EMBARKATION: Based on other reviews, we arrived at the port early (around 11:00 AM) and were pleased to see that there were not too many people there. You drop off your luggage right where you enter the terminal (plenty of porters around to assist you) and then drop the car off in the parking garage (if you are travelling by car - which we were). Parking is $12/day ($60 total) in a garage across the street. We then moved through security and checked in (no line). We were assigned a group number to board the ship (ours was 7) and then waited about 20 minutes to get on. By 11:45 we were on the ship having lunch at the buffet on the Lido deck. We arrived early so it was not crowded but by the time we left it was quite crowded - as really eating lunch was what most people wanted to do. You are not supposed to access your cabin until 1:30 PM - it was never clear whether it was OK to drop carry on luggage in there before that - so we didn't do it. In fact, when we went down at 1:30 PM the cabin was still not completely ready - but we left our carry on luggage in there. CABIN: We had R183 and R185 - oceanview cabins on the Riviera Deck, the lowest one with passenger cabins. Our cabins had a folddown bed from the wall so they could accommodate 3 people (there were 6 in our group). They were very nice and spacious with plenty of storage. Being low in the ship there was no discernible motion. There was some hum and vibrations from the engines but this did not bother us. Cabins were close to the aft elevators - but we never noticed any noise from that. Bathrooms were nice with the showers and sinks having very hot water (be careful) and plenty of pressure. There was no unpleasant smell in the bathrooms at all. I would recommend these cabins. ITINERARY: The order of our port calls was swapped due to Tropical Storm Fay (we had Cozumel first instead of Grand Cayman). This resulted in a shorter time in each port (about 9 AM - 3 PM). We had pre-booked shore excursions with Carnival and these were changed around to accommodate the schedule change with no problems. Other than this, we did not notice Tropical Storm Fay at all - we had great weather with plenty of sunshine and glassy seas - no one got seasick on this cruise! Carnival did a really good job keeping everyone informed of what was going on. We did the Snorkel and Kayak in Cozumel and the Stingray/Hell/Turtle Farm in Grand Cayman. We enjoyed everything very much except for "Hell" - there is really nothing to see there unless you just have to have a T-Shirt that says "Been to Hell" or something like that - it is just a rock formation which is not very interesting. I wouldn't make an effort to see it unless it is on a tour you want to take for other reasons. SHIP: It is a little over 10 years old and decorated in a pretty glitzy manner - but it is in great condition. Plenty of space and did not feel crowded except for lunch the first day in the buffet, lunch after coming back to the ship from the ports in the buffet, and in the showroom. Showroom is not that big so arrive early (at least 20 minutes) to get a seat. "Serenity" Deck for Adults Only is nice but not very big so it gets very crowded very fast. There is no charge for it though. Pool is very small for 2300 people - there is only one - that is probably the biggest shortcoming on this ship. There is a waterslide area and miniature golf area that is very nice. DINING: Carnival has great food which we really enjoyed. We had a table for 6 so it was just our group. Service was great and meals were very enjoyable. Standouts were soups, chateaubriand, salmon, and desserts. Wines were very reasonably priced (most under $30/bottle). There is the somewhat glitzy waiter sing/dance stuff - but it is fun. Buffet on the Lido deck is very nice with huge salad bar, dessert station, deli station, grill, and pizza station. Of course, there is also the day's offerings which change as well. Many people eat all their meals there. We like the ambience and service in the dining room but it does take longer. KIDS PROGRAMS/CAMP CARNIVAL: These are great - they take care of the kids pretty much the entire day and night. Most nights, the kids can eat with their friends at the buffet so they don't join you for dinner. Our kids always chose to do this. Whole program is free except after 10:00 PM when you pay $6/hr if you want your kids at Camp Carnival. CASINO: Blackjack, Caribbean Stud, 3 Card Poker, Craps, Roulette, and Slots. Also an electronic texas hold 'em table that was very popular. 2 slot tournaments and 2 hold'em tournaments, but no blackjack tournament. Open most of the time except in port. Had fun there. OVERALL: I believe Carnival gives you the most for your money for a cruise vacation. Yes they have hairy chest contests and such but it is all fun and you don't have to participate if you don't want to. Shows were good but not great - 2 singing/dancing type shows and a magician/comedian combination. Also had "talent shows" for adults and kids and trivia games and bingo. There was not a lot of high pressure sales attitude for art auctions, bingo and shopping and the like - which I appreciated. You can email any specific questions about this cruise to dsfitz@aol.com and I will try to answer them. Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
Hello fellow cruisers! Let's see...first off, I am a 26 year old female and my boyfriend is 27, University of Tampa grads! We are both travel agents and this was our 6th cruise, our 3rd on Carnival. We've cruised with Princess, ... Read More
Hello fellow cruisers! Let's see...first off, I am a 26 year old female and my boyfriend is 27, University of Tampa grads! We are both travel agents and this was our 6th cruise, our 3rd on Carnival. We've cruised with Princess, Carnival, and Norwegian. We are both pretty laid back and really enjoy cruising. In my opinion, there really is no such thing as a bad cruise....some are just better than others. We took this cruise as a mini family reunion/birthday cruise and there were 9 passengers total in our group. Our trip was the 4 night cruise to Cozumel, Mexico. Here's my summary of our vacation experience... Embarkation We live in Downtown Tampa/channelside and walked directly to the cruise ship, so I did not experience any hotels, shuttles, or parking situations. We arrived at the port around 11:45 and were on the ship by about 12:30. Lines were not too long, just average wait time of about 30 minutes altogether. Check in was fairly smooth. Make sure you have your passport, ID, FunPass, and debit/credit card out and ready to go! The ship We took our very first cruise on the Inspiration in February 2006, so we were curious to see the results of the refurbishment. The new addition of the water slides is nice, and the yellow and blue tube slide is very fun, even for adults! The pool area was also redone, unfortunately it is VERY small and fully occupied during most times. If you want to swim in peace and cool off, I recommend getting up early and going at 8:00am on the last sea day. It's so nice to see the sun come out and the deck is almost empty because everyone is at breakfast or sleeping to recover from Cozumel the day before. For the most part, the ship is clean and looks modern. It was built in 1996, so of course it is small and isn't going to look brand new. I did notice the Inspiration does rock around more than the newer ships, but nothing too dramatic. Make sure you watch the ship's tail go under the Sunshine Skyway bridge around 6:30pm. Very cool! Cabins Our cabins were all oceanviews on the Main Deck on the very back end of the ship. M262, M260, and M258, and M245 (on the side). It was large enough for two people and had good storage space. Three adults is a little too tight. I liked having the safe to lock up valuables, but there is no refrigerator like most of the newer ships have. I guess I am getting spoiled by the big boats! The bathroom was average sized with a fairly roomy shower. Not alot of storage space above the sink, but we managed okay. I thought that the beds were fine and I slept great. I loved my bed turned down with towel animals and chocolate at night. New flat screen tv's have also been added. Shampoo and body wash is provided, but no conditioner. Just two small complaints about the cabin.....there is one plug for the whole room, and my hairdryer and camera charger would not fit because of its odd location. So if you have a larger plug, you might want to bring a power strip to accommodate it. Also, our door had a tendency to rattle very often during sailing. Maybe it was because we were in the back, but it sounded like someone was always knocking on our door. Nothing major though, I got used to it. Our cabin was always kept clean with fresh towels. Food Everyone looks forward to good food on cruise ships! I must say that the food was only good, not great. To be honest, I think that the 4 night cruise gets skimped on the food a little bit. I just cruised the Carnival Legend in May 2008 and was very impressed with the exceptional service and food. The Inspiration's food had little variety and the quality was average. I did enjoy the warm chocolate melting cake, the sandwich counter, and the salad bar. I'm not a steak eater, but our group said that the steak was good the first two nights and not so good the last two nights. The pizza was decent, and the 24 hour ice cream was a yummy midnight snack. The Grand Buffet was disappointing. Long lines and the food was very "picked through". Crowding Although the Inspiration is nicely refurbished, I felt kind of crowded on this ship. The pool and deck chairs were usually full, and there was almost always a line for food on the Lido deck. Serenity area for adults was full. It was very tough to find a table to eat at during lunchtime. This may not sound nice, but I did notice that there were alot of rude people on this cruise. Maybe it was because of the short length or extra kids on the cruise during summer, but it seemed like some passengers left their manners at home. Several times, I saw people deliberately cutting in line for food and drinks, sneezing and coughing near the outdoor grill food, wearing soaking wet swimsuits inside the dining area, refilling their dirty drink cups, or not washing hands. I'm all about having a good time, but a little politeness goes a long way. Ports Our ship had one stop in Cozumel, Mexico. This was my 4th time visiting there, so I skipped the shopping and walking around the port. Lots and lots of salespeople pushing you to buy stuff. Once you've seen a few shops, they're all pretty similar. Tip: If you like beer, most stores sell bottles of Dos Equis or Sol for only $1. Drink while you shop! We rented a Jeep Wrangler for $60 for the day and drove all the way around the island. We stopped at the back end to have lunch and a beer on the beach. Beautiful scenery and beaches, but overall the island is very poor. Casino I'm not a regular gambler, but I do like to play some craps occasionally. Unfortunately, the craps table had a $10 minimum so nobody was playing. From what I've seen, Norwegian has the best casinos at sea. Miscellaneous Ping pong was alot of fun! First night comedy show with Kenny Miller was enjoyable (not the r-rated show). We loved the dance show at the Paris Lounge. New pool deck chairs are great. Carnival's juice selection is good...i love the fruit punch! Overall The Carnival Inspiration is great getaway cruise! The food, ship condition, and onboard activities are not excellent, but it's a fun short cruise or great for first-timers who want to try cruising for a low price. If you're looking for something more upscale, I would recommend Princess cruises or the Carnival Legend 7 day cruise. Thanks for reading and happy cruising! Ainsley Read Less
Sail Date August 2008
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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