My husband and I booked a 4-day cruise on the Carnival Inspiration, out of Los Angeles/Long Beach to Catalina & Ensenada. The reason for the cruise was a short getaway to celebrate our 10-yr wedding anniversary, without our 3 and 4 year old kids. We traveled with another couple, long-time friends. We have cruised before on Carnival (one 10-day), Princess (one 10-day) and Royal Caribbean (one 4-day), so we have some experience cruising and some metrics to measure by.
Though the ship was small, we never found it crowded or had to stand in a line for anything. There were not a lot of lounge chairs except for those by the pool - even those, we never had trouble finding either 2 or 4 (when our friends joined us) together, in a spot we wanted to sit in.
Our primary goal on the ship was to sit at the pool and relax. We achieved our goal, but a few times on our cruise - we did find ourselves searching the daily for something fun to do...not much that interested us. We never saw the cruise director out and about, interacting with guests...something we expected from past cruises.
Service was very good. If we wanted drinks at the pool, we were asked frequently - we only needed to show the slightest amount of "need" and someone would come and take our order. We ate in the Carnival Dining room every night for dinner, our waiter was excellent, but there never seemed to be anyone around to take our alcohol order. We never met our room steward, but our room was always in order and turned down - we never needed anything.
Because our goal was to soak up as much pool/lounge time as possible, we did not book any shore excursions. However, we did notice there are substantially MORE excursion options in the book provided in our cabin, as opposed to what we saw on-line. We tendered into Catalina on the first day, it was nice to use a larger fishing boat instead of the life boats to tender into port. These private boats are much more comfortable than the life boats. Lines to tender in and out were relatively short, we did not go during "peak" on and off times. When we arrived into Ensenada, no tender required, we walked through the gate, through the port mercado, and onto an awaiting bus for a ride into town. The cost was $3.00 p/p round trip. The entire 5-7 min. drive the "guide" spoke about the excursions/tours that her company provided cheaper than Carnival. When we arrived to their bus depot, we walked one block to the "shopping zone" and quickly found the few souvenirs that we promised people. Since we were there early in the morning, shortly after 10:30AM, the shops were just opening and many either did not have change to break a $20, or were not set up for credit card purchases.
As I mentioned previously, we booked the least expensive cabin we could find. We ended up with Cabin #U-43, on the Upper Deck (Deck #6). I was very happy with our cabin, it was larger than I expected. This was the first time we have ever booked an interior. Our suitcase fit nicely under the bed and there were three closets that could have held additional bags. The cabin worked well for the two of us, I do not know if it would have felt as spacious if we had our children with us. I would book a similar interior cabin again.
The service in the Carnival Dining Room was the best thing about it. While there were a few good food items, in general, we found ourselves looking forward to McDonalds when we got off the ship. We chose not to pay an extra $20 for the steaks or the surf and turf, we ate off of the "regular", " included menu". We usually ate Lunch at the pool-side grill, and sometimes, in the buffet at the back of the Lido Deck. Breakfast was either room service/continental breakfast or in the Mardi Gras Dining room. The Dining Room had nearly the same menu as the continental breakfast/room service, except for the added omelets. The best breakfast was, by far, the Sea Day Brunch in the Mardi Gras dining room. They did promote Bloody Mary's - however, when we asked our server - he said the cocktail server would be around. When the cocktail service made it around - about 15-20 minutes later, he only took the order of the table next to us. On my attempt to find a decent Bloody Mary, I was extremely disappointed....I was greeted with Ocean Spray Bloody Mary Mix (who knew O.S. made a B.M Mix!?), it was basically tomato juice and a lime wedge, no traditional garnishes - by far, a big disappointment.
We did not purchase the CHEERS! (unlimited alcohol package), though our friends did. They said that if they did this cruise again, they would NOT pay for the CHEERS Pkg ($250 p/p) - instead they would rather apply $500 cash to their on-board account so that they did not feel "obligated" to drink in order to get their moneys worth (15 drinks max per day). They also said that they thought drinks were less expensive than they anticipated ($7.95 drink of the day - foo foo drinks); $5.45-$5.95 for beer. Not much except for really fancy, high end liquors were more expensive. My husband and I did, however, purchase the Bottomless BUBBLES package - unlimited soda and juice ($30 p/p). That hit the spot for us since I am a big club soda person (club soda and cranberry juice w/ lime wedge!! refreshing and guaranteed NO HANGOVER!). Sodas are typically $1.95 each if you are paying out of pocket.
Disembarkation was great, they offered "self debarkation" where you can carry your luggage off yourself, or you can do "relaxed debarkation" and they unload it for you and you leave the ship by zone. We were Zone 14, (Zone 1 leaves first). They release in groups of 5 about every hour - so it took us about 1-1.5 hrs to get off the ship after Customs cleared the ship. We arrived at the port at 7:30AM, debarkation started about 8, and we were off the ship and in our car by about 10.
My husband and I were looking for a "good", "inexpensive", get-away. This fit the bill perfectly.
Great for two people, configured for a king bed, lots of storage, big bathroom. This was our first time in an Inside Cabin, but would book this category again. This is a great room because you have cabins above you (on the deck above) and below you (on the deck below), so no loud dining room or showroom to keep you up late.
We did find that we did not spend much time in our room, partly because I thought that I could feel the motion more with no view of an outside to help stabilize yourself.
We would book this category and this room again.