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We sailed on the Carnival Inspiration on October 19. I'll try to offer advice for new cruisers in my review. EMBARKATION - The process went quite smoothly. We chose to valet park for $85 and paid with our credit card. It would have cost $70 to park my car myself and it was worth $15 to have someone else deal with it. Take with you the same credit card that you booked your cruise with. If you don't, the Carnival employee has to fill out a new credit card form and this will slow the check-in process by about five minutes. We walked onto the ship at 12:00 noon and got to our cabins at 1:30 PM. During that 90 minutes we had lunch in the lido deck restaurant and enjoyed the view of the Tampa skyline. PASSPORTS - You don't currently need a passport for a cruise that returns to the same U.S. port that it departs from, but get one anyway. It's so much easier than using a birth certificate (BC) and driver license (DL). With passports, the customs agents and Carnival employees can just open them and quickly check the photo. But with a BC and DL, you have to wait while each family member's BC is unfolded and examined and each DL is checked. Passports are also easier to carry - you can just shove them into your pocket and go. We don't take our passports into port, but if you do, place them in a Zip-Loc bag for protection. CARRYON LUGGAGE - All carryon luggage was x-rayed and passengers were required to discard any drinks that had already been opened. Don't smuggle alcohol onboard in your carryon luggage because you'll have to discard it if they find it. Avoid taking on too much carryon luggage because you'll have to drag it around the ship until your cabin is ready. It's best to use a backpack so you can keep your hands free for climbing stairs, getting food from the buffet, etc. TAKING ALCOHOL ONBOARD - you're not allowed to take alcohol onboard, except Carnival allows one 750-ml bottle of wine per passenger over 21 years of age. To take any other alcohol onboard, use 1-liter collapsible bottles from Dick's Sporting Goods. Place the bottles in your checked luggage and they'll avoid detection by x-ray. I wonder if Carnival really x-rays all of the luggage. While waiting to board I watched some luggage get taken directly from an airport transfer bus to the ship. Also, there were 2,653 passengers on my sailing, which means there were 3,000 - 5,000 pieces of luggage to x-ray. I wonder if Carnival could really x-ray that much luggage in only a few hours. SODA AND WATER - Carnival allows passengers to bring a reasonable amount of soda and bottled water onboard, so we took a 12-pack of Sprite. Soda gets heavy after a while so I prefer to pack it in my checked luggage. WATERWORKS - Most of the Fantasy-class ships now have the WaterWorks (WW) upgrade on the verandah deck and this really makes the ship more enjoyable. I would avoid any Fantasy-class ship that doesn't have the WW upgrade. The WW area draws children away from the pool on the lido deck, making the pool less crowded for adults. Children need to be 42 inches tall to use the slides and this was enforced quite strictly on my sailing. There were a few hundred chairs on the deck near the WW so it was easy to relax and keep on eye our children while they played. DÉCOR AND COMMON AREAS -The common areas were all clean and crew members were often seen wiping down handrails and vacuuming floors. I even saw one crew member on the verandah deck cleaning a gutter with a toothbrush. Hand sanitizer stations were located around the ship, including the buffets lines. I see some other Cruise Critic members complaining about the dEcor on the ship, but I was having too much fun to notice the dEcor. STATEROOM - We were on the Upper deck in cabin U178 and had no problems. Everything was clean and all of our needs were promptly met. We did notice more vibration than we did on our previous cruise on the Fascination when our cabin was located at the front of the ship, but again, I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. Ships are large, powerful machines and if a little vibration bothers you, you might want to consider a land-based vacation. The stateroom has a safe which is opened and closed with a credit card. A sign on the safe warned us to use a credit card (not our Sail and Sign card) to open the safe, so we did. Apparently using your Sail and Sign card will erase the information on its magnetic strip. However, we accidentally used our Sail and Sign card on the first day and had no problem. DINING ROOMS - We were in the Carnivale dining room and had great food for dinner each night. Certain meals are only offered once (e.g., lobster tails, roasted lamb, barbecued ribs) so be sure to order them when you see them. Some meals aren't very filling (e.g., lobster tails) so when you're finished ask your server for another one. The Warm Melting Chocolate Cake was great and I enjoyed it each night. Ask your server to bring extra ice cream with it because the small amount they provide really isn't enough. The only meal I didn't enjoy was the chicken with fettuccini and mushroom sauce dish. We always had breakfast and lunch in the lido deck restaurant and the food was good. Take some bananas and boxes of cereal back to your cabin for snacks later. The cereal makes great snacks for long days in port. Please adhere to the dress code in the restaurant - bikini tops and bare chests are not permitted, but sadly that rule wasn't enforced. I really don't enjoy seeing bare-chested men or size-16 women squeezed into size-10 bikinis in the restaurant when I'm eating. You don't have to change out of your bikini, but please wear a tee shirt and shorts over top of it. LIQUOR STORE - The prices at the onboard liquor store are much cheaper than on land (e.g., we bought a 1-liter bottle of Absolut vodka for $12.00 but a 750-ml bottle will cost about $25 on land) so we always stock up on liquor. Passengers are allowed one liter of alcohol per passenger duty free. You can buy more than one bottle each, but the additional bottles are not duty free. We have never paid a duty on the extra bottles, but if a customs agent told us to we'd gladly do it - it's only a few dollars per bottle. Regardless of when you buy your liquor, you won't receive it until the night before your cruise ends. Your steward will deliver it to your stateroom. You can also buy liquor in port but the ship crew will take it from you and return it to you on the final night of the cruise. There were several liquor stores at the terminal in Cozumel. CAMP CARNIVAL (CC) - Our children spent a lot of time at CC and activities are offered throughout the day. We usually dropped them off at 7:00 PM after dinner and retrieved them between 11:00 PM and midnight. There is no charge before 10:00 PM, and after 10:00 PM they charge $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional child. You can leave your children at CC until 3:00 AM. CC offers many activities for children, including both individual and group activities. We really enjoyed dropping them off after dinner each night and going to shows in the Paris Lounge. When you check your children in at the beginning of the cruise, the CC staff will issue you a telephone so they can reach you in an emergency. GRAND CAYMAN - This is a tender port but we had no problem quickly getting to land and back. There were three ships in port that day but about a dozen tenders operating, so waits were short. We took the Stingray City Sandbar tour and really enjoyed it. You'll save a lot of money by booking online through a tour operator instead of Carnival. We paid $125 for four people and this was about half of Carnival's price. We chose an operator that used a catamaran and I recommend you do the same. He used the boat's engine to take us to the stingrays and snorkeling, but on the way back to land he opened up the sails and we had a peaceful 45-minute sail. Take some cash on the excursion. Our operator took pictures of us holding stingrays and burned them to a CD for us on the sail back to land. The cost was $50 (which was a good price for about 15 pictures) but he only accepted cash. It's hard to take your own pictures if you have small children because the water is about four feet deep and the waves are trying to knock you over and your child is on your back holding on for dear life. COZUMEL - This is a newly rebuilt cruise terminal that opened in 2008 after the previous one was badly damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Carnival actually built and operates the terminal. This is an awesome port with a large shopping complex in the terminal only a few steps from the pier. There are about 100 stores at the terminal and everything is clean and well-organized. The terminal is actually at Puerta Maya, not Cozumel. Cozumel is a short drive to the north. There is a parking lot where the taxis line up and wait for passengers and large signs showing the fares for various destinations on the island. This was nice as it eliminated any haggling with taxi drivers about prices. A man was directing the taxis and we told him how many were in our group, and he directed a taxi van to come over and get us. Everything was well organized. Cozumel is so much better than Nassau, where the taxi drivers start hounding you to use their services as soon as you step out of the terminal. We visited Playa Mia Beach Park six miles south of the pier and it's a great place to take children. There is a playground, bar, restaurant with giant tent you can eat under, jet skis for rent, trampolines (both in the water and on land), paddle boats, restrooms, lockers, umbrellas for rent, vendors selling souvenirs, and much more. Most importantly, there were freshwater outdoor showers you could use to rinse the saltwater off. The cost was $16 per person for basic admission, but you can pay more and have drinks and food included. Our taxi driver gave us a form (sort of a coupon) that gave us a $2 per person discount. The taxi ride was $32 each way for six passengers, less for fewer than six passengers. Playa Mia accepts all major credit cards but I don't think the taxi drivers did, so take some cash with you. DEBARKATION - This process went smoothly. Be sure to attend the debarkation talk in the Paris Lounge on the final full day (only one member of your group needs to go) because you'll learn valuable information. After getting our luggage in the terminal we walked across the street and our car was brought to us on the fourth deck of the parking garage. A porter will likely offer to carry your luggage across the street for you. Be aware that if you chose valet parking the parking company probably told you to retrieve your car from the fourth deck of the parking garage after your cruise. Make sure your porter rides the elevator up to the fourth deck with you. Our porter tricked us and told us we had to pick up our car on the ground level, then dropped off our luggage and left. Moments later we remembered we were supposed to get our car on the fourth deck, so we had to drag our luggage onto the elevator and take it up to the fourth deck. Don't let your porter trick you - if the parking company tells you to get your car on the fourth deck, make your porter take your luggage up there. SHIP MOTION - This was a nice smooth ride. The ship rocked very little and the Gulf of Mexico was calm. My wife wore 4-inch stiletto heels to dinner and the shows each night and didn't have any problem getting around. POSSIBLE DOWNSIDES - If you want an elegant cruise this is not the ship to take. There were men guzzling beer from funnels in front of children; enormous tattooed women squeezed into bikinis that were much too small, walking through the restaurant; women wearing shower shoes (flip flops) with their dresses; and men who wore gym shorts to the dining room and thought that "Cruise Elegant Night" meant putting on a clean tee shirt. At times the ship had a "spring break" feel to it, even though it was October. Nothing wrong with people being themselves, I'm just warning you that if you're looking for an upscale cruise you won't find it on this ship. Carnival is a blue-collar cruise line that caters to the mass market. No problem there, I'm just letting you know. CONCLUSION - Carnival Inspiration was a great cruise at a competitive price and I highly recommend it. My group had a blast and we're looking forward to our next cruise on the Carnival Fantasy. The ship and cruise line are very child- and family-oriented. We plan to continue sailing Carnival because it matches our interests and budget. Our next cruise is already booked!

I'm Inspired to Praise the Inspiration

Carnival Inspiration Cruise Review by Sting Ray

Trip Details
We sailed on the Carnival Inspiration on October 19. I'll try to offer advice for new cruisers in my review.
EMBARKATION - The process went quite smoothly. We chose to valet park for $85 and paid with our credit card. It would have cost $70 to park my car myself and it was worth $15 to have someone else deal with it.
Take with you the same credit card that you booked your cruise with. If you don't, the Carnival employee has to fill out a new credit card form and this will slow the check-in process by about five minutes.
We walked onto the ship at 12:00 noon and got to our cabins at 1:30 PM. During that 90 minutes we had lunch in the lido deck restaurant and enjoyed the view of the Tampa skyline.
PASSPORTS - You don't currently need a passport for a cruise that returns to the same U.S. port that it departs from, but get one anyway. It's so much easier than using a birth certificate (BC) and driver license (DL). With passports, the customs agents and Carnival employees can just open them and quickly check the photo. But with a BC and DL, you have to wait while each family member's BC is unfolded and examined and each DL is checked. Passports are also easier to carry - you can just shove them into your pocket and go. We don't take our passports into port, but if you do, place them in a Zip-Loc bag for protection.
CARRYON LUGGAGE - All carryon luggage was x-rayed and passengers were required to discard any drinks that had already been opened. Don't smuggle alcohol onboard in your carryon luggage because you'll have to discard it if they find it. Avoid taking on too much carryon luggage because you'll have to drag it around the ship until your cabin is ready. It's best to use a backpack so you can keep your hands free for climbing stairs, getting food from the buffet, etc.
TAKING ALCOHOL ONBOARD - you're not allowed to take alcohol onboard, except Carnival allows one 750-ml bottle of wine per passenger over 21 years of age. To take any other alcohol onboard, use 1-liter collapsible bottles from Dick's Sporting Goods. Place the bottles in your checked luggage and they'll avoid detection by x-ray. I wonder if Carnival really x-rays all of the luggage. While waiting to board I watched some luggage get taken directly from an airport transfer bus to the ship. Also, there were 2,653 passengers on my sailing, which means there were 3,000 - 5,000 pieces of luggage to x-ray. I wonder if Carnival could really x-ray that much luggage in only a few hours.
SODA AND WATER - Carnival allows passengers to bring a reasonable amount of soda and bottled water onboard, so we took a 12-pack of Sprite. Soda gets heavy after a while so I prefer to pack it in my checked luggage.
WATERWORKS - Most of the Fantasy-class ships now have the WaterWorks (WW) upgrade on the verandah deck and this really makes the ship more enjoyable. I would avoid any Fantasy-class ship that doesn't have the WW upgrade. The WW area draws children away from the pool on the lido deck, making the pool less crowded for adults. Children need to be 42 inches tall to use the slides and this was enforced quite strictly on my sailing. There were a few hundred chairs on the deck near the WW so it was easy to relax and keep on eye our children while they played.
DÉCOR AND COMMON AREAS -The common areas were all clean and crew members were often seen wiping down handrails and vacuuming floors. I even saw one crew member on the verandah deck cleaning a gutter with a toothbrush. Hand sanitizer stations were located around the ship, including the buffets lines. I see some other Cruise Critic members complaining about the dEcor on the ship, but I was having too much fun to notice the dEcor.
STATEROOM - We were on the Upper deck in cabin U178 and had no problems. Everything was clean and all of our needs were promptly met. We did notice more vibration than we did on our previous cruise on the Fascination when our cabin was located at the front of the ship, but again, I was having too much fun to be bothered by it. Ships are large, powerful machines and if a little vibration bothers you, you might want to consider a land-based vacation.
The stateroom has a safe which is opened and closed with a credit card. A sign on the safe warned us to use a credit card (not our Sail and Sign card) to open the safe, so we did. Apparently using your Sail and Sign card will erase the information on its magnetic strip. However, we accidentally used our Sail and Sign card on the first day and had no problem.
DINING ROOMS - We were in the Carnivale dining room and had great food for dinner each night. Certain meals are only offered once (e.g., lobster tails, roasted lamb, barbecued ribs) so be sure to order them when you see them. Some meals aren't very filling (e.g., lobster tails) so when you're finished ask your server for another one. The Warm Melting Chocolate Cake was great and I enjoyed it each night. Ask your server to bring extra ice cream with it because the small amount they provide really isn't enough. The only meal I didn't enjoy was the chicken with fettuccini and mushroom sauce dish.
We always had breakfast and lunch in the lido deck restaurant and the food was good. Take some bananas and boxes of cereal back to your cabin for snacks later. The cereal makes great snacks for long days in port. Please adhere to the dress code in the restaurant - bikini tops and bare chests are not permitted, but sadly that rule wasn't enforced. I really don't enjoy seeing bare-chested men or size-16 women squeezed into size-10 bikinis in the restaurant when I'm eating. You don't have to change out of your bikini, but please wear a tee shirt and shorts over top of it.
LIQUOR STORE - The prices at the onboard liquor store are much cheaper than on land (e.g., we bought a 1-liter bottle of Absolut vodka for $12.00 but a 750-ml bottle will cost about $25 on land) so we always stock up on liquor. Passengers are allowed one liter of alcohol per passenger duty free. You can buy more than one bottle each, but the additional bottles are not duty free. We have never paid a duty on the extra bottles, but if a customs agent told us to we'd gladly do it - it's only a few dollars per bottle. Regardless of when you buy your liquor, you won't receive it until the night before your cruise ends. Your steward will deliver it to your stateroom.
You can also buy liquor in port but the ship crew will take it from you and return it to you on the final night of the cruise. There were several liquor stores at the terminal in Cozumel.
CAMP CARNIVAL (CC) - Our children spent a lot of time at CC and activities are offered throughout the day. We usually dropped them off at 7:00 PM after dinner and retrieved them between 11:00 PM and midnight. There is no charge before 10:00 PM, and after 10:00 PM they charge $6 per hour for the first child and $4 per hour for each additional child. You can leave your children at CC until 3:00 AM. CC offers many activities for children, including both individual and group activities. We really enjoyed dropping them off after dinner each night and going to shows in the Paris Lounge. When you check your children in at the beginning of the cruise, the CC staff will issue you a telephone so they can reach you in an emergency.
GRAND CAYMAN - This is a tender port but we had no problem quickly getting to land and back. There were three ships in port that day but about a dozen tenders operating, so waits were short.
We took the Stingray City Sandbar tour and really enjoyed it. You'll save a lot of money by booking online through a tour operator instead of Carnival. We paid $125 for four people and this was about half of Carnival's price. We chose an operator that used a catamaran and I recommend you do the same. He used the boat's engine to take us to the stingrays and snorkeling, but on the way back to land he opened up the sails and we had a peaceful 45-minute sail.
Take some cash on the excursion. Our operator took pictures of us holding stingrays and burned them to a CD for us on the sail back to land. The cost was $50 (which was a good price for about 15 pictures) but he only accepted cash. It's hard to take your own pictures if you have small children because the water is about four feet deep and the waves are trying to knock you over and your child is on your back holding on for dear life.
COZUMEL - This is a newly rebuilt cruise terminal that opened in 2008 after the previous one was badly damaged by Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Carnival actually built and operates the terminal. This is an awesome port with a large shopping complex in the terminal only a few steps from the pier. There are about 100 stores at the terminal and everything is clean and well-organized. The terminal is actually at Puerta Maya, not Cozumel. Cozumel is a short drive to the north. There is a parking lot where the taxis line up and wait for passengers and large signs showing the fares for various destinations on the island. This was nice as it eliminated any haggling with taxi drivers about prices. A man was directing the taxis and we told him how many were in our group, and he directed a taxi van to come over and get us. Everything was well organized. Cozumel is so much better than Nassau, where the taxi drivers start hounding you to use their services as soon as you step out of the terminal.
We visited Playa Mia Beach Park six miles south of the pier and it's a great place to take children. There is a playground, bar, restaurant with giant tent you can eat under, jet skis for rent, trampolines (both in the water and on land), paddle boats, restrooms, lockers, umbrellas for rent, vendors selling souvenirs, and much more. Most importantly, there were freshwater outdoor showers you could use to rinse the saltwater off. The cost was $16 per person for basic admission, but you can pay more and have drinks and food included. Our taxi driver gave us a form (sort of a coupon) that gave us a $2 per person discount. The taxi ride was $32 each way for six passengers, less for fewer than six passengers. Playa Mia accepts all major credit cards but I don't think the taxi drivers did, so take some cash with you.
DEBARKATION - This process went smoothly. Be sure to attend the debarkation talk in the Paris Lounge on the final full day (only one member of your group needs to go) because you'll learn valuable information.
After getting our luggage in the terminal we walked across the street and our car was brought to us on the fourth deck of the parking garage. A porter will likely offer to carry your luggage across the street for you. Be aware that if you chose valet parking the parking company probably told you to retrieve your car from the fourth deck of the parking garage after your cruise. Make sure your porter rides the elevator up to the fourth deck with you. Our porter tricked us and told us we had to pick up our car on the ground level, then dropped off our luggage and left. Moments later we remembered we were supposed to get our car on the fourth deck, so we had to drag our luggage onto the elevator and take it up to the fourth deck. Don't let your porter trick you - if the parking company tells you to get your car on the fourth deck, make your porter take your luggage up there.
SHIP MOTION - This was a nice smooth ride. The ship rocked very little and the Gulf of Mexico was calm. My wife wore 4-inch stiletto heels to dinner and the shows each night and didn't have any problem getting around.
POSSIBLE DOWNSIDES - If you want an elegant cruise this is not the ship to take. There were men guzzling beer from funnels in front of children; enormous tattooed women squeezed into bikinis that were much too small, walking through the restaurant; women wearing shower shoes (flip flops) with their dresses; and men who wore gym shorts to the dining room and thought that "Cruise Elegant Night" meant putting on a clean tee shirt. At times the ship had a "spring break" feel to it, even though it was October. Nothing wrong with people being themselves, I'm just warning you that if you're looking for an upscale cruise you won't find it on this ship. Carnival is a blue-collar cruise line that caters to the mass market. No problem there, I'm just letting you know.
CONCLUSION - Carnival Inspiration was a great cruise at a competitive price and I highly recommend it. My group had a blast and we're looking forward to our next cruise on the Carnival Fantasy. The ship and cruise line are very child- and family-oriented. We plan to continue sailing Carnival because it matches our interests and budget. Our next cruise is already booked!
Sting Ray’s Full Rating Summary
Value For Money
Embarkation
Dining
Public Rooms
Entertainment
Cabin
Fitness & Recreation
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Ages 3 to 6
Ages 7 to 9
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