Number of Cruises: 1
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Inspiration
Sailing Date: January 18th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Met family from other flights at the airport. Had prepaid Mears Transfers and the bus was ready to board right away. All the people on the bus had these transfers which had gratuties pre-paid, but that did not stop the driver for requesting more gratuity. Made way to the Tampa Port Authority took less than 20 minutes. 4 buses arrived at the same time. We sat in the bus for over an hour before a Carnival rep would board the bus for instructions. They kept skipping our bus. He told us that lunch would be waiting for us on the ship. The time is 12:20 or so. Here is where unprecidented waiting began. Tampa Port Authority is not nearly large enough to handle the influx of people moving on and off the ship. First we had to claim all of our luggage to waiting porters who whisked it off to the ship. Then we had to wait in 3 long line staging areas.
We showed id's and boarding tickets 3 separate times until we got to the last stage. Here we sat for about two hours in a very long line. Before the trip we were instructed to fill out the "FunPass" information. Supposedly by having this confirmation the wait to get aboard was suppose to be very short. Not one person working at Port even knew what a "FunPass" was and had never heard of it. We processed through metal detectors and made way to another long line to wait for a representative to give us our pass. By this time is hour 3 1/2 of waiting. We get our Sail and Sign cards and then wait in a line to board the ship. The lady working the Sail and Sign security post was snippy and wanted us to hurry up after the long wait we had. We boarded the ship, checked out the room and then tried to find something to eat. Of course lunch stopped serving at 3:30. We attended the life jacket meeting and then the ship began to depart not soon after that. It would have not bankrupted Carnival to at least serve cold water to us for the wait. I understand the need for security, but they've several years to come up with a process thats quick and efficient but have failed miserably. I give Carnival and Tampa Port Authority an F- for their logistical embarkation failures. Spent the rest of the day figuring way around ship and eating dinner in the Mardi Gras dining room - more about food and service later.
The room on U deck forward had a large port hole and was very clean and tidy. I left a note for the room steward to put the beds together and bring extra blankets and pillows. After dinner I found the bed turned down and all requests fulfilled. Although the steward wasnt chatty he was friendly and took great care of the room several times a day. The only problem I had with the room was that the port hole was all salted over and hard to look out of and it creaked everytime the boat rocked. I learned to live with it and slept very very well the whole trip.
1/19/2004 - Day at Sea
Spent the day looking for the least crowded spot on the ship to relax. Turns out the kiddie pool was that place. I spent many hours looking off the aft end of the ship, soaking up rays and enjoying the smell of the sea.
1/20/2004 - Grand Cayman
The ship arrived on time at 7:00 am but my Sting Ray Tour wasn't until 9:15. I tried to get on a tender to go ashore but most of the tenders were cancelled due to rough seas. Eventually they cancelled all tours. We were able to go ashore for about 2 hours. While boarding the tender to go back to the ship the sea was very rough. So rough in fact that the rope buckle on the dock at Cayman sheared right off the dock and just about took off the guys head sitting near it on the tender. I understand safety concerns are in order, but Cayman has some of the best tours and I was extremely disappointed when the tour was cancelled. For you cigar smokers, Grand Cayman had the cheapest cigar prices of all the ports. Smoke them up though cause you cant bring them back. If Carnival cancels your tour booked through the ship they refund 100% of your money. All in all, the schedule for Grand Cayman is very short to begin with. They should allow at least 12 hours there, but dont.
1/21/2004 - Costa Maya
Same experience as others have posted. The dock is brand new. We walked to the beach on the right hand side of the dock. Very small and rocky. Enjoyed some cold beers and good food there. The ladies bought Tanzanite jewelry there. There are alot of shops there, but everything is pre-priced in US dollars and they dont barter hardly any at all. The tequila store there would not give out samples either. It was fun to see, but there isnt much to do there yet at all. They should cut out this port and give the time to Grand Cayman or Belize.
1/22/2004 - Cozumel
New port there at Cozumel, nice too Puerta Maya its called. We had a shore tour to Playa Sol Beach Club. When we got ready to disembarke the ship, we had to wait "again" because the sister ship Sensation was docking on the other side. They don't allow anyone off or on during docking of another ship. Just another long series of waiting - about 40 minutes or so this time. You have to hire your own taxi to get anywhere on Cozumel. It's $14 whether you go 1 mile or 15 miles. Playa Sol was a nice beach club, but you have to run a guantlet of shops before you find the beach. That beach has no shade. None at all. You have to surrender your sail and sign card to get umbrella's. The beach is good size, but became suddenly crowded when the Party Boat tour stopped there for several hours. The sun is really hot here too. With 30 sunblock, some still sustained first or second degree sunburns. Brutal sun. They had banana boats, parasailing, the usual works. Playa Sol was ok, but I won't go there again. There are several shops at Puerta Maya, but most people took a taxi downtown and went to Carlos and Charlies or Senor Frogs to have fun and shop.
1/23/2004 - Belize City
This port was interesting, the ship anchors about 5 miles off the coast and these monster tri-motor speed boat tenders take you to shore. Our tender was brand new and very nice. Belize seems very poor and unorganized, but there you will find a proud and friendly people. We went on the City Tour and Zoo, it was a good trip. They seem to go out of their way to give everyone a good tour experience. The Amaesh and Minonite citizens there make some really really nice wooden furniture, it was impressive to see. Belize has alot to offer and I predict within 10 years it will be a sought after destination. (If they can beat out Cuba)
1/24/2004 - Day at Sea
Spent the day goofing off. Playing Bingo, going to some of the events, took the galley tour, etc. Got all rested up for the marathon waiting session tomorrow.
1/25/2004 - Arrive back at Tampa
Another day of waiting. First of all, most of the ship was closed off so you had to wait in your designated waiting areas. They don't let anyone off the ship until immigration processes all non-US citizen tourists and people who spent over their allowances pay duty and taxes. US Customs basically swarms the ship. They are everywhere. You also have to wait for all Sail and Sign cards to be closed out. So as you can imagine, they page people for several hours. The biggest wait was for immigration. For some reason some of those non-US citizens failed to report on time. So you wait and wait and wait, then wait some more. I watched them clean the entire mid-deck top to bottom before I got off the boat. When its finally your turn to leave the ship you have to pass by a US Customs dog. US Customs are about as friendly as a stale loaf of bread and make you form a single line and tell you over and over not to talk to their dog because its a working dog. I have to admit Customs is very thorough. You claim your bags and then line up and wait again to visit with a Customs agent. They collect your card and ask you questions. Then you make it outside of the Port Authority to guess what. You got it wait again for L O N G time. This time it was for Mears Transportation. They know exactly how many people have transfers back to the airport. Did they have buses pre-staged to load up. NO ! instead they would bring a bus load of new cruisers, play a waiting game, offload them. Move up to our area, play another waiting game. Take their sweet time to load the luggage. Then to top it all off, they ask for gratuities again even though they are already pre-paid. Really frustrating. Whatever you do, don't book airfare for anytime earlier than 2pm because you wont make your flight. Its that bad. Total mayhem and disorganization. It was the most pathetic scene ever. I give Mears, Carnival and Tampa Port Authority another F- for dembarkation. What a total fiasco!
In summary, here is my report card for the cruise overall.
0. Ports of Call A All good except for Grand Cayman.
1. Embarkation: F- for Carnival, Tampa Port Authority - very poor logistical planning.
2. Room on ship: A good steward - took care of all needs well.
3. Food: A I thought the food was quite excellent. Desserts could be better.
4. Service A+ Outstanding service.
5. Cleanliness A+ That ship was spotless.
6. Crew A+ Very friendly. Would have been nice to see the captain dining with us.
7. Lido Deck A+ Those are the hardest working folks I've ever seen. Their uniforms were
always crisp and pressed, everything was immaculatly clean. They did
such a fantastic job cleaning up after everyone being slobs. They were
very friendly and everything was just perfect.
8. 24 hour pizza C- Good if you are really hungry and have been waiting a long time, otherwise pretty bad pizza.
9 Ice Cream A Don't even try during lunch or you will get milk
10. Gala Buffet A Good presentation
11. Dining A The food was very good. Wide variety. Something for everyone.
12. Dining Staff A Excellent service in the dining room. Good shows too.
13. Entertainment B Decent production and good singers and dancers. Cheesy themes though.
14. Casino C Not regulated so expect to be ripped off. Play only card games.
15. Drinks C Pricey for not having much liquor in them. Sneak on your own.
16. Debarkation F- for Carnival, Tampa Port Authority and Mears. Those folks better
17. Coast Guard A+ They escorted us right out to international waters and brought us all
the way into port. I saw them on the job everywhere. Special thanks
to those folks keeping us safe.
18. Tampa Sheriff A+ They were everywhere with big side arms
19 US Customs A Need to work on their people skills.
I give Carnival a 'B' overall, the entire company isn't bad, only certain sections of it. Give them a try but don't depart from Tampa if you know what's good for you.