Number of Cruises: One
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Inspiration
Sailing Date: July 25th, 2004
Itinerary: Southern Caribbean
This was our first cruise and we were one of 25 Honeymooning couples onboard. Our flight was late (US Air from Charlotte), but the Carnival agent was most helpful in getting us on board at the last minute. This was one of the last weeks before school, so the ship was packed with teens and lots of unsupervised youth. Carnival tried but couldn’t hope to organize them. The teen disco just took away from adult dancing times. That’s not to hate on the teens. They did liven up Karaoke one night by helping out each singer in droves. But we’ll be on the lookout for a more adult cruise next time.
First impression: they’re going to try to take your last dollar (and at an inflated price). But that wasn’t going to stop us from having a wonderful time. Probably the biggest nuisance was the photo operation. You had to buy the $20 10 X 12 before getting copies of any other photos. They were very disorganized. Tons of phots went unclaimed at the end – it didn’t make any sense.
The ship is awesome at first. Then you learn that you can get anywhere on the boat in less than 5 minutes and it becomes manageable. Poolside music and activities are great. Fitness center and spa were just big enough. Organized classes (like abs and pilates) are only $10. Generally, the ship was very clean.
One major complaint: none of the 4 lounges for night time entertainment were smoke-free.
Only the Paris Lounge (the
theatre) was smoke free.
The cruise’s social directors keep thing’s hopping and were entertaining themselves. That was Marascal (from Alabama), Markus (from Britain) and Malcolm (from New York). The Las Vegas shows were OK. But the comedians brought onboard were outstanding. The game shows were rowdy and fun. Well, unfortunately, there were just too few of them. There was unlimited potential for organizing cruise goers into games, but they don’t do that. They could’ve had a daily Newlywed contest with a grand finale, instead of only one game. Singles could have dating games. Families family feuds. But no such luck. Kudos for the final event -- the talent show. It was well organized, rehearsed and a riot to watch.
We paid $400 for 3 excursions for the two of us. The idea of going on vacation is to have adventures and these trips were a good value (even though some of them were cheaper on the outside). The tour guides on all three were outstanding professionals and made a big difference. At first it’s hard to fathom the tropical experience with, for example, up to 12 boats (each packed with 50 or more people) descending on the 128 stingrays outside the Grand Caymans. But somehow it works. Everyone had a chance to get an up-close feeding experience with the fish. Belize was our favorite. The city itself is actually sinking, so it’s not an attraction per se. But the Mayan ruins, river and other inland excursions were picturesque and worth talking about.
Passion Island was the best group activity we had. The Survivor game was a success in spite of the organizers. Time ran out on us. But two of the three games we played were group activities that excited everyone. Time flew by on the island. (Well, they organized us into two groups, giving each group only 3 hours at a time). Many people enjoyed the open bar at Passion Island. But those that tried the open bar and Survivor at the same time paid the price.
Be Careful -- the alcohol really got to our fellow shipmates with all the “free shots” in Cozumel. The Grand Caymans, Belize and Cozumel were great; Costa Maya was bust – just an artificial man-made shoppers’ mall out in the hot Mexican sun.
We had heard about the extravagant dinners. Let me say that the presentations and performances by our Head Waiter and staff really lived up to their reputation. The Dining Room food itself was mostly an experiment. You like some entrees and dislike a lot also. But our staff was flexible if we tried something and didn’t like it. The other food --from the grill-- was excellent too. Best hamburgers and fries. Real lemonade. Omelets worth waiting for. And, best of all, the pastry every morning was oven fresh!
The ice sculpture and food-as-art display was extravagent. But, unfortunately, it’s only offered at Midnight.
One caveat: we all ordered cappuccino one night at dinner and we all spit out the first sip. I don’t believe they have a single cappuccino maker on board. They just shouldn’t advertise that they do.
Odds and Ends:
Think about the schedule before you plan ahead. There are activities all night long leading up to the Midnight Buffet. Then your excursions start out at 7AM in the morning. There’s not a lot of time to do anything but rest in between. Then that seventh day – at sea – was a very long wait to get home. (The cabin beds are rough, but the movie offerings (for free) were a pleasant surprise)
We met at least one wonderful couple or group every day of the cruise, not even counting our table mates at dinner. This is an added bonus other vacations don’t offer.
Disembarking they tell you to let Carnival take your bags to shore. But Carnival failed to tell us to not lock the suitcases. As a result, the PTO broke one of our locks to do a random bag search. Many veteran travelers just ignored the request to set out their bags the night before departure. You can carry your own bags ashore if you wish.
In conclusion, it was a great Honeymoon vacation and a good first cruise experience. Next time, we’ll look around for a more adult, but still fun-oriented, cruise.