Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Inspiration
Sailing Date: May 18th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
Well, here it goes my review of a recent cruise I tool aboard Carnival’s Inspiration. I chose to write this review by subject as opposed to boring you by writing it on a day-by day basis. I hope it helps:
Debarkation: We left from Tampa Florida. This process went well and Carnival and Tampa get an “A” for this process. We arrived around 12 pm and met a porter at the curb. For $1.00 per bag, he took our luggage and put it with the rest of the luggage that would eventually end up in the room on board the ship. We then headed for the entrance, meet many security personnel on the way and proceeded through the x-ray and metal detector and on to the check in line. The line was fairly long but moved quickly. We probably waited about 20 minutes at the most. We received our paperwork and sail and sign card and then were sent to a waiting area until boarding time. There were a good number of seats but also a good number of folks waiting so we ended up sitting in a corner on the floor till our time to board. About 1:30 pm, they made an announcement that boarding would begin early. We were in group 8. It took about 25 minutes to get to group 8 and once called, we got in line, made it to the boarding area, showed our ID’s and slid our Sail and Sign Cards into the boarding terminal (this is your boarding pass and on board CHARGE card). They take a picture of you and then you enter the ship. Once on board we were told to go to the Lido deck to enjoy a buffet style lunch and not to go to the rooms until after 2:30 pm since they were not ready. Once 2:30 pm came, we went to the room, luggage was there and the cruise began.
There is so much opportunity to eat on board. What a SIN!!!! Where do I start? The burgers and fries on the Lido Deck by the pool are wonderful, the pizza in the 24-hour Pizzeria is a MUST DO!!!! It is great pizza. The lunch buffet and breakfast buffet on the Lido Deck were ok…Nothing to brag about. The frozen yogurt is better than the ice cream. The salad bar is nice. Lemonade is real sour and tea is not that great. Breakfast is available at this buffet and there is also a sit down table service breakfast (and lunch) in one of the dining rooms each day.
I did the breakfast two days and was not impressed… Better to just do the breakfast buffet each morning. When you do the sit down, you get seated with other guests and not the same ones each day. It is kind of strange in that you are not there long enough to really get a good conversation going, just long enough to make it awkward. So skip the sit down breakfast and lunch and do the burgers, pizza, or buffets. And remember, four of the days you will not even be on the boat anyway due to the various stops on the cruise.
Sit down dinners are really fun. The first night you are kind of quiet and trying to get to know the others at the table since you are assigned a table. But by the final night, you bond with your fellow table guests and it is so great. Of course I was lucky to have the most wonderful people in the world at my table. We had a great time and plan to stay in touch. Anyway, the dinners: food is good on some days and not so good on others. Sometimes it was difficult to find something I liked. You can have anything on the menu and as much as you want. There are appetizers, salads, main course and desserts. I sometimes ordered two appetizers because I could not decide. Salads are plain and you do get tired of them real quick, you will see what I mean. The tenderloin is good, avoid the spinach entries (way too much spinach in the entrée). Bread is great. But all in all, I think the food quality could be improved. Desserts need lots of improvement. A couple were good but mostly real bland. We ordered more than one dessert and shared which was fun.
The service was good although we did not always get our desserts and coffee before the nightly entertainment began. Then you had to wait until afterwards and most people were ready to leave at that time. So service could be improved, at least at our table. The nightly entertainment by the servers was fun. They sang and danced some. We all participated in the dances a couple of nights. Our table was wild and very fun!!!!!
As an alternative to the nightly dinners, there was always the buffet but I made it a point to attend all the dinners and glad I did. Menu is posted outside the dining rooms in case you want to see if there are any items that sound good. The late dining option (8 pm) worked best for us but I can say that I was too tired some nights to catch the late seating of the nightly shows in the Paris Lounge (10:30 pm) so use your judgment on that but I would still do the late seating since the early seating would force one to rush back on board from the port of calls or from whatever you were doing.
There were two formal nights, second night and second to the last night. It was nice but forced you to bring a suit/tie. I saw some just in casual clothes but most were dressed with a jacket and tie. I would suggest doing the formal night. It was fun. And there are a lot of places to have formal pictures taken (another subject).
Not much of it. The casino is not regulated and pays horrible. Avoid it. Drinks in the casino for players are not even free and that is real sad. Come on Carnival, at least comp the drinks for those spending money in your casino. I avoided the casino for this main reason.
The Shout show in the Paris Lounge was awesome. But get there early for a good seat. The middle seats on the lower level are the only ones any good and you need to arrive 45 minutes early to get one of these. The second level seats are terrible. I am not sure what idiot designed them but you can not see anything. Might as well not even be there. Blocked views and no real pitch so real hard to see. If you have to sit there, do not waste the time.
And a couple of nights BINGO was in the lounge at 10 pm followed by the show at 10:30 pm so that was a difficult night to get a good seat unless you planned to sit through or play BINGO before the show since the BINGO players stuck around for the show. My suggestion: have BINGO at another time or in another place. But it is a money maker for Carnival and it is all about MONEY on Carnival Cruises!!!!!
I did not see any other shows in the lounge but they ranged from cheesy jugglers to magicians and did not sound any good. There were midnight comics but too tired to enjoy these. The outside entertainment at the pool sucked. The band was off to the side and you could not hear the music. They should have been on the center outside stage or speakers around the deck. The other outside entertainment was a joke. Hairy chest contest and garbage liked that. And the Carnival personnel hosting the events are terrible speakers and could not keep the interest of the audience. So pool entertainment was no good. The Cruise Director was no good. We was boring and needs to be replaced.
Pricey but not short of alcohol. I think they were plenty strong. I did not like the automatic 15% gratuity added to your sail and sign account for each drink. Suggestion: you can adjust the gratuity but it must be done before you sign each slip for each drink you get. I would do this but then you may not see that waiter much coming around but can always go to the bar. But hear this…there are so MANY waiters on the ship trying to sell you drinks. You will spend all your time saying “No Thanks”. That is one place that Carnival is not short staffed. And since each waiter is a salesman after a 15% commission, you will see many of them. That is why Carnival uses the auto 15% gratuity so that the waiters have an incentive to push the drinks but remember, adjust it if you want.
There are a couple of nights where drinks are reduced for Happy Hour. Search those out and take advantage of that. You are not allowed to bring your own booze on although many people did by using bottled water containers and filling them with liquor. I will do that next time. There is a liquor store on board and you can by some cheap booze but are not allowed to pick it up till the evening of the second to last day. But you can buy those little airplane bottles of some alcohol but are only allowed to purchase two every 20 minutes (at the on board store). I did that and mixed my own drink in the rooms. If you buy liquor off the ship, you will either have to have it delivered by the store to your ship (some do this with their relationship with Carnival) or check it at the ship entrance when boarding from a port. Carnival does everything possible to force you to buy drinks from them. It is a big money maker for them. Booze you buy on the cruise beyond a limit will be subject to a 10% Customs tax that is paid the day of disembarkment.
There are Cokes in the room to use but they will charge your account $2.50 for each one you drink. But it is still cheaper than buying the drinks at the bar. Lemonade and tea/coffee are free on the ship on the Lido deck. The cups out by the pool are miniature so go to the Lido Buffet and get a bigger cup to use. Forget getting the soft drink card. Not worth it. Soft drinks at the bar are $1.00 for a glass and $1.50 for a can. Go that route if you want to drink them.
I will talk about what I did at each port but in general, book your own before you go. Avoid Carnival tours. They are about $25-30 more per person, larger number of tour participants and not worth it. I booked two with Carnival and two on my own and enjoyed the ones I booked much better. See below for more details.
If you book on your own and have an early tour, make sure you join in with the guests who booked through Carnival so that you can get off the ship in time to catch your tour. Many of the non-Carnival tours have specific tour times that coincide with the ships in port time. Carnival does everything possible to convince guests that their tours are best and even go so far as say that the first guests off the ship at each port will be those with Carnival tours. We also had tours booked but not with Carnival and needed to get off the ship early too. So what we did was go to the meeting place of the Carnival tours and exit with that group then find our own tour guide once on shore. They do not take the tour tickets until you get on the dock and in the line for your tour. So trust me, exit with the crowd. Carnival does book a lot of tours and it is on the honor system when they say that only those that book through them can exit first at each port. But Carnival has no right to say that only those that book tours through them can go first. I am hitting this subject hard because it is crucial that you get this point. Book your own tour and exit with their tours(if you have an early tour scheduled) Do not let them tell you that you can not leave that ship. You will miss out on some good tours this way.
Anyway, when you get to your room there will be a tour order sheet and descriptions of each tour. There is also a presentation in the lounge on each tour. Fill it what you want and drop it in the box at the tour desk. Tickets will be delivered to your room. But again, only if you are not smart and book your own tours before you sail. Oh, if the ship has to cancel a port because of weather, etc, you will not be charged for your tour but please verify this with the tour company before purchasing because although we made all the ports, there are times where the ship can not dock at a particular port due to weather. Also, Carnival says that if you book their tour, they guarantee you will make it back to the ship before it leaves but if you book on your own and miss the ship, tough luck. That is a bunch of talk by them. Most reputable tour companies will ensure that you do not miss the boat. Trust them, not Carnival.
Port: Grand Cayman
Beautiful Island. The ship docks a mile or so out in the water and you ride a tender to shore. We did the Captain Marvin’s snorkel with the stingray tour for $34.00. Great tour. The stingrays are real friendly and swim up to you. A must do and Captain Marvin was really a great company to go with. I heard this though others and it turned out to be true. Book the early tour and get off the ship first thing. Once at the port, walk right a few blocks and you will see their office. After the stingray experience, they take you to a reef to snorkel. Book online. Seven Mile Beach is also a great place to spend the day if not into the Stingrays.
Port: Costa Maya
This is the most undeveloped port on the itinerary. The ship actually does dock at the port, no tender. The port is a shopping village that appears to be Carnival owned or operated…a convenient place for them to let you spend a day. There are not a lot of tours at this port and really not much to do. We did the Carnival tour, Jungle Beach Break. Took you to a beach where there was an open bar. Drinks were VERY watered down and there was too much seaweed in the water.
This was my favorite port. There is an extensive coral reef that lines the coastline of Belize so the ship has to dock 5 miles out and you are tendered in…the tenders are frequent and fast. We booked a cave tubing tour through a company called X-Stream. Upon arriving, you will most likely be met by Richard of X-Stream. There is approximately a 1-hour drive to the river. Richard is a native of Belize and upon departure from the dock; he will give you a little tour of Belize City and fill you in on things along the way. He will also give you a little history on the area and answer any questions you may have.
Upon arriving at the river, you will get your tube and begin the 45 or so minute walk through the rainforest and with Richard as your guide. With Richard you will learn a lot there is to know about the local flora and fauna. Be sure to ask Richard to call up a troop of howler monkeys for you. Richard is full of knowledge and is proud to share his beautiful country with you. If you go with X-Stream, Richard or his partner, will take you further up the river (if weather permits) to a second cave. You will be supplied a headlamp prior to getting in the water.
The excursion is not difficult and Richard is good at aiding those that may need some assistance but remember, there is a long walk and you may end up swimming if you are not careful. There are locals that are stationed along the river to help anyone that might get into a bit of trouble along the way. If you are not a strong swimmer, use a life vest. Since the water level was high and the river was a bit up…Richard asked that we all wear a life vest. Better safe than sorry and it is easy to flip over in the caves. Afterwards, Richard will have fruit and water for you or if you need a little more than that, I recommend the bbq at the little stand at the river…Excellent and cheap.
And don’t worry about making it back on time…as Richard puts it, “Don’t worry…I am working, you are on vacation.” Would love to have his job!
Not too bad. We were off by 10 am. Took a while so we just sat around on the Lido Deck and talked with everyone we met. Last time to hang around as a group. Then our deck was called and we headed to the exit, got our luggage in the huge warehouse and exited. Never had to show any documents. Talk about lack of security but the US has the most open borders there are.
All in all, a great trip. Am planning another trip on Carnival out of Galveston in December. Any questions, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org