Number of Cruises: First Cruise
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Inspiration
Sailing Date: December 15th, 2005
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This was my first cruise, but my wife's 24th and she is a travel agent so she knows her stuff for sure.
Embarkation: Very smooth and easy. Staff at the port was helpful and friendly. Checked our IDs and tickets as our bags were whisked away by porters, took some pictures for our Sail and Sign card and off we went. Whole process took a maximum of 10 minutes
Staff/Crew: I had heard rave reviews from many people about the exceptional service you receive on a cruise. Although the service was not bad by any means, it also was nothing spectacular. Most of the staff was friendly and outgoing; some seemed cold and acted bothered when you asked for directions around the ship, for extra ice in your stateroom, etc. I was told that the maitre'd was the "captain" of the dining room and would oversee that everything was perfect during the dining experience; however, we saw him a grand total of two times the entire cruise. Our cabin steward, Maynardo, was great though. Towel animals were a great touch and our cabin was always spotless and tidy. The event organizers and social hosts were good too. Arthur, Ronaldo and Chris get everyone involved in activities and make you laugh also.
Food: On a scale of 1 to 10, Id give it a 7.5. Not exceptional, but very good. Be creative and dont be shy because your options are endless. Cant decide what appetizer or dessert to get in the dining room ? Get both or 3 or 4 ! Other than the occasional flaw in service as mentioned above, the overall dining experience was very good. Our head waiter was Jorge from Costa Rica and he was very good; his assistant Anthony was not so good, frequently leaving us with empty glasses but I heard he was working double-duty covering for someone else so thats understandable
Cabins: Surprisingly good. I heard some people say they are cramped and crowded but not the case. We had an oceanview on the Empress deck and had plenty of room to stretch out. Bed was comfortable, bathroom stocked with pump dispensers of soap and shampoo for our use, and use of space was very nice. By the way, the "sewer-like" smell you always hear about on-board the ships is there, but its nothing thats unbearable or disgusting. Besides, get of your cabin and go have fun !!!
Activites: Shore excursions were reasonably priced and seemed to be fun. Our ATV beach adventure was an absolute blast thanks to Wild Tours of Cozumel. I highly suggest Juan Carlos and his team there if you ever make it to Cozumel. From feedback from other guests, their shore trips were great as well.
Debarkation: A little crazy with 1500 people leaving at once, but overall not too bad. We did the self-assist and carried our bags out ourselves and completed the process in about 30 minutes.
Additional notes: Get the drink of the day and unless you really, really want the souvenir cup, ask for it in a plain glass- you'll save about 2 or 3 bucks a pop
Dont wait till the last night to go to the photo gallery and get your pictures if you want them- very, very crowded
Only 1 outlet per cabin so bring a power strip for things like hairdryers, electric shavers, etc...
Stay out of the casino unless you have alot of willpower or alot of luck ! Slots will drain you fast...
Last but not least- TOO MANY UNSUPERVISED CHILDREN !!! I know its not Carnival's fault, but its tough to enjoy a nice vacation with your wife when unsupervised, bratty kids are running around, screaming and yelling, bumping into and running over you, playing on stairs and elevators, etc, etc...Some people go on vacation to relax and enjoy time away from everyday life; it appears others see it as a chance to turn their kids loose on a 70,000 ton playground while they get drunk and not give a flip about being responsible parents. Sad to say, but it was an epidemic on this cruise and it really took away from an otherwise decent vacation experience. If you're reading this and you're considering taking a cruise AND you have children, please do everyone a favor and monitor them and do not let them run around like the Tasmanian Devil. Or at the very least, send them to O2 or Club Carnival so they can be supervised if you're not willing to do it. People do not like to pay hundreds of dollars only to have their drinks spilled all over them and their elevator have to stop at all 13 floors on the way up just because irresponsible parents cant take the time to teach common courtesy to their kids. Next time, I will spend a little extra cash and cruise with Princess or Holland America to possibly avoid this problem.