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Cheryl

Age: 38

Occupation:Voc ational Rehabilitation Consultant

Number of Cruises: One

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Inspiration

Sailing Date: February 13th, 2006

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

Carnival
Inspiration
Western Caribbean 5 Day

Cheryl

Embarkation: This process was smooth sailing! We arrived in Tampa at 12 midnight, and stayed at the LaQuinta Inn Tampa Bay Airport. We were not interested in luxury, just a clean and affordable place to lay our heads for the night. This hotel hit the spot! For the night, we paid $112.00 plus tax. This location also offers a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, as long as you arrive before 12:45 a.m. They use Blue One Transportation Service. This is a local shuttle service in the area. We ended up using them for all of our shuttle needs. They were wonderful!!!! Upon arrival to the hotel, we booked the shuttle to pick us up the next day to take us to the pier. The cost for the shuttle service was $10 pp (myself and my husband) We booked an 11 a.m. pick up. The morning of the pick up, the shuttle service gave us a confirmation call in our room, met me in the lobby to collect payment, and I was even able to book our return shuttle from the pier to the airport. Once again, costing $10 pp. The great thing about this service, the booking manager informed me that upon arrival back to the pier from the ship, if you did not have a flight to catch right away, and you wanted to just take in the sights and sounds around the pier, that was fine, just call them 15 minutes before you wanted to be picked up, and they would accommodate you. That is exactly what we did. I'll tell you more about this later, but use Blue One, prebook and prepay, and it will work out great!!!

Okay, back to the arrival to the pier. After getting out of the shuttle van around 11:30 a.m., you are greeted by a porter who will take your luggage, which you won't see again until about 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. It is delivered to your room. You then are ushered into a holding area, where you line up (lines go fast fast fast), and provide the wonderful counter attendants with your identification (such as license or passport), and your Carnival booking information. Once you settle how you will be paying for your on board purchases (we used our credit card this was great and worked well for us), you are given your sail and sign card, as well as some other reading material. Hold onto your card, this is your life line throughout your trip!!! You are also given a number which is called so that when they start boarding the ship, you know when to go on. Our boarding number was 6, and it took no time to get on board once they started calling numbers. They started boarding between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. When going through the embarkation line, you are greeted by a photographer, who will take a picture of you and the person(s) you are traveling with. Be prepared, you will become a natural model, by the the time the cruise is over. Pictures are taken everywhere, all the time. But its fun!!! Once developed, pictures will cost anywhere between $6.99 to $19.99, depending upon the size of the photo. You are able to view your photos daily in the photo gallery. It is fun to look at yourself and your fellow cruisers having a good time, as they pose for those photographs. They are very nice quality pictures, with a variety of poses, backgrounds, etc to choose from.

Once on board the ship its time to prepare yourself for none stop eating!!!! FOOD FOOD FOOD everywhere you turn, and at all times of the day or night!!! When you board it is lunch time, and you can enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries on the Lido Deck, or a glorious buffet. We at at the buffet, and had one of many fabulous lunches with a variety of different choices all around you. There is a different buffet menu daily, so you will never get tired of the food. After lunch, you are able to explore the ship and view your room accommodations. Also before you set sail be ready for the mandatory emergency drill. But hey, it was a great way to meet some of your fellow cruisers. After the drill you are free to enjoy "your vacation"!!!

Food:
As stated earlier food is plentiful! You will never go hungry! Breakfast: you can be served in your room, continental style. We did that one morning before heading out to port. You can eat breakfast in one of the formal dinning rooms, we did not do this. You can also have breakfast on the Lido deck buffet style. The breakfast consist of your normal breakfast flare and is tasty.

Lunch: is pretty much what I described earlier, either on the Lido Deck with fries, hamburgers and hot dogs (all of which are very good), or in the buffet area. I really do recommend the buffet, if you don't want to eat indoors, that's fine as well, get your plate, load it up, and head out on one of the open decks. There is also a deli located in the buffet area. They have very tasty sandwiches both cold and grilled. There is also a 24 hour pizza shop, but with all the other great food, we did not eat the pizza. It looked very good, and we heard it tasted good as well.

Dinner: we ate in the Carnivalle Dinning Room. It was Delicious and entertaining. Be prepared for singing and dancing nightly from your wait staff. They may even have you up with them. The menu also changes nightly. The food is Wonderful!!! The best part is that you can order as much as you want or a variety of different items. We ate at a table of 6, and had the late night seating at 8 p.m. I recommend this. It gives you a chance to relax and get yourself together from a great day at sea or at port. There were my husband, myself and 2 other lovely couples that we sat with nightly for dinner. We enjoyed meeting up with them at dinner and sharing our adventure stories from that day.

Activities:
You can never go bored on the Inspiration. There are so many things to participate in such as hilarious and fun games on the lido deck, or in the Paris Lounge. You may even win a coveted prize of a "24 carat gold plastic ship on a stick." You will know what I am talking about when you are cruising. You can treat yourself to a spa treatment (These are very costly and we didn't do it) Take an aerobics class. (Some classes cost a fee of $10 per class, my husband did a spin class and really enjoyed it), go dancing at night, enjoy the sing-a-longs at the piano bar, play bingo (cost from $10 to $20 to play), give away your money at the casino (I guess you can tell we didn't win), or just relax on deck, in a lounge, or anywhere on the ship and people watch. Your daily Capers (Schedule) is delivered to your room nightly, to help you plan your next days activities.

Entertainment:
We enjoyed the nightly shows and comedy, all of which took place in the Paris Lounge. The shows are Vegas style productions with music, singing, dancing, and beautiful costumes. One night there was also a balancing act, which I was not that excited about, yet my husband liked it a lot. There were 2 comedians on board. Each performed two shows each. A regular show for all to enjoy, and a R rated show for 18 years and older. We attended 3 out of the 4 comedy shows, and enjoyed them a lot. Funny stuff!!! The last show, we didn't attend because it was the last night on the ship, and we needed to pack etc... Don't miss the shows they are entertaining!!!

Service:
The service was good. The room attendant was Excellent!!! He had a way of knowing when you needed your bed made, or new towels placed in your bathroom, or just when to place those cute little towel animals on your bed, along with your daily capers and a piece of chocolate for the night. I am telling you, they will replenish and freshen up your room 2 to 3 times a day. The room attendants are wonderful!!! The wait staff are also attentive, and the whole staff is friendly and helpful. The cruise director, Darcy is also Great and very funny!!!

Room:
We had an Ocean View room, cabin R194 on the Rivera deck. It was just right for myself and my husband. There was enough storage space for our clothes, shoes etc.. and it worked well for us. The location on the ship was also good. Don't expect lavish accommodations, but a nice neat and clean place to relax for the night, or even to take a nice afternoon nap.

Drinks:
This is what can be costly. I don't drink, but my husband does. When you board, you will be approached at some point by one of your nice friendly wait staff with a tray full of "The Days Drink Special." Get one, its good. It will cost about $6.50 plus 15% gratuity. It is in a special Carnival souvenir glass. Any other drinks you get after this first one, order "The Days Drink Special," but in a regular glass. Make sure you tell the waiter you want it in the regular glass, this is much cheaper. It will cost you about $4 something and that is with the 15% gratuity. There are also times where you can find free drinks such as at the Captain's Gala that takes place in the Paris Lounge on the 2nd night of the trip. You can also indulge in free drinks at one of the Art Auctions held on the ship. Finally, one of the galleria shops will also give out free taste test of alcohol one night (as many and as much as you want), read your capers for details of when and where.

If you are not a drinker, like me, you can purchase a fountain card for $20.00. This will allot you fountain drinks such as an assortment of pops for the duration of the time you are on the ship. I did not get a card, and I drank the free ice tea, lemonade, and fruit punch available in the buffet and lido deck. It worked well for me!!! Be prepared as well, bottled water is about $2.50 a bottle.

On your 4th night at sea, you can purchase liquor in the galleria shops and get to take it with you upon purchase. Prior to that, they store it for you, and deliver it to you the last night of the cruise.

Ports:
Grand Cayman

This is a beautiful place with friendly people. We decided to take the Stingray City and Island Tour. This tour takes you to the area sites of 7 mile Beach, Hell, The Rum Factory (where you can taste free rum shots, and free rum cake), The Turtle Farm, and then swim with the Stingrays (lots of fun! The water where we were located was about 5 feet deep) snorkel equipment is furnished on the tour. The waters are Beautiful!!!!! The rays are so friendly!!! It is a MUST DO!!! The cost of this tour purchased on board the ship was $59 pp. You can get it cheaper on land, but I liked not having to worry and being with other Carnival cruisers. You are in port from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The last tender leaves to go back to the ship at 1 p.m. Watch your watches because they are Timely!!!

Cozumel:
Well, my husband and I, and about 200 Inspiration Cruisers, did not go to Cozumel. We chose separate tours that took you to the Mainland. There is only one tender that takes you to the mainland, and back to the ship, so once again you need to watch your time!!! We took a tour called Shotover Jet Boat and Cancun Tour. We were able to shop at the local shops in Cancun, eat at a local restaurant (yummy), and then get in a jet boat that toured a lagoon. The boat however did go up to 50 miles per hour and made spins, and did tricks, etc... it was a lot of fun!!! Our day was from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., yet the last tender from Cozumel was at 5 p.m. Our tour had us back to the ship at about 5 p.m. as well. The cost of this tour was $89 pp.

Cost:
I know I was curious about how much we would really spend on the boat. Well, my husband and I spent $661.36 in sail and sign charges. These cost consisted of my husbands drinks (2 per day), 3 games of bingo, our shores excursions to Grand Cayman and Cancun, my husband's one spin class, 3 bottles of water, gift shop purchases, as well as 3 photographs of ourselves from the photo gallery, with a special Carnival frame booklet.

Debarkation:
This too was a breeze, but we also were not in a mad rush to get off the boat, our plane didn't leave until 6:50 p.m. I would say they started debarking at about 8 a.m., and we were one of the last groups to get off around 9:15 a.m. We were able to relax, eat breakfast at the buffet and people watch. After getting off the boat, there is a place right at the port that will hold your luggage until 4 p.m. for $5pp, so that you can sight see and enjoy. At the port there is the Florida Aquarium, which is very nice, you can purchase discount tickets at the luggage storer shop. We also toured an Old Battle Ship, that is docked right behind the Inspiration. The cost of this tour is $8pp, yet we got $3 off because we also went to the Aquarium. This was an interesting tour, as well. The area around the pier is filled with shops, places to eat, an IMAX theater, even a bowling alley. It is a very nice place to relax and take in the sights or even watch the Inspiration crew load up for its next voyage to the sea. We stayed in the area until 4 p.m., and then called Blue One Transportation for a pick up. As we waited for the shuttle, we also had an opportunity to see the beautiful Inspiration set sail once again.

I would recommend the Inspiration to anyone!!!! My only complaint: I'm not on the ship right now!!!!

Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

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