Two new (and confused) cruisers on the Inspiration
So, I went ahead and registered to this site as my girlfriend and I have run across some confusion with our cruise.
First, some background info:
She and I booked our cruise through a travel agent who specializes in cruises. We will be sailing on the Carnival Inspiration which will depart Tampa on October 3 and return on October 8. We will be making a stop at Grand Cayman and another at Cozumel.
1. My biggest concern is the variance in the reviews that I've seen. Some reviews claim that the Inspiration provided one of the worst experiences they've ever had in their lives. You'd think these people visited the seventh circle of cruise hell to read what was written. Others claim that it was one of the best vacations they've ever had. Are some of these folks just plain cranky and others just too easy to please (or cruise line representatives posing as customers)? Is there really that much inconsistency between cruise experiences? Is there any way to tell the reliable reviews from the unreliable ones?
2. I have similar experiences in looking up the excursions. There were no reviews whatsoever of the 7-Mile Beach or Rum Point on the Carnival website. Does anybody have any thoughts on these places?
3. Is it better to use the excursions recommended through the cruise line or would we be better off striking out on our own to see what's out there?
4. About how much spending money would you folks recommend that we set aside for the cruise? I plan on doing some drinking, but not too much as I kinda want to watch my food consumption (I'm doing the Primal Blueprint thing if anyone's wondering). Also, are there any sort of hidden costs that I should be aware of?
5. Last one. Promise. I do photography as a hobby. I've got a fairly decent Olympus e500 with a tripod and a couple of lenses. Would that camera be reasonably safe coming with me on the trip or would I be better off leaving it at home? By safe I mean I wouldn't have to worry about it being jacked out of my cabin at night, snagged by some pickpocket.
All reviews are subjective. The thing is that disgruntled people are more likely to post reviews than people who liked their cruise. Far too often we get people who we refer to as drive-by posters, who run through here and post messages about how horrific their cruise was. Usually it is because one or two things didn't suit their fancy and they then run with it and let those isolated things color their whole cruise experience. Sort of like having a great appetizer, salad, and steak entree, but you didn't like the dessert, so you run around telling everyone the whole meal was lousy and that restaurant ought to be shut down.
In other words - don't dwell on the reviews. The Carnival Inspiration is a well-regarded ship. It is not a new ship but it has lots to offer.
Both of the ports you are going to are extremely safe for doing excursions on your own. Don't waste money on the ship's tours for either Grand Cayman or Cozumel. You can find cheaper versions either by waiting until you get ashore, or by going to a reputable tour operator such as shoretrips.com. Google Grand Cayman tours and you'll find many others.
All bar sales cost you, even soda, juice, or bottled water if you order it at a bar. Juices are included if you get them at the dining room or buffet during meal hours. A beer averages $5, a cocktail $6, and a glass of wine $7. It can go up to $10 for cocktails or wine depending on what you order. All bar sales also have 15% tip added automatically.
Gratuities on Carnival are by default automatically charged to your onboard account. These are for the cabin and dining room staff. They are well-deserved and many of us will also give them a little extra. This is their income really since their salaries are pretty minimal. Currently Carnival charges $10 per person/per day for this.
Other than that, whatever you buy in the stores on the ship or want to gamble with, as well as what you spend ashore. We also tip any room service orders a couple bucks per order, so having some one or two dollar bills helps.
The camera is perfectly safe to take ashore in those ports.
You can order buckets of beer for a slight discount. Also, you don't need to order the drinks in the souvenir glasses which cost more. Ask for the drink in a regular glass. If you do get a drink in a souvenir glass ask for a refill in the same glass which should then be cheaper.
Thanks for your responses! I'm typing this while watching a show on grilling, so I'm a little distracted .
I just thought of another question. I know that Carnival will let us bring one bottle of wine with us per person (according to the FAQ on their site). Do you know if the same thing applies to beer? I was considering bringing a really nice Trappist with me or something like that.
Well, the rules are the rules when it comes to booze. They really mean just bottles of 'fine wine' or 'champagne'. On this forum we have made a decision to support the cruise line rules even if we do not personally like them. So we stick to the company line when people ask about bringing alcohol aboard.
Carnival is rolling out their highly regarded house brown ale to the fleet. Perhaps it will be on the Inspiration for your cruise.
Oh, please don't think I was trying to circumvent the rules. Trust me, I understand completely, but was wondering just how much interpretation the wine rule was up to. I'm glad you guys are direct with me.
I hadn't realized that they had their own house ales. Do you know anything about their stouts?
It mostly depends on the embarkation port security as to whether something will pass muster as far as the wine rule goes. You must put the wine in your carry-on and not checked luggage. Thus, it is looks suspicious they will look at it closely. A thing to note is the port security doesn't work for Carnival and they are more concerned with guns, knives, and hand grenades.
Carnival's older ships are not big on draft beer. I think I've had draft Heineken on a Carnival ship but I don't recall which one. The ThirstyFrog ale they will roll out to other ships started as their featured ale for the pub they have on their new ship Carnival Magic. Magic is currently their only ship with a pub. You will find the usual canned and bottled beers on the Inspiration. As I recall they have Boddingtons and Guiness as a standard bar item.
We have been on this ship before,and we like it so we are going again in 4 WEEKS!!! yippie!! A bad review of the ship? I would not worry about.. Some people are never sastified.. We are going to rum point and sting ray city in Grand Cayman.. and the Deluxe beach break in Cozumel (awesome buffet lunch and open bar) Yes the ship is an older ship but it has been renovated.. As far as how much cash to take. We take $300.00 ppr.. We always bring some back... You will like the ship and the ports of call..We are waiting to book our excursions til we get on the ship because of the time of year we are going. The weather could be bad..And ALWAYS use carnival for your excursion in case there is a problem so that the ship does'nt leave you.... The only drinks we take are the little bottles of cokes.. We just put them in our checked bags and we have never had a problem... Enjoy your cruise... 27 days for MEEE!!!
@ Dave: Boddingtons, hm? I can live with that.
@ Tim: Congratulations! 55 days for me. Not sure how many weeks that is, but I suppose that's why they made me an English teacher. 300 bucks makes me happy, too, as I may not have much more than that. I've already had to replace the pads and discs on my car, and my front driver's is squeaking again, which may mean a bad caliper, too. At least, that's my guess as I've ruled everything else out.
Welcome to cruisereviews.com and congratulations on your upcoming cruise!
As far as reviews, they are indeed highly subjective. And, this comes from someone who has written lots of them. Had I listened to some exaggerated negative comments about one cruise in particular, I would have missed out on going on a ship that ultimately became a favorite.