Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers
Carnival Cruise Lines

Inspiration
by Barry
Western Caribbean
June 22, 2003

Getting started
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Embarkation in Tampa was pretty easy. We drove down from Virginia on Saturday to Orlando (picked up my daughter

at the Orlando airport - my son and his fiance flew from Baltimore on Sunday morning) and then drove over to the port on Sunday morning in a driving rainstorm. Parking is $70 for the week (they take credit cards as well as cash) in a
spacious parking garage. There is a drop off point for your luggage before you park, however the drop-off point is not covered, so our stuff got somewhat wet dropping it off . They was no security check dropping our luggage off which
surprised me since there was one in Port Canaveral on our Pride cruise. We got to the check-in line about 11:15. I had directions to the port, but of course forgot to bring them with me :) I really thought it would be well marked like it is in Port Canaveral and Miami, but I was wrong. We got off at the right exit on I-4, but of course got lost. We eventually could see the ship, but had no idea how to get there. We found a nice police officer who pointed us in the correct direction. Check-In was pretty easy. As we were finishing up getting checked in, the started letting people on the ship
and since we were in the first group, we went right on. They told us not to go to our cabins before 12:30, but since we are "special" (okay, stubborn), we went to our cabins and asked if we could just drop off our stuff. The cabin
stewardess said no problem. Our cabins were on the Verandah deck (one balcony and 2 inside cabins across the hall). We then went to the Lido deck to have lunch. Lunch was the usual, typical first day buffet and was fine. Muster drill was at 4:00 and was relatively painless. Unlike the Pride, the Inspiration uses the older thicker life vests, but since it was overcast and STILL drizzling, it was not hot.

The Cabins
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Our cabin was a Category 11 on the Verandah deck. We had the standard balcony and a couch. Our bed was already made up with the king-size sheets which was very nice.

Our cabin stewardess, who I never did get her name, was excellent! My son and his fiance are very neat as so are we old fogeys. The other 3 kids in the room were all pretty messy! Sure glad I was not cleaning their room. We did tip her extra for her great service.

Unlike the Pride's Category 11 cabin, the Inspiration cabin had plenty of power outlets, but I had my power strip just in case! The rest of our group were in two Category 4E cabins. They brought in a roll-away bed for the 3rd person in the one cabin.

The ship
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We have been on many Fantasy class cruises (4 on the Ecstasy, 3 on the Fantasy and 1 on the Paradise), so we were quite familiar with the ship layout. I did notice that the ship is showing a little wear and tear, but considering that the ship has 2500 passengers a week it was not too bad.

Food & Service
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Dinners were really good to excellent. Lunches were good. We ate all but one of our lunches on the Lido Deck. Our dining room waiters, Cirilo (I think that is the correct spelling) and Konstantin, were excellent. My wife is lactose
intolerant and Cirilo went out of his way to help with the selections. We had late seating at 8:30 (I had requested early seating, but when they gave us the late seating, we ended up keeping it. We really did not like the late seating. We, my wife and I, tend to get up early and go to sleep near 10. We did not finish dinner till 10-10:30 each night and by the time I spent an hour in the casino losing, it made for a late night and an early morning. Some nights we got our main
course by 9:00 and others around 9:30 depending on how many other people at our waiter's tables came to dinner).

The Inspiration does not carry any non-dairy creamer that we could find, but having learned her lesson the Pride, my wife brought her own Coffeemate. We were at a very nice table by the window for 8 (for the 7 of us). We did get to
see one really nice sunset the first night, but that was it :)

Saw very few shorts in the dining room after the first night. We rented tuxes for the four of us boys (my first time in a tux since my wedding day!). We got some great pictures of all of us. Now that we have done the tuxes, I probably will
continue to rent them for my future cruises as it was great not having to bring suits and dress shirts.

Ports & Weather
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Our ports were Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel and Belize City. As we were leaving the Port of Tampa, the rain/drizzle finally stopped. The weather on our first day at sea was great. The pool area was packed, but since I spent a lot of time in the casino, it was not a problem to me :)

Grand Cayman
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We arrived at Grand Cayman the next day and took the tender into port. It was a very nice day. There was a short sprinkle around noon, but it was not a problem. None of us scheduled any excursions for Grand Cayman. We did some souvenier shopping and a lot of rum cake tastinging/buying (my personal feeling is that the Don Lorenzo Double Chocolate Fudge Rum Cakes in Nassau are the best, but the Tortuga and Blackbeard Rum Cakes are not bad either).

Costa Maya
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Another great weather day! 4 of the kids had an excursion in the afternoon (Kayaking and Biking). All 5 of the kids went into port and did some souvenier shopping and visited the pool at the port. We went in a little later. The port is
very nice. We also did some souvenier shopping as well. They all really liked the excursion. The three of us who did not do the excursion just took it easy on the ship (the pool area was pretty empty).

Cozumel
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And then the weather changed... We had booked the Snorkel, Sail and Beach excursion for 1:00 PM. Decided to go into port at about 10:30 AM to do some souvenier shopping. It started to sprinkle and then the skies opened up with a deluge! It was a good thing we were in the Tanzanite International Jewelry store, otherwise we would have gotten soaked. By the time we left the store at 11:30 (it was my wife's birthday), it had pretty much stopped raining. We thought this just perfect for our excursion. We finished up our souvenier shopping, got back on the boat and had lunch at the Brassiere.

Met on the pier for our excursion and it started to rain again. The tour operators (the boat crew) announced that if you decided to not take the tour, that Carnival would refund the price of the tour. Well, I spent about $300 on my
prescription dive mask and I was not going to miss the opportunity to use it for the first time, so we stayed (I think there was one family that got off the tour). The snorkeling was great. This was the first time I could actually see in the water.

Once the snorkeling was over, the rain and wind made it very cold. There was some dry spots in the very center of the boat, but of course, we were not there. We then set sail for the beach (about 20-25 mins). Even colder and more wet.

The beer and mararitas were flowing. We stopped at the beach for about an hour. People seemed to have a good time in the water (said it was very warm). I stayed on the boat. My wife wanted to take a cab back to the ship (someone said it was $30 per person - being cheap, I said no :) ). We then sailed back to the dock (about 20-25 mins). The beer and margaritas were flowing even more. Finally was able to get warm as my wife sat on my lap and we huddled under our wet towels. Most everyone else was having a great time and we did just watching them.

Belize City
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The weather ranged from partly cloudy to overcast and back to partly sunny. Five of us (my son's fiance was a little bit under the weather from having too good a time on the Cozumel excursion) did the Carnival Cave Tubing excursion.

This was definitely the high point of the trip for me! We met in the Paris Lounge at 8:15 to leave. Even though there was a 7:45 Cave Tubing excursion, we did not see them leave (they may have left before us). We then moved to the
tenders. The ship "docked" about 7 miles out from the port and we took speedboat tenders to the port. It was a pretty nice fast ride. We then moved directly onto buses for the trip to the caves. We did get a little sightseeing on our trip out of town with our guides, Roland and Carlos. The bus trip took about an hour with a stop at Cheers near the end to allow people to change. The last 6 miles of the trip are on a bumpy dirt road (and when I write bumpy, I mean bumpy :) ). We arrived at the starting point, got our tubes, lights and live vests (required for kids, optional for everyone else).

The 30 minute walk through the jungle was not really bad as we stopped several times to let the group ahead of us gain some distance. The bugs were not awful, but you definitely need insect repellant (a couple of my kids did get some
bites, but I escaped unscathed). We finally got to the cave and started down the river. The water was pretty cold (about 70 degrees) for about 2 minutes and then felt really refreshing. We tubed for at least 45 minutes. The water level was a bit shallow in some places (the rainy season is just starting). It was a great experience! We then got back on the buses and started back. We were about an hour behind schedule, so they attempted to drive as fast as possible. That bumpy dirt road got even more bumpy :). We then stopped back at Cheers for lunch (included with the tour). The lunch was pretty good - chicken and rice with rice and beans and cole slaw. The fresh mangos and bananas should not be missed! As soon as our bus got back, we went right to the tender and back to the boat as we were late.

We did not get back to the ship until 4:30 (the last tender was supposed to leave at 3:30). The only negative is that we did not even have time to shop for souveniers at the dock.

It was overcast and rainy during the morning of our last day at sea (Tropical storm Bill?), but got a little better in the afternoon.

This was our lucky 13th cruise and this was the worst weather we have had.

Debarkation
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Getting off the ship was pretty easy. We were told to wait in the Rhapsody in Blue lounge (next to the Mardi Gras dining room) at 9:00 (on the Inspiration, they ask you not to wait in your rooms). We were there for about 15 minutes
and they came and got us and told us we could leave the ship (pretty sure we were the first regular color called). It was pretty easy to find a porter (unlike when we got off the Pride in Port Canaveral in April). I did make sure the porter
would take us all the way to the garage, he did. Since we (okay, me) got lost trying to find the port, I was sure that it would be really easy to get back to I-4. I followed the signs, but as was typical for our trip, the last sign to point the way was not visible (at least to me), so we missed getting on. Eventually, we turned back and found it :) Our drive to Orlando to drop my daughter off at the airport and the rest of our drive back to Virginia was uneventful, but long.

Overall
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This was our 10th cruise on Carnival and we were definitely not disappointed. The staff on the ship was great. We saw a little of the cruise director, Paul Evers, and I thought he was pretty hilarious (his debarkation talk should not be missed :) ). The staff in the casino was first rate and went out of there way to be friendly to everyone. I am not sure I would want to sail on another Fantasy class ship (we booked this one prior to booking our trip last March on the Pride) as we really like the style of the newer ships. We are booked on the Miracle out of Baltimore next May 30 and I have already started my countdown for that. About the only real negative was that the public rooms seemed to be freezing all the time.