by Joyce R
August 22, 2004
The week is over, all too soon - but I did want to report that our first cruise was a REAL success and we'll do it again - for sure !! My husband and I, and my sister and brother-in-law made this trip together and had a great time. I do advise going the day before your cruise - far less stress and a nice way to start out. We stayed at the Sailport in Tampa - and found it to be very nice.
Embarkation - less than one hour from the time we arrived at the port until we were having lunch on the lido deck. (Arrived at 11:30 - lunch at 12:30). Into our rooms by 1:30 and our luggage was not long after that.
We enjoyed the Inspiration - great service from both our Room Steward, Rupert, and our Waiter, Agnel. We found all of the employees of Carnival to be very friendly and willing to go out of their way to do anything for us. It of course took us a little while to find our way around - not sure if we were going UP or DOWN those first couple of days !!
The ship itself was in very good condition. The only place we noticed a little wear and tear, was some of the carpet, and a few scratches on some of the elevator doors. Other than that, we found the crew to be constantly vacuuming, polishing, cleaning, and even painting.
The food overall, was very good. There were a few things that needed a little spicing up, but I certainly understand why they can't do that in general - too many people would have problems with it. But there was certainly never a shortage of food and everybody should be able to find plenty that they liked. Service in the dining room was super. We only missed one night in the dining room - and that was the evening we were in Cozumel, when we decided to enjoy Pancho's Backyard for dinner. And I'm very happy to report that at least during our sitting (the 6:15 in the Mardi Gras Room), just about everybody was dressed for the formality of the evening. I honestly can't recall seeing anyone in shorts or jeans on those nights. Even most of the children were dressed for the evening.
As for children - there were plenty of them onboard -but overall, other than just a couple of times when a few would run down a hall or across the decks very loudly - most of them seemed pretty well behaved. The loudest that we saw, seemed to be the last night - perhaps they were just very wound up after a week of excitement and traveling.
The ports - Grand Cayman - here we did the Stingray City and Snorkeling, with Nativeways. We had never snorkled before so it was quite an experience - and the stingrays were very cool. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to explore the port since this was a short day - so I guess we'll just have to visit again at some time.
Costa Maya - a new port - but the port itself was very nicely done. Bright colors, music, a pool. We had chosen to rent a golf cart and drove down to Marajahal (not sure about the spelling on that). We found a nice litte place on the beach and enjoyed about 3 hours there. Water was beautiful and clear, just what I've always dreamed of.
Belize - here we had decided to do the cave tubing with X-treme. X-treme was on time and took good care of us. We only had 13 of us in our group. The hike through the tropical rain forest was not terrible - but I must say - August is a pretty hot and humid month. We had no problem with mosquitos, which surprised us. But I must say, we were VERY happy to finally arrive at the cave to begin our tubing.
Cozumel - our favorite stop. We were fortunate, in that our port day there had been extended to 10:00 PM so we had plenty of time and never felt rushed as we did in some of the other ports. WE had been told that Chankanaab National Park was a great place to visit - so we gave it a try. We went by taxi - and it cost us $10 for the 4 of us. The park itself was very nice - and we had a great time snorkeling there. We had lunch in a nice little outdoor restaurant, right there at the park.
Our sea days (Monday and Saturday) were relaxing days. We thoroughly enjoyed taking our chairs and sitting on the deck on the lido deck (on the outside, away from the pools and main activity). It was fantastic, sitting and watching the ocean and enjoyed the breezes. We did some of the shows, an art auction, the galley tour, and watched some karaoke - but a lot of the time, we just relaxed.
We had great weather (only 10 minutes of rain in Cozumel) - and very calm seas. Our room was a port-hole room in the front of the ship on the Empress deck - and we had no problem with excessive motion. Maybe had the ocean been a little rougher, we may have noticed it more - but none of us had any problem at all with motion sickness.
Debarkation was simple. We were to report to the lido deck by 9:00 - and we were fortunate to be the first group off the ship and we were off and through customs by 10:00. Of course, you do have a bit of a line going from the lido deck to the empress to get off - but just be patient and relax. And after such a wonderful week, standing in a line for a few minutes was nothing to complain about.
Would we do it again? - yes we will. Would I recommend the Inspiration ?- I certainly will. I heard a few people complain now and then - but listening to them, I think they would complain no matter what ship they were on.
We met some great people and we met up with CanadynGrl (Tracey) and her family and it was great meeting them. They were even on our Cave Tubing excursion with us. and I must say - our dinner tablemates were super people. We had a wonderful cruise. I hope all of you are as fortunate as we feel we were. Happy cruising to you all.