November 26, 2005
Our cruise for two departed Tampa the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The weather was beautiful and a welcome relief having left freezing temperatures in the Midwest. We boarded the Inspiration in the first group called and quickly found our way to the Brassiere Grill for a delicious buffet lunch. The meal was wonderful with many choices and eye catching presentation. A more casual lunch was available poolside but we were eager to experience all the Inspiration had to offer.
With lunch out of the way our journey of exploration of our new surroundings began! Like two little kids in the toy store – we peaked and peered into every inch of the ship. The top deck gave us full view to the pool area and water slide. Sunbathers were already claiming their deck chairs and hot tubs were already hosting their fans. The ship is fun to explore and her colors and style are unique and offer any guest a fantasy experience. We booked our cruise with the idea of doing something different – I'm glad we didn't choose a boat that was a carbon copy of 20 others!
Navigation around the boat was difficult at first but only added to the adventure – by day's end we were pros. The pocket deck maps distributed at embarkation were helpful and easy to read. The ship was decorated for Christmas and the colors easily added to her beauty with large sprays of greenery framing the Atrium on every level. The rich burgundy and gold trims made it all the more magical.
Upon discovering the Spa we were treated to FREE 5 minute mini massages and would later learn that the cruise day specials should be taken advantage of – this also includes internet specials for those of us who can't leave all technology behind!
We were disappointed to have the muster drill and actual sail away to be at the same time – cell phones were expected to be turned off and being new to this process we had already promised family we would call as we sailed out of port. Calls were made late and our early dining came too soon to see us sail us away from the last lights of shore. Nothing to complain about certainly – all of it's a learning experience and offers more opportunity to make different choices in the future! As the day went on our luggage appeared at our door – as if dropped off by invisible porters! Our cabin steward was available at all hours…and never too busy to chat with us. His attention to detail and extra attention to our personal needs was worth far more than the "recommended" tipping scale.
Our dining experience was wonderful – the staff was friendly, attentive and very helpful. It took a little effort to adjust our hearing so that we could understand the many dialects on board – but considering the staff speaks multiple languages we figured it was the least we could do to allow them to be more patient with us!! After all…I can't even master a single language!
We were amazed at all the spots on board where entertainment was waiting to be enjoyed. The piano bar, poolside, in the center of the Atrium, cozy alcoves on deck – it was hard to keep track. The nightly songs and dancing after dinner were fun and light-hearted again, always adding to our experience as new cruisers.
We attended nightly comedy shows both the early show as well as the late night (more adult version) and found each enjoyable. We were not offended by the adult style humor of the later show – it's what we were expecting and enjoyed it. The Vegas style shows offered were fun to watch and certainly entertained us. The music, choreography and costumes were of the highest caliber – as were the entertainers! Performing nightly with so much energy and precision must take its toll at some point – however it never showed in the performances we attended. The performers always appeared fresh and energized. Seating in the Paris Lounge was plentiful and "good seats" were always available.
Chris, our cruise director was delightful and entertaining. He obviously loves his job and is a true professional at it. Any staff member that we were in contact with was eager to offer assistance, tips or directions…by disclosing our status of "first time cruisers" we generally received an over abundance of help which was always appreciated!
Our 5 day cruise included ports of call in Grand Cayman and Costa Maya. We booked our ship excursions on our "at sea day" and had no trouble getting our first request at each port. It was nice to have additional information on excursions available on board to help make our decisions with more confidence than with the limited narration on the Carnival web site. Grand Cayman was alive with shopping and stores were packed with cruisers looking for the cheapest bargains on everything from diamonds to sunglasses. Shopping maps from the ship made locating stores a breeze and coupons offered a chance to play our own version of a treasure hunt!
Costa Maya is a diamond in the rough – her white beaches and emerald waters are irresistible. Snorkeling at this location is a must do! The area is on the verge of exploding with commerce and we were able to appreciate the fact that we were experiencing a port still in its infancy. The Beach Break excursion to Uervo Beach far exceeded our expectations…the area is pristine and is an oasis hidden among the jungle growth you pass on the buss ride there. The lounge chairs available next to the water far exceeded the visitors only adding to the experience of being at a private resort. Activities were abundant from unlimited snorkeling and paddle boats to parasailing.
Our cruise ended all too soon and debarkation day came rudely and unwelcome. Our compliments to Carnival and their new process of debarkation – the only complaint goes to the many cruisers who chose not to listen to the instructions and debark at their leisure. A rush for the exits only caused frustration. There is plenty of time to have a leisurely breakfast and stroll on the deck before leaving the ship (there are no prizes for being the first person off!).
We loved sailing with Carnival and will do so again. Some may say that our experience was positive because we had nothing to compare it to…but good service is recognizable by even the least traveled individual. The secret to our first cruise was to keep our expectations and minds open to the entire experience. The adventure is what you choose to make of it and looking for fault will only find fault. Looking for adventure will take you to places you never expected to find!