Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Inspiration
by Stacie Renee
Western Caribbean
February 25, 2008

We booked our first cruise for a 5-day trip from Tampa to Grand Cayman, Cozumel and then back to Tampa again. Since we live close to Tampa we drove and parked in the long-term parking which costs about 60 dollars total. The Port Authority was close by and not a long walk from the parking garage at all. I thought getting through Port Authority was going to be a nightmare, but once there porters will take your bags and it is customary to tip $1 per bag. It took about 40 minutes the get through the security checks; have your picture taken for your sign and sail card that is tied to your credit card and then on to the ship! We arrived around 1:30 and lounged around the lido deck. First thing you will notice is the offering of the drink special of the day. You get a tall souvenir glass for about 7 dollars and then discounted refills. The drinks were not bad and they did not skimp on the alcohol at all. After that we got lunch in the Brasserie Grill. The food was great with a hot buffet, salad bar, sandwich station, pizza station and many types of desserts. After 2PM we were allowed to get into our room. Greg our steward was very courteous and introduced himself to us both. Even after, every time he sees you he will address you by name, which was really nice. In fact every single crewmember says hello with a genuine "hello." Every day our room was made with chocolates, fresh towels and towel animals and they put our personal sunglasses and hats on them. It was hilarious.

Before we set sail at 4PM we had to muster for an emergency drill. We read the information posted on our door about our muster station. Took the life vests from the top shelf of our closets, met at our muster station (the Paris Lounge), listened to the instructions, did the drill in front of the lifeboats and that's it. Painless. It took about 40 minutes in all.

The ship was in good condition and I was expecting worse because of the other reviews. This being my first cruise however, what do I know? But, I did not see any broken glass or laminate peeling off. Maybe I was just in areas where I did not see that. I also didn't see people smoking except where there were designated areas in some of the lounges and casinos. The ship has a very good ventilation system and it was contained nicely. My boyfriend liked to smoke his port-acquired cigars (stinky) and the air was contained and filtered nicely. I was also apprehensive because I've read some reviews that it was a drunken party ship or a college party ship. Maybe we went while college was in session but we had a good mix of families, seniors, young party kids and middle aged people. There were late night parties on the lido deck that were fun and rambunctious but every adult had a great time. The only complaint I have is that our room was a connecting room. We did not know that at the time but looking at the ship deck map online, I now know what the little triangle meant. Duh. If you get a connecting room, be prepared to hear every single uttered word from your neighbors. They weren't even trying to talk loud. They were just talking normally and you can hear every word, sigh, everything. Don't get a connecting door in your room because there is no sound proofing at all.

One of the neat things about the staff is that they are from all over the globe from Indonesia to Britton. Their name and country will be on their nametag and it was interesting to meet the crew, talk with them and learn about them.

Our mealtime was in the Mardi Grass dining room for 6:15. We were lucky because we got a two-person table and didn't have to sit with people that we don't know, plus, it was a romantic getaway so it was perfect for us. Our headwaiter and his assistant were excellent. I'm sorry, I do not remember the headwaiter's name but Ely, the assistant, was from the Philippians and told us he had been working for Carnival for 10 years for 8 month stretches at a time. It is all done to support his wife and three kids and he hopes to retire soon. He smiled the whole time, ran around with controlled urgency to serve everyone, and did so very happily. It was nice to see him entertain and play with the kids at the table next to us. They both were great. The food was very good and each meal had a vegetarian option for me and filet minion, T-bone etc. for my boyfriend. There was also a very nice choice of starters, salad, and desserts including wines and cheeses. It was probably some of the best dining experience I've ever had. All that and each night they danced, sang and even got everyone included in a conga line.

There was one formal night and it was great. Every one dressed up and it was like being able to go to prom all over again. Throughout the trip there will be photographers set up to capture your every moment. We had many pictures taken by about 5 photographers but by far all the pictures that we purchased were by a man named Dimitri from Belarus. As we were narrowing down our choices we noticed all the pictures we choose were all done by him. His pictures were very professional and made me look awesome and in the top of the best professional pictures I've ever had taken in my life as well. The pictures are 8x10 and they are posted in the Promenade deck. If you don't want to purchase them you don't have to, but they are $21.95 per photo so it can get expensive. Dimitri's photos were worth it.

We got to the Grand Cayman and I had booked the shore snorkel adventure. I would not recommend this one because the snorkeling site was not very spectacular as there were not many fish or coral to see. It was also very hard to get in and out of the water without someone pulling me out so I mostly sat on the tiny little beach. Getting back to the right ship was confusion and pandemonium. There are not piers in Grand Cayman so you have to take the right ferry back to the ship. That day, there were 4 other ships and the ship's ferries were not very well marked until you got right up to it. I passed it once, and there were so many people butt to butt all over the street I wasn't even sure I was going the right way. My boyfriend booked the "Off the Beaten Path" Jeep tour excursion. He drove but got stuck with a couple of women who did not like the bumps so he had to drive around them which missed the whole point of being "off the beaten path." If you book this one, be in a group of four.

Cozumel was awesome and my favorite photographer, Dimitri, was one of the crew showing us onto the Pier. You start to notice the same crew working different jobs and they do work their fanny off. We booked the Myan Ruins of Tulum. It took a 40-minute boat ride to mainland Mexico. Now, let me warn you that the waters are very choppy and you will get sick. At the beginning of the boat ride a nice woman passed out bags to everyone. I didn't make it as well as about 5 other people. The Boat is equipped with many restrooms though. If you purchase Dramamine from "la farmacia" it will cost you 12 US dollars or you can get the Mexican branded equivalent called Vomisin for 6 US dollars. Just be prepared. Then, we took an hour air-conditioned bus ride to the ruins and were entertained by our tour guide Carlos who was a descendent of the Myan people. He was very informative, entertaining and shared some Myan as well as Spanish language with us. He was very educational while explaining the purpose of the temples, how they were discovered, and the ancient people. We were then given an hour to explore on our own before we had to be on the bus. The walled Mayan city is built on a cliff that over-looks the most beautiful beach. I just wish we had more time to spend there.

For your expenses, everything is paid with your sign and sail card that you assign a credit card to. Extra expenses can add up like the $21.95 per photo but I also spent $99.00 on a "spa taster" which included a facial and back massage. The therapist I had was very knowledgeable and I was pleasantly surprised at her knowledge of sports massage, shiatsu and human physiology. I've had an on-going muscular problem and she took extra time with me, which was really nice and unexpected.

Additional charges will include 10 dollars per day per person so there will be another 50-dollar charge on your sign and sail account. This is for tipping all the waiters and stewards. It makes it very nice to not have to remember to tip everyone but they did such an excellent job and really go out of their way to make you happy that we gave them more.

If you get any drinks from the bar, alcohol or soda, (even in the main dining room) it will cost extra. For soda, you can buy a 20-dollar soda card for unlimited glasses. If you frequent the sushi bar, Café Des Artistes, or Internet café, spa, or special classes like kickboxing you will pay extra charges as well. Only your dining room and Brasserie Grill, coffee, tea and juice beverages are completely free.

Debarkation day went smooth. The day before, there was a debarkation briefing in the Paris lounge, which we didn't attend. There is, however, a channel on TV that runs Carnival information, which I called the "ship show." On that day they re-ran the taping of the briefing. It gave us all the information we needed to know from the breakdown of how to fill out your US customs forms and declaring what you are bringing in to the U.S., when and how to debark. It also informed me that I couldn't take my roses off the ship because of customs. So, Carnival does an excellent job informing you of the who, what, when, where and how's. In fact, people from other ships at the ports were complaining their cruise ship company didn't inform them of returning times, etc. We didn't have a problem with that with Carnival.

All in all it was an excellent time.