Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers

Carnival Cruise Lines
Carnival Inspiration
by Becky
Western Caribbean
March 10, 2008

Just back from the Carnival Inspiration, and we had a fabulous time. I had some concerns in advance of this trip about this ship, so I hope my comments are helpful to others reading here. I am a single mom, traveling with my 21 yr old daughter, celebrating her Spring Break from UNC (Go Heels!) and her legal adulthood. This is my fourth cruise, second on Carnival.

I bought this trip because it was cheap, we have good direct flights to Tampa, and we couldn't do 7 days, but I was concerned that this was a second-tier ship that had received some mediocre reviews. For others with similar concerns, you have nothing to worry about! The staff was excellent, the entertainment was great (better than my last RCCL cruise), the food was very good, and the fun factor was outstanding. Our mid-March trip was heavy with Spring Break college kids, and there were a few visible cases of drunkenness, but overall the kids were great. They add a lot of life to the cruise, participate in the activities, and were respectful and well-behaved. The disco was open until the wee hours, and they packed it up. We spent a lot of late nights in the Karaoki lounge, and the college kids were enthusiastic, and often quite talented.

Embarkation was smooth. We were at the Port by 9:00AM due to an early flight, and it is safe and pleasant to walk around, but nothing much is open. We used a porter to take our luggage, and it arrived safely at our cabin around 2:30PM. Carnival let us into the terminal about 10:30AM, processing took less than 5 minutes with the online Fun Pass completed. We had to wait until about 11:30AM to board, but lunch was waiting and life was good. We ate breakfast and lunch at the Brasserie every day, and the selection is outstanding and the quality generally very good. They have a great salad bar every day. We had late dinner, so we often stopped in for some bread and cheese to tide us over until 8:30 dinner. The breads were great, especially the foccacia.

Carnival did a great job of seating us at a table for eight with other adults traveling with college-age kids. We made good friends immediately with another mother/daughter team from our dinner table. The service was excellent, and the food was generally excellent too. Stay away from ethnic food: the Italian and Mexican dishes were a bit off. But the beef is always an outstanding choice, the lobster was great, and I was told the chicken was good too. Fish can be good, but also risky -- I think it is harder to keep it warm for lengthy periods and it can dry out. The salads were very good, especially the Caesar and spinach w/ walnuts and blue cheese. Per the Carnival allowance, I brought two bottles of wine on board with me, brought them to the dining room opened (on formal night and the last night), and our waiters gladly poured without hassle or charge.

After dinner, we did the show every night. Do not miss the Shout show, or the Latin show, which are both terrific. The dance troupe is excellent, but the ballet/contortionists Dmitri and Maria are unbelievable. I was thrilled with the quality of the entertainment, great costumes, and great production values. The magician and comedians were also good, although the adult-comedy gets a bit raunchy for me.

The musicians on this cruise were outstanding. The Caribbean deck band, the Filipino bar band, the lobby piano player, and the ship's orchestra were all just terrific. There is good music to be found almost any time of the day or night, and my main complaint is that I could not find any single male swing dancers!

One complaint about this itinerary is the stop in Grand Cayman is too short. The ship leaves by 2PM, so it is a very limited day. We booked the sting ray trip with Native Way ahead of time, and could have bought it for $10 less at the dock. Sting Ray reef is like Grand Central Station, but I guess that is typical -- there were five ships in port that day. The sting rays were very cool, however, and I'm glad we did it. The snorkel site they took us to was not worth the stop. We hit Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville on the way back and gulped hard at the prices in Cayman dollars, $30 US for two margaritas and some chips! It was packed though.

I had planned to go to the national park in Cozumel, but my daughter wanted to go with her new friends to Playa Mia (?), where $49 each buys unlimited watered down drinks, a lunch buffet (mediocre), clean bathrooms, an OK beach, a small pool, use of non-motorized water toys, a formed-fiberglass beach chair that does not allow sunbathing on one's stomach, and a huge crowd. Umbrella is extra -- that irritated me. Add taxi for $14 each way. But T-shirts and other souvenirs are still cheap in Cozumel, and there are plenty to choose from in the gauntlet of shops you must transverse to get on and off the ship.

Some other notes: No hair dryers in the rooms, but available from the steward at no charge. I brought mine, but couldn't plug it in because the transformer plug was too big for the outlet (hard to explain). Shampoo and shower gel dispenser in the shower, but bring cream rinse. Bathrobes provided, very nice. Beds were great, again better than RCCL last year. My only complaint is that the Inspiration is UGLY -- worst decor I've ever seen, black glass and horrible neon, and weird sculptures that look like they were lost from a sci-fi movie set. I was appalled when we first walked on board, but you get used to it.

We had an early flight back, carried our luggage off, and were able to disembark by about 8:15AM. Cabs were waiting, standard $22 to the airport. Easy. I highly recommend the Inspiration, and feel free to contact me with any questions at rrh9652@yahoo.com