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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Inspiration

  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Carnival Cruise Lines

Carnival Inspiration Review

Insider Take

Overview

One of the oldest "Fantasy-class" Carnival ships (1991), fine for short inexpensive getaways but the age shows in decor

Best For People Who Want

Non-stop entertainment, lively casinos, extensive deck space for sunning, large, if very pink, facilities for fitness/spa and children's activities, large cabins, good food, and very informal service. Especially recommended for families, singles in groups and first time cruisers.

Decor

Every Carnival ship, designed by fanciful designer Joe Farcus, has a unifying theme for the decor. The idea behind Inspiration's interior decor is "inspiration," paying homage to places and things known to have inspired great artists, and to great artists who where duly inspired. It's a loose thread as far as themes go in this particular ship, but it still has "wow" appeal.

Public Rooms

The ship consist of 10 decks with most of the public rooms concentrated on Atlantic, Promenade and Lido decks (decks 5,6 and 7). The cabins are mostly concentrated on decks one through four; Riviera, Main, Upper (which is actually a lower deck 3) and Empress decks.

The ships centerpiece is their seven-deck high Grand Atrium, bathed in brass and glass. You can stroll down Inspiration Boulevard, or plop down into a soft banquette to ogle passers-by. The two-level, 1300-seat Paris Lounge at the front of the promenade presents live production shows, comedians, magicians, and passenger talent shows, with exemplary sight lines and good seating throughout.

The ship's most fanciful decor is in such entertainment venues as the popular Rhapsody in Blue Piano bar featuring an enormous circular piano which doubles as a bar for those who like to sing along. You'll also find the vibrant Avant Garde disco and the Rock and Roll Dance Club cabaret lounge along the boulevard.

All of the public rooms recently received new sound and light systems to add a touch of excitement. Flat-screen televisions have been added to many lounges to keep up with sports and other events. The ship now has a specialty coffee bar, new art and photo galleries and purpose-built conference facilities.

Other public areas include the Galleria shopping mall, the Virtual World arcade, and the ship's photo gallery. Cafe Des Artistes and Internet offers access for 75 cents per minute; for those who plan to spend more time on the computer, there are 100 minute packages available for $50 (50 cents per minute) and 250 minute packages for $100 (40 cents per minute).

Service

Don't expect formality. Indeed, expect wacky dances after dessert - and then to come back to your cabin to find that your cabin steward, cutup that he or she is, has left a towel folded to resemble a dog on your bed. The hi-jinx never stop!

Cabins

Because they were built just before the shift toward lots of verandahs, just the 26 demi-suites (250 square feet) and 28 full suites (400 square feet) have balconies.

However, in 2007 all of the staterooms in the class of smaller Carnival ships received a facelift to bring them up to date. All of the staterooms now have new flatscreen televisions, for example, a subtle change but one that lends a significantly different feel to the room while also adding a little extra space - which never hurts.

The cabins on these older ships always appeared spartan compared to the newer Carnival ships due to their lack of wooden desks and cabinetry. The colors, fabrics and linens have all been upgraded, but they are still light on amenities (a color TV with CNN, telephone, radio, no hair dryer, and a basket of "free-sample" toiletries). They are roomy, however, among the largest in the cruise industry: inside measure 185 sq. ft, outside 190 sq. feet. Even in the minimum category inside or outside stateroom you'll still enjoy ample space. for four and five are understandably popular with families, and go fast.

Oceanview staterooms and suites offer a mini bar, bathrobes, and fairly large bathrooms with a shower (with wand) and medicine cabinet. There are also 26 mini-suites (226sq.q. feet plus 36 square foot private veranda) and 28 suites measuring 350 sq. feet with 71 sq. foot balconies.

Fitness/Spa

With no fewer than 12,000 sq. ft. devoted to fitness and spa facilities, these ships are a dream come true for those who like to keep in shape during their cruise. The "Evolutions of Fun" upgrades of 2007 paid particular attention to the spa area with more elegance and amenities.

The gyms have a private trainer and 35 state-of-the-art exercise machines. There's a day-long schedule of aerobics, and stretching yoga, and Pilates classes (usually around $10 each), as well as body composition analysis and personal training sessions, $75 for 60 minutes. There's a fully jogging track and a volleyball court. Women who want to sunbathe topless will find secluded areas in which to do so.

Those who prefer to skip shore excursions and snorkel on their own can rent equipment for $26 for three days. The inescapable Steiner's of London operates the ship's spa, which offers lots of different kinds of massage - and pushes its beauty products rather more zealously than most passengers would prefer.

Attire

On the two "formal" nights per week, most men wear a dark suit instead of tux. By day, nearly everyone wears shorts, T-shirt, sneakers/sandals, bathing suit, and a hat.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Sophisticated "seen but not heard" service people; cabins with private verandas; mega-ship action; understated elegance in a low-key environment; no children; dozens of varieties of food.

Onboard Experience

Identical in all but décor, Carnival Inspiration is the sixth in line of the eight Fantasy-class sister ships (Fantasy, Fascination, Ecstasy, Inspiration, Paradise, Sensation & Elation). These ships always seem to have something of interest going on, and thus are ideal for the up-and-at-'em style cruiser. Carrying 2,052 passengers, Fantasy is big enough to provide entertainment, ample deck space for those whose idea of being entertained is basking in a warm sun shine glow, and separate facilities for passengers of all ages.

Having been launched in 1996, in today's whirlwind pace of change in the cruise industry, Carnival Inspiration is not so full of neon, chrome and mirrors as her younger sister ships. But it's there if you know where to look. Like at the Grand Atrium with its bold gold neo-classic statue and neon-rimmed mirrors and ceiling panels.

There are a lot of hard surfaces on this ship - especially on the flooring where tiles abound instead of carpet. This adds to the non-stop ambient noise levels, especially in the Violin's Bar and the grand Atrium.

In addition, a further upgrade completed in 2007 includes a snazzy new pool area with teak decking, new umbrellas, a tile "beach" for the pool water to lap against and a new thatched roof for the hot tub. The kids will rave about "Carnival waterworks," the new water park featuring a 4-story tall and 300 foot long "Twister Water Slide." Another slide is three side-by-side tubes 82 feet long. This is all part of a waterpark with all kinds of sprays and other devices to keep the kiddies cool and fresh. There's also a new nine-hole miniature golf course.

As if that isn't enough for the kids, "Camp Carnival" received a makeover, and the ship has new interconnecting staterooms for families.

The adults haven't been left out; there is a new "adults-only" area called "Serenity" with a deck of solid teak panels for soft cushioned loungers in sun or shady areas and two hot tubs.

New enhancements indoors include a coffee cafe with specialty coffees (for a price) but free pastries. There is a new art & photo gallery and the atrium bar has been updated. New sound and lighting systems have been installed in every public room, and the ship now has flat screen televisions in several places to keep up with sports and other vital information.

All of the staterooms are updated as well with new fabrics and finishings, and flat panel televisions for a more updated look and the important added space.

Ideal as it is for the sort of person who likes to have loads of activities planned, Inspiration also offers lots of out-of-the-way places to read or just contemplate the sea. During summer cruises, however, when there are hundreds of kiddies aboard, quiet contemplation might become a luxury reserved for another ship.

Cuisine

From the best pizza afloat (available 24 hours per day) to haute cuisine in the main dining room, Carnival really delivers on the food front.

Restaurants

Total Choice Dining provides for four dinner seatings in the main dining rooms, alternative Bistro dining every evening, and an increased number of service staff. Passengers are assigned a table for dinner in one of the two main dining rooms -- The Mardi Gras Dining Room on Atlantic Deck, mid-ship, or the Carnivale Dining Room on Atlantic Deck, aft -- at one of four seatings; 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. There are very few tables for two in either of the two main dining rooms; expect to dine with four, six, or eight fellow voyagers. Both dining rooms are named after future Carnival ships that at the time were only a part of the founder's "imagination."

You typically have a choice of six starters, a couple of salads, and six or seven main courses (pan-fried fillet of red snapper, sweet and sour shrimp, rack of New Zealand lamb and Beef Wellington). The menu also includes Spa Carnival selections for those trying to reduce their intake of calories, sodium, cholesterol, fat, or meat.

Added in the 2007 renovation were a coffee bar in the atrium and New York-style deli in the Lido restaurants

Additionally, the poolside Lido eateries are converted into Seaview Bistros between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. each evening, offering buffet dinner with no reservations or advance notice required. The informal Brasserie Bar & Grill (T-shirts and shorts are OK) Restaurant on the Lido Deck offers both inside and poolside seating. All meals here are served buffet style, with open seating for all three meals.

Other alternative eating options include a 24-hour pizzeria, a complimentary sushi bar and 24 hour room service. Added in the 2007 renovation were a coffee bar in the atrium and New York-style deli in the Lido restaurants.

Tipping

Carnival automatically adds $10.00 per person per day in gratuities to your Sail & Sign card unless you're under two years old, and if you're reading this, you're probably not. This includes $3.60 for the stateroom steward; $5.50 for the Dining Room team, and $.90 for service in the alternative dining rooms. Visit the purser's desk during the cruise to raise or lower this amount.

You may also prepay gratuities for all service personnel at a rate of $10.00 per person per day. On Cruises-to-Nowhere, gratuities of $10 per person per day must be prepaid.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Tip the maitre d', room service, spa, casino and other staff as you deem fitting.

Entertainment

The prime entertainment venue is the 1,300 seat Paris Lounge theater, but karaoke draws big crowds to the Rock and Roll Dance Club, while the Candlelight Lounge offers a variety of dance-music combos from pop standards to even folk and country musicians. Regardless of what sort of music you like most, you're pretty much assured of hearing it.

By day, there are bingo and Trivial Pursuit contests, not to mention such highbrow events poolside as the men's hairy chest contest.

Children's Facilities

Carnival's celebrated Camp Carnival program offers a full schedule of supervised activities, from finger painting and singalongs for younger children to photography workshops, late-night movies, and pool parties for their older siblings. The ships' 2,400-square foot "Children's World" play areas are stocked with a computer lab, a climbing maze, an activity wall, and an assortment of toys, games and puzzles.

The 2007 upgrade added a nine-hole miniature golf course as well as a waterpark that is better than the larger Carnival ships. The kids will love these supervised diversions giving you plenty of time to relax by the pool.




Ship Overview

The sixth ship in Carnival’s eight-ship Fantasy-class, Carnival Inspiration entered service in 1996. Although Carnival Inspiration has received numerous upgrades throughout her life span and features a secluded adults-only Serenity Deck, there is no word at this writing on whether the ship will be updated to add Carnival’s "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades. Carnival Inspiration sails short getaway cruises of three- and four-nights to Mexico’s Pacific Baja coast from her home port of Los Angeles. In addition to Ensenada, Mexico, the four-night sailings include the popular Catalina Island as a port of call.

Bathed in fiber-optic light, glitzy Fantasy-class interiors added expansive six-deck atriums and a new dimension to the original superliner concept. To keep the fun going, these ships offer an almost wearying assortment of places to have a good time. As times and tastes have changed, the ships have evolved as well, with new lobby bars, dedicated club spaces for teens and tweens, miniature golf, and Internet centers. Even newer are Carnival’s WaterWorks water park and the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, which increase the appeal of the older Fantasy-class vessels.

Only one level below the Lido deck, the indoor promenade connects major public rooms on a single deck, with only formal dining rooms, shops, and other small spaces one deck below. Large in size and ideal for a short itinerary, these ships have sprawling outdoor pool and sunning areas, but they can feel cramped when sailing at maximum capacity. Cabins provide calm oases from sensory overload. With the exception of Carnival Sensation, Carnival Fascination, and Carnival Ecstasy, to which balconies were added to existing cabins, you'll have to book a suite if you want the solitude of a private balcony.

The world's largest cruise line originated the Fun Ship concept in 1972 with the relaunch of an aging ocean liner, which got stuck on a sandbar during its maiden voyage. In true entrepreneurial spirit, founder Ted Arison shrugged off an inauspicious beginning to introduce superliners a decade later. Sporting red-white-and-blue flared funnels, which are easily recognized from afar, new ships are continuously added to the fleet and rarely deviate from a successful pattern. If you find something you like on one vessel, you're likely to find something similar on another.

Each vessel features themed public rooms, ranging from ancient Egypt to futuristic motifs, although many of those elements are being replaced with a more tropical decor as older ships are upgraded. Carnival is also introducing features either branded by the line itself, such as the poolside Blue Iguana Tequila Bar with an adjacent burrito cantina and the Red Frog Rum Bar that also serves Carnival’s own brand of Thirsty Frog Red beer, or in partnership with well known brands, such as EA SPORTS to create EA SPORTS Bars at sea and Guy’s Burger Joint, in partnership with Food Network star Guy Fieri. Implementation of the new features is scheduled for completion in 2015.

What You Should Know

Pros

  • Central atriums are stunning when sunlight streams in through skylights
  • Surprisingly large libraries are ideal retreats for reading or playing board games
  • Freshly made pizza and calzones are available around the clock

Cons

  • Despite upgrades, the decor is still pretty gaudy
  • These are ships designed for partying, so quiet spots can be difficult to find
  • Sushi bars earn high marks for their complimentary creations, but sake costs extra
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 920
  • Entered Service 1996
  • Gross Tons 70,367
  • Length 855 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,028
  • Passenger Capacity 2,056 (2,610 max)
  • Width 103 feet
  • New

May 24, 2015

Mexico

There is only one pool, and it was a madhouse of loud music, punctuated by Recreation staff shouting into the microphone about the ice carving, Hairy Chest contest, fundraising for a children's hospital. Our daughter wanted to swim, so we couldn't leave, but we sat there with our fingers in our ears. It was awful. The food was awful. The selection in the buffet was small; so many things were battered or fried. The eggs - whether we had them

scrambled, in an omelette, or as eggs Benedict, tasted as though they had been reconstituted. The pumpkin soup tasted as though it had just come out of a box, The bacon was awful, the sausage was worse. After two days I couldn't wait to get off this boat and get a decent meal. Unfortunately, we had two more days still to go. We had 3 people in our stateroom. Unlike other cruises, where the 3rd bed was brought down from above, in our case, the 3rd bed was on the floor, next to one of the other beds. This reduced our floor space by a third. It also meant that the bed had to be stepped on in order to reach the bed it was adjacent to. There were no evening shows to speak of. We have been on a Carnaval cruise before, and also on a Holland America cruise. This one was sure disappointing. The food was terrible. I will never go on the Carnival line again.

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  • New

Aug 2, 2014

Catalina

This was our first cruise and may just be our last. Upon first glance inside, the ship was straight from the 80s with dark, mirrored decor throughout, brassy, extremely dated. Our upgraded owners suite was very large but again very dated. Bathroom was black marble and pink tub, and just very dark and dated. It was located right under the track, so we heard runners stomping away very early in the morning. It was nice to have a large deck but not so

good to have our view blocked by a lifeboat (although understanding the need for those!). Pool was very small and water was always green and unusually warm, which kept us out of it. Water slides were geared toward very young kids, only one larger slide. Disappointing for my kids. They got bored the first day. Food at breakfast and lunch in the buffets was just like going to Sizzler. I think Sizzler was actually better! Food at dinner in the dining room was not bad but never hot. No midnight buffets or dessert bars, just soft serve was the only thing available after 10:00. Nothing special to report about the food. Regarding entertainment, there was no reason to stay up late. We saw one terrible comic, another mediocre one. Saw the game show and it was a bit lame. Played Bingo and it took longer to get cards and process the charges for everyone than it took to play one game. The mini golf course was literally falling apart with missing or loose bricks and crinkled greens. We played lots of ping pong, that was the highlight of the entertainment! Nothing special to report about the entertainment. In Catalina, the kids went parasailing, and we rented a golf cart and drove around the island, which was fun. Note, we did this on our own, no group excursions. In Ensenada, to no fault of Carnival, we stayed an hour and returned to the ship. Town was berry sketchy, kids got freaked out. Dirty, smelly, not a place we wanted to be. It was my first time so it was a new city for me. The good thing is I felt the ship was clean. Overall, we we very underwhelmed with our first cruise experience. We were very much looking forward to this cruise. I felt like we were in an RV park, it was unusually communal. I now believe you get what you pay for! We should have just saved up for a Disney cruise to get on a higher caliber cruise line, with a higher caliber clientele. Now, I will never get my family to go on another cruise after this experience.

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  • New

Oct 23, 2013

Catalina

I paid premium price, $2,800, for a relaxing 4 day cruise. What I got was nothing but disappointed. All the promises that were made to sell me the owner suite package were NEVER met. Embarkation and debarkation were fiascoes. None of the hot dishes were served hot. None of the cold dishes were served cold. Everything had obviously been sitting out for a long time before being served at room temperature. The stateroom was large and clean.

However, the furniture was uncomfortable in the extreme especially for a $700/day room. Only 2 shows were worth seeing and that was because the caliber of the dancers was very good. The productions and direction was poor. I remember telling the salesman during one of our phone conversations that my wife and I have taken a number of cruises in the past (Norwegian Cruise Lines, Princess Cruise Lines, Disney Cruise Lines, Royal Caribbean and now Carnival.) Using a scale of 1 = terrible to 10 = unbelievably good I would rate the different lines thus. I have been a chef for many years and the food service is my area of expertise to a large degree. The Norwegian cruise was by far the best food of any of the ships as far as the standard dining experience goes [rating = 10]. All others except Carnival have been a close second in this category [rating = 8]. Carnival rates only a 3 here. All diners were served with lukewarm entrees and sides which were barely edible due to undercooking and arriving at the table at room temperature. The one time I ordered a Caesar salad, being tired of room temperature soup, the lettuce was warm and wilted from sitting at room temperature in the kitchen with the dressing on it; the effect was like eating a leftover from the day before. It had some anchovy paste in the dressing but there was no Parmesan cheese on it. The only dish I had that was even close to being passable by the health board (requirement is that all hot food be at 140 degrees Fahrenheit and cold foods be at 40 degrees Fahrenheit) was the spaghetti on Wednesday night (though it was not hot [approx. 115 degrees] it was as close to being the proper temperature as we had onboard.) Twice the ice cream we ordered for desert was half melted by the time it got to us. The outdoor cafeteria was no better except for the Mongolian BBQ which was served HOT from the wok. I also tried a small bowl of chili (it was air temperature) and some French fries (which were like chewing leather from sitting out so long also at air temp.) For entertainment onboard, Disney scores an easy 10 while Princess and Royal Caribbean score 7. Norwegian only scored a 6 and Carnival gets a 4. I must say that considering the excellent caliber of the dancers in the show it is sad that they only performed 2 out of the 4 days. I do not consider participating in playing games on stage to be entertainment and I couldn't even get the football game on Monday night on the TV. We have never stayed in any upgraded cabin accommodations before but were always very pleased with our vacation aboard the various ships. The staterooms on all the cruise lines other than Carnival were clean and comfortable, restful and QUIET! Not once did we get a good night's sleep. The first night after driving all the way from Phoenix to Long Beach we were awakened at 5:00 in the morning to the sound of what can best be described as a herd of elephants galloping on the ceiling of our cabin. I went to guest services the next morning to complain of the noise and was first asked if I had not been informed of this possibility when I was sold the upgrade. I certainly had not been. They were sorry for the noise but very matter-of-factly informed me that there was nothing they could do about this because they could not tell the other guests that they could not run on the track that formed the ceiling of our room. They did add that the track was not supposed to be used before 6:00 A.M. I asked if they would not post a sign restricting access between 10:00 P.M. and 8:00 A.M. This they flatly refused to do but added that they would tell the person in-charge of the facility to try to restrict use before 6:00 A.M. I left very frustrated that I was paying $700/day for a room that I could not get a night's rest in. In all fairness I must admit the running did not start at 5:00 the next morning. It started at 1:30 A.M. and continued throughout the day as well as every day thereafter. We had high expectations of service being in the owner's suite but were disappointed when our room was not made up on the last 2 days of the cruise until after dinner. This made it difficult to relax when we returned to the room during the day. Plus, the noise level outside on the Lido deck was tremendous on the number of occasions when there was cheerleading sessions going on. Also, the atrium elevators were out of service for 2 days as well as one of the regular elevators for 1 day, which made it very inconvenient moving about to and from deck 12 since 3 of the 4 elevators available to us, weren't. Now to the embarkation: I was told to make sure that I told the staff that we were in the owner's suite when we checked in and we would be met and personally escorted to the stateroom. I informed them at the check-in station of this twice. They had us stand outside the check-in station telling us that we would be met there and taken aboard. No one ever arrived to escort us. I eventually went back into the check-in station and told the woman who had us stand outside that no one showed up to escort us. She denied ever saying that someone would escort us and said they have already started priority boarding and we should hurry over to the gate. I was starting to get very hot under the collar as we went to the gate and the person at the gate told us to go to the elevators straight ahead. I explained that we were supposed to be met and escorted in by someone from the ship's company. She just pointed and said go to the elevators. After we got onboard we stopped the first person we saw in a Carnival red blazer and asked where our cabin was. He asked what our cabin number was and I said I did not know, only that it was the owner's cabin. He gave me a very quizzical look and asked what deck it was on. I said I didn't know. Someone was supposed to meet us at the check-in and escort us to it. My wife said she thought she saw somewhere that it was located on deck 12. He pointed to the atrium elevators and said take this elevator to deck 12 which he called the Sports deck. We went up to deck 12 and met 4 young boys and girls in Carnival uniform whom I asked where the owner's suite was. They had never heard of it but asked if we knew the room number. I said I did not but repeated that it was the owner's suite. One of the girls said that the suites were up here and asked which side it was on. I replied Port side. She used her shoulder to point to the Port side. We walked in the direction indicated since none of them volunteered to show us the way and discovered a door hidden in a dark recess that opened when our key was applied. The debarkation... This was the first time we had ever looked forward to leaving a cruise ship. I watched the TV instructions 5 times to make sure I was not missing anything. I read the letter that was delivered to our room 3 times (see attachment.) As you will notice the second paragraph tells us that we are indeed entitled to priority departure. We chose the Self-Assist option in paragraph 3 and the letter specifies that we are to meet in the Paris Lounge on deck 8 at 7:00 A.M. In paragraph 4 we are informed that a Carnival team member would escort us from the lounge to the gangway. I took this as tongue-in-cheek and decided that if someone was not there to meet us promptly at 7 that we would go down to the gangway on our own at 7:05. Surprise, someone did show up. We were taken out to the stairs and the woman who escorted us checked our room key and said that we were not eligible for priority debarkation because our cards were not properly marked. At this point I had had enough. I got very gruff with this young woman and informed her that we had been left to our own devices on embarkation and that I thought that since we were paying $700/day for this trip we were entitled to priority debarkation since they had not delivered on any of the promises made so far (I believe I used different phraseology but made my point in short order.) She immediately backed down and had us continue to the gangway. This was the worst experience I have ever had on a vacation in my 66 years.

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By TGB_CR

  • New

Jul 8, 2013

catalina

First the good news: I did not gain any weight on this cruise! The food in the dining room was awful : watery lasagna, rubbery chicken, shriveled minuscule lobster tail...only the chocolate desert was good.Our best meal: on shore in a Catalina restaurant. Our best drink: the wine we brought with us! Personnel is friendly. Shows were pretty good. Our advice: if you enjoy a good meal: stay away! Or bring your own! If you enjoy

waiting on lines and cafeteria food : you will be at home! We had fun anyway! We had lots of awesome jokes and laughs about our next meal surprise!

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  • New

Jun 23, 2013

Catalina Island and Ensenada

My steward was great, but my family had a different one and he wasn't exceptional. The kayaking was good, my adult children enjoyed that. The swimming pool was so cold no one was in it. There were about 35 kids in the hot tub. The first nights entertainment was lame. The Oldies show was much better. The drinks are strong, but the food was weak. The food was boring. I was very disappointed in the taste of the meals. The stateroom

is small, but for one or two people it would be fine. My family of 2 adults and 2 kids felt cramped. The onboard activities were ok. The pool was too cold to use. We did mini golf, and some of the trivia games. One of the shows wasn't very good (we left) the second one was much better. The Kayaking was good on Catalina Island. The bus trip into Ensenada was informational, but the Mercado was almost scary. The vendors are beyond annoying. I took myself, and 8 other people on this cruise. We had 4 children ages 3-9. Overall this cruise is disappointing.

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