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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Inspiration

Fodorite Reviews

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  • 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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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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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

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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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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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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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By J_CR

  • New

Dec 3, 2012

mexico

Just two weeks ago, I went on the Carnival Inspiration 4D Baja Mexico cruise spanning Thanksgiving with my parents and my grand-aunt. Our experience was subpar due to an amalgamation of reasons, and I sent this review to the Carnival executive office for future improvement, but received no response for the entire week, so have no choice but to start seeking other venues to voice my dissatisfaction. This was our family's first time on Carnival

Cruises, but we have been on your sister company Princess to Alaska and Royal Caribbean to the Bahamas, so have experience to contrast against. Traveling is one of my life passions and I do so fairly extensively (about 3 times internationally a year) and hope to sustain a recent tradition of cruising annually since my mother has especially loved cruise experiences. For a Thanksgiving cruise that came at a premium for (and I even booked a suite for my parents - we were in V25 & M219), I expected all the services promised to us delivered, but they were not. One of my parent's key fascinations with cruises stems from the variety of nightly productions and comedy shows on board, and on this specific cruise, the Fiesta Latina show was cancelled Tuesday night with nothing to replace it, and then again Wednesday night, with "Showtime" to replace it. Unfortunately, that same "Showtime" was repeated Thursday night, leaving no real value-add. This was a key letdown for us because in our minds, the 4 value foundations of a cruise are the floating hotel, the food, the service, the entertainment, and that last two were significantly lacking. We were never told what these "circumstances beyond our control was" and I feel that a great company has a contingency plan especially on such a big holiday cruise. Even having 2 separate, less glamorous shows instead of one cancelled and another repeat would have been a huge boon, and we had never experienced such low quality on Royal or Princess. My next 2 issues deal with safety & hygiene on-board the ship. First, I recognize that Carnival is a family-oriented cruise, but better emphasis needs to be placed on parents to take care of the children or more attentiveness from staff members need be exercised. My aunt of age 77 was knocked over by 2 youngsters on the Lido deck the first day. Fortunately, she was fine, but had she suffered an injury, Carnival would have a potential general liability claim on their hands. I am an actuary in an insurance company, so I know this risk is simply too significant to ignore. Next, I noticed that virtually nobody on Carnival uses the hand sanitizer before meals. When we were on Royal & especially Princess, there was only 1 entrance to the buffet lines, always with a staff member there to request customers to use the sanitizer. Perhaps this is why Carnival is often on the news concerning norovirus outbreaks, as recently as May of this year. The fix in adopting models that have worked on other sister lines should not be onerous, so I strongly encourage this change on Carnival. Service in some areas need improvement, and 3 small illustrations can highlight this well. First, when I was in line at the Fun Shops, I overheard a lady asking one of the staff members about their work schedules and environment, and she immediately groused about how they got no time off between cruises, how she worked 7 days a week with low pay, that as soon as one group disembarked, another boarded. Corporations have to maximize profit, but they can also do so in a way that their employees do not feel unsatisfied, and it was disconcerting to hear such an experience as a customer. My time at the craps table in the Monte Carlo Casino was unsettling as well, because the young lady working my side was most inexperienced, and I caught her twice distributing incorrect winnings to me, and fear that I may have missed more. I recognize that being a craps dealer is not easy and I probably make more complex bets than many people, but the training needs to improve and again, I did not experience this at all on Royal or Princess. Finally, and perhaps this is due to over-heightened expectations, I expected a suite booking to come with more amenities. For examples, in other lines, VIP access comes with access to private clubs, private pools (which would've been tremendous given the number of kids in the Lido ones), fresh flowers, and more attentive service, but all my parents received were priority embarkation and de-embarkation, 35 more square footage of space, and a 30 square foot balcony for nearly double the price. I simply cannot find a compelling reason for clients to book in a Carnival suite, which is ironic because the high-end market when treated properly tends to be most high-margin as well, so a few extra courtesies could go a long way. I want to highlight the positives as well on the cruise, so that Carnival can continue to improve its strengths. The mini golf facilities and waterworks available are great for kids and grown ups alike, since even my parents enjoyed trying the variety of entertainment on board. Food is wonderfully crafted, although the soups were consistently too salty. Our rooms were well-serviced and the dining staff top-notch in professionalism and courtesy. The many lounges, bars, galleries provided the multifarious environments we had come to expect on cruises. Shore excursions went smoothly and we enjoyed a fun time on them. So, what is the consequence of all this? Well, we will not be using Carnival's services again and unless Carnival addresses this issue for us, will try to let the world know of our experience so that future customers know what to avoid.

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May 17, 2012

Ensanada three day

The cruise staff was great! Very friendly and attentive. The food was very good. The drinks were delicious. Rooms very clean. BUT now for the bad. 20-something drunks EVERYWHERE. They monopolize the entire ship. Couldnt get in any of the four hot tubs even once, due to 30 drunks crammed in that stayed in ALL day. Comedy show was hilarious...the parts we could hear..before the drunks invaded that area too. Then we had to get up and leave. Staff

has GOT to stop that or they will get very few 35 and up on there (who can afford to spend more money). I will never sail Carnival again. I will however, sail Norweign or one of the others who dont primarily cater to 20's cruisers.

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By mbg_CR

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Mar 17, 2012

Catalina and Ensenada

I have sailed 7 times on Carnival, and have watched the amenities, value, and food quality steadily decline. Not saying that we didn't have a good time...because we did. Just saying sailing with Carnival is not what it used to be. Eating on the Lido deck is comparable to Golden Corral. Lots of food, mostly low quality. The deserts are almost not edible. The main dining room is nice and the food is for the most part is good, however, the options

are few. The menu has been changed to offer only two courses - the categories are "starters" and "main". No longer is it a several course elegant meal. There is a desert menu, and most of the deserts are good. The signature dessert of Carnival Cruises is the Warm Chocolate Melting Cake, but the chef on this boat doesn't know how to make it. Don't look for the waiters to parade thru the room with flaming Cherries Jubilee anymore either. The cabin steward was good, but we found nothing happened unless asked for - like bunks not put up during the day to give us room to move around, no free toiletries not even an ice bucket. The room safes no longer use a key code, now they use a room key. Only one room key will work, so only one person in the room can get in and out of it. With multiple people in a room we found that inconvenient. The entertainment directors (particularly Matt from Florida) were excellent. Consistently we have found them to be the highlight of the cruise! Still think Carnival should continually look to add new and varied activities; and perhaps encourage participation by offering prizes that are worth having. The "gold colored ship on a stick" is pretty lame. The "game of love" was cute, but too geared to induce sexually explicit answers- that humor is getting old especially to frequent quests. I think the Bingo games are overpriced at $20 for one game, and the winner take is pathetic in light of how much is collected. Don't waste the money on the shuttle bus in Ensenada. We were concerned about the safety of travel to downtown, so paid it. We didn't bother to ride it for the return even though it was prepaid. The best shopping is only a couple blocks from the ship anyway. It felt safe enough in daylight, but I wouldn't recommend venturing out alone.

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Feb 29, 2012

manish

Worst company ever encountered. not at all empathetic to customer's situations. I should have booked from Disney or Princess or any other which i will do for my next cruise. Con: - Worst guest admin staff i had to ever deal with - Our toilet smelled like urine - Buffet food resembles cafeteria food - Swimming pool is too small for the amount of people on the boat Please spend your money on a better cruise line. The

low fares will lead to TERRIBLE customer experience if anything goes wrong on your trip.

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Sep 11, 2011

TAMPA - DAY AT SEA - GRAND CAYMON - COZEMEL - DAY AT SEA - TAMPA

This cruise was wonderful. It was definitely not "high end", but then neither was the price. The food was great; there was so much to do onboard and the staff was helpful and friendly. The ship was beautifully decorated and there were always crew cleaning somewhere so the ship stayed spotless. The dining room offerings were wonderful. The portions were perfect and the menu offered enough variety for most any taste. There were so many other opportunities

for food besides the dining room. There was a Sushi bar in the evening, a 24 hour pizza bar, a 24 hour ice cream/yogurt bar, and a huge indoor/outdoor grill near the pool that had so many choices for breakfast, lunch or dinner. We had a lovely stateroom with a balcony which was plenty big enough. The bathroom did NOT have a hair dryer which I already knew from research prior to the cruise. There was a flat screen tv, mini fridge, 1 outlet in the stateroom and 1 in the bathroom for electrical razors. There was PLENTY of drawers and hanging space for clothes. Our room stewards, Iryl and Jo, were very friendly and kept our room beautifully. The linens were so comfy. There were so many things to do onboard. There were 2 big "shows" as well as a passenger talent show. The only thing I didn't really care for was the female singer in the shows. Some of the karaoke contestants could have done better. There were a lot of fun games and contests. There were MANY different lounge areas which was perfect for offering different types of music. The assistant cruise director, Skyler, was hysterical. He really kept things moving! There were many (almost too many) opportunities for professionally made photographs at fairly reasonable prices. If you go to Grand Cayman DO NOT MISS the museum not far from the dock. It really was awesome for such a small island. Also - as soon as we got off the ship there was a place to get an international phone card for $5 for 25 minutes - much cheaper than onboard rates. If you go to Cozumel or Playa del Carmen DO NOT MISS the ruins of Tulum. And pay a little extra for a guide so what you will see won't be 'just a pile of rocks' but serious history about a highly advanced civilization. We left Tampa on Monday afternoon and sailed all day Tuesday. What a wonderful, relaxing day (in between the fun activities). My husband and I were taking the cruise to celebrate my 60th birthday (on Thursday) and was surprised when my son and his family joined us! The ship offered 3 kids clubs for various ages which my son's children thoroughly enjoyed (and the clubs kept the kids busy so the parents could enjoy other activities). Tuesday night was "Elegant Night" when passengers dress up for dinner (we ordered LOBSTER for dinner). Wednesday we visited Grand Cayman Island and went to the local museum which I highly recommend. Thursday we went to Cozumel and took the ferry to Playa del Carmen. We went out to the Tulum ruins and hired a guide to give us a personal tour of the place. We learned a lot about the culture of this interesting civilization. Friday was a day at sea - another opportunity for relaxation and fun activities. Our waiter brought a special dessert with candles and sang "Happy Birthday" to me at dinner Thursday evening. The final show was "Shout" which featured various genres of music throughout the years. Laser lights, great costumes and dancers made the show quite an enjoyable event. The only 2 things that bugged me about the show was that the lead female singer was not great and there was only 1 African American in the whole show and she only danced. So the Motown songs were sung by the white male and female featured singers. As a matter of fact there were very few African American staff members on the whole ship. Our cruise was a wonderful week which we thoroughly enjoyed. HIGHLY RECOMMEND this cruise!

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By Neal_CR

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Mar 14, 2011

TAMPA - DAY AT SEA - GRAND CAYMON - COZEMEL - DAY AT SEA - TAMPA

I have done many cruise and specificlly 7 on Carnivale. I could not believe the difference of how we were treated on this ship compared with others. This was terrible. Prior to making this post I contacted Carnival today (my first day back). There comment to me was thanks for the concerns that they would review everything internally. Since I have seen several reviews with similar concerns to mine I would say they have no intention on fixing anything.

Please read the reivews before you book your cruise. The food and staff in the main diningroom was very good. Doing lunch on the Lido Deck Buffet was interesting. We were sitting along the starboard side of the ship when another guest came out on deck with a tray of food. She hit the doorway and the wind just right and her tray and food went flying. The tray went over the side of the ship. Food went flying on the deck and the women did her best to pick up the mess but she was not going to get it all with out a broom or a mop. It was two hours before staff came over to pick up what remaind of the mess. As I mentioned above my friend was in a wheelchair. And the buffet area has lots of dining chairs which one would expect so we would make our way through the tables and chairs on deck. What I was not expecting was the staff to stand in the middle of the aisle as we were trying to make our way through. I know that there are many guest on the ship and yes this was the start of spring break but I have never seen such disrespect from staff towards guests. Since we are over 40 and only had a glass of wine at dinner it was not like we were behaving badly to deserve such treatment. Our stateroom was always neat and ready. We did not see much of our cabin stawert but that was ok he was doing his job. This was by far the result of the cruise director Stephanie. The cruise director expected other guest to keep us entertained. If it was not for Trivia and Karaoke, the ship would not have had any entertainment for most of the cruise. The comedians used their shows from the first night again on the last night. I guess the staff forgot to tell them the ship alternates between 4 and 5 day cruises. We were on the ship for sun and a small bit of shopping. We did small shopping excursions you may want to read some of the other reviews. I have done many cruise and specifically 7 on Carnival this by far did not live up to the other cruises. This was by far the result of the cruise director. The cruise director expected other guest to keep us entertained. If it was not for Trivia and Karaoke, the ship would not have had any entertainment for most of the cruise. The comedians used their shows from the first night again on the last night. I guess the staff forgot to tell them the ship alternates between 4 and 5 day cruises. In Grand Caymon you must use tenures to get between the ship and the port. I knew this a head of time and expected it. I had a friend with me who was in a wheelchair Not 1, Not 2 but 3 of the cruise director’s staff sent use to the elevators in the center of the ship to disembark, unfortunately where they sent us was the 4th floor of the ship and they were disembarking on the 3rd floor. (Meaning a walk down a flight of stairs.) Not sure how that happens in a wheel chair.) Since I had asked if we were supposed to use the forward elevators, and the cruise staff told me no, it was not only aggravating to me but also the guest that were behind us trying to disembark. (And there was a tenure located at the bottom of the front elevators.) The last day of the cruise there was a presentation to sell us another cruise and earn ship board credits. It was a bit of a cool day so I thought I would see what it was all about. It would have been fine if the women presenting the materials did not bash some of the other cruise lines including some of the ones owned by Carnival, specifically Holland America and Princess. I have been on Holland America and Princess and find them to have more tact and respect in their cruise directors little pinky then a majority of the cruise staff on this ship. I don't want to bring down all the staff, the assistant cruise director Nick and Jacob did a very good job.

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Feb 22, 2011

Cozumel

Overall I had a great time on the ship being my first cruise. I was traveling with my family and I found many things to do even though I was really cruising to be with family and relax! They embarkation and deparkation Carnival has down to a science. I will choose Carnival again, but maybe a bigger, newer ship with more options and activities. The food in the dining is just like your normal cafeteria food. I did not like the food on the

LIdo Deck buffet, I found it to be cold and unappetizing except for the Mexican Buffet they had on the last night. The Sushi was delicious and I spent many an hour eating there. I also enjoyed the pastries and coffees at the new Coffee House. The stateroom was an inside room. I was warned about the size and was not suprised. They kept the room clean and it was nice to see the towel animals and the bed turned down. Unfortunately they only did one stuffed animal for one person in the room and not everybody. I was a bit discomforted with the room being so cold and we could not get any heat. I was not really there to participate in the onboard activities. I noticed that there was always something going on and the other passengers were always involved. I did participate in Karoake every night with the family and the guy running it always looked forward to us coming there every night. I was entertained but like I said I really wanted to relax which I did. My sister and I went to the Ruins of Tulum which was long, tiring, but great if you enjoy history, taking pictures, and something other than another port selling you souvinirs. I would suggest for the Ruins of Tulum that you have comfotable shoes , a snack and something to truly protect you from the sun. I did not6 go into town because I am not a shopping kind of person. Be careful of the taxi cab drivers, sometimes they may want to trick you with their prices, so make sure that you lock into a price coming and going. The excursions were very well planned and we were taken care of and I did not have to worry about getting on the ship.

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Jan 7, 2011

Cayman Islands and Cozumel

Overall a great vacation. We went to Cayman Islands and Cozumel Mexico. We left from Tampa Flordia and it was a 5 day cruise in total. I would go on a cruise every day of the week with Carnival because this was a lot of fun. Great food. Honestly, I am open to new foods, so the menu didnt bother me. It seems as if Carnival tried to inter-mix specialties and burger/fry items to make every one happy. I ate like a king each day and anyone with

the pickyest pallet would be fine. I mean, $350 cruise and you get lobster, steak, salmon, crab, etc, etc, etc.... how can you go wrong! Stateroom was better than expected. We had the interior state room, which is 195 sq. ft. Very bright with all the lights one, tv served its purpose, good vanity area as well. Bathroom was well sized for a single person, but it seemed that you felt the boat motions most in the bathroom. Overall, the beds was incredible, enough size, nothing to complain about. Lots of competitions to win a trophy from carnival, I really wanted one but never could win. But on a five day cruise there was about 40-50 activities a day, spaced out about 15-30 minutes apart. Activities ranged from fitness classes, towel folding classes, trivia, shows, casino activities, parties, etc. Wide range of stuff to keep you busy. If all else fails, there is plenty of room to lay out. Overall a 9.5/10

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Jan 3, 2011

Western Caribbean

As first time cruisers, my husband and I were very disappointed with Carnival Inspiration. We paid more than usual due to the holiday sailing date. We selected this cruise because we traveled with a 3 and a 2 year old, and so we wanted a family-oriented vacation and liked what we read about the kids program. With the exception of the stateroom which we liked very much and was cleaned twice a day, we found the cruise staff to be non-engaging and

uniformed, the daily activities extremely boring (especially for New Years eve!), the food mediocre at best, and the kids camp check-in times/check-out requirements inconsistent. For starters, no one greeted us as we boarded the ship and we had to ask where to go. The ship seemed understaffed for a fully booked ship, and that might explain things. Entertainment was completely thumbs down all the way. We wanted magic on our vacation, we got nothing. Presentation was good, but the taste mediocre. Didn't like the long lines at the buffet, and there are no restaurants on board should you decide you'd like to try something different. For dinner, the dining room looked nice, but the staff serving us was always rushed, and the food was cold when we received it. Better than we expected. Our room was cleaned twice a day. My kids enjoyed the towel animals. This was the only impressive part of the cruise. BORING unless you like Bingo and bean bag tosses. New Year's Eve celebration, which we thought had to make up for the rest of the cruise, was terrible. I would have been happier in my living room watching the New York City ball drop on my TV. Staff was not engaging at all. There was only so much I could take of the pair of break dancers who performed periodically during the cruise. They were good, but once was enough. One singer on board was funny, and he probably was my favorite...not that there was much to choose from. We took a beach excursion in Grand Cayman. They dropped us off at an average beach area off the side of the road. We didn't enjoy it one bit. In Cozumel, we decided to take a cab to a local beach on our own and we had a great time. Disappointing. We haven't had a vacation in 5 years, and we are so regretful that we booked this cruise. For the price we paid due to holiday traveling, we could have found something so much better.

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Dec 5, 2010

Coaumel

Being our first cruise, we were very excited! However- we were disappointed with a couple of things. The deck plan implied 4 pools. In reality, there was ONE small-medium sized pool, with 2 tiny hot tubs near by. There was an "adult only area" with about 25 chairs and 2 tiny hot tubs. Due to the fact people were "holding" chairs for others that were not around- we never could lay in the sun in this area. We had an oceanview stateroom, which

was adequate. Other family members had a suite with a balcony- which was awesome. The food was plentiful and beautiful but mediocre in taste. The service was also mediocre. Because of the language barrier, the wait staff could not understand us and we could not understand them. We saw a comedy show that was great and a dance show that was good. The casino and disco area was the most fun. Our family choose to tour the Mayan ruins, which was relaxing and enjoyable. Our tour guide encouraged us to barter at the shops, which made it fun. Getting on and off the ship was a bit hectic. The passengers disregarded the overhead announcments and the crew did not enforce the plan.

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By Amy_CR

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Sep 20, 2010

Cozumel

This was my first cruise and I really had no idea what to expect. It was a 4-day from Tampa to Cozumel. I thought it was going to be a non-stop party but was sadly mistaken. I went with 3 single girlfriends 28-33 yo. We did it budget style & tried to spend as little $$ as possible (not a mistake I'll make again...). Next time I will definitely save up & be willing to spend a little extra. I felt like there was a lot of downtime. I was often bored

and wished I would have eaten less so I could have spent more time at the beautiful gym (which I didn't check out until the last day). My biggest pet peeve of the cruise was these photographers taking pictures ALL THE TIME! When we asked that they not take our pictures they would be very RUDE...saying things like "you're being lame" & giving us nasty looks. It happened more than once, to the point that I complained to Guest Services. (BTW I did go look at some of the pictures we did allow. To "buy" them they cost more than $20). The food was good. Not exceptional but average good (sorta like the entire cruise). We ate at the buffet for breakfast & lunch and I always found food that was yummy (but also had food that stayed on my plate). The fruit was very fresh! We had "anytime" dining which was great for us because getting 4 women ready by a certain time is almost impossible. We never had to wait to be seated but we did wait for our food (average dinner time was 2 hours). The elegant dinner was fun with lobster & shrimp. Everyone was dressed up so bring some fancy clothes. You can order as many "starters, entrées, & desserts" as you want during dinner. I suggest getting what you want because portions are small & if one is great the other won't be very good. The desert cheese platter was very nice way to end dinner. I'm still confused about why it took so long to bring us our food. (It didn't matter if we all ordered 1 entrée or 3. It still took what seemed to be forever) & why they made such a big deal about tipping the maître'd. They gave us an envelope in our stateroom before the last dinner & kept reminding us to tip. The maître'd never did anything for us & we never saw him. I would rather have tipped our wait staff to be a little more diligent. (They already took an automatic $40 from each of us for tips so I just tipped when I asked for extras.) BTW- there was a $10 "corking fee" to bring wine into dinner. We did it on the elegant dinner night. But on other nights, we had before dinner drinks and then asked the bartender for 4 wine glasses & opened our bottle of wine poured glasses and brought them into dinner with us. Like I said earlier we went BUDGET! $250 per person for a 4-day cruise. One of the other girls booked it so I didn't realize all 4 of us were staying in one room the size of my bathroom. This was TOTAL HELL for me (who has lived alone in a 3 bd/2 1/2 bath home for the last 10 yrs). The room was spotless when we arrived A LOT less than that by the time we left. There were 2 single beds on the floor then the steward would come & "unlock" 2 bunk beds from the wall at night. Suitcases fit under the bed & there was room to hang dresses & unpack a little in drawers. We asked him to bring extra ice buckets & keep them filled but he never did. One ice bucket was filled x2 a day. Everything in the room was for 2 people & we had to ask for extra glasses (they never came) & towels. I think our problem was that our steward didn't speak English. Also, room service was difficult. Every time I called they told me I called the wrong # & when I found the right one I couldn't understand them. They always made cute animals out of towels which made us all smile...except on the last day we all were rolling w laughter bc what I think was supposed to be a seal looked like a HUGE vagina. It was hilarious! (yep, our steward earned himself an unexpected tip with that one.) This is a very small boat. There were a lot of things going on, just nothing I really enjoyed. I'm very glad I brought my nook & magazines (& that I liked to eat!). There is only one small pool & you need to get up early to "save" lounge chairs in prime locations. They say you can't "save" chairs but everyone did it & no police. There was loud music & an annoying activities guy (but that was expected). He did scavengers, hairy chest contest, line dancing, bingo (which was an extra cost), trivia, etc. Then around the ship they had things like towel animal class & couples contests. BORING. Karaoke & comedy at night were OK. The last comedian was VERY funny. I tried to go to the Disco or the other little bars but they were very smokey & hot I couldn't breathe. The last day I was going to try out the water slides but they were closed bc it was too windy. (There was also a put put course that was a good time waster.) Don't think you're going to do any shopping bc there are 3 tiny shops: typical souvenirs, over priced jewelry/watches & $10 handbags. Deluxe Snorkel and Beach Party by Fury - http://www.furycozumel.com/ This was AWESOME 3 hour excursion @ great price of $55. They picked us up on a huge catamaran at our cruise doc. They took us out for 45 min snorkel then about an hour 1/2 on a private beach with water trampolines & huge water slides. Pros: Beer, margaritas, water & soda was included (free after snorkel), snorkel gear provided, the private beach was amazing-clean & well kept. Cons: it was too short, they want you to buy pictures (my pet peeve, but the photog looked like a Mexican Johnny Depp/Jack Sparrow LOL)...& Margaritas very week (to make up I probably had a few to many beers...yikes). It also left us plenty of time to enjoy Cozumel in the afternoon. Overall it was a relaxing trip. I spent time working on my tan & reading. At night we tried to drink but since the bars were so smokey & cheesy we usually had drinks outside & went to bed early. We easily smuggled on some booze in water bottles and made our own drinks but only ended up drinking about half of what we brought. The elegant dinner (dressing-up) and the day in Cozumel was the most fun of the trip. Be very careful of all the people in Cozumel. They will take advantage of you. Carlos & Charlie's will come around with shots, balloons, pictures, etc & charge for everything. After doing random shots w a boob juggling cocktail waitress she wanted $28. Then our waiter said he couldn't take a VISA gift card until I argued with him and ran it though the CC machine myself. Then he lied to me about how much the "exchange rate" was.saying my $50 gift card was only worth $40. I was almost to drunk to explain that I put in $50 when I ran it...its good to be able to speak fluent Spanish when in Mexico. Stand your guns when you know you're being taken advantage of...Also barter when buying anything!!

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Aug 25, 2010

cozamel

Great time! this was our first cruise and i went mostly on reviews and pricing, got a great rate for 2 cabins, traveled with my 4 kids and husband so for a family of 6 it was a great value as well. Everyone had a great time and the kids told me time and time again what a great job i did choosing this as our late summer vacation. The kids are 5, 11, 13 and 16 while carnival has all sorts of camps for variouse age groups my kids did not attend because

they were at the top of the age group so they just didnt want to seperate from each other and be the oldest in the catagory. there was still alot for them to do and keep busy. I was looking for clean and well maintained ship, good food ( keep the kids happy too), and fun for all of us....this hit the mark and the service which i wasnt as concerened about was fantastic too. the room steward knew us all by name, had everything and anything we requsted, the wait staff in the formal dinning area also went above and beyond to make you feel like a welcome quest on board. I lost a peice of luggage at the airport and the airline flew it to mexico for us and the cruise line sent someone to the airport in mexico to get it for us while we were out and about exploring. Again I just got the feeling they were willing to go above and beyond to make sure you have a great overall experience! will go again for sure. only downside was the pool, there was only 1 and it was 5 ft deep so no good for little ones and way too crowded, they did have 2 waterslides for the kids but no usable pool was a bit of a disappoinment, my kids spent alot of time in the hot tub because they had no choice. we went from the waterslide to the hot tub and back to the hot tub. I thought the set up was a little odd, waterslides have a wow factor but at the expense of a second pool? Carnival might want to rethink that one and I may choose another ship next time but then again maybe not cuz everything else was PERFECT! great variety, something always open, sit down dinners had a good variety ,pizza, fresh deli sandwich station,burgers hot dogs, chicken tenders mac n cheese, breakfast, lunch and dinner, great variety and alot of good stuff we loved our staeroom, yes it was small but not that bad. CLEAN!!!, brightly lit, plenty of storage, comfy linens, and a nightlty turndown with clean rooms, replenished towels, dim lights and chocolates, fely great returning back when it was time to turn in. The staff is so hardworking never bored, ping pong, mini golf, bingo, great music entertainers all different styles of music, comedians, musical style stage shows really nice not over the top but never bored and always something new to do the following day and or evening not thrilled with the excursions, my husband did the Myan tour he loved it, it was 7 hrs so I thought a bit too long for the kids, i did the jeep tour for 4 it was so so , we just drove around and stopped at a few shopping araes and a little beach for an hour, i would have prefered more time at a beach but the cost of the beach excursion was a little pricey for 4 people it was all inclusive and I really didnt want to pay for an all inclusive day at a beach. Not impressed with the excursions at all. i got the feeling they tried to scare you into doing an excursion for safety reasons which are probably real concerns considering the island but the choices didnt seem great or the prices were too high especially for a family of 6

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Aug 17, 2010

Tampa - Grand Caymen - Cozumel - Tampa

Our family of five had a wonderful vacation along with 4 other family members. The staff was very pleasant. Our waitress for Dinner was the greatest and our waiter for breakfast was VERY entertaining! The main meals were wonderful. The food on the Lido deck left a little to be desired. Even with five in a room, we made it work just fine. All we needed the room for was to sleep. The activities were great, especially for our children and nieces!

LOVED swimming with the sting rays, the dolphins and taking the Atlantis Submarine 106 feet down. We look forward to traveling on Carnival again. Hopefully SOON!

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Mar 22, 2010

Cozumel

THIS CRUISE WAS AMAZING! I dont understand why there are so many negative comments on this site about the inspiration. We embarked smoothly in tampa and were onboard eating lunch, having drinks and enjoying the live band and beautiful weather by noon. I traveled with my parents (45) my brother (17) two of my aunts and one unce (40 and 45) my grandmother (76) and three of my cousins (17, 21 and 12) we all had an amazing time! there is so much to do,

it is impossible to be bored. cozumel was amazing! The food was awesome! we ate in the buffet room for brekfast and lunch and in the formal dining room for dinner. We had the late seating which we enjoyed very much! our waiter was Lucian and he was amazing, very personable. Our assistant waiter was Joseph and he was even better! He knew us all by name and would help us with anything we asked even outside of the dinign room. He always worked the breakfast area when I ate so i made sure to say good morning to him and he went out of his way to help me and make me feel special. The late seating gave us more time to enjoy the daily activities onboard. The food was over all exceptional! My uncle is a food critic and loved every bit of it! There was 24 hour icecream which us kids loved ( and my dad too hah) you will never be hungry onboard a carnival cruise! Our stateroom was very nice and roomy for three people and our stuardist was just as great! he was very attentitave and our room was always in tip top shape with cute towle animals waiting for us. The activities were fabulous! my youngest cousin (12) very much enjoyed the waterslides, where there was never a long line and the arcade. The adults and older kids really loved the bars and casino! we had greatluck too! The shows entertained us all and my grandmother loved the vegas style shows the most. the ladies participated in bingo and tea time every day and loved it! The boys mini golfed, went swimming, played shuffelboard, gambled and played pingpong. my uncle participated in the sexy leg competition and came in a close second! we had so much fun! DO NOT MISS THE FURY CATAMARAN BEACH PARTY AND SNORKEL EXCURSION! It was our favorite part of the cruise by far! We went on a nice fun ride in a large catamaran and then were given snorkeling instructions. We snorkeled for over and hour and saw so many beautiful fish! we then took another short boat ride to fury's private beach where we enjoyed beach hammocks, beach beds, water trampolines, blowup climbing mountains and gorgeous blue waters. On the boat ride back there was lots of fun dancing to the cha cha slide and cupid shuffle! The staff was GREAT! Thank you to Tortuga and Nacho for making a great day! Also there was free beer margaritas bottled water and soda onboard and at the beach! The men loved that! After the excursion we came off board the catamaran and headed in a taxi to Carlos and Charlies for an amazing lunch! The food was great and the entertainment was even better! So much fun! but young children probably wouldnt enjoy for there is lots of drinking and loud music. We had the most fun here! Free shots and beer funnels! Lots of dancing again too! Then we headed upstairs to senor frogs! The same company but this is just a bar! There was tons of drinking games, mucsic and dancing! So much fun! later on we went shopping and got great cheap souviniers! Eight dollars for a giant sombrero! Over all our cruise was fabulous and would do it a million times again!

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Mar 22, 2010

Cozumel

THIS CRUISE WAS AMAZING! I dont understand why there are so many negative comments on this site about the inspiration. We embarked smoothly in tampa and were onboard eating lunch, having drinks and enjoying the live band and beautiful weather by noon. I traveled with my parents (45) my brother (17) two of my aunts and one unce (40 and 45) my grandmother (76) and three of my cousins (17, 21 and 12) we all had an amazing time! there is so much to do,

it is impossible to be bored. cozumel was amazing! The food was awesome! we ate in the buffet room for brekfast and lunch and in the formal dining room for dinner. We had the late seating which we enjoyed very much! our waiter was Lucian and he was amazing, very personable. Our assistant waiter was Joseph and he was even better! He knew us all by name and would help us with anything we asked even outside of the dinign room. He always worked the breakfast area when I ate so i made sure to say good morning to him and he went out of his way to help me and make me feel special. The late seating gave us more time to enjoy the daily activities onboard. The food was over all exceptional! My uncle is a food critic and loved every bit of it! There was 24 hour icecream which us kids loved ( and my dad too hah) you will never be hungry onboard a carnival cruise! Our stateroom was very nice and roomy for three people and our stuardist was just as great! he was very attentitave and our room was always in tip top shape with cute towle animals waiting for us. The activities were fabulous! my youngest cousin (12) very much enjoyed the waterslides, where there was never a long line and the arcade. The adults and older kids really loved the bars and casino! we had greatluck too! The shows entertained us all and my grandmother loved the vegas style shows the most. the ladies participated in bingo and tea time every day and loved it! The boys mini golfed, went swimming, played shuffelboard, gambled and played pingpong. my uncle participated in the sexy leg competition and came in a close second! we had so much fun! DO NOT MISS THE FURY CATAMARAN BEACH PARTY AND SNORKEL EXCURSION! It was our favorite part of the cruise by far! We went on a nice fun ride in a large catamaran and then were given snorkeling instructions. We snorkeled for over and hour and saw so many beautiful fish! we then took another short boat ride to fury's private beach where we enjoyed beach hammocks, beach beds, water trampolines, blowup climbing mountains and gorgeous blue waters. On the boat ride back there was lots of fun dancing to the cha cha slide and cupid shuffle! The staff was GREAT! Thank you to Tortuga and Nacho for making a great day! Also there was free beer margaritas bottled water and soda onboard and at the beach! The men loved that! After the excursion we came off board the catamaran and headed in a taxi to Carlos and Charlies for an amazing lunch! The food was great and the entertainment was even better! So much fun! but young children probably wouldnt enjoy for there is lots of drinking and loud music. We had the most fun here! Free shots and beer funnels! Lots of dancing again too! Then we headed upstairs to senor frogs! The same company but this is just a bar! There was tons of drinking games, mucsic and dancing! So much fun! later on we went shopping and got great cheap souviniers! Eight dollars for a giant sombrero! Over all our cruise was fabulous and would do it a million times again!

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By LEAH_CR

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Feb 20, 2010

WESTERN

We sailed on the Carnival Inspiration 2/13/10. This was the WORST experience we've had in all of our 9 cruises on many different cruise lines. 2 of our party had FOOD POISONING from your dining room on Tuesday night! We booked a penthouse suite U98. Our shower didn't work the whole cruise! It had barely any water pressure and was SCALDING hot, we reported to room attendant many times and called maintenance as well. PENTHOUSE SUITE? NO SHOWER FOR

5 DAYS??? Room attendant did bare minimum AND i MEAN BARE MINIMUM! Bar staff would take our order and at least 30 minutes to bring drinks, could have gone to bar in less time. Where was the security on the ship? Kids running up and down halls EVERY night late at night? Your automatic doors in the Lido deck breezeway to the buffet closed on me the first day on the ship and spilled hot coffee I was carrying all over my clothes and I walked around the whole cruise with a bruised and sore shoulder. Your staff just stared at me and said nothing! COULDN'T CARE LESS YOUR DOORS JUST INJURED A GUEST! We paid $3,134.68 USD for 5 days of terrible service and accommodations and feel really ripped off. That's $626.94 PER DAY! THAT'S $156.74 PER PERSON PER DAY! We have been on nine cruises with RCCL, Norwegian, and Celebrity and this was BY FAR the worst experience we've EVER HAD! I expected some sort of response from you in regard to this but my complaint was taken and I was told I would not hear back from Carnival. No refunds are issued. When I explained I wasn't looking for a refund, just some sort of apology there was silence, followed by "you won't get that"! NEVER AGAIN WITH CARNIVAL! SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR ANOTHER CRUISE LINE! Decent except for our FOOD POISONING! PENTHOUSE SUITE....SHOWER NEVER WORKED! HAD TO SPONGE BATHE FOR 5 DAYS! Decent Stingray city 5 DAYS??? Room attendant did bare minimum AND i MEAN BARE MINIMUM! Bar staff would take our order and at least 30 minutes to bring drinks, could have gone to bar in less time. Where was the security on the ship? Kids running up and down halls EVERY night late at night? Your automatic doors in the Lido deck breezeway to the buffet closed on me the first day on the ship and spilled hot coffee I was carrying all over my clothes and I walked around the whole cruise with a bruised and sore shoulder. Your staff just stared at me and said nothing! COULDN'T CARE LESS YOUR DOORS JUST INJURED A GUEST! We paid $3,134.68 USD for 5 days of terrible service and accommodations and feel really ripped off. That's $626.94 PER DAY! THAT'S $156.74 PER PERSON PER DAY! We have been on nine cruises with RCCL, Norwegian, and Celebrity and this was BY FAR the worst experience we've EVER HAD! I expected some sort of response from you in regard to this but my complaint was taken and I was told I would not hear back from Carnival. No refunds are issued. When I explained I wasn't looking for a refund, just some sort of apology there was silence, followed by "you won't get that"! NEVER AGAIN WITH CARNIVAL! SAVE YOUR MONEY FOR ANOTHER CRUISE LINE!

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By Kim_CR

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Jan 5, 2010

Western Carribean

My overall FIRST cruise experience to Grand Cayman and Cozumel was great. My family and I have traveled throughout Europe and after being landlocked in Ohio for the last few years we were looking for an enjoyable traveling experience. We were not disappointed. The crew of Carnival Inspiration did a great job taking care us. We all thought the food was very good and commend the Chef, cooks and the staff for doing a good job feeding so many

people at all hours of the day and night. We always found the Lido/Brassiere to be accomodating even late at night and if closed there was always room service. We were satisfied with our stateroom. At times there was a minimal odor in the bathroom and the window wasn't crystal clear. But it is a ship with a couple of thousand people using the bathrooms and it is sailing in the ocean (salt water). My husband and I were only looking for a relaxing atmosphere so were not looking to be entertained at all times. But when we wanted something to do i.e sports trivia for my husband and good live band for me we had no problem. My 17 year old son really enjoyed the O2 Teen lounge and my 20 year old enjoyed the disco. Their only small complaint was that there wasn't much for them to do during the day. A basketball court and bigger swimming pool would have been nice. The hot tubs should be off limits for anyone under the age of 16. They were turned into kiddie pools. We did not participate in the excursions and instead opted to do our own thing upon arrival to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. We found great taxi drivers at reasonable prices. This was our first cruise and we couldn't be happier with our first cruise experience. I traveled with my husband, 17 and 20 year old sons. We all had a great time and are looking forward to our next cruise. I have read some of the previous reviews and I am shocked at what some have to say. I feel the crew did an outstanding job making sure we were happy and satisfied. It could help that we treat people equally and the way we wish to be treated and don't look at anyone as second class citizens. Yes there were a few intoxicated people like there are at any bar in the world but I never witnessed a large amount of drunk people. We also experienced a delay boarding in Tampa but took it in stride because in life things happen. We didn't hold it against the Cruise line or its crew. The food on board wasn't great but for the amount of food having to be prepared everyday it was very good. The port of calls were very satisfactory and we had enough time to sightsee and experience Grand Cayman and Cozumel.

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Jan 3, 2010

Western Caribbean

Between Carnival and NCL, this was our 6th cruise, and I would rank it in 6th place. There were several areas on the ship that were less than clean, people were smoking in non-smoking sections, and while our room steward was exceptional, we noted many of the staff seemed pretty burned out and less than patient. It was the holidays, so it could be they were just worn out from waiting on hordes of maybe not so polite ( or not so sober) 'guests'.

I can easily see how this can happen, as we noticed several guests who were difficult, pushy, loud, entitled and ungracious. I can see how the staff might get tired and worn. Embarkation was very easy, except for 'Edwin' at the top of the terminal escalator, who we noticed was very rude to, and impatient with several people, who were either slow because of disability or because they were herding children. Leaving the ship was fairly easy as well, however our travel agent had told us we wouldn't need transfers for the bus, because our names were on the manifest. The bus folks almost refused to let us ride without printed off transfers. I noticed other folks also had the same issue. The food was acceptable, but presentation, selection and taste were down several notches from past experience. I could be wrong, but it seems the quality of cruise food and service has dropped considerably in the last decade. I'm sure the industry is doing what they can to cut corners. Staff morale probably suffers from it as well. We also missed the old style dining entertainment, when the waiters, one night of the cruise, would sing and dance with the diners. I do, however, imagine they have plenty enough to do without having to perform too. We all found the Maitre D to be somewhat annoying and way too loud. All the waiters we had were delightful. ( We had the freestyle dining option) We had three staterooms in our group, two interior, one exterior. We booked several months in advance. We had hoped for two adjoining rooms, plus another - but adjoining room options were sold out. We had hoped for at least one balcony room, but they were also sold out ( not many available on this cruise ship, so book well in advance if you want a balcony), We did cruise the week after Christmas, so it was prime time, and staterooms probably book up quickly for this time frame. With that in mind, we were grateful to have gotten three rooms close to each other. One of the three rooms needed to accommodate three people. Instead of three comfortable beds, there were two comfortable beds and a cot, with a very poor mattress. Our room steward, 'Nyoman' was very gracious, handled all three of our rooms, and did an incredible job. The window ( exterior portion) in our one exterior room was very dirty. We noticed many of the windows on the ship were the same. My understanding was there would be hair dryers, but there were none in our staterooms. Also, while there is liquid soap in a dispenser in the showers, there was no shampoo, lotion, cream rinse, or shower cap. Usual cruise activities, fine for families. There were some very talented folks in the shows in the main theater. The lounge chairs at the pool book up early in the day. Apparently most folks feel it's fine to put a T-shirt over the back of a chair and claim it for the entire day, whether they are sitting in the chair or not. I finally asked a pool attendant about this, and he said if a chair is vacant for more than 30 minutes, you can rightfully take it, whether there is someone's book, t-shirt, flip flops ( or whatever) on it or not. (You still have to somehow negotiate with the person when they come back, however. ) The dolphin trainer excursion on Cozumel - very expensive - interesting, but not sure I'd recommend it unless you're gaga over dolphins, because it's not a good value for the price. If you still decide to go anyway, take your own snorkel gear if you have it, as what is provided is poor quality and very leaky. Stingray city, in Grand Cayman was total chaos. We'd done this 15 years ago, and it was much more enjoyable then - probably because they limited the number of people there at a time. This time there were literally hundreds of people in the water with the waves ( high that day) battering us all about. It was like being in a washing machine with hundreds of people ...and stingrays. The snorkeling included with our shore excursions was poor to fair. One word of advice for the shore excursions...be careful on the stairs as you exit the ship to the tenders or the pier.....it is literally shoulder to shoulder pushing and shoving. One person in our party uses a cane...and it was unnerving helping him down the stairs amid that kind of a crowd. I haven't cruised in a few years, so it may just be that the entire cruising industry has been scaled down to cut costs. We took this cruise because we had seven people to pay for, and it was the most affordable cruise we could find the week after Christmas. For seven people, ( one disabled adult, four teens and two adults ) with air and excursions, tips and cruise, it came to about $14,000 for 5 days. I'm fairly certain we could have done better to book our own air, rent a house on a beach, cook some meals, eaten out some, and planned our own excursions. All this said, I think this cruise would be fine for first time cruisers, who don't have anything else to compare it to.

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Dec 25, 2009

Tampa - Coz - Gr Cayman - Tampa

For reference, I'm a 53 y/o health-care exec who had never cruised before, and wanted a medium length cruise for starters. The 5-day Tampa itinerary was perfect for us, and the sole reason we chose the Carnival Inspiration. Now for the things I wish I'd known: 1) Carnival has absolutely no contingency plans for bad weather. The ship's arrival was delayed ~6 hours, and 2,000 people were sent to "find something to do" until the ship arrived. A generous

$15 credit {sarcasm} was added to each person's bill to cover the $50 spent on two meals (if you could find an open restaurant) and entertainment during the 6+ hours in Tampa. Thankfully, the weather cooperated. 2) This ship is certainly not the one on which the brochure, and marketing video were made, and is also not a ship for discriminating cruisers. If you're offended by smokers, people of different races, disabilities, languages, sizes, cultures, this is not the cruise for you. It reminded me more of a tail-gate party outside a football stadium. Routinely, folks would light up in non-smoking areas, blow smoke any which way, and dump butts indiscriminately. Folks who'd eaten themselves into a disabled condition would blow their scooter horns to get to the front of the buffet line. Despite the crew's efforts, garbage was simply dropped every and anywhere, and those who don't hold their liquor well were always around to remind you that the drinking age should be around 50. 3) Carnival has no contingency plans made for itinerary changes. Due to the late start, the ports of call, and time off ship were altered. Most pre-booked excursions went off without a hitch, but when folks returned famished to the ship a couple of hours off schedule, the buffet was already closed!? Evidently no one told the dining staff. 4) Most of the employees are indentured servants who've signed a 6-10 month contract. They do one heck of a job, but you can't help feel badly when drunk, spoiled Americans (see #2) constantly berate and demand more from them with very little gratitude. But anything must be better than dumpster diving in Manila or selling one's self in Thailand {sarcasm} 5) The shows are entertaining, and if you're not amused, the cruise directors are there to constantly remind you that you indeed are "having a great time." 6) I'm a very light sleeper, so the rocking and rolling of the ship kept awakening me. If that didn't do the trick, the sound from the late shows at the Paris Lounge, or the drunks returning from where-ever would suffice to keep me awake. 7) Drinks are the real money-maker on this ship. The only freebies were tea and lemonade, and those machines were routinely empty or out of order. To amend, every 3 to 4 minutes, a wait staff would attempt to sell you some type of non-free drink, even if you'd told them "no" the first 30 times they asked. If you bought alcohol off-ship, they'd confiscate it on your return, promising to "safe keep" it for you until debarkation. 8) There is no way to adjust the temperature in the cabins. The only option was to adjust the opening of the A/C vent. 9) For a person who doesn't drink, gamble, sit in the sun or eat until I barf, the selection of activities was pretty meager. The only TV channels were from Denver!? so I became a fan of the map channel and became an expert at tracking the ship's position, speed and heading. 10) Again, (see #1) Carnival has no contingency plans for bad weather, and the debarkation process was a cluster-****. High winds kept us doing figure-eights in the Caribbean (compliments of the map channel) for 3 extra hours. We were promised that passengers with travel "issues" would be the first to disembark, but were not. I explained our flight dilemma to the 'guard' and was told you'll have no problem making your flight. As soon as the ship touched the dock, and the 3 missing non-US citizens were found, delaying the process another hour (perhaps announcements in their native languages would have helped), VIP passengers were allowed to disembark. Mass mayhem then ensued on the levels surrounding the gangway; no one from Carnival did a thing or said a word. We (of course) missed our flight home, but did catch a later flight. The later connection flight was booked solid, so we ended up renting a car and driving 7.5 hours from Detroit to our home in Upstate NY through a snow storm. Good times! Did I enjoy myself? Absolutely. Would I go again? Absolutely not. The niceties. Food was good, not great, desserts {with the exception of the chocolate melting cake) were all pre-processed hospital-ish cafeteria fare and quite disappointing, but the service is outstanding.

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By John_CR

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Aug 17, 2009

western caribbean

This cruise was lacking in all areas and compared poorly to all the other cruises we have taken. The dinning room dinners were fantastic. The buffet was not so good. The breakfast buffet was worse than mess-hall food. Very greasy food with no flavor. The room was very good and I have no complaints. It was kept clean and well serviced. However, the outside windows weren't very clean and we had to stare through crude and smudge. The activities

department was no where to be seen on this cruise. There were way too few! This was our biggest dissapointment. The excursions are numerous and don't have to be expensive. You don't need to book through carnival no matter what threats they give you about leaving you behind if you are late. All they excusions will make sure you are back on time. Carnival has nothing to do with the excursions and the credits belong to the excursion runners themselves. My wife and I have taken many cruises and this was our second cruise on Ispiration only this time we brought our two kids along. We did so because the last Inspiration cruise was so family oriented that we thought the kids would enjoy it. They did enjoy the cruise, however my wife and I were very dissapionted. This cruise did nothing compared to one prior to entertain. The entertainment was poor. The comedian who did two shows could not be funny without being nasty. The small pool was overloaded most of the time and when my wife and I, after putting the kids to bed, wanted to head to the Lido deck for an outdoor cocktail, learned that the bar was closed. The drinks were overpriced and under-boozed. It felt like this entire cruise was dedicated to moving cash from our bank account to theirs. I don't mind paying $10 for a weak syrupy drink as long as I get some good entertainment with it. The bands on the Lido deck were second rate if that. They played very little dance music, no Rock n' Roll, and I wondered if the band members enjoyed what they were doing. They really didn't have any shows to speak of that you could call shows. I have to wonder what happened! The eagerness to entertain like this ship did 2 years ago was gone and everthing on board cost twice as much. The photos they take and post for purchaces cost way too much. So over priced that it was obvious nobody was buying the photos. Somethings have got to change to get me to return. I'm going to look to other lines for my next cruise. Did I enjoy my trip? Yes I did and there is a lot that Carnival did right, but I think they really blew it when it came to entertainment and activities. I also feel insulted with the $8 to $10 dollar drinks that were lacking the most important ingredient.

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Aug 10, 2009

Cozumel

I just returned from sailing on the Inspiration with my son with mixed feelings. I agree that this vessel is for the economy crowd, which was what I was looking for this time. As for the kids, families need vacation time too so I would suggest that folks that don't enjoy the younger ones, choose to cruise when the kids are in school. I did not notice a particularly large group of intoxicated folks, there were a few, but they weren't obnoxious. The

kids were 'kids.' The staff does try very hard to make your vacation enjoyable, and my heart breaks for them as they work such long hours. I was most disappointed with the food overall. I have been on another Carnival ship and although the food wasn't gourmet, it was enjoyable. I felt the food didn't qualify for a 'Golden Corral' rating this time around. Most of it was overdone and the appearance as well as the taste lacked. The dining room staff for the most part appeared weary. Not so much the waiters, but the ones who seat you. We booked late so had no choice in the late seating. It took so long to get served, we didn't return after the first night. The deli did make a decent sandwhich. My son had pizza several times, but it didn't appeal to me. We ate dinners on the Lido deck. For this reason, I am not sure I would sail on the Inspiration again. I just hope not all of Carnival's ships have gone downhill with the meals. The food to me was more about quantity, not quality. I guess it saved me a few pounds. ;) I was assigned an upper deck outside cabin which I thought was fantastic! There was a pretty, roomy, nice size bathroom. The TV was great and the layout of the twins was perfect for us. There was no mini fridge, but the steward was excellent on maintaining the room. We had a bucket of ice with 6 choices of soda, and a large bottle of water. The shows were a bit cheesy but we were entertained. I feel the Spa is very overpriced even with the specials they offer. I booked a special and won't do it again. There's a bit of pressure to buy products that are very expensive. The exercise equipement was great! Around 6 treadmills, and 5 ellipticals, plus weights and a couple bikes. The pool was swamped with people and if you don't get there early, you won't have a place to sit/lay. Even the whirpool was loaded with bodies. There appeared enough to keep folks busy. We enjoyed the comedy shows, adult entertainment. I seemed to miss the opening of the library as it's only open for select hours, so read the daily schedule. There are board games in the library too. I thought the price for wi-fi was on the high side so didn't use it. We didn't book any shore tours but opted to take a taxi to downtown Cozumel. I'm not sure it was worth it. It was $7 each way. My son and I ate at the pier at 'The Three Amigos'. We had 2 fancy tropical drinks (large), nachos, and chimichangas and the bill came to $70. Pricey but the food was excellent. To sum it up, we had a fun time and I don't regret sailing on the Inspiration. We used 'self-assist' to disembark which was great! We took our own luggage off and sailed through customs.

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Aug 5, 2009

grand cayman

Cruises are always fun unless you just want to sap your own enjoyment from yourself. I have found this cruise as well as others to always do their best to treat you well. I read some of the other reviews and wonder why some even bothered with a cruise in the first place. Some griped about intoxicated people and catagorized Inspiration "For the Beginner Cruiser" Well, excuse me Cruise snobs, but Inspiration is a family cruise and if you don't have

kids, you should find one for adults only. I never saw what that reviewer claimed as "nothing but intoxicated people". I have found Inspiration's staff to be very good at pleasing. They really work hard. The food is pretty good for mass serving. I saw one review compare it to Golden Corral. I found it to be much better than Golden Coral. Dinning is always fun on a cruise, and again! for all you cruise snobs out there who complain about the kids in the dinning room, find a cruise that is NOT a family cruise. The room was small! But I have had smaller ones on other ships. It was very clean though. Every once in a while you get this wif of sewer smell coming from the bathroom, but you call the your room attendant and they will have it fixed quickly. The on board activities are plentiful, however, some were a little corny; but each to his own. But it's good to see them work so hard to keep everyone entertained. I saw some people complain about every little thing they could think. People like that will never have a good time. The only thing I will say about this ship is the noise levels from the band at the pool deck is too high. They could quiet down some and people will enjoy it more. I went to the dolphin interaction in Cozumel and it was very nice to see the dolphins up close and personnel but there were so many people that the dolphins were trapped in the middle of them and I don't believe they enjoy that. Just a grand old time!

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May 19, 2009

Tampa to Grand Cayman to Tampa

We cruise a lot, and find Carnival to be more for beginner cruisers or someone who is just a party animal. We saw SO many intoxicated people, it was amazing. It was apparent that many of the people don't appreciate fine dining and it's atmosphere. They seemed like they would have been better off drinking, partying and throwing their food in the more casual dining area. Don't misunderstand; we LOVE a good time, but with a touch of class added!

The food was good. The melting chocolate cake is amazing!!! They gave out the recipe! Requested table for six and was placed at table for ten. Wait staff in dining room seemed to rush dinner as much as possible, even at late dining. VERY disappointed that they did NOT encourage hand cleansing. The stations were available, but NOT encouraged. Royal Caribbean has the hand cleaning stations front and center with someone there encouraging you to clean your hands. The last thing you want to be is sick on your vacation! Booked one queen bed and got a twin bed & a BUNK bed!!! :( Room set up terrible. End of bed wasn't three feet from the door! People going crazy in the halls at all hours of the night. MANY people complaining about that. Security didn't resolve the problem. Good-fun! Ship wreck and snorkel excursion were very good. The people who ran the boat were extremely nice and very helpful. They clearly wanted us to have a great time, which we did!

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Apr 5, 2009

Grand Caymen and Cozumel

Overall, it was a very nice cruise. We had the Owner's Suite that we won in a charity auction. It was a huge (1100sq ft) cabin located in Deck 12. The only bad part was that the jogging track was above us and we heard the early morning joggers. The food was decent, but nothing to write home about. I had omelets in the morning, but they were not very good. The main fare in the dining room was good. We were treated like royalty in the Owner's

Suite. We made a U-tube video of the room. Check it out under Carnival Inspiration. We enjoyed the comedians. We didn't see any singers. The guest talent show was very good too. Don't rent a jeep in Cozumel. It cost $60 and it was a piece of junk! Overall, it was nice. I'd do it again!

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Oct 25, 2008

Western Caribbean

Everything went very well until disembarkation.....we decided to leave ship with baggage since flight was early. Were told to go to Empress Deck. Went there when told. Told to go to back of ship and wait in a line that wrapped around a row of cabins. We could not see the foyer of this level since we were waiting down a hallway. Once we made our way around the hallway after about an hour waiting in line we saw what was happening. The ones leaving

much later were coming from down below and up above and were getting directly off the ship while we had been waiting for some time. It was the worst experience I have ever had leaving any type of venue. As well as other things are planned on the ship it does look like they could come up with a better way for this to take place. I believe I could do better at that! Open seating was great. Dining room experience was sometimes "mystery food." Wish we had more time on Grand Cayman. Cozumel was a very depressed area.

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Oct 25, 2008

Grand Cayman - Cozumel

Overview Carnival Cruise Lines is on a par with Royal Caribbean (RC) in many respects, comparing ship to ship similarities in same class. However, Carnival Cruise Lines has the best Dance shows I have ever seen on a Cruise ship, and they give you bathrobes for free, a feature reserved for gold class cruisers at RC. The buffet on RC is far superior to Carnival; the Main Dining is on par. The 24 hour Pizza is better on Carnival. There are more

activities and dance opportunities on RC compared to Carnival. There are more shore excursions offered by Carnival than RC offers. As far as a fun ship, there are no differences. The same Big Belly contests, Men's leg contest, Karaoke, etc. Time in Port is longer with RC than Carnival. Port facilities are nicer and cleaner with RC, and parking is a bit cheaper with RC than Carnival. All in all, it was a nice trip, I enjoyed most of the cruise, and I learned a few things. So no matter who you choose to go with, there ain't nothing perfect, so just go out there and experience it yourself. The information I offer you here is what happened to me. You may have a completely different experience. Use what you need from this article and go forth and cruise! It's still the best bargain around for a vacation. Dining The two Main dining areas are on par with other cruise lines in this class of ship. They also have the Brasserie Grill, which operates most of the time, and is their version of a buffet, although with limited choices compared to other class ships of this size, .and a Pizza counter, which operates 24 hours. From time to time, there are other areas open for free food, such as a sushi counter, but hours are very limited. In the Main Dining Rooms, the food is good. Don't expect 5 star meals, but expect more than McDonalds, somewhere in the area of Macaroni Grill or Carrabbas. Are you going to find some tasteless food? Yes, Can you get another Entree? Most definitely. I found the food quite palatable, and only experienced disappointment on a few occasions. There are ample choices on the menu. And remember, you can have as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you can eat, every meal. Since their shrimp cocktail appetizer consisted of only four shrimp, I always ordered 2 or 3 of them. One day I was pleasantly surprised at lunch in the dining area when I ordered the Sirloin Steak Salad. This was, in my opinion, one of the highlights of the culinary part of this voyage, and I would rate this as 5 Star. Formal night was also Lobster night, and the staff was more than willing to supply us with as many lobsters as we could eat, bringing extra plates of lobster and just putting them on the table. So I had 3. The food in the Main dining area was far superior to the Brasserie fare, so I ate every meal but two in the Main Dining room, breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. On Board Despite having booked a dinner time of 6:00 pm months before, we received our Cruise card and it had 8:15 seating on it. I complained immediately, and she assured me that I should go on board and see the Maitre D of the restaurant and he would help me. I did just that, but he would not change the seating until the next day, so we were lied to by Carnival, who had no right to move or change the booking without our prior permission. Apparently, from speaking with other guests, this happened to many of them, so beware that Carnival will randomly bump you to wherever they feel like it for dinner, no matter what your booking agent says. The room was an inside cabin on Floor 11. It was larger than most I have had; the room had no odor and a very clean bathroom. The soap was large and very fragrant, better than other ships I have been on. There were free razors and toothpaste. There were free bathrobes, something you only get with priority membership on other cruise lines. The flat screen TV was hard to get used to, as it was mounted facing the other corner of the room, at a level of about 4.5 feet, and as you may be aware, some flat screen TVs fade out if you don't sit directly in front of the screen, so the whole trip, when I needed to see the TV clearly, I had to stand up. Watching it from the bed was an exercise in frustration. The wall mounted telephone posed some problems, as it was located in an area where you would hit it with your elbow whenever you needed to use the desk or mirror, and this needs to be moved to a less well-traveled area of the wall and mounted higher, as well. I tried to use the wake-up call button, and it connected me with another passenger's room. One of the two elevators in the main Centrum was inoperative and blocked off, however, I saw no maintenance people trying to repair it during the entire trip, which makes me nervous, since any company that will let a major item like one of it's central elevators and showpieces go without repair must certainly must be skimping on other minor and possibly major repairs in other parts of the ship. When the ship made it out past the shallows and made a turn to the south, the ship heeled over almost 20 degrees, sending people into walls and losing their balance. I guess it may have been too shallow to deploy the stabilizer wings, but it was a surprise which I have never experienced on any cruise other than this one. Generally speaking, we had waves of approx. 6-8 feet out in the Gulf most days and larger waves on day two, making the nights interesting and the walking sometimes difficult throughout the cruise. Unlike Royal Caribbean Cruise line, this Carnival ship had restaurants, lounges, pools, spas and activities all confined to three decks. Activities One of the first things I noticed when I got on board, contrary to previous cruises, was a lot of people drinking alcohol. Straight from the time they boarded the ship, and throughout the cruise, there was more of this activity than on other ships I have been aboard. Although there were two lounges with dance music, the first night, everyone left the two clubs by 1:00 am and they shut down. After that, from the 2nd night, there was only one club playing dance music. The problem here was that the DJ was a black DJ. There was a party of black people on board, they found the dance club, and once he started playing hip hop and black Dance music, nothing else was ever played. Since I am white but still enjoy dancing, I found this most offensive and prejudiced. I saw 27 white couples walk in and leave because of the type of music he was playing. Note to Carnival Cruise Lines: The majority of your passengers are white, middle-aged and like to dance to the music they grew up with. They are also the ones who buy the most drinks and spend the most money on your ships. I strongly suggest you make a music play list and insist that this DJ stick to it. I was very offended, as apparently the couples who left were, as well. The Shout show was a fabulous and well done production. Fast paced and full of music and excellent dancing, highlighted by the Beach Boys segment of the production, which had positively the best costumes. A few nights later, there was another show; this was by far the best production I have ever seen on any cruise. I don't remember who choreographed or produced this, but they are ranking themselves in the Las Vegas level of production. The costumes were fantastic, the music was great and there were a lot of costume changes and numbers. The dancers were excellent and the female dancers all were beautiful and very sexy, the costumes are Las Vegas quality and it shows. Don't miss this show. The comedians were mediocre on the occasions they offered shows. Grand Cayman Most of the Caribbean Cruise line destination ports are becoming a strip mall. Since 95% of the income derived in the ports are from cruise ship tourists, shops and buildings are all starting to look exactly the same, no matter what port you are in. You can pretty much buy the same hats, jewelry and artifacts at every port you stop at. To find local traditional things, you must look hard. If you have come to see a quaint local village with some local flavor, Grand Cayman is about as far removed from that as you can imagine. As with any of the cruise line destination ports, more and more are being controlled by local authorities as to the pricing of Taxis and tour vans. Some are almost monopolistic, allowing only the taxi companies which they control to pick up at the docks. You can find local taxis and transport, but you have to walk several blocks away from the port area. Another slick trick that the transports use is to charge you one price to take you to a destination, then, when you are ready to leave, they charge you more to get you back to the docks, knowing they have you in a time squeeze. Despite rumors, other than the famed Stingray City, there is little to see or do in Grand Cayman other than shop at overpriced shops near the docks. If you don't want to do that, go over to 7 mile beach and lie in the sun and enjoy some quality relaxing, just remember that beach lounges are $10 and Towels are $5, so bring your cabin towel with you and save some cash. Off dock, I grabbed a tour of the island for $15 and was stuffed into a cramped mini van with seats so tight your knees were in the back of the tourist in front of you. The tour took all of 30 minutes driving, but they stopped at Hell, whose claim to fame is an old store which has it's own postmark, so you can send people you know a postcard from Hell, and out back, a large field of Lava which has been worn down into sharp ridges by rain action for centuries, and it looks pretty scary, I would not want to have to try to walk through the area. We stopped at the Turtle Farm, but you can't go inside without paying $55, so for 25 minutes, we all sat around outside the Turtle Farm and waited for the minivan to come get us. We stopped at the Rum Factory, where you cannot see the process, you can only shop at the Factory Store and buy overpriced Rum or Rum cake. The only good thing about this was they were giving away shots of the different types of Rum they made there, so with a little luck and a swift hand, you can be on the way to a nice buzz by the time you get back on the bus. I got off the bus at one of the beaches along 7 mile beach. They had chairs and towels for rent, you could change in the restroom, and there were freshwater showers outside the restroom area. The locals running the place had that same old "here come some more dumb tourists" looks on their faces when we asked about their operation. Some people say the locals are friendly, My take is that they don't give a damn, they just would rather have you stop by and drop off your money, then leave, the less hassles, the better. If I ever have to go back to Grand Cayman again, I'm staying on the boat. Besides, they only give you a few hours in port. Cozumel and Playa del Carmen, Mexico We had arranged the Caverns by Jeep tour on board the ship previously, which takes about 7 hours. This was absolutely worth the money. However, due to the tour length, there was no stopping in Cozumel; we had to immediately load up on the Ferry to the mainland, which is the port of Playa Del Carmen. The waves were running about 6 to 8 feet when we left the island, and on the 45 minute ride, the boat sometimes pitched to almost 45 degrees. About 50% of the people had to use the sick bags they were handing out. Once we reached the Mainland, we met our tour guides, Rubin and Manuel, who took charge and explained everything to our group prior to us starting. You will need to have at least one person in four who can drive a stick shift, as the jeeps are stick shift only. After the customary signing of the vehicle liability agreement (make sure you note any damage to the vehicle on this form, and there is considerable damage on some of these babies) I even video taped the outside of my jeep to have a record of the pre-existing damage. Once everyone has a seat, you crank up and head through town, for a short but bumpy, ride to the Caverns. The caverns are considered sacred ground by the Mayan Indians, who still live in the area. The tour guides show you where to change your clothes into your swimsuit or wetsuit, (use a shorty, if you have one) There are lockers available if you don't want to drag all of your belongings into the cavern, I suggest you leave your purses, dry clothes, etc. in one of these lockers. The tour guides give you a break about half-way down the trail to the caverns, where they talk about the ecology of the cavern system and the natural surroundings, also proper etiquette inside the caverns. They provide you with free soda or water during this stop. You can rent dive masks and snorkels from a vendor if you want for $8. I brought my own. They issue hard hats for the low ceilings (you will need them) and give you a life vest if you do not have a wetsuit. Once you reach the entrance, a low wooden bridge starts and soon goes underwater. The ceiling gets very low, just above the handrails of the bridge for a good way. I hit my helmet several times during this part of the trip, and I was glad I had it on my head. Once you come out into the Main cavern, there are seats and a place to drop off any gear you didn't leave above ground. The area is lighted by underwater lights and ceiling lamps, so there is plenty of visibility. Everyone gets in the water and starts exploring the cavern. The guides get in with you and point out interesting things. After about 30 to 40 minutes, you rewind back to the entrance and get back into your dry clothes for the next phase of the trip, which is to jeep over to a local beach and an authentic Mexican buffet. The trip is great, with plenty of bumps and hazards on the way. The beach was isolated, but there was a large pavilion and kitchen, and thatched roof tables along the beach, changing areas and fresh water showers, the Gulf water was beautiful and green, the air was the perfect temperature, and there was free food and sodas, all you wanted. After about 1 and ½ hours of eating and relaxing, and some swimming, we loaded up and went back to town. The tour guides said to follow them back to the port and they would give us our ferry tickets back to Cozumel. They warned us about stray tourists being dragged into improper liaisons with the local girls. On the way back, walking through town, I could see what he was talking about. I was thinking to myself, if I was only 30 years younger and single, I could really have some fun here. On the ferry back to Cozumel, there are some jewelry sellers hawking local silver. Let me give you the low-down. My wife saw a piece she liked. He said it was $65. My wife was not that interested, but he said what will you give me for this? So she said $15. He said he couldn't possibly take so little for this. He went around and hawked everyone on board. About 5 minutes before we docked, he came back and she got the piece for $20. We only had 15 minutes to make it from the ferry dock to the ship, but we managed to swiftly walk through the shops by the dock and found a liquor store where we picked up two of our favorite brand for half the cost of US prices and $3 less than what we could buy on board the ship. So Cozumel is definitely a better bargain. I spoke with Rubin, who said that if you only walked about three to five blocks away from the port area of Playa del Carmen, you can buy name brand alcohol at 40% of US prices, so use this information when you are in port. Carnival Inspiration 5 Day Trip to Grand Cayman and Cozumel, Mexico 10/25/08 Pre-Voyage note: If you are a big soda drinker, consider bringing your own soda in your luggage, as soda on board and in ports, generally run about $2.00 per can. You can purchase a soda card on board the ship, but this does not cover sodas in ports. Port of Tampa First time cruisers and those new to the Port of Tampa, the port facility is not well marked. I had to drive around several times in view of the ship before I found the area to drive in and drop off your luggage. It is located on the round a bout next to the ship and next to the Florida Aquarium. There is no sign saying Cruise Ship Drop Off, you just have to guess where to turn. Look for the Security guards standing next to the pylons, and pull in there. You have two choices as you drop off your luggage and passengers at the terminal. One is to drop off your luggage with the attendant, who provides you with tags to fill out, so memorize your room number before you get to the port, or have it written down where you can easily access it. Pay the attendant the customary $5.00 tip and take your car across the street and park it in the multi-level garage. ($70.00 for 5 days), or choice number two is to drop off your luggage with the attendant, he will give you the same tags to fill out, and take your luggage, however, now you are approached by another gentleman, who is the Valet parking guy. For a tip, ($3.00 to $5.00) he will Valet Park your car. He directs you to a desk where you purchase the special valet parking deal (for $85.00), which means that you do not have to drive across the street and negotiate with the parking attendant and rejoin your group at the terminal, they will park your car for you, you get a stamped receipt and when you disembark at the end of the trip, you go across the street, dragging your luggage, an attendant takes your ticket and brings your car to you. So for $18.00 more, you have a few less worries. Don't expect a no hassle check-in, the security check point was jammed and slow. The Port facility is old and it shows. I asked the attendant who checked us in if there was a better time to check in, she said before 12:00 pm and after 2:30 pm.

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Oct 23, 2006

Grand Cayman - Cozumel

Embarkation We arrived around 11:30, and from the time we left our bags at the curb with the porters it was less than an hour until we were sitting on the Lido Deck relaxing. I was surprised, as we had a party of six. Myself, my husband, my stepmother, and my three kids, ages 15, 14, and 9. The process went amazingly fast. We hung out on the Lido, the kids went off to check out the ship, and before we knew it, it was time to head

to our staterooms. They were as expected, this being my husband and my 3rd Carnival Cruise. It was the first time for the kids, and for my stepmother. It did get a little cramped in the cabin with four. The kids, and my stepmother, were greatly impressed with the size, appearance, and cleanliness of the ship as they boarded. It’s lots of fun to watch first time cruisers faces! Food The food was exactly what we were accustomed to. The buffet is always plentiful, the food is what I would consider to be ‘okay’ and the lines were reasonable. The kids *loved* the pizza bar, and hubby discovered a sandwich station that he became a big fan of. The formal dining room was always enjoyable. Our server, Carol, was amazing. We were fortunate to have a table for six, without being seated with any other cruisers. Quite frankly, being seated with strangers is just not my thing. Certainly not with three children. We enjoyed mealtimes as time to catch up on each others day and activities, and it was nice having that time alone, as a family. We never wanted for anything in the main dining room, and enjoyed the meals there a great deal. Hubby adored the sushi bar. I found the coffee place, which I’d enjoyed on a past cruise on the Imagination. I don’t go there for the coffee, I go for the chocolate covered strawberries and fruit cups. These are not free, but are insanely reasonably priced for a cruise ship. 3 Dollars for 5 chocolate covered strawberries, and 2 for a fruit cup. When you see these items, you will realize how cheap they are. Activities I do love to wander the ship, relax on the Lido deck, and take in the shows. I spent much of my time, as did my stepmother, doing just that. We relaxed on the deck while my 9 year old enjoyed the water slide and pool (this was a HUGE hit with him). Hubby enjoys the casino, and we’ve always enjoyed the casino staff. This cruise was no exception. There was always plenty to do! Camp Carnival This was the most surprising part of our trip. My nine year old son is still in that ‘I am a superhero’ phase of his life. I truly had fears that he would dive off the ship. If you met him, you would understand. Therefore, I really put no attention to information about Camp Carnival prior to this sailing, as I was certain I would not be able to let him leave my sight. He requested that we go to the meeting about it, and so, we did. The staff impressed me enough to convince me to allow him to attend for some afternoon activities. I’m so thankful I did. I got the impression, from EVERY Camp Carnival staff member that I encountered, that they loved children, and adored their jobs. My son NEVER felt as if he was ‘being babysat’. The activities were exactly what kids that age would want to be doing. Youth Camp Carnival (under 14, I think) is free all day, till 10 PM. After 10 PM, it becomes more a babysitting service, and there is a fee. I did not go on this trip with my kids to leave them with sitters, I went to experience it with them. However, my son BEGGED to go to ‘Freaky Fright Night’ which ran from 10PM to 3:30AM one evening. The cost was $26, which isn’t unreasonable. We allowed him to go, and as I roamed the ship in the evening, I popped in to check on him and see what he was doing. I caught him once playing a ‘Survivor/Fear Factor’ type game, lying on the floor in the middle of the pizza area with all the other boys, ice on his forehead and belly button. Then, I caught him near the ice cream bar, with his face (and all the other kids faces) buried in a bowl of ice cream, unable to use his hands, slurping as if his life depended on it. He promptly licked the bowl clean, put it upside down on his head, and recited ‘Iggy Wiggy, I’m a Piggy’. He then received a medal for winning! They were constantly in motion, and the kids were ALL having a great time. At 3:30AM (We’d left his room key with the counselors) they dropped him at the room, and he crawled into bed. My older two went into the 15-17 year old group, and they too had a BLAST. Scavenger hunts with hilarious items (a man wearing lipstick, which another cruiser kindly obliged), karaoke, parties, dancing, eating, shows, movies, and just plain ole hanging. The activities were not deemed ‘dumb’, and I saw very little of the older two. I cannot, cannot say enough about Camp Carnival. They impressed me a great deal. General Really, the only negative part of this cruise for us, was our room steward (highly unusual from our past experiences). We had wet towels in a pile for a day and a half, and actually ran out of towels. This sounds minor, but four people trying to shower, and unable to contact the room steward can do very little about it. I asked him on the first day to remove the soda and water, as they took up space we needed, and they never did get removed. We did laundry on board the last sea day ($2 per washer and dryer, expect the dryers to take longer. Feed them extra quarters while they are still running for an extra five minutes). It was not horribly priced, and it was fabulous not to go home with boatloads of laundry. Ports ‘. Grand Cayman – We were supposed to go here on our last cruise (Imagination from New Orleans) but due to a medical emergency that ended with a Coast Guard chopper landing on the deck, we missed that port. We enjoyed this a great deal. It’s a very short port, and you must take a tender, which adds time. We booked the Stingray City Tour & Snorkel with Captain Bryans, saved LOTS of money versus booking with Carnival, and had a fabulous time. This is a must do in Grand Cayman. Carnival scares you a little by telling you if you don’t book through them, and you are late, the boat will leave, etc etc. However, almost the entire rest of the people on our excursion (roughly 30) had booked through Carnival, so, we were safe.  We did the excursion and headed back to the tender site. The line was insanely long. Cozumel – Hubby and I went here on our first cruise, so we knew what to expect. We actually enjoy this city. Lots of shopping. We walk out to the open air market, after stopping in various stores for free earrings, bracelets, shots of tequila, and margaritas. I highly recommend a restaurant on the main street called ‘Pepe’s’. We wound up there because it was air conditioned, and everyone was hot and tired. It’s a little pricier than the standard in Cozumel (a whopping $59 for a part of six) but it is WELL worth it. White tablecloths, impeccable service, and truly amazing, authentic food. Tons of food. Disembarkation – Easy as pie! We wandered down after breakfast, and waited a whopping ten minutes in line. We began the process at 9:15 AM and were in our car at 10 AM. Very easy. Customs checked nothing, took our declaration slips, and waved as we walked away. This is my husband and my third cruise with Carnival, the rest of our party’s first. We enjoy Carnival, and feel that it’s a GREAT value for the price. If you are looking for swanky, super luxury, this cruise is not for you. If you enjoy cruising, enjoy people, and just want to relax and have a good time, then do it. Oh, final word. Carnivals beds are heavenly. You will sleep like a baby, and you WILL want to take the bed with you.  

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Sep 25, 2006

Mexican Riviera

After having sailed on Liberty transatlantic last spring, I was prepared for the smaller and older Inspiration to be a bit disappointing - it certainly was not! The service extended to passengers from the start including embarkation was superior. The lines were non-existent in the terminal, cabins were ready ahead of schedule, buffet on Lido was wonderful, all personnel including room stewards and cleaners were extremely attentive and

friendly in the first few hours helping us navigate the ship and throughout the entire cruise. It was evident that cleanliness was a priority. Dishes etc. were quickly cleared from tables everywhere including the decks. The dinners in the Mardi Gras dining room were excellent and presented quickly with finesse. The open seating lunch on the one day we tried it was a disappointment. The food itself was fine. As we entered the dining room well before it was scheduled to close we requested a table by ourselves since we needed to discuss a personal matter. The request was refused because they were "too busy". Our party of four was seated at a table of eight to complete it. The next four diners to enter were seated at a table for four right next to ours. This was the single example of sub-par service, certainly not serious enough to warrant more than a footnote. The activities and deck games were present in small numbers. Trivia, Name that Tune, Hairy Chest, High Tea etc. were all pleasant diversions. Many had very low attendance, guess people had too much else to do. We thoroughly enjoyed the demonstrations of ice carving and towel folding. The galley tour with George the Greek was delightful. Seeing a pastry chef at work and how the kitchen manages to function efficiently was very entertaining. We tried the Piano Bar and Karaoke a few times, they too were underutilized by the passengers, might have been much better with more participants. The casino was tight but OK. We always found vacant slots and seats at the table games. The stage shows were very good. We particularly enjoyed the last one, El Nuevo Carribe, the performers and costumes were much better than expected. We also enjoyed all the other live performances in the various venues throughout the ship. Overall this cruise was a very nice experience. We were pleased with the levels of service, the food choices were extensive and well prepared, clean ship, varied entertainment and activities.  

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By Andy_CR

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Jun 24, 2006

Western Caribbean

HIGHLIGHTS: Here’s what you really need to know, IMHO: The Camp Carnival girls who take care of kids ages 2 through 14 are great, talented, qualified and fun. Wendy and Gladys were who I dealt with most and they are first rate human beings who love kids. You can trust them with your kids and the kids will have a good time. This will allow you adults to sneak off to your room or the 12th deck sundeck (aka the “booty deck”) for some

R & R. Babysitting is available (free before 10 p.m. and $6 hour after) till 3 a.m. If you drink a lot, bring your own liquor. If it won’t kill you to spend $5 - $6 for a beer or glass of wine, man up and pay at the bar. Bring walkie-talkies. They’re a great convenience when you split up, and are very reassuring if you have a child. If your teenager is missing in the evening he or she is probably making out with their summer romance on the bow in the area of deck 9 or 10 or the promenade deck aft; at least they were when I tried to go up there for some midnight yoga. I found deck 11, the topless deck (a/k/a “booty deck”) at the smokestack, deserted at that time in case mom and dad need some private space. In Grand Cayman, unless you dive, there is very little to see or do IMHO but the locals were VERY friendly. However the beaches were beautiful. Our take was we’d rather go there than the Bahamas. Others I spoke to said the scuba dive to “the wall” was an awe inspiring experience. Most of the people on the ship I talked to went to “Stingray City” which is a wading/snorkeling experience. I strongly suggest NOT taking the Carnival-organized excursions. Generally, you can book a comparable experience on the dock for half the price by negotiating with the locals. In Grand Cayman, when we got off the boat, we literally saw one row of hawkers offering tours for $40, followed immediately – like 5 feet -- behind them by a second row offering the same for $20. We hooked up with 2 other couples from the ship on the spur of the moment and negotiated for a van tour for two hours for $20 per person. I believe the Carnival excursion rate was about 3x that. We recommend looking for Ursula (pronounced UrSOOLa), who is hard to miss as a 68 year old Scottish-Jamaican lady who’s a lifelong native and will drive you around in her van and give you the local’s version of the tour. Of course, she’ll take you to the stores her friends own, but that’s how life in the islands works. The lesson of this story, and what you should apply to your cruise experience, is a lesson in monopoly economics: when you’re on the ship, you’re dealing with 1) a monopoly seller that can set the price, and 2) an information monopoly. Nobody is going to volunteer you the info that you can get the same experience on shore for half what Carnival will charge. This is not a knock on Carnival – that’s just smart business, just like they do at a resort, hotel, or airport. Set up in a place where there’s no competition and charge accordingly. Carnival could probably charge 50% more for drinks and photos and get it, in fairness to them. It’s no coincidence that internet access is 37 cents a minute on the ship because it makes it uneconomic to shop for prices online. It’s up to you to be a smart consumer and 1) take the good deals for the list price of the cruise you can find online and 2) if there are things like liquor, souvenirs, good coffee, and shore excursions that you must ABSOLUTELY have, either be prepared to pay the premium or be prepared to make other arrangements. From my perspective, going to the pier and meeting a local taxi driver to negotiate your own itinerary for what YOU want to see is part of the fun. I strongly encourage others to do the same and see the real world. On that point: In Calica, Mexico, you MUST get ground transportation to see something else because there is NOTHING in Calica except a concrete aggregate loading facility, a dozen flea market grade junk stands, $2 coca colas, no breeze, and every tour bus in Quintana Roo (when the ship arrives). Oh, and a taxi kiosk/hack stand which functions as the information and transport exchange. Again, go to the hack stand and take your chances. The taxi stand manager was very friendly and helpful and again will direct you to beaches and attractions he’s getting a commission for, but his commission and your price will be significantly less than the onboard excursion price. We strongly recommend Fernando Hernandez’s van service ([email protected] or tel. (044)984-114 5193. Don’t let the scary e mail address fool you; he is a very pleasant and quiet young man who took our group of 7 to Tulum and to the beach in his van for basically $25 per person for 4 hours of use of his van and driver, plus $10/hour per extra hour (we tipped him an extra $30). If this sounds like a lot, the Carnival package price was $90 per person (for the transportation component, $60). Fernando sat around and waited patiently while we cavorted and kept the AC in the van maxed out for us. He drove us to Tulum where we (my wife) also negotiated a guide (Miguel) for 45 minutes, trolley tickets, and entry for $14 per person. So our group of 6 adults and a child would have paid $630 total at the Carnival rate for this package, vs $ 350 ( $50 per person for a full day, including snorkel gear, but ex lunch drinks and tip) at the “get off the boat and talk to a human being nicely” rate. (The kicker would have been Xel-ha, included in the carnival package, which is now a $35 entry instead of $25 in 2004. That would have brought the cost in just a little south of the $90 carnival rate) ·Where to go if you draw the Calica port of call instead of Cancun or Cozumel? If you MUST get yet another Hard Rock T shirt or throw up at Senor Frogs, fine, go to Cancun. You will miss the best of the Riviera Maya, and, you too, like our dinner companions, can spend $78 on 2 steak fajitas, two tequila shots, a kids meal and a soft drink. On the other hand, if you want to go to a place which looks like it came out of the Corona commercial – the one where the guy’s cell phone rings and he skips it across the lagoon like a stone – have a taxi driver take you to Paa Mul, about 10 minutes south of the port. Like nirvana, neither words nor pictures can describe Paa Mul. The calm and the blue simply wash over you and change your mind and your life. Be careful – one of the locals is selling his palapa for $75,000 and you may just buy it an never come back. Paa Mul is that place you dream that you’re going to find when you go to the Keys or the Bahamas but instead you end up in a condo. Paa Mul is the real thing. You can go to a Hard Rock anywhere (and everywhere) and see the same damn thing. Paa Mul you may only see once in a lifetime. It's listed in Frommer's but I missed it -- no bullet and none of the attention it deserves. Perhaps the authors didn't want the crowds to spoil it. So enjoy it but respect it. Have lunch at an open air palapa restaurant (we spent $38 with tip on some awesome fajitas for 2, beers, and flan)The owner is Brazilian, which may explain the laid back attitude -- no warranties, but we saw a young woman topless and a couple of young gay Mexican men caressing on the beach and nobody seemed to care, so I guess this is an unofficial topless/gay friendly locale Snorkel off the beach into a blue green lagoon for $9 to rent your gear from Scubamex (www.scubamex.com) right on the beach, and they have a dive boat too. The owner is an American doctor who did a Billy Clyde in the 80s, built his place on the beach and never came back. Nice guy and super qualified in all areas of diving. He's mixed gas certified so he can probably get you hard core divers into as much trouble as you can stand. However the lagoon is perfect for little kids and newbies. My water-fearing wife and companions and my 8 year old kid paddled 25 yards offshore, well within the protected area of the lagoon, and saw lots of fish, coral, and sea urchins in 5-6 feet of water. It’s a quick 50 mile trip to Tulum, the Mayan ruins of a late postclassical Maya town. The ruins are said not to be such a great archeological treasure by knowledgeable Mayanists. However, they may be the only Mayan ruins you and your kids ever get to see, so spend the damn $14 on the educational experience (admission, guide and tram ride to the ruins, which tram ride is a must if you expect to survive the heat). Visually, the site is spectacular – ruins overlooking the kind of cliffs and blue water that bring to mind Acapulco. The first touch of the cool ocean breeze as you advance from the suffocating tropical heat inland toward the ocean cliffs is one of those experiences you wish you could keep in a bottle and bring home. There is a public beach at the site as well. Entry without a guide is $4 -- cheap --plus 1.50 for the essential tram ticket. In addition your kids will get to chase iguanas the size of small dogs and you’ll get great pictures of this. Recommended but not personally -- I didn’t get to see them. These looked interesting according to Frommer’s or our local sources. They are all within the 50 mile corridor south of Puerto Calica on Mex Route 307 (the U.S. 1 of the Riviera Maya) and an easy cab ride: Xel-ha ecopark – snorkeling, tubing down a tropical river. Took more time than we had and the price is up to $35. But I’m going back for this! Hidden Worlds Cenote – a cenote and cave exploration experience with snorkeling – featured in an IMAX film we saw at the Orlando Science Center Akumal caves – cave exploration and zoo Bahias de Punto Soliman/Oscar and Lalo’s restaurant – more restaurant on the beach/snorkeling/ water sports/lazing on the beach. Said not to be as beautiful as Paa Mul but quien sabe? YOUR NEIGHBORS ON THE CRUISE: WHERE DID THEY FIND THESE PEOPLE? If you are an introvert or elitist (and I definitely am both) with a low tolerance for people “not of your caliber” (I’m not), this is not the experience for you. You will spend time, possibly stuck at dinner for an hour and a half, with people of a different social classes and cultures, whose choices, child rearing philosophy, politics, wardrobe, opinions and behaviors you may find completely unacceptable and distasteful. (The five little girls aged 4 through 10 being pushed by their mom to sing “Baby Got Back” on karaoke night left us wondering how they managed to fit a trailer on the lido deck, and how to call the international maritime version of HRS). Back in the day we called the skills to deal with this gracefully and without rancor “good manners”. The Buddha would tell you, deal with it, learn to accept, and smile. If you’re not up for this character building experience, then cruising may not be for you. However, we also have met great people on these cruises, who were very different from us but who we grew wiser or better from meeting, or just plain had fun with. The encounters with these great folks make these trips more than just a vacation. A cruise is a continuing social interaction. I would definitely do this cruise again, for all of the above reasons, including the little challenges that are really growth opportunities. Wow, that was 3 pages of highlights mostly about the destinations. About the shipboard experience OVERALL EVALUATION: This is not a 5 star experience; it’s more like a three and a half star, but you definitely get your money’s worth if you choose wisely. It’s not fair to call Carnival a “budget” or “discount” line because the look and feel is much better than “budget”; however it is a low cost provider and it’s not the Ritz either. Maybe “McShip” is the right idea. However it is more than adequate as a family vacation experience. For that matter, the previous Carnival cruise was definitely an all-adult experience (a number of, ahem, alternative lifestyle travel groups were in attendance and we definitely got a few eyefuls, but those groups had an equally fantastic kid free time). I’m not shilling for Carnival – God knows I can come up with a list of things that could use some attention -- but I read some of the reviews of this ship from 2006 and was puzzled by the expectations and criticisms of those who expressed disappointment. Frankly they sounded like people who would be unhappy anywhere. Whether you like this cruise experience depends on your attitude. Standing in lines is a fact of life, not a management failure. Stick to the philosophy of not lining up until the LAST call, and you can avoid this. In fact our asst cruise director, Ryan, on exit specifically announced that there was 25 MINUTE WAIT TO DEBARK SO WHY NO JUST HANG OUT ON THE LIDO DECK TILL THE CROWD THINS OUT? First, the ship and crew: the ship is clean, glitzy, a little Vegasy, which is not my style but is a nice change from sitting at home or in a sterile airport. The staterooms are small but adequate to the purpose. Our group was my wife and me and our 8 year old boy. We booked last minute on VacationsToGo.com and got an outside cabin, Riviera (low) deck, with a very comfy queen bed, plus a “really cool” Pullman bed that came out of the wall which my little guy considered to be one of the “rides” on the ship. He also loved his daily “towel animals” made by the steward. This was my second Carnival cruise. You will not find a staff which is more attentive or friendly. However the cruise director does make a difference. On this cruise the lounge singer was actually bad, and the comedian not funny when working “clean”. I’m assuming that’s a cruise director decision. I also found her announcements to be a little pushy and brassy and driven toward selling jewelry. The Food: Imagine Iron Chef on a budget, plus always a “safe” choice. Breakfast: The breakfast pastry is ok, the omelets good. The rest indifferent. The free coffee is ok (weak American stuff but better than Mickey D’s) but the coffee in the pseudo-Starbucks is worth the $2.50 premium. Lunch: The buffet by the pool has kid food (burgers and dogs), something exotic (Indian, Caribbean) plus something mainstream (round of beef, turkey, pork roast). I made myself try something new every day and always found something I liked. Dinner: The dining room aspires to and shoots for haute cuisine, but face it, they’re cooking 2,000 dinners on a budget. Nothing was four star, but nothing was less than “not bad”. The presentation and service, however, are first rate. I can’t get beef Wellington, baked Alaska, Etouffe of prawns, or Grand Marnier soufflé at home, so unlike some of the other critics here, I’m not gonna' complain while my mouth is full. Getting Around on the wandering around saying they’re lost. This, I think, is a corporate failure by carnival. If it was by design at least the signs would route you past the casino. Carry your map and make notes or leave a trail of crumbs. Never mind the crumbs, the staff would be right behind you cleaning them up. Try to remember that you can’t go “through” from front to back on deck 8 and you should be ok. In short, a bad day on a cruise ship is better than a good day at work. IMHO it’s better than a good day at most vacation locations because I don’t have to cook, worry about where to eat, drive, or pay a cover charge. I can disco, drink and people watch all night and walk or if necessary fall home. I can sun my buns on the booty deck and take in the natural and plastic sights. I can meditate under the stars at midnight in the ocean breeze in the middle of the ocean. I can smoke a cigar on the fantail and catch a great sunset just about every night.  

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May 27, 2006

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise and probably my last, definitely last with Carnival. I went on this cruise with my girlfriend. We are both 25 and live in Chicago. We decided to fly in on Friday so that we would not have to worry about being delayed. We flew Southwest from Chicago-Midway into Tampa. There were no problems with the flight. We stayed at the Wyndham Westshore. It was very close to the airport and they have free transfers. I got

a room on the internet for $95. We went out that night in Ybor city. I heard it was a good time and wanted to check it out, definitely worth the time. Embarkation: We were told that you could not start boarding the ship until 1:30 pm. This is incorrect; they actually allow people to start being processed at 10:30am. Nonetheless we arrived around 12:30 pm to the terminal. Everything moved along pretty smooth and we were on the ship by 1 pm. You are not allowed to visit your staterooms until 1:30 pm. They had lunch up on the Lido deck, so we went up there and had lunch. We then went to our stateroom at 1:30 pm to change and to drop off some stuff we were carrying. We relaxed on the decks and ventured around the ship for the next couple hours until it was time for Munster. This is a mandatory drill for safety. It only lasts about a half hour and then you are on your way! At this point I was already starting to get bored. There really is not much to do unless you plan on stuffing your face the whole time with food and/or alcohol. We basically just hung out waiting around for something to happen. We decided against going to formal dinner that night because both of us were pretty tired. We had dinner in the Brassiere. This is probably the best place to eat on the ship. We ate all of our meals but 3 of them in the Brassiere. It has a WONDERFUL deli, which serves hot and cold sandwiches, turkey, reuben, ham, veggie, you name it they will make it for you. There is also a pizzeria in the back which has 6 different types of pizza 24 hours a day. The rest of the first night was spent at the Casino. If you are a seasoned Blackjack player like me, you will not enjoy the casino. First off they use an 8-deck shoe, this is unheard of anywhere besides Carnival. The norm is for a 6 deck shoe. Also you should “scout” the players before you take a seat or you are in for one heck of a ride. I was lucky enough to sit at a higher minimum bet table and play with a few individuals who knew what they were doing. I managed to win 600 dollars the first night. We decided to go to bed around midnight, since we planned to get up early and be out in the sun. Day 2: Fun Day at Sea We woke around 7:30am and got ready to go out and enjoy the sun. We went the Brassiere and grabbed yogurt and coffee then headed up the 11th deck Aft pool area. This is ADULTS only, which is not really enforced but the only time you see the kids is when they run to the hot tubs, not a big deal. We had no problem getting lounge chairs to lay out on any day we were up there. They were always plentiful in this area. We stayed out in the sun until around noon and then headed down to the brassiere for lunch at the salad bar. After lunch we walked around the ship some more and went back to the room and changed for the day. I went to the Casino for an hour while my girlfriend read her book outside. We then meet up for the art auction at 2 pm. This I definitely recommend to anyone who goes on this cruise. They have some VERY expensive pieces of art that you may never see again. Also you receive free champagne during the preview and auction. I purchased a Scott Jacobs painting for $765 framed and shipped. This painting retails for $1,850 on land, a great deal that you will not find anywhere else. The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging around relaxing up until the cocktail party and formal dinner. Our cocktail party time was slated for 7 pm, since we were late seating. The cocktail party was a decent time, free drinks and good music. Since we were seated in the Mardi Gras dining room and late seating we did not eat until 8:30 pm. We arrived at our table a couple minutes late and 3 other couples were already there. We did not have anything in common with the people who we sat with, which in turn led to very little conversation with the others. My girlfriend shared a bottle of wine, which was ok. The wine selection is minimal at best and the prices are just absurd for the quality of wines. Dinner was repulsive, due to the food and what we witnessed around our table. You are able to order as much and whatever you want. My girlfriend had a cup of minestrone soup and a side salad to start. I had a Caesar side salad. She had the veggie dish for her entrée which actually was not too bad and much better than my Salmon. The salmon was very dry and fishy; anyone who knows good seafood knows it should not smell fishy. I only had a couple of bites of my entrée and shared the rest of hers. The other six at our table must have loved their dinners. Each one of them had at least two meals; one had three before we left. Is this typical cruise custom? We were not impressed. We did not stay around for dessert so I can not comment on if it was any good. It was around 9:30 pm and we decided to head to the Casino, this was not a good idea. I managed to lose around 500 dollars during the course of the rest of the night. We were there until a little after midnight when we decided it best to go to bed and wake up early for Grand Cayman. Day 3: Grand Cayman We woke up around 8 am and got ready for the day off the ship, finally! We opted to have breakfast on the island instead of dealing with individuals on the ship. I was unsure as to how or where to get off the ship so I had to ask an employee and he told me I could with any tender I wanted. You are not docked in Cayman; you get to and from the dock by a smaller boat. We didn’t realize that Grand Cayman was an hour behind “ship time” and nothing opened early. As you can tell we didn’t book a shore excursion, and wished we had. We were able to find a nice juice bar/breakfast place in the shopping area by the dock. We enjoyed our breakfast outside waiting for the shops to open. We spend the next 3 hours shopping and walking around the island. We headed back to the ship around noon to have lunch, again in the Brassiere. After lunch we spent the next few hours on the adults only area sunning and in the pool. The sun is very intense down there, we both got a little red. I think that this is a night that we went to a show, I really can not recall. It was a band playing like a tribute band to the blues brothers. It was alright kind of corny but what do you expect, you are on a cruise. After that they have bingo, which I recommend doing, it only takes 15 minutes and you could win 400 dollars. The sheets cost between 10-20 dollars. The rest of the night we just relaxed and were in bed fairly early, around 11pm. Day 4: Calica, Mexico Yes, I said Calica, Mexico. We thought we were going to Cozumel, but they decided to change the itinerary. We actually ate breakfast in the dining room this morning, and were pleasantly surprised. I don’t like how they force you to sit at a table with other people but the family we sat with was very pleasant. I had the eggs benedict which was not bad, a little runny, but surpassed my expectations. My girlfriend had a made to order veggie omelet which she said was very tasty. After breakfast we decided to get off the ship and venture out into Mexico. When you get off the ship you will see a very large crane looking piece of machinery and some little sidewalk shops. We did not look at any of those and just went to get in the Taxi line. This line is very long since there is nothing to do in Calica. After waiting for about 10-15mins I noticed there were people renting Jeeps. I strongly suggest doing this to everyone! The cost was only 70 dollars with free miles. We were just going to drive to Playa del Carmen but once we arrived we decided we did not want to stay there, so we drove all the way to Cancun. It takes a little over an hour to get to Cancun, but it definitely worth the drive. We both had never been to Cancun and were very impressed. There were tons of things to do and see. We had lunch at Senor Frogs in the Hotel Zone. We then walked around and did some shopping before heading back to the ship. I did not feel comfortable filling the Jeep up with gas so I figured I would just pay the penalty when we returned the Jeep. We arrived back to the port around 4pm. The total charge for the Jeep including gas was only 100 dollars! Overall a great experience and day spent in Mexico. That night was more of the same, eat in the Brassiere for dinner then go to the Casino or a bar and relax. Day 5: Fun Day at Sea We tried our best to sleep in this morning but were still up early enough for breakfast on the Lido deck. There was a massive line and luckily we were able to get in it right before they shut it down. The breakfast was alright, nothing great. The rest of the day was spent relaxing in the sun. The evening was a fun one and we figured we would try our best to enjoy ourselves on the last night. We went to the Chopin bar and watched the Detroit—Miami game then Karaoke started around 10 pm in the Candlelight lounge. This was very entertaining and fun. We spent the rest of the evening in there until around 11:30 when we decided to get some rest for the busy day tomorrow. Debarkation: This was the morning from Hell. This is where an ok experience turned into a horrible one. We had a wake up call set for 6:30 am. I had been using the in room safe for all cash and certain valuables. I had placed 400 dollars and 500 pesos in the safe the night before not wanting to take the money out on the ship with me. When I went to retrieve the money out of the safe it was gone! All of it, including the envelope I had used. I was beyond pissed off. I immediately called for our Cabin Steward to question him about the missing money. He acted dumbfounded and promptly left, raising even more suspicion. I then called security, who then came to my room to do a report and search. I was hoping the security guard would then go and question all individuals who were in my room that evening, but he did not even talk to one person. I then was told to go to the purser’s station and they would let me know what to do next. I went down there and was told that they were unable to help me and that I would have to contact corporate. We had decided to do self assist off the ship, which we missed due to Carnival stealing money from my stateroom. They told us that we had to wait in line like everyone else. Still pissed off we go wait in a line that snakes through the ships hallways. Mind you, we are carrying luggage. Not a very pleasant experience. Once they announce that people may leave the ship it is a mad dash towards the exit, no organization. I was so glad to get off the ship; it was a sigh of relief. When I got home I called Carnival about the stolen money from the state room and they promptly told me that they are not liable for any items that become missing from the state room. Basically they are giving the ok for their employees to steal without any type of punishment. I was and am still very unsatisfied how the whole thing played out. -Costs- We spent a total of $1,400.00 on our sign and sail cards (4.50 a beer). This is including the $765 dollar painting. I also had $1,600.00 in cash with me for the Casino and ports. All of that ended up being used/stolen. Add up the cost of the plane tickets, hotel and cruise you pay just under $5,000.00. -Rooms- We were in stateroom U133, which had a big ocean view. I was very happy with my room and cabin steward until the last morning. I was even going to slip him an extra twenty dollar bill upon departure, but not after they stole from me. I will never in my life use or refer Carnival. I urge all of you to stay away. You can do much better for a lot less somewhere else.  

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Feb 13, 2006

Western Caribbean

Carnival Inspiration Western Caribbean 5 Day Cheryl Embarkation: This process was smooth sailing! We arrived in Tampa at 12 midnight, and stayed at the LaQuinta Inn Tampa Bay Airport. We were not interested in luxury, just a clean and affordable place to lay our heads for the night. This hotel hit the spot! For the night, we paid $112.00 plus tax. This location also offers a free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel, as

long as you arrive before 12:45 a.m. They use Blue One Transportation Service. This is a local shuttle service in the area. We ended up using them for all of our shuttle needs. They were wonderful!!!! Upon arrival to the hotel, we booked the shuttle to pick us up the next day to take us to the pier. The cost for the shuttle service was $10 pp (myself and my husband) We booked an 11 a.m. pick up. The morning of the pick up, the shuttle service gave us a confirmation call in our room, met me in the lobby to collect payment, and I was even able to book our return shuttle from the pier to the airport. Once again, costing $10 pp. The great thing about this service, the booking manager informed me that upon arrival back to the pier from the ship, if you did not have a flight to catch right away, and you wanted to just take in the sights and sounds around the pier, that was fine, just call them 15 minutes before you wanted to be picked up, and they would accommodate you. That is exactly what we did. I'll tell you more about this later, but use Blue One, prebook and prepay, and it will work out great!!! Okay, back to the arrival to the pier. After getting out of the shuttle van around 11:30 a.m., you are greeted by a porter who will take your luggage, which you won't see again until about 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. It is delivered to your room. You then are ushered into a holding area, where you line up (lines go fast fast fast), and provide the wonderful counter attendants with your identification (such as license or passport), and your Carnival booking information. Once you settle how you will be paying for your on board purchases (we used our credit card this was great and worked well for us), you are given your sail and sign card, as well as some other reading material. Hold onto your card, this is your life line throughout your trip!!! You are also given a number which is called so that when they start boarding the ship, you know when to go on. Our boarding number was 6, and it took no time to get on board once they started calling numbers. They started boarding between 12:30 p.m. and 1 p.m. When going through the embarkation line, you are greeted by a photographer, who will take a picture of you and the person(s) you are traveling with. Be prepared, you will become a natural model, by the the time the cruise is over. Pictures are taken everywhere, all the time. But its fun!!! Once developed, pictures will cost anywhere between $6.99 to $19.99, depending upon the size of the photo. You are able to view your photos daily in the photo gallery. It is fun to look at yourself and your fellow cruisers having a good time, as they pose for those photographs. They are very nice quality pictures, with a variety of poses, backgrounds, etc to choose from. Once on board the ship its time to prepare yourself for none stop eating!!!! FOOD FOOD FOOD everywhere you turn, and at all times of the day or night!!! When you board it is lunch time, and you can enjoy hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries on the Lido Deck, or a glorious buffet. We at at the buffet, and had one of many fabulous lunches with a variety of different choices all around you. There is a different buffet menu daily, so you will never get tired of the food. After lunch, you are able to explore the ship and view your room accommodations. Also before you set sail be ready for the mandatory emergency drill. But hey, it was a great way to meet some of your fellow cruisers. After the drill you are free to enjoy "your vacation"!!! Food: As stated earlier food is plentiful! You will never go hungry! Breakfast: you can be served in your room, continental style. We did that one morning before heading out to port. You can eat breakfast in one of the formal dinning rooms, we did not do this. You can also have breakfast on the Lido deck buffet style. The breakfast consist of your normal breakfast flare and is tasty. Lunch: is pretty much what I described earlier, either on the Lido Deck with fries, hamburgers and hot dogs (all of which are very good), or in the buffet area. I really do recommend the buffet, if you don't want to eat indoors, that's fine as well, get your plate, load it up, and head out on one of the open decks. There is also a deli located in the buffet area. They have very tasty sandwiches both cold and grilled. There is also a 24 hour pizza shop, but with all the other great food, we did not eat the pizza. It looked very good, and we heard it tasted good as well. Dinner: we ate in the Carnivalle Dinning Room. It was Delicious and entertaining. Be prepared for singing and dancing nightly from your wait staff. They may even have you up with them. The menu also changes nightly. The food is Wonderful!!! The best part is that you can order as much as you want or a variety of different items. We ate at a table of 6, and had the late night seating at 8 p.m. I recommend this. It gives you a chance to relax and get yourself together from a great day at sea or at port. There were my husband, myself and 2 other lovely couples that we sat with nightly for dinner. We enjoyed meeting up with them at dinner and sharing our adventure stories from that day. Activities: You can never go bored on the Inspiration. There are so many things to participate in such as hilarious and fun games on the lido deck, or in the Paris Lounge. You may even win a coveted prize of a "24 carat gold plastic ship on a stick." You will know what I am talking about when you are cruising. You can treat yourself to a spa treatment (These are very costly and we didn't do it) Take an aerobics class. (Some classes cost a fee of $10 per class, my husband did a spin class and really enjoyed it), go dancing at night, enjoy the sing-a-longs at the piano bar, play bingo (cost from $10 to $20 to play), give away your money at the casino (I guess you can tell we didn't win), or just relax on deck, in a lounge, or anywhere on the ship and people watch. Your daily Capers (Schedule) is delivered to your room nightly, to help you plan your next days activities. Entertainment: We enjoyed the nightly shows and comedy, all of which took place in the Paris Lounge. The shows are Vegas style productions with music, singing, dancing, and beautiful costumes. One night there was also a balancing act, which I was not that excited about, yet my husband liked it a lot. There were 2 comedians on board. Each performed two shows each. A regular show for all to enjoy, and a R rated show for 18 years and older. We attended 3 out of the 4 comedy shows, and enjoyed them a lot. Funny stuff!!! The last show, we didn't attend because it was the last night on the ship, and we needed to pack etc... Don't miss the shows they are entertaining!!! Service: The service was good. The room attendant was Excellent!!! He had a way of knowing when you needed your bed made, or new towels placed in your bathroom, or just when to place those cute little towel animals on your bed, along with your daily capers and a piece of chocolate for the night. I am telling you, they will replenish and freshen up your room 2 to 3 times a day. The room attendants are wonderful!!! The wait staff are also attentive, and the whole staff is friendly and helpful. The cruise director, Darcy is also Great and very funny!!! Room: We had an Ocean View room, cabin R194 on the Rivera deck. It was just right for myself and my husband. There was enough storage space for our clothes, shoes etc.. and it worked well for us. The location on the ship was also good. Don't expect lavish accommodations, but a nice neat and clean place to relax for the night, or even to take a nice afternoon nap. Drinks: This is what can be costly. I don't drink, but my husband does. When you board, you will be approached at some point by one of your nice friendly wait staff with a tray full of "The Days Drink Special." Get one, its good. It will cost about $6.50 plus 15% gratuity. It is in a special Carnival souvenir glass. Any other drinks you get after this first one, order "The Days Drink Special," but in a regular glass. Make sure you tell the waiter you want it in the regular glass, this is much cheaper. It will cost you about $4 something and that is with the 15% gratuity. There are also times where you can find free drinks such as at the Captain's Gala that takes place in the Paris Lounge on the 2nd night of the trip. You can also indulge in free drinks at one of the Art Auctions held on the ship. Finally, one of the galleria shops will also give out free taste test of alcohol one night (as many and as much as you want), read your capers for details of when and where. If you are not a drinker, like me, you can purchase a fountain card for $20.00. This will allot you fountain drinks such as an assortment of pops for the duration of the time you are on the ship. I did not get a card, and I drank the free ice tea, lemonade, and fruit punch available in the buffet and lido deck. It worked well for me!!! Be prepared as well, bottled water is about $2.50 a bottle. On your 4th night at sea, you can purchase liquor in the galleria shops and get to take it with you upon purchase. Prior to that, they store it for you, and deliver it to you the last night of the cruise. Ports: Grand Cayman This is a beautiful place with friendly people. We decided to take the Stingray City and Island Tour. This tour takes you to the area sites of 7 mile Beach, Hell, The Rum Factory (where you can taste free rum shots, and free rum cake), The Turtle Farm, and then swim with the Stingrays (lots of fun! The water where we were located was about 5 feet deep) snorkel equipment is furnished on the tour. The waters are Beautiful!!!!! The rays are so friendly!!! It is a MUST DO!!! The cost of this tour purchased on board the ship was $59 pp. You can get it cheaper on land, but I liked not having to worry and being with other Carnival cruisers. You are in port from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. The last tender leaves to go back to the ship at 1 p.m. Watch your watches because they are Timely!!! Cozumel: Well, my husband and I, and about 200 Inspiration Cruisers, did not go to Cozumel. We chose separate tours that took you to the Mainland. There is only one tender that takes you to the mainland, and back to the ship, so once again you need to watch your time!!! We took a tour called Shotover Jet Boat and Cancun Tour. We were able to shop at the local shops in Cancun, eat at a local restaurant (yummy), and then get in a jet boat that toured a lagoon. The boat however did go up to 50 miles per hour and made spins, and did tricks, etc... it was a lot of fun!!! Our day was from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., yet the last tender from Cozumel was at 5 p.m. Our tour had us back to the ship at about 5 p.m. as well. The cost of this tour was $89 pp. Cost: I know I was curious about how much we would really spend on the boat. Well, my husband and I spent $661.36 in sail and sign charges. These cost consisted of my husbands drinks (2 per day), 3 games of bingo, our shores excursions to Grand Cayman and Cancun, my husband's one spin class, 3 bottles of water, gift shop purchases, as well as 3 photographs of ourselves from the photo gallery, with a special Carnival frame booklet. Debarkation: This too was a breeze, but we also were not in a mad rush to get off the boat, our plane didn't leave until 6:50 p.m. I would say they started debarking at about 8 a.m., and we were one of the last groups to get off around 9:15 a.m. We were able to relax, eat breakfast at the buffet and people watch. After getting off the boat, there is a place right at the port that will hold your luggage until 4 p.m. for $5pp, so that you can sight see and enjoy. At the port there is the Florida Aquarium, which is very nice, you can purchase discount tickets at the luggage storer shop. We also toured an Old Battle Ship, that is docked right behind the Inspiration. The cost of this tour is $8pp, yet we got $3 off because we also went to the Aquarium. This was an interesting tour, as well. The area around the pier is filled with shops, places to eat, an IMAX theater, even a bowling alley. It is a very nice place to relax and take in the sights or even watch the Inspiration crew load up for its next voyage to the sea. We stayed in the area until 4 p.m., and then called Blue One Transportation for a pick up. As we waited for the shuttle, we also had an opportunity to see the beautiful Inspiration set sail once again. I would recommend the Inspiration to anyone!!!! My only complaint: I'm not on the ship right now!!!! Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

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Feb 4, 2006

Western Caribbean

Okay, let me first say that this was my first cruise with Carnival but my third cruise altogether. I have sailed with Disney 2 times previous to this cruise. Okay….here we go. Plane ride to Tampa: Awful! We all got up at 4 o’clock in the morning to catch our flight at 7:30. While we sat patiently waiting to take off, the pilot came on the speaker to tell us that we had a bit of a problem, as it seems, someone had broken into the

plane the night before and stole all of the emergency equipment out of the plane. We were to sit and wait until someone came to get these things for us. And this would be approximately an hour. Well, certainly we did not have an hour to waste as we had an hour layover in Memphis and had to be on the ship by 4!! So, they kindly took us off the plane and arranged for us to fly another airline which got us into Tampa somewhere around 2:30. We rushed to get our luggage and, I must say, the men in charge of getting our taxi did a fine job. We got on the ship around 3:30. Everything went pretty smoothly as far as getting on the ship. Though the staff was not very friendly. The life jacket drill was a disaster! This is incredibly unorganized! Day at sea: It was cold! The deck was so full of people trying to crowd around what they would call a pool! The music was so loud! The boat was rocking ALL over the place! Not that I blame them, I understand these things happen. We opted not to go to the dining room and ate at the Lido deck. Do they ever serve anything besides hot dogs and hamburgers here???? Grand Cayman: We got to bed at a decent hour in high hopes for our day on Grand Cayman. We were awoken at 6 o’clock in the morning with an announcement. The waves were far to unsafe to allow us to tender in at Grand Cayman. So, instead of an exciting day at Grand Cayman, we were going to spend a fun-filled day at sea! Whoppee! We were credited $25 to our Sail & Sign cards which wasn’t much considering that we spent more than that gambling, trying to entertain ourselves as there is not a whole lot to do here. Now, I know that if the captain would have put the ship in high gear, we could have probably made it to Cozumel that evening. And, I think we deserved to get off the ship. We could have made it to Mexico and spent the evening there as well as the next day. That is not what happened, not even close! Cozumel: Well, we woke up, the sun looked as though it might peek through the clouds eventually. We got up and quickly showered and went up to the Lido deck to have breakfast before we got off the ship. Well, little did we know, we could have slept in and enjoyed our long morning shower because, even though they told us we were getting off the ship at 8 o’clock, we didn’t really get off until 11:30. Now, I understand that Cozumel is not used to having to tender people there. I understand they were hit pretty hard by the hurricane and this is all new to them but come on!! It took them forever to get us off the ship, but, you can bet your bottom dollar, they were ready to tender us back at 5 o’clock! Day at sea: Pretty decent. We ended up going to a show that night and we got all dressed up. We did our last minute duty-free shopping and packed up. Debarkation: Wait, wait and more waiting! Does the people on this ship even know what the heck they are doing???? This is the most unorganized vacation I have ever taken! Overall, I would not recommend Carnival cruise line to anyone! Now, I am partial to Disney but, Carnival truly was a disappointment! I do understand that you get what you pay for but, this was ridiculous! They served the same thing on the buffet every single day! Breakfast, lunch and dinner! I know that there were plenty of people that I am sure enjoyed their trip but, I think I heard more people complaining than smiling. Sail Disney. You will never ask for anything more. You might pay a bit more but, it is worth it! If you have any questions, feel free to email me!  

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Jan 2, 2006

Western Caribbean

Taking your first cruise? Here's a few tips that might help. One thing to consider. Do you get seasick? I have never gotten seasick. Guess what? I did the last day due to rough seas. I suggest you plan ahead. Take patches or pills for motion sickness. Try getting your stateroom mid ship because there is less movement when and if the seas get rough. Boarding the ship is not as hard as you may think. Arrive early because chances are

you can board the ship and reduce the amount of time you will spend standing in line. If you plan on driving and parking at the pier, you can unload your bags before doing so. A porter will be there to take them to the proper place. He's going to take them anyway, so you might as well let him have them before you park. I do suggest locking your luggage. Keep your carry on bags. Be sure to tip him though. It is worth every penny you choose to give him. Carry on bags may be what ever you want to deal with, but they will be subject to go through a scanner so don't try to take anything your not suppose to take. Go online and print a fun pass. This will help speed things up when you are going through the boarding process. Have all papers that you are suppose to have in hand and readily available. Your ticket will be taken, information processed, picture taken, and a sign and sail card issued to you. This sail and sign card is your ID card and your money card on the ship for the duration of your cruise, but you will still need to keep a picture ID with you also.The whole process took my wife and I about 30 minutes or less. Far less than what we had expected. Once on board, if you got on early, you probably can't go to your room yet. Don't fret, go to the Lido deck and start having fun. Your cruise has begun!! Lunch was being served and the bar was open when we got there. Your room will be ready by your embarkation time and then you may go lighten your load. Before your ship leaves the dock, there will be a mandatory life boat drill. You will have to put on your life vest and go to your lifeboat station. This is a life saving drill so pay attention and don't worry about how anything looks. Everyone is doing it and it only takes a few minutes. Our luggage arrived at our door within 1 hour. Don't forget to take some dining clothes for your evening dining. At least two sets of formal wear if you want to take advantage of the fine dining times. If you don't want to then don't worry because you can find a food gallery open at all times on the ship. You will be assigned a dining room and early or late! dining. This is a matter of your preference what time you wish to eat. Alcohol and soft drinks are not free. So if you like to drink sodas, ($1.75 per can), I suggest you purchase a fountain card for $20.00. This way you drink all the sodas you want to. Alcohol will still cost you per drink. Food, food, food is free, free, free. Eat all you want when you want it. Room service is free 24 hours a day. You may tip if you wish, that is the only cost. Shows are free, and there is always something going on somewhere on the ship. You will receive a small ship news paper everyday that tells you about that days itinerary. You can book an excursion right from the ship if you wish, so it doesn't have to be done before you go. This is a easy process and takes only a few minutes to complete. We booked two excursions and our tickets were delivered to our room before we had our evening meal the first day. Have fun, get involved, you will be treated like a king or queen the whole time you are on board. Service is the one thing you will receive plenty of. You will want for nothing. Ask and you shall receive. \Pictures will be taken everywhere and anywhere. They take super pictures on and off the ship. Have your picture taken as often as you like on the ship. They will be posted in the photo gallery. Here you will find your photos on display and may purchase as many as you want or discard the ones you don't want. This will go on all through your cruise. Enjoy!! There will be plenty of shopping on the ship if you wish. So get ready to do some shopping there also. They have some great items on the ship at great deals. Well everything has to come to an end and so will your cruise. And you will have to go through a disembarkation process. On the last night of your cruise, you will need to be packed and ready to go. Your luggage will need to be left outside your room by midnight. It will be picked up and moved to a holding place on the ship. When the ship docks, it will be moved to the holding warehouse. This is where you will pick it up after disembarkation. Again, I suggest locking your luggage. We also put red colored cable ties on our luggage handles to make them more visible. Keep what you will need for the next morning so you won't be caught off guard. Think and plan ahead because you will have to carry off everything you keep with you. Have no fear, This is not bad either. We heard of long lines and long waits. Not so. Piece of cake. There was a disembarkation time for people that had to go through immigration. This was early, 6:00 a.m. Then around eight anyone who kept all their luggage and was willing to carry it off with no help, was called to disembark. Then at 9:00 a.m. everyone else was called to disembark. If you are in the late crowd, get up early, get ready, go to the Lido deck and have breakfast, relax go out on deck if weather permits and enjoy. Return to your room about 8:45 and get your carry off luggage and proceed to the disembarkation line. Once you leave the ship you will go to customs which will most likely wave you right on through. Piece of cake. Don't try to sneak anything off that you shouldn't because penalty's are stiff if you get caught. Your luggage will be in a holding warehouse and will be lined up per your colored tags. Just go to your color and find your bags. Again there will be a porter there to help you if you wish. Tips are worth it for their help. Our cruise was wonderful and we look forward to doing it again. I hope these tips will help you as we learned a lot from reading reviews and tips. Still you will learn things to make you next cruise even easier. Good luck and happy sailing. Carnival is a great way to sail and make you feel like a King.  

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Dec 15, 2005

Western Caribbean

Ok, I'll try to break this up to make it easy to read: Embarkation: We got to the pier around 11 am, dropped our bags with the porter, parked and were on the ship by 12:15. The process was very smooth and our bags were by our cabin doors by about 4:30 - just after we sailed. It was alot smaller the Royal Caribbean ship we sailed on but our cabin was much larger - very spacious. The bathroom had a basket full of toothpastes, lotions,

razors, etc. There is a dispenser in the shower with Dove Shampoo and body wash. You get down comforters and feather pillows, too. They were showing a selection of 3 different pretty recent movies each day in the cabins plus ABC, CBS, and NBC. Other than that, not much to do in the cabin. Activities: We didn't participate in too many of these. My 16 yo daughter loved club O2 and we didn't see her for much of the cruise. We never caught any of the shows but I heard they were great. We went to the Newlywed game and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and both were a lot of fun. My 21 year old son and his buddy felt there were too many kids and not enough young adults along with activities for young adults. There did seem to be a lot of "family" fun type things making this a great family cruise. Food: All five of us felt the food was good but not great. Maybe on par with what you would get at Chili's or something like that. It was certainly plentiful but the portions in the dining rooms were small (ok for me but hubby was disappointed). I never tried the pizza but the kids liked it. I bought soda cards for the 16 yo ($16) and the 21 yo ($22) but not for hubby or I. There was juice, iced tea, etc for free up on Lido deck. Liquor: We snuck several bottles of liquor in our checked baggage without a problem. We could have just as easily brought in our carry on bags as no one even glanced in my tote bag or my husband's backpack. We also brought 2 bottles of wine. We ended up bringing some back home as we had more than we needed. We did buy a couple of drinks on board and they are STRONG! I had two "drinks of the day" the first day and didn't need to touch my own liquor. If you don't get the souvenir cup the drink of the day is only $3.50 plus 15% tip and, trust me, you won't need many. Casino: All I can say about this is - play Craps!!!! Cozumel: Well you can certainly tell that this place was hit hard by Hurricane Wilma. We did some shopping in the area where the tenders drop you off and had a great lunch at Pancho's Backyard - killer margaritas. Warning - if you have teenagers and don't want them drinking you better stay with them, they will serve anyone alcohol in Mexico! We then took a cab downtown but that was a waste. It's just like any other tourist trap - everyone trying to bait you to come into their stores. The only difference here is they all give you free shots of tequila and free Cuban cigars! I wish we had done a shore excursion instead but it was too expensive and our day was cut short due to post-Wilma. Debarkation: We chose the self-assist (meaning we would carry our own bags off the boat). They made the announcement at about 7:20 and we were in our car driving home by 7:45. No problems with customs at all. I accidentally left one of the cuban cigars in my purse so that was a good thing! (would have been a $100 fine). Summary: A good cruise for families and those wanting a short, inexpensive trip. Having cruised on Royal Caribbean before though, I think we will go with RCL again next time - spectacular food and ships, worth the extra money.

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By J.C._CR

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Dec 15, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my first cruise, but my wife's 24th and she is a travel agent so she knows her stuff for sure. Embarkation: Very smooth and easy. Staff at the port was helpful and friendly. Checked our IDs and tickets as our bags were whisked away by porters, took some pictures for our Sail and Sign card and off we went. Whole process took a maximum of 10 minutes Staff/Crew: I had heard rave reviews from many people about the exceptional

service you receive on a cruise. Although the service was not bad by any means, it also was nothing spectacular. Most of the staff was friendly and outgoing; some seemed cold and acted bothered when you asked for directions around the ship, for extra ice in your stateroom, etc. I was told that the maitre'd was the "captain" of the dining room and would oversee that everything was perfect during the dining experience; however, we saw him a grand total of two times the entire cruise. Our cabin steward, Maynardo, was great though. Towel animals were a great touch and our cabin was always spotless and tidy. The event organizers and social hosts were good too. Arthur, Ronaldo and Chris get everyone involved in activities and make you laugh also. Food: On a scale of 1 to 10, Id give it a 7.5. Not exceptional, but very good. Be creative and dont be shy because your options are endless. Cant decide what appetizer or dessert to get in the dining room ? Get both or 3 or 4 ! Other than the occasional flaw in service as mentioned above, the overall dining experience was very good. Our head waiter was Jorge from Costa Rica and he was very good; his assistant Anthony was not so good, frequently leaving us with empty glasses but I heard he was working double-duty covering for someone else so thats understandable Cabins: Surprisingly good. I heard some people say they are cramped and crowded but not the case. We had an oceanview on the Empress deck and had plenty of room to stretch out. Bed was comfortable, bathroom stocked with pump dispensers of soap and shampoo for our use, and use of space was very nice. By the way, the "sewer-like" smell you always hear about on-board the ships is there, but its nothing thats unbearable or disgusting. Besides, get of your cabin and go have fun !!! Activites: Shore excursions were reasonably priced and seemed to be fun. Our ATV beach adventure was an absolute blast thanks to Wild Tours of Cozumel. I highly suggest Juan Carlos and his team there if you ever make it to Cozumel. From feedback from other guests, their shore trips were great as well. Debarkation: A little crazy with 1500 people leaving at once, but overall not too bad. We did the self-assist and carried our bags out ourselves and completed the process in about 30 minutes. Additional notes: Get the drink of the day and unless you really, really want the souvenir cup, ask for it in a plain glass- you'll save about 2 or 3 bucks a pop Dont wait till the last night to go to the photo gallery and get your pictures if you want them- very, very crowded Only 1 outlet per cabin so bring a power strip for things like hairdryers, electric shavers, etc... Stay out of the casino unless you have alot of willpower or alot of luck ! Slots will drain you fast... Last but not least- TOO MANY UNSUPERVISED CHILDREN !!! I know its not Carnival's fault, but its tough to enjoy a nice vacation with your wife when unsupervised, bratty kids are running around, screaming and yelling, bumping into and running over you, playing on stairs and elevators, etc, etc...Some people go on vacation to relax and enjoy time away from everyday life; it appears others see it as a chance to turn their kids loose on a 70,000 ton playground while they get drunk and not give a flip about being responsible parents. Sad to say, but it was an epidemic on this cruise and it really took away from an otherwise decent vacation experience. If you're reading this and you're considering taking a cruise AND you have children, please do everyone a favor and monitor them and do not let them run around like the Tasmanian Devil. Or at the very least, send them to O2 or Club Carnival so they can be supervised if you're not willing to do it. People do not like to pay hundreds of dollars only to have their drinks spilled all over them and their elevator have to stop at all 13 floors on the way up just because irresponsible parents cant take the time to teach common courtesy to their kids. Next time, I will spend a little extra cash and cruise with Princess or Holland America to possibly avoid this problem.

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Nov 26, 2005

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: This was very quick and smooth. We arrived at the Port at 11:05 and were on the ship by 12:00. We went through the lines so fast that we actually waited for about 25 minutes until they allowed passengers to board the ship. Upon entering the ship, we did the customary “gaze in awe in the atrium” and then proceeded to the Lido deck for burgers, fries, hot dogs, and salads. The servers were ready with the drink of the day,

which was yummy. At 3:45 we all settled into the Paris Lounge with our life jackets for the muster drill. Yes, some crazy (and not so bright) people were blowing on the whistles….YUCK! During the muster drill, while lining up for the lifeboats, the ship left port at 4:00. It was perfect timing, because we were all outside and able to witness this. We received our luggage at 4:30 was able to unpack before heading up to the Sun Deck to witness the sunset and the boat crossing under this expansive bridge while leaving Tampa Bay. *THIS IS A DO NOT MISS* Have your camera ready for the bridge. We also met our room steward, Apolonio, while unpacking and promptly gave him an extra tip and asked that our ice be kept full and for some wine glasses. We received the glasses almost immediately. First dinner was in the Carnivale for 8:00 seating. Our waiter, Kohmand, and busboy, Yasa, were exceptional. They were great at getting the guests to mingle with each other and have a good time. Day 1: Day at Sea We woke up to 8-10 foot waves and immediately popped our ginger root pills. We had also brought scopolamine patches, but never had the need to use them as long as we took the ginger pills 2-3 times a day. By the end of this day we were forced to develop our sea legs. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day, so most of the day was spent indoors. Because we were exploring the ship, it didn’t seem too bad to have to stay inside most of the time. At lunch, we ate outside on the Lido deck and were startled by a loud horn…. a pause…horn again…pause…Etc. Finally the captain announced that due to the fog, he would have to blow the horn. We promptly made our way back inside, where the horn was not noticeable. This day was also the day that my husband was introduced to the casino. *Warning* Unless you have incredible luck or lots of money to throw away…. avoid the casino. It’s quite convenient for the cruise lines that it’s placed on the Promenade deck and you’re forced to walk by it often. Those with a weak spot for gambling are easily drawn in. It is fun, though! We tried the sushi on board this evening. It was good, although there are only 4 rolls to chose from and only one of them was actually raw. We eat sushi back home frequently, and seemed to enjoy it also on the ship. At dinner this night it was our formal night and our wait staff entertained us to them singing “Hot Hot Hot”. Although these nightly routines were a good laugh, it sort of changed the atmosphere from a fine dining experience to one at your neighborhood Applebee’s or Chili’s. The midnight buffet gala was this evening and was amazing! We watched the show “Shout” this evening, which was good. We caught the R rated comedian later, which was just ok. He seemed to be fishing for things to say. Later on in the week there was another comedian who seemed much better. Day 2: Grand Cayman We opted to not purchase shore excursions for both ports of call and just “wing it”. Looking back now, we should have had some planning for our stop in Grand Cayman, notably the Sting Ray City tour. Instead, we walked to 7-mile beach, walked, and walked, and then found a spot to relax for about 1 hour. We took a taxi back, which cost $4 per person. Near the port, we used the phones set up outside some shops to call back to the USA and check on our daughter. *Another Warning* These phones ended up costing us $39 for a 3 minute phone call. There was no rate posted on them to know that we were being gouged to that extreme, so caution to everyone else. At some point I dropped my sail and sign card and panicked when I realized it was gone. We were so relieved when we were boarding the tender that someone had returned it to the guy checking everyone in. We ate lunch on the ship because it was free. We found Grand Cayman to be very expensive, commercialized, and dirty. It wasn’t my idea of a paradise Island. We probably won’t choose it as a port of call next time. Back on board, we observed the Belly Flop contest (ouch!), did some sunbathing, and took a nap. At dinner this evening, the waiters sang a “love song”. They also sang “Hatty An-a-bur-sary” to our tablemates. It was comical. Day 3: Costa Maya After much research on Port Reviews and Cruise Critic, I had this day planned. I noticed the ship not once mentioned the town of Mahahual as something for the passengers to do. Probably due to the fact that they kept emphasizing shopping in Puerto Costa Maya, which is shops built by the Cruise ships (and therefore much more expensive than what we found in Mahahual). We got off the ship, immediately walked through the shopping area and to the taxi stand. It was a small journey to even find the taxi stand, but once you reach the pool, there is a doorway to the right. Outside is the taxi stand. For $5 per person roundtrip, the taxi (a bus to and car back) took us to Mahahaul. We walked from where it dropped us off about ¼ mile to a beach bar called Buluche. There we had 2 for $3 Dos Equis beer, wonderful chips, salsa, and guacamole. We also had a table under a palapa and lawn chairs under coconut palms right on the beach. The beach was incredible. The waves broke about 150 yards out, and the water was calm. We were able to walk 100 feet out and the water was only waist high. Leaving, we stopped at some shops in Mahahual and got amazing deals. We spent only $20 total for both a silver bracelet for our daughter and a leather belt for my husband. Back at the port, the same silver bracelet was listed at $44 and the belt $50. Mahahual was our definition of Paradise. Beautiful!!! This evening there was a comedian who was very good and tasteful. Also at midnight there was a Mexican Buffet on the Lido deck and lots of dancing. The buffet was very good. Day 4: Day at Sea The weather was beautiful this day, which made up for the first day at sea. We took part in Bingo, Battle of the Sexes, and some sunning ourselves on the Sun Deck. After dinner we returned to our room to pack and then went to the late night comedy show. This show was very funny and he had us laughing so hard we were in tears. Even though it was R rated, I don’t think I hear one 4 letter word the whole time. Debarkation: We woke up early and watched us pull into port. We enjoyed breakfast in the Mardi Gras dining room and then went up to the Promenade deck to wait to debark. At 9 a.m., B-rad (the social host) announced that EVERYONE can leave the ship. They didn’t go by colors as other reviews of cruises have said and it was crazy! Imagine 1500+ people all heading for the forward stairs at the same time. We heard lots of complaints about this. We were concerned at first, but by 9:30 we were off the ship, through customs, and on a taxi to the airport. Cabin: We were located in Upper 54, which was an ocean view room. Our cabin had plenty of space and the bathroom seemed large enough. I had heard stories of some people on cruises having to shower while sitting on the toilet…no we didn’t. Our bathroom was just about the same size as some motel bathrooms, but minus the tub. We had pump dispensers for shampoo and body wash. The bed was very comfortable with a down comforter that kept us warm. The a/c work almost too good at times, and the warm comforter was much appreciated. We never heard our neighbors, which was also a plus. There was not a vast amount of counter top space in the cabin, and were very glad to have brought and over-the-door shoe holder to hold our items. Cab fare: $20 from the Pier to the Airport. We stayed at the Doubletree Westshore the night before the cruise and they had both free shuttle from the Airport to the hotel and the hotel to the Pier. We could have also used them for free from the Pier to the Airport when we returned, but we were trying to catch an earlier flight and didn’t want to wait. Topless deck: Yes, there is an adults only topless deck for those who don’t like tan lines. It was on the Sun Deck in the aft of the ship. The railing is covered so people can’t see from the other decks, but it seemed to be a busy place for groups of men to “accidentally” find there way to. Pictures: The cruise ship cameras were everywhere and were sometimes too much. We couldn’t go to the promenade deck, off the ship, eat in the dining room, or even board the ship without them stopping us for a picture. The photos were pricey with an 8x10 being $19.99 and no other size would be made unless the 8x10 was purchased. The embarkation photo was a bit more reasonable, a 5x7 for $7.95. Impression: As a whole, we absolutely loved the trip. My husband was a bit apprehensive about cruising initially but now can’t wait for our next trip. I definitely would recommend the Inspiration for couples and families less than 50. The more elder crowd complained about the lack of dancing (except rap music). I agree this was a negative for Carnival. The one night we were looking for dancing all we could find was hip-hop. Being that we’re younger we could tolerate it, but it would have been impossible for most grandparent-types to accept.

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By Deb_CR

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Nov 21, 2005

Western Caribbean

I wanted to post a review as soon as I got home from this cruise because I was a first time cruiser and this site was so helpful to me prior to leaving on our cruise. I just got back today from my very first cruise and my husband and I are already talking about when we will go again. We loved this cruise in every way and had the most wonderful experience from start to end. We chose the Inspiration because it leaves out of Tampa which is

only 30 minutes away from where we live. I started reading reviews and asking around and 95% of what I heard were positive comments. Now I can add my positive comments. The embarkation process was flawless. We arrived around 10:30 am and we were on the ship enjoying lunch on the Lido Deck by noon. We had to wait until 1:30 to get into our room, but the time went by fast because we were having so much fun already. Don't worry about a thing with the embarkation process. No matter what time you arrive, it's a smooth process. Carnival runs this process with complete efficiency. Tip the porters a dollar per bag when they take your bags from you at the terminal. They do not work for Carnival and they rely on these tips. They take your bags and get them to where they need to go. When we got to our cabin on the Main Deck, it exceeded our expectations. We chose an interior cabin (windowless) but the cabin was quite spacious with a king size bed (two twins put together) and the most comfortable mattress and pillows we ever slept on. We slept like babies all week and we plan on buying these pillows and duvet as soon as we can (Carnival sells these). The shower pressure was awesome, the water nice and hot, and I loved taking long showers before dinner each night. You will find a basket full of goodies in your bathroom, so you would not need to take a razor, soaps or shampoos, toothpaste, mouthwash or lotions. They provide these in every room. In fact, each shower has two big dispensers with shampoo and body soap (name brands) and I never used the stuff I brought from home. Our steward kept our room tidy at all times and YES, we got our towel animal every single night. That was fun to look forward to each night. I also loved the nightly delivery of "Carnival Capers" which is the daily newsletter that lets you know everything that is going on the next day. It makes for wonderful bedtime reading material and keeps you totally informed about what's going on everywhere on the ship. There are tons of activities. Don't be afraid to do some of the things that may seem "corny" like Bingo or Trivia Games. We took this cruise with my parents who were celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary and I went along to these things and had a blast playing. We loved the casino. We're not big gamblers, but I enjoyed playing some slots. Won some, lost some....came out even actually. Dad won a couple hundred dollars playing Blackjack. Someone at our dining table won over a thousand dollars playing slots...so you can win on this ship. The shows were awesome, but especially the late night comedy. A bit naughty, but so funny. I had to force myself to go to the late shows, but was glad I did. The drinks "overfloweth" and you've got to be careful to not feel rich with your Sail and Sign card. Everyone in your party is issued one, including the children. This is your room key, onboard currency and identification for coming and going off the ship. Don't lose these cards. We found a couple and found who they belonged to and both times it was little kids who lost them. Anyway, back to the drinks. When you come on board, there are servers "everywhere" offering you the drink special of the day. Here's my big tip. Unless you want to collect their little plastic drink cups that say Carnival on them, don't pay the $6.50 or $6.75 per drink. The same drink is available for $2.00 less in a cup that you don't keep. Just tell the server that you want the drink without the special cup (unless you want it that way). It took us two days to catch on to this whole thing. They tell you that if you order it this way, you can use the same cup each day for their daily drink special and get $2.00 off that drink, but who wants to carry that plastic cup around everywhere you go? Just order your drinks without the special cup and get $2.00 off every time. If you don't specify, they will automatically bring you this expensive little plastic souvenir cup with your drink. They do make awesome drinks. We loved their Miami Vice which is half strawberry daiquiri and half pina colada....YUMMY. Don't forget Captain's Night, the drinks are free. If you don't like what's on the tray, you can order anything you like. As for the food. I heard good and bad comments prior to going, so I didn't get my hopes up too much. Bottom line, I give the food a 7 out of 10. They do an awesome job preparing food all day and practically all night. There is something for everyone. If you don't like something, get something else. The hamburgers on Lido Deck are wonderful and the Deli Corner sandwiches were out of this world. You might have to stand in line for your sandwich to be made to order, but you will be so glad you did. Remember, you pay for soda's and water in bottles. We got used to the free juice, coffee and iced tea, so we purchased very few sodas which are almost as much as a cocktail. I heard you can buy a special card for purchasing sodas cheaper, but we found we didn't have to have the soda. Our motto was "why pay for something when there is so much else to choose from that doesn't cost extra?" The coffee on the Lido Deck each morning is the best I ever had, but don't expect it to taste so good mid-day or late afternoon after it's been sitting around all day. There were over 2,000 people on board, but it never seemed too crowded (except by the pool some days). It's a big ship with lots of places to go. We never felt like there were too many people and we could always find a table or place to sit. One word of caution if you don't have children, don't want to be around a lot of children, or just want them to be somewhere else....don'g choose Thanksgiving week to go. There were over 800 children on board and they all hung out by the pool the entire time!! They loved the big slide and the constant supply of ice-cream and pizza. Can't blame them on that one, but at times it did seem like "TOO MANY KIDS." I would choose a week in the future when I know that most kids are in school. We had the late seating at dinner in the Mardi Gras Lounge and George the Greek was our Maitre De. He made the evening fun and he was so imformative. Our servers were so wonderful. We had Dana and Addie. If anyone gets them, tell them you heard about them. This will make them so happy. Dana is from Latvia and she's the best server I ever had. She talked a lot with us and she did entertained us with some magic tricks. Addie is her helper. He is from Bali, Indonesia. He was a hoot. They work so hard and you just want to take them home with you. You actually get a little attached to them after spending a week with them. Our table almost cried on the last night. Each couple gave Dana and Eddie anywhere from $10 to $20 extra on the last night. They do get tipped from the gratuity they automatically take off our Sail and Sign card each day, so don't feel like $10-$20 isn't enough. You'll be tempted to give them more, and by all means do so if you can. We each gave the Maitre De $5.00 the last night. We didn't give him more because he will get $5.00 or more handed to him by every guest on the last night because they encourage you to do so because he doesn't get a cut of the automatic gratuity. But think about how much he's getting in tips from hundreds of people at two dinner seatings!! I recommend getting a formal picture done on formal night. We got a good package deal on some beautiful pictures and I knew I'd regret it if we didn't get these taken. Remember, there is never an obligation to buy when they take your picture, so "go for it" and then go down to the photo gallery and laugh your head off at yourself and your family. If you see something you like, then you have the opportunity to buy. I advise waiting to the last day to buy from the gift shops on board. I got a bunch of stuff 50% off. My one and only complaint, which I did mention on the comment card they asked us to turn in is that "EVERYWHERE" they played back ground music which was 95% rap music. Not everyone likes rap music!!! It was loud and obnoxious and all of us complained the entire time about it. We would sit by the pool on the Lido Deck...rap music....waiting for a show in the Paris Lounge....rap music.....in the Rock n Roll Disco....rap music (by the way, why call it the Rock n Roll Disco if it's only going to be rap music?? Anyway, I do know this is a popular type of music today, but from what I saw, there were a lot of people 35 and older and I'm sure they felt the same way as we did. I suggested they play a variety of music to appeal to everyone. We would have liked some Jimmy Buffet to get us in the Island mood!! We did not get to go to Grand Cayman because of the weather conditions for that day, so we had to go to Progresso Mexico. We LOVED this little town. We loved it better than Cozumel!! I would go back to Progresso. It's a sweet little town, working class people, distinct little shops and market, friendly-smiling people, interesting sights...to say the least. We took a tour on an open air bus around town for $2.00. It was well worth it. We got to see all over this little town and hear about it's history and it's people. We got some wonderful bargains on jewelry, pottery and clothing. We hated to barter with the people too much because they are so poor and you just want to help them out. We stopped at a little hole in the wall bar "LaFamilia Restorante" and had Corona's for $1.00 each. We got sung to by a couple of guys that waiting for us to tip them when they were done. We didn't mind giving them a dollar for the entertainment. This is a fishing village and we found that out quickly when we saw all the fishing boats and the fish being sold in the market area...and the fishy smell on the Corona bottles we got in the little cantina! . I asked about it and found out that they keep their fish in the same fridge as the beer...thus.....fishy Corona!!! It made for a lot of laughs!!! We had one rough night at sea...which was the first night. We sailed into rough waters brought on by the cold front moving into the gulf. 'Lot's of people were sick...and I felt a little nautious, but I held it together and just went to bed early that night and tried to sleep it off. That doesn't work too good when you're in your cabin, lying in bed, rolling back and forth, back and forth....all night long. But I toughed it out and the next day I felt fine. There were no other rough nights after that. Debarkation went just as smooth as Embarkation. We were off the ship and at home by 11:30. Not bad at all!! So, that's my review. I loved the Inspiration. I loved the crew. I loved every aspect of my first cruise experience (besides the rap music) and we can't wait to sail again. We'll probably choose the Inspiration or another Carnival Cruise Ship again. We talked to a lot of people on the ship that cruise a lot. We even spoke to some wealthy people who have cruised some of the "better" cruise lines and everyone said that Carnival is the Best. I'm sticking with Carnival!!

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By N/A_CR

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Oct 24, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was originally a 5-night cruise set to sail to Cozumel and Grand Caymen. With hurricane Wilma this cruise ended up being a 4-night to Progresso, Mexico. This is my second time on the Inspiration and I have to say this is a wonderful ship with a fantastic crew. We booked this cruise the night before it set sail because our other vacation plans got cancelled with Hurricane Wilma. Having no tickets or fun pass or anything before we boarded

I would say that the check in process was smooth. Our sailing was delayed for 2 hours because the ship was not able to get through the Port of Tampa at its normal time because of the hurricane so the cruise terminal was more crowded then normal. The crew did a fantastic job in turning over the ship so that we could board and leave as quickly as possible. We had an inside cabin and a wonderful cabin steward. He cleaned our room twice a day and always left a chocolate on our pillow and a towel animal for us at night. There was however a few times that he opened the door to come in while we were still in our room. I would recommend locking your door at night, unless you want to be awaken in the morning. On the inside cabins the room is so dark that you could sleep all day and not realize it. Bring an alarm clock if you don’t want to miss any of the day! Also the sheets and the bed is so comfortable. Carnival actually sells these sheets and beds online, so if you really enjoy them you can buy them! There is so much to do on this ship. Some things that I would recommend not missing are, the late night adult comedy show, the wonderful hot tubs in the spa, the ice carving demonstration, and the captains party for some free cocktails!! There is also so much to eat on this ship as well. I would not miss the coffee bar for some wonderful lattes, the sushi bar, the late night buffet, or the freshly made hot sandwiches at the inside cafe. All of the food onboard is pretty good and there is such a huge variety that you are definitely going to find something that you really enjoy. I just don’t know how people can complain about not having anything to eat onboard or having bad food. Dinner in the dining room is a great opportunity to meet others on the ship and to ask questions about what to do onboard and at port. We met some wonderful people at our dining table and looked forward to finding out what fun stuff had done during the day. Progresso is a working town and I believe that it is not a very popular port of call. The ship docks at a 5-mile pier. You can take a free shuttle into town, which drops you off at the market. There you can find hand made souvenirs and can walk to Corona Beach. This is an ok beach with a little beach bar. We didn’t think that the water was that nice and the sand was pretty dirty so we didn’t stay. At the market you can also book shore excursions, which I recommend doing in this town. After walking around for a few blocks you will realize that there isn’t much to do and most of the town is small stores and businesses for the locals. We decided to book the Xcambo Excursion. For $30 each we boarded a bus which took us to resort about 20 minutes away for 3 hours of fun. At the resort we enjoyed free drinks, swimming in their huge pool and relaxing on the beach. You can also get massages for $10 and eat their food buffet for $10. Also on the ride there we saw tons of flamingos. On another note; you can barter with the vendors in town, but after seeing how poor this town is and how there really isn’t anything there, I realized that the locals probably could use the money more then me so giving them a few extra dollars wasn’t a big deal. Plus their prices start out cheaper then some of the stuff at home anyways and most of the stuff is handmade, which is worth more then regular store merchandise. All in all I have never been disappointed on any Carnival cruise. This is truly the most relaxing vacation and well worth the price. My only grip is that having been on the Inspiration twice and the Sensation once, most of the food menu stays the same and some of the shows were the same. If you are a frequent cruiser and like a different variety you might want to book on another cruise line.

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Oct 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Carnival ship Inspiration is a great ship. I had to get that out of the way first. We (my sister in law and myself) just returned from the Inspiration last week from a 5-day cruising experience. I will try to cover everything you ever thought to ask about and some stuff that you didn’t think of. Warning…this is LONG! First arriving in Tampa at the port. It is easy to find. It is Pier 2 and you can see it from far off. We dropped

off our luggage first, and then drove around to the parking garage. It is $12.00 a day to park, they take cash or charge, and you pay up front. Our luggage porter said it was $10.00 it isn’t. We dropped off our luggage at 10 a.m. We were early. We parked the car and got some good pictures of us heading to the ship from the parking deck. We stood around with other early bird arrivals. We didn’t have to wait for long to be let in. At 10:30 we were let in with the message, “Please have your documents ready…your ticket and ID ready.” We got our stuff ready (like it wasn’t already) and walked in. You go up an escalator and through the metal detectors. You are then told to go to a particular person behind the desk take in area. There are about 25 helpers, 2 to a team. We were directed to #25. She was great (I didn’t get her name); she took our fun pass, ticket and gave us our sign in sail cards all in one stop! She looked at our documents and decided we were terrorist just happy cruisers, she told us to go and wait we were in Group 1 to board! Easy. 15 minutes and it was done! We sat and waited in the waiting area…at 11:30 the call came for Group 1. We were ready! Picture was taken. Boarded the ship! By 11:35 we were up on the Lido deck eating lunch! It was great. It wasn’t crowded yet and we looked around the ship a bit. At 12:30 when the shore reservation desk opened we went down to make reservations for the Cayman Islands tour (Turtle Farm, Hell, and Sting Ray City) for $59.00. We then walked to see our room. First off, I want to say we had an inside upper/lower guaranteed room. We found out several weeks ago when we got our tickets we were upgraded to a stateroom with a porthole window (Riviera 3). We were in heaven! Our luggage was waiting outside our room. We moved them inside and unpacked, we were fast…we wanted to see the rest of the ship. The cabin itself was bigger than my cabin last year on the Fascination. The bathroom was adequate for what you needed to do with a goody basket. There were 2 closets and a safe (we didn’t use it). We had 2 twin beds. One was under the porthole windows (mine) the other was on the other wall. We had a vanity with drinks and water (we asked to have them taken away…it wasn’t a problem). We needed the room for all our girly stuff. Our only outlet was right there. I did bring a power strip incase we would need it. The pothole window was like a window seat with a curtain. We had fun with the porthole window everyday, each morning we would sit in the window and take our picture with a self-timer digital camera; our cabin steward must have thought we had lost our minds. We had made our own tripod using 2 stools and the garbage can (turned upside down). Every day the steward took it apart and we put it together, finally he left it alone when he cleaned the room, he would just put it against the wall. Roberto was our cabin steward…we saw him only once on the first afternoon. He asked when our dinner seating was and if we were late sleepers. He was a delight. He left us towel animals every night and he alternated which bed he left them on so we wouldn’t be slighted that one bed got all the animals. He even lined up our shoes that we kicked off during the day. He worked hard on our room 2 times a day. We weren’t messy but he kept us straight. Off we went to see the ship. We started at the top and worked our way down…so we went to the Sports Deck first. The spa was giving free tours and free hot stone massages for the neck. Yes, we did those! It was fantastic! Had the spa tour. It was nice. Some stuff there was a fee for and some stuff was free. We also went to the Sun deck, which was above the Sports deck, yes we walked it once, and we knew we were coming up here again! Too much exercising was in the air! The Veranda deck was just below the Sports Deck. They have a very nice deck for walking around. It was windy up there! There were the staterooms there also. We did peek into one of the cabins. The door was open, but our cabin was bigger! Lido Deck…This is where the food lives! There are other things on this deck, but the food is most important. There is the pool with a real neat slide (yes, I rode on it 2 times); it is filled with salt water. There are 2 hot tubs. They were relaxing! There are bars and music and where some of the games were played. We saw the hairy chest and the survivor games being played there on the deck. The ice carving was also done there. There are also ample lounge chairs available. This deck was also the host of most of the mid-night buffets. We saw a lot of this deck. Pizza, sandwiches and dessert were in unlimited supply. The wait staff was always working on keeping it clean and had time to take our pictures when we asked. They were hard workers who seemed never to run out of energy and made it seem easy (I worked in the restaurant industry, it is not easy!). Promenade Deck…here is most of the lounges and casino. We went to an Art Auction (got a free print for attending) that was held up there, walked into the casino (played the slot machines…came out only $5.50 ahead…I’m not a gambler so $10.00 was my limit), the upper Paris Lounge was also accessible from this deck also. We didn’t spend a great deal of time on this deck, but what we saw of it, it was kept clean from the staff that was always busy. Atlantic Deck…we spent a lot of time on this deck. Our dining room was the Mardi Gras was here along with the Shakespeare Library and the Paris Lounge with all the on board shops (duty free). The Carnivale dining room was also here. Our waiter Catalin (known as Bobby) from Romania was a great hit with our table! We were seated with a pair of best friends, a mother and daughter, a married couple and us. We were early seating table 199. Lets just say this was the highlight of my day. If my husband had minded I would have brought him home with me. Our Madre D’ was George the Greek… OOMPA!! Paris Lounge is where the lifeboat drill was held for Muster Station A. The Paris Lounge was where all the shows were done. The ship talks and some of the games played like Bingo, Trivia games, horse “racing” and the reverse Scavenger hunt were also here (I probably missed a few things too). We managed to sit in front for all the shows and whatever else that we came here for. We were visible…WHOO-WHOO! I did manage to “win” a 24-caret ship on a stick I the trivia contest. My kids and husband don’t see how…come to think about it I have to thank some folks from Alabama for giving me clues. I had a blast being up there. I did manage to come out of my shell! I love to cruise! Empress deck was where the photo gallery lived! We bought a lot of pictures (I should say my sister in law did!!) Formal night we went to every station to get our picture taken. The next day we went to see them…we found over 60! I never realized how many we had taken. We did buy 4 at $19.99 each. We were going to buy several more, but we found you had to buy the 8 x 10 to get the 5 x 7. Bummer. If they let us just buy the 5 x 7, they would have made much more money…we had several we would have bought. We did buy an every day photo taken at the dinner table or when we left the ship for Cayman Islands and Cozumel. Between the Lido deck and this deck I am not sure which deck we visited more often. Upper, Main and Riviera Decks were all cabins. I have covered all the decks. Now, I will fill you in on the Captain reception, Previous cruisers reception and our tours. I will try to be brief (I said I would try!). The Captain’s Reception and Previous Cruisers Reception were held in the Paris lounge with free drinks and some munchies. This is where I found their red wine to taste lovely; I had several of them each night. I did manage a picture with the Captain Donato and also Fun ship Freddie. Our Tours…We did the Cayman Island tour (Turtle farm, Hell, and Sting Ray City). The reason we decided to take a tour here is because the ship is only here for about 5 hours. The tour was 4 ½ hours long. We had a wonderful tour director…Lindo Parsons. He gave us a wonderful introduction to the island history. He answered our questions about everything. The Turtle Farm was great, we did get to hold the turtles…we did have to catch them from the tank. They must have known we were coming…they swim fast. Hell was a quick stop, I did have time to mail 2 postcards and my sister in law took pictures of everything. Stingray City wasn’t a “city” at all. It is were you seeing stingrays in their natural environment! They were wonderful; they came right up to you. If you have squid in your hand they are you best friend! They are soft and silky (like foam) on the bottom. The tops of them feel like a low-grade sand paper. We got our picture taken with them, the tour operator takes the pictures and if you buy them he mails you a disc. We bought all of our pictures ($60.00) for about 15 pictures…9 of them with the stingrays together (both of us in the picture) and separate and then pictures of the stingrays they have taken. Cozumel, Mexico…we researched it very well. We decided to do Chankanaab Park on our own. We were going to be here almost 12 hours. We took a taxi there and they haven’t even opened yet. We were told to go see Barbara at a shop where we could get a package deal. I looked on the Internet before I went so I knew what was offered and about how much. She told me about package 1 which was the Sea Lion Show, Sea Lion swim and entrance into the park was $59.00. Package 2 was Sea Lion show, Sea Lion swim and the Dolphin Encounter for $119.00. We didn’t think long…we took package #2. Put it on the charge card. The Inspiration doesn’t offer anything but the Dolphin Encounter (Touch and kiss) for $99.00. They would make a fortune if they offered what we got! So when we paid we had to decide on the times for all of what we were going to do. All times were Central time zone you need to take that into account when planning your day. We had the early (first) Sea Lion show only about 30 people came for this and the early (first) Sea Lion swim only 6 (including us) we there. We got to hold a sloth (picture was taken). We were in the water for the swim when we got our sea lion kiss (picture was taken) sea lion hold (picture was taken) also a DVD was made. They were $29.00 each and 3 pictures for $30.00. But they were an hour apart. We did explore the ruins that they have, the botanical gardens, and the beach of course. They have a restaurant there also we had lunch there. We had time to do some swimming before the dolphin encounter. When we went back to the dolphin encounter we were expecting a crowd as we saw earlier in the day crowds upwards to 15 in the water with the dolphins. We were pleased when the guy told us it was just us! We were led out to our dolphin trainer and dolphin Tatich. We were given instructions on how to touch the dolphin. We had about 45 minutes in the water with him and the trainer. We had our picture made with him kissing us and us kissing him and also shaking hands. We got to touch his tongue (soft) and feel his heart beat. Also to rub his tummy! We learned about him and how he was trained. His trainers told us about his tail and dorsal fin how they are unique like our fingerprints. Before we knew it time was up and we were saying good-bye. We went to see the DVD and the pictures. In the end we had purchased (between the 2 of us) 3 DVD’s (1 sea lion swim and 2 dolphin encounters) and 9 pictures. We were there for 7 hours! 10-5. We left there in a taxi and then went to downtown Cozumel. We walked and walked. He had our hair braided by a lady in the square. We were exhausted and took a taxi back to the ship. All in all, we had a superb time and I am ready to go again. We never felt the movement of the ship while we were in our cabin. We seemed to feel it more when we were on the upper deck (Lido Deck). I would recommend this cruise to all, friends, whole families, senior and newly married couples. We had a blast and if you go with the same mind set we did you will too.

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Oct 1, 2005

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: We drove to the Port of Tampa and got a little lost. We could see the ship but couldn’t quite get to it for awhile. How do you get a little lost? Well, Map Quest wasn’t as accurate as it could have been. We parked in the parking garage for $60.00 which was just catty corner from the terminal. We wheeled our luggage about half a block and dropped it off with a Porter in front of the terminal. We gave him the recommend tip.

We arrived at the terminal about 12:30PM and were on the ship about a half hour later. We found that going through all the security checkpoints to be quick and efficient. I think the “sail and sign” card is an excellent idea. Heading Out: We ate lunch and wandered around the ship all afternoon. The ship left port at 4:00PM so we headed up to the Sun Deck on the very top floor to watch all the scenery. I had been told to be sure to be up there when going under the Sunshine Skyline Bridge as it is amazing. I guess I didn’t realize that it would take 2 hours to get to the bridge as the ship has to leave port, pass though Hillsboro Bay before entering Tampa Bay where the bridge lies at the very mouth of the bay. My husband decided to go to the room around 5PM to check on things and found that our luggage had been delivered. He came back to tell me so we decided to go unpack for a few minutes and returned to the Sun Deck to get incredible pictures of the bridge as we approached, passed under (with 15 feet to spare), and then looking back at the aft of the boat with the bridge in the background. The Trip: Starting out was a little rough as we were heading into Hurricane Stan. Be sure to take motion sickness pills with you even if you don’t need them. It’s better to be safe than sorry. By Sunday morning I was feeling the wrath of Stan! Then I figured I would be on dry land in 24 hours so I could do this. Come Monday morning I must have found my sea legs because I no longer was feeling queasy and did not have to take any more pills. The weather was cloudy to partly cloudy most of the time so it kept the heat down. We experience little rain except in Cozumel, Mexico where we had a small rain shower. We really enjoyed the towel critters we would come back to each night. The entire staff always seemed glad to see us no matter where we went. There were plenty of activities to keep us busy. We had an early seating for dinner which we thought really worked out nicely. That way we could see the early show in the Paris Lounge. They were always taking pictures of you which you could purchase if you wanted. The International staffs from 50 different counties were very friendly and helpful. The food was incredible and presented in spectacular fashion. Ports of Call: Grand Cayman: We took the Grand Cayman Island Tour which gave us an overall look at the island. Our tour guide told us of the history and current events of the Caymans. We got to see 7 Mile Beach, the Turtle Farm, Hell and the Tortugas Rum Factory. After the tour we did some shopping in Georgetown. Since there is no dock we had dropped anchor and had to get in tender boats to go back and forth to the Inspiration. It was beautiful. We really appreciated the extra security precautions the staff takes getting you on and off the boat. It’s just like airport security checkpoints when coming back on ship. Cozumel, Mexico: We were here on our wedding anniversary. We had chosen the Dolphin Swim Experience for this port’s shore excursion as it is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. My husband didn’t want to swim but got some fabulous pictures of the dolphins. The best part was that we did this in the Gulf of Mexico in the dolphin’s natural environment but within a penned area. After we finished, we walked to the shopping area which was probably a mile and a half. We didn’t buy anything but did look at a few shops. Debarkation: On our last morning we had to get up very early to meet with Customs at 6:15AM as we had purchased 2 extra liters of rum than was allowed. The officer waived us so we headed to breakfast and then to pack. We had decided to do the self-assist program. If you choose this method be sure to leave your cabin door open to hear the call for departure. With the ship clearing all of Customs they announced the call about 7:20AM. By 7:40AM we were at the car. Conclusion: After getting over the initial sea sickness (which may not happen if you are not heading into a hurricane) we had a really nice time. I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to do a cruise again on the first full day but after getting home we’re already looking at where we want to go next year.

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Sep 26, 2005

Western Caribbean

I was really looking forward on going on my long awaited cruise ever since my last cruise was cancelled due to Hurricane Frances in 2004. And I could not sleep the night before our flight that Monday morning from Cleveland, OH. Once we got off the plane, immediately, we noticed that there were a couple of Carnival Reps waiting in the airport directing people where to pick up the bus to make our transfer to the port. The transfer

from the airport to the port of Tampa went smoothly. Once we arrived at the port and exited the bus, we identified our luggage as we were instructed by the bus driver and was told that our luggage would arrive sometimes later than afternoon. After we identified our luggage we started with the embarkation process. I thought the embarkation was kind of slow, tedious, and repetitious and very busy, but it was manageable. The only thing that I was curious about was why they kept asking to see our (everyone’s) “Sail & Sign” card. I think once you got passed a certain point they should not have to ask for it anymore. Our first photo was taken during the embarkation, which I purchased. Once on the ship we went straight towards the embarkation lunch. Lunch was served on the Lido deck, buffet styled. The food was good especially the cheeseburgers. After lunch we went find our cabin; which was U60. When we arrived at our cabin I was amazed at how nice our ocean view cabin was. Since our luggage had not arrived yet we stayed in our room until the lifejacket drilled at 3:30 pm and then after the drilled we returned the life jackets to our room and went to tour our “home away from home”. After we toured the ship for a while, we headed back to the cabin to find our luggage had finally arrived. Our seating for dinner was scheduled at 8:30 pm seating in the Mardi Gras Dining Room. The dining room staff was very professional and kept entertained each night. Our wait staff was so friendly and professional that I ended up tipping them at the last dining meal. The food was especially good, also. I personally recommend the strawberry bisque as a starter, (when it’s on the menu for that night). And since I love seafood, I ordered it every chance that I got. During dinner we got a chance to meet our dining mates. After everyone introduction we found out that a mom and daughter that was at our table was from the Cleveland area also. What a surprise this was to us! After dinner we went back to our cabin to relax and then planned to go partied but we were so tired that we ended up falling to sleep before 11:00 pm. That night I slept really well. I must say that my bed was very comfortable and the cabin was nice and comfortably cool. Tuesday, Day at Sea, all I did was some shopping and attend some events that was schedule on the back of the Carnival Caper (carnival newspaper) where scheduled of events is located on what’s going on during the cruise. Tuesday night was the night of the Captain’s ball and lobster tails was being served that night in the dining rooms. Wednesday was our first day at port at Grand Cayman. Grand Cayman is a really nice beautiful island; which is still under construction. Unfortunately, they are still going through the rebuilding phase since one of the hurricanes swept through there and devastated much of the island. But everyone seems as though they were having fun with shopping or with their excursions. We were only on the island for about six hours. During that time we took the tour of the turtle farm and “see & sea” tour. At 1:00 pm we lined up to get back on the tender to take us back to the ship. Once back on the ship we went straight to the Mardi Gras dining room where casual lunch was being served. Then off we went to some more scheduled events and played some table tennis on the Lido deck. My friend went back to the cabin, but I stayed on the Lido deck and watched some guys, whom we met earlier that day, play chess (with gigantic pieces). Wednesday night we went back to the Mardi Gras and after dinner I changed clothes and went to the night club on the Promenade Deck. Thursday, morning we went woke up we were in Cozumel, Mexico. We signed up for 2 excursions. The first one was the ATV on the beach. All I have to say is AWESOME! We were supposed to snorkel but they canceled it since it had rained earlier that day. But we stilled went to the beach and had fun in the ocean and played some volley ball with our tour guides. After our ATV excursion we went back to the ship to get ready for our sunset horse back riding excursion. This was an awesome one as well. After our horse back riding, the natives fed us buffet styled, authentic Mexican food and entertained us with some dancing. After the sun went down, since my friend and I wore shorts (which we do not recommend wearing) fleas and/or mosquitoes ate us up. I was itching for days once I got back to Cleveland. We were in Cozumel for about 12 hours. Friday was our last day at sea and this was time for packing as well. We were instructed to pack and leave our luggage outside our cabin door and the luggagage were going to be picked up between 9pm and 12 am. The packing was kind of challenging since we had to make room for the things we had bought during our vacation. Also, what we were wearing for disembarkation, we wore it the night before since we were not going to see our luggage again until the next morning at port Saturday was the disembarkation process. There must have been a “million” people stuck on the stairwell with no place to go when they called for regular disembarkation. We had eaten breakfast on the Lido Deck and waited until the called for regular disembark. There was no way we could get down the stairs; therefore, the only way down was to wait for the slow elevators in the main area. Once down on the main floor we noticed how the line snaked all the way around to where we had to disembark. Fortunately, for us, one of the crew members told us, from the end of the line to follow him and then this way they had 2 lines disembarking; which made this go much smoother from what I had read on cruise review, previously. All in all, this was the ultimate vacation for me. It was more than I imagined. The floating hotel is the best way to go! But I highly recommend that you wear a jacket or shawl during the cruise because the ship can become very cold!

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Aug 25, 2005

Caribbean

Embarkation: We left out of the port of Tampa. It was a breeze. We were some of the first ones to get start embarkation because our flight landed in Tampa at 8am. We got on the boat around noon. Food: The food was good. They do still serve lobster on formal night. They also served filet mignon. Being that I don’t eat red meat, I must say that my favorite dish from the formal dining room was the tilapia. It was very fresh. There

is 24 hour pizza. The pizza was better than what I expected. They don’t just have cheese and pepperoni pizza. They have many different kinds of pizza. I didn’t too much care for the dining room on the Lido Deck. There was also a lunch buffet on the Lido Deck. I didn’t like that they served the same thing for lunch everyday. It was chicken, fries, and burgers. Service: The service in all of the dining rooms was excellent. These guys really deserve good tips. They are really good at what they do. Our stateroom steward was very nice and answered any questions that we had. They usually clean the rooms in the morning when you go to breakfast and in the evening when you go to dinner. Our rooms were always supplied with towels and if they weren’t they brought them right to us. Room service has a limited menu, but it is still very tasty. They are pretty fast about getting you your food also. Stateroom: It is true that the regular staterooms on this boat are somewhat larger than the staterooms on most other boats. The room was nice and the beds were comfortable beyond belief. There were also robs provided in the room. If you plan on taking anything that you will have to plug in, keep in mind that there is only one outlet per stateroom on the boat. Entertainment: There was a black comedian on our cruise that was absolutely hilarious. If my memory serves me correctly, which it usually doesn’t, his name was Hank. I think that he was the best out of all of the entertainment. The Love and Marriage game is pretty funny and I also enjoyed the show “Shout.” There were two nightclubs. One had rock and roll and the other had hip-hop. There were usually a lot of people in the hip-hop club. I never went to the other club. Port of Call: If you are going to Cozumel, you absolutely have to go snorkeling. It was beautiful. I would suggest that you take some kind of raft out in the water with you though. Snorkeling can be very tiresome. We had the lifejackets that you have to blow up when we went, so they didn’t hold you above the water very well. Also the waters were kind of rough when we went. I stayed on our guide’s raft a lot. In conclusion, I had a really great time. I went with one of my friends and we both enjoyed it. However, I do not believe the stereotype that Carnival attracts more younger people than Royal Caribbean. The type of crowd was about the same to me.

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Aug 11, 2005

Western Caribbean

The Overview: This was my third cruise, and my second with Carnival. My first was on the Majestic, of the old Premier Line, and then a seven day trip on the Sensation. I really enjoy Carnival, and anticipated this cruise greatly. The itinerary was four days, Tampa to Cozumel, then back again. My group consisted of two of my co-workers, and other friends for a total of ten people in 4 cabins on the Empress deck. This was intended to be a

weekend diversion for relaxation and a good time, and greatly exceeded those goals. We all had a great time, and I have only a few very minor complaints. The Embarkation: We all arrived at the Tampa seaport at around 1 p.m. and found the front drop off area to be congested, but organized. The porters were very pushy, and demanded tips for the unsolicited service. The port was packed with people, and the line was long to get through the security checkpoint. This was temporary, and things sped up quickly after the check. Carnival’s “Fun Pass” is a great idea, and greatly reduces time at check in. For those who haven’t been on Carnival recently, the Fun Pass is a program on their website where you type in your personal information, and print off a ticket. You then show the ticket to the Embarkation Officer at the desk, they check your ID and passport (or birth certificate) and give you your Sail and Sign card and other papers. It takes only a few minutes, then you’re done! After that you wait a few minutes, get your photo taken, and board the ship. The Start: Because I was already familiar with Carnival’s Fantasy class ships, we found our room quickly, threw down the carry-on bags, and headed for the Brasserie Grill up on the Lido Deck for some lunch. After that was the life boat drill,,, sigh. Once we were done with that little slice of heaven, we headed up to the sports deck to watch the ship pass under the Sunshine Skyway bridge. Its breathtaking to watch the ship’s funnel pass only feet below the roadway of that beautiful bridge (great photo op!). The voyage was off to a great start. The Inspiration is a medium aged, medium sized boat when compared to the newer ships of the fleet. It is still in great shape, and clean enough to eat off of the floors. The crew does a great job keeping the carpets cleaned, and showed only minimal wear and staining. I liked the new atrium bar, which replaced the old sculpture that sat in the center. It was nice to sit and enjoy a (really overpriced) beer, and gaze up through five decks at the huge glass ceiling. The promenade was well furnished, though I thought the faux wood violin sculptures to be a bit cheesy. The night clubs were very lively, I loved the piano bar! The library was quiet, and provided a haven from all the kids on board. I found only minor infractions in regards to the interior. The starboard glass atrium elevator was out of service, and in the regular elevators I found that some of the finish on the inside of the doors had come off. The Amenities: I really liked the spa. The steam room and sauna were relaxing, and the hot tubs were never crowded. They also provide towels and soaps so you can shower there without brining bath supplies. They also have a full gym, which I avoided like the plague since I was on vacation. They also provide a jogging track which I looked at from afar. The main pool has a nice waterslide, but the whole area was clogged with kids; much to my chagrin as I am a childless “twentysomething”. I spent most of my time on deck at the rear pool, where you will find mostly adults since there is no slide. Both pools are flanked by two adequately sized hot tubs. There is also a children’s pool far aft, which I saw about as much as the jogging track. Deck chairs were plentiful, and the deck waiters were attentive. The Cabin: I think the cabins aboard Carnival ships are top notch. We had a bare bones interior stateroom. This was more than adequate since we only slept there. The beds were comfortable, and the linens were always fresh. We continually had clean towels, and our steward kept the room neat. There are soap and shampoo dispensers in the shower, which I found very convenient. The sodas and bottled water in the room were pricey, I recommend buying the Fountain Fun card at the start of the cruise for unlimited sodas at the bars. They also provide robes and deck towels in the rooms, but don’t lose them since they are about thirty bucks each. The Food: Plentiful and delicious. I have never had any problem with Carnivals food offering. The steak on the first night was tender and flavorful, and the lobster on formal night was also very good. Our servers were excellent and very polite. The Brasserie Grill was our usual destination for lunch and breakfast. We always found fresh food waiting for us. I enjoyed the pizzeria and the delicatessen. The only crew complaint I had was in reference to the fellow manning the pizza counter at night. He usually seemed angry to have to serve anything more than cheese or pepperoni. I guess that’s to be expected though, as I would probably be grouchy having to deal with drunken tourists all night. The Ports of Call: Our day in Cozumel was enjoyable. I had already been there once aboard the Sensation, and enjoyed it very much. After leaving the ship you MUST walk through a long mall type building built into the pier. I tried to take the sidewalk next to it, but that plan was foiled by two security guards. Once in the mall you get bombarded with offers of cheap tax free booze, cigarettes and perfume/cologne. This is not entirely bad, as the prices are better than the ships, but I did not like being a captive audience. After the mall, you enter a small village of gift shops and jewelry stores. I found the prices here to be slightly higher than in town. We caught a cab, and headed into town. The cabbies usually speak some English and all charge roughly the same for a one way trip. We went to the shopping areas first. Never pay what the merchants ask for! You can negotiate the price of almost any item. I got several things for less than a quarter of the stated price. Of course a visit to Cozumel would not be complete without a visit to Senor Frogs/Carlos and Charlies. The downstairs (Carlos and Charlies) was packed with sweaty tourists dancing to modern American hip hop music. I found the upstairs (Senor Frogs) to be much less crowded, but still very lively. There were conga lines and dancing, plus free popcorn. They gave out free shots during the conga line. It was more like free rubbing alcohol and water sprayed in your mouth, and on your shirt, and up your nose. We still had a great time, especially when they played Shelley West’s “Jose Cuervo”, and a guy in a stereotypical Mexican outfit with sombrero came out and danced. WARNING: Gentlemen guard your ladies, we saw numerous instances of the local staff groping the female tourists who had one too many drinks. As the midnight drew near we returned to our ship and left Mexico behind. The midnight buffet that night was a drastically “Americanized” Mexican feast, deliciously ironic. The End: The saddest part of any cruise is seeing the home port on that last morning. You know that its time to return home to the usual grind, and leave your floating hotel behind. We ate our last meal on board in the Brasserie. It was fitting that we began and ended our cruise there. We waited on the lido deck with our carry off bags for the call to debark. This brings me to the single biggest complaint of the entire cruise. Once customs cleared the ship for debarkation I expected the staff would call the sections of the ship one at a time to leave. How wrong I was. They simply said customs had cleared us, go ahead and leave! This caused a stampede of people to snarl the stairwells and hallways because everyone has to leave through the same door. Imagine 2000 people trying to exit a building trough a fire exit door at the same time. It was a huge human traffic jam that took over an hour to traverse. I jumped in an elevator and rode it down to the Empress deck, which saved a few minutes of standing in line. The whole unorganized process was maddening. Once off the ship the progression through customs was quick. With the exception of the terrible debarkation I really loved this cruise. It was a great time had by all! It prompted me to book another cruise on the Inspiration in July of 2006. This time we will be doing the 5 day, with the extra stop in Grand Cayman. I can’t wait! Hopefully the review of that cruise will be as positive as this one.

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Jul 14, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my first time cruising and I must say that overall, I would cruise again but not with Carnival. Before I get into all of the things that were less than stellar, I feel it is only fair to highlight the positives, however few they were. First of all, this ship boasts an amazing band called Music Network. They are by far the entertainment salvation. Check them out every time you can. Believe me, you will want to find some real talent.

Secondly, I must say that the staff and the service was exceptional. Our room was always clean and our waiters were very prompt and friendly (we took the early seating). The room service was fast and efficient and the pizza in the grill was actually pretty darn good. The casino was alright however the odds are less in your favor on a cruise ship. Don't go there expecting to hit it big. The best part of the entire trip however was Cozumel. The shopping is extensive but only if you go downtown. And if you drink, you'll think you died and went to alcoholic heaven. That was the good stuff...really. Now for the areas that needed improvement. The entertainment was of an A+ high school calibre. And I wonder if Las Vegas knows they are billing the shows as "Vegas Style". The lead vocalists, although they get gold stars for effort, are simply cruise singers. No more, no less. And the roving entertainment throughout the ship is nothing to write home about either. Next *beware*...the sail and sign policy will get you in the end. There is not one place on the whole ship where you can use cash (except casino). This forces you to put everything on the sail and sign card which is linked to your credit card. This includes sodas, magazines, liquor, Tylenol, everything! So on the last day you will get this whopping bill in addition to the gratuities that they have already put on the card...for your convenience. Oh and if you play bingo and you buy 3 cards for $20.00, just be prepared that it is for 1 two minute game and it is packed. The food was in no way gourmet. Thankfully we sat with very nice folks. And the last thing is you should know who you are sailing with. If screaming kids and intoxicated teenagers are your thing, this is the ship for you. Don't be surprised if you spot a few sitting next to you at the casino or the bar. While this is billed as a budget family cruise, that should not mean that you have to be at the mercy of those who are classless and obnoxious. After speaking with some other passengers over breakfast, we found we were not the only ones who felt this way. This has not turned us off to cruising, just cruising with Carnival. I think that we will save up next time and go with one of the more classier lines where our money will go just a little further.

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By Sean_CR

  • New

Jul 3, 2005

Western Caribbean

Inspiration is a small ship with many things to do. A lot of motion can be felt in 5 ft seas. Dinner could have been better but they have a great deli open at all hours by the pool. Gym has a lot to be desired. This is a good deal for the price. We just went to escape our kids for 5 days! Cozumel is not all that wonderful. Don't waste your money on the $30.00 per person beach trip, Beach is dirty!!! I am traveling again next June

out of Jacksonville, I do not expect much so I am nevr disappointed, It is all in who you are with. Go and have fun while you can.

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By Cori_CR

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May 23, 2005

Western Caribbean

We went on the 5 day cruise for our honeymoon. We chose the Inspiration due to the location, as we were spending a couple days @ Disney after the cruise. We stayed in the Royal Suite. U70 was our cabin. Our room was beautiful. Exactly as it is pictured on the web site. The bed has goose down comforters, and the bed was very cozy. The sitting area is large and comfortable. I loved our balcony! It was huge. I spent alot of time out there,

soaking up the sun and watching out over the water. We always had a great view of the Ports without all the crowding on the main decks to get pictures. Our cabin steward was very good. Our room stayed clean and well stocked. Only downfall to the room was that on the first night there was a sewage smell, they attended right to it though, and it didn't come back. Also there is the main lobby right above the row of suites on the Upper Deck. Not sure why they would do this, one day there was so much activity upstairs that I woke up thinking there was a thunderstorm outside! And this was @ 7:30 in the morning. The food was good, but not as good as I had read in other reviews. I am picky though, so don't go too much on my thoughts on food. I'm not much on buffets, but they were decent. I loved the salad buffet. I ended up eating a lot of salads! And pizza, that is really good. Room service menu is a little limited during the day, its more of a late night menu, just sandwiches and such. We ate @ the late seating in the Mardi Gras room. Our table was in a great location, and we loved our table mates. They were all couples about our same age, from states that all bordered each other. The food here was pretty good too. I don't eat sea food and a lot of their menu is sea food. But they always offered a beef or chicken entree as well. The little shows they put on for you are great! They definately make sure you have a good time. The pool areas are crowded, but we had a full ship so I expected that. I went to a few of the shows and clubs on the ship. They are very popular on the ship, and fun to do. The casino was a little dull. We spent a few hours there the night we sailed out, and not much was happening. We stopped in Grand Cayman first. We were only there from 7am-2pm so there was only time for one excursion and lunch. We went to Sting Ray City of course. That was so much fun. The water in the Caymans is breathtaking. The sandbar is huge, and several boats dock there with the stingrays @ one time, yet no one is crowded. They are so cute, and very friendly. The picture they take of you kissing the sting ray is $20 for 1 or $30 for 3 pics and they put it on a disk. So having a water proof camera with you would be smart. I could of gotten a lot more pictures for less. In Cozumel we stayed for 12 hrs, and were able to do 2 excursions and shop and relax in between on the boat. I love Cozumel! It is so much fun. We went on the Unlimited Snorkel in the morning. This was great. The water is warm and clear, you can see so far down. They have a cantina on the beach for when your done you can have drinks and lunch before heading back to the ship. After resting up and having lunch back on the ship, we went shopping until it was time to go on the Sunset Horseback in the Mayan Jungle. This is SO much fun. Those guys from the ranch make sure you have plenty to do. After the ride you have dinner and drinks in the Cantina. Boy do they know how to have a good time. There was so much to drink and eat. They put on a dance for you, have a BBQ, do a Pinata and get you DRUNK! I would go on that excursion again when I come to Cozumel. The shopping is a blast too. They all offer shots of liquor to come in and shop. The 5 days flew by too fast. I cant wait to go on another cruise.    

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By DJ_CR

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May 14, 2005

Western Caribbean

My boyfriend and I went on a cruise on the Inspiration and were pleased. I am going to write about the things that were important to us in our decision. Activities/Entertainment There were always things to do. They constantly had games occurring: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Fear Factor, Hairy Chest Contest, Trivia Games, Name that Tune, Newlywed Games. They also had shows nightly. There were two Las Vegas style shows, which I loved.

There was Karoake, dancing, and the casino every night. They also had games of Bingo for $500, $1000, and free cruises as the prize. There were bands that played out by the pool. They also had piano and violin players that played for you throughout the day and night. We went to watch these on more than one occasion. They also featured two late night comedy shows. One of the comedians were funny; the other was not, but still funny because he wasn’t funny! There was a casino and pool, which we didn’t frequent. The pool was much much smaller that I expected. The pool was never crowded when we walked by. There were always lounge chairs available on the ship. There didn’t appear to be very many children on our cruise. I knew most of the children by faces by the time the cruise was over. Overall, the entertainment and activities were sufficient. If you someone is bored, it is their own fault. Food The food was good to okay. When you embark, they have a buffet waiting for you. This begins around 12 and ends around 3:30, so get on early if you can. Okay, There are hot dogs, hamburgers, grilled chicken, chili, French fries, potato salad, cole slaw served at the grill by the pool. This grill seemed to be open from 11:30 to around 4:00 (I could be a little off on the times). The hamburgers, hotdogs, and chili are good, and the fries are great. There is a lunch buffet everyday at the Brassiere dining. There were themes everyday; some included: Caribbean, Italian, Indian, American etc. Don’t forget you can always go the grill for lunch. We ate lunch at the grill everyday except for the last day when they had American cuisine at the buffet. They had fried chicken, baked potatoes, etc. Breakfast was served buffet style at the Brassiere everyday. This was also good and we enjoyed it. We never ate breakfast or lunch in the dining room. It was too good on the buffet and at the grill. I couldn’t imagine it being better in the dining room. The buffet lines were never long. There was 24 hour pizza and 24 hour ice cream. We tried the pizza two times. It was okay the first time and good the second time. I tried the ice cream on the 4th day of the cruise and wished I had tried it sooner. It was good. We ate dinner everyday in the dining room. I was not a fan of this. I usually don’t like to try new things, so this was my least favorite dining part of the cruise. I typically played over everything I ordered at night. There was nothing outstanding that I remember about dinner. (Its probably just me though because of my tastes and not a reflection on the cooks.) Our table mates seemed to enjoy it very much. I usually ordered stuff like, honey glazed chicken, sirloin, i.e. stuff that I knew what it was. The waiters sang for us and dance for us three nights. This was fun to watch. Late night eating began at 11:30: We went to this every night (because I usually didn’t eat my dinner.) They had a variety of limited things. They also had the burgers and fries late at night too. I think I ate fries twice every day. They also featured the Gala Midnight Buffet on the formal night. There was also a Mexican midnight buffet; I stayed far far away from this. I didn’t want to be up all night. Room The room was always keep clean. They make animals for you and turn down the bed at night. Pictures Let me just say, be prepared to spend at least $75 on photos. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise and plan to go on another cruise in the near future. I would recommend this ship to anyone.    

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Apr 25, 2005

Western Caribbean

My husband went on this cruise for our 10 year anniversary. This was my first cruise, his second. Overall the cruise was enjoyable, however it left a taste in my mouth to go on an even nicer and bigger boat, i'll explain why later! Boarding on the boat went very smoothly, that probably took about 20 min. we boarded at 1:00 pm. Once we got on the boat we went to the Lido deck for lunch. The buffet food was pretty good, however the food

at the sit down dinner at night was awesome!!! The lido deck had pretty much the same food everyday. Hamburgers, hot dogs, salad fries etc. The service was not very impressive the first day. There seemed to be allot of commotion and the staff seemed very snappy!! Not what I was expecting. Dinner at night was very nice. We opted for the late seating (8:30) we brought friends with us so we sat with them every night. You do get sat with people you don't know, but they seem to try and put all the singles together, the married young couples together etc. The day at sea we lied out all day, we didn't go in the pool or the hot tubs, they were always crawling with kids and very crowded. There is a steel drum band that plays for a few hours everyday and they definitely put you in the Caribbean mood. Grand Cayman was our first port of call. It was terribly damaged by the hurricane last year and they have alot of rebuilding to do. We did the stingray city tour, which is awesome. There must be hundreds of stingrays it freaks you out a little because there are so many of them. We did a little shopping, but Mexico is the next stop so save your shopping for there. The next day we were in Mexico and did snorkeling and the power boat tour. Both were fun but the power boat excursion was soooo much fun, definitely worth the money!!! After that we went some shops and went shopping, you're in Cozumel don't pay full price for anything, definitely bargain them down... next to went to Carlos and Charles in Cozumel... what can I say but FUN!!!! we spent a few hours there, that is definitely an experience not to miss. Margaritas and shots later we took a cab to Fat Tuesdays right at the port and stayed there for a couple of hours and danced, drank, and danced. This was my first cruise so I didn't really have and expectations.. They ship was older but very clean. I was a little disappointed because I thought there would be more elaborate ice sculptures, but that was only one night. The dinner dining room was just like a restaurant, I was expecting maybe a more elaborate ballroom. We chose the 730 early debarkation. this is so if you have an earlier flight, we were off the boat by 815. There are plenty of airport taxis and shuttles waiting for you, we had a private car company pick us up, but that wasn't necessary, there was more than enough transportation. My suggestion bring liquor on board, they don't check, buy it in Mexico, we saw people bring on bags of liquor and it wasn't taken from them.. although the liquor on the ship in the duty free shop is very cheap, the only thing is they don't give it to you until the morning you leave, which is no big deal if you're planning on taking it home anyways. Like I said earlier, if we go on another cruise I am definitely paying the extra money for a nicer ship. When we were in Cozumel there were about 4 other ships and just by looking at them from the dock they had rock climbing rolls, mini golf etc. There wasn't a ton of activates on this boat. Although the nighttime entertainment was good. Good shows, great comedians. This cruise left me wanting more, next time we'll take a different boat. We give this boat an overall rating of B- to a C+.      

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Apr 16, 2005

Western Caribbean

Like Nicole's review, I was also pretty impressed. I was on the Holiday in 1991 to Free Port and Nassau. The boat was clean and the staff was very friendly. We boarded the ship but didn't eat lunch on the boat. We were tired from traveling to Tampa and missed our first formal dinner at 8:30. We ate at the cafe instead. The colors of the inside of the boat are rather dark but still nice. The buffet by the pool is usually not crowded and

has the same food as the cafe. We missed all the shows because they were after midnight and we are early sleepers. The soda card was recommended to me but I didn't think it was worth it. It is $55 for unlimited sodas (only glasses not bottles) and we only drank about 4. We drank more of them in the room which it didn't cover. We did the turtle farm tour in Grand Cayman which was nice because we also got to see the city called Hell. More time at the ports would have been nice also. Also, more pool chairs would have been good, the days at sea is nice sun time but you have to get a chair at 0830. Most got them and left towels on them and were not around most of the day. Carnival is a no-frills ship with tons of things to do. Our room was in the back of the ship which wasn't rocky. I get motion sick pretty bad so this was a plus. I thought the big midnight buffet was nightly but it is only one night. There is a buffet every night though, just not the grand one. Other than the pool chairs and the too late shows, I would give it an A-. A very good value!!

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By Kip_CR

  • New

Mar 10, 2005

Western Caribbean

I'll try and talk about a couple of things that people might not have already written about. The cruise was splendid- had a ball as did the other 33 people in my group I believe. Liquor: sold on board in duty-free shop and they will match any price you find off ship in Cozumel so it's worth it to buy it on the boat. You can't take it with you to your room or drink it while on board however. They told us only 1 liter per person without

paying custom duty. On the last day, at 6:30am, if you have liquor to declare, you must go to a spot and meet w/ customs officer. I had 3 bottles, 2 over the limit and he waived me with no extra charge. The couple in front of me had 7 bottles, 5 over and he waived them also. He made a point of saying that this might not happen in every port but it was nice as we weren't charged anything extra. The boat runs a lot of specials, such as 2 bottles of Absolute for $21, etc. so you can find some bargains. Warning- you have to carry it off the ship yourself and even though they put it in a nice box with carry handle-it's very heavy! The de-barking of ship went really nice also. We were off by 9:15. Basically, once they start calling a group, you can get in line as no one checks to see if you're in the right group, and walk off. We ate dinner in the Marti Gras Dining room each night and it was good, not excellent, but good, and certainly more than plentiful. The only real complaint I heard was from 2 vegetarians as their offerings each night were not that good at all. Captain's night was prime rib and lobster tails. The last night aboard they also had chautebriand which was very good. I gave extra tips to my stateroom attendant and Head and Ass't Waiter as they did an excellent job. A couple of people at another table were very dissatisfied with their head waiter for the first two nights and put in a complaint. The next day, they received a letter saying that the problem had been attended to, and they noticed immediate change, for the better, at the next dinner so they obviously take things to heart if you make a complaint. If you don't have a good time on this ship, it's your own fault as there is plenty to do and they seem to work themselves silly to make it nice for you. I absolutely would go back.      

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By N/A_CR

  • New

Feb 24, 2005

Western Caribbean

This was my second cruise on Carnival, sailing from Tampa to Cozumel. I went on the Sensation last year and had an excellent time. We arrived at the port of Tampa at around 12:30 and didn't have any wait or problems boarding. We checked out our room (U55) and then went to have lunch on the lido deck, the muster drill I believe was around 3:30 and we set sail at 4 or 5. The service on this cruise was excellent. Our waiter knew our names

the first night and called us by our names each day. We also had a table to ourselves which was great since there was 4 of us. Our room steward always had our room cleaned in the blink of an eye. We would go to dinner and come back to a sparking clean room which was very nice. My only complaint was that he moved our stuff around which disorganized my clothes and other belongings. I came back losing a shirt and the daily newsletters that I wanted to save for my scrapbook. Our room was also right next door to our friends. If you want rooms next to each other, make sure to ask when booking your cruise, otherwise you might have a room way separate from your friends. After talking to some of the friendly crew, we realized that some of the staff put in more then 14 hours of work each day. We would see our waiter assistant at the cafe for lunch, at dinner, and then at the midnight buffet, which is crazy. The staff is very nice and attentive for having to do the same thing day in and day out, and for having to work such long hours. It rained the first day at sea, but we had plenty to do, hanging out in the casino, the spa, or the bar. I only wish that there was a movie theater onboard. I would be nice to have. Cozumel was beautiful. We rented a jeep for about $100 and went to some of the local beaches and bars (Mr. Sanchos, Rastas, Coconuts). I think that this is a much better value then some of the shore excursions. Simply because you can go at your own pace and go where you want to. There is only one main road on the island, so it is very hard to get lost. The only part that I was a little frightened at is the ride into downtown. There are many one way roads, and the driving is not like America. There were 4 people riding on one scooter, families packed into little cars, and everyone pulling out in front of each other. The staff at all the bars and beaches that we went to were very nice and friendly. Coconuts was definately fun. The owner has 2 dogs, a parrot, an owl, and a huge golden iguana that he will let you hold (for a price... I will let you ask and find out). At night we went out to Carlos N Charlies, which is a $6 cab ride from the pier. This bar is crazy fun and I recommend it to anyone who is looking to have a good time, you will be hanging out with mostly all cruisers from your ship and others that are in port. You will be singing and dancing on the tables and getting crazy shots from the shooter girls! Fun fun.. We also did some shopping at the pier. They have cheap souvenirs and you can bargain with some of vendors. Do not take their first offer, you can probably get it for 50% less then what they ask the first time around. The last day at sea was nice and sunny and the pool deck was packed. I think that everyone must have been on that deck, laying out, swimming, and participating in the activities that had gotten cancelled on the first rainy day. We enjoyed some of the dance shows and some of the comedy shows during the cruise and I would recommend those as well. And unlike the previous review, I think that the male singer was not comparable to the female singer. She had a much better stage presence. Also do not miss the captains party, this is your only chance to get free drinks on the cruise. On the last day we had breakfast and soon realized that everyone was leaving the boat, we didn't hear any colors being called so we quickly got off the boat, very easy and quickly. I think we were off the ship by 9:30. Overall, the food was excellent. I would recommend trying room services chicken fajita wraps, they are addicting. I was a little disappointed with my room. I have no idea what was on the other side of the wall but I could constantly hear banging and slamming, of what sounded like locker doors all night long and the door kept clicking. It was very hard to sleep. The frozen cocktails onboard are also excellent, and who cares if you have to pay, you are on vacation! After taking 2 carnival cruises to the same destination I realized that even though my last cruise was a year ago, almost everything was the same, including the dining room food menu, and their activities onboard, which include the newlywed and not so newlywed game, bingo, survivor and some others. I think for my next crusie I will try another cruise line, just to see how different it is. I would definately recommend this cruise line and this ship. It is worth the money and I had an excellent time. I also think that it is good for either couples, families, singles, or anyone of all ages. There is something for everyone.      

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Feb 24, 2005

Western Caribbean

We arrived at the terminal at 10:45 on 2/24 expecting a 2 to 3 hour wait to board. I was pleasantly surprised to be eating lunch on the Lido Deck at 11:45. This was much quicker than I was lead to believe when I read other reviews of this cruise. Kudos to Carnival. We spent the day getting to know the boat and went to dinner at 8:30 in the Mardi Gras Dinning Room. We met some incredible table mates (Michael, Teresa, Lynn, Jason, Ellen

& Jim). The Head Waiter was efficient but we did not get the spectacular service that we expected. The Assistant Waiter was much better. The food was excellent and we could eat as much as we wanted. We didn't feel rushed at dinner, I believe because we had the last seating of the day. I think earlier seating are a bit more rushed. The food on the Lido Deck and the Brasserie was very good also (Excellent Hamburgers). We attended several shows which were pretty good, but not spectacular. The female singer was not very good at all, but the dancers and male singer were pretty good. Our room steward left a lot to be desired. Dirty Glasses not removed from the room; Dirty Beach Towels not changed out; Ice Bucket usually empty; Empty Water Bottles not removed from the room. Our table mates, however, raved about their Room Steward, so I guess our experience was isolated. One day it rained very hard for about the whole day. As a result several of the rooms with balconies flooded even though the balcony door was closed (Keep this in mind if you plan to book a balcony room). Since the boat was full, there was no where to relocate these guests to. The boat was very clean and the staff was very friendly and attentive. I was prepared for debarkation to be the worst part of this cruise. I was told to be prepared to Wait and Wait and Wait... To my surprise, I was off of the boat and waiting on the curb for my ride by 9:15 AM. I didn't get a chance to Wait. Tip...At debarkation, just go when the first group is called. Even if your group was not called, they won't go through the hassle to send you back. Heck, the attendant at the gate didn't know what group I was with anyway. One negative, is that Carnival is very adept at wringing lots of money from their passengers. If you can book your own excursion, I am sure you will save a lot of money. Bingo is very expensive yet the prizes are minimal. Tea is free but horrible, so you will have to get the Fun Fountain Soda Card which is not free. Of course alcohol is not free either and not cheap. Be very careful with your Sail and Sign Card, the bill adds up quickly. Overall, I give Carnival an "A" for this cruise but there are some "Gotcha's" to watch out for. Enjoy your Carnival cruise.      

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By Kim_CR

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Feb 19, 2005

Western Caribbean

We booked our first cruise with a multi-generational group of 6, including grandma and her companion, and our two teenage daughters. All in all, we thought this a great vacation for a group of mixed ages. It provides just the right amount of “togetherness” and independence for everyone in the party. I would say we all enjoyed the cruise very much. We especially enjoyed the great, friendly service of the staff, the ports, the ever-present

photographers and fun photos, and the general fun feeling of the ship. Plenty of places to explore and activities to do, if you keep up with the daily newsletters pushed under your door. Our twin daughters enjoyed the cruise experience in general (even the dining room), but alas, were a little too inhibited to enjoy the Teen Club, which they attended just once. They loved the Brasserie and the easy access to snacks, beverages, etc. Also, a word about the “Beverage Card.” We bought them for our daughters and they did use them for soda. However, you kind of have to remember to get your soda and carry it into the dining room, because it isn’t easy to order one in the dining room once you are seated. Also, the Brasserie does include some beverages which are free almost any time of the day- like iced tea, coffee, fruit punch, so you don’t have to feel like your kids will be without anything to drink if you don’t buy the beverage card. Although reluctant to do so, we did attend the “talks” presented by the Cruise Director both at the beginning and end of the cruise. They provide a lot of logistical information about shore excursions, rules of the road type stuff, but the Cruise Director made it quite funny. And, I heard another family complaining late in the cruise that they had apparently missed a meeting point of a planned shore excursion- they must not have attended the Cruise Director talk or read their newsletter, because the information was all right there. Some people think they can stop thinking when they go on vacation! The Dining Room (Carnivale), late seating, was lovely and our table companions very different from us but fun to hang with. Our waiters, both from Bali, were delightful and my daughters were so flattered by the attentive service and respect. The food itself sounds better on the menu than it actually tastes, but was quite good overall. On one night, lobster tails were served, and mine was tender and delicious while those of others at the table were tough and over-cooked. I can’t imagine quite overcoming the “institutional” production of so many meals being served at once. One indulgence that we really enjoyed for breakfast was ordering room service- all included! I never use room service at hotels because it is so expensive, but on the ship, especially before early excursions, we ordered coffee, bagels and fruit and had breakfast in the cabin. We always received it quickly, within 20 minutes or so, but my mom and her friend one time had to wait quite a while. What fun to do room service and not have to pay extra! Oh, and we fit four people into our cabin and lived to tell about it. Cabin is compact but efficient, and while it was a little tight, we really did not hang out in the room except to sleep, dress and prepare for the day out of the cabin. Mornings probably the most challenging, with 4 vying for the bathroom and shower, and sometimes we agreed to eat breakfast separately instead of waiting around til all 4 were ready. The open seating of the Brasserie for breakfast made that very doable. Luckily, our shore excursions, which I booked online before the cruise, went off as scheduled because the weather was agreeable. I considered booking them independently to save money, but, as first time cruisers, wanted to ensure things would go smoothly. It appears that folks with Carnival-booked excursions are able to leave the ship sooner on port days than those who don’t have a booked excursion. We chose the Grand Cayman stingray tour and swam with the rays. Definitely not a hit with Grandma and our daughters were skittish but my husband and I got the biggest kick out of it. But, my favorite port was Cozumel- from there we went to Xcaret, a simply breath-taking eco- theme park on the Yucatan Peninsula which far outshines the theme parks I’ve been to stateside. We swam in the underground river and then in beautiful coral lagoons between the white sand beaches and the Gulf. It was pricey but worth every penny and I wish we had had several more hours to spend. Made a mistake by using some of our precious time to eat in a nice full-service restaurant in Xcaret instead of grabbing something quick- oh, but the Margarita was good! Also enjoyed shopping in Cozumel itself and checking out their interesting Plaza which was very Mexican. My mom and her friend did not venture far and were happy just to go to the cruise line-sponsored shops within sight of the dock. The ship itself was glitzy and over-the-top, some might say tacky, but I think that’s what made it fun. Was surprised at the challenge of finding deck chairs on the Lido Deck on the sunny days- especially finding 6 in the same proximity for our family. I did notice that some folks “stake out” chairs by plopping towels on them early in the morning- don’t know how fair that is but most people are too polite to challenge. We enjoyed the ship board activities and shows. Especially liked the comedians and our party did enjoy the Vegas-style show. Dancing and costuming was better than the vocals, perhaps, but the show was energetic, colorful, fun and included at no extra charge! The most unusual activity my husband and I did was attend an art auction, where they served free champagne! A free drink on a cruise is a big deal. At first, we were intimidated by the auction, but sat around for awhile observing and figured out it was not that difficult to participate. We didn’t come away with any art, but did bid once. Some of the art is definitely deep pockets stuff- into the thousands of dollars (but some is much less) anyway- it was fun to see the big spenders make their moves. I have read other reviews and noticed people seem surprised and complain about the tipping that is “built in”. If you’ve read your materials carefully, you wouldn’t be surprised. I think it’s a good idea to build in the tip- you know what to expect, and aren’t left to figure out what is appropriate. I suppose if left to our own choices, most of us would low-ball the tip, which wouldn't be fair to the fine service staff. But, anyone can opt out of the tipping if they take the steps to do so. Also, was surprised that our dining companions didn’t seem to know that you couldn’t buy and consume your own liquor on board- that came as an unpleasant surprise for them, because they enjoy their cocktails and I think were expecting an “all inclusive” kind of deal. And, the “Sail and Sign” card is definitely too easy to use. We did have a significant tab at the end (mostly bar and souvenirs, including photos) but they do let you know mid-cruise what your balance due is so it gives you an opportunity to adjust your behavior accordingly. My mom and her friend, who don’t drink, barely had a bill at the end of the cruise. I simply loved the fun themed photos that cruise staff took! I loved visiting the photo gallery and found it hard to limit my choices. I ended up spending approximately $70 or so on a collection of 10 souvenir photos, including a lovely formal night photo of our two daughters. That was my favorite souvenir of the cruise. Can’t wait to go again and was overall am very happy with Carnival- would love to go with friends or do a family reunion sometime.

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Dec 11, 2004

Western Caribbean

B3: Submit Your Cruise Review We recently returned from a 5 day cruise on the Inspiration. This boat looks pretty much identical to the Fantasy, both in decor and structure. We went on the cruise with our 2 children. Our room was on the riveria deck and had the pull down bunk for one child and another small bed on the floor for the other. The room was small, but it didnt seem too small for the four of us. Actually, I was quite impressed

with how much room we had. Overall, the cruise was great and the service was wonderful as well. We only ate in the main dining room once and the food was super. The rest of the time, we ate on the Lido deck and had the buffet, which was great as well. My biggest complaint with this cruise and it probably would prevent me from going on this ship again, is that inside the ship they kept the temperature at ice chilly temperatures. This was consistent throughout the entire cruise. I couldnt wear anything strapless and had to wear sweaters constantly. What a bummer to have to do when your on a Caribbean vacation! It was so uncomfortable in our room that we had to have our room steward come and disconnect our air system in our room. Im cold natured anyway, but my husband, who is not, complained as well. It was something we were to constantly thinking about and like I said before, I probably wouldnt cruise on the same ship again because of it. Lots of people were complaining. Aside from the cold factor, the ship was bustling and activities were always happening. The Christmas show incorporated all of the kids in Camp Carnival and was so great and entertaining!      

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Nov 22, 2004

Western Caribbean

Embarkation: Living in Tampa is a plus, for we arrived at the terminal at 11:15am, which was already getting busy from the out-of-towners, and we began boarding around 12:10pm. Have your ID and tickets ready. You get your photo taken here. Try to drop your carry-on in your room as soon as you board, for you want to make your way to the Lido deck for the noon time feeding. Good Gravy! This is where you’ll get your first glimpse

of the true, professional feeders/eaters onboard. The Inspiration was very clean and was constantly being washed or painted while we were at sea. We were in the aft of the ship, Riviera level. I did notice if one was to get sea sick, they would most likely feel pretty rough the higher the floor/level they slept on. The lower we went we'd feel less of a rocking sensation. Many people were wearing the patch behind the ears but my wife and daughter and I were fine. Staff (Room Steward and Head Waiter) Harve was our Room Steward. He did a great job; he seemed to always be outside our door. My 15yr old daughter loved the little animals he’d make out of the bath towels and leave on her bed. You really need to pay the staff more then the suggested minimum, $10 a day; they DO NOT MAKE MINIMUM WAGE that you and I know of in the US. Remember, this is a foreign-flag ship, Bahaman. They work their butts off to help and please you. Santi was our Head Waiter—HE WAS AWESOME! Santi was very funny and informative. We dined in the Carnival Dining Room (late, 8pm) and he’d always give us the scoop about the next day, i.e. time of arrival, things to do on-shore, tips, etc. Accommodations: We bunked in the Riviera level, which was very nice and roomy for the price I purchased it for. It had a retro ‘70s paint job (orange and yellows). The room was actually larger then I expected. My daughter slept in the wall-mounted bunk bed while my wife and I had the queen size bed. All rooms come with cabled movies and onboard shopping channels…also a Gambling Channel that’ll teach you all the games in the casino. There is a safe in the closet to lock up your passports and etc. The bathroom, with shower, was small but workable. The showers have wall mounted body wash and shampoo dispensers. Food: The self serve buffet food on the Lido Deck was good with a wide assortment of meals for breakfast lunch and dinner. The breakfasts consisted of scrambled eggs (tasted powdered mixed with real eggs), yogurt, fruit, pancakes, sausage links (had better), undercooked bacon (not crispy), omelets (these were good, ham, mushroom, cheese), bagels, and white, wheat bread. You can drink as much coffee, tea, fruit juice, apple juice, orange juice, water—it’s free. All sodas will cost you a drink card, $25.00 for the week. Lunch on the Lido varied from burgers, chili dogs with fries to jerk chicken and fish. The 24hr Pizzeria served an okay Pepperoni but their calzone was SAD. You can eat self-serve, soft ice with a wide variety of desserts. I stuck with fruit for dessert for I refused to gain 10lbs in 5 days, not to mention, going to the gym every morning at 0600hrs. Dinner was the same on the Lido our first night. I strongly suggest going to your assigned dining room for dinner and other meals but remember shorts are not allowed. The food in the dining rooms is top rate in taste and in presentation. Our Thanksgiving Dinner onboard was superb. Entertainment/Activities: The activities during the day were pretty good while at sea, for all will have a wide variety to choose from. The casino was nice with a few heavy hitters losing their shirts. Also…No minors are allowed in the Casino. The pools on the Lido deck were PACKED with kids; looked as if they were boiling over with kids. The water in all the pools is saltwater, which is pumped in and out of the pools daily. Wake up early enough, while hitting the top outside track, you’ll witness this—pretty cool. Skip the Art Auctions but try to see the late night comedians and the other shows in the Paris Lounge. I carried two bottles (JD) of booze on board that were in my checked luggage. I’m glad I did; I saved over $150 doing so. On board at the bars you’ll pay the following for beverage service: Domestics---$3.25 Imported---$3.75 NonAlc---$3.25 Cordials and Liqueurs---$4.50 Hot drinks---$1.00-4.50 Water (bottled)—$1.95—$3.25 (the shipboard water is fine) Soft Drinks (without kid drink card) Glass, $1.00—Can, $1.50 Champagnes and Wines---$4.75-$7.50 a glass Cognacs/Brandies--$4.25--$11.00 a glass Carnival’s daily Specialty drinks--$6.25 in plastic souvenir glass. $4.25 in a regular glass Cocktail drinks--$3.95 Alcohol Malt Drinks--$4.75 Frozen Exotic Drinks--$4.95 Smoothies--$3.95 Scotches--$3.95--$5.50 Single Malts--$5.75-$8.25 Bourbon/Blends--$4.25--$5.75 Vodkas--$4.25-$5.50 Martinis--$5.50--$7.50 Rums--$3.95--$5.50 Gins--$3.95--$5.50 Tequilas--$4.25-$5.50 Tip: Buy your bottled hooch in Cozumel. Even though the prices in the onboard duty free shop are pretty good, I found many of the same bottles $2-3.00 cheaper in Cozumel. Bring your own in your LOCKED and CHECKED luggage, if you’re a social drinker that wants to drink while on board. You’ll save $$$$$. Pour your beverage in plastic bottles or buy the Traveler size bottles. Also…you CANNOT bring Cuban cigars back to the US with you. But, they never checked my luggage when I chose to carry my own bags off at the end of the cruise. Customs just checked our passports—that’s it! Gym: The hours listed for the gym are 6am-8pm. Most mornings they opened late. Nice, heavily used equipment. There are 6-7 treadmills, Stairmaster, 2 Elliptical and some recumbent bikes for cardio. Most of the hardware looks like the old Universal Gym equipment but it’s all Keiser Air compressed stations—step on a pedal and increase/decrease the weight. There was a flat bench and incline in the corner that had dumbbells going up to 70lbs. You’ll find a steam room and sauna in the gym area, which was very nice late at night. Ports: Grand Cayman You’ll have to take a ferry service to get to the island from the ship. The lush vegetation on the island was destroyed in the recent hurricanes. Every building I saw was damaged. If you can look beyond all the damage (easy to do), you’ll find the beaches are perfect. Though there were many shipmates on the bus tour that complained the ENTIRE time about the damage. Remember—get back to the ship EARLY!!! You’ll be waiting in a long line otherwise. Don’t buy much here; it’s MUCH cheaper in Cozumel. Excursion We did the island tour with the stop in Hell (waste of time), Turtle farm and Sting Ray City. Next time I’ll get the tickets online from another guide, for we bought the onboard Carnival tickets--$$$. But it was worth it. Sting Ray City was GREAT! Cozumel WAS DAMN HOT! It was very humid when we got of the boat. This is a tourist Mecca—stickers, badges, sombreros, you name it, they have it. If you didn’t sneak your booze on board, like me, buy your booze here! Excursion The Mayan Ruins horseback tour with Jerry as our guide was a blast. It was kind of pricey but worth it. All together for three people, the Caymans and Cozumel excursions cost us $444.00. You can find these same excursions much cheaper online before you go. I waited until the last minute. Debarkation: This was like the Army…hurry up and wait. You’ll have a debarkation meeting the day before you arrive back to Tampa. We chose the early morning (7:30am) option of walking our own gear off the ship for the US Customs inspection—very wise choice. You’ll be waiting a while if you allow Carnival to take your bags off the ship. That way begins a 9am and goes until 12pm. The inspection consisted of going down an escalator, bags on back/in hand, and showing a uniformed officer my passports and ticket stub—EASY! Summary: Would I do it again? Yes, I will. But I’d like to do the Eastern Caribbean and cruise on the new Miracle sometime.      

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Oct 30, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise on Carnival and we picked this particular ship as it was labelled the "Fun ship." My husband and I were on our honeymoon. My biggest complaint would be that there were so many children. The ship consisted of so many families with young children. We never had the chance to soak in any of the hot tubs on deck as they were always filled with kids, even though there were signs posted "adults only." We found

the same situation with the on deck pools. They were always filled with screaming and splashing children. We spent most of our days on board looking for a quiet spot to sunbath and read a book without having to listen to yelling and screaming kids. On a positive note. The ship was immaculate. The cabin was roomy and I have to say the food served at dinner time was excellent. We were the first ship to visit Grand Cayman since the hurricane and you could still see the blue tarps on top of some of the hotels and a lot of stores were still closed, but it was still a very beautiful spot. Our favorite stop was Cozumel. We loved the snorkeling and shopping and the margueritas. Comparing Carnival with other cruise lines I have been on. I would say their nightly activities were poor. Other then their gambling casino, there weren't too many nightly activites to choose from other than bingo or karyoke. I would not recommend this cruise for young people or childless couples.      

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Oct 10, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my second cruise. My other cruise was on the Carnival Spirit in December of 2003. This was my parents’ 5th cruise (4th with Carnival). Embarkation: Embarkation was a long and dull process of going through security and waiting in line for at least 2 hours. When we got there, they gave us a paper with itinerary changes (Grand Cayman to Progreso, and Cozumel to Calica/Playa Del Carmen) Progreso: We took the shopping and city

tour to Merida. They have a lot of stuff (like Chili’s, Sears, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Mercedes and Jaguar dealerships) that we have at home. We visited the governor’s house and a church that was built in the 1500s (the oldest church on the American continent). The vendors were absolutely obnoxious. I told this guy like 5 times I didn’t want to buy one of his fans and he would not leave me alone. I pretended I was asleep until the bus came back. We tried some authentic nachos at one of our stops. They were delicious, but very hot. Calica: It was raining when we got off the boat in Calica. We took a bus tour to Cancun. At our first stop at a flea market, the bus driver hit the windshield into a tree branch and broke the glass. Besides hotel row by the beach, Cancun is really grungy. We got to go to a couple of malls and to the beach. They have remnants of Mayan ruins right on the golf course. The water is light blue and really pretty. Belize: We had to take a tender into Belize, because they don’t have a pier big enough for the ship. Then we took a bus city tour to some Mayan ruins called Altun-Ha. The tour guide said it existed between 250 ad and 500 ad. It was a neat experience to walk through the circle of temples and imagine where the people worshipped. Costa Maya: Today my Dad had a snorkeling excursion, while Mom and I went through the shopping village in Costa Maya. I didn’t buy anything. Most of the goods they have are hammocks, blankets, and sundials or silver-platted jewelry. Disembarkation: We did early disembarkation when we were on the Spirit, and knew it was a painful experience, so this time we waited for our luggage number to be called in the Paris Lounge and got off the boat around 10 in the morning Tampa: After we got our rental car, we went to the International Mall in Tampa that had some really nice stores in it. We stayed the night at the Hilton on our first night and Amerisuites on the last night, and both the rooms were really nice. The next morning we went to the airport and flew home. Crew: The cruise director, Maraschahl was excellent in giving us information on embarkation, shore excursions, and debarkation. The assistant cruise director, Malcolm, was hysterical. The social hosts Joseph and Fiona were delightful as well when we played bingo or watched the activities, as was the Karaoke host. It was nice this time to have a karaoke host that could actually sing. Food: I ordered pasta for dinner (3 nights in a row) and the waitress said, “Wow you must really like pasta.” The squid appetizer kind of tasted like a pasta noodle, but it was weird having tentacles on my plate. My dad ordered the escargots and thought they tasted like cheese pizza. My mom was big fan of the Miami Vice (which is half pina-colada, and half strawberry daiquiri) and I was a fan of the Raspberry Daiquiri. Entertainment: Since we had the 8:00 dinner seating, it seemed like all the activities were going on while we were eating and they didn’t have much going on for the late sitting crowd while the early sitting crowd was eating. We did happened to go to the shows (Welcome Aboard, Comedians, The Fire Gauchos, Jugglers, La Nuevo Caribe, Shout, and The Guest Talent Show) in the Paris Lounge, Bingo, Karaoke, Newlywed Game, and the Austin Powers dance class. Overall: I had a great time and would recommend the Inspiration for other people’s sailing pleasure.      

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Sep 7, 2004

Western Caribbean

To start off they reduced our cruise by 2 days, thanks to Hurricane Francis. Finally Tuesday came, Port of Tampa was so crowded, lines everywhere. I think we all justed wanted to get on the ship at the same time.. It took a long process due to they just arrived in port that morning so it wasn't ready for us to come on board. I think we left Tampa around 5p.m. The rooms were clean and tidy. No complaints at all. Everynight a cute towel

animal waiting for us. (very cute). Dinner was excellent. So much food all day long. The waiter Ravu was so funny and always very attentive of us. Grand Cayman: we took our own excursion which was alot less expensive *Captain Marvins* 35.00 Per person for 2 hrs sure beats Carnival's price. kids pay $20.00 They took us to Coral Reef and Stingray City. It was an awsome experience.First time snorkeling for the family. My children ages 7 & 11 loved every moment of it, so did my husband and I. We will never forget this day. After we finished our tour & shopping we were heading back to the ship it started pouring, very heavy rain .It was perfect timing,our excursion was not ruin by the rain. Cozumel: beautiful island, very friendly people and helpful. We did our own excursion there too. Took a cab to chankanaab park and spend the day. We did swim w/ sealions (Karla).It was a trip to remember. Kids snorkel at the beach, did some shopping. By 9pm we were beat and restless. Entertainment: was really nice, something different everyday. and can't forget Bingo Everday!! no luck here maybe next time. Overall this cruise was a delight, very nice crew members, excellent overall ! I would go again on Inspiration.      

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Jul 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was my 3rd cruise (2nd with Carnival). It was my boyfriends first cruise. This by far was the best cruise I've taken. Embarkation: Went very smoothly, we were at the terminal by 11:00 and was the first ones on the boat by 11:45. The Boat: The boat is very clean. There is always someone wiping, sweeping,or dusting something. The ship is very bright and flashy. The crew: This is the first time I can say that all of the crew on

this ship were outstanding. Everytime we walked by someone who worked on the ship day or night we were always greeted with a hello, good morning ect. Very Very Friendly people. Our Cabin Steward was Maung he was outstanding as well and alot of fun. Food: My only complaint is that the food in the dining room was not that great. We tried the dining room twice. The food was way overcooked. After the second time we ate in the Horizon Bar & Grill for the rest of the trip. The food there was outstanding. No complaints. We were on the cruise that did not make it to Key West due to port construction. I do believe Carnival should have offered some kind of compensation for this, as they did not. Cozumel: When we arrived at cozumel. It was beautiful. Better than I had expected. I have been to Naussau before and was expecting cozumel to be on the same lines. Not the case. We did the fiesta party boat that took us to Playa Mia. We partied our butts off and meet some really fun people. After the excursion we went to Charlos N Charlies. This is by far the best bar I think I've ever been in. We had so much fun. If you go to Cozumel, make sure Carlos N Charlies is on your list of things to do there. (Get ready to party your butts off) When we got back to the ship we partied on deck with our new friends and had a blast. I only wish Carnival would keep the hot tubs open later at night for adults. Overall this was the best cruise this far and we are already planning another with Carnival in April.      

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By RJ_CR

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Jul 25, 2004

Southern Caribbean

Starters: This was our first cruise and we were one of 25 Honeymooning couples onboard. Our flight was late (US Air from Charlotte), but the Carnival agent was most helpful in getting us on board at the last minute. This was one of the last weeks before school, so the ship was packed with teens and lots of unsupervised youth. Carnival tried but couldn’t hope to organize them. The teen disco just took away from adult dancing times.

That’s not to hate on the teens. They did liven up Karaoke one night by helping out each singer in droves. But we’ll be on the lookout for a more adult cruise next time. First impression: they’re going to try to take your last dollar (and at an inflated price). But that wasn’t going to stop us from having a wonderful time. Probably the biggest nuisance was the photo operation. You had to buy the $20 10 X 12 before getting copies of any other photos. They were very disorganized. Tons of phots went unclaimed at the end – it didn’t make any sense. The ship is awesome at first. Then you learn that you can get anywhere on the boat in less than 5 minutes and it becomes manageable. Poolside music and activities are great. Fitness center and spa were just big enough. Organized classes (like abs and pilates) are only $10. Generally, the ship was very clean. One major complaint: none of the 4 lounges for night time entertainment were smoke-free. Only the Paris Lounge (the theatre) was smoke free. Entertainment: The cruise’s social directors keep thing’s hopping and were entertaining themselves. That was Marascal (from Alabama), Markus (from Britain) and Malcolm (from New York). The Las Vegas shows were OK. But the comedians brought onboard were outstanding. The game shows were rowdy and fun. Well, unfortunately, there were just too few of them. There was unlimited potential for organizing cruise goers into games, but they don’t do that. They could’ve had a daily Newlywed contest with a grand finale, instead of only one game. Singles could have dating games. Families family feuds. But no such luck. Kudos for the final event -- the talent show. It was well organized, rehearsed and a riot to watch. Excursions: We paid $400 for 3 excursions for the two of us. The idea of going on vacation is to have adventures and these trips were a good value (even though some of them were cheaper on the outside). The tour guides on all three were outstanding professionals and made a big difference. At first it’s hard to fathom the tropical experience with, for example, up to 12 boats (each packed with 50 or more people) descending on the 128 stingrays outside the Grand Caymans. But somehow it works. Everyone had a chance to get an up-close feeding experience with the fish. Belize was our favorite. The city itself is actually sinking, so it’s not an attraction per se. But the Mayan ruins, river and other inland excursions were picturesque and worth talking about. Passion Island was the best group activity we had. The Survivor game was a success in spite of the organizers. Time ran out on us. But two of the three games we played were group activities that excited everyone. Time flew by on the island. (Well, they organized us into two groups, giving each group only 3 hours at a time). Many people enjoyed the open bar at Passion Island. But those that tried the open bar and Survivor at the same time paid the price. Be Careful -- the alcohol really got to our fellow shipmates with all the “free shots” in Cozumel. The Grand Caymans, Belize and Cozumel were great; Costa Maya was bust – just an artificial man-made shoppers’ mall out in the hot Mexican sun. The food: We had heard about the extravagant dinners. Let me say that the presentations and performances by our Head Waiter and staff really lived up to their reputation. The Dining Room food itself was mostly an experiment. You like some entrees and dislike a lot also. But our staff was flexible if we tried something and didn’t like it. The other food --from the grill-- was excellent too. Best hamburgers and fries. Real lemonade. Omelets worth waiting for. And, best of all, the pastry every morning was oven fresh! The ice sculpture and food-as-art display was extravagent. But, unfortunately, it’s only offered at Midnight. One caveat: we all ordered cappuccino one night at dinner and we all spit out the first sip. I don’t believe they have a single cappuccino maker on board. They just shouldn’t advertise that they do. Odds and Ends: Think about the schedule before you plan ahead. There are activities all night long leading up to the Midnight Buffet. Then your excursions start out at 7AM in the morning. There’s not a lot of time to do anything but rest in between. Then that seventh day – at sea – was a very long wait to get home. (The cabin beds are rough, but the movie offerings (for free) were a pleasant surprise) We met at least one wonderful couple or group every day of the cruise, not even counting our table mates at dinner. This is an added bonus other vacations don’t offer. Disembarking they tell you to let Carnival take your bags to shore. But Carnival failed to tell us to not lock the suitcases. As a result, the PTO broke one of our locks to do a random bag search. Many veteran travelers just ignored the request to set out their bags the night before departure. You can carry your own bags ashore if you wish. In conclusion, it was a great Honeymoon vacation and a good first cruise experience. Next time, we’ll look around for a more adult, but still fun-oriented, cruise.    

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Jul 18, 2004

Western Caribbean

There were 9 of us that went on this Western Caribbean cruise on board the Carnival "Inspiration". My in-laws (they kept my son Cody (age 9) in their room, and my son Anthony's friend Lee and his mother. Let me start off by saying that my family had the time of our lives on Carnival's Inspiration!! We left from the Port of Tampa. Everything went smoothly getting on the boat. We arrived early and only had to wait about a ½ hr. Getting

on the boat was a breeze if you ask me. Once we got on board the ship we went up to the Lido deck and got cheeseburgers and fries. The Lido deck was awesome. Huge water slide and 2 Jacuzzi's and a nice size pool. We sat around for about an hour and then started touring the ship. To sum up the ship "BEAUTIFUL"!!! Very sparkly and made up. I thought it was gorgeous! I love lots of lights and color and this ship had it!! It was very easy to figure out the layout of the ship. If you are ever unsure where you are going --in the elevators they have the floors and what rooms are on each floor. Helped a lot with my kids! We went to our room which was located on the Riviera floor and we were very surprised at how nice our room was. There were 4 of us staying in the room. (Me, my husband, and 2 kids (ages 6 & 12)). Their beds came out of the wall and I thought that was so perfect. Ours were moved together into a queen size bed. Our view out the window was awesome! Many nights when I got back to the room I would sit and look out the window at the waves. Very relaxing! The bathroom was nice size (considering everybody told me how small it was) I was prepared for the worst and it wasn't bad at all! The room was VERY clean. There was plenty of room to store all of our clothes also. I want to mention that our room steward "Antonio" was wonderful. He made these little animal towels for us every night and kept our room immaculate! He even remembered which bed my daughter slept in because every night while we were out he would put her stuffed animals on her bed waiting for her when we returned later in the evening. Little things like that were special! Food - Once we got unpacked it was already time for dinner. We had the early sitting (6:15) in the Mardi Gras dining room. Our waiter "Coco" was wonderful. He was from Thailand and he was very funny and entertaining to us and the kids. Did lots of magic tricks and had us laughing a lot! The dining room was very pretty. We had a table with an ocean view which was nice! The food was wonderful. I cannot say that there was ever a time we had dinner that there wasn't something that I didn't like on the menu (and I am VERY picky!). The kids could order whatever they wanted. My Cody loved the macaroni and cheese and my daughter had chicken nuggets with fries every night. There is so much food on board. You can eat and eat. The pizza and ice cream is 24 hrs. so if you wanted a little snack it was always available. The room service was also great which we did take advantage of a lot also. If I had to say anything negative it wouldn't be the food itself, but the darn lines. People just don't get it. If you are waiting for an omelet then move over so the people who are NOT waiting for an omelet can get their food. That is what really made me irritated. But, when you have a few thousand people in the same place, I guess you just have to have patience which isn't my strong point. Shows- The shows were great and they had a lot of fun activities for everybody at all times. The cruise director was hilarious and made us laugh constantly. I would have to say we enjoyed the Karaoke nights the most in the Candlelight Lounge. The kids just loved it and we enjoyed watching people sing. The Casino was terrific. Just enough tables and things to keep you busy for hours and hours. My husband and I spent a lot of time in there! Kids - One of the best things about this cruise was the "Camp Carnival"!!! My 6 yr. old and 9 yr. old met friends and had a ball. I never had to hear wining about being bored. I put them in there and they were busy for hours on end for my husband and I to enjoy ourselves. It was great! They watch the kids from 10-3:00 a.m. also if you need that. We took advantage of that! The counselors were so nice and truly enjoyed being with the kids. Made it a lot of fun for them!!! My 12 yr. old had the time of his life. He made about 10 new friends from all over. They spent every evening in the Teen Disco and Karaoke room. Excursions – Grand Cayman – We went with Stingray City Charters which I booked online. It was great! We stopped at 2 corral reefs and snorkeled (the fish were sooo pretty and absolutely amazing how many of them we seen!) and the 3rd stop was stingray city. Talk about an amazing experience. I had the pleasure of holding the bag of squid. Well they completely swarmed me and were rubbing all over me. The Stingrays were so beautiful and graceful. They would suck the squid right out of your hand like a vacuum. My daughter and I kissed one. They are very gentle. We were in shallow water so I never put on my mask. They just came right up to you. It was the best experience! I cannot recommend enough that you do this! The kids were going crazy. Our next stop was Costa Maya. We shopped there and the kids swam the entire day in the gigantic pool they have there. It was a lot of fun for them. The shopping was a bit pricey I thought, so we didn't buy hardly anything. My daughter and girlfriend did get their hair braided there. It was so cheap! Don't take the offer they give you – make sure you bargain with them! It was great because the Mexican ladies do not pull the braids tight, unlike the like the African American lady that did my daughter's hair in Disneyland. The braids did not hurt them at all when they were being put in. (My daughter's braids are still in after 1 week!) Next was Belize. I booked our excursion online for Belize. We were driven to a Jungle Resort Spa with all the trimmings and went horseback riding through the woods. It was great. The horses were well taken care of and the day was great. It was hot as all heck though. Belize is a very poor place. The things we saw and how the people lived were very depressing so be prepared if you sightsee outside the town itself. Next was Cozumel. Talk about shopping! Holy cow. I am glad that we didn't buy anything in Costa Maya. Save your money for Cozumel. We had a taxi take us downtown and there are shops everywhere! People will bargain with you and you can get things much much cheaper there! We had a blast shopping. They had a ton of water sports and stuff that we didn't even get a chance to dobecause we had so much fun shopping. | Every island takes American money. Just make sure you change your money to small bills at the Purser's desk before your excursion because they don't have a lot of change to give back to you. They will give you American money back if you ask them to. To sum up our trip I cannot say enough how beautiful the Carnival ship "Inspiration" was and how great a time we had. My 12 yr. old son is already planning with the friends he met to try and hook up next year. We are planning on cruising again for sure next year. It was the best place to have fun and have the kids have fun without having to entertain them ourselves. If you are soon to be vacationing on the Inspiration before it retires, you will have a wonderful time!!! The Captain and all the crew were extremely friendly and helpful!! PS If you are looking for a peaceful place to layout and not be with a lot of people the children's pool in the back of the boat always had a lot of chairs. Just bring your headphones so you don't have to listen to the kids. Haha      

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May 23, 2004

Western Caribbean

We arrived in Tampa the night before and stayed at the Marriott Bayside the night before which was only about half a mile away from he cruise ship - only costs about $5 for a cab ride to the terminal. We had ordered a town car to and from the airport which was about half an hour – only about $45.00. This guy was great in taking care of us: http://www.toursride.com We arrived about 12:00 on the nose which was a little bit early, but

it only took 5 minutes to check-in and wait to board. We waited in the lobby until about 1:30 upon which we promptly boarded and checked into our room. I found the ship to be a little bit older, but the crew was always cleaning to keep it in tip-top shape. Everyone was friendly, helpful. I guess I would be neutral on the bar staff. They were a little bit pushy and not so friendly – warning, the drinks are expensive and add up fast. Bring your own soda and liquor if you don’t want a $bar tab. Technically this is not allowed, but it seems that everyone does it since the drink and soda prices are outrageous. $2.50 for a plastic bottle of sprite and $5.95 plus mandatory tip for a margarita. The food was five star. I would not miss a single meal in the main dining room. Lobster night – needless to say we had more than one lobster. The all night pizza was great too – I think we gained a lot of weight on this cruise. There seemed to be always some place to eat on the ship no matter what time of day it was. The bar scene was pretty limited and the nightclubs did not start until after midnight, but that was OK – we had big port plans. The crew works hard to make sure there is always something to do and have fun at sea, and we were pleased to see a mixed age crown on the boat so that everyone, no matter their age was comfortable. Getting on and off the ship required a little bit of patience, but if you book a tour through the ship, don’t worry you are guaranteed to get on and off the ship on time. The ship tours *are* more expensive than the tours on shore. But they are convenient. In general, they charge about a $30 premium for every tour. We went with the certified scuba diving tours with the ship in both Grand Cayman and Cozumel - $90 for a 2 tank dive. Overall, the prices for scuba was not bad and we really enjoyed the tours. Still had time to get back to the ship, changed and meet our early dinner seating time. Costa Maya is just a tourist trap, but we took the dune buggy ride which was a lot of fun, although a little overpriced. IN Belize we went cave tubing which we had booked on the Internet before we left – I highly recommend these guys:  http://belizecruiseexcursions.com/CaveTubingBelize.htm Disembarkation is long and drawn out – it takes a while – if you are on a lower deck, don’t plan on getting off the ship until about 11:00. It does take a while. It took a little extra longg as I saw US Customs arrest a guy for having drugs in his bag that the dogs found … just plain dumb, enough said. We had a great time and would cruise with Carnival again. I thought Carnival was a lot more fun than Norwegian which seemed to be full of older people. My one complaint was that the room was always a little warm and humid, but that is me – I like a nice cool air conditioned room. The ship in general was pretty warm, but not unbearable or overall uncomfortable.    

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May 18, 2004

Western Caribbean

Well, here it goes my review of a recent cruise I tool aboard Carnival’s Inspiration. I chose to write this review by subject as opposed to boring you by writing it on a day-by day basis. I hope it helps: Debarkation: We left from Tampa Florida. This process went well and Carnival and Tampa get an “A” for this process. We arrived around 12 pm and met a porter at the curb. For $1.00 per bag, he took our luggage and put it with the

rest of the luggage that would eventually end up in the room on board the ship. We then headed for the entrance, meet many security personnel on the way and proceeded through the x-ray and metal detector and on to the check in line. The line was fairly long but moved quickly. We probably waited about 20 minutes at the most. We received our paperwork and sail and sign card and then were sent to a waiting area until boarding time. There were a good number of seats but also a good number of folks waiting so we ended up sitting in a corner on the floor till our time to board. About 1:30 pm, they made an announcement that boarding would begin early. We were in group 8. It took about 25 minutes to get to group 8 and once called, we got in line, made it to the boarding area, showed our ID’s and slid our Sail and Sign Cards into the boarding terminal (this is your boarding pass and on board CHARGE card). They take a picture of you and then you enter the ship. Once on board we were told to go to the Lido deck to enjoy a buffet style lunch and not to go to the rooms until after 2:30 pm since they were not ready. Once 2:30 pm came, we went to the room, luggage was there and the cruise began. Food/Dining: There is so much opportunity to eat on board. What a SIN!!!! Where do I start? The burgers and fries on the Lido Deck by the pool are wonderful, the pizza in the 24-hour Pizzeria is a MUST DO!!!! It is great pizza. The lunch buffet and breakfast buffet on the Lido Deck were ok…Nothing to brag about. The frozen yogurt is better than the ice cream. The salad bar is nice. Lemonade is real sour and tea is not that great. Breakfast is available at this buffet and there is also a sit down table service breakfast (and lunch) in one of the dining rooms each day. I did the breakfast two days and was not impressed… Better to just do the breakfast buffet each morning. When you do the sit down, you get seated with other guests and not the same ones each day. It is kind of strange in that you are not there long enough to really get a good conversation going, just long enough to make it awkward. So skip the sit down breakfast and lunch and do the burgers, pizza, or buffets. And remember, four of the days you will not even be on the boat anyway due to the various stops on the cruise. Sit down dinners are really fun. The first night you are kind of quiet and trying to get to know the others at the table since you are assigned a table. But by the final night, you bond with your fellow table guests and it is so great. Of course I was lucky to have the most wonderful people in the world at my table. We had a great time and plan to stay in touch. Anyway, the dinners: food is good on some days and not so good on others. Sometimes it was difficult to find something I liked. You can have anything on the menu and as much as you want. There are appetizers, salads, main course and desserts. I sometimes ordered two appetizers because I could not decide. Salads are plain and you do get tired of them real quick, you will see what I mean. The tenderloin is good, avoid the spinach entries (way too much spinach in the entrée). Bread is great. But all in all, I think the food quality could be improved. Desserts need lots of improvement. A couple were good but mostly real bland. We ordered more than one dessert and shared which was fun. The service was good although we did not always get our desserts and coffee before the nightly entertainment began. Then you had to wait until afterwards and most people were ready to leave at that time. So service could be improved, at least at our table. The nightly entertainment by the servers was fun. They sang and danced some. We all participated in the dances a couple of nights. Our table was wild and very fun!!!!! As an alternative to the nightly dinners, there was always the buffet but I made it a point to attend all the dinners and glad I did. Menu is posted outside the dining rooms in case you want to see if there are any items that sound good. The late dining option (8 pm) worked best for us but I can say that I was too tired some nights to catch the late seating of the nightly shows in the Paris Lounge (10:30 pm) so use your judgment on that but I would still do the late seating since the early seating would force one to rush back on board from the port of calls or from whatever you were doing. There were two formal nights, second night and second to the last night. It was nice but forced you to bring a suit/tie. I saw some just in casual clothes but most were dressed with a jacket and tie. I would suggest doing the formal night. It was fun. And there are a lot of places to have formal pictures taken (another subject). Entertainment: Not much of it. The casino is not regulated and pays horrible. Avoid it. Drinks in the casino for players are not even free and that is real sad. Come on Carnival, at least comp the drinks for those spending money in your casino. I avoided the casino for this main reason. The Shout show in the Paris Lounge was awesome. But get there early for a good seat. The middle seats on the lower level are the only ones any good and you need to arrive 45 minutes early to get one of these. The second level seats are terrible. I am not sure what idiot designed them but you can not see anything. Might as well not even be there. Blocked views and no real pitch so real hard to see. If you have to sit there, do not waste the time. And a couple of nights BINGO was in the lounge at 10 pm followed by the show at 10:30 pm so that was a difficult night to get a good seat unless you planned to sit through or play BINGO before the show since the BINGO players stuck around for the show. My suggestion: have BINGO at another time or in another place. But it is a money maker for Carnival and it is all about MONEY on Carnival Cruises!!!!! I did not see any other shows in the lounge but they ranged from cheesy jugglers to magicians and did not sound any good. There were midnight comics but too tired to enjoy these. The outside entertainment at the pool sucked. The band was off to the side and you could not hear the music. They should have been on the center outside stage or speakers around the deck. The other outside entertainment was a joke. Hairy chest contest and garbage liked that. And the Carnival personnel hosting the events are terrible speakers and could not keep the interest of the audience. So pool entertainment was no good. The Cruise Director was no good. We was boring and needs to be replaced. Drinks: Pricey but not short of alcohol. I think they were plenty strong. I did not like the automatic 15% gratuity added to your sail and sign account for each drink. Suggestion: you can adjust the gratuity but it must be done before you sign each slip for each drink you get. I would do this but then you may not see that waiter much coming around but can always go to the bar. But hear this…there are so MANY waiters on the ship trying to sell you drinks. You will spend all your time saying “No Thanks”. That is one place that Carnival is not short staffed. And since each waiter is a salesman after a 15% commission, you will see many of them. That is why Carnival uses the auto 15% gratuity so that the waiters have an incentive to push the drinks but remember, adjust it if you want. There are a couple of nights where drinks are reduced for Happy Hour. Search those out and take advantage of that. You are not allowed to bring your own booze on although many people did by using bottled water containers and filling them with liquor. I will do that next time. There is a liquor store on board and you can by some cheap booze but are not allowed to pick it up till the evening of the second to last day. But you can buy those little airplane bottles of some alcohol but are only allowed to purchase two every 20 minutes (at the on board store). I did that and mixed my own drink in the rooms. If you buy liquor off the ship, you will either have to have it delivered by the store to your ship (some do this with their relationship with Carnival) or check it at the ship entrance when boarding from a port. Carnival does everything possible to force you to buy drinks from them. It is a big money maker for them. Booze you buy on the cruise beyond a limit will be subject to a 10% Customs tax that is paid the day of disembarkment. There are Cokes in the room to use but they will charge your account $2.50 for each one you drink. But it is still cheaper than buying the drinks at the bar. Lemonade and tea/coffee are free on the ship on the Lido deck. The cups out by the pool are miniature so go to the Lido Buffet and get a bigger cup to use. Forget getting the soft drink card. Not worth it. Soft drinks at the bar are $1.00 for a glass and $1.50 for a can. Go that route if you want to drink them. Shore Excursions: I will talk about what I did at each port but in general, book your own before you go. Avoid Carnival tours. They are about $25-30 more per person, larger number of tour participants and not worth it. I booked two with Carnival and two on my own and enjoyed the ones I booked much better. See below for more details. If you book on your own and have an early tour, make sure you join in with the guests who booked through Carnival so that you can get off the ship in time to catch your tour. Many of the non-Carnival tours have specific tour times that coincide with the ships in port time. Carnival does everything possible to convince guests that their tours are best and even go so far as say that the first guests off the ship at each port will be those with Carnival tours. We also had tours booked but not with Carnival and needed to get off the ship early too. So what we did was go to the meeting place of the Carnival tours and exit with that group then find our own tour guide once on shore. They do not take the tour tickets until you get on the dock and in the line for your tour. So trust me, exit with the crowd. Carnival does book a lot of tours and it is on the honor system when they say that only those that book through them can exit first at each port. But Carnival has no right to say that only those that book tours through them can go first. I am hitting this subject hard because it is crucial that you get this point. Book your own tour and exit with their tours(if you have an early tour scheduled) Do not let them tell you that you can not leave that ship. You will miss out on some good tours this way. Anyway, when you get to your room there will be a tour order sheet and descriptions of each tour. There is also a presentation in the lounge on each tour. Fill it what you want and drop it in the box at the tour desk. Tickets will be delivered to your room. But again, only if you are not smart and book your own tours before you sail. Oh, if the ship has to cancel a port because of weather, etc, you will not be charged for your tour but please verify this with the tour company before purchasing because although we made all the ports, there are times where the ship can not dock at a particular port due to weather. Also, Carnival says that if you book their tour, they guarantee you will make it back to the ship before it leaves but if you book on your own and miss the ship, tough luck. That is a bunch of talk by them. Most reputable tour companies will ensure that you do not miss the boat. Trust them, not Carnival. Port: Grand Cayman Beautiful Island. The ship docks a mile or so out in the water and you ride a tender to shore. We did the Captain Marvin’s snorkel with the stingray tour for $34.00. Great tour. The stingrays are real friendly and swim up to you. A must do and Captain Marvin was really a great company to go with. I heard this though others and it turned out to be true. Book the early tour and get off the ship first thing. Once at the port, walk right a few blocks and you will see their office. After the stingray experience, they take you to a reef to snorkel. Book online. Seven Mile Beach is also a great place to spend the day if not into the Stingrays. Port: Costa Maya This is the most undeveloped port on the itinerary. The ship actually does dock at the port, no tender. The port is a shopping village that appears to be Carnival owned or operated…a convenient place for them to let you spend a day. There are not a lot of tours at this port and really not much to do. We did the Carnival tour, Jungle Beach Break. Took you to a beach where there was an open bar. Drinks were VERY watered down and there was too much seaweed in the water. Port: Belize This was my favorite port. There is an extensive coral reef that lines the coastline of Belize so the ship has to dock 5 miles out and you are tendered in…the tenders are frequent and fast. We booked a cave tubing tour through a company called X-Stream. Upon arriving, you will most likely be met by Richard of X-Stream. There is approximately a 1-hour drive to the river. Richard is a native of Belize and upon departure from the dock; he will give you a little tour of Belize City and fill you in on things along the way. He will also give you a little history on the area and answer any questions you may have. Upon arriving at the river, you will get your tube and begin the 45 or so minute walk through the rainforest and with Richard as your guide. With Richard you will learn a lot there is to know about the local flora and fauna. Be sure to ask Richard to call up a troop of howler monkeys for you. Richard is full of knowledge and is proud to share his beautiful country with you. If you go with X-Stream, Richard or his partner, will take you further up the river (if weather permits) to a second cave. You will be supplied a headlamp prior to getting in the water. The excursion is not difficult and Richard is good at aiding those that may need some assistance but remember, there is a long walk and you may end up swimming if you are not careful. There are locals that are stationed along the river to help anyone that might get into a bit of trouble along the way. If you are not a strong swimmer, use a life vest. Since the water level was high and the river was a bit up…Richard asked that we all wear a life vest. Better safe than sorry and it is easy to flip over in the caves. Afterwards, Richard will have fruit and water for you or if you need a little more than that, I recommend the bbq at the little stand at the river…Excellent and cheap. And don’t worry about making it back on time…as Richard puts it, “Don’t worry…I am working, you are on vacation.” Would love to have his job! Disembarkment: Not too bad. We were off by 10 am. Took a while so we just sat around on the Lido Deck and talked with everyone we met. Last time to hang around as a group. Then our deck was called and we headed to the exit, got our luggage in the huge warehouse and exited. Never had to show any documents. Talk about lack of security but the US has the most open borders there are. All in all, a great trip. Am planning another trip on Carnival out of Galveston in December. Any questions, email me at [email protected]      

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By Zila_CR

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May 9, 2004

Western Carribean

This was a long awaited cruise for my bestfriend and me. Mabe we are naive or just did not expect as much as others in reviews we read. We ported at Tampa Fl. We are from Fl but the northern part. Tampa was a shock to the two of us. We found no one to be rude in any way except for the Tampa Police that were working the port itself. The staff was curious, efficient, and you really could not expect it to move any faster according to

the volume of people loading and unloading on this ship. The ship was immaculate .The staff was constantly cleaning twenty-four hours a day. We never had one rude staff encounter. We did have a rare occasion where the communication was difficult but cheerfully and easily overcome. Our cabin tender was great. Our matrade was great and headwaiter and assistant professional and witty, entertaining us and meeting our every need. The food excellent in all areas we dined in to include the all night pizza. We had all the fun one could want onboard and off ship. Fun days at sea were fun. Our first port of call was Grand Cayman where we chose to tour the island and go to the sea turtle farm (magnificent). Getting off was not difficult only required patience. Our second port of call Cost Maya Mex. We chose to shop they had plenty to see and do. The beach was beautiful, only don't think you barter there we found you could not so we saved it for Cozumel. That being our third port and to us the best. We went to their national park and swam with the Dolphins and I could never put that experience into words, greatest I ever had anywhere. The taxi drivers are fast and scary but we survived coming back to town was a delight with a slower cab driver that as well entertained us. We then shopped and received fair prices and then went to Carlos N Charles a for adults bar and grill and had a blast. Belize was final and I think it was beautiful but a five mile ride on a dingy to see this was not impressive and I would have preferred more time in Cozumel and skipped this port. We met people on the ship that have actually kept in touch and became friends that plan to meet a group of us next May for another cruise. Disembarkation is long and drown out but my sister being a avid cruiser had given us heads up and we knew what to expect and just went with the flow. Now to summarize this .I had a great time .I think carnival is the fun ships I think you get well worth what you pay for and I too believe that anytime a cruise/vacation is what you make it out to be .I highly recommend this cruise ship and Carnival. Thank You Carnival for my first cruise and such a great one .Zila Douglas    

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Feb 29, 2004

Western Caribbean

This was the most disappointing cruise I have ever been on. We missed the port of Belize and Costa Maya because of weather conditions. However, we went to Belize and were in line to disembark when we were told the weather was too rough. Should they not have known this before we went there and made other arrangements for another port? Instead, we just spent another day on the ship of course spending money on drinks, gambeling, shopping

and Bingo. I don't think it cost Carnival anything that we missed the ports as a matter of fact I think they probably made more money than if we had docked. So on a seven day cruise with four ports we saw two. I have been on other cruise lines that if they could not make a port took us to another one but not Carnival. As for the ship itself, it was not clean and was not kept as well as other ships. The service in the Brassire (casual dining) was the worse I have seen on any cruise ship. They have no trays to carry your food so you have to go back and forth several times in order to get your food, drinks and bread. You can only carry so much without a tray. This particular cruise had many elderly couples and the weather was a little rough at times. I could not believe that the staff did not offer to assist some of the elderly to get their food to the tables. Several times my husband and I assisted because we felt compassion for them. When asking for Tabasco or A1 the staff acted as if we were putting them out. They never smiled or made you feel happy to be onboard. Without a doubt the worse staff I have ever seen on a cruise. The pizza bar was great and the staff was always pleasant and helpful. Our room steward was wonderful. Entertainment was ok some nights and bad on others. All things considered I would not recommend this ship to anyone. Carnival needs to retrain the staff on this ship or else just start over. What a disappointment. This was my 25th wedding anniversary and it was ruined. Don't go on this ship. You will be disappointed. This is not a FUN ship.    

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By Curt_CR

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Feb 15, 2004

Exotic Caribbean

My wife and our two teenage kids (17 and 18) recently went on a one week cruise with Carnival on the M/S Inspiration. Perhaps our experience will help others decide if a cruise is a good choice for them. The Inspiration departs from the Port of Tampa. We arrive the night before from Canada and stayed at the Amerisuites Hotel which is about 10 minutes or less from the Tampa Airport. We decided not to purchase transportation from Carnival

as there were four of us and getting a private taxi appeared to be cheaper (it was much cheaper and quicker too). At about 10:00 am Sunday morning we decided to head for the Port. Traffic was light and we made it in about 10 to 15 minutes (I am not sure what the speed limit is in downtown Tampa - didn’t seem to be one according to our driver!). Anyway, when we arrived there a porter met us and took our luggage. We then found a long line up and decided to join it, assuming it was the right one. In about 5 minutes it began to move and within 10 minutes we were getting our sail and sign cards. The process was really a breeze and there were not any waits or delays until we arrived in the staging area. We were in group two so once boarding began we were soon on our way. Within 15 minutes of the boarding call for our group we were sitting in the Lido restaurant enjoying lunch. For some reason, Carnival allowed boarding to begin earlier than normal. I am not sure why but they did note that the ship was very full. Lots of young families and very few senior citizens. I believe some of the schools in the New England states had the week off. In any event, based on our experience I would recommend getting to the Port earlier rather than later. You will have to wait at some point but I would just as soon wait in a chair with all the paper work done than in a line waiting for things to happen. We had two inside cabins on the lowest deck (Riviera). Although it would have been nice to have a window to check the weather each morning, the cabins suited us fine. Certainly we never felt crowded, though if we had all stayed in the same room it would have been a bit much. The first day at sea was fairly uneventful. The weather was a bit cool and the water a bit rough. Don’t assume that because you are on a large ship that you won’t feel anything. If the water is rough you will know it. Lots of people were getting sick. Many people wear little patches behind their ears. Not sure if they helped or not. We used wrist bands the first day or so. I don’t know if they really made much of a difference. I had never been on a cruise ship and I must say I was disappointed with the size of the pool. If you think you will swim a few laps each day, forget it!. It is just too small. It is fine for young children and there is a water slide but if lying by a pool and swimming is what you want, go to a land resort. All of decks were very crowded with chairs and chaises and very noisy as well. If you thrive on that type of environment then cruising may be for you. If you prefer quietly lying by a pool, stick to a resort. The first full day at sea meant our first formal night. The food is one area where cruising can’t be touched. No need to line up to make reservations earlier in the day. Just show up at the appointed time and your ‘team’ which will soon know your name, will look after your every need. I can’t imagine not eating in the dining room as the food and service was superb. It is a bit noisy because it is very large but the food is great. Each meal took about 90 minutes. It might be a bit rushed for a gourmet meal but you certainly never wonder what is taking so long. We ate in the dining room once for breakfast and once for lunch but for us, the choices in the Lido restaurant were fine. Our first stop was Grand Cayman. We had booked privately with Captain Marvin for the snorkel and stingray tour. We were told on the ship that there was an hour difference between the ship’s time and the island’s time. Fortunately, we went early as they are on the same time. Had we trusted the ship’s info, we would have missed our excursion. We paid $45 per person and had two snorkel stops plus the stingray stop. I understand that the excursion when booked through Carnival is the same price but only does the stingray stop. We thought we received good value (we even had the original Captain Marvin pilot our boat). We were a bit pressed for time to get back to the dock to catch a tender so the owner of the company had one of his employees take us in his own Lexus. We highly recommend Captain Marvin! The next day we were scheduled to stop at Costa Maya. Unfortunately, the seas were too rough to stop so we ended up heading for Cozumel. We arrived just before supper and were able to go ashore for part of the evening. The weather was pretty nasty until we arrived in Cozumel so that was a bit disappointing. In Cozumel my son and I spent the day together and my daughter spent the day with my wife. They basically shopped the whole time. All I can say is that I am glad we split up. My son and I shopped in the morning as he had a bunch of friends he wanted to buy gifts for. We looked for the seedier shops and you can find them if you get off the beaten track. We took a taxi from the pier to downtown which cost $6 USD. My son and I got a taxi back to the ship where we had lunch. We then took a cab ($10 USD) to Channkanaab (sp?) National Park where we spent the afternoon sun tanning and snorkeling ($10 entrance fee per person). We saw many interesting fish but not much in the way of corals. If you want to do some hardcore snorkeling, you should probably book an excursion on the Internet before you go. We have heard good things about Papa Hogs. If I could do it again, that is what I would have done (though my teenage son really wanted to catch some rays!). The stop at Cozumel was the longest and it was nice not to have been rushed too much. Unfortunately, that isn’t true of the other ports. The last port we stopped at was Belize. We booked the cave tubing with Reggie (Reggie’s Tours). This was a great excursion and we highly recommend it. It is much cheaper to book through Reggie than Carnival. We also had very personal attention. Although Reggie had a large group the day we went (80 plus) he indicated that anyone that wanted to go with a small group could. Only two families (ours and one other) took up the offer. As a result, the nine of us had our own tour guide and although there were seven tour buses at the caves that day, we only saw other tubers at one time during the whole experience. It was a great day and a fun experience. The last day was the day at sea. Nothing too exciting to report. The debarkation procedures went ok but we were lucky to be in the first group called. We were late getting into the port (almost 2 hrs) because of the fog. We also had to wait a long time until all of the none-USA folks cleared immigration. However, once our group was called we were off the ship in no time and within 15 minutes were on our way in a taxi to the airport. Our flight didn’t leave until 3:30 pm so we had lots of time. However, some people did miss their flights so don’t book too soon. Overall, we enjoyed the cruise. We found the late nights and early mornings a bit much. If we were to do it over we might consider the early dinner. As it was, with eating at 8:00 pm the show for us in the lounge didn’t begin until 10:30 pm. That made for a late evening when we had to get up early the next morning for an excursion. The one thing I didn’t like was that the shipped seemed pretty crowded on all of the open decks. Some people don’t mind that, but if your idea of the perfect holiday is time alone, think carefully about a cruise in February aboard Carnival unless you want to spend your time in your room.    

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Feb 13, 2004

Western Caribbean

My experience might be of interest to you as I went for two reasons: 1. My husband and I planned to get married on one of the islands. 2. To have a wonderful honeymoon, we brought along 6 other family members to share our special day and all 8 of us would enjoy a week of vacation. My feelings are rather mixed, therefore I will divide the entire experience into sub-categories.      

By Cory_CR

  • New

Jan 18, 2004

Western Caribbean

Met family from other flights at the airport. Had prepaid Mears Transfers and the bus was ready to board right away. All the people on the bus had these transfers which had gratuties pre-paid, but that did not stop the driver for requesting more gratuity. Made way to the Tampa Port Authority took less than 20 minutes. 4 buses arrived at the same time. We sat in the bus for over an hour before a Carnival rep would board the bus for

instructions. They kept skipping our bus. He told us that lunch would be waiting for us on the ship. The time is 12:20 or so. Here is where unprecidented waiting began. Tampa Port Authority is not nearly large enough to handle the influx of people moving on and off the ship. First we had to claim all of our luggage to waiting porters who whisked it off to the ship. Then we had to wait in 3 long line staging areas. We showed id's and boarding tickets 3 separate times until we got to the last stage. Here we sat for about two hours in a very long line. Before the trip we were instructed to fill out the "FunPass" information. Supposedly by having this confirmation the wait to get aboard was suppose to be very short. Not one person working at Port even knew what a "FunPass" was and had never heard of it. We processed through metal detectors and made way to another long line to wait for a representative to give us our pass. By this time is hour 3 1/2 of waiting. We get our Sail and Sign cards and then wait in a line to board the ship. The lady working the Sail and Sign security post was snippy and wanted us to hurry up after the long wait we had. We boarded the ship, checked out the room and then tried to find something to eat. Of course lunch stopped serving at 3:30. We attended the life jacket meeting and then the ship began to depart not soon after that. It would have not bankrupted Carnival to at least serve cold water to us for the wait. I understand the need for security, but they've several years to come up with a process thats quick and efficient but have failed miserably. I give Carnival and Tampa Port Authority an F- for their logistical embarkation failures. Spent the rest of the day figuring way around ship and eating dinner in the Mardi Gras dining room - more about food and service later. The room on U deck forward had a large port hole and was very clean and tidy. I left a note for the room steward to put the beds together and bring extra blankets and pillows. After dinner I found the bed turned down and all requests fulfilled. Although the steward wasnt chatty he was friendly and took great care of the room several times a day. The only problem I had with the room was that the port hole was all salted over and hard to look out of and it creaked everytime the boat rocked. I learned to live with it and slept very very well the whole trip. 1/19/2004 - Day at Sea Spent the day looking for the least crowded spot on the ship to relax. Turns out the kiddie pool was that place. I spent many hours looking off the aft end of the ship, soaking up rays and enjoying the smell of the sea. 1/20/2004 - Grand Cayman The ship arrived on time at 7:00 am but my Sting Ray Tour wasn't until 9:15. I tried to get on a tender to go ashore but most of the tenders were cancelled due to rough seas. Eventually they cancelled all tours. We were able to go ashore for about 2 hours. While boarding the tender to go back to the ship the sea was very rough. So rough in fact that the rope buckle on the dock at Cayman sheared right off the dock and just about took off the guys head sitting near it on the tender. I understand safety concerns are in order, but Cayman has some of the best tours and I was extremely disappointed when the tour was cancelled. For you cigar smokers, Grand Cayman had the cheapest cigar prices of all the ports. Smoke them up though cause you cant bring them back. If Carnival cancels your tour booked through the ship they refund 100% of your money. All in all, the schedule for Grand Cayman is very short to begin with. They should allow at least 12 hours there, but dont. 1/21/2004 - Costa Maya Same experience as others have posted. The dock is brand new. We walked to the beach on the right hand side of the dock. Very small and rocky. Enjoyed some cold beers and good food there. The ladies bought Tanzanite jewelry there. There are alot of shops there, but everything is pre-priced in US dollars and they dont barter hardly any at all. The tequila store there would not give out samples either. It was fun to see, but there isnt much to do there yet at all. They should cut out this port and give the time to Grand Cayman or Belize. 1/22/2004 - Cozumel New port there at Cozumel, nice too Puerta Maya its called. We had a shore tour to Playa Sol Beach Club. When we got ready to disembarke the ship, we had to wait "again" because the sister ship Sensation was docking on the other side. They don't allow anyone off or on during docking of another ship. Just another long series of waiting - about 40 minutes or so this time. You have to hire your own taxi to get anywhere on Cozumel. It's $14 whether you go 1 mile or 15 miles. Playa Sol was a nice beach club, but you have to run a guantlet of shops before you find the beach. That beach has no shade. None at all. You have to surrender your sail and sign card to get umbrella's. The beach is good size, but became suddenly crowded when the Party Boat tour stopped there for several hours. The sun is really hot here too. With 30 sunblock, some still sustained first or second degree sunburns. Brutal sun. They had banana boats, parasailing, the usual works. Playa Sol was ok, but I won't go there again. There are several shops at Puerta Maya, but most people took a taxi downtown and went to Carlos and Charlies or Senor Frogs to have fun and shop. 1/23/2004 - Belize City This port was interesting, the ship anchors about 5 miles off the coast and these monster tri-motor speed boat tenders take you to shore. Our tender was brand new and very nice. Belize seems very poor and unorganized, but there you will find a proud and friendly people. We went on the City Tour and Zoo, it was a good trip. They seem to go out of their way to give everyone a good tour experience. The Amaesh and Minonite citizens there make some really really nice wooden furniture, it was impressive to see. Belize has alot to offer and I predict within 10 years it will be a sought after destination. (If they can beat out Cuba) 1/24/2004 - Day at Sea Spent the day goofing off. Playing Bingo, going to some of the events, took the galley tour, etc. Got all rested up for the marathon waiting session tomorrow. 1/25/2004 - Arrive back at Tampa Another day of waiting. First of all, most of the ship was closed off so you had to wait in your designated waiting areas. They don't let anyone off the ship until immigration processes all non-US citizen tourists and people who spent over their allowances pay duty and taxes. US Customs basically swarms the ship. They are everywhere. You also have to wait for all Sail and Sign cards to be closed out. So as you can imagine, they page people for several hours. The biggest wait was for immigration. For some reason some of those non-US citizens failed to report on time. So you wait and wait and wait, then wait some more. I watched them clean the entire mid-deck top to bottom before I got off the boat. When its finally your turn to leave the ship you have to pass by a US Customs dog. US Customs are about as friendly as a stale loaf of bread and make you form a single line and tell you over and over not to talk to their dog because its a working dog. I have to admit Customs is very thorough. You claim your bags and then line up and wait again to visit with a Customs agent. They collect your card and ask you questions. Then you make it outside of the Port Authority to guess what. You got it wait again for L O N G time. This time it was for Mears Transportation. They know exactly how many people have transfers back to the airport. Did they have buses pre-staged to load up. NO ! instead they would bring a bus load of new cruisers, play a waiting game, offload them. Move up to our area, play another waiting game. Take their sweet time to load the luggage. Then to top it all off, they ask for gratuities again even though they are already pre-paid. Really frustrating. Whatever you do, don't book airfare for anytime earlier than 2pm because you wont make your flight. Its that bad. Total mayhem and disorganization. It was the most pathetic scene ever. I give Mears, Carnival and Tampa Port Authority another F- for dembarkation. What a total fiasco! In summary, here is my report card for the cruise overall. 0. Ports of Call A All good except for Grand Cayman. 1. Embarkation: F- for Carnival, Tampa Port Authority - very poor logistical planning. 2. Room on ship: A good steward - took care of all needs well. 3. Food: A I thought the food was quite excellent. Desserts could be better. 4. Service A+ Outstanding service. 5. Cleanliness A+ That ship was spotless. 6. Crew A+ Very friendly. Would have been nice to see the captain dining with us. 7. Lido Deck A+ Those are the hardest working folks I've ever seen. Their uniforms were always crisp and pressed, everything was immaculatly clean. They did such a fantastic job cleaning up after everyone being slobs. They were very friendly and everything was just perfect. 8. 24 hour pizza C- Good if you are really hungry and have been waiting a long time, otherwise pretty bad pizza. 9 Ice Cream A Don't even try during lunch or you will get milk 10. Gala Buffet A Good presentation 11. Dining A The food was very good. Wide variety. Something for everyone. 12. Dining Staff A Excellent service in the dining room. Good shows too. 13. Entertainment B Decent production and good singers and dancers. Cheesy themes though. 14. Casino C Not regulated so expect to be ripped off. Play only card games. 15. Drinks C Pricey for not having much liquor in them. Sneak on your own. 16. Debarkation F- for Carnival, Tampa Port Authority and Mears. Those folks better straighten up. 17. Coast Guard A+ They escorted us right out to international waters and brought us all the way into port. I saw them on the job everywhere. Special thanks to those folks keeping us safe. 18. Tampa Sheriff A+ They were everywhere with big side arms 19 US Customs A Need to work on their people skills. I give Carnival a 'B' overall, the entire company isn't bad, only certain sections of it. Give them a try but don't depart from Tampa if you know what's good for you.    

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Nov 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

Number o Cruises: 4 Had a good time, the cruise director was good (able to take a "cool" audience and turn them around to really enjoying themselves! The ship was COLD! The room temperatures could be adjusted by turning off the air conditioner vent in the ceiling, but the lounges were very cold and other passengers complained a lot about it. The real highlight of the trip was swimming with the sting rays! I did this with much trepidation

(a) they are rays, after all; (b) I can't swim and the trip is 20-25 minutes from the coast. However, the information said the experience took place on a sandbar with only 5 ft. of water and I thought I could handle that with a life-vest. So I did it. It was a wonderful experience. I quickly doffed the life-vest because the water was only about waist deep. The rays swam around us, between us, and through our legs. They were incredibly tame. There must have been easily a hundred people in the water, and three or four hundred rays. It was incredible and delightful. Belize City is very poor, but there is a lot of construction going on, which I presume is because of tourism money. Even the American Embassy looked shabby! We paid a private guide/taxi to take us around. The city has a tourism group, and when they pick up passengers they have to check out with security personnel telling them how many passengers (only two of us) and where they are going. When we returned the driver had to check us in. So we felt very safe with this. The cruise line suggested not going into the city alone and that does seem like a good idea. Everyone was very friendly there. In Cozumel we did the Tulum thing. I had done that about 10 years ago and it was interesting to see how the tour has changed. Years ago the buses just dropped us off, and we were on our own until time to return. This time we had an excellent guide who gave us a lot of information. After leaving the site, going back to the bus, I got lost in a maze of little shops - literally! It took me about 20 minutes to find my way out of there and get to the bus. If you go shopping there, take a long string so you can find your way back! (Just joking). Costa Maya was a big nothing. We took a taxi and went away from the tourist area, but there really was nothing to see. On the whole, though, we had a really good time. Each evening when we returned to our cabins we found an "animal" constructed from towels -- they were cute and we photographed all of them! The dining service was excellent.    

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Nov 16, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. We chose Carnival because the itinerary, cabin type, and price fit what we were looking for. To help you decide if this review is worth reading, I’ll say that we went without our kids and are beach and sun people. We wanted to spend time at the ship’s pool sipping cold drinks, at the beaches, and snorkeling/scuba. We didn’t go to gamble, shop, or hang out in the bars all day. Overall, we were extremely

pleased, with only a few minor complaints. Embarkation - Painless. Arranged our own flight and transfer (Tampa Bay Shuttle). The van was waiting at the airport, so total time from landing until on the ship was 1 hour and 5 minutes! Carnival's transfers were available at the airport for twice the price of Bay Shuttle. Since we had a Cat 11 suite, we were able to bypass the very long check in line, though I wouldn't pay for a suite just to be first on/first off the ship. We went straight to our room, dropped off carry ons and then went for a drink by the pool and watched the ship push away from the dock. We had our luggage at our room within 2 hours. Ship - Very nice - not too big (just big enough to get lost a few times) and not so small that you couldn't get away from people. In fact, we were amazed that on a ship of 2200 passengers and 800 crew, we were often the only ones in a certain area of the ship. Made it nice at night to stand out on the deck and watch the sea and stars and be all alone. The ship does have a glitzy Vegas look to it, but I love Vegas, so it didn't bother me a bit. The layout is logical, except for the aft Carnivale dining room, which doesn't have a stairway that leads directly to it from above. Got lost going to dinner twice! The ship was clean and it seemed someone was always cleaning or painting something. Everything seemed to be in working order - doors, elevators, lights, etc. We read reviews complaining about the appearance of this ship. We disagree. As long as you expect to see an 8 yr old ship with a bit of wear and tear evident, you'll be fine. Also, the ship rides very smoothly. We’d been told that having a cabin on an upper deck would subject us to a lot of rolling motion. No complaints at all – even at full speed on Day 1 and 7. The “vibration” that has been mentioned is noticeable at times when cruising, however. Finally, the air conditioning is a bit of an issue. When you come off the pool decks, you will freeze as you pass through the atrium, which is way too cold. I also couldn’t turn the room a/c down enough to be comfortable – we nearly froze one night! Food – I’d give the dinners an A- and everything else a B. Biggest complaint with breakfast was that it was the same every morning. Would’ve liked to seen crepes, casseroles, or something to vary the choice. Also, the scrambled eggs tended to be runny and the omelets weren’t cooked all the way through. The pastries were dry and flaky also. So I had cereal and fruit almost every morning. No big deal – left more room for lunch and dinner! We ate lunch at the pool grill or on shore everyday, so really can’t comment on lunches other than it looked like standard buffet fare. We did eat the pizza the first day and it was very good. We would like to have seen a big sandwich bar with a variety of meats and cheeses. The dinners get an A-. They miss an A+ only because the desserts were not good. The appetizers and main courses were awesome. They had a wide variety of well prepared, well presented, gourmet quality meals. We ate in the dining room every night because the food was so good. Remember, you can order two entrees! Since portions are not huge, you might want to order two. The problem with the desserts was the pastries and cakes were dry and flaky and the cheesecake was spongy. They looked much better than they tasted. Also, the service was absolutely fabulous. Can’t say enough about it (though the dancing and singing the waiters had to do each night was a bit cheesy). Finally, we chose the late seating (8 pm) and are very glad we did. We feel we would’ve missed out on a lot of pool time and port time if we had to hurry back to the ship to clean up and make it to dinner by 5:30. The only down side is that if you want to see the shows after dinner, you have to attend the second showing which doesn’t begin until 10:30. Entertainment – we went to a Vegas style show and a ‘50s through ‘80s music review in the large Paris lounge. Go early to the shows because good seating is limited. Most of the upper deck of the lounge has seating where the view is obstructed by pillars. The shows were slightly above average. Nice costumes, good dancers, very good male singer, average female singer. The captain’s welcome party in the Paris Lounge is a must – free drinks/appetizers. Get the whiskey sours! We also went to a midnight comedy show. It wasn’t too bad. Definitely rated R. The piano bar was a bust. The guy could play a great piano, but couldn’t sing worth a darn. And that’s being kind. Plus it was so smoky you couldn’t stand to be in there for more than a few minutes. The casino was OK, but the craps was a bit of a disappointment. All blackjack is $5 min bet. Craps is too, but you can only put 2x odds and on your pass line bet only. Real tough to win with rules like that. Like I said, we didn’t spend time in the other lounges, so I can’t comment. We preferred to sit on our balcony or out on deck having a mixed drink. Poolside entertainment was not bad. We watched the hairy chest contest, some relay games, etc. The reggae band was OK, though kind of loud. – they set up right behind the beach chairs! Drinks were one of our minor complaints. For the price you pay to cruise and the fact that the drinks aren’t much cheaper than a stateside bar ($3.50 – 5.50 range), I thought adding 15% to every drink was a bit much. I thought 10% was standard for bars anyway. The good news is that they do not skimp on the alcohol and it’s all good name brand stuff. People, kids, etc. – I almost didn’t book Carnival because of the reputation of being overrun with teens. Since we cruised in mid November, maybe we got lucky. In fact, the ship was just the opposite. At 40, my wife and I were among the younger ones on the ship! Fully half the ship was senior citizens. Another 25% were within the 35-50 range and the rest were couples or singles. Only saw about a dozen teens the entire cruise and they were all well behaved, and also well pierced and tattooed. Saw about 10 little kids as well and the parents seemed to keep a tight rein on them. We did see kids in the adult hot tub a few times and the ship’s staff didn’t do anything about it. Perhaps because the other hot tub was empty at the time. Anyway – don’t worry about too many kids (unless it’s Spring Break of course). The only problem we had with people was with adults. Mainly rudeness when it comes to waiting in line. Some people act as if they haven’t eaten in years when the dining room doors are first opened – running and shoving to get to the food. Most of the offenders looked like they could’ve missed a few meals and been fine. Same thing happened in line for the tenders – adults cutting in line, jostling for position, etc. They were probably the same people who couldn’t read the No Smoking signs on the port side of the Lido deck around the pool! Excursions – they are much more expensive to book onboard! Do research beforehand and book your own. Grand Cayman – Tender port. Based on reviews, we booked our Sting Ray City snorkeling on line with Capt Marvin’s and saved about $30. Plus, our boat had a dozen people on it and the cruise sponsored boats must’ve had 50 on board. Highly recommend this trip. Overall, the island was nice, but the day was kind of rushed because we had to catch the tender so early to get back to the ship. Would’ve liked another 3 hours or so to look around. Costa Maya – Docked. This a place built by the cruise lines and they want you to shop here. We decided before the cruise that this would be a beach/margarita/Dos Equis day. We walked off the ship and went out and to the right to a nice little private beach. There’s a sign that the cruise lines put up warning about there being no guarantee of what’s on the other side of the fence. Ignore it. They just want you to shop. Besides, there’ll be 200 other passengers over there with you. We rented 2 beach chairs for $6 total and basked in the sun. The beach is small and a bit rocky, so take water shoes. We just sat and watched the ocean and watched cheapskate cruise passengers jostle over recently vacated beach chairs, in hopes of not having to pay three whole dollars. To his credit, the Mexican Chief of Beach Chairs was always quickly on the scene to collect $3 from the new chair occupant! Get the quesadillas and the Dos Equis! Cozumel – Docked about 2-3 miles south of town. We had planned on walking into town and finding a dive shop that offered combo snorkel/scuba trips. We had seen several on line, but none of the companies answered my e-mail inquiries prior to the cruise. However, the winds were so strong that the harbor master had closed the small boat harbor. So all of the dive boats, party boats, and similar trips were cancelled. So we flagged a taxi and went to a rental car place. Rented a convertible Bug and drove over to the calmer east side of the island. We stopped at Playa Bonita and spent the day on a gorgeous sandy beach. There was a small cantina at the beach and we had some great fajitas. Not sure why a previous reviewer said there were no sandy beaches, because the east side of Cozumel has a number of gorgeous, sandy beaches (some small, some larger). Drove back in time to drop off the car and hit some local shopping before going back to the ship. Belize – tender port (way offshore!). We had scheduled Cave Tubing, but the night before we got to Belize, we were told all cave tubing was cancelled due to flooding. So I booked a scuba trip (2 tank dive) through the ship’s tour office. Ouch - $165!! However, the dives were awesome. The best coral formations I’ve ever seen. I highly recommend Hugh Parkey’s Belize Dive Connection, and it’ll be significantly cheaper if you book direct online. Otherwise, I didn’t really see much of Belize due to the short duration of the stop. Overall, we liked the stops but wished we’d had a few more hours in each. My major complaint with Carnival (and I’m sure most cruise lines) is that at each port we were handed a small map as we got off the ship. The only thing on the map is all of the “Carnival recommended” shopping spots. I know they want to make money, but I got the impression that if you weren’t there to shop, or hadn’t booked an excursion through Carnival, they didn’t care about you at all. By the end of the cruise I was so tired of hearing about where to get Tanzanite and loose diamonds I could’ve screamed. For the person who wants info on car or bike rentals, local beaches, bars, or restaurants, where to get a taxi or bus, etc., Carnival provides nothing. I got tired of always trying to be sold something. Do your research before you go and have a primary plan and a backup plan of what to do at each stop. And make sure any deposits you put down are refundable since weather and the cruise lines can be unpredictable. Disembarkation – Don’t waste your time at the “mandatory” 11 AM pre-disembarkation briefing in the Paris Lounge. It is recorded and re-played over the ship’s cable TV. I wanted to spend my time at the pool on the final day instead. (The pool area fills up by 10:30 or so on Monday and Saturday). On the last day, everyone has to go to a certain area of the ship and wait for clearance to get off. Again, the suite paid off because we were the first off the ship. Customs was painless (waved us right through), and Tampa Bay Shuttle was at the front of the line of vehicles outside the terminal. We docked at 8 AM, reported to our waiting area at 9, and were pulling away from the terminal just a bit after 10. Misc – the crew is fantastic. Polite, good service, always saying hello, always available for drink service, etc. Better service than I’ve ever had at any resort or hotel. The booze in the ports is a bit cheaper than the ship, but the ship’s store is still a bargain. Half the price of US liquor stores. If you declare, you’ll pay about $1 a bottle for duty. Take water bottles to fill and keep in the fridge in your room so you’ll have something to take on the excursion. Bring your own clear liquor in a water bottle. Bring plenty of US cash – it’s accepted at all of the ports. You won’t need it on the ship because everything goes on the Sign and Sail Card. If you run low on cash and need it to shop in a port, you may be out of luck. The ATM on the ship charges $5.50 per transaction! The purser’s desk will only cash a check for free if you have AMEX. We’re big time soda drinkers, but didn’t get the $30 soda card. The cokes in the room are a rip off ($2.50 for 16 oz), but we only got a few to mix with our rum! We still came out ahead I think. There is unlimited iced tea, lemonade, coffee, etc available 24 hours. Bottom line – A great trip. I’d recommend Carnival Inspiration. The price was unbeatable and the value was great. Next time we may try something new/different, but wouldn’t mind this ship and itinerary again.    

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By N/A_CR

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Nov 14, 2003

Bahamas

We went on this three day Fascination cruise with another couple as a birthday celebration. We live here in South Florida right near Fort Lauderdale so it is only a 30 minute drive to the ship. My friend, who is a travel agent, picked this particular cruise because he could not take more time off than three days and also because the price was very reasonable. The check in time from the moment we pulled in at the curbside with our baggage

to the time we went through all the necessary security checks and paper work and arrived in our room was about 40 minutes. Considering the large number of passengers involved, I consider this very good time. We had an outside room and it was nice and roomy with a very nice bathroom, really good shower. Having been on many ships, I would consider this room a little above average. There is a TV set right above the bed, but I must say the channel selection was just terrible. All they had were three network channels from New York City, no news channels such as CNN, FOX, MSNBC, three movie channels with awful pictures that kept repeating all day long for the three days. This definitely needs an upgrade. The ship itself is quite beautiful with a big atrium as you enter the ship. It's quite glitzy looking, think Las Vegas style, and whether you like it or not depends on your individual taste. We had trouble right off the bat because we had reserved late seating but were assigned early seating. Our confirmation definitely said late seating. We went to the main desk quite upset and were informed that our confirmation was only a request and could not be guaranteed. We spent quite a lot of time at the desk with no satisfaction and finally we were told to show up at the late seating and talk to the Maitre D. When we did talk to the Maitre D he was not polite or helpful. However, we insisted and finally we got a table which we were able to keep for the rest of the trip. I don't know why we had all this trouble because there seemed to be some empty tables at this late sitting. All in all, if you insist on a particular seating (early or late) make sure it is not just a request but a guarantee. Having been on many cruises and different ships in the past we could compare the quality of the food and service. We would rate the food and service as good but not excellent. We have always found the Holland American line to offer very fine food and elegant service, and this ship does not compare with it. However, this line advertises as a "Fun Ship" and caters to a young crowd. There were very few kids on board and we were definitely in the upper age group on this trip. I would say the young crowd definitely seemed to have plenty of fun. There were a great number of single young women who came together and shared a room. The bars and lounges were open all the time and full of revelers at all hours. In fact, I have never seen so much drinking on a cruise, it never let up all day. The disco and casino were busy all the time and there was music all over the place. If you like this sort of activity, you definitely will not be disappointed. Also, there are shows in the theater nightly and they have a big professional cast and orchestra and the productions are of very high quality. The costumes, music, props, band, dancers, singers must cost a fortune, this is really a first class production. Also, they had two midnight comedian R-rated shows at midnight which were very good. This ship only stopped for the day in Nassau, Bahamas, and since we had been there several times, we just went on the main street for a little while. One thing I didn't like was the fact that they do not allow you to carry any alcohol into your own room. I like to have a few drinks before dinner and hate the thought of spending over $6.00 per drink, that really adds up to a lot of money. I have to confess though, I did smuggle two small bottles of Vodka on board that I bought in Nassau, and I almost got caught also but made it through. This is the only ship where I had this problem. In summary, I would say that for young people who are into having a real good time with drinking and plenty of entertainment this cruise is definitely for you. As for us older folk, it's back to Holland American line.    

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Oct 19, 2003

Western Caribbean

OVERVIEW: What at trip!! My husband and I had never traveled alone together (usually with our four kids ranging in age from 19 to 3), so this was quite an experience for us. I was impressed with the hospitality and overwhelmed with the diversity of the staff. My naiveté was evident when I realized that very few members of the staff were American, but I was awed by their kindness. We were amazed at how much money we spent and how easy it

is to rack up charges when you’re not paying cash for anything. The sail and sign card was convenient, but it’s very easy to go overboard (no pun intended). The only time you needed cash on this cruise was in the ports for souvenirs or food/drink. Oh, you might also need it if you tip a crew member on the boat. EMBARKATION: After a wild cab ride to the port authority, we weren’t thinking and gave the porter our carry on bag, which we so diligently packed our bathing suits and the first nights’ dinner wear. Luckily, our luggage made it to our room about 5:00, but at the time we thought, “we’ll just let him take it to the room, so we won’t have to carry it around.” On to stand in our first line; ten minutes to get our sail and sign cards. It was about 12:00 noon. The man was crabby and when Tim tried to crack a joke, he didn’t flinch! On to wait in the large waiting area for another 15 minutes to get in line to board. After getting a picture made for their computer system, we then waited in another line (10 minutes) to get another picture taken. This picture was the first of hundreds (well, it seemed like hundreds) that the ship photographers take of you during the trip. OK, we’re finally on board. They give you a map and tell you that your rooms aren’t ready until 1:30 p.m., and your luggage MAY not be in the room until as late as 8:00 p.m., so we started roaming. THE SHIP: It was very difficult to find our way around the first few days and it was a shame that when we finally became comfortable with which staircases to take (we never took the elevator because they were too slow), it was time to leave. I thought the décor of the Inspiration was a bit tacky, but overall the ship was VERY clean. The large ‘wooden’ accents throughout the main decks were plastic, hollow and many were missing paint. The purple/gold tubing décor in the Brasserie restaurant was very tacky, but once you got used to it, it was no big deal. The ship was meticulously clean and every day you would see workers polishing the brass and cleaning the glass. I don’t think I ever saw a speck of dirt anywhere. We enjoyed a great lunch on the Lido deck at about 1:00. Overall, the ship had all the amenities we expected. The sports deck was nice with a soft track and a volleyball area. The pools were nice, but not as big as I expected and I would have liked to have had a choice of a salt water pool and a chlorine pool. The inside of the boat was cold, in my opinion. The air conditioning was turned up and I froze. In fact, unless we had to, we were outside as much as possible. You could turn it DOWN, in your cabin, but not OFF, so I froze in there also, but not as bad. I had a jacket/sweater with me ALL the time. THE CABIN: We had a small, interior cabin. There were two twin beds that we requested the room steward put together. He did so, but didn’t give us king linens the first night, but later we asked for them and he obliged. Although the room was small, we didn’t care because we weren’t there much and when we were, we were sleeping…which we did very well. Tim is a very early riser at home and because the room was so dark and quiet, he slept very well and very late for him; most mornings until 8:00!! He was shocked, but the gentle hum of the boat’s engines combined with the dark and quiet made him sleep like a baby. The sheets were soft and clean and the beds were comfortable. We are used to a water bed and wondered how we’d do on a traditional mattress. We did just fine. The towels were clean, but a bit rough. There were a couple of places where the paint was chipped on the drawers and the drawers didn’t slide very well, but no biggie. The bathroom was fine. Again, it was a bit small, but fine for our needs. The water pressure was pitiful, but we managed. DAY ONE: After the safety drill where you put your life jacket on and go to your Muster station (the place where you would go in case of an emergency), we laid out for a bit and enjoyed the sun. It was windy on the upper decks, but felt great compared to the chill we’d experienced in Cincinnati prior to coming to Tampa!! Got ready for dinner and we were starving. At first I was hesitant about the 8:30 dinner seating, but it turned out to be awesome for a number of reasons. First, we met 4 other GREAT couples and all the dinners were so much fun and turned out to be among the highlights of our trip. Second, we were able to get a nap almost every day in the late afternoon and still have plenty of time to get to dinner. Thirdly, we didn’t have to rush back from the ports to get the early dinner time. Dinner in the Mardi Gras dining room was great all week mostly because of our awesome head waiter, Ramil, from the Philippines. He was very polite and our orders were accurate and timely. This night I ordered a steak and asked for it to be ‘medium’. It came back well done, so I sent it back and they sent one cooked perfectly. One of the best steaks I’d ever eaten. The desserts were great all week and I often ordered two. Ramil was totally accommodating and always pleasant. He explained that he is on the boat for 8 months at a time and then gets 2 months off. He has a family and we all were sad at the fact that he was away from them for so long. I suppose the alternative is poor wages in his country and most likely, he is doing very well. On to our first show; the Welcome Aboard Show. In this show the cruise director, Carlo, did basically a one-man comedy show. He brought people up from the audience to talk to them and made jokes. We found out later that some of it was pre-planned and not for real. It was funny, though, and Carlo was very entertaining. He was good the entire week, actually. We were exhausted, so we crashed at midnight. The room was cold, but I managed to sleep pretty well. DAY TWO: Day at sea. I did a yoga class this morning and it was ok. Tried to do a weight workout, but they have an air pressure weight system and I couldn’t get the hang of it and didn’t do very much. Tim played the ‘nearest to the pin’ golf contest in the virtual golf room and WON!! There were 20 guys, some of them pros, so I was proud of him! Went to the excursion meeting but wished we had laid out because I had done so much research it was nothing new for us. We enjoyed lunch every day at the Brasserie Restaurant. We especially enjoyed the burger/hot dog grill and loved their fries and chili. After lunch I insisted Tim enter the ‘Hairy Chest Contest’. There were 12 men in it, many of them older and much hairier. Tim wowed them with his Tarzan yell, though and the emcee said it was the ‘best she’s heard in her entire career.” He made the final 3 and although he didn’t win, he did me proud!! Enjoyed the sun and breeze on the Lido deck most of the day. Got ready for dinner and had our picture made a few times. They take it often and they are not cheap. The 5X7’s were 4.95, the 6X9’s were 7.95 and the 8X10’s were 19.95!! Personally, I thought the 8X10’s were overpriced and I would have purchased more had they been 12.95 or even 14.95!! They were very good pictures, though, and we seemed to favor the ones taken by a man named Roderick. We ended up buying 2-8X10’s that he took. Funny how they print more of the 8X10’s than any other size!???!! I was so impressed by his work that I tracked his boss down and told him what a good job he was doing. Tonight was the first formal night. We really enjoyed dinner every night. The company was great and we all enjoyed sharing our days’ activities with one another. Prime Rib tonight…excellent!! On to the first Las Vegas type show. It was wonderful. The singing was a bit weak, but the dancing and costumes were wonderful. I loved it!! The live band was top notch; I could have listened to them all day! We planned to go to the midnight comedy show, but were too tired, so we crashed. DAY THREE: Up early to head for Grand Cayman. After a quick breakfast in the Brasserie, we boarded the tender. After a 5-6 minute ride we were on the lookout for Captain Marvin’s. Based on a review I had read we decided to do our own thing for this stop. We planned to do the ½ day excursion, but because of the time difference we missed it. I didn’t allow for that and was very disappointed. However, there was a short 3 hour excursion leaving in 2 minutes and there were 2 spaces left!!! Thinking we would not get anything else since this is such a short stay, we decided to take it. Boy, I’m glad we did. It turned out to be one of the top three highlights of the entire week. We boarded an air conditioned bus and were driven to a small house on the water. We boarded a boat, there were 12 of us and three crew, and headed into the ocean. First we stopped at a coral reef area. I’d never snorkeled before, so I was apprehensive. The surf was rough, but I finally got the hang of it and it was incredible. There were hundreds of fish and beautiful coral. I could have stayed there all day. It was 8-10 feet deep. After about 45 minutes we boarded the boat again and went for a 5-6 minute boat ride. This brought us to the shallow sandbar where the stingrays were. At first I was terrified and was jumping in my husband’s arms, but after a few minutes and a look under the water it was clear these creatures are just as gentle and sweet as I had read they were. Our tour guide, Marshall, brought out the squid and in a matter of seconds there were tons of stingrays swimming among our feet. Marshall even had a particular one that he had named Emily and she had come to visit him. He showed us her markings and went on to let us all pet, hold and kiss her. It was an amazing experience and one I would recommend to EVERYONE visiting Grand Cayman. Whether it be a ship excursion or one on your own, this is a must-see. We were told that many of the ship’s excursions were on large boats with LOTS of people, so we really enjoyed our smaller boat and small group. There was also a videographer on board and she offered to let us buy a copy of the 20 minute video she had taken for 45.00. We bought one and have thoroughly enjoyed it. Back to the boat, via tender, and enjoyed a country line dance lesson, lunch and a long nap!! Another great dinner and great company. The show tonight was a great juggler and a comedian, very entertaining. We tried to enjoy the disco bar, but it was very smoky and the strobe light bothered Tim, so we headed to the Candlelight Lounge where we enjoyed an adult comedy show. It was the same guy from the earlier show, with some adult material. I laughed my head off, he was very good. Enjoyed some ice cream from the midnight buffet. DAY FOUR: Slept in this morning, but got up in time to watch the boat dock in Costa Maya. This is a port built just for the cruise ships and this particular day we were the only ones in port, so it wasn’t very crowded. We didn’t have a particular excursion planned for this day, so we shopped and roamed the village. There was a neat dance show with natives dancing and pretty costumes. The native shop owners were very annoying and pushy as you perused their wares. You couldn’t shop without them bugging you to death. Also, if you asked a price, remember they are ALWAYS willing to come down. I wanted to buy a little drum toy for my son and when I first asked the price, he said 10.00 and by the time it was over, it was down to 1.00!!! There are some shops where there isn’t this kind of pressure. The boat actually publishes a map of the stores that they suggest you shop in and they didn’t have the high-pressure salesmen there. The weather was cool and wet and I wasn’t dressed for it, so we went back to the boat, had lunch and I grabbed a sweatshirt. Went back out and by that time it was HOT!! We decided to take a stroll along the coast where there was a worn, gravel path. It was very littered and that was a shame, but it has good potential and I bet in a few years, this will be a really nice port. We walked about 2 miles and came upon a small shack and a pot-bellied pig tied to a post with a rope. We also saw what looked like a Naval facility and a man with a BIG gun, so we turned around there and headed back. We found out later that this was the same path used on the biking tour and you can walk further down and there are more shops and a restaurant, but we didn’t get that far. That was ok, because our walk gave us a good feeling for the port. We also saw several iguanas sunbathing on our walk!! We then checked out the beach area to the right of the shopping area and it was ok. You could rent a chair and snorkel there. We thought it was a bit run down and I didn’t like the rap/hip-hop music they were playing. Back to take another long nap and get ready for dinner. Great food, once again. The show tonight was a Father/Son team, the Fire Gauchos. They spun ropes, and played the drums and were EXTREMELY entertaining. There was also a magician/comedian who was a bit weak. Went to the Lido deck party for a little bit and then called it a night. DAY FIVE: Up early this morning to go to the golf excursion in Cozumel. This was a nice port with many nice shops right off the pier and more within walking distance. We took a taxi with our group to the Cozumel Country Club. It was a really beautiful day and the clubhouse was nice. My husband golfed and I was his caddy. I had to pay to ride, but it was understandable. My husband had fun golfing, but the condition of the course was less than we expected. The bunkers were full of rocks, basically, not sand. We were told beforehand that they weren’t filled with soft sand, but we didn’t expect rough gravel. We were in a foursome and the wife of the other couple fell in one of the bunkers and hurt her leg pretty bad. There was dirt and rocks ground into her knee. We went back to the clubhouse and they didn’t have much in the way of a first aid kit. She did the best she could to get it cleaned out and managed to play a few more holes, but had to go to infirmary on the boat because it was so torn up. I thought, for the expensive price we had to pay, that it wasn’t worth it. My husband also commented that if he had brought his clubs, which he didn’t, that he wouldn’t have used them on this course. Went back to the boat and changed into our suits to catch a quick bit of snorkeling on the shore. There really wasn’t a beach area, so we went to the LaPieda Hotel and paid 5.00 to go to their beach area for about an hour. We rented snorkel equipment (8.00 each) and stayed about an hour. The snorkeling wasn’t that great, but we did hear that it was better on some of the ship excursions. After another nap on the boat, we headed for dinner where I ordered my steak and it was overdone again. They brought me a new one and it was better. I finally realized that ‘medium’ means ‘well done’ in the Mardi Gras dining room, so I ordered ‘medium rare’ from then on!! The show tonight was the Passenger Talent Show and it was very cute and entertaining. Once again we enjoyed our midnight trip to the soft serve ice cream machine and although many people said that 24-hour pizza bar was good, we didn’t think so. I just didn’t care for this type of pizza. DAY SIX: Went to the early tour meeting for Belize. We had to get a sticker to correspond with the excursion we had planned; the hike/cave tubing. Waited to board the 30 minute tender to shore. Belize City is a very poor city, but interesting. We boarded our bus and immediately knew we had a great tour guide. His name was Sydney and he made the 45 minute air conditioned ride to the cave site very interesting and informative. Once there we were issued our tube, lifejacket and one headlight per couple. We were given a quick rundown of what to expect and started the hike. The scenery was pretty, but the hike was over quickly, about 25 minutes. We are avid hikers and were a bit disappointed that it was so short and not more of a challenge. We entered the river on our tubes and quickly floated into the large cave, well the only cave. It was neat, but once we were out, the remaining float time was only 10 minutes or so; 20 minutes total in the water. The water was cold, but pleasant. Back to the bus to change into dry clothes (I strongly recommend this, they let you keep your stuff on the bus) and on to the Cheers Bar for lunch. The lunch came with the excursion and they served chicken, rice/beans, cole slaw and limeaid. This was a fun experience as it was an open café type place, but the food was mediocre. Overall, this was a good excursion, but a bit over-rated, in our opinions. We were hoping for more hiking/tubing time and most of the entire excursion time was riding in the bus to get there and back. The tour guide made it interesting giving us tons of information about the country and we gave him a tip afterwards. We took the tender back. No nap today!! A nice dinner and a great show, Vegas style again. We waited in line to see and take pictures of the Midnight Buffet and food/ice sculptures. It was really cool, but we were too tired to wait to eat anything!! DAY SEVEN: Day at sea!! Slept in and tried to relax all day! Went to the debarkation meeting and then to the Lido deck. Enjoyed the nice weather all day. Great dinner and a neat show featuring an Equilibrist. He did amazing balancing segments. It was especially impressive that he did it the night the boat seemed to sway the most!! Another good comedian and we called it a night. Packed most everything except what we were wearing the next day. DAY EIGHT: Our debarkation was a bit slow so we hung out with the friends we’d made at dinner and waited for our red tag color to be called (about 1 ½ hours). We were able to find our luggage and get into a cab in only 5 minutes. Customs was painless. We were off the boat by 11:00 a.m. Overall, I can say we had a wonderful time. We wish we’d saved more money. We wish we’d relaxed more on the boat. We wish we’d snorkeled more, but the time in port was too short and we felt rushed every time we left the boat. We’d like to take a cruise where they stay in the same port for two or more days!! Feel free to email me with any specific questions you may have!    

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Oct 12, 2003

Western Caribbean

My girlfriend, two sons and I sailed on the Carnival Inspiration in October 2003. Our ports of call were Grand Cayman, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel. Here are my thoughts: Embarkation: Like many of the others who wrote reviews, the end-to-end process took us just about an hour. We arrived right at the busy time (1 pm) so some delay was understandable and expected. The Carnival personnel were efficient and friendly. Accommodations:

We were very happy with our ocean-view cabin on the Empress deck. It was spacious, clean and well appointed. The bathroom was larger than we expected. It seems the room stewards cleaned our room every time we left it for even a few minutes. My sons had an interior cabin and were happy with it, but then again, being aged 16 and 17, they were rarely in their room. I give the accommodations and cabin service very high ratings. Food: The food and food service were excellent, especially at dinner. Our two waiters from Romania were friendly and extremely efficient. We enjoyed the delicious food and ambience of the Mardis Gras dining room so much that we made it a point to eat all our dinners in the dining room. We also had several breakfasts and lunches in the dining room but did notice that the service took a definite decline for these meals (e.g. asking multiple times for coffee). We figured this was because it was not our regular wait staff and they felt no particular loyalty to us. Entertainment: There is plenty of stuff to do on the Inspiration and we sampled it all: dancing, piano bars, karaoke, disco, casino, etc. The formal shows were a mixture ranging from mediocre to good. For example, the highly touted magician only did 3-4 tricks, and my son, who fancies himself an amateur magician, said that he quickly figured out what the guy was doing. The dancers were pretty good and the two lead singers sang with passion. But I got tired of constantly being told to clap louder as if we were there to support the entertainers, not vice versa. I was also not pleased with the fact that you had to get to the theater early to get a decent seat at any of the good shows. The social staff was also constantly pushing us to play bingo before the shows in order to ensure a good seat, and of course ensure a good profit for Carnival. Also annoying was the fact that the assistant cruise director in charge of bingo liked to insult/make fun of the passengers, which I found to be totally inappropriate. Overall, I gave the entertainment a C. Ports: My son and I did the scuba diving in Grand Cayman while my girlfriend and my other son did the stingray tour. All of us were pleased with our decisions. Unfortunately there was little time to get to know the island after our tours. In Costa Maya, we all did the biking and kayak tour. The biking was brief, the kayaks were not that fun and we all agreed that this was our least favorite excursion of the trip. We did have some extra time after the excursion so we went jet skiing – which we enjoyed very much. The shops and restaurants where the ship docked were pretty cool. In Cozumel, we rented motor scooters (discouraged by Carnival) and drove around the city. Then we went on the Catamaran snorkeling and beach party. This was an absolute blast. First, a stop for snorkeling - not the best snorkeling, but certainly decent. Then we were off to a private beach party with kayaking, volleyball, and sunning. On the return trip, the music and alcohol flowed freely and the crowd let loose a little. Our fellow passengers on the Inspiration said that they could easily tell the Catamaran party crowd – we were the ones who were staggering up the gangway with big smiles on our faces. Belize was our final adventure. My girlfriend and I went on the Shark Alley snorkel tip and the boys went off on the Powerboat Thrill Ride. The snorkeling was fantastic. We had great native guides and saw two sharks. Then on to a two hour lunch stop at San Pedro. We saw enough of the island to get a good feel for how the people of Belize lived and worked. The atmosphere was so laid back that we kept joking about giving up our rat-race jobs and moving there. There were several times when the ship seemed crowded and always another line to wait in. Other passengers made the observation that the ship seemed more crowded than others they had been on. But the ship’s crew did their best to see that Carnival lived up to its reputation as the Fun Ships. Overall, I would give our Carnival Inspiration cruise a B, or if you prefer, three stars out of four. It was a good value for the money, but next time, we will probably look for something a tad more upscale.    

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Sep 25, 2003

Western Caribbean

Myself and 2 other females from the UK booked onto this cruise which was to follow a week in Orlando. Check-in was quick and smooth. We had to provide our passports because we were not US citizens , and they were returned on the morning we were leaving the ship. The Carnival website promised up to 50% larger cabins than other operators, but we found the cabin to still be small when all 3 of us were getting showered and ready for dinner.

The ship was larger than the 3 previous ones we had been on. Clean enough with good facilities. Food was very good and plentiful. Talking of food, we were automatically allocated the early dinner sitting, which we asked to be changed. The maitre’d insisted that as we were 3 single ladies we had been allocated a table with other single people – in fact 4 single men who were all in good cabins. This intrigued us slightly so we agreed to try it. Turns out at least 3 of the men were obviously gay! For all I know they might have thought we were too. The other 2 table-mates were correctional officers from New York. Lovely girls. Anyway we stuck with our table mates for the week and had a great time at dinner. The day at Grand Cayman was good, although we visited Captain Marvin to try to get a trip and he had gone earlier and wasn’t doing any more that day. Should have booked it on the internet! Couldn’t dock at Costa Maya due to stormy seas so it was straight to Cozumel after Grand Cayman. We were able to spend all afternoon and evening in Cozumel which was great! We had some very large margaritas in the tequila bar there and watched the flying men go round the pole. Fantastic show. Then Fat Tuesdays for more drinks and Nachos before stumbling back onto the ship to the deck party and more nachos. Great time. We were docked beside the Carnival Glory and the Sensation and could see the size difference – the Inspiration was the smallest. For the Belize stop my 2 friends did the ruins and river trip and said it was wonderful. They saw wild manatees and loads of other animals and sights. I just took the tender to the shopping centre, which was very pre-fabricated and obviously just built for the cruise tourists. I bought a couple of souvenirs to remind me of the trip. The tender was a very powerful speedboat which took us the 7 miles to the mainland. The tender ride was most enjoyable.General comments on the cruise: Good food, good cabin, good entertainment and friendly staff. Ship-mates were very friendly, very few children (great!), good bar-staff in the Violin bar but the pianist could do with smiling every now and then. Dave in the piano bar was young and had some good lines and songs. He’d only been there 2 weeks and was obviously eager to please and looked like he was genuinely enjoying himself which made us enjoy his playing and sing-a-longs all the more. Lots of photographers around and we bought quite a few of our portraits as they were so good.One of the best points of the ship is that there are loads of sunbeds everywhere. It was great not having to search for one during our days at sea. We all enjoyed ourselves and would definitely sail with Carnival in the future.    

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By M. _CR

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Aug 31, 2003

Western Caribbean

This cruise was my first and it was nice. Getting on board was a little hectic, and there are no signs directing you where to go. I guess if I had cruised before I would have figured it out a little sooner. There is also a long line once inside the terminal - this is where you 'register' your on-board payment method to receive your Carnival Cruise Sign & Sail card, which is the on board ID & charge card. They also have drink cards fot soft

drinks, if I had to do over again, I would have bought one - only because I love Coca-Cola. If you don't like soft drinks, then don't bother. The Ship - It was fun, but tacky in an old-mall-in-Vegas sort of way. It looked like a cross between the video game 'Tron' and a scary run down strip join, but it was clean and well maintained. I don't want to scare anyone, I just though it was tacky, but functional and overall, clean, but kinda smokey. Getting around was difficult until I got the deck plan down, after that it was easy. The room - the room was nice. I wish I had known sooner, you can adjust the air by the knob in the ceiling of your cabin. I almost froze my butt off until a fellow diner told me about that. The room steward was great - he always kept the room clean, neat, and well stocked. Of course we had towel animals too. :). Also, our room had two beds, but if you ask the steward, they will put them together and make the bed like it is a queen size bed. Our room had small port-hole windows, that was nice, even if they were small. The activities - I didn't really participate in too many activities, except bingo, and I never won. The pools were so crowded, so I used the hot tub in the spa (top floor area) and it was great, and you don't have to pay to use it. The entertainment was okay, a bit lame, but once again, if you like vegas-style, then you might like this. I found it kinda tacky and boring. I did find dinner-time entertainment and the ships crew entertaining. The crew is from all over the world, and very nice. It is interesting to see everyone working together and being so friendly. Dinner was fun when our servers would dance and sing to a silly song. The food - It was good, I gained weight. I would say that dinner was the best, if I had to do over I would have ordered more. If you don't order what you want right away, then they cannot bring it to you later...so it you want two of something - speak up! The lido deck food was okay, sometimes great and other times okay. I was getting a little sick of it by the last two days. The Ports - Grand Cayman was nice, but short stop. Stingray city was fun. Stores had good deals on jewelry and perfume. Really cheap on the perfume. Costa Maya was kinda lame, tourist-y, so I went to the beach on the right rather than the shopping village on the left. The people that run the local beach are very nice, their food in the little restaurant it great and you can rent a cheap beach chair and buy cheap dos equis beer, which they bring to you while you relax. It was nice, the shopping area was cheesy and expensive. Cozumel was fantastic! I was on the fury catamaran, it was great, also shopping was great although you have to haggle hard! Belize was nice, but I would go on an excursion or a tour, the city was poor and it didn't look like there was anything to do there except sit on your front porch (if you live there). I went on the cave tubing expedition, it was the high point of the vacation - it was incredible (if you are a nature lover) I want to go back and do it again. I was fun and the only adventurous thing I really did. I really had a great time on the cruise, dinner was fun - you had to talk to new people so that was fun, the food was great and you get a chance to relax (except for having to follow tour/activity/dining schedules. If you don't want to follow schedules, stay on the boat and order room service (that is included!!! so you don't have to pay extra) Overall, I think it was a good value and I will try carnival again. I will try a newer or larger ship next time. But for the 1st cruise, this was nice.    

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By Myra_CR

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Aug 3, 2003

Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, and Belize

Overall, the Carnival Inspiration got very good ratings from our group of 10 people. Feel free to email me @ [email protected]  and I will try to answer your questions. Embarkation: First, let me tell you that Carnival’s website did not have directions to the port in Tampa so we sought that on our own. Coming from North Florida down I-75 take I-275 into Tampa. East on I-4 towards Orlando. First right south on 21st street.

After several blocks turn right on Adamo Drive. After a few blocks, turn left on Channelside Drive and this will take you direct to the ship. You will see it in front of you. Entry to the ship was not too difficult; overall took about an hour. I would suggest that you arrive at either 11:30 AM or 3 PM. If you get there at 1 PM, then you arrive with the masses. An 11:30 arrival gets you on the ship early and you can do 3 things while you await your luggage. You can enjoy lunch on the Lido Deck and begin to familiarize yourself with the ship. The 3rd thing is to prepare to purchase your excursions if you have not already thought about what you want to do in the ports. Don’t forget your passport, birth certificates for kids, photo ID’s, etc. You will need them several times. Excursions: Here is where I would spend most of my pre-trip planning time. The ship sponsored excursions are very expensive. Many of them are available as your arrive from independent operators at huge discounts. One example of this is the stingray and snorkel trip on Grand Cayman. You can do this for $ 45 through the ship or you can do this for $ 34 through www.captainmarvins.com  just 2 blocks from where the ship docks. In Belize, you can do Goffs Caye Snorkeling for $ 55 through the ship or $ 35 from the pier through a local. You do the math ! I would highly recommend lots of investigation of excursions before you go on your cruise. Read through all the cruise reviews you can find. One mistake I made was reading only Carnival Inspiration reviews. Don’t limit yourself to this, because a review from any other ship of a given port might lead you to a better, less expensive outing. Food: Food is very good. Not as good as my memory of Royal Caribbean Cruise food, but still very good. They never offered, but you can order 2 of something. Example, I did get 2 lobster tails. They will bring it, you just have to ask. Our waiters were incredible young men ! They made our dinners so pleasant with attention to fine detail. Cabins: Nothing but praise in this category. The room stewards work on your cabin a couple of times daily and you will be pleased. Your “sign and sail credit card” is also your room key. It is also your exit and entry to the ship at each port; so it is a very important card. Soft Drink Card: I drink lots of soft drinks, but I would not recommend the card. I did not get it and was very happy with all the ice water, iced tea, lemonade, fruit juice, etc that you can possibly drink available free at your fingertips on the Lido Deck. Day One: This is a relaxing day at sea. Read your Carnival Capers ( ship newspaper ) from cover to cover each day. It will inform you of events, times, and places of things you may want to do on board. There are a reasonable number of activities for all ages. Day Two: Grand Cayman ! Our entire group chose the independent ( Captain Marvins ) stingray and snorkel excursion. This is a terrific excursion if you like snorkeling. We also had a little time to shop along the portside prior to returning to the ship. Day Three: Costa Maya, Mexico. Here is a place that you can’t gain by looking for independent excursions. The reason is this stop is a place created by and owned by the cruise lines. It is a very isolated and somewhat uninhabited place so there are not a lot of choices. Our group went on the bike and kayak tour and this was excellent. It takes some muscle and being in shape ( 5 mile bike ride round trip and 30 minutes of kayaking in the ocean ). But, we thoroughly enjoyed it. The kayaks are basically flat pieces of plastic so this will take some work to negotiate around in the water. After that, you will have time to shop and relax at the pier. There are lots of shops; many selling the same stuff. So, don’t forget to be a good negotiator. If something is posted for $ 20, offer $ 8 to $ 10 or 2 for $ 30, etc. You will likely get it. Day Four: Cozumel, Mexico. There is some shopping at the pier although it is not as good as Costa Maya in my opinion. Our group split up and some went on the Passion Island tour. That is basically a day on the beach with all the amenities. They highly recommend this trip. The rest of us went sport fishing. What a disaster ! Paid $ 900 for 6 of us to catch one 2 pound red snapper. That is about $ 450 per pound. Fish were not biting but the worst part was we really felt taken. The boat had 2 Mexicans who spoke little English and were not equipped to make us try and enjoy the fishing. The boat did not have any sonar equipment like I have seen on the East coast for hunting schools of fish. As we left, one lady asked if the excursion was guaranteed. The guide somewhat in a snippy tone said, “No, if it was guaranteed we would call it ‘catching’ instead of fishing”. Well, maybe he should call it ‘deceiving’. With that said, before you go, investigate the season. Possibly it is a bad time for fishing. Also, investigate other independent operators who might have better equipment and better boatmen. Day Five: Belize City, Belize. You definitely want to find an excursion or stay on the boat. Small amount of shopping and not much food at the pier. The Inspiration has to dock 7 miles from shore and you take a tender to the dock. I would do something that day, otherwise you are on the boat from Thursday night until Sunday AM without a break. Some of our group went snorkeling which they said was very good. Some of us found a local cab driver to give us a city tour. He was a native and gave us a great trip and excellent history of Belize. Day Six: Last day is at sea. Again, read your ship paper and look for activities you will enjoy. Still lots of food to eat all day as well. Go to the debarkation meeting at 11:00 AM ( just one member of your party needs to go ) as you will find this helpful in knowing what to expect Sunday morning. Debarkation: We could not get off the ship until 11:30. US Immigration was looking for two couples named Patel and Swift. Maybe they had made it to South America by then; I sure hope so because they kept us on the ship for awhile ! You have to be in a designated waiting area by 9:15 AM. After clearance by customs and immigration, you can leave the ship based on the color of your luggage tags. Before you leave for your cruise, you will prepare these color coded luggage tags. Leave them on your bags all week and this is how you will exit the ship and where you will find your luggage in the terminal. Once off the boat it goes quickly. In fact, I thought US Customs was very lenient. Just hand them your declaration card; no questions asked. Here are a few other thoughts: Money – Everywhere we went you only needed US currency or credit card; no exchanging is required. Entertainment – Shows are average in my opinion with the best show being Saturday night. Whatever you do, go get a seat in the Paris Lounge 30-45 minutes in advance of a show or you may find yourself in a seat where quite a bit of the stage is blocked from view. Some places are smoking and some are non-smoking. Sadly the piano bar is smoking and it is about one level from a house fire. This is too bad because the pianist is good and seemed to work to please his audience. Tipping – We did end up giving waiters and stewards a little extra at weeks end. We felt like they did a terrific job. You do pay about $ 70 per person in advance for their tips; what I will always wonder is how much of this the ship really gives them. Pizzeria – Yep, it’s open 24 hours per day. And it is tasty pizza if and when you can find one second when you are actually still hungry Photos – Ship camera personnel are out and about all week. They are not as aggressive at Royal Caribbean photographers and the prices of the pictures are not unreasonable. So, definitely spend some time with this if you want that type of memory. Gym – If you like to workout, I have nothing but excellent comments. The equipment was first class and there was never a time that I had to wait to workout. Great job by the ship in this category ! Dress – Long pants and dresses every night for all ages. Two nights are formal ( Monday and Friday ) but dark suit and tie will work for men; tux not required and in fact, we saw very few of them. Back pack – Take along a backpack for the family for most outings. They will come in handy with sunscreen, sunglasses, towel, money, sign and sail card, etc. Reading materials – If you plan to read, take all your books with you on the trip. The gift shop has very little to choose from and I found none at the ports. Enjoy your cruise !    

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By Glen_CR

  • New

Jun 29, 2003

Western Caribbean

A little background first and then the review. This was our 6th cruise. We have gone on a cruise the last 5 years now. The last four were in February but this one was during the summer. My family consists of myself at 48, my wife 50, daughter 14 and son 17. We picked the Inspiration for a number of reasons such as departure from Tampa, ports of call and a seven-day cruise. My wife insisted on a summer cruise which I will never do again

(more later on that). We arrived in Tampa a day early and stayed at the Sail port Resort. I chose it because of the suites available. I would have rather stayed at the Marriott Waterside Hotel because of its proximity to the port and other activities in Tampa such as Ybor City. We arrived at the ship around 10:30 am. Embarkation was smooth and was inside the building by 11 am. At 11:45 am we were headed on the ship. We were originally scheduled for early dining and were pleasantly surprised to see we received late dining 8 pm. I grabbed a bucket of beer and proceeded to lie out by the empty pool. By 1:15 pm we already had our luggage. Lifeboat drill was uneventful but nice that we did it inside instead of standing out in the heat. I’ll revisit each day and then return to individual departments and activities on the ship itself. Monday was our first day at sea. I was up early and when I went back to the cabin at 8 am to take a short nap there was little or no chair saving in place. I was real surprised when I went back out at 11am to find almost all the chairs being taken. Most actually had people in them. Not like the times on the Destiny where rows and rows were full of chairs with towels and nothing else. I found a couple after a little search and relaxed all day. Tuesday was Grand Cayman. We had done the stingray and turtle thing (highly recommended) in the past and opted for a prearranged horseback ride along the beach with Honeysuckle Stables. Very reasonable, $10 booking fee and $50 for the actual ride. They picked us up near the port and the ride went along the beach, into the water and then also a short stint inward. A nice time that I would have preferred riding side by side instead of nose to tail but they said some of the horses don’t like to be next to each other. Cayman can be very expensive to eat and drink so we went back on the ship. Wednesday was Costa Maya. Someone who had been there before wrote that it seemed like a “private island” type of stop. I would have to agree except give it credit for a lot more than that. They have everything you need as you get off. Pools, shade, restaurant, live music (great band), shopping and a lot more. I had done a little investigating prior to sailing and found there was a small fishing village Majahual 5 miles away. You could rent an taxi at $5 per cab, rent bikes at $10 per day or rent a golf cart for $12 an hour or $50 per day. Knowing they would go lower due to comments by prior cruises I got them down to $10 and $40 and he also threw in a coupon for 4 free cervesas at his stand. I took the all day option and headed off to the town by way of nice paved roads. We went back and forth from the dock to the village a few times and got my monies worth plus my teenagers were able to ditch us and do a little exploring on their own. If you just want to see the village and then go back rent a taxi. Almost everything is in a short 4-5 block long area. The bikes looked like a nice option but it was real hot and I wouldn’t recommend that option. The village was great. Most locals were real friendly. We were invited to sit at a beachside area across from the hotel. $2 beers and $1 sodas and some delicious salsa and chips. After that we started shopping and they definitely will bargain. Things that started out at $20 got down to $8. Some items they moved on more than others. I brought books, toys and candy for the kids and they and their parents were very thankful for those items. We stayed there awhile and then headed back to the beach resort. Natalie and Jay went swimming in the pool and Julie and I headed for the live band. There was food and drinks available which were slightly higher than the fishing village but reasonable for sure. A great band was playing and got the crowd going. After an hour or so we were heading back to Majahual to do more shopping and drinking via the golf cart. I sat outside a bar and took in the scenery and the fresh ocean breezes. As we left we stopped to get our free beer and had a delicious nacho plate. Costa Maya was a great all round stop in my opinion. Thursday was Cozumel. There was a medical emergency on the ship just as we left Costa Maya. The captain brought the ship up to full speed and announced that we would be arriving in Cozumel around midnight. They weren’t sure if passengers and crew would be able to get off but they were going to request it. All the crew was of course concerned for the well being of the ill passenger but were ecstatic about being able to have an evening in port. They said this happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year. If I was to guess 65% of the ship got off. They did allow the crew and passengers off around 1 am. I was too tired to go into town and stayed in bed. My teenagers were up and saw the Celebration leave shortly after we pulled in. The Holiday was also in port due to a tropical storm. In the morning we headed to Chananabab National Park were I had reserved the dolphin swim for the girl’s months in advance. It was pricey but everyone who had done it before us raved about it. I could see why because both girls loved it. Jay and I were allowed to go on the pier with them and experience it and also take pictures. I thought about doing the Sea Trek (Helmut diving) but considering where they were doing it and the cost I decided against it. For those of you who have never been to this park there are plenty of other things to do. They have a small beach and lagoon for small ones. There is a considerable amount of areas to snorkel and dive. Numerous shacks rent all the equipment you need at competitive prices. There is a restaurant for food and drink, which were reasonably priced. There was also a sea lion show that we had planned to see but timing wasn’t right and the girls were hungry. Cozumel has recently redone the area where the cruise ships dock. It now has all the shops and some of the famous watering holes nearby. The last time we were in Cozumel, which was a few years ago, we had to take a taxi to town to shop, eat and drink. I enjoyed that part of it compared to the artificial shops with roll up door fronts. Friday was Belize. I had investigated a number of excursions. The most popular seems to be tubing down a river into caves. There are private and ship sponsored tours. After a lot of debate we decided it wasn’t for us. It involved a 1-hour bus ride there and back along with a 30 to 40 minute walk with your inner tube. Most people I spoke to enjoyed the river part but seemed to bring up the bus and the walk. I arranged a riverboat fishing/sightseeing tour with Action Belize. We never did catch any fish but enjoyed the sightseeing part of it. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the country and the area. Overall I was a little disappointed in what I received considering the cost. I think I was expecting this big fishing and wildlife extravaganza and it never developed. My family and I enjoyed it but no one was overwhelmed. I still don’t think the tubing is the answer although I didn’t do it. Belize is noted for snorkeling and diving and if I were to do it over again I would have gone snorkeling. We did walk into town and it was rundown but the people were friendly and there was plenty of police present. You could be safe for a short walk but don’t get off the main streets. There really isn’t much so don’t plan on doing more than a short walk, stop in for a beer and soda and head back to the ship. Saturday was our final day at sea. I always got up around 6:30 am. It’s hard to adjust your sleeping habits for a week and I enjoy that quiet time on deck. I grabbed a couple of chairs but it really didn’t start filling up until 11 am. We watched the ice carving, hairy chest contest and for the first time I went to the not so newlywed game, which was funny, and I recommend it. Sunday was debarkation day. We had an early flight out and the purser’s desk accommodated us with early departure off the ship. We were off the ship by 9:50 am and at the airport shortly thereafter. And now to the ship: Everyone has an opinion and it is interesting how everyone's differ but I am happy to share mine. Food: A- I thought the dining room food was very good. I honestly can’t think of a dish I ordered that I didn’t like. I would normally order two starters, skip the salad and order two entrees. The portions seemed to get larger as the cruise went on to where I should have only ordered one entree but they never question it and it was fun experimenting with all the different food. They didn’t offer ground pepper on the salads and some of those small things that people expect but I was very pleased. Natalie had a few fish dinners that weren’t perfect but wee all shared and certainly didn’t starve! Desert was great and toward the end of the cruise we stopped ordering it because we were getting so full after dinner. Carnival does the usual singing and dancing on certain nights. It was neat on the first few cruises but now it has lost its appeal to both of us. I was doing the Macarena 10 years ago! We had a tables near us show up every night 20 to 30 minutes late! It was so rude of these people to do that to the wait staff but they just rolled with it. A new thing with Carnival but something we experienced last year on NCL was the option of buying a bottle of wine and you could either save it for the next night and it would be at your table or take it back to the room with you. The Brasserie Bar and Grill offered plenty of options morning noon and night. We never ate there at night but found the afternoon and breakfast set-ups satisfactory. The breakfast was the same thing everyday except rotating between pancakes and French toast. I really enjoy corn beef hash but none was available except in the regular dining room breakfast seating. I found the omelet ingredients not hot enough. He wouldn’t allow the cheese to melt or the ham to warm up. I quickly corrected that the next time by asking him to cook it more. The whole family loved Danish. Let’s face it, it’s a steam table and unless you have it right out of the oven it losses some appeal. The grill out by the pool served some cold salads and the usual hamburgers, hotdogs and fries. I liked all three. There was a frozen yogurt and ice cream machine that got a lot of use. People were constantly transporting ice cream 24/7. Never made the midnight buffet. Pizzeria was good. Lounge/Bar Entertainment: C This rating is for the lounge acts and not the main shows. My biggest disappointment was the non-existant disco! One factor is they turned it into a teen disco until 10 pm. After that it was still overrun by teens. I think it was a great idea to have a spot for the teens but the entire cruise and the entire time the disco was open? I would guess the average age on the ship (speaking of adults) was 25 to 55. Please don’t tell me that that is still not a disco crowd. The piano singer Darin even commented on how all the “Disco Dj” was playing was hip-hop and “who wants to dance to hip-hop?” I never went in there except to stick my head in it. There was never an adult, and the teens were NEVER dancing but just goofing off. Please remember I brought two of my own teens, 14 and 17 with me so it’s not like I’m out of touch. My point is why not let the teens have it for a period of time and then release to the adults. Next on my bashing was the horrific singing of “Jimmy” and his guitar. I would walk through the casino to get away from him. I must admit he had people there every night but it was so loud and he sang every artist you could think of but in my opinion he didn’t have the range to accomplish that. The Karaoke bar was fun. I didn’t get the nerve so I waited till the last day and did two songs. Previous cruisers complained about the smoke but I never saw that as an issue. It could have been larger but you just have to make due. There was a band called Music Network that did pretty well. Not bad and only one of two places I would even consider sitting. Darin has a great voice and range. His strongest points are Billy Joel songs and he was really good on others. The Lido deck band wasn’t what I’ve heard in the last four cruises. Now I will admit the typical Lido band exhausts there song list by day one but these guys had no good or bad songs. They all kind of sounded the same. Paris Lounge Entertainment: N/A It wouldn’t be fair for me to rate this because all I went to was the main show Shout and that had a lot of nice things and a few ok skits. My teens went to most of the shows and what I got out of them was most of the other shows were good. Casino: A First night out to sea I walked up to the roulette table and won 5 out of the first six numbers I played with only three chips on the table per spin. That was a quick $130 or so. Interestingly enough I won every night except the last night and walked away with over $200 in winnings. That’s pretty good for me as I am a somewhat conservative gambler. Casino staff and management were very friendly. I saw a lady win $400 and then someone else win $100 on a quarter slot machine. Someone else won about $300 on the two end 5-cent machines. Cabin: B It was your typical Carnival cabin. The Fantasy class has a larger bathroom. The last four cruises we took had balconies so we missed that but the ocean view window helped. Cabin Steward cleaned the room and nothing else. Never would say hello and didn’t figure out that we had late seating until the second to last day. Lido Deck and Activities: B Plenty of space to lay out and lots of chairs. What ever happened to the late night or daytime Congo lines singing and dancing or the limbo game. Instead they did the hairy chest contest and a game with beanbags and golf balls. I thought the staff didn’t do enough or be creative. Total Grade: B I like the Fantasy class ship, as they were easy to get around. There was enough bars/lounges etc. if they only would have been put to good use. I will never cruise in the summer for a few reasons. I never understood the increasing chances of tropical storms and hurricanes. We fortunately missed any our week but there was one before and after our cruise. I didn’t enjoy all the kids on the ship. Gosh, I must be getting old! Please remember I brought a 14 and 17 year old on with us. It just seemed that the 13 to 16 age groups didn’t have enough to do. Everywhere I saw more than 8 of them they had a security officer following them around at night. The younger ones were fine and well behaved. My teens didn’t interact with any of the others as they hung out together or with us. My daughter loved Camp Carnival when she was younger. The problem for that age group is there really wasn’t anything for them to do but roam. I’ve been to the Western Caribbean twice now and probably wouldn’t go back. If you have never done it is a great area of the Caribbean to visit.    

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  • New

Jun 29, 2003

Tampa, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize, Tampa

Background: This cruise was a gift from our children to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. Our group included my wife and myself (age 70) our three children’s families (ages 40-48) and three grandchildren (ages 10-19) for a total of eleven. Our cruise experience was from zero for one member to nine for my wife and myself. It was everyone’s first cruise on Carnival. We picked the Inspiration primarily for its itinerary, since no

one had been to Costa Maya or Belize. Embarkation: Since we live in Florida we drove to Tampa and parked in the nearby parking garage. (Cost is $70 in advance but they do take credit cards). The directions we had were great until you exited the Interstate. From that point it was not very well marked and you had to go slow to find the street signs. The bag drop area at the pier was small, but the security officers kept traffic moving through it. After dropping the bags, even though the garage was across the street, the signs to the entrance were small and hard to follow. There appeared to be plenty of parking spaces. It was 12:30 by the time we had dropped the bags and parked. We headed into the terminal for processing. It was fairly crowded but they had a good system so it took about 30 minutes until we were ready for boarding. Everyone was on Riviera Deck and all the rooms were made up when we arrived. It was decorated with streamers and 50th Anniversary banners. We dropped off the carry on baggage, met our room steward, Kerina from South Africa, and headed to the Lido deck for lunch. After lunch we spent about an hour exploring the ship, went back to our room. Our bags were waiting for us so we unpacked and got ready for the perfunctory emergency boat drill. Surprisingly it was held indoors in one of the lounges. I thought the whole exercise was pretty casual and wasn’t sure how it would be handled if their was a real emergency. Since it was indoors, we missed the departure from the Port of Tampa. Each and every week, there were little signs of repair needs. The décor is very modern and a little eclectic. The only problem we encountered was finding the Carnival Dining Room from the front of the boat. It seemed as if you always had to go up or down a deck to get to it. Cabins: One pleasant surprise was the size of the rooms. We had an inside cabin. It was larger than some of the outside cabins with balconies on other cruise ships. The bath was also larger than most others. There was a safe but no hair dryer. The cabin steward soon learned our routine and always had the room made up. The towel animals are a cute touch. Food: The food at dinner was very good with a lot of variety. We ate dinner in the Carnival dining room every day and the selections on Saturday, the last day of the cruise was as good as what we had on Monday, the first day. If you couldn’t make your mind up between two items there was no problem in ordering both. We split our breakfast and lunches between the dining room and the Brasserie buffet on the Lido deck. I felt the buffets were a little boring with not a lot of variety. However the pizza at the Pizzeria was excellent. The ice cream machine was a major player in the six pounds I gained. Our waiter Rommy was from the Philippines and his assistant Ane was from Romania. They provided us with excellent service during the cruise. Ane was especially attentive to my ten year old grandson. Entertainment: The shows in the Paris Lounge were very good. The costumes, scenery, lighting, etc. were first rate and they had the largest cast of singers and dancers I’ve seen. The quality of the comics, jugglers etc were also first rate. However Lenny, the cruise director should forget the song and dance and stick to the small talk and introductions. The other lounges throughout the ship seemed to be fully energized. The karaoke bar seemed very busy every evening. And of course they had the usual cruise games, BINGO, “The not so newlywed game”, the hairy chest contest etc., entertainment seems to be Carnivals strong point. However I would have liked a small intimate bar where you could get a drink and not have you ears shattered by the sound system. Ports of Call: Grand Cayman -With no pier you have to take a tender into Georgetown. Most of our party either went on a tour and then shopping or to Stingray City, my choice, though I felt it was more hype than anything. It turned out to be an enjoyable encounter. Some of them are huge and seemed at times to be a little aggressive. It is an interesting feeling to have them suck the food from your hand. We added a side trip to a coral reef and had a great time snorkeling and snapping pictures. Upon our return to Georgetown some of our party decided to go shopping. I caught the tender back to the ship, showered and had a couple pieces of pizza on the Lido deck. Everyone enjoyed the day. Costa Maya - A pleasant surprise. Since this is a new port of call we were not expecting much. While one daughter went on an excursion to the Mayan Ruins and loved it, the rest of us stayed in the beach village. This stop was a little like the private islands that some other cruise lines own. There were some shops that sold souvenirs and trinkets, a large salt-water pool with a swim up bar, a restaurant with a band and free beach chairs. The beach itself was rocky and not a good swimming area. After checking out the shops we spent the rest of the day around the pool (and pool bar). Cozumel – We had a medical emergency on board soon after leaving Costa Maya and the ship steamed at full speed to Cozumel arriving around midnight. They announced that they might allow the passengers to disembark after they handled the emergency. At 1:30am it still hadn’t happened so we went to bed. The next morning my son and I who are certified divers took his 10-year-old son and my 16-year-old grand daughter to a beginner’s scuba class. It was a quick study but it allowed them to experience scuba diving in the crystal clear water the surrounds Cozumel. They both loved it. Another group who weren’t so adventurous went on the scuba tour and the rest went to Chakanaab State Park to enjoy the beach. Of course everyone ended in town for the shopping before reboarding the ship. It was a great day for all. Belize – This is another port that requires a tender to go ashore but since most of our group opted to spend part of the day at Goff’s Caye the tour boat picked us up at the ship. After about a thirty minute ride the boat captain dropped part of the group on the atoll and took the rest out to a deeper reef. This was a major disappointment. First, they didn’t have snorkel vests and you had to use regular life vests. Second, you had to stay with the group, which didn’t allow any independence in exploring the reef. After about 45 minutes we went back to the atoll and spent another hour there. The inshore snorkeling was much better, a much varied amount of sea life and clearer water. If I would do it again I would stay on the island all day. After discharging those passengers that wanted to return to the ship, the tour boat took the remaining passengers into the terminal area at Belize City. We looked for the last minute souvenirs at the small shops before returning on the tender. The high steel barred fence around the terminal area did not give us a comfortable feeling about going into the city for our shopping. Debarkation: This process was fairly easy. The Lido buffet was crowded and if you slept in you would have had a difficult time finding a table. Those that had an early flight were off the boat by 9:30. Those that drove were the last ones off the ship. We were called a little after 10. The pick up area was jammed so I tipped a porter $10 to take all our bags to the parking garage. We were on I-275 ten minutes after loading the bags in the trunk. Overall: Everyone in our party thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. It was full of families and young adults. It was nice seeing people enjoying themselves with out being loud and raucous. Now that I have had the Carnival experience I would not hesitate to use them again.    

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By Bob_CR

  • New

Jun 8, 2003

Western Caribbean

Our second cruise, the first was on the Royal Caribbean “Sovereign of the Seas” out of Miami. This cruise was booked as a family vacation, so with 12 in our group we always had plenty of company. We were concerned with the Carnival reputation as a 24hr party-boat because our group ranged from 40 to 70yrs. It turns out that this reputation no longer applies, as the average age of their cruiser is now 42. Most of us booked through

an independent travel agent as a complete package. My wife & I used frequent flier miles for the air travel and so booked our cruise-only through Travelocity. We made on-line airport transfers through Tampa Bay Shuttle for less than half the Carnival rate. Embarkation: We arrived at the port at 3pm, a curbside porter greeted our shuttle to take luggage and we tipped him $1/bag. There were many Carnival employees to greet and direct us appropriately through the check-in process, but there were no lines, and we were on the ship within 5-10 minutes. We quickly dropped our bags at the stateroom and found the rest of our group for poolside libations. Inspiration: We had an inside stateroom which was much larger than we had expected as it was 40% larger than the outside stateroom and the bathroom was twice that of our previous cruise. The ship was quite clean; the crew was constantly cleaning everything throughout the cruise. A well equipped Fitness room, which also has Jacuzzi, Steam Room, Dry Sauna and offers various spa services. Main and Aft pools with Jacuzzi and one slide. Plenty of events and things to do on-board to fill the 2 days at sea. I had read earlier reviews of the propeller vibration, which I can confirm. The propellers were not properly balanced and shook the ship when at cruising speed, much more pronounced aft but not really noticeable in the forward third. While sitting on a bar stool in the comedy club the vibration was a bit distracting, so get there early for a comfortable couch. Our stateroom was right in the middle of the ship and the vibration was noticeable, but may have helped me sleep. The ship does rock with the ocean waves; more noticeable up/down in the fore sections and throughout the ship on side/side waves -nothing great, just more so than on our previous cruise ship. Food: The food was light-years ahead when compared to our previous cruise experience. The Sushi bar provided a good appetizer prior to dinner. The main dining food was very upscale with a large variety of selections to please everyone. As a (non-strict) low Carber, I enjoyed ordering multiple appetizers and main entrées: steaks, lamb, and seafood's. All the food was excellently prepared, of great quality and presentation. The desserts received excellent grades on appearance, but poor grades on taste –I enjoyed the cheese selections mostly, but ice cream, fudge cake and Baked Alaska were great. The Prime Rib was my least favorite entrée. The buffet dining room “Brassiere” offered good quality breakfast and lunch foods with all the extras one could expect. The poolside grill offered very good quality hamburgers. Entertainment: Due in part to our early seating of 6:15 we were able to get good seating at the Paris Lounge for the big shows. 5 of 7 shows were excellent and enjoyed by all. The comedians were part of some shows and we considered them of “opening act” quality. These comedians also offered late night entertainment in the comedy lounge and with similar quality. There was great entertainment in the various bars. Our top pick was a country/rock guitarist “Les” from Raleigh NC. There is a Teen Bar (non alcoholic), dance bar and piano bar, and a Promenade, which offered comfortable seating in and around these bars. These bars close at 3pm. The casino was always busy and as a group we came out ~$200 ahead, due to some slot machine luck as none of us had profitable card skills. Internet service allowed us to remain in virtual contact with our 3yr son staying with his grand parents and avoid the $9.50/minute phone charges. Ports: Some of us had great times on the Passion Island & Beach Break type excursions with inclusive food & drink. My wife & I did not book anything through the ship and did our own thing at each port. We felt the ship did not spend enough time in most ports. Cayman: 3pm departure: I had been here twice previously and we booked a private charter for skin diving through Bob Soto’s Reef Divers for our entire group. They were very friendly, as expected, and we did a 3-stop snorkel tour on the North side: Coral Gardens, Reef and Stingray City. Our guide drew out a 5’ nurse shark and 5’ Green Moray eel. The guides were also helpful in gaining the attention of the Stingrays, as there were many more people than the 100 or so stingrays. My wife & I have had 12 days of diving around this island on previous visits, with 200ft visibility just off Seven Mile Beach. If you dive, then do not miss this experience. Costa Maya: We felt like rats in a cage at this port, definitely a tourist trap to purchase over priced souvenirs built solely for cruise ship traffic. We went to the beach adjacent to the pier for sun soaking and snorkeling to salvage this portage. Cozumel: 5pm departure: 4 cruise ships were in port this day to flood the island with tourists. We took a $14 taxi to Mr. Sancho’s, a beach just a few miles away. We were their first visitors for the day and it did not get crowded. Good food and beverages, nice beach and good snorkeling. They also offered jet skis, kayaks, parasailing. No entry fee, unlike other nearby beaches of Chankanaab Park or San Francisco Park. Food & drink prices were higher than we expected in Mexico and 4 of us ran up a $100 tab over 4 hours ($3 beers, $10 margaritas). We then shopped in Downtown Cozumel before returning to the ship. Belize: 4pm departure: Awoke to find the ship had anchored ~7 miles off shore on a very windy (23knot) day with rough (4’) sea. We felt there was not enough time to visit Blue Hole Sanctuary or Five Hole Sanctuary, so settled for the Belize Zoo. At the port the taxis were offering City tours for $40 and Zoo trip for $90. So we ventured into the city. We found the city to be very impoverished with police and guards on every corner, even a guard on a seemingly vacant lot. Obviously a high crime rate area. There is nothing in this city worth visiting. We found a taxi and bargained a $40 ride to the Zoo including a city tour and visit to the local beach. The Zoo was not great, but we saw animals we had not seen before: most memorable was the Great Jabiru Stork, 5’ tall and 10’ wingspan. The Howler Monkeys did howl for us –quite a scary sound from such a small animal. There were two other visitors in the Zoo when we arrived, after being chased around a bit by mosquitoes for ~45 minutes we exited to find that 4 buses had just arrived. Some of our group visited a local hotel for poolside lounging - Marriot I believe. Home Port: With separately arranged airport transfer and a 11:20 flight, we elected to carry our own luggage off the ship. The door opened 9:35am and we exited the ship without incident. Tampa Bay Shuttle had 6 vans parked just outside the port, even closer than taxis and busses. We got on the very first shuttle and were at the airport by 10am. Summary: Each of our group indicated this was of the best vacations and the best cruise we had experienced. The Carnival staff was always attentive to our needs and always appeared happy and willing to help. All the passengers got along as well: there were plenty of singles, teens, children, elders and middle-agers. It appeared that the Carnival sponsored water based excursions were over crowded, but no one seemed displeased. The port durations were short, especially Cayman, but Costa Maya could have been skipped. The ship conditions were clean, quiet and comfortable.    

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By Todd_CR

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May 18, 2003

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date – May 18. Ship – Carnival Inspiration. Embarkation Port of Tampa - We arrived at the port about 12:00 and unloaded our luggage. My wife went and got in line while I parked the car in long- term parking. The parking is close and adequate . Cost for long-term parking was $10/day. By the time I got back to the terminal, only a few minutes later, My wife had had to get out of line twice and go to the back because it was

moving so fast. The lines were long, but continued to move quickly. I noted the time when we actually got in side the terminal (officially in line). It was 12:40. We got up to the counter and actually registered at 01:15 and were sent to the waiting room to board. Check in was easy and efficient. We were called almost immediately to board and went through the process of having our pictures taken (several times). We were in our room and unpacking at 1:30. So from beginning to end the process took us 50 minutes. About the ship – There has been a lot written about this ship and its décor. So I won’t even try. Others have done a much better job of describing each room. We had a standard outside stateroom. Again, these have been described by others so I won’t go into it. There has been a lot of discussion about the cleanliness of this ship, so here is what I found. The common areas – dinning rooms, bars, casino, pools, brassier restaurant. All seemed to be in pretty nice condition. I found them clean and in good repair. The biggest areas of concern were elevators were a little scratched up and worn. Not that you didn’t feel comfortable being on them, but floor numbers/names were worn off, things like that. The carpets in the hallways on the cabin decks were stained and worn. The carpets in the staterooms were worn and stained. The bedspreads needed to be replaced. None of this was terrible. It looked like they had been thoroughly cleaned just had some stains. When you think about the traffic in these areas it is somewhat understandable. Staff – The staff was very good. We had very good service at every level. Our room steward cleaned our room at least twice a day. The towel animals are always fun. Our waiter Dimov was on his last cruise. He had been working the cruise ships for 16 years and was ready to retire. He did a very fine job. Although he was not as entertaining as some you may have read about in other reviews. He was friendly and efficient. The restaurant service personnel in the brassier restaurant were friendly. They greeted me regularly. Was often asked if everything was okay, and if there was anything they could do for me. The bar staff was very good. I spend a lot of time going from bar to bar. Enjoying the entertainment and libations. We had great service everywhere, but particularly at ‘Violins’. This is the main bar on the promenade deck. It is a great place for people watching. Shows – We didn’t go to any of the big shows on the ship. These are usually crowded and we just chose not to go. We heard many of the other passengers talking about how wonderful they were, but we just decided to avoid them. Food – The food ranged from very good to okay. First of all, we had breakfast in the Brassier every morning. This is a buffet, which has bacon, sausage, ham, potatoes, scrambled eggs, omelet station, milk, fruit pastries and probably other things I am leaving out. It’s all good and a great way to start the day. There is also a buffet style lunch served everyday. The menu varies from day to day. Most of what was served is of good quality, but I was not on the boat for most lunches. There are also hot dogs, hamburgers and fries served at every lunch. Of course, there is the 24-hour pizza available. We ate all of our dinners in the carnival dinning room. We had the early seating, which was at 5:45. A little too early for me, but you have to make the best of it. The food is very good for the most part. Don’t forget to order 2 lobsters on lobster night. One thing both my wife and I noticed though was that they seem to use up their best menu choices early in the week. The first couple of nights there were many items on the menu that sounded good. By the last night there is very little that sounds appealing. It is almost like they are serving leftovers. Overall, it is very good and there is plenty of it. This is a new itinerary for the Inspiration. The trip called for a day at sea, Grand Cayman, Costa Maya, Cozumel, Belize and then a final day at sea. Days at sea are all kind of the same. At least to me they are. We have a leisurely breakfast. Get some sun by the pool. Have a little lunch spend a little more time by the pool or some time in the shade watching the sea go by. They are very relaxing. Grand Cayman – Was a great experience. We had booked a snorkel trip on line (didn’t book through the ship) through Captain Marvin’s. When we arrived at the tour office we were informed by a very nice young lady working the desk that we would be getting a private tour because we were the only ones who had booked that trip today. They have other tours and they were busy, just not when we had booked ours. Marvin’s drivers picked us up a few minutes later and took us over to the tour boat. They were very nice. Gave us a nice narration of the city on the ride over. They were extremely knowledgeable about their island. Even telling me the per capita income and unemployment rate. When we arrived at Marvin’s dock, we were greeted by Marshall. He would be our captain for the day. He quickly got us fins and snorkels and off my wife, Marshall and I went. First stop was the coral gardens. We saw a giant stingray almost immediately. There was an abundance of fish and beautiful coral. After about 25minutes of being alone a couple of boats showed up and Marshall hustled us out of the water. He quickly took us over to stingray city. I know many of you have read the reviews, but I just have to say it again. This is a must DO! Marshall hoped off the boat first and quickly came up with a large stingray. He explained that some people have cats, he has a pet stingray. This stingray, although there were hundreds around, never went more that a few feet away. We fed, held and played with them for a half hour or so. It was everything you have heard. Do not miss this! As we were getting ready to leave, Marshall asked me if I had ever seen a giant eel. I told him only at Sea World. He told me he new were there was one close by and off we went. About 600 yards off of stingray city he stopped the boat. Without a word, he went over the side and under the water. Thirty seconds later he swam back to the ship and said to get ready it was out there. He dropped anchor while we put on our gear. Marshall grabbed a handful of fish and down he went to a small cave. He then lured an eel out of it hole. Now he said it was a small one. I have to guess it was about 5 feet or more. It was bright green with large teeth. He managed to entice it all the way out several time. I hope my pictures came out. Captain Marvin’s staff was incredible. I would highly recommend them to anyone. I would also highly recommend the Cayman. It was a very clean city with very nice people. Costa Maya – This is a new port not only for this ship, but also for all ships. This is not really a city at all. The cruise ships have created a dock and shopping area. There is very little to do there, but we made the most of it. When you get off the ship and walk towards the shore there is a shopping area with swimming pool and restaurant on the left. On the right there is a beautiful beach area that there seems to be no way to get to. My wife and I walked around the shopping area a bit and looked at the pool. Everything was overpriced. So we decided to head to the beach. This was tough, there seemed to be a consorted effort to keep you from going there. We walked out the back of the shopping area and proceeded to walk toward where we thought the beach should be. We were greeted with signs that said, “beware” and “not responsible” and so forth. We new that many of the other passengers were already over there so we ignored signs and continued. What we found was a pretty little beach with a restaurant and bar. Beach chairs for $3 and what appeared to be about 500 fellow passengers. We fried on the beach for a while. It was great. After several hours we decided to get a drink and went to the little beach bar. We grabbed a beer and sat for a minute. About half way through our beer one of the women who was working behind the bar came over to us and started talking. She was actually a fellow passenger. After talking for a few minutes she informed us that some of her family members actually owned the beach we were on. She had booked this trip to visit them. We met the whole family and started doing shots of tequila. It turns out that her family not only owns the land we were sitting on but quite a bit of land in the area. They sold the cruise ships the land for their dock and shopping area. Once they sold the cruise ships tried to cut them off from the lucrative passengers. Hence the signs….We talked to them for a while and then they brought out a bunch of lobster. They generously shared with us. I do mean generously. If you find yourself in Costa Maya remember to go to the beach on the right as you approach the shore. Cozumel – We planned a day at the beach with a little shopping and a trip to Carlos and Charlie’s late in the afternoon. I had been planning for weeks to go to Chachanaab (sp) park. I had heard many great things. At the last minute we changed our minds and went to San Francisco beach. It is just a little further down the road. This turned out to be a pretty good choice. There were very few people there, even though there were four cruise ships in port. There is a nice restaurant and bar there. There also was a full water sports rental there. Although it was raining when we first arrived, it quickly cleared and we had the beautiful beach mostly to our selves the rest of the day. We left the beach around 2:30 and headed for downtown. We shopped for a while and went to Carlos and Charlie’s. I had heard that everyone must go to Carlos and Charlie’s, but I didn’t really get it. We decided to split one of the $12.50 margaritas and see what it was all about. Trust me, this is not all that much fun. It is really drunk people dancing to really bad music. It can easily be skipped for more time at the beach. Belize – I had tried to find out as much as possible about Belize before we left, but couldn’t find much at all. Once on the ship it became apparent that Belize was not a place to go and wander around or even catch a cab to a nice beach. On the contrary, we were warned to be very careful and if we did go to go in a large group. We decided to book a snorkeling trip to Goff’s cay. This was a pretty good trip. We were picked up right off of the ship and taken to the cay that is about 9 miles off of the coast. It is very small, just slightly larger than a football field. It sits right on the second largest barrier reef in the world. There is a bunch of great coral and fish around. Nothing spectacular, but still good. Towards the end of this trip my wife and I happened along some barracuda right off shore. She had never seen one so this was the highlight of this particular trip. We spent the rest of the afternoon back at the ship watching the tender boats go back and forth to the docks. Later in the day we spoke with several people who went into the city to shop. Everyone said it was not worth the ride in. Debarkation – Was pretty smooth. Remember to not rush out of your cabin. The earliest they are going to let you off the ship is 9:30. Get up and go have a nice breakfast. Don’t head to you station until after 9:00 then you should have a short wait. We were out at 10:00 and had our luggage in hand and through customs by 10: 15… We had a great time and found Carnival to be a great value (this was our second cruise). I would take a Carnival cruise again, although I would like to try another cruise line sometime.    

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Apr 27, 2003

Western Caribbean

This was our 10 cruise with Carnival and 21st overall..having been on Princess, Premier, RCCL, HAL and NCL we found this to be the best overall one yet. Embarkation and Debarkation were about average. The overall cruise was very smooth and the food, service..excellent. The ship is showing her age a little with the carpet, but the overall appearance is good. We cruised with an 81 year old couple that just about wore us out..go go

go go..these people never stop and there's plenty to do on Carnival, especially now that Cozumel has been upgraded (new shopping area very nice)...and New Orleans...GREAT. This was the last cruise into New Orleans for the Inspiration and our second one doing the New Orleans port...just a great great experience. The Cruise Director Greg Kneale, a British chap is great, sings a set with the Pilipino band and they sound like the Beatles...great..entertainment is top notch, wish you could have seen the Flaming Gaucho's...unique to say the least...only poor performance was the talent show and Carnival has no control over that, we had very little talent onboard for that week in my estimation.. Richard Simons was doing his thing this week and all his clan were jolly and enjoying themselves, never saw him (other than the lounges for his meetings). Ports great, smooth sailing, best service in the dining room and presentation of food we have had on any cruise, service and food on lido deck was great and don't know what more we could ask of a cruise other than WE WILL SAIL THE INSPIRATION AGAIN AND WOULD GO TOMORROW IF WE COULD. Casino was lively a first) and seemed to be paying out well, we did ok (a first)..less than 100 kids onboard, so peace and quiet and good movies on the tube..if we could find one negative thing it would be the TV..not much to choose from and reception wasn't that good, but you don't cruise to watch TV..right..you cruise to eat and party and have a good time..Carnival outdid themselves on this cruise...best we have ever had and loved it. Any questions..email us.. The P's in South Georgia..Sadie T and JP    

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Dec 1, 2002

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: October 6th, 2002 It was wonderful!! This was the best cruise I have been on, and I have been on all lines… Embarkation: We went into New Orleans a day early and stayed at the Sheraton. We had a Club Level room on the 47th floor. The view was amazing! The hotel was nice, the rooms kind of small. We arrived at the pier about 1:00. There was a long line, but we made it through and onto the boat

in under an hour. One thing I would like to say is that if people filled out their documents before hand like they are supposed to, the line would move so much quicker. We got our cards and zipped right on. First impression: WOW! I checked for carpet stains, broken things, smells etc. Nothing! The ship is spotless! I have to admit, my expectations weren’t that high. But I was very impressed. The décor is not like a Princess or HAL, but it was bright and a lot of fun. The piano bar is so cute! The Candlelight lounge was pretty as well as the Paris Lounge. After exploring, we went to our rooms. We had U32 and U36. Just inside rooms. It had been a while since I had sailed with CCL. I have been on Princess and Royal Caribbean most recently, and CCL’s rooms are huge compared to them. Our room was very clean and in great shape. We had plenty of hangers and plenty of space. Then we went to the Lido deck and had lunch. Yummy! We were tired and watched the ship sail, went to dinner, looked around some more then crashed. Dining room: We had requested a table for 4. We ate in the Mardi Gras dining room main seating table 166. Robin was our waiter and Angela the assistant. They were awesome! Each night he would tell us tips about the boat or the ports, and give us puzzles to figure out. Angela was so sweet. I have never eaten in the dining room more than once, this time, we ate there every single night. The food was excellent. (loved the pumpkin soup) I tried all kinds of things I don’t like at home and loved on the ship. The desserts of course were to die for! One thing I really was impressed by was the smiles on everyone's faces. I had always worried about the waiters and staff feeling like show ponies since they have to perform for us. They all were grinning from ear to ear when they were singing and dancing. Robin pulled me and my friend Alana up and we did the Macarena and the Conga line with them. I am a stick in the mud, so I made sure a lot of pictures were taken to prove it to people back home hahaha. A tip: we had some very loud obnoxious people behind us that were dogging the waiters and dogging me and my friend for getting up with them. (of course we are tall hottie blondes and they were large non hotties LOL) Keep your comments to yourself. It was a large table behind us, and the poor people that had to sit with them looked miserable. I wanted to say shut up so bad! & #61514; Activities: I am a reader. Usually on a cruise, you will find me on the deck in a chair with a book in my hand. I took 3 books this time, and didn’t read one! There is so much going on, we never stopped. Of course, the Newly Wed Not So Newly Wed game was a riot. It is always funny. We also went to Survivor, Hairy Chest competition, Ice carving, Slot tournament…you get the picture. One thing we enjoyed was the El Nuevo Caribe show. The girl singer was great, the guy ok. The dancers were great and had a lot of great costumes. Ports: First stop was Montego Bay. We did the Black River Safari. One thing I was not aware of was the 2 ½ hour bus ride each way to the tour. But the ride was interesting. We got to see the real Jamaica. The safari was so cool! If you like Crocodile Hunter, you need to go. You get in pontoon boats and go up the river. There are alligators everywhere. They call them like dogs and they come!!! The crocs swam right up to the boat and ate out of the guides hand! We learned a lot about the birds and trees etc. It was fun. After a nap on the way home, we shopped at the shops at the pier and went to the boat. Next was Cayman. It was beautiful as always. We did the Cayman Experience tour. It took us to Hell, the turtle farm and to the Tortuga Rum factory. Then to Sting Ray City. I have been there 4 other times, but I love it more every time I go back. This time was a little different. Our guide (Uncle Joe) picked up the rays and put them on our head like a hat. It was too cool. Of course we got the back rub from them too. After the tour, we shopped again then went to the boat. Last was Cozumel. We went to Chankanaab. I was disappointed this time. I have been before and saw the sea lion show. They didn’t have it that day boohoo. That was the reason we went. Other than that, I loved it again. The ruins and gardens are beautiful. If you like margaritas, get one at the restaurant by the beach. They are awesome!! I don’t even like Margaritas, and I loved it!! Then we went to shop. I think we bought everything they have. We bargained and had such a good time. Our friends went back to Chankanaab and did the dolphin swim. She loved it! She said it was the best thing she has ever done in her life. We went to Carlos and Charlies, looked for a minute and then left and went to the Fat Tuesdays by the port. We had a tropical itch and a sex on the beach. They were great. It was a lot calmer and very quick service. We shopped through the tunnel again and went to the boat. We were so tired and our feet was killing us! Debarkation was the easiest I have ever had too. We were on the Upper deck, and off the boat by 9:30. It was perfect. One word sums up this cruise…PERFECT! I have no complaints. One of the best parts was how friendly everyone was. The staff on the boat knew us all by name. They would just stop by to say hi and see how our day was. I thought that was so sweet. When we left, our waiter and assistant gave us hugs and kisses. The other passengers were friendly too. Much more so than some of the other lines. I am a travel agent, and will recommend this to anyone. As a matter of fact, we got back on Sunday and I booked for the Inspiration again for May of next year. We are excited about the itinerary change. I cant wait! Feel free to email me with questions. I know I have left a lot out, so if you need anything, just email!  

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Dec 1, 2002

Western Caribbean

This review is for the most part, a reflection of the poor cruise we received from Carnival Cruise Lines. My wife has been on other cruise lines, so she has something to compare this to. We booked our honeymoon cruise to The Western Caribbean on Carnival Cruise Lines. We had a Stateroom which was nice because once we arrived at the ticket counter level in Tampa, FL, we were able to board in the first boarding group, no lines, no waiting.

Cruise was off to a good start. Food/Drink Quality: We found the food quality and portion size to be poor. The food was so bad in the dining area that we only had 2 meals in there for the entire 7 day cruise. 2 dinners and 1 breakfast. Our waiter was not the most pleasant of waiters. One evening they were offering a prime rib for one entree and lobster tails as another. Being from New England, we wanted to enjoy a little surf and turf. Our waiter took our order, then returned with only the prime ribs. When I asked about the lobster, I was told he could only serve one entree per person at a time. He returned with the lobster tails and placed them in the wait station. He served them when we were finished with our steak. The lobster tails were cold, undercooked and tasteless. The prime rib was decent. We ordered room service the next day before dinner, we had the late seating. I called and ordered cheese and crackers and some grapes. What arrived was very shocking. 3 saltine packages, cheese that was hard around the edges, perhaps leftover from the buffet table and the grapes were not fresh. We made one more attempt in the Mardi Gras dinning room the next morning. We were worried something might have happened with our waiter, so we expressed our concern to him, and he apologized and said he was not a morning person. Our breakfast arrived cold. This was the last time we visited the Mardi Gras Dinning room. It was also the last time 3 other couples from our table sat in the dinning room. We all ate our meals in the Brasserie Grill. We met many other couples who were doing the same thing. The common consensus was that the food on this particular cruise was the worst they had experienced on all of the other cruises they had sailed one. We met a 70 year old couple from Florida, this was their 7th cruise. Same comments. We also met a Cruise Travel Agent who expressed she was not going to be sending her group in January on this Cruise Line. The food in the Brasserie Grill was better than the dinning room, however it was not the first class food one would expect on a cruise ship from a 16 Billion Dollar Company either. On-Board Entertainment. Did not attend the shows, they did not appeal to us. We did try to enjoy a couples massage. We payed for a 50 min massage and received a 30 min massage. Did not know the 15 min relaxation time at the end of the massage was included in the 50 mins. Also, the young ladies were whispering and giggling throughout the experience. Sail and Sign Cards. These were pitched to us as a resource for everything. We used them for drinks which was convenient. They were also pitched as a means of using in the on board casino. However, when I went to join the blackjack tournament using my sail and sign card, I was told there would be an additional 3% charge. I would have preferred to have known this prior to signing up. They should disclose that when they are pitching these cards so heavily for the casino. First port of call, Grand Cayman. We embarked on the Stingray Sandbar Excursion. We took a 15 min bus ride to the dock, then a 30 minute ride to the Stingray Sandbar itself. Well, we arrived, and were told the tide was too high and too dangerous for a crowd of this size (75-80 people). We're heading back to shore. Now, we were reimbursed for this charge, and it is no way Carnival's fault the tide conditions were not right. However, a good captain would have known this by the tide charts, and that would have given us an extra 1-1/2 to enjoy Grand Cayman. Bad vendor selection on Carnival's part. The name of the boat we boarded was Free Willy. Captain's Party. Warm white wine and whiskey sours, hors d’oeuvre that tasted like they were taken out of a frozen freezer section, not well prepared at all. Another point to note, the captain did not greet his guests at the door. He showed up three quarters of the way through the party. Drink Quality. I was a bartender for many years, the drinks were weak. Spend your money where you know what you are getting, beer and wine. We do think our room steward did a great job, the room was always clean and he was very responsive. When I booked for this, the travel agent indicated that this was an older ship, and yes, she does show her age on board with the rugs and color schemes, however, age of the ship does not mean the food should be second quality. That is a result of the products bought and how they were prepared. We have made several attempts to contact Mr. Micky Arison, the Chairmad and CEO of Carnival, only to be transferred to Guest Relations. We have sent certified letters and made several phone attempts. They have offered a discount on a future cruise, however this was a honeymoon, and a discount on a future cruise simply isn't good enough. They did not even acknowledge our special occasion on board. My wife had a wonderful time on Norwegian Cruise lines prior to us meeting. I'm sure there are people who have had their share of bad experiences on there as well, it is all how the company handles these situations that determines if I will give them any future business. Good luck, and we hope that your future cruises are filled with blue skies and joyous times!  

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Sep 29, 2002

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: September 29th, 2002 My husband and I sailed on our 1st cruise (honeymoon) on the Inspiration on Sept. 29-Oct. 6, 2002. I am from New Orleans, and we were married there the night before, so there wasn’t really any touring happening beforehand. We arrived at the pier (based on previous travelers’ directions) around lunch time, and after checking in (the lines move pretty quickly) we were

herded like cattle into another area to sit and wait. The wait wasn’t too bad. They were pretty organized, just didn’t realize so many people were cruising that day. The only downfall at this point was the fact that my travel agent (from N.O.) did not give adequate directions to the pier. I AM from New Orleans, but had never cruised before. I knew the basic area, but had no idea exactly where I was going or what to expect when we pulled up. Turns out the best bet is to have someone drop you off (that’s what we did) instead of paying to park there. A couple we met on the cruise drove in from Atlanta and paid $10/day for parking. Even though it is a paid lot, New Orleans isn’t exactly the safest place to leave your car unattended for a week. At the very least, don’t leave anything in your car you care about keeping. There is a sort of semi-circle drive where you’ll see attendants waiting to help you with your bags. Just pull up along side of the drive and pop the trunk and they’ll take it from there. Also- be sure to tip these guys, maybe $2/bag, after all, they are responsible for whether your baggage gets on the ship or not! On the way to the dock, you’ll have your picture taken, whether you like it or not. It’s not going to be the best picture, (w/carnival cruise’s backdrop) but buy it anyway for the memory. Lol Walking up the ramp to get onto the ship, an ID picture will be taken. You won’t RECEIVE an ID, they just take your picture, so that when you slide your card to get on and off the ship, they can look at the picture and see that you’re really you. This also helps them to determine that they have everyone on the ship before they leave a port. I thought I would be lost on this ship, because from the outside it looks so huge. I did get a little turned around, but after a day, I really knew my way around. It’s actually not that big of a ship. The shows were ok, but some of them we missed because we had late seating for dinner. They try to accommodate you with the dance/musical shows by having two of them, one for early and one for late seating, but there were some shows that I wanted to see that I didn’t because of the late seating. I have to say, there weren’t many (if any) children at the late seating dinner. So it was good for the honeymooners! One of the nights for dinner the wait staff brought us out a little “happy honeymoon” cake and sang to us. It was cute. There’s a few things the staff does to make you feel extra special. It is a very nice experience and they really do work hard for the tips. There was a new towel design (in the shape of a lobster, snake, etc) on our bed every night. We would leave the room for 10 minutes and come back, and our beds were made, new towels were put in the bathroom and ice had been refilled. That was kind of neat. How do they know you’re gone? lol Each member of the staff is from a different place in the world, so it is interesting to hear them speak. The food in the dining room was the best on the ship, but that isn’t saying much. I mean, the entrees were great, but the desserts and appetizers. I've had better. But then again, being from New Orleans, my standards may be a little high. Food on the lido deck and brasserie was mediocre, and so was the room service food. The room service came in handy for me at the end of the trip, considering I broke my foot 2 nights before we were to return. People ranted and raved about the food in reviews before I experienced it for myself and realized they obviously haven’t had real food. But, considering it is a cruise ship that has to stay at sea for a week with no supplies delivered, the food (fruit, bread, etc) was pretty fresh. When you think about all the work that goes into feeding everyone on the ship alone, it is worth the cost. Our ports were supposed to be Grand Cayman, Jamaica and Cozumel, but thanks to hurricane Lily, we had to skip Grand Cayman, which really upset me because I was looking forward to GC the most. Carnival will alter the route before putting you in harms way, and you have to commend them for that. I still feel like we got our money’s worth, even though we missed a port. Cozumel was first. Our shore tours were cancelled because of the weather/choppy water, so we were on our own to site-see. We took a cab to Chankanaab National Park. The cost was $10 one way, so $20 total there and back. Admission to the park was $10/person. I believe there is some kind of marine life show there. There’s also snorkeling (gear available for rental - $7/person) and garden/ruins tour. There’s little huts and lounging chairs you can sit under and relax in, for no extra charge. The only thing I didn’t like was that the beach is not your regular beach where you can wade into the water. It’s rocky and there’s steps to get into the water. The water was really choppy that day, so the waves were crashing. I’m not a big water fan, but my husband is, and he had a blast. Got lots of great underwater pics of fish with our underwater camera (run about $100, but disposable ones you can get for about $10). Disposable cameras will only go so many feet, but if you’re only planning on snorkeling, that’s all you’ll need. Oh yea, and buy ALL your film/cameras, etc. BEFORE the trip. They have them available in the gift shops on the ship, but they are extremely expensive. Also, bring a few dryer sheets and a zip lock bag of a scoop of laundry detergent just in case you need it. A big question I had was “what do you do with your money/cards/wallet while you’re in the water?” You can buy a waterproof pack at an adventure sports store that might sell equipment for kayaking and diving. These run about $25, but a cheaper suggestion might be to have a female hold the money in a zip lock bag (make sure it’s zipped!) and just put it in a safe place insider her bathing suit (if ya know what I mean). We brought our waterproof fanny pack thing, but didn’t need it because most of the time, I didn’t go into the water, so everything stayed with me. After Chankanaab, we ate at Carlos n Charlie's and I had a pina colada. It was really good. The average cost for a meal there (2 appetizers, 2 entrees, 2 or 3 drinks) was about $50, which isn’t really bad. After that, we walked around the shops, but were exhausted, so went back to the boat. Since the shore tours were cancelled, and since Grand Cayman was cancelled, all the charges were credited to our acct. Jamaica was pretty. We took the wet n wild tour. The boat is kind of rickety but it wasn’t too bad. The water was so clear we could see the fish and coral just looking over the catamaran. The catamaran took us snorkeling then to Margaritaville for about 20 minutes. From there we had the option to get back to the boat by taxi or by catamaran. We chose to go back the way we came for fear of being brought somewhere else, never to be found again. We’ve heard some horror stories, and Jamaica is so poor, there are beggars and people trying to sell you weed, etc. So be careful there! Even though I had a lot to complain about (the hurricane, the cancelled shore tours, cancelled GC, broken foot, etc) we still had a great time. Someone (staff) even called our cabin to see how I was doing after my visit to the infirmary. Special thanks to Kyle and April (our dinner table mates) for helping me out the night I broke my foot! Overall it was a great experience, and we’d like to go again possibly on a bigger, newer ship. I also recommend getting an outer cabin with a window. There were several times we took naps and couldn’t tell if it was daylight or night outside and there’s no alarm clocks in the rooms! Our trip cost a total of about $1400. I know I’ve probably left a lot out, even though this summary has turned into a novel. If you have any questions, email me!  

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By Amy_CR

  • New

Sep 7, 2002

Western Caribbean

Given the circumstances, I was thoroughly pleased with how Carnival handled the situation when two unpredictable hurricanes had blown our way. My husband and I got married on September 4th, 2004, and we were given a cruise onboard the Inspiration as a honeymoon gift. Watching the weather channel days before, we noticed hurricane Frances was aiming towards the Florida peninsula. We contacted out travel agent, and she told us that she would

keep us informed of any changes. Our original plans after the reception were to drive to the airport and head down to Tampa and stay overnight. On our way to catch our flight, the travel agent called us stating that Carnival had delayed embarkation until Monday and that Belize would be cut from the itinerary. Our flight to Tampa had been cancelled as well, due to the hurricane forced winds, so we stayed at a local hotel for the evening, watching the weather channel. There were no flights to Tampa, let alone any airport in Florida or Georgia on Sunday, so we were trapped yet again at the hotel. The travel agent contacted us stating Carnival had to delay embarkation yet another day, so we wouldn’t set sail until Tuesday, and now Costa Maya had to be cut from the itinerary. We had the choice of cancelling with a 100% refund, or to go on the cruise with a 30% off discount and $100 on board credit per person for this cruise, and 50% off discount another cruise by December 2005. We chose the latter of the two. Needless to say, we were the first flight into the entire state of Florida on Monday, which was THE scariest plane flight ever as hurricane Frances was still lingering around (our crew had a huge round of applause by passengers as we landed safely). Nothing in Tampa was open, almost all electricity in the city was out. Streets and hotels were flooded - what a way to start a honeymoon! On the bright side, Carnival reimbursed us for all hotel lodgings. We took a shuttle back to Tampa airport early Tuesday morning, as we chose to have CCL transport us to the cruise ship. We were the first people to arrive, and were greeted by Carnival staff, who escorted us to the holding area until the busses arrived. There was a total of approximately 60 of us that had gathered by 1:00 PM. One woman who worked for Carnival updated us, stating that the ship has arrived into Tampa, but had not been cleared by customs. Once they are cleared, the busses will take the half hour trip to the airport to pick us up. The ship was to leave port at 4:00 PM. By 3:00 PM we were beginning to get nervous, as no one had updated us since 1:00 PM on the ship’s status, and it takes the bus a full hour to drive to the airport and then back to the port, not including loading passenger luggage, embarkation, getting the sail and sign card, etc. Finally at 3:30 we were updated that the busses had just left the terminal and were on there way. The ship was to be delayed leaving the port until 6:00 PM. This helped ease our minds. Once arriving at the terminal, we had to wait about one hour to check-in. Obviously, the 60 of us were not the only ones in a predicament! However, our group was the last to board the ship, and as we were boarding, the life boat drill was taking place (actually, had already taken place - people were just beginning to drop the vests back into their rooms before the ship set sail). Having been on cruises before, I was actually glad to miss the life boat drill, although my husband had never been on a cruise before, so I would have liked to have seen him all dolled up with a sporty neon orange floatation device around his neck. We headed to our rooms, fascinated by the fact that all of our luggage had already arrived! Guess it pays to be the last people on board! Once inside, we located our life vests, looked at the evacuation route on the back of the door, and unpacked. Having had nothing to eat all day, we made a direct pit stop at the 24 hour pizzeria - a personal favorite throughout the entire vacation. We had the late night dinner reservations, and being open seating the first night, we decided to eat in the dining room we were not designated to. Every other night, we had dinner in the Mardi Gras Dining Room, and Charl was our waiter. Being that this cruise was cut short, may people must have opted to cancel their cruise, as the dining rooms (and the entire ship for that matter) were completely desolate. We were sitting at a table for eight, and it was only the two of us there. There were two tables for eight behind us - one was empty, and the other only had four. There were two tables of eight in front of us - one had three, and the other had six. We were given such wonderful one on one attention by Charl - the best I had ever received on any cruise. For first time cruisers - if you like strawberries - you MUST try the chilled strawberry soup! There was no fighting on the Lido deck for chairs like on most cruises, however, remember that this ship was not filled to capacity, so this will not always be a typical situation. On days at sea, my husband and I just enjoyed lounging by the pool, taking naps, and listening to the ocean. Bring lots of suntan lotion, and apply regularly! Most people get burnt on their first day at sea, making it miserable for the rest of the vacation. We did not participate in many on board activities. We watched the hairy chest contest and all of the late night shows. Before eating dinner, we would get a drink at the Violin Bar and listen to the piano player, maybe dance to a few songs as well. Each night we would hit the sushi bar as a pre-dinner appetizer. On formal nights, there are stations set up to get your pictures professionally taken. These are free, so take advantage of them. You will even get a chance to get your picture taken at each port when you get off the ship. Visit the photo gallery regularly to look at your pictures. Purchase the ones you want (mildly expensive - it adds up), or toss the ones you know you don’t want to make space for more pictures. There is also a video for sale at the photo gallery that sums up the entire vacation. You can preview the video in your cabin on the TV. We saw ourselves a few times in the video, so we purchased it. There are daily drinks on sale for about $3 or $4 that come in a souvenir plastic cup. These drinks are the fruity ones, so if you don’t like fruity drinks, don’t waste your money. Buying a drink on the ship really doesn’t cost anymore than going out for a night on the town and having some drinks. One amenity that we used regularly was room service. It is free, and since we were honeymooners, we used it quite frequently. We did tip the gentleman, however, since the service was prompt. They show about 4 movies on cabin TVs which repeat over and over. However, who wants to pay for a cruise and spend time watching TV all vacation? 4 current movies is plenty to occupy your time while getting ready for dinner. We visited the art auction, which my husband is an avid art fanatic. However, with the taste he has, we could not afford some pieces. Since it was called an auction, we figured we could maybe start at $50 and work our way up. That was the case for some of the less famous pieces. For the pieces my husband truly wanted, they began at $3000 and worked their way up. We could not afford this, even with the $200 on board credit! Next time we will be prepared. Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. I’ve been twice before, and swam with the sting rays. My husband wanted to try this, but I wanted to try something new. We compromised, and went on the Turtle Farm, Hell, and Sting Ray Tour. There are so many turtles! Big ones, little babies, and even specially picked ones that you can pick up and hold. The best part of the Turtle Farm is that the Rum Cake Factory was right next door, so time permitting, you could walk inside and sample all of their 10+ flavors. Hell was interesting - just some limestone in a field. However, if you visit, send a postcard at the local post office. We got a picture in Hell of the post office, and on the front window, it says “No Smoking.” We thought that was ironic. (We also bought a T-Shirt in Hell, but we think we left it on the cruise ship because we don’t know where the hell it is!). We went on the Sting Ray tour, which is amazing, as usual. You must feed them squid, and you have to hold one of the large females as well. When the sting ray tour was over, we stepped off the boat and a huge crash of thunder and lightning hit right beside of us. Scared everyone half to death! We headed back to the terminal and the cold rain just began to pour down on everyone standing in line. We had no time to do any shopping, as the boat was supposed to leave in a half hour, and there were still over a hundred of us standing in line to tender back to the Inspiration. The rain stopped as we boarded the tender, and we had beautiful blue skies the remainder of the trip. The last port of call was Cozumel. Again, I had visited it twice before - went to a beach once, and took the “Booze Cruise” another time. The booze cruise fiesta party boat is great for people who like to drink a lot and have a good time. I went with my parents one time and my dad ended up passing out in the room on the ship the rest of the evening and missed dinner. The secret is - as the party boat makes its way out to the beach, they give you free “punch” and make you think there is alcohol in it. However, they either don’t put any alcohol in it, or just a mild bit, as they do not want to be responsible for someone who drank and then drowns at the beach while snorkeling. Most people drink about 4 or 5 of these free drinks on the way to the beach and feel fine. So on the way home, one thinks that “if I could handle 4 on the way over, I could handle about 4 more on the way home.” This ride home is when they spike the punch and add tons of alcohol in it. They perform games like limbo on the ride home, and everyone is toasty. Even if you aren’t much of a drinker, it’s fun to find out in advance when the fiesta party boat docks back in, and wait at the pier and watch all the drunk people stumble off the boat. This time, my husband and I opted to not take an excursion and go shopping. We were able to get some really great deals and bargain like crazy. This one local, Juan, that we bought some stuff from, took us out to lunch and paid for it, then took us to a local Mexican market and bought us some spices to cook with at home (we had some difficulty bringing the spices back through customs - although eventually they let us continue on). Overall, we had a fabulous time, even though hurricane Frances ruined most of it, and hurricane Ivan was on our tails the entire trip. Ports were fabulous, the excursion was fabulous, crew were fabulous - not one complaint. Besides our seven day cruise down sized to a five day cruise, Carnival handled it very well and we have already booked a cruise on the Carnival Glory later in the summer of 2005.      

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Aug 11, 2002

Western Caribbean

We booked our cruise a year and a half in advance. It was booked directly with Carnival, Alison Dorfman was our personal vacation planner. She was fantastic, answered any little question I had, whenever I phoned. We stayed in New Orleans a day before and after our cruise. I liked the Super City Tour, but wasn't impressed with Bourbon street. We were at the terminal at 11: 30 am. When we went to check in, our passports

were taken from us. We were told that we would have to be in a certain place at a certain time to get them back. We are Canadians by the way. We were told that if we were late picking the passports up, we would be charged $250 each, that works out to be $750 Canadian for the two of us, needless to say, we were very prompt in getting our passports on the final day of the cruise. After checking in we were sent to a room to wait to board the ship. It was about 45 minutes, but the time went quickly. We were on the Empress deck with an inside room. We weren't in the room much, so having no window was not a problem. We are nonsmokers and couldn't smell any smoke in our room. There aren't many places for smokers, besides the bars. We went and checked out the rest of the ship. Our belongings were delivered to our room by 6:30 that night. We booked our shore tours right away, didn't want to take the chance of not getting them by booking after the tour talk. My husband did the advanced diving in Grand Cayman and Cozumel, he said they were fantastic. He booked them with the ship and it was a good thing, if you book with private people and you are late getting back to the ship, you could be stuck on the island. The dive tour was back at the pier at 5:20 pm and the ship was to sail at 5:30. We booked a tour in Jamaica with Carolyn Barret at Barret adventures. Our tour guide Andrea was fantastic, she took us to where the locals go, as well we went on the Appleton Estate rum tour. When we got back and were talking about our day, a few people said "we're jealous of you". We were never harassed or asked if we wanted to buy drugs. Jamaica was my favourite day in port. I took the Atlantis submarine tour in Cozumel and the highlight tour of Grand Cayman. They were both great. We had most of our meals in the dining room, we loved the experience. We had never had service like we did on the ship. There are two formal nights, everyone wore their "Sunday best", even kids. Every other night, we wore nice pants and tops but never wore shorts for dinner. We met a few people who worked on the ship, they were very friendly. We gave our waiters, room steward and one bartender extra tips, besides the ones that were put on our Sail and Sign card. They bent over backwards for us. I wrote little notes to thank them for the extra effort that they had put forth in an envelope along with the extra tip. We went to the tour talks and the shopping talk, it was a good idea as we learned lots. The shows were just like Vegas, great. Because some of the shore tours were late in getting back, we were glad that we'd picked the late sitting for dinner. There was nothing that we would complain about, our experience on the Inspiration was far better than we could have ever expected. We are planning our next cruise already, but we'll take the kids with us. If you have any questions I will gladly answer them for you. My email address is [email protected] .

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  • New

Jun 30, 2002

Jamaica, Grand Caymen, Cozumel

I am writing this review because it was so helpful to us before we took our cruise! We had sailed on Holland America in the past and had a wonderful time, but this time we were taking our children 13 and 18, so we decided on Carnival since they cater to a younger crowd. We drove in from Mansfield, Texas the day before and stayed at the Fairmont Hotel (5 star- and wonderful). We arrived at New Orleans- Julia St ship terminal around

12:30 pm. The terminal was already crowded and the luggage carriers were busy unloading luggage out of the cars. What we didn’t know was that the ship had mechanical problems on the trip previous to ours, therefore had got in late. The passengers from the previous trip were still on board the Inspiration; therefore the parking lot for passengers to leave their cars was full and would not empty until around 4:00p.m. This left us with no place to park our car. We were told by a parking lot security officer to drive our car around until the lot opened (Yeah Right!) A kind man told us about the Hertz rent a car parking lot just around the corner. We drove there and parked the car ($7.00 a day-cheaper than the cruise ship terminal). Hertz shuttled us back to the terminal. Upon arrival at the terminal we were asked 4 times for our birth certificates and picture I.D.’s (I was glad-after September 11th-I would rather be safe than sorry). After standing in a line, we were given a boarding pass and placed in yellow chairs to wait until called. The chairs were almost full when we saw chairs just for us in the corner. We were given a paper informing us that the ship had some difficulty on the previous trip, therefore would be boarding late. At around 4:20 they began to load the passengers on the ship. The terminal had filled up and the crowd was beginning to lose their patience. When they opened the door to go to the next area the crowd started pushing and some of them were cutting in line, therefore making others very angry. Carnival did not do anything to get some of the employees for crowd control until people started yelling. It was a bad situation that could have been worse. One lady was accusing others (including us-who had been there at least one hour before her) of cutting in the line. After a final security check, we were allowed to board the ship. Once onboard, we were directed to our cabins. We were pleasantly surprised on the space and the cleanliness of the ship. The décor was wild, but this was going to be a fun cruise-I could tell. We had plenty of space for all our clothes and belongings. We did not know what to expect since we had a bad time boarding the vessel. The dining room was lovely and the wait staff- Adem, Indiana and Dewa were pleasant and wonderful. They were so patient and continued to fill our glasses with tea and water at the first sign of the glass emptying. The food on the trip was good. I have read complaints about the small portions, but considering the fact that there is first a starter, then salad, then main entrée and last a dessert, we were always very full. My 13-year-old son always asked for 2 salads and they were ever so happy to get it for him. The bread was wonderful. The food on Holland America may be better, but everything we had was good. Our room Stewart, Troy was great, friendly and always helpful. He kept the room clean and the beds made. He made us a towel animal every night. The games that were continually going on were fun to watch. We enjoyed the cruise director (Brett) and all his jokes. The Paris lounge was very comfortable and pretty. The shows were very good. The dancers on board the vessel were very good (Jimmy was outstanding-Hollywood material is my guess). The singers were very talented as well. We enjoyed the comedy too. I cannot think of one bad show. Every night after dinner, (early sitting) we looked forward to seeing the shows. Now for the Ports Of Call- JAMAICA-We took a taxi to Doctor’s Cave Beach and snorkeled. The beach was very pretty. It was fun and the changing room and restrooms were clean. At lunch we walked to Margaritaville. This was so overrated. We had to sit on the top level in the hot sun with half an umbrella. We paid $9.50 for a dry cheeseburger no bigger than a sausage patty. The margaritas were very good, but they were very small and $6.75 each. The waiters add the tip in the bill automatically. When we were ready to leave we were almost overtaken by the taxi cab drivers wanting to take us back to the terminal. There must have been 30 of them waiting for you to exit the restaurant to pounce on you. Overall- The Island is beautiful (I love the trees with the red flowers on them). The people are very pushy and cannot drive very well at all. GRAND CAYMAN-We split up for this one. I took the city tour while my husband and the kids swam with the stingrays. They had a great time and my husband said he would never forget the experience. He also said it was worth the 39 dollars per person. The stingrays were docile and loved the humans. The city tour was good, but in order to get it all in you feel rushed. We went to the Tortuga Rum factory and sampled rum and watched them making rum cakes. We were off to the green turtle farm. This was very interesting but I went away feeling very sad. The people of Grand Cayman eat the turtles and dolphins for their main source of food. The turtles are swimming in giant holding tanks. Some of the tanks are for breeding while others are for eating. The green turtle was once extinct. When the U.S. banned them from being imported for this reason the owner of the turtle farm almost went bankrupt. The Cayman government took over saving the farm. We then boarded the bus and went to HELL. It is a rock formation that is very unusual. It was nothing more than a gift shop and a 50-foot by 50-foot rock formation. I was disappointed. The bus took us back to the dock and we shopped for about an hour. We purchased rum cake and rum at Tortuga. COZUMEL-Shopping! Shopping! Shopping! We took a taxi to downtown (3 miles) to Touch of Gold and started shopping our way back toward the ships. If you are looking for jewelry, this is the place. The prices are good and you can bargain them on most things. I highly recommend Bruno at Diamond International by the pier. He was very knowledgeable, fair and nice too. We will definitely be using him for future purchases too! Viva Mexico was fun. They had dancers and nice items for sale. And air-conditioning. They have a lot of Silver jewelry. We shopped for 7 hours straight. So we were exhausted when we got back to the ship. The rest of the cruise was fun and we were sad to be headed back to New Orleans so fast. I found myself constantly comparing the two cruise lines and I must admit, we had a lot of fun with our children on this cruise line. My children rated it a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10. My 13 year old made a lot of friends and stayed out late most nights with his friends in the Brassiere Grill and had 24 hour pizza and ice cream. My 18 year old had fun too! She wants to go again. In spite of the bad experience embarking, we will definitely go Carnival anytime!

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Apr 28, 2002

Western Caribbean

We booked our own airfare and saved about $100pp from Providence, RI to New Orleans, LA. It was a round about trip, we changed planes in Detroit, MI and then flew to New Orleans. Arrived in New Orleans on time at 10:45am. We had all our bags by 11:10am and found our Carnival Representative at the baggage carousel. We waited a few minutes and once we had a busload of people we were escorted to the bus and we were at the pier by noon.

We didn’t have our cabin assignment from Carnival yet (we knew the cabin # using the Kelley Method) so we were among the last on the bus to have our bags checked and taken by the porters. Here’s a tip, one of the many I got from boards like these. Take lots of one-dollar bills. You’ll be tipping a lot on the cruise. We said bye to our bags and went to check in. We waited in line for about a half hour. At the counter we were asked for our docs and birth certificates. We chose to put cash down on our shipboard account so a credit card wasn’t needed. We received our sail and sign cards, that was it, quick and painless. Now back in line to board the ship. After about an hour and fifteen minutes we were brought into a large room and sat for another 15 minutes. We were called row by row and went through the luggage screening area where we went through metal detectors and our carry on bags were x-rayed. Then we went into another line to have our picture taken as we got on the ship. Who buys these pictures? We had been at the airport at some ridiculous hour of the morning and were on planes for nearly half a day, then waited in lines for another couple of hours. Needless to say our pictures left a little to be desired. As we first got on the ship we had our picture taken again to be used for security as you get on and off the ship for the rest of the cruise. In the main lobby of the Empress deck, a ship employee pointed us to our room, Main deck, cabin 221. It was what we expected. After locking up the valuables in the room safe we took a walk to the Information Desk to put money on our account. The computers were down so they could not complete any transactions but we were assured we could use our sail and sign card in the mean time. I was skeptical but sure enough they took it even without the cash deposit. We went to the Brasserie and had a surprisingly good lunch. After a brief walk around the ship, we went back to our cabin and took a nap. After some rest and recuperation we continued to explore the ship. Took the advice of some other posts and found our dining room and some of the other areas we knew we’d frequent. I’ve been looking forward to sailing on the Mississippi so I had to find a vantage point for it. Well I found one of my favorite spots on the ship. The observation deck on the Verandah Deck, just above the bridge. We had a late seating for dinner so I had plenty of time to watch the Mississippi go by and the sun set. When we got back to the cabin, our bags were waiting outside. Our room steward introduced himself, Fernando from India. He asked us if we would like the beds put together and if there was anything else he could do. After unpacking, we got ready for dinner. Dinner the first night is pretty casual because some people don’t have their bags until later in the evening. We had six people at our table set for eight. Our head waiter introduced himself, Atilla from Hungary and he knew our names from then on. Our assistant waiter, Rajish from Nepal introduced himself. They were great. Dinner was part of what made the cruise so great. Once we got to know our tablemates, we couldn’t wait to go to dinner to hear what everyone did. After dinner we took a walk around the ship. We were still on the Mississippi River and would be for a few more hours. We went back to the cabin and after such an exhausting day, Jess fell asleep. I went back to the observation deck for a while to sip a drink and take it all in. Monday April 29th Our first day at sea. We woke up about 9am and headed to the Brasserie for breakfast. We had most of our breakfasts and lunches here. It was buffet style with omelets made to order. There were always plenty of seats by the windows or out on deck. After breakfast we sat up on the Lido deck and we saw a pod of dolphins following the boat. Ocean and blue sky as far as you could see. The stress of travel the day before and of things back home were quickly becoming a faint memory. We went to the excursion talk with the cruise director, Bret Allens. He was great! We already knew most of what he told us because of these boards but the talk was informative and entertaining. The cruise line makes it sound like if you do anything other than an excursion booked on the ship, you are taking your life in your own hands. I had done so much research on the islands we were stopping at, I didn’t book anything through the ship. I had a great time in all the ports as you’ll read later. I’m sure there are unsafe activities and areas, but if you use your head and do your homework, you wont have any problems. The rest of the afternoon was spent by the pool sipping drinks and enjoying the pool. Had lunch on the lido deck, hamburgers and French fries. Spent some more time on the observation deck watching the flying fish and talking to other people. We decided to check out the art auction later in the afternoon. I’ve never been to one and it was fun. I’m by no means a connoisseur of fine art but it was a good experience and we did see a piece we wanted to bid on until we heard the opening price. We stood for the whole auction and it was amazing how much money some people spent. After the auction we went to our nightly ritual, the sushi bar. It was right at the Champagne Bar. It’s open every night from 5:30pm to 8:30pm. There is a good selection every night. If you eat sushi on a regular basis, don’t expect what you get at home. Jess and I go out for sushi often at home and the sushi on the ship just didn’t compare. It was good, just not as good. For all of you saying “yuck, raw fish”, don’t worry, it’s all cooked. The sushi chef told us it breaks his heart but he isn’t allowed to serve anything raw. Probably a good idea considering you can’t get fresh fish while at sea. Never the less, it was a good snack before dinner. Dinner tonight was a formal night. It was fun getting dressed up, something we don’t get to do often at home. Before dinner we made our rounds and had our pictures taken. At dinner we had two new tablemates, they had switched tables. The cruise would not have been as much fun as it was if it weren’t for our tablemates. We ended up with just six people each night, one couple never showed up again. Like I said earlier, every day we looked forward to sharing our adventures. I told all of them I’d mention their names. So if you read this, hi Tammy and Jamie, and Heather and Holly. After dinner we went up to Inspiration Blvd and had some drinks and listened to the Dave. He played light rock and country. This turned into another nightly tradition. Took a walk to the observation deck and looked at the stars. A quick stop at the midnight pasta buffet and it was off to bed. Good night. Tuesday April 30th Another day at sea. We woke up about 9am and had breakfast at the in the Dining Room the 1st and only time. The breakfast was good but we preferred the Brasserie. Today the cruise director did a shopping talk. It was pretty much a push to shop at certain stores that I’m sure Carnival gets a kickback from but it was informative and they went over customs info. Spent the rest of the morning by the pool and watched Survivor. It was hilarious. Grabbed lunch on the Lido deck and spent more time on the Observation Deck. Jess always knew where to find me if I decided to take a walk. We took a galley tour. It was fascinating to see some of what happens behind the scenes. After the tour Jess had scheduled a massage so I spent about an hour on the observation deck. I met a lot of great people up there and the view is always amazing. After that it was sushi and dinner and that’s about it. We were exhausted and excited about our first stop in the morning. Wednesday May 1st I woke up at about 6:30am and saw Jamaica out our cabin window off in the distance. We went up to the Brasserie and had breakfast and watched the ship dock. We were both very excited and couldn’t wait to start our day. None of the excursions the ship offered in Jamaica appealed to us and we decided we didn’t want to do all the regular tourist stuff. Before we left I did a lot of research and found Carolyn Barrett. I emailed her and told her our how much time we had and she recommended some itineraries. We decided on one and I made a reservation. When we got into the terminal in Jamaica she was there as she said she’d be with a big sign with our name on it. We got in her minivan and off we went on our Jamaican adventure. The first part of our adventure was getting used to the driving style. Lets just say New York City cab drivers have nothing on Jamaica. That in itself was an adventure. We drove up into the mountains, stopping along the way whenever she saw something to point out. Even with the noticeable poverty, it is beautiful country. The people we met were all friendly. Our first stop was a town called YS. Along the way we learned lots of Jamaican history and customs. Lots of little stops to see coffee and fruits growing, scenic views of mountains and valleys. At YS we went to a place called YS Falls. It is like Dunn’s River Falls, but instead of a thousand other tourists there was maybe twenty five people there. The falls were beautiful as well as the entire plantation that surrounds it. We took lots of pictures with our disposable underwater cameras while we swam. We lounged around in the sun until Carolyn told us we needed to head out in order to have lunch and take a boat trip she had booked for us. We drove from YS to Black River. The scenery is incredible and we made lots of stops to take pictures and so she could point out places of interest. When we arrived at black river we stopped at a little hole in the wall restaurant and had lunch. Fried chicken, beans and rice, a stew and a type of coleslaw. It was all delicious. We took a short drive to the dock and boarded a small boat for our Black River tour. Once again, it was not a crowded tourist filled area. On the boat was myself and Jess, Carolyn and the captain of the boat. Carolyn sunbathed on the boat while the captain began telling us about the history of the area and pointing out local wildlife. It was beautiful. He lifted a crocodile out of the water by its front legs and kissed it on the nose. He said the crocs here were pretty docile. I didn’t take my chances. After we got a few miles up river we had fruit punch and we could get out and swim. Carolyn swam and we decided to stay on board and drink the punch. There was no way I was swimming in a place where I just saw crocs. After we arrived back on the boat we tipped the captain and back to the van. Like I said earlier, I took lots of one-dollar bills with us and they came in very handy. We continued on our drive which was basically a big circle around part of the island. We drove through many villages and there was a lot of history about the area we were in. Carolyn stopped and bought us some fresh mangoes from a woman on the roadside and cut them up for us. We told her we wanted to by a few souvenirs before we left so she took us to a small shopping area. We bought some Blue Mountain coffee and a few other things and she had us back to the dock in plenty of time to board the ship. We spent approximately 8 hours with Carolyn and the price was $90usd per person. This included the admission fee to YS Falls, lunch and the boat tour. We both felt it was well worth the money. She was very friendly and knowledgeable. We had a great time and would recommend it to anyone. If you have any more questions about what we did, feel free to email me. We said our good bye’s and got in line to go through customs and get back on the ship. Back to the room to clean up and of course to the sushi bar. At dinner we all shared our stories. Everyone seemed to have a great time in Jamaica. Spent some time relaxing on the observation deck and then it was off to bed. Thursday May 2nd Woke up early and we were already anchored off Grand Cayman. Out our window I could see other cruise ships. Had breakfast at the Brasserie. The Carnival Victory, RCCL Voyager of the Seas and RCCL Rhapsody of the Seas were also anchored near us. Our excursion wasn’t until 11:15am so we did some browsing downtown. We booked a Stingray City tour through Captain Marvin’s before we left. We went to the main office and checked in and boarded a van to bring us to their dock. Once at the dock a line formed to get snorkeling gear (included in the price). We brought our own gear so we got right on the boat. First stop was at a reef. We snorkeled in about 10-15 feet of water. It was incredible. The water was crystal clear and calm. We spent about a half hour there taking pictures of tropical fish and a stingray. We boarded the boat again and headed for Stingray City. On the way the guide talked about the do’s and don’ts of stingray city. No boots or fins, you won’t need them, the sand is very soft. As soon as we got off the boat, the stingrays swarmed around us looking for food. They are very gentle and as long as you take care not to step on them you’ll be fine. We had a great time. The guides picked them up and let you hold and feed them. They are constantly brushing against you and people would scream. I must have taken 20 pictures. It was a great experience. There were maybe 20 people on our boat while the cruise ship excursion had a 100 or more. The cost of the tour was $34usd per person and the tour lasted 2 hours. It was well worth it. They filmed the entire trip and you could buy the video. After we arrived back at the dock, the van took us to the office. We did some shopping in town and waited in line for about 45 minutes for a tender back to the ship. Back to the room to shower and get ready for sushi and dinner. It was the second formal night and the Captain’s cocktail party. We didn’t attend the party. We once again had lots of pictures taken and went and shared our day with our new friends. It was hard not noticing how fast the days were going by. Friday May 3rd Woke up with Cozumel in sight. Went to the Brasserie and had breakfast as we watched the ship dock. We didn’t have any excursions booked for this stop but thanks to all the reading I did here we knew exactly what we wanted to do. When we got off the ship we went to the taxi stand. The prices for taxi rides to all the major places are clearly displayed here. There was no wait for a taxi. We took a taxi to Chankanaab Park. Taxi ride was $12usd for the cab, not per person. We found a seat under an umbrella and put on our snorkeling gear. The water was beautiful and as soon as I got in I was face to face with a barracuda. There were fish everywhere. This is a great place to snorkel and relax. We spent half the day on the beach and wandering the paths of the park. We took a taxi back to the ship, dropped off our gear and changed and headed back out to shop. The taxi ride downtown is $6 per cab. We had lunch at a little Mexican Restaurant. Stopped in at Carlos and Charlie’s. It’s not my kind of place but we were told you had to see it. If you aren’t familiar with Carlos and Charlie’s, think of spring break on MTV. That’s what it’s like seven days a week. We had a Margarita and that was enough for me. After a little more shopping we went back to the ship and got ready for sushi and dinner. Saturday May 4th Our last day at sea and of the cruise. I can’t help but be a little sad. So far I’ve had the best, most relaxing vacation of my life and in a few short hours it will be over. Oh well I made the most of it. We slept late and had our usual breakfast in the Brasserie. We went to the debarkation talk with the cruise director. All the stuff about customs was pretty much a joke. I’ll explain that in a minute. We had lunch in the dining room for the first and only time. Went to the “newlywed and not so newlywed game” and had a blast. Played bingo to win a cruise…we didn’t win. Spent most of the day lounging around. The captain told us we’d be entering the Mississippi around 8:30pm but it was dark and we were at dinner. Swapped email addresses with our tablemates and said our good byes. When we got back to the cabin, our customs slips were waiting to be filled out. We filled them out and packed our stuff to leave outside the cabin door. Hated going to bed, when I wake up my cruise will be over. Sunday May 5th Debarkation! Had a quick breakfast at the Brasserie and then went to our assigned spot to wait to be called to leave the ship. When we were called we proceeded to the Empress deck to get off the ship. We waited in line till we got to the luggage area. Finding our bags took about 10-15 minutes and was a little crazy with all the other people. We had big orange pom-poms tied to the tops of our bags so they stuck out pretty well. We waited in line for what we thought was customs. Turns out it was the line to leave the building, customs didn’t check our stuff. I’m sure they checked our bags we left outside the cabin but they never looked at our carryon baggage and I still have the customs slips as a souvenir. Since we were staying in New Orleans for a couple of days, we just got a taxi and we were on our way. One thing Carnival did that I thought was nice was for any passenger who had a late flight, you could book a tour of New Orleans to kill time for the day. Some recommendations for first time cruisers: Do your research. This board and others like it were extremely helpful. I learned so much about cruising and what to do on the islands from reviews and tips. Bring lots of one-dollar bills. You will be surprised at how many people you should tip. Not necessarily on the ship, that’s all included. On the islands I tipped the guides, boat captain and others. The porters at the dock, taxi drivers etc… Bring a small waterproof case to keep money and cards. You can buy them at marine supply stores. I wore mine around my neck and tucked it in my shirt. It kept everything dry and secure. Buy disposable waterproof cameras and your film before you leave. 8 bucks for the camera at Wal-Mart, 25 bucks on the ship. Buy more than you think you’ll need. Bring a calling card if you plan on calling home. It’s around $9 a minute to call from the ship. You can use the calling cards while in port. Another way to keep in touch is with email. To use the computers on the ship is 75 cents a minute. I could go on and on and it appears I have. I’m sure I’m forgetting plenty. Any questions, feel free to email me. Once again, thanks Jamie, Tammy, Heather and Holly. You all made the trip so much more enjoyable. Mike and Jess

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Mar 10, 2002

Western Caribbean

Overall, this cruise was a great VALUE. The word VALUE is important here. It is a classic case of 'you get what you pay for'. My husband and I had a great time, and Carnival offered pretty good food and service. It is not, by any means, a luxury cruise line, so don't go into your cruise expecting to be pampered continuously. The name 'fun ships' is appropriate--they have a very laid back atmosphere, and provide plenty of activities and venues

to have a great time. Our biggest disappointments were with our fellow cruisers. Given the price of Carnival's cruises, they attract a primarily lower to middle class crowd. Now I am not being elitist (I am a young professional and my husband is a student) as we are low middle class ourselves, and I am only talking about a small percentage of the passengers. But the small percentage seemed to ruin it for everyone else. We experienced rude and inconsiderate behavior throughout our cruise. Everyone was 'in it for themselves' and would push anyone out of their way to get what they wanted. I mostly experienced this with families that would teach the rude behavior to their kids and would make no attempt to curtail their rowdiness in public areas. Embarkation and Disembarkation took a long time, but Carnival did an OK job considering how many people they had to move. We were in the last group off and did not get off the ship until 12:15, so keep that in mind when you make travel arrangements. Show up early to get on the ship, and don't expect to get off until late. I suggest you find a comfy outside area to wait to disembark, that way you can at least enjoy the good weather and scenery. We purchased some fun shore tours. During all the excursions, guides were 'pimping for tips' and would make you feel very guilty if you did not oblige. We did the Mountain River Rafting in Jamaica. The tour itself was fun, but the Jamaica experience is not great at all. We encountered ultra-aggressive souvenir selling and hair braiding. Our friends did Dunn's Rivers falls and said they were constantly hounded by the locals. If I had to do it again, I would choose the Wet and Wild tour. You get to encounter the natural beauty of Jamaica without ever really setting foot on the island and dealing with the people. Grand Cayman was absolutely gorgeous. We did the stingray city and island tour. We appreciated the tour of the island, but wished we had bought the stingray tour with a local company ourselves. There were about 150 people on our boat and it was just very chaotic to really get time with the stingrays. Next time, we will find our own tour when we get to Grand Cayman--it is cheaper and more personalized. We toured the Mayan ruins of Tulum in Cozumel. It is a 6 hour trip, and 4.5 of that is spent traveling to/from the ruins. After a nauseating boat and bus ride, we were hardly excited to see the ruins themselves. I am glad we saw them, but we really did not get to enjoy the day or see ANY of Cozumel besides the inside of a bus and a boat. Our best times were on the boat, when we could find an area that was not over-run with rowdy children (some were well-behaved, others were not). They were aggressive in selling the drinks, but we were happy with that. The drink of the day specials were a good value at $2.95, but skip the souvenir glass! The casino was fun, but a little too smoky at times. Our cabin was spacious and we enjoyed room service immensely (although they got our order wrong 33% of the time). We had an outside cabin on the lowest deck, and were not sure the window was worth the extra money. I can't imagine paying a higher price for a higher deck--the view is the same, and you take elevators to everything anyway. Overall, we had a great time. I was scared by other reviews. But just keep in mind that this is a 'fun' ship and you get what you pay for, and you should have a blast. I didn't mean to be overly negative in this review, but just a warning to future passengers on what to expect, especially on the shore tours. We will definitely be cruising again in the future. I think I will try and save for a more upscale cruise line (preferable non-smoking adults only) if my husband and I go again. If we have children and want to bring them along, then we will be coming back to Carnival.  

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Feb 24, 2002

Western Caribbean

This was our first cruise. We arrived at the port of New Orleans about 1:00 and the line was already very long, however it does move very well and is organized. There are people waiting at the curb to help you with your luggage, in the rush to make sure that we got all of our luggage, I forgot to tip the man, and he quickly reminded of it. It was really funny the way he went about it, but they do expect a tip so don't forget. Also, parking

is limited at the port, we got there fairly early and there were only two parking spaces left, so be prepared for that too. We got on board and immediately were presented with a drink, not complementary, they do charge you. We went with our aunt and uncle. My husband and I booked one of the penthouse suites for us and an outside room with a picture window for them. Our room was really nice. Came with a VCR but no movies and we didn't know it would have one, so we didn't bring any movies for our son, wish we had. Also had a bar with glasses, but no drinks. The refrigerator was not stocked as I thought it would be, I asked and they said it was for me to put things in if I wanted too. Okay. We had a great walk in closet with ample hanging space and several shelves to put clothes in. There was also a dressing table across from the bed with more drawers and storage space. The bathroom came with a jacuzzi tub, but get the picture here. The tub is at its width 2/3 the size of a standard bathtub and about 2/3 the length of a standard tub. I jacuzzied once for about 2 minutes before giving it up, so much for the romantic ideas I had brewing. Our cabin was U115. By about three days into our cruise, our bathroom smelled like a port-a-potty, and there seemed to be no explanation or anything anyone could do about it. Also there are two vents in the bathroom that run all the time. The first night they kept me up, but I got use to them after a while, however bothersome they were. My advice would be to save the extra 2 thousand that the penthouse cost and get a outside cabin with a picture window. Our pre-cruise cost 4600.00 including two adults, and one child, prepaid tips, and insurance. No air or hotel. Our uncles cost 2100.00 including two adults, insurance, pre paid tips. No air or hotel. Anyway, the cruise was wonderful, we had great weather and the sea was smooth until the last two days. There were not very many children on board in my sons age group, he is eight, this was due to the time of year. There are usually several hundred on board during the summer and holidays. Therefore he stayed with us the whole time. I think he would have had a better time if he would have gone to the camp carnival. We spend a fortune in the game room, the games cost about 50 cents apiece. Make sure to read the caper every night to find out what is going on the next day, it is the only way you will find out. We missed out on a lot because we didn't keep track like we should have. They have three wonderful late night buffets and we missed all three of them. Nothing really starts until about 10:30 at night, so if your an early bird, drink lots of coffee! In Montego Bay we went on Sharkey's snorkeling adventure. It was great. You get to snorkel and then go to the beach for awhile. You have to rent the umbrellas on the beach. they cost 13.00 for the day, make sure you have exact amount for everything, as they will try to keep you change. Our umbrella boy was about 20 and we gave him a 20. He went to get change, and came back with 2 dollars, and said that he had to find more change (very obvious attitude about wanting to keep the change), I let him keep it. Remember, that Jamaica is very poor, they aren't really trying to rip you off, they just figure that your from America and can afford it. Everyone there was so very nice, I can't express that enough. My son almost cried when we had to leave. Grand Cayman is very expensive, so I don't recommend shopping there. We went to the Turtle farm, Hell and to Stingray City. All was great. My son was the only child on this tour and he got a lot of attention from out tour guide. The water was very rough, they actually cancelled the tour after ours because of it. Stingray City was hard to enjoy because of the rough waters. They tell you not to step on the stingrays, but I think I stepped on all of them because of the waves lifting you up and slamming you back down. In Cozumel, we went to Passion Island. Go here if you can. It was by far our favorite tour. The beach is the same one that they filmed the Corona commercials on. They feed you a wonderful lunch and there is an open bar. The drinks are included in your tour fee. Yeah! Everyone drank up before returning to the calculators aboard the ship! You can do some shopping at the island, do it here. You are the only chance they get to make a sale that day, so they will really barter with you. I got a lot of silver. They started the price at 270.00 and I got it for 150.00. When we went back to the city on the way to the boat, they would not barter at all, because there are so many people they can sell to. Passion Island is open only to cruise people so it is not crowded and is very relaxing. As far a attire is concerned aboard the ship: I was very concerned about this. Everything goes. Blue jeans to slacks, cut offs to dockers. In the dining room, there is no shorts allowed or tank tops or tee shirts. Many wore jeans, dockers, capri pants were plentiful. On the formal nights, everything from church dress to women’s business suite to full length formal. Men mostly wore dark suits. Mine wore slacks with a jacket and this was also the selection for many. Don't sweat it. You can also rent formal attire on board for both men and women. I'm not sure of the price. Getting off the boat went smooth also. You have to be at your designated spot by 8:45 in the morning on Sunday. We sat on the floor with everyone else and waited for about and hour and fifteen minutes to be called. The go according to the color of you luggage tags, so don't think that the better rooms go first, this just isn't so. When you color is called you leave the ship and walk to the port building, there are dogs there to sniff everyone passing. You go to an large empty room that has everyone’s luggage piled up. You pick your luggage, making sure to leave nothing behind, flag down a luggage carrier, and head out. Again, the luggage carriers expect a tip and they will remind you if you forget. We had a great time, hope you do too.

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By Sara_CR

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Jan 20, 2002

From New Orleans to Montego Bay, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

This was my first time taking a cruise not mentioning the first time with Carnival. I must say that it was a fun trip but there are a few things i did not know about this cruise that i would like to share with you. Also, let me tell you about what i liked and did not like about the trip. 1- This is not a cruise to be taking if you are a dad taking your teenagers on. I went with myself (19) and my 2 sisters (15 and 16).

There is not a lot to do that is fun for that age. Most people on the ship are either honeymooners, couples or families with young young children. Not many teenagers on the ship for you to hang out with. 2- If you are old enough to drink then the cruise would be fun. Me, on the other hand I was only 19, i was old enough to drink off the ship but not on the ship. If you are going with a bunch of friends.. you will have a BLAST! 3- It is a mess when you first get there, since this was our first cruise. We did not know what to expect. I read through these reviews and did not get any idea of what was going to happen. So let me give you the dish of what happens when you first get there. I would recommend that you get your tickets through the cruise line because they meet you at the airport and let you know what is going on. They do meet you down by the luggage not at the area off the plane, just so you know. You get on these big buses and give them your tickets to get on the bus. Once you get to the area, your luggage is taken off the bus and set in a cement area where you go through and find your luggage and then let the Sky cap now where it is. MAKE SURE TO PUT YOUR LUGGAGE TAGS FROM THE CRUISE LINE ON THEM- otherwise you will be wasting time doing so. also they say that luggage will be in your room by 8 and not to worry- it is true, don't worry, our 6 pieces of luggage were there about an our after we got to the room. Then from there you get in this HUGE line where people are waiting to meet with a lady to take your tickets and see birth certificates. Then after that you go to the ladies that have the SIGN and SAIL cards that get you onto the boat and off the boat and also into your room. Then you go into another room and sit until your row is called to go to the area where you walk through the x-ray things.. then you get your picture taken. SO look good.. its the first one of you getting onto the boat. From there you go to the next area to wait in line to get another one taken which is put onto your sail and sign card. Then you enter into the atrium and people are everywhere!!! i would recommend going and finding your room and going and getting something to eat. When you get to your room read the CAPER ( a paper printed every day with items and things going on) and find out where you have to go for your LIFEBOAT drill. Yes, you have to put on life jackets and go swish into an area with tons of people.. it doesn't take too long but you have to do it. I would recommend going to the dining room dinner the first night. There you will meet your waiter and stuff. It is fun in that area. Also go to the show at night. There you will get the scoop of some things to come. 4- The one thing that is nice is that the room steward is always there for you when you need them. They are one of the best things on the BOAT!!!!! 5- Make sure to bring ENOUGH money on the trip. Sodas on the ship cost like $3.25 a bottle but what's nice is that juice- orange, apple, grapefruit, punch, lemonade, coffee, iced tea and hot chocolate in the morning is free up in the brasserie. I did not know that they had those free drinks. Also they also have a thing where you can buy a card for all your drinks and that only cost 20 bucks and you get all the drinks for the rest of the cruise. So if you plan on drinking soda a lot, BUY ONE!!! 6- Bring 2 prom type dresses for dinner and shows 2 nights on the ship, i did not know that they got SOOOO fancy, but they really go all out. Also the other nights in the dining room people are still dressed up just not in t-shirts and jeans--- slacks, shirts, sun dresses.. that’s what they wear the other nights.. i also did not know that and was unprepared... so i didn't want to go up there with the wrong clothes. 7- ROOM SERVICE IS FREE.. but they would like you to tip them for bringing the food but you don't have to. 8- BRING money for tipping.. you have to do a lot of that 9- SIGN UP FOR SHORE excursions ASAP so you can get what you want. Believe me they fill up fast. The papers are in your room when you 1st get there so do it right away. 10- They do have a video diary place there that captures everything on the boat that week so you might want to buy those.. 35 bucks a piece though!!!! and the taping isn't always great. But they do play it in your room on the TV so you can preview it. Make sure to get on the video diary if you want to buy one and have you on it. 11- GET INVOLVED.. There are a ton of things you can do, but you have to have the confidence to do so. I am shy so i didn't want to always get involved with everything. 12- Don't worry about what you look like when tanning, there are every shape and size and age out there and no one really cares what you look like. 13- Jamaica is a poor country, if you go on the trips that take you back into the back and the drivers there are INSANE!!! so beware of when you get onto the road. I would recommend taking a tour with the cruise line and not going on your own. 14- Grand Cayman was BEAUTIFUL!! The best place i thought. There is so many things you want to do there. The beaches are breathtaking and the shopping is GREAT! 15- Cozumel was also nice. The beaches were pretty but not as nice as Grand Cayman. I would recommend going on a tour there and not going on your own. But if you do go on your own, its fine. Go the taxi and tell them you want to go to a beach and they have a list of different ones you can go too if you'd like. Also there are a lot of shops there, go to the shop for the cruise lines only first though. Chances are you will get it a lot cheaper there. 16- you need to know how to BARGAIN. You can get them down a lot if you keep going at them half the time. Other times just WALK away. At all 3 places they attack you, come buy from my shop. Just don't make eye contact and you should be OK :) 17- The tours are all well worth it. TAKE ONE EVERYWHERE YOU GO. 18- There was just not enough time on the cruise. There was too much on the sea time then at the port of call time. BEWARE!!!!!! 19- Leaving the ship is quite interesting. We did not know you have to have all your bags packed and outside your door the night before you leave besides your carry on. So make sure you have a carryon to take your toothbrushes and stuff. Because your luggage you don't get to have until you get off the ship after you set it outside your door. Then you have to go to a certain area that morning at like 8:30 unless you need help or have an early flight- 7:00 then... and you sit there until your color of your luggage tag is called and you may leave the ship. They have DOG SNIFFERS so don't take anything back that will get you into TROUBLE!!!!!!! Overall, it was a wonderful trip, too SHORT and not enough time at the PORTS OF CALL. just remember to get involved and bring LOTS OF MONEY!!!!!! If you have any questions that i did not answer in this and would like to know, please e-mail me. and i will answer them with pleasure!!!!!  

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Oct 14, 2001

New Orleans, Jamica, Grand Caymen, Cozumel

This was our first cruise and it was an awful experience. We left New Orleans at 6 p.m. Sunday night. Monday at 4 p.m. they told us a passenger was ill and that they we going to turn the ship and go to Key West instead of Jamaica. They said it was an emergency. We were only a few hours off the Mexican coast and no one could understand that if it was an emergency why  they did not either heliport her out using the heliport pad on the ship

or take her to the nearest port to heliport her out. We traveled 20 hours to Key West and when we got there- there was no place to port the ship so we had to stay out in the water off the coast for an additional 4 hours. Then we had to stay in Key West for 8 hours. It took us another 20 hours at sea to get back where we started from. There were a lot of upset people on board- everywhere you went they were discussing that they could not understand what was going on and how awful this had made the cruise. I went to the pursers desk and told them that I wanted to use their "Guarantee" and get off the ship. Their guarantee states that you can get off at the first port for any reason and they will fly you back to your departure port and refund the balance of the cruise. I asked for this before we got to Key West. I was told that if I got off at Key West, I would have to pay over $200.00 additional in port fees, receive no refund on the unused portion of the trip and pay my plane fare back to New Orleans. They said the guarantee did not pertain to U. S ports , even though they had substituted a U S port for Jamaica. Then I asked if I could use the guarantee at the first foreign port as their guarantee stated. They told me that I could get off at Grand Cayman but I would have to pay the airfare back to New Orleans and I would not be reimbursed. They said they did not know anything about Carnival paying the airfare at all. I went back to my cabin and got their booklet with the guarantee in it - but they still told me no. I went back to the room and got their comment card and stated on it what had happened- hoping I would get a response when I turned it in- but I got nothing. When we got off the ship in Key West I sent a post card to my travel agent telling her what had happened. When we returned home I called our agent […] and she said she would contact Carnival. She called back and said she had talked with […] at Carnival and she was sure they would make everything good. […] called me and I told her the entire story. She apologized and said we would receive compensation. I got the letter from her 2 weeks later and it said we would get 10% off on our next cruise. I was shocked. I expected them to treat me fairly and felt there must have been a mistake so I called back. I was rudely told that there was nothing they could do because the guarantee had to be used while we were on the cruise - not afterward. I told her that I had tried to use it but the pursers desk had refused to honor it. She knew I had proof that I had tried to use the guarantee but she still did nothing. All I wanted to do is get off the ship and re-take the cruise I paid for at a later time. I did not want to waste 50 hours going and coming to Key West. We went on the trip for our wedding anniversary that was Oct 16. After they refused to honor their guarantee- our trip was ruined. We did very little on the trip and stayed depressed the entire time. We felt used and lied to. We turned this over to Discover Card for investigation since that is how we paid for our tickets. I e-mailed the travel agent at Go travel back to let her know what had happened and she claimed she did not remember me. We had read reviews about Carnival and they were all good. Believe me when I tell you this experience was a real nightmare. One no one should have been put through. I am a business owner and my husband is a doctor - if we acted like Carnival we would be shut down. I hope enough people on our cruise complain - so this will not happen again because right now Carnival could care less.

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By Mark_CR

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May 27, 2001

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date: May 27th, 2001 We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise with Carnival. Leaving from New Orleans was great. We rented an apartment in the French quarter for the weekend before we left and got our fill of the big easy. Emeril's restaurant is a must if you can get in. Excellent food. We got to the Cruise terminal at 11:00 am and were able to walk right up to the counter and get checked in. Embarkation was very smooth.

Once we had gotten our bags taken we waited in a waiting are for about an hour and 10 minutes before we were let on the boat. We were very happy with the size of our room and could not wait to explore the ship. Our cabin was an outside cabin on the upper deck. We went up to the promenade deck first and located all the bars and the casino with ease. We had a drink at the violins bar which turned out to be a frequent place to have a drink throughout the week. It is kind of the center of the promenade area and just outside the casino. We then made our way up to the lido deck to get a view of the city from the boat and check out the pool areas. We then found the spa area. We went with a few other couples and my wife and a girlfriend wanted to check out the massages and spa treatments. They had a special on massages since it was a sail away day so my wife and my sister in law decided to go for it. They scheduled appointments for the afternoon. We then found the brasserie which was serving lunch so we decided to grab a bite and then go unpack. After getting settled in,we met our cabin steward "Rudi" who was very nice and called us all by name when he saw us. I really thought that was cool that he had memorized all of our names already. All of our rooms were side by side so he took care of each of our cabins. The girls were then off to the spa while the guys returned to the lido deck to watch us leave New Orleans and enjoy a drink. Pure Bliss as we sailed down the Mississippi. It was not a rough ride at all. I had expected a rocky sailing as I had read some other reviews that warned of the Mississippi being a bit rough, but it was smooth sailing for us the entire cruise. You would feel the boat move at times, but nothing near severe and we saw or heard of no-one who was seasick. We went on another tour of the boat in the evening, just getting acquainted with our surroundings and then went to the Mardi-Gras dining room for dinner. We had the late seating for dinner each meal and found it to be perfect for us, as I’ll explain later. Our waiter, Mugni, was a very nice man and lots of fun to talk to. Yes you really can have anything and as much of everything you desire if you want...lol. We found the food to be very good. We had a few things that we didn't care for, but everything that we liked was excellent. I highly recommend eating in the dining room for as many meals as you can. It was always worth the trip. Monday was a day at sea and we were eager to get poolside. We laid out and swam most of the morning and hit the casino area for a bit in the afternoon. We checked our carnival capers, which is a daily activity sheet that you receive in your cabins each night before bed. Incidentally, I forgot to mention that our beds were turned down and we had towel animals every night when we returned form dinner or shows. Anyway, we decided on a late show and the guys decided to catch the late night comedy show. The Vegas style show was good and the comedy show was so-so this night. Tuesday brought more activities throughout the day including a game of Carnival survivor. We put our names in to get in on it but were not drawn out. There were lots of games and activities going on each sea day. We went to some of the do's and don't in port seminars as this was our first time cruising. We met our cruise director Brett Alans who was a wonderful host and always kept us in good spirits and smiling. Wednesday we awoke to find land in sight. We were giddy with anticipation and had purchased the wet and wild party boat excursion. It was one of our highlights. We boarded this small boat and were taken out to a coral reef area .During the 20 minute ride out, we jammed the reggae music and enjoyed the red stripe and the rum punch. Some girls got their hair braided while others got foot massages. The water was breathtaking. When we arrived at the coral reef area, we stopped and snorkeled for about 45 minutes. This was absolutely incredibly awesome. It was my first time and I could have stayed there all day. It was beautiful. Hundreds of fish and beautiful reefs. It was like being inside the aquarium you always are gawking at. Then the boat took us to Maurgaritaville. It was a madhouse. A lot smaller than i expected and it took forever to get a drink, but we were too happy to care. We then took a Taxi into town for some shopping before going back to the boat. This is where the late seating was nice. We had plenty of time to shower and catch a cat nap before our dinner seating. We then caught the late night comedy show. This comedian named Ronnie Bullard was by far the funniest guy all week. Great show. Thursday took us to Grand Cayman where we took the Stingray city and Island tour. This was another great excursion. The tour took us to the Cayman turtle farm ,the Tortuga Rum Cake factory, and the ever popular Hell. We sent post cards home from Hell for a laugh and then were off to the Stingrays. Again, this was an awesome experience. The rays were everywhere and would eat right from your hand. They would swarm you at times, but were not threatening in any way. They would often brush up against you hoping to get you to feed them. It was an experience not to be missed. We then went back into the shopping area near the pier but only had about an hour to shop. Cayman seemed a bit more Americanized than Jamaica, and the shopping prices reflected it. Things were more expensive here. I wish we would have had more time to explore the area. The beach that we saw on the tour was like out of a picture and i wished we had time to go back and enjoy it. This was my only gripe about the stops. They were just too short in port. We did find an internet and phone center near the shopping and sent email back home and also called to check in and it was not overly expensive. This night on the ship was a formal night. There were 2 but we as a group elected to do just one. We got dressed early and went around the boat to be photographed in various backdrops. The pics all turned out great and we had a hard time choosing which we wanted. This was the main gripe my wife had. All the pics were 8 x 10's and were 20.00 each. There were no discounts or packages. We spent about 200.00 on photos and only got about half of what we had taken. We would have bought lots more had there been some sort of price break. Dinner was great and the waiters and staff danced and sang for us after dinner. Mugni our waiter had us dancing along....he always had a smile waiting for us at every sitting. Friday was Cozumel and we elected to do the Dolphin encounter. My wife is a Dolphin nut and was siked up about this excursion. The experience was truly a once in a lifetime one, as you get to touch and interact a little with the dolphin, and you get a kiss from him for a photo op, but the cost was 99.00 per person and unless you are a dolphin nut like my wife, you probably will feel a bit shorted. I enjoyed it, but it was too expensive for the 30 minutes you spend in the water and the interaction is minimal. The great thing about the dolphin encounter is that it is located in Channakaab National Park and it is absolutely stunning in beauty. The snorkeling was tremendous. We saw an octopus, barracuda, and all the tropical fish you can imagine. The park was picturesque like a dream. A great area to spend some time. We did some shopping near the pier and found some good bargains after we "negotiated" prices with vendors. I bought a Hammock that was 150.00 when we started, for 30.00 when we finished. My wife got her hair braided since we were done with the formals onboard and then we bought some bottles of liquor VERY CHEAP and headed back to the ship. We saw a great show Friday night. Another Vegas type show and it was much better than the one earlier in the week. Saturday we began to realize our trip was nearing the end but refused to dwell on it. We went into the Paris lounge in the afternoon to watch a Carnival version of the Newlywed game. It was a riot and Brett, our cruise director made it even funnier. We then spent the afternoon packing up our stuff. After dinner we spent some time in the Casino and caught another late show. Sunday morning we awoke to see we had already docked in New Orleans. We were to be on the Lido deck at 8:45 and await our level to be called to disembark. Our wait was about 45 minutes and we were back to our Car and ready to roll by 10:00 am. Again, another smooth transition. I know I missed a lot of stuff that went on and that we did, but if you have any questions about an upcoming cruise, I'd be glad to help if I can. We had a great time and will definitely be sailing again in the future and most likely will choose Carnival again!

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May 20, 2001

Jamaca, Grand Cayman, Cozumel

Although not our first cruise, this was our first on Carnival. If the staff on other Carnival ships are as arrogant, rude, and unfriendly as the ones on this ship, I cannot understand how the line stays in business. This was a family vacation with me, my wife, and our 21 and 26 year daughters ( a kind of law school graduation present for the 26 year old). We chose this cruise because we are from Houston Texas and New Orleans is convenient.

Actually although we had numerous problems with the ship and its crew we did have a great time when not on board and by ignoring the crew while on the ship. From embarkation it was evident that the crew of this ship did not want to be there. No one and I mean no one smiles. The crew argues among themselves in public in front of the guests. Asking a crew member to do something even if it was ordering a drink was like insulting them. It seamed no one every picked up or cleanup on deck. We spent 4 - 6 hours on deck and never saw anyone pick up dirty towels or food left by the guests. You can imagine after several hours the deck was pretty bad. I filled out one of the "Carnival Cares" comment cards after about 3 days on board. It said to put in the box at the purser's desk ,but when I went to the desk the purser did not have a clue where the box was or what to do with the card. Specifics: Embarkation: Other than the unfriendly nature of the staff this went very well. The ship was booked and there were a large number of groups that were processed together even though the lines and desks were not set up for that. The process only took about 45 minutes before we were on board and had found our cabin. General Note: Do not believe what you are told about not being able to book shore excursions until after the "instruction meeting" on Monday. The forms were out and the slot at the desk was open. We filled out our choices and put them in the box. Lucky we did. We talked to many people who waited till Monday and did not get either their first or second choice. The Ship: The ship is beginning to show its age. Probably 1/3 of the deck chairs are broken and will not adjust. The equipment in the gym is worn out and ragged. The cabin was actually comfortable and roomy with plenty of storage. We had one of the port hole cabins near the front and other than being noisy when the ship is dropping anchor they are nice. Although the seas were not really very bad, the ship did have a constant motion. It was a lot less stable than others we have been on. Excursions: In Montego Bay we chose to follow the suggestion we have seen here. We took the cab to Doctor's Cove. The beach is somewhat small but pretty and not crowded. We had rented snorkel gear on board and took it with us. Go early and the snorkeling is excellent. During the day the water tends to get a little cloudy. About noon we walked to Margaritaville for lunch and drinks. Although a little expensive it was a fun atmosphere and the food was good. Overall this stop could be skipped if the ship could spend more time in Cayman. Grand Cayman The ship does not spend enough time here. If you have not been to sting ray city, then you have to go. BIG SUGGESTION. All of the excursions are actually the same. They use several different vendors each of whom give the tour a different name. Book the earliest one you can. Since you have to tender from the ship to the shore they load the tenders by excursion time. By taking one of the early ones you will have enough time to do more than rush back to board the tender for the ship. Actually we cheated and said that someone else had our tickets and we were to meet on the dock. We got there early enough we walked down the beach about 3 blocks and snorkeled at Eden Rock. BEAUTIFULL!!!!!!! Be sure to go to Wal Mart and get several of the $9 underwater cameras that are $25 on the ship. Cozumel Here my younger daughter and I did the beginners scuba and the eldest daughter did the certified Scuba. Both were great. My wife went on the Tulum excursion and even though it rained all day she says it was really nice. Food The food was good. The portions are smaller than other ships which actually is not a bad thing. You can order as much as you want so you do not go hungry but at the same time you do not get overly stuffed.

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Mar 25, 2001

Western Caribbean

Cruise Line: Carnival Sailing Date: March 25th, 2001 WELCOME ABOARD! This was my first Caribbean cruise. I traveled with my mom, my aunt and uncle, and a group of about 20 other people. (My aunt and uncle's friends) We all live only an hour drive southwest of New Orleans. So, we got up very early and drove the short drive to Raceland, LA. We all parked our vechicles there and took a Calco travel bus to the cruise terminal in New

Orleans. With the massive crowd, I did not think we would ever get on the ship. But, we did and a lot faster than I thought. They take a picture of you as you are entering the ship. A late season cold front had came through, so I was wearing a long sleeved shirt and a jacket. Pretty funny scene for leaving on a Caribbean cruise. What a beauty Inspiration was! I was so amazed! I felt like clinging to the rest of the group because I was so scared to get lost. It was around lunch time, so we grabbed a quick lunch in casual dining area. Then, my mom and I went check out our room. We had an inside room and it was on the small side. It was not necessary to get a room with a window since we did not plan to be in it much. It was now time for the lifeboat drill. I sure felt like I was on the Titanic. We all looked so funny in our orange bulky vests. It did not last long due to the chilly weather. DINNER The dining room was so beautiful. We left at 6 p.m. and headed down the mighty Mississippi River. Since I lived in southeastern Louisiana all my life, I seen the Mississippi a thousand times. But, it was nothing like it to travel down it in this great ship. It was such a pretty sight to see all the oil rigs lit up. Our waiter was very nice and he was from India. He also kept flirting. He even asked my mom and I to meet him at his cabin for a private drink. Of course, I thought he was just joking. Anyway, the food was very good. I am very picky eater and thought that I would never find something on the menu that I liked. But, I did each night. Tne desserts were the best! THE NIGHT LIFE After dinner, we all hit all the discos and danced all night! I love to dance and party! But, I could only drink 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks a day. Because my mom was paying my way for this trip and it was kind of pricey. I still had tons of fun anyway. We also tried our luck at the casino. I did not win anything, but my mom won $250. This lady in our group won $1500. FUN DAY AT SEA The feeling of being out on the open water is incredible! It is so peaceful and relaxing. My mom and I got up early and went eat breakfast at the lido deck. Very good. Then, we went walk the track. It was very windy, but I loved it. We also went try out the gym. The machines were harder than at the gym back home. So, after a few tries, I gave up. I spent most of the rest of the day lounging by the pool. Even though it felt like 90 degrees that day, the water was still freezing. It was also filled with salt water. It was filled with a lot of kids and they kept splashing salt water in my eyes. Ouch! I layed out a lot to try to work on my tan. I fell asleep in the sun and forgot to put sunscreen on. I got the worst sunburn I ever got in my life! PORTS OF CALL Our first port of call was Montego Bay, Jamaica. The scene from the ship docking in Jamaica was breathtaking. I really wanted to go to Dunns River Falls. But, everyone in my group already seen it. So, we settled for a Wet N Wild party tour. We went on a boat and they took us snorkeling. I chickened out at the last minute. I never snorkeled before. Then, we stopped at Margaritaville. I wish we would of had more time to spend there. It looked like the ultimate party spot. I got a real rush going down the 110 ft waterslide. Then, I got one of their famous margaritas. Boy, were they good! When we got back on the boat, we drank several glasses of rum punch. We got crazy and danced to reggae music the whole way back to the ship. GRAND CAYMAN Our Next stop was Grand Cayman. My mom and I were the only ones who went on a tour here. She chose the most boring one in my eyes. We got on a bus and it was filled with senior citizens. I was only 24 and far the youngest one on the bus. The bus driver was a native and he took us on a tour of Georgetown. We stopped at a litte shop and sampled rum cake. My mom sampled every flavor and was acting like she was drunk. Then, we went to a turtle farm. I got to hold on of the huge turtles. At first, I was so scared that they would bite me. We also went to a town called Hell. Some pretty neat rock formations but not much else. Next time, I want to just relax on 7-mile beach. The beach was the most beautiful one I ever seen! COZUMEL Our next stop was Cozumel and it was definitly the highlight of my whole trip. We all chose the Fiesta Party boat. We went on a triple decker boat with non-stop partying. All the margaritas you can drink. I drank about 6 or 7 of them. Then, you stop off at a really neat beach. Complete with a pool and hot tub and everything. One guy convinced me to enter the beer drinking contest. I was up against some of the most hottest guys I ever seen. Why don't they have guys like that back at home? There was only one other girl. I lost by a landslide. Back on the party boat, we partied some more. My mom broke the pinata and my uncle was crowned king of the limbo contest. Then, they started pouring strawberry tequilla shots in people's mouths. I did about 4 of them. I spent the rest of the night sleeping it off in my cabin. It was the first time I missed dinner in the dining room that night. But, I had a blast! LAST DAY OF SEA It was depressing to know that our trip was almost over. Spent almost the whole day tanning, swimming, and going in the hot tubs. We had our last supper in the dining room and it made me feel sad. We also had our final night dancing on the ship in the clubs. GOING HOME We all gathered around and prepared to leave the ship. Our group was one of the last ones to be called. I got home around noon which was not bad at all. Before I knew it, it was back to work and reality. Thanks Carnival for the trip of a lifetime. I already have a trip booked for the brand new Conquest. I am going on the Mardi Gras cruise. I am bringing my aunt with me. We both can't wait!  

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Dec 17, 2000

Western Caribbean

Sailing Date: December 17th, 2000 Just back from a lovely week on the Inspiration with my husband and sons (18 and 14). It was the boy's first cruise and a big hit - they are already asking when we can go again. We chose New Orleans because it was an 8 hour drive from our home and would be a great city to sail from. The port is very easy to access from I-10 but be aware that you drive right by the stadium and a Saints home

game will affect how long it takes to get there. The south was under some severe winter weather and even New Orleans was very cold. We were able to park immediately adjacent to the port ($7/day). The embarkation process took about an hour and when the improvement to the port facilities are complete it should alleviate some of the crowding. You have to walk outside and up a winding ramp to board the ship. The ship looked lovely all decorated for the holidays, both Christmas trees and a large Menorah were in the lobby for all to admire. We were in an outside and inside cabin amidships on Upper deck. Having been on the Ecstasy we found our way around quite easily. We were pleased to note we had the early seating we had requested and the drink coupon voucher was on the bed. We then spent some time walking around Riverwalk until the departure. Due to the cold weather the lifeboat drill was conducted very quickly and there wasn't much of a deck party for sailing away. Our dinner group was quite congenial - a couple from San Francisco and four lady friends from Tennessee. We were at a large round table which made talking difficult at times but we persevered. I wish Carnival had more round tables for six instead of the booths and long side tables so that conversation was easier. Our waiter St.Juste from Haiti was quite nice but it was our assistant waiter Loren from Bucharest who made the meals lots of fun. Our food was always at least nice and sometimes excellent. It took our boys a couple days to realize they really could order and try all the food they wanted... and did! Desserts were much improved over our last sailing and the appetizers varied and flavorful. The pizza was excellent and available at all the odd hours that the boys were hungry. There was always music on the Promenade during the evening and we enjoyed sitting there and listening. The boys enjoyed meeting us there before dinner for some sushi while I sipped a drink. After dinner we enjoyed the sing-along in the Rhapsody in Blue lounge and later dancing to "Twister" in the Candlelight lounge. Must admit that we usually retired before the midnight buffet. The boys danced in the disco to late in the night - yes they did request the under 18 teens leave the disco at midnight which was appropriate. The kids kept busy playing ping-pong, cards and just talking in the Brasserie until the wee hours of the morning. Speaking of kids - the ship was full and there were plenty of families but the kids were well behaved and we never noticed any issues. Some people reported running in the halls but were didn't hear any of it. My only complaint is the number of small kids who move into the hot tubs but it's not a big deal. The slide was open daily except when in port and it was well used. Mother Nature was not overly generous with the sun and warmth this week. It was very cold the first night and last day - but sailing on the Mississippi was very smooth. Our first two days at sea were sunny and we were swimming by noon the first day. Then in Jamaica it clouded over midday and rained, but didn't ruin our day at Dr. Cave's Beach Club. Leaving Jamaica we encountered higher seas and wind so it wasn't much of a surprise to hear that we were denied port entry at Georgetown, Grand Cayman the next morning. It was amazing to listen to the large number of people who were not aware that they would tender into the island and that nice weather isn't guaranteed! We enjoyed a day inside playing cards and exploring the ship. We arrived at Cozumel after the Princess ship and so were docked outside town. It was still overcast with high seas so that we nixed snorkeling at Chankanaab and walked around town. Let the boys experience the "atmosphere" at Carlos and Charley's which they think was a high point of the trip. Our last sea day was partly sunny but got colder as the ship progressed north. The majority of the guests seemed to be from the Gulf states and Texas which made it a very friendly atmosphere. People seemed to enjoy dressing up for the formal nights and even on the other nights many were dressed up. Did see a lot of jeans in the dining room at night and the Carnival attitude now says only "No tank tops or shorts in the dining room for dinner". The cruise was a great family vacation as we could each do what we liked and then get together for dinner and the evening. The Inspiration is a lovely ship and the staff were mostly friendly and helpful though not always available. We liked the departure from New Orleans and look forward to adding RCCL ships to the port for added selection. Now it's time to plan the next cruise!

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Apr 2, 2000

Southern Caribbean - Dutch Treat

  Sailing Date: April 2,2000 Our trip on Carnival's Inspiration was our third cruise overall and our second in as many years.  At about this same time last year, we had cruised the southern Caribbean on the Fascination.  We had such a great time then that we decided as we were leaving the ship to do it again this year with our three teen-age kids.  Since we particularly enjoy the southern Caribbean but didn't want to repeat the

same itinerary as last year, we settled on the Inspiration's Dutch Treat cruise this time around.  Our flight on Northwest Airlines left Ft. Wayne, Indiana at 6:00 AM on Sunday, 4/2/00, and connecting through Detroit, got us into San Juan at around 2:00 PM.  Smooth flight with no problems.  Noticed immediately the airport improvements that had been made since our previous trip the year before.  The gate areas had been completely re-built and were very nice.  As expected, Carnival reps were scattered throughout the airport and guided us to baggage claim where we picked up our luggage.  From there, it was out to the curb where our luggage was collected and tossed into a truck for transport to the ship while we boarded a bus for the pier.  Embarkation went fairly quickly... about 20 minutes between the time we arrived at the pier and walked into our stateroom.  Carnival has this down to a science, and the process is almost painless assuming you have your birth certificates or passports for proof of citizenship  and had filled out your sign-and-sail form and boarding pass prior to check-in.  The Inspiration is a big ship, very intelligently laid out, and kept quite clean, with the same layout as the Fascination and its other sister ships in Carnival's fantasy-class line.  Our first impression of the interior decorating was not very good.  Frankly, we thought is was a little gaudy, but it grew on us such that by the end of the cruise we didn't mind it at all.  Personal tastes, I suppose.  Our stateroom was a standard ocean-view category 6 on the Empress deck.  Functional, with lots of space for storage and a good-size bathroom and shower.  About the size of an average hotel room in Manhattan.  Very comfortable for two or three people.  Carpets are not plush, and the rooms have lots of metal and formica surfaces which are easy for the room stewards to keep clean.  Soundproofing is wonderful.  Beds are all singles in the non-suite rooms, but can be pushed together to make a king.  Bad news is that even if you do this, they are still made up as two single beds which means that the blankets/sheets don't cover you both, and if you snuggle up at night, someone has to sleep in the 'crack'.  This was, in fact, the only room for improvement I could find with the cabin.  One improvement over last year's cruise on the Fascination was the addition of terry-cloth robes and standard toiletry articles (shampoo, disposable razors, cream rinse, etc) in each room.  We particularly liked having the robes around as this is something we typically do not bring with us in order to conserve suitcase space. We found that the menu on this trip was, in a word, outstanding and much improved over last year.  Breads were freshly baked within 30 minutes of each seating.  Presentation was wonderful, choices were varied, and the service was excellent.  Food quality at the Lido deck buffet was, as expected, not nearly as good as the dining room fare, but quite acceptable.  The 24 hour pizza bar was very good.  We only hit one midnight buffet, and would not give it very high ratings... perhaps a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1 to 10.  Service from our room steward was excellent.  Towel animals every night, with the room cleaned twice each day.  Never suffered from a shortage of towels or other necessities.  Room service was outstanding, available at no cost other than a $1.00 tip, 24 hours a day.  While all of the room service food we got was good, we particularly liked the assorted cookies, shrimp salad on a role, and BLTs.  All was delivered within 10 minutes of our order. As for onboard entertainment, we found the casino to be very good, although I came out only $150 ahead on blackjack this time.  (beats coming out $150 behind, I suppose)  There are two major productions during the week in the Palace Lounge (main theater) that one simply must see.  The first was on Tuesday night, entitled "El Nuevo Caribe".  This show was a collection of Caribbean music and was outstanding.  The lead singer, Diana LaSalla has a voice and range of music that was out of this world.  The show also featured a lead male singer, the "Inspiration Dancers" and a Russian dance pair that was very, very good.  The second major show was on Thursday, entitled "Shout".  This was a Las Vegas style review with song selections ranging from 50's style rock n' roll to country to R&B to contemporary.  Very well done with excellent set design, laser light effects, etc.  All four performances (two each night) were packed, and they deserved to be. There's also a wide variety of different style night clubs to be found on the ship.  If there's anything I would like to see that wasn't there, it was a quiet night club with either soft piano music or romantic dancing.  The night life definitely tended towards the high-energy.  As for us, we spent a lot of time in the evenings strolling out on the decks or playing ping pong with the kids in the evening.  Even with a full ship of 2,400 or so souls, the place is big enough that we never had a problem finding a place to ourselves away from the hustle and bustle when we wanted it. Monday morning found us docked at St. Thomas.  My wife and I had been there on our two prior cruises and had pretty much stuck to shopping in St. Thomas and sunning on Megan Bay.  This time, we took other's advice and spent the day on St. John.  We grabbed a taxi at the pier to Red Hook ($5.00 per person & about 25 minute ride) where we caught the ferry to St. John ($3.00 per person & about 15 minutes to the island).  At St. John, we took an open taxi to Trunk Bay ($3.00 per person & about a 15 minute ride), paid $4.00 per person for entrance to the national park, and found ourselves in paradise.  Trunk Bay is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful beaches we had ever seen, with crystal clear water at least 10 shades of blue, and some outstanding snorkeling.  Later we took a taxi back to the town adjacent to the ferry and shopped in some wonderful shops that were as nice as those in Charlotte Amalie, but a lot less crowded.  Total cost of the trip was $25.00 per person which was a lot less than the ship tours.  Unless we were looking to buy jewelry or watches... items more readily found on St. Thomas... we'll do the same again next time we're fortunate enough to find ourselves in this port. Tuesday was St. Lucia.  This was the only rain forest island on the tour, and one we were looking forward to after having enjoyed Dominica last year.  While the island was lovely, we had a disappointing day.  We took a look at the ship tours available, and the only one that struck us as of any interest was the Soufriere Cruise Aventure.  But at 7 hours, it would have taken up pretty much all of our day and caused us to miss our early dinner seating.  It would also have cost us some $90 per person ($450 for the five of us) which was a little saltier than we were willing to pay.  So instead, we caught a taxi off the pier for a four-hour driving tour to the northern part of the island, through the rain forest, past the Pitons, and on to the drive-through volcano and back to the ship.  Total cost for the tour was $120.  As it ended up, the drive was too long on mountain roads that featured lovely scenery, but with constant switchbacks that got downright uncomfortable.  I would not do this again.  Another unpleasantness we encountered was the aggressiveness of the street vendors.  Whenever we stopped at a scenic overlook, we were virtually assaulted with merchants literally pulling us one way and another.  I am not a rude person, but had to be in this situation just to get myself and my family free from them.  I've never encountered more aggressive vendors in any of the other 10+ Caribbean islands we have visited before or since.  So be prepared. Wednesday was a day at sea as we sailed to Curacao.  Unlike the Fascination itinerary which features five islands in five days, this itinerary gave us a day at sea in the middle of the trip in which to relax, sun, and generally 'vedge out'.  We liked this break a lot, and used it to its fullest... sleeping in, working on our tans, and making donations at the Casino. Thursday was Curacao, which was a lovely island.  We shopped in the morning, which was OK, but nothing special.  In the afternoon, we took a taxi to the Sea Aquarium beach for a few hours of swimming and snorkeling.  Sea Aquarium was a nice beach with lots of facilities including changing rooms, beach chairs, snack bars, etc., but was a bit crowded and a more commercialized than I prefer.  The snorkeling was good, though, and the water was inviting.  So all and all, a good day. Friday was Aruba... our favorite island.  With over 12 hours at port, we ended up renting a full size SUV right off the pier at $85 for the day, shopped in the morning, and drove up to Baby Beach in the afternoon.  Baby Beach is a beautiful, but largely undeveloped beach located at the northern-most tip of the island and is second only to Trunk Bay in my mind.  There are no public rest rooms or showers available at Baby Beach.  Neither are there beach chairs or shade.  The wind blows constantly there, so one needs to be prepared to be pelted with wind-driven sand as well.  There are a few shallow shelters that can be used to get out of the sun and wind, but not such that you'd want to spend all afternoon in them.  There is a private bathroom that you can use for $.50, but is none too clean, and a snack shop of sorts where you can buy refreshments.  But the beauty of the beach and water make it all worth it.  We would do it again. Saturday was another day at sea, which was fun, but a little bittersweet knowing that it was our last.  Packed up late Saturday evening with luggage in the hall by 1:00 AM.  Sunday morning was a bummer.  Reality started setting in at 7:00 AM when I made my daily call to room service for coffee and rolls and was informed that room service was closed.  Bummer.  Cleared out of the room by 8:00, hit breakfast at the Lido deck buffet one last time, then waited to debark.  Debarkation is never fun, and I don't know how it would be possible for any cruise line to make it otherwise.  Guests are cordoned off into one of 3 or 4 areas of the ship based on the color of their luggage tag and wait for their color to be called for debarkation.  Everyone's depressed to begin with since it's over, and it's made worse as you watch the ship's crew cleaning areas of the ship you no longer have access to for the next set of passengers.  More reality sets in.  Double-bummer.  At 10:45 our color was called and we were off the ship with luggage gathered and through customs within 30 minutes.  All of the major airlines have trucks and ticket check-in at pier side these days, which is wonderful.  We got our baggage checked with Northwest and snagged a local tour ($15.00 per person) of San Juan from a waiting bus driver.  This definitely beats waiting at the airport until our 4:00 flight.  The rest of the trip home was uneventful. All in all, a great cruise and a great time.  Will do it again... probably with Carnival, but maybe not.  My sense is that Carnival does a great job and gives more than suitable value for what you pay.  

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May 19, 1999

Caribbean

We came from England and flew into Santo Domingo from Gatwick for a week in Dominican Republic and a Cruise on Inspiration for one week.  We were immediately met by our representative from Airtours (Susanne) and guided to coaches to take us to Hotel Capella Beach Resort.  This is a five star hotel, which really gave five star services.  No complaints here other than the evening entertainment was a little down market.  The

hotel was all-inclusive and the food was excellent. Pools were excellent, cleaned daily and plenty of Sun Loungers, few Germans/Italians around but they did not bring enough towels with them for this hotel.  Beach was poor but you didn’t miss it, as the pools were so good.  See reviews at Cappella Beach Resort.   Airtours representative Susanne deserves special mention here as she flew the flag for the company and I have not seen anyone so helpful as when we were with Airtours during Hurricane Andrew.  On our fourth day we booked out of our hotel for the cruise and joined the coach.  Our baggage was taken then from the room and we never saw it again until we were on board ship prior to Dinner, a rarity according to other reviews I have read.   Tip the baggage handler well I say and it always comes up trumps.  The rep was very informative on route and described the booking-in routines.  Last year we were with Carnival Celebration and booking in and boarding took over 5 hours due to Hurricane George holding the ship up in New Orleans.  Funny how we always travel during hurricane season.  This year we were on board within minutes, Carnival Sail and Sign Card at the ready. First step was to review the Cabin.  An outside cabin on Main Deck M39.  No Change to Celebration.  2 single beds, long dressing table with large mirror and drawers.  Plenty of Cupboard space/hanging area.  Shower and toilet area and I must say the water was always hot and shower very good. We knew our neighboring cabin occupants from the hotel where we met and I must admit we couldn’t hear them unless they were being really loud or slamming doors etc., which we did not notice.  Overall the cabin area always seemed quiet and I never failed to have a good night’s sleep.  Each evening your room is spring cleaned, bed is made down and you are given a sweet/chocolate on your pillow and one of your towels is made into an animal.  Rabbit, Monkey etc. Next we reviewed the ship and its awesome beauty.  Larger than Celebration but built along the same lines.  The whole ship is like a marble palace, well lit and glitzy in parts, relaxing in others, library etc.  Lunch beckoned, taken on the Lido deck it was like an Upper Class Macdonald’s but with a little more choice.  If you preferred there was 24 hr Pizza place but we are not Pizza people, I’ve only eaten about six in my lifetime.  Later in the cruise however we did try a Pizza after an excursion and I must say it tasted very good.  After lunch we tried out our Sail & Sign at the bar outside the Casino with some new friends from the Hotel.  Before we knew it we had set sail without knowing.  No announcements over annoying tanoy systems.  The ship just drifted away.  So did we, the Casino was now open and the first winning streak went to my wife Gladys.  We met the Casino Manager, a Londoner, and not a bad lad for all his sins, very friendly.  Well done to him, we enjoyed it, had further wins during the week but put back most of our winnings on our last night.  Some you win some you lose.  Before we knew it Dinner. Dinner was an occasion. King Prawns, Fillet Steak, Lobster, Salmon, anything you wished for really.  Don’t complain about not enough veg and things otherwise you are liable to get another meal, fillet included and I think that seven courses are enough for anyone.  Desert is often followed by cake.  Like it or not, someone on your table is likely to be a honeymooner, Birthday Boy/Girl, Anniversary or other such nasties which means you have to have your cake and eat it too.  The singing is dreadful but laughable.  Only complaint – where was the fresh cream? We went to two cocktail parties, first was Captain’s where everyone dresses up in fine regalia, has photo taken and the polishes off some champagne, cocktails and spicy entreats before dinner.  The second one was for people who had cruised before.  I had not seen so many people at a reception like this before and one couple had been on 28 cruises, all with Carnival.  As the Americans say, Golly!  This one was Champagne/Cocktails and Strawberrys dipped in chocolate with mini chocolate cakes.  Incredible. Excursions were fun.  We went walkabout in San Juan (Puerto Rico) looking for souvenirs, unfortunately most of the places were closed due to Father’s Day, a celebration we take for granted but for them a big item.  Not my kind of place, poverty stricken, but as we sailed into the sunset and during the Boat drill all we could hear was the sound of Caribbean Music coming from ashore. St. Thomas , a beautiful island, indescribable.  Saved a fortune on jewelry and gifts that I never needed.  This was followed by an excursion on the Kon Tike raft (glass bottomed) boat.  What fun.  Well recommended.  Got a bottle of Rum Punch doing the Limbo dance and I hadn’t drunk very much at all.  The snorkeling here though was disappointing although we did see fish over the side of the boat.  Do not go on this trip unless you enjoy Sun, Sand, Paradise Beaches, Rum Punch, Tropical fish and making a fool of yourself.   Any combination of two will suffice. Guadeloupe booked on a trip but the weather was bad and it was cancelled.  Full refund.  Discovered launderette instead and got all our washing and ironing done in one hit, no need to bring travel iron.  Everything immaculate for Captain’s Cocktail Party and Captain’s Dinner night. St Lucia .  Do not disembark here if you are under two or over hundred.  You will not enjoy yourself.  We took a taxi as recommended to Rex Beach.  This is a hotel complex (no charge) with beach.  Happy hour is between eleven and four.  Cocktails are two for $5 during this time.  Taxi was $12 and he was waiting for us on return.  Get on the beach; pay $2 for lounger, which will be delivered to your chosen location.  Lie down and a waitress will soon appear for drinks.  Sip drink, watch Banana boat man sell fruit and shells in water.  Take a dip in the warm sea where you virtually cannot sink return to lounger, more waitress service and believe you have gone to heaven.  Enjoy Power Boats, Banana Rides, Parasail etc. Grenada .  We went on catamaran trip for snorkel and then onto Island.  Good snorkeling, lovely beach but pestered by sellers.  Lovely water, confidence boosting if you are poor swimmer as water keeps you afloat.   Not much opportunity for souvenirs if you have not got them yet you never will have.  Try the on board shop.  Returned direct to ship set out in mid water.  Lovely experience.  More Rum Punch.  Worthwhile trip. Homeward – To Santo Domingo – Bound.  One day at sea.  What a day.  Glorious sunshine, spent most of day on Lido deck in Pool, Jaccuzi etc listening to band on deck.  Waiter every five minutes with cocktails and buckets of beer with ice.

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Nov 30, -0001

Western Caribbean

This was our third cruise. I previously went on the Carnival Sensation and the Miracle. Overall I had a nice time but I was disappointed with the ship and service. We were the last sailing before the "remodel" which we we never told and because of this I think there were issues that were not resolved It was a 5 day cruise visiting Cozumel and Grand Cayman. I still love Carnival and have another cruise booked on the Glory for August 2009. I would

recommend this ship for those on a budget or first time cruisers. I prefer a longer cruise and a better class of ship. I would rather pay a little extra and get a bigger ship, more ports and a longer cruise. You also get a different mix of people. On this cruise it was more kids and families. A younger crowd who was looking for economy. On the longer cruises there is just a different vibe. The food was okay. I didn't expect 5 star dining and we were always full and happy. We hit the indoor buffet usually for lunch and that gave us several options. Our favorite was the sandwich station for a hot pressed turkey and cheese. They also had really good burgers, fries and hot dogs out by the pool. We had dinner at the late seating most nights in the formal dining room. The staff was fun and dinner was good. There was always something new to try and the waiter always knew what we wanted to drink and recommended dishes based on what he learned about us each night which was very personal and nice. We were seated at a round table of 10. I honestly didn't care for that. I have mixed feelings about sitting with strangers. On our previous cruise we made great friends with our dinner mates and being a couple, it was fun to have other people to hang out with. In this case we had some weird people at the table and we just didn't click. It wasn't bad but I think 10 people was just too much to handle. We did a lot of room service and I LOVE that about cruising! We would get back from a port and be so tired and it was great to relax in our room and have the food brought to us! it's also great for those late night munchies. Remember to bring some cash so you can tip. There is no charge for the room service but they do expect a few dollars tip. It's well worth it! We also LOVED the sushi bar. They had a great selection and it was always fresh. We originally booked with 4 people and one cancelled. That left us with 3 and we decided to all stay in one cabin to save money. BIG MISTAKE! We had an inside cabin that was barley big enough for two people. It was awful with three. The "roll away bed" was a dirty stained mattress that sat on the floor that looked like it came from an alley somewhere. We had to call to replace it and what they brought back wasn't much better. We figured after a few drinks it would be manageable. The air conditioning was also broken and it just wouldn't get cool. Their solution was to remove the vent cover which left a big open hole in the ceiling and hardly helped. Then then brought us a fan that just took up more space. Very disappointing! Now that I know it was the final cruise before the re- vamp I can see why they didn't want to fix anything. It was all being ripped out anyway. I am normally not a picky person but the room was just depressing. It was dated and didn't look like it was being kept up. I was kind of bummed for a while and then thought..."well, I am on vacation so I might as well make the best of it." One thing I love about cruising is that there is ALWAYS something to do. You can lay out by the pool all day or participate in all kinds of things from dance lessons to crafts. They really know how to bring out the fun in everyone and make you have a good time. We hung out some nights in the night club or sang karaoke in the lounge. There is a show every night so you can never get bored! First stop was Cayman Islands. I have been twice before so this time we opted to take it easy. We took a taxi and went out 7 mile beach. It was about $10.00 for a bus ride there and back. The beach was nice but the water wasn't as clear as the other two times we had been there. I think it was due to a storm that had just passed. Our second stop was Cozumel. This was our third time there and we decided to do the beach buggy snorkel adventure. IT WAS AWESOME! We got to drive the coolest beach buggy around town to our snorkel sight. I have never snorkeled before and was a little afraid. They explained everything and I felt very safe. We swam through the clearest water and saw tons of amazing fish. It was amazing. I felt like I was in another world. After that we drove to a private beach and had lunch. It was so pretty and relaxing. i would recommend this to everyone. Getting on and off the boat was easy. Tampa is a great port. i had a nice time and would do it again. My pointers would be to think about the age of the ship and the length of the cruise. if you can upgrade.. do it! You won't regret it. I am a cruiser for life! I love it!!

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