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Carnival Inspiration, September 2 sailing to Catalina and Ensenada (with pictures)

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I was lucky and got to take my grandmother on a tour of the Queen Mary when I was about 20 - I'm 62 now.  It was fascinating hearing stories about WWII as we walked the ship.  I've been many times - even when Disney was trying to run it - that's when they put in all ghost stuff.  I like staying there because it gives you an opportunity to visit more of the ship.  Their Sunday brunch is great - been several times with my parent over the years and it always gives older people a chance to talk about "the war to end all wars".  I think they took the Russian sub off the property, but that was very interesting if they bring it back.  That thing was so tiny!  I can't imagine being down in that for months at a time.  I love art deco and they have a festival every year - another venue with all kinds of activities/events if you're in the area, the Scottish Festival is a hoot.

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25 minutes ago, fabby50 said:

I think they took the Russian sub off the property, but that was very interesting if they bring it back.  That thing was so tiny!  I can't imagine being down in that for months at a time.

They brought it back.  I saw it.  It was docked right next to Queen Mary, between the ship and the shoreline, forward of the gangway.  You can even see the faded-out Russian writing on its hull, if you look close.  I doubt you can go inside, though; it looks worn out beyond being safe.

 

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Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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We did get to go inside the sub probably about 5 years ago.  You had to maneuver through the round openings which were very tiny and I can imagine people getting injured, especially if they were larger or not in very good shape.  Definitely meant for smaller, probably younger, submariners in it's day.  When we went, there wasn't a tour guide, you went through on  your own and we were the only ones on it at the time.  It was fascinating (both my husband and I work for the Navy).

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15 minutes ago, fabby50 said:

We did get to go inside the sub probably about 5 years ago.  You had to maneuver through the round openings which were very tiny and I can imagine people getting injured, especially if they were larger or not in very good shape.  Definitely meant for smaller, probably younger, submariners in it's day.  When we went, there wasn't a tour guide, you went through on  your own and we were the only ones on it at the time.  It was fascinating (both my husband and I work for the Navy).

Thank you for your service.

 

I know I couldn't go inside when I was there.  The gangway gates onshore were locked.  Perhaps now, it opens only for special tours, with liability waivers.  I think the sub should be moved into a military museum, before it deteriorates further.  Salt water and outdoor elements can't be good for it.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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Previously on "Carnival Inspiration, September 2 sailing to Catalina and Ensenada (with pictures)"... post #30.

 

Day 4: Fun day at sea
This being a sea day, I slept in.  Which, by cruise standards, was until about 8:00 AM.  I went to the Lido buffet for a quick coffee and a pastry, to tide me over until the Seaday Brunch.  I found the Lido deck totally invaded by towel animals of all shapes and sizes; the crew members must have worked all night.  I went back to my cabin right after, to properly get ready for the day.  As skimmed over that day's Fun Times, something caught my attention: Savannah's Morning Show.  So I went, since I always missed its equivalent on my previous cruises.  It turned out to be an informal trivia contest.  The answer to the question Savannah asked happened to be in the Fun Times, which I read less than half hour earlier.  I answered it correctly, and won a ship on a stick for the first time ever!  It now sits proudly on my bookcase.

 

I took a quick walk along the Lido deck again, hoping to find my cruise friends and invite them to brunch with me, but that wasn't in the cards.  Oh well, I could always go to the piano bar that night.  Plus, I was starving.  So I went by myself, and ended up sharing a table with a very interesting couple about my age.  They lived near the West Coast their whole lives, so they liked my outsider's perspective on it.  I also finally tried the steak and eggs.  The steak, the fried potatoes, and the stewed vegetables were amazing.  The eggs were slightly undercooked, but that's just me.  For dessert, I had a banana cream pie; it was rich and creamy.  All washed down with a bloody Mary.  That's where Carnival falls flat.  It was basically vodka-laced tomato juice, a far cry from sharp, flavorful Bloody Mary I get in my home region.

 

The next few hours were a bit boring, although not lonely.  I went to my cabin to get ahead on the packing, putting away all souvenirs and all dirty clothes, leaving out only what I planned to wear the rest of the day, my debarkation clothes for the trip home, and toiletries.  (It's my last-day routine for every cruise.)  I watched the Groove for St. Jude dancers perform onstage, sat in the Serenity hot tubs for a while, and walked around the ship just because.

 

My day took a turn for the better when I went to the Love and Marriage Show.  As I looked for a seat, one of my cruise friends called me over and invited me to sit with the group.  The show consisted of three couples: newlyweds, mid-range, and long-timers.  The questions were PG-13 (veiled sexual references and innuendos), so I was pleased not to see kids in the audience.  There were some teens, though, which is fine.  The whole audience, including my group, applauded after every question.  I felt hungry again after the show, so I went to Tea Time for a snack, while my friends went straight to the pool.  I rejoined them less than half hour later.  

 

I don't have pictures from my time in the pool, but other than the piano bar and the excursions, the next few hours were the highlight of my cruise!  More people joined our group, who probably met each other while I was on my excursions.  We pretty much took over one end of the pool, and spent the next 3 hours hanging out nonstop without getting out, except only briefly.  I don't think I spent that much time in the water on any of my previous cruises.  The roving bartenders kept bringing us drinks.  We only parted ways when we had to get ready for our respective dinners, and made plans to reunite later, where else... in the piano bar.  

 

I took one last nighttime picture on the deck, then made a beeline to the MDR.  My table was again kind of empty, like the first night, but the couple that came was very talkative this time, and commented on how they saw me in every contest on the ship.  (Except the Love and Marriage Show, obviously.)  The dinner menu was the best one on the cruise.  It became hard to deny that debarkation was near, when the waiters stood in a row to sing "Leaving Our Fun Ship".  We wished each other a safe trip home, and I went straight to the final show.  I liked it a little better than the second night's show.  I went to my cabin again, changed into my debarkation clothes, and packed away almost everything, figuring I'd rather do it now when I'm alert, rather than in the morning when I'm tired and bleary-eyed from lack of sleep, thus risking forgetting something.

 

I stopped by Guest Services, to check my account and write a complimentary letter: about my steward, my MDR waiters, the cruise director, and the pianist.  I think I talked the poor girl's ear off about how much fun I had on the cruise.  I guess that's one pitfall of solo cruising: when you're having a great time, and need to "debrief", but have no travel companions with you, you take it out on the staff (in a good way, of course).

 

I made it to the good old piano bar slightly later than I planned, and found my group.  Like two nights before, we hung out, we sang, we pounded drinks, we enjoyed each other's company.  This time, however, the pianist was assertive about closing up shop by 1:00 AM.  But the night wasn't over for us.  No way!  We took ourselves to the nightclub to dance out the energy we still had left.  We stayed until it closed and the bright lights came on.  That's where we could no longer delay the inevitable.  So we exchanged contacts, took come group pictures in the empty promenade, said our goodbyes, and retired to our cabins.  From what I remember looking at my alarm clock before falling asleep, it was 2:30 AM.  But I didn't care!  I figured I'd nap on the plane, anyway.  I wanted to have a great cruise, and I did!

 

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Towel animals invaded the Lido deck.  This is just one part of the invasion.

 

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I won a ship on a stick!  Took me 3 cruises, but I did it!

 

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Trying the Sea Day Brunch for the first time: steak, eggs, and hash browns.  

Not pictured: banana cream pie for dessert.

 

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Toasting the contestants in the Love and Marriage Show

with a glass of Thirsty Frog Red.

 

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Another towel animal stalking me.  It's gotta be a bulldog, a pug, or another

flat-faced, floppy-eared dog breed.

 

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One last picture on the open deck at night.

 

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Waiters doing the farewell dance and singing "Leaving Our Fun Ship".  I had

my best dinner that night: frog legs, roast beef, and apple cheesecake.

 

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This is the "Motor City" show.  Despite what the "Playlist Productions" had

me believe, this show had real physical sets.  Video screens played only a

minimal role in the whole show.

 

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Ah, the ubiquitous piano bar!  This is the pianist David Wiley, who brought

together a fun group, and inadvertently created an opportunity for me to

meet cool people.  His music skills were amazing.  If it wasn't for him, my

cruise would not be this fun.  (On my previous cruises, the piano bars were

fairly meh.)  I gave him a glowing review in Guest Services like he deserved.

 

And so, the cruise comes to an end.  The debarkation morning didn't really feel like it was part of the cruise, even though I was technically still on the ship.  But that part will be reviewed too.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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Last but not least...

 

Debarkation day

I woke up bright and early at 6:00 AM, to a combination of my alarm clock and the roar of the bow thrusters.  Weirdly, I felt energetic and wide-awake.  It never happened to me on my past cruises; don't know if I'm just older, or if it was psychological.  Anyway, I packed the last of my stuff, and went to breakfast.  I debated whether to eat in the MDR or in the Lido buffet.  The buffet won out, because I'd be eating outside in the fresh sea air.  I got myself a breakfast burrito from Blue Iguana Cantina, watermelon, and the usual coffee.  The burrito was filling but nothing special, unlike the arepas and huevos rancheros I got two days ago; I'll remember it for next time.  Soon, my deck was called for debarkation.  I got my bags, checked my cabin for any stray forgotten items, and I made my way to the exit.  The debarkation line was long, but it moved quickly.

 

"Breezed through Customs" would be an understatement.  The guard borderline (no pun intended) ignored me!  Holding my passport next to my face was the limit of him screening me.  The grand total I spent in Customs was less than 15 seconds. (As opposed to nearly 40 minutes on my previous cruise, due to getting detained for being solo.)  I don't know why, but I'm not questioning my luck and/or the guard's decision.  Honestly, I had nothing to hide; I didn't even buy tequila in Ensenada.  The worker in charge of Carnival airport shuttles was very patient with my confusion about where to find my bus.  The TSA agents in LAX were nice too: they smiled and made small talk with me, which I haven't encountered before with TSA.  General friendliness, sure.  But nothing like this.

 

I didn't sleep on the plane like I planned to.  It was probably the coffee I drank with my breakfast.  At least, the screen in front of me had an Angry Birds game I occupied myself with.  I got home safely and uneventfully, save for minor hassles of catching an Uber back from ORD.  I slept for 10 hours that night.  Interestingly, I accidentally left one thing in my cabin: a pair of socks.  Yes, socks!  Not that I care, but I could have sworn I checked all nooks and crannies.  Oh well.  It could have been worse.

 

I had debarkation vertigo for a few days after the cruise, more formally known as "mal de debarquement".  You know, where you're sitting or standing still, but you feel swaying inside your head.  No big deal.  It was totally worth it.
 

 

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Final photo on the ship, with Long Beach in the background.

 

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The usual California heavy traffic on the way to LAX.

 

And so, the cruise REALLY comes to an end.  Some ruminations and musings will be posted shortly.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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Concluding thoughts
Well, the cruise is now in the proverbial rearview mirror, and fading.  But I'm so glad I took it!  I said it before, and I'll say it again: the onboard atmosphere was very solo-friendly, even if the pricing wasn't.  No one gave me any heat for being solo.  Most people were as nonchalant about it as about my hair color.  A few even enthusiastically complimented me for it.  Waiters made sure I wasn't neglected, and served me as promptly as they served couples and families.  I don't know if cruising in general is becoming more solo-friendly, or if I got better at taking initiative socially as I got older, but it made for a very good solo cruise.  I'm sure being strategic about which ship and itinerary I picked didn't hurt, either.

 

Although, the main reason I picked a West Coast itinerary was to avoid hurricanes.  Unlike on the last two times, I sailed during the hurricane season.  Ironically, the itinerary I almost picked (Key West and Cozumel on Victory) got rerouted and cut in half, due to hurricane Dorian moving in.  Another close contender (don't remember which one, I think Liberty) got canceled altogether.  Which makes me even more glad I picked Inspiration instead.  Plus, I got to see a whole different ocean (Pacific instead of the Atlantic/Caribbean).

 

At this point, I exhausted all 4-day itineraries Carnival offers: Key West and Cozumel, Freeport and Nassau, and Catalina and Ensenada, all with a sea day added in.  I searched around, and found that I can switch up the ships or switch up the embarkation ports, but the destination ports are the same or at least overlap by one.  I don't know if I'll be OK with graduating to a 7-day solo cruise: too expensive, and therefore out of my budget.  Plus, those tend to be more sedate, and the lively atmosphere was what made my cruises solo-friendly.  And there was no mayhem, just drunken goofiness: more "Three Stooges" than "Fight Club".  We knew where to stop.

 

So, where to next?  Repeat the ports I've been to before, since it'll be at least a year before I do another cruise?  Take different excursions on the same itinerary?  Try out a different ship?  Or even a whole different cruise line?  Do tell.  I'm flexible on all accounts except budget and solo-friendliness.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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I'm a solo traveler too.  I do 5 day cruises.  I'm going on a 5 day Sensation cruise on Monday.  I got a good deal because it originally was going to Cuba, but cruise line had to cancel that, so a lot of people cancelled the cruise altogether.  The best deal I ever got was through NCL.  2 years ago in October after the big hurricane wiped out the eastern islands, no one wanted to switch to a western caribbean cruise, so again people cancelled cruise.  I got a balcony with no single supplement and with a sale price!    Thanks for your review.  Looks like you had a fun time! 

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We very much enjoyed your review. Completely understand the rational for the 4 day vs 7 day regarding the cost. We have cruised many times and the ports do overlap, different excursions are a great way to completely discover a new(repeat) port. Have a great weekend!

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13 hours ago, LandlockedCruiser01 said:

Checking back on this thread.  For anyone who read it and took a West Coast cruise, how did everything turn out?  Did it match my review of it all?

 

Loved reading your review! I'm planning on doing this very cruise, as a first time solo cruiser! I'm just waiting until Black Friday/Cyber Monday to see if any prices drop between Carnival and NCL, but most likely doing the cruise in January or February. I'm fascinated by the idea of doing a solo cruise and very excited for that adventure. 

 

One thing I'm curious about- you mentioned being detained by customs for being a solo traveler. Why? Can you detail that process a little bit, so I know what to expect if it happens to me? And did it happen on embarkation or debarkation? 

 

I really enjoyed your blog style of writing. 

Edited by Cyn874

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15 hours ago, LandlockedCruiser01 said:

Checking back on this thread.  For anyone who read it and took a West Coast cruise, how did everything turn out?  Did it match my review of it all?

 

Thank you for the review. 

 

We are leaving on Sunday 12/1/19, our first time on both CCL, we will be on the Imagination though. Very excited to try something new, we have been excursively on NCL in the past. NCL caters to solo travelers, I would scope them out for solo cruising. 

 

Out of curiosity did any of your cruise friends bring up pier parking? My travel OCD is getting the best of me and I am anxious how parking at the pier will go. I know others have commented on threads that Carnival has diverted some parking to garages in Long Beach, and a recent thread indicating a new lot has opened up. I know in the long run it will be fine, but I like to plan ahead. Thanks in advance for any information you might have. 

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8 hours ago, Cyn874 said:

One thing I'm curious about- you mentioned being detained by customs for being a solo traveler. Why? Can you detail that process a little bit, so I know what to expect if it happens to me? And did it happen on embarkation or debarkation? 

 

It happened at debarkation, on my Sensation cruise to Bahamas in 2013.  (Embarkation workers are port employees, not Customs.)  I was 29 at the time.  I guess the Customs agent saw a young single man, and thought "drugs!!!".  He even looked p*ssed off when I told him I was cruising solo.  So I was taken to the back room and got the third degree that stopped short of a strip-search: pockets, suitcase, backpack.  As well as detailed questioning about my cruise whereabouts.  I had nothing they wanted, obviously.  The sheepish look on the guy's face at the end felt kind of vindicating, though.

 

So obviously, I braced myself for a borderline strip-search after my Inspiration cruise.  I got nothing close to it!  The grand total time I interacted with Customs was less than 15 seconds.  All they did washold my passport next to my face, and say "welcome back".  I wonder if me being 7 years older, and looking the part, helped.  Although, I read in other threads that Customs aren't as thorough as they once were.  Maybe they realized that a burned-out IT guy taking an overdue vacation is as non-threatening as a family with two little kids.  Or in your case, whatever occupation you do, taking an overdue vacation as well.

 

On my first-ever cruise in 2012, out of Miami to Key West and Cozumel, Customs was in-between those two.  I wasn't taken to the back room or anything, but the agent stalled me in line for several minutes.  He wanted to know where I went in Cozumel and what I did for work.  Once he heard "dolphin swim excursion" and "IT professional", he returned my passport and left me leave.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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6 hours ago, TOMTOMRN331 said:

We are leaving on Sunday 12/1/19, our first time on both CCL, we will be on the Imagination though. Very excited to try something new, we have been excursively on NCL in the past. NCL caters to solo travelers, I would scope them out for solo cruising. 

 

Out of curiosity did any of your cruise friends bring up pier parking? My travel OCD is getting the best of me and I am anxious how parking at the pier will go. I know others have commented on threads that Carnival has diverted some parking to garages in Long Beach, and a recent thread indicating a new lot has opened up. I know in the long run it will be fine, but I like to plan ahead. Thanks in advance for any information you might have. 

 

I considered NCL, but one thing that puts me off is lack of assigned dinner seating.  That was the reason I picked CCL back in 2012; I didn't want to feel like the new kid in the school cafeteria.  And one time, I even got adopted by my tablemates, and we had the best time hanging out.  So I'm looking to stick to CCL for the most part, although I may give NCL Epic and its Studio Lounge a shot, if the price is good enough.

 

I don't know about parking.  My cruise friend told me she drove in with her friend, but I didn't ask for details other than "how was the drive?".  I do know there's a large parking deck right next to the cruise port; it's where I waited for the Carnival shuttle back to LAX.  I presume you'll be driving in from Tuscon.  My suggestion for you would be to arrive one day early, then stay in a hotel while you enjoy Long Beach. (Normally, I'd tell a fellow cruiser to try In-N-Out Burger, but you're from Arizona. ☺️)  Most hotels, including the Queen Mary I stayed in, should have "park and cruise" packages.  Queen Mary probably even uses that same deck.

Edited by LandlockedCruiser01

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