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May 30 Carnival Inspiration Review (VERY LONG)


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icon_cool.gifWestern Caribbean Carnival Inspiration


May 30, 2004


I sprung out of bed in our home in Brandon, Fl (20 minutes from Tampa) and began the exciting last minute packing of toiletry items and such that I couldn’t pack a month ago when I started preparing for our journey because they would be needed the night before.

By the time I had showered and adorned my “cruise embarkation outfit†complete with a wide brimmed straw hat, the group of those who would be coming with us started to arrive. Along with my husband and son, my two sisters were joining us and they both brought a guest. So it was 7 cruisers in all. My husband, son and I had sailed 4 times before this but it was the other 4’s first cruise.

There was a ton of last minute craziness as we tried to get out the door but finally we were off. As we were driving down the road full of anticipation, the blue and red symbol of all that is Carnival came into view at last. The funnel towers over the surrounding buildings at the Port of Tampa. Then the whole ship could be seen and we cheered for our new home.

As we drove closer, we passed by cruisers milling around with their luggage. One look at them and we were slightly worried, none of them looked happy. What kind of people were we traveling with? That’s when I realized they were not our fellow cruise mates BUT those who had just gotten off the ship. They all looked sad and I knew it was because they had to go home. I couldn’t help but feel mixed emotions part of me was so HAPPY to not be them as they sat and waited for their transportation to take them back to their jobs the next day. The other half of me felt a sense of foreboding because I knew all to quickly that would be me in just 7 shorts days. I decided to go with the happy feeling, as I’d have plenty of time for the sadness next Sunday.

We dropped our luggage off and we said good-bye to our parents, who had graciously dropped us off. We headed up the escalators to the check-in area. As we waited in line for the metal detectors they started calling group number one to board the ship, this was around noon. As we passed through the security area, I was surprised at how big the check-in area was. It’s much larger then Port Canaveral (the only other port we’ve sailed out of.) There were plenty of extremely helpful Carnival staff to take our boarding information and before we knew it we were assigned a group and directed to the waiting area. We were group 10, as we sat down they called group five. We had maybe a 30 minute wait and we were ready for our boarding pictures. This didn’t take as long as we thought it would. There were several large groups in front of us which speed up the embarkation picture taking time since they all took their pictures together. We got on board and one of my sisters headed directly to the pursers desk to add money to her Sail N Sign Card so she would avoid the lines later. The rest of us had used a credit card. The atrium area is nice and the large golden sculpture that adorns the area reaches up to the beautiful skylight above. The main “lobby†area does feel a little smaller then on other ships we’ve been on (Pride, Fantasy, Sovereign of the Seas) but it is centered around the beautiful marble stair case.

We headed up to the Lido deck to waive good-bye again to my parents who had walked over to the Channelside Shopping area to catch a movie so they might be done when we sailed. Next, we went into the Brassiere for lunch. The décor in here was as others had suggested a tad “loud.†It took a little getting used to because it made the room feel more crowded then it really was. The metal tubing décor was neat but it took up extra space that could have made the room feel more open and inviting. Otherwise it was a good lunch. My son and husband immediately went to the pizza line. I had some very nice lasagna and other foods. There was a nice variety and I tried a little of everything some things were wonderful others I didn’t care for. But in my opinion that’s the one of the great things about cruising, trying new things. The burgers and hot dogs are really good. I know that’s not the exotic cruising menu that you would imagine but after eating escargot and quail the night before sometimes a traditional American food is comforting while away from home.

After lunch, we went to check out our staterooms. One sister had a 1A (inside cabin with an upper and lower bed) and this was the first time I had been in one. I thought it was quite charming and enough space for the two of them. They did say that they took turns sleeping in the “top bunk†because it wasn’t as comfortable as the bottom. Not sure if it was their bed in particular or all 1A’s have this problem. My other sister and her boyfriend had a 2 person Outside Cabin on the Starboard side and we had a 3 person Outside Cabin on the Port side. The cabin was nice and clean. My one complaint was their cabin seemed cooler then ours. I know some people complain about the inside rooms on the ship being too cold but my husband enjoys keeping the thermostat at our house to 72 degrees during the day and 69 at night. So it was hard getting used to the temperature change. We turned the dial on the air conditioner to high but it never got quite as cold as we would have liked. I saw no blatant areas of disrepair in the rooms. The bathroom floor did look like it had been re-tiled recently. And there were some carpet stains in some of the hallways but nothing that seemed alarming. The elevators were the one place that needed attention. The tile on the floor (small mosaic patterns) was missing tiles and the paint on the doors was peeling or had been unfortunately engraved with initials of some careless teen. Otherwise, every time I turned around there was a happy crew member polishing the stair rails, wiping the glass, or scrubbing off chairs.

After perusing the material in our rooms, we went to the shore talk for the first two ports were we met our cruise director Steve. We soon found out that Steve was a funny guy but he talked and talked and talked way too much. This would be a theme throughout the cruise. He would start out great and then just get into way too much detail about events. His announcements over the load speaker were even worse. We often joked about placing bets on how long he would talk for at the next announcement. It got to the point where we would tune him out. We left the shore talk early because we felt like we were back in school attending a lecture. We had pretty much decided on the tours we were taking anyway, thanks to the tips on the message boards and reviews we read.

Next, we were called to the life boat drill. This was the easiest drill ever. On past drills we were made to line up military fashion, life jackets buckled, as the crew members checked our names off on a list and we waited on the hot deck for what seemed like hours. This time we had the Lido deck as our muster station. I guess they felt sorry for us having to wait in the non-air conditioned space because we were allowed to sit around on deck chairs near the pool and never once had to adorn a life vest. This was over fairly quickly but to my disappointment the ship had already pulled away from the port before we were dismissed. We made our way to the back of the ship to wave good-bye but we had already made it so far away from the pier, the people at Channelside were already a blur. A tad dismayed we made our way back to the cabin to stow our vests and then headed back up on deck for the customary Sail Away Cocktail.

We went to the Aft Verandah deck and found some lounge chairs to relax in near the smaller pool, as we navigated our way out of the channel. Not having sailed out of Tampa before, I was really looking forward to sailing under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. I had heard in past reviews that it’s quite a site and that the funnel barely fits. So with much anticipation, we awaited as the triangular forms got closer and closer. As we began our pass under the bridge, I felt like a child again. I knew deep down that we wouldn’t hit the bridge but at the same time I could not help feel a slight fear because it does in deed appear to just barely scrape by. It was a great adrenaline rush as the funnel cleared the huge bridge span and we were on our way out to sea. Everyone up on deck clapped!

We lingered on deck for a while and then strolled over to the front (bow) of the ship for a different view. It was quite windy up front and we had to hold on to our hats and tuck in our shirts. We were just staring out at the vast blueness and then something happened that I’ve always wanted to see on a cruise. In true Titanic fashion a group of dolphins was playfully racing the ship out to sea. They jumped in and out of the water right in front of the boat. It was a beautiful sight.

After that we headed to our cabins to get dressed for late dinner in the Carnivale Dinning room (8:00pm). Dinner in the dining room has always been an event for me. We get dressed up and dine in style. Unfortunately, this night would be a tad disappointing but the good news is it got considerably better each night. Because it was the first night there was quite a large line to get in the dining room as passengers were directed to their tables by the numbers on their cards. I don’t think anyone enjoys waiting in line but this one seemed to take an eternity. The only consolation was that it would not be like this every night. We finally found our table. It was a 6 person booth with an extra chair at one end on the starboard side a row away from the windows. We sat down and were given our menus. I like to take full advantage of the menu by ordering an appetizer, a soup, a salad and an entrée. I had the fried tiger prawns with rice and a very nice honey ginger sauce (which was quite good). Others had lamb. My sisters’ boyfriend had steak. The waiters (sorry they told us their names a few times but I am horrible with names) brought out the appetizers to those who ordered it and the soup to the rest and then skipped right to the salad for everyone rather then bringing out the remaining soups. They were gone so long getting the main course we didn’t have a chance to ask for the missing soups. When they brought the main course we decided to just eat that and not worry about the soups as we could always get more food later. The next issue came when they forgot the steak and we were all done with our meals before my sister’s boyfriend even started his. Dessert was uneventful but I had a heavenly Chocolate Decadence Cake! I think overall the desserts were much better this cruise then any I remember in the past. Usually, they taste bland to me but they were great this time. They still need to work on the Cheesecake though. I like a heavy New York Style cheesecake but on cruises I’ve only been able to get French style which is too light and reminds me too much of Jello.

After dinner we went to the welcome aboard show. There was a comedian who was quite good but this was the one combined show (early and late dinners) and there was no room for those who had late seating. After the show we brought our son (age 11) back to the room for bed and as expected the room steward had turned down the beds and placed the chocolates on our pillows. Ahhh the cruising lifestyle! She had also brought the welcome basket of goodies which I noticed was missing when we first went to look at our rooms. I had assumed Carnival had stopped this process but thankfully I was wrong. We went for a walk on deck after this. The moon was almost full and was a beautiful sight as it reflected on the water. We kind of missed the star gazing that we had on past cruises as the moon was too bright. But the full moon at sea was a new experience for us and we relished it. Around 11:30pm, we headed over to the Candle Light Lounge to watch the R rated comedian. I liked him the most of all the R rated shows we’d see as he didn’t have to use a ton of cussing as his main form of comedy. After the show we were exhausted and went to bed.



Monday May 31, 2004


We woke up fairly late for a cruise. It was about 10am and since it was a day at sea we weren’t in a rush to do anything. We got dressed and eventually made it up to the Lido deck for lunch. We did the usual sampling of each dish. My son stayed true to his beloved pizza. After lunch, we went up on deck and played the hunt for lounge chairs game. We found an open area and a stack of chairs near by so we claimed them both. No sooner had we settled in, when all around us people were doing the same thing. Before we knew it, we were pretty much boxed in. It was a beautiful day and we spent several hours reading magazines and watching the ship stream through the water. I finally got a tad too hot and decided it was worth the risk of stepping on people to take a break from the heat.

We did some exploring, found some bars and shops we’d missed yesterday and then headed to the Candlelight Lounge for the Art Auction. My son went back to the room to watch a movie. The art auction was pretty much like others we’ve been to. I go for the free champagne but my husband is all about the art. I admit its nice learning about contemporary art. After the auctioneer promised a free piece of art to who ever showed the most enthusiasm, it was a game to 2 fellow passengers. They had a “whooo hooo†and “wow†fest over every little thing. At first it was entertaining but by the 2nd hour it got a tad annoying. We did find a painting we wanted to bid on. We’d gotten 5 on a prior cruise. One was a free give away for all who attended, one we won and the others we bid on because we had just moved and needed something to cover the walls. Two were Kincaid seriolithographs which compared to the starting prices now, we got for a steal back then. For this auction, we found an Alexander Chen for about $115. We have one he did of the New York sky line and this one is of the Grand Canyon. My sister and her boyfriend bought two pieces of art also. If you’ve never been to an auction it’s worth a try.

After the auction we went back to the cabin to relax and then get ready for the Captain’s Gala in the Paris Lounge. It was formal night. We were all dressed in our best and my son was especially excited to dress up in his new suit. We found a seat way in the back of the Paris Lounge and the waiters brought hordevers and drinks by. We listened to the welcome speech by the cruise director and the captain introduced the senior officers. Everyone cheered the loudest for the chef.

Next, we went around and had our picture taken at the pre-set backdrops. I tried to get a nice group shot but as I would later find out that was near impossible. I had my eyes closed in some. People were looking in 5 different directions in another. It was fruitless.

Next came dinner. Lobster tail night! But the tails were disappointing. My tail was at least edible but others at my table sent theirs back in exchange for the fish. My one tip is to listen to what the waiter recommends. He never steered me wrong and if he suggested a dish I didn’t want to try, I’d ask for the next best recommendation. Another good rule of thumb, I’ve come to learn, is to stay away from pasta dishes on all cruises. There’s something about them, I don’t think pasta does well to be mass produced. I confirmed this by trying my son’s pasta dishes. It’s been posted before but I can confirm that you must try the Pumpkin Soup. It was the most memorable dish the whole trip. And its not overly pumpkiny either for those who don’t like pumpkin, its just so good!!

After dinner, we headed over to the Candlelight Lounge to watch the first part of the hockey game (GO LIGHTNING!!!) Then during intermission we went to the Paris Lounge for the first dancing show. “El Nuevo Caribe†was a very good show. The two singers were wonderful. The male singer was great for the songs as he and they were both of the Latin persuasion. The female singer reminded me very much of Christina Aguilera. We thought we had to get there super early to get a good seat but we ended up in the second row. The cruise director was nice enough to announce at the end of the show that the Lightning had won (YEAH!!!) which had to be hard for him as he hailed from Canada and was a Flames fan. They also asked all Military personnel to stand up before the show in recognition of Memorial Day. I thought this was a nice touch especially since there were only 3 American crew members on board. We left the show and went to bed.


Tuesday, June 1

We woke up and were docked out just off the coast of Grand Cayman. We had an early shore excursion and woke a tad late so we dressed and ran to the Paris Lounge to meet the rest of the ppl on our excursion. We got there and were told to go directly to the 3rd deck and get on a tender. The tender ride was not long maybe 5 minutes. We got off and took the customary picture and then waited under the sign for our tour. We had decided on a city tour because on past cruises we never got the full “educational†experience of the port. We got on a nice bus that was well air conditioned. In Grand Cayman they drive on the left side of the road since it’s a British Colony. We drove by tons of hotels and the governor’s house. The governor’s house was not that impressive but the driver made a big deal about it and even stopped in front for a few minutes. She was an interesting tour guide. While she did give us a good educational talk about the island, some of the things she thought to be exciting were a tad strange. The most so was the “Outback Steakhouse.†I still can’t get over the fact that she made a huge effort to pull into the parking lot and stop so we could admire the Outback Steakhouse. He he he…The highlight of the tour was the Turtle Farm. I would recommend visiting there by itself though. The rest of the tour was a tad disappointing but I got what I wanted out if it which was the education part. The other places we stopped where 7 mile beach (for a quick picture), the town of Hell, and the Tortuga Rum Bakery/Store. The Tortuga Rum store is right next to the Turtle Farm so it’s not much of an additional stop as it seemed to be advertised. But they have really good rum fudge and you get to sample all the cakes and drinks you wish. When we finished the tour, we took a quick walk to the west of the pier and bought some t-shirts and other souvenirs. We thought about going to the beach after this but we were tired and hungry so it was time to go back to the boat. My sisters each did there own thing in Grand Cayman. One went to the Treasure Island beach which was a ship excursion that included use of the hotel’s amenities but you had to pay for the taxi to get there. We noticed a very nice public beach on our drive and I’d advise saving the money and just getting a taxi to there. My other sister rented a Jeep and went bar hopping. She’s the brave one as I wouldn’t attempt to try and navigate the traffic especially on the “wrong†side of the road.

Back on the ship, we sat outside and enjoyed the view of the city as we ate lunch. There was a Royal Caribbean boat anchored there also. The funny thing was they were using their tender to ferry passengers back and forth but we used Grand Cayman ships. Not sure why that was. We could also see quite a few snorkeling excursions that were just off shore. After lunch, we went back to the cabin to watch a movie and napped. We went to dinner early and had drinks at the Chopin bar just above the Carnivale dining room. This was to become our main pre-dinner hang out. We talked about our day at dinner and while I can’t recall the menu I do have one piece of advice. If you have the pumpkin soup, don’t try the Lobster Bisque the next day. It pales in comparison and seemed to be made with the overcooked lobster from the night before. The rest of the meal was wonderful though. There was another R rated comedian at night and we stayed out late since we didn’t have to get up early in the morning the next day (docking is at 11pm in Costa Maya).


Wednesday June 2


We slept in late and went up for lunch around 11:15pm. They were still setting up and changing over from breakfast so we went outside to watch the docking process at the Costa Maya pier. We were at the back of the boat and one look at the seas gave me a sense of foreboding. Past cruises we’ve missed a port because it was unsafe to tender. I was happy that we would be docking at a pier here, rather then tendering, until the Captain came over the load speaker. The minute I heard his voice I knew there was a problem. The waves were too strong to dock! We watched as the workers below on the pier released the ropes and we started to move away from the pier. I was devastated. The Costa Mayaians didn’t look too happy either as they saw a source of revenue slide back out to sea. We went into the Brassiere and I just sat there too upset to eat. Eventually, the cruise director announced over the speakers that we would be leaving immediately for Cozumel. We would dock by 7pm and stay overnight there so we would be able to enjoy the night life. This consoled me a little so I was at least able to eat but I was still upset that we would be missing the most exotic port. We ate lunch and went back to the room. We had received a new Caper and a letter from the Captain apologizing and letting us know there’d be a $25 credit on our Sail and Sign account. This made me feel better too. I know its not much but its more then we received on past cruises after missing a port. My spirits were lifted even more when I went to talk to my sister in her cabin and we met her room steward who told us how excited he was about missing the port. It turns out the crew lives for times like this when they can go out to Cozumel at night and enjoy themselves. Even though we didn’t take advantage of the nightlife in Cozumel (although my sister and her friend were the first person’s off the boat) because we had a 7:30 am tour the next day, I was happy for the crew.

I don’t recall all that we did to bid our time until the ship docked but around 6pm, I went up on deck and got a good seat for the docking at Cozumel. There were 3 other ships all Carnival already docked at the 2 piers and we tried to see who could read the names first. I had my binoculars but it was very windy. Finally, we could make out the Holiday, Celebration, and Elation. One of them was leaving and we ended up docking next to the Elation. They finally left at about 10pm. We went to dinner minus my sister and her friend so it was just 5 of us. Then we went up on deck and had a night game of volleyball. My sister and her boyfriend brought a ball and they were dying to play but it had been too windy previously when the ship was moving. We played and then watched the sister ship sail away. Next, we went to catch the end of the show in the Paris lounge. It was a magician and the comedian from the night before. The magician was better then expected but the comedian was indescribable. We commented the night before that we wondered how this guy would do a PG show because 90% of his act was cussing. Well it turned out he couldn’t do PG. There were tons of little kids in the audience because their parents thought they’d enjoy the magician. When the comedian came out, the 3rd sentence out of his mouth had the “s†word and then as he tried to get into a story he used the “f†word and other colorful language. The little boy in front of us instantly caught it and yelled, “Daddy, he just said a bad word.†This was not the worst of it, however, because as the comedian continued on, we could noticeably tell he was plastered. He was slurring his words and not making any sense. Half of the comedy that night was our amazement that he was allowed to go on stage like this. His set only lasted about 10 minutes but the cruise director was notably upset afterwards when he bid us goodbye. We went to bed after this so we could manage the tour in the morning.


Thursday, June 3


This was the best day of the cruise. We got up early, dressed and grabbed a muffin and then headed to our meeting place in the Paris lounge again. We left for our tour and immediately boarded a ferry to take us to the main land of Mexico (Playa del Carmen.) We had originally wanted to book the horseback ridding trip but it turned out despite excursion lists we read online, it was for ages 12 and up and our son just missed the cut off. We racked our brains for something to replace it and decided upon the 4 X 4 Cavern and Beach trip. Mostly because everyone else was going cave tubing in Belize and we had already decided snorkeling was a must here because of past reviews. Also, because I’ve never been in a cave and have always wanted to.

We found a seat on the ferry and thought even though it was a 45 minute ride it would be a good way to wake up. However, the boat will be forever dubbed the Puke Ferry. I never felt sea sick but this was the exception. I should have gotten the hint when we were in the Paris Lounge and one of the Asst. Cruise Directors was passing out Bonine but I had to learn the hard way. I also should have taken the hint when I got on and noticed everyone was sitting in the middle aisle away from the windows. Why did they not want to enjoy the view? I soon found out that it was because the side to side motion was horrendous. No, I didn’t officially get sick but I’ve never come closer. We finally docked and I was so happy to be off that boat. I was, however, dreading the ride back.

We separated into our tour groups and walked through the shopping square to our awaiting Jeeps. Another reason we choose this tour was because my husband gets car sick unless he drives so the thought of being able to drive was a quick sell for him. We got in our jeeps and drove off caravan style to the caverns. It was very interesting driving. It was the first time I’ve really felt like we were in a foreign country. The signs were in Spanish and the neighborhoods made the poor neighborhoods of Tampa look like palaces. There was a lot of rubble everywhere. I couldn’t help feel like we were in a war zone with piles of rocks scattered around everyone’s yards and large holes in walls. We drove on the Mexican highway and then got off on a dirt road to get to the caves. My husband was a tad disappointed as he thought the off road part would be more exotic and that we’d get to go faster but I was happy enough with the bumpiness of the dirt road.

We arrived and were given stylish red hard hats and let into the cave. It was very beautiful to see the stalactites and stalagmites. We went half way in and then saw above us an opening to the air with a tree growing right in the cave. It felt like magical place out of a story book. Just beyond this was the underground lake. We changed to our suits and put on the provided life jackets. As we jumped in, the water was freezing. It took a while to get used to but after that it was refreshing. We swam around with our tour guide pointing out different things and even got to swim through a small above-ground passageway. The view and the water were magnificent. The whole cave is lighted and the only draw-back was trying to swim in between people to get a good view of certain things. We left the cave and were given a cold drink. We were allotted 10 minutes to use the rest room and shop at the “Mexican Wal Mart†that had been set up while we were in the caves.

Next, we got back in the jeeps and drove to La Playa beach. It was a longer drive then I had expected but it gave us a good opportunity to sightsee. We passed many of the other sites offered as tours including many of the ruins and XCaret. We arrived at the beach and found a picnic table for our belongings. My son and husband hit the water but I was starving so I found the buffet that was included in the excursion. There was salad, beans, chicken, beef and fish tacos, and chips. It was all very good but very spicy! The beach was nice but smaller then expected. There were hammocks and a small amount of lounge chairs. The water was refreshing and there were nice waves. Being from Tampa, we only get small waves most of the year on the east coast of Florida so it was nice to have west coast type waves to enjoy. After swimming, I relaxed in the hammock and then we took a few pictures. One word of caution (or incentive to some males out there), there are topless beaches or perhaps it was one itself. We were not prepared for this and it wouldn’t have normally offended me but we did have our 11 year old son with us so when the topless women went strolling down the beach it was a tad awkward.

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the Puke Ferry. We got back in our jeep and headed back to the pier. It was a tad of a wait for our Puke Ferry to dock. Normally, I would have been impatient with having to wait but the dread of leaving my stomach in Mexico was enough to keep me from getting annoyed. We finally got on the boat and this time went right to the middle row in the middle of the boat. Whew! It was not as bad this time. It was probably in part due to the fact that we were so tired so my son and husband napped while I read a magazine. We got off the Ferry by our ship and walked to the shopping area to find some souvenirs. We found all we needed in one store. I can’t recall the name but it resembled a flea market. We got shirts and my mother-in-law’s requested vanilla. We were heading back to the ship but my husband decided to try some Mexican beer. There was a Fat Tuesdays just to the left of the pier if your back is to the ship but it was really crowded and commercial looking. However, we found a small bar/restaurant to the right and it was very nice. It was a tad loud as they blared music. When my husband went up to the bar and tried to tell the bartender he wanted Mexican beer, I’m not sure he got the best kind (Victoria beer???) but it didn’t taste too bad (which is saying something because I can’t stand beer.) We decided to sit down and enjoy the view. We found ourselves in a setting for a Corona commercial. We sat on a small dock and everyone else around us was drinking Corona. We laughed at them because why would you drink a beer you could get in the US when you are in Mexico? We were enjoying ourselves so much that I we decided to order another round and we also tried some Mexican Nachos. It was the perfect end to a perfect day in port. My sister and her friend rented a Jeep here as well and drove around Cozumel. The other sister and her boyfriend did the Horseback ride excursion. They said it was nice but the ruins looked fake. They had a drawing and won a bottle of Tequila so they were very happy.

We did the usual pre-dinner drinks at the Chopin and then went to dinner. We watched part of the hockey game then took a walk on deck and went back to the room to watch the Bolts loose in overtime. Very upsetting! We went to sleep exhausted from our day in port.


Friday June 4


Today we visited Belize. We had been planning for a while to take the Goff’s Caye snorkeling excursion. We woke up and went to breakfast. We didn’t have to meet our excursion group until 8:45am so it allowed us some to eat. I was very worried about being able to tender here after the Costa Maya experience, any suggestion of high waves had me squeamish. We watched as people began to board tenders and felt a great relief. There were many different size boats taking people to shore and to their excursions. It seemed like all the ones with snorkel gear were big 2 deck boats and I was quite surprised when we boarded a small 15 person speed boat.

While we were boarding, the waves felt enormous. I was shocked they let us leave the ship. The description of the excursion didn’t prepare us for the speed of the speed boat. We zoomed through the water and bounced up and down on the waves. There was no side to side rocking like on the Cozumel Puke Ferry so it didn’t bother us at all. I did feel sorry for those sitting up front in the bow of the boat as the front end smacked down into the water every few seconds. However, we in the aft were getting our punishment as well by the continuous sea spray. It was refreshing though and as long as you had sunglasses to protect your eyes it was actually pretty fun. We arrived at Goff’s Caye after a slower ride through some mangroves to distribute snorkel gear. The guides dropped a few people off at the tiny island and the rest of us went as close as we could to the barrier reef. The coral was amazing but unfortunately the fish were still sleeping or something because there were not as many as I would have liked. One person remarked that there were more fish at Chankanaab Park were they were hand feeding schools of fish. So I guess next time we will have to try that out. Snorkeling was fun but it tires you out very quickly. It wasn’t a movement problem as much as breathing. We got back on the boat and set off back to the small island. We were given bags of water especially made for boating so you don’t injure yourself on the plastic bottles as the boat is moving. We were told there was usually someone on the island selling barbeque food and drinks but unfortunately they didn’t show up today. It was disappointing that they didn’t show up or that the tour didn’t include food. After four hours, we were starving. We relaxed in the sand and my son built a sand castle. Others were snorkeling off the island but I’d had my full. The island is so small you could throw a football from one end to the other. We got back on our boat and started the thrilling speed boat race back to the ship.

We had planned to take another tender to the city when we got back but we decided we were too hungry and tired. Also, it was 1:30pm and the last tender was at 3:30pm. Factoring in the 30 minute ride, we wouldn’t get much quality time in the city anyway. So we headed to our rooms to change and then to the Lido deck for food. They had a really good chicken on a skewer for the Japanese buffet and we ate hardily.

We decided to try and go up on deck to see if we could get a glimpse of the city with our binoculars but on the way we happened past the Candlelight lounge and noticed the very in end of the “LOR The Return of the King†was playing so we relaxed in the darkness and watched the end.

Afterwards we went up on deck and looked around but we were anchored too far from the city to see anything. We watched the tenders zoom back from the city. It was about 3:30pm and the last few boats were coming in. We heard the infamous drinking boat excursion before we saw it come in. Next thing we knew, there was a large boat with about a 100 dancing passengers trying to dock. The boat had two decks and the top one was full of people. We noticed one guy in particular who was kneeling with his head resting on the seat of one of the benches. As the people began to get off, he tried to get up but could only stagger a few feet and then down he went. It was morbid curiosity that kept us watching as he was helped to a sitting position by one of the tour guides and then instantly began to vomit. I knew I should not watch but at the same time we couldn’t help ourselves. Would this guy have to be carried off the boat in a stretcher? He tried time and again to get up with the help of the guide. What appeared to be his girlfriend and a few other friends, all almost as plastered, came over and oblivious to his plight would try and get them to come dance with them. Finally, once everyone else had got up, he summoned enough strength to stand and he was nearly carried off the boat by 2 of the guides. The boat speed back to Belize and I felt sorry for the clean up crew.

Feeling slightly queasy, we went back to the cabin and took a nap / watch a movie before we would have to get ready for dinner early so we could attend the welcome back party. We got dressed in our next set of formal attire and headed to the party, invitation in hand. There were a lot of people there and they passed out drinks and hordevers as they had at the Captain’s Gala. The first drink I had wasn’t very good. So slightly jealous of the party boat’s passengers, I decided to try some rum punch on the next round. Funny thing was, there wasn’t so much punch in the rum punch. I guess they saved all the punch for the kids NA drinks but not being a heavy drinker I was quite dizzy by the 3rd sip. WHOOO! After the “welcome back†movie, which we’d seen on past cruises we went out to the Promenade and I was determined to get a portrait of the three of us that actually looked good. So we stopped at each back drop and I tried desperately to keep my balance as they posed us in different formations. I don’t think anyone else can see it but the portraits we ended up buying both have me with a nice Rum Punch smile (small trade off for my eyes being open.)

We milled around the decks and then headed to our favorite lounge but I didn’t need a drink that night so we went to dinner and then changed to go to the 2nd Las Vegas type dancing show. It was “Shout†and it was good. The two problems I had was the male singer who had been so good in “El Nuevo Caribe†with its Latin tunes just didn’t translate well to the American rock-n-roll songs of “Shoutâ€. The worst part was when he tried to sing a Beach Boys’ song. The other problem I had was as one of the main songs they chose to do the Macarena! I know it’s a cruise ship and I should expect to hear that awful song and I dealt with it at dinner BUT to see the professional dancers doing it and then them asking the audience to join in. That was just too much for me. Perhaps I’m being silly?

We went to the last “R†rated comedy act after bringing our son back to the cabin to go to sleep. The comedian was funny not because he was necessarily “R†rated but because he picked on the audience members. He was taking a survey of what everyone was drinking and then making up names for the based on the type of beverage. It was very improvisational and I liked that. Afterwards, we went to sleep.


Saturday June 5


We woke late for our “Fun Day at Sea†and the last full day of our cruise. It was kind of a melancholy day. We were supposed to go to the debarkation talk but having been to them before we knew what to do and that it would be on the TV later. I was disappointed after watching it later that the cruise director used the same jokes we’d heard on a past cruise. Not sure who stole which jokes from whom but it kind of tarnished the past memory of the great cruise director we’d had on the Pride.

I was too sunburned from snorkeling to want to lie out in the sun so we ate lunch (there was a wonderful chocolate dessert buffet) and went to the photo gallery to purchase my Rum Punch induced pictures. Then we went to the shops to purchase souvenirs for people we missed buying things for in the ports. After that we went to the Newlywed / Not So Newlywed game. This is always a fun show. Even though they ask the same questions on each cruise, there are always different and hilarious answers.

Following the game we decided to get the packing over with so we could enjoy the nighttime activities and not be stressed about getting our luggage out in time. That’s when we turned on the TV in our cabin and heard that Ronald Reagan had died. I was sad but thankful it had happened at the end of the cruise rather then at the beginning.

We took a break from packing and tried to go on the Galley Tour. I’d been on it before on another ship so when we got to the meeting place and discovered they were only half way through with BINGO and it would be a while before they’d start the tour, we decided to skip the tour and grab a snack on the Lido deck. It was hot so we sat in the shade and had a burger or hot dog and some fries. Again, they are good burgers and hot dogs! The crew members were even up on deck getting their lunches of burgers and hot dogs. I think this is the first ship I’ve been on where we saw so many crew members eating up on deck. Perhaps it was because they always eat late and we did so on many occasions this trip as opposed to past cruises?

We went back to the cabin to finish packing and then took a nap. We went later then usual to the Chopin before dinner and since none of our party was there we went into the Candlelight lounge to watch the Game 6 Hockey pre-game show. Dinner was especially nice this evening. My sisters bought 2 bottles of Champagne so we could toast the wonderful cruise and they all signed a card to thank me for the planning I had done. It was very touching. As the waiter was getting the champagne ready, the table next to us asked their waiter to open the blinds and it revealed a beautiful sunset. We watched as the sun sank into the ocean and then began feasting on the last dinner. I had a very good Beef Wellington and others who had the Turkey dinner said it was good too. The waiters sang their last song, something they made up but it was to the tune of, “Leaving on a jet plane…†What a great night!

After dinner we went to the Candlelight to watch the hockey game. It was a long game and by the end of the 1st overtime I was beyond tired. My son and I went back to the room to put the luggage out while my husband stayed to watch the end of the game. We were just in time for the luggage as the cart came by right after I put the last piece out. Of course at the same time the Lightening scored the winning goal and I missed it but I was happy they won!


Sunday June 6

We woke up and were just docking at the Tampa port. I wasn’t ready to leave but before I knew it we had dressed and were up eating our last breakfast at the Brassiere. I was surprised that we were able to get a table and relax as we waited for them to start calling colors. They did the usual announcement for people who hadn’t cleared immigration or still had debits on their Sail N Sign cards. We got tired of sitting in the Brassiere so we went out on deck and watched the ballet of the forklifts below as they maneuvered around each other to load the food for the next cruise on the boat. It wasn’t until about 9:45 am when they started calling people to leave the boat. We were the last group called and were off and meet our parents outside the luggage area at 11am. We had arranged to put our luggage in their cars and then go to the movies to see Harry Potter 3. It’s just my little way of extending our vacation as long as possible. After that we had lunch at Red Lobster and finally made it home.


Overall, it was a great vacation. When all was said and done we were quite exhausted by the 3 ports and missing Costa Maya turned out to not be that big of a deal. I would definitely sail the Western Caribbean again and if we wanted to go on a shorter cruise the Inspiration is a great choice as she’s switching to the Sensation’s itinerary in November.

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Hey thanks for taking a "lot of time" to write your experiences on the Inspiration. I enjoyed reading your review. Good or bad I think reviews are one of the best things about this board.




2005 Miracle April 24th

2004 Legend

2003 Paradise

2002 Paradise

2000 Destiny

1999 Fascination

1998 Fantasy

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Thanks for the great review! You gave a lot of helpful info. We will be sailing on 7-25 and can't wait.


Song of America 1985

Sensation 8-2000

Monarch of the Seas 1-2002

Century 7-25-03

Inspiration 7-25-04


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Great review it made me think of our Inspiration cruise only a couple months ago. I loved Coata Maya and I'm sorry you missed it. Wouldn't think you would this time of year. Now you will have to go again to see Costa Maya!


Thanks for posting.



RCCL Voyager 5/21-5/30/04

CCL Inspiration 4/4-4/11/04

NCL Sea 4/14-4/27/03

DCL Wonder 5/16-5/19/02

DCL Wonder 5/3-5/8/01

CCL Fantasy 2/15-2/18/01


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JulieM: Great review. Was on the Inspiration 3/03 (slightly different itinerary) had a blast and now again 7/25, can't wait.


Nibbles: My husband and I will be sailing with you on the 25th. There is a roll call thread on the roll call board.




Carnival Inspriation - 7/25/04

RCI Mariner of the Sea - 3/21/04

Carnival Inspiration - March 2003

Carnival Imagination - April 1997

Carnival Fantasy - February 1995

NCL Sunward II - November 1988

Cunard Canberra - July 1974

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  • 3 months later...

We took a last minute cruise last March on the Inspiration. We had an outside cabin on the Empress deck and only paid $329.00 each. We had the best time, great ship. The differance being that when you pay only $329.00, you only feel that you need to eat $329.00 worth of food. When you pay $1000.00 you often leave the ship much heavier than you came on. Ouch!@!!:p

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