DHappyCruiser Posted June 11, 2006 #1 Share Posted June 11, 2006 Here is a VERY(and I mean VERY) long review of our trip on the Carnival Inspiration for a 5 night cruise from Tampa to Grand Cayman to Cozumel and back to Tampa. Enjoy! Day 1 Embarkation: We live in the Tampa Bay area so we drove to the port – we pulled up to Cruise Terminal #2 around 11am – a porter came right up and made sure we had enough tags – we had silver tags because our cabin was “To Be Announced” but I had already looked online at Carnival’s website and found that we were assigned to cabin M57 (I used the “secret method” – just go to Carnival’s website (no matter who you booked through) go to your funpass area and click on gifts – then click on the details of any gift and you should see your booking# + assigned cabin# - I was able to see our cabin # over a month before the cruise date) So the porter gave us new red tags and quickly had me write just our last name and cabin # (we already had regular luggage tags with our cell phone#). The porter took our bags away (tipped him $8 for 5 bags (2 bags were full of SCUBA gear)) and we hopped back into the car to park in the long term parking garage – I am not sure if we went the correct way – we ended up taking a left and then 3 right hand turns all around the parking garage but finally ended up in the garage – they made us pay $60 up front ($12 a day) and they accepted credit cards. They told us to park on level 3. We were able to park really close to the elevator (this came in handy the day we returned!) Went down the elevator – across the street and into the cruise terminal. We had to show our dark blue Carnival document packet in order to enter the building. Went up an escalator and into a check-in area – we were in this line by 11:20am – waited just a few minutes – handed over documents (had already filled out the Sail and Sign credit card information) (also had already filled in our passport info online and printed our “Funpass”) so this part went pretty quick – she handed us our “Gold” Sail and Sign (S&S) cards (this was our 3rd Carnival cruise which gives us “gold” status – not many perks – just the “gold” card and a special cocktail hour for past guests). We were assigned to “Group 7”. At 11:30 they made an announcement for VIP’s and Platinum level (10+ cruises) passengers to proceed to the left for pictures and then to the gangway. Soon after they called group #1 and by 11:50 they called our group #7. We had to smile for the security picture (which pops up whenever they scan your S&S card to leave/enter the ship) then they had two identical photo areas set up to take a picture of each family/couple/single etc. They gave us a coupon telling us what photo group our picture could be found in and an offer of a “special deal”. I forget what the price was but it was a discount on a Carnival photo album. (More on the whole photo process later). Somewhere in this whole process they gave us a sheet of paper saying that our cabin would not be ready until 1:30pm but we could go to the Lido deck for lunch. We were up on the Lido deck by 12pm (so only 1 hour from arriving in front of the terminal – but we did arrive early so that must have helped). We found food at the buffet on the Lido deck as well as inside the Brasserie cafeteria area. They also had the pizzeria open (and maybe the deli?). What I was surprised about was that the pool was open! I had expected that it would be closed (the water slide was closed though – that did not open until 10am on the next day). We ended up going down to our cabin around 1pm to ask if we could just get rid of our carryon luggage but found that our room was all made up so we stayed inside. Within minutes the 1st of our suitcases arrived (they just set it outside and we pulled it in) – our other 4 pieces arrived soon after that. The cabin was a nice size – closets were big enough – the drawers were kind of small and hard to pull in and out though. I will say I was glad I had brought cleaning wipes because the drawers still had hairs and random “dust” etc in them so I quickly cleaned those out, door knobs, etc. We just had 2 of us so our beds were pushed together with King Size sheets. We loved the new “Carnival Comfort Bed” sheets, pillows, and duvet – very soft and fluffy. The mattress was a little hard – but not horrible. Our cabin was a “quad” so there were two wall beds that were closed up high against the wall– hardly noticeable until I bent down to get something out of the suitcase on the floor and when I stood up I cracked my head on the wall bed – OUCH. So next time we will choose a cabin that only has 2 beds. When we booked our cruise we requested the early dinner time but our S&S cards had 8:30pm on them so we went to the Mardi Gras dining room to see if we could switch. The assistant Maitre D’ said he would put us on a waiting list because the 6:15 seating was full – he said we should go to the late dinner at least on the 1st night and they would notify us if they could switch us to the earlier time. The next day we did not receive anything in our room so we went to the Mardi Gras dining room again in the afternoon and they told us they had switched us to the earlier seating and they gave us a new table #. We did the spa tour on the 1st day – they just walk you through the facilities and have a few people demonstrating some of their procedures. I went back for the “free raffle drawing” at 5pm and found that it was just a repeat of the tour (but all in 1 room) and they only gave away 3 procedures (Body Composition Analysis $30 value, 30 minutes in a pod that massages $30 value, and a facial – they didn’t say how long so don’t know value). The “raffle” took almost 45 minutes so be prepared to be there a while – and you do need to be present to win but you could fill out the raffle card right then – no need to do the earlier tour). I did not do any of the spa treatments but I did participate in a Yoga class on the 1st sea day and the Cycling class on the last sea day. Yoga, Pilates, Fitball, and Cycling classes costs $10 (they run your S&S card through their PC at the end of each class). I was disappointed in the variety of fitness classes – mainly yoga and pilates, only 1 cycling class, no step, no cardio etc. – but then I found out from Adine (fitness instructor) that she had hurt her back in a recent car accident AND the company that runs the spa (and fitness) had taken away her co-instructor so she had to limit the classes to what she could teach. She was feeling better by the cycling class and said the next cruises would have more cardio fitness classes. I really enjoyed the cycling class – she worked us hard (only 3 people were in the class – we could have had 7 more). The yoga class was ok – just not very relaxing – she did tons of “Sun Salutations” – I did feel it in my arms the next day though from all of the plank downs. They held the “Welcome Aboard” show at 10:30pm which included a short sing/dance number and a comedian – Carl Faulkenberry. They also introduced Risa Barnes, the cruise director, as well as her assistants. Then they said they were going to show us how to relax and have fun on board so they pulled 4 guys and 4 girls to use as demonstrators. I made the mistake of bopping to the music the band was playing and got pulled up on stage (was also in the 2nd row). Risa spoke to each of us (name, where we’re from, etc) and then explained the game – she put us in 2 groups – arranged boy, girl, boy girl. The game entailed taking a spoon with a long string attached and putting it down the shirt and shorts of the first guy, then the dress of the 2nd girl, then the pants of the 3rd guy and the dress of the 4th girl – we were to do this as fast as possible and race to see which team got their spoon to the end the quickest. I had to ask if she was kidding because I could not believe she was going to make us do this. She was serious and we did not win the race but it was pretty fun (luckily I had on a pretty loose short dress so the spoon fell right through. But then we did a reverse race and had to pull the spoon back through! I got the spoon back up fine but the other lady on my team got it stuck on her dress and the entire audience saw her white underwear! I saw her at the end of the next day and she informed me that they had been replaying our “game” on the cabin tv channel all day long!! Day 2 “fun” day at sea: We walked up on the top deck jogging track and it took 11 laps to do 1 mile – gets kind of boring going around in circles but it was nice to see the ocean all around us. Then I took the yoga class (described above). We enjoyed breakfast in the dining room (they had open seating from 8-10) – I highly recommend going to the dining room for breakfast rather than the Lido/Brasserie. They seat you with whoever walks in around the same time as you and the menu is the same every day – Omelettes, Eggs, Pancakes, French toast, Eggs Benedict, various fruits, cereals, pastries, yogurt etc. – pretty much anything you can think of for breakfast. It is nice to sit and not have to carry around your food, find a table, etc. The service is pretty quick also. We spent the rest of the morning on deck with the other “sun worshippers” although I moved my chair into the shade after a while. There are areas on deck where you can be in partial shade, full shade, etc. – you just have to walk around to find them. For lunch they had open seating in the dining room from 12-2 but we opted for the Brasserie since we were in bathing suits. They did say that for breakfast and lunch you could wear shorts, tshirts, etc in the dining room. For dinner we joined our new tablemates at the 6:15 seating – we are in our early 30’s and the other 2 couples were in their 70’s so we were not matched up by ages like they originally had us but that was ok – our tablemates were very friendly and conversation flowed easily. Carnival usually tries to match people up by age when they can – our original table had 4 couples all in their 30’s and the 4th couple was probably in their 50’s. The tables in the dining room ranged from long tables of 12 along the windows, then booths for 6, then round tables for 10 and oblong tables for 6. We did notice a few of tables for 2 also – but not many. Our head waitress was Cvetelina from Bulgaria – she went by “Lina” and her assistant “team waitress” was Ni Made from Thailand. They were absolutely the best team we have ever had (4 cruises). Lina remembered all of our names, salad dressing preferences, etc. and she was very personable. One tip on the salad dressing – I was disappointed that they did not have a vinaigrette dressing on the menu (they were all cream based dressings). Lina said they could make me whatever I wanted so I requested a Balsamic Vinaigrette and it was great! On the last night they had a turkey dinner that came with Yams – our table mate requested mashed potatoes instead – Lina said they could not change the presentation of the turkey dinner but that she would bring mashed potatoes on the side. So don’t be afraid to ask for what you want – they definitely try to accommodate everyone. Only other dinner comment was that there were very few chocolate desserts – the first night had 2 different ones and after that the only kind of chocolate dessert was ice cream. BUT – if you are willing to pay $2 you can get a huge piece of chocolate cake from the Café Des Artistes on the Promenade deck! The entertainment on the 1st day at sea was a “Vegas style” show of “Shout!”. Unfortunately we arrived late and sat way upstairs in the back so we could not see very well so we left after a few songs – but it seemed like an entertaining show. Day 3 – Grand Cayman: We arrived in Grand Cayman around 7am and were later joined by: Carnival Imagination, a Princess ship, and BEST OF ALL – the brand new Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas – it looked absolutely huge! Princess and Royal Caribbean used their own lifeboats as tenders so just the Imagination and Inspiration shared the tenders provide by Grand Cayman. Some were double deckers, some were single. We had booked a SCUBA excursion through Carnival which was to meet on land at 9am so we were told to allow 30-45 minutes to get ashore on a tender. People on excursions that were starting before 9am were told to meet in the Paris Lounge 45 minutes before their departure time. We went down to deck 3 (below Riviera Deck) to catch a tender a little bit after 8am and there was no line – we just walked right onto the tender. On the land side the “tender area” is a tad confusing – there are tour signs everywhere but not all of them are Carnival sponsored tours – some are just locally run tours that you pay directly – so be careful to look for the Carnival sponsored tours. We could not find a sign for the SCUBA tour but we were 30 min early so we waited a while by the street – then I noticed another round shelter to the right and there was a small round sign that said SCUBA – we went over there and joined up with 2 groups – Beginner SCUBA and Certified SCUBA. The excursion was run by Don Foster’s dive shop – nice operation, nice boat, great divemasters. Once the tour director had everyone together we had to walk quite a way down the street, through a shopping plaza and into a parking lot that held buses. The bus took us to the dive shop which was just 3 minutes away. We went into the dive shop, signed a liability waiver, and people without equipment received their equipment. (The beginner SCUBA people went straight to a pool area that had equipment already set up for them). We had to wait around for a while – not real sure what we were waiting for – but finally they told us to get on the dive boat – we had 14 divers (8 were from the Imagination and 6 from the Inspiration). They broke us into 2 groups and each group had their own Divemaster. We did an 80ft wall dive called “Eagles Nest” for 35 minutes and then a 50ft dive called “Wildlife Reef” for 45 minutes. Each dive included a safety stop. We saw some nice creatures but were a little bit disappointed in the reef – it looked rather trampled upon – but also it was a rainy/cloudy day and the visibility was probably not the best it can be. After the dives the dive boat brought us back to the tender area - it was about 1:45pm and our Capers said the last tender would leave at 1pm! But there was a line of around 60 people from the Inspiration still getting on tenders so we were ok. It looked like the other people in line were also from a Carnival sponsored tour so we weren’t too worried about getting left behind. Unfortunately it started pouring rain while we were tendering across and it took at least 10 minutes to empty the whole 2 story tender (we were way up top at the very back). We actually made it on board a little after 2pm. The ship started pulling away around 2:30pm. If you have room in your suitcase I highly recommend that you bring a raincoat – this was the 2nd time that we have been in Grand Cayman on a rainy day excursion and I was glad to have my raincoat (especially when on a windy/rainy boat ride). After a good nap, and a good dinner we went to the show at 8:45pm. – it was the “Amazing Fire Gauchos” who were two funny Brazilian guys (father and son) who twirled around spinning balls, fire, etc really fast and did drumming also. In between they played with the crowd a bit – 2nd row aisle seems to be the easiest spot for performers to see people. Then they had a comedian named Kenny Miller who was pretty funny – he did some song parodies on his guitar, played with the crowd, etc. He did an R rated midnight show on our last night but we didn’t stay up for it. Day 4 Cozumel, Mexico: We were lucky that our ship received the one and only spot at the only remaining pier since 2005 Hurricane Wilma damaged their island. For those that have been before – it is the “old” International pier – it was odd seeing pieces of the pier in the water below. The only other ship in port was a Princess ship and they used tenders. We did another SCUBA excursion in Cozumel and found the tour guy at the end of the pier (note: his sign did not say Carnival on it – but he took our tickets and said we were in the right spot). The tour was run by Aquaworld – after signing waivers we boarded a dive boat right there at the pier. They had all of the equipment on board so we did not have to go to a SCUBA shop. It was a very large 2 deck boat and we only had 12 divers – we had tons of space to move around which was great. They put us into 2 groups of 6 and each of us had our own divemaster. We did an 80ft wall dive at “Santa Rosa Wall” and then a 35-50ft dive at “Paradise Reef”. It was a cloudy day but the visibility was outstanding – 90-100ft! The blue of their water is beautiful against the white sandy bottom – then we swam to the edge of the wall and it is so gorgeous to look down! We went through a few swim throughs – saw eels, huge parrot fish, an eagle ray, and the largest lobster we have ever seen – literally 4ft – serious! They brought us back to the pier and it was a quick walk back to the ship. We ate lunch on board, showered and then headed back out for some shopping. They have a small “mall” shopping area at the end of the pier – the shopworkers can be quite aggressive but that is normal for the Caribbean. I did find that many of their tshirts were quite offensive – I am not a prude in my own home but I do not see why curse words and sexual positions need to be printed on tshirts for everyone to see when walking by. There is a Senor Frogs there called ½ Senor Frogs where there was quite a party going on – we had fun watching people stagger back to the ship before the final people got on board at 5:30pm. The ship pushed off right around 6pm and it was stormy but the seas were not too bad. We were tired that day so we skipped dinner and just had some sushi (Percy the sushi chef has got to be the nicest guy on board – always smiling and friendly). The show that night was the Guest Talent Show and “Samba Rio” with Ronaldo and Daniele. We did not attend so can’t comment on that show. Day 5 “fun” day at sea: Our last day at sea was the first time we did lunch in the dinning room – it was very similar to dinner with appetizer course, salad, entrée, then desert. In the afternoon we watched the Newlywed/Not so Newlywed game in the Paris Lounge and it was really funny – we stuck around for 5 games of Bingo (didn’t win) and then the Maitre D’s came in to start the “galley tour”. There was a large group in the lounge so “George the Greek” (OPA!) talked about what they do in the galley and all of the thousands of pounds of food that they had prepared on our cruise. Then the whole group (probably 300 people) was led slowly through Mardi Gras dining room and into the dishwashing area, food prep area, saw an ice sculpture, watermelon carving, and then out through the Carnivale dining room. It was neat to see the galley but unfortunate that the group was so large. On a prior cruise my husband went to the galley tour and they only had 50 people so they were truly guided through the galley while the guide described everything. The final show was “El Nuevo Caribe” which was a “vegas style” show. Risa, the cruise director, said this was the first time that they had performed this show but we would not have known it – they did a very nice job. The lead singer “Ami” has an amazing voice and did some passionate solos. There was one very funny part though (at least to me) toward the end the 4 male dancers came bouncing out wearing just pants and they had on the 4 colors that the Wiggles wear! I started laughing uncontrollably because they really looked just like the Wiggles just without shirts! After the show we had to pack which was such a bummer. We were all done around 11pm and when we opened our door there happened to be a baggage handler with a cart looking for luggage to pick up so we gave our luggage directly to him. Day 6 Debarkation: They had open seating breakfast in the dining room from 7-9am so we went there a little bit before 8am and enjoyed a final breakfast. When we came out of the dining room around 8:35am we could see people doing the “self assist debarkation” (they had to be able to carry all of their luggage with them). We watched for a while – the line was really long – it wound up into the stairwells. We went back to our cabin before 9am to pick up our carry on luggage. They request that you be out of the room and into the designated waiting area for your color luggage tag by 9am. Our assigned area was the Lido deck so we went up there and found a deck chair (there were plenty). It seemed like ½ the ship did self-assist so the waiting areas were not very crowded. Around 9:15 they announced “open debarkation” and said everyone could leave (they never did call the colors). They suggested that anyone not in a hurry should hang out longer and they would make another announcement when the line had cleared out. We waited about 20 minutes (because that is how long it took to finish the great Jennifer Crusie novel I was reading) and we went down to the Empress deck – there was no line – it was a smooth debarkation for us. I highly recommend just hanging back if you do not need to be anywhere soon – and enjoy that final breakfast! When we exited the ship we went down an escalator and into a “warehouse” looking area and we found our luggage easily in the red section. We did not see an available porter anywhere so the two of us managed to pull all of our luggage through customs ourselves (all we had to do was turn in the customs form that they put under our door the last day at sea). The porters do not go all the way to the parking garage so we just took it ourselves. We thought about splitting up but the area where cars/taxis pull up to pick up people was very crowded so we just toughed it out and carried all of the luggage across the street, down the block and into the parking garage. Luckily we were really close to the elevator so it wasn’t too far to our car from there. So that’s it – cruise over We really enjoyed the cruise it is just so hard to believe that it went by so fast! Final miscellaneous thoughts/tips: Be sure you have your photo ID (we used our passports) with you when you exit the ship because they require the Sail and Sign card AND a photo ID to get back on at each port. The seats in the Paris Lounge (where the main shows take place) are very low-backed if you sit in the center in front of the stage. We found that on the 2nd level there are nice high backed/armed chairs along the sides and if you go near the two control booths you can see quite well. My husband is 6’2” and he said the low center seats were very uncomfortable. Bring a laundry bag or a popup hamper – you’ll need a spot to put all of those dirty clothes! Our room was near the elevator (M57) and we did not have any problems with elevator noise – it was really convenient to get to the stairs/elevators also. We did have noisy people on our floor the first few nights but it did not have anything to do with the elevators – just partying teenagers/early 20’s running up and down the halls. The photos: The embarkation and all formal photos are printed in 8x10 and cost $19.99 – you can not get a smaller size until you purchase that shot in the 8x10 size! But – the “gangway” photos that they take when you go into each port as well as photos they take of people around the Lido deck are printed in a 6x9 size and cost $7.99. We just purchased our Cayman gangway photo because it seemed more reasonably priced. We skipped over the photographers in Cozumel (because I thought all photos were going to be $19.99) but knowing what I know now we would have stopped for a photo there to get the 6x9 size. They also put a border around those shots and put the date and the port of call. There was one photo setup that may have been worth the $19.99 (to me) – on the Cozumel day they had a “dress up” photo setup where you could choose old western clothes – a suit or chaps for men and fancy dresses for women. You can hold an inoperable rifle or pistol and they take a few different poses and print in black and white as well as color. The dresses just tie in the back and go over your clothes - works great over tank tops (I had to remove my tshirt for the dress I chose). We watched some groups and families dress up and it was a lot of fun and could be a special picture that you don’t get everyday. They were setup by the “Violins” Bar on the Promenade deck. I only saw them on the Cozumel night but we did not go to all of the photo sites so it is possible that they do it on more than 1 night. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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