Pros: Food, room, entertainment, transportation, relaxation is all included in one fee.
Cons: Sometimes the service can be lacking, the elevators may not always work.
My husband and I were wed on April 30, 2004 in Charleston, SC. We proceeded to travel to Tampa, FL to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation with Carnival Cruise Line's MS Inspiration!
Upon arriving in Tampa, Florida, we found the directions to the dock easy enough, but the traffic was something I don't want to experience ever again. Parking, btw, is $10 per day (we took a 7-day cruise, so we owed $70 up front for parking).
Upon entering the "gateway", we were greeted and greeted and greeted some more. Everyone was friendly and helpful to anyone who didn't understand specifics about the USA Customs procedures. Basically, prepare to spend at least 2 hours (minimum) in line before boarding the ship. Your time will be spent signing paperwork, verifying yourself, and dropping off your luggage. Simply arrive a few hours earlier than your disembarkation time.
Once you've cleared Customs, you are boarding the ship. This is probably the most exciting time! The anticipation is coursing through your veins and your eyes are trying to grab an image of the inside of the ship, and you feel like a child at Christmas again.
You usually board the ship on the main deck (on this ship, it was the Atlantic Deck). You have stairs as well as elevators (but the elevators are constantly running up and down, fairly slowly, so it might be a while before you get one) for those who cannot make it up and down the stairs.
Our cabin was located on the Riviera Deck, the last deck that had guest cabins. It was OK, though, if I had to do it over again, I would have chosen a room a few decks above. The problem with our cabin was the shifting of ship. Usually, since the ship is so large, you cannot feel the shifting very much. However, our cabin was so close to the water that we felt almost every sway. This, of course, kept us up a few nights, but it got much better on the trip back to Tampa, FL. The wonderful parts about our cabin were as follows:
1. We got a great deal! For only $475pp (before taxes and port charges) we had a cabin reserved via the "Gauranteed Inside Cabin" special (available to anyone!).
2. We got a free upgrade! Instead of getting our "gauranteed" inside cabin, we were upgraded to an outside cabin (with a window).
3. Our cabin steward (maid, for lack of a better term) was wonderful. When we came back from dinner, our towels would be shaped like animals on our newly cleaned bed and refurbished cabin.
The numerous decks provide endless entertainment for ship guests. The various decks and rooms are listed below:
Sun Deck: Equipped with a Nautica Jogging Track
Sports Deck: Complete with Gymnasium, Spa (not free) Aerobics room, and a Beauty Salon (not free)
Verandah Deck: Verandah cabins, Top level of the Grand Atrium, and a bar
Lido Deck: Captain's Bridge, Main Grand Atrium, Snack bar, Pool bar, Patio pool with two hot tubs, Breakfast bar, and Pizzeria (open 24 hours! free!)
Promenade Deck:Paris Lounge, Monte Carlo Casino, Avant-Garde Club, Artist Display, Rock and Roll Dance Club, Jewelry Shop, Candlelight Lounge, and Chopin Lounge.
Atlantic Deck:Paris Lounge, Galleria Shopping Mall, Card Room, Rhapsody in Blue Piano Bar, Shakespear Library, Mardi Gras Dining Room (formal dining area), Carnivale Dining Room (formal dining area), and Children's playroom.
Empress Deck: Empress Deck Cabins, and Photo Gallery
Upper Deck: Upper Deck cabins.
Main Deck: Main Deck cabins.
Riviera Deck: Riviera Deck cabins (we stayed here!)
Now that you have an idea of what all there is to do while aboard this ship, let me take you through a TYPICAL day (at shore) for a cruiser.
Wake up as early as you can, so you don't miss anything! Breakfast is usually open from 6:30am-8:30am, but don't forget about all the places that serve food 24 hours, including room service, for free!
Once you've taken a shower and eaten breakfast, you'll want to go and check your photos from the night before in the photo gallery.
Most people go on excursions while at shore. Most take several hours, and can be tiring yet exciting, nonetheless. Here's a list of a *few* of the onshore excursions available to you:
--Scuba diving (both beginner and intermediate classes)
--Swimming with dolphins (which was fun, but the dolphins seem to be bound with the trainers and don't like being around those who have paid over a hundred dollars per person to play with them!)
--Swimming with stingrays (this excursion was wonderful. Unlike with the dolphins, the stingrays are welcoming to anyone with squid in their hands! You can feed them and hold them and kiss them!)
--Snorkeling (this is fun for the whole family!)
And so many more exciting adventures!
Some would agree that the best part of a cruise while onshore is the shopping! Most ports on the western caribbean are haggling ports. If someone says they'll give you an item for $20, you should negotiate, and you'll probably get it! It is fun, but can also be very frustrating.
Now that you're excursions are done, you board the ship and you're probably hungry, again! Usually there is still a Lunch Buffet open or you could hit the 24hr Pizzeria!
Whether your idea of a good night is dancing the night away in one of their numerous dance clubs, having a few drinks at a bar or lounge, shopping in the Shopping Mall, swimming, soaking in the hot tubs, watching a Las Vegas-style show in the Grand Atrium, staying in your cabin to watch an exclusive (first-run) movie (free), or having a couple's massage at the Salon, there's no chance that you could overlook a good time on this FUNSHIP!
Single cruiser? Senior cruiser? Newlywed cruiser? Long-time married cruiser? Teenage cruiser? All sorts of cruisers are found on Carnival's MS Inspiration. There are even single's nights, senior's nights and every night is a family night!
On our cruise, though, we encountered every cruiser avaible. Many families, many seniors, tons of teenagers, and a few small children. This is truly a vacation for anyone/everyone in the family!
Don't forget to make time for your formal dinner arrangements! Although you don't have to go to dinner every night, it is highly recommended that you go as often as you can. This is an opportunity to make new friends! You are seated at a very formal dining table and served a 4-course meal (appetizer, salad/soup, entre, dessert)! Not only is the meal delicious, but it is adventurous as well! Except for America night, you won't see hamburgers on their menus, but don't worry! If you don't enjoy the entre you choose, they will let you try another (of course, at no extra charge!). My husband had 4 lobster tails in ONE sitting!
With so much to do and so little time to do it all, you'll find it hard not to want to take another cruise in just a few months! My, now, husband and I have decided to take a cruise every year for our anniversary! It was a magical experience.
I should probably also mention that the price isn't as unreasonable as it may seem, at first. You see, if you go on an 8-day, 7-night cruise, you will probably spend around $1300 (if you find a good deal, they're out there!)for an abundant amount of food, room, loads of entertainment, transportation (to your various ports of call), and relaxation! To take a trip to Europe and visit 3 or 4 cities would cost you over $1300 for ONE person, let alone two. So, when you're thinking of the expense of a cruise, don't forget all that is included in the package!
HINT Always ask about free upgrades! They're giving them away all the time!
It is truly impossible to fully share the experience on paper, but I hope I've given you a substantial glimmer of what "Cruising" is all about.
Good luck finding that perfect vacation and Bon Voyage!