The Carnival Inspiration docked at the Ensenada cruise port
My wife and I sailed on the Carnival Inspiration in October of 2012. This was our 16th cruise with Carnival, but it had been a long time since we had been on one of the Fantasy-class ships... the smallest and oldest ships in the Carnival fleet. It was interesting to compare one of these smaller ships with the larger, newer ships we had sailed on recently... and to be reminded that there are some significant advantages to these smaller ships in the fleet.
I'll be sharing with you a lot of pictures that I took onboard the Carnival Inspiration. Every picture on this page is my original photo... none are stock images or supplied by Carnival. Most of the photos were taken with my Canon Digital Rebel T2i camera.
I guess I should start by introducing ourselves...
We are Jim & Kellyn Zimmerlin... from Grover Beach, California
The main thing that jumped out at me right away when we got onboard the Carnival Inspiration was that it seemed less crowded than the other ships we had been on recently. The first afternoon of your cruise vacation can be a little intense because just about everybody firsts heads to the casual buffet restaurant on Lido deck for lunch. But on a ship with only 2000 passengers, it's not as bad as competing with 3700 other passengers like you do on the largest ships in Carnival's fleet.
The Carnival Inspiration is one of eight Fantasy-class ships in the Carnival fleet. One of my favorite things about this class of ships is that the adults-only Serenity area is located in the rear of the ship, one deck below the Lido. This provides outstanding protection against the wind. Here's a picture of the Serenity area on the Carnival Inspiration, which shows how it sits down low in the back of the ship. The two decks above and in front of the Serenity area make an excellent wind block.
You can see the lights of Ensenada in the background of this photo
of the aft decks of the Carnival Inspiration
In the photo, you can see part of the buffet restaurant through the glass. What you can't see is that tucked away under the restaurant is more of the Serenity area... offering seating in the shade of the deck above... and outstanding protection from any wind. Also, notice the thick cushions on the loungers in the Serenity area. These loungers are way more comfortable than your average outdoor chaise lounge, thanks to those thick cushions.
The scope of this photo only shows a portion of the Serenity area... there's more out of view, including a second Jacuzzi.
In addition to wind protection, having the Serenity retreat located in the back of the ship offers another great benefit... it's completely isolated from the noise of the main Lido swimming pool area. Between all the happy noises kids make in the swimming pool, the music from the poolside reggae band, and the poolside events such as the hairy chest competition... the main Lido pool can be a noisy place. Not at all serene! Unfortunately, on most Carnival ships, the Serenity retreat is located quite near the main pool... and noise from the pool area can and does disturb the serenity that's supposed to exist on the Serenity deck. But on the Fantasy class ships, with the Serenity area located far away from the main pool, it really is serene just like you'd expect it to be.
Another thing I like about the Serenity area on the Carnival Inspiration... compared to the Serenity retreats on the newer, larger ships... is that there isn't a bar there. There's nothing like a bunch of drunk people having a party at the bar to disturb the serenity. That's been a problem for me when I've been trying to relax on some of the other ships in the Carnival fleet. So, I think it's a benefit that the Carnival Inspiration doesn't have a bar built in to the Serenity retreat.
In spite of all I've said about the benefits of the adults-only Serenity area, I do also have to say that the main Lido pool area is a great place to hang out when you are looking for fun instead of peace and quiet. Here's a picture of it during the daytime...
It's especially beautiful at night...
One thing that really impressed me on our cruise aboard the Carnival Inspiration was the 2-man reggae band that plays on that stage by the pool. I have to admit that I've never really been a fan of the reggae bands on Carnival ships... but the guys on the Carnival Inspiration were really great! It was the most mellow reggae band I've ever heard. I really wish I had gotten one of their performances on video so you could have heard how their style differed from the normal poolside reggae band. Instead of trying to be hip and cool and doing a bunch of Bob Marley songs, they did a lot of old 70's stuff and infused it with their own unique (and very mellow) style. I liked it a lot, and that's about the only reggae band I ever remember enjoying on a Carnival cruise. Normally, it's just way too rowdy and way too loud for me. This music was relaxing, but at the same time it was still "fun".
The top half of the grand atrium
This is the view from just outside the roof of the atrium
You may be wondering what the secret is to getting these beautiful night shots of the ship. I bet if you try to get shots like these with your camera, they won't look as good! My secret for good cruise ship night shots is to bring a tripod with me. I put a luggage tag on it, and check it just like you would a suitcase... so it's really not at all inconvenient to bring aboard with me. With the camera sitting securely on a tripod, I can take long exposure shots at night... sometimes with exposure times as long as 30 seconds... to maximize the lighting in very dark conditions. You can see the results are pretty good!
We had a favorite little spot to sit overlooking the Lido deck. There was a row of nice comfortable chairs on Verandah deck, and they had big soft red cushions. Very comfy! We spent some time here one morning when it was in the sun and it was one of the warmer spots on the ship... and again one very warm afternoon when these chairs were in the shade.
See those big picture windows above the "Carnival Inspiration" sign? Behind those windows lies a big secret... the cruise ship equivalent of Area 51. It's the Owner's Suite... the most luxurious cabin onboard... and it doesn't appear on any of the deck plans you'll see of this ship! There's a video on YouTube that offers a tour of the Owner's Suite. Take a look:
One of the things I find fascinating about the owner's suites (there are two of them) on the Fantasy-class ships is that you can't just go to Carnival.com and book one like you would any other cabin onboard. The owner's suites are by invitation only! If no dignitary from Carnival Cruise Lines has the owner's suite booked up, Carnival will call someone booked in a regular cabin and ask them if they're interested in upgrading. (For a substantial extra cost, of course.) This is known as getting a call from "the upgrade fairy". I've never had that experience... but maybe if I keep cruising enough with Carnival, it will happen someday!
If you're fascinated by the idea of the owner's suite, you'd probably enjoy reading my review of our cruise on the Carnival Sunshine in 2013, where we stayed in the Captain's Suite!
Our 4-day cruise on the Carnival Inspiration visited the city of Ensenada in Mexico, and the city of Avalon on Catalina island off the coast of southern California. The main reason I wanted to go on this particular cruise was to visit Avalon. I've lived in California for over 50 years, but I've never been to Catalina island. So, I figured it was time to cross this one off my bucket list.
Here's a shot I took of Avalon, from the deck of the Carnival Inspiration. The
morning fog hadn't completely burned off yet.
That round building on the right is known as the Avalon casino... altough it's never been a place of gambling. The word casino had a slightly different meaning back in the 1920's when this building was constructed. In those days, the word casino meant a gathering place.
I had seen a documentary on PBS about the Avalon casino, and it looked so interesting that I wanted to see it for myself. I was not disappointed. You don't need to make any kind of reservations... they have tours throughout the day for $10 per person.
The lower two thirds of the casino is a theatre. In the evenings, they still show films here.
The upper third of the building is a large ballroom, with a huge wooden dance floor and a large stage. It makes an excellent venue for concerts, wedding receptions, and proms. When we visited, it was set up for a jazz concert... with the beautiful hardwood floors covered, and seating in place.
Besides visiting the casino, we spent several hours just walking around the town of Avalon. There are lots of restaurants, bars, and shops. Here's one particularly beautiful shopping venue...
There is also a small beach at Avalon, and it's a great spot to dip your toes in the water or to let your children play for a while..
The morning fog was still not completely burned off when I snapped this photo of the beach at Avalon
Here's a funny photo I couldn't resist taking! I laughed when I read the sign on the inside of this door that was propped open on Lido deck.
Along the same lines, I couldn't resist snapping this photo of the "adults only" whirlpool on the Lido deck, which was filled with kids!
In fairness to Carnival cruise lines, I have to explain that photo of the kids in
the adults-only whirlpool...
What you can't see is that just off to the right, outside the view of the photo, was a large sign explaining that it was OK for all ages to use this whirlpool... because Carnival was doing maintenance to the other nearby whirlpool.
Now, here's a list of things that I'd like to suggest you should bring with you on a cruise...
A multi-outlet power strip. There are only two electrical outlets at the desk in your cabin. That may not be enough if you want to charge multiple electronic devices overnight.
A 6-pack of your favorite beverage, so you don't have to pay ship prices for it. There's a refrigerator in your cabin, so you can keep your beverage cold... and your cabin steward will fill your ice bucket several times a day. Also, think about buying bottles or cans of your favorite soft drinks at the ports you visit. It's better than paying ship prices for it.
Two large plastic drink cups. (One for you, one for your roommate.) The drinking glasses that are provided in the cabins and in the Lido restaurant are frustratingly small! They don't even come close to holding the contents of one can of Coke. We always bring a couple of large plastic drinking cups along with us... to use when drinking our favorite beverage on our balcony, on the Serenity deck, or even at the Lido restaurant. Once I'm comfortable, I don't like having to get up to refill my beverage.
A watch or a travel clock. Activities start at certain times, so you will frequently want to know the current time.
A highlighter pen, to mark activities on the daily schedule that you are interested in.
A small flashlight, so you can stumble to the bathroom in the middle of the night without disturbing your roommate by turning on all the lights in the room. It's also a handy thing to have with you in the unlikely event of an emergency.
Your MP3 player, so you can listen to your favorite music while you relax in the sun on deck. I'd also recommend noise-cancelling headphones for use with your MP3 player. There have been many times when I've been trying to relax on The Serenity Deck of a Carnival cruise ship when someone nearby was talking so loudly that all serenity had vanished. Noise-cancelling headphones and your favorite music on your MP3 player will bring the serenity back. Noise-cancelling headphones are also great if you are taking an airline flight to get to and from your cruise. They block out all the engine noise while you are watching the movie or listening to music.
Some $1 and $5 bills. Very handy for tipping the people who handle your luggage on embarkation day, and also for making small purchases in Mexico. Using American money in Mexican ports is almost never a problem, but using a large bill to make a small purchase can be a problem.
If you're in a full-time relationship with your laptop computer or iPad... be sure to bring it along! There's wi-fi available throughout the ship, even in your cabin... and on the Carnival Inspiration you can even buy an unlimited Internet access plan.
And I think this last one goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: DON'T FORGET TO BRING A SWIM SUIT!
Speaking of swim suits... I'd like to tell you about one of the most useful things we've learned after many cruises. When you share a cruise ship with 3000 other passengers, you have to come up with ways to avoid the crowds. I really don't think it's fun to share a Jacuzzi with a bunch of strangers, so I make an effort to get to the Jacuzzis at times when the other passengers won't be there. So, here's a trick that we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves:
Most people pack their swimsuit in their suitcase, which they hand over to a porter on embarkation day so that the suitcase can be delivered to their cabin. And the suitcases generally don't arrive at the cabins until late in the afternoon on embarkation day... which means that most people can't get to their swimsuits on the afternoon of embarkation. And that means that the Jacuzzis and swimming pools are fairly empty on embarkation day. It presents a perfect opportunity! What we do is wear our swimsuits under our clothes on embarkation day. The first thing we do when we get on board the ship is have some lunch, and then after lunch we strip down to our swim suits and enjoy the hot tubs without anyone else being in them. It works every time, and it's one of the few times during the week that you see the hot tubs without anyone else in them. By the way, before you get in the hot tub, grab a towel up on the Lido deck by the main pool... so that you can dry off when you're all done.
Here's another method we use to have the hot tubs all to ourselves: 6 PM is the most popular dinner time... and most people are getting ready for dinner at 5:30 PM... so that's a great time to head to the hot tubs. If you have "your time dining" you can eat a little later, after you're done with the hot tubs.
While we're talking about beating the crowds... remember that if you try to eat a meal at the same time everybody else does, you're going to find the buffet very crowded. So, try to adjust your schedule a little off-peak to avoid the crowds. Get up a little earlier than everybody else to avoid the breakfast crowds. Or eat lunch a little later than everybody else to avoid the lunch crowds. The buffet is really crowded at 8 AM, but usually not at 7 AM. And the lunch crowd is huge at 12:30 but not bad at all at 1:30 or 2 PM.
Here's something that you might find very useful if you're doing research for an upcoming cruise on the Carnival Inspiration...
Take a look at this detailed set of Carnival Inspiration deck plans. If your color printer can handle 11x17" paper, print these deck plans out at 11x17" and take them with you on your cruise. They are far more detailed than the printed deck plans they hand out on the ship. Or simply save the deck plans to your iPad or laptop computer and bring it with you on the ship.
What's So Special About The Larger Ships
I've already spent quite a bit of time explaining to you what I like about the Fantasy-class ships such as the Carnival Inspiration. I'd be doing you a diservice if I didn't also explain the benefits of cruising on some of Carnival's other larger, newer ships:
The cruises are longer, and they visit more interesting destinations.
The safe in your closet opens and closes using a 4-digit combination of your choice, rather than with a magnetic card.
There's a small refrigerator in your cabin.
There are alternative dining venues such as a steakhouse, burrito bar, and on some ships an Italian restaurant.
On the largest ships, there's a giant outdoor big screen by the pool... where they show concerts, sports, and movies.
The cabins are slightly larger on the newer ships. For example, there's no room for a couch on most Fantasy-class cabins.
There's more space around the bathroom sink for storing your personal grooming items.
The Serenity areas are larger, and feature round day beds large enough for two people to snuggle together.
The newest ships (such as the Magic and the Breeze) have two electrical outlets at the desk. Most Carnival ships just have one.
A Great Book About Cruise Ships
After you've been on at least one cruise, there's a book that you really should read! It will give you a whole new perspective. It's a book that was written by a guy that worked on several Carnival ships... and he shares some funny stories about life on a cruise ship. To give you a bit of an idea of what kind of book this is... the story starts as he is staying in a hotel room in Miami, the night before his very first day working on a cruise ship. Even though it's the day before his first day onboard, he's basically "on the job", so Carnival is paying for the room. To save the company money, they don't give him a private room... he shares it with someone else. So, he checks in to the room, and the first thing he does is to take a nice long shower. And when he's finally done with his shower, he discovers that his roommate has shown up... and is in the middle of having sex with a woman right there in their shared hotel room! Does that give you an idea of the kind of book this is? Well, that's just the beginning... and things get even more interesting on the ship!
If you've ever wondered what life is like for those people that work on cruise ships... what kind of hours they work... how much they're paid... and what they do when they're not working... this is the book for you. And even better news... in 2011, he wrote a sequel!
If you purchase one (or both!) of the books by clicking on these ads,
Amazon.com will send a small commission my way. Thanks!
How To Smuggle Booze Onboard
The cruise lines are expecting to make some serious money from you at the bars onboard the ship. The cost of one drink is typically over $10, and most people don't drink alone... so that's over $20 just to share one nice drink with your sweetie. After that first one, how about another? And hey, this is not just a one day cruise... well, you can see how the cost of liquor can really add up by the end of your cruise.
You can save a LOT of money by bringing your own liquor aboard. However, the cruise line wants a monopoly on liquor sales, so they generally do not allow you to bring your own liquor aboard! Every piece of luggage that is brought onboard is x-rayed, and if they spot something in the shape of a bottle... they will open the bag and confiscate any alcohol. (Soft drinks like Pepsi and Coke are OK to bring onboard in your luggage, and will not be confiscated.)
To get around the high price of booze on a cruise, a lot of people DO bring their own liquor onboard. The smart ones will disguise it so that it does not show up on the x-ray machine. An easy way to do this is to use a "ShampBooze" flask...
Carnival Cruise Sounds
Have some fun with these! Listen to the Carnival Cruise theme, or play the sound of a Carnival ship horn.
If you're a true cruise junkie, download the audio files (by right-clicking, and saving) and then set your computer to play the ship horn when you get a new email, and to play the theme song when the computer boots up and/or shuts down!
The Cruise Ships We've Been On
If you've enjoyed this page, you would probably also enjoy reading my web pages about:
Our December 2013 cruise on the newly remodeled Carnival Sunshine
Our April 2013 cruise on the newest ship in the fleet... the Carnival Breeze
Our first cruise with Princess! January 2014 Sapphire Princess
Our September 2013 cruise on the Carnival Conquest
One of the newest ships in the fleet, the Carnival Magic
Our Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Glory
Our many cruises on the Carnival Spirit
Our February 2010 cruise on the Carnival Splendor
Our April 2009 Carnival Paradise cruise
Our January 2008 cruise on the Carnival Elation
Our April 2008 cruise on the Norwegian Star
Our 1996 cruise on Carnival Cruise Line's MS Holiday
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