Carnival Inspiration
Cruise Review & Photos

Here's a look at how one of the smallest ships in Carnival's fleet
has some advantages over the newer, larger ships

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Carnival Inspiration docked in Ensenada, Mexico
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...

Jim & Kellyn Zimmerlin - October 2012

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.

Carnival Inspiration Serenity retreat
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...

Lido pool area of the Carnival Inspiration

It's especially beautiful at night...

Lido deck of the Carnival Inspiration 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".

Carnival Inspiration atrium
The top half of the grand atrium

Exterior of the atrium on the Carnival Inspiration
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.

Comfortable seating underneath the windows of the owner's suite

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.
 

Avalon, Catalina island

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.

Avalon casino theater

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.

Avalon casino ballroom

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...

A beautiful shopping complex in Avalon, on Catalina Island

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 beach at Avalon, on Catalina island
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.

It was ironic to find this door propped open, in spite of the sign

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!

ironic sign on the whirlpool on Carnival Inspiration
 

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...

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:


A Great Series Of Books 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.  The overall plot of the story is that the author, Brian Bruns, meets a girl named Bianca in Las Vegas and quickly falls head over heels in love with her.  It turns out that she's on vacation from her job as a waitress on the Carnival Conquest.  Soon enough, the vacation is over and Bianca heads back to the ship...  and Brian must make a decision about whether this was just a quick fling, or something more.  He decides it was something more, and takes a job with Carnival in order to be with Bianca.  Ship life is tough, and creates one roadblock after another between Brian and the girl he loves.

It's a huge love story that literally follows them all around the world.  If you just want to hear Brian's best inside stories about life on a cruise ship, you don't even need to read all four books...  just get the first one.  But if you find yourself loving all the dirty details of life on a cruise ship, and want more...  or if you get hooked on the love story and you want to find out whether ship life breaks up Brian and Bianca or whether there's a classic happy ending at the end...  buy all four.

  Volume 1 Volume 2 Volume 3 Volume 4  

If you purchase one (or all!) 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.

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:

September 2015 back-to-back Caribbean cruises on Carnival Breeze
The largest cruise ship in the world: Allure Of The Seas
The best cruise ship we've ever experienced: The Norwegian Getaway
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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