Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Carnival Inspiration 3 day, 4 night cruise to Catalina and Ensenada

Being this was my first cruise, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Our cruise was a 3 day, 4 night leaving Long Beach, CA, then to Catalina and on to Ensenada Mexico.

Day 1 Ship boarding and embarkment for Catalina. 
The ship boarding experience seemed fine, except expect to get your photo taken several times before getting on the ship.  You have the option later to purchase the photo(s).  The photographers were friendly, however the "sales" experience started right away.

We boarded in time to get some lunch, which we did the lunch buffet.  There is certainly plenty of food, and a good variety.  However, that being said, the food seemed a bit lack luster, lacking flavor.  I imagine it has to be that way, since so many people are being served and if the food was too spicy, etc., it may not go over well.

Ice tea, water, milk, coffee, OJ are are included in the price of the trip, however if you want soda, you can buy a soda pass for the day for @$5-6.
If you want beer, it runs @6 (15% gratuity is automatically added to the bill) and the mixed drinks range from about $5-10.
You can also bring 1 bottle of wine, per person (over 18 I believe) to be consumed in the dining room.  There is a cork fee of $10 per bottle.  The buffet is nice if you don't have allot of time and just want to grab something.  The sit down dining is nice if you want a nice, relaxed meal over a bottle of wine.  Some of the food items are different from the buffet.

Day 2 Catalina Island
We decided to do the scenic bus tour through carnival, since we could book it and pay using a credit card.  The tour was enjoyable and you got to learn about the island.

Day 3 Ensenada Mexico
I wasn't too sure about Ensenada, with all the horror stories you hear about Mexico.  This part of Mexico is pretty much a tourist area, however it is also pretty run down.  Not a whole lot to look at, and everything seemed old and dingy.    Be prepared to have every other person come up to you to sell you a $1-4 trinket.  We also ran into a guy that was selling ATV rentals.  We ended up taking a horse and buggy ride.  The horse looked like it was on its last leg, and the buggy barely limped along.  The driver was nice, however once again, the scenery was like driving through the worst part of town where ever you live....closed and run down stores.  All in all, could really care less about ever going back to Ensenada.

Day 4 Fun at Sea
The ship cruises slowly back to Long Beach, delivering you to port the next day AM.  It's nice to catch a show or just relax on board.

Here is a quick summary of the entertainment we did:
Comedy show: not bad, but short (30 min each).
Dance/singing show (we didnt go see it, but when walking buy the theatre, it didnt look all that exciting)
Gameshows: entertaining, but not something I would ever pay for.
Swimming pool.  In the middle of the ship, packed and filled with kids....Also, the lounge chairs (with the exception of the over 21 section) were quite hard and uncomfortable.
Hot tub...see above
Swimming slide.  On the upper deck (very windy) with no pool or hot tub, also packed with kids.
Over 21 deck.  Hot tub was less crowded, but allot of obnoxious drunks.
Miniature golf: Front of the boat...small course....not anything great.
Casino: couple slots, couple tables..definitely not Vegas.
Dancing by the pool....
bean bag toss....kind of fun
giant chess board (on the dance floor)....kind of fun
Eating....most enjoyable part of the trip....similar to Vegas buffets, but I think a notch or 2 below.  They did have a sushi bar, which was kind of cool....
Seagulls...lots of fun to watch
Art gallery...nothing special
Internet area....didnt use
Nightclub for kids....small dance floor, with a couch.....not a big deal.
They also had a few scattered bars throughout the ship, 2 at the main pool, once on the main level, a few others.....Be prepared if you drink, to spend a ton of money.....or bring wine as mentioned above....you can also drink when you get off the boat at catalina and ensenada....at the ensenda port, there is a marketplace where you can buy and drink beer....If you bring bottles of liquor back on the ship, they confiscate it until the end of the cruise.

The cabin was actually more spacious than I anticipated, and noise level was quite low.
The staff was great.  Professional and very nice.

Overall, I would do it again.

Entertainment: 4 out of 10
Food: 5 out of 10
Staff: 10 out of 10
Overall Fun Factor: 5 out of 10