Carnival Inspiration is an old ship with a young heart. The 2,056-passenger ship debuted in 1996 as the sixth of Carnival Cruise Line's eight Fantasy-class vessels, and are now the smallest and oldest ships in the current fleet. While the ship may be lacking in big-ship staples such as a sports court or plentiful balcony cabins, several refurbishments over the years have kept it fresh with new attractions, including a water park, themed bars and additional eating establishments like Guy's Burger Joint and the BlueIguana Cantina.
But it's the passengers who keep Carnival Inspiration feeling young. The ship's three- and four-night cruises attract a diverse crowd of passengers who have at least one thing in common: They are onboard to pack as much fun as possible into a short getaway. You will find more 20- and 30-somethings on this cruise than on longer sailings. It's popular with bachelorette parties and wedding-honeymoon combos, and offers plenty of cabins that sleep three, four or five, making the ship ideal for friend getaways and young family trips. But that doesn't mean older adults are left out; we saw plenty of grey hair in the thick of the action.
If the idea of a party cruise sends you running, you should know that in most cases, Inspiration is more festive celebration than debauched affair. People danced and shouted encouragement to karaoke singers, the night club was hopping before midnight, the comedy and theater shows were packed, cruisers enthusiastically participated in pool games, and trivia games routinely ended in impromptu dance parties. Whatever you wanted to do onboard, you never had to get the party started; it was already going. (Four-night cruises are slightly more laid-back than weekend sailings, with a somewhat older demographic.)
Inspiration has just enough onboard activity to keep you entertained for three or four nights. Any longer and you might be wishing you had a private balcony, more sports options or another sit-down restaurant choice. Thankfully, by the time you've fully explored the all the ship has to offer -- there's only one day at sea to fill, after all -- it's already time to get off. Yet Carnival does a nice job of packing that sea day with activities and events, so you have choices if your day isn't already booked up with sunbathing, spa appointments and waterslide races.
Service was pretty good for a ship of this size. Though we didn't interact much with staff, our room steward was accommodating about switching our bed arrangement and always said hello in the hallway. The main dining room waiters exceeded my expectations, and the buffet staff was constantly bussing dishes and cleaning up just-vacated tables.
Not everyone will be inspired by Inspiration. Devout foodies, design-sensitive folks who desire stylish accommodations over a hodgepodge of crazy public room decor, and fashionistas who demand elegant evening dress will likely find something to complain about. But if you just want to have a good time for a couple of days and are happy to do your own thing while other people do theirs, you can pack a lot of fun into a short timeframe on Carnival Inspiration.
Carnival Inspirations' cabins are certainly spacious, even for inside categories, with many options for extra berths. On the flip side, the decor is neither modern nor sophisticated, and amenities are minimal. The majority of cabins are insides or ocean-views; the only balconies are found in suites. The drawbacks don't seem to outweigh the perks for Carnival cruisers, who mostly want to be out and about on the ship or in port.
All standard cabins have twin beds that convert to queens; a vanity area with a tabletop desk, an ottoman stool, a few drawers and a mirror; an extra desk chair; a flat-screen TV; a corner shelf; two hooks on the wall; one 110V and one 220V outlet; and closets with shelves, hanging space, bathrobes for onboard use and a safe. (The safe is the kind that needs a card with a magnetic strip to lock; you can't use your cruise card, so you're relegated to a credit card, which then can't be stored in the safe.) Depending on the layout of your cabin, you might also get a small bedside night table. Standard cabins do not have sofas. Decor is in hues of orange (peach and orangey-red), and not very modern looking; it clashes with the bright red rail that runs around the cabin, which contains the electrical outlets and reading lights.
Standard ensuite bathrooms are shower-only, with a shower curtain and in-shower clothesline, and offer minimal storage. (We maxed out all the space for toiletries on a solo sailing.) The only toiletries provided are bar soap and dispensers of mystery shower gel and shampoo. (The mystery was even greater when we first walked into our bathroom and found the two dispensers unlabeled; we asked our cabin steward and he re-labeled them.) A shaver outlet for 120V and 230V is on the ceiling of the sink/mirror unit -- look up. Our cabin had no hairdryer.
Approximately 50 pairs of cabins connect via side doors. Many cabins also have the ability to sleep three to five via Pullman bunk beds, rollaway cots, trundle beds (similar to rollaways but very low to the ground -- perfect for small children) or sofabeds (mostly found in suites). Both connecting cabins and suites are great options for families or groups traveling together, but if you're not traveling with a large party, stay away: Connecting doors are not at all soundproof, and you can clearly hear conversations and the TV through the door. Also, if you get a connecting cabin that also has a Pullman bunk, the layout of the room makes it impossible to put a queen bed against the solid walls, so the bed ends up against the connecting door.
There are 25 cabins for disabled cruisers. These cabins have wider doorways, more interior space and roll-in showers with hand rails, among other features. Carnival offers additional special services for passengers in need of assistance, such as room kits for people who are hard of hearing. Contact the line directly for more information.
Interior: Inside cabins are 185 square feet, with a fake window. (Pull the curtains and you're looking at a blank wall.) While most offer two twins that convert into queens, some offer one twin bed and either a sofabed or a Pullman bunk bed. Inside cabins sleep up to five people. Storage space is plentiful for two people or a family, but four or five adults sharing a cabin -- especially if you've brought multiple outfits for each day -- might max out the space.
Oceanview: The 185-square-foot outside cabins have either one picture window or two small portholes. They also can sleep up to five people, with the same storage issues as inside cabins.
Junior Suites: On the Verandah Deck (Deck 11), the 26 Junior Suites are essentially what you'd call balcony cabins on bigger Carnival ships. Each 220-square-foot cabin has a convertible sofa and coffee table, as well as a small 30-square-foot balcony with two chairs and a small drinks table. Some have obstructed views. Junior Suites can sleep up to three passengers. Passengers booked in Junior Suites get VIP check-in.
Suite: The 28, 330-square-foot Grand Suites are not true suites but rather one large cabin. All are located on Deck 6 and include a bathroom with a tub and shower; a small walk-in closet with drawers, shelves and hanging space; a king-size bed (that converts to two twins); unstocked mini-fridge and shelves with glasses; and a 70-square-foot balcony with several chairs and a drinks table.
Two Penthouse Suites are hidden just off the atrium on Deck 12; if you weren't looking, you wouldn't know they were there. For those in the know -- and with the money to book them -- they're a great find. The enormous 850-square-foot cabins open onto a bar area with a high counter, stools, mini-fridge and shelf with glasses; it overlooks the floor-to-ceiling window that opens onto the balcony. The balcony is big enough for two recliners, two upright chairs and two drinks tables. On one side of the cabin, three round chairs surround a small table and look onto a large flat-screen TV perched above a counter and shelf space. To the other side, three plush easy chairs (two of which fold down into extra beds) and an adjustable coffee table complete the TV viewing area. A large sofa bed is against the far wall. The bedroom is a separate room and features another large flat-screen TV and reclining chair with foot stool. The bathroom is party-sized with a huge central space with double sinks; on one side is a marble room with a toilet and large, wedge-shaped whirlpool tub with shower, and on the other is a huge walk-in closet. The two penthouses connect to form one gigantic cabin via doors in the walk-in closets -- an odd choice.
Passengers in Junior Suites, and Grand and Penthouse Suites get VIP check-in.
The great thing about cruising with Carnival is that you won't find a ton of extra-fee restaurants. Every main dining venue is free on Carnival Inspiration, and the food is generally good. Foodies aren't going to be wowed, but no one is going to leave hungry. The two main dining rooms are the only sit-down venues onboard; all other dining options are either buffets or food counters.
Mardi Gras and Carnivale (Deck 8): Carnival Inspiration has two main dining rooms: Mardi Gras (midship) and Carnivale (aft). Both offer a choice of fixed-time, assigned-table seating at 6 p.m. or 8:15 p.m., or flexible dining between 5:45 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (You must select your preferred arrangement when you book; on our cruise, the assigned dining times booked up in advance, but there was some leeway to switch once onboard.) The venues are a mix of two-tops, four-tops and larger tables, and they can get loud, making conversations across tables difficult. On certain nights, the wait staff will parade around the dining room and perform dance numbers at the end of the meal. Wave your napkin in the air, or join the dancing if you dare.
On most nights, Carnival Inspiration features the line's American Table dinners. Tables are bare -- no tablecloths -- and set with carafes of water, wine for purchase and plastic plates featuring U.S. cities. The menu features a selection of starters (soups, salads, appetizers), mains and desserts, as well as a Rare Finds choice for more daring dishes (like alligator fritters), always-available grilled items (fish, pork chop, chicken breast or flat-iron steak) and a few options tied to the port of call (for example, duck potstickers and miso-marinated salmon to represent Los Angeles' strong Asian presence). There are typically two vegetarian entrees: an Indian platter and an option that changes daily. No other dietary restrictions are marked, so you'll need to speak with the dining staff about any special needs. Carnival's signature chocolate melting cake is available every night, as are ice cream, fruit and a cheese plate. Selections from Carnival's steakhouse menu -- lobster tail, filet mignon, New York strip steak and Surf n Turf -- are also available every night at $20 per entree.
On formal nights, Carnival switches to its fancier American Feast menu. On these nights, white tablecloths and silver shells adorn the tables, and the menu focuses on traditional fancy-occasion dishes like roast duck and prime rib. (The always-available grill selections and steakhouse entrees are also on the menu on Feast nights.)
The main dining room does breakfast on port days and disembarkation day, offering the usual omelets, pancakes, cereals, fruit and pastries -- no surprises. On sea days, a brunch is held from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., with both breakfast (cereal-crusted French Toast, steak and eggs) and lunch (mac 'n' cheese, grilled salmon) dishes. An afternoon tea with a host of dessert items is also held on sea days if you need more sweets.
For the first time on a Carnival cruise we've taken, our dining room waiter made a point to ask the names of everyone at our table on the first night, and he knew them all by the second night. We were pleased with our service, especially since we were at a large table, surrounded by large tables he was also serving. At one point, someone asked for separate spoons for coffee and tea; none of us remembered them appearing but suddenly they were there. The waiters do the infamous-on-Carnival dining room parades and dances, even though the low ceilings don't permit waiters to climb on top of serving counters and boogie like they do on larger ships.
Brasserie Bar and Grill (Deck 10, aft): Carnival's pool deck buffet has a bar, but it doesn't really have a grill. That said, the Brasserie is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and late-night snacks. Though popular, the venue certainly has weird decor, with purple tentacles wrapped around the entire restaurant. Really, we have no idea.
The buffet is more or less symmetrical with a hot food line, drinks stations, bakery bar and salad bar on both sides. Two self-serve machines (one with frozen yogurt, one with soft-serve ice cream) are smack in the middle of the venue, with the deli counter behind. The far corners house the bar and the 24/7 pizza counter.
At breakfast, the hot line dishes out breakfast meats, pancakes and scrambled eggs; there are also bagels and bread for toasting, plus oatmeal, milk and yogurt. The bakery bar offers croissants and muffins, while the salad bar is taken over with deli meat, cheese, fruit, more bread and cottage cheese. The deli counter serves up made-to-order omelets.
At lunch, the main hot food area is themed to an ethnicity, such as American, Italian or Caribbean. There's usually a healthy selection and a vegetarian one, as well as a meat carving station. The salad bar offers a good selection of salad toppings, as well as premade salads. The deli serves both hot and cold sandwiches. Though fancier desserts might look tempting, don't miss the chocolate-chip cookies; they're the perfect combination of warm and not too hard or soft.
In the evening, the Brasserie serves a similar (though not identical) menu to the dining room, just buffet style. Many people choose this option because they don't want to dress up or don't want a lengthy sit-down meal. Late-night options are comfort foods. The deli is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and pizza and ice cream are available 24 hours a day.
Guy's Burger Joint (Deck 10): This poolside burger counter is the go-to destination for unhealthy but delicious dining onboard. In partnership with Food Network celebrity chef Guy Fieri, Carnival offers a menu of specialty burgers such as the Chilius Maximus (topped with an onion ring) and Pig Patty (a burger topped with another patty made out of bacon). In reality, everyone orders a cheeseburger and then heads to the toppings bar to outfit their sandwich with grilled onions, grilled mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, pickle, condiments, etc. Veggie burgers are available (and are yummy), but only on request and you'll have to wait for some to be cooked special. Guy's Burger Joint is open noon to 6 p.m.
BlueIguana Cantina (Deck 10): Across the grill from Guy's Burger Joint is BlueIguana Cantina, a Mexican counter open for breakfast and lunch. The taco side features huevos rancheros (fried eggs on tortillas with beans and meat) and arepas (corn pancakes filled with cheese) at breakfast, and your choice of chicken, pork or fried fish tacos at lunch. The burrito side serves breakfast burritos with spicy or plain scrambled eggs in the morning, and chicken, beef, shrimp or bean burritos at lunch. Insider's tip: The BlueIguana chefs fry your eggs to order for huevos rancheros, but the line isn't nearly as long as the omelet line inside. Come here if you want eggs with no wait.
Room Service: In-cabin dining is available 24/7. Most items are free but you can order off an extra-fee menu for a wider selection. Continental breakfast is ordered via a card you hang on your door. Choices include fruit, cereal, breakfast pastries, bagels, yogurt, juice, milk and coffee or tea. All-day dining is limited to sandwiches (BLT, tuna, grilled cheese, etc.), garden or Caesar salad, crudité and dessert (cookies, cheesecake). The extra-fee menu lists hot items, such as wings, chicken tenders, fried shrimp, chicken quesadillas, Philly cheesesteak, pizza, fries and a banana split; cost ranges from $2 to $6. Beer, soda and wine can be ordered at regular bar prices.
Chef's Table; $75: In the combination entertainment-and-dining department, the Chef's Table is an exclusive dining event for 12 passengers, offered once per cruise. For $75, diners can attend a multicourse dinner, hosted by one of Carnival's chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a chef-led tour of the galley, and concludes with a multicourse dinner in a nontraditional dining venue, usually Inspiration's Shakespeare Library. Book the Chef's Table at the guest services desk.
Cafe des Artistes (Deck 9): If you can't live without your lattes, cappuccinos and flavored vitamin water, you need to become a regular at Inspiration's for-fee coffee shop. Also on the menu are milkshakes, chai lattes and brand-name tea, hot chocolate, bottled water and sports drinks, along with fancy cakes, giant cookies and other desserts. Most items fall in the $2 to $5 range. While the cafe is generally open morning until night, it might close from late morning to mid-afternoon on port days.
Green Eggs and Ham Breakfast (Deck 8); $5: Held once per cruise on a sea day, this breakfast event for kids and adults adds a bit of Seuss-style whimsy to your morning meal. Order crazy, colorful dishes such as the classic Green Eggs and Ham, multicolored waffles and pancakes, Seuss-striped parfaits and Moose Juice or Goose Juice. Breakfast takes place in one of the main dining rooms, which is decorated with bright Seuss colors and plenty of pompoms. Favorite characters from Seuss' classic books show up to meet and greet.
Inspiration has a very minimal dress code. On casual evenings, anything goes; the only items banned in the dining room are cut-off jeans, men's sleeveless shirts, gym shorts, baseball hats, bathing suits and flip-flops. (If your flip-flops have rhinestones and are paired with a dress, no one will say boo to you.) On the one elegant night per cruise, cruisers are encouraged to get fancy with cocktail dresses, pantsuits or dressy skirts and blouses for women and nice slacks and dress shirt for men (sports coats suggested; suits or tuxedoes optional.) Jeans, shorts, T-shirts and sportswear are added to the banned list on these evenings. Those preferring not to dress up can eat at the buffet or order room service; there's no casual venue with waiter service. (The Brasserie buffet does require diners to wear at least shirts and some sort of footwear, including flip-flops.)
In practice, casual nights are really casual, and people might not change clothes for dinner if they're already in jeans or a sundress. On elegant nights, people do get gussied up; we saw a lot of coordinated outfits among groups, and folks posing for formal photos by the ship's photographers.
The Paris Lounge, located on decks 8 and 9 forward, is the ship's main theater, used for day and evening shows, bingo and other events. Sightlines are not the best from the back of the main level and the middle of the balcony due to low ceilings and support poles, so arrive early for the best seats.
Inspiration's troupe of singers and dancers perform the line's Playlist Productions musical reviews, which are half-hour shows often preceded by an interactive pre-show and followed by an after party. They are themed around musical genres (like Motown), and feature upbeat numbers and lots of costume changes. The psychedelic video backdrops found on other Carnival ships are not used on Inspiration, and we actually found the shows easier to watch without them.
Once per cruise, the main theater showcases Hasbro, the Game Show, during which audience members participate in life-size versions of family board games such as "Operation" and "Yahtzee." The setup is clever -- for example, to roll the dice in Yahtzee, contestants rolls a bowling ball at pins whose bases are dice -- and the games are fun to watch even if you don't get chosen to play.
On sea days, you can also come to the Paris Lounge to watch a towel-folding demonstration, the Towel Animal Theater (in which towel animal puppets sing and dance), as well as Seuss-a-Palooza Story Time, a dramatization of The Cat in the Hat, complete with audience participation.
Carnival's entertainment team wants everyone to have a good time, day and night, so daytime activities focus more on fun than education. You won't find lectures or snooty wine tastings; you will find the Hairy Chest contest, bean-bag toss by the pool, lots of trivia, and the Groove for St. Jude event that raises money for charity. On sea days, you can find various ways to part with your money, either at bingo or casino events or at limited-time sales in the shops. On sunny days, most passengers will be lounging by the pool or cooling off in the water park; when it's cool or rainy, folks gather in the promenade or library to play cards or board games, read and chat, or brave the hot tub.
Short cruises bring out the party crowd, especially on three-night cruises. You don't have to be a frat boy or club kid to enjoy the high-energy vibe onboard Inspiration each night. The bars and lounges are hopping, the promenade turns into a bustling thoroughfare (punctuated by impromptu dance parties), and even the photo gallery is packed with souvenir shoppers.
One of Carnival's hallmarks is the Punchliner Comedy Club; two comedians alternate PG-rated and adult shows, held in the Candlelight Lounge (aft on Deck 9). Sit up front if you dare; you might become the focus of the comedian's patter. While comedian quality can vary, the two on our cruise were funny and the shows were packed. Arrive early to get a seat (and a drink).
The Avant Garde Lounge, in the middle of the Deck 9 promenade, is devoted to karaoke. This is not a talent show with carefully rehearsed songs and audience members politely applauding. The singing is enthusiastic (if not always good), but the dancing crowd does not care as long as they can boogie. There can be more willing singers than time available, so put your request in early. The Rhapsody in Blue piano bar, one deck down on Deck 8, is another favorite for those who like to sing along with a live pianist.
The Rock and Roll Dance Club, with its guitar theme, doesn't open until 10 p.m., but gets packed in the late-night hours. Most cruisers will dance to anything, but there are theme hours for '80s hits, Motown or other genres.
The Monte Carlo Casino on Deck 9 is centrally located on the promenade -- you can't miss it. Lots of slots share space with gaming tables for poker, blackjack, roulette and craps, as well as those arcade-style games where you try to shovel up money but just end up throwing quarters away. Smoking is allowed here.
A large percentage of Fun Ship fun is based around the bar scene on Carnival Inspiration. You won't find rock climbing walls, movie theaters, basketball courts or show kitchens, but you will find lots of bars and lounges. All but the Alchemy Bar will serve you the standard array of wine, beer, soda and cocktails, though many have a signature menu of drinks themed to the venue. Look for drink-of-the-day specials to save money, or souvenir cups if you want to pay extra to take home a fun cup. Carnival also sells Cheers drinks packages (not all drinks are included so know before you sign up) and soda packages if you prefer more inclusive pricing.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7): This bar has the feel of a hotel lobby bar, as it's smack dab in the middle of the atrium with folks passing by on their way to purchase shore tours or complain about their bill at guest services. A solo guitarist livens things up in the early evening.
Rhapsody in Blue Piano Lounge (Deck 8): If you like to sing along with a professional (rather than brave it alone at karaoke), the piano bar is Carnival's staple venue for sipping cocktails around a faux keyboard counter while bantering with the singer-pianist, shouting out suggestions and buying him drinks. This bar is one deck below most of the entertainment venues, but you won't miss it right on the atrium.
Candlelight Lounge (Deck 9): Candlelight is the secondary show lounge, home to the Punchliner Comedy Club. During the day, it's often reserved for private functions.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 9): This pharmacy-themed bar aims to cure what ails you with craft cocktails that blend fruit-infused vodkas and other liquors with herb garnishes and the occasional cucumber. Mixologists are specially trained; while they can create a concoction for you (or help you invent your own), there is neither a blender nor soda at their disposal to shake up more standard mixed or frozen drinks. The Alchemy Bar is situated next to the Candlelight Lounge and just upstairs from the Carnivale Dining Room, and the bartenders get slammed with too many drink orders during the pre-dinner rush. Come early or be prepared to be fashionably late for dinner.
Rock and Roll Dance Club (Deck 9): Art auction space by day, dance club by night, this guitar-themed lounge does allow smoking. The music doesn't start until 10 p.m. but on our cruise the club was rocking not too long after.
Avant Garde Lounge (Deck 9): The Avant Garde is decorated with lifesize Picasso-inspired dancing figures, showing a lot of stylized breasts. The bar serves up liquid courage for the karaoke singers who get down here in the evening hours. If you want drunken singing that is more reminiscent of bars back home, rather than a talent show of well-trained vocalists, you have found your happy place.
Violins Bar (Deck 9): The casino bar is just outside the casino, with a stage on the opposite side of the promenade. It's a bit jarring to see a display case of beautiful violins at the one bar onboard that allows smoking, but that's how Carnival rolls. If you're not here for a cigarette break (smoking is allowed in the casino and its bar), you're grooving to the band that rocks out decade-themed hits. Be prepared to dance through the crowd clogging up the promenade if you're just passing through at night.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10): Meant to feel like a Mexican beach bar in a thatched-roof hut with colorful bar tiles, BlueIguana serves up all things tequila. That could be a regular margarita, frozen margarita or your favorite tequila served plain and simple. You can also grab a beer (or a bucket full), beer cocktail, pitchers of margaritas or spiked lemonade, soft drinks and virgin creations at this poolside outpost.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10): The Blue Iguana's buddy (or rival?) is the Red Frog, and his rum bar delivers -- well, you guessed it. Frozen daiquiris, rum cocktails and a variety of rum brands are available in an impressive array of souvenir glasses resembling parrots, the Carnival funnel or just multi-colored containers in twisty shapes. The rum bar also serves the same standards as the Tequila Bar -- beer buckets, Coke, boozy lemonade, etc.
Brasserie Bar (Deck 10): The bar at the back of the Brasserie buffet can hook you up with a drink when you're dining casual-style.
Carnival Inspiration has one swimming pool, flanked by two hot tubs, on Deck 10. The pool is separated into a shallower and a deeper side. The wet zone around the pool has some stools and benches if you want to sip your cocktail as close to the pool as possible without getting in. Lounge chairs and chairs and tables surround the pool -- some shaded, some not. A raised stage for bean-bag toss games and Hairy Chest competitions divides the pool area from the alfresco dining areas for the burger and burrito counters.
Carnival Inspiration does not have a sports court for basketball or other games. It does have the Deck 14 City Sports Park, a mini-golf course meant to look urban with the addition of benches and picnic tables. The jogging track circles the course (eleven laps equal one mile), and there's a bit of a windy observation deck just forward.
Carnival Waterworks on Deck 11 is a multi-slide water park with a splash area for kids and adults. A corkscrew slide and side-by-side racing slides both have entrances on Deck 12. Minimum heights are 42 inches for the twister slide and 36 inches for the racing slide. The Deck 11 water play area has two smaller racing slides for little kids, and water sprayers and pipes that dump water when you pull a rope -- all contained within a wet splash area. Technically, babies and toddlers in diapers are not allowed to cool off at Waterworks, though there is no supervision and we saw several parents flouting this rule.
Sunbathing areas are found throughout the top decks. Lounge chairs ring the pool on Deck 11 (including some shaded areas with chairs and tables) and flank the Waterworks splash zone. More loungers are found forward of the funnel on Deck 12 and on Deck 14 aft of the mini-golf area.
The adults only Serenity Sun Deck is a bit hard to find. It's on Deck 9 aft, but there's no direct route to it. Either head to the outdoor seating area aft of the Brasserie buffet and head down the stairs, or head through the doors at the back of the Candlelight Lounge (right side). It has two hot tubs, brown wicker lounge chairs with blue cushions, as well as chairs and tables, a shower and bar service.
The indoor activity hub on the ship is on decks 7 through 9, and here is also where you can find most shipboard services. Passengers board the ship right into its heart, on the lowest level of the Grand Atrium (Deck 7, Empress Deck), where guest services and the shore excursions desks are centrally located. The art gallery is located just off the central space.
One deck up on Deck 8 (Atlantic Deck), you'll find the Elizabethan Shakespeare Library, off the central atrium. It offers a paltry selection of books and board games on loan, and is mostly used by families playing Monopoly or workaholics on their laptops. Between the atrium and the theater, you'll find the duty-free shops selling liquor, watches, jewelry, cruisewear and more. Look for limited-time sales on sea days.
Deck 9 (Promenade Deck) houses the photo gallery, which circles the atrium. You can view and purchase photos taken by Inspiration's photographers, along with frames, digital images on a cocktail-shaped thumb drive, canvas prints and camera gear, including GoPro video cameras. An array of specials are available, including discounts on first-night purchases and free gifts for purchasing multiple images.
Continue down the promenade to find Cherry on Top, the candy and gifts shop, and the Inspirations shop selling sun hats, beachy and formal purses, and scarves for $10 each. The conference room is tucked away in a corner by the bathrooms outside the Alchemy Bar.
Five Internet-connected computers and a printer are available by guest services on Deck 7, and another two are located on the Deck 9 promenade. Carnival Inspiration offers Wi-Fi throughout the ship, though we found that while we got service in the hallway outside our cabin, the reception was extremely poor inside. Three Internet packages are available, whether you use your own device or one of the onboard terminals. The Social package is $5 per day (or $10 to $15 per cruise, depending on length) and gives access only to select social media websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The Value package is $16 per day (or $30 to $35 per cruise) and lets you surf most websites, including email programs like Gmail. The Premium package is $25 per day ($50 to $60 per cruise) and reportedly offers speeds three times faster than the Value plan, with access to Skype video calling or music streaming (like Spotify). You can use your purchased plan on any device (phone, tablet, laptop) but you can only use on one device at a time.
There's a medical center on Deck 3.Two self-serve laundry rooms with washers, dryers, ironing boards and a utility sink are located on Deck 6 across from cabin U154 and on Deck 7 across from cabin E4. A load of wash or dry is $3, and detergent and fabric softener packets can be purchased for $1.50. You'll need quarters to pay.
Smoking (including electronic cigarettes) is allowed outdoors on Deck 10 forward, starboard side, and indoors in the casino (including the Violins bar) and in the dance club. Cigars and pipes are only allowed in the outside smoking area.
Like all Carnival ships, Carnival Inspiration knows how to keep kids entertained. Though it's a small ship for the line, it still has three separate kids' clubs, a waterslide park, plenty of cabins that sleep three to five, and Dr. Seuss at Sea-themed programming. Camp Ocean is unique in that its free, drop-off programming begins at age 2 and youth staff will change diapers.
Kids must be toilet trained to use Inspiration's pools, hot tubs, slides and water park; neither regular nor swim diapers are allowed. Children under age 12 are not allowed in the spa or gym, and kids ages 12 to 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
The two-room Camp Ocean is tucked away on Deck 11, behind the atrium. The Penguins room (for the littlest kids, ages 2 to 5) is painted with an under-the-sea mural of colorful fish and furnished with comfy couches, toddler-sized tables and chairs, and age-appropriate toys. The room for Sting Rays (ages 6 to 8) and Sharks (ages 9 to 11) is decorated with sea creatures and features a row of computer consoles for video games and a large flat-screen TV. The facilities are not as large as you usually find on newer, bigger ships, and while there are windows letting in natural light, they are painted so you can't see in or out.
Programming runs all day until 10 p.m., though Camp Ocean closes at meal times (generally 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.). On port days, you can drop off kids at Camp Ocean and leave the ship. Kids ages 2 through 11 have free play together, and youth staff will take them to lunch. During regular Camp Ocean hours, age-appropriate programming might include:
Penguins: silly songs and dances, Lego reef building, truck races and sea-themed arts and crafts
Sting Rays: dance class, video game time, UNO card game challenge, T-shirt coloring
Sharks: scavenger hunt, video game time, dance off, magic show
Youth Staff will take kids to the Towel Animal Theater show, but parents must accompany kids to Seuss at Sea events, such as the Seuss-a-palooza Parade and Story Time, as well as the extra-fee Beary Cuddly Workshop (where kids can make their own stuffed animals).
Note that Sting Ray and Shark activities are often combined, so kids ages 6 through 11 will be playing together. Kids ages 2 through 8 must be signed in and out of activities by their parents or guardian; kids ages 9 to 11 may sign themselves in and out, unless parents say otherwise.
From 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Carnival offers a choice of two extra-fee, drop-off kid events. Night Owls is hourly group babysitting in Camp Ocean for kids ages 6 months to 11 years. Babies, toddlers and kids through age 5 are grouped together for movies and toys; older kids will be in a separate room for movies, video and board games, and music. Snacks are provided. The fee is $6.75 per child, per hour, plus a 15 percent gratuity; the rate is charged in half-hour increments.
Kids ages 2 to 11 can also choose to participate in themed evening parties, such as Beach Bash or the Owl Jams Party, for a flat fee of $15 per child plus a 15 percent gratuity. Kids cannot sign themselves in or out of Night Owls or evening parties.
A limited number of strollers are available to rent for an additional fee. High chairs are available in the main restaurants and the buffet, and the Carnivale and Mardi Gras dining rooms offer kids menus.
Carnival Inspiration has separate kids clubs for tweens and teens. Circle C (12 to 14 year olds) is located on Deck 8. It's pretty minimalist, with a dance floor and circular seating areas for hanging out, playing video games and watching movies. Activities run from the afternoon until 1 a.m. (start times vary on port and sea days), and might include movie watching, dodgeball, scavenger hunts, karaoke, waterslide competitions, video game play and games like Mafia or Apples to Apples. Circle is closed for dinner, but the facility might be open for unsupervised play throughout the day when programming is not taking place.
Club O2 (15 to 17 year olds) is one deck up on Deck 9, conveniently located next to the all-ages arcade. It operates the same hours as Circle C, and activities might include video game tournaments; games like Liars Club and Never Have I Ever; T-shirt signing; ping pong and bean bag tournaments; smoothie parties and outings to the evening show.
Passengers are predominantly from the Western United States, especially California, Nevada and Arizona. The adults range in ages from 20s to 60s, and about 300 kids are usually onboard. (During the summer, that number can skyrocket to 1,000-plus.) You'll find folks of every ethnicity -- black, white, Asian, Hispanic -- and many people traveling in groups, from multigenerational families to bachelor/bachelorette parties, friend reunions of all ages, and common-interest groups such as dancers or seminar attendees.
If you're looking to spend some money on pampering yourself, head to Spa Carnival on Deck 12. It has a beauty salon, relaxation room and 11 treatment rooms. Men's and women's locker rooms provide towels, lockers and large showers, as well as complimentary steam and sauna rooms. The spa is open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
You can book a wide list of services from facials, massages, detox and cellulite-reduction treatments and couples massages to manicures and pedicures, haircuts and styling, teeth whitening, men's barbering services and waxing. Prices are high: $125 for 50-minute facial, $149 for a 50-minute hot stone massage, $70 for a pedicure. If you book two or three treatments from a select list, you'll receive 10 percent off the first treatment, 20 percent off the second and 30 percent off the third. The spa does offer "value" pricing at select times; for example, certain services are discounted on embarkation day and on port days.
Spa Carnival also offers ZSpa for teens ages 12 to 17. Choose from Acne Attack Facials (50 minutes for $99), father/son or mother/daughter massages (25 minutes for $99), manicures and pedicures, and hairstyling. Age-appropriate hair and nail services are also available for kids ages 6 and up. Parents must accompany kids and teens when booking treatments.
The fitness center is just forward of the spa, accessible through the changing rooms. It's pretty roomy for a ship of this size, with a large studio for group classes and spa seminars. Those looking to burn off last night's chocolate melting cake can get their heart rate up with elliptical trainers, treadmills and recumbent bikes, plus free weights and resistance training machines. Group classes include free abs and stretch classes; yoga, Pilates and Tour De Cycle are $12 per class and body sculpt boot camp is $34.
The gym is open 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. According to the fitness instructor, peak times are mornings until 9 a.m. and then it's pretty uncrowded the rest of the day.
A jogging track circles the mini-golf area on Deck 14. Eleven laps equal one mile.
Carnival recommends $13.99 per person, per day, for gratuities ($15.99 per person, per day, for those in suites). The guidelines allocate a portion to dining room services, cabin services and alternative services, which include kitchen, entertainment, guest services and other hotel services. The amount is automatically added to your shipboard account, but it can be adjusted in either direction at the guest services desk. A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to bar bills and spa treatments. Tipping a couple dollars for room service at delivery is appreciated by the service staff.
Country of Registration: Bahamas
Regular Capacity: 2056
Maximum Capacity: 2056
Number of Crew:920
Crew Nationality: Multi-national
Officer Nationality: Multi-national
Language(s) Spoken: Multi-language
All Carnival ships inspire guests to have a great time and a memorable vacation, but it won't surprise you to learn that the inspiration for Carnival Inspiration... was nothing less than inspiration itself!
From the moment you step aboard, you'll realize that this isn't just a cruise ship. The Grand Atrium isn't just a room with a high ceiling - it's a place of high art. Your dinner at one of the two main dining rooms is more than just a dish in front of you - it's the result of our chefs' culinary creativity. And the Paris and Candlelight Lounges aren't just rooms with some seats and a stage - they're spots for our performers to transport you to another place and time.
For inspired food, fast, transport yourself to the BlueIguana Cantina, home of freshly stuffed tacos and burritos. Or if you're more in the burger mood, try Guy's Burger Joint, where they weren't just inspired by Guy Fieri... they were designed by the guy himself. For the adults, there's RedFrog Rum Bar, BlueIguana Tequila Bar, plus the borderline-magical Alchemy Bar. And for the kid in everyone, there's the truly sweet Cherry On Top.
Speaking of kids, nothing inspires relaxation quite like letting them do their own thing... and that dedication to adult chill time describes the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat to a "T." But when it's time to reunite, nothing inspires families to squeals, screams and splashes like a good waterslide... something the onboard Carnival WaterWorks knows a thing (or two, to be precise) about.
All of the above, and everything else there is to love about a Carnival cruise - from food to pools to comfy rooms - live on this ship, one where you can't help but find that creative spirit behind all the fun around you.
Health and Beauty
No. of Dinner Sittings: 2
No. of Dinner Sittings: Flexible
Special Diet: Available upon request
Dress Code: Daytime: Casual / Evening: Resort wear to formalGratuity Policies
Guests in Standard Staterooms $12.95 per person/per day
Guests in Suites $13.95 per person/per day