Monday, April 9, 2012

Boarding the Carnival Inspiration, Culture Shock & Grand Cayman Island

Traveler Al’s “Almost a Last Hurrah” – The Last of 3 Voyages

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Carnival Inspiration - Docked at Puntarenas, Costa Rica

Getting to Tampa Bay & Boarding the Inspiration

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011 – I woke up at 5 AM to make sure I finished my packing, had my final breakfast on Celebrity Constellation and caught my shuttle bus to the Ft. Lauderdale Airport and my 9:30 AM flight to Tampa Bay.  Every thing went according to plans and schedule.

I arrived in Tampa Bay Airport where I and other arriving Carnival passengers were met by Carnival Corporation representatives and escorted to an air conditioned room to await the arrival of the Carnival charted bus to take us to the Tampa Cruise Port.  The wait was not too long. 

Terminal Two at the cruise port was a beehive of arriving passengers, taxi cabs and shuttle buses.  We received tags to put on our luggage that would then be taken to the ship by stevedores.  There were many family groups sailing with the Inspiration and it was generally a much younger group of passengers.  I believe on the Holy Land and the Transatlantic Crossing cruises there my have been only 4 to 6 children on the entire ship.  

The lobby was crowded and the line wove somewhat quickly back and forth and up a stairway (I took an elevator) to the large room with a long counter where about 30 Carnival clerks were checking people in.  Part of the process was to receive your cabin key card that functioned as the boarding pass, charge card and soda card.  

I did not have to handle my large bag as that went right from the bus onto the ship and eventually made its way to my cabin.  I wondered if I would be first to the cabin or whether my friend would be aboard already.  I was on board by 1:30 PM when the cabins were released for occupancy.  I knocked on the door and it was opened by my long time internet buddy, Ken.

Ken from Texas - Photo taken during Panama Canal Transit with Ken's camera

On this, the final of my “Almost a Last Hurrah” voyages I found a friend who was graciously willing to share the stateroom with me, my friend Ken from Texas.  Ken and I had known each other by talking back and forth and trading jokes on the internet for nearly 10 years.  Ken and I shared many of the same life experiences including both of us being widowers due to our wives medical problems. 

Ken’s willingness to share the cabin saved me a great deal of money as normally when cruising I must pay either a single supplement, or a full 2nd fare without gratuities and fees for the cruise. 

Thanks, Ken for helping me to do one of the things on my Bucket List – a Panama Canal Transit cruise.  We will have to take another cruise together soon

The stateroom was very similar to the staterooms on Constellation, but our stateroom had no refrigerator which was a surprise and a disappointment.  Our stateroom was the last inside cabin, starboard, aft. The bunks were laid out in an “L shape – one on the side wall and the other on the back wall of the stateroom.  The bathroom, desk and closets were in the same place as on my previous ship.  Ship design can only go so far with 180 square feet.

Our stateroom, there is nothing behind the drape over the bunk but a blank wall. Note the bunk beds that could allow the cabin to be used by a family of four!  Photo by Ken

Stateroom bathroom  - Photo by Ken    

The drain in our shower stall kept stopping up, allowing water to run onto the rest of the bathroom floor.  Ken was able to get Carnival to give us each a $50 dollar credit on our final cruise statement because of this problem.  Thanks again, Ken!

Towel Animals done nightly by the stateroom attendant - Photo by Ken   

Culture Shock

I went up to the “Brasserie” the Inspiration’s version of the buffet on the Lido or Resort Deck. 

Culture Shock !   The Barasserie Buffet at the rear of the Lido Deck, Carnival Inspiration

Yikes!  What a shock!  I felt I was in the story of Pinocchio – the part where Gepetto, the kitten, Figaro and their goldfish, Cleo are on the raft inside the belly of the great whale, Monstro! The area of the Brasserie ceilings and were festooned with curved,  purple colored aluminum tubes with webbed light globes at their ends. The space is dark and looks like something out of a Beardsley Art Nuveau print. 

What a contrast!  The ship is Italian designed and built with Rococo and Baroque designs instead of the light colors and clean, contemporary French design on my previous ocean liner.     

One of the Mezzanine levels overlooking the Atrium - Violin Scroll Decor theme

The Atrium is an open space amidships that is 6 to 8 decks high. The railings were decorated for Christmas with colored seasonal, cloth banners hanging down from up high. At night this area was lighted by neon tubing.  In many ways it was a lot like the over the top decor used in Las Vegas hotels and casinos.

The Multi-level amidships Grand Atrium 

Designs on the many colored mirrors near the Atrium ceiling cause interesting reflection patterns
Mosaic tile floor medallion in front of one of the Atrium elevators
An elevator lobby amidships just off the Atrium

The Atrium at night - looking towards the elevators

The Atrium at night - note the extensive photo galleries to the right, photo sales are a big profit item for cruise companies.

The layout of the ship has a problem.  The galley was set between two dining rooms, one at the rear of the ship and the other more amidships. The dining rooms were two decks tall – each with a main deck and then an upper mezzanine above.  With the galley blocking the rear and amidships areas of the ship off for two decks – Deck 7 and 8, there was no way “to get from here … to there except to go up or down several deck where there were passageways that went from bow to stern without obstructions.

The layout of the dining rooms also caused some potential fire and crowd control situations. Each dinner service, people would take the elevator to the 8th or 9th deck where the only spaces to wait for the opening of the dining room doors were the stairwells and the elevator lobbies. 

The first night Ken and I joined the group standing in the elevator lobby and it was like being on a Japanese or Paris subway at rush hour. There was no room!  People were packed in like sardines!  

See the layout of the Inspiration's Dining Rooms and Galley  - Please scroll to Deck 8 - The Atlantic Deck - in the selection box

Every minute or so another elevator load of people would arrive to try to squeeze into the pack.  Finally the dining room doors were unlocked and the pack of people flowed into the dining room like a log jam that had just been dynamited free.

Ken and I resolved to be “fashionably” late for dinner by a few minutes every night from then on to avoid the crush.

Sunday, December 4th, 2011 – Sea Day.  


I read a lot and watched people around the pool on the Lido Deck – Deck 9.

Lido deck early AM on Panama Canal Transit day - later all loungers and tables would be full.

This was Ken’s first cruise. I believe he really enjoyed the experience and the fine dining.  Today, Ken found quite a few fellow, retired military men travelling on the ship was soon part of a group of veterans who had coffee and spent time together out and about on the ship

Grand Cayman Island 

Monday, December 5th, 2011 – our first stop on the Panama Canal Transit Cruise was at Grand Cayman Island.  I had visited Grand Cayman back in October of 2009 and since there were quite a few rain squalls all day today, I decided not to go into town. 

Afternoon view of George Town on Grand Caymen from the Inspiration

To go ashore, tender boats are used - Grand Caymen Island

Ken did go ashore and took a walk around the center of town. 

Ken at the tender dock with Inspiration in the background  - Photo by Ken

Click here to learn more about Grand Caymen Island

I did go ashore back in 2009 to see the turtle farm, visited the post office in Hell and took a boat ride several miles offshore to have a magical experience of swimming with the sting rays on a sand bar in the open ocean called “Sting Ray City.”   I am posting photos from that trip in 2009.

1 year old Green Sea Turtle at the turtle farm on Grand Cayman - Photo taken in 2009

The dark limestone formations that give the small crossroads town of "Hell" its name.

Yes!  You really can go to Hell - and even send your friends and family a postcard from there!

Government House - Grand Cayman Island

Traveler Al at Stingray City, Grand Cayman Island, October 2009

Swimming with the stingrays was a magical experience.  I was surprised how chilled I got even in the warm Caribbean waters.

Sting Ray City sandbar near Grand Cayman Island

Sting Ray swimming by at Sting Ray City, Grand Cayman Island

Leaving Sting Ray City sand bar
View of Cruise Ships from the tender dock - Grand Cayman Island - October, 2009

The show in the theater on the ship was a ventriloquist.  I visited the casino and lost $20 and finally retired just a bit after midnight.


Next – Cartagena Columbia

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