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  • Writer's pictureJason Leppert

Carnival Inspiration Still Holds Up

PHOTO: The much-loved steak and eggs at the Sea Day Brunch on Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration. (photo by Jason Leppert)

My wife Heidi and I recently enjoyed a quick, 3-night weekend getaway aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s Carnival Inspiration.

After last experiencing the brand’s newest Carnival Vista, we thought it would be interesting to revisit our signature “he said, she said” banter with a discussion on whether or not we greatly missed any of the extra features lacking on the older Inspiration.

Accommodations Sans Balcony

He said: These days it’s almost a foregone conclusion that the bulk of cruise ship cabins come with verandas, but when the Inspiration was introduced during 1996, they were not nearly as in vogue. Most staterooms onboard the ship are ocean-view varieties with a window but not a balcony, unless you upgrade to a suite with a private deck.

As nice as it is to have a balcony, I wasn’t terribly upset to be without one. Only after riding the water slide did I think it would’ve been nice to return to the room and dry off a bit more outside, though I could have easily opted to stay up on deck to do so.

I like that the Inspiration’s staterooms are bigger on the inside including a larger than average bathroom and shower compared to other competing cabins of its vintage.

She said: What’s funny is this is one of the few cruises I’ve been on with truly moderate weather, so in theory, it would have been one of those rare times that the weather was just right for relaxing on the balcony.

But, honestly, I didn’t miss it.

Unless a balcony is big enough for two loungers, I’m probably only going to use it to check the temperature, apply sunscreen and take way too many pictures of the sunset that I will inevitably delete from my iPhone when I need more storage. (He said: Also, don’t forget our selfies, honey—which should never be deleted.)

Dining Without Specialty Restaurants

He said: That’s right, folks. The Carnival Inspiration surprisingly does not have a single specialty restaurant—at least not a sit-down kind with a surcharge—but again that’s just a testament to the ship’s age and smaller size.

To make up for it, the main dining room does offer The Chef’s Table experience for behind-the-scenes and pairing exclusives as well as Steakhouse Selections on nightly menus. For $20 flat, the latter offers some specialty restaurant-equivalent entrees.

I tried the Broiled Filet Mignon: Nine ounces of premium aged beef, that was an excellent cut expertly seasoned and sauced. The only problem is that my ordered temperature of medium-rare came out as an overcooked medium-well. Provided this could be made more consistent, the steak is a wonderful option. (She said: I tried to get him to send it back. Steaks are hard to cook perfectly, and men are really stubborn. These are just facts of life.)

She said: Carnival could charge for the BlueIguana Cantina and Guy’s Burger Joint—two specialty poolside eateries available complimentarily—and people would gladly hand over those Sail & Sign cards.

The tacos and burritos from the cantina are fresh and flavorful, and the burgers are truly some of the best at sea. This is such a great value-add for Carnival and not to be missed. (He said: I couldn’t agree more. The fact that these are included is astonishing and commendable.)

On the flip side, the free 24-hour Pizza Pirate station on the Inspiration doesn’t hold up. I’m not sure what happened because the pizza on the Carnival Vista is amazing, but I quickly forgot about that issue when I saw the “Chocolate Extravaganza” station that was set up in the buffet for our sea day. Don’t mind if I do!

He said: Meanwhile back in the main dining room, the included Sea Day Brunch is a must-do. The breakfast fare is mostly great with only a couple misses—mainly the creamy-but-far-from-cheesy macaroni and cheese. Highlights remain the excellent huevos rancheros and steak and eggs, which I tried for the first time on this cruise. (She said: I had food envy over the steak and eggs, and I’m definitely ordering that next time.)

Remarkably, the duo features fried eggs with a complimentary filet mignon that, although smaller than the one I paid for, was better cooked than the Steakhouse Selections one earlier. I also highly recommend a side of delicious corned beef hash and a glass of sweet fresh-squeezed orange juice.

She said: Washing down all the dining, the Alchemy Bar was one of the highlights of our trip. (I didn’t show Jason the bar bill…we just won’t talk about that part.) Nestled just outside the comedy club, this bar is a Carnival 2.0 upgrade that you can find on 18 of the 25 ships currently in operation.

Carnival’s website says “Let our cocktail specialists prescribe you something from the bar, with both nonalcoholic and alcoholic elixirs to remedy what ails you.”

And that’s exactly what they do.

We spent a little too long looking over the menu, and our bartender playfully declared our time was up and “you’re mine now.” (He said: I have to give a shoutout to Jason from South Africa for not only being a great mixologist but also a fellow ship nerd with a great name who was a blast to talk to.)

With just a couple of questions about drink preferences, he whipped up some fantastic custom cocktails. It’s always fun to see the process of muddling and mixing. You may even see some really inventive techniques, such as burning the ends of a sprig of rosemary and trapping it under a glass to let the smoke infuse before pouring the drink.

My only complaint is that the Serenity deck can be accessed through the comedy club, which means a lot of people end up at the Alchemy Bar on their way back from Serenity. We witnessed a lot of people who you would expect to see on a 3-day cruise—very loud, very drunk, and very obnoxious. Some men were shirtless and shoeless.

I’d love to see people treat this bar with a little more class, but hey, you can’t control other people, and I’ll never let others ruin my vacation. All in all, Carnival’s Inspiration is still as worth checking out today—just as when it first set sail.

This post first appeared on TravelPulse.

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