Travel Weekly associate editor Margaret Myre and her husband,
Bill, sailed from New Orleans to Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand
Cayman, Cayman Islands; and Playa del Carmen/Cozumel, Mexico,
aboard Carnival Cruise Lines' Inspiration. Her report follows:
NEW ORLEANS -- We boarded the big, bold, bejeweled Inspiration
-- the largest cruise ship ever to sail from here year-round --
barely six weeks after its repositioning from San Juan to the
Crescent City on Sept. 24.
With room for 2,042 passengers, the Inspiration replaced
Carnival's smaller and older Fun Ship, the 1,486-passenger
Celebration, now sailing from Galveston, Texas.
On this cruise, as on every cruise for the past six weeks, the
Inspiration was full.
At the embarkation center, we found out what a crowd of 2,000
peo- ple looks like.
installation of the Inspiration, Carnival had moved into a larger
terminal at the port and equipped the check-in counter with a
string of new laptop computers and a staff that could have used a
half-dozen more trained hands.
At 10:30 a.m., when we and scores of other early birds arrived
(boarding time was 12:30 p.m.), the Inspiration was off-loading
from the previous Sunday-to-Sunday cruise.
In short, it was a madhouse.
Returning cruisers and their porters, pushing carts stacked
precariously high with luggage, wedged through the one open set of
double doors and into the crowd outside.
Most of the arriving crowd, it appeared, had come directly from
"There are some glitches that have to be worked out," said one
Outside the terminal, construction was going on.
An elevator and an escalator, due for completion in December,
will replace the winding ramp that leads passengers up into the
Because we arrived a little early, we opted to spend a couple of
hours in the French Quarter, taking the trolley that runs from the
pier every 30 minutes or so at a cost of $1.50 per person.
We ate gumbo at the Gumbo Shop on St. Peter's Street; strolled
along Royal and Bourbon, and took a $5 cab ride back to the
Carnival offers a pre- and post-cruise option for those who want
to spend more than a lunch hour in the Big Easy. (See related
As first-time cruisers, we were the embodiment of one of two
market segments Carnival hopes to attract with the Inspiration's
seven-day Caribbean itinerary.
The other target is the drive-in market, which Carnival
identifies as people from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the
Judging by the accents we heard as we roamed the decks, lounges,
casino and other public areas, locals were well represented.
Yet during the course of the cruise, we breakfasted with a
couple from Australia; chatted on the lido deck with Silvia and Gil
Mendez of California; climbed into a hot tub with Judy and Al
Parsons of Denver, and shared a shuttle in Jamaica with a couple of
pretty blonde teen-agers from Vancouver and four middle-aged, Fun
Ship-type gals from Albany, N.Y., who had left their husbands
There were people from Portugal and Idaho; Arizona and
Pennsylvania, and a man with a 10-gallon hat.
The first passengers we met, on the 25-minute van ride from the
airport, were siblings Bob Delmour, Jodi Delmour and Barbara Hudack
and their spouses and children -- all from Cranford, N.J., about 20
miles from our own home.
They were headed for an on-board reunion of 22 family members,
eight of them from California.
We talked to anyone who looked friendly, and that was just about
everyone -- in the elevators, on the decks, at the dining
We found that the Inspiration's passengers come not only from
all over the nation but from all age groups, as well.
And here's what Carnival does better than any other cruise
Carnival takes an 855-foot vessel, plops in almost equal
quantities of age categories -- 30% under age 35, 40% between 35
and 55 and 30% over 55 -- and stirs them up with activities that
bring everyone together, but without cutting out any of the
traditional cruisers' (over 55) favorites.
In the daily Cruise Capers newsletter, slipped under the door
each morning, a passenger might find country line dancing, a kids'
talent show or a hairy chest contest among the continuous round of
Our favorite was the Tarzan contest, in which several young men
swam the length of the pool and jumped into the hot tub to save
"Jane" from unseen cannibals. The audience would decide the
"Jane" (Doris Adkins of Kirbyville, Texas, from the over-55
category) had trouble reading from the script and kept pleading to
be saved from the "cannonballs," to the delight of the crowd.
However, the winning Tarzan, Scott Sontag of Phoenix, would be
throwing Jane over, metaphorically speaking, the next day, because
he and his fiancee were to be married in one of seven weddings that
were to take place during the cruise.
During the afternoons, a calypso band played at poolside on the
Those who wanted quiet could settle down on the aft deck, where
there is another pool, two hot tubs and blessed silence.
Some of the 12 bars and lounges offered big band music, piano
music, disco and rock 'n' roll.
At 10:30 each night, the two-level, 1,300-seat Paris Lounge
mounted shows ranging from a Las Vegas-style revue to a come-on-up
We explored the casino, where we found 275 slot machines and
various table games: roulette, craps, Caribbean poker and
Annexed to the casino was an arcade with video games.
The Inspiration also has Camp Carnival, a supervised play
program, with separate rooms and activities for toddlers (ages 2 to
5), juniors (6 to 8), intermediates (9 to 12) and teens (13 to
Dining options included a poolside eatery, a 24-hour pizzeria,
24-hour stateroom service and two main dining rooms -- Mardi Gras
and Carnivale, with one chef and 120 cooks between them.
We ate regularly in the Mardi Gras, where the menu was varied
(right down to low-cholesterol meals), the food and service
excellent and the presentation more than adequate.
The seasoned cruisers we spoke with liked the larger ship and
Those with cabins with two single beds especially liked being
able to put them together to create a king-size bed and more
walking room at the same time.
The Inspiration offered shore excursions in each port: 12 in
Montego Bay, where Ocho Rios and the Dunn's River Falls Tour are
said to be the most popular, at $53 per person; 18 in Grand Cayman,
where swimming with stingrays was a big favorite, at $33 per
person; three in Playa del Carmen, including the Mayan Ruins of
Tulum tour, $68 per person, and 13 in Cozumel, featuring plenty of
scuba and snorkeling options plus a chance to swim with dolphins,
for $99 per person.
Seven-day cruises start at $709 per person under Carnival's
Super Savers advance-purchase program.
Sailings are available in conjunction with Carnival's Fly Aweigh
program, which offers roundtrip air transportation from a variety
of gateways in the U.S. and Canada.