Carnival Inspiration hasn’t been sailing out of Long Beach nearly that long, but she has been in operation for 20 years. A few weeks in dry dock updated her with all Carnival’s newest and most popular drinking concepts and some new no-fee fast-casual restaurants as well. Those who favor this ship prefer a party with a swimming pool and endless snacks and a bar everywhere they turn, but there is still plenty of family-friendly fun to be had on board.
Décor-wise, this ship is a throwback to the days when Carnival ships were renowned for eye-popping, super-shiny, over-the-top design in the public spaces. Wild-patterned floors, beveled and bedazzled ceilings, and colored mood lighting smacks of Vegas in the late 90s.
There are 55 suites on this ship, which means the majority of the 2,052 passengers are booking cabins. That’s a very different proportion to other Carnival ships, and very much ties into the short-sailing schedule. People tend to spend time in their cabins on shorter cruises (especially action-packed ones). But what matters—and what everyone agrees that Carnival does well—is that the cabins are kept clean by unfailingly cheerful, eager-to-please staff.
Carnival Inspiration has no alternative restaurants that offer an intimate sit-down dining experience. The options are either formal service in the main dining rooms, or counter service and fast-casual grub. The fast-casual options are more diverse lately, thanks to Fun Ship 2.0 updates. Cruisers can get burgers and fries poolside from Guy’s Burger Joint on deck 10, or tacos and burritos across the way at BlueIguana Cantina.
Before these two concepts went in, the casual option was the buffet, which has the somewhat misleading name Brasserie Bar & Grill. No fancy French fare here, though you will find an omelet station at breakfast. Other high points are the carving station, deli and the pizza counter. As on most Carnival ships, pizza is served 24/7.
The two main dining rooms are Mardi Gras, which is located midship on deck 8, and Carnivale, which is aft. Service is organized differently than on newer ships: both rooms accommodate “Your Time” flexible dining. Both run their two nightly dinner seatings on the same schedule, which is also different on other ships where seating times are staggered. It’s clearly a setup that accommodates the relaxed, informal passenger mindset.
The extended Sea Day brunch is the best-of-both-worlds meal--ideal for late risers who just want some eggs at noon.
Bars & Lounges
RedFrog Rum Bar and BlueIguana Tequila Bar both went into deck 10, the main pool deck, during dry dock. They’re not actual rooms, just bars with a few high-top tables without division from the pool area. If you want to observe the poolside action but not exactly be in it, either of these new venues offer perfect ringside seating (with free-flowing liquor).
Alchemy, the third new addition to the bar lineup, is a distinct room. It’s branded as a “vintage pharmacy-style” mixology bar, but in actuality, it actually looks like a posh hotel lobby bar. It’s the most dialed-down of all the inside bars décor-wise—topless Grecian-esque statues and all other boozing venues on the ship include Rhapsody in Blue Piano Lounge and Violins Bar outside the casino.
Punchliner Comedy Club is a fleet-wide favorite, especially because early sets are usually family-friendly. The showroom, Candlelight Lounge, has its own bar with several bar stools if you’d rather be closer to the booze than the stage.
Paris Lounge, the main showroom, presents song-and-dance production shows and—perhaps one night of each sailing—an audience participation show themed around brand partner Hasbro’s classic games.
Karaoke takes place in the absolutely insane-looking Avant Garde Lounge, which looks like an old New Orleans bordello taken over by Alice in Wonderland.
Late-night options are the Rock and Roll Dance Club—which, true to theme, plays some oldies as well as the modern Carnival playlist of Top 40 and Eighties disco.
Carnival is legendary for its raucous schedule of poolside games and contests—whether it’s a Mexican-themed party or a drinking contest. There’s only one pool, so if you’re an adult who wants to sneak away from the noise, your option is the Serenity Adults Only Retreat on deck 9. Happy surprise: this piece of Serenity has two dedicated hot tubs.
Family-friendly aqua attractions are over in WaterWorks: in addition to the 300-foot-long Twister corkscrew slide, this area contains a splash zone for children. Seuss at Sea activities are part of the youth programming, as are the supervised youth programs Camp Ocean (children), Circle C (tweens) and Club 2 (teens).
There’s also a 12,000 square foot spa, health and fitness area, Spa Carnival.
- Though there are casual dining options galore, the ship is missing a steakhouse or other specialty restaurants.
- A gentle warning: When school’s out, this ship looks a bit like a Disney hotel. During college spring break, it turns into quite the Spring Break scene.
Given the relatively young demographic that sails on weekends, it’s confusing that the dance club has a classic rock theme.