Carnival Inspiration, Boarding Day

Got down to the Port of Long Beach about 11:30.  Boarding was pretty much effortless.  Once they opened the lines at noon, we were on board in less than half an hour.
Took a little walk around the ship.  I have to say, I remember why I like smaller ships.  My last few cruises have been on ships twice the size of the Carnival Inspiration.  While the big ships have the advantage of more stuff, like pools and bigger water parks and buffets, and more places to eat, the smaller ships are definitely easier to get around, and the smaller passenger complement means you get to know everyone after a couple days.
And this is my 5th Fantasy class Carnival ship.  So, I pretty much know every nook and cranny.  While they are old and completely obselete, they are also very well laid out and easy to navigate.  Especially important with the 80 year old Momster, who get's lost rather easily.
So, we got onboard, tooled around a little, had a lite bite in the buffet and went to our cabin.  It's big enough, though the accessible bathroom does take up space, so you lose the couch, which makes it fun for 3 people to find a place to sit.  I don't anticipate spending much time there, so it's all good.
After lunch and unpacking, the kids wanted to hit the pool, of course.  So, we did that.  The sun was finally burning thru the haze, so it was pleasant by the pool.  I have to say I am ambivalent about the loss of a live band by the pool with all the Carnival cutbacks.  While I like a live band, the piped in music was at least good tunes.
First speed bump:  Somehow, when I moved the sister and her kids to an oceanview from an inside, our confirmed Your Time Dining got lost.  We were waitlisted.  When we boarded, our keys said Late Dining.  Not gonna happen.  Mom and Steve don't even stay away til 8 pm.  So, I went to the dining room to talk to the Maitre d'.  He was completely uninterested in my plight and bored with his job.  So, I cranked up the Machine, blasted emails and messages and posts to everyone I know at Carnival.  A hearty thanks to Mischelle.  She came thru for me.  At dinner, with the three of us who made it, said Maitre d' came to the table and quite obviously informed my sister that we've been changed to Your Time. It was pretty funny, actually.  Not sure why he wouldn't speak to me, or make eye contact, but, frankly, I don't care.  I just want to get things done.  And I did.
Anyway, back to the story...after frolicking in the pool, it was time for Muster Drill.  I really think Carnival needs to work on this.  I am not sure what the problem is, but they take twice as long as necessary.  And they don't even check everyone in.  Weird.
So, after Muster we headed out to our first stop, Catalina.  The sailaway party was kinda lame.  I guess a downside to smaller ships, there.  Fewer passengers means fewer people to get up and dance.  But we moved to the fantail and watched Long Beach recede in the distance until time for Mom and Steve to eat.  The kids caught up to us in the buffet and had a little dessert.
Afterwards we all moved to a kids club dance party.  Kind of an icebreaker thing, with games and stuff.  I don't anticipate my niece and nephews will be spending any time in the kids club.  It's not their sort of thing.  But my sister keeps pushing it.  Halfway thru I left and put bro to bed.  Made a quick stop in the casino, to no avail, and then it was time for dinner.
Carnival has always done good with food, but I have to tell you:  they are slipping here, too, although I'll wait til after tomorrow to pass final judgement.  I did get a really good smoked duck appetizer.  Slices of smoked duck with slices of mandarin orange and a couple raspberries, on a bed of really spicy glass noodles.  The combination of smoky, sweet and piquant was a real party in the mouth experience.  However, the shrimp cocktail was not worth the effort, and the entrees were uninspired.  Had a pork steak that was tender enough, but with mac and cheese on the side and slathered with a completely flavor-free green peppercorn sauce.
Desert was okay.  I had the cheesecake whilst everyone else did the warm chocolate melting cake.  They all seemed to enjoy.
After dessert I took another spin around the casino.  Not feeling.  So, I headed to the Piano Bar, where I was supposed to meet a FB friend of a friend.
I have to tell you, this is the one place Carnival absolutely kills the competition.  Why no one else does a piano bar is beyond me.  I know, Norwegian's newer ships have Howl at the Moon, and that is good, but it's NOT Piano Bar, the way most of us think of it.  It's still some guys up on a stage, removed from the audience, performing.  A real piano bar, like on Carnival, and in bars across America, is up close and personal.  You can talk to the piano man, not shout across the room.  And you can see your fellow patrons across the way, singing along. 
And Tom G, the piano guy on this cruise was great!  I was the first one in the bar, as he was standing around waiting for the guy in the Atrium to finish up so he could get started.  Nice guy.  From Memphis.  We chatted about music and Memphis and what not.  Then he did a few tunes as people drifted in.  Finally the place started filling up and he busted out his percussion section (tambourines, maracas and a cowbell).  By 10 it was rocking and he was working the group really well.  My friends showed up and we talked and sang and played the cowbell.  It was loads of fun.  Sadly, at midnite, the long day was catching up to me, so I had to bid them all "adieu" til tomorrow night.
Headed home and went to sleep.  Tomorrow is Catalina with the kids.


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