Carnival Inspiration, Day Two - Ensenada

I usually like to keep these posts chronological, but I have to start today with dinner last night.  It was, possibly, the most bizarre meal I've ever experienced on a cruise ship.
It started with arriving to the dining room at 5:45.  It was just the 3 of us, but I had spoken with the other 4, and they were making their way up.  But the hostess refused to seat us until we were all together.  Maneuvering the wheelchair around to get out of line took about 3 minutes.  By the time we got to the back of the (short) line, the other 4 were already standing there.  So, that wasted five minutes.  Then we were seated and served by a crew of whirling dervishes that either had dental appointments at 7 or were bucking for a bonus by turning the table 5 times/night instead of 3.  Seriously, the most common complaint about dinner service is too slow.  I wish these guys would slow down.  I was asked if I was thru with my shrimp cocktail while I still had the last shrimp on the fork.  The dressing for my salad was brought...then the soup...then the salad guy was standing behind me with the salad in hand as I finished my soup.  By the time the entree arrived, several nanoseconds after we were seated, it was getting freeking annoying.  And of course this is Carnival, so we had several photographers interrupting the precious moments we were allowed to eat.  Finally snapped on one of them and told him our religion forbids graven images and I was going to have to kill the next photographer that stopped at our table, in order to protect my soul.  Of course, at that moment asst waiter #7 tried to take my bread plate, while I was still working on my entree.  So I slapped his hand and told him to take a break. 
I think they all finally got the message, and we finished our meal in relative peace and at a normal pace.  The headwaiter even dropped an extra dessert of tiramisu for everyone to share.  I assume as a peace offering.  So, yeah...I am not really in a position to write about the quality of the food, because I don't remember it much.

Anyway...We started our day in a much happier place.  The cat herd was actually lined up and ready to go ashore at 10:30 as planned.  We took a shuttle into town.  The driver, of course, tried to hustle a Bufadora tour, but was a good sport and delivered us right on to the main drag instead of making us cross the highway from the regular shuttle stop.  So that was nice.  We proceeded up the road, me dodging vendors, my sister engaging every single one of them, until we got to Papas & Beer, at which time my brother and I went in to enjoy a drink and nachos and a soccer game whilst the rest of them tried to buy all the cheap crap in Baja.  Twoish, we headed back to the ship with all our crap.  It was a lovely, sunny day, and most of the rest of the day was spent around the pool and the waterslides watching the kids.  And intermittent snacks from the burger grill and the mongolian grill and the deli grill, etc.
This went on til the aforementioned dinner.
After dinner, there is nothing much to do.  Because of the late port call in Ensenada there is no production show.  The casino is closed.  It's the piano guy's day off.  I guess if you don't want to get shitfaced in Hussong's, you're pretty much SOL on this particular night.  Certainly Carnival isn't up for providing alternatives.
Finally found karaoke in the lounge for an hour.  It was good, I guess.  Turned in early.
Tomorrow - Day at Sea.


Carnival Inspiration, Day One - Catalina

Chilly and overcast this morning.  June Gloom we call it here on the Left Coast.
Up at 6 to do a little writing, smoking and caffeine-level-increasing. 
Traveling with this family is a bit like herding cats, but once I got everyone in one place at the same time (about 10:30), Chris and the kids and I went over on the tender to Avalon.  We rented a golf cart to take a ride around the island.  After 4 ATM stops.  For some reason my card is deciding to be inscrutable, and the locals won't take a credit card for a deposit.  They'd actually rather have $40 than an open credit card...go figure.  But I finally acquired the necessary scratch, and off we went.  It's the best way to see Catalina.  Narrow roads wind up thru the hills around town, and there is another scenic vista and turnout around every corner.  So we did that, and made a little detour to the Botanic Garden.  Though smallish, the botanic garden in Avalon has many native and indigenous California plants that are seen but rarely on the mainland.  I've been a few times, and it's well worth the time to stroll through.
I had left mom and Steve sitting by the pool, so I needed to head back to the ship, but the others stayed behind to sit on the beach and do a little shopping and such.  As I said, I've been to Catalina enough times to not really need to spend time doing the tourist thing.
Got back in time for a little lunch by the pool.  It was still overcast, but warming up.  We enjoyed the music for a bit and just as we were heading to lay Steve down, the keikes showed up.  So we stayed a little longer and watched them frolic in the icy cold, unheared pool.  And the jacuzzi that can hold, apparently, 357 children at once.  I wasn't even tempted to join in either.
After a bit of a laydown, it was over to a sports trivia contest.  We got 16/20.  17 won.  Pretty sure they cheated.  Not sure how, though.
Then it was time to dress for dinner.  Elegant (lobster) Night.  WooHoo.  Whatever.
Since we got our dining changed to Your Time, we presented ourselves at 6ish in the Mardi Gras dining room.  They were quite obviously expecting us.  Straight to our table.  The waiter, Wilfredo, was fabulous.  He called everyone by name, immediately we sat down.  He even got the boys' right, the first time!  Since the younger one is bigger than the elder, even people who know them mess it up from time to time.
On the menu were alligator fritters, which we all shared an order.  Except me.  I have a thing about reptiles and dough.  I had the Greek Salad, and Pumpkin Soup and the Prime Rib.  Cruise ship lobsters are just not worth the effort, to me.  I can get them back home for $5 a piece at WinCo.
The prime rib was good.  Nothing to write home about.  Should have gone for the ribs.  A couple of them ordered ribs and they were excellent.  And plentiful.  In fact, I shared in a couple of them.  So, then...dessert and coffee, and time for the casino.
Again, nothing.  The poker machines are just hateful to me this week.  Stuck our head in the main show lounge, but that didn't seem interesting.  Steve decide it was time to call it a night.  So I dropped him down, and headed back to the casino, until piano bar time.  Poker was still being ornery.  Decided to try a slot machine.  Randomly picked one, because I saw my new piano bar friend, Deb.  Sat down and start hitting all kinds of stuff.  Deb said she had just got up from that machine and it gave her nothing.  I made $10 last over an hour.  I did finally succeed in losing my $10, but I was up over $50 a couple times.
Finally, the piano bar was open, and my man, Tom Grable, aka Tommy  G was in fine form.  We got the place a little crowded for a while.  But it thinned out again, midnite-ish, and by 1am it was back down to just a few of us hard-core cases, so he shut it down, and I called it a night, and headed to bed.

Tomorrow, Ensenada! 
Hasta Luego, mi amigos!


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.


Water Works on Carnival Inspiration

Watch "VID_20130603_140117_593.mp4" on YouTube


Live From the Carnival Inspiration

In about 24 hours I'll be heading to Long Beach to board the Carnival Inspiration.  I will be accompanied by my mother and brother in my aft ocean view, and by my sister and her 3 kids down the hall in their ocean view.  Sure wish the Inspiration had more balconies. But, oh, well...

When I got back from my 9 days on the Norwegian Breakaway in New York and Bermuda, they were all grumpy I didn't take them.  Except the Mom, who thinks she's too old to go anywhere.  So, I booked this one.

It should be a good time.  I've taken the kids to Catalina before on day trips, and we enjoy it.  A golf-cart ride, stop at the Casino and the Arboretum, then cruise the strand and grab a bite to eat and some souvenirs.

Next stop, Ensenada.  Pretty much the same, sans the golf-cart.

The rest of the 4 days will be spent, no doubt, in the pool and the waterslides with the kids during the day, and the casino and piano bar at night.

But come along, and live vicariously thru me as I post daily blog entries and video!  I'm told it's the next best thing to actually cruising yourself.

And if you want to book your own little 4day adventure from LA or MIA or wherever, on Carnival or any other line, give me a call at 760.265.3687.