Short cruises have big impact
Back in the summer, I was looking for a quick little vacation cruise. A cruise where I could just relax, take it easy and not have to run around with a huge camera and a notepad and pen for a change. But I had a couple of qualifications: it had to be under a week in duration, and it had to be somewhere that I could reach easily by air.
I decided on a run that I’d never done before, to ports of call that would be brand-new to me. It’s a cruise I’d debated about taking for more than a decade but had never got around to, usually because a longer cruise ended up swaying me in a different direction.
That’s how I ended up aboard Carnival Cruise Line’s 2,054-guest Carnival Inspiration, sailing from Long Beach, Calif., on a four-night cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada, Mexico. Taking Carnival Inspiration was no hardship. The sixth ship in Carnival’s trendsetting Fantasy Class, Carnival Inspiration debuted back in the spring of 1996. Since then, Carnival has spent millions of dollars on upgrades and improvements, with Carnival Inspiration offering most of the line’s most popular new venues, including Guy’s Burger Joint; the RedFrog Rum Bar; the BlueIguana Cantina; and the always-delightful Alchemy Bar, where drinks are mixed to-order. So while it’s no spring chicken, Carnival Inspiration proved to be a comfortable and charming home for four nights. Most of the staterooms onboard are oceanview or interior; only a handful of balcony suites are available. I didn’t find this to be an issue: my oceanview room on Riviera Deck was comfortable and quiet, with a picture window that let in a great amount of natural light. This is an active, port-heavy cruise; a balcony really isn’t essential on this voyage.
The first port of call on this run is Catalina Island, situated just off the coast of Los Angeles. In fact, the island is so nearby that it can be seen on a clear day. But while it might be close to the City of Angels, Catalina — and its main town, Avalon — give off an almost Hawaiian vibe. Things move at a slower pace here, with locals and visitors alike content to take in the striking scenery or amble around Avalon’s plentiful shops. Catalina Island served as the setting for the final episode of the Netflix series Love, and it is just as impressive in real life. Carnival Inspiration calls here for a full day, though you should be prepared to tender ashore. The final port of call is Ensenada, Mexico. The third-largest city in Baja California, Ensenada is just 176 kilometres south of San Diego and is rather picturesque owing to its tucked-away location inset within a crescentshaped bay.
Ensenada also just happens to be located in the heart of Baja Mexico’s burgeoning wine country. Carnival offers a great tour and tasting at a local winery out in the country that had the ship abuzz on my sailing. I missed it; I was taking part in one of the best craft brewing tours I’ve ever been on, which visited the Wendlandt Cerveceria and the ridiculously charming El Chivo Gruñón. After departing Ensenada, an entire day at sea awaits en-route back to Long Beach. This run may be shorter than most, but Carnival packs a lot into these value-added cruises. I discovered, too, that two ports I’d overlooked for years offered plenty of compelling reasons to return. You can catch Carnival Inspiration sailing from Long Beach on a three-day itinerary to Ensenada on Fridays, while the four-day cruise to Catalina Island and Ensenada departs on Mondays. Sister-ship Carnival Imagination operates the same itinerary, with departures on Thursdays and Sundays, respectively. Happy cruising.