There is something equal parts creepy and cool about these Carnival Cruise Line pictures, taken only hours before Carnival Inspiration arrived at her final destination.
They bring to life a ghost ship, occupied only by the memories created by thousands upon thousands of past guests.
If you listen closely, you can hear glasses clinking together as toasts are raised by long-ago passengers in the now-abandoned bars, and laugher echoing across the deserted Lido deck.
Whether or not you ever had the pleasure of sailing this classic ship, it’s easy to imagine the sense of wonder and awe guests felt upon entering the beautiful atrium. This was the setting in which their adventure would begin. It was where they’d meet for cocktails before dinner or a show, swapping stories of the day and meeting new friends.
The ship’s last voyage was one without passengers as she headed for Turkey, where she would be set upon by workers who will spend the next several months dismantling every inch of the ship.
They’ll never understand what she meant to so many. Where they see metals to be melted down and fixtures to be repurposed, we see a ship that transported us to new lands and the rails we gripped when seas got rough.
If we didn’t know that the ship was empty of passengers, we could almost hear the squeal of children on the waterslide, or the sound of music, drifting across the ocean, as it is played by a poolside band.
In our mind’s eye, we can see people gathering along the railing, ready to marvel at the sight of the sun slowly sinking onto the horizon, indicating that while the day’s adventures have ended, the night’s are only just beginning.
Last Look: Remembering Carnival Fantasy
Though the walls are now bare, who among us didn’t walk past the various paintings hung outside the art gallery, thinking, “Hmm, maybe this is the trip when I finally attend an auction and become a serious collector. Or at least enjoy a glass of that free champagne!”
Riding in the glass atrium which allowed you to soar above the Carnival Inspiration‘s atrium filled even the most curmudgeonly of guests with childlike wonder.
This was probably the closest we’d come in our lifetimes — whether as children or adults — to experiencing something right out of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. And oh, how the experience changed at night, as the glass box descended into the bright and glowing atrium, abuzz with fellow guests.
It’s not only the whispers of passengers you hear in these empty spaces, but those of the crew as well. How many excited performers took to the stage in the Paris theater? As the lights went down, how many young couples held hands, maybe even stole a kiss before the show began?
One can’t help but wonder what will become of the curtains behind which performers prepared, or the tables on which drinks were sat as we enjoyed their efforts.
Continuing our photographic tour of the now-deserted ship, we come across what was, in happier times, one of the most boisterous places on the ship. The Rhapsody in Blue piano bar.
Drinks and voices were raised, laughs were shared and a good time was had by all. And as anyone who spent time there knows, those good times often went into the wee hours of the morning.
One place where the echoes of the past really are whispers is the ship’s Shakespeare library. The dark woods and almost gothic design gave the space an almost chapel-like feel, offering a quiet respite from the more rambunctious areas of the ship.
One can only hope that the beams above the table, carved with some of the playwright’s most famous quotes (“What wound did ever heal by degrees?”, for example, from Othello) somehow find their way to the hands of an appreciative collector.
Looking now at the library’s empty chairs, you can almost picture people sitting in the quiet space, reading their novels (or at least pretending to as the gentle rocking of the ship lulled them into peaceful naps).
One place in which we can be sure there were no naps being taken? The Monte Carlo casino on deck 9. In fact, it’s probably safe to say that few naps were being taken anywhere on the Promenade deck, given that it was home to some of the most popular venues on the ship. When not trying their luck at the games of chance…
… would-be winners could be found sharing tales of their epic wins (or tragic losses) at the Violins Casino Bar. Though not terribly far from the quieter atrium bar, Violins (despite it’s deceptively peaceful name) was world’s away in terms of atmosphere. This was not the place for quiet, pre-dinner cocktails. Instead, it was perfect for pre- and post-gaming drinks.
Appropriately enough, the various venues on the Promenade deck were linked by Inspiration Boulevard. There, all forms of entertainment could be found, which makes these photographs of its empty hallways all the eerier.
Had the Carnival Inspiration been given another refurbishment as opposed to a one-way trip to the scrapyard, it’s easy to imagine that the Cafe des Artistes might have been transformed into a Java Blue Cafe. Both served the same purpose — providing much-needed boosts of caffeine — although Cafe des Artistes style was a bit more old-world than the shops found on more recent Carnival ships.
Another popular stop along Inspiration Boulevard was the Alchemy Bar. A new addition to the Carnival line-up, it offered the perfect place for an upscale cocktail. Truth be told, the Inspiration’s Alchemy Bar lacked some of the charm found on other ships, feeling more like a theme set into an available space. But the drinks served were every bit as creative as found elsewhere, and the mixologists every bit as talented.
At the end of Inspiration Boulevard sat the Candlelight Lounge. As it’s tranquil-sounding name suggests, it was a perfect place to begin winding down your evening. Maybe with a cocktail, maybe with a show. Definitely with friends.
Some spaces on the Inspiration invoke an automatic response, somewhere deep inside, despite the fact that they can be found on nearly every other ship in the Carnival fleet. Guy’s Burger Joint is one such spot. From the toppings bar to the road sign decor, it’s as instantly recognizable as the man who crafted its menu.
Likewise, the Blue Iguana Cantina is a Carnival staple, found on nearly every ship. Yet somehow, knowing we can’t go to this particular one, on this particular ship, leaves us feeling a sense of loss. Or perhaps we’re just hungry for one of the venue’s signature dishes.
Perhaps nowhere on an empty ship is quite as striking as the area around a pool. It’s unnatural for so fun a space to be so devoid of life. There should be music playing and water splashing, and the air should be filled with the smell of sunscreen being lathered on with a heavy hand.
Instead, the pool is empty, the deck chairs put away. Nearby, the RedFrog Rum Bar’s blenders are silent, the shelves empty of liquor, the glasses long ago packed away.
DECK PLAN: Carnival Inspiration
Head towards the front of the ship and back indoors and head up the stairs to deck 12 and you’ll find see the entrance to the Spa Carnival and the fitness center, which had a panoramic view out the front of the ship.
Okay, fine, maybe many of us never actually used the gym which now sits empty, its equipment unused. But we liked knowing it was there, should we wake up one morning inspired to work off the previous night’s dinner.
We can’t help but hope the equipment will be given a new home, maybe even one where it doesn’t have to fight water slides and performers and the idea of doing absolutely nothing for attention.
The final stop on our tour of the now-empty ship brings us to City Sports Park. Compared to the Sports Square complexes found on newer, bigger ships like the Carnival Vista or Carnival Horizon, the Inspiration’s miniature golf course and surrounding jogging path may not seem all that special.
But it was quaint in its own way, filled with the laughter of families during the day and often, after the sun set, couples enjoying a stroll, breathing deeply of the ocean air.
Carnival Inspiration may have taken her final voyage, but she will definitely sail on forever in the memories of those who loved her.
Photos and copyright used with the written permission of Adrian Stoyanov.