Sometimes short cruises are just the ticket for getting a break from the daily routine or stress and enjoying a few days of fresh ocean air. You can pack a light bag, board the ship for a buffet lunch and relax until the ship sails off in the late afternoon for a weekend of laid-back family fun. On its year-round short cruise program from Los Angeles, California, the recently renovated Carnival Inspiration departs every Friday on three-day cruises to Ensenada, and every Monday on four-day cruises to Ensenada and Catalina Island.

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Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff, Los Angeles TravelingMom

Cruises are among my family’s favorite way to travel. We love long cruises for adventures in exotic ports, and short cruises to unwind after a busy or stressful week. Following my mom’s heart attack two months ago, I became her primary caregiver and, after a few weeks, felt the need for a weekend getaway. Somewhere not too far away, but long enough for me to recharge. So I booked a three-night cruise from Long Beach, California to Ensenada aboard Carnival Inspiration, a recently renovated ship that sails year-round to Baja, California. My 25-year-old son, Michael, was on board to join me for a relaxing getaway. On our agenda: nothing. Just three days of food, drinks, sun and entertainment. And plenty of quality mother/son time.

Day One on Carnival Inspiration

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Photo Courtesy: Mimi Slawoff, Los Angeles TravelingMom

After checking in on my mom and my sister (who agreed to stay with our mom for the weekend), Michael and I boarded the ship around noon so we could enjoy a leisurely buffet lunch and drinks by the pool under sunny skies before setting sail.

We’ve sailed many times with Carnival on several of its other ships, and while the 2,052-passenger Inspiration doesn’t have the bells and whistles of higher-end vessels, it was comfortable for a weekend cruise. Our ocean view stateroom was small but tidy and just the right size for two people (although the cabin sleeps three). Our friendly cabin steward always greeted us by name and provided impeccable service.

Inspiration’s New Dining and Bar Options

Unlike previous cruises where we primarily ate in a ship’s restaurants, this time we had most of our meals at the new complimentary eateries: Guy’s Burger Joint and the BlueIguana Cantina.

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Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff, Los Angeles TravelingMom

My son and I agreed that the best food served on the Inspiration was at these two pool-side eateries. Guy’s Burger Joint, developed in partnership with Food Network personality Guy Fieri, makes hand-crafted burgers and fresh-cut fries that you can customize with sauces and toppings. The BlueIguana Cantina serves yummy burritos and tacos on homemade tortillas for breakfast and lunch. There’s also a toppings and salsa bar, but surprisingly no chips. For those with a sweet tooth, Cherry On Top indulges with bins of bulk candy.

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Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff, Los Angeles TravelingMom

Also new onboard: RedFrog Rum Bar, Alchemy Bar and the BlueIguana Tequila Bar.  So of course we checked out these venues as well. These popular watering holes were crowded, but you can also order your drinks from pool-side servers.

Day Two: Ensenada

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Photo Credit: Michael Mendelson (author’s son)

Having been to this Baja destination a few times, we skipped shore excursions. The main attraction here is La Bufadora, a blow hole that shoots water 60-plus feet high. It’s worth seeing if you haven’t been there before (but note that it’s also packed with vendors, so feels very touristy). Michael and I did step off the ship, however, to stretch our legs, but shortly returned to the ship to take advantage of the empty pools and bars. The adults-only Serenity deck has two whirlpools and cushy chaise lounges. It’s a relaxing spot on port days but on sea days the whirlpools are packed. I was surprised that unlike Carnival’s other ships, Inspiration’s Serenity space lacks a swimming pool and bar. We sailed on the Carnival Miracle last summer and the spacious Serenity retreat had a pool, whirlpools, hammocks and cabanas.

Day Three: Sea Day

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Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff, Los Angeles TravelingMom

I love sea days, simply because I love sailing. We got to the pool deck early enough to see cute animal towels perched on chaise lounges and benches. Michael and I settled on two chaise lounges by the main pool, the hub for music, games and contests.  Popular with young families is the WaterWorks aqua park and 300-foot-long Twister slide.  After basking in the sun for a few hours, we headed to the sports deck for a round of mini golf. Throughout the ship’s interior were cozy sitting areas with ocean views. While lounging and talking, Michael and I noticed a pod of dolphins playfully swimming toward the ship.

Though this three-night cruise was the shortest sailing trip we’ve taken, we didn’t feel rushed or like we missed out on anything. It did its job. We rested, caught up with each other and enjoyed good food and drinks. With its affordable rates and accessibility, the Carnival Inspiration does attract a young crowd looking for a good time. But it also lures families with children’s programs and special events. Overall, if you’re in the L.A. area and looking for a relaxing and budget-friendly weekend getaway, Carnival Inspiration could be a good option for your family.