This was a cruise with two of my best friends. One had cruised a long time ago with NCL, the other not at all.
Embarkation The Miami cruise terminal is pretty disgusting. Dirty carpets, bad mildew smell, confusing lines. We waited for several hours, going thru a number of lines, including a long one once we had checked in. We heard a new terminal was being built. Finally, we were onboard. Of course the staterooms weren't ready, so we headed to the buffet -- one of only two times we'd make that choice.
The Food The food was quite good. No surprises on the menu since I've sailed, but it was all cooked to perfection. I am not a red meat eater on the whole, but made a couple of exceptions. They were both excellent. Desserts were fabulous.
The buffet is still just the buffet, so we opted to eat there only twice -- once upon boarding (no other choices) and once after an active day in Nassau (we missed the dining room service for lunch.) We were in the dining room the whole cruise and never regretted the decision.
The sushi wasexceptionally good this time around and we never missed a day.
The one exception to the delicious food was the grand buffet. Everything looked wonderful (neither of my friends had seen this presentation, so we opted to stand in line), but afterwards (another long wait) the food itself was disgusting. One of my friends thought the food was meant for looking, not actual eating.
Service The service was hands down the best I've experienced. Our table waiters were friendly, sharp and efficient. We ended up at a table with 6 other people and the chemistry was right. We became "the" table in the dining room that laughed the loudest and had the most fun. Our room steward kept our cooler full the entire cruise and was quick with extra requests.
The Entertainment The entertainment was quite good -- piano bar, shows in the main lounge, bars. "Flashy" -- the guitar player outside the casino had us (and lots of others) coming back every night. The only exception was the comedian. He was absolutely hilarious the first night, but his R rated show at midnight was offensive and just plain not funny. I am far from a prude, but his humor consisted ONLY of explicit sex. We walked out.
Grand Turk: Grand Turk was our first stop and what a surprise! We walked right by the Margaritaville, Carnival-built shopping/pool bar and headed straight for an 8:30 snorkel excursion. We snorkeled at 2 different reefs (one at Round Cay -- the other I can't remember). The tour operators were very helpful and seemed to understand I was pretty nervous. I am not the strongest swimmer and the waters were a little rough. I saw stingrays, huge barracuda and lots of other fish. My friends were braver and snorkeled further away. They saw many more fish, turtles, sharks, etc. On the way back, we went over the 4,000 foot ocean wall (or was it 7,000?) where the divers were enjoying this amazing site. The ocean literally drops straight down (hence the term wall) and apparently has every marine animal imaginable.
After snorkeling, we headed to Cockburn Town. Tiny little town with, so far, no tourist development (and NO tourists that we saw until the end.) We went thru the museum (fascinating), strolled around town, took pics, talked to some locals and ended up at a bar on the beach (Sand Bar? Sand something) that reportedly had the best rum punch in the universe. My friends verified this and also ordered some conch fritters. Two young divers that were on our ship were there and we decided to share a taxi back. With me and the taxi driver cracking the whip, we arrived on the pier as the horn blew its last "goodbye." We made it by the skin of our teeth and were next to last getting aboard. Scary, but in retrospect, exciting. Grand Turk is not for everyone. If you want a sanitized experience with lots of shopping and tours, this isn't the place for you. It is EXACTLY what I want in a port, but fear the development for the cruise tourists will ruin it before long.
Half Moon Cay: Was fine, but not near as good as RCI's Coco Cay. Lots of little paths that wind thru the foliage without a view of the beach. You had to walk a long way to get a chair in the shade. Once we were there, we had chairs and hammocks -- lovely. The noise and view of the "kiddie area" with squirting fountains, slides and screaming children put a damper on the secluded beach feeling most of us wanted. No employees hawking drinks, which meant trips to the not so easily located bars. Our horseback riding excursion in the surf was not to happen (waters too rough) but we didn't find out until after we had taken the tram to the stables. Most of the group elected to get our money refunded, which Carnival did promptly and with grace.
Nassau: Been so many times it's hard to work up enthusiasm, but my friends enjoyed the Queen's Staircase and the straw market. Funny, they both felt an "edgy" atmosphere when walking around Nassau (not near the shops, but further in) that I didn't share. I don't know if that is something that has developed recently that I don't see, or I'm just immune since I've been so much before.
The Ship Sadly, the ship was noticeably in need of an upgrade. I know she is going into dry-dock in October and those folks cruising afterwards will enjoy the change. Our room had a big chunk cracked out of the sink, dirty tiles in the shower, worn carpet and walls in need of painting with scratches.
Nonetheless, the common areas of the ship were fine, with a little of that mildew smell. I'm sure the dry-dock will fix everything.
Art Auction I always attend the art auctions, but this time actually bought something! In fact, all three of us made a purchase. The auctioneer (David) was charming and knowledgeable. I was not unaware of the "salesman" side of his job, but after doing a lot of research after I got home, found that he knew his stuff. My husband had mooned over a Zamy Steynovitz painting on our last cruise together, so I swallowed hard and made the purchase. My friend purchased a beautiful piece by Alfred Gockel. Because of my purchase, we became known as the "Zamy Girls" for the rest of the cruise.
Other Details I spent less in drinks, less in the shops (only one pair of earrings in the gift shop,) zero in the casino, zero at bingo, etc., etc. I had no desire to spend any more than I spent, so it made the cost of the painting a little easier to swallow.
We had a wonderful cruise and I would not (as usual) hesitate to go on another Carnival cruise. It continues to live up to the "Fun Ship" name.
I have to be honest.
When I first went aboard the Imagination, I wasn't sure what I was in for. We were directed to the Lido deck as the ship boarded, and I was somewhat disappointed by what I saw. The Lido deck seemed like an old ferry boat with its tiny pool, old lounge chairs and weathered wood. It was also the smallest ship lined up at the Miami Port that morning and seemed to pale in comparison to the other ships waiting to welcome cruisers to their week of fun.
But disappointment soon turned into well...just plain old fun. Our family of eight had a wonderful time on the Imagination and both ship and crew were able to turn any negative into a positive.
First of all, the ship is incredibily maintained and its crew is constantly spraying, mopping, painting, cleaning and pruning. The ship sparkles despite its age. And while it may be a smaller ship at sea, there are plenty of dining rooms, lounges, clubs and other amenities to keep everyone happy. My favorite spot was one of the many leather window seats near the Dream Bar andcasino--a perfect place to read a book and watch a school of dolphins or flying fish swim by.
Carnival's crew was wonderful--very well trained and friendly, with the excpetion of a few, especially one or two at the information desk. But overall, we enjoyed them all---especially Mark, our waiter in the Prime Dining Room. The food was very good: We had soups we'd love to try again, and the desserts were absolutely amazing. It was a tight ship, where everyone seemed to take pride in doing their jobs well. Some of the bartenders were a little slow and less than enthusiastic, but our complaints about the crew were at a minimum.
There were plenty of activities for everyone in our family, whose ages ranged from 65 to 15. The Reggae band on the Lido deck was just fantastic--they kept the afternoons festive and the late nights full of dancing and singing. I think that was our favorite part of the cruise--hanging out on the Lido deck and singing the refrain "hot, hot, hot!" while enjoying a pina colada or the endless icecream cones accessible in the all day, all night food service lounge by the pool.
The staterooms were very nice and roomy enough for two. We booked four rooms for eight people and I was glad. Trying to stick four people to a room would have been pushing it--and having an ocean view room is definately worth the extra money if you can swing it. Waking up and looking out the window was a highlight, especially if you've arrived at your destination while sleeping. What a treat to have your room cleaned several times a day. As the mother of a busy and large family, this cruise was an incredible treat.
Because of the weather, we were not able to go to the Cayman Islands--- a real disappointment to most of the people on the ship who were looking forward to snorkeling and shopping. But it turned out to be our favorite day. The crew offered everyone an extra $25 on their ship cards and threw another Captain's Party with free drinks. The Captain steered the ship towards sunnier climes and we had a ball that day---going down the slide at the pool, having a few drinks in the sunshine and dancing on the deck. It looked to me as if everyone on board made up for their disappointment by having way too much fun.
A word of caution: I ended up breaking my foot in Jamaica at the Dunns River Falls---climbing up the waterfall. Several other people were hurt as well. Breaking my foot really put a damper on the rest of my trip, as you can well imagine, but I still ended up having a great time. The ship provided me with a wheelchair and things worked out okay. Dunns River Falls was really nice-the kids loved it--but they make you hold hands going up the falls and that doesn't allow you to use your arms to balance yourself or negotiate the rocks. I ended up slipping and really hurting myself. Don't hold hands while climbing up the falls! You need your own balance to steady yourself. Also, Ocho Rios, the Jamaican port town, is a dump. We didn't enjoy that stop at all. It's just dirty, offering very few dining experiences or any real shopping to speak of. None of us enjoyed it very much, except for Dolphin Cove. I think the Dolphin Cove excursion was the best. It's a sweet little resort on the Jamaican coast with something for everyone--swim with the dolphins, shark shows, snorkeling, great outdoor eating (Jerk seasoned food!), kayaking, sunbathing, swimming and the list goes on. We had a nice time there.
It was a wonderful vacation and hard to go home. Despite my skepticism at the beginning, I am now a Carnival convert. We hope to go crusing again next year, broken foot and all......
We had a 1:30p.m. boarding time, but we were on the ship and at lunch by 12:00p.m. The stewards were still preparing the rooms, but they let us drop off our carry-on without any problems. I went to the Pursers desk to check my on-board credit and everything was in order.
Getting the hang of the layout of the ship was easier than we thought. Everything was in tip top shape. There were no real signs of wear or date and any maintenance issues were being handled promptly. The staff was always on top of things and was constantly cleaning and polishing without getting in way or really being noticed. My stateroom E100 was just the right size. I spent some time in one of the suites, WOW. I’m going need to save some extra money for next year. The staterooms and public rooms were better than expected.
We had no problems with any of the meals. Standard American style breakfast foods in the morning. We ate all our lunches at the Pool Grill or in the Horizon Grill. No complaints here either. Try the grilled salmon or tilapia, jerk chicken, burgers,pizza, fried rice, sausage and rigatoni and fried chicken. For desert at lunch, the ice cream was plentiful, but try one of the rich chocolate deserts. We had dinner in the dining room several nights and at the Horizon Grill several nights. The dining room servers were superb. The Captains Dinner was spectacular! Seeing nearly everyone dressed up was a night to remember. And those who didn’t get dressed up were not made to feel inferior. Everyone had a really great time.
Onboard activities were ongoing for just about any taste. A dozen different types of bingo, Deal or No Deal, Millionaire, the Newlywed and Not So Newlywed game. Try some of the different information sessions (Tour Talk, Shop Talk, and Debarkation Talk). All were very informative and will save you some grief. The nightly productions were awesome and the comedians were really funny!
Self Debarkation was quick and painless and is highly recommended, even if you have a million bags. We were off the ship, through Customs/Immigration and on the pier by 8:30a.m. Overall my first cruise was great. I can’t compliment the entire staff enough on a great job. See you guys next year.
Sailed on the Imagination on Sept 11th, 2006. Have to say that the food was outstanding everywhere we ate. (Horizon Grill, Lido, Dining Room) The Horizon lungs were more than you thought they would be with a huge variety of foods and deserts. Dining room service was great and the food presentation and taste was also great.
The ship is very clean. The entire staff was very nice, always said hello! The only bad thing were some of the passengers on the cruise. Alot of CLASS-LESS people. Yes people who do NOT or have never traveled before and think they were the only ones on the ship. The people who were to CHEAP to tip and took it off their sign and sail. (Over heard 4 tables in dining room say that they ain't leavin a tip for no white girl) Now there is an example of let's be equal and fair. She busted her butt for those tables and ran like crazy for them when they demanded extra things, always with her smile.
Then there were the want-to-be gangbangers, walking around with the look and dressed like gangbangers and their hatson sideways in the dining room. Other than thses class-less passengers, pushy as they were as they thought they deserved to be to employees and other guests, all the employees did a wonderful job of making our cruise wonderful for us.
We had a GREAT time on the Imagination! We are a family of six and this was our 2nd Carnival Cruise (Spirit - Feb '03). We had read the reviews about the Imagination being quite older and smaller than the Spirit. True, but no problem whatsoever. Everything was clean and we never felt "crowded" in any way. We felt the lido deck pool area was actually better than on the Spirit. Our cabins were on the main deck aft and were pretty much what we remembered from the Spirit. Enough room for comfort, and clean. Cruise director Jeff Bronson did a good job. There was a large contingent of what I believed were Southern Baptist church groups onboard and they were a surprisingly fun and well behaved group. Camp Carnival was great once again. All of the kids had a great time. We didn't see the "Shout" show (which is supposed to be the best) because they cancelled it on the night we were going to attend because of the ships rocking. The waters were overall very calm except for about a three hour window that night. They did make itup the next evening but we didn't catch it then. We saw 2 comedians and they were both good. Very funny. Our itinerary was 5 nights to Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. We skipped the overpriced shore excursions and got island tours from local cabbies. No problem in either case as we got to see all the islands highlights for a great discount. In Jamaica the street vendors are pushy but that kind of stuff doesn't bother us much. Just give a firm "no thank you" and move on. Grand Cayman is still showing major effects from Hurricane Ivan but it's still very pretty. The food onboard was plentiful and tasty. Carnival does an amazing job considering the massive project preparing all those meals entails.
All in all, on a scale of one to ten I'd give this cruise an 8.
I am an airline employee - 32 years with Delta, so as you can imagine, I've done a great deal of traveling. This was my first cruise and my last cruise on Carnival.
On Sunday morning we woke up to large swells. The ship was rocking very badly - so badly that you couldn't walk up the hallways without holding onto something. MANY of the people were sick and throwing up everywhere. The smell of vomit around the ship and in the restrooms was pretty bad that day.
The floor in our room was dirty enough to turn our socks black. The room had a musty smell and just smelled dirty to me, as did the bedspread. It looked quite worn. We were in the back of the ship and, there were large cardboard boxes piled up 4 feet high on both sides of our doors ALL WEEK.
The main swimming pool was very small for a ship of 2500 people and it was geared towards kids with large slides, ropes and things. The other smaller pool did not have water in it the first evening. After they did fill it,so many people were trying to crowd into it, it was unusable. There needed to be an adult swimming pool and jacuzzi.
I found the employees on the sun decks less than helpful. They didn't help you with your chairs and we saw the waiter once. If we wanted another drink, we had to get up and go get it.
We had two 16 year old girls with us. I asked and was told there was a teen club on the boat. This consisted of a small room with kids toys, puzzles and things suitable for 8-10 year olds. Not much fun for them.
Unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of smokers on this ship. People were smoking in the restaurants, too. It was annoying trying to eat with the smoke in the room. The ventilation - all over the ship - seemed to be very poor, especially, in the casino.
After being cooped up on this ship with everyone sick on Sunday, on Monday morning, we arrived at the Cayman Islands and the port authority would not let any ships tether because of the rough condition of the sea. So, we were turned away and we didn't get to do our Cayman excursions. I talked to several employees, in the restaurant and in the spa, and they said that there have been quite a few times lately that they couldn't dock in Cayman. So - beware.
No theatre on the ship and the same three movies playing on TV all week.
I had heard and read about the wonderful shows on board. The comedy was either bland and old or filthy dirty. The production numbers were ok, but it didn't live up to the reputation.
Overall, the food was mediocre at best. The selections at the buffet were quite limited and much of the food was the same each day. The food on the captain's night was pretty good. At least then, we could get a shrimp cocktail. There were no big nightly midnight buffets, no seafood buffets, and the only thing available late at night was greasy pizza. After hearing about all the great food served on cruises, ours was a big disappointment. Our waiters in the main dining room weren't did their jobs, but nothing extra and certainly weren't very personable. We never saw the maitre d'.
The breakfasts in the Horizon Grill were your basic "Golden Coral" variety. Lukewarm and greasy.
I would compare my cruise experience to staying at a Day's Inn or Motel 6 in Panama City surrounded by that caliber person with that level of service. So - if you're not too choosey about your room, have a bunch of kids under 13 that you want to ditch and let them run wild, you like Ryan's quality food, smoke and are looking for a cheap vacation, wait until about a week before Carnival sails. You can book a 5 day cruise for about $249 and you'll get exactly what you paid for. Unfortunately, we booked early and paid a premium price.
If you are used to 4 and 5 star hotels and this level of service and food - I'd look for a different cruise line. I've heard that Celebrity and Princess are good. Too bad I didn't hear soon enough.
EMBARKATION : I wanted to be at the port by 11:00 AM, and we didn't make it till almost 12:30. I was a little concerned about the crowds, but it seemed that we *just* beat them. We were shunted into a separate line for people who already had their Funpasses filled out online, and the line moved very quickly. We were checked in, got our room keys, got our Sail & Sign cards, and were onboard before 1:00. The crowd building up behind us was HUGE, though!
We went up to the Lido deck for some lunch. There was a hamburger/hot dog area on the actual pool deck, then there was a hot & cold buffet with various entrees, salads, and a carving station inside the Horizon Grill. The food was all very tasty, and I actually wish we'd eaten there more than just that one time. We also grabbed a slice of the oh-so-popular mushroom & goat cheese pizza. It was AWESOME! I *did* manage to make it to the pizzeria twice more during the cruise for more of that yummy pizza!We strolled around the ship for a while, then decided to take a nap before dinner. We were already in cruise mode - eat and sleep every chance we get! After our nap, we got ready for dinner, then grabbed a drink and stood on deck as we sailed away from Miami. We really didn't do a whole lot that first night. We went to dinner, where we met the two other couples that were assigned to our table. After a nice dinner, we just explored all over the ship, checked out a couple of the bars, went up to the spa to make an appointment for me to get my nails done, etc. Around 11PM we were wiped out and decided to call it a night.
DAY ONE - AT SEA : Our first day was a sea day. We slept in a little, then got up and went to the formal dining room for breakfast. After breakfast, we changed into our bathing suits and hit the deck. We found a great spot at the back of the Verandah deck near the small pool & whirlpools that was never overcrowded (always at least a few unclaimed deck chairs), and this became our "hangout." We sunned ourselves, read, took some dips in the hot tub (it was a little cool & overcast the first day), etc. We got cleaned up and headed down to the dining room for lunch and some more new faces, then we took an afternoon nap. I had a 5PM manicure appointment, then we started getting ready for the Captain's Cocktail Party. We had late seating dinner, so our cocktail party time was 7:15 PM.
The cocktail party was nice, though definitely crowded. TIP : take two drinks when the waiter comes around. Don't worry - he won't care! I had heard some people mention going to the bar at the back and ordering whatever you wanted. On the Imagination, there is no bar at the back, and the waiters wouldn't bring out anything that wasn't on their "list." The WILL go back and get you something if they have run out of it on their tray, and will bring it very promptly. We wanted Manhattans, but our waiter was out of them. He came back in just a couple of minutes with fresh ones for us. The drinks they were passing around were Manhattans, screwdrivers, whisky sours, white wine, and champagne. We each grabbed a Manhattan and a white wine. The hors d'oeuvres were tasty - little quiches, meatballs, chicken nuggets (fancy, not kids ones), and something wrapped in a pastry that we never got a chance to try. Again, don't be shy abut taking several. DH & I were trying to be polite and each only took two (they are small), then we saw people around us taking 5 or 6 at a time. The waiter with the food only came around twice, and the second time he didn't have much left on his tray, so we only got a few nibbles. The captain came out and presented all of the crew, then the band got going and several couples got up on stage and danced. Then we were off to dinner. I'm sad to say this was actually our worst dinner on the ship. One of the couples didn't show up, and they actually never returned. We still had a great time with the other couple, and I wish we'd exchanged e-mail addresses or something! We were soooo tired, though, that we ended up falling asleep around 11:30 and never made it to the show.
DAY 2 - GRAND CAYMAN : Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. We were a little worried that we wouldn't be able to tender there because the seas had been pretty rough our entire first day at sea. Luckily, the weather cleared and we were able to tender off the ship. Some of the snorkeling and most of the scuba excursions were cancelled because of the chance of rough seas, but our Coral Reef & Stingray City Snorkel excursion wasn't affected. Once we arrived at Grand Cayman, we took a bus ride to our boats for the excursion. First, they took us to Stingray City. When we got there, only about three other boats were there. We had fun with the sting rays and even fed them (I have the hickey to prove it), but it actually got a little old after a while, and DH & I were ready to get on with the snorkeling. After about 45 minutes with the sting rays, we got back onboard and headed out to the reef. The snorkeling really was nice. I've snorkeled all over Florida, in Cozumel, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Grand Cayman does have some really clear water and beautiful coral formations! After the excursion, we went through a few shops, then had lunch at a place called Paradise. It was great! Food is really expensive in Grand Cayman, so we asked a few locals where to eat within walking distance, and they all said to go to Paradise for the best value. The platters were a little more expensive (my fried seafood sampler was around $18 US dollars), but the portions are huge (we could have split one sampler between us), and the sandwiches were very reasonable and looked really large and tasty. We headed back to the ship and found our invitation to the past guest party in our cabin. We took a nap, got cleaned up, then headed down to the party. It was really fun to watch the video and learn so much about Carnival, then I had a chance to get on stage and do the Electric Slide and YMCA with a bunch of other people. Since DH absolutely refuses to dance, line dancing is pretty much all I get! We had another nice dinner, then we decided we wanted to stay up for Rocky Horror Picture Show that was playing in the smaller (Xanadu) lounge at midnight. To keep ourselves awake, we decided to try our luck in the casino. We're not gamblers and don't know all of the intricate rules for most of the card games, so we decided to give the roulette table a spin. We managed to turn $20 into $170!! Not tons, but we were happy! We headed to Rocky Horror, but I was just so exhausted. I made it through the first 45 minutes or so, then I had to go back to the cabin and sleep. DH said he'd finish watching the movie, then come back, but he never was very good with time and ended up roaming around till 3AM. I was pretty ticked off, but I got over it and tried to grab a few hours of sleep before we had to get up for our excursion in Jamaica the next AM.
DAY 3 - OCHO RIOS JAMAICA: Ocho Rios is our favorite port of call so far. We just loved it there!! Jamaica has a real tropical feel and is not nearly as "touristy" as other places we've been. Our excursion in Ocho Rios was the Rafting Safari down the White River. It was awesome!! I would definitely recommend this excursion to others. It's a nice, lazy float down a mountain, right through some awesome plantations and rain forests. It's not exciting and action-packed, just a leisurely drift. It was a nice change from all of the swimming we did in Grand Cayman. It ends up at a little resort with a bar, calypso music playing, and some awesome jerk chicken! After a nice lunch, we headed back down to the city and did a little shopping at The Village (an outdoor mall). Then it was back on the ship for us. We had another nice dinner with our tablemates, but were pretty tired after our two shore days, so we turned in after dinner.
DAY 4 - DAY AT SEA: This was our last day aboard ship, and we really wanted to soak it all in!! We got up and had breakfast in the formal dining room, and again we had great tablemates to chat with. Then we spent the morning lounging by the pool. We changed for lunch, again in the formal dining room. Then we strolled around the shops to pick up last-minute souvenirs. Then DH went to do a little exploring, while I sat in on the Newlywed Game. It was an absolute hoot! After that, I had an appointment for a facial. Folks, if you want spa treatments, wait till the last day at sea!! They drop the prices way down. I got my facial for about half price. If I had read all of the little flyers, I could have gotten three treatments for $50 (things like manicure, facial, scalp massage, etc.). Definitely check out the spa the last day, but go first thing in the AM before it gets all booked up. Then we had our last dinner. We had one final awesome conversation with our tablemates, then said our goodbyes. We headed back to the room to pack. Since we were doing self-debarking, we didn't have to have our bags out by a certain time, but I didn't want to be up at 5 AM trying to pack for our 7:30 debarkation. Then we took one last stroll on the deck while sipping martinis, then we turned in for the night.
DAY 5 - DEBARKATION: We did the self-debarkation, and it was very smooth for us. We were told to be ready to walk off the ship at 7:30, then to open our door and wait for the self-debarkation announcement. While I finished packing, DH ran up to the Lido deck and grabbed some danishes and coffee. Right around 7:40 we heard the call for self-debarkation. We debarked off the Empress deck, so it was really nice having our cabin on that deck. We didn't have to struggle with elevators on the ship. We were a little annoyed with the families with 5 kids in tow and 20 pieces of luggage that decided to do self-debarkation, then would hold up lines to get all of their party together, everyone's passports out, etc. I don't have a problem with large parties self-debarking, as long as they have their act together, keep everyone together in line, and have all of their documentation out and ready. Even with that little glitch, the self debarkation was quick and easy. W were over our liquor limit by 2 or 3 liters, and they just waved us right through. By 9AM we were off the ship, had our car loaded up, and were on our way home!
Just returned from a brief 5 day cruise to Ocho Rios and the Grand Cayman Islands aboard Carnival's Imagination. This is our 7th cruise, with the four previous on the Legend(2x), Destiny and the Triumph. We have also sailed on RCCL's Soverign of the Sea's and on the Royal Majesty (Now NCL's Norweign Majesty). Traveling with my wife and I were my sister-in-law and her husband. I just retired this week after 33 years as a Colonel in law enforcement. My wife is in insurance industry. We are in our 40's - 50's.
My observations are as follows:
BOARDING - Long term parking was a breeze. There was more than ample nearby parking at the Port of Miami, even with several ships in port. We arrived suitably early and to our surprise, they announced that they would allow us to board early as long as we didn't access our cabin's before 1pm...fair enough! The lines moved smoothly and the ground staff was friendly and efficient.
THE SHIP - The Imagination is approx. 10 years old. I was accustomed to new, larger ships (Destiny and Spirit style). I was apprehensive that this smallership, after ten years, would be inadequate and in need of repair. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship was spick and span. Fresh paint in and out. The carpets were spotless and looked new. All around the ship were staff polishing wood, brass rails and cleaning glass. Our cabin on the Empress Deck was an outside cabin. Although it was smaller than what we previously had on the Legend (that was a balcony), it was easily enough room for the two of us. Our cabin steward introduced himself to us as soon as we went to the room. He did a good job and was always present. The room had a tv, several closets with a credit card swipe-style safe. There was a vanity table and a corner table.
As we toured the ship, we found it very easy to find our way around (my wife was pleased by this as she is always losing me somewhere on the larger ships). The nightclub was well designed and the dining room (there are two) was sparkling clean. All of the common area's of the ship were also found to be higher than my expectations.
FOOD - Good, but not as good as on the Legend. There was a limit to the varieties of the buffet service. As usual, there was no shortage of pizza and ice cream, I couldn't find items like sliced cheeses, etc. I attribute that to the fact that we were on a smaller ship. What food that was served was good to very good. Not good to excellent as on the Legend. Our Waiter and assistant earned additional cash from us at the end of the cruise (beyond the automatic tip deductions that carnival now does) due to over and above personal service. I was surprised that they make no effort to learn your names. Nonetheless, they were attentive, efficient and polite.
STAFF - This never fails to amaze me. There were 29 different nations represented by the staff. They all spoke acceptable English and ALWAYS smiled and were polite. Can not say enough good things about them. But here is the part that always gets me - you arrive back in the United States, (Miami) and from the port to the airport, nobody speaks English. You go to Jamaica or the Cayman's or anywhere else in the Caribbean and they all speak fluent English. Return to the U.S. and you need a translator. Go figure~
THE PORTS - Snorkeled on the Cayman's Dunn's River Falls on Ocho Rios. Both were fun and well organized (we used Carnival's excursion instead of privately booking ashore. I like not to take chances). The Island's show some storm damage - particularly the poorer areas. The commercial properties all were open and showed no damage. There were 5 or ships tendering in at Grand Cayman and just one other at Jamaica.
CASINIO - Smokey, but not overly crowed.. We spent considerably less time there than we have on other cruises.
BARS - From Karaoke to music bars, all were clean and never crowded. The disco was almost always empty.
STORE SHOPS - Very satisfying. Much more choices than on the larger ships too! Didn't bother with the art auction. Every day there was another sales theme, from inches of gold and silver to discount watches. I enjoyed strolling thru the shops (Galleries as they called themselves) after meals.
ENTERTAINMENT - Good to Excellent. The cruise director Jeff Bronson was personable and entertaining, but, sometimes too long winded. My gripe with him was that on the night before departure, they were pushing attendance at the lecture for departure instructions. It was at 11am on a beautiful and sunny day at sea. He could have been much more brief, but he rattled on and on and on. What a waste. They placed all the departure information in your cabin that night and they played it on the closed circuit tv. That was more than sufficient. The Las Vegas type shows never disappointed. The last night, they had a talent show from guest selected while at karaoke.
GENERAL - No buffet lines------anywhere! What a difference between this and the larger Carnival ships. Never a shortage of chaise lounges, regardless of the time of day. There were children aboard, never saw a problem with any of them. Teenagers were quiet, well behaved and were not rude. Generally, all the passengers were pleasant. We had no difficulty starting a conversation with any of them. Very few poolside and inner ship announcements. That was a welcome departure from previous cruises. The always tried to sell you something without becoming annoying. Room service was fast and appreciated. Decent selection. There was a full screen tv above the pool (ala Princess) however, you could never hear it. I was told that when it is quiet at night, you can, but it was valueless during daytime.
DEBARKATION - Painless. They allowed early flights, handicapped and those willing to handle their own luggage off early. We choose to wait. They did not call you by your floor or luggage colors. Instead, they did a general debarkation. Although this did cause some bottle necks, things eventually moved along smoothly.
FINAL COMMENTS - I am booked for a cruise this April on a Spirit class ship again. I suppose I like the behemoths over the smaller ships. My wife would be fast to disagree. It was nice not having to wait in lines or waiting for a place in the sun by the pool to open. But I enjoy having a balcony. I enjoy a greater option for eating on the lido deck. I would however rebook on this class of ship again.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to write me back.
Ken & Deb
History: Third Carnival Cruise, total cruises to date (7) seven with 2 more 'stacked' for June & September 2005. We arrived in Miami the day prior to sailing since travel from the Northeast can be too unpredictable in wintertime. Our Delta flight arrived in MIA right on schedule and we took the shuttle to the Miami Airport Hilton and checked-in to our room by 12:30 PM. This is a very nice property for an airport location. Rooms were large, full service restaurants and lounges on site and a beautifully tropical landscaped pool area. We grabbed a light lunch and then changed into our swimsuits and 'hung out' at the pool for the afternoon. Weather was beautiful in MIA not extremely hot, but not cool. Traveling from PA with snow on the ground and below zero wind chills the balmy mid-70 something degrees in Miami was a welcomed treat! Next morning we woke and had breakfast. Upon exiting the dining room we saw the Carnival rep preparing her table in the lobby. We went over and confirmed our transfers from the hotel to the cruise port and were told to be inthe designated area in the lobby between 11:30-45 for a noontime bus transfer. We had ample time and were anxious to checkout and get to the ship!
Our transfer made only one other stop at the Hyatt in downtown MIA and then direct to the cruise port. We were one of the first buses to arrive and immediately had our luggage checked with the porters and walked right in to the terminal for processing. Lines, well there really were none yet! It was a 'painless' check-in for the Imagination. We were in our cabin no later than 12:45 PM, unpacked our carry-ons and then went up to the Lido for some lunch. The Imagination was immaculate in cleanliness! This was my second time on a Fantasy class vessel and the layout was identical to what I remembered. I did like the more 'low toned' color scheme on this ship. After we ate lunch took a quick once walk around the decks, went back to our cabin and changed into pool clothes. Our cabin was an ocean view on the Empress Deck and was in a great location for access to all the public areas that are off the grand atrium.
4 PM came quickly and we headed back to grab our life jackets for the mandatory muster drill. Our luggage arrived and was outside the cabin door! Quickest luggage delivery that I could remember from any of my cruises. After the drill we unpacked to get that out of the way and then went up to the Lido Deck for the sail away. Unfortunately we did not get our requested LATE dinner seating. We didn't even bother to try and change since the sign outside the Pride dining room stated that late seatings were full. It worked out for the good since we had great tablemates at the 6:15 main seating. They had also requested late dining so it just wasn't us. Food in the formal dining room was average to above average. I had some really good entrees and some that were just Ok. We only skipped dinner one evening the day we were in Cozumel. We didn't want to rush back to eat so once back on board we ate casual in the Horizon Grill. This is where we had buffet breakfasts each morning also.
Our ports of call were Key West and Cozumel, MX. I have been to both ports before. Weather was fantastic the entire cruise. Sunny, no rain and temps in Key West high 70's and low 80's in Cozumel. Entertainment in the Dynasty show lounge was mediocre to say the least. First show 'Shout' I really didn't care for. The second show called "Livin in America' was somewhat better, but I have seen much better entertainment on past cruises. I really don't have any complaints to report about this cruise. Service was good, food was mainly good, entertainment could use improvement, however our primary purpose was to get away from the BITTER COLD and just have fun in the sun! Disembarkation went as smooth as boarding. In conclusion we had an excellent mid-winter get away!
This cruise was the first cruise for myself and the fourth for my husband. We found the ship to be in good condition.
We had an outside stateroom which I found to be roomier than what I had expected. We met our cabin steward shortly after arriving in our stateroom. He was polite for the most part but seemed to lack in the personality department. Our stateroom was always kept clean. We did have to make a point that he needed to knock before entering our stateroom. So overall the service in this area was okay.
We ate every night in the Spirit Dining Room. Our servers were wonderful. They were always willing to go above and beyond in order to make sure we had everything that we needed. Our waiter was very quiet for the most part but was personable and very willing to make suggestions if you were unsure of what to order. Everyone at our table enjoyed the service we received. The first night the food in the dining room was top notch. Everyone at the table was very impressed with both the presentation as well as theflavor of our choices. Unfortunately, it did seem that as time went on the quality of the food went downhill. The food was never bad but it never was as good as the first nights dinner.
For breakfast and lunch we normally ate at the buffet, burger bar or had pizza. The pizzas were everything I had been told to expect and more. The staff were also more than happy to make any pizza you wanted. My husband and I looked forward to trying new pizza's whenever we wanted lunch or a snack. The first time we went to the burger bar, the burgers were among the best I have ever had. However, we later discovered when you went to get a burger would determine how good it would be. They would store the burgers in a warmer when it wasn't so busy and those were just not that good at all. On a couple of occasions we were told that the burgers were not fully cooked which was very surprising. We however did not experience this.
On our first sea day we went to some of the scheduled events that were set up by the entertainment staff. We quickly discovered that the cruise director was not as entertaining as her associates were. I never heard the name of the guy that I thought was the best. He organized and ran the Hairy Chest contest on the Lido Deck the last day at sea. He was hysterical and fun to watch. He was also able to get the guys participating to come out of their shells and put on a great show for everyone watching. Carnival really needs to look at promoting this guy as he is wonderful.
We had two ports of call on our cruise. We first went to Grand Cayman. Having grown up in Florida it was very sad to see all of the remaining damage from Ivan the Terrible. What was very inspiring was to see the locals positive attitude, despite all of the work still ahead of them in the rebuilding process. While in Grand Cayman we visited the Turtle farm which was very educational. We also did a quick stop at the Tortuga Rum Factory and sampled some of their rum cakes which were wonderful. We could have sampled some of the rum, but it was just a bit early in the day for our systems. After that we drove out to Hell to send some postcards home. When we got back onto our tour bus, we were due to go out to Stingray City. We were informed that the waters were very rough and given the option of not going. None of us took them up on that. We had a nice boat ride out to the sandbar, where we donned our life vests, masks and snorkels and jumped into the water. When they told us the waters were rough they were not kidding but it didn't stop any of us from having a great experience.
The next day we were in Ocho Rios. There we took the Cool Runnings, Dunn's River Falls tour. The crew on Cool Runnings were wonderful. They got everyone up and dancing on our way to the Falls. They also pointed out some neat points of interest. When we arrived at the Falls, we were introduced to our guides that would be taking us up the Falls. These guys were great. They we very patient with those that were having trouble maneuvering their way up the falls, they were also right there whenever someone needed help. They made a few stops on the way up the falls to allow us to slide down a small area of the falls or just play around a bit. After our trip up the falls we then headed back to Cool Runnings for our trip back. We were then served with Rum Punch which they were not stingy with the punch many of us actually choose to remix the drinks in order to add more punch.
The last day at sea was calmer than the previous days had been. We somehow managed to get one of the highly sought after pool chairs right by the pool on the Lido deck. We spent most of the day soaking in the sun and listening to the Calypso Bank that spent the afternoon entertaining everyone. It was a wonderful day at sea.
There were a couple of ship employee's that really made our cruise special. First was "Sushi" a bar server that mostly worked by the pool on the Lido deck. He met us the first day of the cruise and knew our names right away. In the evenings he would go inside and work where he was needed. No matter where he was if he saw us, he immediately greeted us by name and told us what was going on the evening that he thought we would enjoy. He quickly learned our likes and dislikes and was able to suggest drinks to try. By the time the cruise was half over Kevin swore I was going to pack him into my suitcase and bring him home. (Not a bad idea) The other person that made our cruise was Miguel our Maitre'd. He made a point of stopping by our table every night and talking with all of us. He was very helpful in suggesting wines for dinner for everyone at our table. He was much more visible than the Maitre'D from the other dining room.
All in all we truly enjoyed our cruise and I am now addicted.