On Monday, Nov. 13th, your editor and Mrs. Cruiseman departed from Miami aboard the Carnival Imagination. The Imagination is a part of the "Fantasy Class" Series of vessels,and was launched in 1995. She was followed by the Inspiration in 1996, and the Paradise and the Elation in 1998, all with the same 2040 regular passenger capacity. We found the Imagination to be in very good condition and everything was clean and in working order.
For those that have never sailed with Carnival, you are in store for a pleasant surprise when you visit your bathroom. There is actually room to turn around in the shower, and the rest of the bathroom is kind of roomy, too!
Everyone always wants to know about the food! A while back Carnival announced an upgrade program for their food service, and I can tell you that they meant it! The food that we had was just as good as that on our recent voyage aboard the Royal Caribbean Enchantment of the Seas.
Service was very efficient, and the presentation of each coarse was very pleasant. Kudos to Carnival for the great meals! Our waiters were very good. You might be interested ( or disappointed ) to know that they don't do the flaming Baked Alaska parade any more. Apparently somebody got hurt!! They did serenade us with a couple of songs, but overall, they just served us and kept out of the way.
The Imagination is the first of the Carnival fleet to implement
flexible dining times:
6PM, 6:45PM, 8PM & 8:45PM. We had the 6:45PM dining, and liked that time
Here's a sample of a weekly grocery list for one Carnival ship:
Beef: 10,000 lbs.
Poultry: 8,000 lbs.
Fish & Seafood: 6,000 lbs.
Pork: 3,000 lbs.
Fruits and Veggies: 12,500 lbs.
Flour: 4,500 lbs.
Sugar: 1,400 lbs.
Ice Cream 1,000 gallons
Juice: 900 gallons
Milk: 1,200 gallons
The "Horizon" area on the Lido deck serves buffet style meals for breakfast and lunch. Variety and quality was excellent ( for a buffet ), however we found the entire area quite noisy. If you are looking for a quiet meal, we suggest you take your tray to one of the outside tables on deck. Also in this area is the famous 24 hour Pizza Bar. We tried some pepperoni pizza at about midnight one night and it was fresh, hot and tasty.
The Midnight buffets were up to par with any others we have ever
seen. The big Gala
Buffet was superb:
This was a five night cruise from Miami with stops at Grand Cayman and Calica, (Mx.).
Grand Cayman is a real delight to visit. Shore excursion opportunities are abundant, including the Turtle Farm, Stingray City, Scuba & Snorkeling, and lots more. We chose, however, to make it a lazy day on the famous and very beautiful Seven Mile Beach. Taxis are abundant so getting around is no problem on Grand Cayman. Shopping is abundant! Check out the jewelry made from local "Black Coral". We shared the pier area with passengers from the Sea Princess, and the Ryndam.
Calica, on the other hand was a huge disappointment. We had been warned previously that there was "nothing" at Calica. Now we understand what "nothing" really means! Folks, Calica consists of a government building, a nifty stone sign, and a dirt parking lot!!! It seems that Calica is about half way between Playa del Carmen and Cancun. Upon arrival the dirt parking lot was filled with tour busses and taxi cabs, all ready to take you either north to Cancun, or south to Playa del Carmen, or off on one of the ancient Mayan ruins tours. You could see the ocean from the pier, but the path to the shore was roped off. Maybe I should define "pier", too. The pier was really a loading facility for a gravel pit! (see picturess) The ramp from the ship to the dirt parking lot crossed right over the conveyer belt that carried the gravel to the loader. Honest! I'm not making this up! Oh, there was also a couple of tents with the locals selling their trinkets, and, of course, wanting to braid your hair!
The onboard entertainment in the Dynasty Lounge was excellent. Staging, props, lighting and sound were all done first class. The musical reviews were all done to a live band, without any "canned" music. Very impressive. The magician was pretty good, and the "oldies" music segment was a big hit! The "Talent Show" (not contest) on the last night was surprisingly good! I just realized that there was no ventriloquist! Oh, well!
GYM & SPA
We paid one visit to the gym. It was large enough and equipped with very modern equipment. With the blinds open you had a good view of the ocean while you tried to sweat off last night's dinner! Also in the Spa area are an aerobics room, massage rooms, and a beauty salon. On the Sun Deck was an outdoor walking / jogging track. 11 laps = 1 mile. Yes, your editor actually did a couple of miles!
The Imagination has one swimming pool, and it's not very large. However it seemed large enough for those interested. The trademark water slide lands you in this pool. There are also two Jacuzzi's next to the pool. Deck chairs and lounges seemed abundant. The live pool side music was good, but way too loud. If you want to carry on a conversation, stay away from the bandstand and the speakers!! The pool area has it's own buffet. It's the same food as that served in the "Horizon", with the addition of hamburgers and hot dogs. This was a very popular spot for those that spend their days at the pool.
We paid a visit to Carnival's award winning Camp Carnival. Here the
their own counselors and activities. During our visit they were playing a game with water balloons, which seemed to be a big hit! The kids area is at the rear of the ship on the Atlantic & Promenade Decks. They have their own pool, game rooms, and planned activities.
We know that many are fearful of taking a Carnival cruise because of their reputation as a 24 hour party boat! Like anything else in life, your cruise experience will be just what you want it to be. We found many very pleasant, quite areas of the ship. The decor, with its miles of neon, flashy lights, etc. fits with the "Fun Ships" theme. We suggest you try a Carnival cruise. No, it will not be the same experience as, say, a Celebrity or Princess cruise, but what Carnival offers you is a real value for your money, and a great, casual cruising experience, with comfortable cabins and great food.