Subscribe today
Get Cruise Critic in your inbox
Your Ultimate Cruise Guide

Carnival Imagination Cruise Review by LandlockedCruiser01: Great first-time cruise, definitely will return.


LandlockedCruiser01
2 Reviews
Member Since 2012
1,137 Posts

Member Rating

Cabin 5.0
Dining 5.0
Embarkation 5.0
Enrichment Activities Not Rated
Entertainment 5.0
Family & Children Not Rated
Fitness & Recreation Not Rated
Public Rooms 5.0
Rates 4.0
Service 5.5
Shore Excursions 4.0
Value for Money 4.0

Compare Prices on Carnival Imagination Western Caribbean Cruises

Great first-time cruise, definitely will return.

Sail Date: April 2012
Destination: Western Caribbean
Embarkation: Miami

It was my first cruise ever, and despite the reservations I had about cruising in general, I decided to take the leap and try it out. So I booked a 4-day cruise on the Imagination, sailing out of Miami, with ports in Key West and Cozumel, plus a post-debarkation excursion to Everglades.

PRE-CRUISE HOTEL
I stayed in La Quinta Inn Miami Airport North. The hotel itself was pretty good. The only minus was room entrances directly at ground level or to balcony-like hallways. Young women going alone or families with small children might be bothered by that, so FYI. The room was quite basic, but for a one-night stay, it did the job well. The neighborhood is boring; there's a shopping mall next door with a Pollo Inka (a Peruvian restaurant with good food), two gas stations nearby, and fast food, but not much else. Unless you rent a car and drive somewhere, the only thing to really do is walk along 36th Street.

PORT OF MIAMI AND EMBARKATION
The port was simply More OK but the workers were nice. The building is boxy and industrial-looking, and the baggage check process was chaotic, because the entrance to board Imagination was different than originally scheduled. But once I gave my bags to the porter and found the right entrance, it went smoother from there. The workers who collected my boarding pass and gave me my Sail & Sign card were very friendly and patient with my lack of knowledge about the process. Even security personnel actually smiled when I asked then questions about where to go.

DINING
I heard people on here complain about the food, but I loved it. The meals in the main dining room were delicious and filling. It felt like a Thanksgiving meal every day. The portions aren't big, but you can order as many dishes as you like. Just as a courtesy to crew members, eat what you take unless you didn't like it, since many of them come from cultures where wasting food is highly looked down upon. The Lido buffet food is more basic, but still good, and the choices are plentiful. Imagination, like other Fantasy class ships, does not have a for-fee steakhouse.

ACTIVITIES AND ENTERTAINMENT
The Fun Times daily newsletter is your best friend for this. There's always something to do: crew performances, line dances on the deck, towel folding classes, etc. Evening shows range from cheesy (in a good way) to spectacular, but they're always fun to watch. Most of them involve costumed performers singing and dancing. They're timed against the assigned dinner schedules, so don't worry about missing dinner if you go to one. If you're at any point wondering what to do, just check the Fun Times. Or, just wander aimlessly around the ship; that can be entertaining in itself, particularly right after embarkation.

SERVICE
Great service! I saw crew members always cleaning and wiping down surfaces, making sure the ship looks presentable. Waitstaff and food service workers asked people what their preferences, and apologized profusely if something wasn't available. My cabin steward remembered me on the first day and always said hello, and kept my room very clean; I returned the courtesy by not leaving too much of a mess. Entertainment staff always looked very upbeat, happy, and energetic, sometimes putting on spontaneous performances when they saw things looking too quiet.

PUBLIC AREAS AND LAYOUT
Given the fact that it's Carnival, the decor was quite loud and Las Vegas-like. A lot of fake neon lights using LEDs, sparkly signs, and decorations in bright colors. There are plenty of seating areas on the Promenade deck, with couches right along windows. Now, there's a a shortage of dance floors on the ship, so oftentimes, dance parties were held right in the hallway, and more often that not, there was Latin music. The Lido deck has plenty of tables to sit at and two bars; the port bar closes in the evenings, but the starboard bar is open late. The layout is a confusing at first, but once you get a hang of where's forward/aft/port/starboard, finding places on the ship becomes a snap.

MY CABIN
I stayed in M21, in the forward starboard section of the Main deck. The cabin is pretty small, with the king-size bed taking up most of the room, but the ledge in front of the portholes is big enough to fit all the but the largest suitcases. It's a great place to put your suitcase, since there's almost no room anywhere else. The safe opens with a magnetic stripe card; for safety, use an expired credit card or an empty gift card. Now, you will feel the rocking and feel the vibration from the thrusters quite a bit. I actually liked it (I saw it as a non-verbal reminder than I'm on a cruise), but if you're prone to seasickness, FYI. I only have two minor gripes. The bathroom doesn't have an exhaust fan, so open the door to vent out the steam after a shower, and use a travel-size Axe deodorant as an air freshner. And the shaver outlet is in the ceiling above the mirror; and the rocking of the ship was strong enough to shake the plug right out of the outlet (it's kind of big to begin with, but still).

FELLOW PASSENGERS
I went on April 30, which I'm sure made a difference. There were very few kids, and they were polite and well-behaved for the most part. The crowed ranged mostly from 30 to 55. There was a sizable crowd of 20-somethings, but I've never seen them cause trouble, only party it up at appropriate times and places. I had assigned dining, and my tablemates were great. We all got along well and had fun conversations, which makes a difference when you're cruising solo. No one on the ship even said any of those "how brave of you" comments, let alone give me hard time over that. Quite the opposite, a few people even complimented me on the decision.

DEBARKATION
It was organized, but tedious and depressing. Passengers who were once talking up a storm and laughing warmly were now only making polite conversation. If you self-debark, like I did, you take your luggage to an assigned waiting area (it was the Mirage Bar on the Atlantic deck for me), and wait until you're told to debark. Not sure how it goes if you leave your luggage outside your cabin to be picked up. At the end, you go to your car, an airport shuttle, or your tour bus; the directions they give you are very clear. Less


Read more Carnival Imagination cruise reviews >>
Read Cruise Critic's Carnival Imagination Review >>

Cabin review: Carnival Imagination Interior Empress M21

PLUSSES: * Natural light through the portholes for the price of an inside room * Comfortable bed * Roomy ledge in front of the portholes * Free samples of toiletries in the bathroom MINUSES: * No exhaust vent in the bathroom * Small room size * Noticeable motion due to the forward location

Port and Shore Excursions


Dolphin Swim & Encounter

(5.5)
Imagination docks in Puerta Maya, about four miles south of downtown, but the port was still very interesting to look at. There was a bit of time to walk around and look merchandise in shops, then the tour operator whisked people off onto a tour bus and to Chankanaab, a park where I booked the Royal Dolphin Swim. In the evening, I spent almost all of the time in Fat Tuesday's, a spring break-type bar. ROYAL DOLPHIN SWIM IN CHANKANAAB It was the highlight of the cruise! It was impossible not to be moved emotionally by it. The dolphins are very majestic and gentle. First, they train you on hand signals that dolphins understand, using a wooden cutout model of a dolphin. Then they lead you into a sectioned-off area for the actual interaction. You can do a hand/flipper shake, foot push, dorsal tow, and more. There are photographers taking pictures of you the whole time. The printed pictures are expensive, in tens of dollars, but if you get a DVD, you get 25 pictures for $80. Not a great value, but how often do most people get to swim with dolphins? FAT TUESDAY'S I went back on the ship to clean up and change clothes, then went back out to port. It was already evening by the time I went into Fat Tuesday's, and the crowd was picking up. Everybody was wearing balloon hats, dancing the limbo and a bunch of line dances, and drinking humongous drinks. I ended up joining in on the action with the people from the ship who were already there, and had an awesome time. We were all talking, laughing, and dancing.

I originally scheduled a Hemingway Museum and Sloppy Joes excursion, but it was canceled. I planned to stay on the ship at first, but a fellow passenger convinced me to go into town and walk around. So I did. Imagination docks at Outer Mole, a US Navy port, so you have to take a shuttle into town. The shuttle drops you off at a downtown area. A worker at a boat rental place was nice enough to give me a map of old Key West and mark it up with places I asked him about. STREETS OF KEY WEST Think of the town as Old West meets Caribbean. There are a lot of old buildings with quirky architecture and many eclectic shops. Many of them are tourist-oriented, but not in an in-your-face touristy kind of way. For example, there's a Walgreen's store situated in a former theater building. Store workers are very nice and helpful to tourists, and there are even tourist information booths along Duval Street, which is where I spent most of my time. Make sure to try the chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick; I wish I could remember where I bought it. The pie was creamy and flavorful, and the chocolate was really good, nothing like the Hershey kind. It rained the day I was there, but that did not stop me or most other ship passengers. It was fun to watch many people walk around in Carnival ponchos around the streets. HEMINGWAY HOME AND MUSEUM This was the house where Ernest Hemingway actually lived with one of his wives. The building has Southern Colonial or New Orleans architecture style, with ground-to-roof columns and wraparound porches. Inside, there are rooms looking just as they did in the late 1800's. There's also a swimming pool commissioned by Hemingway himself, the first one in Key West. There are cats virtually everywhere: under bushes, on benches, and one was even sleeping on top of an HP printer. You're allowed to pet the cats but not pick them up. SLOPPY JOES This old bar is very mellow and laid back, and so are its workers. There are bands playing country music, but there was still a lot of people there. Various country's flags hang on the ceiling. During the worst part of the rain, I took cover in this bar, and I'm glad I did. I loved the atmosphere.
Read 738 Key West Reviews

Ernest Hemingway House & Tour

(5)
I originally scheduled a Hemingway Museum and Sloppy Joes excursion, but it was canceled. I planned to stay on the ship at first, but a fellow passenger convinced me to go into town and walk around. So I did. Imagination docks at Outer Mole, a US Navy port, so you have to take a shuttle into town. The shuttle drops you off at a downtown area. A worker at a boat rental place was nice enough to give me a map of old Key West and mark it up with places I asked him about. STREETS OF KEY WEST Think of the town as Old West meets Caribbean. There are a lot of old buildings with quirky architecture and many eclectic shops. Many of them are tourist-oriented, but not in an in-your-face touristy kind of way. For example, there's a Walgreen's store situated in a former theater building. Store workers are very nice and helpful to tourists, and there are even tourist information booths along Duval Street, which is where I spent most of my time. Make sure to try the chocolate-covered key lime pie on a stick; I wish I could remember where I bought it. The pie was creamy and flavorful, and the chocolate was really good, nothing like the Hershey kind. It rained the day I was there, but that did not stop me or most other ship passengers. It was fun to watch many people walk around in Carnival ponchos around the streets. HEMINGWAY HOME AND MUSEUM This was the house where Ernest Hemingway actually lived with one of his wives. The building has Southern Colonial or New Orleans architecture style, with ground-to-roof columns and wraparound porches. Inside, there are rooms looking just as they did in the late 1800's. There's also a swimming pool commissioned by Hemingway himself, the first one in Key West. There are cats virtually everywhere: under bushes, on benches, and one was even sleeping on top of an HP printer. You're allowed to pet the cats but not pick them up. SLOPPY JOES This old bar is very mellow and laid back, and so are its workers. There are bands playing country music, but there was still a lot of people there. Various country's flags hang on the ceiling. During the worst part of the rain, I took cover in this bar, and I'm glad I did. I loved the atmosphere.

Everglades Tour

(5)
The Everglades Tour was post-debarkation. After the debarkation, port workers directed people to the tour buses. I had a bit of trouble finding mine, but everything was fine after that. EVERGLADES TOUR The bus arrived in a park-like area. The park ranger directed the group to air boats. They have flat bottoms with shallow hulls and propellers above the water line. I loved the tour. The ranger was very informative and gave a lot of interesting facts about Everglades. The boat went very fast, right across shallow water with grass on the bottom. After the boat ride, there was an alligator performance and a reptile zoo. There are crocodiles and alligators from all regions of the world. Afterwards, the shuttle drove to the Miami Airport.

Thank You For Signing Up!

Please Note: To ensure delivery of your free e-letters, please add news@cruisecritic.com to your address book.
We're committed to protecting your privacy and will not rent or sell your e-mail address. By proceeding, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.