TRANSPORTATION TO PORT OF MIAMI: We took a taxi from the Miami International Airport to the Port of Miami. There is a flat rate of $25 to the port, but we did not confirm this with the driver before we departed. Unfortunately, the driver charged us by the meter and took a local route, so we paid almost $40, including tip. To make matters worse, he dropped us off at the wrong entrance and we had to walk to the correct one. Before you enter the taxi, make sure to confirm with the driver that you will be charged a flat rate of $25 to the port.
EMBARKATION: When we arrived, we gave our bags to the porter at the entrance. It was a little chaotic outside of the entrance due to the long line of embarking guests and the crowds of debarking guests trying to get transportation to their next destination. The security check and check-in process went smoothly. My only complaint was that it took several hours for our bags to be delivered to our cabins. Next time, I will probably carry my bags onto the ship myself.
CABIN: My family stayed in cabins M195 (two twins converted to king and one upper) and U123 (two twins). M195 was a little cramped for three people, but we managed. Pros: clean, comfortable beds, plenty of closet space, safe operated by magnetic stripe card. Cons: bathroom toilet smelled like a urinal, no exhaust fan. The cabin steward changed our sheets, made our beds, provided new towels, and cleaned the room in the afternoon. After dinner, we would come back to a cute towel animal surprise.
PUBLIC AREAS: The main pool on the Lido deck was a lot smaller than I expected. However, there was plenty of deck space to lay out throughout the ship. We laid out at the adults-only Serenity. But there were only two Jacuzzis; I would have preferred to have an adults-only pool there too. The Lido deck was probably the most popular place to hang out, relax, dance, and listen to the music. The Atrium was also a popular spot. Since this was my first cruise, I cannot really compare Carnival Imagination to other cruise ships. But the ship itself appeared to be strong and stable, contrary to previous reviews that it should be retired.
DINING: We always had breakfast and lunch on the Lido deck. The food was OK and there were always long lines, but there were lots of variety and options. Finding seating inside was usually not a problem, but it was a little frustrating outside, especially during popular meal times. We had the "Your Time" dining for dinner at the Pride Dining Room every night. The food started off bad on the first night, but it definitely improved by the end of our stay. The warm chocolate melting cake for dessert was awesome, my mouth is watering just thinking about it. I also liked the sushi bar, although they were small portions. They offered late night buffets too, but I did not try them since I was always still full from dinner. Overall, the food was good but not amazing.
ENTERTAINMENT AND ACTIVITIES: I really enjoyed the evening shows and I laughed a lot. There was a singing and dancing crew that danced well but did not do as well with the singing. On the Day at Sea, there were several activities on the Lido deck stage, including the "Hairy Chest" contest and a male vs female synchronized swimming competition. We did not spend time in the club and bar lounges because they were dead. In general, the entertainment and activities were enjoyable but nothing really blew me away.
SERVICE: Excellent, excellent, excellent! I have never experienced such outstanding service before, ever. Service by the cabin stewards and dining staff exceeded my expectations. The cabin stewards and the Lido dining staff were very friendly. The members of the Pride Dining Room wait staff were very accommodating. They provided fast service and they allowed us to order as many dishes as we wanted. They entertained us with dancing and singing, and they constantly sang to guests for their birthdays, honeymoons, and anniversaries. Honestly, I would compare the service we received on Carnival Imagination, especially in the Pride Dining Room, to the service that kings and queens receive. All of the staff members worked hard and I do not have one complaint about the service they provided.
FELLOW PASSENGERS: A diverse mix of kids, college-aged adults, parents, and older people. I would say the the majority were in their 30s-40s. There were also many kids and teens who dominated the main pool and Jacuzzis, but they were well-behaved. Overall, everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and stayed involved with the activities onboard.
KEY WEST: We booked the Key Lime Bike Tour by ourselves. The bike tour lasted about 2.5 hours for $40 per person. We were the only ones, so we had our own private tour of Key West. The meeting place was about a 5-10 minute walk from the port. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable, we learned a lot of historical facts about Key West. At the end, we enjoyed a sweet tastings at a key lime pie shop. I enjoyed the tour and would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a laid-back glimpse of Key West.
COZUMEL: We booked the Everybody Loves Rays excursion online through Carnival. It lasted about 3 hours for $62 per person. The first part was feeding and handling the stingrays. The second part was snorkeling with the stingrays. My only complaint is that the use of cameras was prohibited during the first part because they had a photographer taking pictures of us. We were allowed to purchase pictures from them, but most of them turned out blurry and looked unprofessional, so we opted not to waste money on them. Cameras were allowed for the snorkeling part, but we did not have a waterproof camera. Therefore, we did not bring back any pictures from the excursion. Otherwise, this was a fun experience and I would recommend it to anyone.
DEBARKATION: We had a quick breakfast before debarking the ship. We opted for the "Self-Assist" option in which you carry your bags off the ship by yourself. The other option was "Relaxed Debark" in which you leave your bags outside of your cabin the night before debarkation and wait until they call your zone number to debark and pick up your bags at the terminal. Again, the process went fine and it was not hectic at all. We went through Customs fairly quick too. We got a taxi to the airport and made sure that we were only going to be charged a flat rate of $25.
Overall, I had a great first cruise aboard Carnival Imagination. I would definitely cruise with Carnival again.