Carnival Imagination Review, July 2-6:
I sailed with my husband, age 65, and our grandsons, aged 6 and 9. My husband and I have sailed on 25 ships in the Caribbean, Alaska, Baltic, Mediterranean, and in Asia on NCL, Royal Caribbean, Princess, Disney, and Celebrity and have traveled widely throughout all of Europe and the British Isles as well as Japan. This was our grandsons' second cruise, they having cruised on the Disney Dream last year. This cruise stopped at Key West and Cozumel, sailing out of Miami. We chose this ship because my grandsons love waterslides, and it has great waterslides. It was our first (and probably last) cruise with Carnival.
DEMOGRAPHIC: The shoeless (from what I saw, more than half the people embarked in flip-flops), the heavily tattooed, the party heartiers, four bewildered elderly people, us, and a large Black man who was removed from the ship in handcuffs.
EMBARKATION: We had a grande suite, so therefore had VIP embarkation. It was, simply put, wonderful. We arrived at the terminal a bit after 11, waited a minute or two at security, were whisked to the VIP lounge where our sign and sail cards were waiting, and then onto the ship immediately. Looking down on the hordes below, however, I am not sure how great embarkation was for them.
SAILAWAY PARTY: Whoo hoo! This consisted of a loud DJ, some crew members jogging about the stage, and a dozen chubby passengers doing the electric slide. We moved on.
OUR CABIN: U88 is a large (double) cabin with ample storage, a refrigerator of decent size, and lots of counter space, but it is not attractive at all. I would call it functional looking. Not even as nice as IKEA! The balcony is quite long, but there are only two chairs and a small table on it. I would have liked a curtain between the king bed and sofa bed.
In terms of the bathroom-- it was of decent size with a rather smallish jetted tub. The hair dryer was so weak as to be useless to those of us with longish hair. I did not think the bathroom lighting was adequate for applying make-up. There was a magnifying make-up mirror, which was a nice touch, but it should have been stronger. To be fair, though, both the mirror and the lighting was probably fine for Carnival's demographic. Older passengers are so rare on this ship as to qualify for the endangered species list. Younger passengers have better eyesight, generally speaking.
Almost as soon as we arrived, the sofa was made into a bed. And it stayed a bed for four days. We never had the use of our sofa to sit on! I could have asked the steward to convert it every day, but as it was not a huge issue with us, I didn't. Still, it seems odd to have a sofa you can never use as a sofa in your room. The only seating then, other than the beds, was a single chair and an uncomfortable square stool. It would have been nicer to have had multiple chairs. There certainly was plenty of room for them.
When we walked by the interior cabins and glanced into them, all we saw was beds. The tiny cabins seemed composed entirely of beds, and there seemed so many occupants in them that they were more like clown cars than cabins.
It was a lucky thing that we like our AC high, as I think the temperature in our room was somewhere around 67 degrees. We were afraid to say anything, afraid it would get hot like most ships are. It was 100 degrees outside. We were glad it was cool inside. You have no control over the temp in your room so far as we saw.
I will also add that the mattresses were comfortable. We all slept well.
THE SHIP: There's not an attractive room on the Imagination. It boggled my mind that not even one had sort of accidentally turned out to be attractive. The ship looks as if it had been furnished from garage sales, and no particular style or design had been selected. So you have large gold medallions affixed to mirrored areas and mosaiced areas outside the elevators and on the adjacent wall, some very bad modern art that rather looked like scribble drawings. You had gold sphinxes complete with nipples adjacent to large black plastic light balls with points emanating from them adjacent to red glass torch lights. It was just awful. The "design" of the ship can't even be described as "kitchsy." It's just plain ugly. This boggles my mind. Why would you spend a bunch of money building a butt ugly ship?
Another dumb thing was the placement of the life boats which blocked your view of the ocean from the upper deck. Why would anyone do that? Most everyone had no balcony and would possibly have liked to have taken a stroll around deck to see the actual water, but not on this ship. I pass over the stupidity in designing the most expensive cabins on the ship, the penthouse cabins, with obstructed views under the noisy track, too.
Further, I hate ships like this on which you can't walk straight through from one end to the other. Trying to figure out which elevators go to which floors and where you have to take a staircase to get to another section of the ship is annoying. I am surprised that the many heavy drinkers on this ship were able to find their ways back to their cabins.
There seemed to be little seating room in lounges and a great big casino for a ship this size. I found that strange considering there are so many interior cabins that aren't pleasant areas to spend much time in. The atrium is also small, of course. This is the only ship I have ever felt crowded on. I don't like feeling crowded, threading my way through hordes of people. The situation was made worse by the activities held in the halls for lack of sufficient space. So, for instance, one night they were offering free liquor tastings. Since to this crowd that was like throwing chum for sharks, the hallway was literally impassable, and we had to dodge into one
THE POOL: Just how fond of the other passengers are you? Again, clown car came to mind. We took our grandsons swimming at 8:30 in the morning when they had the pool to themselves, but I kept wondering if there were enough chlorine in the world to counteract the bacteria from all the bodies that were in that pool every day.
CHARMING TOUCH: When we went up at 8:30, we saw towel animals literally everywhere. On every seat, bench, lip, or ledge. Very, very cute. The ones we got at night, also charming. The chocolates-- skip.
Basically, as I looked around the ship, I thought, "Done on the cheap with shoddy materials," and I hoped money hadn't been saved by using substandard materials on the hull! For instance, I have never been on a ship that had aluminum rails down the corridors instead of wood. The walls in the corridors looked like the walls you would expect in the crew corridors behind the scenes.
"ELEGANT NIGHT": Most people cleaned up okay. There was a smattering of suit coats and sport coats, but mostly the height to which "elegant" reaches on this ship is what my husband and grandsons wore: white shirts, dress pants, and ties and what I wore: a black crepe pantsuit with sparkly shell.
I saw many collared polo shirts on the young men in particular. This may pass for "elegant" with them in a world of declining taste. I also saw a young Hispanic male attired in a dress white "wife beater." (Wife beaters were forbidden in the dining room. The fact that they have to be forbidden on this ship speaks volumes in and of itself.) There were also a number of women who apparently shop exotic apparel venues as I saw far too many bare midriffs, bare backs, and, in general, way too much flesh that should never have seen the light of day. This led to me thinking that perhaps I should add "the mirrorless" to my demographic.
THE CREW: I would say they were pleasant but distant. Personally, I don't think they're crazy about being on the ship. Our waiter was not friendly but not unfriendly. I have been on many other ships with friendlier crew by far. NCL's crews come to mind. Disney's are par excellence, of course. When I compare the way my grandsons were treated by the Disney waiters and stewards with the way the Carnival waiters and stewards, I am saddened. I don't, however, need to be buddies with the crew to enjoy a cruise.
I have to add here that there was a certain ineptitude amongst the crew of this ship. Time seemed to be flexible on the Imagination. We left a half hour late. Our safety drill was at least a half hour late. The waterslides opened 20 minutes late on sea day. It took 40 minutes to get our appetizer the first night; not so late other nights. Breakfast was 10 minutes late one morning, etc. Furthermore, things appeared in the Funtimes that were in error. The shows were switched. Times and places were given wrong in two instances. When my husband took the kids to a Camp Carnival magic show, he was sent to two different places as nobody seemed to know where it was going to be. These things are not serious. But I am a firm believer that ships have a personality, and if so, the personality of this ship is "Ehhh."
CAMP CARNIVAL: My grandsons are 6 Â½ and just a hair from 9. Granted, their only experience with ship's programs was with Disney which is incomparable, but they were open to what Camp Carnival had to offer. There was just limited things going on that interested them. Every day, sometimes 2-3 times a day, the pay-to-make stuffed animal activity was going on. Neither of my sons was interested, and I was glad, as I just didn't like the idea of the ship charging $30 for an activity. Make it free or don't do it. Morever, activities consisted of things like paper ball wars and drawing pictures and such dull things. My grandson reported there was only one Wii game. They enjoyed the magic show and they enjoyed the contests between girls and boys, but they didn't care to go when other things were going on. I think they went about 5 hours in 4 days. I find it rather unconscionable for people to leave their children in Camp Carnival til 1 o'clock, but this "night owls" program was regularly offered. I guess I would say that Camp Carnival was decent but not any better than that. That said, NCL's camp is worse.
ENTERTAINMENT: I can only report on the two stage shows we saw: Shout and Living in America. Both were excellent, far better than any other shows I have seen on other lines except Disney, and again, there is no comparison. The dancers were good; the female singer, strong; the male singer, decent. The shows were creatively put on, and we enjoyed them very much.
I liked the old style theater very much. Those old theaters are way more comfortable with their long upholstered benches, actual tables you can set a drink on, and room for people to walk in front of you without you standing up. Of course, you will pay a pretty penny for that drink. It cost $8.87 for a coke and a light beer. Not sure if that included gratuity. I surely hope it did. Otherwise, I should have been drinking liquid gold.
FOOD: I was very surprised by the excellence of the food we had in the main dining room. Again, I can only report on what we chose, but the BBQ ribs, the meatloaf, prime rib, Yankee pot roast, were some of the best meals I've had on a ship. Other things were also very good, and I must not forget to mention warm chocolate melting cake which I had every night and my grandson ate 3 out of 4 nights. Once he had tasted mine, there was no going back. . I was impressed with the sheer numbers of things you could eat at dinner in the MDR.
The breakfast buffet was adequate though not impressive by any means. Avoid the omelet station. The omelet my husband had tasted like a "flat egg." The sandwich station pales beside the one on NCL ships which offer numerous types of bread, meat, and cheese and even potato chips. This one offered toast or a roll. Turkey and Ham and Cheese. Not impressive. The pizza, to me, was blah!! The kids were okay with it. Hamburgers okay. Lunch buffet was hit or miss, some great things; some rather pathetic. Lemonade and Iced Tea were the liquid offerings at lunch. A very delicious orange/guava/passion fruit juice, orange juice, apple juice, were all offered at the breakfast buffet in addition to coffee and tea.
I was surprised that there were no hand sanitizing Nazi's around. There were inconspicuous canisters of the stuff around with the sign "voluntary" on them. But no shouts of "washy washy." I might point out both my grandsons got sick the day we got off the ship.
I was unhappy there was no early breakfast for our early port of Key West. Full breakfast started when we landed! Yes, we could have eaten a continental breakfast earlier or through room service, but my husband's diabetes finds neither acceptable.
I was ecstatic that we had one of the very few tables for four in the dining room. There were very few tables for two, as well. You can pretty much count on being seated at a large table on this ship.
EXCURSIONS: We took the shuttle into Key West long before the stores opened. I truly hated getting in there at 7:30 and having to be on the last shuttle at 12:30. There was not enough time. It was terribly hot, and that did not encourage strolling. We went into the Mel Fisher museum which would have been pathetic had they not had a brand new Harry Potter exhibit that our grandsons truly enjoyed. We also took the boys to the southernmost marker and had the requisite photo taken. Enjoyed the chickens and roosters on the loose, especially early when the roosters felt it necessary to crow. Wandered around, paid $15 for a key lime pie on a stick, large drink, and two scoops of ice cream, and went back to the ship. I like Key West. It is a beautiful city, full of charm, but dragging two children around in that heat was not going to happen.
I also hated getting into Cozumel at 1:30 in the afternoon so that various attractions that closed at 5 were unavailable. We took the boys on a ship's excursion to Discover Mexico. We had a guide, Diego, who was very sweet. He took us around the museum of beautiful things they own, the models of famous buildings/pyramids in Mexico, and then put us in a cab so we could head down town. That cab was included in the price of the excursion. This was a nice activity for children, a nice introduction to Mexico. Nothing earth shattering, just nice. It took about an hour or 90 minutes at most.
PHOTOGRAPHS: I can honestly say that I have never seen so many stations for having a picture taken in such close proximity. It was like walking a gauntlet. We stopped at the first station and then had to grieve the other dozen or so photographers who tried to persuade us to stop by for more photos. I never did find all our pictures. They ran out of display space and heaped the photos in boxes in huge piles. I didn't care enough to go through all those. If I had done so, by the time I found mine, they would be covered with the fingerprints of other eager lookers anyway.
We bought a very nice picture taken formal night on the stairs, one of the boys posed with an Aztec at Cozumel, and a couple taken at Discover Mexico. The only problem was that the photographer did not wait until some stray dude had passed before taking the picture on the dock, so we have this unknown person fully as large as the boys in our picture. The contrast and tones of the pictures was very good.
PINS: Good news, pin hunters. Ship's pins are sold in the gift shop. There is one that is a whale's tail labeled Imagination, and another of Freddy and the tale but no ship name.
ICE: Gosh, I read so many times that you have to ask for ice. Ice was put in our room twice a day and then the steward came around at night and asked if we wanted more. Now maybe ice is a suite perk, so you may have to beg for the cold stuff if you are sailing steerage.
DISEMBARKATION: Okay, remember when I said VIP embarkation was wonderful? VIP disembarkation not so much. First of all, it has been a very long time since I was on a ship that did the wait in the lounges thing. We waited until 9:15 which was the earliest off time for non-self assisters. There was no water made available to the passengers waiting.
Once off, if you thought you were going to bound through the luggage area and escape quickly, you are wrong. There were 3 luggage carousels. On each was 1/3 of the luggage of the passengers who did not carry their luggage off. So your zone 1 luggage was going around with the luggage from zones 4, 7, 10, 13, 16, 18, 21, etc. This did not make for the fast grabbing of your suitcases. It was not cool.
Parking has gone up to $20 a day. It is open and unsheltered, so don't leave any food in your car on hot days!
So there you have it. Lots of words for such a short cruise! I will close with the fact that on other ships I have been asked to evaluate my cruise. Carnival has not asked.