I'm an experienced cruiser who was looking for a quick weekend getaway to relax and unwind. I chose Carnival over Royal Caribbean and NCL (they each had 3-day cruises on the same dates) so I could reach platinum status by next year during the grandfather period (this was #9 with Carnival). The RCL and NCL itineraries were more desirable as they included a stop at their private island-it turned out the weather was too windy for the RCL and NCL ships to tender to their private islands that day. To be honest, I went in with low expectations knowing the Imagination is an older ship and the 3-day cruises attract a party crowd, etc. I really just wanted some R&R and my goal was met with this cruise.
EMBARKATION: I flew in the morning of the cruise and took SAS transportation ($15) from FLL to the POM. I can't say this process was efficient, as we kept having to circle the airport waiting for other passengers to arrive. I really was not in a rush so I was OK with it and we ended up stopping at a CVS because someone in the van needed a prescription they had forgotten. I bought a bottle of wine, water and soda for my room. We ended up at the port around 12:15. The embarkation process was quite long in my opinion -- you first had to wait in a long line to get your passport/boarding pass checked and then into the terminal into another very long line to get your sail & sign card. They had half of the terminal check-in stations not in use which I found strange. It was off to another line to get your sail & sign picture taken and then embarkation picture taken-there was no option but to wait in line even if you didn't want a picture taken. It took about an hour from arrival at the port until I walked onboard. I would have kept my small suitcase with me instead of checking it with a porter as the rooms were ready shortly after I boarded. Compared to my embarkation on the Liberty this past March where I essentially walked on the ship, I was not impressed with the embarkation process for the Imagination.
CABIN: I had the most aft inside cabin on the Riviera deck and was happy with it (except the shower). This cabin had four berths but Carnival allowed me to book it as a solo traveler. I did not hear much foot traffic with this cabin location and the room felt spacious. The A/C worked quite well and I actually had to keep the vent in the middle or it got too cold. The TV in the room did not allow you to view your balance on your S&S card, but there were kiosks on the ship to view your balance and make some transactions. I never met my cabin steward, but he/she did a fine job of keeping the room clean and attended to. The only issue I had was the shower head did not seat properly in the holder and kept spinning around so it soaked the entire bathroom and made rinsing your hair a little hard. The holder was stripped and was in need of replacing. It would have been annoying for a 7 day cruise but was tolerable for 3 days.
DINING: I went to the MDR the first night for dinner and decided it was not for me. I did Anytime Dining and the service was just too slow for me. Even though I only wanted appetizers and dessert, it took forever and I missed the comedy show. Drink service was non-existent and no one at my table was offered coffee with their dessert. I did eat at the MDR for breakfast on debarkation day and it was fine-food was hot with attentive service. I went to the MDR to use my coupon for the free drink and had no problem-they had a drink waiter at the hostess stand for people who just wanted their free drink.
I thought the deli station and buffet salad bar were quite good with a wide selection. The line for the grill was always long but the food was good. Room service was prompt and the food was tasty. I had great drink service on the Serenity deck which is where I spent the majority on my time. Drink service in the clubs took a very long time to get ordered drinks.
SHIP: I thought the ship was in pretty good condition for being so old and I always saw people cleaning and vacuuming, etc. The decor was a little too dark for my liking and the neon was gaudy. The buffet with the neon blue circles was interesting. I find the general design of the Fantasy class ships unattractive with the life boats so high near the lido deck. Muster drill was the usual with rude people talking and not following directions, on their cell phones, etc. I don't gamble so I can't comment on the casino and I did not see any of the production shows. I thought the adult comedy show was hysterical yet very raunchy so don't go if you are easily offended! The main lido pool always had very loud music playing and was just not my scene so I stuck to the Serenity deck which I greatly enjoyed. The Waterworks was packed with kids but I did go down the big slide after waiting in line. I did not stay out late partying, but I'm sure I was in the minority! The passenger demographic was mostly Spanish speaking, however there was some type of radio station group aboard that was diverse. There were also bachelor/bachelorette parties onboard and they looked like they were having fun. There were some interesting people and I'll just say I have never seen so much inappropriate clothing on morbidly obese women, ugly thigh tattoos, and rude behavior towards the staff as I witnessed on the cruise!
NASSAU: I have been there, done that but wanted to try the Blue Lagoon excursion, however it was cancelled due to lack of interest. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as the weather was very windy and overcast when we arrived to Nassau-it eventually cleared up but remained very windy that day. I did not even get off the ship and enjoyed the Serenity deck all day. We overnighted in Nassau and left around 6 or 7 the next morning. It's too bad Carnival can't use Half Moon Cay for these 3-day cruises as we barely puttered along going 8 knots on the sea day back to Miami. At one point I thought we idled in the middle of the ocean because we were going so slowly and there was no wake!
DEBARKATION: You would think Carnival would have this process streamlined and quick, but unfortunately it was very unorganized. I was not in a rush as my flight was at 1:30 and I was planning on doing self-assist. My group was to be called at 9:30. I decided to hang out at a desk near the art gallery as the gangway was right down the hall. I witnessed passengers treating the staff terribly and yelling at them because they were not permitted to leave. They had the debarkation line snaking through the passenger hallways and at one point a Carnival employee slammed the door on everyone, causing mass confusion and anger. By 10:00 they were nowhere near calling my zone so I just got in line and exited the ship. I'm not sure if there was a hold-up in customs but debarkation was running way behind and was unorganized. There were no lines going through customs and I caught my SAS shuttle back to the FLL airport.
This cruise met my expectations for a relaxing weekend, but I prefer to sail on the newer ships. If I decide to do another 3-day from Miami I will choose RCL or NCL to check out their private island.