Although I am a travel agent and have sold 100s of cruises I had not been on a cruise until 11/05. With 3 children, a farm, a home based business and other issues the opportunity never came up until then. I regret not going before as we had a WONDERFUL time onboard Carnival's Imagination. Thursday, 11/3 we left Nashville on an 8:30 am Southwest flight to Ft Lauderdale. We took advantage of the $39 fares and really saved a lot of money by doing that! After changing planes in Tampa, we arrived in FLL at 12:40. We were greeted by a rep from Carnival in the Baggage Claim to take the Shuttle to the Miami Port. Seemed to take a while to get everyone together but we were finally on the road heading toward Miami. Arriving at the terminal we were quickly and efficiently sent through security, checked in, rec'd our Sign and Sail card, room key and directed up the escalator. Since I had been on a ship inspection 6 yrs before I had an idea of what to expect but my husband was totally lost. Thankfully there were several people directing "traffic". We had our picture made and then boarded the Imagination. We were so excited!! This was our first trip in over 2 yrs alone and could hardly wait to get moving. We found our cabin fairly easy and was pleasantly surprised. We had a Category 4A interior cabin on the Riveria Deck. Our bed was joined to form a nice Queen size bed, there was a lot more space than expected in the cabin and the bathroom. We have stayed in several hotels that were considered high end that were much smaller than our cabin. After putting on a pair of shorts we walked around the ship trying to figure our way around. We went to the Lido deck and had lunch at the buffet. It was pretty good but I was looking forward to more than salads and sandwiches! After walking around for a while we were instructed to go back to our cabin, get our life jackets and attend the lifeboat drill. That was interesting!! Definitely not a fashion statement being made here!! After taking our life jackets back to our cabin we went back to the top deck and watched Miami sail away. At this time we were beginning to feel some motion. The wind was very strong on the top deck and w/the motion we decided to head down to our cabin for a few mins. Once we arrived there, the rocking of the ship wasn't near as bad. Both of us took some Dramamine, our luggage was delivered to our room and we met our cabin steward. I noticed our dinning time was scheduled for 5:45 which was not what I had requested when I booked our cruise. Carlos suggested we talk w/the matre'd when it was time for our dinner to see if we could have it rescheduled to late dinning--see it happens to travel agents too!! We took showers, changed clothes and decided we didn't want to eat in the formal dinning room so had the buffet on the Lido deck. It was very good but the ship was really rocking by this time and Hubby and I were having some difficulties w/the motion. We noticed other people were having problems walking too but what was a dead give away was the ketchup bottle that "danced" across our table!! After putting it back in the center twice we just set it in the booth next to us!! Watching our tea slosh around in our glass was interesting too!! NOT!! After dinner, we walked around the ship some, went to talk w/the matre'd to see if he could reschedule our dinner which he promised he'd try to do and let us know Friday. Both of us were very tired and exhausted so decided to call it an early night. We were in bed and asleep at 9:30 on our first night!!
Friday morning we got up to find ourselves sitting in beautiful Key West, FL. We have been to Key West several times before and know the island well. We were so excited to get to go here since Hurricane Wilma had just ripped through 2 weeks earlier. We had bkft and then disembarked to head into Key West. We had already decided we wanted to go to the Pirate Soul Museum since we had not been there yet but it wouldn't open until 9 so walked around for a while and then went to the Museum. It was awesome. I strongly encourage everyone to go here. Afterwards we walked around the island, over to Capt Tony's to look for a few folks we know are regulars there and then walked to the Southernmost Cone, and other areas. There was a lot of damage to the trees and bldgs but The Bone Island is a strong community and will be up and running as usual before too long. We had to return to the ship at 2 and stood on the deck as we pulled out of port. Afterwards we went back to our cabin, put on our suits and headed to the top deck to catch some rays. The Maitre'd had changed our dinning time to 8:30 which we were very happy about. This was our Formal night dinner so started getting ready. I wasn't expecting a 4 nt cruise on Carnival to be very formal so I was very surprised to see all the women in their fancy taffeta ball gowns, sequined dresses and the men in suits. I honestly don't think I saw more than 3 women in pantsuits. Being in a pair of dress slacks, jacket and blouse, I felt VERY under dressed!! Next time I will certainly bring a dress even if it's just a nice one and not an evening gown. Since we had not eaten in the formal dinning room the night before we didn't know where our table was so was escorted to a booth for 4. There was a man and woman already seated across from each other. They did not offer to get up and move together so we were forced to sit across from each other. This was a pretty awkward situation especially when the photographer came around to take pictures. I obviously didn't want a picture taken w/some person I had never seen before and would never see again! They were an elderly couple, a brother and sister, team one from NY and one from FL. The gentleman complained almost the entire time about the portions being served, having to pay for a Coke, and several other things I can't remember. Honestly, it put a big damper on the evening. The food was excellent. My husband and I both had the steak and was pleased w/it. I like mine cooked med-rare, DH likes his well done. Both were served to perfection. After dinner we went to the casino, to one of the bars to listen to some music and then to see the Broadway show in the Dynasty Lounge. It was ok, not sure what I was expecting but it was ok. Afterwards we went to the midnight buffet to see all the foods prepared and was impressed by that. Surprisingly many clients want to know what this looks like so I took several pictures of the "food art". When we returned to our cabin we had a cute towel animal, mints on our pillows and turn down service. I was very impressed. Off to dream land.
Saturday Day 3....When we originally booked the cruise we were scheduled to go to Cozumel but b/c Wilma had destroyed Cozumel we were changed to Playa del Carmen. This was somewhat of a disappointment for me b/c I really wanted to go to Cozumel to do some snorkeling. Playa del Carmen is a tender port so after waiting for a good hour in the Dynasty Lounge we were finally instructed to head down to deck 3 to board the tenders. We had decided to take a tour to Tulum. After waiting 30 mins or longer for everyone to board the tender, we finally headed to the pier and then were instructed to board one of the 6 buses that were parked here. Our tour to Tulum was very good despite the weather. By the time we mde it to the main entrance of Tulum, it was very cloudy and a big storm was brewing. Our guide, Freddy, was awesome. He shared a lot of history about the Mayan culture, Tulum and the area. Very knowledgeable. When the rains picked up we decided to head back to the bus but of course had to stop at all the vendor booths there at the entrance to Tulum. Very nice people that were willing to work w/you on prices. The ride back to Playa del Carmen pier was uneventful but that's not the case as we boarded the Tender back to the ship. The water was very choppy and rough. Once we made it back to the ship, it took 3 attempts to get the tender aligned to the doors so we could get off. Many, MANY people were getting sick. I thought it was funny and was having a good time. I was singing "We Bulls wobble but we don't fall down"!! Many people gave me a dirty look but I was trying to make a bad situation a little lighter. Many people complained they wouldn't make it in time for their assigned dinner time in the formal dinning room, several people said they couldn't eat if they wanted too!! The good thing of this we met a very nice couple from TN and talked to them a while. DH and I realized the Carnival crew was doing the best they could considering the circumstances. They truly were looking out for everyone and made sure all were getting off safely. After making it back to our room, we showered and had dinner on the Lido deck at the buffet. I guess everyone else decided to do this too b/c the place was packed! We spent the next hour or two walking the ship, talking to people and then went to bed.
Our last day was our 1 Day at Sea. It was awesome. So peaceful!! After sleeping late (8:00) we got up, had a quick bkft on the lido deck and then found a spot in the sun on the Sun Deck. We stayed on top until 11 then I went down for the debarkation instructions and to take advantage of the great sales in the stores. Afterwards, I returned to the Sun deck and had another Pina Colada--which were some of the best I have had anywhere!! We stayed on top all afternoon and watched the sunset. It was absolutely beautiful and I enjoyed the relaxing warm breezes. Since this was our last night we ate dinner again in the formal dinning room. Thankfully our previous dinning partners weren't there and we had a great dinner alone! After dinner, we went to the Shangri-La Lounge and enjoyed one of the best bands I've heard anywhere. "MUSIC MOTION" was awesome! They played a great variety of music from the 50s, 60s, some Elvis, some old 70s Disco music, typical funky dance music, a little country music and some current music. They were great. We stayed until 2 am dancing away the night!! Monday morning we were up early and headed out early. We were off the ship by 9 and headed by to FLL. Long day but a great vacation. I would definitely recommend this cruise to anyone looking for a nice wknd get away!!