After 10 yrs working as a vacation and cruise specialist (travel agent) I finally took my first cruise in November. I've always wanted to go on a cruise but w/in 10 yrs we had 3 children and several other obstacles that prevented us from going before we did. FINALLY we planned our cruise for 11/3, 4 nt cruise on the Imagination to Key West and Cozumel. DH and I have been to Key West several times and love it. Altho we've been to Cancun, we've not been to Cozumel and were looking forward to it. BUT 2 weeks before we were scheduled to leave, Hurricane Wilma hit and damaged Key West as well as Cozumel. We were told Key West was ok but Cozumel was questionable. The Monday before we left, we were finally told that we would be going to Play del Carmen instead. It was somewhat of a disappointment but at least we were going to Key West and on a cruise for the first time.
Here's a day by day description of our cruise, the good and not so good. We were fortunate to catch a great airfare on Southwest to Ft Lauderdale so Thursday morning we caught an 8:30 flight to Tampa and then on to Ft Lauderdale. We purchased the transfer service down to Miami and met the Carnival Rep in the baggage claim area. After waiting several minutes for the rest of the group to get their luggage we boarded a bus, stopped at several other areas in the airport and finally headed south to Miami.
Getting through the cruise terminal was fairly painless and before we knew it we were picking up our room key and having a picture taken. We boarded the ship and were greeted by the Carnival crew. We decided to head down to our cabin so we could slip on a pair of shorts and then up for a bite of lunch in the Horizon Bar & Grill. We spent the next 2 or 3 hrs roaming the ship, checking out all the clubs, the casino and other common areas.
We attended the lifeboat drill and then began pulling out of port. We made our way to the top deck and watched Miami sail away. It was VERY windy and somewhat choppy. Is this normal? We went down to the Verandah Deck and watched people dancing around the pool. We went down to our cabin for a few mins and met our cabin Steward, talked w/him a few mins and got cleaned up a little for dinner. It was well after 6 pm and we were getting hungry!! I noticed our dinner reservations were made for 5:45 which was wrong. I had booked Late dinning and mentioned this to our cabin steward. He said to talk w/the Maitre d' and he'd take care of it for us. WONDERFUL!
We went to the Horizon Grill for the buffet. I thought the food was very good altho I've read some reviews from others that didn't think so. At this time we were really feeling the "motion of the ocean" and having some difficulties. My husband has motion sickness anyway but I never have. This was NOT good!! We knew we were in real trouble when we noticed the water sloshing in our glasses and the ketchup bottle dance across the table!! NOT A GOOD THING!!
After dinner we went to the Spirit Dining Room and requested to have our dinner time changed. The maitre d' said he'd do what he could and send us a note confirming. GREAT!! By this time we were pretty tired. Both of us were having a hard time w/the motion, I had a terrible earache from the flight down and we were both so sleepy we could hardly keep our eyes open. So back to our cabin we went and were in bed by 9:30!!
Friday morning we woke up to beautiful sunny skies and in port in Key West! We had a quick breakfast in the Horizon Grill (again, very good) and then headed off the ship to the great town of Key West!! Since we've been here several times we decided to do the island on our own. We have been down a couple times for Fantasy Fest and wanted to stop by Capt Tony's and our other hangouts. We have been to most all of the "tourist spots" but hadn't been to the Pirate Soul Museum yet. This was awesome and I encourage anyone that is into history to go here and see this neat and unusual museum. We spent the rest of the morning roaming the island and then went back to the ship at the appointed time.
Had lunch on board the ship and then back to our room to put on our suits and hang out on the top deck. The Pina Coladas were WONDERFUL. This was our formal night so we headed in and got ready. WOW! I wasn't expecting all the cocktail dresses and evening gowns. I thought since this was just a 4 day cruise, some ladies might be dressed up somewhat but I truly expected most to be in "church dresses" and maybe a few black or sequined dresses. NEVER did I dream to see strapless gowns, taffeta and all the glitter!! I was very under dressed in my pant suit but dealt w/it and tried to have a good time.
When we were admitted to the dining room we were lead to our new table. Here we were introduced to our dinning companions. I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed. I was expecting a large table for 8 or 10 people but were seated at a booth. The couple that was already seated were a brother and sister team, certainly in their 70s or older. They sat across the table from each other so we were forced to sit in the empty space next to them. I would have expected they would have moved so we could share a seat but they didn't. This was a little uncomfortable but we tried to make the best of a bad situation. Our waiter was great, the food awesome, the company...well...left a lot to be desired. The gentleman complained almost the entire time about the small portions and how much his cruise cost and he expected more than he got...blah, blah, blah. Really put a damper on what could have been a fun evening.
After dinner we roamed the ship some more, went into the Casino, walked by the piano bar, and then into the Dynasty Lounge for the musical. It was pretty good but not my style of music so we left about 1/2 way through and had a drink at one of the lounges. We then went to the midnight buffet. WOW!! Amazing what one can do w/a radish or carrot!! After a full day of sightseeing and laying in the sun we were back in our cabin by 1!
Saturday morning we were able to sleep in some which was really nice. We had breakfast again at the buffet. Play del Carmen is a tender port so we had to wait until the authorities cleared us to board the tender. This took some time and didn't seem very well organized but I think it was more the Port Authorities at Playa del Carmen, not Carnival's. We boarded the tenders, made it to the pier and boarded buses to our shore excursion which was Tulum. This seemed to take a lot of time as well but we were eventually on our way. I was somewhat disappointed at the meager lunch that was provided....a pack of crackers, a granola bar, cheese puffs, a banana and a juice box. But our trip to Tulum was awesome. Our tour guide, Freddy, was very knowledgeable and answered all questions. By the time we made it to the entrance of Tulum, rain had moved in and we spent the next 4 hrs dodging raindrops. But at least it wasn't as hot as what we had heard about. We returned back to the main entrance and bought several little items to bring home to our kids. The bus ride back to the pier was uneventful but that's not to be said about the tender ride back to the ship. We had to stand in line several minutes on the pier to board the tender. This seemed like a big waste of time to me but whatever, it wasn't that big of a deal and guess it was the only way it could be worked. We finally boarded the tender and found it to be VERY ROCKY. Many people were getting sick as we rode back to the ship. It took 3 attempts to line the tender up to the side of the ship. Surprisingly the rocking and rolling of the tender didn't bother me but many people were very upset and complained about it. I truly believe the Carnival Crew were doing all they could to insure everyone's safety. I simply laughed and sang "We bulls wobble but we don't fall down!" I'm sure some people thought I was drunk but I wasn't; just having a good time and trying to make the best of a bad situation.
Once we were off the tender, we went to our cabin, took a shower and went up to the buffet. There were more people eating in here than had been any other time. I heard several people complaining they missed their dinning time in the formal dinning room and were very upset about it. After dinner we roamed around on the ship, went to a couple lounges, and then back to our cabin by midnight.
Sunday morning was our day at sea. It was so pretty we couldn't wait to get outside on the deck and in our spot! We ate a quick breakfast and were up on the Sun Deck by 9 am!! Other than going down for the disembarkation meeting, we stayed on the deck until 2:00! Had lunch again and then back up to soak up the rays. Sometime in the afternoon we noticed that the ship seemed to be turning around. Just minutes after this we heard the Capt come on and make an announcement that he had been contacted by the Coast Guard for a distressed vessel in the area. We circled and searched for several minutes but never did see anything to be concerned about. We continued on our way through the Gulf. We stayed on deck until the sun went down and then headed back to our cabin to get ready for dinner. We decided since this was our last night on the cruise we would have dinner in the formal dinning room and I'm glad we did. Our past dinning companions were not seated w/us so we had the table to ourselves which was great. Food was once again, very good and the service the best. On our way out we stopped and offered the maitre d' a tip for rearranging our dinning time to accommodate us. He was great. He greeted both of by our last names "Mr & Mrs..." and asked our dinner had been. I was very impressed w/this considering we had talked to him only one time before. Once again showing that Carnival does offer great service.
After leaving the dining room, we roamed the ship for a few mins and then went into the Shangra'la Lounge and listened to the band "Music Motion". WOW!! This band was GREAT! I cannot say enough good things about them. They played music from the '50s and '60s, some Elvis, a little country/western, some nice slow romance music and a lot for good dance music from the '70s, '80s and '90s including some of the typical funky music like "YMCA", "Celebrate", "Brick House" and others. They were really very, very good. We left the bar about 2 am and crashed shortly afterwards.
Monday morning came much too early. We were up and eating a quick breakfast by 7:30, 8:00 and ready to disembark by 8:30. We had decided to carry our luggage instead of going through the normal channels. We were through Customs and on the transfer bus by 9 am!! This went very smoothly w/o any problem whatsoever. We had hoped to get an earlier flight back home but that meant having to pay an additional $300 or so so we just waited for our 2:00 flight back to TN.
Overall it was an excellent cruise and I'd love to go on another one as soon as I could swing it. If anyone else cruised on the Imagination at this time, I'd love to hear your comments as well.