This past cruise was my family's 3rd of 4 cruises over the past year. We have always cruised with Royal Caribbean, taking approx 3 cruises a year. My husband and I are in our late 30s and our children are 13 and 15. We decided last minute to have a family get away before the kids went back to school. Because we wanted to cruise within a weeks time, I could not find any available cruises, with the exception of Carnival. I have always been weary of Carnival - It was said to be a "poor man's cruise" and 99% of the reviews I read were not too good. However, we went ahead with the booking - keeping an open mind. It usually costs us about $5,000 just for the cruise - not including once we board. We get the kids an inside cabin and we put ourselves across the hall in a balcony room or junior suite. Because we booked so late, we had a room with a window and the kids were across the hall with an inside room. It only cost us $1,900 for the cruise. So don't expect to be treated like royalty at those prices -- HOWEVER, Let me say this to everybody out there that is doubting sailing Carnival - our room was small but clean, it did not smell, everything in the cabin worked perfectly. Everybody was nice.
The food...ummm "room for improvement" but the 24 hr pizza is good, as is room service, and the food prepared at the grill is great. You will find very long lines for breakfast and lunch.
Entertainment - Great. Casino - even better. The ship was very clean.
Boarding was a breeze (arrived in Miami 12:15 - by 12:40 we were eating lunch on the ship). Although getting off the ship at the end of the cruise was total confusion!!! Choose to take your luggage off the ship with you! or you will be out of your cabin at 7:30am and will wait for HOURS to get off the ship - If you have been to the Luxor Hotel in Vegas - and you liked it - you will like the ship Imagination.
Our first port was Key West - did some shopping - we live in Florida so we had been there several times. Second stop Calica. Very poor. Get off the ship and take a cab to Play Del Carmen to do your shopping - Ten dollars per trip 4 to a vehicle. We did not book any excursions - we just shopped.
I did spend some time at the spa - I had a pedicure for $55.00 - nothing special - save your money and have one at home for half the price. Oh, the spa girl did try and sell me $165.00 worth of items. I just bought one - a nice scrub. I will HIGHLY recommend the 50 minute massage- it was only $108.00 and SO WORTH IT!!!!
In the end, if my family and I want to take a last minute vacation, I would sail Carnival again.