This was my 14th Carnival Cruise (17 overall). I take this cruise as a birthday gift to myself each year. I’ve grown to enjoy the IMAGINATION and her crew very much during the four previous trips and will miss sailing on this ship once it is moved to the west coast in 2014. This time I was traveling with a good friend and left for a relaxing get-a-way from the Northeast cold weather. The price was too good to pass up and I managed to grab a porthole room (E-9) as an added bonus.
EMBARKATION: I arrived at MIA international and easily grabbed a Taxi (Flat fee $24) to the port of Miami. It’s a short 20 ride. We arrived at the port about 11:00 am. Since I am Platinum the VIFP check in was quick and we boarded very shortly after arriving at the Port. My room was ready as soon as I boarded to drop my knapsack before heading out into the ship.
The IMAGINATION is really a nice ship and very easy to navigate. I very much liked the new 2.0 upgrades. It was a nice change mostly noticeable to the Dynasty Lounge performances. I like how all of the performers have a bigger commitment to singing over past shows where there may have been one male and one female lead. The new “Playlist Productions” are shorter and repeat on different days allowing you to choose to take part in other activities on certain days if wanted.
ROOM STEWARD: JOHN (Barbados) was our room steward and his assistant Santosa. They were extremely courteous and always took the time to say hello. They never disturbed us at any point during the day and I’ve said in in all my reviews, IMHO is what makes a good room steward; one that knows your name and schedule and can work around it without disturbing your vacation. We increased their gratuity directly to them in personal thank you cards at the end of the cruise. They really eliminated ANY worries regarding the cleanliness and status of our stateroom. They are an asset to the Carnival crew.
CABIN: E9 PORTHOLE forward.... The setup with one bed on the bathroom wall and the other bed along the far wall under the window opened the space up nicely. Shift your beds like this it just seemed to create a lot of space. NO FRIDGE, but I knew that. This is your typical stateroom; perfectly located on deck 7, just up the hall from the Main Atrium and service desks. There was all NEW lighting in the rooms. It is also conveniently located just around the corner from the self-service laundry which came in handy after our muddy ATV excursion in Cozumel.
One drawback is it is located just above the Dynasty Lounge so does get a loud thumping from the production shows at night. If you are a night owl, this probably won’t affect you, but if you turn in early you may not wish to book these rooms up front.
ITINERARY/ PORTS: Miami-Key West-Cozumel-day at sea-Miami. One formal night on day two and a great quick getaway cruise.
KEYWEST: Carnival is only in this port for a short time, but you can easily get a taste of the Key West atmosphere while there. One thing to keep in mind is that many of the local shops do not open until 9am so the early 7am arrival will be a bit quiet when first docked. Our ship had a medical emergency which caused us to arrive 1.5hrs late. They did extend our departure time by 30 minutes. Arriving at the Navy station you need to take a short Conch train to the Mallory Square area. My friend and I walked 2-3 blocks to the end of Front Street and rented biked for $10/day. We rode down to Southernmost Point for a photo and then up to HIGGS BEACH where you can pick up the bike trail. We made our way back through town and to my favorite stop KEYLIME PIE FACTORY 412 GREENE ST to grab a couple of my favorite Coconut Lime drinks and a pit-stop. The location to return the rental bikes is conveniently right next to it. KAI-KAI SANDALS and KINO SANDALS is just across the street as well as a cigar shop to grab a Key-Lime flavored cigar for a friend back home. We were back on board for a late lunch, waving goodbye to Key West and sitting by the pool by 2:00.
COZUMEL, MX: I have been to this port several times and have done detailed past reviews which have included excursions for: JEEP/SNORKEL, AMAZING SECRET RIVER and CAVERN EXPLORE, DUNE BUGGY & BEACH, ADVENTURE SUBMARINE, SNUBA, COZUMEL (San Gervasio) MAYAN RUINS and the famous MAYAN RUINS of TALUM. You can check them out in any of my past reviews.
This time we decided last minute for a little adventure and chose the ATV JUNGLE ADVENTURE and BEACH CLUB excursion. WHAT A BLAST! It did start raining while we were in Cozumel, however it just made the ATV excursion that much more fun. They take you via charter bus to the ATV location and after a safety briefing and a short instructional video you are on your own ATV and off into the jungle. This is an extremely BOUNCY and ROUGH ride. You WILL get dirty so a change of clothes might be a good idea. Small lockers are provided for $2 and you must have close toed shoes. After a 15-20 minute hands on training run, you begin a 70 minute ride through the jungle dirt and muddy paths. This is a very exhilarating and fun excursion all by itself. Well worth the Ship cost of $79.
After returning your ATV, they do offer a photo to buy and you are back onboard the charter bus heading to a private Beach Club where you can purchase food as well as take part in additional excursions (at a reasonable price) like Parasailing & Wave Runners. These prices are actually less than the ship excursions charge. If you do not wish to stay the 1.5 hours at the Beach club you may opt to take a taxi back into town at your own cost, otherwise you take the charter bus back after the beach club stop. They do have (outside-open) showers, food menus and nice lounge chairs to use. After returning to the ship we did a quick shower and change into clean dry clothes and went back out into the port for some quick duty free shopping.
COZUMEL for me never disappoints! It’s a nice Caribbean stop with much to do.
FOOD/DINING: I chose “LATE DINING" on this cruise. It is an easy option so there is no rushing back onto the ship on port days. Since this was more or a laid-back casual trip we did not pack any formal night attire and simply grabbed something to eat at the buffet that night. It was less to pack and more flexibility to try other dining options.
Once again I have nothing bad to say about the food on the ship. It was always hot, minimal waiting and delicious. The food & service in the Dining Room was as good a standard as any restaurant and could not have been any better. Our table mates were fun and we had great conversations. It is one of the nice things I like about cruising, meeting new people.
CRUISE DIRECTOR- SKIP: He is funny and informative without being annoying like some others could be.
ENTERTAINMENT: I do miss seeing the HIP-HOP crew FUNFORCE performing in the Atrium that was on my past Imagination cruises. They were a lot of fun. I did enjoy the new production shows and the new “George Lopez” PUNCHLINER’s CLUB seems to becoming a good asset to the cruise line on board.
I did not use the SPA or CAMP CARNIVAL so have no comments to make here.
SUMMARY: ITINERARY, FOOD, SERVICE, and CLEANLINESS of the ship, ADULT SERENITY deck and the Punchliner’s Comedy Club.
Even though I have taken this exact ship and itinerary multiple times I always have fun and meet new people. I try and do different types of excursions and activities while on board. Its a vacation and while some people choose to rely on the "cruise host" to make the best of it, I do not, I choose to make the best of it for myself. Yes, it rained in Cozumel, we had a delay arriving in Key West, there was thumping music under my stateroom one night I decided to turn in early and I didn't win in the casino this trip, but I'm not one to allow those minor things to ruin a vacation. There were too many positives and relaxing memories I chose to take with me. I found a deck chair when I wanted one, I didn't have any worries to drive, clean my room or cook for the whole trip. I ate plenty, I had a few drinks, I laughed, I met a few new friends and took away more wonderful cruise memories. I know other lines offer different things, but with this trip I received exactly what I was expecting and looking for. This is why I gave this trip a 5+ stars rating.
I would definitely do this cruise again, but looks like it will need to be on a different ship since the IMAGINATION is being re-positioned to the west coast.
Feel free to check out my other reviews and/or contact me with any questions. wiskt