After reading many recent reviews of this ship and itinerary, I'm wondering if this was indeed the same cruise we just experienced? By no means do I consider myself a cruising expert, but this was our fifth cruise in the past 3 1/2 years so I have a pretty good idea what cruising is about and what one can expect while on a cruise. We have cruised with Carnival (3), Princess (1), and Holland America (2). For me and my tastes, Carnival delivers the most cruising experience and they provide it at lower prices than other lines. That represents a great value for those of us who don't have the means to pick any cruise without regard to the cost. Being on the West Coast limits us on where to cruise and which cruise line to take. At least we do have a few choices where traveling to the departure port isn't required. Here is my review.
EMBARKATION: Carnival has the process down to a science, although we did encounter one small glitch during embarkation. While checking us in, the Carnival agent noticed our reservation was 'flagged' and could not proceed without calling over a supervisor. The supervisor tried to get us on board, but he too had no luck. We were asked to take a seat and they would research the problem and get back to us. At this point, DW and I were wondering if our reservation was lost, our cabin given away, or there was a mistake and we would not be able to cruise. No one could tell us why there was a problem or what the problem was. Ten minutes later, a nice reservation agent came and got us, said we were checked in, but we needed to go to Guest Services on the ship to find our what the problem is. The man at Guest Services explained to us that the window on our Ocean View cabin had leaked rainwater in during the prior cruise and maintenance had to silicon the seal and the room would not be ready for one hour. That was it? Here we were all worked up that there was a major problem and all it was was sealing the window? A lot of anxiety could have been prevented if this minor problem was stated on the computer when we first checked in. Perhaps Carnival should look into doing. End result was were had to spend an hour longer eating and exploring the ship before we could enter our cabin. No big deal. At least Guest Services comped us four drink coupons to make up for the delay. That was nice.
THE SHIP ITSELF: Reading the many reviews before our cruise, you would think that the Imagination was a dump and ready to fall apart. Nothing of the sort. The ship was fantastic. The atrium is remarkable and all the public areas were in great shape. The crew were constantly cleaning and polishing and no area I saw looked outdated and in need of renovation. We utilized the gym and were very impressed with the quality and quantity of the exercise equipment. Very modern and high tech, much like you'd expect at an on shore fitness center.
OUR CABIN: We had an Ocean View aft cabin on the Upper deck. I chose this location in order to have an aft view for the first time and also because the Upper deck is sandwiched between staterooms above and below us. The room was big enough for a cruise and we never felt cramped or lacked any storage or closet space. We did miss having a couch with a small table, and there was certainly room for those, but Carnival chooses not to put those in their rooms. The bed was very comfortable. The bathroom was fine, although another shelf or two for toiletries would have been nice. The shower was larger than we experienced on the Splendor or on Princess (which had the smallest shower I've ever been in). We only saw our cabin steward once when we had a problem with the TV, but never needed to see him as our room was made up twice a day and never needed to call for extra towels or housekeeping services. He did a fine job.
DINING: You'd think from many reviews that Carnival was feeding us slop. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The buffet had a wide variety of decent food and always had a nice selection of fresh fruits and vegetables which we really appreciated. On the sea day, we ate lunch at the pool by the Terrace Grill and was pleasantly surprised to see a carving station with leg of lamb. Served with mint jelly, I enjoyed it tremendously. I had never see leg of lamb at a buffet before. The hamburgers and hot dogs were okay; not Guy's Burgers by any means, and the pizza was okay - not great, but certainly what you'd expect at a 24 hour pizzeria. Carnival does need to improve on the service at the pizzeria; there was never enough to serve the lines that formed and the cooks always had to go in the back to retrieve the pizzas. You'd think they would be made and or ready to serve out front. We ate dinner every night at the fixed early seating and really enjoyed the food and the service. The dinners were excellent and always had something for everyone to choose from. The salmon was very good, the prime rib was fine (although they need to improve on the horseradish), the lobster and shrimp were very good and they make a very nice flat-iron steak (Holland America has never made a steak for me the way requested). DW had turkey and said it was the best turkey she's ever had. The jerked pork loin was a bit on the spicey side, but you can't say it lacked flavor. Appetizers and salads were excellent and dessert - well, I have four words for you - warm.chocolate.melting.cake! Our server and his assistant were very attentive to our needs and were always available. We were visited each night right after being seated by a gal who took our drink orders. I have to say that the food on Carnival is better than HAL and as good, if not better than Princess. Plus, were were in and out in about an hour and a half which is 30 minutes quicker than Princess and HAL, so that we could make the shows after dinner. Speaking of the shows......
ENTERTAINMENT: The is the one area of the cruise that disappointed us. The two comedians were just plain boring and bad. Total lack of material and it seems they were just 'winging it' off the interaction with the audience. Heck, I can do that! There were two big shows, DIVAS and & 70's & 80's ROCK. The DIVAS just did not appeal to us (we're in our late 50's) and we decided not to check out the rock n roll show. Plus, the shows start off with the cruise director bantering with the audience for 30 to 40 minutes, so that when it says the show starts at 8:30, it really starts at 9:15 once you get past the cruise director's shtick.
PASSENGERS: Being a mid week cruise during the school year, we didn't expect to see many families with young children. This proved exactly true. If you want to take a cruise with mostly adults, then do so during a school week. Our fellow cruisers came from all walks of life and we met many fine folks who we got along with just fine (six of us even took an excursion together and had a great time). I take exception to the stigma that Carnival is the 'Wal-Mart' of cruising. What Carinval does (this was our third CCL cruise) is provide a fun and comfortable cruise vacation at a low price and to me this represents value. Carnival delivers more vacation for the dollar. We have more fun on Carnival than the other two companies we've cruised with and even the corny singing waiters and napkin waving passengers make dinner fun! We really felt like Carnival and it's employees went out of their way to make sure we had a great time. Just shows you can't believe everything you read.