We went on our first cruise on the Carnival Imagination from the 11th through the 15th of May. I had read a lot of reviews prior to going so we went in with decent expectations for what the cost was. Some of the reviews that I had read were kind of funny to me after I stepped off the ship. I am going to tell you right now, if you go on this cruise and expect to have a good time, eat good food, be catered to you will be that AND MORE.
First off, the staff. From the second we boarded the ship (Used faster to the fun and can't tell you how great the 50 bucks was spent on that) we felt like we were the most important people on board. Our room attendant was about as nice as anyone I had ever met and attended to any need we had. She was always there, calling us by our first names from the first meeting, to help. Ice, towels, breakfast room service cards, answering questions, etc., she was AWESOME! The rest of the staff on the ship was the same. They all knew you by first name after your first encounter and would make sure that there was nothing else you needed. ENRI, who was on deck, was fast with the drinks and always happy. NOT PUSHY at all!! The best staff was in the Spirit dining room for our dinners every night. CHABA (I think I butchered the spelling of his name here) was as good a Maitre' D as I have ever had. He truly enjoys what he is doing and you can see it in the way he interacts and works with both his staff and the cruisers. He takes ownership and made the experience soooo perfect. The wait staff as well including GERRY were great. Again, attentive to every need. I guess you can say that ALL the staff was great.
Next, the food. I can't tell you how much you can and will eat on this cruise. GEEEEEZ. It was non-stop. Now, I have read in some other reviews about food being cold or watery or the lobster being overcooked, yada, yada, yada. I really believe that this is just people looking to complain. The sit down dinners and menu were great. Look, you are NOT eating at Flemings or Ruth Chris steakhouse people. I don't know what people expect. Our party loved every meal and every thing about them. From the choices on the menu (Steak, Fish, Including great Salmon, Pasta, Rellanos, many different and assorted appetizers as well as amazing desserts) to the staff and the company it couldn't have been more enjoyable. I know that you don't have the option of picking who your table mates are, and that could make a difference, but be sure to open up and have fun. We tried to change tables before we even sat down and they didn't have anything else available. I am sooooooo glad that it didn't happen. We loved the group we were with. The sit down dinners aren't the only food of course. There are many of the buffet style choices through the day. Now, when you hear buffet you right away think throw away and bland. Nope. The breakfast buffet with the French toast, Omelette station, assorted sides, juices, coffee, was great. Small, quick lines that you get through quickly as well. Lunch on these buffets was great as well. I saw someone on here bitching about the hamburgers and it really made me laugh. It was hamburger, on a bun, with fixings and condiments. Ummmmmm, that's a hamburger. What is there to complain about? Don't forget the 24 hour ice cream and pizza. The pizza line sometimes can be a little long, but the pizza was good and great late at night!!
The Ship. The ship was in good shape. They are CONSTANTLY cleaning, painting and working on something. They don't get in the way doing this, they are just taking care of maintenance. Remember, this ship doesn't have any down time. From one cruise right into the next they have to be cleaning and taking care of it. I, for one, was happy that they were working on making everything as nice as possible. It was clean, the bathrooms were well maintained and overall looked great. Yes, it does have a Vegas feel to it with the neon etc, but is that a bad thing? If you want to find something to complain about then there you go. Complain away.
The bars on board (and there are MANY) are never too crowded to order a drink and the bartenders were happy and would do anything that you want for a drink. Yes, you do pay for them BUT the prices with the tip added in, were really no more than in a regular bar. Sometimes cheaper. A bucket of beers in most cases was around 5.25 a beer when you add in the tip. Not bad at all.
The casino was a little bigger then I expected. The tables were not really crowded and I was able to sit down and play Blackjack and 3 card poker pretty much at will. The machines were not all loaded up either. Always somewhere to sit if that is what you wanted.
There is plenty to do on the ship as well. Whether it is going to one of the shows (Epic Rock was unbelievable, Divas was good (you could tell the performers enjoyed doing the Epic Rock show more) The comedy club and the Love show were funny and a great way to enjoy some time. If shows or the casino aren't your thing there is plenty of sun and shade on the ship and chairs galore. Never, ever did we have a problem finding somewhere to park for a few minutes or a few hours. The pool wasn't really crowded but the spas always seem to be full. The Serenity deck (over 21) was nice to hang out on but I really didn't find it that much different than some other parts of the ship. The water park up top is great if you have kids (there were plenty there but again, not in our way every) and even if you want to be a kid for a bit. I went down the twister a couple of times. You really can get flying if you want. Had a blast. There is shuffleboard, Ping Pong, Chess, and activities on the Lido deck that the crew is always putting on.
The ports. If you have never been to Catalina it's a nice place to visit. It isn't huge, but it is really a quaint place with some cool little shops, good little places to stop in for a drink or some lunch. We rented a golf cart online and were able to cover most of the island in just a little of 2 hours. Some good picture places with the ship in the background and some interested sites. I talked to some people that did the snorkeling expedition and they really liked it. Liked Catalina. Good place to stretch your legs and see some cool things.
Ensenada. If you have never been to Mexico you have to give it a shot. I have been there quite a few times and knew what to expect. Yes, there are vendors trying to sell you stuff. Yes, they are vocal. Yes, they want you to come into their shops. Yes, most of the stuff is the same in every shop. Look, go there to have fun, buy some trinkets, joke around with the vendors. If you don't want to deal with them, don't engage. Just keep walking. I got a hammock for 20 bucks that I wanted. Little haggling but it was fun. The children selling you the chicklets get in your way sometimes as well. Don't fall for it if you don't want it. Just keep walking. Again, if you get offended by something like that, you really shouldn't go into town.
You can find some good places to eat and have cheap drinks as well. If you are into the tourist thing Papas and Beer and Hussongs are there for you. It is a bit loud, Lots of younger people there to drink. I'm no prude, I'm not even 50 and believe me I like my drink, but that just wasn't for me at that time. We walked by, looked, laughed and headed on. We spent about 3 hours off the boat. There are tours and other things to do that I heard good things about. Wasn't interested in seeing some water shoot up or a winery tour though.
One more quick thing. The sea day. I had read a review where someone was complaining that all the sea day was is the boat going in circles out in the middle of nowhere. Ummmmmm, I had no problem with this. What did they want "sea day" to be? I'm confused. Plus, there is plenty to do on board during that day and it is actually a good day to recuperate!!
So, we really enjoyed our cruise. I mean, A LOT. So much so that we booked the same cruise for this November the next day.