In the some-things-stay-the-same department, Carnival Imagination still offers two dining rooms with two different seating times (6 and 8:15 p.m.); buffet meals on the Lido all day long; a singing and dancing wait staff; and great pizza -- whether covered in healthy veggies, anchovies or the more prosaic cheese -- that are made fresh.
Booths have been removed from Pride (mid-ships) and Spirit (aft), the full-service main dining rooms, making room for some intimate two-tops, but set tablemates remain for larger groups. Breakfast and lunch are open seating. New furniture and carpeting are attractive. The Georges Blanc signature menu items (identified with a specific logo) are almost universally good choices (Blanc parted ways with the line in 2008). I love the way the talapia is prepared and served with a herb butter sauce, as well as tomato, shallot and eggplant. The melted chocolate cake, served with vanilla ice cream, is absolutely sinful and is on the menu nightly.
The cruise line recently updated Spa Carnival Fare, gourmet-style health-conscious items. Vegetarian choices, fish, chicken breast and steak are always available. Sushi is available from 5:30 - 8:30 p.m. across from the El Dorado casino on Promenade Deck (Deck 9) and the Vittorio's Cafe, a coffee bar (further along the same deck) offers designer coffees and cold drinks with $2.50 - $3.50 price tags, plus a variety of cakes and desserts.
Lido dining, (on Carnival Imagination the area is dubbed the Horizon Bar & Grill at poolside and Seaview Bistro inside), is always a favorite. The made-to-order omelet station is a popular place in the morning, and hamburgers and some of the best fries at sea are almost de rigueur at lunchtime. New to the Grill is a rotisserie chicken that gets rave reviews. Those 24-hour pizzas are a big draw, as is the ice cream and frozen yogurt available around the clock. A new deli sandwich station in the Seaview Bistro offers freshly made salads, wraps and sandwiches with your choice of breads. A salad bar provides dieters some great choices and may feature chicken salad one day, calamari the next. My favorite outdoor spot for dining is on deck directly behind the pizza station where the changing sea and sky are the perfect dining companions.
Midnight buffets are not as popular as they once were, but the Grand Gala Buffet featuring food sculpture, ice carvings and a variety of night time snacks is scheduled one night in the Pride dining room, and a Mexican buffet takes place another night on the Lido Deck with the requisite nachos and tacos. A chocolate buffet appeals to all sweet teeth and a late-night Bistro menu(sandwiches, fries and the like) is also offered.
For an exclusive dining event for just 12 guests, book the Chef's Table through the ship's information desk. For $75, diners can attend a multicourse dinner, hosted by one Carnival's master chefs. The evening begins with a private cocktail reception and a tour of the galley, led by the chef, and concludes with a sumptuous dinner in a nontraditional dining venue, such as the galley or the library.
Complimentary room service is available all day.