Like so many of you, I find it much easier to write a cruise review while scanning chronologically through the photos of the trip. Some would say it jogs the memory, but I find that it adds clarity and feeling to my work. Imagine the ... Read More
Like so many of you, I find it much easier to write a cruise review while scanning chronologically through the photos of the trip. Some would say it jogs the memory, but I find that it adds clarity and feeling to my work. Imagine the feelings going through my mind right now, as the first picture to jump out at me was a vision of my hands – and mouth – wrapped around my very first juicy Guy’s Burger dripping with strings of fresh onion during our first meal aboard Carnival’s delightful Imagination. It is an apt name, as only in my wildest dreams could I have imagined the amenities of this smaller ship in the Carnival fleet.
This trip was a bit of a last-minute grab, as my wife determined it would be fun to cruise with our daughter and her family over Halloween. They had already booked the trip to celebrate their mid-October anniversary, and since we were married on Halloween night, it seemed the perfect time to enjoy a bit of celebrating ourselves on our 48th anniversary. I was a little apprehensive at first, since this 4-day adventure would be the shortest we had taken since our first cruise years prior. However, all that disappeared as soon as we saw her resting there at the aft end of the Queen Mary in Long Beach Harbor.
Embarkation was just a dream. We stopped off at the VIFP lounge, got our Sail ‘n Sign cards, and were immediately whisked aboard the ship. It was quite possibly the smoothest embarkation we had ever encountered. Once onboard, we headed straight to our stateroom to drop off our carry-on luggage, and then straight out to lunch. We had been traveling since 3:00 am, and frankly, we were hungry for some actual food. We had heard about Guy’s Burger Joint, an association between Carnival Cruise Lines and Guy Fieri, for some time, and were anxious to see if this stop could measure up to all the hype from past guests. Since Guy’s is not on the ships we usually cruise in Carnival’s fleet, this would be our first encounter. After experiencing these juicy, dripping treats with toppings of our choice, accompanied by hand-cut fries slathered in Cajun spice, I truly hope it will not be our last.
After lunch, it was time to explore this “new to us” ship. It had been several years since we sailed on her sister ship, Carnival Elation, so it was time to immerse ourselves in the unfamiliar once again. Carnival Imagination is an absolute stunner. Though at just over 70,000 tons, she is small by current standards, but Imagination is outfitted with the finest woods, tile and gilt golden colors. It is a mish-mash of different styles, from archaic to modern and contemporary, and somehow, it works. It is a living testimonial to the amazing vision of Joe Farcus, Carnival Cruise Lines’ designer. One thing missing, which we had come to appreciate in our many cruises on the Spirit Class vessels, is the way Deck 3 wraps around almost the entire ship, giving free access at any time to fresh air and unencumbered walks. Also, Imagination has 2 dining rooms, split by the galley which serves both. As such, one must use either the Promenade deck or Lido to traverse the ship, both of which are quite crowded.
After a bit of exploration, it was time for dinner. We typically choose Your Time Dining, which allows us the freedom to choose the most convenient, non-intrusive time that will not impede our other enjoyment aboard. Once we spent a couple of hours enjoying the excellent, friendly service of Carnival’s wait staff, and the very delicious repast placed before us, it was time to head to Karaoke, one of my favorite experiences aboard ship.
I had some serious concerns as we entered the lounge where karaoke was to be held and found that the World Series was playing on all screens, replete with the requisite screaming fans. Yet, as the karaoke host began setting up, the game ended as if the host had previously requested it, and we began once again making new friends and new memories. I found the host to be quite energetic, and encouraging to those new to the “art” of karaoke. A good, raucous time was had by all.
We only had time for the one night of karaoke on this very short cruise – not because of the lack of karaoke, but rather because of all the other shows, comedians, etc. that Carnival had to offer. One of those excellent shows was Hasbro the Gameshow. This was an expanded, enlarged stage version of a number of familiar games like Connect 4 and Operation. Young and old, everyone who played had a great time.
Because of the short duration of the cruise, the demographic ran far younger than our normal 7-day cruises. To our benefit, we apparently were the longest-married couple onboard, so we were selected to participate in the Love and Marriage show. Not only did we enjoy, but we apparently did a good job representing the “over the hill, but not dead” generation, as our answers to some pointed questions seemed to resonate with others in our age group. From that point on, we were celebrities on board, as it seemed the entire populace aboard ship knew us by name. Our daughter, on the other hand, learned some interesting facts about her parents that we were previously reluctant to discuss, as a result of honest answers to questions like, “Where was your first date, and when?” and a double whammy, “What is your husband’s most disgusting habit?” paired with “You haven’t seen ugly until you’ve seen my wife’s ______.” Also, the difficult “Which movie title best describes your husband’s virility?” along with “If your wife sent you out to buy her a bra, what size would you return with?” And of course there had to be the usual question about the “…most unusual place you ever made whoopie?”
As the days progressed toward Halloween, we prepared to celebrate our 48th anniversary surrounded by our new friends, as well as our accompanying family. Everything was building toward the final costume contest, for which our daughter had been preparing for months. She is quite talented – and creative, and it was amazing to see Tracy, her husband, Daniel and their daughter Alexis dressed in the most amazing Ursula, Sebastian and Ariel costumes from Little Mermaid. Tracy did an amazing job putting in the hours necessary to sew her family into these amazing likenesses. Had it not been for the guy with a spot-on representation of Ace Ventura, Pet Detective (complete with pink tutu), they would for sure have walked away with 1st prize. Even so, everyone had a marvelous time.
In all, I truly had a much better time than I had expected. A lot of that was due to the wonderful cast of characters in Carnival’s staff, like Alex the cruise director, and his right hand man, Laz. There were so many people that went out of their way to ensure we had the time of our lives. Kimberly from Mexico constantly kept us on our toes with daily trivia. We met the extremely charming George Newman, hotel director from Georgia when he stopped by our dining table, and spoke at length with him at the Captain’s Diamond Reception. We expect to be cruising with him in his temporary role of passenger when we sail through the Panama Canal in January.
No review would be complete without mentioning the wonderful service provided by Maya and her team in the Main Dining Room every night. She was a very sweet lady who catered to our every need, and her smile every evening became something we relished constantly. She cared so much, and ensured that all our meals were properly prepared (steak + bandaid = send it back to the field). And while I have been a vocal critic of the Carnival American Table menu, I did actually find a couple of new items that I liked. Perhaps I am softening.
I hope that everyone will take the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful ship and her crew. It may be a short trip, but for the price, you will not beat the service and amenities. Read Less