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Embarkation: We arrived in Miami the night before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency ($60/night on Priceline), which is only about two miles from the pier. We left the Hyatt at 11:30 for a short 5 minute taxi ride to the pier. I think it was about $13 including tip. We noticed a lack of porters and ended up carrying our bags over to the luggage drop-off area where a porter finally acknowledged us and added a second tag to our bags even though we had printed the Carnival luggage tags at home. We were inside and through security within 5 minutes and were checked in within 15 minutes of arriving at the pier. As expected, my $50 OBC shareholder benefit was applied to my account and with my blue sail & sign card in hand, I was ready to go. After a 15-20 minute wait in the terminal, they called our zone (Zone 15) and we proceeded up for our embarkation photo and were at the lido buffet by 12:15. Cabin: I was traveling with a group of friends but due to some last-minute changes, I ended up canceling the reservation I made back in March and re-booked approximately 10 days before the cruise. I booked category 6A guarantee and ended up with an upgrade to 6C, cabin U29. This was my first cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the cabin was a lot more spacious than I expected. The recent upgrades made as part of the Evolutions of Fun campaign really make the cabins feel almost brand new. Being located near the front of the ship, I noticed just a little more movement in my cabin than I did in other parts of the ship, but not significant enough to make me wish I had booked closer to the center of the ship. I really enjoyed having a window in the room, allowing the sun to wake me up each morning. My friends were in cabins U141, U145 and U151, so Carnival clearly made an effort to assign our groups cabins close together, with the exception of my last minute booking. Dining: Our group of 7 was assigned late seating in the Pride dining room, table 181. We were seated with another group of 3 girls, also in their mid-20's, who made dinner even more entertaining every night. Our waiters were Rex and Awayan. Rex's personality and quick-witted jokes kept us laughing every night. He started with Carnival 10 years ago as a dishwasher and has worked his way up to head waiter. Here is a quick review of the food: 1st Night: Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Chicken a la Greque (5/5) Dessert - Warm Chocolate Melting Cake (4/5) 2nd Night (Formal Night): Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Maine Lobster Tail (4/5) with Grilled Prawns (5/5) Dessert - Grand Marnier Souffle (1/5) 3rd Night: Appetizer - Fried Mozzarella on Mixed Greens (1/5) Entree - Sweet and Sour Shrimps (5+/5) Dessert - Tiramisu (5+/5) 4th Night: Appetizer - Crab Cake (5/5) and Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Grilled Chicken Breast and Baked Potato (4/5) and Penne Mariscos (Penne with Shrimp and Scallops in Tomato Cream Sauce) (3/5) Dessert - Baked Alaska (3/5) Best Appetizer: Crab Cake Best Entree: Sweet and Sour Shrimps Best Dessert: Tiramisu We also tried breakfast in the dining room on our last sea day. The belgian waffles with stewed bananas (think bananas with caramel sauce) were amazing, and I heard plenty of compliments about the eggs benedict as well. I would have liked to have had breakfast in the dining room more often, but after staying up until 3:00am every night, getting up at 8:00am just didn't appeal to me. Lido / Horizon Buffet: We had lunch a few times at Horizons and the Lido buffet. The chicken entree on our embarkation day was good, as were the potatoes. I also tried the Mongolian Grill, but was disappointed as it didn't really have any flavor, just a burn from the szechwan sauce. I didn't try anything from the international buffet or the poolside grill, so I can't comment on those, except that the lines seemed long every day. Some of the desserts were wonderful, while others seemed a bit dried out. Definitely try some different things as the ones that appealed the least to me ended up being some of my favorites. NY Deli / 24-Hour Pizzeria: The deli station doubles as an omelette station in the morning and serves sandwiches from 11am to 11pm daily. I tried two different sandwiches during the cruise. The grilled turkey sandwich was decent, although it could have been grilled a little longer. They were essentially just pressing the sandwich with the grill and putting it on a plate, not leaving it on long enough to toast. The turkey wrap was a little disappointing and I would probably need 3 or 4 to fill me up. The 24-Hour Pizzeria was popular but never had more than 2 or 3 people in line. They do a great job of getting pizzas out quickly and each 12" pizza is sliced into quarters and served. I quickly got hooked on the mushroom and goat cheese pizza and probably had it 5 or 6 times during the cruise, including a 3am visit after the casino had closed. During off hours, they only have pepperoni and cheese pre-made and everything else comes out as an 8 or 9 inch pizza cooked to order in about 10 minutes. They also have Caesar Salad (and grilled chicken!) and Calzones available. Entertainment: One thing that the ship does not lack is activities. During the day they had different activities all day long on the lido deck stage as well as different tournaments in the casino, destination and shopping talks in the lounges and calypso music all day long. Every evening had a production or variety show in the two-story Dynasty lounge and two nights featured adults-only comedy shows in the Xanadu lounge. There was also a jazz band on the promenade, a pop band in one of the lounges, a piano bar, karaoke in the Xanadu lounge and the Illusions Disco, which was busy until 2-3am. Our cruise director was Skip Lyons, whose quick whit kept everyone well entertained. 1st Night: Welcome Aboard Show 2nd Night: Living in America - Las Vegas style musical (4/5) and midnight adult comedy show with Oscar Collazos (4/5). 3rd Night: Balancing act and family-friendly comedy (3/5) 4th Night: Christmas Musical at 5:00pm (3/5), Shout! - Branson style 50's musical (3/5), late-night adult comedy show with Ronnie Bullard (5/5) Crowds: Even though our sailing was sold out, we rarely noticed crowds on the ship. There are so many different activities going on that everyone had something different to do. The only times we ever noticed crowds were at lunchtime at the lido buffet and during the last night of the cruise for the adults-only comedy show, which was standing room only. This could be because the first adults-only comedian did two shows, while the second only performed once. Although the lido deck was always busy around the pool in the afternoon, we never had a problem getting groups of chairs up on the Waterworks deck or on the other side of the lido deck stage. On embarkation day, we were also able to sit out on a deserted Serenity Deck. By the last at-sea day every single chair was occupied on the Serenity Deck. According the the cruise director there were 518 children onboard. I don't know where they hid all the children, because we hardly ever saw them. The only time they ever came out was when Camp Carnival brought all of the kids to the Dynasty Lounge on the last day of the cruise so that they could sing christmas carols as part of the Christmas show and to see Santa. Key West: We got off the ship at Mole Pier around 8:45am and took the Conch Train to Mallory Square. After reviewing our maps, we decided that we would walk from Mallory Square to the Southernmost Point (about 1.5-2 miles) and explore the shops along the way. Two of our friends were booked on the Fury snorkeling excursion for $39, and we agreed to meet up with them back on the ship. We stopped at two different bakeries and picked up some croissants and a piece of chocolate covered frozen key lime pie (YUM!). We had fun exploring and taking pictures. On the way back the girls decided to stop at a nail salon on Duval Street for manicures and pedicures, leaving the guys to head to Sloppy Joe's for some drinks and Sloppy Fries. After the girls were finished with their pampering, we headed back to Mallory Square around 12:45 and hopped on a Conch Train back to the pier with no wait. Cozumel: We docked at Punta Langosta pier and were off the ship by 1:30. Two of the girls in our group that were sharing an inside room forgot to set their alarms, so we agreed to meet up with them in an hour at the entrance to the pier. The rest of us spent the first hour shopping outside of Punta Langosta, where I picked up a small bottle of Mexican Vanilla for $4 and two t-shirts for $10. We then met up with the other two girls and took two taxis ($16 each) to Mr. Sancho's. Mr. Sancho's is about 15 minutes from the pier and is a beautiful beach/restaurant/bar complex that is quieter than some of the other beaches in Cozumel. The entire complex is really clean and also had a nice pool next to the restaurant. We relaxed on the beach for about 3 hours and enjoyed some drinks from the bar. The two girls that did not go snorkeling in Key West decided they wanted to try it, so they went snorkeling in a small boat with just the two of them and a guide ($30). They said that they enjoyed it and were able to see a lot of fish around the reefs. As the sun was starting to go down and the beach was closing, we decided to head to Margaritaville for some drinks and a free calimari appetizer. Watching the sunset from their dock was beautiful, but two margaritas and a beer were not worth $30. After Margaritaville, we made a quick stop at the Mega (think Mexican Wal-Mart) to pick up some Mexican candy (Milch = YUM!) for my 6 year old cousin and Coca-Cola, which is still made with real sugar in Mexico. I love Mexican soda as it does not have an aftertaste like the stuff made with corn syrup in the United States. Debarkation: We arrived as scheduled in Miami around 7:30am. They announced that the various officials would be making their way onboard for our inspection and after clearance they would begin debarkation. Our group agreed to meet for breakfast in the Horizon Grill area at 8:30. We were easily able to have breakfast and still sat around for about 45 minutes before they called for self-assist. I was the only one that chose to do zone debarkation, mainly because I was by myself with two suitcases, a backpack and a box of liquor from the duty free store. I was assigned zone 16 and made it off the ship around 10:45, only about 10 minutes after the self-assist was called for our deck. My bags were waiting for me on the carousel and it only took 2 or 3 minutes to clear customs and immigration where they didn't even question the four bottles of liquor I was carrying. I guess they are more concerned about getting everyone through quickly than collecting a few dollars duty on my extra bottles of liquor. Overall everything moved smoothly and I had no problem getting a taxi back to the Hyatt to pick up my car. Overall Impressions: Overall I loved my first cruise and was very happy with the Imagination. As I said earlier, the refurbishments really show and most areas of the ship seem almost brand new. The only things that date the ship are the purple and red colors of the atrium and the theming of the dining rooms. This was an off-season sailing in mid-December and there was a nice mix of age groups with the majority of passengers being mid-20's through late-40's. Both Key West and Cozumel had plenty of activities to keep us entertained and I would love to spend more time in both ports in the future. I would gladly sail on Carnival and the Imagination again.

Theme Park Professionals Invade the Imagination - 12/15/08

Carnival Imagination Cruise Review by brilliantseas

Trip Details
Embarkation: We arrived in Miami the night before our cruise and stayed at the Hyatt Regency ($60/night on Priceline), which is only about two miles from the pier. We left the Hyatt at 11:30 for a short 5 minute taxi ride to the pier. I think it was about $13 including tip. We noticed a lack of porters and ended up carrying our bags over to the luggage drop-off area where a porter finally acknowledged us and added a second tag to our bags even though we had printed the Carnival luggage tags at home. We were inside and through security within 5 minutes and were checked in within 15 minutes of arriving at the pier. As expected, my $50 OBC shareholder benefit was applied to my account and with my blue sail & sign card in hand, I was ready to go. After a 15-20 minute wait in the terminal, they called our zone (Zone 15) and we proceeded up for our embarkation photo and were at the lido buffet by 12:15.
Cabin: I was traveling with a group of friends but due to some last-minute changes, I ended up canceling the reservation I made back in March and re-booked approximately 10 days before the cruise. I booked category 6A guarantee and ended up with an upgrade to 6C, cabin U29. This was my first cruise, so I have nothing to compare it to, but the cabin was a lot more spacious than I expected. The recent upgrades made as part of the Evolutions of Fun campaign really make the cabins feel almost brand new. Being located near the front of the ship, I noticed just a little more movement in my cabin than I did in other parts of the ship, but not significant enough to make me wish I had booked closer to the center of the ship. I really enjoyed having a window in the room, allowing the sun to wake me up each morning. My friends were in cabins U141, U145 and U151, so Carnival clearly made an effort to assign our groups cabins close together, with the exception of my last minute booking.
Dining: Our group of 7 was assigned late seating in the Pride dining room, table 181. We were seated with another group of 3 girls, also in their mid-20's, who made dinner even more entertaining every night. Our waiters were Rex and Awayan. Rex's personality and quick-witted jokes kept us laughing every night. He started with Carnival 10 years ago as a dishwasher and has worked his way up to head waiter. Here is a quick review of the food:
1st Night: Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Chicken a la Greque (5/5) Dessert - Warm Chocolate Melting Cake (4/5)
2nd Night (Formal Night): Appetizer - Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Maine Lobster Tail (4/5) with Grilled Prawns (5/5) Dessert - Grand Marnier Souffle (1/5)
3rd Night: Appetizer - Fried Mozzarella on Mixed Greens (1/5) Entree - Sweet and Sour Shrimps (5+/5) Dessert - Tiramisu (5+/5)
4th Night: Appetizer - Crab Cake (5/5) and Shrimp Cocktail (5/5) Entree - Grilled Chicken Breast and Baked Potato (4/5) and Penne Mariscos (Penne with Shrimp and Scallops in Tomato Cream Sauce) (3/5) Dessert - Baked Alaska (3/5)
Best Appetizer: Crab Cake Best Entree: Sweet and Sour Shrimps Best Dessert: Tiramisu
We also tried breakfast in the dining room on our last sea day. The belgian waffles with stewed bananas (think bananas with caramel sauce) were amazing, and I heard plenty of compliments about the eggs benedict as well. I would have liked to have had breakfast in the dining room more often, but after staying up until 3:00am every night, getting up at 8:00am just didn't appeal to me.
Lido / Horizon Buffet: We had lunch a few times at Horizons and the Lido buffet. The chicken entree on our embarkation day was good, as were the potatoes. I also tried the Mongolian Grill, but was disappointed as it didn't really have any flavor, just a burn from the szechwan sauce. I didn't try anything from the international buffet or the poolside grill, so I can't comment on those, except that the lines seemed long every day. Some of the desserts were wonderful, while others seemed a bit dried out. Definitely try some different things as the ones that appealed the least to me ended up being some of my favorites.
NY Deli / 24-Hour Pizzeria: The deli station doubles as an omelette station in the morning and serves sandwiches from 11am to 11pm daily. I tried two different sandwiches during the cruise. The grilled turkey sandwich was decent, although it could have been grilled a little longer. They were essentially just pressing the sandwich with the grill and putting it on a plate, not leaving it on long enough to toast. The turkey wrap was a little disappointing and I would probably need 3 or 4 to fill me up.
The 24-Hour Pizzeria was popular but never had more than 2 or 3 people in line. They do a great job of getting pizzas out quickly and each 12" pizza is sliced into quarters and served. I quickly got hooked on the mushroom and goat cheese pizza and probably had it 5 or 6 times during the cruise, including a 3am visit after the casino had closed. During off hours, they only have pepperoni and cheese pre-made and everything else comes out as an 8 or 9 inch pizza cooked to order in about 10 minutes. They also have Caesar Salad (and grilled chicken!) and Calzones available.
Entertainment: One thing that the ship does not lack is activities. During the day they had different activities all day long on the lido deck stage as well as different tournaments in the casino, destination and shopping talks in the lounges and calypso music all day long. Every evening had a production or variety show in the two-story Dynasty lounge and two nights featured adults-only comedy shows in the Xanadu lounge. There was also a jazz band on the promenade, a pop band in one of the lounges, a piano bar, karaoke in the Xanadu lounge and the Illusions Disco, which was busy until 2-3am. Our cruise director was Skip Lyons, whose quick whit kept everyone well entertained.
1st Night: Welcome Aboard Show 2nd Night: Living in America - Las Vegas style musical (4/5) and midnight adult comedy show with Oscar Collazos (4/5). 3rd Night: Balancing act and family-friendly comedy (3/5) 4th Night: Christmas Musical at 5:00pm (3/5), Shout! - Branson style 50's musical (3/5), late-night adult comedy show with Ronnie Bullard (5/5)
Crowds: Even though our sailing was sold out, we rarely noticed crowds on the ship. There are so many different activities going on that everyone had something different to do. The only times we ever noticed crowds were at lunchtime at the lido buffet and during the last night of the cruise for the adults-only comedy show, which was standing room only. This could be because the first adults-only comedian did two shows, while the second only performed once. Although the lido deck was always busy around the pool in the afternoon, we never had a problem getting groups of chairs up on the Waterworks deck or on the other side of the lido deck stage. On embarkation day, we were also able to sit out on a deserted Serenity Deck. By the last at-sea day every single chair was occupied on the Serenity Deck.
According the the cruise director there were 518 children onboard. I don't know where they hid all the children, because we hardly ever saw them. The only time they ever came out was when Camp Carnival brought all of the kids to the Dynasty Lounge on the last day of the cruise so that they could sing christmas carols as part of the Christmas show and to see Santa.
Key West: We got off the ship at Mole Pier around 8:45am and took the Conch Train to Mallory Square. After reviewing our maps, we decided that we would walk from Mallory Square to the Southernmost Point (about 1.5-2 miles) and explore the shops along the way. Two of our friends were booked on the Fury snorkeling excursion for $39, and we agreed to meet up with them back on the ship. We stopped at two different bakeries and picked up some croissants and a piece of chocolate covered frozen key lime pie (YUM!). We had fun exploring and taking pictures. On the way back the girls decided to stop at a nail salon on Duval Street for manicures and pedicures, leaving the guys to head to Sloppy Joe's for some drinks and Sloppy Fries. After the girls were finished with their pampering, we headed back to Mallory Square around 12:45 and hopped on a Conch Train back to the pier with no wait.
Cozumel: We docked at Punta Langosta pier and were off the ship by 1:30. Two of the girls in our group that were sharing an inside room forgot to set their alarms, so we agreed to meet up with them in an hour at the entrance to the pier. The rest of us spent the first hour shopping outside of Punta Langosta, where I picked up a small bottle of Mexican Vanilla for $4 and two t-shirts for $10. We then met up with the other two girls and took two taxis ($16 each) to Mr. Sancho's. Mr. Sancho's is about 15 minutes from the pier and is a beautiful beach/restaurant/bar complex that is quieter than some of the other beaches in Cozumel. The entire complex is really clean and also had a nice pool next to the restaurant. We relaxed on the beach for about 3 hours and enjoyed some drinks from the bar. The two girls that did not go snorkeling in Key West decided they wanted to try it, so they went snorkeling in a small boat with just the two of them and a guide ($30). They said that they enjoyed it and were able to see a lot of fish around the reefs. As the sun was starting to go down and the beach was closing, we decided to head to Margaritaville for some drinks and a free calimari appetizer. Watching the sunset from their dock was beautiful, but two margaritas and a beer were not worth $30. After Margaritaville, we made a quick stop at the Mega (think Mexican Wal-Mart) to pick up some Mexican candy (Milch = YUM!) for my 6 year old cousin and Coca-Cola, which is still made with real sugar in Mexico. I love Mexican soda as it does not have an aftertaste like the stuff made with corn syrup in the United States.
Debarkation: We arrived as scheduled in Miami around 7:30am. They announced that the various officials would be making their way onboard for our inspection and after clearance they would begin debarkation. Our group agreed to meet for breakfast in the Horizon Grill area at 8:30. We were easily able to have breakfast and still sat around for about 45 minutes before they called for self-assist. I was the only one that chose to do zone debarkation, mainly because I was by myself with two suitcases, a backpack and a box of liquor from the duty free store. I was assigned zone 16 and made it off the ship around 10:45, only about 10 minutes after the self-assist was called for our deck. My bags were waiting for me on the carousel and it only took 2 or 3 minutes to clear customs and immigration where they didn't even question the four bottles of liquor I was carrying. I guess they are more concerned about getting everyone through quickly than collecting a few dollars duty on my extra bottles of liquor. Overall everything moved smoothly and I had no problem getting a taxi back to the Hyatt to pick up my car.
Overall Impressions: Overall I loved my first cruise and was very happy with the Imagination. As I said earlier, the refurbishments really show and most areas of the ship seem almost brand new. The only things that date the ship are the purple and red colors of the atrium and the theming of the dining rooms. This was an off-season sailing in mid-December and there was a nice mix of age groups with the majority of passengers being mid-20's through late-40's. Both Key West and Cozumel had plenty of activities to keep us entertained and I would love to spend more time in both ports in the future. I would gladly sail on Carnival and the Imagination again.
brilliantseas’s Full Rating Summary
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Cabin Review

Ocean View
Cabin 6C U29
Newly remodeled and much larger than I expected. For a 14 year old ship, the cabins looked brand new.
Upper Deck Inside Cabins, Outside Cabins, Suite Cabins