It should be noted that this cruise was "colored" by two major things: first, my husband and I were both ill. My husband injured his back quite badly a few weeks before we left and we weren't even sure we'd be able to go. I started on antibiotics a week before we left for an extremely painful sinus infection. Second, we were traveling with my cousin and her husband and this was their first cruise. As I am addicted to cruising, I was very much hoping my cousin would have a wonderful time and fall in love with cruising as I have. I mention these things because they impacted what we were able to do and how we viewed things on the cruise. Also, this was my second cruise on the Imagination...my first time was in May, 2004 and that was my very first cruise as well. I was looking forward to seeing all the changes.
Pre-cruise details: Cousin and husband booked an inside Guarantee and were assigned a porthole room on the Upper Deck. Hubby and I booked an inside room on the Upper Deck but the past guest rates dropped so we were able to get an inside room on the Verandah Deck with no increase in price. Cousin lives in MD and we live in FL about 2 hours north of Miami so they flew in and stayed with us and we drove to the port together. We also decided to go down to Key West for the weekend after the cruise and booked a condo room at a Hyatt timeshare for all 4 of us. The condo had a full kitchen and washer/dryer so we planned on cleaning all our cruise clothes there to avoid coming home with lots of dirty laundry. Although there were lots of Hurricane close calls here in Florida, the weather was beautiful and the tropics relatively quiet when we left Monday morning. I popped my usual Bonine on the way as I am really susceptible to motion sickness and get seasick even when it's calm.
We arrived at the port at approximately 11am. The husbands dropped us off to check in the luggage and they went to park the car in the garage. Cousin and I went inside to use the restrooms (go in the door and make a left then a right...important info after a long driveJ ) and then back outside to wait. The garage was approximately 300 yards from where we were and although I'd heard there was a shuttle, the husbands walked back. We told my husband that we had seen wheelchairs by the restrooms but he refused one. Said he didn't want to be treated like "an invalid." He got into the scanning line already in pain. We then got into line to get our sail and sign cards and embarkation zone number and at that time they were boarding wedding parties and VIP. We waited for approximately 10 minutes and I dug through my bag to get my husband a pain pill. By the time we were checking in, he was sweating bullets and he asked the woman who was assisting us if we could board immediately. She could see he was in pain so she said yes and to go now as they were starting general embarkation. We missed doing the embarkation pic but made it to the Lido relatively quickly where he collapsed into a chair. I mention all this to explain why I can't report first impressions of the ship...too concerned and hurrying.
My cousin boarded shortly thereafter and we headed inside to grab lunch. Cousin, hubby and I all had food from the salad bar and buffet section. The salad bar was super fresh, as usual, and I actually found food I liked on the buffet. It's unusual as I like very simple food and the buffet and dining room food are a challenge for me, LOL. They had some type of delicious fish and they were carving roast beef. Cousin's husband got, I believe, a hamburger and fries from the grill. He is, if it's possible, even more difficult than me. He won't eat salad or any vegetable other than corn on the cob, no fruit, and prefers beef over chicken but it has to be burnt...yes, burnt. He drinks large quantities of milk or chocolate milk every day and had no problem finding these on the Lido. We did get him to try some new items and I even branched out and did not, for the first time, order a steak every evening, LOL. My cousin had decided that she wanted to try out the slides in Waterworks first thing but they weren't open yet. The opened shortly before muster drill so we headed back up after the drill and she and her hubby went down a few times and loved it. Because I was on the antibiotics until Tuesday and was supposed to avoid the sun, I can't give a first hand report. Speaking of the muster drill, must have been one of the longest I've ever experienced. People just kept trickling in and looked like lots were trying to avoid it and held things up. We set sail right afterwards. At some point before the drill we headed to the Pride restaurant to fix our dinner time. We had requested early as my husband is a diabetic but were assigned 8:15. There was a line but we had it fixed within 15 minutes. After Waterworks, we explored the ship a bit before heading to dinner.
Our room: of course the dimensions are the same as when I was there before but they have removed that little storage cube with the lid that used to be below the tv. I used to put water in there that I brought on board (try not to laugh...picky about my water too, LOL) but I just lined it up on the "window sill." Now there is a small, movable shelf unit with a matching unit against the wall as you come into the room from the hall. Bathroom still has very little storage area but was enough for us (shelf below the mirror held our toiletries and there was a lower shelf area that I moved the tissues to). Was not enough for my cousin but she brought one of those things that has separate clear plastic sleeves and rolls up...had a hook so she hung it in the bathroom and it worked great. We were given toothpaste and 2 disposable razors...not as much "swag" as I've seen in the past, LOL. The lifejackets were above the closets instead of in the storage cube; there were 3 closets...2 with bars to hang clothes and one with 4 shelves and the safe (I brought a grocery store card to use for opening and closing it); 4 drawers below the desk unit to the left of the closets; new flat screen tv with a cartoon channel, 3 movie channels, CNN, and the usual Carnival channels...oh, and several people mentioned that the movie playing when we boarded was Titanic!! Yikes! LOL; the new white bedding I've had on other ships...the comforter is nice and soft and comfortable but it does make me warm at night...I'm one of those weirdos who put the A/C to freezing and then bundle up at night, LOL, but the A/C in the room does not go that low. Our room steward, Robert, introduced himself and was very helpful with some special requests such as filling a cooler with ice for our water and getting a sharps container for my husband.
The ship: I'll be honest here...I clean houses for a living...I don't notice artistic details...I notice dirt. The ship was clean everywhere I looked, same as last time, and I just can't tell you much about what was different about the decorative things. I think on the Promenade the seats were different and they had these cool, comfortable looking booth seats. The internet cafe was moved...I believe it's on Empress in the Atrium now. The sushi was in the same place (Promenade just past the casino) at the same time (just before first sitting dinner) but was not made to order like the last time. The guy just handed my husband a plate already prepared with an assortment and they had wasabi, ginger, etc. where you could help yourself. He enjoyed it very much but I ate one of his shrimp with rice and it wasn't cold...tastes better cold to me but I'm no sushi expert.J The pool area on the Lido was neat with the "palm trees" and other touches. In my opinion the best change is the Serenity area. We went there almost every day...comfortable lounge chairs, 2 hot tubs, calm music, very quiet and you can't hear any of the music from the Lido or noise from Waterworks. I also noticed that, at least on our cruise, the chair hogs aren't as bad. As a matter of fact, hubby and I went there one day and there was only one lounge available so I took that and he took a chair. When the gentleman next to me (he was using his laptop) was getting ready to leave, he offered his lounge to my husband. I saw many people do that and it was so nice and thoughtful. RE kids...the first day, despite the multitude of "Adults Only" signs, there was a young boy in one of the hot tubs and a Carnival employee asked him to leave. His parents said, "just say you are an adult." L Gee, wonder where they will think he learned it when he lies to them??? Anyway, they left and all was serene again. Dinner that evening: we were seated at a table for 10 but only a mother and daughter showed up each evening so it was always 6 of us. I'll do a review of the dining room food as far as I can remember. Here is where my sinus infection disturbed the cruise...I was in pain a couple of nights and was so busy sipping ice water to ease up the pain that I didn't take pics or mental notes on how things were. I will do the best I can and also send this review to my cousin before I post so she can make notes on what she and her hubby had. I remember French onion soup which was delicious as usual as well as the Beef Barley. Cousin had the chilled strawberry one and didn't care for it but I think this is an individual taste one as I've had friends rave over it. For me...I wouldn't touch it, LOL. I has the prime rib on formal night and it was beyond great...so tender and done perfectly. I ordered the fish and my husband ordered the lobster and shrimp and we shared the prime rib. We enjoyed everything...too much. Hubby said it's Maine lobster now so much, much better (he's a New Englander so go figure) and cousin raved over the shrimp. Everyone who ordered the stuffed mushrooms loved them. The teriyaki ribs were tender and delicious. Deserts: Baked Alaska was delish as usual, hubby said apple pie was good as was the cheesecake (I ordered the cheesecake as well and thought it wasn't as good as in the past but, again, not feeling well so that could have affected me), cousin and hubby had the melting cake and they both liked it, cousin had the Grand Marnier Souffle and really, really liked it. Our waiter's name was Dennis...don't know his assistant's name as he was sick the first night so we missed introductions. Dennis was phenomenal... attentive and covered the stress of being on his own well. Service was especially slow the first night and I explained to my cousin that was because of the lack of his partner...threw everything off. Overall, we enjoyed each dinner in the dining room because the food and service were terrific. Show that night: Welcome Aboard Show and then a comedian who said he would have an R rated show at midnight the next night. Both okay and entertaining but not fabulous. Key West: Ordered room service the night before of cereal, fruit, and bagels...everything was right on time. Hubby decided to stay onboard as he could not handle the walking. He spent the day relaxing on Serenity and some quiet time in the hot tub. We got off the ship by about 8am and just walked around and shopped a bit since we were going to come back for the weekend. IMPORTANT NOTE: we docked at the military port so we had to take a trolley in to town and back (10 minute ride). On the way back, there is a stop where they search your bags and check your sail and sign card AND picture ID. There was an NCL ship docked at Mallory Square and when we walked there to look around, cousin's hubby found some local fisherman and borrowed some equipment and hung out with them for 3 hours. He was in heaven. I headed back to the ship alone to have lunch with hubby. He was going to do the Mongolian Grill but the line was too long for him to be able to stand in so he grabbed us a table and I got us cheeseburgers and fries. We went up to Waterworks after that for a bit but we were both tired so we headed to our room and ended up taking a nap. I know, I know...fogies!! LOL Hubby got up and did some gambling before dinner and I took my shower early so my hair would dry. We got gussied up and headed to formal dinner. Saw lots of people having their picture taken and just having a good time with dressing up. After dinner, I headed back to our room to change...I like warmer clothes for the show rooms. The show this night was "Shout." It was good if a bit cheesy in parts. I can't remember if it was this night or not but one evening we came out of the dining room and one of the showgirls was taking pics with guests...you weren't supposed to take your own pics but I did before I realized. I now have a pic of our hubbys surrounded by feathers...drooling, LOL. Cousin and I headed to Serenity that evening but they had roped it off for a couple who had won a contest...private dinner and music on the Serenity...nice! We popped into the lounge and caught some karaoke. What can I say...they really need to pay these people as they provide 10 times the laughs and fun of some of the hired entertainers, LOL. We walked in just before a guy started singing Baby Got Back surrounded by one skinny chick and several babies with backs dancing said backs off, LOL! It was the most fun...we really laughed. We stayed through a few songs and then I headed to bed.
Cozumel: Hubby and I had breakfast on the Lido...eggs, sausage, bacon, toast, potatoes...everything was good. We docked at Punta Langosta... we debated and debated about whether or not my husband could make the walk along the pier to catch a cab. He really missed us the day before so he decided to go and risk the pain. By some miracle, when we got off the ship there were the local guys who have those rickshaw/bikes so he rode in style all the way in. After tipping him, we each took a turn in the restrooms then went up the escalator, walked past the mini-mall like stores, down an escalator and got a cab to Chankannab for $10 total for all four of us. The driver even left without filling up the van. Chankannab was $28 apiece for admission, snorkel rental, a buy one get one drink coupon, and a t-shirt. If you want to be able to go in a pool as well as the ocean and you want to see the dolphins, go to Chankannab. If you just want to snorkel and have a beach day, go to Paradise Beach. I went there a few years ago with friends and I liked the lounge chairs and facilities better plus it's free and you just have to rent your snorkel stuff or pay a few bucks to use the water trampoline and iceberg. I'm glad we went to Chankannab though because it was the deepest water I've ever snorkeled in and that was pretty neat. Also saw a canon below me! We really had a good time and the weather was good as it was overcast so no blazing heat. As the park was closing, we got showered and dressed and headed back to the port. My cousin wanted to get some fajitas so we asked the driver where to go that was near the port and he pointed out Costa Brava, which was just behind the port/mall building. Before we headed there, we spotted this guy with a sort of hut against a wall with monkeys and snakes inside. He charged my cousin $5 for she and her husband to hold the animals and he took pics of them with their camera. First was a monkey and I was taking pics too and we got some great, neat shots. Then there were two huge snakes draped over her hubby...I took pics from a distance. There was a sign talking about how they were there to educate the kids about wild animals...not sure if that was true or if it was there for people like me who enjoyed seeing them but felt extreme guilt at the leashes strapped around the monkeys. There were also some local men there dressed in (I assume Mayan) costumes dancing for tips...didn't get a chance to watch them too much. We headed to the restaurant and had a really good meal including pork tacos, beef tacos, chips and salsa, shrimp fajitas, chicken quesadillas, fried shrimp, a margarita, and GLASS BOTTLED Pepsi and7-up. Everything was really, really good. It was $85 for the 4 of us which we thought was a bit high until we talked to our dinner table mates who had gone to Senior Frog and their bill was the same for just the two of them. After that, we did some shopping right around the port, took some pics of our ship lit up, and took a walk before heading back onboard. After showering, we headed to the theatre where they had a balancing performer called Lubo. He dropped quite a few things, quite a few times. The ship wasn't moving yet. We renamed him Lamo. Ok, not nice but...he was really not on his game that night. After that was a comedian who was quite funny. He also announced a midnight show for the next night that was R rated. Cousin and hubby went to that and said he was pretty funny. After the show, we split up but met back up on the Lido for the Mexican Buffet. I have to say that it was not as good as it was in the past. The tacos were filled with something tomatoish and cold...weird...instead of the usual beef. I think everyone enjoyed the rest okay but the tacos were the main thing and I saw several tables where the tacos were uneaten. It's not like we needed to cram in more food, lol, but a lot of food was wasted that night.
At sea day: Hubby and I got up early enough to enjoy breakfast in the dining room. We were seated at a table with 4 other couples. To our left a couple who had the best category of suite on the ship, then a New Yorker and his Russian wife, then a soft spoken couple, then a Canadian couple. Well, right off the block the guy from NY starts slamming Carnival...don't like this, don't like that...Seabourn is better...more staff to each passenger...blah blah blah...and Seabourn is only a few bucks more than Carnival. Well, naturally, first thought is, then why are you here?? Second thought was, Seabourn only a few bucks more??????????? NO! So the suite couple said they had priced Seabourn and it was $9500. Yeah, that shut him up...for a moment. Then he starts in on what suite they are in and why aren't they in the better suites on the Verandah deck and the Verandah deck is ALL suites and why did Carnival tell them they got the best suite when they didn't and to call Carnival and complain and he GUARANTEES that they will get $200 or $300 refund. Ok, at that, I'd had it. I spoke up and asked the suite couple, did you request the best suite category? They said, yes. I said, nicely, you got it. I am on the Verandah...it is not all suites...I am in an inside cabin. Yes there are suites but the one you are in is larger and is the top category. Yes, Verandah is a higher deck but you have the largest cabin, I promise. I said, I'm hooked on cruising and read the brochures cover to cover and read up on everything online. So Obnoxious says, so you're in the travel industry? And I said, no, I do residential cleaning, LOL. So then he starts asking what other cruise lines everyone has done and how many cruises and I said this was my 7th and all with Carnival as you can't beat what you get for the price. So then he rants about how money is nothing...he's got money...he likes all inclusive resorts because it includes the booze...they already have a $700 bar tab so he prefers all inclusive BUT money is no object. Whatever! Ok, so here comes one of those moments like when you're driving and someone is speeding and acting like a nut and you think, where are the cops?? And then down the road you see them pulled over and it's like that once in a lifetime thing...it happened to Mr. Obnoxious...last day...cousin and I are at the info desk resolving an issue (more on that later) and Mr. O is there with wife AND...drum roll please...his credit card had been DECLINED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Oh, happy day...there is justice in the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! As for the food, I had French toast for the first time on a cruise and it was delish. Hubby had eggs benedict and so did the Canadian lady. She said that usually it has a sauce. I thought that was strange because I've had that it does have a sauce. Then hubby told me later it wasn't very good. He got the same thing the next morning and it was much better and had the sauce. It appeared to have been overcooked the first time. Everything else was very good. After breakfast, we headed to the Serenity deck. We relaxed on lounge chairs under an overhang where you can avoid the sun if you so choose. Hubby said he wanted to go gamble and I wouldn't let him because I didn't want to stay alone but then my cousin showed up so I told him he could get lost, LOL. She and I laid out and read for awhile and then we headed for the Lido to find her hubby...we wanted to enter him in the Hairy Chest contest. J We could not find him right away so we sat on a bench by the pool to watch the entertainment...I have 2 complaints about this...1. Lots of lounge chairs with just a towel or book the whole time we were there...darn chair hogs!...so my cousin finally got one off a stack and squeezed it in an empty spot only to be glared at L 2. The stage is difficult to really see unless you are one deck up...it started to rain a little and they put up some material on the side and that, of course, made it worse. My recommendation is, if you really want to see what's going on on the stage, head up to the next level. Anyway, we finally found her hubby and sent him to enter the contest along with...about 13 other guys!LOL Cousin went up to the stage so she could take pics and I waited until it was her hubby's turn and then I stood on the hot tub stair so I could see. I have to make a confession here...Cousin's hubby is a true extrovert and I really thought he had an excellent chance of winning. I've had friends win contests onboard but this would have been the FIRST ship on a stick in the family. Sadly, her hubby didn't win so my quest goes on. Maybe I need to be more of a joiner and not go to bed so early so I can up my chances, LOL. We did get a huge laugh out of the contest and the lady judges were just too good...they coordinated what they were going to do with each contestant and made it really fun for everyone. After the contest, we headed in to get some lunch. The buffet and Mongolian Grill were closed so we got in line and got cheeseburgers and fries. A GOOD TIP HERE: where the hamburger grill and the Mongolian grill meet, they had put out food that had been on the buffet...pot roast, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, etc...so if you're late to lunch and don't want a burger or sandwich, be sure to take a peek there before getting in line. So yes, we already had cheeseburgers and we each filled up another plate with the buffet food. Don't worry though...those cheeseburgers did not go to waste. J We rolled off the Lido and went straight to the gym and worked out. Yeah, right!!LOL We went shopping of course and then I headed back to my room to pack as the suitcases have to be out by 11 instead of midnight. Something new for me here was the zone tags you have to put on your suitcase. It's a good concept but, as usual, everyone ignored the zone calls and just crowded the stairs and halls first thing in the morning. L Dinner that evening was enjoyable as usual and we spent some time chatting with Dennis afterwards. The show that night was called Livin' in America and, although I'd seen it before, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Debarkation: We headed to breakfast in the dining room about 8:30 and really enjoyed it. We waited in the Library while they were calling zone numbers and just waited until the line had totally died down until we left the ship. After we retrieved our luggage (it's now on revolving belts like an airport and sectioned by zone numbers), we got a porter and he took us through customs and out to the curb. Cousin and her hubby went to walk to the garage while we waited with the luggage but there are shuttles to take you and your luggage to the garage.
Room service. We ordered this twice. The roast beef and brie...still delish. Hubby liked the tuna on English muffin but I didn't...too much celery and I hate celery. Shrimp salad on a roll was very good. Hubby said Reuben was great. The chocolate cake...what can I say...I honestly thought someone was going to find me dead from being overstuffed and I'd have a fork in one hand and a plate with chocolate cake in the other...it was that good!!!!
Pizza: I found someone who doesn't like it...my cousin! I don't think I've ever heard anyone who didn't love it but she did not care for the crust. It tasted the same to me as usual so it just must not appeal to her.
As I said previously, I really wanted her first cruise to be special for my cousin. Unfortunately, she had an experience I have never encountered on a Carnival cruise. 3 separate times she was given a brusque almost rude response by an employee. The first time was when she noticed a light on the phone in her room...it was the one near an envelope icon. She called me and asked what it meant and I said I didn't know but maybe it meant there was a message for her and to call the info desk and ask. She did so and the woman who answered said, "We don't have a message service Ma'am. Just hang your phone up correctly." What does having your phone hung up have to do with the little light??? The second occasion was when she and my hubby went to the Mongolian Grill just as it was closing and one of the guys told them in a rude tone that it was closed. The third was when she went to get a sandwich just as that section was closing. She got in line as there were people waiting for sandwiches and again, she was told it was closed in a rude tone. Those incidences paled in comparison, however, to what happened on our last night. Cousin decided to get a copy of her bill as she had not received one yet. She noticed 3 separate bar charges that she had not made and they added to $80. Apparently, on each occasion the number was taken down wrong and it came up as her hubby's card and the person, surely seeing his name on the receipt, signed away. They told her at the info desk that they would have to look into it and get the receipts and to come back in the morning...the last morning when it's a madhouse. I went with her and, with a little bit of coercion, all 3 charges were taken off. Here's what bothered me about the whole thing: I could understand the need for an investigation and a need to see the receipts IF the charges had been made in a bar or on the deck or in a lounge, etc. I'm sure lots of people have tried to pull a fast one by saying, I didn't make these charges! However, all 3 of the charges were made in the dining room at dinner time...and it wasn't our table or even our dining room!!! I think if a charge is made from a stateroom that is not yours or a table to which you are not seated...why do you have to jump through hoops and wait for receipts to resolve the issue??? There was obviously a mistake and let's just correct it without the passengers having to struggle past the huge lines of people with luggage trying to debark and then struggle back though them to get to their waiting point. It just left a bad taste in my cousin's mouth and doubts about cruising again. We both said to each other maybe they need to upgrade to some sort of scanner for the cards if people are going to cheat like that. These weren't huge horrible incidents but it made me sad because I just wanted things to be as perfect as possible for her and these situations spoiled that a bit. In conclusion: Overall we had a terrific time, as usual. I just don't think you can beat the quality and value of Carnival. I wish I was onboard now instead of just reminiscing, LOL. Read Less