The ship's main theater is the Dynasty Main Show Lounge, located on Deck 8 forward. Talks with your cruise director or shore excursion staff; Hasbro, The Game Show; Towel Animal Theater; bingo and more are all held here during the day. At night, the Playlist Productions cast performs for two audiences -- one earlier in the evening and one later. On our sailing, the shows were Epic Rock and Divas, one centered around classic '70s and '80s anthems and the other celebrating the women of contemporary pop along with songstresses from the past. Color us impressed. The quality of all the entertainment onboard was definitely a notch above what was anticipated, with the theater cast belting out Beyonce while they shook their groove thing.
The theater is large, and the sparkly golden curtain is stately, but sightlines aren't always great -- large, shiny pillars block a lot of angles. Seating is not the most comfy either -- banquette seats are low and losing their bounce; the chairs we chose on the mezzanine level were enough we couldn't even sit in them.
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Carnival keeps it going, and even with a full day onboard, there weren't any lulls. Trivia -- from Harry Potter to sports -- is offered at least twice per day, plus an oversized Trivial Pursuit session (with pie pieces the size of small shovels) that took place in the Xanadu Lounge one afternoon to a healthy turnout. Aside from soaking by the pool or on a sun deck all day, there's also art auctions, spa seminars about balance or weight loss, digital scavenger hunts, bingo, events at the shops, arts and crafts and tournaments in the casino.
The onboard arcade is located on Deck 9 forward, open a dangerous 24 hours per day. If you know your young ones might be inclined to swipe their keycards for one too many sessions of Star Wars pod racing, be sure to put a limit on their cruise card.
LGBT, AA and military interest groups all have the chance to meet during specified times throughout the sailing.
Imagination has a reasonably late bedtime, as cruisers try to squeeze as much out of a four-night vacation as possible. However some of the smaller bars might shut down by midnight, depending on the crowd. The area around the casino and the nightclub, on the promenade, is where you'll typically find the last revelers.
The El Dorado Casino, located off the promenade on Deck 9 midship, stays humming, with plenty of slot machines, blackjack tables and Texas Hold'em tournaments. Events like a "Pin & Win or $100K Slot Tournament are held regularly when the ship is at sea, and the floor is always open until "late." We heard plenty of yelling, and from what we can judge, it was in approval. If you can't tolerate smoke, it might be tough to spend too long here as the air is saturated with the stuff. You must be 18 or older to enter the casino.
The Punchliner Comedy Club, held in the Xanadu Lounge, hosted two comedians -- one male, one female -- on our cruise, and they did double duty with PG shows and some downright raunchy 18-plus explicit comedy. Shows began around 7:30 for the family-friendly crowd, with the last stand-up act going on at 11:45 p.m. We went to one (adult) act each, and thought it was as good as you would find in any land-based comedy club in a major city.
If you're not enjoying a meal or a drink, you can keep yourself occupied at night with karaoke in Shangri La, themed deck parties or letting loose late into the night at the Illusions club. A "Thriller" dance class was even held in Xanadu one night of our sailing. Meet-and-greets are organized near-nightly for single cruisers.
You could visit two different bars or lounges every night of your four-night cruise, and still have more to see. Imagination boasts 10 bars and lounges, most located along the Promenade Deck (9). There's a nice variety with tequila, cocktail and rum bars, and even an espresso bar. Lounges host karaoke, comedy and late-night piano sing-alongs.
Atrium Bar (Deck 7): If you can't wait to have a vacation drink as soon as you get on the ship, this is your bar. Located smack dab in the middle of the atrium, this bar is a general service watering hole serving just about anything you could want, including Carnival specials like pirate punch ($8.95) or a pomtini ($9.25), plus wines by the glass. It's a fun place to grab a drink if there's live music playing. The dining rooms are just one deck above, so it's also convenient for pre-dinner cocktails. Open from about 8 in the morning to midnight or later.
Mirage Bar (Deck 8): If you're looking for the ship's piano bar, you'll find it at Mirage in more ways than one. The actual bar that surrounds the piano player is designed to look like piano keys. The standard onboard drink menu is served here, with seating directly in front of the performer at said bar, or in comfortable nooks and tables nestled around the room. The pianist on our voyage had a killer voice, and while he belted out all the Bon Jovi and country rock hits, folks happily added to the volume with sing-alongs and plenty of ad-libbing. During the day we saw it used to host the once-per-cruise, behind-the-scenes ship tour.
Dream Bar (Deck 9): Save for the serious smoke, Dream Bar is the place to be. The bar, backlit by a golden angel-like figure, faces the promenade and a small stage, making it one of the better utilized casino bars we've seen. Many times we had to stop here to watch one of the talented performers, grabbing a seat or a table just off the bar. (You know the musical acts have talent when they warrant people stopping and filming them.) Maybe due to the gambling, or the cigarettes, possibly it was the rocking music, but Dream seemed to keep the party going into the wee hours… and party hard people did. The bar opens sometime in the afternoon -- anywhere between 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. -- and stays open until "late."
Shangri La Lounge (Deck 9): If you like to sing in front of strangers, put this promenade stop on your radar. Shangri La is the ship's dedicated karaoke lounge; it was also occasionally used for trivia during the day or in the early evening. Every night (starting at about 6 p.m.), cruisers file into the space, but we either saw it packed with no seats or nearly empty, and not much in between. Table service is available, and binders went around with song lists, but we found them pretty stale. By the time we finally got around to going back for a duet, it was after midnight and already over.
Illusions Nightclub (Deck 9): The dance club onboard Imagination is open every night of your sailing, except during the deck party, when passengers are encouraged to get funky under the moonlight. The party gets started late (10:30 to 11:30 p.m.), which is perhaps why we didn't see too many people fist-bumping, but not for lack of bass. (Most night owls we came across never strayed far from the casino.) On the last night, club hits like the "Harlem Shake" shook the ship enough for us to poke our heads in. The club has strobe lights and a back bar -- everything you need to make moves. Specials, like Ladies' Night, save clubgoers $1 on certain drinks. Be sure to show up with your onboard cruise card, along with a government-issued ID as you must be 18 or older to enter.
Alchemy Bar (Deck 9): Pick one of the many thoughtful concoctions on the list (an electronic, e-reader-like device) or ask the skilled bartenders to put something together. The Perfect Storm is sweet, but not overly; the basil drop is refreshing. All cocktails are $10.95 and a seat at the apothecary-themed bar also comes with a snacking plate of almonds, olives and mild white cheese. If you can't decide, join the white-coated bartenders for a for-fee martini flight and tasting, held once per sailing. Alchemy occupies the seating area in front of Xanadu -- we like the sleek brown leather couches and cream-colored chairs near the window, which seemed like a quiet place to read or work (if need be). The Alchemy Bar opens in the late afternoon -- between 2 and 4 p.m. -- until 1 a.m. each night.
Xanadu Lounge (Deck 9): At the back of the popular Promenade Deck, Xanadu is used for trivia and games during the day and the Punchliner comedy shows in the evening and at night. The decor here is fantastical with dark, demonically lit angel busts lining the walls atop red pedestals and overlooking furniture in an off-putting cream color with mauve cushions. There is a bar along the entire back of the lounge, but it's only open during the comedy shows. During the day, Xanadu is heavily trafficked as a quick way to head out onto the outer decks from the ninth deck.
RedFrog Rum Bar (Deck 10): There's something about a cruise vacation that screams "rum." Get your colada fix at this fixture on Imagination's Lido Deck. ThirstyFrog Red, Carnival's own beer on tap, is served here along with a variety of tropical tipples. The prices of individual rums vary from Jamaica's Appleton at $6.50 to 18-year-aged Flor de Cana rum from Nicaragua for $8.95. Frozen drinks are $8.25 ($3 off for virgin) and featured cocktails cost $8.95 (Red's Rum Treasure is 16. Oz. for $10.95). Our favorite drink here is the Ting mojito -- a blend of Ruby Red vodka, grapefruit juice, mint, lime, lemonade, a splash of Jamaican Ting soda but regretfully, no rum. Sip in the shade at the tiki hut-style bar or sit at stools around oblong countertops. RedFrog Rum Bar is open for most of the day, sometimes from 8 in the morning until 1 in the morning.
BlueIguana Tequila Bar (Deck 10): The counterpart to RedFrog's Rum Bar, BlueIguana keeps things cool on the pool deck with tequila-based cocktails, buckets of beer and…drumroll… a beer cocktail. Draft beers are about $5.75 or $29.95 for a tube; buckets of beer save you $2 on four bottles of beer; frozen drinks like a guava margarita are $8.25; featured cocktails and margaritas like an Iguana Iced Tea (similar to a Long Island Iced Tea) are $8.95; featured tequilas vary in price. Pitchers of margaritas or spiked lemonade are $25. Virgin drinks are $5.25. There's some stool seating at the bar along with a few shady spots to sit. Oddly, on our sailing, BlueIguana Tequila Bar was often closed with no explanation. If you have your heart set on a signature margarita, grab it when you can.
Lido Aft Bar (Deck 10): Open until 4 a.m. each night, the bar at the back of the Horizon Bar & Grill is a safe bet to grab a beer or Bahama mama with meals, to hang by the pool or enjoy anytime. There's not much of an atmosphere, being it's in the buffet, so it's more of a grab-and-go location.
There is one main pool, located on the Lido Deck (Deck 10). One whirlpool hot tub flanks either side. Attached to the main pool is a smaller, adults-only section of the pool. In the middle of the pool deck is a stage where musical performances happen during the day, or group dancing at the deck party is led by night. It's also a fun alfresco area to grab a drink and listen to some tunes or do the shuffle all night long.
Whether you're looking for a deck-high water slide, a little shuffleboard or a free lounge chair, Imagination offers plenty of space to stretch your legs on one of its outer decks.
Known for its water parks, Carnival has a variety of slides, even on older ships like Imagination. Located on Deck 11, Twister is a curvy tube slide, plus there's a set of racing slides and a smaller set of mini-racers. All slides empty into a shallow pool. Children must be at least 42 inches tall to ride the Twister and racing slides and 36 inches tall for the mini-racers. Children who are not toilet-trained are not allowed on the water slides or in the pools.
If 24-hour mini-golf sounds appealing, there is a great little course on Deck 14 in the City Sports Park, available for free play. The jogging track surrounds the court on Deck 14, and 11 laps equals a mile.
Shuffleboard and Ping-Pong can be found looking down on the pool area, on either side of Deck 11.
We figured that on a short, fun-in-the-sun cruise with just one sea day, there was no chance at finding a deck chair… but that wasn't the case. There was plentiful sunbathing real estate surrounding the pool, the hot tubs and one deck above, on Deck 11. We found two blue deck chairs together without a problem, and the crowd was boisterous but not obnoxious.
For adults 21 and over, Serenity is a kid-free, complimentary oasis at the very back of Deck 9. Serenity's signature teal cushioned deck chairs, yellow umbrellas and fluffy yellow towels cover the space, which has two whirlpool hot tubs, but no pool. Souvenirs are available for purchase at the towel counter -- $22 for beach towels, $49 for a bathrobe and, unsurprisingly, a book that teaches you how to make towel animals for $15. A drink steward makes the rounds taking orders for the bar, but the turnaround time can be a bit lengthy; if you're desperate for a colada, bring your own before you get comfortable. Bathrooms are located just inside, one staircase down.
Don't laugh, but we think the sun deck near the water park is the best-kept secret in sun-worshipping space. If you don't mind a few squeals and squalls from kids running up and shooting down the slides, then there is not only tons of open space, but also a gorgeous view of the ship's wake. We cruised in late October, so the middle of summer or the holiday season might mean a bit more crowding and kids howling.
The Grand Atrium is awash in color and light with red and blue neon squiggles lining the inside of each deck and the elevators designed to look like prisms. In the midst of it all, on Deck 7, are the guest services and shore desks. To discuss an onboard charge, lodge a complaint or address any other matter, guest services is available 24 hours a day -- a separate counter is dedicated to Diamond and Platinum loyalty members. The shore excursions desk is available to book or discuss plans for tours on land. The desk was open until 7 p.m. on our first night and from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. then 5 to 7 p.m. on our first port day. Brochures and info packets are always available to grab.
In front of the theater, along Deck 8, you will find the onboard shops, called the Fun Shops. Open while the ship is sailing, you can browse Edco cocktail rings, Effy jewelry, Carnival logo items and a variety of liquors. Sales, like an Invicta watch event, are held throughout the cruise. We found a $795 timepiece for $199.
Located right off the promenade on Deck 9, Cherry on Top is the spot for a little something sweet -- whether it's candy for the kids or some flowers for your beau. Novelty and souvenir lunch boxes or logo items from Dr. Seuss can also be found in this tiny gift shop, colored like a glazed cherry and, of course, whipped cream. The store is open during the sea day, or while the ship is sailing.
It became a ritual to take a cheesy portrait or pose for a ridiculous photo at dinner and then check it out the next day at Pixels, the photo gallery midship on Deck 9. It became increasingly difficult, however, to pick our photo out of the thousands of pictures printed and hung around the atrium. While the shots were divided by dining time, or day and event, we often found our faces in the wrong section. When we finally did find a picture we considered taking home, pricing was a bit high -- $22 for an 8 x 10 picture with fingerprints all over it. We would have preferred a thumb drive with all the photos from the cruise -- even if it meant shelling out three digits -- but that option is not available. A digital copy is only offered when you buy a physical print -- and then, just of that print. GoPro equipment and fanciful, light-up photo holders or frames that look like a towel animal, are also sold at Pixels.
Park West runs the art gallery onboard Imagination (and many other ships and cruise lines). Events like a Champagne art auction and Guess the Price are held throughout the sailing in the Illusions Nightclub. Someone in our party won a $100 credit toward a piece of art in a raffle, but most are in the thousands-of-dollars range. (There is an "Under $500" sale advertised). Browse the works and visit the desk aft of the atrium on Deck 7.
We wouldn't call it an internet cafe, but the small area to the right of the Atrium Bar consists of five desktop computers and a ledge with one printer. Wi-Fi plans are simple and divided by what you use: access to social sites only (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and more) is $5 for 24 hours, $15 for the four-night cruise; 24 hours on email and basic web costs $16 or $35 for the length of the cruise; premium internet, meaning access to streaming music or video, is $25 per day or $60 for the cruise.
Curiosity Library, on Deck 8, is one of the finest libraries we've seen at sea. Curiosity is oddly majestic, eschewing Carnival's signature va-va-voom for a Victorian design. Picture spiraling gold pillars, tile floors overlaid by Oriental rugs, beautiful stained glass ceiling finishes, booths in every window and furniture that mimicks antique oak cabinets, tables, chairs and even a desk. The assortment of books was a bit uneven -- we couldn't find any travel guides for the ports we were visiting -- but there were plenty of board games to keep a family occupied. The library never closes.
Small, self-serve laundry facilities are located midship on Deck 6 and forward on Deck 7. You will find two detachable ironing boards, four washers, four dryers and a dispenser for soap, bleach and softener. Each load is $3 and detergents are available for $1.50 each by coin slot. Same-day and next-day laundry services are also available for pick-up in your stateroom. A wash and press for a men's blazer is $5; a women's dress is $7.50. Bags of laundry run about $15.
If you're in need of the ship's doctor, the medical center, along with the gangway, is located on Deck 3 forward.
The spa, on Deck 12, is pretty plain, but dressed in soothing colors of creams, light wood and green accents. All spa and fitness facilities are open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., daily. A spa raffle is held on the first day and specials are run throughout the short cruise (save $122 on a 75-minute, $291 package, for example). Treatment rooms for seaweed wraps, facials, teeth whitening and couples' massage are all low-lit and dedicated to a specific treatment. Prices can be high; you'll find a 50-minute hot stone massage for about $150 (15-percent gratuity is automatically added to each treatment). Inside of the men's and women's locker rooms is a separate sauna and steam room, our absolute favorite part of the spa, which comfortably accommodates about five people each. The rooms are complimentary -- rare in a mainstream cruise ship spa. We found the facilities to be well-maintained, especially considering they are open to all passengers. During our time there in the late afternoon on a sea day, only two or three other women were using the rooms and soon enough, we had them to ourselves.
A full-service salon is adjacent to the treatment rooms, offering hair coloring, manicures, pedicures and trims and shaves for men. A signature Fire & Ice pedicure is $70; a 25-minute express shave for men is $45.
Free seminars like improving posture, footprint analysis and a ladies-only pamper event are held throughout the sailing, but expect a sales pitch at the end.
The fitness center is a light-filled space with plenty of recumbent bikes, treadmills, ellipticals and other machines encircling the gym along floor-to-ceiling windows at the very forward of Deck 12. A separate room is used for classes like yoga and stretching. Free classes such as abs or stretch and relax, run about a half-hour early in the morning (7 to 8). Other classes including yoga and indoor cycling are $12 each. Body Sculpt boot camp is a high-energy course that runs $69 for two sessions.
Never fear you'll miss the big game if you take time to head to the gym; on our first day onboard we spotted the televisions in the fitness center were running all the big sports games, which we thought was a nice touch.
If you're looking for the jogging track, head up to Deck 14 -- it takes a dizzying 11 laps to run 1 mile.
Kids and teens won't have a chance to be bored on Imagination's four-night sailings, which are jam-packed with water slides, Dr. Seuss-themed activities, dedicated kids' clubs and a towel animal theater show that we thoroughly enjoyed, even as adults. When the brood isn't relishing the time with their new friends, there are ample opportunities for families to spend time together, as well. Hasbro, The Game Show is held twice per sailing and incorporates trivia and your family's favorite board games into a live-action contest for all ages. Even the comedy and theater performances offer early, family-friendly show times.
The partnership with Dr. Seuss is ingenious in the sense that classic characters like The Cat in the Hat appeal to the child in many of us, across generational gaps. Dine on green eggs and ham (or let the little ones go crazy with a sugar rush a la cereal-coated French toast) and get some fun family photos with Thing 1 and Thing 2, and of course, Sam I Am at the Green Eggs and Ham breakfast. The breakfast is followed up with Dr. Seuss trivia, an interactive parade and a Story Time, later that day.
Camp Ocean (Deck 11 forward) has replaced Camp Carnival as the kids' club for those aged 2 to 11. The club, with an aquatic motif, is supervised by about 13 dedicated youth staff, and the junior cruisers are divided into three age groups: Penguins (2 to 5), Stingrays (6 to 8) and Sharks (9 to 11). Open house and registration was 12:30 to 4 p.m. on embarkation day, followed by icebreakers from 8 to 9 p.m. Activity hours ran 8 to 10 p.m. our first night onboard, then from morning (7:30, 8 or 10 a.m.) to 3 or 5 p.m. on the following days. After the dinner break, the club reopens from 6 to 10 p.m., nightly. Dedicated family play time is available most nights from about 5:15 to 6:45 p.m. The club is open on port days.
Penguin activities might include Play-Doh creations/kitchen corner, silly songs and a Royal Gala story time; activities for Stingrays might include Steal the Bacon, volcano-making or sand art; and activities for the Sharks group could be a scavenger hunt, video game play or ocean-themed bingo.
Night Owls, an after-hours program, runs nightly from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. and includes babysitting for tots less than 2 years old, in addition to children up to 11. The program includes video games, movies and other activities, and costs $6.75 per hour per child, plus a 15-percent gratuity per child. Owl Jams, a once-per-cruise party for children up to the age of 11, took place on our third night and advertised additional activities like crafts and music. The party is a flat fee of $15 per child, plus a 15-percent gratuity, and ran from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m.
In the interest of doing good and having a good time in the process, a Beary Cuddly Workshop ($19.99 per bear) is offered on the sea day in Camp Ocean, and requires kids to team up with a parent to help design a bear for the St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital. Groove for St. Jude ($10 donation each) also brings family and friends together to dance the night away -- T-shirts included.
We didn't see many teens loitering around the stairwells or in the hot tubs. Instead they all seemed to be engaged and having a genuinely good time interacting with their peers. Each teen club has its own director, and activities are loosely organized so teens can come and go without feeling too scheduled on their vacation. Teens also meet to attend theater shows or shipwide parties together in a group.
Circle C (Deck 8 forward) is the dedicated space for teens ages 12 to 14, and stands for "cruise, chill, connect." It's not very big but has a space age-looking green couch and blue cushions fit into the windows, which we honestly wish we'd had in our room. Circle C activities include mini-golf and Ping-Pong play, trivia, foosball competitions and a teens-only deck party.
Club O2 (Deck 9 forward) is for teens 15 to 17 only. Our first day onboard, we mistook the slick red-and-white space with its bumping bass and a DJ booth for an actual club. Air hockey, Wii competitions, Hasbro game play and a Dress to Impress party are a few of the activities that older teens can do together to pass the time.
Hours for Circle C and Club O2 are 4 to 6 p.m. nightly and then 8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. (hours can vary).