by Ken & Deb
January 31, 2005
Just returned from a brief 5 day cruise to Ocho Rios and the Grand Cayman Islands aboard Carnival's Imagination. This is our 7th cruise, with the four previous on the Legend(2x), Destiny and the Triumph. We have also sailed on RCCL's Soverign of the Sea's and on the Royal Majesty (Now NCL's Norweign Majesty). Traveling with my wife and I were my sister-in-law and her husband. I just retired this week after 33 years as a Colonel in law enforcement. My wife is in insurance industry. We are in our 40's - 50's.
My observations are as follows:
BOARDING - Long term parking was a breeze. There was more than ample nearby parking at the Port of Miami, even with several ships in port. We arrived suitably early and to our surprise, they announced that they would allow us to board early as long as we didn't access our cabin's before 1pm...fair enough! The lines moved smoothly and the ground staff was friendly and efficient.
THE SHIP - The Imagination is approx. 10 years old. I was accustomed to new, larger ships (Destiny and Spirit style). I was apprehensive that this smaller ship, after ten years, would be inadequate and in need of repair. I was pleasantly surprised. The ship was spick and span. Fresh paint in and out. The carpets were spotless and looked new. All around the ship were staff polishing wood, brass rails and cleaning glass. Our cabin on the Empress Deck was an outside cabin. Although it was smaller than what we previously had on the Legend (that was a balcony), it was easily enough room for the two of us. Our cabin steward introduced himself to us as soon as we went to the room. He did a good job and was always present. The room had a tv, several closets with a credit card swipe-style safe. There was a vanity table and a corner table.
As we toured the ship, we found it very easy to find our way around (my wife was pleased by this as she is always losing me somewhere on the larger ships). The nightclub was well designed and the dining room (there are two) was sparkling clean. All of the common area's of the ship were also found to be higher than my expectations.
FOOD - Good, but not as good as on the Legend. There was a limit to the varieties of the buffet service. As usual, there was no shortage of pizza and ice cream, I couldn't find items like sliced cheeses, etc. I attribute that to the fact that we were on a smaller ship. What food that was served was good to very good. Not good to excellent as on the Legend. Our Waiter and assistant earned additional cash from us at the end of the cruise (beyond the automatic tip deductions that carnival now does) due to over and above personal service. I was surprised that they make no effort to learn your names. Nonetheless, they were attentive, efficient and polite.
STAFF - This never fails to amaze me. There were 29 different nations represented by the staff. They all spoke acceptable English and ALWAYS smiled and were polite. Can not say enough good things about them. But here is the part that always gets me - you arrive back in the United States, (Miami) and from the port to the airport, nobody speaks English. You go to Jamaica or the Cayman's or anywhere else in the Caribbean and they all speak fluent English. Return to the U.S. and you need a translator. Go figure~
THE PORTS - Snorkeled on the Cayman's Dunn's River Falls on Ocho Rios. Both were fun and well organized (we used Carnival's excursion instead of privately booking ashore. I like not to take chances). The Island's show some storm damage - particularly the poorer areas. The commercial properties all were open and showed no damage. There were 5 or ships tendering in at Grand Cayman and just one other at Jamaica.
CASINIO - Smokey, but not overly crowed.. We spent considerably less time there than we have on other cruises.
BARS - From Karaoke to music bars, all were clean and never crowded. The disco was almost always empty.
STORE SHOPS - Very satisfying. Much more choices than on the larger ships too! Didn't bother with the art auction. Every day there was another sales theme, from inches of gold and silver to discount watches. I enjoyed strolling thru the shops (Galleries as they called themselves) after meals.
ENTERTAINMENT - Good to Excellent. The cruise director Jeff Bronson was personable and entertaining, but, sometimes too long winded. My gripe with him was that on the night before departure, they were pushing attendance at the lecture for departure instructions. It was at 11am on a beautiful and sunny day at sea. He could have been much more brief, but he rattled on and on and on. What a waste. They placed all the departure information in your cabin that night and they played it on the closed circuit tv. That was more than sufficient. The Las Vegas type shows never disappointed. The last night, they had a talent show from guest selected while at karaoke.
GENERAL - No buffet lines------anywhere! What a difference between this and the larger Carnival ships. Never a shortage of chaise lounges, regardless of the time of day. There were children aboard, never saw a problem with any of them. Teenagers were quiet, well behaved and were not rude. Generally, all the passengers were pleasant. We had no difficulty starting a conversation with any of them. Very few poolside and inner ship announcements. That was a welcome departure from previous cruises. The always tried to sell you something without becoming annoying. Room service was fast and appreciated. Decent selection. There was a full screen tv above the pool (ala Princess) however, you could never hear it. I was told that when it is quiet at night, you can, but it was valueless during daytime.
DEBARKATION - Painless. They allowed early flights, handicapped and those willing to handle their own luggage off early. We choose to wait. They did not call you by your floor or luggage colors. Instead, they did a general debarkation. Although this did cause some bottle necks, things eventually moved along smoothly.
FINAL COMMENTS - I am booked for a cruise this April on a Spirit class ship again. I suppose I like the behemoths over the smaller ships. My wife would be fast to disagree. It was nice not having to wait in lines or waiting for a place in the sun by the pool to open. But I enjoy having a balcony. I enjoy a greater option for eating on the lido deck. I would however rebook on this class of ship again.
If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to write me back.
Ken & Deb