March 28, 2005
EMBARKATION : I wanted to be at the port by 11:00 AM, and we didn't make it till almost 12:30. I was a little concerned about the crowds, but it seemed that we *just* beat them. We were shunted into a separate line for people who already had their Funpasses filled out online, and the line moved very quickly. We were checked in, got our room keys, got our Sail & Sign cards, and were onboard before 1:00. The crowd building up behind us was HUGE, though!
We went up to the Lido deck for some lunch. There was a hamburger/hot dog area on the actual pool deck, then there was a hot & cold buffet with various entrees, salads, and a carving station inside the Horizon Grill. The food was all very tasty, and I actually wish we'd eaten there more than just that one time. We also grabbed a slice of the oh-so-popular mushroom & goat cheese pizza. It was AWESOME! I *did* manage to make it to the pizzeria twice more during the cruise for more of that yummy pizza!
DAY ONE - AT SEA : Our first day was a sea day. We slept in a little, then got up and went to the formal dining room for breakfast. After breakfast, we changed into our bathing suits and hit the deck. We found a great spot at the back of the Verandah deck near the small pool & whirlpools that was never overcrowded (always at least a few unclaimed deck chairs), and this became our "hangout." We sunned ourselves, read, took some dips in the hot tub (it was a little cool & overcast the first day), etc. We got cleaned up and headed down to the dining room for lunch and some more new faces, then we took an afternoon nap. I had a 5PM manicure appointment, then we started getting ready for the Captain's Cocktail Party. We had late seating dinner, so our cocktail party time was 7:15 PM.
The cocktail party was nice, though definitely crowded. TIP : take two drinks when the waiter comes around. Don't worry - he won't care! I had heard some people mention going to the bar at the back and ordering whatever you wanted. On the Imagination, there is no bar at the back, and the waiters wouldn't bring out anything that wasn't on their "list." The WILL go back and get you something if they have run out of it on their tray, and will bring it very promptly. We wanted Manhattans, but our waiter was out of them. He came back in just a couple of minutes with fresh ones for us. The drinks they were passing around were Manhattans, screwdrivers, whisky sours, white wine, and champagne. We each grabbed a Manhattan and a white wine. The hors d'oeuvres were tasty - little quiches, meatballs, chicken nuggets (fancy, not kids ones), and something wrapped in a pastry that we never got a chance to try. Again, don't be shy abut taking several. DH & I were trying to be polite and each only took two (they are small), then we saw people around us taking 5 or 6 at a time. The waiter with the food only came around twice, and the second time he didn't have much left on his tray, so we only got a few nibbles. The captain came out and presented all of the crew, then the band got going and several couples got up on stage and danced. Then we were off to dinner. I'm sad to say this was actually our worst dinner on the ship. One of the couples didn't show up, and they actually never returned. We still had a great time with the other couple, and I wish we'd exchanged e-mail addresses or something! We were soooo tired, though, that we ended up falling asleep around 11:30 and never made it to the show.
DAY 2 - GRAND CAYMAN : Our first port of call was Grand Cayman. We were a little worried that we wouldn't be able to tender there because the seas had been pretty rough our entire first day at sea. Luckily, the weather cleared and we were able to tender off the ship. Some of the snorkeling and most of the scuba excursions were cancelled because of the chance of rough seas, but our Coral Reef & Stingray City Snorkel excursion wasn't affected. Once we arrived at Grand Cayman, we took a bus ride to our boats for the excursion. First, they took us to Stingray City. When we got there, only about three other boats were there. We had fun with the sting rays and even fed them (I have the hickey to prove it), but it actually got a little old after a while, and DH & I were ready to get on with the snorkeling. After about 45 minutes with the sting rays, we got back onboard and headed out to the reef. The snorkeling really was nice. I've snorkeled all over Florida, in Cozumel, Puerto Rico, and the Bahamas. Grand Cayman does have some really clear water and beautiful coral formations! After the excursion, we went through a few shops, then had lunch at a place called Paradise. It was great! Food is really expensive in Grand Cayman, so we asked a few locals where to eat within walking distance, and they all said to go to Paradise for the best value. The platters were a little more expensive (my fried seafood sampler was around $18 US dollars), but the portions are huge (we could have split one sampler between us), and the sandwiches were very reasonable and looked really large and tasty.
DAY 3 - OCHO RIOS JAMAICA: Ocho Rios is our favorite port of call so far. We just loved it there!! Jamaica has a real tropical feel and is not nearly as "touristy" as other places we've been. Our excursion in Ocho Rios was the Rafting Safari down the White River. It was awesome!! I would definitely recommend this excursion to others. It's a nice, lazy float down a mountain, right through some awesome plantations and rain forests. It's not exciting and action-packed, just a leisurely drift. It was a nice change from all of the swimming we did in Grand Cayman. It ends up at a little resort with a bar, calypso music playing, and some awesome jerk chicken! After a nice lunch, we headed back down to the city and did a little shopping at The Village (an outdoor mall). Then it was back on the ship for us. We had another nice dinner with our tablemates, but were pretty tired after our two shore days, so we turned in after dinner.
DAY 4 - DAY AT SEA: This was our last day aboard ship, and we really wanted to soak it all in!! We got up and had breakfast in the formal dining room, and again we had great tablemates to chat with. Then we spent the morning lounging by the pool. We changed for lunch, again in the formal dining room. Then we strolled around the shops to pick up last-minute souvenirs. Then DH went to do a little exploring, while I sat in on the Newlywed Game. It was an absolute hoot!
DAY 5 - DEBARKATION: We did the self-debarkation, and it was very smooth for us. We were told to be ready to walk off the ship at 7:30, then to open our door and wait for the self-debarkation announcement. While I finished packing, DH ran up to the Lido deck and grabbed some danishes and coffee. Right around 7:40 we heard the call for self-debarkation. We debarked off the Empress deck, so it was really nice having our cabin on that deck. We didn't have to struggle with elevators on the ship. We were a little annoyed with the families with 5 kids in tow and 20 pieces of luggage that decided to do self-debarkation, then would hold up lines to get all of their party together, everyone's passports out, etc. I don't have a problem with large parties self-debarking, as long as they have their act together, keep everyone together in line, and have all of their documentation out and ready. Even with that little glitch, the self debarkation was quick and easy. W were over our liquor limit by 2 or 3 liters, and they just waved us right through. By 9AM we were off the ship, had our car loaded up, and were on our way home!