April 14, 2007
I have to be honest.
When I first went aboard the Imagination, I wasn't sure what I was in for. We were directed to the Lido deck as the ship boarded, and I was somewhat disappointed by what I saw. The Lido deck seemed like an old ferry boat with its tiny pool, old lounge chairs and weathered wood. It was also the smallest ship lined up at the Miami Port that morning and seemed to pale in comparison to the other ships waiting to welcome cruisers to their week of fun.
But disappointment soon turned into well...just plain old fun. Our family of eight had a wonderful time on the Imagination and both ship and crew were able to turn any negative into a positive.
First of all, the ship is incredibily maintained and its crew is constantly spraying, mopping, painting, cleaning and pruning. The ship sparkles despite its age. And while it may be a smaller ship at sea, there are plenty of dining rooms, lounges, clubs and other amenities to keep everyone happy. My favorite spot was one of the many leather window seats near the Dream Bar and casino--a perfect place to read a book and watch a school of dolphins or flying fish swim by.
Carnival's crew was wonderful--very well trained and friendly, with the excpetion of a few, especially one or two at the information desk. But overall, we enjoyed them all---especially Mark, our waiter in the Prime Dining Room. The food was very good: We had soups we'd love to try again, and the desserts were absolutely amazing. It was a tight ship, where everyone seemed to take pride in doing their jobs well. Some of the bartenders were a little slow and less than enthusiastic, but our complaints about the crew were at a minimum.
There were plenty of activities for everyone in our family, whose ages ranged from 65 to 15. The Reggae band on the Lido deck was just fantastic--they kept the afternoons festive and the late nights full of dancing and singing. I think that was our favorite part of the cruise--hanging out on the Lido deck and singing the refrain "hot, hot, hot!" while enjoying a pina colada or the endless icecream cones accessible in the all day, all night food service lounge by the pool.
The staterooms were very nice and roomy enough for two. We booked four rooms for eight people and I was glad. Trying to stick four people to a room would have been pushing it--and having an ocean view room is definately worth the extra money if you can swing it. Waking up and looking out the window was a highlight, especially if you've arrived at your destination while sleeping. What a treat to have your room cleaned several times a day. As the mother of a busy and large family, this cruise was an incredible treat.
Because of the weather, we were not able to go to the Cayman Islands--- a real disappointment to most of the people on the ship who were looking forward to snorkeling and shopping. But it turned out to be our favorite day. The crew offered everyone an extra $25 on their ship cards and threw another Captain's Party with free drinks. The Captain steered the ship towards sunnier climes and we had a ball that day---going down the slide at the pool, having a few drinks in the sunshine and dancing on the deck. It looked to me as if everyone on board made up for their disappointment by having way too much fun.
A word of caution: I ended up breaking my foot in Jamaica at the Dunns River Falls---climbing up the waterfall. Several other people were hurt as well. Breaking my foot really put a damper on the rest of my trip, as you can well imagine, but I still ended up having a great time. The ship provided me with a wheelchair and things worked out okay. Dunns River Falls was really nice-the kids loved it--but they make you hold hands going up the falls and that doesn't allow you to use your arms to balance yourself or negotiate the rocks. I ended up slipping and really hurting myself. Don't hold hands while climbing up the falls! You need your own balance to steady yourself. Also, Ocho Rios, the Jamaican port town, is a dump. We didn't enjoy that stop at all. It's just dirty, offering very few dining experiences or any real shopping to speak of. None of us enjoyed it very much, except for Dolphin Cove. I think the Dolphin Cove excursion was the best. It's a sweet little resort on the Jamaican coast with something for everyone--swim with the dolphins, shark shows, snorkeling, great outdoor eating (Jerk seasoned food!), kayaking, sunbathing, swimming and the list goes on. We had a nice time there.
It was a wonderful vacation and hard to go home. Despite my skepticism at the beginning, I am now a Carnival convert. We hope to go crusing again next year, broken foot and all......