Carnival Reviews - Cruise Ship reviews by Cruisemates Readers
Carnival Cruise Lines

Imagination
by Rocky
Western Caribbean
September 27, 2001

First, a brief synopsis of the whole trip: It was a great cruise, Carnival food has improved tremendously, but service has slipped a bit, perhaps due to the tips being automatically being added to your sail-n-sign card, don't know. The ship is in great shape, clean and everything in working order. The carpets in the cabin area hallways have quite a few stains, but overall for a ship that does 4 & 5 day trips, she is in very good shape. Camp Carnival was good, though a few problems were encountered.

Entertainment was up to the usual Carnival caliber; as good as it was when I sailed the Inspiration in 1997. Not as many announcements all day long as was the case on the previous Carnival cruise I was on.

Overall, a great cruise, and it was great to see it through a child's eye on his first cruise.

Now for the details:

Arrival in Miami, Wednesday:
Arrived in Miami by car (we live in Tampa 4.5 hour drive) to our hotel, the Best Western Marina Park, great location, across the street from Bayside Market Place, lots of shops, restaurants and live music, it was a nice place to spend the evening. The hotel is clean, but is showing it's age, however it is being renovated, half a floor at a time. It should take about 3-6 months for those to be completed. We had a reservation for the 10th floor bay-view standard room for $89, upon arrival we were told that no rooms were available on the 10th, but one was available on the 6th floor, I was not pleased. After short negotiations we were given a "Junior Suite" for $59 (just a slightly longer room with two queen beds) but on the 9th floor. It gave a great view of the port and the surrounding areas. We were also able to see the ships come in, turn around and dock from our room.

Day One, Thursday:
We awoke, and went downstairs for breakfast. They had a very good buffet for $7.50 per person with a good variety of food and eggs cooked to order. Not a bad deal for a hotel restaurant. Took a drive to South Beach to check things out, what a unique area, saw many of the places mentioned on the Travel Channel. Beautiful!!

We went back to the hotel and checked out and headed out to the docks at 11:15am, which took all of 5 minutes to get over the bridge, but waited almost 25 minutes to get through the guard gate, (that was with very little traffic) they were asking for your cruise docs to get past this point. We pulled up to the terminal, un-loaded our luggage and I went and parked the car. Payment is cash in advance for parking. (yes, you can off-load luggage with no problem) We then proceeded on to the registration desk by way of the metal detectors, got through all that quickly and were headed up-stairs by noon. They were not boarding till 12:15. We got to our cabin by 12:30. All in all, even with the increased security, a very smooth and quick embarkation.

We went off to explore our new home for the next 4 days, and of course, "To The Buffet"! The dreaded Life Boat drill was an hour late, according to the schedule, no announcements made as to why. We found out later that is was due to the traffic back-ups at the port entrance, passengers and crewmembers were late getting to the ship.

At 5:30pm was the Camp Carnival meeting, it all went well, they handed out a schedule of the activities for the cruise, and on it was an "Over-Night" activity where they would keep your 9-12 year-olds from 10pm on Saturday, till 8am on Sunday for $32, not too bad we thought for a whole night for Mom and I, alone.... Anyway, they suggested to sign-up right away, as this tends to fill up fast, (only the first 20 kids) and to sign up at the Teen Center. Following the meeting we went directly to the Teen Center to sign up, the counselors were all in a meeting, and would not come to the door to tell us when we could sign up. We called and went to center several times throughout the night, no luck.

Early the next morning I went and was able to sign up! Anyway, our first evening we spent inside as it was raining off and on the whole day and night, made my obligatory deposit in the casino and prepared for dinner. Our son spent his first $20 in the arcade. Dinner was very good; we were seated at a table for 6, booth style table with our son in a chair at the end (I really don't like this type of table) and our four friends with us. After dinner I caught the end of the show in the Dynasty Lounge, which had a very funny comedian by the name of Kenny Miller, I also went to the Late night show with him performing, he was hilarious!!!

Day Two, Friday:
Key West, the day started out raining off and on and ended the same way. We were docked by 7:30am, half an hour late at the Navy base; Mallory pier was where the Jubilee was going to dock. We were going on our own in Key West, so the ship provided transportation to Duval & Front St. from the ship. We decided to do some shopping (I forgot to pack my long pants and had a hard time finding my size, I did have my Tux though) and to go down to the "Southern-Most Point" marker. All this along with off & on showers, we got pretty wet. We decided, that since we live in Tampa, we would come down and stay in Key West in the future. Lots of nice and unique shops and taverns along Duval St. I have been there before, I suggest the Conch Tour Train, for you first timers if you ever come to Key West. There are also two beaches in Key West, one at the entrance to the harbor, Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and one, which actually are two beaches in one on the south-middle part of the island called Rest Beach and Smathers Beach. The first one I mentioned is my favorite.

We had to be back on board by 1:30pm for a 2pm sailing, which was delayed due to a medical emergency. We left at about 2:45. Not a very long stay, unfortunately.

One note for those wanting to get off at Key West, due to the recent terrorist events, US Customs requires you to show your Passport or Birth Certificate and sail-n-sign card to leave the ship (and they did check each one thoroughly) and get back on the ship.

Back on the ship, the sail-away festivities were cancelled due to the weather, so we just hung around the ship and took part in one of the games called "Tic-Tac Trophy, a trivia type of game and our team won! Our prize... A 24k solid gold-plastic "Ship on a Stick" award, whoopee!... it was fun playing the game though.

This was the night for the Captains welcome aboard dinner, we usually skip the pre-dinner festivities and go straight for the picture taking areas. Had some very nice pictures taken and went on to dinner. I had Escargot and Salmon, both of which were excellent!

After dinner we caught the show called "Imagine It", decent show, well done, but they had two dancers from Russia, Youri and Luda, that were incredible!!

We were all pretty tired, I went to the casino for another quick deposit and turned in early.

Day Three, Saturday:
Cozumel, the day dawned with some sunshine!!!! Yippie! We arrived at Playa Del Carmen for the mainland tours around 12:30pm and arrived at the pier in Coz around 2pm. We quickly departed to a waiting taxi, (there were at least 50-60 taxi's waiting) to go find a beach, since I speak Spanish, I asked the Taxi driver where was a nice beach to go swimming and some easy snorkeling. He took us to a beach called Playa Palacar at Mr. Sanchos restaurant/bar, for $12 (I think, it was just past Playa Del Sol), which was free to enter; they had little tables with thatched palm leaf roofs and a bar with swings instead of barstools, a restaurant and some shops. Perfect, just what we were looking for. We spent about 2 hours there and had a very nice time, not too crowded nice sandy beach, but the snorkeling was not that great, but our son loved it. (It was his first time).

We left there, again plenty of taxi's waiting, went back to the ship to get cleaned up. Our son wanted to go to Camp Carnival, we were going into town. We gave him some money and we were off to town. We had a taxi take us into town, San Miguel, $5 and dropped us of at Pancho's Back Yard. This is a store with a lot of local crafts, t-shirts, knick-knacks and typical tourist stuff. It also has a restaurant, which for my tastes has the best Margaritas! We had an order of Fajitas, Chips and Salsa and an appetizer of Quesadillias. Also not to forget the Margaritas, Fabulous!!! My favorite restaurant in town.

After a few purchases we strolled on down to other shops and found a great deal on some Tanzanite at Tanzanite International. I'm happy with that purchase, as is my wife. We then stopped at Palmeras for another Margarita, (all that shopping left us parched, ha ha) nice place in the center of town across from the ferry pier.

We were going to stop in at Carlos and Charlie's, but the line to get in was out the door and on to the street, no thanks. We then got a taxi and went back to the ship. We all had to be on-board by 10pm, from what I heard, some people didn't make it, one very intoxicated person was brought out to the ship by the harbor pilot boat!

The ship pulled away at 10:30pm and we were off to the sail-away party! Many carry-overs from C & C's were there, it was a lot of fun. This was also the night of the Camp Carnival sleepover, which started at 10pm. This is where we had a little problem. At 1am our phone rang, you can imagine what went through our heads as I reached for the phone. It was one of the youth counselors stating that the sleepover had been cancelled due to only two children showing up. They waited till 1am to tell us that!?! We were in our room at 10pm while our son was there and no call about the cancellation. Then on the morning of departure we get a knock on our door with a woman stating that we hadn't signed one of the slips for babysitting charge for those three hours of the sleepover. I refused to sign it and wrote, "Refused" on the slip and told the lady that I will speak to her superior if there was a problem with that. We didn't hear a thing about it, and there were no charges for it. (I have since verified it with my credit card co.)

Day Four, Sunday:
Our day at sea, was a beautiful sunny and comfortable morning. The seas were a little rough and the ship was moving around a bit, some folks were seasick, although I didn't encounter anyone. They had the usual activities, such as an Ice Carving demo, the Hairy Chest contest and the Newlywed-not so Newlywed game which is always fun. I played bingo a couple of times and stopped by the casino for yet another deposit, the machines were not loose at all for the whole cruise! Oh well. We caught many of the activities and hung out by the pool for the day till dinnertime, which was another excellent meal, service leaves a little to be desired, but at least the food was good. After dinner we went to our rooms to start packing so we could catch the late night show, which had a very funny guy by the name of Kevin King, this guy was hilarious, both his early show and the late one. One word of caution, don't get up and leave during his show. He will embarrass you, or try very hard to. Alas, it was time to turn in and awaken in Miami.

Day Five, Monday:
Disembarkation, it went very smoothly and quickly. We were off the ship approximately 10:15am, found our luggage quickly and were off to our car in no time at all. Customs randomly selected people to search their luggage at the point of leaving the building so as to not hold up the disembarking passengers.

Summary:
This was a great cruise and a great value for the money, it was also a lot of fun to see how much our son enjoyed himself, as I stated in the beginning, the food was great, although there were times when you couldn't find any food except for the pizza bar, which was very good, but the line was very long at these times. This sailing had the traditional two dinner times, which I prefer and it was on time, each time. One thing to think about, if you don't say anything about it, they put the tip charges on your sail-n-sign automatically. ($9.75 per person, per day) I had them removed. I prefer to hand them out myself. I was met with a little resistance trying to do that and had to wait until after Key West to do so, but it was done. Will I sail Carnival again? You bet, overall a great value, but I won't do a 4 or 5 day, it will be a 7 day or greater. Sorry this is long winded, but I wanted to put in as much detail as I could without going over board (no pun intended). If you have any questions or need more info, just e-mail me at: Rocky