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DJ

Age: 40

Occupation:Teacher's Aide

Number of Cruises: 1

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Imagination

Sailing Date: 11-3-2008

Itinerary: western caribbean

This was our first cruise. It was myself, husband, 12 year old son, and 11 year old son. When you book online and pay in full you can complete the Fun Pass information. It gets your account going and cuts down the time of checking in. You have to set up a Sign and Sail account either prior to arriving or at check in. It's basically a debit account so you don't use any cash onboard. DO NOT TIP! They figure gratuities for room steward, wait staff in main dining, and buffet staff onto your bill at the end of the cruise ($10 per day per person). My kids didn't eat in the main dining so I asked for them to remove the charge for them, it wasn't a problem.

Check in was easy, but did take alot of time.

Be prepared - the rooms are VERY small. The suites cost twice as much and only have a few more square feet so it's not worth the money. If you have a room with bunks for kids, (the room steward folds them down in the evening) the one bunk is right over the main bed. My husband and I slept at the end of the bed so we weren't under the "cave" it creates. It took the first night to get used to, but you are usually so tired that by the time you go to bed you fall right to sleep. Definitely get a room with a window (not porthole-too small). I know someone who slept until 3 in the afternoon in an interior room because they didn't know it was daytime.

There are alot of different activities. Make sure you read your Capers newsletter each day to see what is going on. Try to get a feel for the layout of the ship as soon as possible -it helps. As far as the kids clubs, they didn't like that they couldn't play the Playstation, Wii whenever they wanted to (there is a schedule of a variety of activities and they have to stick to it). My youngest did like the crafts and activities. The pool is very small and crowded so don't plan on being in the pool all day. The waterslides were OK.

The food is good and something is always available. Regular drinks are free. You have to pay for alcohol and pop. You can purchase a pop card at any of the bars. For the kids the card is $16 and $22 for an adult.

Especially for a family, designate a meeting place. It is really easy to get separated. For example if you are in one buffet line and someone goes to get a drink you have to know where to meet. You are surrounded by 500 people at least. We always tried to eat in the same area so we could all meet up. Having said that though, you do feel that your kids are safe.

We booked the clear kayak and snorkel excursion in Cozumel through Carnival. For $80 (adults) and $70 (kids) you had transportation to and from the port, you paddle on a 2 person clear kayak further down the beach and back (about 45 minutes), then snorkel for about 45 minutes, get any one drink free and fruit buffet, and you spend about 1 hour on the beach. The kayaking and snorkeling was amazing. You could clearly see all the coral, fish, starfish, etc.. in the water The guides were really helpful. Definitely well worth the experience. It was the highlight of the trip!!!

Key West is very touristy, but great for souveniers. We were there for about 5 hours and was plenty of time to walk and shop. There are also tons of bars. Fine for families during the day, at night?? Cozumel (Puerto Maya) was a small tourist plaza, but very quaint and tons of souvenier shops. Bargain with the vendors - start to walk away and say you'll think about it, they will come down in price. Silver prices are good I guess, but chains, bracelets still $50 to $150 so I'm not sure if that's a bargain. T-shirts about $6 to $10.

They do take pictures of you every time you get on and off ship. They also have several backdrops and opportunities to pose for pics. Take advantage of it. If you end up with a few nice family portraits it's worth it. A tip though-don't purchase extra prints there. Ask for a copywrite release (I called when I got back because family wanted copies too) to allow a photo place to do reprints/enlargements (like Walmart).

Overall, we really enjoyed it. It is a great way to go to a few different places. The 4 days were plenty of time for fun and to relax, but not too much to get bored of the same thing. We would love to cruise again, but would probably like to see other ports.

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