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Pam Lome

Age: 43

Occupation:front end supervisor for major retailer

Number of Cruises: 15

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Imagination

Sailing Date: May 18th, 2002

Itinerary: Grand Cayman, Ocho Rios

This was my 15th cruise, 6th on Carnival, and second time on the Imagination. It was my husband Chuck's first time on this ship, and 14th cruise. We are 43 and 56 and live in the Chicago suburbs. We booked this cruise less than 3 weeks before sailing, as Chuck had been working a lot of overtime and felt like he needed to get away before our next booked cruise in November. Although we could have chosen another ship and/or cruise line, some friends of ours were getting married on this sailing and we decided to surprise them. Our documents arrived just one week after we booked and although the air from Chicago to Miami was a bit higher than what we usually pay, it was not unreasonable.

We arrived at the Miami airport at about 10am and were at the port before 11. As we walked in, we were asked if we were part of the wedding party, and I explained that we were there to surprise the bride and groom. Regardless, we were escorted to a special check in room for the wedding guests. As we were waiting to check in, the groom spotted us, with a somewhat surprised look on his face. He told us that his wife to be had a suspicion that we might show up, but wasn't sure. She didn't see us for awhile, despite walking past us twice! After we checked in, I snuck up behind her and asked if she was having a rough morning. I had already heard that they had a few mishaps that day, and knew she was kind of frazzled. Yes, she was surprised, as she thought that if we were to come to the wedding, we would have shown up the night before.

The previous cruise did not disembark as planned, as we later found out that 3 or 4 people were unaccounted for and the INS would not clear the ship. I think we finally got onboard at about 12:30, much later than the wedding party had planned, as the ceremony was supposed to take place at 1pm. Carnival moved back the wedding for them, to 1:15. We had just enough time to check out our cabin, M39, outside on main deck forward, and go upstairs to the Lido deck for a quick lunch. The buffet was plentiful and the salad bar, my favorite. After eating, we went to the Shang Ri La lounge for the wedding. There were about 43 family members and friends present, and us. Although the bride showed up a little late, the wedding was pulled off without a hitch, and was beautiful. The bride wore a light colored Hawaiian dress with flowers down the side, and the groom wore a matching Hawaiian shirt with white slacks. The groomsmen and bridesmaids wore the same, with a black background.

They all looked great! A small reception was held afterwards with canapés and drinks. In my opinion, Carnival did a great job organizing this wedding.

After the reception, Chuck went to take a nap, and I took off to re-familiarize myself with the ship and try to change our dining assignment from 8:30 to 8:00. The maitre de told us that we would be on a waiting list and if they could change us, we would be sent a note the next day. This never happened :(

I had seen it all when it was finally time for the muster drill. Our muster station was in the Dynasty show lounge, along with many others, and I have to say that this was the WORST muster drill I have ever attended. After waiting a long time for the thing to even start, we were then taken up to our actual lifeboat station. We waited there too, in the heat, wearing our life jackets. I think the whole drill took almost 40 minutes, nearly twice the time it usually takes. Sailaway was uneventful, as I had left the port of Miami many times in the past couple years, but we went out on deck anyway to finally realize that we were on vacation.

After sailaway, we unpacked our luggage, which had actually arrived before the muster drill. I headed up to the sushi bar myself, while Chuck stayed in the cabin to relax. We had left our house at 4am that morning, and he was just too tired to walk around. The sushi bar is open from 5:30-8:30, each night, and the sushi, though not raw, was very good, as was the hot sake.

Rather than give a detailed diary of our cruise, I will break down the rest of this review in to sections.

Dining room:

We were seated at table 175 in the Pride dining room, at the second late seating, 8:30. We would have preferred that this be changed to 8pm in the Spirit dining room, but this was just not to be. Our table for 10 was near the front, next to the Captain's table, which was only seated one night, with the purser's staff. There was a piano player each night, just in front of the Captain's table as well, and the music was soothing. Our tablemates were *probably* chosen for their proximity in ages to us, but we had absolutely nothing in common with any of them. This was the first time we ever cruised, where we dreaded going in to the dining room each night. Yes, I know that we could have asked for a table change, but honestly, I didn't think about it till 2 days later, and I thought that things would improve. Normally, Chuck and I are pretty chatty at dinner, but after the first night of introductions, our whole table was silent.

Our team head waiter was Royston, and the waiter, Alina. Both were wonderful at their jobs and addressed us by name each day, and remembered all of our preferences. Our water glasses and iced teas were constantly being refilled, and the service overall was excellent. I had a couple bottles of wine which were always on the table when we sat down each night, and only once did I have to pour a glass for myself. Because of the tension at the table, and the fact that I don't eat many sweets, Chuck and I politely excused ourselves before dessert on most nights, and did not see any of the *song and dance* waiter shows.

Dining room food:

The food in the dining room, at breakfast was just ok. The eggs benedict were a bit dry for my taste, and when I requested extra hollandaise sauce, I was steered away from it by Alina, who told me that it was not even warm. The poached eggs on toast were better, and the bacon was served crisp, as we asked for it well done. We did not eat any lunches in the dining room, but had all dinners there. I normally find the food on Carnival to be quite good, for as many people they're serving, and there was no exception here. I did not have a bad meal, and would rate the quality of their dishes high. All meats were served as ordered, all soups were served hot, and there were many things to choose from. My only complaint would probably be that they seemed to serve broccoli with almost every meal. I love broccoli, but would have liked to see a bit more variety in their vegetable selections. The only dessert I ate all week was the Grand Marnier soufflé, and it was cooked perfectly, and delicious. As a side note, cappuccino and espresso are still served at no charge in the dining room.

Horizon court:

We ate at the buffet, grill, and pizzeria for a couple breakfasts and lunches. The food was plentiful and good for buffet style. There was always a fresh pasta at lunch, and the salad bar has all the toppings you could ask for. We never had to wait for the pizza of our choice at the pizzeria, and it was always hot and tasty. At breakfast, you could order omelets made to order, fresh eggs, or choose from French toast, pancakes, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and other breakfast goodies. Unfortunately, no lox though. The grill served up hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken sandwiches, and GREAT French fries. Overall, I felt that the selection and quality of the food here was very good.

Our cabin:

I had booked a 6A guarantee, less than 3 weeks before sailing, and was upgraded to a 6B, one deck higher. Although I had heard many complaints of dirty windows, ours was clean throughout the trip. The cabin was of ample size, with more than enough storage for 2 people. The bathroom was large, for cruise standards, especially the shower. We were supplied with all the soap we needed, and a basket of samples that included disposable razors, shampoo, body wash, Tylenol pm, mints, facial cleanser, and some sort of hairspray. I never did see a hair dryer in the room, but I don't use one anyway, so it didn't matter.

Our cabin steward, Rigoberto did his job well, cleaning the room twice daily, and refilling the two ice buckets we had in there each time. He also made towel animals each night, after the first. If we needed something, we would leave a post it note on the mirror, and he took care of it immediately. Don't forget to ask for a king size sheet on the bed, on the first night. There are not enough for everyone, and if you don't ask right away, your beds will be made up as 2 twins, even if put together. Although we prefer a balcony cabin, this outside was quite comfortable for us, for the 5 night trip.

Entertainment:

We opted against going to the production shows, but did see most of the others. The magician, Alex Romanov, was EXCELLENT, and the comedian, Kenny King, was hysterical. At first, he reminded me of Carrot top, and I thought the show would be lame, but I was laughing till I cried. My only regret is missing his midnight *R* rated show that night. The other shows we did see were good, but not as memorable. Overall, we were very pleased with the offerings.

Poolside:

Despite not so perfect weather (it was cloudy and rainy for the bulk of our sea days), there were still the dreaded chair savers. On the first sea day, it appeared that things might clear up, and after breakfast, Chuck and I took a couple chairs near the main pool, at about 9am. At this point, several chairs around the pool had already been *marked*, but plenty were still available. At 10am, a woman came to stake her claim... 8 chairs! Since we had no plans to go anywhere, I was curious as to when these people would show up again. (these chairs were right behind us). The first woman came back at noon with her husband, another 2 at about 1:00, and the final 4 didn't show up till 2pm!!!

I've seen this on other ships, and cruise lines, so I wasn't surprised, but I was slightly infuriated that security didn't notice the empty seats for so long. Security DID however, enforce the no children rule in the hot tubs surrounding the main pool, at all times. Also, the slide was open almost the whole day on sea days, and even often on port days. Some things good, some things bad.

The casino and Ocean Players Club:

The casino on this ship is quite large. There are plenty of blackjack tables, a 3 card poker table, specialty blackjack, caribbean stud, and caribbean draw. There is also at least one craps table and a roulette table, not to mention the many slot machines and VP available. As an Ocean Player's Club member, I was treated quite well. You can join the club for no fee, and all points accumulated are paid in cash back on your next cruise. If you notify them before you sail, you are in for a treat. Since my cruise was sold out before sailing, I was not able to get any additional upgrades, but we did have our cabin decorated, a bon voyage cake, a large fruit basket with nuts, cheese, and wine, 2 key chains, and 2 large bottles of Evian. All of this was in our cabin when we embarked. I also brought along with me my letter of credit from our last Carnival cruise, which gave me some cash to start playing with. In the casino, I knew that the OPC office had called ahead, as once one person heard my name, EVERYONE knew me. I was treated like a VIP, and it was great. Rosie, the casino manager, remembered me from my Spirit cruise last November, and the rest of the staff were just amazing. I'd like to thank Malou, especially, for her wonderful service.

Even when you're losing, ESPECIALLY when you're losing, it's a comfort to have such wonderful people cheering you on. Kudos to the whole casino staff on the Imagination! I had a great time :)

Pursers desk and excursion staff:

I didn't have to deal much with the *information desk*, except when we lost some items purchased in Jamaica, believed to fallen out of our bag in the x ray machine. Although I checked twice, we believe that these things were probably picked up by another passenger, as they never showed up in lost and found. Either way, the pursers were quite friendly and eager to check for us, a few times.

As for shore excursion help, we had previously had a problem with a shore excursion on an earlier cruise, and supposed to get a free shore excursion (up to $32 ea) on this one. We approached the shore excursion desk on the first day, and dealt with Peter Anderson. We explained the problem and showed him the letter we received from Carnival. He told us that he had already booked us on a tour, but unfortunately, it was not the tour we wanted. We explained the problem and he corrected it immediately, sending us tickets for our chosen tour, by early the next morning. THIS is customer service. Even though the tour we had chosen was a few dollars more than the one they originally gave us, AND we offered to pay the difference, Peter would not allow this, and gave us our tour at no additional cost. Thank you, Peter, and Carnival :)

Next... ports and shore excursions...

Ports:

Grand Cayman:

As I mentioned previously, we opted for the Stingray Sandbar tour, which was on the house, due to a previous tour problem on another ship. Although I was leary, hearing that this particular ship's tour often has as many as 100 people on it, I was quite surprised that our boat to Stingray City, the Sundancer, had less than 50 people aboard. I had done this trip back in January, with Port Promotions, but my husband had never experienced the Stingrays before. Needless to say, he loved it, and I was much more comfortable with these gentle creatures than I was the last time. After the tour, we stopped in town to purchase a rum cake, a hat, and nothing more. In my opinion, the prices in Grand Cayman are high for most items. We went back to the ship and were able to enjoy a bit of sun on a very quiet Lido deck.

Ocho Rios:

A couple years ago, we went to Ocho Rios with our kids, and took a tour with Ionie McBeam (www.ocho-rios.com). We enjoyed ourselves so much, that I recommended her to many people who have since used her as a tour guide. Ionie and I have kept in touch over the last couple years, and we were looking forward to seeing her again. My friend's family, from the wedding, also booked Ionie for the day. Since Ionie was to take them to some places we didn't care to see again (the falls), her husband, Lewis took Chuck and I on a private tour. We went from one end of the city to the other, and stopped at many out of the way places. After touring, we stopped at Soni center to pick up a few things for the kids, and relax a bit. Lewis was to pick us up at a certain time, and either he was late, or we were early, but we still had a bit of time to kill. I decided to look in one more jewelry store window, where I saw the exact same ring I had fallen in love with, in Cozumel, a few years ago. Sure enough, we went in and ended up buying the ring, an early anniversary gift :) After the extravagance, Lewis took us to Bibibips for lunch, where we met up with our friends and their families. This was our second time there, and just as good as the first. After lunch, we went back to the ship to drop off all of our goodies (except my ring, of course), and then it was off to check out Island Village and Margaritaville. The weather wasn't so great, and we did get caught in some rain, but it was a welcome cooling off from the heat and humidity. In my opinion, Island Village was nothing spectacular, but because of the negative publicity that Ocho Rios often gets, I can see it becoming quite a *hot spot*, due to its proximity to the pier. Margaritaville was nice, but we only went in to check it out, and didn't stay. Other than the bar slide, it wasn't much different from any other Margaritaville I had been in. We walked back to the ship, in the rain, and went straight to the cabin to dry off and relax. Another wonderful day :)

I'm not sure what else to say, other than a few observations....

The cruise director was Amy Van Wyck. I'm not positive, but her name seemed familiar, and I believe that she was a singer/dancer on a previous cruise I had been on. She wasn't obnoxious, but she wasn't great, either. Announcements were few, and far between. I don't recall ANY announcements about the art auctions or bingo.

Security was on the ball, kicking little kids out of the hot tub, all the time. I never saw any drunk teens (or adults), puking anywhere.

The ship was clean. Yes, there were stains on the carpet in various places, but I have seen this on all the ships I've been on. At this point, it doesn't bother me.

The staff was friendly. I was always greeted by staff members, pleasantly, wherever I was on the ship.

The food, overall, was good. I have no complaints.

Chair savers are on ALL ships. This was no exception.

If you want to go to the midnight comedy show, get there EARLY! We arrived at 11:55 and it was standing room only. People sitting behind where we were standing, got up, and told us that we were blocking their view.

The staff onboard are human beings, trying to make a living. Tip them AT LEAST the minimum, and more, if they exceed your expectations.

I guess that's it. I'm sure I've forgotten a lot! If anyone has any more questions, feel free to email me at lunyma@aol.com .



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