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Lisa Ovial

Age: 44


Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Imagination

Sailing Date: July 23rd, 2001

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

My husband and I and 3 teenagers left Pittsburgh for Miami and found the Carnival reps right away. After claiming our baggage we had a guy pull our luggage in a cart out to the buses. A very short walk, but they told us we’d need this service because the buses were “so far away”. He then told us he needed $1 per bag “tip”. We could have easily carried our bags ourselves. The bus ride to the ship was short…once again the driver begged for a tip telling us the gratuity was really not included in the package as we were told.

Embarkation went quickly and smoothly and we were off to find our 2 cabins. They were “low and inside” but very clean, relatively large and cool. Lunch was being served on the Lido Deck.

The kids almost immediately found other teens to pal around with. They met at the teen room for different activities and were very happy with the fact that they did not have to hang around with us. (We were just as happy!) Teen counselor, Amy, was very professional. We rented 2 walkie talkies ($30 + tip, please) for the 5 days. That was a worthwhile investment so that we could all enjoy a little more freedom.

At Grand Cayman we took the early Stingray tour. It rained on the boat on the way out to the sandbar but the stingrays were awesome! I never expected them to be that big! We probably could have saved some $ by getting off the cruise ship and booking a tour ourselves, but it was rather hectic at the port . I was glad to just be led around by someone with a sign. Since we were so wet and had wet towels we didn’t want to shop until we could change. It took a while to take the tender boat back out to the Imagination, change, and get another tender boat back to Grand Cayman. We just had to get a few of those rum cakes!!

The next day the boat docked in Calica, Mexico and we decided to take a taxi (4 people per taxi , so we needed 2) at $10 each way, to Playa Del Carmen. There we shopped a bit then headed for the beach. We rented 4 chairs, a table and umbrella for $10 on the beach in front of a bar with a live band. It was great. The water is so blue!

We missed dinner that night in the dining room but there is always food somewhere, which we thought was very good. The kids ate at the pizza bar a lot. We were seated in the formal dining room with a family that was similar in ages to ours, and we really enjoyed their company…often seeing them and spending time with them during the day as well.

Entertainment was excellent. There were singers, dancers, comedians and a magician. Matt Ross, the cruise director, was great. He’s from Cleveland so we had no trouble understanding him.

There was no end to the ways that they would try to get you to part with your money.

Art auctions? (oh, please!) video diaries, bingo, photos. However, I did regret not having our pictures taken in black and white at the one photo station. They looked very glamorous.

We did not buy any alcoholic drinks on board. We helped ourselves to the free lemonade and iced tea on the Lido deck.

We were not told that the tips for the waiters and room steward would be automatically deducted from our credit card. You can look on your TV to see charges that are being added to your bill. It was almost $50 per person for the 5 day cruise. On our last cruise we were given envelopes to tip as you wished. As it turned out, the service was great, and the tips were warranted.

Debarkation took awhile as we had the last colored tags to be called. We fell asleep in the Fantasy lounge while we waited. We had no trouble claiming our luggage. The bus driver begged for a tip on the way back to the airport even though our ticket said “gratuity included”. Our plane left at 2 pm for Pittsburgh.

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