Occupation:Product Analyst/Financial Services
Number of Cruises: 3
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Imagination
Sailing Date: December 6th, 2004
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
This is my third cruise. I’ve
cruised on Celebrity twice with my family when I was younger – to Bermuda and to
Key West/Bahamas. This was my first time on Carnival and with my girlfriend,
who’s never been on a cruise before. She’s 26 and also in financial services. We
booked our trip through Liberty Travel.
We flew to Miami on the day of sailing and arrived at Miami International Airport a little past noon. The boat was scheduled to sail at 4pm. Exiting the plane, we ran into people holding Carnival shuttle signs. We had prepaid for transfers (one-way $11 per person) from the airport to the Port of Miami so were directed to gather downstairs at the Baggage Claim area where we met with other travelers and were guided to the bus. Our luggage was stored in the bottom of the bus by the driver.
The bus driver, who called himself Absolut, gave us a quick tour of Miami as we headed to the port and we tipped him $2. As we stepped off the bus, we realized we had porters who would handle our luggage and bring them to our room for $1 per luggage. Although we only had carry-on luggage, the porter promised our luggage would arrive in front of our cabin by the time we checked in and boarded the boat anyway so we paid him $2 to handle both our bags. BIG MISTAKE!
First of all, there are separate lines for travelers who pre-registered (on the internet) and those who didn’t. We didn’t pre-register (our profile and passport info) so we waited on one line, but the lines moved at the same rate and we all had to get our Sail & Sign cards anyway, which are the cards used to purchase anything and everything on the cruise which can be paid in cash or credit card at the end of the cruise. Tips are automatically included at 15% for service unless otherwise requested. We ran into another couple who told us they opted to hand out tips for everyone at the end of the cruise in cash.
After we got our Sail & Sign cards and key cards for our room, our pictures were taken to identify us with our key cards. Before we reached the ship, we realized more photographers awaited us to snap a photo of us to welcome us as we headed to board the ship, but we just skipped that and headed to the ship. Pictures are taken during the cruise, particularly at dinner, as well if you want to buy a souvenir picture of yourself.
Anyway, by the time we reached our cabin, which was a little less than an hour after we paid our porter to transport our bags to our cabin, our bags were nowhere to be found! We called room service and found out our bags could arrive as late as 8pm. We were already checked in and at our cabin by 2pm. Once you’re on the boat, food and drinks are already being served; the sun was out but we couldn’t change! Our bags hadn’t yet arrived and we were sweating in the clothes we wore from New York. If possible, don’t waste your time and money on having porters handle your luggage unless you really cannot carry them yourself to your cabin. Luckily we only waited a little over 2 hours for both our bags to arrive (separately). (On the second day of the cruise, we heard on the Public Announcement system that someone’s luggage was still missing and guests were being asked to double-check we didn’t have the missing luggage).
Also on the first day of the cruise, the entire crew gave us a muster drill, a run-through of what to do in case of an emergency. We had to wear our life jackets (that are supplied in our cabins) and follow the arrows that correspond to letters on our life jackets for which stairways to take up to the deck where the life boats are.
After that, we changed our
clothes and finally were able to enjoy the first day of our trip.
We paid for a Guaranteed Oceanview room, which is automatically selected for us a few days before the cruise, and we got lucky. The option was a little less in price than choosing an oceanview room ourselves. We were at E170 on the Empress level, which is level 7 (high) of the cruise. There were 10 levels accessible by elevator depending where you are (forward, mid, back of ship); otherwise, you’d have to walk/take stairs. We had a big rectangle window (not those portholes), a TV, queen/king size bed (2 smaller ones put together), and our bathroom was a good size too. I was impressed the overall size of the room was bigger than the ones I had in my Celebrity cruise. We also had closets, a desk, and an optional bed on the wall. No irons are allowed, but you do have outlets (110/220v) to plug other things in. We just needed to charge our batteries.
Movies on TV are auto-repeated
over and over and over: Garfield, Napoleon Dynamite, The Punisher, and The
Notebook on different channels all day, all night along with other channels,
like news and travelogs.
Forgot the name of our room steward, but his name began with a D and he was from Sri Lanka. He was very nice, easy to talk to, accommodating, and discreet. Our rooms were cleaned twice a day when we weren’t there. We always had ice in our bucket and towels/bed were neat as well. The only problem I had was with the beach towels. I wasn’t sure if our room steward replaced our towels or just folded the same ones we were using all week.
The bar service needs improvement. Some servers were prompt, some weren’t. One beer I ordered on the deck came back what seemed like almost an hour later and it was warm! The server had already charged it and said he’d come back with a new, cold beer but he never came back! I saw him again the next day and had to remind him of my beer. In another incident, I was at the 3-card poker table and the casino waiter served another guest on the table expired beer. The beer had an August expiration date! The server brought back a new beer for the guest and had the audacity to charge him twice! He had to get the charge removed for the spoiled beer. (My girlfriend later told me she had picked up a yogurt for breakfast but checked the expiration date since this incident and it had a November expiration; but the milk cartons were okay/expired at a later date)
The food on the cruise was almost non-stop. Buffets were served at certain times in specific locations. Only the pizza and hamburger/hot dog station were 24 hours and they were below average. The pizza could be better, sometimes the slices were flimsy. The burgers buns seemed too big for the burger; and spicy mustard should be offered with the hot dog instead of the yellow, watery kind.
Buffet food was good/okay. There
were usually two lines, but both lines didn’t have the same food. Some of the
trays were the same, but one line might have another tray the other line didn’t
have, and we’d have to get on the second line just to get food from that tray.
We ate mainly at the buffets for breakfast and lunch, but we did have wait service for breakfast the last two days and one of the waiters was very sarcastic when I pointed out to him he misheard my order. I had ordered an omelet with bacon, hash brown, and toast, and he came back with a plate of hash brown only. The food at breakfast was probably the best though the eggs benedict tasted microwaved. Dinner was okay as well. The first night I had ordered filet mignon, but I got what looked like a slab of meat that slightly resembled filet mignon. The meat looked very raggedly. My girlfriend had ordered sweet and sour shrimp, which tasted like it was fried in old/overused oil and she loves deep-fried foods! During the cruise, the meals at dinner did start tasting better to us. We ate at the Spirit dining room and sat at table 230. At dinner we sat in a booth that could’ve fit about six to eight people, but only twice were other diners at our table. One couple showed up two different nights so basically we had the booth all to ourselves. Our head waitress was named Ericka and her assistant was named Yanna or Janna. Our maitre d was named Miguel. At the last dinner we had an envelope to tip the maitre d since he wasn’t included in the tip that was automatically charged on our cruise bill. Our waitress insisted she was the maitre d and took the envelope we had for Miguel. We saw Miguel at dinner only once and he wasn’t even there to greet us at our last dinner so we just let Ericka keep the envelope even though she ended up being rude and rushing us to order that last night.
We only checked out the entertainment spots one night. I thought karaoke would be fun, but people were split up into teams. Throughout the trip actually, scores were being kept for blue, red, and white teams. I think my girlfriend and I were part of the red team, but we don’t recall anyone designating or informing us about teams. I was at the casino mainly and overhead that the crowd on Imagination was not that “lively” anyway. People stayed up late and participated in the activities but it was not an all-nighter crowd.
I had an altercation at the casino with the casino employees because my first night I played blackjack. The dealer kept hitting black jacks in a row so I would yell out “bullshit” but then get reprimanded that cursing wasn’t allowed. I was not directing my anger towards anyone, just cursing aloud if I lost or had a lousy hand. I was warned twice and threatened to be banned from the casino so I left. I ended playing 3-card poker the next day anyway and saw near other players who cursed and didn’t get reprimanded. Also, the cruise lacked enough poker tables. Texas Hold’em is the trend now and guests were looking to play that but the cruise were not able to cater to that so most of the casino tables was empty. I was at the 3-card poker during the entire cruise and crowds of people were always hovering the table to watch or play.
I boarded the cruise with only $70 in cash, but left with over $300 because I got lucky at poker and roulette. I played roulette only once. I asked my girlfriend her favorite number and she told me 29 because her birthday is on the 29th of April. Originally, I was going to put my bet on number 29, but I saw another player with chips in between numbers. He explained to me you could split your odds between 2 or 4 numbers. Since my birthday is right before my girlfriend’s, I put my bet on the line between 28 and 29. And guess where the ball landed on?! The 28th!
My luck was pretty good
considering I play tight, but there were these 2 older people who kept getting
lucky. One older woman kept getting the best hands (straight flush) on 3-card
poker which paid out 40 to 1. Then she hit the slots and won there too! Then
another older man was getting high payouts too. He also hit the straight flush
on high bets so he was getting paid $2K on one hand. Everyone was trying their
luck. Some lost and some won big.
PORTS OF CALL:
We decided to check out the 7-mile beach so we paid $21 per person at the cruise tour desk for tickets for admission, beach chairs, and one complimentary drink. We were told we’d have to pay $4 per person each direction for a taxi ride to the beach. When we got off the boat we saw a bunch of people and taxis asking us where we were going. We saw one guy saying he’d bring us to the 7-mile beach so we went with him who also had other travelers from our cruise. First of all, he brought us to the wrong part of the beach. He brought us to the public section, where we met a cynical beach employee, who was not helpful at all. He told us we were at the wrong part of the beach and that we’d have to pay to use the beach chairs there or take another cab or walk to where we were supposed to be. He and another native insisted we had to walk 2 miles or 45 minutes to the area that would honor our stubs, while I mentioned the 7-mile beach was really 5-mile and that the distance to where we were supposed to be (the Beach Club) was not that far. Anyway, so far our excursion was not going as planned but we ended up running into other Imagination guests who were also dropped off at the wrong spot or were heading to the Beach Club as well. Once we got to the right part of the beach, we were with other Imagination guests and everything went fine until I tried to show my girlfriend a trick with a rock. Good thing I had my sunglasses on to protect my eyes since I ended tossing the rock, which was almost bigger than my head, behind my back and it hit my eye. I got minor scratches on my nose and below my eyebrow. Things got worse. On the way back, we hopped in a cab who was charging $3 per person. We sat in the cab for 10 minutes though and finally asked the driver, who was standing outside the van, why we were delayed. He had an attitude problem and cynically offered our cabfare back since we were being “unruly” to him. He still didn’t respond to us in a civilized manner why we were sitting idle so we left his car and joined other travelers in another van, which was only $2 per person.
We bought tickets to go on a Bob Marley tour. I thought our excursion started at 10:15am so when we got up around 7:30am, my girlfriend took her time and showered. It was about 8am when she was about to get some breakfast when I was about to jump in the shower. I decided to just look at the tickets again and realized that the tour actually started at 8:15am!!! We didn’t eat and my girlfriend got so mad because she didn’t have time to do her hair or makeup. We ran out and just made it on the bus.
People were already drinking beer at 8:15am since it must’ve been noontime somewhere in the world. The host was playing Bob Marley music throughout the bus ride, which was a little over an hour, to the Bob Marley museum. The drive up was crazy. Natives kept approaching the bus trying to sell things or just asking for money from us. Plus we were going up a high and winding mountain. Our tour guide was crazy as well and had this weird laugh. Children nearby were trying to climb the fences and ask for money. Other children were trying to reach over and under the fences to sell other stuff too for money. They even had a menu of what they had to offer. Not only did I buy some stuff, but I also had a beef patty at the café at the Bob Marley museum. Both were disappointing. On the drive back to our port, we stopped at a place called Nightingale’s for free beef patty and that was legit and tasted awesome! Near the port we had lunch that was included in our package. I hate to say it but the jerk chicken was dry and not tasty at all. I was quite disappointed with my consumption of Jamaica this time around compared to my experience 3 years ago when I was at the Breezes resort in Runaway Bay.
I was lucky though to bring some
souvenirs on board as I found out later at dinner the next night that the
friends at our dinner table were not so lucky. They went to the Bob Marley
museum on their own in a taxi and on the way back got stopped by the Jamaican
police. The girl told us she was bawling her eyes out in front of 200 other
passengers standing by as her boyfriend (actually fiancé, he had just proposed
to her) was being held and threatened imprisonment.
On the last morning of the cruise, we ate well. We packed our belongings and discarded the rest. We were paying our Sail & Sign cards by credit card so we didn’t have to really stop at any desk for anything. We filled out our U.S. customs declaration card and just waited for our group to be called out to disembark. We thought the process out would be rough but it was actually easy. We just walked out, no one checked us for anything, and cabs were readily available outside.
We had a great time, just enjoying time away from work and in the sun. We got tanned and visited the Bob Marley museum. After the cruise we stayed in South Beach for a night and my buddy who lives in Boca Raton visited us. Overall, can’t wait to do it again. Hopefully, the shore excursions are better next time and the cruise will have Texas Hold’em tables.