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Paul & Rhonda

Age: 52

Occupation:Judge and High School Counselor

Number of Cruises: 2

Cruise Line: Carnival

Ship: Carnival Imagination

Sailing Date: March 17th, 2003

Itinerary: Western Caribbean

We flew into Ft. Lauderdale, and spent the night at a hotel on the beach. The next morning we took a shuttle from the hotel to the boat. It was a 30-45 minute ride from Ft. Lauderdale into the Port of Miami where our ship the M.S. Imagination was waiting for us. The cost of the shuttle was $20.00 per person. The shuttle person offered to pick us up again if we prepaid. We did, but that was a mistake. It would have been cheaper ($15.00 per person) and lot less worrisome ( I kept thinking he wouldn’t show – although to his credit he did) if we had just waited and taken a shuttle on our own at the debarkation site.

This was our first time to cruise with Carnival. I had read all the reviews I could on this ship and reviews seemed mixed. On closer examination there seemed to be not a gender difference but instead an age difference on Cruise approval. The older the reviewer – the less satisfied they seemed to be. Our cruise group consisted of two age groups - two 52 year olds (my wife and myself) and two 14 year olds (our son and a friend), all sharing the same cabin! Yes, I did agree to do this. Maybe my wife and I are young at heart – because we thoroughly enjoyed the cruise. However, there were a few rough spots.

The traffic directors, porters and greeting staff at the port embarkation center need to take a refresher course in “being personable under pressure”. I understand that there were a lot of people in one place that had to be moved; but that is still not an excuse for curtness which can be interpreted as rudeness. Once on board, the crew of the Imagination was wonderful. We went to our quad cabin at the rear of the ship and found our quarters to be more than adequate. The bathroom was larger than I thought it would be. The two hideaway bunk beds and two regular twin beds (which my wife and I put together) were more than adequate. However, we later discovered that the ac was not working in our cabin. The Purser’s office later upgraded us to an outside 3 person cabin that accommodated an extra rollaway bed.

The food was great. The pizza lived up to the good reviews it had received. Formal dining was wonderful and our waiters (Noemi and Melia) won our hearts over with their kind attention. Even the buffets were above average. Activities aboard the ship were stimulating. The “Bebop” show was great; the “Imagination” show even though it had great talent, had poor music selection and bad choreography. My wife enjoyed the Casino even though she didn’t win (their blackjack dealers always seemed to win!). Our foray into Bingo was disappointing because we won – along with someone else. The one prize in Bingo that could not be split among winners was the free cruise. My wife and another lady had to draw high bingo number – we lost. The boys say they had a great time and we have to take their word for it because we never saw them except at the specified bed time and a couple of formal meals we made them attend.

The normal itinerary for our Cruise was Miami, to Belize , to Key West and then Miami. Because an insurance group made special arrangements with Carnival( this group must have booked about 60 percent of the ship), they added in Playa Del Carmen.

When we docked at Belize, the boys were enjoying their freedom on the boat so much that they didn’t want to leave the ship. We forced the boys to go on the cave tubing excursion with us, and a good time was had by all. (All the reviews that I had read were correct. You do need a change of clothes, and some old tennis shoes or “teva” sandals for the hike in the rain forest). Belize City is not a port where you can walk around. It is a city with a depressed Central American economy. I recommend booking a tour on the ship. The next day we were in Calica, which is the Port for Carmen Del Playa. Since this stop was added frosting on the cake, we only had a scant few morning hours to spend there before the ship had to set sail. The boys stayed on board, my wife and I took a taxi to the Playa Del Carmen beach (a ten minute- $10.00 taxi drive each way). We walked on the beautiful beach, did some shopping, and returned to the ship which set sail in the early afternoon.

The next morning we arrived in Key West. The major difficulty we had could not be planned for and was unavoidable due to the beginning of the Iraq War. Everyone was supposed to present themselves to customs agents who came on board, even though it was not our final stop because this was our first port of entry to the US. Of course, no one could leave the ship until this occurred, and of course everything that could go wrong did. Some people didn’t show up to customs on time and this delayed everybody. In the meantime, the boys decided to go on a catamaran/snorkeling excursion with their friends and their dad (no, we didn’t bribe this man to do this- he did this of his own free will). We decided to take the conch shuttle tour of Key West. We were finally allowed to leave the boat, our boys went their way and we went ours. Our tour guy was very knowledgeable on Key West and its history and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The boys claimed to have had a good time and we received good reports on their behavior from the conscripted dad who took them. We all returned to the boat. We packed our bags that night (they had to be outside your door between 8 pm and 12pm) the next morning we got up, ate breakfast and left the ship.

All in all, this entire cruise was a luxurious adventure that we all enjoyed. Because this was a Spring Break time period, the ship was full of families. Carnival Cruise Lines does a superb job of entertaining both parents and their children. We will definitely cruise with Carnival again.


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