Number of Cruises: 2
Cruise Line: Carnival
Ship: Carnival Imagination
Sailing Date: May 26th, 2003
Itinerary: Western Caribbean
IMAGINATION – 5/26/03 – 5 night
I have sailed once prior to this on a 10 night Princess Panama Canal. We had a balcony room.
So this cruise we decided to get a Cat. 12 suite. So awesome, we will always get a suite. My wife and I are in our mid 30’s, so we like to have fun.
We drove to Miami with our friends who live in Sarasota. We rented a car in Sarasota and drove one-way to the airport in Miami and took a free shuttle from there to the port. We arrived at 1:00 pm. We gave the porter our bags and a $10 tip and proceeded to check in. Even though we had Skipper’s Club, we went in with our friends and checked in. We were on the ship within 10 minutes. A flawless process.
We arrived at our Cat. 12 suite (U102) by 1:30. It was awesome. Much bigger that we thought from the numerous pictures we’d seen of it. It had a spacious walk-in closet, a nice bathroom with a full-sized whirlpool tub, a bedroom area with a large vanity and a king bed, and a living room with a 5-person couch, a coffee table and 2 chairs with a table. There was a fridge, a bar, and a TV/VCR. The balcony was big (14 x 5) and had 2 chairs, a lounge, and a table. We were impressed. In our room upon arrival was our large canapé tray and 24 beers on ice, as we had decided to have our 6 friends that were sailing with us over for a Bon Voyage party after the muster drill.
Our room steward, Sheng, was great. He was Asian and spoke pretty good English. He greeted us upon arriving at our cabin and asked if we needed anything or had any requests. I asked him to remove the Cokes and Sprites from the fridge and always have 4 diet cokes in there. Additionally, I asked to fill the ice bucket twice a day. He said “No problem” and I tipped him $20. Whenever we left the cabin and came back it was clean and the ice bucket was full. The glasses in the bar were always clean and stocked. We brought a bottle of vodka and a case of sugar free Red Bull for me and a bottle of Vanilla vodka and used the diet cokes as mixers for my wife, so the glasses and ice got used quite often. We had an awesome towel animal each night and over the course of the trip I tipped Sheng an additional $30 plus the original $20 and the prepaid gratuities of $3.50 per day per person. He treated us right, so we treated him right.
As I mentioned above, we had brought some alcohol on board in our luggage that made it no problem and our allotted 2 bottles of wine. Additionally, we had purchased 2 bottles of wine and 60 drink coupons from the Bon Voyage Service of Carnival. So we were definitely set in regards to getting the party started.
I thought the bar service and alcohol selection on the ship was very good. We managed to pick out our favorite bartenders and servers rather quickly and got excellent service from them throughout the trip. Our group of 8 all sat at the same window table at the 8:30pm dinner, so each night we would meet in the Pinnacle Bar at 7:45 for a drink, and perhaps a cigar. The bartender there was amazing. His name was Edwin from the Philippines. By the second night he knew all our names and our favorite drinks. On night we wanted a bowl of cheese with our drinks instead of the standard chex mix, so he made us each a drink and went to the galley and got us a full bowl of cheese (Swiss, jack, cheddar chunks). He was gone about 10 minutes. That was so nice of him. The Pinnacle Bar wasn’t very crowded between 7:45 and 8:30pm because most of the people on the ship were already eating dinner. Edwin did an exceptional job and each couple tipped him $20 on the last night (in addition to all the tips along the way each night).
The only place for improvement of alcohol and/or bar service that we noted was on the aft pool deck. More than once we had to wait 10 – 15 minutes for our drinks.
The bar coupons worked out great as long as you are ordering drinks that cost $4.50 or more. Otherwise they are not worth it. We purchased 60 drink coupons ahead of time and had 1 left when we got off the ship. It was stuck in my bathing suit pocket.
We did buy 8 soda coupons ahead of time and had 4 left when we got off the ship. They only worked at the bars, and when we wanted soda was usually through room service or at dinner. I wouldn’t buy the soda coupons again.
Overall, the bar and alcohol service was great.
As I mentioned, our only other cruise was a 10 night Panama Canal cruise on Princess. The Carnival food is good, while the Princess food was great. Don’t get me wrong, nothing was bad on Carnival, actually it was just about what I expected after reading numerous reviews. However, there were a few exceptional items at dinner that should be mentioned (pumpkin soup, Chateaubriand, Beef Wellington). Other than that, the food was just good. Our waiters Cilio and Ronald however, were great. They made the dining experience fun and our whole group of 8 made it to dinner every night. Mostly we showed up about 5 or 10 minutes late and Cilio and Ronald dealt with that quite well. We again got great service and usually tipped them $10 each per night for all 8 of us.
The sushi bar and the pizzeria were well above average. The buffet was ok, but we only made it there once or twice. However, on the last day during debarkation, my wife and I went and got fresh omelets made and brought them back to the suite and ate them there while we waited. One of the best omelets I’ve ever had.
Room service was awesome. My wife and I aren’t big breakfast eaters, so each night we put out the breakfast card on the door and had cereal, milk, bananas and toast delivered each morning. This worked perfectly and we usually tipped the server a couple bucks. One night after the R Rated comedian and bar all day and night, we ordered room service at 2:30 in the morning. We got a BLT and a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chips. SO AWESOME!!.. Definitely hit the spot. I think we tipped the server $5 for that since we knew it would be good from the prior reviews we read.
Overall, the food on the ship was good.
I made it to the gym twice on the cruise, both times at 6am. There were maybe 2 or 3 other people in there so any of the equipment was available. It’s not a great gym, but you can definitely get a good workout if you want to. They had treadmills, bikes, stair climbers and elipticals, plus some free weights and numerous machines. It definitely served its purpose.
We didn’t go to the big Vegas shows because we’re not really into that, but I did hear they were OK. We did go to karaoke, bingo, horseracing, Comedians, and the poolside activities. Kenny Miller’s R-Rated show was great, and all the other things we did were good.
My wife and I, and most of our group, like to gamble. So we spent quite a bit of time in the casino. We signed up for the Ocean Players Club and used our cards every time we played. By the end of the cruise, I was up over $1,000 and my wife was up about $100. I played mostly $25 hands of blackjack and won about $400 overall on blackjack during the cruise. I did play some $1 video poker and hit a $600 jackpot on the last night of the cruise. My wife played 25 cent video poker and hit 4 or 5 four-of-a-kinds during the cruise, which gave her the ammo to play the whole time. After I hit the $600 jackpot, I went and talked to Ryan (casino manager) to see what it all meant in terms of my OPC account. He said my wife and I earned 5000 points and will be receiving something in the mail that we can apply to our next cruise (upgrades, credit, or even a free cruise.) I did ask him for a bucket hat and he gave it to me. 5000 points means we gambled $5,000. So we’ll see how their system pays off and I’ll update my posting then.
Overall, the entertainment on the ship was great for us 30 – 40 year olds.
PORTS OF CALL:
AWESOME!!... We elected to do the cave tubing because we read so many rave reviews about it. When we tendered in to the dock and got to the bus, the skies were dark and it was windy. We got on the bus and began our hour long tour to the rain forest. It started pouring. I mean raining cats and dogs. People started getting pissed and asking the guides “when will it stop raining?” They said no worries. They gave us a complete tour of the city and the country and provided us with a wealth of knowledge about the country.
When we turned off the paved road onto the dirt road into the rainforest for our next 6 miles it stopped raining. We got to the staging area and the weather was perfect. They had a little tiki bar, we grabbed some beers (Beliken) and waited for everyone to get changed and get their tubes, life jackets and, lights ready. Then we headed of on the trail through the rainforest for our 45 minute hike. It was beautiful. Amazing. Nothing like Southern California (where I live). The hike was on a 4 foot wide trail of small stones and dirt. I had Teva type sandals on, as did my wife, and they worked great. We arrived at the opening ½ mile from the end of the 7 mile cave system and got our lights on our heads and went into the river. The water was about 70 degrees and moving 1 – 2 miles an hour. There is quite a bit of paddling involved, but it was worth it. I’ve never seen anything like it. We floated through the caves for about an hour then down the river for another 20 minutes back to the staging area. Changed into dry clothes and had a couple more beers.
We then got back on the bus and headed to a little restaurant/bar called Cheers for lunch. We had a native Creole dish (red beans and rice with chicken). It was very tasty. After lunch it was back to the port. We had about a half hour left before the last tender so we looked at the shops (put in by the cruise companies). Nothing too impressive, so we went back to the ship.
AWESOME!!.. The only thing that sucked was the debarkation/customs process. We got to port at 8am and couldn’t get off the ship until 10am. There has to be a better way. We elected not to do a tour, but just explore the island on our own (the 8 of us). We took the Conch train from the ship to Mallory Square then headed straight to Hog’s Breath for a beer or two. Then we decided to walk to the Southernmost Point of the United States. This was about 6 or 8 long blocks, but an easy trek. We got to pass all the bars and shops along the way so we could think about what we wanted to do next. We made it there and took a picture and started back up Duval Street. We went to Fat Tuesday’s, Sloppy Joe’s, Iguana Café (food), Margaritaville, and the Tiki bar at the Galliano resort. The Tiki bar was awesome. We had “Sour Apple Pina Colada’s” while sitting on the deck that overlooks the water. A beautiful place. I want to return for a longer period of time to Key West.
Overall, both ports were great.
We got up around 9am and went to the buffet, we got our omelets and headed back to the suite. Ate breakfast there, then met up with our friends around 10:30 up on deck. Once we were all there we got off the ship and were back in the shuttle to head to the rental car place by 11:00. Very easy and stress free.
This cruise was awesome and we will definitely sail with Carnival again. We are talking about doing a repositioning cruise, I want to do LA to Miami.
If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me (Lee) at IRIELDK@aol.com