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   Cruise Travel - Cruise Ships


Carnival Cruise Line

MS Imagination

Rating:Three and a Half Stars
Submit your review hereSubmit your review
Operator: Carnival Cruise Lines
Year Built / Last Refurbished: 1995
Length / Tonnage: 855 / 70,367
Number of Cabins / Passengers: 1,026 / 2,050
Officers / Crew: Italian / International
Operating Area: Year-round Western Caribbean out of Miami
Telephone / Fax: Tel 134 7673 / Fax 134 7674

Review by Christopher E. Smith, TravelPage.com, Associate Cruise Editor

When news of Carnival's first three "megaships" hit the travel world was astounded at the faith Carnival placed in their ability to generate enough business to keep these ships awash in black ink. During the building of the ECSTASY and SENSATION the shipyard where they were building went belly up...Carnival came to its own rescue, investing in a successor yard and placing an order in September 1991 for a FOURTH, FIFTH and SIXTH FANTASY class ship...Here she is... the fiftth of them, the more refined looking IMAGINATION! These ships all share the same dimensions and general arrangement yet each is unique in her own right...each endowed with a distinct personality...Here and now I HAVE to tell you that Carnival bashing may let you come away with a heightened sense of self esteem and self worth, a feeling of refinement and sophistication...and you'd be wrong! Hear me now and know what I say....Carnival does a good job...no..for what it is and what it promises to deliver, Carnival does a GREAT job and these huge ships are nothing short of fabulous...whether or not they are to your taste...Carnival does not suggest their floating cities are temples to sophistication and elegance... OK, Carnival president Bob Dickinson said it best: "People don't want to vacation with the Queen Mum."...And if the FASCINATION and her sisters do not share direct descent from the QUEEN MARY, that's OK, too...and with so many senior officers having made the jump from the transAtlantic liners of fabled Italian Line to cruising, these Carnival liners have a direct link to that fine tradition of Italian liners like the REX, CRISTOFORO COLOMBO and MICHELANGELO!...Carnival has an enviable record for looking after passenger's safety at sea...and that's nothing to sneeze at.

By the time the order for the second trio of "megaships" came out, the FANTASY and ECSTASY were already wowing droves of passengers and observers every week...so it was only to be expected that the IMAGINATION could do nothing more than the same...and if that were all...that would be enough...But I think she does something more...and it's a very human thing....with her contemporary theme the IMAGINATION gives you a thrill....but also more chances to pause and relax......visually, at least. Anyone with feet firmly planted on the ground will consider the IMAGINATION and her sisters FIRST RATE! Just keep in mind...it's not the ships that set some people's teeth on edge...it's some of the passengers (usually the ones who end up having ALL the fun...those you might not want to sit with, perhaps) that rag the edges of Carnival's name....

Like her sisters, she was worth every penny of her building cost of more than $200 million, and from the moment she started to embark passengers for her maiden cruise the IMAGINATION has delighted over 2,000 passengers a week... first timers, second third or fourth or more time cruisers, the overwhelming majority (something approaching a 98% vote of confidence!) voice their satisfaction and pleasure from their cruise in the IMAGINATION...well, ok...there IS that tiny percentage who votes thumbs down...the Carnival cruise offers little for the quiet set...it is not a company whose ships favor a quiet, sophisticated cruise...it's not one of the stately homes of England...it's the IMAGINATION..a big, sometimes loud..."FUN SHIP" and as many as 2,500 passengers a week prove it, laughing, partying, feasting, sunning, sightseeing and enjoying a week aboard.

Public Areas
So if this ship is for you and I bet it is!....and if you don't expect to meet everyone on board or make a lot of new friends (you can certainly make SOME) but the place is so big you won't see many of the same strangers over and over again and as I have written before... as the 20th Century draws to its close, approaching strangers is ever more daunting....you will be entertained by some of the best sound systems and lighting effects to be seen at sea. Like her sisters, the action in the ship's casino can be electric...it's very active ? with players hot to gamble and some devotees of the slots would like to have meals delivered there if they could... "MEGACASH" slots... a system linked by computer to all the ships in Carnival's extended family...those "DAM" good Holland America liners, the sporty "WIND" boats, and the supertrendy big bucks "SEABOURNS"...gets the juices flowing in the hopes for a jackpot... If you like to sunbathe in an abbreviated costume or even TOPLESS (in an area reserved for adults who like such things) in a deckchair with nothing but the sun and an ice bucket full of brews for company, you can do that here, but one of the things I like to do best in a ship like this is "people watch" even if I don't wonder what their first names are... you might consider a cruise in the IMAGINATION.

As the winged funnel immediately identifies her membership in the Carnival fleet, the FANTASY class' signature atrium is the crossroads here...As you board the IMAGINATION in Miami, look up...you're in the Grand Atrium...a tower of space rising seven decks up to a cupola of glass topsides...it's the ship's core and it's here that you'll find the Purser's Office, the Shore Excursion desk, some of the main stairs and elevators... the photographer's gallery is just aft.... Just like the atria in the other FANTASY class sisters, this one will make you smile even if you have been aboard Carnival's "megaships" a thousand times...it's just that kind of space! Head for any of the ship's public rooms on Promenade Deck where you can start your hunt for your favorite haunt...but notice the size of this ship...feel the spaciousness... notice how the lights subtly change colors. Aboard this ship that amazing duplex 1,300+seat showroom is called Dynasty Lounge and it's no less a masterpiece of shipbuilding than it is of theater building, terracing down five levels and with wonderful sight lines everywhere...By night you'll be blown away by the sound system alone.. Come and enjoy the production numbers and marvel to how a ship can have a 33 foot diameter revolving stage...check out the effects of sound and light and don't forget to consider the overall impression made though clever uses of marble, colored tiles, glass staircases, radiant neon, rosewood paneled walls, leather couches...think of all the thought, imagination and work that went into the creation of this ship! That long "main street" that I like so well in the FANTASY sisters is called Imagination Promenade on this one..off which most public rooms are located...it is a series of cafes and bars, shop windows, a number of things all at once and it's a wonderful place to people watch. The smallish Shangri-la Lounge is my favorite....although the swirl pattern used on the dance floor, walls and table tops can be dizzying....in any case the multi colored glass columns and lighting gives a real contemporary look to the room....it's lots of fun. One deck up, the contemporary theme is carried over to the Mirage Bar....here, purple and gold reign. Even the Curiosity Library is worth a look see....assuming it's open. Designer Joe Farkas brought a little Victorian influence to the lamps, chairs and bookcases.

It's not all lights and glitter that strikes my fancy here on the IMAGINATION... my favorite item aboard this ship.. because I like to work out...I mean SERIOUSLY work out...is the Nautica Spa....these Carnival ships really do have just about the BEST fitness facilities at sea. It's my favorite thing aboard ALL these sisters. Located atop the wheelhouse, the gym shares the Captain's views forward and to the sides and working out here is a highlight of any of my days aboard any of the FANTASY class ships. There are six treadmills, more than 30 weight machines, free weights AND the ship has a separate one?eighth?mile jogging track. If you have the strength after all that....take in some of the aerobics classes offered throughout the day. There's more than a gym in the l2,000 square foot spa ? there's Steiner's beauty salon, the skylighted room with two hot tubs, the steam and sauna rooms...there's so much deck space and a BIG swimming pool (but ok...there ISN'T room in it for EVERYONE aboard at one time). There are also a pair of quiet open promenades but you'd have to look for them...even though you can see them from the pool deck.

You will eat a lot but not the "fancy foods" that singing lady used to tell in her song on TV...I don't think Carnival's food is great...but it's not at all bad and they try to serve up very tasty meals and generally succeed...though I didn't find it particularly memorable...but I'm VERY spoiled...hey, I have sailed in over 70 ships and several to many times in a lot of them..so I may be jaded...but it was good enough and the service was friendly, smiling and happy! Don't expect caviar, but the beef is good, there is seafood (the Captain's Gala dinner features jumbo shrimp or filet mignon)...You will more than get your money's worth in this department! Just consider how vast are the numbers of mouths fed every day and the time permitted to prepare and serve it, the fares paid, and you will surely agree that Carnival passengers eat well!

As in her many sisters, the IMAGINATION seats her passengers in two sittings in the two similarly decorated Spirit and Pride dining rooms...each seats well over 600 people at one time so please don't expect an intimate dining experiences here....there are even coffee shop style booths for six...three persons per side...if you are prone to motion sickness, do the others a favor and don't sit in the middle...don't ask for a table in the smoking section either...there IS no smoking allowed in the dining rooms! And unless you are on your honeymoon or booked into a suite, forget about a table for two....Carnival wants you to mingle and couples who keep to themselves tend neither to party much...nor to have that good a time... so MINGLE!!! let this mass market operation epitomized by its efficiency and organization look after you ITS way... everyone works very hard to please you...pat em on the back...pad their tips with extra cash...they REALLY DO work for it...and think charitably of them when they have to interrupt their work to do a little song and a little dance...I guess THIS is one of those Carnival touches that raise the hackles of some people (I don't like it at all...but I realize that very few people spend their lives as an ocean liner passenger as I do) and the occasional or first timer is thrilled by this show that the food department thinks should be part of the waitstaff's job ..as if bringing food weren't enough! Don't expect leisurely unhurried dining here...but you shouldn't feel rushed here..and there IS a lot else to do, so eat up and go upstairs and do some of it!

Up top is the Horizon Bar and Grille...it's a buffet restaurant which serves breakfast, light lunches, and dinners buffet styles for those not in the mood to "go down to dinner" (even if their cabin is located on any of the four decks below the dining rooms...but you know what I mean)....The room is quite a design statement...I actually like it quite a lot...And am no stranger to the thrill of a burger or fries but recent USDA pronouncements make rare burgers something of a fluke...and I don't like any burger that isn't beet red inside! I don't do breakfast in the Lido...I don't often eat breakfast as a rule...but I LOVE Lunch...Coconut Willie's serves the expected people pleasing burgers or other fried or grilled fare from the serving stations as does the similar station out by the pool, but it's HOT in the Caribbean and since creatures bloat in the tropics anyway...I prefer to eat in air conditioned splendor...I mean comfort...I hit the shorter of the lines at either of the TWO grill stations, then have a peek at the salad/bread bar and a pasta table...the food is all right...fresh...I didn't go hungry...and always found it easy to get something to drink...usually iced tea but sometimes lemonade and if you like beer, wine or spirits, a wandering server will be happy to bring you your beverage of choice.

I forgot....not only is there 24 hour a day room service so you can order a sandwich or a snack to brought to you in your cabin, but there's a pizzeria serving six kinds of pie, calzones and caesar salad.

OK ? her LOWER bed capacity is 2,044 passengers and with upper berths this ship can and does sometimes carry several hundreds more...none of the standard cabins....which at some 190 for outsides and 185 for insides are the biggest in this segment of the market...(except for the minimum priced rooms which are smaller and not very good choices unless money is a very important concern) is elegantly or luxuriously furnished...for the heavy traffic this ship gets industrial carpeting and bare minimum furnishings was the way to go...Storage space aplenty ensures room for everything you bring and the bathrooms are very good....with big, roomy showers and good water pressure...There is a TV in every cabin but it rarely showed anything I wanted to watch...and when the beds are arranged in king size version...as all lowers can be...one person MUST climb over the other to get out should the one nearer the porthole wish to rise before the one outside...

Want a splurgette? Consider booking into one of the twenty six 226 square foot minisuites. Each with its own small veranda, these topside dwellings are furnished and decorated rather better than the standard, which I MUST stress, are very adequate for a short cruise...don't send me around South America in one of the standards, though...they're a bit too decoratively unevolved... and well...something about them reminds me of a dorm room...(a NICE dorm room)...Beyond the minisuites for even more money are twenty?eight suites. Located within the hull, these digs each boast 350 square feet of space with a decent sized private verandah....but don't expect to sunbathe with ease on your verandah...it's completely decked over...

Who Goes
This ship gets people of all ages...you'll see people from 90 days to 90+ years of age here and it seems that fleetwide about 30% of the passengers are under 35 years of age...and an even higher percentage of younger people flock to the IMAGINATION for her shorter cruises are more affordable...there seems to be something for everyone...even lackluster, curmudgeonly ME...I like the Library here, too...even though it is hardly EVER open...but it IS a pretty room! Kids are happy in this ship and the onboard "Camp Carnival" allows parents to drop off their young and know that they will be well looked after. .

From her year round home port of Miami, IMAGINATION sails every other Thursday on four day cruises to Key West and Cozumel....Mondays she leaves on five day trips to Grand Cayman and Calica, Mexico....and on most Saturdays, another five day itinerary calling at Grand Cayman and Ocho Rios. For anyone with nine days to spare, if you plan it right (and your travel agent can find out the departure dates), you can combine the four day trip leaving Thursday with either of the five day itineraries.....and best of all, there are no port duplications.

You got a problem with any of this? Keep this in mind....you're one person. The IMAGINATION carries over 2000 passengers twice a week. So does the FANTASY. Put it all together and Carnival is carrying about 20,000 people every week. Who can be more than a number here? So leave your high hat at home, go, relax, enjoy it and have a good time. Night and day, there is something going on aboard the IMAGINATION...so be prepared to enjoy yourself...I think Carnival DOES have the fun...maybe not the class of a top notch five star city hotel or a classy, high end resort, but you're not paying for it nor would you buy a ticket on the IMAGINATION if that's what you wanted!

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