Sunday, March 5, 2017

Carnival Imagination Cruise Review

Carnival Imagination
Cruise Review  March 5, 2017

Just the Facts:
Ship: Carnival Imagination
Captain: Bruno Palomba
Cruise Director: Alex Degmetich
Hotel Director:  Guna Chellam
Ports: Long Beach CA - Catalina Island CA - Ensenada MX - Long Beach CA

This short  four day cruise is the fifth of five consecutive cruises for me.  This is my 69th Carnival cruise, my first cruise on the Carnival Imagination, and 127th cruise overall.  I am cruising as a solo with a group of friends (Snoozemates).  The Imagination, an older Fantasy class ship, recently received the 2.0 upgrades and other extensive changes in a late 2016 major drydock.

Sunday / Embarkation / March 5th / Day 1

The new Horizon Court Buffet
I left the Norwegian Jewel my cruise home for 14 days about 10:30 am very near the last guests to leave the ship.  Two friends (the very last to leave) and I took a taxi ($30) from San Pedro Cruise Terminal to the Long Beach Cruise Terminal…less than a 15 minute trip.  We dropped our bags with the porters and proceeded to the VIFP check in and immediately saw our friends completing their B2B arrangement so our timing was perfect.  They had warned us that check in was behind at Long Beach certainly one of my least favorite ports to check in since you actually wait outdoors.  We finally boarded again meeting our friends doing the B2B at the lobby bar.  Everyone was in a good mood especially after a cocktail or two.  We ate at the newly remodeled Horizon Bar & Grill located aft on Lido deck.  I had a Grilled Rubin sandwich and a Tuna on white sandwich, thus the two plates in the surprise photo.  After lunch I went to the cabin and both of my bags had arrived (that was efficient) so I did my cabin set up.  Much smaller cabin area this cruise from last.  I attended Safety Boat Drill, my Muster area was A and met in the theater. We were sailing about 6:00 and heading south I assume looking for warmer weather for tomorrows sea day.  About 7:00 pm the group met at the Alchemy Bar, it was very busy.  The bar is located in the old cigar bar location…very different.  We have 8:15 dinner in the Spirit Dining room located aft. The Maitre’D arranged a nice 11- top table for our group and even offered complementary Sparking wine for the table.  They have never had nine Diamonds in one group or table before tonight. Thank you Ian.  The traditional Welcome Show was at 10:00 pm in the Dynasty Main Lounge.  It was a good day for seeing friends on the Carnival Inspiration.

Monday / Fun Day at Sea / March 6th / Day 2 
Captain & Senior Staff' toast.
Smooth seas overnight and I was up early. I have the Green Eggs & Ham breakfast scheduled for 8:45 but at 7:40 I went to the Blue Iguana for a Huevo Ranchero…just in case…it was good.  At 8:45 I met friends for the Green Eggs & Ham theme breakfast.  At first the kids were rowdy, but soon they were preoccupied with all the colors and decorations.  We were visited by Thing 1 and Thing 2, then Sam I Am, then the Cat in the Hat…they are of course accompanied by a ship photographer ($).  I actually had the Steak and Eggs breakfast similar to what you would receive on the Sea Day Brunch. A friend actually ordered the Green Eggs & Ham…someone had too.  It was interesting and I now know what happens at this event.  I did the Parade and Book Reading on previous Breeze cruise so I now have the full Carnival Dr. Seuss experience. Rather cool out on deck today so found the gang in Lobby Bar, it’s actually my favorite bar on a Fantasy class ship and a great place to people watch.  Very interesting passengers on this sailing with 80% Blue and Red cards. I bet the average age dropped by 50 years from my last two weeks on the Jewel.  After a ginger ale and visiting it was to the cabin for a nice wee nap.  I went up to Lido for a very good Guy’s Burger about 3:45 then to Cherry of Top for some Swedish Fish.  At 5:00 pm we went to the Piano Bar for the Diamond Party, in addition to the 11 in our group, there were two or three other guests.  They were very generous with the complementary cocktails and the h’orderves were nice.  The Captain and senior officers who attended were very generous with their time.  They continued to serve us until almost 6:15 and we stayed until 7:00 since the entire group was there…it was a great party. I went to the cabin to change for dinner and I say our group looked impressive in our matching black Hawaiian shirts this evening.  Dinner was good, I ordered Broiled Sea Scallops on Risoto, the Baked Stuffed Mushrooms, Minestrone Milanese, Barbecued Spare Ribs, and shared a Blue Crab Ravioli.  Ian and his team again poured Champagne for us.  Very nice meal and the Scallops were a new dish to me, maybe a west coast thing or new menu item.  We were finished in time for the 2nd seating of the first production show: Divas in the Dynasty Lounge.  It was an interesting and very busy first, last, & only sea day on the Carnival Imagination.

Tuesday  /  Catalina Island, CA  /  March 7th / Day 3
Smooth seas overnight and I slept very well.  I was up early and watched the sun rise on the ship
Tourist in Avalon
camera from the comfort of my bed while updating this review.  Nice, but I would have been awoken
anyway when the ship dropped anchor at 7:10 am outside Avalon Bay as my cabin is far forward.  I went down to the Pride Dining Room for a nice Eggs Benedict breakfast, then to GS to purchase a voucher to LAX, spoke with the Hotel Director for a bit, then a walk about on the upper deck for a photo of Avalon.  The weather is better than I expected so I have decided to tender onto the island after all.  I was on a tender that arrived in Avalon about 11:00 am and began to walk to the main shopping district and saw friends on the way.  It’s a very interesting and pretty town. I visited with friends, looked at some shops, walked out on the pier, and took a photo of our ship.  I took a tender back early to beat the crowds and any long lines and was back on board about 2:30 in plenty of time for a Guy’s Burger.  I was visiting at the lobby bar and ended up entering the paper airplane contest, another first.  The group met about 4:00 pm in the lobby for Mimosas, etc. from all the bottles of champagne accumulated.  During the cocktail hour I used my two VIFP vouchers for cocktails at the lobby bar and enjoyed the entertainment. Roma and Edward the bartenders make a great team.  Another bartender working relief was Sebastian who had been my head waiter twice on previous cruises.  I actually prefer the Lobby bar to the Alchemy on this this ship, a rarity for me.  Dinner tonight was good, I ordered: the Beetroot Carpaccio (2), the Iceberg Wedge Salad, the Sliced Beef Sirloin entree, and shared a Steak Taco entree.  For dessert a wonderful Carrot Cake. During dessert and following we were entertained by the Magician Vlad from Russia.  He did several very entertaining feats of magic for us. It is very nice being at the ‘A’ or Diamond table.  The Love and Marriage Show was the primary entertainment this evening, but I passed and had some cabin time before retiring.  It was a very nice day on Catalina Island and the Carnival Imagination.

Wednesday / Ensenada, Mexico / March 8th / Day 4
Smooth seas overnight and again I was up early to see the sunrise. It will be a beautiful day.  It will be
Sign at La Bufadora
a beautiful day.  I went to the MDR for a nice full 3-egg breakfast then met our group for an Carnival excursion at 8:30.  We were off at by 9:00 in our bus for the 45 minute trip to La Bufadora.  The vendors were interesting, but the waterspout was a pretty much a dud today. The Pina Colada and Churos from street vendors were good.  We returned to Encenada and stopped at the The Riviera Cultural Center a former resort hotel casino built 1929/30.  It was a very interesting complex, I enjoyed the vintage photos of former Hollywood stars who visited.  This was final stop of the tour and the bus actually dropped us off in front of Hussong's.  We arrived after 1:00 and most of our friends were already there so it was catch up time. It was packed when we arrived, but gradually cleared.  I  usually have the margaritas and had a few, but drank Bohemia Blanca beer.  I also enjoyed the Mexican food from next door and visited the Gift store down the street.  It was another fun meeting at Hussong's.  I taxied back to the ship and  was back on board by 4:00ish and had time for a Guy’s burger.  I then took a wee nap before meeting the group.  For dinner tonight I ordered the Escargot, Pumpkin Soup (too salty), Italian Wedding Soup, and a NY Strip Steak.  Dessert was Bread Pudding Cake (too dry for me), although overall it was a good dinner.  We were visited again by the Magician, he did some amazing tricks.  It was farewell for the group tonight. Some went to the Production show Epic Rock, some to the casino, and some retired to their cabins.  It was Fun day in Mexico and on the Imagination.

Thursday / Long Beach, CA / March 9th / Debarkation
I woke early as we docked in Long Beach and got the bags out to pack.  First I went to the MDR at
Long Beach
7:00ish for a final breakfast ordering something different: Poached Eggs…they were good. I witnessed a rude guest, he walked in and began taking off his backpack at a series of tables and a waiter called him on it saying he needed to be seated by the hosts.  He got into an argument with waiter  saying we was going to wait for friends and asking the waiter for his name and acting very bossy to him, I actually yelled across two tables and told him that there were no waiters assigned to that series of tables as they are on an isle and would be bumped by bags on this debark morning.  I also called him a ‘jerk face’ … I have no idea where that came from I don’t recall ever using that term before today.  I thought the waiter would nod or something to me since I had his back, but he was flustered by this time.  I was packed by 8:30 pm the time to clear cabins but waited another twenty minutes to roll off…they did allow a little Diamond shortcut since I’m already on the correct deck for debark.  Captain Bruno and HD Guna were near the exit so I got in a final farewell to the two of them. Customs went quickly and I was outside and heading to the shuttle bus to LAX…they left as soon as I boarded.  I was at the airport by 10:00 am…a very smooth process.  It will be good to be home after this 40 day cruise adventure.

Tonnage: 70,367 GT - Length: 855 ft - Beam: 103 ft - Draft: 25 ft 7 in - Decks: 10 - Speed: 21 knots - Capacity: 2,056 passengers (lower berths) 2,634 passengers (all berths) - Crew:920 - Carnival Imagination is a Fantasy-class cruise ship operated by Carnival Cruise Line. Built by Kværner Masa-Yards at its Helsinki New Shipyard in Helsinki, Finland, she was floated out on July 1, 1995

I had cabin E7 an interior porthole cabin located on Empress deck 7 far forward on starboard side. The cabin is a standard Porthole/OV space, with twin or queen bed. It has a swipe type safe, three-section closet, one chair, one electrical outlet, Telephone on desk, Small Stool at dresser/desk, Hair dryer, and small flat screen TV with the interactive features.  There is no refrigerator. The cabin is great for me as a solo. My cabin steward, Christian, was very good, the cabin was always clean and ice container filled.

Dining / Food / Bars
Recently upgraded to Carnival’s now standard 2.0 upgrade she has all the dining and bar options one would expect on Carnival: Guy’s Burgers, Blue Iguana Cantina, Alchemy Bar, Red Frog Rum Bar, and more.  The Horizon Lido Buffet is much improved as well.  I found the food adequate and really like the 2.0 additions.

Crew / Other
Crew were friendly, helpful, and efficient. The Carnival Hub iPhone App is wonderful, especially for checking your account balances.  I found the internet Wi-Fi worked very well.


Sailing with the Snoozemates
Diamond Party

Dining in the MDR: The attention from staff, head waiter, magician, etc. more than the food 
Catalina Island

Diamond Party - Carnival Imagination

 Click here for link to great photos of this cruise from ZydecoCruiser