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Use Your (Carnival) Imagination
"Evolutions of Fun"
by Linda Coffman
— Not since pop
icon Cher hopped aboard USS Missouri to film the video for
her smash hit "If I Could Turn Back Time" has there been such an
evolution of fun afloat. In the case of their eight Fantasy-class
vessels, introduced between 1990 and 1998, Carnival Cruise Lines is
surpassing even Cher's attempts to turn back time aboard the
well-loved and highly successful ships.
While we really
liked the initial improvements we saw last year on
Fantasy, the full array of "Evolutions of
Fun" enhancements now complete on Carnival Imagination and
Carnival Inspiration (and planned for their six sister-ships
during upcoming drydocks) create an entirely fresh approach to the
During a recent 5-night
cruise aboard Carnival Imagination, Cruise Diva was able to
explore all the new features. The most obvious—it
can be seen from ashore—is...
While berthed in Nassau, Disney Wonder was tied up
alongside Carnival Imagination. We couldn’t help but wonder
if they were just a tinge envious. Our water slide was bigger than
their water slide. Way bigger. Pictures just don't do the Waterworks
aqua parks justice. Four decks high, the 300 feet of spiraling slide
(the largest on any cruise ship) and 82 foot long side-by-side
racing slides are the centerpieces of shallow splash pools that
also feature multiple fountains and water sprays. Set in a deck
surrounded by chaise lounges, it's a cool place for the entire
When asked if grown-ups are
allowed on the slides,
Hotel Director Miles Willis answered, "It's
positively encouraged." In fact, adults seemed to have just as
much fun as kids in the area. Be forewarned, though—you
must be at least 42" tall and not exceed 300 pounds to use the
fully-enclosed spiral slide.
If your taste runs more toward the
traditional, you'll find that
Fun" hasn't passed you by in the Lido Pool area. Originally cut in two by
Carnival's signature water slide, the area is opened up by its elimination, as well as
the repositioning of stairs that formerly made the pool bar seemed
cramped. To give
the area a resort-like "island" look, quirky palm trees
dot the deck and faux thatched
canopies cap the
pool bars and outdoor food service area. One of two hot tubs is
similarly covered and the outdoor stage is more of a focal point
without the curving slide ruining the view. Loungers in a black and
brown weave are a comfortable addition.
Purists need not fear that the enhancements have spoiled the fun of
a Carnival cruise. You'll still find a lot of energy poolside,
including a Caribbean band and activities such as the Hairy
Chest Contest and other traditional competitions. Pools and
hot tubs open at 8am and stargazers will be pleased that they don't
close until midnight.
Adults-Only Serenity DeckWith the former aft pool area
now devoted to families, it's only fair that the secluded children's
pool deck is now the exclusive realm of adults. The new adults-only
retreat is a haven of calm, with cushy oversized loungers, two hot
bar service, a
shaded relaxation area furnished with stylish wicker chairs and
settees, and, best of all, magnificent ocean vistas. Well, maybe
best of all is that we didn't see a single child in the area during
our entire cruise. Unlike designated adult spaces on other cruise lines, pint-sized gate
crashers simply aren't tolerated in Carnival's Serenity
Deck. Bring along your iPod and be prepared to chill
out in the totally soothing area.
The first thing I noticed when
entering my Upper Deck standard stateroom was the improved lighting.
Finally, there are lights flanking the desk/vanity! It's no longer
necessary for female passengers to apply makeup or do their hair in
the bathroom, although packing a hairdryer is still a must—somehow
Carnival overlooked adding them. There isn't much else they missed,
though. A flat-screen television is now mounted in the corner and
small nightstands are a welcome addition. In fact, the staterooms
were literally gutted and rebuilt with all new permanent fixtures,
an upgrade even from our previous accommodations aboard Carnival
bonus for families is the addition of 45 doors to create connecting
cabins-to-cabins and cabins-to-suites where there previously were
lack the abundant private balconies found on newer fleetmates. You'll have
to book a suite in order to have one. However,
Carnival Comfort Bed systems insure
everyone a good night's sleep and,
regardless of category, all
passengers are treated to fluffy robes to use during their cruise.
Resist the temptation to stuff the towel animals (or your cabin
steward) in your suitcase, though... you can learn to make your own
terrycloth critters by attending a towel folding demo onboard and the gift shop
"Carnival Towel Creations Book" with step-by-step instructions.
No description of food on a Carnival ship would be
complete without mentioning pizza and everyone's favorite dessert,
Melting Chocolate Cake. Both were superb on
and I can highly recommend the freshly made calzones—just
ask for one at the pizzeria counter in the Horizon Bar & Grill.
While it wasn't ready during our
sailing, a New York-style deli was being installed (a similar deli
is already in place on
Carnival Fantasy) and expanded food selections in the
buffet include Mongolian stir-fry and rotisserie chicken, the latter
served with mashed potatoes or killer macaroni and cheese. Additions
to the Promenade Deck are the complimentary Sushi Bar and a
specialty coffee cafe that also offers pastries and treats for an
In the formal restaurants, a huge improvement is the
removal of booth-type seating, resulting in a more spacious look and
feel. Numerous tables-for-two are a romantic—and
While some of the original classical
elements designed by Carnival's architect Joe Farcus remain, all
public spaces have been refreshed with new flooring and upholstery.
huge sculpture has been replaced by the
Lobby Bar, which now anchors the atrium.
Hand-painted impressionist fabric tabletops
encased in resin are being replaced by high-end
granite-topped tables in the Horizon Bar & Grill.
The spa and fitness center have been completely
rebuilt and outfitted with state of the art amenities. In the space
that formerly housed an indoor hot tub, you'll find a
spacious area for exercise classes. Locker rooms feature chic glass
basin sinks and passengers awaiting spa treatments will find a spacious
relaxation room complete with refreshments and calming, neutral
Some improvements may not stand out at first glance—energy
saving LED lights have replaced neon in the Atrium, sound systems
have been upgraded throughout, and you'll have to be observant to
computerized window washing system that automatically cleans
Promenade Deck windows every two hours. Flat screen televisions have been
added in lounges that are mostly smoke-free (as is the Serenity
Deck). Limited smoking areas are located in the Shangri La Lounge,
Casino, Illusions Disco, and port side of the Pinnacle Bar on
the Mirage (piano) Bar on Atlantic Deck;
and the midship
starboard side of the Lido Deck.
More Fun For Kids
Carnival facility aboard Carnival Imagination has been
expanded in a new location on Verandah Deck and features
age-specific programs for kids aged 2 to 5, 6 to 8, and 9 to 11.
Judging by the smiles, one of the most popular Camp Carnival
activities was the Teddy Bear Workshop, where children created their
Not complete during our cruise, Carnival is rolling
out a new facility just for 12- to 14-year olds fleetwide.
(artist's rendering is pictured here)
fills the need for "tweens"
to have their own custom designed gathering space complete with
a dance floor, high-tech
sound and lighting system, 42-inch plasma-screen TVs to watch movies
and music videos, a touch-screen jukebox stocked with the latest
hits, and PlayStations with popular video games, including Wii.
Teens 15 to 17 years old have their own "Club O2" with dance floor,
Coke bar, flat-screen TVs, computers, and gaming stations. Like Camp
Carnival and Circle C, Club O2 offers activities supervised by
trained counselors, but, in typical teen fashion, those aboard our
cruise seemed to simply enjoy the no-adults-allowed atmosphere to
hang out with new friends.
For family fun, a miniature golf course on the top deck challenges
"kids" of all ages.
Let The Fun Begin
Carnival Inspiration has already been outfitted with the
enhancements found aboard Carnival Imagination,
will be the next ship to enter drydock to complete her "Evolutions
of Fun" extreme make-over in September 2008, followed (in no
particular order) by Carnival Ecstasy, Carnival
Sensation, Carnival Fascination, Carnival Elation,
and Carnival Paradise.
Cher, in her never ending quest to retain a
youthful appearance, has nothing on these Carnival
Essentially, what we found when we boarded
Imagination is a like-new vessel. It was remarkably like
turning back the hands of time.
Photos © CruiseDiva.com and Courtesy of
Carnival Cruise Lines
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