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Copyright © 1995-2003 
Linda Coffman

Carnival Imagination
Western Caribbean
January 25, 2003

by Kim Dales

My husband and I went on this cruise with another couple. This was a first cruise for us all. I wasn’t sure what the best way to make reservations was, but didn’t have to worry about that--Carnival called us! My friend and I had started researching cruises on the Carnival site. We already knew that we were interested in the 5-day Western Caribbean and the Imagination fit those requirements.

Our Carnival representative was Chris. He was very nice to talk to and, though we hit a couple of minor snags, (which were taken care of with no problems) I’d highly recommend him.

We’re all from Cedar Rapids, Iowa. We received our papers about 10 days before the cruise. We found out then that Carnival would be flying us out of C.R. on Friday and would put us up for the night at the Wynham Miami Airport Hotel. That sounded great to us, we wanted to make sure nothing happened (air wise) to make us miss our ship! Everything went very smoothly. We were met at the baggage terminal by a real nice Carnival gal. We then were taken to a shuttle bus to our hotel.

After checking in, we called it a night. The next morning, we were to “pre-register” at the hotel. We brought the luggage from our room to the lobby, stood in line with many other fellow cruisers and showed the required papers. Our luggage was then taken to a designated area of the hotel to be left until later. We pretty much had just enough time to have breakfast, and then we all waited in the hotel bar for our shuttle bus to arrive.

After showing the Carnival rep which bags were ours, we boarded the bus and waited for it to fill before taking off for the pier. It only took about 15 minutes to get there. They have everyone wait on the bus until all the luggage is unloaded. We then pointed out our bags to the porter, tipped him $1.00 per bag and left to walk onto the ship! Before I forget to mention, I found making bright colored pom-poms very useful. We could spot our luggage in a sea of bags with no problem.

Now, on to the ship. We were directed every step of the way, just make sure you have your paperwork and photo I.D.’s ready. We walked onto the ship and found our room (upper deck, oceanview) with no problem. At this time, we met our cabin steward, Muhammad. What a great guy! He remembered all our names from just a brief introduction and never forgot them! Can’t say enough about Muhammad and his whole crew. All were very friendly. We never had to wait for our room to be cleaned or ice to be remembered. After snooping around the ship, an announcement came on the speakers that it was time for the “muster drill”. We got our life jackets and went to our designated area. Had the drill (took about 45 minutes). The drill was finished with us all out on deck, next thing we know, we’re off! As we passed several other ships, we waved at their passengers and they waved back, everybody was so excited!

We were surprised that for a full ship, we weren’t constantly bumping into crowds of people. There was hardly any congestion. I suggest taking the stairs, though; you could wait forever for the elevators. There were stores to shop (got plenty of souvenirs), pools, whirlpools, buffets, nightly shows, and of course, beautiful scenery from the decks! I booked all our excursions on the internet. Sure, you could do this through Carnival, but why wait in line to reserve (while you could be doing something fun on the ship) and taking the chance that maybe after all the line waiting, you find out that the best ones are all filled? I heard a lot of very good things about swimming with the stingrays and Captain Marvin’s came highly recommended. Our spots were reserved for the two-hour trip with no problem.

We left the Imagination by tender, got on the island and walked straight to Capt. Marvin’s with no problem. We paid and then were to wait out front for the shuttle to the boat. Once there, we were shown to a room to get our snorkels and fins. Next, we were directed to the boat we would be taking out to the sandbar. Our tour guides were very nice guys. Marshall was one and I believe the others name was Armand.

The wind was very strong that morning and we had quite a wild ride out to the sandbar. As soon as the boat anchored, the sea turned almost black with rays! We jumped in and started to get acquainted with them. Believe me, they are so gentle, seemed to love having us there (or was it just the squid we had?) We spent about 20 minutes with them (the waves hitting you were getting old), but once you snorkel, it’s so peaceful! Next, we sped over to a coral reef where we could also snorkel, but because the winds were so bad and the water about 8 to 10 feet, I declined. My husband went in and said there had to have been about a hundred fish swimming all around him. If it wasn’t for Marshall asking me if I’d like him to take some underwater pictures for me, I wouldn’t have the great pictures of rays and fish to show back home. That was very nice.

After arriving back at Captain Marvin’s and saying good-bye, we all boarded the shuttle back to town. I made online reservations for the Nautilus, so we had to hurry and make that tour. Found it without too much of a problem. This tour was nice, but just wish it could have been a little longer.

We walked around town afterwards. I wasn’t very impressed. The shops are pretty much all the same and a little bit high priced. We had lunch at a sandwich shop, very good. It got pretty crowded on the streets, so we just decided to get back on the tender for the ship. That night, the winds were so strong, the ship rocked pretty good, kind of scary (not to mention several people were sick). It would have been nice after that night to get off in Ocho Rios, but we were told the next morning that the port authority’s thought it was too unsafe to do so. I had also booked an excursion on the internet for here. I’d heard about A-Z Jamaica Planners. I so would have loved meeting these gals! Belinda and Jane were their names. They custom-tailored a whole day tour for us with no problems. Trust me, if you have any questions, they’ll answer back in no time.

Wouldn’t you know it, after turning back towards Miami, the winds died down? Oh well, the ship had extra activities to enjoy and our last day was beautiful. In fact, it was really the only good weather day the whole cruise. The next morning, we had breakfast one last time and waited to hear when we could disembark. That went very smoothly also. The Carnival staff direct you every step of the way.

Oh, I can’t end this without mentioning our waiter, Edwardu in the Spirit dining room. He’s a real nice guy. The food was also very good! 

All in all, it was a nice cruise. I’d sure like to do another one someday, but with a group of gals (hubby didn’t have enough to do).

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Photo courtesy of Carnival Cruise Line