January 2015 - 4 Night Catalina & Baja Mexico (Los Angeles Roundtrip) Cruise on Carnival Imagination
I was visiting California for work and it was 0 degrees and snowing in RI, so I decided I would stay a few extra days and enjoy a cruise. I chose this cruise because it was the only one that left conveniently the day my conference ended.
It is a boat that holds just over 2000 people and about 1000 crew. It doesn't feel that large. After a day you begin to recognize people. The ship is clean and the workers work tirelessly to keep it that way. We were in cabin E2. It is all the way forward on the main deck. Instead of a big window, it had 2 port holes which made the cabin price a little less, however, being in the front of the ship, it was a fairly noisy room, especially when the anchor went out or in. Additionally, while all the cabins on board are nonsmoking cabins, at one point in time there were smoking cabins, and from the smell of stale cigarette smoke, I would wager that our cabin was one of them. The smell has permeated the walls and it lingers on. That was the worst part.
Otherwise there were things that I didn't love, but can't complain about because they are known part of Carnival cruises and I knew it and I chose to take the cruise anyway: it is a party boat (they call it that themselves). They aggressively sell alcohol. Because of some medicine I take, I am not allowed to drink, but they really push hard. For $50/day/person ($200 for the cruise) you can have a drink package that is good for 15 drinks in a 24 hour period per day. Everyone in the stateroom must buy in. Some people just have a drink in their hands all day long.
The shows were campy as to be expected. The comedians were pleasantly entertaining. We did not go to the casino. We didn't have kids with us, but if you are considering bringing yours, there were many multi generational families on board. There is a water park for kids of all ages, including varying sizes of water slides, shuffle board, human size chess, mini golf and plenty of kids programming.
The food was better than I expected, but I was not too impressed with the wait service in the dining room. Instead of clearing the forks with the appetizer and bringing a new one with the main course (or just setting the table with 2 forks), when clearing, the waiter will take your dirty fork and knife off the appetizer plate and put it back on the table. Yuck. The steak quality was quite good, the choices were varied, and the desserts were superb.
The omelette bar on the Lido deck is the best place for breakfast. The lunch buffet was our choice, sitting outside on the back deck, but I wish it was open until 3:00 instead of closing at 2:30. Soft serve, self serve, frozen yogurt and ice cream are always available.
We did not take any of the cruise land tours. In Catalina we walked everywhere, you can rent a golf cart in town. Many people did. We took a 6 mile walk on purpose. Go the the nature center. It is free and very informative, with clean bathrooms. On the way there, there is a fire station on the right hand side where there is a free filtered water dispenser where you can help yourself to free water (bring your own bottle to refill). Interesting fact: all the toilets on the island (and there are many free public toilets) all worked by salt water.
In Ensenada, we hired a cab to go to La Bufadora. We found another couple to share the ride with and it was $40 total. $22 for each couple including tip. It is a 40 - 45 minute drive. There is a street of tourist trap shops on the way to the lookout over this natural wonder. If you are planning to purchase souvenirs, this is the place to do it. Cheaper than in town. La Bufadora itself it a natural blow hole in an ocean cove. 1 to 1.5 hours is more than enough time to see what is there. On the way back, if you are brave, ask the taxi driver to stop at a tamale roadside stand. I think the meat ones are better than the cheese and pepper ones. Yum.
So even though it was't as elegant as some of the other cruise lines, we had a perfectly enjoyable, relaxing time.