My wife and 3 teenage sons recently sailed the 4-day Miami-Key West-Cozumel Imagination cruise. This was our 5th Carnival cruise and 9th cruise. Overall, Carnival offers a fair cruise at a fair price, the Imagination is no exception. Carnival is the "WalMart" of cruises. Good price, fair food/entertainment. Unfortuately there seemed to be more aggravations on Imagination than other Carnival ships. The first noticable item was the smell of the ship. Throughout many of the passageways and some common areas there was a unpleasant odor of sewage and sour stench. It smelled like the ship wasn't clean, this was obvious for most of our voyage). The linens in the room were FILTHY, grey thread worn sheets and bedspreads with stains, burn marks and holes. Carpeting was worn and tattered throughout the ship. You just didn't feel like you wanted to walk barefoot or lay down - GROSS! My wife and I attended the late seating for dinner. The food service was good, the wine steward attentive and food service, prompt. The quality of the food left a bit to be desired. The bread and appetizers were good but the main dishes missed the mark. Two people had to order alternatives to the fish because it was dried out and boney. The food was cold on more than one occasion. The desserts tasted stale and bland although they were presented well. Buffet lines were longer than usual (probably because people realized that the buffet food was about the same as the dining room food except it was fresher). We have found that shore excursions are always much cheaper and less crowded if they are arranged personally after the ship reaches port. If you are a first timer cruiser, or if you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with a port that you will be visiting, it is probably best to arrange a tour via the ships excursions (be advised though it will inevitably cost you more money and be more crowded than if you arrange your own). My biggest gripe about this cruise though had to do with the obvious duping of the passengers that Carnival feels they are getting away with. My wife and I attended a Bingo game where $500 was supposed to be held a quarter past the hour. The ship continously announced that the bingo would be drawn at any minute (hurry up and buy your $10 dollar ticket), finally 40 minutes, 500 people, 8 drawn numbers and $4,500 profit for Carnival later someone wins. Then they're supposed to have a drawing for a "fabulous" 1 carat diamond bracelet (probably from Scott the Cruise Director's brother's jewlery shop in Cozumel). With hundreds of people crammed into the lounge, the cruise director "assures" everyone that the best deals in Mexico can be had by going to the specially marked stores on the map previously distibuted to everyone on the ship. He clearly states that you should avoid the shops on the pier and shop at Carnival's specially selected shops. People, Carnival gets a kick-back on the merchandise sold while they are in port. You WILL get ripped off if you heed Carnival's advise. The stores and restaurants that they recommend won't bargin much. For example - a bottle of premium tequila bought at a non-designated pier side shop was selling for $24 U.S. (bargined down to $20, 2 free keychains and a shot glass). The same bottle at a Carnival designated store was $35.50 U.S.- sorry amigos, we have the lowest prices and must charge this price, oh that shot glass is $6 U.S., but we'll wrap it in newspaper for free. Carnival's suggested taxi into Cozumel $10 round trip, cheaper - a full day Jeep rental $10. A Carnival snorkelling adventure $65, the SAME excursion purchased pierside $50 (very negotiable). Bottom line: People - take the ship's suggestions for what they're worth. You can have fun, if you strike out on your own, just be VERY carefull, many natives are experts at fleecing tourists, but most are just trying to make a decent living without paying off Carnival. Enjoy your cruise.
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