mrdood Posted September 18, 2006 #1 Share Posted September 18, 2006 Preface This was our third cruise in the last 9 months, I think I need a break (no, not really), I am going to comment on some of the hot-topics because I have been observing quietly – especially the last two cruises, I don’t want this thread to become a debate or “hot thread” it is simply my review and as such I will editorialize parts of it – so tough. I will also try and answer the questions that some of you had, that you wanted investigated, and I will try and answer any additional questions. I have a lot of material to scan and post, it will probably take me the rest of the week to get that done. I posted the dessert menus already per Serene’s request. I will scan the capers, drink menu, spa menu, etc. but give me some time, I also have to mow the lawn, play with my son, rest, pull some weeds etc. etc. I think it might be time to move into a condo… Pre-cruise We flew out Saturday morning into Ft. Lauderdale, rented a car and drove to South Beach where we stayed at the Hotel Nash, very central location for going to the beach or hitting any of the night clubs, restaurants, tourist spots etc. It was also fun to watch the Triumph, Elation, Valor and some of those “other” brands sail away on Saturday and Sunday afternoon. Got to spend some time staring at the Freedom of the Seas, and I could tell from the people on board that the food was bad, service was terrible, shows were crappy, casino never paid out, and NOBODY was interested in surfing or the climbing wall, in fact, everyone on board looked depressed and unhappy (I had a BIG zoom lens on the camera). Sunday afternoon I took the rental car back, I had arranged to drop it off at Miami International, and I did. I then went to the bus station and caught a bus for $1.50 it took me back to South Beach, I was not in a hurry and wanted to test public transport, it was fun, and dropped me off about 4 blocks from my Hotel – best $1.50 I spent the whole trip. We toured around a little on Saturday and so the cost of the rental car $33 for one day was cheaper than transportation from FLL to Miami would have been on a shuttle or cab, there were four of us. Parking in South Beach did cost us $20 and was not included in the hotel rate, but with the miles we put on and the fun cruising around, we were still money ahead. The hotel was very nice, it was $99/night booked on the internet directly with the Hotel, there was a problem with them taking the pre-payment for a night and not crediting us, but that was resolved at the desk after numerous phone calls between the hotel and their booking company/credit card company. They also provided a free continental breakfast. Another tip, if you do stay in South Beach and want to go hit some of the more popular clubs, you need to have the hotel put you “on the list” usually the Concierge will take care of that for you, we tried to get into one club on Saturday night, but were DENIED!!! Embarkation We waved a van taxi down at the hotel and headed over to the port about 11am on Monday, the cost for the taxi ride for all of us was $20, it took 10 minutes to get there, and we dropped off our luggage with the porters and went inside. Check-in had no lines whatsoever, we got our sail and sign cards and headed up to the waiting area, we were on the second row, they started boarding around 12:15 and we were on the Lido enjoying lunch by 12:30. All in all a very smooth embarkation, the Miami staff was excellent, signage was very clear and all went smooth, no if they could only figure out how to off-load that smooth… Stateroom We had U159, starboard, aft Ocean View room, this room had a single Pullman and was configured for three even though there was only the two of us, the Pullman was not a bother at all, we have had similar rooms in the past, we did pull it down to show our friends what it looked like and to take pictures, other than that, there was only one night when DW told me if I did not cool it I would be sleeping there, but I behaved and got to stay in my regular spot J! There was no advantage or disadvantage to being Starboard, we were docked in Miami on the Starboard side, when we returned, we docked port. Grand Cayman was tendered and both sides have similar good views, we had a view of Georgetown; the Port side had a view of 7 mile beach and the other cruise ships. Ocho Rios we docked Starboard, but the dock guys said they change depending on the wind. The only advantage was Port had a great view of Cuba as we were about 14 miles off shore at times. This is one of the few cruises that go counter clockwise all the way around Cuba. Service was perfect, Abe was our Steward, we informed him about our cooler the first night and from then on it was stocked with fresh ice twice a day. The room was always clean and taken care of, towel animals every night except the first night and mints on the pillow and turn down service every night. Dining room Well I love my PVP, and even though my best friend’s girlfriend made the arrangements using my PVP, and even though I followed up with my PVP to make sure that the two bookings were linked for dining, they screwed it up…. We had different times in different rooms. The dining rooms are Spirit (aft) and Pride (midship) dining times for us were 5:45 Spirit, so the Pride had 6:15 and 8:45, and the other Spirit time was 7:45. I took a sign and sail from my friend and went to the Pride dining room at 1pm and corrected the problem, they gave us a nice booth for four people in the center, the location and time were fine. Our head waiter was Pongsak from Thailand, and his assistant was Teodulo from the Philippines, these guys were entertaining as well as very efficient. They took very good care of us even through some wacky ordering. Service was top notch the entire cruise. The food was hit and miss – sadly this is becoming more and more the theme as I read reviews and talk to other cruisers, I think the quality of the ingredients is degrading, perhaps as another cost saving measure. The main quality issue was with the meat, some of it was good, others not, usually 2 out of 4 were excellent, the other two were stringy, tough, etc. Several pieces of meat were removed from mouths into napkins and discarded. One night the Caesar Salad lettuce was wilted/and or soggy and not very tasty. We never went hungry and mistakes were promptly replaced. We brought several bottles of sparkling wine that were taken care of for us with no corkage fee, I have yet to experience the corkage fee – and that is a good thing, we rewarded our servers with a bonus tip at the end equivalent to the corkage fee – the bonus would not have been there had we been charged. Dress code – for the first night it was communicated that the dining room would be casual – and boy was it – I wore shorts and polo and many others just wore shorts, t-shirts and whatever, they opened up the flood gates by indicating it would be a casual night. I hear a lot of reviews of Galveston how it is a different crowd and a more casual crowd, well after cruising 4 months ago out of Galveston; those folks are elegant compared to the crowd out of the “upscale” port of Miami. I completely fault the Maitre’D who did nothing to enforce the dress code, we had one couple behind us in swim trunks and a t-shirt for the guy, and a see through cover-up for the girl, and this was not the first night, I believe it was the fourth night. I have seen people like that turned away in the past, but not on this cruise, if Carnival continues on this trend, the dress code will be gone within a couple of years, it was a shabby looking crowd, jeans were accepted dress and formal night was really not all that formal, I would say that being on that same ship in 2003, the non-formal night dress was better than the 2006 formal night. Maybe they need to make one dining room have a dress code and the other not have a dress code, I am unsure what the solution is, but the trend over the last year is certainly more casual – it could also have been an anomaly on this sailing and other ships at the same time may have been different, again, I am just providing one data point of observation from my trip. I add that commentary in for those that want to know, I personally could care less what anyone else wears, and it did not affect the quality of my cruise. We took advantage and dressed as we desired, though we did not wear shorts in the evening except for the first night. There was nothing elegant about the dress of the diners in our dining room, including us! Horizon Grill – Lido Buffet Have read many reviews where people were not impressed with the busing of tables and cleanliness of the buffet – the Imagination was spotless, we did most of our lunches here and if you set something down or walked away from a table, it was IMMEDIATELY cleaned by the staff. They were awesome! The only disappointment was that they did not have a deli or if they did I had way too many drinks to find it. Pizza was delicious but they were no longer offering Calzones – big bummer! We did not eat at any of the midnight buffets; I think that they had two of them. We did a walk through of the grand buffet to take pictures, but did not eat. We had many late night pizza runs though. Entertainment I will start with the Cruise Director – Jeff Bronson – he was great, cruise directors usually don’t mean anything to me, but maybe it was because we are similar ages, he was funny and I enjoyed my brief visits with him - waaaaaaaaaaaaaazup. He is changing ships soon, and I can’t remember to where – sorry. The Asst. Staff was Ingrid, James and one other dude I can’t remember, very energetic and enthusiastic and young. The shows were great – the dancers were all new on this cruise and had a lot of energy, I think they had been rehearsing together on land and were hyped to get on board. The singers were great. We watched all the shows except the Legends (heard it was bad anyway). You can review my capers when they are posted for more information. The singers were not good and not bad, more toward the good side, they actually did more dancing than usual and were pretty good at that. Did not participate in too many other events, did some trivia and games, both DW and I brought home new 24K gold plastic plated ships on a stick – I guess I need a new trophy case, I have been dominating the belly flop contests, but they did not have one, or I was too hung over to notice… They did a water wars game on the lido stage where they flung water balloons back and forth, just be aware of that, as the bystanders in the area were getting blasted – almost knocked a beer out of my hand, now that would have been tragic! Brad Alexander was in the Mirage Piano Bar – he was excellent, unfortuneately it won’t matter to any of you because this week is his last on the Imagination, he is switching to the Pride I think. He was very entertaining, we spent some enjoyable time in there relaxing, he took requests cheerfully – except when I requested “Feelings” (if you have been on board – you know from his literature that this request is verboten) I am such a trouble maker;) www.bradalexanderonline.com if you want to know more about him. Only stopped in briefly to the Carry-okie, so no comment there… Comedian was very good – here’s to you nothing man… Grand Cayman We had been on the “tours” before and so this time we just grabbed a cab and headed to seven mile beach. It was very nice and we had a great time – sure wished I was back in Cozumel though. At the beach we were at loungers were $5, kayaks were $20, snorkel equipment was $15 etc, etc, etc. If you want to save money there were a couple of “all inclusive” options, and in retrospect, we should have done that. We shared one lounger and spent most of our time in the water or walking along the beach. It was a very relaxed and nice day. We were in port with an RCI and Princess Ship and tendering was not a problem at all, and the town was not all that crowded compared to the last time we were there – I think we had six ships last time. Jamaica Ya’mon! I had never been before and was worried about excursions, should have booked with A-Z but we did the Cool Runnings excursion though the ship to Dunn’s River Falls and it was a total blast. If you like drinking and dancing, this is the excursion for you! DW was shaking it all the way there and back! The hike up the falls was awesome, of course it would have been better in a smaller group, with our group of about 100 and another group there at the same time, it was crowded, and took about 1.5 hours to climb the falls, most of the time climbing was spent waiting – I think I could have climbed it in about 20 to 30 minutes if nobody was in my way. The guides were very good and they send a videographer with your group as well – none of them were shy about asking for tips, we tipped them because they did a lot of hard work for us helping us climb and took a lot of pictures of DW and I when requested, but man, what a racket for them, I am sure that they get paid as well, but made a fortune in tips, of course some the less capable climbers needed quite a bit of help and hopefully tipped appropriately. We did not go to the little market next to the falls as I heard it was a waste. We boarded Cool Runnings and headed back to the ship, after the climb was done the rum punch started flowing, the excursion cost $54, and I think I drank about $50 worth of rum punch, based on ship prices for drinks – so all in all the excursion was a pretty good deal. On the way back they sailed around quite a bit and took about twice as long as the trip out – we took some great pictures of the ship as we sailed by and around. Jamaica is very beautiful and I look forward to returning and exploring some more. After the excursion, we walked to the Hard Rock to pick up some things and do some other shopping. Do not pay marked price for anything in Jamaica – DW did all the negotiating and paid about 60% of the listed price – not sure if that is good or bad, but it is way better than what I would have gotten. I did get to meet the “Weed Man” on the way shopping, he walked with us for a minute and explained where the best buys on t-shirts could be found, then he explained to me that he was the “Weed Man” and not to buy from anyone else but him if I wanted the quality stuff – I told him when I was ready to buy (never) that I would absolutely only deal with him…. Otherwise I felt safe and was not bothered by the occasional beggar as we walked the area around the port, there were lots of people holding “things” through the fences at the port, but I just stayed away and did not want to know what they were selling. I would not let my kids go off on their own in this place – nor would I let DW go shopping on her own. Debarkation This was absolutely the worst part of the whole cruise. Nobody listened and at least half the ship self debarked and most of those decided to be clever and go wait for the door to open – let’s just say that many people dragging suit cases was a disaster, people were literally running over people and there were some tempers flaring. One couple practically ran me over (I am a former college linebacker and not small) trying to get past everyone, then stood for about 45 minutes outside the terminal waiting for “Uncle Bob” to pick them up – they were still waiting when we left… DW and I have decided from now on, we will book a later flight, and be the last ones off the boat, no more self debark for us – last December on the Liberty it was the smoothest and easiest – now it is a nightmare – no thanks – Carnival needs to fix this – of course I am sure it saves them time and money so they may not fix it. We were however off the ship and out the door of the terminal by 8:15 had to wait for our friends (escalator broke) who made it out at 9:00 and we were off in a cab to Ft. Lauderdale by 9:05, cab fare to FLL was $72 before tip. While we were waiting we were offered a $15/per person ride in a shuttle van, so if you are bargain hunting, you can do the shuttle pretty cheap if you are patient. Miscellaneous The water was the smoothest ever! This was DW’s 8th cruise and she was astounded, especially with Tropical Storm 7 and 8 out there to the east. The ship was in fantastic condition, we sailed the newest (Liberty) in December and were very pleased with the condition of the ship, don’t get me wrong, the closet doors in our stateroom had a lot of scratches and wear, the drawers did not work all that great, there was an occasional carpet stain, but the public areas were clean and very well maintained. Smoking – there were some inconsiderate smokers, DW enjoy eating meals on the Lido outside on the “wings” we also like to grab late night pizza or a coffee and sit for a while and just enjoy the wake of the ship and the night. Well even though it is clearly marked, three of our visits were done with several people smoking – I really don’t mind smoke, sat in between a pair of smokers in the casino every day, but I hate it when I am eating, I asked one couple to please stop – he informed me that we were on the starboard side, I informed him that we were in an eating area and that they were off limits to smokers, at which point I stood up and walked over and showed him the signs three feet from his head – they apologized and left – sometimes being a taller than average physically strong, relatively young male has it’s advantages… too bad people have to be that way, in most cases it is ignorance. Otherwise smoking was not a problem, but I was traveling with a smoker so no big deal, like I said, unless I am eating – not a problem. No, I did not video this, nor will I complain to Carnival and try to scumbag weasel a free cruise, the one time it bothered me, I took care of it. Cell phones – the Imagination has the Cell service at sea – I wrote in another thread already that I did not like it – I was amazed how many people were using their phones out at sea, I sure hope they all knew how much they were paying per minute – I believe that it was $2.49/minute – phone were ringing everywhere – they had to remind people to turn them off in the shows etc. I am sure they made enough at that price to pay for all the hardware J on that cruise alone – I really knew it was over when one clownshoe was talking, dancing, and drinking all at the same time – and being obnoxious about it. Well that probably does it for that, I am sure there are more things I am forgetting, I may have to add more later and I will post links when I get more things scanned. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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