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Carnival Cruise Lines: Carnival Imagination

Carnival Imagination Cruise Review

Insider Take


One of the oldest "Fantasy-class" Carnival ships (1991), fine for short inexpensive getaways but the age shows in decor.

Best For People Who Want

Non-stop entertainment, lively casinos, extensive deck space for sunning, large, if very pink, facilities for fitness/spa and children's activities, large cabins, good food, and very informal service. Especially recommended for families, singles in groups and first time cruisers.

Onboard Experience

Identical in all but decor, Carnival Imagination and her seven Fantasy-class sister ships (Fantasy, Fascination, Ecstasy, Inspiration, Paradise, Sensation & Elation) always seem to have something of interest going on, and thus are ideal for the up-and-at-'em style cruiser. Carrying 2,052 passengers, the ships are big enough to provide diverse entertainment, ample deck space for those whose idea of being entertained is basking in a warm sun shine glow, and separate facilities for passengers of all ages.

Having been launched in 1995, in today's whirlwind pace of change in the cruise industry, Imagination is not so full of neon, chrome and mirrors as her younger sister ships. But it's there if you know where to look. Like at the Illusions Dance Club with her brass barstools and neon-rimmed mirrors and ceiling panels.

In addition, a further upgrade completed in 2007 includes a snazzy new pool area with teak decking, new umbrellas, a tile "beach" for the pool water to lap against and a new thatched roof for the hot tub. The kids will rave about "Carnival waterworks," the new water park featuring a 4-story tall and 300 foot long "Twister Water Slide." Another slide is three side-by-side tubes 82 feet long. This is all part of a waterpark with all kinds of sprays and other devices to keep the kiddies cool and fresh. There's also a new nine-hole miniature golf course.

As if that isn't enough for the kids, "Camp Carnival" received a makeover, and the ship has new interconnecting staterooms for families.

The adults haven't been left out; there is a new "adults-only" area called "Serenity" with a deck of solid teak panels for soft cushioned loungers in sun or shady areas and two hot tubs.

New enhancements indoors include a coffee cafe with specialty coffees (for a price) but free pastries. There is a new art & photo gallery and the atrium bar has been updated. New sound and lighting systems have been installed in every public room, and the ship now has flat screen televisions in several places to keep up with sports and other vital information.

All of the staterooms are updated as well with new fabrics and finishings, and flat panel televisions for a more updated look and the important added space.

Ideal as it is for the sort of person who likes to have loads of activities planned, Imagination also offers lots of out-of-the-way places to read or just contemplate the sea. During summer cruises, however, when there are hundreds of kiddies aboard, quiet contemplation might become a luxury reserved for another ship.


Every Carnival ship, designed by fanciful designer Joe Farcus, has a unifying theme for the decor. The unifying idea behind Imagination's interior decor is imagination - that is to say the focus is on famous mythical places of mystery and illusion. You'll find the the Illusions Dance Club, the Dream Bar with its rotating mirror balls and ceiling mounted lava lamps, The names of the rooms alone evoke mystery; the El Dorado Casino, Shangri La Disco, Illusions Dance Club and the Mirage Piano Bar.

Public Rooms

The ship consist of 10 decks with most of the public rooms concentrated on Atlantic, Promenade and Lido decks (decks 5, 6 and 7). The cabins are mostly concentrated on decks one through four; Riviera, Main, Upper (which is actually a lower deck 3) and Empress decks.

The ships centerpiece is their seven-deck high Grand Atrium, bathed in brass and glass and surrounded by stone monolith centurions holding up the surrounding upper levels, the carpet and the wall decorations are mesmerizing matrices of blue and gold intertwining lines. You can stroll on the "Imagination promenade", or plop down into a soft banquette to ogle passers-by. The two-level, 1300-seat Dynasty Lounge at the front of the promenade presents live production shows, comedians, magicians, and passenger talent shows, with exemplary sight lines and good seating throughout.

The ship's most fanciful decor is in such entertainment venues as the popular Mirage Piano bar featuring an enormous circular piano which doubles as a bar for those who like to sing along. You'll also find a vibrant disco and cabaret lounge along the boulevard.

Other public areas include the Galleria shopping mall, the Virtual World arcade, and the ship's photo gallery. Vittorio's Cafe and Internet offers access for 75 cents per minute; for those who plan to spend more time on the computer, there are 100 minute packages available for $50 (50 cents per minute) and 250 minute packages for $100 (40 cents per minute).

All of the public rooms recently received new sound and light systems to add a touch of excitement. Flat-screen televisions have been added to many lounges to keep up with sports and other events. The ship now has a specialty coffee bar, new art and photo galleries and purpose-built conference facilities.


From the best pizza afloat (available 24 hours per day) to haute cuisine in the main dining room, Carnival really delivers on the food front.


Total Choice Dining provides for four dinner seatings in the main dining rooms, alternative Bistro dining every evening, and an increased number of service staff. Passengers are assigned a table for dinner in one of the two main dining rooms - The Pride Dining Room on Atlantic Deck, mid-ship, or the Spirit Dining Room on Atlantic Deck, aft - at one of four seatings; 5:45 p.m. or 6:15 p.m. and 8 p.m. or 8:30 p.m. There are very few tables for two in either of the two main dining rooms; expect to dine with four, six, or eight fellow voyagers. Both dining rooms are named after future Carnival ships that at the time were only a part of the founder's "imagination."

You typically have a choice of six starters, a couple of salads, and six or seven main courses (pan-fried fillet of red snapper, sweet and sour shrimp, rack of New Zealand lamb and Beef Wellington). The menu also includes Spa Carnival selections for those trying to reduce their intake of calories, sodium, cholesterol, fat, or meat.

Additionally, the poolside Lido eateries are converted into Seaview Bistros between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. each evening, offering buffet dinner with no reservations or advance notice required. The informal Horizon (T-shirts and shorts are OK) Restaurant on the Lido Deck offers both inside and poolside seating. All meals here are served buffet style, with open seating for all three meals.

Other alternative eating options include a 24-hour pizzeria, a complimentary sushi bar and 24 hour room service. Added in the 2007 renovation were a coffee bar in the atrium and New York-style deli in the Lido restaurants.


Don't expect formality. Indeed, expect wacky dances after dessert - and then to come back to your cabin to find that your cabin steward, cut up that he or she is, has left a towel folded to resemble a dog on your bed. The hi-jinx never stop!


Carnival automatically adds $10.00 per person per day in gratuities to your Sail & Sign card unless you're under two years old, and if you're reading this, you're probably not. This includes $3.60 for the stateroom steward; $5.50 for the Dining Room team, and $.90 for service in the alternative dining rooms. Visit the purser's desk during the cruise to raise or lower this amount.

You may also prepay gratuities for all service personnel at a rate of $10.00 per person per day. On Cruises-to-Nowhere, gratuities of $10 per person per day must be prepaid.

A 15 percent gratuity is automatically added to all beverage tabs. Tip the maitre d', room service, spa, casino and other staff as you deem fitting.


The prime entertainment venue is the 1,300 seat Dynasty Lounge theater, but karaoke draws big crowds to the Illusions Dance Club, while the Xanadu Lounge offers a variety of dance-music combos from pop standards to even folk and country musicians. A variety of dance music is spinning nightly in the Shangri La Disco. Regardless of what sort of music you like most, you're pretty much assured of hearing it.

By day, there are bingo and Trivial Pursuit contests, not to mention such highbrow events poolside as the men's hairy chest contest.


Because they were built just before the shift toward lots of verandahs, just the 26 demi-suites (250 square feet) and 28 full suites (400 square feet) have them.

However, in 2007 all of the staterooms in the class of smaller Carnival ships received a facelift to bring them up to date. All of the staterooms now have new flat screen televisions, for example, a subtle change but one that lends a significantly different feel to the room while also adding a little extra space - which never hurts.

The cabins on these older ships always appeared spartan compared to the newer Carnival ships due to their lack of wooden desks and cabinetry. The colors, fabrics and linens have all been upgraded, but they are still light on amenities (a color TV with CNN, telephone, radio, no hair dryer, and a basket of "free-sample" toiletries). They are roomy, however, among the largest in the cruise industry: inside measure 185 sq. ft, outside 190 sq. feet. Even in the minimum category inside or outside stateroom you'll still enjoy ample space. Cabins for four and five are understandably popular with families, and go fast.

Oceanview staterooms and suites offer a mini bar, bathrobes, and fairly large bathrooms with a hand-held shower and medicine cabinet. There are also 26 mini-suites (226 sq. feet plus 36 square foot private veranda) and 28 suites measuring 350 sq. feet with 71 sq. foot balconies.

Children's Facilities

Carnival's celebrated Camp Carnival program offers a full schedule of supervised activities, from finger painting and singalongs for younger children to photography workshops, late-night movies, and pool parties for their older siblings. The ships' 2,400-square foot "Children's World" play areas are stocked with a computer lab, a climbing maze, an activity wall, and an assortment of toys, games and puzzles.

The 2007 upgrade added a nine-hole miniature golf course as well as a waterpark that is better than the larger Carnival ships. The kids will love these supervised diversions giving you plenty of time to relax by the pool.


On the two "formal" nights per week, most men wear a dark suit instead of tux. By day, nearly everyone wears shorts, T-shirt, sneakers/sandals, bathing suit, and a hat.

Should Be Avoided By People Who Prefer

Sophisticated "seen but not heard" service people; cabins with private verandas; mega-ship action; understated elegance in a low-key environment; no children; dozens of varieties of food.


With no fewer than 12,000 sq. ft. devoted to fitness and spa facilities, these ships are a dream come true for those who like to keep in shape during their cruise. The "Evolutions of Fun" upgrades of 2007 paid particular attention to the spa area with more elegance and amenities.

The gyms have a private trainer and 35 state-of-the-art exercise machines. There's a day-long schedule of aerobics, and stretching yoga, and Pilates classes (usually around $10 each), as well as body composition analysis and personal training sessions, $75 for 60 minutes. There's a fully jogging track and a volleyball court. Women who want to sunbathe topless will find secluded areas in which to do so.

Those who prefer to skip shore excursions and snorkel on their own can rent equipment for $26 for three days. The inescapable Steiner's of London operates the ship's spa, which offers lots of different kinds of massage - and pushes its beauty products rather more zealously than most passengers would prefer.

Ship Overview

Introduced in 1995, the fifth ship in Carnival’s eight-ship Fantasy-class is Carnival Imagination. Like other Fantasy-class ships, she has received numerous upgrades throughout her tenure and features a secluded adults-only Serenity Deck, but there is no word at this writing on whether the ship will be updated to add Carnival’s "Fun Ship 2.0" upgrades. After embarkation in Miami, passengers on Carnival Imagination sail on three-night cruises to the Bahamas or four-night cruises to the Western Caribbean, including a stop in Key West, Florida, on some sailings.

Bathed in fiber-optic light, glitzy Fantasy-class interiors added expansive six-deck atriums and a new dimension to the original superliner concept. To keep the fun going, these ships offer an almost wearying assortment of places to have a good time. As times and tastes have changed, the ships have evolved as well, with new lobby bars, dedicated club spaces for teens and tweens, miniature golf, and Internet centers. Even newer are Carnival’s WaterWorks water park and the Serenity Adult-Only Retreat, which increase the appeal of the older Fantasy-class vessels.

Only one level below the Lido deck, the indoor promenade connects major public rooms on a single deck, with only formal dining rooms, shops, and other small spaces one deck below. Large in size and ideal for a short itinerary, these ships have sprawling outdoor pool and sunning areas, but they can feel cramped when sailing at maximum capacity. Cabins provide calm oases from sensory overload. With the exception of Carnival Sensation, Carnival Fascination, and Carnival Ecstasy, to which balconies were added to existing cabins, you'll have to book a suite if you want the solitude of a private balcony.

The world's largest cruise line—and one of the most widely recognized—originated its "Fun Ship" concept in 1972 and has been launching party-packed superliners with signature red funnels ever since. The line's ever-growing fleet features entertainment and activities designed for passengers of all ages, from game shows and lip sync competitions to twisting waterslides and mini golf. These ships are a reliable choice for families as well as young singles and couples who want a vacation that won’t break the bank.

Nearly all onboard dining options are included in the fare, as are comedy and production shows, children’s programs, and use of state-of-the-art fitness centers. With some of the most comfortable accommodations at sea, large new ships are continuously added to the fleet and rarely deviate from a successful pattern, while older vessels are updated with popular features, such as the poolside BlueIguana Tequila Bar with an adjacent burrito cantina, the Red Frog Rum Bar that also serves Carnival’s own brand of Thirsty Frog Red beer, and Guy’s Burger Joint, created with Food Network star Guy Fieri.

What You Should Know


  • Central atriums are stunning when sunlight streams in through skylights
  • Surprisingly large libraries are ideal retreats for reading or playing board games
  • Freshly made pizza and calzones are available around the clock


  • Despite upgrades, the decor is still pretty gaudy
  • These are ships designed for partying, so quiet spots can be difficult to find
  • Sushi bars earn high marks for their complimentary creations, but sake costs extra
Ship Stats
  • Crew Members 920
  • Entered Service 1995
  • Gross Tons 70,367
  • Length 855 feet
  • Number of Cabins 1,028
  • Passenger Capacity 2,056 (2,610 max)
  • Width 103 feet

By Mary_CR

  • New

May 23, 2014

Mexican Riviera

Pro's We sailed to Ensenada on a 4 night cruise out of Long Beach. Carnival staff was wonderful- Long Beach Port Authority are rude. We purchased the Grand Suite class and enjoyed literally walking on and off the ship without interruption with the priority Embarkation and Debarkation that comes with the suite room. Our room, U1115 on the Upper deck was spacious and well-appointed. The bathroom had a jetted tub with a shower combo, however

I did not use the tub. The balcony was nice but unfortunately it was very windy and chilly and we didn't spend a lot of time out there but did enjoy watching the ship enter and leave the ports. The staff was incredibly accommodating and nice. We liked that they remembered our names and we were treated wonderfully for four days. Most of the food was really good and there was something to please every palate. Staff will even bring you two or three of something (like two entrees, two desserts, etc.) We selected "anytime" dining and although we didn't have to wait long, we did have to share a table with other couples for two nights. Not good if you are shy or enjoy privacy, but you do meet new people and learn interesting things and can compare your cruise experience with other passengers.--probably would go with the "early" or "late" dining next time. Cons I felt the gift shops on the store needed more variety of merchandise. We sailed on the Carnival "Victory" before and it seems like the gift shop on that ship offered more sundry type stuff (snacks to purchase, sodas, over the counter medications, etc.) The Mongolian BBQ was awful. We couldn't even EAT it. Most of the food was really good with the exception of the mongolian BBQ. We had the Grand Suite class- which was really nice and spacious. They seem to offer something for every taste-We enjoyed the comedy club. In Ensenada, book the excursions from the local Mexical Tourism Authority---A tour company will meet the ship and shuttle you to a tour agency where you can book the same excursions for half the price. We went to La Bouffadora and our local guide, Jaime was great. Don't book excursions from Carnival. We had a wonderful time and would definitely do this cruise again. It's really worth the money (extra $300.00) to upgrade your cabin to a suite. The priority status alone is worth it.

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  • New

Feb 21, 2014


We enjoyed a quick 2-night cruise aboard the Imagination late January 2014. We were a party of three- me, 40, my hubby, 50 and our 5 year old son. As we live on the Central CA coast, this was a convenient trip for us. Overall, we enjoyed this short getaway and our expectations on the Imagination were exceeded. Dining As usual, we requested a small table just for the three of us in the early seating, main dining room, but checked

with the maître d on embarkation day and they had pre-assigned us to sit with others (not sure why they won't honor what you request on the website, but oh well). Our request to change to a private table was quickly accommodated, and we were put in a 4-top, banquette style (not my fave- as you're seated right next others on the bench/table combo). Our main dining room servers were so friendly and caring for such a short cruise, and the main dining room food was great. Lido Buffet food was better than average and the area was kept clean and well stocked. The station set up really helps with the crowds- the lines were minimal even during peak times, and seating was always available. I particularly loved the Sandwich station, salad bar, and the Asian food. The Cabin We sailed in an ocean view cabin this time (R43 on the Riviera deck), rather than our standard balcony cabin. We were very happy with the size of the room, and the layout as well as the fact that the cabins below and above us were also cabins- so there was no chair dragging/people walking/loud lounge noise, etc. The window was very large, and helped us to avoid that claustrophobic feeling that can creep in when we don't have a balcony. Unfortunately, we had rainy, very cool weather by Southern CA standards, so we did not get to enjoy as much time outdoors on this cruise. It drizzled pretty much the whole time, with a great break in the rain while we were in Ensenada. The Ship The feeling the MOMENT we walked on board was upbeat, cheerful, and music filled. Every employee in the atrium greeted us, and the music playing let the passengers feel the vacation mood immediately upon boarding. The dancing towel animal, Ellie the Elephant is adorable, and really added to the smiles. The renovations on this ship were awesome (we cruised on it pre-renovation 8 years ago). They did a great job making the ship feel as new as possible- the pool deck looks great and the public rooms and atrium are very obviously updated. Passengers were respectful and party-focused, but not rowdy or obnoxious, from what we noticed. We noticed that a lot of people were carrying around beers and/or bucket of beers immediately after boarding- getting the fun started. We had thought that this cruise might be too rowdy and loud for us, but it wasn't. It was fun to watch the many bachelorette party groups, families travelling in large groups together and groups of girlfriends looking for a weekend getaway. The Port This was a "one port" cruise, with just a day's stop in Ensenada. This was our first time off the ship in Ensenada (we usually sit out this port on longer cruises), so we booked a tour through Carnival to La Bufadora, and enjoyed the blowhole, as well as the BEST tacos (the shop RIGHT near the bus stop at La Bufadora). The vendors were aggressive on the walk to the blowhole, as others had warned, but we made a few purchases, and enjoyed the shopping opportunity. All in all, we're glad we went, but this is a place you probably only need to see once. We'd do it again! Hopefully, this time, on the longer 4 day to Catalina.

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  • New

Jan 18, 2014


Too crowded. We were in lines for everything. There weren't enough seats in informal dining; we had to go to a completely different part of the deck just to find a place to sit down. There were long lines at the buffet, too. Formal dining is better, but make sure you get an assigned time unless you like waiting in line. The deck was so packed you could hardly walk through it let alone get a seat to lay out. The whirlpools were never empty. There were

2000 people on board but room for about 500 in the common areas. The food was average. The pizza was very bland. But the Chocolate Melting Cake - amazing! Room was well worth the price, very clean, and a great view of the ocean. Loved the activities! Very fun, but you'll have to arrive early or at off times. Otherwise, you won't get a seat. Cozumel is beautiful. Will definitely go back there. Overall, a disappointment. In addition to the crowds, we had poor weather.

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  • New

Aug 14, 2013

Key west and Cozumel Mexico

Cruise ship was nice, bathroom on lido deck wasn't clean, staff at lido deck was nice. Front desk at customer service staff was polite but not friendly. dining room and housekeeping staff was also friendly. When we had to leave the ship at port of call, staff was not friendly . Biggest disappointment was pool. Water level was almost five feet. Four feet and ten inches to be precious. I am 4 feet and 10 inches tall and I don't

know how to swim so I couldn't go in pool at all. There was only one pool. I am sure they can keep shallow water on one side and deep water on other side of pool but it was same level of water in whole pool and it was salt water. They need to think that everyone is not six feet tall or everyone knows how to swim. They need to design this with all kind of people in mind. Dining room food was good because it was requested before sailing and that food was tasty but food at lido Deck was disappointing for vegetarian people like us. Besides French fries , bread and fruit and deserts there was not one single item . We had requested Indian food. In spirit and pride dining hall food was fantastic. Dining room staff was also friendly and polite. Few times they made mistake bringing food to wrong person on table. Overall it was great experience in dining rooms but at lunch time or just when we didn't wanted to go to dining hall or when we were at port of call and couldn't make it to dining room in time or just we wanted to eat at informal dining area ,Horizon bar and grill they didn't had any vegetarian choice but French fries, bread and fruits. Before this cruise we took cruise with norvegian and royal Caribbean cruise lines and they had one Indian style vegi and rice and Indian style bread which was good. We were disappointed and kind of hungry even though there was so much food. So it was like mix feeling experience. Room was all right. We didn't have any problem with it. It was not big room. They booked five people in our room and they said there will be five bed in room, but they had two bunk beds and fifth bed they set up on floor which is not right because they charge full price for that fifth person. It was okay cruise . They need more shows.

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  • New

Nov 14, 2012


Wow, this was some cruise. Yes, we did sail around in tropical storm force winds for over a day. Yes, everyone was sick. Yes, this was not the best cruise I have ever been on. When you book a cruise you run the risk of bad weather. No cruise line can guarantee good weather. It's the provisions they make for during bad weather is what can make a huge difference. A previous post said that Carnival could have let us know that Nassau was closed

before we left port, I agree. That was a bit shady... I understand though that probably half of the ship would have revolted had they said that before we set sail. I was disappointed that we did not stay overnight in Nassau. But itinerary changes happen. What I was more bewildered about was that when you looked on the ships monitor about our heading, we were actually following the hurricane, not sailing away from it. We were hovering around Grand Bahama Island for a day... What we should have done is head down to Key West for the day. You know... opposite direction from the hurricane... not more near it. We spoke to a young lady who works for the cruise line (but not on the ship) and her thought was that they were thinking they would need to dock at GBI instead of Nassau if it couldn't be cleaned up in time. I still voted for Key West. And I later heard that another ship recently diverted to Key West... So, it's not like it isn't possible... The Imagination even ports there on their 4 day cruise... Anyway, I wondered if anyone did take advantage of the "vacation guarantee" and wondered how it worked... Too bad Carnival didn't make it easy. That ship smelled pretty bad from all the vomit all over. Now, I'm not prone to seasickness so I didn't have a particularly rough time of it. But a word to the wise, if you don't feel great, dont sit there and eat a big fat steak along with 2 desserts... Just sayin" I was hoping that Carnival would offer a discount on a future cruise for those of us that stuck it out (not like we really had a choice though).

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