Photos by Mark Leppert
My husband, Mark, who is self-employed, knew he was going to have a few days open in his schedule. So, we decided we wanted to do a short trip. I began looking into hotels in nearby cities such as Dana Point and Santa Barbara. The moderate hotel we selected in Dana Point was going to be $270.00 per night, and the one in Santa Barbara even more.
Next, we decided to check out the cruises out of Long Beach, namely Carnival Cruise Line. We were able to get a 4-night cruise on the Carnival Imagination for $217.00 per day for both of us. So, for quite a bit less money than one night at a hotel, we would be getting our stateroom, all meals, entertainment and transportation! Whoever said cruising was too expensive is way wrong!! Plus, we got two ports included, Ensenada and Catalina Island, which we really love!
After a quick 1 hour and 45 minute drive from San Diego to Long Beach, we boarded our ship. Our stateroom was an ocean view. There are very few balcony staterooms on this older ship but the ocean view staterooms are very roomy and have lots of storage space. One could easily do a 7-day cruise on the Imagination and not have to worry about feeling cramped or worry about where to store all of their belongings. Our stateroom even had a pull-down bed for accommodating a third person.
The Carnival Imagination just added two new dining venues – Guy’s Burger Joint by Guy Fieri and the BlueIguana Cantina which serves tacos and burritos. Amazingly, both are included in the price of the cruise, so there’s no need to pull out your Sail & Sign card. We have enjoyed both of these eateries on other Carnival ships and were so glad to see them now onboard the Imagination. Both are equally good!
We enjoyed the Your Time dining option, and each of us paid the extra fee to get a 9-ounce filet mignon steak for me and the surf and turf for Mark. These were very good quality meals and well worth the added charge. Of course, we had to indulge in the warm, chocolate melting cake – a Carnival specialty – and it was delicious as always!
On our cruise, we had quite a mix of nationalities and ages. It was nice to see such a blend. As school had started, the children were mostly of infant to toddler age. There actually were at least 25 or more onboard.
As we were interested in some adult-only time, we spent a bit in the Serenity area which is for adults 21 years or older. It offered two hot tubs and plenty of lounge chairs and umbrellas, as well as regular chairs under the shade. A full bar was available too. The weather was perfect, in the 70s, so getting some fresh air at the back of the ship while in port or at sea, was delightful! (Smoking was not allowed in the Serenity area, so the air was always fresh there!!)
The activities onboard were numerous and diverse. The casino is a big draw when at sea. Unfortunately, the smoke from the casino tends to drift to many other ship locations and decks, thus really offending those who do not smoke. We heard the casino may become non-smoking in the not-too-distant future – something we would so love to see! We love trivia sessions but they are held right by the casino, and the smoke just permeates that area to the point of chasing us away from a pastime we love.
Fortunately, we were able to win the General Knowledge trivia on a port day so as not to have to sit there with the awful smoke smell. Yes, we were happy to have won the cherished “ship on a stick” trophy! We have been lucky enough to have won different types of trivia on some of the other Carnival ships so this “award” was added to our collection.
The evening shows and entertainment are quite enjoyable, be they the stage productions or the comedians who do both a family show and an adults-only show. We had a good time attending all of them!
The ship is well laid out so you never really feel it is too crowded at any time. Even tendering to Catalina Island was a breeze!
With reasonable pricing available on all of Carnival’s ships, we can easily and gladly recommend the line for a wonderful vacation getaway. Both families and couples alike will enjoy themselves. And with a new mega-ship, the Horizon, coming in April to the fleet, there remain plenty of ships going to plenty of areas of the world to chose from. Just pick your destination, pick your Carnival ship, and away you’ll go!
So, bon voyage, all!!