“Good afternoon, cruisers!” was the announcement as my wife and I stepped aboard the 855-foot Carnival ship Imagination. For the next three days, we would be cruising round-trip from Long Beach to the seaport of Ensenada, Mexico. Just the two of us — plus 2,600 other passengers and more than 900 crew members.
Our cabin, an ocean-view stateroom on the Riviera Deck, was surprisingly roomy, with a large window, king-sized bed, three full-length closets, and a spacious private bathroom. Our steward informed us that our checked bags would arrive shortly and added that we shouldn’t hesitate to ask him for anything we might need during the course of our long-weekend voyage.
We headed up to the Lido Deck to check out the buffet — roast beef, salad, veggies, and much more — all included with our travel tickets. No sooner had we sat down than a waiter convinced us we needed a pitcher of margaritas. Carnival offers a Cheers! package, which gets you unlimited alcoholic drinks anywhere on the boat for about $50 per day. (Each passenger is also allowed to carry on one bottle of wine.) We had declined the drinks package, opting to pay as we go. Drinks ranged in price from $6 for a beer to $12 for a cocktail.
Our cruise was sold out, but with Guy’s Burger Joint, the BlueIguana Cantina, Lido Restaurant, a deli, fine-dining options, and even a 24-hour pizzeria, there were rarely any food lines. The same could be said for drinks at the Illusions nightclub and the Alchemy, Atrium, and RedFrog bars — a beer or cocktail was always close at hand. There’s even the Serenity Deck, a drinking-age-only area at the stern of the ship, with lounge chairs, two hot tubs, and helpful waitstaff. Our stateroom fare also offered 24-hour room service.
Overall, our cruise was no hoity-toity affair, and it was an absolute blast. Dress options ranged from casual to semi-formal. Live entertainment was first class. Plus, we noticed a kids club and pools with waterslides.
If you’ve ever wondered about a cruise-ship outing, this sort of three- or four-day trip seems the perfect opportunity to give it a try. (And if your ship sails internationally, don’t forget a valid passport.) Visit carnival.com for more information.