The arrival of Carnival Imagination to Long Beach, Calif., provides the West Coast with flexible short cruises, year-round. // © 2014 Mindy Poder
Carnival Imagination has officially joined Carnival Inspiration and Carnival Miracle in Long Beach, Calif., for three-day Ensenada and four-day Baja cruises. This is big news for the region, as it makes Carnival the only cruise line to offer a year-round, short cruise program from the West Coast.
“We’re excited to offer West Coast travel agents a year-round product, providing them with the opportunity to earn with us throughout the year,” said Joni Rein, vice president of worldwide sales. “Other cruise lines only operate here seasonally so this is a key factor.”
According to Rein, Carnival expects that this year’s West Coast cruises will carry 550,000 guests — and most of them will be booked by travel agents.
Following are the top reasons to consider cruising on Carnival Imagination.
Imagination has been updated with brand-new carpets, linens, drapes and fresh paint. These little touches, completed during the September drydock, make for a comfortable and clean experience onboard Imagination.
New Onboard Entertainment
September’s drydock also resulted in an upgrade in entertainment offerings, including the Punchliner Comedy Club; “Hasbro, the Game Show;” and Playlist Productions, a series of energetic live singing and dancing performances. In order to pull off these productions, such as “Epic Rock,” a flashy, fast moving and crowd pleasing revue of the hits of the 1970s and 1980s, Carnival brought eight new cast members onboard. Each of them is a “triple threat,” able to sing, dance and act for a dynamic performance.
I also loved the addition of the Punchliner. Nothing complements cruising better than some great jokes about marriage and dubious parenting skills.
Cruises, All the Time
Since the Carnival Imagination and Carnival Inspiration have the same itinerary, guests can now decide how they would like to break up their weekend by choosing the timing that works best for them.
Customizable Group Events
In addition to the new features onboard Imagination, Carnival is happy to assist travel agents with special arrangements for their guests. A private function set up in the Serenity adults-only outdoor section is a bonus for any group sailing onboard Imagination. With two Jacuzzis and some of the best lounge chairs onboard — not to mention great views of the water — the Serenity section is one of the best places on the ship.
Great for Rookie Cruisers
According to Rein, one misconception agents have about booking these short cruises is that they won’t make much money.
“These are actually a great introduction to cruising for cruise rookies and gives agents the opportunity to convert new cruisers to repeat guests on longer cruises,” said Rein. “In addition, our online booking tools make these short cruises easy and efficient to sell for agents.”
For families, easing the travel process is key, making this an attractive option for families who are within driving distance of Long Beach, Calif.
“We sometimes hear from travel agents that they think of these shorter cruises as being more geared to the ‘party traveler’ rather than the family traveler when, in actuality, these cruises are mostly comprised of families and multigenerational travelers,” Rein said.
Compared to the other popular vacation spots for West Coast clients, cruising on Imagination offers a great value — especially when you consider that it was recently refreshed.
“They offer a fun, high-quality vacation at an incredible value compared to nearby Las Vegas,” said Rein. “Moreover, there is no need to purchase airfare for this type of getaway as there is with two other popular vacations in the region, Cabo San Lucas and Hawaii.”
Warm Chocolate Melting Cake
Agents can also set up a cooking demonstration with members of the kitchen staff for their client groups. On my sailing, we learned how to make Carnival’s warm chocolate melting cake. On average, the ship serves 900 portions of its famous chocolate cake each day, so this is a potent recipe to be able to replicate. Since it is relatively easy to make, Jennifer Buenrostro, group development manager for Carnival Cruise Lines, suggests preparing the cake for clients as a way to give prospective cruisers a taste of what they will find onboard.
Smell the freshly baking bread, get a sneak peak of the day’s dinner entrees and learn about how Carnival orders it food and eliminates its waste. This is another special opportunity that agents can book ahead for their clients.
The Chef’s Table
Though it is available to the public, Carnival doesn’t publicize this special dinner experience because of its limited availability on each sailing. A maximum of 12 to 14 guests gets to dine with the chef at a special location onboard, after learning how to make the melting chocolate cake and taking a tour of the galley.
The seven-course dinner includes wine and a group photo and costs $75 per person. Be sure to make arrangements for your client at the time of booking, since it fills up fast. On the Imagination, the dinner takes place in the library.
The Behind the Fun Tour
Also only a few years old, the Behind the Fun Tour is one of the most underrated activities onboard, according to Drew Santiago, business development manager for Carnival Cruise Lines.
The three-and-a-half-hour tour guided tour takes cruisers to all the places that are off limits to them, from the crew’s living quarters to the engine rooms. The tour is $95 per person and is capped at 16 guests.