In the early part of September 2020, the Carnival Imagination became the latest vessel to be run ashore at Aliaga, Turkey, where she is being stripped and prepared for demolition.
In what is now becoming a distressingly familiar final maneuver, Carnival Imagination was rammed through a narrow opening between her partially demolished sister, Carnival Fantasy and a small coaster.
In the metal-crunching process, she sideswiped the Fantasy, shearing off lifeboat davits and smashing railings and bulwarks that will soon be reduced to piles of scrap metal.
The other ships in the forlorn fivesome include the former Royal Caribbean Monarch of the Seas, the former Sovereign of the Seas and the Carnival Inspiration.
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A fourth Carnival ship, the Carnival Fascination, has also just been sold, presumably to suffer the same fate if they can find an open slot for her on that crowded beach.
Carnival Imagination Specifications
- Year built: 1995
Length: 855 feet
Beam: 104 feet
Gross tonnage: 70,367
- Double occupancy: 2,040
- Maximum capacity: 2,594
Built in 1995 as the Imagination, much of Carnival Imagination’s “thunder” was stolen by the four identical ships that came before her, although it could be argued that it gave her a slight edge on the three that followed.
And even though the Imagination was well precedented, she emerged at a pivotal time in the development of Carnival Cruise Lines, which would eventually eclipse all other cruise lines as the world’s largest.
Aside from some smaller Soviet ships, “Five of Eight” was part of the largest platform of cruise ships built to date and led to even larger ships in more expansive platforms that followed.
For ship lovers, the idea of so many vessels being cut from the same mold is not terribly exciting but for big cruise lines, such uniformity keeps the product, mechanics and other operating systems interchangeable and consistent.
Despite her indistinguishable architecture and layout, the Imagination boasted her own unique interior stylings, thanks to the unbounded creativity of designer Joseph Farcus.
Farcus applied a “classical and mythological” concept to the Imagination’s public areas and while slightly more restrained than the four sisters that preceded her, she was still quite an eye-popper.
The Imagination was built by Kvaerner-Masa shipyards in Helsinki, Finland. The eight-member platform of ships was considered the world’s most extensive peacetime shipbuilding program to date, lasting from 1989 through 1998.
The contract was signed in March 1992 and the first steel for hull number 488, soon to be named Imagination, was cut in the spring of 1993.
The ship was floated out in October 1994 and completed in late April of the following year. Imagination was christened by Jodi Dickinson, wife of Carnival’s then CEO Bob Dickinson, in June of 1995.
In 2007, the ship’s name was given the “Carnival” prefix and subsequent refits saw modifications, such as the addition of a water park, the City Sports Park, an atrium bar and the overhaul of several interior venues.
Here is a deck by deck tour of the ship in her latter-day Carnival Imagination configuration, from top to bottom.
The Carnival Imagination had ten passenger decks, beginning at the top with Sun Deck. Initially, Sun Deck featured a sheltered games court and a jogging track that ran through the base of the radio mast.
RELATED: Carnival Imagination Deck Plans
In later years, this space featured the City Sports Park golf putting course, although the jogging track was retained.
The next level, Sports Deck, began with the gym and Spa Carnival, leading aft to the top level of the seven-deck tall atrium.
The Camp Carnival children’s playroom occupied the aft interior portion of this level, overlooking the atrium. On some of the Fantasy-class ships, this space was actually a pair of private owner’s suites.
The aft portion of Sports Deck surrounded the funnel base. This teak-lined space was once a nude sunbathing deck and in recent years, it has provided access to the Carnival Waterworks slides.
Verandah Deck began with an open-air observation platform that extended via the bridge wings over the side of the ship.
A block of 34 staterooms, including 26 verandah suites, followed.
Verandah Deck continued with open terraces that surrounded the midships pool area, leading to the base of the Waterworks and a large sunning terrace at the ship’s stern.
Lido Deck began with the bridge and officers’ accommodations. The midships portion was a partially shaded open deck area with the pool and a bandstand that in later years were served by the Blue Iguana Tequila and RedFrog Rum bars.
The Horizon Bar and Grill continued from there with an alfresco and enclosed casual buffet dining venue seating 722 guests.
Promenade Deck featured a full level of public rooms, beginning with the double-deck Dynasty Lounge, a showroom seating 1,300 guests with sightlines that were somewhat compromised by numerous support beams.
Decorative elements included pearwood handrails, wrought iron balusters with Medusa heads and Venetian glass mosaic tilework.
The seven-story Grand Atrium was just aft of the Grand Lounge. Initially, it featured a kinetic sculpture by Leonard Jankow as its centerpiece that was later replaced with the Lobby Bar.
Continuing from the Grand Atrium, Imagination Boulevard linked all of the ship’s Promenade Deck public rooms via a wide passage on the starboard side with decorative flourishes that included Napoleonic sphinxes, Venetian glass tile and granite decking and tabletops.
The El Dorado Casino occupied a large portion of Promenade Deck immediately aft of the Grand Atrium on the port side.
Next up, the Shangri-La Nightclub was originally all about classical Renaissance forms reinterpreted with a modern flair. In recent years, the space was given a more generic look.
The Illusions Disco followed Shangri-La, leading to the Pinnacle Club with its long bar and a staircase descending to the Spirit Dining Room. This space was later reconfigured as the Alchemy Bar.
The Xanadu Lounge concluded the interior spaces on Promenade Deck. It was a cabaret-style showroom that featured winged busts of the Roman God Mercury on either side of the proscenium.
The far aft end of Promenade Deck, originally dedicated to a children’s wading pool and deck was in recent years the adults-only Serenity enclave.
Atlantic Deck began with the lower level of the Dynasty show lounge and continued aft with a balcony overlooking the Grand Atrium that featured the Galleria Shopping Mall and a pair of smaller public rooms. On the aft/port side, there was the Mirage Bar, with its purple and yellow spheres.
Across from the Mirage Bar on the starboard side, the Curiosity Library featured antique bookshelves and Bellini-style pillars inspired by St. Peters in Rome.
Accessed via a passage running between the Mirage Bar and Curiosity Library, the Pride Dining Room, named for the Seabourn Pride (a deluxe Seabourn cruise ship that was owned by the Carnival Corporation), was the first in a pair of 650 seat restaurants on Atlantic Deck.
The Spirit Dining Room, the aft complement to the Pride and also named for a former Seabourn ship (the Seabourn Spirit), featured circular motifs and a silver color scheme versus the triangles and gold of the Pride.
Save for the bottom level of the Grand Atrium with its reception and shore excursions offices, the Lobby Bar and an art gallery on Empress Deck, the remaining decks (Upper, Main and Riviera) were dedicated to accommodations.
Twenty Eight suites with in-hull balconies were the ship’s largest and most expensive digs, featuring a full bath with tub/jacuzzi, a walk-in closet, a sitting area and bedroom, in addition to verandahs.
Standard ocean view staterooms and interiors rounded up the accommodations onboard the Carnival Imagination.
Saying Farewell to an Old Friend
It is hard to believe the Carnival Imagination and her slightly newer sister, the Carnival Inspiration, will no longer be regular visitors at Long Beach’s cruise terminal but then who would have imagined a year ago the world of cruising would be where it is now.
The Imagination and the Inspiration are scheduled to be replaced by the soon to be rebuilt Carnival Radiance (former Carnival Victory), which is still sitting partially stripped at a Spanish shipyard.
History: How Carnival Inspiration Changed The Game
She was more a player than a game-changer. Her sister Fantasy was the real game-changer, introducing no less than eight ships that featured spectacular atriums to the Carnival fold.
Fun Facts About The Carnival Inspiration
- Christened by Jodi Dickinson, the now ex-wife of former Carnival CEO Bob Dickinson.
- Imagination was the first Carnival Cruise Line ship to offer a 24-hour pizzeria.
None of note.
Various refits over the years saw the addition of the Carnival Waterworks, the Alchemy Bar, RedFrog Rum Bar, Blue Iguana Tequila Bar, Club O2 and Circle C (children’s play rooms) and other fleetwide fixtures.
Sister Ships (note: all were given the “Carnival” prefix in 2007)
- MV Fantasy (built 1990)
- MV Ecstasy (built 1991)
- MV Sensation (built 1993)
- MV Fascination (built 1994)
- MV Inspiration (built 1996)
- MV Elation (built 1998)
- MV Paradise (built 1998)
The Final Days
Early this year, when Carnival announced the sale of the Carnival Fantasy and Carnival Inspiration, the initial plan was to have the Carnival Imagination and Carnival Fascination put into a cold layup with no immediate plans to return them to service.
After the first two ships were beached for scrapping and Carnival’s planned return to cruising was further delayed, the Carnival Imagination was the next to go. She sailed off to Curacao, where, like the other two ships, she was stripped of some equipment, then deadheaded to Aliaga.
There are some rumors that the 1994-built Carnival Fascination may be going to another operator but time will soon tell whether she joins her sisters on that very crowded beach in Turkey.
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Photos courtesy of Peter Knego/MidShipCentury.com