It's been years since my DH and I were able to get away alone (i.e. without our 3 kids) for a trip that was not work related. Decided in Sept. to book a cruise. Found a great deal on Carnival out of Jacksonville and decided to add a few days "pre-cruise" on Amelia Island just north of Jacksonville at the Georgia border. Stayed 2 nights at the Residence Inn. Great hotel, free shuttle service to Fernandina Beach, great breakfast, spacious suites.
Got to the port area about 10:30, parked off port at Cruise Parking Jacksonville, right on the corner. Only $8 p/day. Took a shuttle with a bunch of other people to the port. Got in line for security - the older woman there took out our bottles of Sprite Zero to make sure they weren't alcohol and shook them all up - couldn't open one on the cruise without a fountain! :) We were in line for probably close to 1 1/2 hours as there were a ton of people traveling together in groups - and yes - line cutting... Happy to get onto the ship and headed over to the back of the lido deck - behind Coconut Grove - got some pizza and a drink and settled in to wait for our room.
After lunch we headed up to the spa to do the spa tour. Got a couple of chair massages and then went through to see what options were available. They are a little pushy - but took "not right now" ok as well. After that we got to our rooms and unpacked, our suitecases were there by 1:30 or so. Walked around the ship to find the Passage to India Lounge, where we had a meet and greet at 5:30 with our CC friend. Great sunshine for the sail away.
Had a great time at meet and greet with about 30 friends from CC and our facebook event.
Room: We had an inexpensive interior room on Riviera. We try to always use the stairs so we can get enough exercise since we tend to eat more than we need to on a cruise. Next time would pay a little extra to move up a couple of floors. There was some issue on the Main deck that led to a bad sewer smell one afternoon - but they were working on it until it was take care of.
Food: Ate all dinners, most lunches and a couple of breakfasts in the dining room. My time dining worked well for us - had to wait 10 - 15 min. every time except when we went right at 5:45. Had great servers - the best were Samson (left side of Sensations) and Antonio (right side of Sensations.) The food was always good - shrimp was fantastic, chile relleno (vegetarian) was fantastic. The desserts were always good - even the "diet" desserts they had were delicous. We aren't big "buffet" people but did enjoy breakfast on the lido deck on the Nassau day as well as lunch from the Wok and grill once. we ordered room service for breakfast on the day we were in Half Moon Cay. The pasteries were good and I asked for 4 cups of coffee (I wanted enough) but they sent 2 full carafes!
Entertainment: Went to Karaoke several times - including Super Star Karaoke. It was fun - and sometimes painful... Only went to the 80's show - and it was great! Saw the comedians for the family shows and they were funny - but when we went back to see them for the adult show found it to be so crude it was no longer funny. Not sure why they think to be "adult" you have to use the F word several times in each sentence. Left after a few minutes. Went to the talent show and enjoyed cheering on fellow cruisers. Didn't do much else "entertainment" wise - we were there to relax.
Ports: Half Moon Cay was everything I'd heard and dreamed it would be. The only complaint was the tendering process. Seemed like there was only one tender running for a while and there were so many people who wanted to go. Enjoyed a great walk, found some lounge chairs further down the beach (by cabana 11) and basically had the whole section to ourselves. The waves were a little rougher than usual (so I was told) but we had a great time jumping the waves and floating. Ate lunch at the bar-b-que. Jerk Chicken was really yummy! Getting back onto the ship was the only complaint I had. We were in line for over an hour. Kudos to the carnival staff who came by with refreshing cool cloths and fresh water for those in line. Nassau was fun as well. We parked between Carnival Conquest (big ship compared to Fascination) and a RCL ship. Didn't do any excursions, just followed some walking tour info we found on CC and had a great time. Loved all of the people we met from Nassau - except those selling things and wanting to take you on tours. We saw history, met real people, bought some great gifts and just had an overall good time.
Relaxation: We came on this cruise to relax and have fun together. We spent most of the sea days either on the serenity deck or on the deck near the water park reading and talking. We also love to go to tea time so every sea day at 3 p.m. headed to the piano bar for tea and cucumber sandwiches, yummy patries and meeting new friends. We had met quite a few people via CC and Facebook before the cruise and met many more great people from all walks of life. That was probably one of the best parts of the cruise.
Staff: Our room steward was always friendly and welcoming. The waiters we had were fantastic - even with "my time" dining. The hostess in the dining room was not always friendly - but everyone else was. Bar staff were always great. Went to the Bogart Coffee Cafe lots while we were there (best coffee ever!) and the staff there were the best! Couldn't ask for more:
Other stuff: My DH went on the "Behind the Fun" tour and loved it. For $55 it was a great 2 1/2 hour experience to see what happens to make the crusie successful. When he got back to the room there were yummy pastries and chocolate covered strawberries from the chef.
Debarkation: Who doesn't hate leaving the ship? We opted for traditional debarkation which meant we got to stay on the ship later. We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in the dining room then went up to the lido deck to sit outdoors and read in the sunshine. Once our number was called we were off the boat and through customs in less than 10 minutes. Had to wait about 15 minutes for the shuttle to parking - but it went smoothly.
All in all we had a great time. The cruise was a fantastic value and we had so much fun meeting other people. Looking forward to another cruise with our family - will probably try a bigger ship next time - but if we don't - I'd be more than happy to get onto the Fascination one more time.