This review can be very helpful for the newbies. Carnival Fascination Jax to Bahamas was my very first cruise and to be honest, I was not prepared for it at all. I have stayed in many hotels in US but I must say that I am very much impressed by top notch services Carnival Fascination offers. We embarked the ship in less than Â½ hour after clearing security. Once we were in the ship, there was staff at every corner greeting us with a smile and helping us with the direction to the room. The room was pretty spacious given it has lots of closet space. We are family of 3 people including 6 years old so the queen bed and a wall bed worked out pretty well for us. The beds were neatly made and had luggage mat on it. There was dresser with mirror and couple of chairs. There was the "FunTimes" newsletter on the bed that explained the schedules and important stuff about the ship. We chose oceanview stateroom so the window was huge and clear. There were three blue beach towels in the room. Also the room had 3 life jackets including the kid's size. There was safe in the closet and also had water/sodas with reasonable price. Bathroom was clean and has standing shower. There was more than enough towels in the bathroom and also had shower gel and shampoo dispensers with both filled in. There were complimentary toothpastes and shampoo/conditioner sachets. Please remember to pack your own conditioner as there are none provided.
Next we went to explore the ship. We were on Empress Deck which has Atrium, Guest Services, Internet services, Bar and Shore Excursion desk. The next few decks had Spa, Gym, Casino, $10 Luxury shop, Imagination dining, Sensation dining, Photo Gallery, different camps for 2-17 years, BAR, Fun Shops, Show areas, Pool, Hot tubs, 3 Water slides, Breakfast/dining area, Ping Pong table, Sports deck that has Mini Golf area and Jogging. The lunch was ready and it was DELICIOUS. There were a lot of options from grills to Mongolian Wok. There is a lot of seating area on the Lido deck where breakfast/ lunch/ snack are served. There is always a courteous staff that cleared the leftovers in less than 10 minutes no matter where people left them. I must say the staffs are very hard working and have a lot of patience. Throughout the day the ship had a lot of fun games to offer. The times were reflected in the newsletter so you won't miss it. You can drop off the kid at the camp for free and go for shopping or play your luck at Casino or hang out at the bar. The camp charged reasonable $20.00 if you wanted to sign up for Night Owl camp from 10:00 PM -3:00 AM. The Pizza place, beverage and Ice cream machines are open 24 hours. I loved the pizza there. Remember Beverages included only lemonade, water, coffee, iced tea. Sodas, alcohol and bottle water are at reasonable price. The crowd was very nice. Everyone seems to be mingling and having fun. There were quite a few shows/games that I participated but did not win the "24 carat prize" Sigh. The water slides, pool and hot tub was nice and clean. Water was cold though when we started from Florida but towards Bahamas it warmed up a bit. The ship offered Signature dining at night. I signed up for early dining so was there by 6:00 PM. You need to be on time for this.
Being a newbie I made a mistake of not properly packing my clothes. Make sure you pack at least 1 cocktail/party dress for each night. People do take this dining seriously and everyone was dressed in their best. We were seated along with another family from Georgia for the next 5 nights. I have to speak the truth here, I was not happy with that. I had an option to change my seat but I did not want to hurt anyone's feelings. This family just disgusted me. Every night they ordered like 2 starters, 3 entrees and 2 desserts for each of them and wasted a lot of food. They did not order more food because they did not liked their first ones or wanted to try new stuff. They just kept ordering food because they wanted to eat everything since they paid for it. That made me sick.
One the other hand our waiter and waitress Nina, Ibrahim and Santos were fabulous. They were very courteous, patient and fast. The food was great. Every night we tried different stuff and each one of them were better than the first one. Every night the staff in dining hall performed for us. The second night was a formal night and everyone was dressed really nice. The Promenade deck had different Photo shoots with different backgrounds. This is the perfect night to take a lot of pictures. You should try all the backgrounds because you are not obligated to buy all the pictures. The photos are available next day at reasonable price. Every night we were greeted by different towel animals in our room. My kid was really excited to find those every night on her bed. After dinner we use to play Bingo at The Palace every night (no luck winning?) or watch shows. I dropped her off at the camp couple of nights after dinner to attend the adult shows. It worked out perfectly for us. She had tons of fun at the camp and we got some alone time. I was very much impressed that camp carnival staff knew me and my kid by name. Not only them but our Room Service Steward Dewa, Waitress Nina and waiters Ibrahim and Santos always greeted us by our name. It's not easy to remember so many guests by their names. It's the staff who made our trip memorable. The ship also has many raffles and giveaways. I am not that lucky so never won anything but it was exciting.
On third day we ported to Freeport at 8:00 AM. We did not buy any shore excursions through cruise since I felt it was very expensive. We took a shared taxi to the beach which cost us $10/ per person round trip. A lot of other people were doing the same so we felt little safe. Freeport looked very deserted and industrious. We took a boat ride for Total $75.00 to see Million Dollar homes, Dolphin Sanctuary and Pirate ship which was part of the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean". I felt 75 bucks was a waste since it was nothing that exciting. After that we walked to local shopping stores where you can bargain. Then we took the taxi back to the cruise since we had to get back before 4:00 PM. You should be back to the cruise on time or they will leave you no matter what. We spent another fun night at the cruise attending shows and played games.
The next day we were at Nassau at 8:00 AM. We again took shared cab to Atlantis. There we headed to Blue Lagoon and did Aqua Boat for $40.00 Total, shallow water snorkeling $30.00 total. Since none of us were good swimmer, we did not want to go deep sea for any activities. On the other side of the Blue Lagoon was the beach. We did Jet Ski for 30 mins for $40 which was very good price. The local guys started with 80 bucks and then came down to 40 which was a good bargain. We did not go to Atlantis Aquarium or Aquaventure. May be next time. After exploring Atlantis for 7 hours we took the cab back to the Straw market which is few walk able yards away from port. We bought few souvenirs and Bahamas beverages after bargaining from the local shoppers. Then we headed back to the cruise before 4:30 PM. Once again we had a fabulous night with elegant dining, deck dance party and another round of Bingo (yes we lost again).
The next and last day was the fun day at sea as we were heading back to Jacksonville. This day was filling with games, shows, giveaways, shopping, raffles and Jackpot Bingo of $3000. We enjoyed every moment of this day. The day ended with Signature dining and we thanked our waitress, waitresses and room service stewards with beautiful Thank you cards that my kiddo made for them and little extra tip. Please don't hesitate in tipping these staff as they really work hard to make your trip memorable. The gratuity is already added to your bill but we paid extra to these guys.
The next morning was the debarkation so there will be luggage tags, Custom forms and debarkation info. You can either choose self-assist debarkation or relaxed debarkation. For self-assist you need to carry your own luggage during debarkation which is faster. You get to debark first. The other option is relaxed debarkation for which you need to pack your luggage, tag it and need to leave it outside your door a night before 11:00 PM. We chose relaxed debarkation which was not a good idea. We had to wait in the lounge for at least 1.5 hours where we could have carried our own luggage.
I noted few lesson learned points that I want to share.
1.You should pack Walkie talkie. We lost quite a few time looking for each other.
2.Pack your conditioner. There is none provided in the room.
3.Choose Self assist debarkation if you have less luggage.
4.If you want to save money, pack your bottle water and sodas. Although I think their price was reasonable.
5.Pack enough cocktail dresses and warm clothes. It was cold when we started from Jacksonville and I packed all shorts and skirts.
6.Carry enough cash since the ATM inside the ship charges high fees.
With this I conclude my review of Carnival Fascination Cruise from Jacksonville to Bahamas from 12/22/12-12/27/12. I am already planning my next Carnival cruise to Caribbean. Best of luck to all of you and I hope you have a good time.