This was our second cruise, first time with Carnival. It was the 12/27 thru 12/31 sailing to the Bahamas from Jacksonville. It was a pretty good experience. I'm going to try to be as objective as possible given that much of the trip was marred for me by a bout of seasickness and the chilly, breezy weather -- both things that can't be counted against the cruise itself.
Our best days were our first day (daparture) and third day (in port at Nassau).
We were very impressed with embarkation. Carnival said not to arrive before noon, but we arrived around 10:45 and were on the ship in less than 45 minutes. That is definitely the way to go. We also stayed at a nearby Hampton Inn that allowed us to keep our car parked there and included cab fare to and from the port. Saved a lot of hassle.
We used the time to get lunch on the lido deck, which hit the spot, and then explored until our room was ready around 1:30. Having sailed on an even older Royal Caribbean ship five years before, we were struck by how much bigger the Fascination felt. There was far more deck seating than we had experienced before and many more places in the ship to relax.
We had an interior stateroom that felt plenty spacious for our needs; it had plenty of closet and drawer space. The bed and pillows were very comfortable, and while I could find nowhere in the room where I could adjust the temperature, we stayed very comfortable. We didn't miss having a window in the room, and it wasn't even as dark as I thought it would be given the just enough light that came in under the stateroom door.
The food was pretty good. The buffets were cafeteria quality, although it was tasty enough for breakfast. The grill was the best lunch we found. Dinner in the dining room was varied and quite good quality (on the evenings that I had an appetite -- my husband enjoyed every bite of his food). My favorite dessert was definitely the Warm Melting Chocolate Cake. We were also thrilled to find a real coffee bar.
I did not care for the water on-board. It had a strong odor and flavor to it that I'm unaccustomed to. Maybe that's just par for the course on a ship, but it got old after a couple of days to drink water that smelled like the on-board bathrooms. In retrospect, we should have brought our own bottled water.
The chocolate buffet (a highlight from our first cruise on Royal Caribbean) was a real let down. Not a lot of variety and not very good. One example were the "citrus squares" that ended up being Jell-O Jigglers coated in sugar.
The Your Time dining worked great for us, but then we were always there before 6:00. We did not get the same wait staff each night, which was too bad because we really liked Boris! We were always seated at a table for two, which I would do differently next time -- I would request table guests if possible.
The drinks were always mixed strong, which surprised me! And bar service on deck was regular and friendly. Try the Tiramisu martini! We felt like we got our money's worth.
We did not do any excursions as we were content to stay on the ship, particularly since we then didn't have to compete for a deck chair or whirlpool space.
All of that being said, we realized on this cruise that we just may not be "cruise" people. The lounges didn't open until late; the adult comedy didn't start until late. We always felt "done" long before some of that got started. And as the cruise went on, I started to notice where quality wasn't as good as I thought on the first day. The cafeteria quality of the food being one thing (can they make tea and coffee taste any worse??). The entertainment being another. It seems to be very stereotypical "cruise" entertainment -- art auction, "game shows", lido deck parties, karaoke, bingo. The photo printouts available in the gallery were amateur quality at best, which was odd given the nice cameras the photographers were using. Then there are the jewelry and watches sold on board at "great deals". It just started to feel a bit cheap as the cruise wore on.
It could also be that this kind of thing is more fun when you travel with a group of people.
But overall, we did have a good experience and this was our only choice given the time of year we had to go. But, if I were to brave seasickness again, I would try a nicer cruise line next time or I would forgo the cruise altogether and try an all-inclusive resort. I'm just not sure this was worth $600/person (taxes included) that we paid.