The NYE cruise of the Carnival Fascination is its last before going in for a two week dry dock and as such there may be several changes from the contents of this review.
We elected to park up the street for $8.00 per day versus the cruise terminal for $15.00. Jacksonville is a smaller port and does not have a parking garage, etc. so it seemed silly to pay extra for comparable service. The shuttle took us right to the porters so there were no real issues. Getting through the security check, check in and on boarding was a breeze. It was quick and painless. The ship was a bit late getting back from the previous cruise which was a minor inconvenience but did seem to throw everything off a bit (especially once on board).
Cabin and Ship
The Fascination is an older ship and the two week dry dock was probably a welcome sight for this old girl. The ship, despite it's age was still in good shape and for the most part well cared for. The common areas and dining rooms were clean and overall no real issues concerning the ship itself.
My family had two exterior staterooms with an adjoining door. The cabins were still being cleaned well after the 1:30 target time (likely due to the late arrival). One of our cabins was missing a robe which was quickly replaced when asked. The other clearly had been occupied by savages at some point previously. The desk light did not work but was quickly repaired, the toilet stank even after it was cleaned and a couple of the desk drawers were broken. For standard cabins, they were spacious (185 square feet compared to 140 or less on other ships) and the beds comfortable.
Other than lunch on the day of embarkation and the obligatory grazing at random hours, all of our meals were consumed in the dining room. The food was very good with a wide variety. At no point was there a meal I did not like. The service was adequate the first night but vastly improved after that. The Mongolian grill, pizza and deli were all good as well. The food was enjoyed by everyone in my group and we had no complaints regarding quality, options, temperature, etc. Our server, Dwi, was excellent after the first day but will be on a different ship after his vacation during the ship's dry dock.
The welcome aboard show was the standard variety show one would expect from a cruise's first show. A little singing, a little dancing and a little comedy. The singers and dancers were OK in this performance but were vastly better in the production of "Far From Over". This show was very entertaining (get there early to ensure a good sight line). Unfortunately, this was the last performance of this show. As for the comedians Mark Hawkins was awful in my opinion and his adult only shows were worse. Azeem, however, was hysterical and his adult only shows were equally entertaining. The guy could literally do a 20 minute bit just picking on people in the audience. On the last night, the entertainment featured an action comedian of Michael James who was only minimally entertaining.
Ports of Call
Key West - We did our own self guided walking tour of the historical areas (Hemmingway's house, Light House, and Truman's Little White House). All have fees for actual admission into the structures so be prepared if you want to go in and get the full experience. Fees were from $30 to almost $60 for a family of four between the sites. While on shore we had some Cuban tapas from El Meson de Pepe which were very good and frozen, chocolate dipped key lime pie slices from the Key West Key Lime company. The port is nice with a lot of history and would definitely like to go back.
Nassau - My wife and I had previously been to Nassau on another cruise and while we would have loved to take the kids to Atlantis on Paradise Island the $120 usage fee plus taxi was not in our budget. Instead we chose to walk to Junkanoo Beach (about a 15 minute walk after you leave the port area. The beach was nice with a lot of offerings and best of all no admission. While on shore, we had Conch Fritters from the Conch Fritter Restaurant. Avoid this place as it was overpriced and the food was not that good. There are likely other places to sample conch which would be better.
The inability of people to follow directions is the biggest nightmare for cruise passengers (and probably the line as well) and is the biggest drag for the disembarkation process. As opposed to waiting in their rooms or the designated common areas, everyone crowded in the hallway of the riviera deck making it near impossible for us to get out of our cabins when our time was called. Fortunately, a family from Alabama (roll tide) let us out and from that point forward the process was quick and painless. The shuttle back to the parking lot was a brief wait and we were on our way home by 9:30.
Overall this was a great cruise and it was enjoyed by everyone in my family.