The wife myself and two kids aged nine and 11 looking for something fun to do on the kids spring break. I had already booked a trip to savanna and I made plans to do some sightseeing there. Because of recent headlines I figured there may be decent prices on a cruise. I checked and sure enough the price of a five day cruise was almost the same as my three-day trip in Savannah. So I canceled the Savannah trip and booked the cruise out of Jacksonville on the Carnival fascination. I booked 2 cabins side-by-side both with portable views. This was my second cruise so I made sure to take care of parking before I left. I used a local cruise Parking facility and not the Jacksonport terminal facility it was much cheaper and they had a great benefit which I will review in the tips below after the review. We live in South Carolina and being it was Easter weekend we left a day early and got a hotel in Jacksonville to avoid traffic. This turned out to be a great idea since a 4 hour trip took 6 1/2 hours.
We punched the address to the parking in our GPS in the morning and we were on our way. We arrived about 10 Parked our car And proceeded to the waiting room. It was Spacious and had some comfy couches and TV with cartoons for the kids. We realized our sunblock was only about half full so we purchased some little gift area in the parking lot lobby. These guys could pretty much charge whatever they want but I found everything to be priced very well. You could get a bottle of wine for six dollars if you forgot your wine and sunblock was like seven dollars. The shuttle came by to pick us up at 10:30. We were given tickets with numbers and were loaded in the order of our numbers so we made it to the first shuttle. The shuttle service loaded and unloaded our bags and we didn't have to deal with them again until we arrived at our staterooms later in the day. We had maybe 10 people ahead of us and security we went through waited maybe another five minutes until we spoke to the registration desk. It went very quickly since we preregistered online including all our passport information. We were giving of boarding group number and are directed to some chairs prepare for boarding. We were boarding group for they started calling boarding group one right at 11 AM and called us by at about 1115. We shuffled through with our group to be obligatory boarding picture. We were on our ship and on the Lido deck by 1125. The onboard embarkation process was a lot more smooth than I expected and being as I don't like crowds that much that was a huge relief.
Once on the Lido deck they had a huge buffet set up for us. There is a made to order pizza place made-to-order sandwich shop full buffet with also some Italian dishes and a big table full of desserts. We ate and proceeded to the waterslide area on deck 11. From a tip we saw earlier we knew to To have the kids wear their bathing suits underneath their clothes. This point there was no more than 200 people on the ship so we had our choice of seats on the deck. Kids played in the waterslides for a while went down to the pool deck and waited for Cabins to be ready.
I went down about 1230 and they were already ready to go. I loved our location because we basically had our own hallway are two rooms were only two room on that section of the hallway with no rooms across from us. There is a service door here at the end of the hallway but I put my kids closest to that side of the wall and us on the other side so they wouldn't disturb any of the other guests. Now there are many people who say the rooms are big and comparing this to my last cruise they are not wrong. We had plenty of room and even a 6 x 6 area was open with nothing in it. It had to portholes and about a 4 foot ledge that goes out kind of like a window seat strong enough for the kids to sit on but I wouldn't try it with adults. My kids would read in there and then it ended up being a puppet theater for their towel animals. The bathroom was a pretty decent size to the shower had ample shampoo and soap so no need to bring your own unless you have allergies. The water was always hot when you need it for the handles take some getting used to I would equate it to a motorcycle throttle handle. Overall it was far exceeded what we expected.
We ate at pretty much all the food outlets except for the sushi bar. We were signed to the Imagination dining room but the sensation dining room also has the same menu. The food here was great every night the everyday Menu it was fried chicken hamburgers things like that. Then they had a menu that changed every day I had prime rib one night brisket another between the four of us we pretty much tried most things on the menu. Everything was excellent. They have a kids menu if you have picky eaters that has chicken fingers things like that. The pizza place was always great but if you want one of their specialty pizzas or a calzone expect to wait 10 minutes for it. Try to Reuben and a pastrami sandwich place both also great. The buffet restaurant usually had good food other than the late-night buffet which was typically the same buffet of hotdogs french fries chili nachos chips except for the last night where it was Mexican and the Mexican buffet was great! Didn't try room service but the menu seem pretty limited anyway.
The shows were one of the best parts of the trip. They had to comedians Paul Lyons and Dwight Slade both hilarious and the kids shows we even went one night for the Dwights later Adults only Shows and that's was great! I spoke to some people behind me and apparently There was an altercation with one of the guests who confronted the comic because some of his material. Look people it's a comedy show if you're going to sit in the front you got to expect this. Apparently security had to escort him out. The music shows were also very good I went and seemed he was twice and Motown just once. The Motown was obviously Motown music and the team's performance was performances by Madonna, Beyonce, Katy Perry etc. Also got in on a few trivia contests I managed to win 2 ship on sticks. I did notice some people cheating using their cell phones to get answers really? On Easter Sunday there was an egg hunt which the kids seem to enjoy.
As far as the Ports go we had two ports of call. Half-moon Cay and Nassau. We had to tender to half-moon Cay. If you don't know what tendering is basically take a small boat to the island because the waters too shallow to dock. The process was efficient but it did take a long time and when we were in the bottom section it was very hot. Private island was great nice white sand beaches in Blue water they made a very good barbecue buffet for us on the island also. The Nassau port was a bit Easier to get off. Since we were docked you basically just walk off the ship. I'm getting to the terminal we bombarded with people trying to get us to do excursions. I heard you could get an island tour for $25 a person and decided if I found somebody who offered at this price I would do it. Sure enough we were offered a two hour tour that included the outside of the Atlantis for $25 per person. Our guides name was sterling silver. This tour had some stops at a small straw market, the liquor store and a few other areas including the Atlantis. We could only see the outside but it was still very cool to do. It took us through the rich areas and the poor areas and kind of give us a lay of the land so we need with the beach areas were. After the tour we went to the beach and I found her to be great deals on drinks. I got three beers and three shots for $10. Though I did see a stand that was closed at the time that was offering for beers and four shots for the same price. After the beach we We boarded the ship and the cruise line stored the liquor we had bought in town. Of the two I would say half-moon Cay was a lot nicer.
Okay here are some etiquette tips. There were some very inconsiderate people on this cruise know the type that thinks their $30 per person per night has bought them the entire ship!
There are 2000 people on the ship Don't walk five across down the hallways!
When getting an elevator let the people get off first!
Don't try to enter from the side in front of people who've been waiting in line for half an hour!
The Tera library is a library don't take your entire party Inside screaming and laughing while you're waiting for your table for the sensation dining room!
If you're sitting in the front tables in the comedy club you're fair game!
Walking the stairs? stay to the right!
Don't throw a towel on the deck chair if you don't plan on returning to it!
If you have to use your cell phone and google to cheat at trivia maybe you shouldn't be playing!
Parents just because you're on a cruise ship doesn't relieve you of your duty as parents!
Okay here's some helpful tips I promised you.
When parking use cruiseparkingjacksonville.com They were $40 For the five days and since they are contracted by carnival you can get on the ship at 11 rather than 1pm they cannot advertise this but that's the way it is. Get there early to be on the first shuttle and you'll be one of the first on the ship behind diamond members and people who paid $50 for the faster to the fun.
You can get a porthole window for the same price or near the same price as an interior stateroom if you choose the first two in the front you will have your hallway.
If you're in the comedy club or in the Hollywood nightclub there's a set of stairs that'll lead you right into the imagination dining room.
There is only one outlet on the desk the other is European so bring a power strip let you charge many of your electronic devices.
If you want to see the comedy show Show up 45 minutes early the people who showed up 10 minutes before did not get seats.
Book your excursion with the locals it's much cheaper.
If you want to caba'a while at half-moon Cay book it now don't wait they always sell out.
There are Insulated water bottles in the gift shop 2 for $12 by them they were valuable while I was on the ship and in port.
Pay attention to which elevators only go to the 10th floor if you want to go to the 11th floor you will need to take the other ones.
In order to get to the imagination dining room you will need to go one level above and then down or one level below and then up.
Wear your bathing suit on boarding day because you won't get your luggage until at least 1 o'clock.
The your time dining seems like a great idea but I saw countless people waiting for tables where as my preassigned dining time if I got there 10 minutes late I just walked straight to the table.
The waiter will save your bottle of wine for your next night if you do not finish it.
You are each allowed of bottle of wine so bring them with you better yet buy it at the cruise parking for six bucks. This is great for that late night drink in the state room. If you forgot your wine opener you can order one from room service it's yours to keep just make sure to tip them.
There's a great view of going under the bridge out of Jacksonville if you go on the 11th deck near the entrance to the big water slide.
You can buy an endless bubbles card for unlimited sodas for $4.50 to 6.50 a day this is also usable at your shows which I found to be the best use of these. You can purchase these first day on the Lido deck to the right as you exit the doors from the atrium side.
If you fill out an application for the carnival credit card they will give you two lanyards per application and some matchplay at the casino. You can get your cards punched at Guest services that way your kids won't lose their room keys.
There will be a newsletter with the daily activities there is a tear away section on the right that has all the times of shows and activities going on for the day. Tear off that small section and keeping your pocket to refer to later see you know what's going on the ship and at what time so you can plan your daily activities.
Overall the value can't be beat, there are a lot of people on this site who post negative reviews that have "champagne tastes on a beer budget" don't listen to them otherwise you would rob yourself of a great opportunity.